Buhari’s Historic Victory: The Real Dawn of Nigerian Democracy?

After over three decades since seizing and losing power in military coups; after three attempts at getting in through a democratic process; after three days of a tension-filled election, Muhammadu Buhari became the first Nigerian opposition leader to oust an incumbent president through the ballot box. This puts him in charge of Africa’s biggest economy and one of Africa’s most challenging democracies.

Buhari31

Ousted President Goodluck Jonathan in an unprecedented move, called Buhari to congratulate him even before the result had been officially announced. According to Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC),”At about 5 minutes to 5, President Jonathan called General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the elections, to congratulate him,

Buhari-and-Jonathan

This smooth concession of victory by Goodluck Jonathan would surely come as a surprise to millions of his supporters especially given that former Minister of Niger Delta, Peter Godsday Orubebe had earlier in a public show of shamelessness and stupidity, attacked the Independent Electoral Commission chairman [INEC], Professor Attahiru Jega, alleging that the result of the elections have been falsified and accusing Jega of bias and partisanship.

Buhari’s victory therefore calls for cautious optimism especially if one where to take a glance at the years since the acclaimed 1999 transition to democratic rule.

With the coming to power of the Obasanjo regime in 1999 as a democratically elected government following several years of military dictatorships, it seemed a new dawn had come for Nigeria. In his opening address to Nigerians, Olusegun Obasanjo raised people’s hopes when he said:

I shall end this address by stressing again that we must change our ways of governance and of doing business on this eve of the new millennium. This we must do to ensure progress, justice, harmony and unity and above all to rekindle confidence amongst our people. Confidence that their conditions will rapidly improve and that Nigeria will be great and will become a major world power in the near future. (The NEWS, June 14, 1999)

But as events later turned out, Nigeria was in for the greatest economic, political and social nightmare. The “democracy” under Obasanjo was one in which one man who called himself the “President” ruled the nation as a personal estate, made mockery of the constitution, controlled the nation’s coffers and dished out money to other nations as if it were his personal account. After eight years in power, the social ills of the Obasanjo regime had clearly held Nigerians to ransom. Poverty was ravaging the land, many people died of curable diseases simply because they could not afford to pay hospital bills. There was even the uncomfortable admission of the fact that the lives and properties of Nigerians were more secure under General Sani Abacha than they were under the so-called democratic regime of Obasanjo. Unemployment and attendant hopelessness rose, the standards of education fell, there was a marked increase in the number of destitute and beggars on the streets. The skyrocketing of the prices of petroleum products, with an increment made on the eve of Obasanjo’s departure form office, was a clear indication of the level of decay the country had been plunged into. Worse still, it was under this regime which claimed to be able to sweep away corruption that Nigeria bagged the highest award in corruption, coming first in the world. To crown it all, the level of election malpractice was one that also deserved an award.. In the end, it was clear that military dictatorship and democratic tyranny are two sides of the same coin.

Obasanjo Yar'Adua and JonathanThe late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua and his Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, therefore, inherited an ant-infested firewood. In a few months they gave much hope to the people with the proposed 7-Point Agenda . But the questions of whether the fulfilment of those new ideas and reforms they were introducing could be considered a visionary hope, was never answered due to the untimely death of Yar’Adua.  It became obvious that the interests which those new reforms were going to thwart were much stronger and more obvious than those they were to serve when Goodluck completely ignored the 7 point Agenda both during his completion of Yar’Adua’s term and the term which he contested and won.

It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria continued to slump further into the morass of hopelessness that characterised the Obasanjo regime. To make matters worse, despite unrelenting economic forces driving Nigeria to become Africa’s biggest economy, the onslaught of the Boko Haram insurgency exposed the ill-preparedness and inability of Jonathan to lead Nigeria.

It is therefore not very surprising that a majority of Nigerians decided that it was time to give Buhari another chance to redeem himself. His perseverance has finally paid off, and with Goodluck Jonathan showing maturity in conceding defeat, Buhari has a huge challenge ahead. He has the experience, and hopefully, with the determination to set the records straight, Buhari might finally usher in the real dawn of an era where the ordinary Nigerian can begin to feel and experience the real dividends of a true democracy!

Paul Biya Dies: What Difference Would it Make?

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog as I have been trying to sort out some personal issues that did not allow me much time to write. However, since the beginning of March, I have received lots of messages with questions regarding current happenings in Cameroon. The most recent has been the hoax announcement of the passing away of Cameroon strongman and dictator Paul Biya. After some reflection, I started to ask myself the question: would it really make a difference if Paul Biya truly died?

Paul Biya

For those who care to remember, this is not the first time that there has been a fake announcement that Paul Biya was dead.

In June of 2004 it was rumoured that Paul Biya had died following an undisclosed illness at some undisclosed location. As no reporting or discussion of anything related to the president is allowed the late Journalist, Pius NJAWE incurred the full wrath of the President and his institutions for daring to ponder about the state of the President’s health. Njawe was to spend 10 months in prison.

In October of 2008, similar rumours began making the rounds and there were widespread celebrations on the streets of Cameroon. To many people’s chagrin and surprise, Paul Biya returned the country on November 01, 2008 exactly 43 days after abandoning the country, just two days short of him being constitutionally replaced. This time the rumor had it that the absentee president had died at the exclusive “Clinique Générale-Beaulieu” in East Geneva. Given that news of an ailment Biya was said to be suffering had leaked out fueling the speculation of his death, some members of his entourage were fired for violating the code of secrecy.

At the beginning of March, 2015, The Commander in Chief of the Cameroon Armed Forces, Paul Biya again left Cameroon for Switzeroland while soldiers where being killed by Boko Haram insurgents. The conclusion many arrived at was that it must have been nothing short of an emergency to make a president abandon his country and travel abroad at a time when there was a crisis involving terrorists. As the African adage says: “A man whose house is on Fire does not chase rats”. Hence, in line with another axiom which states that “a toad does not run in the daylight for nothing: either it is after something or something is after it”, it was easily surmised that nothing short of an emergency could have pushed Biya to leave the country. By a process of elimination and taking into consideration the man’s age, the most logical conclusion arrived at was another death announcement.

The rumours of  Biya’s death gained momentum on Thursday the 26th of March, 2015 on  Facebook and other social media outlets like Twitter and WhatsApp!

While no official announcement has been made to refute the rumours two days after they started, one is apt to wonder what it would mean for Cameroon if Biya truly was dead!

To the ordinary Cameroonian, it would actually mean very little because as far as they are concerned, The Man Already Died!

Since “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” (Wole Soyinka), it is safe to conclude that Biya died a long time ago. Biya has been dead for most of the 33 years that he has been Cameroon’s president. Biya died when he let the country slump into an economic crisis from 1986 and did little to salvage the situation; Biya died in 1990 when in attempting to stop the rise of Multiparty politics in the country, he ordered the killing of many innocent Cameroonians; Biya remained dead from thence as he was focused only on maintaining his hold on power while the country slumped into a morass of poverty, corruption, greed and hopelessness. So in principle, to many Cameroonians; Biya actually went stone cold when he cracked down on public protests, changed the constitution that made him stay in power; Yes for a the tyranny visited on Cameroonians PAUL BIYA IS DEAD!

However, if Biya was to leave the scene, it would be a make or break situation for Cameroon. Given that most of his cabinet members and close allies are now languishing in prison, a smooth transition after his dead remains a matter of speculation. Perhaps like some of his ‘friends’ his son Frank Biya will take over. Given that Frank is not much in the picture, one therefore wonders what type of president he would make. The most likely and constitutional choice would be the President of the National Assembly Cavayé Yéguié Djibril. But as someone who has been the ruling party – CPDM Political Bureau, one wonders if he will offer anything different from what Biya has been offering!

One thing is certain though, as Caiaphas, once said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish.’There is no situation which is more appropriate for this statement.

Biya’s dead would be a blessing to Cameroon but let me be quick to add that it would not be in the same sense as Christ’s death was to Christendom but would be exactly in the manner in which Caiaphas meant it!

US-Africa Summit: The Apogee of African Distress

To say that Africa is a continent in distress will be an understatement.

Ebola is threatening the very fabric of life within the West African region; there are endless wars in the DRC, South Sudan, CAR amongst others; Boko Haram has made Africa’s biggest economy a security nightmare. In the midst of all these travails, African demagogues, strongmen and clueless leaders have been flocking to Washington to hold a summit? What do they really think can come from the USA that will solve any one of Africa’s woes?

Obama in 2009 in Ghana was bold enough to say “we don’t need strong men, we need strong institutions”. His Secretary of State John Kerry followed up with that line of argument with he met with Joseph Kabila few months ago and spoke on the importance of not changing the constitution.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, and Mrs. Chantal Biya, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet Paul Biya, Strongman of Cameroon, and Mrs. Chantal Biya, in the Blue Room during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. (Photo Credit: State Department Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

During this summit, Obama has met with almost all the strongmen of Africa and there has been little talk of strengthening institutions. One would have thought that with some like Paul Biya of Cameroon (who changed the constitution in 2008 amidst violent crackdown of protesters) being booed, some sense of decency will make Obama think about his words in Ghana a few years ago. Unfortunately, this was not the case as John Kerry went as far as praising Kabila during a press conference.

Far from being surprising, this should have been expected. No country in the world today can compare with the US when it comes to double standards and hypocrisy.

My heart bleeds rather for the blindness of those who call themselves African leaders. It is evident to any discerning person  that the US called this summit not because it is intrinsically interested in African development but because it serves her purpose perfectly. The main focus is clearly to curb China’s influence and gain access to Africa’s resources. With 6 out of the 10 fastest growing economies in Africa, a new scramble for the continent is underway.

The US started its anti-China campaign since the early 2000 when The Heritage Foundation hatched a plan to militarise the continent, a plan which Obama has been executing… Having drones hovering over African countries and ensuring the rapid spread of AFRICOM despite an initial rejection by 14 African countries is just another phase of this wider plan. The US is therefore doing the one thing it knows best, create disorder and wars!

If one were stupid enough to think for a moment that the US was seriously considering a viable strategic trade alliance with African countries, let that person ask the one question, WHY WAS AFRICA SO CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT FROM ANY DISCUSSIONS DURING THE LAST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES ON FOREIGN POLICY?

The answer is simple – Africa is not considered important in its own right, but is only useful as part of a wider strategy to ‘go after China’. So at the end of the day, Africa will be the battleground for the imperialist power play.

 

Boko Haram Edges Closer to ‘Home’ While Chibok Girls Gradually Become Invisible Children!

A hundred days following the abduction of over 270 young girls by the militant terrorist group, Boko Haram, came and passed a few days ago with very little mention by the major news outlets. After what seemed like an eternity, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan finally met the families of the abducted girls and some who had escaped.  The day itself was actually celebrated by Boko Haram by detonating two bombs in quick succession, killing over 75 people and narrowly missing the ex-military president and the country’s topmost opposition leader Mohammadu Buhari.

Boko Haram

Of course, as expected, this is the news that made the headlines as everything regarding the missing girls is gradually dwindling into oblivion. Skeptics like me who had already questioned the social media hype – comparing it to a similar situation in the quest to catch Joseph Kony – are not in the least surprised.

It happened that international media outlets were initially very slow in reporting the news of the kidnapping of the girls, which even led to some questioning the veracity of the scanty early reports that emerged. When social media took up the campaign, the tempo was upped but the objective seemed to be one thing only – portray Nigeria as incapable of handling the situation and ask foreign intervention. Under pressure, international help was enlisted.

According to State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki the US was “providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support“. Military and law-enforcement teams on the ground were “digging in on the search and co-ordinating closely with the Nigerian government as well as international partners and allies”. These allies were Britain, France and China, with Israel promising to join the team! Strangely, Boko Haram seemed to have become bolder and are hitting closer and closer to ‘home’ despite the massive international presence.

The recent targeting of prominent figures and the news that emerged today of the abduction of the wife of Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister only makes the case harder to fathom. Does it mean that Boko Haram has over just a few years become so sophisticated that the ‘best’ intelligence agencies in the world cannot take them out? Or could it be that the efforts are just not significant to counter the threat?

ChibokGirls1
Have they been ‘sold’, forced into marriage? Their fate hangs on a balance as weeks have turned into months!!!

Worse, there is little news about what is happening on the ground in the search efforts to bring the girls home. Gradually, therefore, this case is becoming a cold one and the Chibok girls are gradually becoming like the child soldiers that the US charity Invisible Children sought to free from Joseph Kony. Each day that passes, the issue seems to be buried deeper and deeper under the radar but what will simply not disappear is that the world could not save over 270 young vibrant girls from ragtags such as Boko Haram.

Maybe hope should be rekindled now that some prominent people have become targets of bombings and kidnappings. Maybe the Cameroon elite force, (the Battalion D’Intervention Rapide, which is said to be well trained to counter insurgencies of this type,) will step up and prove that they are not only good at cracking down on civilians to keep Paul Biya in power!

Whatever the case, we pray that the girls can still be found! After over a hundred days, one is scared to imagine what the girls might have been subjected to!

 

 

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon: Symptom of a Country in Travail

In 2012, when I wrote this, I was lamenting the defeat of Cameroon by Cape Verde. The build up to the world cup, which saw disputes over unpaid premiums already showed how deep the problems of the National Team are. But then one is apt to ask the question: Why is it that Cameroon is one of the few, if not the only Country, where the Cabinet Ministers and the Football Federation are always fighting over who controls the resources of the team? If money does not get missing on a plane, then players will have to protest to get their premiums. Why is it that the Cameroon team has done so much in the past yet there is nothing to show for in-country? Players made sacrifices in the past, won trophies, brought glory, died on the playing field but the government has never as much as done anything to show the players why they should go out and fight for the country.

“US Cannot Teach Nigeria How to Fight Rebels” – Retired Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Victor Malu Once Said!

I remember vividly the day the guest on an NTA programme was retired Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Victor Malu. Some of the things he said then have since stuck to my mind. Perhaps this is due to the fact he said some things relating to my country of origin – Cameroon – and how the US was playing the Machiavellian advocate in the conflict between both countries. However, with the recent events of the past few weeks, that whole programme came flashing to my mind.

During my days in Nigeria, I rarely watched the National Television, but there was one programme I never missed. That programme was called POINT BLANK. It was hosted by the then Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority Tony Iredia. Living to its name, this was a programme that was started during the Abacha era, during which guest were drilled POINT BLANK by the host without fear or favour. Something similar to BBC’s Hard Talk, guests had to answer well researched questions about the issues of the day affecting their departments, ministries or even personal life.

I have not been able to get the talk, but during a quick research, I have come across an interview Victor Malu granted the Sunday Sun on July, 31st, 2005, where he expressed almost carbon-copy sentiments. Below are excepts of this interview which sheds a lot of light in the current US quest to ‘help’ Nigeria find Boko Haram. 

Victor Malu

US Dubious Move

“I didn’t have disagreement with Obasanjo. I went first to the Minister of Defence to tell him the Americans are not coming to train us on peace keeping. The Nigeria Army should teach the Americans on peace keeping. Peace keeping is not nuclear, chemical or biological warfare. That’s the job for an infantry man who walks on his feet, carrying his ammunition, rifles, you maneuver to get to the point using fire. That is what Americans don’t do.
The Americans would first bomb the place before going in. If you survive, you survive but you can’t do peace keeping that way. 
“If you remember Ambassador Twaddel, he was the last but one U.S ambassador in Nigeria. He represented the American government at the Liberian crisis. At the end of that crisis, he wrote a report to the American government. I had come back, he had gone back to the U.S. He sent me two copies of the report. There were whole chapters that were on the Armed Forces of Nigeria after observing them in operation. 
“What they said in effect was that if in future, the American government wishes to support any regional grouping that has a peace-keeping outfit like ECOMOG in the case of ECOWAS, they should not talk about sending personnel. He said give the people the logistics. He found out that what the Nigerian Army did could not have been done by any American soldier. That man never knew he would ever come to Nigeria as ambassador.

“If you remember the five years of Abacha, we had completely severed from any other western country. All our officers who were in the various institutions abroad were sent back. We were not going on course. America was curious to know how from a third world country with all the sanctions, the Nigerian Army could achieve the feat we achieved in Liberia. And then, they came and found a willing person in the name of Obasanjo. They got everything they wanted. It was at that point I told him (Obasanjo), ‘Sir, we cannot have Americans come here to tell us they want to train us on peace keeping.’

“An interesting thing happened in Sokoto. The Americans insisted on staying in the barracks with our soldiers. I said over my dead body. I asked General Danjumah who was my GOC before he became a chief of army staff, ‘Would you, during your tenure have allowed this foreign troop to come and stay in the barracks with your soldiers?’ He said no, that he would need to discuss it with Obasanjo. 

“At a stage, we agreed that the Americans would give us some support in terms of equipment required for peacekeeping operations. We compiled a table of tools and equipment so that they would help us with them. That was the only time that we agreed that if they are giving out equipment, they should not give us what we already had in our ordinance. We agreed to allow them train us on that equipment for as long as they wanted. 

“We were waiting for them after we gave them the list to tell us what they were bringing and the quantity so that we could start arranging the training. We woke up one day and found many American instructors. Where is the equipment? No equipment. So what are you going to give us? They said they were to start training us on peace keeping.

“So, this kept going on but the dangerous part of it was that as at that time we were in Bakassi nose to nose with the Camerounians. The same Americans that were claiming to be training us for peace keeping were training and equipping the Camerounian army. I was the one that captured that place and I know what we suffered.”

Reading this again today, I now remember how I felt back then. I wonder if the US has drastically changed its strategy in Africa. If this is not the case, then this Boko Haram saga has just handed them an opportunity to completely distabilise the whole West and Central African region.

Yaya Touré Should Get the Recognition he Deserves: FabAfriq Setting the Pace!

Yaya Toure, The Manchester City and Ivory Coast midfielder has won league titles in four countries – Ivory Coast, Greece, Spain and England –  and the Champions League in 2009 with FC Barcelona.

FabAfriq Cover

This 2013/2014 season alone, Yaya Toure made 35 appearances in the Premier League, scored an impressive 20 goals with 9 assists and helping his team win the title. He came third in goals, beaten by Liverpool strikers Luis Suarez (31 goals) and Daniel Sturridge (21 goals).

With such an impressive record, it would be expected that Toure will be a serious contender for any football awards in the world. This unfortunately has not been the case, which made teammate Samir Nasri to point out that Yaya would be celebrated as the world’s greatest midfielder but for the fact he is African.

These sentiments are confirmed by Toure himself in an interview with Football Focus on BBC World News where he said: “I think what Samir was saying was definitely true… To be honest, proper recognition has only come from the fans… I don’t want to be hard and I don’t want to be negative, but I want to be honest.”

Ahead of the game, FabAfriq Magazine had already discerned that this was one player who needed to be given the accolades he deserves. FabAfriq caught up with Toure and he had a lot to say with regards to his role as the face of One.org’s DoAgric project. It shows that Yaya Toure is not only good on the field, he is good with promoting the usage of another type of field for economic prosperity.

The full interview is featured in the current issue of FabAfriq Magazine.

#Bringbackourgirls Vs Invisible Children’s #Kony2012: What is The Score?

Pre-Match

The past few weeks would have been really disturbing for anyone around the world and especially Africans who have some sense of empathy in them.  Since April 14, when it is alleged that a band of heavily armed Islamist militants raided the Government Girls Secondary School in Borno state, northern Nigeria,  and ultimately fled with an estimated 300 captives all of whom are young women and girls who the militants’ leader has threatened to sell into slavery or marriage, there has been no shortage of media coverage and social media hype about finding the girls. Today, the BBC reported that hopes of finding the girls is fading fast. But was this unexpected?

Bring Back our Girls

There is a saying that once bitten twice shy hence,  I was not about to make the mistake that I made in supporting the Kony2012 campaign before realising what the real agenda was. I wrote a post then titled The African Dilemma: Kony 2012 – Liberation or Recolonisation? in which I questioned the whole logic of the campaign and regretted that history was repeating itself and Africa was experiencing a second colonisation. I have therefore been very slow in joining the clamour for the Chibok girls to be found. This does not in any way mean that I did not hope they should be found. Rather, I have been hoping to find answers to some questions but, the more I try, the more questions there are to answer.

How realistic are the Evaluations and Pronostics?

Anyone familiar with the Kony2012 saga will inevitably ask this question. The objectives seem to be the same, getting foreign troops into an African country because the quest is one that the country cannot handle and one that failure to accept foreign help will amount to barbarism on the part of the government.
Over the past few weeks, the story of the abducted girls and Nigeria’s Boko Haram militant group has become a roaring inferno with the press and come to dominate world news with one endgame in sight – Nigeria and its neighbours should allow unfettered access to Western troops to help find the girls.

Is this real?
Is this real?

Whether or not girls are missing in Chibok is not a question I can answer, despite some skepticism creeping into my mind when I started coming across contentious views. However, I cannot ignore some more questions.

What Happened to Kony2012?

Those who followed the media hype of Invisible Children’s Kony2012 will remember that they claimed Joseph Kony will be caught before 2012 ran out. We are in 2014 and despite the fact that Obama sent hundreds of specialist troops into Uganda and the Central African region, there is nothing to show for it. Oh wait! I almost forgot! Joseph Kony has not been caught yet, but the Central African Republic and South Sudan have joined the Democratic Republic of Congo as the latest additions of conflict ridden African states.

The question one cannot fail asking at this stage is: Where are the specialist troops Obama sent? Why did they not help in stopping the carnage that took place in the CAR? why are they not able to help South Sudan avoid a famine catastrophe? How come the countries they entered in the quest to catch Kony all suddenly erupted into conflict? What role are these specialist troops actually playing in the outbreak of conflict in these countries?

These questions will appear really naive when it is recalled that the USA seems to be able to offer nothing but conflict to any country they enter. Rewind back to the immediate post 9/11. The quest to catch Bin Laden and free Americans from the fear of Al Qaeda resulted in the complete collapse of Iraq, Afghanistan and has left Pakistan struggling to hold itself together. The quest to catch Al Qaeda members and other terrorist across the globe has left the fear of drones hanging over every area that has been identified as a stronghold (Yemenis can testify to this fact). It will therefore be out of character for the US to engage in a search and rescue mission without leaving a trail of horrifying conflict. Which brings me to another question.

Who Arms these Rebels and Terrorists?

I cannot believe I am asking this question. It may not be immediately obvious who arms Al Qaeda (at least not the ones in Syria) or who currently arms the Taliban, but when it comes to Boko Haram, it is obvious to any discerning mind. Boko Haram began as a local group and with the quick execution of their leader in 2009 during the reign of late Nigerian President Yar’ Adua, the sponsors of the sect could not be uncovered. The group however began to dwindle until 2011 when Libya collapsed and the arms that the US had indiscriminately handed to rebels in Libya conveniently found their way into Nigeria and saw the rebirth of the current Boko Haram. Questions abound as to weather the weapons simply changed hands or the same people who used them in Libya simply changed locations. Obviously, this is a difficult question to answer, I will look at the score of the two campaigns against terrorist groups championed through the use of social media and mass promotion.

The Scoreboard

It should be obvious at this stage where I am driving this analysis. In 2012, there was a massive social media campaign claiming to be aimed at catching Joseph Kony. Kony has not been caught, but all the countries in which he has been associated with are all experiencing armed conflict. The only success was that registered by the Obama administration which got troops into these countries, without going through the drudgery of explaining to anyone why that was necessary. That makes it One for #Kony2012 and the Obama administration, and Zero for African security.

More Questions
Can We Beat his Logic?

 

With the current state of affairs regarding #Bringbackourgirls, the campaign has already scored one and with US troops already in Nigeria, that is also one for the Obama administration – the question of whether Nigeria and her neighbours will score anything in this game remains a matter of future conjecture. The recipe for failure has already been prepared when the The presidents of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin were invited to a meeting, with representatives from France, the UK, the US and the European Union. The operating word here is ‘invited’ because the affected countries did not choose to meet – but were invited to discuss an issue the was of grave importance to them and the meeting did not take place in any of the countries affected, but in Paris of all places.

Not to stretch this too far, I will end by asking anyone  who thinks that the same players who are yet to win in a dangerous game that has engulfed Ukraine in conflict, will all of a sudden provide a lasting solution to a problem in Africa, should have their thought processes examined.

In one of my posts, I asked and I ask again: AFRICA: QUO VADIS?

Twenty Years After Apartheid – Religious Segregation Takes Over

It has been a weekend of festivities in South Africa and for many Africans across the globe who share the solidarity. Sunday in particular was glammed by street parades, speeches, prayers, music and military salutes and and many more fanciful displays.

Credit: SAnews
Credit: SAnews

 

While a parochial glance at the African continent makes such a celebration worth the while, a more synoptic view will only reveal one fact: as far as segregation and conflict go, Africa is in a relay race. So, while South Africa celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first ever all-race, democratic election that ended decades of sanctioned racial oppression under the apartheid system, other countries in Africa have taken the baton of segregation and mass murder. In most cases, it has not been much about race or ethnicity but about religion.

The paradox of it all lies in that Christianity played a crucial role in providing theological rationalisations for maintenance of apartheid, in the same manner it did with colonialism. The South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church was unwavering in its support of the regime until the late 1980s. There were only a few voices, like that of Desmond Tutu, crying in the wilderness. Little wonder the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report, Volume 4 Chapter 3 clearly states that:

Some of the major Christian churches gave their blessing to the system of apartheid. And many of its early proponents prided themselves in being Christians. Indeed, the system of apartheid was regarded as stemming from the mission of the church…Religious communities also suffered under apartheid, their activities were disrupted, their leaders persecuted, their land taken away. Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples – often divided amongst themselves – spawned many of apartheid’s strongest foes, motivated by values and norms coming from their particular faith traditions.”

So today, being Low Sunday, the Sunday in the Octave of Easter, the Sunday in which Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were canonised and millions gathered at the Vatican to witness the event,  in the Central African Republic, another kind of service was being held by ‘Christians’ in a Mosque.  In a conflict that has already accounted for thousands of deaths and 700,000 IDPs and a further 290,000 who have fled to other neighbouring countries, am apt to wonder if many Churches or Church leaders so much as thought of what is happening in the Central African Republic (CAR) in their sermons and prayers as they marked this Easter Octave.

The conflict in the CAR began since March 24, 2013. Muslim rebels known as the Seleka seized Bangui, the capital of the CAR, sparking the division between Christians and Muslims. As soon as François Bozizé was ousted, the Social Contract ceased to exist and there was a swift return to the State of Nature where chaos an anarchy is the only language the people understood .

central-african-republicIf there is one thing I know about Christianity and Islam, it is that the adherents of these religions have an almost unquestionable loyalty to their leaders. The mind-boggling question remains therefore whether the leaders have not spoken to them in this instance or whether they have simply decided to kick the can down the road and look the other way as has been the case with other past atrocities.

In the case of South Sudan. its church leaders have urged expansion of peace talks to include the religious leaders probably because many Christians played a crucial role in South Sudan’s independence, reconciling fighting factions, providing services and building structures. But the fragility of the first mediation must be questioned and questions asked of this conflict which began  after Salva Kiir alleged that his former deputy Riek Machar was planning a coup and arrested several senior politicians.

In Nigeria, it seems as if Boko Haram is the only faction gaining from the many Inter-religious Dialogues that have been taking place. The recent kidnapping of 230 young school girls and the bombing in the Nigerian Capital Abuja  are silent testimonies that much more has to be done by the religious leaders in Africa than holding dialogues.

Wole Soyinka was spot-on when he said that The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” And since according to Henri Frederic Amiel “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence“, the silence or half-hearted condemnation by religious leaders, of the mass murders going on in different African countries under the banner of religion, makes the leaders not only ‘dead men’, but given that these religions claim to be based on truth, out-rightly challenges the core of whatever these religions profess. 

Lapiro De Mbanga – The Eclipse of A Hero’s Life

The Life and death of each one of us, writes a memorandum for others to follow. While some people disappear completely after death, there are some however, who are simply eclipsed because their light, though shaded, lives on in myriads of ways.

I bet many of you, if not Cameroonian, have never heard of the name Lapiro De Mbanga. I do not blame you if this is the case. Almost everything in Cameroon that remotely challenges the dangerous status-quo of Paul Biya and his cohorts is always under the radar. (For more on Lapiro De Mbanga, see FabAfriq’s story)

My single consolation is that great people like Karl Marx, died in obscurity, but their ideology outlived and outshone them. Upon Lapiro’s demise, the BBC in a very short report simple called him ‘a protest singer’. But was he just that? I think not.

Lapiro was an activist of the first order. All his music was designed to fight for Cameroonians of all works of life. From the ’80s when freedom of expression was anathema in Cameroon, Lapiro used a lingo that was understood by almost every Cameroonian.

In his music he questioned issues ranging from police corruption, Cameroon foreign debt, nepotism in the Cameroon political system, the one-man-show type of governance of Paul Biya, poor governance and lack of basic amenities, the lack of anything to show from the success of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, unemployment and the degradation of Cameroon education, and challenging the constitutional change that saw Biya become eligible for life presidency.

His imprisonment for speaking out, simply confirmed that Cameroon was one of the worse countries to be outspoken – mainly because most of the world at large do not know this is the case. Upon release from prison, Lapiro did not stop, he sang promising Biya more trouble. But like many like him who continually challenged Biya, life runs a short course.

Many journalists have suffered prison sentences and some like Germain S. Ngota Ngota even died in a Cameroon prison. The million pounds question remains: how long will Biya continue to suppress the the people of Cameroon? The protests of 2008 may have failed because of lack of international support, but I am sure this is not the end. There is a limit to how much people can endure.

With a higher GDP than Cote D’Ivoire and Senegal, Cameroon seriously lags behind the two in life expectancy. It is a worry that despite the wars and violent upheavals that the Ivory Coast has faced, people are more likely to live longer there than in Cameroon.

Lapiro may have died at the very young age of 57 but like he says in one of his songs: ALUTA CONTINUA