Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cross the Ganges in rage on rape, India is not an island

If quiet flows the Ganges I know not; rape on ice revisited

A winter 'sunrise' in Oslo 13 January 2013. Photo by Philo Ikonya 

            I still see scattered ashes of the gang-raped student of physiotherapy on the Ganges and the huge river rages in my mind. All rivers meet. All names name us. We do not need to know her name to never forget her. If it is offered we shall revere it. Deep in us, we know it. And we know more. We know that there is a message in this death for every human being everywhere in the world. This is not a debate on which to ask how come India is so enraged. It is not India. It is the world. From the North to the South: streams, rivers, lakes and finally oceans that seem to wrap the world in peace from on high are one.

It does not matter what form the ashes have taken now or where they are. This was not meant to shake India alone.  Whatever shores they may have touched have known rape before. We will not make light of this grave matter and say it just happens. I won't. I shall rage more than Dylan Thomas* for this was "no gentle good night!" 
There is and was insane violence. It is happening again and again right now.  There is no good rape. Not even the one in which the 'victim' in this case is a person who cannot due to illness or age react. And yes, I am raging because my little friend who has cerebral palsy was raped right in her mother's house while her mother was away for a while. Kenya. We must all shout at the beast of rape wherever we see it because too many people are silenced for one reason or another. Sometimes, it is a bribe.
I wrote long e-mails, used the phone to get the mother out of fear but suddenly, her daughter had not been raped. The doctor says it was not the first time. What then?

The River Ganges is long. Everywhere along it people can have their own entry point. But the last time we saw it on January 15, people were there to bathe in millions for the forgiveness of their sins. I have not time here to go into one religion. But this is about all of us. We wash again and again just like Pontius Pilate on that day and the priests daily.  I think the worst all of us can commit is to keep on thinking that this outrageous rape-murder has only pointed to India.  For who really lives after rape? Which child? Which grandmother? Which young girl? Which boy or man? So I rage that we talk without borders. 
But let us first look right next to ourselves and how we deal with rape and what that says to the world.

We can now ask India many questions and say that after all she is not that great. We are not overlooking her rapes, they are horrendous. Who has spoken up for the Dalit? How many more unknown groups are under ground as the UN keep peace? But let us first look at ourselves and very near us. I am in Norway.

Last winter 2012, there was what was referred to as "A rape wave" in Oslo, Norway. Never before had there been so many reported rape incidents. It was and is still a disaster. Nothing can be worse than girls being afraid to go home on their own in the dark because they are afraid that they can get raped. But in the discussions we had in the media and on our own. Something very strange kept happening. There were many who easily pushed the issue back to the girls. How they are dressed, what time they were out and who they were with. I know this boils over. There are people who want to convince you and they are sure themselves that women provoke rape. They are everywhere. 
The other dimension became the "immigrants". Blame a whole group of people. Blame them because they are black or green. Blame them because they were not born here. Blame them. It was the first reaction too when Oslo was bombed. It is terror. It is the 'outsiders'. In the moment of addressing rape, the best would be to stick to the offence and report all offenders not races or background. Today I visited the Akerselva. She battles with winter 2013 to tell her story about rape on ice.

She wants to remind us of the environment too but that for another day. Until we all treat rape and acknowledge that it happens everywhere, we are going nowhere. 

High profile cases that signal trouble for the world

The reported cases that reach the media are the ones we call high profile. But these too sometimes go out of attention silently. What happened to the world when United Nation Peace keepers raped over 200 women in Kivu of the D R Congo? Was this little violence? And if your read well you know that this is not the first time that UN Peacekeepers rape.
 What impression do they give to the world? Of course some of them are settled out of court and outside the limelight. I remember Dominique Strauss- Khan. It is only that this headline coming a few days after the rape of the Indian girl probably bored most people. last thing I saw was a beautiful Gambian woman, Nafissatou Diallo, thanking the people who stood by her and God and telling us that this had been resolved out of court. There is no death sentence in many places of the world for rape.

Julius Assagne might be clean, but the world deserves to know the truth. After all this is a man who believes in 'outing' the truth. All we need is a reasonable end.  Ecuador gave asylum to Julius Assange whose freedom of expression I do not begrudge him. If we cannot get these things out then we have no right to sit hard and pretty and ask India questions such as I heard on Hard Talk. They are questions to the world. I know the idea is that India does not take action and police do not record enough crime but on rape let us not make only news. Let no river flow in peace from now on. 

For was it not only yesterday that we confirmed that former BBC manager Jammy Savile so vile hid in the best place? He hid in the open and as a celebrity for over fifty years molesting, harassing, raping children for years. Now only his tombstone is in trouble?
Let the Ganges and all rivers rage. I forever thank the Indian activists, the people for standing up, speaking out and saying rape is death. Their children did not carry placards that said stop rape in India. They said, Stop Rape!

And we saw one tough ex-police boss who comes out clear minded and ready to work, not only for India but for the world on rape issues. After all she clearly stated that Indian police behave the way they do because they still operate with the 1816 British Law (Better start serious review India dear,  Kenya has only changed the law and discovered much more work needs to be done still for real change to come. Take the first steps you Mahatmian land... great soul!)
This reform must flow longer than the Ganges and rather than wash any sins, take justice urgently to so many because justice we shall never give to our unnamed hero and so many other people in the world!   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Invictus: we need to become Mandela

"We sang a song about the Freedom Charter, and another about the Transkei, with the lyrics, 'There are two roads, one road is the Matanzima road, and one road is the Mandela road, which one will you take?' The singing made the work lighter...and we were soon ordered to stop singing. (Whistling was banned.) From that day onwards we worked in silence. Long Walk to Freedom. The autobiography of Nelson Mandela *Abacus. pg. 484

                        We have a treasury of so many words from and about Nelson Mandela. Films. Invictus a film directed by Clint Eastwood celebrates the invincible spirit of Mandela. Mandela is a big name. No one proves it best than youth who live in the poorest of conditions in South Africa. I saw how eager they were in Soweto and other places that Mandela recovers from his recent lung infection. They meant it. They said it. They cried it. They wrote it. They prayed it. We have to become Mandela rather than spend time arguing if he is a product of the West as some of my friends have done on Facebook. Why do we want to stand in the face of unquestionable greatness? His greatness does not mean that the others are not great and that is what Invictus shows.

Mandela's is a story that is impossible to forget. A story? A life. He made it out of Robben Island and he became the icon around which much of South African hope was centred. Weaknesses we all have but some people once in many, many years seem to visit humanity for a very specific message. Mandela is one such man. There were and are many other heroes in South Africa but human beings have a way of looking to some people for hope in a particularly earnest way. For some reason, some individuals are somewhere at a specific time and things happen in a different way. They take a position on the psyche of many people and there is the production of positive energy and hope. They are loved.

If you gave many people a chance to have tea with friends, they would not leave Mandela out. This includes the people of Soweto, many African people, individuals such as Chief Albert Luthuli, Vufile Mini, Ahmed Kathrada, Hellen Joseph, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu...  Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela...and well, if you went all the way back and Gandhi was coming to tea he would be keen too. Very keen. Now even Idi Amin if he were alive would gladly want to reach Mandela, so would Colonel Muamar Gadaffi, Bokasa, my grandmother and father, Mother Teresa a whole host of us. You have seen how many singers and people liked to visit Mandela and sing for him on his birthday. I  longed to see him but learned it was better to try and understand his story.

On the 16th of June 2012 both at 13.00hrs in her  Nobel Lecture, Aung San Syu Kyi had Mandela's name on her lips. She talked about him when she addressed the people during a concert in her celebration outside the Peace Centre in Oslo. Later upon reading Desmond Tutu´s foreword to Freedom From Fear, the second edition of her book, I read "...she had no bitterness; and she was ready to work for the healing of her motherland, which had suffered so grievously. In revealing this extraordinary magnanimity, she was emulating Nelson Mandela who has left the world awed by his singular lack of bitterness, his magnanimity and his willingness to forgive those who ill-treated him."

Towards the end of 2012, I watched the documentary titled Dear Mandela. It is a about those  those who still suffer evictions try to see how to be unconquerable in the spirit of invictus but in a different circumstances. The young people are searching for the liberation that did not come with Mandela's exit from Robben Island and his five years as president. Suffering after the acquisition of freedom is difficult to take after so many people have died for freedom and better means and lives. Mandela did the honourable thing and left office after five years, an example to many people in political power despite the risks.

It is at this time in South Africa when power is in the hands of black people that the people expected to have less problems of housing and other issues when the contradiction of poor leadership hit home most. The documentary is described as a film about unfreedom. My earlier letter in this blog was a quest on my mind on how to decipher that complete freedom too on the whole continent of Africa . I believe we need it.

Some say that the West is eager to make heroes out of some for others to look up to. I think that is ridiculous. Anyone who bothers to read A long Walk to Freedom will find out for themselves that what was in Mandela was only recognised when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with De Klerk. In Amandla the movie and in so many records can one see that Mandela is one of those few persons, who visit humanity once in many years and who leave an indelible mark whilst spreading inspiration from Burma to Iceland.

We need the spirit of Mandela in all of Afrika and everywhere.  Indeed many people beyond the borders of the townships of South Africa longed and prayed for his recovery. What we now need to focus on is working towards opening up ways so that Mandela's approach and life can help us all. What is most important is that we allow ourselves to inherit his spirit and be our own award to ourselves. To scrutinise our own selves in many ways to see where it is that we miss the mark and how to overcome that. It is not easy. We have reached a point where we have to see political parties such as the ANC for what they are.

We have to give a keen look to all of Afrika from Mali to Somali, Central Africa to South Africa and keep searching for the key to uniting the continent in focusing on economic growth and greater success for all the people. ANC was lucky to have Mandela. His outlook, his appreciation of power and his leadership are needed today. We must climb to the peak of leadership in Afrika. Much has been gained in many countries there is room for change. South Afrika and Kenya are examples of that.

And yes we do need one another as a continent because whether we like it or not our people are strewn across borders due to how Africa was divided in Brussels and roads, and railways seas, lakes and rivers unite us. See how Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique need Lake Tanzania. Landlocked country economies go down when ports are inaccessible due to war or unrest.  What if our governments learned to spread goodness, respect justice and not be bitter over old feuds? Well, we do seem to unite for some things and what sadly seems to be the case is that our elected leaders unite and lobby much more for their power bases to keep strong than for the people to get justice.  Recently elected president of Malawi Joyce Banda refused to host an AU meeting in her country if the ICC indicted president Omar Al Bashir was to attend. She faced a lot of criticism but she followed the law as a signatory to the Rome Statute. Sadly the Kenyan government did the opposite in 2010 when Al Bashir was invited to Kenya. We could go on but this was about Mandela and through him, owning roots of goodness, our heroes, our philosophies and worthy convictions. Our history is full of greatness examples and who are we to opt to be so small trying to even say that Mandela is made for us? Has our wisdom vanished? Is De Klerk also a product of the West? Are the Dalai Lama, Aung San Syu Kyi, and Desmond Tutu? Well then if they are, and if justice especially from the ICC is from the West, what is left?  The life lessons from Mandela are valid for humanity and we should be glad to have shared the times in which he lived with him even if we never met Mandela.

I do not have to say that Mandela remains our hero and this blog celebrates him unreservedly and is so delighted he recovered well. Walk on Mandela! It is truly a long road to freedom! I still see you sparring with Jerry Moloi, yearning to be a boxer when you were stronger. You know better and have served well. Your attitude reminds me as the wise Indian saying goes that "We have not inherited this world from our ancestors, we have borrowed it from our children!" There is nothing contradictory in that. You worked like one who knew others must come. When we have put others behind in leadership in Afrika, we have to acknowledge that we have let Mandela down.