Let’s talk about vi­o­lence in our lan­guage

African Independent - - OPINION -

AFRICA is trou­bled at the best of times, but what do the events of the past week tell us about the state of the con­ti­nent, bear­ing in mind that Africa is not a coun­try and there is no rea­son to lump all these crises into the same “bas­ket case”?

Ter­ror and floods in the west of Africa, un­cer­tainty and di­vi­sion in Kenya, Africa’s shin­ing light. And a Zim­bab­wean first lady who has bro­ken the law in a for­eign coun­try.

As so of­ten hap­pens in Africa, one coun­try’s cri­sis be­comes the con­ti­nent’s cri­sis if left un­treated.

A ter­ror­ist at­tack on a Burk­ina Faso restau­rant left about 18 peo­ple dead. Gun­men on mo­tor­bikes and armed with AK47s tar­geted the restau­rant fre­quented by for­eign­ers.

A day later two UN bases in neigh­bour­ing Mali suf­fered the same fate. At least nine peo­ple, in­clud­ing a peace­keeper, a con­trac­tor, and seven Malians, died.

Ter­ror­ism needs to be erad­i­cated from all re­gions in Africa. Not by a magic wand, but by a con­certed ef­fort to ad­dress the con­di­tions that os­tracise and rad­i­calise our fel­low Africans: poverty, in­equal­ity, in­tol­er­ance, in­jus­tice and ha­tred. These are not just bar­ri­ers to progress, but tools of op­pres­sion.

Even a flood, that has killed hun­dreds in Sierra Leone, is a re­sult of a form of op­pres­sion. Third World coun­tries are the vic­tims of cli­mate change, caused by rich in­dus­tri­alised na­tions. Chang­ing weather pat­terns and the de­struc­tion of land af­fect ecosys­tems.

Kenya has re­minded us that we can never rest easy when liv­ing in a democ­racy.

Democ­racy is a vigil, a stake out, a night’s watch, to pro­tect the will of the peo­ple. It’s hard work, and it never ends. We may talk about the de­gree to which democ­racy doesn’t al­ways serve the in­ter­ests of peo­ple, and that an elite is able to ma­nip­u­late the process, maybe even hack the sys­tem, as Kenya op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga claims. In Kenya, the choice is vi­o­lence over talks. There are no win­ners any­more. Just the dead, and those who fear be­ing dead.

And then there is Grace Mu­gabe be­hav­ing badly, the first lady of Zim­babwe, the mother of a na­tion, who re­minds us she still be­lieves in good old-fash­ioned dis­ci­pline – with vi­o­lence. Or maybe she’s a bully, an ill-tem­pered, ag­gres­sive per­son with an in­cli­na­tion for vi­o­lence. She has a track record that sug­gests the lat­ter is true.

Mu­gabe re­minds us vi­o­lence is still part of our lan­guage in our houses, in Africa and the rest of the world, whether it is ter­ror­ists and state spon­sored goons threat­en­ing vi­o­lence, or an an­gry mother bran­dish­ing an elec­tri­cal cord. We need to move be­yond the lan­guage of vi­o­lence to ad­dress our prob­lems.

It never solved a thing; talk­ing does.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.