As I whined about the resignation of Mbeki and the ineluctable ascendance of one Jacob Zuma to the most powerful position on the continent, the story of Somali pirates seizing a ship with militray cargo destined for Kenya made me even more worried. 33 tanks, among other military hardware, were on the Ukranian ship that was hijacked by pirates from Somalia while on international waters off the coast of the failed state in the horn of Africa.
These developments raise a very serious question. For how long will the world sit back and watch as a few greedy men with guns terrorize an entire country, killing innocent women and children and depriving them of a decent livelihood? So far the consensus has been that as long as the mess is confined within Somalia then everyone (save for Ethiopia and the CIA) would pretend that nothing is going on. But now there is an overflow. Tired of the boredom of pillaging within their borders the rag-tag bandits of Somalia have decided to extend their activities to the sea, routinely hijacking ships for ransome and booty. They need to be stopped.
These 21st century pirates need to be stopped not just in the sea but also within the borders of Somalia. It is imperative that countries within the wider East African region come up with a plan of solving Somalia’s problem once and for all instead of merely containing it, as seems to be the policy of the regional military powerhouse Ethiopia and the United States. Somalis are people too – just like the Kenyans or Ivorians who elicited much international sucpport in their times of crises - and need to be allowed to have an existence worthy of human beings. The last eighteen years have shown us that Somalis, on their own, cannot rid themselves of the dystopia that they’ve made of their country. The international community should – in a Rousseauian sense – impose peace and set in motion a more transparent re-education on government and institutions instead of the current puppet government arrangement. Sounds too optimistic to you? To the gainsayers I say it can be done. It can be done because the vast majority of Somalis want it to be done. An international intervention will not be an Iraq, not even a Somalia-’93.
So the big news coming out of the continent today is the big signing of a deal between Robert Mugabe and his long-time foe Morgan Tsvangirai. The deal guarantees Tsvangirai, the legitimate winner of the last presidential elections in Zimbabwe, powers for the day to day running of the country while Mugabe still leads the military and the cabinet.
This deal is kind of the same that Kenyans adopted after the disputed presidential elections last December. While in Kenya’s case it wasn’t as clear as to who won the election, in Zimbabwe it was as clear as the springs of Nyandarua that Morgan Tsvangirai beat the senile Mugabe in the polls. The sharing of power with a political thief in the mold of Mugabe is an affront against democracy. The nature of democratic elections is that winners take it all. Losers should accept the results and wait for the next election cycle. This applies equally to incumbents and the opposition. I was mightily pleased with the poise by which UNITA handled its loss in the just concluded elections in Angola – although if you ask me I think they should pull up their socks and grants Angolans true democracy by being more competitive.
Anyway, as happy as I am for Zimbabweans, I hope this phenomenon – of presidents stealing elections and then appointing the real winners prime ministers – does not catch on on the continent. I hope that Kenya and Zimbabwe are the last to go through this weird electoral circus.
Jacob Zuma, the almost certain next president of the most powerful country in Africa, has just had a corruption case against him thrown out of court on the basis that it was politically motivated. While there might be some truth in this, it is still an affront on justice. There is no denying the fact that Zuma’s strategy all along has been one of intimidation of the South African justice system and me thinks that it is a travesty that this court bought into the politics argument against this case.
For the rule of law to prevail, there has to be a perception by all that no one is above the law. The exoneration of Zuma sends the wrong message. A message that political connections elevates one above the law. This is why, the leader of his youth wing is still running around threatening to kill people with impunity. Sad shame. And to think that in a few months this clown of a man who believes that showering after sex prevents aids infection will be the most powerful man in Africa just makes me sick. He is a populist and has absolutely no respect for the law. And worst of all, he may turn out to be the typical African leader – immensely loved by the masses but worth not even a bucket of spit in terms of policy and general vision for the country. Zuma supporters point to his popularity as a reason for his detractors to leave him alone – but they forget that Mugabe, Moi, al-Bashir, Zenawi and many other sub-grade African leaders were at one time populists in the mould of Zuma.
The sunny optimism that greeted the democratic awakening in Africa in the early nineties may be nearing twilight but there is still hope. Even as states like Kenya, Zimbabwe and even Senegal waver in their quest for liberal democracy, there is still a sliver of hope in the likes of Angola – a former war zone which holds elections tomorrow.
Angola has been for some time one of the fastest growing countries in the world. It is Africa’s soon to be largest oil producer (mainly because the Nigerian behemoth can’t get its act together) and with the help of the Chinese has recently embarked on a mission to build infrastructure throughout the country. The wealth may not be evenly shared out, but the country as a whole is better off than it was a decade or so ago.
So it is really hopeful that they will be having elections tomorrow. Yes there will be problems. Dos Santos has all the power in Angola and will definitely not hold completely free and fair elections. But this is a start. A few times over and the Angolans will internalize voting as a human right and realize their duty and moral call to chart the way forward for themselves through the ballot.
I am almost certain that Dos Santos’ MPLA will win the Friday election. But UNITA should not give up. Democracy is as cultural as it is political. Their time will come. Get to parliament, constructively oppose the government and be the watch-dog for the people. And help spread the idea that Africans are and ought to be in charge of their lives. Not governments. Certainly not NGOs. Not the church. Not the West. But Africans. Africans in Angola, Africans in Sudan, Africans in all war-ravaged regions of the continent.
So there is this story on the BBC website about the Nigerians raising about US $630,000 that they intended to contribute to the Obama campaign. This is as ridiculous as it is stupid. First of all, if these people care enough about Obama they would have visited his website already and noticed that when you try to contribute money you get asked specifically whether you are a US citizen – US politicians are prohibited by law from receiving contributions from foreigners.
Second, these people have got their priorities all wrong. Why raise so much money to send to the US? Aren’t there enough suffering Nigerians and Africans that this money might have helped? Come on Nigerians. Come on!