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The East African : June 9th 2014
The EastAfrican 22 OPINION JUNE 7-13,2014 PUBLISHED WEEKLY BY THE NATION MEDIA GROUP FDLR su≥≥ende≥ a hopeful sign Reports that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda are seriously considering laying down their arms after 20 years should be welcomed by all those who value peace in the region. There is no doubt that the FDLR, a remnant of the Interahamwe militias accused of carrying out the 1994 Rwanda genocide, has been a major threat to peace and security in the Great Lakes region. However, efforts by the International Confer- ence on the Great Lakes Region Secretariat to make the militia lay down their arms and reintegrate into the Rwandan society have been met with disappointing scepticism. Such scepticism could only drive the group further underground at a time when the rebels themselves have realised that they are fighting a futile war that will never address their grievances. The group was scheduled to start surrender- ing in batches to the government of Congo from May 30 in North and South Kivu, but conflicting reports over whether the group is actually laying down its arms have dampened hopes for a major diplomatic and security breakthrough in the region. Kigali believes that it is a ploy by the besieged outfit to reorganise, while some Western diplomats believe that it could be an attempt by Congolese President Joseph Kabila to deflect attention from his alleged intention to go for an illegal third term after 2016. Even the UN mission in Congo, Monusco, has described the number of soldiers laying down arms in the first phase of the surrender as “insignificant” and called for the top ranking officers to also come forward. A local civil society group said it was a “publicity stunt” to avoid being hunted down by UN forces after the expiry of their ultimatum to FDLR. These concerns may be justified because past events have shown that FDLR and Kinshasa are joined at the hip. Yet, that should not be a justification for shooting down genuine attempts to bring peace to eastern Congo and the Great Lakes region in general. Besides being a source of constant military and diplomatic conflict between Congo and Rwanda, FDLR is now the cause of strained relations between Rwanda and Tanzania after President Jakaya Kikwete advised Kigali to initiate peace talks with the rebels. As with the now vanquished M23, the total ab- sence of FDLR from eastern Congo would be for the good of all the countries concerned. Congo will have no excuse to accuse Rwanda of incursion into its territory under the guise of hunting rebels and it will be forced to confront its own governance challenges. Let the parties concerned seize this opportuni- ty to solve the FDLR problem once for all for the sake of peace in the Great Lakes region. The Safe Schools initiative bagged more than $23m. When did an African crisis attract that much? ” Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo T he United Nations on Wednesday announced that the Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria has attracted “significant” funding. Yes, you guessed right: The Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria is to ensure that schools, especially those in the north of the country, are protected from attack by the likes of Boko Haram. After Boko Haram terrorists abducted about 270 schoolgirls from ‘Never do hopelessness or despair. Don’t appeal to rich people’s sense of guilt. Do promise, possibilities...’ Chibok in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State on the night of April 14, world opinion has been aroused and international condemnation and weekend protests in many world capitals, have become regular affairs. The initiative bagged more than $23 million. When did you last hear of an African crisis attracting that much #GivingWithoutGuilt: Why Adicho gi≥ls matte≥ money? When thousands are threatened with famine in Somalia or South Sudan, you will be lucky to get $6 million in the first month. Why? To begin with, we all like to feel that we are contributing our money to a hopeful cause. Thus 800,000 Somalis faced with starvation is almost a hopeless situation. You feel you cannot save them all… they are too many. It is easier to let someone else choose who among them shall live and who shall die. On the other hand, the children of the rich and poor may go to very different schools, but school safety is something all their parents understand. That is why the world can’t have enough of that chubby-cheeked and brave Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist Malala Yousafzai. At 11 she was writing a blog about life under the Taliban and why girls must have education — contrary to Taliban doctrine. A Taliban shot her in the head, she survived, and has flourished under our eyes. That is a great story of triumph. We love it. Those Adicho girls, we feel like we know them. There is a popular hashtag for them on Twitter, #BringBackOurGirls. Very many famous people in the world have been agitating for their release. #BabaIsNoLonge≥Away: Sense of a new beginning eral David Kimaiyo’s gaffe — first banning political rallies on grounds of security and then reversing the ban. The amount of ridicule generated by that gaffe in social media, talk shows and the print media served only to promote the Orange Democratic Movement’s rally. The rally itself — brief but well at- T tended — generated copious coverage too. A sense of anticipation was in the air even though nothing we didn’t already know was said: Exclusion is dangerous. We are insecure. Corruption is bad. What was unexpected was the call for national dialogue — representing, like Raila Odinga’s acceptance of the dubious Supreme Court decision a year ago, a move to the high moral ground. Curiously, the Jubilants chose to A PUBLICATION OF THE NATION MEDIA GROUP LINUS GITAHI: Chief Executive Officer JOSEPH ODINDO: Editorial Director PAMELLA SITTONI: Managing Editor Nation Centre, Kimathi Street, P.O. Box 49010-00100 G.P.O. Nairobi. Tel. 3288000, 2221222, 337710, Fax 214531, 213946. E-mail: email@example.com © Nation Media Group interpret ODM’s call for national dialogue as a call for power-sharing. As the Party for National Unity repeatedly did during the national dialogue of 2008, the Jubilants insist the only doors open for national dialogue are parliament, the Senate and the Office of the President. There is nothing new under the sun. The Jubilants’ nervousness at something as innocuous as a rally. Their intransigence about something as constructive as a request to talk. But he rally on Raila Odinga’s return to Kenya after a twomonth absence was preceded by the Police Inspector-Gen- history repeats itself. The moves on the chessboard have been seen before. Only the alliances and coalitions of players have shifted. Why then the sense of anticipation in the air? Because, without consciously realis- ing it, we’ve been lacking a political opposition that seems aligned to the concerns and issues of the day. That speaks to those concerns and issues. That is on the offensive, not the defensive. That draws out the best and not the worst of us. Looking back, our democratic trajectory has always been shaped by a Looking back, our democratic trajectory has always been shaped by a small group of people small group of people. Those identified with the “progressive left” — to use an easy, catch-all and somewhat inaccurate phrase. Even in the dark days of Jomo Kenyatta and then Daniel arap Moi’s one-party state. The academics and intellectuals from the University of Nairobi and their students. Mwakenya. Then, when the monopoly of the Kenya African National Union ended and Mwakenya came out from underground, the human-rights and legal organisations behind the constitutional change movement. And so on. If they are freed, they will be survi- vors, Malala-type girls who overcame evil extremists. Some could move on to become influential people. Hungry Somalis and South Suda- nese? That is throwing away good money. We don’t know them by name, and if they survived they are unlikely to become rocket scientists. One of my good friends in Uganda is a priest. He has an excellent record of raising money in the West for his projects in Uganda. He doesn’t do children with flies around their mouths or barefoot. He does averagely well-fed, oiled faces shining in the sun, with a half-finished school for which he is seeking donations in the background. The cheques are written quickly. He explained: “Never do hopelessness or despair. Don’t appeal to rich people’s sense of guilt or shame. That will only take you so far,” he said. “Do promise, possibilities. Tell people with fat cheque books that they have a chance to be part of a successful story.” True. Sadly, though, Africa’s suffer- ing people rarely choose their tragedies. Tragedies find them, and they can’t run away from them fast enough. Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo is is the edito≥ of Mail & Gua≥dian Af≥ica (mgaf≥ica.com). Twitte≥:cobbo3 Without consciously realising it, we’ve been lacking a real political opposition L. Muthoni Wanyeki But the ideas for change held by that small group of people have only gained public traction through takeup by the political opposition. The remnants of the Kenya People’s Union. The “bearded sisters.” The breakaways from Kanu. And the confused mess of political parties, alliances and coalitions we’ve seen ever since. Still. Eyes wide open, we need to- day’s small group of people. Ideas for change. A political opposition. Our depression, lack of morale, sense of being dragged farther and farther over the past year down the road of belligerence, intolerance and the undoing of all we’ve struggled for, has to end. We cannot go on like this. Let the political opposition arise. With all its internal contradictions. Let it take the high moral ground. Let the call for national dialogue be one about moving new ideas for change forward. Get us off the defensive and onto the offensive. Bring out the best and not the worst of us. L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty Inte≥national’s ≥egional di≥ecto≥ fo≥ East Af≥ica. This column is w≥itten in he≥ pe≥sonal capacity.
June 2nd 2014
June 16th 2014