Category Archives: History in the making

Dendere reshiri: The bird’s nest


The bird’s nest

There is a proverb amongst the Shona people in my country-Zimbabwe-which says

“Ziva kwaunobva, mudzimu weshiri uri mudendere” “Know where you are from, a bird’s ancestors are found in its nest”

This proverb speaks to the value of cultural heritage and roots. Once the bird’s nest is destroyed, its history and cultural heritage are gone. Destroying the nest kills the link between the bird’s current existence and its past. It’s in that old nest that memories of the past were made. Even though the bird may build another nest to create a new home for itself, that home carries no memories of the past nor does it have any value beyond the fact that it is just another nest. Preserving one’s cultural heritage is critical, not only for historical purposes but also for cultural value- linking past, future and present generations.

Montpelier, Monticello and  Ashlawn Highland 

Homes

The homes of 3 US presidents, James Madison’s Montpelier (top), Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (centre) declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and James Monroe’s Ashlawn Highland (bottom).

In the past 3 weeks, I spent time in and at three of America’s 44 presidents’ homes. These homes and plantations belong to three of America’s founding fathers: Monticello, home of the third President Thomas Jefferson, Ashlawn Highland- home of the fourth president James Monroe and – Montpelier,   home of the fifth President James Madison. Roaming around on these estates, I have come to know how these three bookworms designed the foundations of the American democracy as it is known today.

The three musketeers

The three leaders had certain values in common that leaders should emulate:

  1. They were revolutionary. They believed that a nation—their nation—could be built on the idea that people can govern themselves.  Jefferson—the visionary imagined an independent united American nation and so wrote the Declaration of Independence spelling out the aspirations of its people. Madison-the intellectual, realised that the aspirations contained in the Declaration could only find true practical meaning in another document that clearly spelled out how they could be achieved- the Constitution. Monroe-the operationalist, excelled in enlarging the American territory through his negotiations with the French and his diplomatic skills gained America the space and support it needed in the international world order.
  2. They were well read and multi-lingual. All had libraries in their homes and between them owned thousands of books in as many as seven languages: English, French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew and German. It is from reading these books that they formed the ideas they pronounced so eloquently, which ideas shaped their nation’s history.
  3. Except for one thing, they believed in learning from other contexts. Because they spoke and understood many languages, they developed knowledge and connections to other countries’ histories, politics, cultures and traditions. The lessons that they gleaned from the French influenced the decor in their homes. Jefferson’s groomed estate consists of plants flaunted from Africa, Asia and his many travels to Europe. Their common fault, and exception to the listening trait, was their refusal to consider advice from their great friend and ally, Gilbert Du Motier- The Marquis de Lafayette, to give up and free the slaves they owned as the French had done in 1794. How such visionary men failed to see or refused to act on the injustice of slavery is something that will always diminish their greatness in my mind, as with any leader who blatantly ignores or commits human atrocities.
  4. They were patriotic. In all they did, these three men came together to plan and strategise on how to build a stronger and united America. Jefferson was about rights and revolution, Madison about structure and governance, while Monroe focused on international relations and diplomacy.

Through tours with capable guides, and observing the cultural heritage that the Americans have preserved of the men who designed their political system, I reaffirmed the value of doing the same in Zimbabwe.

Our language

Language connects us to our history and traditions. It is our heritage. Denigrating our own language and attempting to mould ourselves into a monolingual community gives us a false sense of security that we fit in with those we emulate. What it really does is to create a sense of deficiency in us, especially when we realise that our command of the foreign language is incomparable to that of native speakers. We may write in foreign languages to be understood by many. We can also learn other languages to learn about other cultures. We must never think our own languages are valueless. We need to develop pride in and value our own local languages.

Our history, our heritage

Monuments

Above are 3 of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful cultural heritage sites, the Chinhoyi Caves(top), Khami Ruins(middle) and Great Zimbabwe Ruins (bottom)-declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and the biggest man-made stone ruins on the continent

We need to know our history; who we are, where we are and where we are going including the stories of the men and women who have made our country what it is today. We may not have memoirs, letters or written documents narrating history but we do have the oral tradition of storytelling, which has passed folk-tales across generations. Story-telling can be used to pass down our history, recognising the limitations that come with it. We need to tell our own stories and give our own account of our history. We must preserve our monuments of national pride. We have done well in Zimbabwe to preserve cultural heritage sites such as the Great Zimbabwe, the Chinhoyi Caves and the Khami Ruins but we must do more to recall and record our history.

Another African proverb aptly put, “Until lions have their own historian, accounts of the hunt will always celebrate the hunter.” African history is predominantly told from the perspective of our former colonisers; books and maps are in colonial languages, mostly written by missionaries and mercenaries. As long as this persists, the account we have remains incomplete. We must tell our own history! We need to preserve our nests, as they will forever serve as reference points for future generations. As Malcom X said, “History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.”


An ode to a great man: Celebrating Mandela


A bright light has been dimmed in Africa, our motherland. No it hasn’t been switched off, for the legacy of this great nation-builder remains with us. We mourn, we remember but above all we celebrate a life well lived, fighting for peace, dignity and freedom for the down-trodden.  Individuals like Nelson Mandela are not mourned, they are celebrated for he inspired change wherever he went and the millions of condolence messages pouring in are a testimony of the depth of character of this great leader.

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

He led a selfless life, sacrificed his youth to the advancement of human dignity and the freedom of his nation and people. His courage of conviction led him through the 27 years of incarceration, as he envisioned a free South Africa in which black and white co-existed peacefully. His release signified the beginning of freedom and unity as he sought progress for his country through reconciliation. He inspired many with his integrity and compassion, including myself, and we shall continue to pursue the ideals that he preached and lived.


When it happens in Africa


When it happens in Africa, tyranny and poverty is newsworthy; democracy and development isn’t. Is that the Western media’s interpretation of Africa and African-ness?

On 24 July 2012, the President of the Republic of Ghana, John Atta Mills passed away. He was 68. It is suspected that he died of cardiac arrest. He came into power through a democratic election which, albeit marred by some challenges, left the majority of Ghanaian citizens relatively satisfied with the meaning and significance of elections as a means of putting in place their leadership. Indeed Ghana’s political stability made it the country of choice for Barack Obama’s first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2008. President Atta Mills will be remembered for his role in consolidating democracy in Ghana, strengthening institutional integrity and entrenching constitutional rule of law. That success could not have been more aptly expressed than in the success and swiftness of the transition that followed his death, reflective of the resilience of Ghana’s democracy.

A few hours after President Atta Mills was officially announced dead, Mr John Dramani Mahama, who was the vice president, took the oath of office as the new President of Ghana- in line with the principles of Article 60 (6) of the Ghanaian Constitution. A new President is set to be elected in December in line with the terms of the current Ghanaian Constitution.

The transition was one of the most significant achievements in the historic development of African democracies. Indeed many African states should draw the following lessons from the Ghanaian example:

  • Constitutional guarantees of transfer of power in the event of the death of the President are an effective way of preventing power vacuums which could lead to political instability;
  • The ability of a country to live by its constitution is one of the best guarantees for peaceful transitions; and
  • The respect of constitutional sanctity and rule of law is one of the best ways of ensuring peace and development in any country

Given the significance of this transition, I would have thought the international media would grow hoarse shouting about this very positive and amazing development on the African continent. One Gillian Parker of Time Magazine went to great lengths to relay this message, celebrating the fact that “although Mills’ passing was sudden, the encouraging sign was the smoothness with which Ghana’s democratic processes kicked into gear.” But for the rest of the BIG news agencies; news that a dead rat had been discovered on the doorstep of President Obama’s bedchamber would have made headlines above this amazing piece of news. For a whole day the news was mentioned as an aside with Atta Mills’ achievements for Ghana mentioned in passing and the swift transition, hardly celebrated for the achievement that it was.  In some reportage the smooth transition was even forgotten.

Those who remembered it chose to refer to it as an ‘unusual experiment,’ in my view a very cynical analysis of the uniqueness of Ghana’s stability despite the fact that it is located in a very tumultuous region. That clearly, at least to me, also reflected a selective memorialisation of the development of the world’s democracies. Here is why I say so, centuries of bloody civil wars, despotism and tyranny characterised Europe’s history before it became the so called ‘ideal democracy’ that it is today-varying of course from country to country. Indeed Africa can not emerge as a strong democracy overnight when it took Europe and America centuries to do the same. Hence as Africa goes through the transition of democratising its institutions, such efforts must be criticised constructively but not denigrated and belittled to the levels of ‘experiments.’

I am still asking myself why the international media was not as excited about this development as they are when there is a coup, an uprising, a rigging of an election or such other negativity on the African continent. Is it the role of the international media to relay only the negative developments on the African continent as the hallmark of African-ness and hence anything positive is not theirs to make noise about?  If that is the case then the Western Media should stop preaching the gospel of ‘independent’ and ‘objective’ media when they themselves are neither independent nor objective. Yes I may sound like a brainwashed Zimbabwean feeding into the Mugabe propaganda right now, but anyone who religiously followed the reportage on the crisis in Mali, the crisis in Madagascar and then the scenario in Ghana, with the same intensity as I did would agree with me that it seems the approach of the international media in reporting situations in Africa is to sing like a chorus from a song book every negative thing but mumble under their breath positive developments such as the  Ghana transition. What a farce!

I can agree with the solution proposed by a colleague of mine that African media (including us as bloggers) have the responsibility to champion positive African developments in the news and depicting to the world Africa as we know it and not as others tell us it is. And hence I am making my pronunciation with this blog that the Ghanaian transition was a groundbreaking event and deserved proper coverage from any self respecting, media house interested in fair reporting and an accurate portrayal of Africa.


28 Years Old


28 years old, that’s how old I am turning today. Gees I am really getting old and I must admit, this time I feel old-really old. This is the time when I should be spending my nights cuddled up to someone- and of course not just anyone but that one person who makes me feel like I am the axis on which his world revolves. Many a people tell me that sort of euphoria doesn’t exist but in my foolishness- which I would rather think of as indestructible optimism- I do believe somehow, somewhat, that sort of euphoria is possibly achievable for me.

But that was a digression. The point of my blog today is that on my 28th birthday, I find myself in the middle of a rather interesting situation that I could not be more privileged to be part of.  I am a participant at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Study of Non Violent Conflict. Oh well, it could be jut another Summer Course- but not this one. This one is unique!

I, a Zimbabwean and a fanatic human rights defender,  am among energetic community organisers, nerdy techs, daring journalists, enthusiastic human rights defenders, and renowned scholars from the US, Bahrain, UK, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Maldives, The Bahamas, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, India, Afghanistan, Peru, Nepal, Jordan, Hong Kong, Sudan, Spain, Ethiopia, Togo, Dominican Republic,  Austria, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa,  Iran, Canada, Columbia, Chile and Kyrgyzstan.

I find myself conversing with Reverend James (Jim) Lawson, recognized as the architect and one of the godfathers of the civil rights movement in America. Meeting this man, talking to him and sharing meals with him-this man who was advisor and confidante to Dr Martin Luther King overwhelms me and no words can express how I feel.

With the Godfather of the American civil rights movement, Reverend James Lawson

I find myself sharing jokes with Mary Elizabeth King, one of the bravest female actors in the civil rights movement in America-also a renowned scholar and a well spoken woman of amazing stature-intellectually.

With Mary Elizabeth King an icon in the American civil rights movement

I read about these icons in books, I studied the implications of the civil resistance movement in American history and now I come face to face with the faces of the movement themselves. What more can I ask for? In meeting them I also feel like I just met Martin Luther King. Together they shared the vision for black emancipation and equal rights for all in America.

I sip tea with Ivan Marovic, one of the leaders of Otpor- the students’ movement that was responsible for the mobilisation of communities and the whole nation in Serbia- leading to the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic. He calls himself a ‘Retired Revolutionary’ but Wow! This guy brought down a dictator! Maybe I can learn a thing or two for Zimbabwe!

Talking to Ivan Marovic, one of the key figures behind the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic

I sit across the table from Czeslaw Bielecki, the Polish war veteran with an amazingly ‘obtuse’ sense of humor -and obtuse here coined to mean “outrageously funny” and the kind that keeps everyone in stitches as every 5 seconds of his speech is punctuated by one joke or the other. He says he is not a politician but a political animal. Who knows the difference?

Who says things like this besides Czeslaw;

“Forgiving someone who has not accepted that they are guilty is an over-spilling of humanism and super-morality”-talking of the reconciliation process in Poland.

“People love talking about ethics- I prefer aesthetics”

“Be careful; Hitler was a vegetarian-he loved animals more than he loved people”

Of course I was in stitches, it’s Czeslaw Bielecki-The Polish War Veteran-lol

 “All dictatorships are extremely ugly and extremely boring. Non violent movements should not be all doom and gloom, about risk and difficulty. They must be fun as well.”

 I find myself drawn to Czeslaw’s publication: Freedom, A Do It Yourself Manual in which he begins with a preface which he calls the Operating Instructions. Among the variety of instructions he says, “This manual will tell you how to fight for freedom effectively and then how to construct it…But this little book which you are presently holding in your hand, if used incorrectly, may bring a different kind of danger” The books ends with a question, “So you want to remain silent according to these instructions for spies?” Great sense of humor and I am witnessing it first hand.

So in my overzealousness, I volunteered to make a presentation on civil resistance in Zimbabwe to this gathering of intellectuals, academics, creative minds and thinkers. That feeling of one wanting to pee in their pants out of acute nervousness wants to overwhelm me. I ask myself, what I am going to say to them. Then again I think none of them are from Zimbabwe so what would they know about my context that I do not already know and that sort of calms my nerves.

It’s going to be a sweaty, swelter birthday filled with swagger!


“Beautiful” African men: Julius Nyerere


He has been criticised for leaving the presidency of Tanzania and leaving the nation as one of the poorest, least developed, and most foreign aid-dependent countries in the world. His reign records a communist era in which he suppressed his own people. And yes, some have called his leadership of Tanzania a complete ploughing under of civil liberties and political freedoms.

But it remains true and steadfast that by far this man was one of the greatest leaders to grace and lead the African continent.

Julius Nyerere

He made some extraordinary strides in charting the history of this continent and in some instances the destination of his own country.

He achieved the independence of Tanzania without war or bloodshed but just through his excellent negotiation skills and charismatic oratory skills.

He was instrumental in forging the union between the island of Zanzibar and mainland Tanganyika into Tanzania, which feat prevented Zanzibar from becoming Kenyan territory.

He preached racial and religious tolerance.

He was instrumental in supporting liberation movements in Africa to fight colonial rule and they all sought sanctuary at some point in Tanzania. He supported the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of South Africa, The Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) fighting British colonial rule in Zimbabwe, the FRELIMO when it fighting Portuguese rule in Mozambique. His support towards the people of Uganda ensured their liberation from the terrible leadership and reign of terror of Idi Amin.

He pushed for the coordination of the frontline states in securing majority balck rule in South Africa. The fronline states consisted of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

He was one of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)

And here a few quotes from one of the greatest minds of Africa:

“No nation has the right to make decisions for another nation; no people for another people.”

“In Tanganyika we believe that only evil, Godless men would make the color of a man’s skin the criteria for granting him civil rights.”

“To measure a country’s wealth by its gross national product is to measure things, not satisfactions.”

“Capitalism means that the masses will work, and a few people — who may not labor at all — will benefit from that work. The few will sit down to a banquet, and the masses will eat whatever is left over.”

“Freedom to many means immediate betterment, as if by magic. Unless I can meet at least some of these aspirations, my support will wane and my head will roll just as surely as the tick-bird follows the rhino.”

“Having come into contact with a civilization which has over-emphasized the freedom of the individual, we are in fact faced with one of the big problems of Africa in the modern world. Our problem is just this: how to get the benefits of European society — benefits that have been brought about by an organization based upon the individual — and yet retain African’s own structure of society in which the individual is a member of a kind of fellowship.”


“Beautiful” African men: Emperor Haille Selassie


As human beings, we have the tendency of judging other people too harshly.  I remember when I was growing up, in my house,, my mother had a wall painting with the inscription ”When I do good, nobody remembers but when I do bad no one forgets.”

I believe that might be the case with this man.

Emperor Haille Selassie

In his last days, in which he was known as ‘His Imperial Majesty the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Haile Selassie I, Elect of God, Emperor of Ethiopia’, he ruled his kingdom as a medieval autocrat and so he left behind the reputation of a tyrant. This reputation seems to have overshadowed his contributions to Africa and so many people forget or simply do not know the role he played in building African Unity and fostering the development of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union.

 Here are a few remarkable things that this man did, that I want the world to know about:

  • He abolished slavery- which is why to date Ethiopia is one of the countries with a population of different skin tones but the least record of racism among the different colours

  •  He defended his country against Ethiopian occupation under Mussolini and today Ethiopia remains the only country in Africa whose history does not record a period of colonial rule

  • His address to the League of Nations in June 1936 after Italy attacked Ethiopia became the first challenge to the principle of the “Equality of Nations” in the United nations and today we all are bitter about the UN having some nations which are more equal than others.

  • He initiated the very first meeting of the Organization of African Unity in 1963

  • He united the two factions of African Unity that had emerged in the form of the Casablanca group calling for immediate unity of Africa(Ghana, Guinea, Mali , Egypt, the Transitional Government of Algeria, and Morocco) and the Monrovia  group calling for gradual unity (Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Togo and others)

  • He led the process of devising the charter for the 38- nation bloc no wonder the AU headquarters are in Addis Ababa.

  • He pushed for the setting up of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and  no wonder its headquarters are in Addis Ababa

  • He advocated civil disobedience when it was necessary to remedy fundamental social injustice or restore freedom to the oppressed

  • He was the first elected President of the OAU

Here are a few wise words that came out of the wise mind of this wise man.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.”

“To win the War, to overcome the enemy upon the fields cannot alone ensure the Victory in Peace. The cause of War must be removed. Each Nation’s rights must be secure from violation. Above all, from the human mind must be erased all thoughts of War as a solution. Then and then only will War cease.”

“Leadership does not mean domination. The world is always well supplied with people who wish to rule and dominate others.”

“The true leader is a different sort; he seeks effective activity which has a truly beneficent purpose. He inspires others to follow in his wake, and holding aloft the torch of wisdom, leads the way for society to realize its genuinely great aspirations”

“What we seek is a new and a different way of life. We search for a way of life in which all men will be treated as responsible human beings, able to participate fully in the political affairs of their government; a way of life in which ignorance and poverty, if not abolished, are at least the exception and are actively combated; a way of life in which the blessings and benefits of the modern world can be enjoyed by all without the total sacrifice of all that was good”

I am one of the people who is perplexed by the absence of the Emperor at the AU headquarters and as much as I admire the contributions that Kwame Nkrumah made to the formation of the AU, I do believe this man right here deserves equal honour.

I have often wondered where he got his good looks, and why Ethiopians are so beautiful but now that I know they are the descendants of the union between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, I know why!


51st CEDAW Session: Part 1


A less jittery me, an hour before I was set to make my presentation

Monday the 20th of February it was. I would think the exact time was 1525 hrs, Geneva time. The Session had begun at 1500hrs. I was the 7th speaker among 8 designated speakers; 3 from Algeria, 2 from Jordan and 3 from Zimbabwe. Each speaker was given 3 minutes to say all they had to say.

What would I say in 3 minutes? What was the most crucial message for me to get across to the Committee members? What if I ran out of time before I said it all? What if my words failed me?

My delivery was obviously on the issue that is dear to me; the physical, mental and finacial integrity of women and the one thing that I was fighting in that Committee Room in the Palais des Nationes on that cold Monday afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland was violence against women. The government delegation of more than 18 people was listening attentively.  All 23 members, except for one of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women were listening to hear what Miss Rumbidzai Dube from the Research and Advocacy Unit from Zimbabwe had to say to them.

Was I nervous, of course! This was not a moot court competition. This was the real deal. A deal breaker. Women in Zimbabwe depended on me to make the Committee know how much they suffered at the hands of violence. They needed me to be brave to respond boldly to the questions of the Committee when they asked me who were the perpetrators of political violence. I had to name the Police in the presence of a top police official. I had to say political parties in the presence of all representatives of the political parties. I had to say the military  and war veterans in the presence of the  Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Switzerland. Yes I had to say it. The women I was representing needed me to tell the Committee what they want, what they have always said they want to address violence:

  • Prosecution of offenders
  • Psycho-social support
  • Trauma Counselling
  • Compensation
  • The truth of what happened
  • Public and sincere apologies

So, I did as the women asked as best I could in the 3 minutes I was given and this is what I had to say…

51st Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

 ZIMBABWE NGO Statement and Delegation

 The following text will not be read out:

 The Zimbabwe Civil Society Delegation wishes to present the NGO Report which has been endorsed by 27 CSO organisations and is the result of wide consultations in Zimbabwe.

 Presented by:

Zimbabwe Civil Society Report

Emilia Muchawa, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association

Rumbidzai Dube, Research and Advocacy Unit…

 Rumbidzai Dube

 Violence against women

a) Madame Chair, we acknowledge the positive development of the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act which has provided a framework for addressing violence in the private sphere.

 However insufficient resources to ensure the effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act have been provided. In particular the state has not allocated adequate resources to the effective function of the Domestic Violence Council or for public education and awareness raising. There are only 4 formal shelters in the whole of Zimbabwe to cater for the thousands of victims that seek refuge each year.

 We recommend that:

  • The state allocate adequate resources to the national gender machinery and the Anti-domestic violence council for the effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act
  • Further that the state builds adequate shelters to give women a refuge  and safe space when subjected to domestic violence

 b) We also note that violence in the public sphere has been on the increase especially in times of elections. Politically motivated violence plagues Zimbabwean women.  In 2008 alone, civil society organisations documented the use of an organised campaign of violence against women in the period towards the Presidential rerun which violence resulted in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission deeming the election not free and fair.

 Women human rights defenders are persistently targeted, arrested, detained, tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment. In 2012 alone 27 women from the activist organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested for demonstrating peacefully.

 The state has not adequately protected women from sexual violence including politically motivated rape, and targeted rape against sex workers and LBT women. This has also led to increased HIV/AIDS infections where women comprise 56% of people living with HIV/AIDS as these women are forced to have unprotected sex. Social and cultural norms limiting women’s control over their sexual and reproductive rights including negotiation of safe sex, also increases women’s risk of exposure.

 The state has acknowledged the severity of the problem of politically motivated violence by setting up an Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration and the 3 Principals in the Inclusive Government have also acknowledged this.

 However cases of politically motivated violence remain largely uninvestigated and unprosecuted leading to a culture of impunity which feeds the cycle of violence. Existing institutions such as the Organ on National Healing, the Joint Monitoring Committee (JOMIC), and the Human Rights Commission which has a prescriptive mandate are not adequately capacitated to effectively address this form of violence.

 We recommend that:

  • The state should prioritise the sensitisation of bodies such as the police, the courts and other key bodies facilitating the protection and access to justice of women victims of politically motivated violence with a view to ending impunity in line with UN Resolution 1820 as part of a comprehensive approach to seek sustainable peace, justice, truth and national reconciliation;
  • The state should set up a multi-sectoral investigation into politically motivated violence led by the Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with the Ministries of Home Affairs and Justice and other stakeholders before the next elections to ensure that politically motivated violence does not recur
  • The state should not only condemn but also hold accountable those responsible for the perpetration of politically motivated violence.

    Minister of Women Affairs, Honourable Olivia Muchena and Minister in the Organ on National Healing, Honourable Sekai Holland at the 51st Cedaw Session


Libya: ‘Rats’ & ‘Dogs’ defeated humans?


As the Libyan rebels gain ground towards Tripoli every news station is talking about an end to the grip on power that Gaddafi has had over Libya for 42 years. And just some hours ago the Colonel lost a grip on himself and in an outburst called the rebels ‘dogs’ and ‘rats.’ This got me wondering who are the real rats and dogs in this equation. The unarmed civilian protestors who, inspired by their counterparts in the region, peacefully assembled asking for ‘democratic reforms’ and in return received warplanes, warships, tanks, artillery, and live fire from their government? The rebels who, provoked by a rigid government that was not willing to negotiate took up arms and welcomed assistance from NATO forces to resolve their ‘Libyan’ crisis? The leaders and nations behind the NATO forces who ‘could’ be driven by nothing more than political and economic expediency? A leader and his government on the verge of total collapse who for 42 years systematically eroded all freedoms of the media, speech, assembly and association;  who tortured all opposition, disappeared many and killed scores more? A leader who launched a war against his own people and killed more than 6,000 lives in just 6 months?

Surely without NATO intervention we would have seen one of the following outcomes in Libya:

1.      Disintegration into a perpetual civil war

Highly likely! When two or more warring sides are driven the battle will go on until one side has no more people or resources to fight. Another DRC – another Somalia – a protracted war, with a government that holds power in some regions of the country while others are controlled by rebels. Lawlessness and ultimately a debilitation into a perpetual state of insecurity is what we would have seen.

2.      Defeat for the rebels-brutal punishment from the restored leader

With no NATO to stretch the Gaddafi resources both human and military, the rebels would have faced the full wrath of the Gaddafi forces. Eventually they would have run out of arms, if no (more) covert supplies were given to them. Gaddafi would have regained his control over Beghazi. This would in all likelihood signify severe bloodshed as the wounded leader wiped out every single trace of an attempted mutiny. Libya would have given historians yet another ‘Reign of Terror’ to document. Very likely! No wonder NATO did not leave it to chance for this outcome to come to pass.

3.      Defeat for the rebels-mercy from a benevolent leader

The rebels would have run out of ammunition. Gaddafi would have crashed the protests and resumed his post at the helm of Libya as President. He would then have reflected on the cause of  the protests, instigated reforms, promised to step down, arrange for the holding of free and fair elections and we would never heard of him in a bad light anymore. Really? More of a pipe dream and delusional wishful thinking, I would say, given the man’s history.

4.      Impasse-Negotiated solution

Maybe the two sides would have fought until they were tired of it then sought a negotiated solution whereupon they would  enter into a power sharing government and live happily ever after the way Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki in Kenya or Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai have been doing in Zimbabwe. To borrow one my friends’ expression this would have been ‘[absolute] nonsense upon stilts.’

Picture credit: African Cultural Renaissance Artists

What we have now is a post-NATO-intervention Libya. NATO efforts were ‘allegedly’ focused on  ‘ the protection of civilians.’ To what extent this is true history shall reveal in due course as it has always done. But what other alternative was there really? Would it have been better for NATO to stand on the sidelines while Gaddafi, the butcher prepared a barbeque out of his own people’s flesh? Would the intervention have been more legitimate had it been by the African Union? Was the African Union ever going to stop the killings?

Fears remain that factions within the rebel groups could disintegrate into inter-rebel fights for political control. More fears are  that pro-Gaddafi fighters will continue to pose a security threat to Libya launching incursions, possibly ‘terroristic attacks’ and haunt Libya even after Gaddafi is gone. Worse still as I write, Gaddafi himself is nowhere to be found. God forbid that he be on his way to Zimbabwe to join his long term friends Bob and Mengistu. I am convinced the four scenarios I posed above would never have been better options and if the rebels do not rapidly assert control a protracted war could still be a possibility. Should the new authorities also fail to assert control over their resources then history shall reveal the real rats and dogs.


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