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Why I celebrate Mandela’s life, struggles and works. By Chido Nwangwu.

I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell at the dreaded Robben Island on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief of CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to the island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela. At 92, he still embodies those special qualities and more….

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Why I celebrate MANDELA’s life, struggles and works.

By Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica multimedia networks, Houston.

Special to USAfrica, MandelaAchebeChido.com   and CLASSmagazine Houston. Follow USAfrica at Facebook.com/USAfricaChido ,  Twitter.com/Chido247

  

South Africa’s successful, spectacular and first-class hosting of the world’s greatest sporting/soccer extravaganza, the World Cup 2010, is a fitting testimony to the actual greatness and vision of Madiba Nelson Mandela.

Mandela’s dedication in laying the  foundation for a multi-racial, pan-human South Africa continues to propel the collective dignity of the African continent and shamed the so-called Afro-pessimists who believe no good can from Africa. Even amidst the poverty of the African and “colored” populations of South Africa, Dr. Mandela and the vanguard of change across South Africa have enhanced Black empowerment and destroyed apartheid/segregation laws.

Madiba Nelson Mandela remained the preeminent statesman, political superstar, titan of Africa’s politics, one of the world’s moral authorities, Africa’s most astute and formidable political lion. He served from 1994 to 1999 as the first South African president to be elected in a multi-racial, democratic election. Mandela went on to lead South Africa through the last stretch of a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy.

The year 2010, also, marks not only his 92nd birthday but the 20th anniversary of the release of Dr. Mandela. He was freed in February 1990 after spending 27 years in prison especially at the isolated Robben Island (near South Africa’s Table Bay, roughly 4 miles from Cape Town).

I’ll forever remember having walked inside and peeped through that historic Mandela jail cell at the dreaded Robben Island on March 27, 1998, alongside then Editor-in-chief of TIME magazine and later news chief of CNN, Walter Isaacson (and others) when President Bill Clinton made his first trip to South Africa and came to Robben Island. Come to the island of scourge and you will understand, in part, the simple greatness and towering grace of Nelson Mandela.

In 1999, he, unusually, became president emeritus of South Africa after only one term, and gracefully retired  as father of the nation in June 1999. Yes; unusual in Africa and most of the developing and advanced world – where All politicians like to stay in power. He would have easily won reelection. But he chose not to; as a message to others.

In many ways, Mandela is the living catalyst for the recent exponential growth of African, African-

American and the wider American entrepreneurial and diplomatic exchanges.

I wrote and published the first version of this tribute only 60 days preceding his retirement and as other African Presidents and business executives planned to gather in Houston for the remarkable Corporate Council on Africa 1999 summit for attracting capital and investments to Africa. As his Brother Presidents and the creme dé la creme of U.S-Africa business and diplomatic circuits toast to the quantum leap in the volume and substance of trade between our two continents, as cultural ambassadors of the southern Africa region and other climes consort and enchant all of us the magnificent Houston international festival let’s take a few minutes to attempt another word portrait of a man who is certainly the greatest political figure in the recent history of people of African ancestry. He talked the talk, and walked the walk.  He’s at once visionary and practician; excuse the latter usage.

In my view, there’s a compelling political trinity to Nelson Mandela: the man, the messiah and the mystique.  Hence, it was during his 80th birthday on July 18, 1998 that I argued in various media outlets in Southern Africa and in the Voice of America and WorldNet television tribute to Mandela that those who expected him to turn their lives around by the break of dawn are awakening to a certain realization that the Messiah Mandela does not make milk through incantations!

Yet, we must accept the fact that those who feel that President Mandela’s government has failed to fulfil their yearnings and lofty expectations constitute a sizeable but smaller slice of millions of Black and Colored South Africans.

I recall taking time out from the 100 year-old hotel in which we were lodged in Cape Town late March, 1998, (during our visit with U.S President Bill Clinton to parts of Africa) to go into the less-privileged, run-down quarters of the city to talk with a number of suffering Blacks.  I also shared some time with some homeless teenagers ( five of them, aged between 8 and 19) and a few weary adults (in their 40s and 60s).  I sought to know their assessment of President Mandela.  Their refrain: Mandela needs to do more!  They feel he is forgetting “us.” They all said in many ways: “We thought his presidency was going to completely and quickly improve our lives.  We’re left out.  We’re not happy….”

Translation: Idealism meets scarce resources in South Africa!  In South Africa, I noticed that the radical Blacks and Coloreds still see Mandela, wrongly I must add, as a dignified caretaker for the remnants of apartheid.  On the other side, interestingly, the previous beneficiaries and yesterday’s oppressors, largely the Afrikaans, think Blacks are taking too much away, already.  Those questions will be a challenge for Mandela’s technocratic and very able successor Thabo Mbeki.

I feel a special interest regarding Mandela and South Africa, among other personal reasons, for his years of statesmanship, principled engagement with life and its multifarious challenges and inequities.  Also, I’ve had the privilege of meeting three of the four most significant historical figures who play(ed) very important roles in that country’s transition from apartheid to a multi-racial society.  First, the remarkable former President F.W de Klerk here in Houston.  Then, the amiable Bishop Desmond Tutu.  Of course, the Mahdiba himself, Nelson Mandela.

Why do we celebrate Mandela’s life?

First, he is most famous for staring down and vanquishing the goons and racist archdeacons of separatism and economic violence who ran the evil policy of state-sponsored mayhem called ‘apartheid’ in his homeland.

Second, for remaining the most relevant living person of African descent who has given impetus and cause for African-Americans to seek institutional and daily business and physical presence inside the African continent.  Third, his moral authority derives from his selfless fortitude and enduring, exemplary sacrifices.  Mandela is neither intimidated by raw power nor the attractions of luxuries and allurement of money.

Fourth, his example as a study in forthrightness.  A leadership whereby what you see is what you get.  Hence, it was typical Mandela, unenfeebled by age, unrestrained by arthritis, and unintimidated by the legitimate concerns and arrogations of his friend, the super-power president Bill Clinton, to confront the latter on issues of principle.

Mandela has also, in some ways, attacked the stinking hypocrisy of America’s right-wing politicians and media spin doctors.  We remember North Carolina’s right-wing Senator, Jesse Helms, as the latter day pro-apartheid regime’s cheerleader-in-chief in the U.S Congress.  His raucous choristers had the likes of George F. Will, Pat J. Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and a confederacy of other conservatives who hemmed, hawed and distorted every turn towards a multi-racial South Africa.

Recall that Will, Buchanan & Co were misleading Americans as they disparaged the civil rights movement and others for supporting Mandela whom they foolishly and falsely labeled a “Communist!” History has shown the foolishness of the label.

Fifth, his graciousness and capacity to forgive communal sins and wickedness masquerading as government.  Until you see (or may be graphic and accurate images of the inhuman conditions and psychological warfare imposed on him and his colleagues of the African National Congress, you may never adequately know why Mandela’s capacity to forgive and rebuild has such global respect.  Hence, I am thankful that I entered and observed on March 26, 1998, the lonesome jail room where Mandela was kept for 25 painful years in the isolated, deadly Robben Island.

We toured the Island with Rev.  Jesse L.  Jackson, Clinton’s close personal aide Bruce Lindsey, Congressional Black Caucus champion California congresswoman Maxine Waters, Sam Donaldson of ABCNews, New York Congressman Charles Rangel, BET’s Robert Johnson, Walter Isaacson, managing editor of Time magazine, Scott Pelley of CBS News, Melanie Lawson of KTRK Channel 13, Houston, and a number of others.  Sixth, we celebrate Mandela because after five years in office and almost 81 years of a rugged but worthy life, Mandela has shattered a number of other ancient and fatally-flawed bogeys to smithereens.  He has made nonsense of the string of quasi-racist mythologies and knee-jerk ill-logic concocted by the George F.  Wills, Pat Robertsons, Rush Limbaughs and Jesse Helms of America to create a global ‘White scare’ and run on the post-apartheid South African economy.

Also, Walter Mead, the acclaimed and advertised columnist for Worth magazine terribly misanalyzed and issued way-off predictions about South Africa’s economy led by “Blacks” and Mandela.  Anyway, he’s an “expert” on U.S economies, therefore, pray, he knows all about the “future” of South Africa!

Fact: The economy under Mandela’s presidency has attracted more international capital under a stable, justiceable political economy.  The gathering in Houston April 24-28, cannot be divorced from the opportunities which South Africa offers American, and other business persons/corporations.

What’s Mandela’s record?  Since becoming president in the spring of 1994, Mandela’s economic policy has not only achieved an expansion in the percentage of growth and created a broad-based industrialization efforts, the economy has become more attractive for international capitalists.

It’s more stable than under the hateful, and misleading and putrid opulence of a few under apartheid.  Yet, the socio-economic profile of South Africa cannot be described as “rosy” and fully equitable.  Not quite!  The deprivations in Soweto cannot be divorced from the terrible “deals” by some influential players in the system, Blacks and Whites.

Yet, some see Mandela’s challenging task to utilize the government as a mechanism to enhance access and “fairness” to all, especially the deprived.  For example, an Afrikaans staff of the United States Information Agency who drove me from the airport to the plush Michelangelo Hotel in Johannesburg said “We know Blacks want this and that but they have to take it easy because we, Afrikaans, feel that all our privileges and positions are going away.  I commend Mandela because everyone is asking him for one thing or the other.  He is trying to be fair to all.” That will be Mbeki’s burden, soon.

This lanky, well-spoken driver who reminded me he was very “comfortable driving a Black man” (that is, my ordinary self, who would have been driven to a pit of hate rather than the Michelangelo just a few years before Mandela and his team scattered and conquered the temples of apartheid.) We must note that the expansion of the relative influence of Black South Africans through their new empowering instruments of state power and private leverage since the defeat of apartheid has been very modest.  Downtown Johannesburg and Cape Town, especially the spotless Pretoria remain bastions of White/Afrikaans economic dominance.

Regardless, there has been major progress for middle class Blacks who have unprecedented access to the bureaucracy and private capital.  They have partnerships with international organizations, too – especially African-Americans who are establishing tertiary and sub-strategic industries and community-based service businesses.

When all is said and done, Mandela’s greatest legacy will remain that he has lived a life of fighting against the predatory, vile and boisterous mix of Anglo-Dutch, Afrikaans, Euro-Caucasian and other economic scavengers who took over through armed, brutal force, the most beautiful, gold-rich and breathtaking southerly cape of the African continent.  They could not break his will; they made peace and he led a powerful, promising country composed of many ethnic nations to the lips of the 21st century.

Mandela has been governing with ill-will toward none and affirmative opportunities for all those previously locked down and locked out of South Africa’s rich resources and lands.  He may yet teach the distortion artists who miscast the reason and value of “affirmation action” in the U.S a thing or two.  That’s an issue for another day.  Back to The Man.

Mandela, rock ribbed nationalist, visionary, exemplary icon in personal dignity, durable boxer, principled symbol for all believers in the inevitable triumph of committed democratic forces over any army/gang of tyranny and oppression in Africa and elsewhere, has become this decade’s ultimate measure for statesmanship, leadership, character and will.

To Mandela, for your humility and greatness, firm resolve and friendly, humorous dispositions, all rolled into one mythical, complicated but uniquely amiable personality, here’s the same toast I made to you before you left in June 1999 as South Africa’s president; on your 81st birthday; and now on your 92nd birthday: Madiba, may your lineage endure!

•Dr.  Chido Nwangwu, honored by the Washington-D. C.based National Immigration Forum for utilizing multimedia to fight authoritarianism and foster freedom of expression, is the Founder & Publisher of first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com, The Black Business Journal, CLASSmagazine, PhotoWorks.TV, AchebeBooks.com, USAfrica.TV and several blogs. He served on the board of the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S., the NAACP Houston;  publicity committee of the Holocaust Museum, Houston; recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009; served on Houston former Mayor Lee Brown’s international business advisory board (Africa), and has appeared as an analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, etc. Also, see Tiger Woods is no Nelson Mandela!

(First written on April 19, 1999, exclusively for USAfrica, updated after his retirement as President, on February 11, 2010 remarking 20th anniversary of his release from apartheid South Africa prison and updated July 15, ahead of his 92nd birthday on July 17, 2010). This USAfricaonline.com commentary is copyrighted. Archiving on any other web site or newspaper is unauthorized except with a Written Approval by USAfrica Founder. copyright © 1999, 2010. ChidoNwangwu. USAfrica Media Networks. Phone: 713-270-5500.

—–
CNN International profiles USAfrica’s Founder Chido Nwangwu. https://usafricaonline.com/2010/06/29/cnn-chido-usafrica/

On June 24, 2010, CNN International reporter/producer/camera team visited USAfrica’s editorial headquarters in Houston, Texas, for 3.5 hours to document a forthcoming CNNInternational profile of USAfrica’s Founder & Publisher Dr. Chido Nwangwu. http://photoworks.tv/cnn-chido-usafrica2010

The recordings/interviews were wrapped up on Friday June 25, 2010.

A few pixs from the event are available for preview, exclusively at the African diaspora community’s #1 pictorial features web site www.PhotoWorks.TV

CNN also recorded the editorial board/production meeting of USAfrica and CLASSmagazine on key issues including the USAfrica comparison of the oil spills in the Niger Delta to the environmental disaster in the U.S Gulf of Mexico,  electoral reforms in Nigeria, Africa and World Cup 2010, etc.

USAfrica is assessed by major policy and media organizations including the New York Times as the largest and arguably the most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks; founded since 1993 in Houston by Chido Nwangwu. https://usafricaonline.com/chido.html

USAfrica and its Publisher have won several awards for journalism excellence and public policy insights, especially for professionally pioneering the bi-continental approach of publishing for Africans and Americans. Also, Chido Nwangwu is cited with establishing the first African professional newspaper published on the internet, USAfricaonline.com . wireless: 1-832-45-CHIDO (24436).

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USAfrica is an international multimedia company, founded since 1992 by Dr. Chido Nwangwu [author of Mandela & Achebe: Leadership, Identity and Footprints of Greatness], with its headquarters in Houston, Texas. Also, he established the 1st African-owned, U.S.-based professional newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com, both assessed by the CNN and The New York Times as the largest and arguably the most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks. USAfrica’s first print edition of USAfrica magazine published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994; The Black Business Journal in 1998; CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; PhotoWorks.TV in 2005, and several platforms and products. USAfricaonline.com is powered by the global resources of USAfrica, CLASSmagazine, CLASSmagazine.TV, PhotoWorks.Tv, USAfrica.TV, MandelaAchebeChido.com, AchebeBooks.com and ChidoNwangwu.com

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AFRICA

Kenya’s President returns home after meeting with Trump on trade, security

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President Uhuru Kenyatta has returned to Nairobi from his meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday at the White House, where the two leaders talked trade, security and some issues facing the two continents.

Kenya is emerging from a period of election turmoil. He’s the second African leader to meet with Trump at the White House, following a visit by Nigeria’s president earlier this year.

Trump has been criticized for paying too little attention to the continent and faced demands for an apology earlier this year after his private comments about “shithole countries” in Africa and other regions were leaked to journalists.

U.S. first lady Melania Trump, who helped welcome Kenyatta and his wife to the White House, is planning a solo trip to Africa this fall.

Trump and Kenyatta, during remarks to reporters in the Oval Office and Cabinet room, said they would be discussing a series of topics, including cooperation on terrorism and building trade and investment ties. USAfrica/VOA

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AFRICA

FIRESTORM: Trump’s false tweet on “South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers”

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JOHANNESBURG: South Africa accused US President Donald Trump of fuelling racial tensions on Thursday (Aug 23) after he said farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed.

Trump’s tweet touched on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa – one of the most sensitive issues in the country’s post-apartheid history.

The foreign ministry said in a statement it would meet officials at the US embassy to challenge the “unfortunate comments”, which were “based on false information”.

Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu would also speak directly with her American opposite number, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it added.

Trump wrote overnight: “I have asked Secretary of State … Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”

His tweet apparently followed a segment on conservative Fox News about [an alleged] plan to change the constitution to speed up expropriation of land without compensation to redress racial imbalances in land ownership.

“‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers’,” said Trump’s post, which tagged the show’s host, Tucker Carlson, as well as the channel.

In the clip, Carlson painted an apocalyptic picture of the situation accompanied by on-screen graphics warning of the “threat of violence and economic collapse”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faces elections in 2019, has claimed expropriating farms without ramaphosa-ANCcompensating their owners would “undo a grave historical injustice” against the black majority during colonialism and the apartheid era.

Even though apartheid ended in 1994, the white community that makes up eight per cent of the population “possess 72 per cent of farms” compared to “only four per cent” in the hands of black people who make up four-fifths of the population, Ramaphosa said.

The stark inequality stems from purchases and seizures during the colonial era that were then enshrined in law during apartheid.

But plans to change the constitution have yet to be approved by parliament, and there is a vigorous debate in South Africa about how land redistribution would work – and whether seizures could be economically damaging as they were in post-independence Zimbabwe.

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party which opposes forced expropriation but backs land reform, said “fear mongering by international leaders adds no value”.

“The injustices of land dispossession in South Africa can be addressed by our constitution in its current form. We must ensure ownership of land for all South Africans,” he tweeted.

Later on Thursday, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called for “a peaceful and transparent public debate”.

However she added that on “the expropriation of land without compensation, our position is that that would risk sending South Africa down the wrong path”.

Earlier this year, Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton sparked a diplomatic row after he said that Canberra should give “special attention” to white South African farmers seeking asylum.

The level of violence against farmers and farm workers is hotly contested but the police’s latest figures show there were 74 farm murders in 2016-17, according to the Africa Check fact-checking site.

South Africa’s leading farming lobby group AgriSA on Thursday praised the government’s “commitment to agriculture”.

“As a country it’s important that we find solutions together – we did this pre-1994 and we can do it again,” AgriSA chief executive Omri van Zyl told the SABC broadcaster.

Van Zyl was speaking at a conference on the land issue also attended by Deputy President David Mabuza who warned against “spreading falsehoods”.

“We would like to discourage those who are using this sensitive and emotive issue of land to divide us,” he said.

But Kallie Kriel, chief executive of AfriForum – a group that advocates for its largely white membership – welcomed Trump’s intervention and attacked Ramaphosa for pressing ahead with the policy.

“We need to get international support to put pressure on the South African government to hopefully make them re-visit their stance,” he told AFP.

Kriel added that Trump could suspend South Africa from the African Growth and Opportunity Act trade programme if property rights were not respected.

“The US has a lot of power,” he said.

South Africa’s rand currency dropped as much as 1.9 per cent against the US dollar following Trump’s tweet, according to the Bloomberg news agency, ending four days of gains against the greenback.

Julius Malema, the leader of the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, called Trump a “pathological liar” and told him to “stay out of South Africa’s domestic affairs”. ref AFP

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AFRICA

Kofi Annan’s legacy complicated by genocide in Rwanda. By Prof. Danny Bradlow

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By Danny Bradlow, SARCHI Professor of International Development Law and African Economic Relations, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Kofi Annan (80 years old) was an important historical figure who played a critical role in many key events of the 1990s and 2000s. His death is therefore an opportunity to both celebrate his life and to begin honestly assessing his contributions to the world.

The Ghanaian diplomat’s legacy is complicated. He served as both head of the United Nations peacekeeping and as secretary general of the UN. His tenure in these high offices – from 1992 to 2006 – were marked by great human tragedies as well as episodes of progress. His role in these events raises difficult questions about individual responsibility and the role of international organisations and their leaders in creating a more peaceful and just world.

On the plus side, his contributions were impressive. He was an effective diplomat, a shrewd negotiator and an intelligent strategist. He was such a successful bureaucratic operator that he was the first UN employee to rise to the position of secretary general.

When he took over the organisation it was facing numerous challenges. They included a tense and often hostile relationship with its most powerful member state, the US, a difficult budgetary situation and what appeared to be an inability to fulfil its core peacekeeping, human rights and development functions.

By the end of his term, things looked very different. Relations with key member countries had been restored, the UN had a sound fiscal position and both he and the organisation had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

In addition, the organisation had launched some important new initiatives. It had adopted the Millenium Development Goals, which contributed to significant gains in health, education and human welfare in many countries around the world. The initiative was so successful that it was succeeded by the even more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition, the international community had established the International Criminal Court and had begun prosecuting war criminals for their deeds in the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

He had also initiated the process of getting corporations to recognise and accept their responsibility for the environmental, social and human rights consequences of their activities. This process moved slowly. But his efforts ultimately led to the UN Human Rights Council unanimously endorsing the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011. These have now been incorporated into the human rights policies of many companies and have led to a number of countries adopting national action plans on the human rights responsibilities of business.

After he left the UN, Annan continued to do good work with both the Elders, a group of global leaders working for peace and human rights, and his own foundation. In these capacities he had some notable achievements. He helped resolve the post-election violence in Kenya, helped ensure peaceful elections in Nigeria and a number of other countries, and helped promote more productive and sustainable agriculture and good governance across Africa. He also tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to end the civil war in Syria and the campaign against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

But there’s also a darker side to Annan’s record.

Annan was the head of UN Peacekeeping operations in the 1990s when two of the biggest failures in UN history happened. Under his watch both the Rwandan genocide and the massacres in Srebrenica took place.

In both cases his commanders on the ground requested authority to take stronger action to limit the risk of tragedy to those under their protection. In both cases he declined their request – with tragic results.

In addition, under his leadership UN peacekeepers in a range of countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, were found to be sexually exploiting those they were charged to protect. The UN failed to respond promptly to these actions and they continued into the 2000s.

In most organisations, a leader who is responsible for such profound failures would be held accountable. If not fired, or forced to resign, they would at the very least be moved to a position of lesser authority. But this didn’t happen because the UN has poor mechanisms and a weak culture of accountability. In fact, the UN and its member states, decided to promote Annan, selecting him to replace the first African secretary general, Boutros Boutros Ghali, who was deemed to be too independent minded by the US.

Annan continued relying on the UN’s lack of accountability once he was in office. His son was implicated in the infamously corrupt food-for-oil programme that was initiated to help the Iraqi population during the period of sanctions against Saddam Hussein.

Eventually, under pressure, he appointed the independent Volcker Commission to investigate the programme. It concluded that, although Annan himself was not guilty of any wrongdoing, his actions in response to the abuses were inadequate, including that he had failed to refer the matter to the UN’s independent watchdog agency.

He also tolerated sexual harassment within the UN Secretariat, protecting the former head of the UN refugee agency when he was accused of sexual harassment, penalising his accuser and then relying on the UN’s legal immunity to avoid having to respond to her efforts to seek justice. The adverse publicity eventually forced the guilty official to resign.

There is no doubt that running a complex international institution like the UN is difficult and requires leaders who are willing to compromise. Given the secretary general’s weak position, it may also be inevitable that its leaders will have to turn a blind eye to some acts and omissions that have tragic and possibly evil consequences in order to advance higher priorities.

Annan showed throughout his career that he was a master at playing this game. As a result, his record includes both some impressive achievements and some profound failures. It will be up to history to decide if he made the right choices and struck the correct balance between doing good and tolerating evil.

In the meanwhile, we should all draw lessons from the life of this important historical figure about the importance of holding leaders and the institutions that govern our world accountable for their actions and decisions.

 

Eight lessons of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. By Chido Nwangwu

Houston, April 2, 2009: April 7 is the 15th anniversary of the 1994 Rwanda genocide by the same country’s Hutu zealots who viciously set upon Rwanda’s 1 million Tutsis for the most brutal decimation of an ethnic group within 100 hours in Africa and the world.
On Wednesday April 7, 2004, Rwandan President Paul Kagame  specifically named Belgium, Britain and the United States for  withdrawing their forces when Rwandans needed them, asserting that: “Injustice of powerful nations should be stopped. Rwanda should be a good example to learn a lesson.”

The first, key lesson of the Rwanda genocide is that moral and courageous leadership serve our collective and singular moral interests. Kagame’s view dovetails with the words of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. in his  ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963) arguing that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Also, later the holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel in his book ‘Un die welt hot geshvign (And the World Kept Silent)’ later updated as ‘Night’, wrote: “Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must- at that moment- become the center of the universe.”
Biafra. Rwanda. Darfur, and other geopolitical zones of killings and human tragedy are reminders of past and continuing centers of the universe.

Reflecting on the crises of 1994, Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the UN commander whose call for reinforcements was ignored said recently: “The international community didn’t give one damn for Rwandans because Rwanda was a country of no strategic importance.” Bill Clinton was the president of the United States at the time.

The second lesson of the Rwanda Hutu-imposed genocide is that we have all seen the face of evil; sometimes, they reside among us. The Rwanda genocide is still fresh as the zone where next door neighbors and teenagers used knives and machettes and dane guns and assault rifles to kill those they played soccer with and fetched water from the same stream only a few hours earlier. Hutus set Tutsi houses on fire to destroy the lives of those who sang and played at the church churches and village squares.

The slaughter of women and children and all moving objects with any and all available weapons marked a new low in the depravity of malice and prejudice. The Rwandans have been for decades almost 92% christians (57% Catholic). There are almost 10 million Rwandans. Demographically, the Hutus (Bantu) form 84% of the population while the endangered Tutsis (Hamitic) constitute only 13%. There are the Twas (Pygmy) who form 1.4%

A third lesson of the domestic slaughter in 1994 in Rwanda is the highlight of the wider bloody history of annual violent bigotry inside Africa by Africans, what I call Africans-on- Africans- violence. They remind me of an interview the Voice of America (VOA) international service on September 11, 2002 where I said that:  “The armies of bigotry, and murderous hatefulness have left a very severe and deadly impact on Africa.” Those armies, to be sure, are both external and local.

Which leads to the fourth lesson; a question: when will the blame everything on  the “white man-white person” and “colonialists and colonialism” think beyond the instinct to hold external factors entirely responsible for the continent’s problems? I must note, frankly, that for all the divide and conquer and arbitrary mapping and lumping of dissimilar ethnic nationalities into awkward countries, for all the despoliation and degradation and exploitation of our African continent, “White people” did not compel the Hutus to express such primitive, medieval hateful, mechanized malice against their compatriots, the Tutsis.

The fifth lesson of the Rwanda genocide reveals the nakedness of one of the dirty secrets of African leaderships over the past 60 years: the weak-kneed clause of “non-interference” into the “sovereign” issues in other “member states” of the defunct organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union. They strive to protect their priviledged ponds of opulence and umbrellas of dictatorship and autocracy.

It is important to note that long before 1994 Rwanda, it is to the eternal credit of the late, great sage and President of Tanzania, Dr. Julius Nyerere that he tore the veil off the tawdry non-interference/ sovereignty in the face of human catastrophe when he interfered progressively against Nigeria’s starvation policies against then Biafrans (Igbos, Anangs, Efiks, and 13 million other south eastern Nigerians during their 1967-1970 war for survival and independence from the rest of Nigeria).

After Biafra, Nyerere stood up against the dictator Idi Amin of Uganda in 1979, forcing Amin’s regime to fall.

The sixth lesson derives from another question: long before and 15 years after the bloody genocide in Rwanda, millions of people still wonder when the looters and dealers masquerading as African leaders will be responsive and sensitive to providing the basic, fundamental justification for the creation of these countries/nations/ states?

Why are Africans and other parts of the world held in some of these corrupt cages, sorry countries, by very corrupt leaders?

Who would have believed that for all his sanctimonious animations, holier-than- thou dramatics and posturing as Nigeria’s morality high-priest, retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, the country’s two-time president reportedly collected several rounds of cash/bribe from the Halliburton squad?

The seventh lesson demands that the problems are not 100% local. Political economy fact is that the Western world and colonialist Europe, especially, have some responsibility for sowing the festering seeds to some of these problems by cobbling ethnic nations arbitrarily. Some of the countries have been hampered through neocolonialist financial structures and wealth transfers, predatory actions which fuel their collapse as another of bankrupt African economies and geo-politically failed states.

The eight lesson is that humankind overcomes evil, over time. Today, Rwandans are healing and rebuilding their infrastructure but the question remains.  When will Africans, their leaders and all of the world’s leaders aggressively defend the lives of all people as a stand for the common thread of our shared humanity?

I entirely agree with the prophet Dr. King’s global connectedness of injustice and justice. Those leaders who failed all of us on Rwanda failed to heed the lessons of history and King’s moral challenge.

https://usafricaonline.com/2009/11/01/chido-8lessons-rwanda-genocide/
——–
Chido Nwangwu, honored by the Washington-D. C.based National Immigration Forum for utilizing multimedia to fight authoritarianism and foster freedom of expression in parts of the African continent, is the Founder & Publisher of first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com, The Black Business Journal and AchebeBooks.com. He served on the board of the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S., the NAACP Houston, a publicity committee of the Holocaust Museum, Houston and on Houston former Mayor Lee Brown’s international business advisory board (Africa).

——–

USAfricaonline.com hás several article/reports/insights on Rwanda’s genocide at www.usafricaonline.com/rwanda.genocideyears.html

 

USAfricaonline.com goes richly interactive with new look, content….
On 10/10/09, the major redesign and addition of richly interactive opt ions will go fully live on the award-winning web site of the first African-owned, U.S-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet, www.USAfricaonline.com
“The importance of this latest interactive re-positioning of USAfricaonline.com is to fully tap into the advantages of the digital world to benefit our community and readers. With this initiative, USAfrica advances, further, the immigrant African views and news into the international media and public policy mainstream. It leverages the global resources of USAfrica, again, into the electronic frontline of critically informed, responsible discourse and seasoned reportage of African and American interests as well as debating relevant issues of disagreement”, notes Chido Nwangwu, the Founder & Publisher of USAfricaonline.com, AchebeBooks.com, The Black Business Journal, USAfrica.TV and CLASSmagazine.
“Some of the new features on USAfricaonline.com have enabled for our readers and bloggers, the live texting of pages and page links to phones and other multimedia devices, instant sharing across all the leading social networks especially Facebook, Twitter, digg,  myspace, Mixx, Technorati, LinkedIn, AIM, LiveJournal and Yigg.”
Chido Nwangwu, recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009 and analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, highlights other advantages as “live RSS feeds and e-syndication of the USAfrica reports and premium content. In terms of graphics and structure, the new USAfricaonline.com has visually refreshing headers and crisp pictures. We’ve also added more columnists, regional news correspondents and incisive special features writers. The site will be updated regularly, especially for significant breaking news.”
The flagship of the American media, The New York Times, several public policy, media and human rights organizations have assessed USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com as the most influential and largest multimedia networks covering the bi-continental interests of Africans and Americans. The first edition of USAfrica magazine was published August 1993; USAfrica The Newspaper on May 11, 1994; CLASSmagazine on May 2, 2003; PhotoWorks.TV in 2005, and dozens of web sites and e-groups/blogs.
The Houston-based USAfrica has a formidable, experienced network of editors and correspondents across the U.S and Africa. Its Publisher served as adviser on Africa business/community to Houston’s former Mayor Lee Brown.
https://usafricaonline.com/chido.html
USAfrica Inc.
8303 Southwest Freeway,
Suite 100, Houston, Texas 77074
office:713-270-5500
wireLess: 832-45-CHIDO (24436)
e-mail:
News@USAfricaonline.com

Chido@USAfri

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