Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dignity to all not just terrorists like Dylan Roof

Perhaps it's time for African-Americans to dominate the police like Track and Field, NBA and NFL. If you see the way the police arrested Roof, the Charleston terrorist killer - that a suspect is to be treated humanely until a court of law proves the case - you wonder why African-American suspects are not treated the same way by European-American police officers. But we all know why!
People get surprised or even horrified by the behavior of these police officers. Yes, it's wrong! In Africa, we call their behavior, tribalism. No one - may be a few - in Africa treats his tribesmen the same way he treats people from other tribes. This is basically what these police officers do. They treat their own gently - in most cases.

This of course doesn't make it okay. But if you don't expose these people to see others from other tribes or races not as a threat but human beings with dreams like theirs, you can't blame them. A mathematician can't blame a historian for being afraid of mathematics unless a mathematician explains to the historian why he should think otherwise. A physicist will argue that philosophy is a waste of time but he'll quote a philosopher when he wants to appear wiser, or when he wants to relate to his audience. A European-American will despise Chinese in America but he doesn't know that Chinese make about everything he uses in America. He goes to a grocery store and smiles at a African-America clerk but he thinks less about the fact that he[the clerk] looks about the same as that young man he sees on the street and assumes a thug only to realize that that kid with a hoodie, headphone and baggie pants, is a Masters student in a local university.

We live in a world where we want others to know us but we don't want to know them. But when they act in a manner that shows they don't know us, we start to wonder. Jieeng people want Naath people to know them but don't want to understand Naath people but when Naath people refuse to know them and assume wrongs things about them, they start to wonder. Simply know one another!
Whether it's in South Sudan with tribalism or racism in the US, the key is let-us-know-one-another. The history of the African peoples is not taught to people of European descent yet we expect them to appreciate the humanity of African people in America. You can't blame someone for something they don't know. And the judge in whose court Roof was arraigned treated Roof with dignity when he [the judge] is known to have used racial epithets in his court. He asked people to treat the victims’ families and Roof's family in the same manner.

I doubt he’d do that if the killer was an African-American. He’s just identifying with his kind, the kind he’s familiar with.

If African-Americans dominate the police, then European-Americans will think twice before acting with heavy-handedness on African-Americans. African-American police officers who stereotype their people would start to change if good officers start to treat African-Americans with the dignity that was shown to a terrorist: Dylan Roof. Don’t expect good treatment from people who can’t identify with you if they don’t know you or are not comfortable with you.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Incompetence or Indifference: AU Mediated Peace Talks

It is a general knowledge in South Sudan that Inter-Governmental Agency on Development (IGAD) successfully mediated the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan between 2002 and 2005. The advent of relative peace in Sudan and the eventual succession of South Sudan from Sudan can be credited to IGAD. However, this point of view is being put to an awful test as IGAD’s negotiators seem lost and confused…or even grossly incompetent. The modalities IGAD is using are mediocre at best and uselessly circular at worse.
In January this year, South Sudan’s Assistant minister for foreign affairs, Peter Bashir Bandi, told one SSTV host that IGAD plays down any initiatives generated by South Sudanese themselves. Anytime South Sudanese made headway in negotiations, Bandi argues, IGAD would postpone the talks without any explanation. And when the talks are resumed, IGAD would give new discussion guidelines and all parties start from scratch. This raises many questions as to why IGAD doesn’t give South Sudanese a greater role in drafting negotiation policy positions.

If IGAD successfully mediated Sudan’s CPA then why is it so heard now for IGAD to do so when the conditions of belligerence between the two warring parties are different?  The conditions that led to the current civil war are by far less problematic than the conditions that caused South Sudanese to take up arms against the Sudanese government in Khartoum.
General Lazarus Sumbeiywo, who helped bring peace to South Sudan and is now part of the mediation team, knows this. The differences between SPLM-IO and SPLM-IG are ideological, personal and slightly tribal. They are not as grossly divergent as the racial and religious differences between the then South and North. What exacerbates the difficulty in the mediation process now in Ethiopia is the mechanics IGAD is applying. The modalities are meant to force peace, claim credit for the job well done and then blame the warring parties should this peace unravel. South Sudan doesn’t need a myopic process as an easy way out of this war. Any short term solution is going to be a long-term political and security nightmare in the country. Is IGAD planning to destroy South Sudan?

Why is it the IGAD that drafts the negotiation substance and blueprints? This is not peace mediation but peace enforcement. South Sudanese leaders are the ones who very well know the problems that led to this crisis; and they are the ones who will lead South Sudan should peace come. It is therefore prudent for IGAD to allow all policy positions and negotiation contents to be drafted by the warring parties. IGAD should only be there to actually do its job: mediate. This draft-and-reject, draft-and-accept process is a waste of both money and time; and it continues to endanger lives of South Sudanese. The only hope for South Sudan has been placed in the hands of IGAD for South Sudan credit IGAD with CPA. This hope is being betrayed by IGAD.
This article might appear like it’s excusing the originators of the problem. Far from it! South Sudanese leaders have shown little to no practical compassion for the suffering South Sudanese. Neither SPLM-IO chairman, Dr. Riek Machar nor President Kiir Mayardit, sees the need to call a press conference to address the grievances and needs of South Sudanese who were killed, bereft or displaced by forces under their commands. They hear humanitarian agencies constantly warning about famine but these leaders show little interest in the suffering of the people. Internally displaced civilians are living in squalor conditions in UNMISS camps yet none of the leaders shows interest. They only pay lip service about being the one fighting on behalf of South Sudanese.

So what will it take for IGAD to realize that South Sudanese leaders should be held more accountable for the current crisis? IGAD needs to put South Sudanese at the centre of the negotiation process. And if sanctions are to be imposed then practical measures need to be taken instead of constantly warning the warring parties without actually putting in place punitive measures. Both Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the Cease Fire have been violated with no consequences. Monitoring and Verification Mechanism is a complete joke! So why would people who face no consequences be serious about peace talks they are not even meaningfully part of?