Perspective with Stephen Mpofu
INSATIABLE political power has left many African states teetering on the verge of, or actually crossing, dotted lines of independence, freedom and unity which bedrock social and economic development as well as political maturation.
But sadly and, indeed a tragic irony, Africa’s newest state of South Sudan happens to be the front runner in the case in point, no doubt handing former colonial powers in Africa a rich harvest of criticism to the effect that “the natives kept order only when their erstwhile white masters cracked whips behind their backs”.
A former integral part of the Sudan, making that country the largest in Africa, the Republic of South Sudan is at a heart-rending crossroads with thousands of its citizens fleeing a bloody military conflict fuelled by ethnic — or better still tribal antagonisms — pitting the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army opposition leader Riek Machar against President Salva Kiir who belongs to a different ethnic grouping.
Their armies as well as armed bandits have left rivers of blood flowing across a fledgling state that saw the goodwill of countries including Zimbabwe sending workers in various capacities to help build a solid foundation for their brothers and sisters there, but had to withdraw their personnel for their safety.
Other African states, namely Nigeria and the Central African Republic among others are also embroiled in conflicts that are of a religious nature and have seen many lives lost as a result.
However, South Sudan is daily being emptied of thousands of its citizens fleeing the killings and starvation to seek refuge in nearby states such as Uganda and the DRC, for instance.
The question that many international observers are probably asking is; “for how long will the international community but, especially the African Union, continue to watch with their arms folded while the baby born yesterday dies, malnourished due to a lack of freedom, unity and peace?
Indeed the world has heard embassy upon embassy of words from international bodies, including the United Nations condemning the untold suffering of innocent people, particularly women and children, the hunger that people are experiencing after abandoning their crops or failing to till their land altogether as well as the day to day atrocities committed by callous armed bandits roaming the beleaguered country with impunity.
But, sadly, all these outcries have been impotent in the absence of real action to end the rot once and for all.
And come to think of it — the suffering by South Sudanese is taking place right under the nose of the African Union that, in 1963 as the new Organisation of African Unity, pioneered the liberation of the continent from repressive foreign ruling cultures culminating with the latest independence of South Sudan.
But now, outsiders and even Africans themselves must be asking why the AU does not demonstrate the macho characteristic of its predecessor, the OAU, by moving in with the swiftness of a tigress to frog march to a round table all the principal actors in the ongoing conflict and evacuate their callous bent for blood-letting and in its place incubate the fear of God which also respects the sanctity of life.
Why has the organisation not unleashed its standby military force which began training in Cameroon in 2015 to quell the tribal conflicts in South Sudan and in that way send a clear message to potential trouble-makers jockeying for obscene power in other states that the AU means what it truly says; “the union of people in a unitary state” and not tribal fiefdoms such as those after the power-hungry leaders of the South Sudan appear to want to set up?
Yes, the AU has maintained a policy under which regional organisations must put their houses in order so that peace and stability become fillips for regional social and economic development.
However, not all the regional economic groupings have demonstrated an ability to come to grips with local conflicts.
The Sadc, for instance, moved in with speed to stabilise a recent political conflict in Lesotho with the result that an election adjudged free, fair and credible took place there with the opposition party romping home victoriously.
But not only that. The Economic Community of West African States flexed its military muscle by massing troops on the borders of the Gambia, forcing dictator Yahya Jameh to flee the country after digging in his heels in power for over two decades.
Free and fair elections were held which brought in opposition leader Adama Barrow to power with measures now being taken to normalise democratic processes in that tiny African state.
The same can however, not be said for the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development in East Africa which has lamentably failed to intervene to end the brutalities in South Sudan.
Surely a strong case exists here for Africa to put its own house in order if the continent has to free itself from the pejorative “dark continent” image that no doubt remains embedded in the minds of imperialists who continue to dream of establishing hegemonies in the mineral-rich black continent.
Such no-nonsense house-keeping measures by the AU will certainly make power maniacs think twice before embarking on political misadventures that tear their nations apart.
Thus, fatigued by a brutally internecine conflict in their motherland, the people of South Sudan surely demand, and deserve, a new peace which only God will provide; a new unity and the Bible says unity is power; and a brave new future for all regardless of their political persuasions or creed.
They can vow to the rest of the world, on the strength of their current experiences that violence, political or otherwise, can only bring ruin to both its perpetrators and victims.