The Path to Peace and Prosperity in Africa - Samuel Karuita
Most people dream of an Africa at peace with itself, where human rights and dignity is upheld and young people can achieve self-actualization in a secure and sustainable environment. To understand peace and absence of it in Africa it is fundamental to first understand the role of youth in it. A great statesman once said that it’s the old men who wage war but it is the young men who must fight and die in it. History has no shortage of examples of old men who continue to wage war in Africa while young men continue to vanish in it as nothing more than a shadow on a wall. If one should doubt look not far than the Anti-balaka and Seleka militia in Central Africa Republic dying for Michel Djotodia and Fracois Bozize. If one should doubt look not far than the Nuer and Dinka militia in South Sudan ready to die for Riek Machar and Salva Kiir Mayardit. It is not different in Boko Haram of Nigeria, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda, and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) of DRC Congo, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad in Mali and the Janjaweed of Sudan. Even the dreaded Al-Shabaab translates not to war but youth in Somalia.
What is strange is that even those who wage violence and die in it claim to be fighting and dying for peace. A General Abdel Khader of the Seleka Militia was once interviewed by Vice News during the civil war in Central Africa Republic in a fancy hotel in the capital Bangui as the young men in is faction were dying for his cause in the streets. A journalist posed the question to him, why are you fighting? In so many words he shockingly replied, “We are fighting for peace and prosperity.” The question that begs is therefore not even for how long must African nations “fight for peace” but rather why should anyone literally “fight for peace”. Is it not true that the path to peace is peace itself?
Today in most African countries the budget for defense is bigger than the budget for health and agriculture. This in a continent where 60% of the population can only manage one meal in a day, “economical dieting”. This in a continent where we are still kicking Polio on our hungry stomachs, no wonder we can only manage to kick it from one country to another and not out of Africa as we idealized. The question is, when will we get our priorities right? What is the essence of building defense to external enemies while we remain vulnerable to internal enemies of our peace and prosperity? Is it not true that waging peace is cheap than waging war?
How come that we have resource rich nations but poor people in Africa? It is the epitome of irony that most of the resource rich countries in Africa are indeed failed states. How is it that with all its gold Democratic Republic of Congo has nothing golden to show about its decades of “independence”? How come that with its acres of untouched natural forest and timber resources DRC has failed to “build” its nationhood? The people of South Sudan with all its oil fields remain “thirsty” even after gaining independence twice. Over 70% of the population in Central Africa Republic have no access to electricity while its uranium mineral exports powers nuclear facilities in Europe. Is this not the true and typical cost of war in Africa?
At times it is fascinating as to why most African communities “celebrate” peace. Why would peace become a celebration event while all human beings are born inherently peaceful and grow up with affinity for peace? Why it is that peace has become too rare an isolated event in most communities to be relegated to celebrations while it ought to be our culture and DNA fabric? Today in most African countries we have budgets for peace as we have budgets for war. Today we have professional peace keepers. The world not just Africa has become a dangerous place; violence is the standard. Peace remains elusive, a rare commodity occasioned only in celebrations and national days without nationhood.
To demonstrate how deep a pit we have dug for ourselves, today the fear for God is no longer a deterrence to the fear for violence. While every religious book carries in it the love for peace our love for each other remains in pieces. The Christians say that blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God yet today most would rather be recognized as sons and daughters of their ethnic cocoons. The Muslims say that Islam is peace yet there is no faith when someone commit heinous crimes against humanity to profess their faith. Today religion has become the refuge and validity for violence. One wonders where the human in humanity or the humanity in human is. Which human would use an AK 47 to kill a week’s old baby just because the baby is from a different ethnic group, a crime the baby cannot even fathom? Our fore fathers used to say that it will be a sad day when the elephant stands in the way of an ant. It is indeed a sad day in Africa.
The good book says that narrow is the path that leads to heaven and I believe that because the path to Peace and Prosperity in Africa has for long been wide and treacherous. History does not lie. In the advent of colonialism in Africa, the imperialist first came disguised as missionaries prophesying that western religions would be the path to Peace and Prosperity. We opened our hearts and minds, welcomed them little did we know that we would suffer in the shackles of colonialism, injustice and exploitation. Soon we knew no Peace.
The first generation of African leaders convinced us that decolonization would be the path to Peace and Prosperity. So we rallied behind them, bled in guerrilla wars, freed our countries from colonialists only to end up in the hands of neo-colonialists. Soon we knew no Peace.
A second generation of leaders sprung up motivated by the “weakness” of the first generation leaders and propelled by coup de tats. The likes of Blaisse Campoure in Burkina Faso, General San Abacha in Nigeria, Yayah Jamneh in Gambia, Idi Amin Dada in Uganda and Charles Taylor of Liberia. They told us that Africa needed Strong Men for Peace and Prosperity. Soon we knew no Peace.
Again we were up in arms and we ushered a new era of Multi-party democracy in Africa and in most cases we shed blood for this. We were told that with multi-party democracy we would have Peace and Prosperity but in the advent of political pluralism Africa lost its sense of nationhood. Our politics become ethnically mobilized, just like in colonialism divide and rule became the engine of our political mobilization. Ethnicity was alive and rife, Africans took machetes and embarked in ethnic cleansing and political violence became a reality every election circle. National parties were reduced to tribal parties and elections became census for ethnic groups. Soon we knew no Peace.
The political class witty as it is mutated to stay alive, they told us that what Africa needed for Peace and Prosperity was not multi-party democracy but Strong legislations and institutions. As we have learnt over the years, laws and orders are not enough to restore law and order. History has demonstrated this. The Treaty of Versailles was not enough to stop the Second World War. The UN was instituted and even it’s Declaration of Universal Human Rights were not enough to prevent the Rwandan Genocide and the Great War of Congo that left millions of Africans dead. So new legislations were needed, the Conventions against Acts of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. Even this was not a deterrent to the Angolan Civil war and the Sudan Civil War. The International Criminal Court was instituted and yet it could not stop the Post-Election Violence in Kenya nor the Electoral Violence in Burundi. Again we knew no Peace.
So I submit to you that the path to Peace and Prosperity in Africa needs not the pavement of Laws and Orders, its neither strong men nor strong institution but a change in the DNA fabric and culture of those who walk down the path. We must now win the minds and hearts of the people because all this time this has never been a physical battle. The perpetrators of violence have demonstrated their incredible organization, their ability to influence the same pool of people by appealing to their minds but more so their hearts.
To win the minds and hearts we the peace crusaders must begin to ask ourselves necessary questions. Our motivation to asking questions must however not be to get mere answers because an answer itself is a static nature. We must do so to understand the drivers to the circumstances we find ourselves in and only then can we challenge or change those drivers. Is lack of Peace and Prosperity a problem in Africa? If so what must be done to change the situation. The definition of a problem is that it has to have a solution otherwise it is not a problem. If we acknowledge that violence and conflicts in Africa are problems then we must acknowledge the availability of solutions.
There is a saying that if you want to hide something from an African write it in a book. To break this defeatist myth I recommend the necessity to read the book “Animal Farm” by George Orwell in 1946. In the book George enumerates 5 drivers that I elucidate to be the drivers to the lack of Peace and Prosperity in Africa that we must challenge and change. These are Divisions, Greed, Fear, Ignorance and an Illusion of an Ideal Future.
It would appear that in Africa there is more that divides us than what unites us. If it is not Ethnicity it is Race, if it is not Gender it is Religion, and if it is not Education it is Social status. Even among the young generation usually projected as the hope for this continent, a unified generation the reality is that the only thing they have in common is Age. We exude more solidarity in ethnicity and classism than in solving mutual challenges forgetting that there is no joy in shared misery. I refuse to believe that ethnicity in itself is the cause of conflicts in Africa for to accept that would be to accept defeat by which you cannot change; biological identity. Africans have no choice but to embrace diversity and unite if they are to ignite the flames for sustainable peace.
Greed for long has been the flame that boils the pot of divisions and violent conflicts in Africa. I hold that in every conflict issue there is individual interests. We must begin to interrogate who stands to benefit from any conflict for only then can we see beyond the myopic lenses of ethnicity; name and shame those who would benefit from our misery. It was the great pacifist Mahatma Gandhi who once said that there is enough for everyone’s needs but not everyone’s greed. There are enough resources for all our needs and we must change the narrative of the curse of resources in Africa. This can be achieved by building more just and equal societies where opportunities are rewards for initiative, a state of technical know-how not technical know-whom. Africa must produce more leaders who are stewards for national resources not custodians for ethnic interests.
Fear has for a long time been used to maintain the status quo in Africa. Successive political regimes have resulted into repressive mechanisms to instil fear in their citizenly and hinder their quest for Peace and Prosperity. This would explain the huge military budgets, police states, arbitral detentions, repression of free media and violent reprisals for social justice movements. Even the rebel movements that rise against such regimes use the fear tactic to coerce loyalty from the people they wish to liberate. History documents the Cannibal Child Soldiers of Charles Taylor, amputees from the Joseph Kony LRA rebels, Kibok kidnappings by the Boko Haram. The solution to fear is Courage in pursuit for peace and justice through nonviolent means. Courage as demonstrated by the popular movements of youth from Tunisia towns of Kasserine, Gafsa and Sfax who said, “Enough is enough! We want freedom! Ben Ali Degage.” Courage of the Y’en a Marre youths in Senegal who said, “Ma Carte d’electur Mon Arme (My Vote, My Weapon) and sent Abdoulaye Wade home in February 2012. Africa needs courageous men and women who can stand up for Peace and Prosperity.
Ignorance is the wind that blows the ill wind in Africa and allows systems and individuals who propagate violence to thrive. Ignorance in this case does not just equate to lack of education but more so lack of awareness. Some Africans suffer from political blindness, morality blindness and selective amnesia. They cannot see beyond the political puppet strings pulled by tribal kingpins who seem to hypotenuse them not to think for themselves. Our politics remains largely not issue based but ethnic based. Those with power and resources to change things lack the interest as the status quo serves them. Those with the ideas and interest to change things lack the quantity and power to do so. But sad enough those with the quantity to change things lack the quality in ideas and are not aware it’s in their interest to change things. Most have lost morality, corruption and greed drives them, they are ready to kill, loot and plunder in the name of political revenge. Africa suffers from selective amnesia, we forget quickly the pains and suffering of circles of violence and are happy to destabilize our political truce, cease fires, peace treaties and post conflict reconstruction. There must be an era of enlightenment now in Africa, the fight against ignorance requires cohesive socialization processes, education systems and curriculums that integrates peace and importantly a new consciousness for a culture of non-violence.
Finally Africans suffers due to the illusion of an ideal future. There is a fallacy that we have to suffer today for peace in future. That we have to die today in violence to have peace in our after lives. We erroneously believe we have to fight today for the future generation to enjoy peace. Until men and women rise up in sufficient numbers and raise their voices towards the illusion that there is no hurry in Africa then we will continue dying in wait-hood. We must have a sense of urgency that we need Peace and Prosperity Now, not tomorrow or in future. Ceize afezes! Ceize afezes! The woman at Kossodo market in Ouagadougou Burkina Faso must now not say, “On se d’e broille.” The Young lady at Lurio University in Nampula Mozambique must no longer say, “deserascar a vida” nor should the teenage boy in Kibera Slums in Nairobi Kenya say, “Nimechill.” Africa needs Peace and Prosperity and it needs it now.