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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Africa: Too many crises

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By Dawda Faye

Senior Judicial Correspondent

History teaches us that Africa started crying when our fellow Africans fought each other. Africans were captured and sold into slavery. Some Africans in those days termed their fellow brothers as human merchandise. They would not stop their senseless wars, because of the goods they received from the white man in exchange of their fellow brothers. They blamed the white man for taking their fellow brothers to the New World as slaves.

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The educated personalities would call for independence, thinking that freedom would be gained. They dreamt that when independence was attained, Africans would have time to develop their mother lands and live in peace.

Our freedom fighters felt that we had been strangled by the white men and we thought it was time to let us free. Politicians talked about the liberation of Africa. They would add their voices that we have been ruled for so many years by the white men and would also ask how our natural resources were used.

They felt that we deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labour. The white men continued to be blamed for not bringing any development to Africa. During struggle for independence, those politicians gave people courage and strength and this was why Africans were prepared to fight for this worthy cause.

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At last! African countries have now attained independence. Political parties were formed. Candidates campaigned vigorously, vying for the presidency. A lot of promises had been made. The white man had given us independence and handed power to the new presidents – our fellow citizens.

People thought that things would change when we had our own leaders governing, but this was not the case. The national cake was not equally shared. Top officials tampered with government coffers. There was rampant corruption and still continues. In fact, it was the order of the day. Some African leaders would embezzle huge amount of money and send it to foreign banks.

When journalists revealed these misappropriations in their papers, those leaders would not be pleased and would order their arrest. They would be detained and sometimes tortured to death. The opposition would hold protest rallies and denounce such leaders and would be forcefully dispersed by soldiers, but they would stand firm, because they felt it was their constitutional right to hold meetings. Fighting would erupt and opposition supporters would be beaten seriously and some would lose their lives in the protest. African citizens would feel disillusioned about their leaders and would no longer put up with the way they were being governed.

Alas! The military would seize power. They would dissolve parliament and suspend the constitution.  Political parties would be blamed and the military men would be applauded by the civilians. The military were supported because the civilians badly needed a change.  When such military takeovers happened, African leaders would flee out of their countries if they had the opportunity.

Civilians would hope for the best, thinking that things would be put in order. They would in turn be faced with disappointment, realizing that those uniformed personnel who came to salvage them were more corrupt than the civilian governments.

After suspending the constitution, they would rule with heavy hands.  Everybody would be silenced. Resistant groups would emerge to confront the military governments. Blood would be shed. This would turn into rebellion. Civilians would flee, leaving their homes behind. They would become refugees and sometimes women would be raped.

Captured children would be forced to take part in the killing of innocent people soon after their abduction. Their captors would implicate them in criminal acts. Their efforts were to terrorize the children, the innocent and the powerless.

There was no discrimination on gender grounds when it came to making abducted children kill those who tried to escape. Each abducted child was attached to a family headed by a commander.  The powers of the men at the head of each family and other senior commanders were such that they effectively owned the children attached to them.

Girls were held in forced marriages. Commanders had the power to impose hard labour and physical punishment and the power to kill.

Despots like Idi Amin, former president of Uganda, Kamusu Banda, former president of Malawi, Niemeri, former president of Sudan, Obyang Nguema, former president of Equatorial Guinea, Emperor Bokassa, former president of Central African Republic etc failed their people.

Idi Amin decorated himself with a lot of titles with his poor education. He terrorized his people and tortured them. He was a dictator and never respected the rule of law. The former president of Tanzania, Mwalimu Nyerere, sent his soldiers to Uganda and toppled Idi Amin’s government.

Kamusu Banda was believed to have thrown his opponents into a pond where they were devoured by crocodiles. He was also a dictator and he ruled with heavy hands. Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh runs him a close second. Former president Niemeri fled his country when there was a mass demonstration against his government for increasing the price of a loaf of bread.

Obyang Nguema was overthrown by his own nephew, who is the current president of Equatorial Guinea, reasons best known to his nephew. When he was toppled, the media was invited to take his photograph as his legs and hands were tied for the whole world to see.

Politicians believed that Kwame Nkruma was betrayed by his own people when they overthrew his government. His dream was for Africa to unite. Patrice Lumumba, former president of Congo Kinsasa (now Democratic Republic of Congo), was also betrayed by his own people by assassinating him.

The impasse in Ivory Coast was unfortunate. The Independent Electoral Commission declared Alassan Ouattara as the winner of a presidential election and the Constitutional Council decided that Gbagbo was the winner. It was the Constitutional Council that caused all the confusion. It gave Gbagbo the cause not to step down. Ouattara’s supporters believed that he won the election. They protested and many of them were killed.

Former President Blaise Campoare was part of the mediators to bring peaceful settlement in Ivory Coast.  But he failed to remember that in 1987 he toppled the government of Thomas Sankara who was killed in a coup d’etat. He assumed office illegally. He could not convince Gbagbo to step down. France intervened and Ouattara was given the presidency.  President Ouattara has now brokered peace with Gbagbo. What a good move!

Look at what is happening in Senegal. When President Macky Sall was elected for a second term he told the Senegalese electorate that this was his last and final term in the presidency. But if any member of his cabinet says that he is not qualified to contest in the 2024 presidential election for a third term, he sacks him. Former Minister Mustapha Jahateh is a victim. His supporters are encouraging him to contest in the 2024 presidential election for a third term. The third term syndrome did not spare former President Alpha Conde. President Macky Sall should know better. A word for the wise is enough.

President Macky Sall is accused of eliminating Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall in the last presidential election. Some politicians said he does not want any potential candidate to challenge him. They went on to say that they would protest if he announces his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election.

Opposition leader, Ousman Sonko, has accused him of being behind the rape allegation by Aji Sarr, and stated that it is a political set-up. He was arrested and detained in prison in connection to the rape allegation. His supporters went out to the streets on the 21st March, 2021, and demonstrated for his release. Fourteen people died, as they were confronted by security officers. Religious leaders in Senegal intervened by advising President Macky Sall to broker peace and to authorize the release of Ousman Sonko, which was done.

It is said that Aji Sarr told a preliminary investigation that she was pregnant from the alleged rape by Ousman Sonko. But according to Sonko’s supporters, it is now two years and Aji Sarr has not yet delivered. They said that a medical certificate presented before the preliminary investigation has vindicated Ousman Sonko and that the matter should have stopped there. But yet the authorities went ahead and charged Sonko with rape.

Sonko held a rally on the 22nd January, 2023, at Kerr Masarr where thousands of his supporters threw their weight behind him. They urged him not to attend the court proceedings because they believed that the authorities are intending to convict him so that he will not be qualified in the 2024 presidential election. They further stated that they do not have confidence in their judiciary and that it is President Macky Sall who dictates to the judges and magistrates.

“We will fight. It is my constitutional right to resist and I will resist. No magistrate can prevent me from contesting in the election. Either Macky Sall takes my life or I take his life,” Ousman Sonko angrily stated. His supporters assured him that they are waiting for his orders to resist.

Alieu Tine, a member of Senegalese Civil Society Organization, fears that there may be a civil war in Senegal. People are fearful because of the political situation. Religious leaders should intervene again so the President Macky Sall and Ousman Sonko will broker peace. It is better to let sleeping dogs lie.

African leaders who do not adhere to democratic principles, and who do not also respect the rule of law and associate themselves with bad governance, should learn from what happened in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011. The colour such leaders paint themselves is baffling. They shroud themselves in beautiful feathers while their inner parts are rotten.

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