the absurd

I am no fan of sensationalist journalism. But this one was absolutely irresistible. Here I give you His Excellency President Professor Dr Al-Haji Yahya Jammeh, leader of The Gambia, a West African country. If you are a keen follower of absurdities on the Continent, he is the one who claims to cure HIV/AIDS – but only on Thursdays. And how he is after witches, perhaps out of boredom. Please read on…

Somalia, the forgotten

Oxfam, the UK-based aid agency, has declared that Somalia is Africa’s worst crisis. According to reports 3.2 million malnourished Somalis are in urgent need of food aid. Meanwhile, the fighting between government forces and Islamists rages on. Roadside bombings have become commonplace.

Somalia has not had a functional government since 1991. Warlordism has been the order of the day since then, especially after the botched UN (US) intervention in 1993 after which the international community pretty much turned its back on Somalis. In recent months Islamist terrorism and piracy off the coast of Somalia have earned the struggling millions in the country some international attention. But the 4,300 man African Union force in the country is not enough to restore peace and stability – let alone prop up the weak and largely illegitimate transitional government of Somalia.

May be it is time that regional governments considered talking to the Islamists. A BBC report shows that they control most of the South of the country and so perhaps the AU can be persuade them to stop the killing and go easy on human rights (in any case Saudi Arabia’s brand of Sharia is not that different, it still forbids women to do just about anything outside the house) in exchange for some aid or guaranteed security against US drone attacks, for now. Anything for peace and stability at this point.

It is sad that all of the international community’s attention has been focused on Darfur and the Congo, at the expense of Somalia. The AU leadership (and especially South African President, Jacob Zuma) should take the plight of Somalis more seriously and initiate the beginning of the end of the disaster in their country.

Nimeiri bites the dust

It is un-African to be irreverent to the dead. I don’t intend to break this particular ancestral tradition. OK may be I will, just a little bit.

Jaafar Nimeiri, the man directly responsible for the start of the second Sudanese civil war, died last Saturday (May, 30). He was 79.

Nimeiri took over power in Khartoum in 1969 through a military coup. His authoritarian rule lasted until he was himself overthrown in 1985. The late Nimeiri will be remembered as the man who brokered and then broke the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement. After years of pretending to govern as per the 1972 agreement, Mr. Nimeiri (under pressure from Islamist extremists in the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood movement) finally decided, in 1983, to impose Sharia law on all Sudanese, including the non-Muslim South. In addition, he sought to redraw the borders of Southern Sudan and created new administrative structures in the region in an attempt to sap some of the newly acquired power of Southern Sudanese leaders. His actions led to rebellions in the South and the formation of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) led by the late Col. John Garang de Mabior.

The almost certain secession of Southern Sudan in the upcoming 2011 referendum will be one of Nimeiri’s lasting legacies. His autocratic style of government and lack of spine in the face of extremist Islamism gave the South no option but to rebel against Khartoum, and win, more than two decades later. To put a positive spin on this, may be we should all be grateful that Khartoum’s extremism during his tenure exposed the non-viability of Sudan as one nation-state. The South and the North were never part of a single polity. It is probably a good thing that the South will secede from Northern Sudan and occupy its rightful place as an East African state.

May Jaafar Muhammad an-Nimeiri rest in peace.