Monthly Archives: June 2008

africa’s democracy bleeds again

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The unfolding political events in Zimbabwe is yet another manifestation that Africa’s democracy is again bleeding.

Ours is a continent where democracy is said to be born well before the imperialists stormed the continent, let alone demarcate border lines for their selfish interests. All the democratic structures – kingdoms [mansas], chiefs and village heads – were all in order and functioning democratically – hundreds of years before colonialism and missionarism. Don’t we own the continent where [Egypt] civilization was born, but later stolen from us by our explorers?

Apart from melting away with our natural resources, our colonizers who pretended to be salvaging us, stole our administrative systems and cultures to better shape and restructure their nations. And even hundred years after colonial yokes were loosened from our heads, our continent remains divided along colonial lines. Worst of all is the introduction of neo-colonialism to prevail where imperialism had failed.

At independence, vast majority of Africans thought life would worth salt because we were given the right to control our own affairs. This notion soon turned into a mere fantasy to the extent that some people today prefer colonial rule to bounce back.

The teething question now is: where does the problem lie? Of course, it lies with us simply because we fail our collective responsibilities to give live the real meaning it deserves. Instead of defending our collective interest, Africa still bows down to its former colonial masters who still call the shots from a far away distance.

I am not a fan of fatal political violence in Zimbabwe, but I believe that the Southern African country’s political crisis goes beyond politics. Its leadership is paying the price for its 2002 land redistribution program in which land was seized from the minority whites and given to the landless majority blacks.

Before then, President Robert Mugabe was a darling of the West who was decorated with honorary decrees. Now that he has turned the tide, he becomes the real enemy who they think must be unseated at all costs.

Mr Mugabe’s defence lies on the opposition’s quest to compromise the country’s hard-won liberation ideals by morgaging Zimbabwe to the West who in return bankroll opposition’s campaign to remove him from power. Mugabe should have given chance to one of his party executives to contest with Morgan Tsvangirai. In that case, the damage exercise would have been minimal.

The sporadic withdrawal of Mr Tsvangirai, which was reportedly warranted by the ruling party’s “campaign of terror” marred by killings, beatings and intimidation, has seriously undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic credentials and integrity.

The Zimbabwean situation borrows its leaves from Kenya’s bloody unrest fulled by the East African country’s disputed presidential polls results in December. Rather than amicably seeking redress, the country was soaked into a national crisis that had left its negative marks on life and property. Well, as the going gets tough, politicians realized their mistakes and agreed for a compromise. This gives birth to a unity government. For more than two months, Kenya has been a flurry of diplomatic activities, which later paid off.

Law and order – though fragile – has returned to Kenya, and damaged properties could also be replaced. But not the more than 1,000 innocent lost lives. To cap it all, some politicians are now insisting that the suspects must be given amnesty. Where then lies justice when criminals are allowed to go scot-free in the name of national reconciliation? What is stopping Kenya from administering justice first before reconciliation?

How does the world solve Zimbabwe’s tricky and challenging situation is another food for thought? Will Mugabe be willing to wine and dine with Tsvangirai in the same basin, considering the bad blood between the two camps? The onus to normalize the situation in Zimbabwe rests with Africa. Mugabe’s latest tirades against African leaders for being carried away by Western storm has further complicated the reconciliation issue.

Surely, from Zimbabwe, our lenses will focus on another African country. The ugly trend seems to be a culture in our body politics. African leaders should be brave enough not to go into elections if they will end up in bloodshed.

guinea’s bed-ridden leader resists change

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Going by his actions, it is apparently clear that Guinea’s bed-ridden president Lansana Conté is still making use of his absolute power to resist change in the country.

Cont
é, who ascended to power through the barrel of the gun in a 1984 coup, has over the years maximised efforts to remain in power until he dies, despite meeting stiff resistance from Guineans majority of who continue to be bitten by abject poverty. And in the process, soldiers who were licensed to kill, shot dead more than 200 protesters last year.

Having lost support from the civilian population, Conte’s final hope hinges on the trigger-happy and remote-controlled security forces bent on killing, maiming and torturing innocent and armless civilians for exercising their constitutional rights. Their actions led to the appointment of a consensus prime minister in the person of Lansana Kouyaté, a seasoned and charismatic diplomat.

Kouyate soon busied himself with normalising the affairs of the natural resources-opulent West African country with clean heart. A lot has been expected from the man who wields powerful popular support. Guess what happens? He has not been given the atmosphere and space to turn his lofty ideals and programmes into reality, as his master and the evil forces who feared his rising fame undermined him, creating man-made faults for his administration.

Conté’s game becomes mature when Guineans start scolding Kouyaté for his administration’s failure to better the lives of people, arrest unprecedented price hikes as well as create more job opportunities. Guinean president used this as enough excuse to elbow out the prime minister, accusing him of “failed delivery.”

But deep down his heart, Conté knows the problem has more to do with Kouyaté’s unstoppable fame. He was replaced by the president’s long-time political ally, Dr Tidiane Souaré. With time, it will be proven whether the new premier, who has been slapped with mutinous soldiers’ demands for unpaid salary arrears, will have the audacity to grease the economy of the crisis-ridden country.

“But paralysed by the continual obstruction of Conté and his allies and cut off from Conakry’s political and intellectual elite, he was progressively neutralised and finally sufficiently weakened for the president to be able to dismiss him without fear of new demonstrations,” concurred the deputy director of the Brussels-based think tank, International Crisis Group’s Africa Program, Daniela Kroslak.

The group said Mr Souaré’s appointment has put Guinea’s democratic reform process at risk because it will give the government every change to “break its promise of credible legislative elections in December 2008, compromise economic revival and bury the independent commission of inquiry tasked with identifying and prosecuting authors of the bloody 2007 crackdown.”

Like most African leaders, Conté too is applying every dirty measure to wield power. His fear centers around the consequences of relinquishing power. Either by hook or crook, he must one day leave power, no matter whose ox is gored.

By Musa Saidykhan

what does Gambia’s silence mean?

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You really suffered beyond limits

It has been three weeks since the Ecowas Community Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria, delivered a landmark verdict ordering Gambian authorities to “immediately release” the pro-government newspaper journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh who had been illegally detained. The court also ordered Mr Manneh to be compensated $100,000 as damages.

State security agents arrested Manneh in his Daily Observer offices on 7 July 2006, but continuously denied holding him, let alone knew his whereabouts.

Ironically, Gambian authorities showed their true colour by not refusing to appear before the regional court to defend itself. It has maintained the same lukewarm attitude even after the court had delivered its verdict. This unwarranted silence has become unbecoming to the extent that the international community must not keep mute over it. Rather, a systematic and coordinated pressure should be piled on authorities in The Gambia.

Though the smallest on mainland Africa, the West African country is the seat of international human rights organizations, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights. Isn’t it illogical for the world to watch and allow such an important country to continuously seize and trample on all the rights and freedoms of its citizens?

This un-Gambian attitude is undoubtedly one of the bad legacies of the 1994 military coup that brought the former Lt. Yahya Jammeh into power. President Jammeh soon changed himself into a civilian leader, though he believes that “once a soldier, always a soldiers.”

Before he had forced the former President Dawda Jawara and his ruling People’s Progress Party, though with limited infrastructure, The Gambia was known for being the oasis of peace, democracy, rule of law and human rights. These good values magnetized thousands of foreigners to migrate into the country.

However, this land of hope where peace was born soon turned a police state where civil servants fear press more than death, where disappearances, mysterious killings, arson attacks and many more have become the order of the day.

Any failure by the international community to punish The Gambia for being disrespectful to the regional court will surely give leverage to other countries to follow its trend. Besides, being the first crucial press freedom case before the Abuja court, the case’s verdict must not be allowed to slip under the carpet. Chief Ebrima Manneh should be immediately freed unconditionally. His family and associates had been reeling with bleeding hearts.

By Musa Saidykhan

whose turn next after jean-piere bemba?

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I wonder it will be whose turn after the arrest of former Congolese rebel, Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Surely, the list is yet to be exhausted, considering the fact that people who aid and abet war crimes and genocides are still with us. I mean our own African brothers, particularly those at the helm of office.

The arrest of former Congolese Vice President in the suburbs of Brussels for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Central African Republic had already sent shocking wave on the continent beset with barbaric and unjustified wars.

Bemba – the first to be arrested in the context of the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation in the CAR – is also the fourth suspect arrested by the ICC on the above charges.

Now that Bemba is awaiting to be transferred to face dozens of charges in The Hague, fear continues to reel in many war-torn or volatile states of Africa.

At first, nobody thought Charles Taylor, the former rebel leader and president of Liberia, would be hunted for his crimes. But with mounting pressures from across the world, Taylor is today fighting not only war crimes charges but also international embarrassment of the highest order, with his immediate subordinates exposing his dirty and cruel life.

It is therefore imperative for those indicted on acts similar to those of Bemba and Taylor to think of a day they will run without hiding. Where were these people arrested? Of course, beyond the borders of their countries! Doing what? On the run.

Remember what goes around must sooner or later come around! In that, the innocent people whose lives have been shattered or battered by them will have the opportunity to laugh at them. Then they will get to know their unforgivable sins, but it is too late to repent.

And what happens when shamed figures die apart from giving them low profile burial. I only hope they will not be like a South African thief buried in dignity by his municipality after he was beaten to death.

By Musa Saidykhan