The Africa we Have-The Africa we Dream Of

The Africa we Have-The Africa we Dream Of

Image

Why are some nations rich? Why is Africa poor? What is our problem? Where do we find a solution? Why are our people poor? Is there equality? Is there justice? Is there fairness? Are the judges fair and just? Why are African politicians rich? Why are the masses poor? Why are we dying of Hunger, malnutrition and cholera in Africa? Are we cursed? Why are we suffering from cholera?  Is it that our health facilities are so backward? Why are we dying of HIV/AIDS at such an alarming rate? Are we so addicted to sex life?

Why are we still fighting after years of decolonization? Why do we fight amongst ourselves? Are we civilized or not? Why do we need soldiers in our nations? Are we truthful about one another? Where is the tax payers’ money going? Why do leaders live in state of the art mansions, whilst others sleep in shacks?

Why do we have rebels? Who is buying ammunition? Who is funding them? Were do we get the money to buy ammunitions? Who is benefiting from our mineral wealth? Do we exist as an African Nation? Who is responsible for our suffering? Is it the whites or the IMF and World Bank? Are we corrupt? Why do we go for elections?

Why are we always fighting? Why are we so particular about ethnicity and religion?  Why do we sponsor political violence? Why do our leaders need to be heavily guarded? What do they fear? Why do we buy votes? Why are we sliding back into dictatorship and anarchy? Why do we stay in power for longer periods? Why is there so much suffering in Africa? Why do some people seem to suffer more than others?

Can the will of a people overcome great injustice? Does voting mean something in Africa? Who decides the winner in African elections? Is it the voters or those who count? Why do we fear change? Are our leaders the ‘men of the people’? Why do soldiers beat, intimidate and rape innocent civilians?  Why do we fear criticizing our leaders?

Who is stealing our resources? Can we believe our politicians? Do they tell the truth? Why do we need aid? Do we need reconciliation? Why did we go to war? Are we enjoying the fruits of our independence? Why are Chinese nationals invading our beloved Mother Africa? How long did the euphoria of independence last? Did independence bring change, democracy and rule of law? Is it better to be governed well by others? Or is it better to misgovern ourselves? Why do we write constitutions? Why do we fail to follow these constitutions?  Why do we change these constitutions to fit us?

How long shall we remain beggars? For how long shall politicians continue to promise us heaven on earth? Why are we so corrupt? Why are we so pre-occupied with God father-ism,neo-clientilism,patrimonialism? Why are we greedy? Are we free? Do we have freedom? Are we liberated?

What is the future of our children? Are we developing or under-developing? Do we have a Future? Who is in control in Africa? Army Generals or Civilian leaders? How will our leaders become democratic? Is democracy un-African? Why do we have one-party dominance in Africa? Do we have a Vision? Is Africa on the Rise? Or is Africa on the Decline? How Long shall we blame others for our problems? Do they mean it,when they say Never Again to xenophobia, genocide, coups, tribalism, internal strife, internecine wars, uprisings and apartheid? Why are they fighting in DRC? Why in Mali? WHY are we power hungry?

Arise Africa! Simuka Afrika! Stand Up Afrika!! Africa Coming!!!!!!!!!!

 African nations, came, saw and squandered. African nations began with hope, fell in chaos and staggered into dependency.

Now is the time to create a society commensurate to the ideals which the people fought for and for which so many died. No one will hand us the destiny we like! No one will carry us to the future that our bones and our history crave for. We must do it ourselves. Steve Biko

GREASING THE WHEELS OF RECONCILIATION IN ZIMBABWE: CHASING A FADING SHADOW

GREASING THE WHEELS OF RECONCILIATION IN ZIMBABWE: CHASING A FADING SHADOW

SrebrenicaStoneIt must be realized however that a state of peace and security can only be achieved by our determination, all of us, to be bound by the explicit requirements of peace contained in the Lancaster House agreement, which express the general desire of the people of Zimbabwe. Surely this is now time to beat our swords into ploughshares, so we can attend to the problems of developing our economy and our society.

(Excerpt of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s speech in 1980)

Setting the tone for Peace and Reconciliation

In 2006 Jeffrey Kingston wrote about how East Timor was caught in what he termed the long Indonesian nightmare, of seeking to balance the agendas of justice and reconciliation. In contemporary Zimbabwe almost 32 years after Independence and black majority rule, Zimbabwe finds herself in the very same predicament and nightmare of trying to come to grips with her troubled past. Zimbabwe has had a sad experience of violent politics both in the distant and recent past. As much as she tries to set the tone of reconciliation and peace, the shadows of violence, acrimony and hate still haunts her, thus hindering her noble peace building efforts. What Zimbabwe is facing right now is what I can term as a twin dilemma of trying to strike a balance between seeking justice and reconciliation.

Twin Dilemma

Personally, I view the two (justice and reconciliation) as inseparable Siamese twins. The two go hand in glove. To this end, I submit that in order to enter into a new just, peaceful and caring Zimbabwe we all need to collectively deal with these issues in a holistic manner. Efforts to heal Zimbabwe should both be backward looking and forward looking. However, the major obstacle facing our generation is how far back we should go as we journey back in history. Should our quest to address past human rights abuses, injustices and conflicts stretch back to colonial days? Shall we close some chapters in history and just pretend nothing ever happened and continue with business as usual. Or shall we excavate the past; acknowledge it, no matter how painful and difficult it may be? Shall we just stand at the podium and echo these words ‘Never Again shall it happen in our Lifetime’.

Never Again

The question is how prepared as a nation are we able to bury the past and move forward? Shall we have public apologies without Truth, justice, restitution, healing and memorialization? How genuine can we believe the sorry/apology that comes from those who wronged us? Such difficult and yet tough questions forms part of the puzzle that surrounds the reconciliation discourse in Zimbabwe. Much has been said, but little has been done in healing and reconciling our society. Like any other nations that include but are not limited to South Africa, East Timor, Bosnia Herzegovina, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Mozambique, Zimbabwe is trying to come to terms with her past. But the journey has never been easy for her. To this effect the inclusive government has managed to establish an Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration as of February 2008.

Whilst, this is a commendable gesture towards building peace and nurturing reconciliation, many believe that this organ is good as dead. Firstly, the conceptualization, scope and mandate of the ONHRI (organ on national healing, reconciliation and integration) seem to be muddled in confusion. Ultimately, as to date the organ has done nothing tangible except donating shoes to victims of political violence. What an irony! One may be forgiven for asking what has donating shoes has to do with June 2008 victims of political violence. Are shoes a symbol of peace? How does donating shoes help in building peace and in bringing justice to our communities? Seriously, this is a farce and an insult to thousands of villagers who yearn for justice and peace to prevail. In my view the organ seem to have forgotten that some have lost their limbs, huts and feet during political violence in Zimbabwe as from 2000 to present. For starters, some will question the link between shoes and reconciliation. Is there a nexus between shoes, justice and reconciliation? Time is the greatest ironist. Maybe it’s too quick for us to extrapolate. Time will tell.

However, what I have found interesting and at the same time vexing is the romanticisation by both the international and local NGO community on issues that has to do with reconciliation and justice in Zimbabwe. It seems there is a perceived misconception that the establishment and constitutionalisation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Zimbabwe will serve as a magic bullet that will cure and solve all deep rooted peace and conflict related tensions that continue to haunt Zimbabweans. That is along the racial, ethnic and political divide. This is very wrong and false! A cut and paste approach from the South African, or East Timor model will not work in Zimbabwe. As a nation we should be conscious of the fact that each country has its own specific realities, history, challenges and specific context. Even in South Africa, Sierra Leone and East Timor there are diverging narrative genres about TRCs. Some argue that they did not bring much to the suffering and silent victims. The Gacaca system in Rwanda and the traditional conflict resolution mechanisms in Mozambique have also failed to reconcile fractured community relations after the genocide and civil war respectively.

It still remains difficult for Zimbabwe to deal with her past once and for all, so as to move towards reconciliation. Zimbabwe has emerged from various violent historical epochs namely the 2000 Land reform, colonialism, Gukurahundi and election violence amongst a host of other episodes. Despite the fact that, President Robert Mugabe preached the gospel of turning swords into ploughshares in 1980. Racial animosities later resurfaced during the years of land invasions. To this end, there seems to be a binary view amongst the whites and blacks (them versus us). The former are viewed as aliens whilst the latter view themselves as nativist (vana vevhu) as noted by Muzondidya (2004). More so due to the recent episodes of political violence, it may prove to be difficult to have an operational Organ on National Healing and Re-Intergration let alone a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. However, Zimbabwe seems to have failed in her reconciliation efforts. But there is still light that she will be able to initiate a sustainable reconciliation process in the near future. On the other hand, Zimbabweans seem to suffer from judicial romanticism.

Judicial Romanticism

Judicial romanticism is all about overestimating the capacity of courts to resolve issues of justice and accountability and taking a purely judicial approach to transitional justice. Ramesh Thakur, defines judicial romanticism as [t]he idea of always looking to courts for a solution to every problem. As Zimbabweans we seem to be falling under the same illusion. We all think that transitional justice in the form of reparation, restitution and criminal accountability will come through the courts of justice. Of which this is very rare in countries emerging from a conflict situation. Our insistence on prosecution, retribution, and reparations does not mean that justice will be delivered at all times. Justice may be delayed and ultimately denied. As Zimbabweans we first need to have faith in the rule of law and the institutions rendering such before talking about justice. We tend to forget that law is shaped by what socio-legal scholars’ term ‘living politics’. Looking at the expense and slow course of justice associated with the international tribunals in Yugoslavia and Rwanda it will also be difficult for Zimbabwe to follow such footprints. There are many questions in the offing, is the law fair and just. Should reconciliation go hand in glove with justice? Or whether shall we sacrifice justice for reconciliation?

As we try to debate all these scenarios on reconciliation and justice as a nation, we are reminded of the fears of the East Timor, President Gusmao who argued that going down the path of seeking justice would lead to the opening of old wounds, dividing the people at a time when people need unity and thus engendering chaos. As for Zimbabwe, the choice is ours and the ball is squarely in our court. Given, all the above challenges and scenarios we seem to be chasing a fading and elusive shadow. But that should not stop us from greasing the wheels of reconciliation in our specific communities.

Written laws are like spiders’ webs; they will catch, it is true, the weak and
poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.”—Anarchis,
Sixth Century B.C.E.

‘African Problems to African Solutions’: Re-thinking the Role of Internal Actors in solving African Conflicts

This paper seeks to analyze the relevance and significance of the ‘African problems-to African solution’ discourse in resolving conflicts in Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular in this 21st Century. The paper argues that many political leaders in Africa have manipulated the African solution mantra for their own political gains. In the ensuing argument I pose critical questions on whether there is an African ‘problem’ and also whether there are ‘African solutions’ to the numerous crises unfolding in Africa. African Problems to African solutions, what’s in a Phrase? One may ask. Isn’t this a matter of semantics and vocabulary? This article seeks to interrogate these and many more questions in greater depth and in detail. The paper also seeks to further analyse the role of localized conflict resolution mechanism by Africans in purely African ‘crises’.

Introduction

With the mushrooming of conflicts in Africa, many questions arise. The first question is whether the African solution to African problems thesis really work in light of the ever increasing emerging conflicts in Africa. Many African crises year in, year out has degenerated into full blown conflicts. However, in all these ‘crises’ African politicians seem to be quick in pointing out that the best solution in dealing with Africa’s conflicts is through home grown localised African solutions. From case examples of Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Nigeria, Mali, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Zimbabwe academics and peace activists are confronted with a challenge of re-thinking sustainable conflict resolution alternatives. In light of the above there still remains a lot of controversy and debate amongst scholars and practitioners on whether there are ‘African problems’ so to speak.

However, given the history of the afore-mentioned countries, the African solution praxis seems obsolete. This is in light of the emerging conflicts and events in Africa. How can a problem become African or European? One may ask. Strictly speaking, the concept and praxis of ‘African solutions to African problems’ still remains the most controversial and easily manipulated term both in the academia (mainly in the field of conflict studies) and in the political arena.

Divide and Pacify

By and large it can be argued that the ‘African problems to African solutions’ thesis is a strategy or ploy to divide and pacify the African masses. Whilst sectarian conflicts are raging on in Nigeria, regional bodies like ECOWAS, government officials and civil society actors are preaching the ‘African solution-to African problems gospel’. However, as Nigeria is struggling to find home grown internal solutions to the religious and ethnic crisis, many innocent people are losing their lives at the hands of the extremists Boko Haram. It can then be argued persuasively that Africa as a whole has failed to act decisively in tackling conflicts related to ethnic, identity, religious and resource based conflicts. Consequently, these conflicts have emerged to become full blown conflicts, with Nigeria, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia being classic examples. More worrying is the fact that peace activists has stood on the sidelines, whilst the conflict entrepreneurs are preaching the language of home grown solutions to local problems.

What’s in a Name?

Do we really have peculiar problems in Africa, which are quite different with other problems in Latin America, South America, Asia, North America and Europe? If our problems as Africans are similar if not the same with other continents, what are we really saying if we are talking of an ‘African solution’? More critically, do we have unanimity on the scope and applicability of the so called ‘African solution?’ What is an African solution, who is responsible for crafting the African solution? Is it the ordinary people or the political elites who should come up with an African solution for the same problems they would have created in the first place?

Military Factor, ‘Coups’ versus the People

To me it seems the African solution to African problems thesis seem to have overlooked the fact that African dictators and army generals are part of the problem. It is the rebels and overzealous army generals who choose not to belong to the barracks but to the streets that are part of the problem and not the solution. As long as we have soldiers who fail to follow General Mao-tse-Tung’s rules of discipline, the African solution mantra will remain useless in building African democracy. As long as we have soldiers who subvert the will of the people in most African countries, African solutions will remain just a yearning but not a reality. Indeed AFRICA is at the crossroads. We have a painful decision to make, either to watch as Africa is burning and crushing, or to act. If we are to act the time is now. How long can we live in fear of the army and rebels in DRC, Mali, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda.

Indeed if we are to have African solutions, we should teach our soldiers about the basic tenets of democracy. Namely the concept and praxis of separation of power and rule of law as espoused by the great American fathers and other democracy and governance scholars. In my view, the greatest enemy in Africa is not poverty as we are made to believe. It is the political elite and the soldiers who preach the African solution mantra for them to continue plundering AFRICA’s God given resource. As ECOWAS, SADC and AU watches helplessly, our situation is going to get worse before it gets better. For it seems the military factor has become the in-thing across the African political plateau. To this end, our crisis is an ongoing crisis, given the example of Mali were soldiers can wrestle power from a civilian government in this 21st century.

Trapped In Discourse-Way Forward

The question that still remains nagging is how long shall we wait and be told that African solutions should be solved by African people themselves. In a continent full of sectarian conflicts, resource based conflicts, violent politics, failed peace processes, and a failed demilitarization process, is it still feasible to have African solutions? Before us are shining examples of how the SADC tribunal has proven to be a noble but incapacitated institution. So are the AU and ECOWAS. However, what is more worrying is the fact that each and every minute Africa is sliding back into the hands of the military and the rebels. Shall we remain entrapped in the vocabulary of African solutions to African problems or it’s high time we re-visit this discourse. In my view African solution to African problems has failed us. What’s African about dictatorship?

What defines a society is not what it overcomes during the night, but what it overcomes during the Sunlight. People have been cheated and betrayed in the long years after Sunlight in most African countries….Ben Okri.