Let’s talk about violence in our language
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.