Saturday, February 26, 2011

The memory, Libya, Gaddafi's influence in Afrika

It is the memory of the women who cannot leave Libya tonight that keeps me awake. I imagine the young ones leaving. I see older women, grandmothers saying ' We will stay here. Just go. Try to save yourselves. We will pray for you. We will be strong. Just go! God will look after us. We cannot all go, we are old."

We are not sleeping tonight. We are watching the United Nations live since it is still our only beacon of hope. But I am concerned about our proactivity. Gaddafi in 2009 was the head of the African Union. As seen in the photograph here and in the previous posting, Gaddafi has been very influential in Afrika. I remember President Kibaki visiting him. I remember him saying that he would support the deferral of Kenyan politicians summoned by the International Criminal Court after violence in Kenya. In Kenya 1, 333 people died. Gaddafi has used ubelievable force against his people asking that his supporters visit violence from door to door. We urge the UN to now in this moment see how important it is to take Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court himself for the violence that he has caused in Libya.

Why are so many countries in the world not signatories of the Rome Statute? Can they not see how we are suffering because their not being members is always used against the Courts in our country?

How, for example, can the African Union alone help Afrika when today its leader, elected only a few weeks ago is Nguema the worst dictator in Afrika today? A man who has ruled for three terms? Will we close our eyes to everything until the violence in Kenya, in Libya is replicated elsewhere? Can we say for example that we are not guilty of what has happened in Libya? All of us knew Gaddafi before. No elections. No institutions. No judiciary. No parliament. No police but militias and we called Libya a country and respected it. Is this our so called global village? It is at such moments that I say the International Community does support violence. It is at such times that I say, I would like to challenge us to see how we claim we are equal when obviously we are not. Some things can only happen in some countries. We close our eyes.

I imagine the children's fear reflecting the fear in the eyes of the grown ups around them. I think of how they hid upon hearing machine guns and fire. I reflect on how young people and others felt during years of accepting little freedom. I meditate. It is these memories that steal sleep from my eyes tonight.

I think of the many pens that are paralysed with fear. I think of the jubilation of those who have acted with courage. I think of the colour of their hearts. I clap. I remember the young Mohammed Benouassiz who set himself on fire in Tunisia. I see the flames going down to his intestines and him thinking, this is the end. I wonder at life.

I think of the desert sands that have seen blood. The blood of blood and of worry. I think of the winds that howl in between. I repeat some phrases in grand speeches that never made sense. Facebook. How can you blame Facebook.

It was many years ago that we marvelled at Gadafi's tent as children. His life puzzled us. And not so many years back, we saw that freedom loving people of the west had returned to embracing him for oil?

I have heard many things. I believe I will still hear more. I never thought it would come to this. But how did we think things would end. I have seen girl body guards at work. I have seen militias dancing away and hotels in Nairobi sold off. I have seen politicians deliver illegal trophy, animal skins to Gadaffi, saying they represent their people. Owning animal skins or taking them by plane is illegal. Someone let this happen.

I keep wondering then, why people like Martin Luther King or Malcom X live not so long. Why their influence is never from a powerful podium for 50 years. I wonder what it takes for a man to hear and accept that one cannot allow their own nation to go on fire...if only one remembers that nobody should be in power for so long? That one must have institutions. We cannot live under palm trees, own so much property and have leisure and only look after our own sons. We cannot allow that others have to part their families get separated in Tripoli as you sit comfortably talking from a fortress! The whole world must stop and help Libyan people stick together.

I remember media that opined that Libya would not go the way of Tunisia or Egypt. That it would stay in peace. What could we say to them? They have been in analysis for years. Libya has been like neither of these. It had to be the worst.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

All Pharaohs in Afrika, Go Now!

All the Pharaohs in Afrika, Go Now!

The world owes Afrika better attention, the West and poor leadership in Afrika

If anyone doubts that Egypt is flying today on the wings of the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, they must at least acknowledge that Egypt is on fire. We saw Tunisia before. Jordan decided for an early attempt of baptism of water rather than fire. Yemen moved with Egypt. Something happened in Khartoum but was only briefly analysed. There is heaving discontent in Sudan and below. Analysts who were surprised by Tunisia now agree that this is an Arab world uprising, and yet. They continue to talk about the Arab world fighting oppression and dictatorships. You do not hear about Afrika clearly. We may not speak about but in the world today, unless you are not seeing it, boundaries are melting under the pressure of the power of communication.Search further.

And yet. A BBC documentary only a few weeks ago was the first in which a journalist interviewed Afrikan victims of trafficking stuck in the Sinai desert. There was an eerie moment during that broadcast,when the presenter said that nobody knows how many Afrikans are caught up in the Sinai desert trying to reach Europe. And we pride in modern communication.

He was speaking to a woman who had been raped endlessly. Her husband had died from the anger and frustration of seeing his wife thus abused. With all our pride in internet, Al Jazeera and these brave journalists, we have got to ask ourselves why some places remain so hidden from the world. They are silent forgotten graves. Are the lives there political pawns?

It’s immoral. We, as the world, especially the progressive world, cannot allow ourselves not to be proactive in knowing what is going in some places. Much of that should shame the earth if it were exposed. We cannot continue as if all is well only stopping when the people risk everything and scream on streets and die for change. In some places oppression- since Europe divided up Afrika like a pancake during the Berlin Wall Conference- killed almost all possibility of People Power.

The complacency in peaceful nations that have progressed until fire burns in troubled nations is incredible. The indifference of some of them when the fire begins to burn is shocking. In places like the Nordic countries, you would be forgiven for thinking anything was wrong in the world. Their media is constipated with their own little world. From time to time, you will see this criminal refugee man as the face of Black Afrika, and prostitutes too.

Darfur in Sudan was and is. It is almost buried from our history and memory because this poor torn nation which gave birth to a new country last week could not muster the kind of people action steaming on the streets of Cairo on international channels and TVs just now. Who supports Omar Al Bashir a president indicted by the International Criminal Court? Omar is not in trouble with law because South Sudan wants her freedom! Why are we washing his diapers and covering bloodshed with him?

What do we do when a people cannot rise up in a clearly unjust situation? We sit and wait. What media is covering Central Afrika these days? Will twitter save us there? Somalia, Madagascar and Guinea- Bisau?

We wait for thousands of young Afrikans who will want to leave Afrika and come to Europe and America where we will deny them entry most of the time because we still think, this part of the world is ours and that other rich (we invariably call them poor) but unstable one, theirs.

And this happens too to poor countries of Europe. In France, Sarkozy just sends the Roma home to be more homeless. He gets them arrested.

But Afrika.

I feel the pain of a voiceless Chad, Mauritania, Ethiopia and Eritrea as the world sits and notices a major crisis. We act as if those places are farway and worse, exploit situations through diplomacy as we benefit before the people wake up or never wake up. We trade in resources with the DRC as 200 women get raped even by the United Nations soldiers that we sent there with our money. In Washington DC, We even hear out Muammar Gadaffi of Libya because his country is quiet. He has been in power for 42 years. What does the vote mean here? That he will save us from terror? He holds no elections.

The International Criminal Court tries to seek justice but even then it is losing support because the same pharaohs have sworn against it in Afrika ever since it sentenced Charles Taylor and others. They are killing it in the pretence of questioning Ocampo’s ability. They are pretending that we poor Afrikans, have never understood the difference between the sovreingty of a country in Afrika and injustice. Governments in all most oppressed worlds blatantly overlook International Conventions and keep the people down. Libya was staunchly behind supporting Kenya for a deferral from the ICC for a year. Thousands of refugees within Kenya are still in camps after the Post poll violence of 2007 that caused the people to seek recourse in the ICC. It does not matter how he has made people in his country contented. We are looking for justice and our freedom.

If the rest of the world in the UN supports au in this, We might as well agree not to have a UN or anything that binds us to protect justice.

We should be ashamed to take pride in the People Power playing out in Egypt now if we are waiting to be surprised by events, in the world we do not look at, as we were by the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. It is not just a matter of suddenly hopping onto the right side of history. No. We know that Kenyan people are agitating for change and increasingly feeling repressed and frustrated for the creation of change even if Kenyans have a new constitution. Shall we wait until they tweet like mad? We know Zimbabweans are still suffering. Shall we wait until they fb almost wearing the pages? They do not yet have capacity for that.

You know how Ivory Coast has been of late. Nigeria is often in tension. Kenya and Nigeria have elections in 2012. The oppression being fought in Egypt exists in almost all of Afrika’s over 55 countries. South Afrika, Botswana and Ghana are a few exceptions and yet you will hear about them more in the media. One may choose to see a neat division of the so called Afrika South of the Sahara but one should like to take less for granted. People Power as witnessed in the Phillippines has influenced if not always in action many processes in search of freedom in the world. Wikileaks before this, our own progress in communication in the last decade should wake us up to a different world. The last to understand will always be the oppressors but history is not on their side.

Let us not look at what is happening within narrow lenses. We cannot afford to. Many analysts in the West and other thinkers worried and worried about this being Al Queda at work before waking up to the realisation that this is about the peoples’ undying love for freedom as was in the days of Marting Luther King Jr in the One Million March in America.

Egyptians had to keep reminding all that there were Christians and Muslims on the streets. I pity those of us who would remain narrow. I pity the USA and Europe if they fail to see that the world, not just the Arab Middle East countries has changed. I pity them if they do not realise that there must be more solidarity today with the people of Eritrea rather than with the corrupt and overbearing leadership entrenched in present day Eritrea. I hope they can hear the heaviness and pain in some countries where they are still supporting terrible leaders even if it is because of fear of fundamentalists taking over. I hope those working for the release of writers and journalists in such lands- they are usually first victims- will see how much more they must work for better leadership if they are not just here to make careers on poor situations. The same goes for us, human rights activists.

The only way to go in order to also quell to some extent radical terror attacks is in fact that all the people get their freedoms back. It is easy to radicalise people who live in as dastardly conditions as we have seen have been existing in Egypt as we all just did normal business supporting with billions of dollars and snorkeling as usal at Sharma el Sheikh.

Things should not be the same again after this.

Does the world care today about what is happening in Ethiopia with regard to freedom? What kind of power is the West supporting there? Have we not just seen the au, which from the day it has decided to support Kenya against the ICC we now will only spell in small letters, is incredibly supporting impunity? If the UN endorses this decision we shall also call it the un.

January 2011 in Tunisia and Egypt has been not just as many have been saying, history staring at us from facebook, twitter and the TV screen but also a great reminder to the so called world powers that life has changed in the world. It does not matter that China has supressed demonstrations in support of Egypt. It does not matter that a Nobel Prize recipient is locked up in China, freedom will surge in peoples minds and hearts and freedom will ultimately win. Don't right and wrong sides to be identified so that you can stand,be part of the change we all yearn for.