*The Rwandan Genocide of April 1994 & Lessons For Nigeria
The Rwandan Genocide Of April 1994 & Lessons For Nigerian Political Leaders & Armed Opposition Groups (i.e. Boko Haram Insurgents)-Part One
In Memory Of Late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana
(International Issue, Onitsha-Nigeria, 15th day of April, 2014)-As this month (April 2014) marks the 20th tragic anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide of April 1994, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety resolves to revisit what has become known globally as “one of the darkest events in recent world”. This international public statement is also in honour of late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana; the late courageous prime minister of the then Rwandan transitional government.
The following account by Amnesty International summarizes the modern age butchery in Rwanda under reference: “Hundreds of thousands of women were slaughtered in a genocidal onslaught against the Tutsi ethnic group by soldiers and allied Hutu militia between April and July 1994. The victims included pregnant women, nuns, young girls and old women (vulnerable class). For nearly 12 weeks, women, men and children were murdered without mercy: most because they were Tutsi, but many others because they supported human rights or opposition political parties. The majority of those who escaped to neighbouring countries were women and their children. More than 300,000 Tutsis fled to save their lives.
As the Rwandese Patriotic Front took control of the country, at least a million Hutu refugees left in fear of reprisals. Conditions in the refugee’s camps are atrocious: in one camp in Zaire, up to 80,000 people died within weeks in a cholera epidemic. Violence against women in the camps is rife. Those who wish to return to Rwanda are threatened, attacked, sometimes killed by armed Hutu gangs and former government soldiers. Some refugees have braved the journey back, but many women who have returned and found their husbands dead, found themselves homeless, landless and destitute”(source: AI’s Join Our Campaign pamphlet). The above is the summary of the genocidal events during and after the genocide in Republic of Rwanda in 1994.
Historical Backgrounds Of Genocide & Other Mass Killings In Rwanda & Burundi: Republics of Rwanda and Burundi are twin countries with triplet tribes. The two countries were colonized by Germany from 1890 to 1916 and Belgium from 1916 to 1962. They are populated by three tribes: Hutu (84%), Tutsi (14%) and Twa (1%) with a combined pre genocide population of approximately 14 million people. While Hutus are predominantly herdsmen and largely illiterates, the Tutsis are mostly farmers and largely educated with strong influence in the countries’ armed forces. The differences between Hutus and Tutsis are three-folds: ethnic hatred promoted by their colonial masters, grazing land and farmland destruction conflicts and political domination including overbearing influence in the armed forces.
Before the genocide under reference, there have a series of mass killings in the two countries, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of their nationals and hundreds of thousands of injuries. One of the earliest mass killings took place in 1959, followed by those of 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1988 and 1993. Most of the killings were perpetrated against the Tutsi tribe and encouraged and funded by the Hutu controlled central governments in Kigali (Rwanda) and Bujumbura (Burundi). Before the genocide of April 1994 in Rwanda, there were two mass killings in Burundi in October and November 1993.
Circumstances That Led To The Genocide: Following the mass killings targeted at the Tutsi populations in Rwanda and Burundi in 1967, 1972, 1973 and 1988, there was mass exodus of the Tutsi populations to the Republic of Uganda. Some who settled in the Democratic Republic of Congo decades ago are called “Banyamulenges”. There was also an ethnic massacre targeted at the educated Hutus in Burundi in 1972. The then Tutsi controlled central government of President Micombero was accused of masterminding it. The Tutsi refugees in Uganda later became willing tools in the hands of various rebel groups fighting to overthrow the then governments in Uganda. One of such rebel groups is the National Resistance Army (NRA) of present President of Uganda, Lt. General Yuweri Museveni. The Museveni’s NRA fought and sought to overthrow the then dictatorial regimes of late Milton Obote and late “Field Marshal” Idi Amin Dada in the 70s. His rebel group fought until 1986 when he emerged from bush warfare and dethroned the military regime of Generals Tito and Basilio Okello.
Prior to General Museveni’s successful coup d’ etat in 1986, his NRA (National Resistance Army) had recruited 13,000 Tutsi refugees into its combatant fold and out of its 40,000 strong rebel force, Tutsis accounted for 13, 000 or 34%. This made Tutsis to rise steadily in the NRA’s command cadre, to the extent that Major General Fred Rwigema (a Tutsi) was made Uganda’s chief of army staff and Brigadier Paul Kagame (another Tutsi and current president of Rwanda) became the country’s army chief of Intelligence. Major General Rwegema was sacked in 1989 over suspicion of overbearing Tutsi influence in the Ugandan army.
In a bid to reward his Tutsi fellow combatants in the NRA, President Yoweri Museveni assisted the duo of Rwigema and Kagame in forming the military wing of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which governs Rwanda presently. Other financial and technical supports came from USA, which allowed the formation of the political wing of RPF in the country in 1988. Burundi government then under Major Jean Pierre Boyoya (a Tutsi) also supported the RPF rebels tactically and financially.
The Tutsi’s Rwandan Patriotic Front, having been formed in late 80s, declared a total war against the then Kigali central government, led by President Juvenal Habyarimana (a Hutu) in October 1990. The neighbouring Burundi then was also under the Hutu led central government of democratically elected President Melchior Ndadaye, who got assassinated in 1993 in a bloody military revolt led by former military head of State, Major Pierre Jean Buyoya. The killings that followed President Ndadaye’s gruesome murder became widespread and led to beastly burning of schoolgirls at a petrol station in the city of Kibimba.
To find permanent solutions to these mass killings and political instabilities in the two twin countries, the Arusha Peace Accords of August 1993 were arranged for Hutu and Tutsi political combatants in the two countries by the leaders of the Great Lakes Region including former President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. Arusha is a city in Tanzania. The Arusha Accords included ceasefire, power sharing, creation of transitional government, unification of armed forces, etc.
After months of extensive deliberations and consultations, the Arusha Accords were signed by the representatives of the two warring tribes from the twin countries (Rwanda and Burundi) including two Hutu Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi: Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira (who succeeded late Melchior Ndadaye in Burundi in 1993) as well as the leaders of Tutsi rebels in the two countries. The Accords were signed on April 6, 1994 in Arusha, Tanzania. Moments after signing the history Accords, a Falcon 50 plane carrying the two Hutu presidents (Habyarimana of Rwanda and Nkaryamira of Burundi) alongside others on board was hit by suspected missiles near Kigali, capital of Rwanda.
The plane burst, killing all on board. Swift accusing fingers were pointed at the leadership of the RPF as the mastermind. Before the plane crash and signing of the Arusha Accords, a good number of RPF rebel soldiers were already stationed in Kigali to be absolved into the proposed unified armed forces of Rwanda. They were entrapped and formed part of those killed at the beginning of the three months genocide. The presidential plane crash under reference marked the beginning of the Rwandan genocide of April 6 to July 21, 1994.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Photo Above: Map of Rwanda
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*Intersociety Median Letter To Governor Willie Obiano
Chief Willie Maduabuchukwu Obiano
Executive Governor of Anambra State
Office of the Anambra Governor
Government House, Awka
Issues Warranting Our Observation, Advice & Commendation
(Public Issue, Onitsha-Nigeria, 11th of April, 2014)-The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety wishes to write Your Excellency over the above subject.
1.Crime Fighting & Dislodgement Of Criminal Entities: This is so far so good. Your Excellency’s efforts in this aspect are commendable. But caution should be taken to avoid giving the concerned security agencies, particularly the Anambra State Police Command sweeping powers. Such sweeping powers will not only defeat the very aim of making Anambra roundly secured, but will also put the State under police siege with accompanying abuses and corrupt practices including torture and extra judicial killings, reckless mounting of roadblocks and extortion, trumped up allegations and charges, indiscriminate and reckless arrests, unlawful detention and pre-trial extortion.
It is also very important to remind Your Excellency that “a criminal” in strictest sense and according to law and international norms “is a malicious citizen of legally recognized mature age, who is in conflict with the written criminal law, whether misdemeanor or felony; and is subjected to the processes of arrest, detention, investigation, fair trial, conviction and sentencing”. Any individual that falls outside the legally recognized mature age, who is in conflict with written unlawful acts, is described as “juvenile delinquent”. The Children and Young Persons Act of 1944 and relevant Child Rights Act/Laws in the country contain processes to handle such citizens. Exceptions to this fundamental and unambiguous definition are very few such as when an arresting security operative is under violent attack from the malicious citizen, right to self defense may be invoked, with a condition that the force applied by the arresting security operative must not use force that is greater than that applied by his or her attacker. If killing occurs strictly on the foregoing premise, it is called “excusable homicide”.
Following from this, Your Excellency, it is unlawful to take suspects peacefully into custody only for them to be brought out from custody and shot dead. It is also wrong to arrest suspects peacefully only to be taken to police stations and killed extra judicially without investigation and trial. Our laws still forbid “trial by ordeal”.
One of the instance cases is that of Citizen Rapuruchukwu Donatus Ikwuanusi, 32, of 26B, Ihitenasaa Street, Iyiowa Odekpe in Ogbaru LGA of Anambra State. He owns Fish ponds located at 3, Ibekwe Street in Iyiowa Odekpe and SAKAMORI Lane in Nkutaku Layout, Ogbaru LGA. He was peacefully arrested on invitation by a 3-man SARS operatives (Prince, Azubuike and Kingsley) attached to Okpoko Police Station. The arrest took place on 29th January, 2014 at a restaurant along Obodoukwu Road in Ogbaru. He was first taken to Okpoko Police Station’s SARS unit and later transferred to the SARS headquarters at Awkuzu, from where he disappeared till date. According to his father, Ichie Jude Ikwuanusi, quoting the OC/SARS, CSP Chima Nwafor, Citizen Donatus (fondly called “Daddy”) was accused of “keeping guns for a suspected armed robber named “UPPER”. His parents: Ichie Jude Ikwuanusi (75) and Mrs. Hope (60) Ikwuanusi, who reside with their disappeared son at No. 26B, Ihitenasaa Street in Iyiowa Odekpe Layout, were not informed of his arrest and whereabouts till date.
For crime fighting and control to succeed in Anambra State, there is need to overhaul the State Criminal Justice System. This includes introduction of multi sentencing system especially in the areas of simple, misdemeanor and “low” felony offences or non capital offences. Particularly speaking, fine sentencing should be introduced with biometric profiling of offenders to easily detect repeat offenders. Strict and statutory liability offences like traffic and sanitation/environmental law breaking should be a fundamental part of the foregoing. The Anambra State High Court Division should be professionalized with the appointment of judges with requisite qualifications in civil law to handle civil proceedings and those with requisite qualifications in criminal law, criminology and sociology to handle criminal trials. Magistrates should be barred from entertaining matters with capital punishments whether in the form of “holding charge” or otherwise. The State CID and SARS as well as the State DPP and criminal investigation management should be extensively overhauled and upgraded to modern standards.
2. Environmental Cleanliness, Protection & Traffic Control: We associate ourselves with efforts made so far by Your Excellency in this respect. Other than this, there should be minimum use of touts and militant youths for their enforcement and increased use of mobile courts and formal law enforcement agents. There should be “sanitation offences/environmental degradation mobile courts, sanitation fees mobile courts and traffic offences mobile courts. The major sentencing option of these summary courts should be fines or compulsory community/public services like clearing of drainages, cutting of flowers and weeds at roadways, footpaths and public gardens and parks. Jail sentencing options should be occasionally applied.
There should be flowering and city/road beautification project in the State including clearing and beautification of the Ojukwu Gateway and Upper Iweka areas. Any form of commercial activities within the State Government’s environmental fences between Niger Bridgehead and Onitsha Upper Iweka should be prohibited. The construction work going on at the new Abada Traders’ Market at the Head Bridge should be monitored to avoid the traders congesting the under Bridge and converting it into loading park. All inter-city buses at Upper Iweka should be moved into the State owned expansive park along Owerri Road.
3. 3-Cs (Continuation, Completion & Commissioning Of The Ongoing Projects): Your Excellency’s decision on this is very commendable. The huge investments of the Government and people of Anambra State into this area are at stake. Their completion and commissioning are very critical and a safety key for the huge public investments under reference.
4. State Executive Council: The quality of commissioners and special advisers recently nominated by Your Excellency and cleared by the State House of Assembly gladdens our heart. But one recurring decimal among Anambra’s recent and past commissioners is armchair syndrome. Another is creation and maintenance of illicit revenue bodies and persons. These malicious bodies and persons apply all manners of roguish methods to collect illicit and privatized revenues, after which they return a part to those malicious political aides that created and maintained them. Your Excellency’s new commissioners and special advisers should be roundly monitored and be made to spend most of their duty hours on the fields. They must not be allowed to convert their public offices and duties into “business enterprises”.
5. Peter Obi’s N86.65Billion Cash & Investments In Office: As Your Excellency may be aware, some faceless groups believed to have been sponsored by malicious politicians have described Mr. Peter Obi’s N86.65Billion worth of cash and investments left for the State as a fiction. Our re-investigation of the matter clearly showed that what Obi left in office is N86.65Billion and not N75Billion as he earlier declared on 8th of March, 2014 during his public steward presentation.
The breakdown of our re-investigated figure is as follows: 1. Local Investments in SABMiller, Independent Power Project, Orient Petroleum, Agulu, Awka & Onitsha Hotels as at 17th of March, 2014, N27 billion. 2. Foreign Currency Investments (external bonds with due dates & interests) spread in Diamond, Access and Fidelity Banks as at 17th day of March, 2014, $156million or N26.5 billion. 3. Certified State / MDAs / MDGs’ cash balances as of the date under reference, N28.165 billion. 4. Federal Government of Nigeria’s approved refund for federal roads done and completed on its behalf by the Government of Anambra State as at 17th day of March, 2014, N10 billion. 5. These bring the grand total to N91, 65 billion. When deducted from the received and paid certificates of already executed projects of N5 billion, the total remaining balance as at 17th day of March, 2014 is put at N86.665 billion.
Though, in the course of our re-investigation, we saw relevant government and bank documents that detailed the said investments and cash, but there is need for Your Excellency to speak publicly on the issue. We also saw the gubernatorial handover letter from Mr. Peter Obi to Your Excellency, wherein the breakdown of the cash and investment credit was clearly given. We believe that three weeks plus, which Your Excellency’s new government has lasted, is enough to verify the authenticity or otherwise of Mr. Peter Obi’s cash and investment credit of N86.65Billion contained in the handover note he handed over to Your Excellency. There is public need for Your Excellency to speak today because today it is Mr. Peter Obi being lied against, tomorrow, it could be Chief Willie Obiano.
Following from these, our sacred questions are: Did Peter Obi owe arrears to retired and serving work force both at State and LGA levels as at 17th of March, 2014? Did he owe State contractors over satisfactorily and certified executed projects of any type? Did he leave the State in huge domestic and foreign indebtedness? Did he leave any MDAs and MDGs cash of N28.165Billion as at 17th of March, 2014? Did he buy foreign currency bonds of $156Million or N26.5Billion for the State? If yes, where are they located? What about the State investments of N27Billion? Do they exist or are they a fiction? Is there any Federal Government approved refund of N10Billion for federal roads done on its behalf by the Government of Anambra State?
On a related premise, we pray Your Excellency to concern Your Excellency’s attention on “economic governance” and avoid being drawn into “political governance” by detractors and enemies of the State. The like of Imo State is already on a doomed path because its gubernatorial elected public office holders abandoned the hallowed governance path and crashed unto “political governance” path. Today in Imo State, it is “debt, debt, debt and debt” all over the place. A House of Assembly speaker now reportedly awards road contracts. Political charlatans appear to have been on rampage in the State!
Avoid Sir, people who want to create friction between you and your predecessor. Anambra People are inpatient and intolerant to showbiz and propagandist public governance. Making things happening on positive side, moment by moment, gladdens their heart and catapults the popularity of the achiever to the hall of fame. Some quarters have raised accusing fingers at Your Excellency’s camp as the sponsors of the faceless groups under reference. But we still cannot fathom what that will add to Your Excellency’s political values as well as the collective well being of the people of Anambra State if Your Excellency’s accusers are right.
For instance, assuming, but not conceding that Your Excellency’s camp is behind the sponsorship of the faceless groups, does it mean that leaving a whopping credit of N86.65Billion for the State is a crime? Will Your Excellency wish to leave Anambra in huge deficits at the end of Your Excellency’s tenure? These questions have further made it imperative for Your Excellency’s urgent public pronouncement on the said matter so as to rest it once and for all. We congratulate Your Excellency for a good start.
, For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety
2. Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
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*Understanding The Antics Of Some Failed Politicians Against Obi’s Award-Winning Achievement
A Public Statement by Anambra Human Rights & Good Governance Coalition Understanding The Antics Of Some Failed Politicians Against Obi’s Award-Winning Achievement
(Awka Nigeria, 4th day of April, 2014)-The Anambra Human Rights & Good Governance Coalition is a coalition of human rights and good governance organizations based in Anambra State of Nigeria, formed in 2006 for the advancement of human rights and good governance in the State. While credible coalition groups in the past like the Coalition for Democracy & Good Governance (CODEGG) played great roles in ousting failed governance and political militancy in the State from 2003 to 2006, the Anambra Coalition for Human Rights & Good Governance (ACOHURIGG) contributed immensely towards transformative and strategic development of the State from 2006 till date. The recorded feat was achieved using “commendation, condemnation and a way forward” strategy created and implanted in our advocacy activities since 2006 in relating with the Obi’s popularly instituted government.
Issues Warranting This Public Statement: Mr. Peter Obi governed Anambra State democratically from 17th March, 2006 to 17th March, 2014. Few days to his handover, on 8th of March, 2014, to be precise, he publicly gave the account of his stewardship and presented a “blue book” containing many tangible and intangible projects he executed in office. The highlight of his stewardship presentation was his thunderous announcement of a surplus cash and investments balances of “N75 billion” for the State, which we understand, is now N86.665 billion. This is clearly unheard of in recent times in Nigeria, or any part thereof. As a result, some never-do-well citizens including failed politicians became unsettled and hired faceless groups and individuals to place adverts in newspapers claiming that Mr. Peter Obi’s public stewardship account was a fiction.
Meanwhile, Mr. Obi’s public declaration has continued to be celebrated far and near and has restored Anambra’s lost glory by making it the most financially healthy State in Nigeria. Mr. Peter Obi’s detailed account of public stewardship is the first of its kind in recent Nigeria.
The highlight and striking thing about our re-investigation of Obi’s stewardship, is that no serving and retired civil servant salaries, pensions and gratuities both at the State and Local Government levels were outstanding as at 17th of March, 2014.
As for contractors’ pay warrants or certificates, we found that under Mr. Obi’s policy of ‘earn as you execute or complete’, all certificates bearing ‘completed projects’ were fully paid. Under the policy, contractors are not paid for jobs not completed. This explains why they now work in phases and get paid in phases.
It is also a public knowledge that under his celebrated administration, he completed roads left by Ngige and went extra mile to do hundreds of kilometers of roads evenly spread across the State. He re-invented the policy of mass vehicular distribution and shared over 1, 700 vehicles of different types and modes to various organizations including public, security agencies, missionary and private schools and hospitals. He distributed over N20 billion he saved over the years to hospitals and schools. He gave out 22,000 computers and laptops and over 1000 distribution transformers. The former governor also paid and liquidated arrears of pension and gratuity amounting to over N35 billion, accumulated since 1995. His achievements are too many to mention, yet at the end, he left N86.665 billion worth of investments and cash. In other words, as at 17th of March 2014, Mr. Peter Obi’s celebrated administration left total investments and cash balances of N86.665 billion and not N75 billion as previously stated.
Antics of Some Failed Politicians: While it is important to ignore the antics of some failed politicians rattled by such irrevocable facts under reference, it is also important to curtail their nuisance values by throwing more light into the sorry state of finances in most of the States in Nigeria. This we will do shortly after this noble publication.
Our Message to Nigerians & Anambra People: We wish to inform here that a financially sound government is that with commendable strides in socio-economic development, which does not owe any gratuity, pension, salary and contractors’ arrears for executed projects. Such a government does not also mortgage the future of its people by involving in serial borrowings. We commend the former administration of Obi because of its record breaking in this respect. Dividing public debts by Gross Domestic Products to justify serial indebtedness is the worst and disastrous economic calculations to be undertaken by any democratic government. If this is to happen in China, it would have been amounted to death by hanging.
We call on the concerned banks/ issuing Houses, that is to say the Fidelity, Diamond and Access Banks to publicly speak on Mr. Peter Obi’s public declaration to the effect that he bought foreign currency public bonds for Anambra State worth $156 million or N26.5 billion domiciled with them.
We commend those prominent and eminent Nigerians including President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who had at one time or the other appreciated and commended Mr. Peter Obi for a wonderful job well done for Anambra State and Nigeria by extension. One of such presidential commendations that still gladden our heart is that of ‘governing the State outside indebtedness’. It is in times like this that we appreciate what the now late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu saw that made him call on Anambrarians to vote for Mr. Peter Obi in 2010 as his last wish.
We call on the concerned banks/ issuing Houses, that is to say the Fidelity, Diamond and Access Banks to publicly speak on Mr. Peter Obi’s public declaration to the effect that he bought foreign currency public bonds for Anambra State worth $156 million or N26.5 billion domiciled with them.
In this challenging era of our time in the country, the likes of Mr. Peter Obi are direly needed at the federal level to continue his noble service to our beloved country. We call on Governor Willie Obiano to resist any plot or attempt by enemies of the State and some political mercantilists to cause friction or disaffection between him and the former governor and at all times sustain a cordial relationship with him for the State will fare much better in their hands of togetherness than in the contrary. The new governor’s social commitment to the Anambra people, which includes his inaugural speech promise to build some capital intensive projects like airport, must remain irrevocable and any attempt to derail or thwart it be resisted at all times. Celebrated former Governor, Peter Gregory Obi deserves commendation and encouragement for his immense achievements, not ‘blue law’ attacks and vituperations by politicians of the underworld.
1. International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman)
2. Civil Liberties Organization, Anambra State Branch (Aloysius Attah, Chairman)
3. Human Rights Club, Anambra State Branch (Samuel Njoku, State Chairman)
4. Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (Peter Echezona Onyegiri, Executive Director)
5. Society Watch, a Membership Project of Intersociety (Justus Uche Ijeoma, National Director.
Photo Above: Gov. Obi (middle), with his wife, Margaret(right), in 2012 receiving the award of the "Good Financial Planning Governor of Our Time", from Enugu Anglican Church and presented by Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma during the First session of the 15th Synod of the Diocese at All Saints Church, GRA, Enugu, Enugu State.
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*Of Moral Fault Lines and Subjugated Wisdoms
Dr. Kusum Gopal
'Will the Falcon hear the Falconer?' This is an extremely distressing epoch in global politics on all counts. The shared crise de conscience and crisis of authority being central to these developments—whether it is in judging, in speaking or in taking action: who has the authority to speak for whom and why? It brings to the fore new questions of security, natural resources, livelihoods, above all emphasising the need for intercultural dialogues to clarify ambiguities and dispel misconceptions that give rise to prejudice and hate.
Current happenings in Egypt, the horrific civil wars in Syria, bombings in Lebanon and Nigeria, the tensions between the Ma’alia and Rezeigat people in west Darfur, Buddhists and Rohingas in Myanmar, the simmering rage (despite the Partition) in the Sudan, the continuous firing along the India and Paksitan borders among other events elsewhere have brought in its wake several conversations and journeys through time reminding us starkly that we remain besieged by damaging transgressions of the not so distant past:“The falcon cannot hear the falconer, things fall apart, the centre cannot hold...”to reminisce the poet Yeats. It makes me recall, in particular, a poignant conversation I had with an elderly Palestinian gentleman who described himself as an ancient mariner, and a poet by circumstance. He spoke with passion for the land, “...the dates are the best here, they are naturally endowed with human qualities; it is believed a cut frond will not grow again like a severed human limb. The best dates, ‘Zhaidi’, ‘Hayani’, ‘Ibrahim¡’,‘Hijati’, ‘Khadari’ and ‘Zakhloli’ varieties leave a fabulous taste in the summer heat eaten at sunset sitting under ripening olives and a few scented lemon trees; sadly, such insouciance is now lost to us.” He and his friends had spent their boyhoods loitering without intent; sometimes he went with his granduncle, a shepherd: “There were no walls, no barbed wires, no machine guns----just the beautiful countryside wafting with the fragrant scents of lemon tea, friendly banter of people greeting each other oblivious of whether one was a Jew, Muslim or Christian.” He recalled further with wistful nostalgia, “Our sacred terrain was wide, open to be shared, a natural way of being, we belong to our land… an ancient civilizations which respect not just the people who live here but also anyone else who wants to live here in togetherness, to share in the spirit of our environment where our ancestors breathed freely. We always have shared our lands and resources with so many people... such graciousness of the mind and the spirit has been crushed, we are being legislated out of our history by the callous, ill-mannered meddling’s of insane men with a touch of evil. There is now so much suspicion, so much hate, we cannot expect any longer what will be, we cannot give hope even the anticipation of hope we so much long to give our young.” Similar emotions were echoed by a young Israeli girl in grim tones, “We are taught to take for granted, we have no choice: we must join the army, we must learn to use guns... we are suspicious and angry….we cannot survive otherwise...can we be blamed? “Yes” said Yuri, training to kill is diabolical and we suffer traumas, so many of us. We travel away from our country to release this pain.” ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: As seen
Are there solutions? We need to swim back upstream, go back in time, in all contexts and compilations need to be made by locals everywhere. The callous, ill-mannered meddlings of insane men a century or three ago which the Palestinian poet describes has happened in many parts of the disturbed worlds we inhabit. Peoples continue to experience an uncertain existence, severe moral and social dislocations, implanted laws, frustrating and corrupt governance, a legacy of extraneous impositions of borders, of legal frameworks, forms of governance, of personhoods and identities, deep wounds that fester, wounds that will not heal. These happened during the time of the European empires where moral propriety, indeed etiquette was thrown aside; respect or goodwill was not extended towards local populations, or their leaders. Take for instance, an example, in 1914 whilst enjoying the hospitality of the Emir of Yola and sipping his tea, Claude Macdonald of the Nigeria Cameroon Boundary survey team (as quoted by Michael Kehinde) noted after, “In those days, we just took a blue pencil and ruler and we put it down at Old Calabar and drew that blue line to Yola…I recollect thinking when I was sitting having an audience with the Emir of Yola surrounded by his tribe, that it was a good thing that he did not know that I with a blue pencil had drawn a line through his territory.”This act was not an isolated incident; such infringements had begun with the acquisition of territories in the African Continent, as indeed, also the Indian subcontinent. Thus, by 1914, 90% of Africa was divided between seven European countries caused by the arbitrary carving of territories between European powers from 1884-1919 during the Congress of Berlin. Large chunks of land came to be divided by blue lines; peoples were boxed into territories not of their choosing. In Rwanda, a high-ranking medical official told me, “We have had not Caesarean sections but abortions! In our hearts we feel it is strange... Rwanda, Burundi, DRC...we are the same people not just Africans from the east but the south and everywhere else. Can we be called nations? We, Rwandans are part of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Congo, even Sudan also Ethiopia...have you seen us dancing?” Another noted, the Ghost of Leopold paces our land, rohoni nyeusi, evil spirits- and we cannot be rid of them… once Tutsi and Hutu lived together, intermarried, spoke Kinyarwanda or Kirundi, laughed and poked fun and also quarrelled... c'est la vie..Well, then we were made to think of each other as different our lands divided and, we did not understand! Then, they (Belgians and the French) gave us arms to kill each other...the genocides which wipes millions of us every time, eliminating us, tell me is this civilisation we aspire to, what we had before they came was our civilisation now it is theirs in our lands..” In Nigeria, Fatima a law graduate noted, “We were forcibly measured as separate, Yoruba, Hausa Igbo... then, thrust together into nationhood, our values were trampled upon for over three hundred years. Then as everywhere, our lands were taken, new laws enacted, education combined the activities of the missionaries who were building hospitals and converting us, in other instances confusing us... any religion, madam is very sacred to each human being... and we have a dangerous combination; it has made something terrible happen – since last year (2009) the Boko Haram, and now its loose cannon: anyone now gets another together and call themselves Boko Haram. Look we lived together, all faiths, not anymore and we will separate into two parts. We worry we cannot co-exist any longer. And, that will make things worse...” Although many parts of the colonised worlds are independent they continue to govern with infrastructures that were built for the Empire and with the same bureaucratic gaze in interpreting the Law, and these continue to trap frustrate attempts for responsible and good governance.
Canonisation of Governance
Elsewhere in the continent analogous tensions exist. The Sudan has been regarded as Arab and Islamic. What is overlooked is that over 500 languages prevailed and, various peoples practiced traditional forms of religion, and coexisted with Islam although conversion to Christianity was happening in the animist parts of the south. Intermarriage was common and a syncretism culture prevailed in this region. However, during the sixty years, the north and the south were forced apart and oral traditions of the peoples entirely overlooked. Three Acts stand out: the Closed District Ordinance Act of 1920, the Passport and Permit Ordinance Act 1922 and the Trade Ordinance Act of 1925. In essence, these ordinances strictly ensured for complete separate educational, socio-economic, political developments as well as required strict code on travel. The Rejaf Language Conference in 1928 approved English as the official language and, the indigenous South Sudan languages such as Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Latuka, Shilluk and Zande as recognised lingua franca but Arabic was banned. These Ordinances were conceived to maintain the South and the North as separate political entities, pitted against each other. Thus, the cultural movements between peoples, flow of knowledge, shared forms of governance and communications rapidly ceased. The violent conflicts in the Sudan trace its origins to these policies: the presumed Muslim north pitted against the Christian south. Such divisiveness needs to be addressed, as indeed, the manner in which the borders have been drawn. The same truths apply to so many parts of the African continent. Zainab, a diplomat from Sierra Leone noted at a meeting, one has just got to look at lines and then understand why we are in such terrible turmoil.” In the boundary agreements of West Africa such as the one decided in Paris in 1895 between French Guinea and Sierra Leone, Christopher Fyfe notes that it was done entirely in geographical terms: rivers, watersheds, parallels and people were simply not considered. Thus, the once united Samu chiefdom, for instance was divided and the people on the frontier had to opt for farms on one side or, villages on the other. Governance and polity in these geographical units were tampered with and they were later forced into nationhood but they are not naturally nations. In Sierra Leone, for example, relationships between the Mende, Temne, and Creoles remain fraught. Further their Chiefs whose territories were deemed "Protectorate" had not entered voluntarily to sign treaties of friendship with Britain. They were misguided into believing agreements as being between sovereign powers contracting with each other where there was no subordination; it is doubtful whether they had understood the terms. Strictly speaking, a Protectorate does not exist unless the people in it have agreed to be protected. Thus, almost every chieftaincy in Sierra Leone organised armed resistance to the British arrogation of power with armed resistance. The Protectorate Ordinances passed in the Colony in 1896 and 1897 abolished the title of King and replaced it with "Paramount Chief". Those who had been traditionally nominated by their people as chiefs and kings could be deposed or installed at the will of the Governor. Most of the judicial powers of the Chiefs were removed and given to courts presided over by British "District Commissioners and the Governor decreed that a house tax of five s to 10s was to be levied annually on every dwelling in the Protectorate. Thus, in 1898, when tax collection began, serious armed resistance known as the Hut Tax Wars led by Chiefs Bai Bureh Nyaguya, and, Be Sherbro uprisings which were ruthlessly crushed. A minister from Algeria remarked, “The camel always knows which way to turn, but few heed the wisdom of the camel, and we remain torn within.” Elsewhere, nations are less torn within. For example, in Senegal where the national language is Wolof, Cheikh a soil scientist noted, “we feel that we Senegalese are all on the same boat, Sunugal, refers to our hollow pointed boat. All of us practice common courtesy as Indians do Namaste or greet each other, Salaam walikuum, we follow the traditional codes of kersa (respect for others) tegin (good manners), terranga (hospitality). The French tried their tricks but, we hope every time we will get the better of them, even though we west Africans have been pitted against each other.”
Prior to colonisation in Africa, indigenous forms of governance existed, land and its resources were shared, movements of people were commonplace and, oral agreements were reached. There was no indigenous concept of race, tribe or people other than identification based on dialects, language and attire. Wars were fought between men, women and children were always spared. Social interactions between individual and within communities of people did not recognise tribe, but rather, strangers identified each other as belonging to clans’ mbeyu and not, their tribe, kabila. For example, the term of description, the Wagogo the name of a tribe in the Dodoma region, central Tanzania itself is a relatively modern one. As late as 1927, British colonial officers were mystified as they wished to create a tribal authority in central Tanganyika. It was doubted, “whether any outline of the composition of the Gogo tribe or any exposition of its original constitution” was possible, nevertheless the name was imposed on the native chiefs of U-Gogo, the entire Dodoma region, the western half of Manyoni, eastern half of Mpwapwa and Kilimatinde in central Tanganyika. A new justice was meted out according to an officially codified Gogo law inspired by Utilitarian thinking, the Black Letter Law which is now the formal law; it bore little resemblance to the indigenous, democratic, egalitarian systems of governance.
European considerations: Race/Ethnic Divide
What has not been taken to task as yet is how classification and statistics were compiled in these regions . Human beings were simultaneously redefined as analogous to animal and plant species, as ethnic types to be slotted in the pigeonholes of such questionnaires as Thomas has noted. Taxonomy, similar to Linnaeus was at the heart of the new "art of government," based, as La Perriere said, on the "right disposition of things, arranged to lead to a convenient end." As Pratt has observed, principles from Linnaeus botany created an international networks of scientists. It provided, for instance, Dutch, British, Portuguese, Russian expeditions with German naturalists, creating a circuit for the exchange of knowledge in which much colonial intelligence could be passed on from one empire to another; some argue that botanists pioneered the colonial deployment of statistics.
Dispassionate, colonial scholar administrators’ worked through various routines relied upon their valuations with little sympathy for local ways of relating: Race and colour was central to such thinking. A common one was anthropometry, the patterning Africans’ physical characteristics –measuring skulls, height, skin colour, the nasal index, and skull shapes and in Indian Subcontinent, it also included, caste and religion. Thus, organised shifting conjugal, social distinct’ ethnic’ identities were fixed— in order to regulate the control of labour and, required resources from the land. This appears to have had a critical bearing not just on impoverishment of livelihoods, the removal of men from the household to work in far off regions, led to women being burdened with the responsibility for household expenditure and farm labour and transformed gender relationships. And, what has not been taken to task continues to inform. In the Indian subcontinent, for example, H.H Risley developed an official typology of racial types formulating grades in caste defined by the proportion of ‘Aryan’ blood and the nasal index, along a gradient from the highest castes to the lowest. In 1910 he influentially asserted that knowledge of facts concerning the religions and habits of the peoples of India equipped a civil servant with a passport to popular regard. He absurdly determined, "the social position of a caste varies inversely as its nasal index measuring the definition of a community as either a tribe or a Hindu caste or a Muslim. The nasal index, a method of classifying ethnicity based on the ratio of the breadth of a nose to its height, race remained one of the principal determinants of attitudes, endowments, capabilities and inherent tendencies among subject peoples and used in different parts of the Empire. Risley’s experience of administrative matters, including policing, proved to be useful to Curzon during the anti-government agitation that led to the first Partition of Bengal. Imperial classifications such as base Bengali Babu, dark-skinned Tamils, cunning Malayali, irascible Bhil, quarrelsome Pathan, warrior Rajput, loyal Gurkha inferiorized local populations. Another aspect was the introduction in the subcontinent of the codification of perceived inherited behaviour. Thus, criminality or professional criminal behaviour to be perceived as hereditary rather than on account of impoverishment and social circumstance, and crime became ethnic, to be biologically determined entrenching new understandings of fixing caste and people and such sustained Utilitarian, administrator colonial scholarship inspired laws such as The Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 so forth to be enacted. From such political measures, those communities or people with peripatetic lifestyles or communities who chose to live in the forests, away from ‘society’ were seen as a menace to the society, 'dangerous classes' – thugs, vagrants, itinerants, gypsies and even Hijras (eunuchs) had to be sent to reformatory schools in the guise of mental asylums and prisons were equipped with these tasks. Although the Act was repealed in 1949 it was replaced in substance by the Habitual Offenders Act 1952 of Government of India indicating how colonial laws continue to inform attitudes in the Subcontinent affecting over a billion people in India. There needs to be serious re-thinking of the enduring impact of colonial legislation as these Acts along with the policing measures continue to damage measures for productive governance.
Applying the Stammbäume(charting family trees) model (not as used by Darwin) to grade levels, how superior to inferior races were governed by selection, regardless of historical evidence, reciprocal influences between scientific thought and species discusses how orders and levels came to represent an ascending staircase of social-cultural evolution, natives occupying the lowest rungs. Thus, terms to describe races 'Aryan', 'Dravidian' and so forth have been proven to be gravely erroneous: the entire race grading of people is indeed, erroneous. As the eminent historian Romila Thapar had observed that we do not know what the Aryans looked like and certainly these Aryan speaking peoples had intermarried with other peoples in their migrations for several hundred centuries. Similarly the term ‘Dravidian’ conjured by a British linguist Caldwell is inaccurate in its usage. There are no Aryans or Dravidian people, and racial divides in scales are unscientific, arbitrary fixtures. Intermarriage and integration has been way of life for millennia. Here we have to note that phonology, syntax and vocabulary apart, in the Indian subcontinent for millennia various peoples settled following a timeless traditions of reciprocity and exchange. At any rate, there has always been so much interbreeding between human populations that it would be meaningless to talk of fixed boundaries between races in most parts of the world. Also, the distribution of hereditary physical traits does not follow clear boundaries. In other words, there is often greater variation within a "racial" group than there is systematic variation between two groups. Institutionalising such thinking has led to the hardening of inward-looking attitudes which formed the basis of classifications leading to continuous wrangling, and prejudice.
Current analysis seeks to label ethnic confrontation, communal turbulence and tribal conflicts – but fails to look back into the recesses of the histories and cultures. Such painful confrontations which continue to reverberate in contemporary African and societies of the Subcontinent, as indeed, the Middle-East have resulted, without a doubt, from an extraneous imposition of rigid systems of classification on otherwise flexible groups. Studying how such thinking came to be in addition to the physically measured racial differentiations of ethnic subjects, ethnic groups were presupposed to have a range of obligatory characteristics needs to be reassessed. Indeed, the term ‘ethnic’ and ‘ethnicity’ needs to be re-examined as it had very little to do with people’s understandings of their own identities and how they related to each other. Indeed, what ethnicity might mean in relation to ‘Africans', ‘Arabs’, ‘Jews’, Indians, Sri Lankans, indeed, Baluchis even, the NWFP appreciations of their own identities was simply not considered indeed, if anything, undermined: there are immeasurable ways by which peoples define themselves in relation to each other.
To reflect on whether we can apply understandings of contemporary ethnicities we need to look at how they developed in relation to one another within each specific context; what is meant by immutable ethnic loyalties and indeed, ‘primordial afflictions’ as such fixed terms of reference to dominate global political analyses. Informed by the philosophical underpinnings of specific forms of European culture and governance, for instance Anglo-Saxon where Utilitarian and Cartesian thinking was central to governance and polity of European empires, a consequence: making separate and dividing peoples on basis of invented race and colour schemata established anthropometry as a pivotal consideration. Thus, there was an explicit imposition of administrative infrastructure to make separate and distinct against assimilation in order to control and to guard the boundaries and exits of the body politic. These measures explicitly negated time honoured customs, how people related to each other, or accepted and understood their environments, or, the mutual interdependence with which these cultures had evolved naturally for millennia with indigenous forms of governance that had worked for them. The loss of certainty led to new forms of strife and introduced ‘communal’ conflicts: such estrangement has had the effect of foreclosing and truncating indigenous value systems.
The wisdom of the Ottomans
In conspicuous contrast, the Ottoman Empire which governed for over six hundred years allowed for the integration of large Jewish, Christian and other communities, who, despite some legal handicaps, found that the dispensation generally allowed them to live and worship in faithful adherence to their laws and traditions. Some religious heads even believed that the Turkish conquest had preserved the Greek Church from the threat of annihilation by the growing power of the Latin west. For instance, the Grand Duke Loukas Notarasis had stated on the eve of the conquest: ‘It would be better to see the turban of the Turks reigning over the city than the Latin mitre.” In later decades, active efforts were made through the tanzimat to incorporate various cultures within. And, by embracing the Hanafi School the most accommodating of all the four schools and, drawing upon all four schools in its law making, it permitted maximum flexibility within the limits of Islamic tradition, thus was placating disparate populations of Jews, Christians and, indeed, various schools within the Sunni Islamic traditions; many of the spiritual exercises of the Hesychast movement championed by St Gregory Palamas, who had spent a year at the Ottoman court debating with Muslims, were derived from Sufi and Islamic practices. The institutionalising of Sufism, some scholars have argued in governance and military establishment sanctioned non conformism. Such latitudinarian forms of governance derived from the philosophical, religious and cultural syncretism’s cobbled together from Byzantine, Arab, and Central Asian as indeed, the Mughals traditions. Many of the Shia mosques in Iraq were built by the Sunni Ottomans. In 1856, the Hatt-ý Hümayun promised equality for all Ottoman citizens irrespective of their ethnicity and confession, widening the scope of the 1839 Hatt-ý Þerif of Gülhane. The reformist period peaked with the Constitution, called the Kanûn-ý Esâsî (meaning "Basic Law" in Ottoman Turkish), written by members of the Young Ottomans, which was promulgated on 23 November 1876. It established freedom of belief and equality of all citizens before the law. "Firman of the Reforms" gave immense privileges to the Armenians, which formed a "governance in governance" to eliminate the aristocratic dominance of the Armenian nobles by development of the political strata in the society. Certainly, the military regulations meant conscription; they were also guaranteed protection providing the impetus for vernacular languages and traditions to develop unhindered within the Ottoman fold. As another scholar has argued, its social organization and mechanisms of rule at key moments of its history, emergence, imperial institutionalization, re-modelling, transition to nation-state, revealing how the empire managed these moments, adapted, and averted crises and what changes made it transform dramatically. The flexible techniques by which the Ottomans maintained their legitimacy specifically the manner in which dissent was handled and/or internalized in the nature of state society respect of minorities; the cooperation of their diverse elites both at the centre and in the provinces, as well as their control over economic and human resources were responsible for the longevity of this particular empire over other empires.
What is often forgotten, remarked Ari Abulafia, a violinist with whom we journeyed with in Istanbul, is that whilst people of the same religious traditions, be they Protestant, or Catholic or, belonging to Islam other older traditions such as Judaism were being systematically persecuted, driven away by Edicts or discouraged by repressive measures in Europe, in Asia be it south or central Asia, the Arabian peninsula, Middle-East, Iran and other parts of the Levant, they enjoyed great freedoms occupied high positions; they were regarded as integral to the contemporary societies in question, the Safavids, Mughals, certainly under the Ottomans: such open-ended cultural freedoms and economic security allowed for an unrivalled prosperity. Kurdish nationalism remains one of the most critical and explosive problems of the Middle East. Hakan Üzoðlu has consulted a wealth of primary sources, including Ottoman and British archives, Ottoman Parliamentary minutes, memoirs, and interviews. He argues that Kurdish leaders remained loyal to the Ottoman state;they withdrew only after it became certain that the empire would not recover did Kurdish nationalism emerge and clash with the Kemal Pasha‘s modern polity and development of Turkish nationalism. In later decades, the British inspired tumultuous break-up of the Ottoman Empire while allowing for the nation states introduced less tolerant governance, forged rivalry between peoples who once had prosperously co-existed and, financial instability: Greece is one example as also, the Balkans, where populations of Serbs, Slovenes, Magyars, Croats, Bulgars, Turks, others had intermarried and coexisted. Some measures of the Ottomans need to be revisited to strengthen nations in these regions.
In Palestine, the Ottoman millat system under which all religious hierarchies had the right to govern their communities autonomously also came to be distorted under colonial rule. Instead of introducing the immigrant European communities into the existing structures of governance and polity in Palestine, the British authorities made concrete what was abstract and open-ended, by introducing ‘ethnic’ divides and sectarianism which has now become the basis for all political participation. Such a move effectively unified the Jewish population of Palestine while dividing its Arabs along sectarian lines. And, as a result, residents along with other communities such as the Armenians, Coptics and Greeks were denied ‘national’ representation in the governance of their communities. Similarly, the partition of Iraq led to the creation of Kuwait, and the British bestowed sovereignty on King Farouk, a non-Iraqi Sunni monarch although the population was largely Shi’a. And, as he was a foreigner and not familiar with the lay of the land or its emotions he relied upon select enclaves of power leading inevitably to the seizure of power by the Ba’athist regime of Al– Bakr and Saddam Hussein in 1968. They were not tolerant of other groups, and did not recruit from the majority who were Shi’as to share power. For much of its time,the Ottoman Empire had nurtured creative genius at all levels allowing religious freedoms, and other cultural expressions as indeed, artistic expressions to flourish.
Unfortunately, modern Turkey’s move to embrace westernisation by Kemalism undermined its very strength as it estranged itself from its rich syncretic history. Further ill-advised measures were introduced for example, the hasty abolition of Ottoman Turkish and Arabic script in 1929. The language revolution also known as Dil Devrimi was conceived of in the late nineteenth century where the Arabic script was replaced by Latin alphabet. Although a majority of the political members of the assembly favoured a gradual transition a period up to five years, it was overruled. Eager for Turkey to remain at the pinnacle, Kemal Pasha insisted on immediacy. Purification of the language became a national cause. Dictionaries began to drop Arabic and Persian words and sought to resurrect archaic terms or words from Turkish dialects or to coin new words from old stems and roots to be used in their place. The Turkish Language Society Türk Dil Kurumu, founded in 1932, supervised the collection and dissemination of Turkish folk vocabulary and folk phrases to be used in place of foreign words. Such short sighted developments severed inadvertently an extremely rich, syncretic philosophical heritage of learning and civility. It would not be far-fetched to observe that harmony and tolerance could come to prevail between various peoples committed to the longevity and material success of the European Union, indeed, be guaranteed if leaders and communities could seek to reflect and, to learn from inclusive polity of the Ottomans.
The Indian Subcontinent
Possibly the bloodiest Partition in history has been the partitioning of India and Pakistan in August 1947, the ramifications of which remain largely unexplored, nor, properly explained. The process needs to be comprehended as the Partitioning of the Indian subcontinent, indeed Mughal and Maratha empires, which began with the Anglo Afghan wars. In May 1879, the Treaty of Gandamak, was signed that forced Amir Yaqub Khan to cede the large areas west of the Indus -Khurram, Pishin and Sibi and, hand over the control of the Khyber and Michni Pass to the British. Two imperial Anglo-Russian Boundary Commissions of 1895-96 were set up without consulting the Amir or the Wakhanis fixed resolutely the frontiers in the north- east and the north- west, Russian Turkestan as Russian Central Asia came to be called. The Wakhan Corridor on the high Pamirs was to remain with the Afghans as it served to act as a buffer between British and Tsarist territories. Those tribes who suffered on account of this partition were the Kyrgyz and Wakhi tribes who were forced to discontinue their traditional pastoral practices. In the east, the Durand Line in 1893 was drawn by the British which came to separate communities on both sides of the border for the first time in millennia. Amir Abdul Rahman is recorded to have remarked, "How can a small power like Afghanistan which is like a goat between two lions, or a grain of wheat between two strong millstones of the grinding mill, stand in midway of the stones without being ground to dust?”
There were, thus, in effect, seven geographical Partitions that happened of the Indian Subcontinent. They began with the Partitions of Afghanistan in 1879 and 1893, the Partition of Bengal in 1903-04, the carving of Burma in April 1937 and, from the Bombay Presidency, west Aden, Mustaʿmarat ʿAdan, in 1937, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1947, and the same year between India and Pakistan being the most violent covering as it did present day Bengal, Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, the United Provinces.
In the Indian subcontinent, partitions happened in weeks. To the many millions, the Partition remains a heinous crime and drawing of the boundary line was in itself, faulty. As observed by one historian, the dividing line between the east and west of the province, “…wobbled from communal to economic to strategic factors', followed no natural dividing features such as rivers or mountain ranges, cut across villages, canal systems and communication lines, in the process separating communities and bisecting homes. Large populations of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs found themselves on the ‘wrong’ side of the border.”At no point in time did the local people have any say in the matter; they felt betrayed and herein were the seeds sown of Hindu Muslim animosity primarily among the Punjabis and Sindhis; they were torn apart from each other, from their shared communities being forced to flee. The traumatic effects of territorial loss, moral and social dislocation and painful separation of human communities continue to reverberate in the Indian subcontinent with tragic consequences. Nationhood cannot be defined by enmity but by love for the land, for the joint custody of people of its resources.
Ancient cultures of the subcontinent are renowned for their millennial syncretic and immanent traditions. For example, examine the nineteenth century Punjabi culture and its influence on the political expression of the times. It is common knowledge that the Punjab derives its name from Persian, comprising the words of Panj (five) and Ab (water) meaning land of five rivers, Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and the Sutlej. It consisted of rich alluvial tracts of land, or the Doab between two confluent rivers, the Sind–Sagar, Jech, Bist, Rechna, and the Bari Doabs. The term Punjab was used during the reign of Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar. In the documents of Mughal period the use of the terms Sarkar-e-Punjab and Suba-e-Punjab and this region remained longest under Islamic influences. Indo-Islamic confluences inspired by the Sufis, Sheikhs, Pirs and Ulemas followed them in their wake. In many towns of the Punjab, they opened Khankahs and Jamait Khanas, amongst which those at Multan, Uch, Ajodhan, and Lahore were of great sanctity. The Punjab has acted not merely as a repository of the Indo- Islamic mystical traditions but a focal point in the process of its diffusion. All the classical mystic writings like Kashf al-Mahjub, AwarifulMaarif, Futuhat-e-Makkiya, Masnavi of Jalaluddin Rumi and other mystics were first received, accepted in Punjab and then transmitted to the rest of India. Even today the Sufi lyrics sung by of Abida Parveen, Fateh Ali Khan, Amarjeet Kaur and others, Pakistani and Indian Punjabis are based on the Sufi kalam of the mystic saints of Punjab (such as Bulleh Shah, Shah Hussain, Sultan Bahu, Khwaja Ghulam Farid etc.) and Mughal poets Amir Khusrao. They sing in Punjabi, Urdu, Sindhi, Seraiki, and Persian, and enthral audiences in Delhi and beyond, many who claim ancestry from former west Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan and Afghanistan. Similarly, elsewhere along the Radcliffe lines traditions of hospitality such as: melmastia, mehrman palineh defining meraneh or codes of manhood such as imandaari (righteousness), sabat (steadfastness), ghairat (of property), namus protecting women extended far beyond Pashtun cultural arena as witnessed in the Deccan regions where Urdu was more widely spoken as linguistics such as Tahir Rahman have illustrated, since the thirteenth century, well-integrated with local languages such as Telugu as indeed, Marathi. Similarly, in Kashmir, Allah and Lala symbolised the several hundred centuries of syncreticism as embodied in Kashmiriyat. The “pluralist, Sufi Bhakti- RishiTraditions” has been elaborated at length by Madanjeet Singh.
Partitions are often understood as necessary boundaries that came to be drawn with the creation of ‘nation states ‘ of modernity. As boundaries function to separate and to exclude, the incidence of identical cultures on both sides of an international boundary holds significant implications for post-partition (post-independent) interstate relations in the Indian Subcontinent, African continent, South east Asia, Russian Steppes, as, indeed, deep rooted loyalties compel inter-community relations whether or not the community is wholly located within a single country or split between countries. There remains a lack of fit between ascribed “ethnic” identities, linguistic boundaries and patterns of allegiances. After all, for millennia there had been an entirely unselfconscious interaction across political, physical, linguistic religious, indeed, cosmological boundaries. And, extraneously imposed, monistic identities/ perceived allegiances continue to counter cultural diversity as it is regularly experienced and accepted.
What solutions can be offered? Resuscitating traditions of syncreticism, of subjugated wisdoms and disseminating such knowledge is vital towards redressing these moral fault lines. And, these attempts would subsequently guarantee peace not just to the citizens of aforementioned regions of the world, but also for citizens in Europe and north America. In India for example, even locals know that local cultures are not autonomous, but interdependent systems which have become influenced by global involvements that promote further exploitation, witness the decline of the rupee. The ‘open-frontier” traditions of immanent, syncretic cultures such as those of the subcontinent have always accommodated a global perspective -- often not recognised. Thus, the formal ‘colonisation of the native conscience’ (as one anthropologist has noted) so integral to the subjection of indigenous peoples is not often grasped in most understandings of the divisive politics of post-colonial societies. In defining gender, identity and personhoods, the Cartesian ‘cogito’, positivist and evolutionary thought continues to inform official understandings. It’s overwhelming importance in determining contemporary categories of the Self whether it is the dualistic presumptions that guide everyday thought or the mechanistic way that dominates much of science. It also influences the manner in which symbolic, cognitive and aesthetic competences are judged via implicit learning processes --often at the cost of local cultural understandings.
The way forward would be that experts in one culture can play a key role in increasing mutual understanding and eliminating prejudices in their own culture and in those which they study. Each culture needs to build up an understanding on the basis of its own specific characteristics -positive life experiences in inter-cultural contexts within the regional as a start working towards mutual interdependence and conviviality. In various narratives the meaning of emotions/ feelings in collective imaginations vital in the formation and development of those representations is simply not considered. Nor are themes of interdependence, recognition of similarities which are necessary for coexistence of cultures and persons- indeed, focusing exclusively on diversity overlooks the necessary condition for any type of dialogue – the recognition of that which makes us similar to each other. There are considerations of humanity’s psychic unity: shared emotions and vulnerability- aims and ideals to which we all aspire in particular the shared dignity and knowledge of each other – vulnerability is something we all share- human frailty – to provide hospitality, empathy sympathy and humility in intercultural relations. To achieve this we need to undertake an archaeology of the past working towards an ethnography of the present.
Source: Kashmir Observer
*“Purging Racism, The Enemy Within”, An Analysis.
By Philip Probity & Ahmed Mohh M.
March 21 is the UN International Day for Elimination of Racism reminding us of our collective responsibility for promoting and protecting these ideals. Many of us Africans have chosen to study and work in India. Delhi is always a magnet being a capital city: it is known that the best education can be obtained here. We came to India not just for education, but also enlightenment! We remain particularly disturbed by racist taunts and harassment we experience. Certainly in the wake of recent attacks we feel disrespected and unsafe. So much of Africa was colonised mainly by the British who divided and exploit us as was India. We have so much in common: such experiences of racism deeply offend anger, upset and sadden us. Why is this happening and are there any solutions to these problems? We spoke with Dr Kusum Gopal in whose diverse expertise includes redressing race and ethnic tensions in the Indian subcontinent, south-east Asia, northern Europe, East and West Africa and the MENA region.
Question: Why is there so much racism directed specifically against Africans in India?
These attacks on Africans happen in groups and no one does anything! Please explain. Racism remains an extremely alarming phenomena – and many non Europeans have been at its receiving end since colonialism came into being over five centuries ago defining attitudes of acceptance, of rejection, with the fabrications of superior versus the inferior races. We must recall Eric Williams, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica who noted that racism was born out of slavery and not the other way around!
Before understanding the basis of racism as we reflect on the pernicious colonial legacy which continues to operate with impunity, we in India as indeed those Indians abroad need also to acknowledge, to reflect and to address publicly and privately, the ‘colonisation of our conscience’ as an anthropologist has perceptively described it; the mental paralysis and ignorance we remain submerged in is affecting detrimentally our value judgements, ethics, indeed, our aesthetics, sixty-seven years after we gained Independence. We are yet to acknowledge or recognise that it is such an entrenched malaise punishing specifically not just Africans but also Indians. Of course I am not stating that racism against Africans can be put on the same platform as racism against Indians, but it can be understood better within such a context. It is evident just watching the billboards advertising various products, or attending fashion shows, the IPL --- events that are happening in the public arena at the national level, in all instances, white-skinned European models are preferred to Indian models in India! Ironically, Indians are regarded, even envied as extremely beautiful people and those who have won Miss World/Miss Universe titles are mainly dark-skinned women. Yet many Indian film actors continue to be painted white on the big and small screens looking rather unattractive, lifeless, indeed, pasty faced: all images are being doctored deliberately. There is a serious need to advocate the “Black is beautiful” slogans which grew from the tormenting experience of African Americans to educate people here, indeed, to state unequivocally that or “all shades of black/brown are to die for”.
You may have read reports on the sexual violence against women, girls and boys, most recently racism against the teenager who was brutally murdered, Nido Tanian. You may have also seen the obnoxious fair and lovely advertisements on T.V by various cosmetic companies which are endorsed by misguided celebrities who are causing such harm poisoning minds advocating that those with lighter skin are beautiful, they are role models to aspire to making viewers feel inadequate, lacking and inferior! Some girls and women bleach their faces indeed as also men in a bid to lighten their natural skin tones with chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, ammonia and so forth. It is absurd for us living as we do now in independent India, to allow, indeed, even to accept that being light skinned is to be beautiful while 99% of the population are deemed inferior or ugly. Needless to say, these advertisements are nauseating in the extreme and should be banned. Our government and institutions need to step in immediately to expunge the rot within! We must address collectively as a people our instinctive self-loathing and how it has consequences on questions of ethics, on aesthetics which disinherits and disenfranchises us.
Attacking in groups –lynching --is criminal, and also an act of cowardice, a menacing experience indeed! It is not that nothing is happening. Legal action is happening albeit at a rather slow pace which is because there is, distressingly, such a deep divide as far as accountability goes between the formal law and informal laws with concealed power structures that operate all over the countries of the Subcontinent, indeed beyond as you must know only too well.
Bear in mind also that racism has taken many forms – in China, sharp differentiation exists of Han versus Hakka; the Uyghurs feel severely marginalised, indeed, many non Chinese origin people are being denied citizenship in Hong Kong; some forced to emigrate. Similarly, WASP dominance in north America and western Europe in governance and finance; it was not so long ago when those of Jewish origin were demonised and persecuted on the basis of their faith in their lands, it is still happening today Palestine, Central African Republic, Sudan being just a few examples. Indeed, while all expressions of racism are deeply disturbing and simply unacceptable, resolutions are possible.
Question: What are the official definitions of racism?
The tenets of UN Charters such as the famous Universal Declaration of Human Rights against racism are very clear. The first article affirms that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." The term "racial discrimination" as defined by Article 10 is: “any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” Since then, there have been the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in 2001, the international community's efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the UN Charter of 2010. India is one of the signatories of the Declaration. It is against the Indian Constitution to discriminate against any human being on grounds of religion, colour, creed, language, race or sex. And, these are deemed criminal offences punishable by law. It is indeed, quite deplorable... we urgently need to address also concomitant crimes against lower-castes as indeed the alarming frequency of recurring widespread sexual violence against women, girls as also, less reported rapes and related forms of aggression against boys and men. Indeed, let us remind ourselves: “that United Nations has condemned colonialism and all practices of segregation and discrimination associated therewith,” in particular, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples proclaimed in particular the necessity of bringing colonialism to a speedy and unconditional end. Further, the Declaration of Human Rights and UNESCO Declarations which clearly state, that any doctrine of racial differentiation or superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination either in theory or in practice. All propaganda and organizations based on ideas or theories of the superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin with a view to justifying or promoting racial discrimination in any form shall be severely condemned. Further, that all incitement to or acts of violence, whether by individuals or organizations against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin shall be considered an offence against society and punishable under law.
Question: Also, what about caste from which people could not escape? Is that also not racist?
Yes, caste is discriminatory as it exists today- but that is also changing. It is important to recognise that we need to re-examine all the philological scholarship of colonial administrators beginning with William Jones – mainly, to re-evaluate once again this vast corpus of literature that came to be codified by the Black Letter Law. While excellent critiques exist, and such erudition has been published, academics have been remiss, indeed deeply careless in not making available such findings to the public as also, indeed the government and its institutions. As I have stated elsewhere, Caste is known to have been derived from Manusmriti or Manu Dharma Sastra, a segment of the richly diverse Indian philosophical systems. The Manusmriti is not a legal code, but a darshana or interpretation of philosophic systems: all ancient philosophical systems in India are known as darsanas, meaning, calling insights or points of view. None of the darsanas -- almost 3000 verses codify cosmogony; four ashramas, government, domestic affairs, caste and morality are binding. In the etymology of Indian words, Manusmriti has come to be erroneously interpreted during the colonial period as the unchangeable Laws of Manu. Eminent Sanskrit scholars do not accept the translation of smriti as ‘laws’. Smritis are remembered knowledge of the sages, derived from shrutis or divine revelations and thus are not binding. The philosophical and lexical richness of the darsanas needs to be interpreted within the cultural context of Sanskrit.Under colonial rule, for the first time, through random physical measurements, classification and separation of the subject populations using anthropometry, skin colour, racial classifications, and, creation of ethnic identities occurred. H H Risley, an influential administrator for example whom we discussed earlier, ludicrously determined that, “the social position of the caste varies inversely as the nasal index”, that, caste status was fixed, unchangeable; nearly all native practices and customs were reinterpreted distorting indigenous understandings and legislated customary ways of being out of existence. The colonial system supplemented its own formal institutions by manipulating these indigenous social networks in producing and reproducing social and political identities-- for ordinary people such official social identities ultimately determined their fate, and they were forced by circumstance into relying upon those identities.
It is now clear from authoritative research that although one was born into a caste, his or her caste status was not fixed; one could change and did change caste and intermarriage was rife. With the movements of people, occupations and social relationships were always in a state of flux. For example, under the Turko-Afghans, the Mughals, groups of people who came to be known as the Kayasths became the backbone of the administration married into the Pathans, Turks and other groups of people or, the Banjaras who are now reduced to poverty, were once very influential and wealthy traders - salt carriers of the Mughals. Prior to the British all those who came to Indian subcontinent had intermarried, integrated and, accepted the people as they were accepted by them. This is why colonialism was markedly different from previous empires and governance- it emphasised differences and created separatism on basis of race and religion. For nearly two hundred years, the formal codification of differences among peoples their religions, racial/ caste discrimination, separatist movements of language purification led to the Partitions.
Question: Could you describe further the “pernicious colonial legacy”?
In Nigeria, Central Africa as in many parts of Africa, this has of course led to some severe tensions. We know that race constructions or tribe constructions did not originate from the existence of 'races' or tribes. It was created through European colonialism which institutionalised processes of social division into arbitrary categories fixing racial profiles independent of people’s somatic, cultural, religious belief systems. Applying the Stammbäume(charting family trees) model (not as used by Darwin) to grade levels, how superior to inferior races were governed by selection, regardless of historical evidence, reciprocal influences between scientific thought and species discusses how orders and levels came to represent an ascending staircase of social-cultural evolution, all non Europeans natives occupying the lowest rungs graded by skin colour. Certainly this ludicrous evolutionary scheme has been discarded since ---the entire race grading of people is indeed, unscientific and fallacious. We have to reject outright colonial anthropometry ---the cephalic index, the bigonial diameter, the bizygomatic diameter as indeed, all the rest. At any rate, there has always been so much interbreeding between human populations that it would be meaningless to talk of fixed boundaries between races in most parts of the world. Also, the distribution of hereditary physical traits does not follow clear boundaries. In other words, there is often greater variation within a "racial" group than there is systematic variation between two groups. Institutionalising such thinking has led to the hardening of inward-looking attitudes which formed the basis of classifications leading to continuous wrangling, and prejudice.
With reference to the regions under discussion: let us first pluck at, and engage with the pre-colonial oral and literary traditions of the great African continent and those of the Subcontinent, the “ways of seeing”, that evolved naturally over millennia. We are aware that in Africa from the exemplary scholarship and observations by Mudimbe, Bourdieu and Fabian among others on the enduring weight of colonial libraries and its tenacious grip. In most parts of Africa, as I have said elsewhere, there was no indigenous concept of race, colour, tribe or people other than identification based on dialects, language and attire as people intermarried more frequently than acknowledged contributing to the natural history of the human race, one of its distinguishing features. As a geneticist has noted, the scientific rejection of taxonomy... far from splitting up into subspecies which would be definitely adapted to the particular environment in which they had settled, and would differ from each other all the more for being genetically isolated (a frequent occurrence in animal species), the human race is composed of populations whose inheritances are being continually modified by gene exchanges.” Social interactions between individuals and within communities of people did not recognise tribe, but rather, strangers identified each other as belonging to clans’ mbeyu and not, their tribe, kabila-- the case in east Africa for example. Similarly, the was the case of the Indian subcontinent whose ancient cultures are renowned for their immanent traditions. Integral to open–frontier traditions has been acceptance to forge voluntarily kinship relations between different groups and individuals through formal adoption of one by the other mainly by the offer of sanctuary, intermarriage, offer of material goods, of land made explicit through sophisticated ceremonial rituals of mutual exchange and reciprocity.
Ethnicity is wrongly interpreted using colonial and Euro-American terms of reference needs to be qualified within the context of the history and syncretism of this region, In the Indian subcontinent, H.H Risley in 1910 an influential Utilitarian, colonial administrator developed an official typology of racial types formulating grades in caste defined by the proportion of ‘Aryan’ blood and the nasal index, along a gradient from the highest castes to the lowest- the classic evolutionary model from which ‘modern’ classification, basis of race developed. He absurdly determined, "the social position of a caste varies inversely as its nasal index measuring the definition of a community as either a tribe or a Hindu caste or a Muslim,” when we know that Hindus Muslims, Sikhs Buddhists and others in the Subcontinent are peoples who cannot be separated thus: such flawed thinking must be debunked. Indeed, in biological terms, our physical and mental development as human beings are a result of our heredities, our environments, a consequence of millennia of inter-breeding, inheritances being continually modified by gene exchanges as different peoples intermarried with migrant human populations, repeated episodes of territorial expansion and shrinkage, and frequent cross-breeding, a testimony to the millennial cultures that stretched from Tibet – to Kanyakumari and from Afghanistan to Burma. Even today those who think they are of Aryan descent or Dravidian, indeed any other category need to re-educate themselves. The terms to describe races 'Aryan', 'Dravidian' and so forth have been proven to be gravely erroneous. As the eminent historian Romila Thapar had observed that we do not know what the Aryans looked like and certainly these Aryan speaking peoples had intermarried with other peoples in their migrations for several hundred centuries. Similarly the term ‘Dravidian’ conjured by a British linguist Henry Caldwell is inaccurate in its usage. There are no Aryans or Dravidian people, and racial divides in scales are unscientific, arbitrary fixtures. Intermarriage and integration has been way of life for millennia. The proof is in the pudding: that phonology, syntax, vocabulary, cuisines, music, dance, indeed, all forms of human expression have integrated in the Indian subcontinent for millennia as various peoples settled embracing these timeless syncretic traditions until the advent of European colonialism.
Disturbing as it is official administrative knowledge of human diversity remains influenced by these descriptions written some over four centuries ago under the aegis of European colonial regimes around the world. Images of origin and purity helped most practically to justify efforts to describe and propagate divisiveness, territorially distinct races; politics of society was determined by the politics of knowledge expressed through race. Obsession with ‘purity’ was embedded in European colonial cultures. In Spain for example, in this important book, Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, by Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan poet and journalist describes the intricate hierarchy measured by sangre azul or blue blood. Paintings by the Old Masters sometimes reveal how a nobleman demonstrated his pedigree by holding up his sword arm to display the filigree of blue-blooded veins beneath his pale skin as a testimony that his birth had not been contaminated by the dark-skinned enemy. Sangre azul became a euphemism for being a white man—the limpieza de sangre doctrine was also very common in the colonization of the Americas. It led to the invention of a rather intricate taxonomic list to describe one's precise race and, by consequence, one's place in society. It included, among others terms, Mestizo (50% Spaniard and 50% Native American), Castizo (75% European and 25% Native American), Spaniard (87.5% European and 12.5% Native American), Mulatto (50% European and 50% African),Albarazado (43.75% Native American, 29.6875% European, and 26.5625% African), and so forth. This is just one example; there exist other classifications peculiar to each colonial power. Thus, extraneously, instituted values equated with the ought, to, the norm or the moral came to be separated from how colonised peoples defined their own identities. I remain of the firm opinion that the term race must be done away with immediately: it has been proved to be unscientific, and is most certainly extraneous to the cultures of the Subcontinent (as indeed, east and west Africa): there has been everywhere so much interbreeding among human populations that fortuitously, there is no such thing as a pure race anywhere in the world.
Question: What can we do to spread academic knowledge?
You know that scientific racism was popularised by prejudices and rather poor methods but they came to prevail. For example, a doctoral student at Cambridge has recently highlighted one such work-- Samuel G Morton’s Crania Americana which divided humankind into five categories based on anthropometry was influential in Europe and north America, possible that H.H. Risley the colonial administrator also used these methods, What is immeasurably worrying are not these works, note how celebrities are causing great harm –take for example, Dancia, the extremely popular Nigerian/Cameroonian singer who is marketing a cream called ‘whitenicious’ which she has patented – she stated in an interview that “white means pure” – she always appears several shades lighter with bleached hair. Thus many of her female fans have already started using it – This is also the case in Thailand and the Philippines where such creams containing extremely harmful chemicals are being used. Essentially the message being – one must be ashamed of one’s colour if it is not white: let us not push these unpalatable truths under the carpet. It is thus critical at this juncture for us to address racism at home before we can combat racism outside – and here all forms of discrimination must be brought to the fore and discussed,
Question: How can we change these ‘entrenched ‘attitudes? Is that possible?
Just criminalising racism will not eradicate it; indeed, it could even have the opposite effect. We know from experience that it is no use ignoring the values ascribed to race in the hope that people will stop thinking in racial terms and therefore the problems will solve itself gradually. In the US and UK, many European countries have actively set up committees and institutions to educate people. The Thirteenth Amendment in US Constitution abolished slavery in 1865 and yet it has taken almost 150 years for them to elect a black American President. One should not aim just for political correctness but education of the mind and the spirit, humanistic understandings deepening from within.
However, knowledge of the truth does not always help change knee-jerk reactions or emotional thoughts that draw their real strength from the subconscious or from happenings beside the real issue. But it could however, prevent validations of criminal acts or behaviour prompted by feelings which men and women cannot easily express openly. To regulate conflicts of this kind governmental and institutional intervention is essential. The longer it is postponed, the more harm it is likely to cause and we must act with immediacy.
We have to begin with dissemination of knowledge with dialogues. Dialogues must be registered as conversations between equals and, from that, interactions between parties concerned must be based on mutual hospitality, empathy and, some humility- after all only understanding can ensure any form of progress. There are so many practical strategies and measures that would be able to be put into effect once these processes are initiated and this can happen in concurrence with education without walls, discussions in the parliament, legislative assemblies, panchayats, communities, shops, markets, clubs, and places of religious worship, schools, universities and beyond. Thirdly, there is the worrying ignorance of our histories and cultures in schools: we need to acknowledge the dire need for reforming the education system, in particular through the detailed examination and revision of the school textbooks. Critically, to learn about and emphasise the syncretic cultures that enveloped the Subcontinent for millennia which encouraged rich cultures of tolerance allowing diverse peoples to intermarry, integrate and philosophies of being to co-exist! In doing so, there is a need to deconstruct the logic of prejudices that are detrimental to mutual understanding - and this can be done through scientific, philosophical and literary anthologies and writings, ethnographic studies- that take into account oral traditions. Another method is the media-- through education, and by films, negative images of others, religious intolerance, incitement of hatred, violence and contempt for one other could be removed. Teachers must be trained as they are the educators and they must not only transmit knowledge but also comment critically on the transmitted knowledge and its content. Cultural diversity is integral to these regions and has always been. It is important to recognise that personal identities are intimately linked with political processes and that social identities are not given once and for all, but are negotiated over. Thus, we urgently need to legislate and discuss areas where we can co-operate and improve our lives and those of others.
Question: You emphasise culture and can you explain its role as the critical point of entry?
To conclude, we must work with the understanding that human beings are always in culture and it would be a good idea to study and respect specific cultural mores wherever one resides. Equally important is to engage with experts in their culture as they can play a key role in increasing mutual understanding and eliminating prejudices in their own culture and, in those which they study. Each culture needs to build up an understanding on the basis of its own specific characteristics -positive life experiences in inter-cultural contexts within the region as a start working towards mutual interdependence and conviviality. Perhaps, the best method would be that all foreigners, regardless of origin, be allowed to attend free classes on cultural education and some language arranged for by the embassies in each country to learn what locals are sensitive to, for example, to know beforehand before going to Japan that that Japanese abhor those who blow their noses in public, or in Thailand the monarch is equated to the divine and, hence above all criticism, or that in the Indian Subcontinent, in most parts, women must not be stared at, approached or talked to by strangers/ men without prior introduction as it can be construed as predatory sexual behaviour. There are extremely powerful humanist shared oral traditions and belief systems that can be relied upon in Africa as in India: we urgently need for these traditions to be resuscitated over and above all that has happened and, brought to the forefront of dialogues which need to begin through voluntary efforts. It is only by acknowledging mutual interdependence and similarities can foundations be laid. And, we need to draw on the inherent strengths of our cultures and traditions in these regions. We can consequently forge avenues for co-operation, by learning languages; set up industries, health and education programmes together addressing pressing needs for guaranteeing security of livelihood that will ensure dignity of personhood for every citizen in these regions, indeed beyond.
Thank you very much Dr Kusum Gopal.
*What Is The Matter With Sowore And Saharareporters Sef?
By Temisan Jackson
After an endless series of unprofessional reporting and no sign of willingness to change for the better, some of us have profiled Saharareporters as chief among those online media that were set up to enrich the pockets of their founders through blackmail-and-settlement reportage and Machiavellian journalism.
Indeed our submission has been proven true times and over, the most recent being the story of a seating governor in Nigeria who decided to appropriate a state co-owned oil and gas venture to himself and would stop at nothing to eliminate those standing in his way. A New York-based news medium reportedly got a whiff of the story and went public with it, only for the story to be yanked off the site some days later after the governor concerned had played ball.
We monitor some of these developments and we know the media that are really above board and those that are merely pretending to be. And, inasmuch as Saharareporters has been categorised as a medium not worth the ideals it posts on its homepage, some of us cannot still help being alarmed whenever we get to know about the editorial faux pas that Saharareporters shamelessly owns on behalf of its so-called paymasters. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Mr. Omoyele Sowore, Publisher Saharareporters
The latest of such dark reportage is Sowore’s caption of the last senate hearing on the missing NNPC money. With a screaming headline, Saharareporters screams: “Sanusi Insists $20b Is Missing, Okonjo-Iweala Unable To Prove How $10.8b Was Spent”
Now, Saharareporters’ hatred for Okonjo-Iweala is well documented, and no one should begrudge Sowore his freedom of grudge. But to be using a medium that is meant for public good to settle personal scores by blatantly misinforming the citizens and inciting them against this woman is totally unethical and unacceptable.
Below are the headlines of some other news media on the same story:
The contrast between Sowore’s headline and those of credible news sites is too obvious, and an attestation to blackmail, mischief and a damaging slant against Okonjo-Iweala.
Now reading the story, Saharareporters claimed that it culled the meat of its report from the blog that Premium Times published. But for a medium that was not at the hearing, its reportage was unashamedly biased and slanted to suit the agenda of its sponsors. Here are some excerpts:
“Day Two of the investigative hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance into the alleged missing $20 billion oil money has concluded in Abuja, with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, insisting the money is missing according to a live blogging of the hearing by Premium Times of Nigeria.”
“Testifying earlier, Okonjo-Iweala aligned herself with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the NNPC, despite declaring her Ministry lacked the capacity to validate the claims contained in NNPC documents from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) showing how the initial outstanding $10.8 billion was spent...”
“SaharaReporters gathered that representatives of the Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had agreed to present a united from today at the Senate claiming that the ministry was "satisfied" with the NNPC explanations regarding the missing funds. However, they could not carry out the plan as CBN officials refused to sign the agreement…”
“President Jonathan, the Finance minister, Okonjo-Iweala and the Petroleum Resources minister, Alison-Madueke , who rushed back from London yesterday, have reportedly resolved to prolong the investigations by bringing in forensic expert pending the time the CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi could be completely sidelined.”
Again, for a medium that was not at the hearing, where did Sowore and its Saharareporters got their misleading information from? Who is their source? Why turn the whole proceeding around and make it look as if the hearing was all about Okonjo-Iweala and not an altercation between the NNPC and CBN? Why portrayed Okonjo-Iweala as the corrupt one who could not account for the missing $10 billion? Whose script is Saharareporters reading from? Who are the people paying Sowore to trumpet everything evil about Okonjo-Iweala? Why attempting to mislead the reading public by painting the finance minister black right from the headline to the last sentence of its obviously fabricated report?
In my opinion, I think the finance minister has a very good ground to drag Saharareporters to court based on some of the unsubstantiated excerpts in and general slant of this report. I will be surprised if madam minister does not explore this option, as it will at least expose Sowore for the sham that he is, if it does not hush him.
Shame on you, Omoyele Sowore.
Loads of shame on Saharareporters.
I’m now on your case, so watch out for more exposition.
Attn: This article is sent to Saharareporters as well. And it will be interesting to see if Sowore, who has a hobby for publishing negatives about other people, will have the gut to publish the reflection of someone else about his own person.
Temisan Jackson, a communication consultant and current affair analyst, writes from Warri, Delta State.
*Released List of The National Conference Delegates: Our Unbiased Position
(Onitsha Nigeria, 7th day of March 2014)-The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety has perused the released list of 492 delegates to the National Conference and insisted that the four CSO slots for the Southeast geopolitical zone were hijacked by Abuja and Lagos based CSO activists. That out of the four names: Olisa Agbakoba (Lagos based), Ibuchukwu Ezike (Lagos based), Festus Okoye (Kaduna based) and Ezenwa Nwangwu (Abuja based), drawn from the zone, none is residing and operating in the zone, is a clear case in point. This is a gross injustice to groups and individuals working tirelessly and in risk environment on human rights and pro-democracy advancement in the zone. No activists understand the social, economic, cultural and political challenges in the Southeast zone than those resident and working in the zone. The zone is also the most dangerous environment to work on in matters of advancement of human rights and democracy, which is one of the major reasons why our brothers and sisters in diasporan activism ran away and abandoned it to decay and degrade.
That our brothers and sisters in diaspora found their names in the delegates’ list cannot stop us from saying what is obviously indisputable. From the facts on the ground, most of the 24 names included in the delegates’ list by Federal Government, especially four picked on behalf of Southeast CSO, are a product of “Abuja connection”. This is because the names were randomly picked in an Abuja meeting without consulting groups and their leaders in zones where the names originate by birth or ancestry and forwarded to the Federal Government, using “Abuja connection” to secure its entry and acceptance. The import of our grievances is not disallowing us to participate in the Conference, but to let the whole world know how the sedentary CSOs in the Southeast geopolitical zone were short-changed. The mass boycott by mainstream sedentary CSOs of the Southeast zone of “medicine-after-death” meetings being called in Enugu by some architects of the “Abuja connection” list is a clear case in point. Our message is loud and clear! If our brothers and sisters, who tagged themselves “senior comrades” cannot incorporate “think home” philosophy in their line of rights and pro-democracy activism, then the idea of running like a failed trailer back to their zone of birth or ancestry after being rejected and humiliated by their host and beneficiary zone(s), to hijack the slots meant for those residing and operating in the zone, must no longer be muted, hatched and accepted. .
Other than the foregoing, we wish to observe that the Conference Delegates’ list did not fairly capture all the grassroots entities, which affairs are the major reasons why the Conference is being organized. A National Conference is not an exclusive property of the vocal groups or intellectual clubs. The jobless people in Nigeria are in tens of millions. Unemployed graduates alone are over 30 million and they cannot be said to be represented by “the National Youth Council of Nigeria”, which is purely a pressure group or a group of “privileged youth club”. These millions of the unemployed people are not unknown. They are visibly everywhere and in some States, they have associations, especially the skilled ones. .
Also, artisans and traders constitute over 70% percent of self-employed citizens in Nigeria. On daily basis, they fall victim in the course of their legitimate businesses to overzealous and tainted officers of Custom & Excise, Nigeria Police Force, government extortionist entities and criminal gangs. They also fall victim to hash government policies including epileptic power supplies and issuance of obnoxious utility bills. Crime victims have no place in Nigeria. The unemployed graduates and youths do not have access to monthly allowances as done in other climes. A National Conference predicated on elitism such as the one under reference, will continue to enrich 17,500 politically privileged Nigerians through continued allocation of over 70% of national wealth to service them annually, while the remaining 170 million Nigerians including tens of millions of unemployed citizens will continue to wallow in individual and collective poverty. These people deserve a representation at a National Conference. As a matter of fact, a National Conference involves discussing the affairs of “the good”, “the bad” and “the ugly” and if it is possible to involve armed robbers and commercial sex workers’ representatives, so be it! After all, such a Conference carries with it an immunity fathered by “the Doctrine of Necessity”, which itself fathered a National Conference. .
Lastly, we urge all the delegates to the National Conference to fully discuss major problems afflicting Nigeria and Nigerians without fear or favour. The Federal Government’s pronouncement to the effect that “the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable at the Conference” is a monumental contradiction because if the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, then why the National Conference? Such a pronouncement, tagged “no-go area”, should be seen as “a mere policy statement that has no binding and criminal sanction effects”. It is a truism that the unity of Nigeria is shaky and the ground import of the Conference “is to discuss whether to live together or live apart as a country”. .
Using the introduction of “Criminal Code” (semblance of cannon law) for Southern Nigeria and “Penal Code” (semblance of Islamic law) for Northern Nigeria as an example, Nigerian Federalism or Con-federalism concept must be structured in the like manner at the Conference by taking into account the country’s divergent domesticated socio-cultural contents. If it is a federalism concept predicated on six geopolitical zones and statism that will be adopted, for instance then the present number of States must be altered to ensure equal number for all the zones. The number of LGAs should also be restructured in a like manner or the 776 LGAs removed from the Constitution and returned to States’ control. The best way to define and adopt federalism, suitable for a social clime, is to congregate all its social entities through genuine representation and reconstruct one with local contents. To such a clime, that is the best federalism. .
If it is confederation, then all the six geopolitical zones must be restructured along ethno-religious lines and a provision made for secession at freewill. In such boundary restructuring, for instance, Igbo-Delta and Igbo-Rivers should be carved out to join Southeast. Igala part of Anambra should be carved out to join their parents in Kogi. Kwara State should join Oyo State and others in Southwest. Taraba, Adamawa and Southern Kaduna should be merged with old Middle Belt or North-central zone (Nigeria). Such a confederation concept defined and adopted under the circumstances foregoing, remains the best for the adopting social clime. Even if the Conference adopts federalism, there will still be need for thorough boundary adjustments along ethno-religious lines. The Presidency of the country should be rotated among the six geopolitical Nigeria on agreed single term. .
We also wish to congratulate our dear friends, Dr. Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin and Femi Falana, SAN, for making the Conference Delegates’ list. Their inclusion gladdens our heart because it is meritorious and a merit award resemblance.
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
*Southeast CSO Delegation To The National Confab: Putting The Records Straight
CSO Delegation To National Confab & The Issue Of Southeast Representation: Putting The Records Straight
(Onitsha Nigeria, 3rd day of March, 2014)-The events of past weeks as they concern which CSO leaders will represent the Southeast geopolitical zone at the proposed National Conference have continued to generate varying interests and confusions, warranting submissions of different list of delegates to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). For records, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are globally understood to be social groups that are not classified as “governmental and business enterprises”. In USA, they are called “non-profits/not-for-profits”, which include churches, community based organizations, youth organizations and career associations. But in Nigeria, CSOs are generally seen, especially by policy makers/ government operators as “groups advocating for and promoting democracy, good governance and human rights”.
This explains why the 24 slots allocated to Nigerian CSOs for the proposed confab on the basis of four slots per geopolitical zone, are generally seen as “slots for pro-democracy, good governance and human rights community”. It is very important to point out that the Federal Government of Nigeria has the final say on which CSO leader should be on the final list to be made public soonest. The differing interests and confusions over the CSO list of delegates started about two months ago, when some CSO leaders domiciled in Lagos and Abuja, met in Abuja and produced a list containing 24 CSO leaders and caused it to be forwarded to the office of the SGF as “list of CSO leaders” meant for the confab (see Daily Trust of 28/02/2014). As expected, no CSO leadership operating and domiciling in the Southeast geopolitical zone was put in the know.
According to Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu and Jaye Gaskia, who convened the Abuja meeting, those nominated are “Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Chima Amadi, Chido Onumah, Isaac Osuoka, Ezenwa Nwagwu, Samson Itodo, Ayelebola Babatunde, Faith Nwadishi, Nnimmo Bassey, Ayo Obe, Jaye Gaskia, Olarenwaju Suraj, Uju Agomuo, Steve Aluko, Olisa Agbakoba, Nasser Kura, Y.Z. Yau, Dudu Paloma, Ngozi Obiorah, Abiola Akiode, Tor Yorapu, Ms. Ene Ede, Ms. Idayat Hassan and Jibo Ibrahim. The list of delegates produced by the above group is tagged: “preferred list”. Funny enough, none of the names contained therein, supposedly meant for the Southeast zone, is known to reside and operate in the zone. Out of 365 days in a year, none of them spends 30 days in all in the zone. Some, if not many of them do not know how many LGA or autonomous communities that exist in their States of birth, not to talk of speaking Igbo language fluently; yet they want to represent their zone of birth or ancestry at the National Confab.
Sensing possible hijack of the CSO slots, particularly the four slots meant for the Southeast geopolitical zone, a coalition of rights and pro-democracy groups working and domiciling in the Zone met in Enugu on 7th of February, 2014 and deliberated on the issue and resolved to elect four delegates from the zone to the confab with a strong message that those that will fill the four CSO slots for the zone must be operating and residing in the Southeast zone. Four rights and pro-democracy activists with track records of activities in the zone, who also reside in the zone, were elected. They are: Zulu Offolue for Abia State. He holds two master’s degrees in philosophy (edu.) and economics and chairs CLO, Enugu State Branch. He is also the current Secretary General of the United Action for Democracy in Nigeria.
Emeka Umeagbalasi for Anambra State. He holds bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Security Studies and served variously as chairman and vice chairman of CLO, Anambra State and Southeast zone. He is an alumnus of the US State Department’s International Visitors’ Leadership Program (class of June 2013). He founded and chairs International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety(see www.intersociety-ng.org for more details of his rights based activities). Eze Eluchie for Imo State. He holds master’s degree in law and has worked in various rights areas both in Nigeria and in overseas for years. He chairs PADDI Foundation. Jerry Chukwuokoro for Enugu State. He holds doctor of philosophy in philosophy and teaches at Ebonyi State University. He is the Sectary of the Campaign for Democracy in the Southeast zone and a prominent member of CLO, Enugu State Branch.
Yet, on 15th day of February, 2014, another meeting was convened in Enugu by some Lagos and Abuja based CSO activists, under the auspices of “Eastern Human Rights & Pro-Democracy Activists” (CEHRAPA). Those the Abuja/Lagos based activists picked as confab delegates are the following: 1. Olisa Agbakoba (Lagos based) for Anambra State. 2. Eze Onyekpere (Lagos/Abuja based) for Imo State. 3. Uju Agumuo (Lagos/Abuja based) for Abia State. And 4. Ibuchukwu Ezike (Lagos based) for Enugu State. The list and names selected by the conveners of the said meeting were tagged “our first eleven”.
While we hold nothing against their persons and achievements some of them recorded especially during the military era, we see these two events in Abuja and Enugu as not only undemocratic, but they also fall short of equity and fairness. Some of them are big enough to be included in their professional bodies, State and Federal Governments’ slots; thereby allowing rooms for younger activists, especially those who reside and operate in the Southeast geopolitical zone to participate. The position recently taken by the duo of Professor Ben Nwabueze and Dr. Alex Ekwueme not to participate in the proposed National Confab in order to give rooms for younger Igbo-Nigerians to participate, is a clear case in point and roundly commendable. He or she that goes to equity must go with clean hands! CSO leaders in Nigeria lack moral latitude to condemn Federal Government for not democratizing selection process for the proposed National Conference because their own selection process is worse than that of Federal Government.
It is also important to point out that voices of CSOs’ leaders in Nigeria have remained irreconcilably incoherent since the return to civil rule in 1999. During the military era, their voices were largely one, but nowadays, such voices are patently divided along “agenda”, “progressive”, “retrogressive” and “tribal/sectional” lines. It is a truism that a good number of CSO leaders in Nigeria come from Southeast geopolitical zone by birth. But it is also a truism that the zone is the least beneficiary of their activities and the major beneficiary of their activities is the Southwest geopolitical zone. The dominant CSO agenda in Nigeria today, which is tagged “progressive agenda”, is oiled by socio-political policies of the Southwest zone. Yet, when it comes to important issues like national confab that requires nomination or delegation, the policy makers/government operators hosting these diasporan activists and benefiting from their activities, swiftly turn their back against them and reward their natives. It is in response to these that these “brother/sister” activists rush back to their zone of birth with a view to hijacking the slots meant for the zone.
Sometimes, these returnee activists resort to intimidation of their “sedentary” counterparts by reminding them they started activism from the era of Adam and Eve. At other times, they will resort to name calling and campaign of calumny, which include calling them “quarks”, “clowns”, “charlatans”, “illiterates”, “semi-illiterates”, “government apologists”, etc. But if a field survey is carried out, the so called “second class” activists will be found to have performed unparalleled. Funny enough, many of these so called “second class” activists have more educational qualifications and field experiences than the so called “first class” activists. The danger of allowing, some say “pastoralist” activists to represent the Southeast zone in an important national confab such as the one being proposed is far reaching. Apart from not being in tune with social realities in the zone, they can easily be reached by their host zone or zone of their residency. It is also on record that the returnee CSO leaders under reference are more close to their residential governments than those in the Southeast zone. In States like Lagos, there is “CSO Liaison”.
Above all, a national confab is not an elitist activity. It is like writing a constitution, which must be done in simplest language because it serves every Tom, Dick and Harry. The Kenyan Constitutional Conference of 2010 is a case in point because it offered room of participation for both professors, carpenters, “qunu” makers and other members of the downtrodden. Elitism has no place in human rights and pro-democracy movement. In the world over, the champions of rights and pro-democracy movements are well known members of the downtrodden. Educational and field capacity building skills earned through scholarships offered by foundations and other funding institutions, are not meant to be bragged about by their beneficiary activists, but to reposition rights and pro-democracy leaders to do more to alleviate the sufferings of the downtrodden including making them know their rights and social obligations. Human rights and pro-democracy movements must no longer be seen or treated as “People’s Club of Nigeria” or “Professorial Deanship of a University”.
We, therefore, call on Federal Government and core stakeholders in various States of the Federation including political office holders to be mindful of those picked to represent their zones and collective interests to avoid corrupting and compromising the future well beings of their regions or zones.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
*Governor T. A. Orji Sure-P Team & MTN Photo News
From Abia State
Photo Above: Gov. Theodore Orji of Abia state in a warm handshake with Chief Emeka Wogu, Minister for Labour and Productivity, when led a delegation of Sure-P team to Abia state on a sensitization tour in Umuahia.
Photo Above: L-R Chief Emeka Wogu, Minister for Labour and Productivity, Gov. Theodore Orji of Abia state, his deputy Sir Emeka Ananaba and Rt. Hon. Udeh Okochukwu, Speaker, Abia state house of Assembly in a group photograph during a courtesy visit by the minister and Sure-P team to the governor in Umuahia.
Photo Above: Dr. Okechukwu Ogah, Commissioner for health, Mr. Danis Okoro, Director MTN Foundation, Gov. Theodore Orji of Abia state and Rt. Hon. Udeh Okochukwu, Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly at the official launching and flag-off of the Abia State-MTN Y'ello Doctor mobile intervention scheme in Umuahia.
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*Two Is Fighting: Nigeria’s Hausa and Igbo
Dr. Peregrino Brimah
‘Two is fighting’ is a common Nigerian expression that fits the hard to deny and ignore fact that a significant proportion of Nigeria’s Hausa’s and Igbo’s on the online community are fighting. A history of strife has undoubtedly existed among members of these two large ethnic groups in the country. What also is apparent is that not really much has been and is being done to resolve this apparently intractable crisis that potentially strains Nigeria’s hope for progress. Perhaps those of us who are not direct partakers are not bothered, feel there is nothing we can do or are benefactors of the tension.
Nigeria has a buoyant youth population. 45% of Nigerians are below 14 years. 35% of the population of the nation are between the ages of 15 and 35. Combined, this represents about 80% of Nigerians who can be considered youth, below 35 years. What this also means is that most Nigerians today are 80s and up babies. Born way after much of the tensions between these two groups first started, and only inheritors of the relayed ‘traditions’ that created and sustain these tensions.
For those unfamiliar with the problem being discussed; once a look is taken at commentaries on Nigerian blogs or websites, immediately the observer recognizes significant segregation, affinities and revulsions, leading up to stark insults and threats. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Nigeria six geopolitical zones
You read Hausa handles call Igbo’s ‘baby factory products,’ ‘wife-killers,’ ‘armed robbers,’ ‘traitors,’ and the like and on the other side, you read Igbo-sounding handles labeling Hausa-like names, ‘Fulani cattle rearers,’ ‘Boko Haram,’ ‘terrorists, ‘ ‘Almajiri’s,’ ‘illiterates,’ and ‘the usurpers and problem of Nigeria.’
You cannot avoid the hostilities online. They are loud and appear to increase in pitch daily. Ethnic tensions have been at a highest in years under the current Nigerian political dispensation. Undeniably, addressing issues of corruption is obstructed due to this accidental or purposeful prevalence of ethnic suspicion and frank tribalism. In a recent case of grand corruption, the former minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah case, it was clear that Igbo’s especially defended her of her exposed crimes. In the case of whistleblower, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of the Central Bank, who was accused of his own mismanagement at the Central bank, it also appears that a significant amount of the support he got was particularly among the Hausa’s. Can a nation move forward with this type of distraction?
Though the differences between these two cases is obvious. One, the Aviation minister, was caught by the media, stealing with hand in pot and was embraced by the government for as long as they could; while the other blew a whistle of billions of dollars being stolen by the government and was immediately fired and had his passport seized, the public reaction to both cases was clearly tinted with ethnic markers. Some people who refuse as yet to strongly clamor for the recovery of Nigeria’s missing billions as exposed by the former CBN governor, were quick to ask for his head and to react to the allegations against this ‘Hausa/Fulani’ man, while others who were loud in accusation against Stella caught stealing, have been less vocal in supporting clear investigation of Sanusi so long as this does not distract from and obscure the full audit and recovery of Nigeria’s missing billions of dollars he exposed. Similar postures are noticed in the Jonathan Government honoring of Abacha an unquestionable thief.
Opinions are allowed and healthy. Personally for instance, I support positive reconciliation for Nigeria’s thieves. Blow a whistle, expose a bigger thief and we can decide to pardon you completely or grant you exile-pardon. But I must not impose my opinion on others and use my opinion to obscure justice. Nigerians must strive to come together with positive analysis, honest condemnation and a quest for true justice, else, we the poor 112 million will continue to suffer at the mercy of a handful of wicked, united cabal.
History of Tensions
It is noted that the alleged tensions between these two groups especially developed long before most of those active online were born and many do not know or care to know the history of the tensions. Many agree that the Igbo have been significantly sidelined in Nigeria’s governance history. This is noted to have followed the Biafra 1967 threat of secession; a type of punishment and distrust. What is also true is that the Hausa’s are the poorest of Nigerian’s despite being accused of having held on to power the longest. But the truth of the matter is far from much of what has triggered and sustained the tensions most prominent between these two groups.
The amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 undoubtedly laid an environment for possible crisis, but amalgamations of this nature do not always lead to crisis. There are similar amalgamations of identically heterogeneous peoples across Africa, as close as neighboring Ghana and Cameroon which also have northern Hausa speaking populations, which do not bear the Nigerian typical conflict hallmarks. Many historians agree that the British purposefully sowed seeds of tension between the two groups.
The history is long and deep. There is much that happened, political appointments, army predominance’s and other historical stuff. There are also significant events that triggered episodes of beef especially among the political and military elite class. There is the 1966 Kaduna Nzeogwu coup and assassination of northern top elite, which was the first post-colonial episode of serious aggravation and has been viewed by some as a major trigger that provoked Hausa-Igbo sentiments. There are the rampant episodes of pogroms particularly targeted at the Igbo community in the north in which thousands were killed by rampaging northern youth.
But the truth of the matter is, as much as much of the past holds episodes of pain, distrust and betrayal, many of us youth have no choice but to move ahead and put the bitter parts of our past that we possibly have skewed details of behind us. Today in the media we see so much lies and misrepresentations of events of the day, talk less during those days of paper and verbal media. How many lies have we been told? How long will Nigeria’s youth continue to hold grouse for things they probably have adulterated stories of?
Take for instance the bane of this article. Hausa- Igbo. That in itself holds so much lies it is ridiculous. Who are the Hausa and who are the Igbo?
Growing up, many of us literally believed Nigeria had only three ethnic groups. Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. These were the days of WaZoBia. For some, it was reading history of the Biafra war when the Ijaw walked out on the Igbo that made them realize the South was not all Igbo, but had Ijaw in it. For some, it was only when the current President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was elected President and many Igbo still claimed they had not yet really held the top seat that they recognized Ijaw as different from Igbo.
Let’s take a look at the Hausa too. Many do not know that the difference between the Hausa and Fulani is just like the difference between the Igbo and Ijaw. Saying, Hausa/Fulani is like saying, Igbo/Ijaw.
A good deal of young Nigerians do not know that the Hausa as an ethnic group, who are about 20.6% of Nigeria have never been President of Nigeria. Balewa was Bageri, Murtala was Berom, Abdulsalami and his adopted brother, Badamosi Babangida were Gwari, Abacha, Kanuri, and Buhari, Shagari and Yar’Adua are Fulani (Fulani are 9%, Igbo’s are 18% while the Yoruba’s, 21%, are the largest ethnic block).
A Way Forward
There was a time when Nigerians thought we had only a little over 200 ethnic groups and languages. Today we know we have over 500! Can the nation survive on ethnic rotated rule? Is this important at this stage in our history? Does rotation of power make any sense? Does indigene vs. non indigene dichotomy have any place in Nigeria today… when several people have inhabited regions far away from home as long as they can remember and have lost all attachment and significance at home; why can these sons of the new soil not become governors of their adopted states, like Obama, the son of a Kenyan father is President of America? Frankly, the fighting makes us look stupid.
It is a fact that continuous hostilities and what appears to be targeted killings of groups in Nigeria continues to feed and fuel ethnic frustrations. When Boko Haram attacks a Church in the north, some Igbo’s publish the event as Igbo targeting. This is exactly the position Boko Haram craves. The truth is however far from this. The problem is the failure of our government to treat all such mob and terrorist crimes as serious offenses and to protect life. Boko Haram for instance kills just as many Muslims and northerners as anyone else. These are mad killers. All civilian killers are mad, and mad no matter how rampant, does not have religious, ethnic or other social identity. It is a thing of the devil and it is the responsibility of the State to arrest it. Should we play into the terrorists hands? When certain Nigerian elite call on the youth to riot and kill others, it is the duty of Nigeria’s government to seize such ‘elders,’ arrest them and accost and capture any rampaging ethnic warrior youth. If this were done properly, the intractable suspicion and beef will have subsided long ago in Nigeria. The truth as has been pointed out is that we the youth are being exploited and used by the politicians who sustain this environment of fake hostility. There is as much or even more ethnic tension and frank hate in the United States for instance, but the government does not exploit this as ours do, but ensures that all those who get extreme are promptly locked up and not allowed to gather violent fans and disciples.
Our verbal and physical violence to each other is not accidental, but is the plan and program of the ‘elite,’ in all regions who harvest the dividends of this tension to garner political clout and pay to keep us in conflict and consequently distracted while they loot us silly.
It is time we drop the dagger. A new government may give those of us who want, a true Sovereign National Conference (SNC) where the progressive youth can sit together and discuss our coexistence, regional governance and resource utilization. The status quo hurts us all while the elite remain in power, become world acknowledged billionaires, as our people in the North remain some of the poorest in the world and people in the East remain marginalized, with no bridge.
Do we stay stuck at ‘who is to blame?’ or do we ask, ‘how do we resolve this?’ Tribalism is not only a crime, it is a sin. Will we, the poor, defeat it now or will we continue to allow it defeat us?
Dr. Peregrino Brimah ( Email: email@example.com ).
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