This is not meant to market the product, but it was quite interesting and, perhaps, fulfilling to watch the famous African-American singer-songwriter, Pharrell Williams unveil a new Adidas training sneakers’ range. Guess what name it is called? It’s called, “Uluntu”, an IsiXhosa word meaning “Community”. The series is described by Adidas as Pharrell’s “exploration of languages from around the world”. This follows a trend that various sneakers follow from the same product named “human race” in Korean.
The Olympics are just around the corner. Congratulations go to all the men and women who qualified to go and represent Africa in the greatest sporting occasion on earth. COVID-19 -19 is here but will not hinder you from showcasing your talents in this multidisciplinary sport spectacle. As Africans, we are used to challenges. Remind yourselves of Jesse Owens, in 1936, who had to run in front a ultra racist and nazi German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, who viewed him as an Aryan not worthy of an atom of respect from him. Remind yourself of John Carlos in 1968 when he raised his fist to signify Black Power at the 1968 Olympics despite the fact that Africans, both at home and in the diaspora, were victims of racial supremacy.
Ruthlessness, Responsibility, Reconciliation, Redress and Rwanda
The world is beset with the worst pandemic possible. If you give it a chance to exist unchallenged and unchecked you are giving it a chance to devour not only you but also those around you, the whole society and future generations. Humankind is at pains because it doesn’t seem like there is a cure in sight. It is not clear where this pandemic originates from, but it continues to devastate humanity.
Some denialists refuse to vaccinate, even though that is the only way best shield right right at the disposal of humanity for its protection and preservation. Half-hearted attempts at dealing with it continue to pre-define the conditions under which future generations will live.
Ladies and gentleman, I am not talking about COVID-19. I am talking about the pandemic of HALF-TRUTHS and LIES.
Germany killed the Nama and Herero people in an attempt to drive them off their motherland to neighbouring pieces of land like the Bechuanaland (today called Botswana), Rhodesia and South Africa. The modern day Germans suggest that they have accepted full accoubtability for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of the Nama and Herero people of Namibia between 1904 and 1908.
In 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan were bombed using Uranium that was extracted from the Belgian colonised Democratic Republic of Congo. Fifteen years later, Belgians still wanted to continue appropriation of this African resource post-independence and they facilitated the murder of the first Prime Minister of the newly-independent Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Patrice Lumumba. The Belgians, with cohorts that included some members of Colonel Joseph-Desire Mobutu’s armed forces and the United States (US) President Dwight Eisenhower’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), dismembered the body of the deceased Lumumba and dissolved it using sulphuric acid to make sure that he had no grave. Cruelty beyond redemption.
Three decades later, 100 days in 1994 the people of Rwanda went through the melancholiest and heart breaking episode in the history of that country. Between 7 April and 15 July 1994, close to a million Rwandans (from the AbaTutsi, AbaHutu and AbaTwa tribal groups in the country) were massacred. This effectively means that an average of close to 100 000 Rwandans were, accordingly, getting murdered daily during this period.
The massacre started a day after the then President of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana, was assassinated while the nation’s armed forces ran amok attacking citizens across the country.
This left the country’s populace with emotional scars that remain visible for everyone to see. Many Rwandans witnessed their families, relatives and others suffering acts of unparalleled brutality as they got exterminated like flies with blunt objects, machetes and guns. The long term negative psychological consequences of these dastardly acts have, indeed, affected the mental health of both the families of those who lost life and limb as well as those who carried out the attacks. The genocide destroyed the social fabric system and replaced it with fear, mistrust and vulnerability.
Despite this horrific past, today Rwanda sits with a situation where genocide survivors (mostly women) and genocidaires live as neighbours as efforts for social cohesion and reconstruction of a country are pursued.
The international community has an appetite to ingest the news of African people being ruthlessly abused and only later join a chorus of condemnation against those exposed.
In one of the previous Editor’s Note celebrating the Africa Month, I proposed that “…wherever there are observers, individual persons tend to abdicate responsibility and ignore a injustice happening right before their eyes. In our majority, we have become hopeless by-standers, consciously or unconsciously, playing a pivotal role in condoning this misbehaviour. We have become more of armchair commentators and analysts than activists… If you see something wrong and you ignore it, you are equally guilty of such crime.”
Therefore, the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide would be justified for turning in their graves if the current generation allowed the obfuscation of facts around their murder.
Yes, the world watched on their tellies in astonishment. News agencies had updates to fill their bulletins. Filmmakers produced expensive blockbuster movies. This did not help to protect the people of Rwanda.
In fact, one of the nastiest members of this gallery was France then led by President Francois Mitterrand. The French directed the actors in the killing of these innocent Africans. Without getting into discussion about competing political forces within Rwanda the truth is that France was complicit to the murders.
An investigation by the Rwandan government revealed that France, before the massacres even started, was aware that a “genocide was being prepared and enabled it”. A French Inquiry panel stated that “a colonial attitude” blinded the Mitterrand government who “armed, advised, trained (and) equipped” the Rwandan government forces that carried out these acts of inhumanity.
Whilst acknowledging the finesse, subtlety and diplomacy that the President of France Emmanuel Macron possesses, I still believe that the torn country of Rwanda demands more. It is good that he acknowledges France’s participation in this tragedy but he has still failed to ask for forgiveness on behalf of his country for the barbaric acts.
Cleaning your hand does neither absolve you of responsibility nor reveal the truth. Though not an authority on the Holy Bible, allow me to sample from this book to drive my point home. It does not return the lives of the Africans that were lost, does not return the limbs that were lost, does not support the sexual abuse of women, does not restore the families that got shattered, and certainly does not return social fabric that a pre-pandemic Rwandan people had. Pontious Pilate ordered the execution of Jesus Christ, washed his hands off, denied responsibility but Christian history stubbornly recognises the crucial role that he played in the saga. So does Africa about France in Rwanda.
Helping Rwanda to re-construct involves telling the truth (not half-truths), telling the story in full (not just acknowledging participation), taking responsibility for your role, asking for forgiveness with the ultimate outcome being reconciliation (forgiveness included), participation in rectification and reparations. President Macron has to do this or his finesse and calculated diplomacy will be no different from the excesses of the Francois Mitterrand-led regime and the many episodes of France-sponsored atrocities against Africa.
The French are failing to meet this humane invitation by the Rwandan people to come clean and help the country to find closure and move on. Henriette Uwase, a 28-year-old from Kigali, was only two years old when her father and two brothers were killed as part of the 1994 Rwandan catastrophy says matter-of-factly:“It would be a very great thing if Macron were to apologise”.
Reconciliation and Redress
Forgiveness is prefaced by the TRUTH. Forgiveness gives rise to Reconciliation. I must emphasise, Jambo Africa Online readers, that the latter must be coupled with reparations because failure to do that leaves the victims, the genocidaires and their handlers unease in each other’s midst despite the peace that would have been achieved.
Belgium, France, Germany and the US were complicit in the creation of the Namibian and Rwandan debacles and they must be held accountable in serving justice and provision of reparations for the clutter that they caused in these countries.
As part of reparations, Belgium, France, Germany and the US must assure the world that they will never, under any circumstances, repeat such acts of barbarism.
Secondly, they must fully participate in efforts aimed at providing psycho-social assistance to the millions that live to suffer the effects consequent of the genocides.
Thirdly, they must provide full full reparations to compensate victims of such slaughters.
What are the Germans putting on the table? They have indicated that they want to compensate Namibia for their misdeeds. With what? Money. The amount shouldn’t be insulting. What are the Belgians doing to recompense the lives lost, the orphans they created and the disintegration of families? They have committed to return the remains Patrice Lumumba. CORRECTION! They are returning a single tooth that belonged to Patrice Lumumba which they kept as a memento. What are the French returning to Rwanda? A public acknowledgement and a state visit are not enough. Is that the value they attribute to Africans?
Fourthly, they must draw inspiration from such institutions as sports teams that have decided to participate in the destination marketing programmes of Namibia and Rwanda in order to boost their economies.
Globalisation in Reverse
In a webinar, hosted by Brandhill Africa, that we attended earlier this week we listened to one of our colleagues, Francois Fouche making a brilliant presentation on the mechanisms of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
Among the numerous observations he made, he reflected that Globalisation was beginning to exist in reverse. Nations, countries, regions and continents are beginning to assert themselves with advanced discussion and initiatives that are re-defining the participation of various countries in the running of their economies.
What does this mean for AfCTFA? We will ask him to pen a full article for one of our editions in the coming weeks.
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