By Riang Yer Zuor Nyak
February 11, 2015 (SSNA) — It now appears that human life is important when it belongs to certain class of people, or when it belongs to an individual coming from a certain racial group. It is a reality that cannot be mistaken, or a reality that none can deny.
As I write this piece, I have still to recover from the shock that came as a result of the African Union’s (AU) decision not to publicize the findings of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan. What are they protecting, and for whose interest? Certainly, it is not South Sudanese interest. One can only be forced to think that IGAD and AU have suddenly realized and recalled the provisions of the Arusha Agreement, which stipulates that anyone found to have some responsibility for the violence that started in December of 2013 would not be allowed to occupy a public office in both the SPLM and the government.
Could it be that the report has condemned someone whom they want to occupy certain office(s)? Could it be that they are looking for an agreement whose content could prevail over the Arusha deal in case of any conflict before the release of the report? It shall never be known for sure.
The World is Biased Against Africa
In following the more recent world events, one could make a conclusion that events per se are not necessary good or bad. It all depends on the person or group of people whom the event affects. It follows that if a horrendous or heinous act is committed or has happened to a non-black, non-African, it is an act against humanity and deserving of full condemnation by the rest of the humanity. But, if similar acts are committed against a black African or if a disastrous event happens to an African or a group of Africans, the world sees it as a normal thing that does not change anything as to how things should be seen and done. The following are some of the recent events supporting this contention:
The harrowing incident took place on October 3, 2013 when desperate Africans tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to escape grinding continental poverty in search for a better life in a foreign continent. Out of about 500 souls, only about 155 survived after the boat sank. It was not a big thing for the so-called African leaders and the rest of the world. It was only Italy that showed sympathy with the victims and their families, and because the tragedy happened in her waters, by declaring a period of national mourning for the dead. But, it was a tragedy that anyone who cared should have questioned the legitimacy and relevancy of the African governments when it comes to serving the Africans. Not even one of these attempted to ask the question: When will European migrants ever drown in the high seas trying to cross to Africa in search for a better life?
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, had this to say about the tragedy: "There is something fundamentally wrong in a world where people in need of protection have to resort to these perilous journeys. This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call. More effective international cooperation is required including a crack-down on traffickers and smugglers while protecting their victims. It shows how important it is for refugees to have legal channels to access territories where they can find protection." I agree with Guterres that there is something fundamentally wrong in this world. But, most of the blame should go to those Africans who claim to be African leaders. There is a reason why people take these types of journeys to the world outside of Africa. It is after they show that they care about Africans that the rest of the world will begin to care.
South Sudan’s December 2013
Beginning from December 15, 2013, Salva Kiir went on a rampage, systematically targeting and killing unarmed innocent Nuer civilians on the basis of their tribal origin. This was after he had falsely accused his political rivals of mounting a coup against his failing regime. The estimate is as high as tens of thousands exterminated in days, not weeks.
The American government and the rest of the Western Europe have joined the IGAD and the AU in referring to Salva as a legitimately elected president. It does not happen anywhere that a government and a president under whose watch thousands of people get exterminated and still be referred to as legitimate. In the eyes of the African presidents, it is legitimate because a member of the club has committed the act. In the eyes of the American, Western European and Asian leaders, it is legitimate because they were lives of black Africans which were taken by Salva Kiir (a fellow black African president).
Ebola in West Africa
In December 2013, an outbreak of e-bola virus started in Guinea and quickly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of now, the number of deaths stands around 9,177 souls. It is the worst of its kind in history. Initially, the world saw it as an African affair. It was not until Americans, Europeans, and Asians were diagnosed with the virus that the virus started getting the attention that it deserved.
On the night of April 14-15, 2014, a group of armed men entered a secondary school in the town of Chibok in Nigeria and abducted more than 200 school girls. It later emerged that they were members of the Boko Haram Islamist group in that country. The issue was not initially taken seriously, both in Nigeria and outside. The first lady was even reported to have said that the abduction was a fake one by the supporters of the group. It was later on the 4th of May that the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, spoke publicly about the tragedy.
Even though it was clear that the abduction had taken place, world reaction (not even action) was very slow. It was mostly some concerned citizens in Western countries and Nigeria that took to the streets to dramatize the tragedy. The rest of the world was just either silent or making lukewarm reactions.
On February 18, 2014, a peaceful protest in Kiev’s Independence Square was attacked by a riot police, which used live bullets. The citizens were simply showcasing their desire for their country to join European Union.
At the end of the attack, around 200 protesters were killed. The response by the American and Western European governments was very quick. It was a condemnation of the Ukrainian government. John Kerry, the U. S. Secretary of State, declared, and rightly, that Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovic, was no longer legitimate for presiding over such a massacre. By February 22, pressure had mounted so high on the dictator that he had to leave the country and went into exile in Russia.
Charlie Hebdo in Paris
On January 7, 2015, two Islamists stormed Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, shooting and killing 11 people. Subsequently, more people were killed, bringing the total number of dead to 17. The French government reacted to the attack in the best way it could.
World leaders reacted immediately by ensuring that they were together with the French people in their fight against terrorism.
On January 11, 2015, President Hollande was joined by more than 40 world leaders in leading a rally attended by about 2 million people. It was one of the biggest shows of solidarity with a people unjustly victimized.
Racism is an institution that does not have a particular headquarters or office in any particular country. Nevertheless, it lives. It appears that it is mostly practiced against the black race, or Africans to be specific. It is practiced either by action or omission. The examples above indicate that when an act of barbarity is committed against black or African people, it is taken as business as usual. But when a similar act, or even less in severity, is committed against white race, it becomes an outrageous act that must bring the ‘civilized’ world together to mourn and condemn.
In South Sudan, Salva Kiir murdered 20,000 souls in Juba beginning from December 15, 2013 and on. Yet, the American government and Western allies recognize him as a legitimately elected president. The same American government, in the person of John Kerry, condemned Victor Yanukovic and declared him illegitimate for presiding over the killings of 200 white souls. How does one explain such a glaring inconsistency in judging the two murderers?
In the case of Charlie Hebdo, the world basically merged on Paris to show their outrage resulting from the killings of the 17 French citizens. This same world had failed to merge on Juba when the 20,000 innocent black South Sudanese were savagely murdered by none other than their own government; this same world had failed to merge on Chibok when more than 200 young girls were abducted by an Islamist group that is not any different from the Islamists who carried out the attacks on Charlie Hebdo; this same world had failed to merge on the Italian island of Lampedusa when about 300 black Africans painfully drowned.
As to the ravages of the Ebola, the world leaders might use the excuse of health reasons for not merging on the three most affected West African countries to show solidarity with the people. But, their initial responses were clearly telling.
An African is left alone in his/her dark world. What goes on in that dark world is none of anyone’s business outside the Continent. His/her life is that which is expected to go any time, prematurely or maturely. Therefore when its destruction comes, the world sees it as normal, and, therefore, not the kind that other human beings can bother themselves with.
The problem is that some disrespectful American, European or Asian leaders, sometimes, shamelessly come out in public to make statements that they intend to be taken as showing solidarity with fellow human beings inhabiting the land that we call Africa when disaster struck. But, reality is that their statements and actions are not based on humanitarian grounds. They are in pursuit of non-African interests to be gained at the expense of the African. This is why they always stand with the one in power when a problem erupts—the person who has the power to grant them those interests in shady, under-the-table deals.
The so-called African leaders are not, really, leaders. They are robbers and murderers who see their positions as cards to loot and maim Africa as they wish, covering their selfish partnerships in criminal actions or omissions with the idea of sovereignty. Their difference with former colonial agents is that the current looters and murderers are biologically and racially black and Africans.
The AU’s decision to indefinitely postpone the publication of the report on South Sudan atrocities goes in agreement with the IGAD’s attempt to force the people of South Sudan to reach an agreement with the government without addressing the root causes of the problem. It is an inactive of their aversion to justice. Their main, and most important issue, is to see a government of national unity led by the “incumbent” president. It is apparent that presidency is more important than people. We, Africans, get it backward.
As things stand right now, there is still a state-inspired violence going on; life is no longer a right; people are being killed by the state security organs. A culture of impunity is acutely entrenched. These things demand that people should be held accountable for their contribution to these unfortunate destructions. It had been hoped that the AU Commission’s report who pave the way in resolving the current war by exposing who did what at the outbreak of the war and who has continued to do what after the war had broken out. It is after this that reconciliation, healing and forgiveness could start.
Now, who could reconcile with whom? Who could forgive who, and for which specific act (acts)? And without reconciliation, healing and forgiveness, how could these warring parties peacefully co-exist in a government of national unity without having addressed and resolved what took them to war in the first place?
IGAD and the AU must begin to stop their insensitive arrogance and start to recognize the compelling need to publicize the findings of the report before any peace deal is signed. Otherwise, any forced deal will only be a postponement of the violence to another time in the near future.
The world outside of Africa, for the sake of humanity and justice, must place enough pressure on the IGAD and the AU—enough to force them to do the right thing, publication of the report and addressing the root causes of the war. Otherwise, they should just admit that they are racists and indifferent when it comes to Africa going down the drain.
The author is a South Sudanese. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.