ONYACH: The dying African voices we must resurrect in 2016
By Abiud Onyach
We have ushered in a New Year and we are all excited to live up to our New Year resolutions- including those who know they’ll abandon them this month. .
This season has a way of renewing hope; sadly the same wind doesn’t blow in some African countries this time of the year.
Indeed there are those who expect little from this year. They lost loved ones, needlessly, in a horrifying fashion from the hands of a government that is supposed to protect them. From Burundi, South Sudan to Ethiopia a mood of distrust between a people and its government hangs in the air.
While the rest of us are grateful for the peace and the promises the New Year brings, we must not forget these voices, lest we lose what makes us Africans, lest we lose our hope for humanity.
As the Kiswahili proverb goes: “When you see your neighbor’s head shaved, pour water on yours.” The trouble in Burundi may not be as far and unrelated from us as we would like to think, and if leaders like Nkurunzinza have their way-they only serve to bolster the resolve of other leaders who are hell bent on violating human rights.
Hiding behind ‘sovereignty’
At no time in the history of independent Africa has the term sovereignty been misused and the non-interference policy used to protect a despot like we’ve seen in 2015.
Sovereignty loosely interpreted is the respect accorded any country as an independent nation capable of self-rule. Under this guise, leaders say that no country is expected to get involved in the internal affairs of another country, even if the said country is bleeding itself to extinction.
Politicians with dictatorial tendencies have thus abused their country’s sovereignty to prevent any form of accountability outside their spheres of influence. On the back bone of non-interference policy, they are denying their citizens basic human rights and brutally dealing with those who oppose them.
In 2015, President Nkurunziza, against popular opinion, insisted on running for a third term despite having already served his two terms as outlined in their constitution.
This selfish leader took advantage of a legal loophole over his first election because he was first elected president by Members of Parliament, who were acting as an electoral college.His argument is that the electorate did not vote in his first term, only in his second term hence the legitimacy of his third term.
Since April last year (2015), at least 400 people have died, scores left injured while 220, 000 people are now refugees in neighboring countries according to the official UN figures.
Already, Nkurunzinza has threatened to fight African Union (AU) peace keepers, following AU’s announcement to send troops to protect civilians.
I cannot wrap my head around the number of innocent children and women affected by this single act of selfishness. Take a moment to think about the lost dreams, the dashed hopes and the bitterness planted in people’s hearts.
This is why we can’t remain silent in 2016. All of us must make our voice heard. We cannot sit mum as another not another genocide takes place in Burundi.
Africa’s youngest failure
South Sudan is another African country with perhaps the most disappointing leaders in African history. After the 2011 secession from Sudan, the country plunged into civil war in 2013 displacing at least 2.2million people.
The great Garang must turn in his grave severally every time we mention Riek Machar or Salva Kirr.
After lengthy stays at luxurious hotels, the two leaders have made numerous peace-pacts in a bloody game they seemingly enjoy to play. One minute they are signing peace agreements, but before the ink dries they’ve already begun showing reservations, at times blatantly dishonoring these pact a mere 48 hours after they have been made,.
Meanwhile, South Sudanese citizens continue to die and with the luckier ones finding their way to refugee camps in other countries.
This too must stop in 2016. We should project the voice of the South Sudanese loud enough to make these two leaders realize South Sudan is bigger than their colossal egos.
The problem with this non-interference policy is that it easily oils the engine of dictatorship and gives license to leaders to kill and plunder their own with little or no consequences.
As we turn a new leaf in 2016, in Ethiopia the Oromo community remains anxious after the government designed an infrastructure development plan that appears malicious and bent on grabbing land from the largest ethnic group in the country.
Scores have been killed and a lot others injured and displaced from their land all in the name of development.
While shiny new developments are the crowning jewel of any regime, infrastructural development is useless if humanity is not at the heart of it.
In 2016, we must raise the voice of the Oromo farmers who are driven away from their farmlands into poverty by their government.
In 2016, in addition to all those resolutions we’ve written down and hope to act on, let all Africans, especially, East Africans resolve to stand with the people of Burundi, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Let us make our voices heard so that 2016 will not be another 2015 where fewer people made life unbearable for the majority over inexcusable selfish interests.
The writer is a Kenyan journalist and communication consultant based in Dar es Salaam.