2015 is here. Happy New Year. The year is kicking off with issues that I consider “fundamental” for African development. The first is human rights, the second is governance and the third is elections. I am still reflecting, thinking out loud.
Depending on where one is coming from, the #CharlieHebdo debate is rife. Some are taking it from the religious angle: analyzing the tendency for violent individuals to hide behind a religion. Some are looking at it from the “anti” perspective: seeking to see who is for, pitching those who are for against those who are against. Whichever way one looks at it, that over 2 million took part in the #ParisMarch and that more millions gathered across the world around #JeSuisCharlie” is a fact. Millions standing up for freedom of expression.
The Charlie question for me, is still a question of rights. What rights do people have? Which ones do we want to respect and uphold? Do media have the right to provocation? If yes, does that hold sway in Africa? If no, how do you prosecute/chastise media that provokes? I was not the only one wondering (the reaction is actually stronger than the word) why so many African Presidents and governments were quick to become Charlie. Presidents who jail journalists and bloggers for ”insults”. Governments that cannot even tolerate “Freedom of Information” bills in their own countries. Countries where “The President is sick” earns a journalist a prison term. How can an Africa that stifles free speech be Charlie? How can Africa where certain states/governments have declared themselves by religions be Charlie? How can Africa where the African Union has voted to give immunity to all seating presidents, with Robert Mugabe at its Chair, be Charlie?
I read three very important books in 2014. I will recommend these to you. I started with Chimamanda Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”, then Chinua Achebe’s “There was a Country” , and Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”. Adichie’s book tells the story of the Nigerian civil war. Achebe’s book tells the story of Nigeria before, during and after the Nigerian civil war. Mandela’s in his autobiography, tells the story of his fight against apartheid. One development issue runs across these trio: governance. These recount the greed for power of our leaders, their fear of loss of power, and all the evil that is unleashed so that a group can maintain another in an oppressive grip in order to keep power. The other thing that runs across these narrative is the madness with which those in power crack down on any attempts to challenge the status-quo. Anyone trying to ask questions, call for reasoning or request for more transparency is vigorously shut up. How long are we going to keep quiet over this? How can we call for freedom of expression for journalists in France, those who are not afraid to expose their leaders, and in Africa we behave as if “let the sleeping dog lie” is the best attitude.
CEO: Chief Electoral Officer
Elections times are the times for much talk and incursions into the evaluation of governance. Zambia’s one is done and dusted. President Edgar Lungu has taken office. Nigeria will enter the game on Valentine’s Day, to be followed by others. There are also those who are getting ready… constitutionally ready. Burkina Faso’s ousting of I-will-die-in-Power ex-President, Blaise Compaoré sent ripples that are still being felt in 2015. This is a call, therefore, to all African CEOs to RSVP: Register, Vote, Safeguard and Protect the electoral process. The CEOs are not the electoral officers, but the voters. Ultimately, the power lies in your vote. If you sell your vote, a part of your future is gone with it. If you vote on sectarian (ethnic, regional, religious affiliation) bases, in the stead of competence and merit, you are establishing/reinforcing mediocrity. If you refuse to sanction corruption and bad governance, you are rewarding them.
The time is here to stand up for the right: for human rights, for transparency, and for good governance. The 2015 coin has two side: standing up for what is right, and standing up against what is wrong!
The Long Walk… continues