Sunday, 21 February 2010

Africa Cup of Nations vs Vancouver Winter Olympics

Prior to their formal openings, the recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Angola and the current Winter Olympics in Canada were both struck by tragedy. In Angola, three members of the Togolese football team were murdered in a motorway ambush by insurgents in the country’s troubled region of Cabinda. In Canada, a Georgian luge competitor was killed during rehearsals when he crashed unto a pole in the sledding track.

But it was the nature of the response to these tragedies by the events organisers that could not have been more contrasting. The Vancouver Olympic officials initiated a moving flurry of activities expressing sympathy for the Georgian athlete. They telephoned the athlete’s family in Georgia to express their condolences. In a specially convened news conference at the games, a visibly shaken and distraught Jacques Rogge (president of the International Olympics Committee) also personally conveyed his organisation’s sympathies to the athlete’s family as well as to the Georgian people and state. Shortly after, the committee embarked on some restructuring work on the Whistler crash track site to minimise the risks for future contestants.

In Angola, sympathy was in short supply for the Togolese from the Confederation of African Football management. The confederation’s insistence that the Togolese may have avoided their fate if they had travelled to the tournament by air rather than by road overshadowed its already patchy display of commiseration at the time. The Angolan hosts were hardly more reassuring with Prime Minister Paulo Kassoma dismissing the tragedy as an “isolated act” even though some security concerns were raised earlier on the prudence of staging some of the competition’s fixtures in Cabinda. The very traumatised Togolese team of course withdrew from the competitions and returned home. Astonishingly, the callous confederation reacted to the team’s departure by banning Togo from participating in two future Africa Cup ties.

What was demonstrated so vividly in the Angola episode is the agelong diminution of African life by the contemporary Africa state and its varying institutions. Arabs and later Europeans had hewn the template of this degradation during centuries of their enslavement and exportation of African peoples to the Arab World and southern Europe and to the Americas and Europe respectively, and their conquest and occupation of Africa. Instead of smashing this template in the era of the so-called restoration of independence, African regimes have, since January 1956, used it as both launch pad and framework to wreak havoc across Africa. In 1966-1970, the Nigeria state, and its key institutions, organised the worst genocide in Africa since the 19th century when it murdered 3.1 million Igbo people. Since then, 12 million additional Africans have been murdered by African regimes in two other genocidal terrors in Rwanda and Darfur (northwest Sudan) as well as in other sites of the continent’s killing fields of the epoch: south Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Zaïre/Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya.

It is inconceivable that the overarching trajectory of the African renaissance would be anything else but the celebration of the humanity of the African child, woman and man. It is in this context that the Togolese football team and the Togolese peoples require our unqualified sympathies for their loss in Angola. The Confederation of African Football must convey these sympathies, apologise for their earlier complete lack of compassion for the tragedy, and rescind their so-called ban on the Togolese team. The Angolan government desperately needs to honour its responsibilities to protect the visiting Togolese team. It failed disastrously to do so. It should forthwith apologise publicly to Togo and pay reparations to the families of the Togolese who lost their lives and to those players and officials who survived the Cabinda ambush. African life must be treasured.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

No one should ever be scared of freedom

Jean Ping, the chair of the Addis Ababa-based Commission of the Africa Union, recently criticised the likely outcome of next year’s referendum by the people of south Sudan on the restoration of their independence. Ping told a French radio station interviewer that he feared that the Sudan was “sitting on a powder keg” and that a “yes” vote for south Sudanese freedom could have “catastrophic” consequences: “Will the independence of Southern Sudan not lead other players in Darfur and in other places, which are currently not asking for independence, to seek independence as Southern Sudan will have done?”

These are shocking and sad comments made by such a highly placed African public official. It is not certain how much of the Sudan’s recent history, especially the 1956 post-British conquest epoch, that Ping is familiar with. The 2011 referendum that he refers to is in fact a crucial feature of the terms of the 2005 cessation of the north-south Sudanese war that had been waged for 22 years. 1.5-2million Sudanese, overwhelming majority of them southerners, were killed during this war. South Sudan has long resisted its totally subject sociopolitical status, occasioned by the British hand-over of supreme political power to the minority Arab north Sudanese population on the eve of the formal termination of its occupation of the Sudan in January 1956. We mustn’t fail to recall that James Robertson, the outgoing British occupation governor in Khartoum who sealed the infamous Sudan deal, flew southwest to Nigeria, another conglomeration of British-occupied African peoples and states, and crafted and sealed yet another “post-conquest” albatross in Africa in October 1960.

The 2011 referendum is therefore an historic opportunity for Africans in south Sudan to regain their freedom. Africans, elsewhere in the Sudan and indeed anywhere else on the continent, who similarly wish to exercise their freedom to be free from the burden of subjugation, cannot be stopped by any interests and calculations. Freedom is inalienable. No one should fear freedom – and its consequences.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Anambra way forward

The Igbo people of Anambra administrative region must be congratulated for charting the distinguishing pathway to progress. They had a largely peaceful election for the position of governor last Saturday – 6 February. No comparable peaceful poll has been recorded anywhere else in Igboland and Nigeria since 1999. No single individual, elector or candidate, was hurt throughout Anambra’s momentous day; no property, private or public, destroyed, and the electorate reelected the candidate of their choice, incumbent governor Peter Obi. The overwhelming majority of Obi’s fellow contestants have since accepted the result – yet another unprecedented development. All these have occurred despite the depressive sociopolitical realities of the occupation, despite the legendary corruption and incompetence of the Nigeria electoral commission, despite the occupation’s threats to rig in another executive impostor on the people.

The liberatory politics and restoration of sovereignty of the Igbo and by extension African peoples no doubt moved onto a new threshold on 6 February 2010. Surely, the human quest for advancement is unstoppable.