United African Diaspora

Connecting Africa to the Diaspora Worldwide



The New Pan-Africanism: Globalism and the Nation State in Africa


by Cynthia Nakanjako, 19th March 2019

Nationalism, globalisation and Pan-Africanism are leading IR (International Relations) concepts that have a particular relevance for Africa as an emerging economic power.

Dr Michael Amoah is an IR scholar, specialising in African Politics, International Politics of Africa, Foreign Policy, Conflict and Security. He recently launched his new book entitled The New Pan-Africanism: Globalism and the Nation State in Africa at the London school of Economics.  Chaired by Professor E.A. Brett, the event was a resounding success, with guests ranging from academics, researchers and students.

The book examines the concept of nationalism, the nationalist mind-set or ‘psychology of nationalism’ and the role of the nation state in an era of globalism and globalisation. Through in-depth case studies of eight countries (i.e. DRC, South Sudan, Burundi, Libya, Mali, Rwanda, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso) which Michael describes as “in trouble” due to conflict, he  touches on the role of global governance institutions like the UN council but more significantly, he discusses the impact of globalism in African states where Pan-Africanism is an increasingly significant factor in both domestic politics and international relations.

He observes that one key trend in all eight countries is that conflict arose due to heads of state overstaying in power causing resentment amongst the people.

However, he acknowledges that the case of Libya is somewhat different in a sense that yes Gaddafi had been in power for quite some time, but conflict was a result of interference from external Western powers.

The book launch also included a Q&A session and the most asked question of the night was;

“How do we combat the problem of heads of states overstaying in power in Africa?”

Dr. Michael: Currently, the African Union (AU) is the “Presidents’ club” in a sense that at the top we have the Assembly of Heads of State and Government; and underneath that you have the Executive Council (comprising of Foreign Ministers). With this structure, it is very difficult for the AU Commission (aka Secretariat) to rise above the decisions or directions of the Assembly. Essentially the Commission is the secretary and the Assembly the boss – so, secretary must do as the boss says. Africa as a whole needs to have a conversation regarding a structure that tackles issues from the top. For change to take place, Heads of State have to stop thinking as nationalists and start thinking as continentalists. AU should be telling Museveni that you shouldn’t be running for presidency in 2021. We need to establish a super structured body that has power over the Heads of State. This will help towards achieving a United Africa.

Prof. Brett: We need a technocratic system that is independent of AU that overlooks Heads of State because if the AU is led/directed by Heads of state, who guards the guardians?

Other Q&A’s

“What is the significance of Reforms proposed by President Kagame at the recent AU summit?”

Dr. Michael: These are very essential for African Union’s to achieve its long-term objectives. For example, there’s so much conflict across the continent that institutions of global governance are spending so much money just to address peace keeping issues. Moving forward, it’s important for AU to be able to resolve its own problems using its own resources. To achieve this, the Kagame reforms call for the implementation of a 0.2% levy on eligible imports to enable the African Union to finance itself in the long term.

“What is the role of regional bodies in achieving positive change?”

Dr Michael cited the significant role ECOWAS played during Gambia elections and more recently SADC during Democratic Republic of Congo presidential elections in restoring democracy.

“What is the role of external Western influence?”

Dr Michael: In the case of DRC, everyone is protecting their interests. You have Western influences in the background doing everything in their power to make sure they continue extracting their gold and coltan which has fuelled conflict in DRC. In relation to Libya; Nigeria, Gabon and South Africa each voted for NATO’s no-fly zone which basically authorised Western countries to invade Libya resulting in the killing of Libyan’s long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, thus betraying the continent, because they were bought.

All in all, the talk was highly insightful and for someone who spoke with such in-depth knowledge and understanding, I expect nothing less of his book. For any academics researching into the topic of Pan-Africanism or those of you with a genuine interest in the topic, I’d highly recommend this book.

I think it’s important for people both in Africa and the Diaspora, to understand the dynamics of Pan-Africanism and utilise it in the plight towards sustainable development and real independence post-colonialism. Empowerment is not just about physicality – it begins with your mindset. Get your copy today!

The book is available in-store in the UK and online at most familiar retailers (Amazon, eBay):

85 year old Paul Biya wins seventh term as President of Cameroon, marking his 36th year in power

by Catherine Nalule, co-founder of UAD (25th October 2018)

85 year old Cameroonian President, Paul Biya won his seventh term in office last week, marking his 36th year in presidential office. My only question is:

why are so many African leaders so power hungry?

This is not the first time we are seeing African leaders overstay their time in power. 76 year old Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has been President of Equatorial Guinea since 1979. That is 39 years. Almost 4 decades! In Uganda, 74 year old President Yoweri Museveni has marked his 32nd year in office after being in power since 1986.

What are these old men still doing in office?

It was not until last year, that Africa started to see a real fall in from the strongmen of the confinement. In 2017 Yahya Jammeh, former President of The Gambia was finally kicked out after 22 years in power, succeeding to former Argos (a UK catalogue retailer) security guard, Adams Barrow. In the same year, José Eduardo dos Santos stepped down after a whopping 38 years in power. The controversial Robert Mugabe was also pushed out as parliament began impeachment proceedings to strip him of power and open the way for prosecution. He ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years stood as the world’s oldest leader, resigning at the age of 93 years old!

With Biya set to legally rule Cameroon until 2025, it seems he does not intend to step down until he takes his last breath. Described as a somewhat absent President, often taking monthly long trips abroad for “work purposes”, Biya has not done much to help his country in his last few terms of Presidency. In fact, many would report that he has brought more bad than good.

In recent years, it was reported that there has been somewhat of a genocide amongst the Anglophone population in Southern Cameroon which also happen to be Biya’s strongest opposition. There have been recordings and reports of indiscriminate killings, rapes of the people of this side of Cameroon with calls for a succession. It was also noted that although Biya sanctioned this violence, he also led it as most of the killings have been carried out by the Bataillon d’Intervention Rapide (BIR) which report directly to him.

It seems most leaders in Africa go to any length to remain in power. Not long ago were opposition MPs arrested, tortured and kept out of public eye in Uganda as another tactic for Museveni’s power to remain unchallenged.

What is in store for Cameroon is uncertain, but with the regional fighting continuing and no known successor to overtake from the rapidly ageing Biya, the country is at great risk of growing instability.

The truth behind the brutal torture of opposition MPs in Uganda – Bobi Wine’s story


5th September 2018

13th August 2018, Kyadondo East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi (most commonly known as Bobi Wine) was arrested in Arua, following the assassination of his driver Yasin and the supposed stoning of the President’s car by opposition supporters. Bobi Wine’s personal account of what really happened during and after his arrest sheds light on the brutal torture that was inflicted on him by SFC soldiers. It also highlights the fate that awaits anyone who dares to stand in the way of the President’s reign in Uganda.

What reason do we have not to believe such a detailed account of such suffering? What does it mean to be arrested while walking unaided and to appear in court weeks later on crutches? What did the army’s recent statement stating, “we don’t torture like that” mean? So indeed, they do torture – just not “like that.”

Have a read of Bobi Wine’s story below:


“Fellow Ugandans, friends and well-wishers from around the world,

I am sorry, I have taken a bit long to write to you about the trials and tribulations, for which you all stood with me. It’s been tough days, as I recover from the physical and mental trauma I endured. I am overwhelmed by your support and words of encouragement. I cannot repay you in any other way, except sticking to those values which bind all of us together- justice, equality and human dignity.

I will be communicating more in the coming days and where possible send my appreciation to the different individuals and organizations. In this post however, I want to recount what exactly happened to me. I am very grateful to my wife Barbie, and my lawyers who narrated to the world these events, but I also wanted to tell this sad story PERSONALLY. I felt more compelled to speak out after reading the many posts written by President Museveni and other government officials about what happened.

I read the things they were saying while I was in detention, and found them absurd to say the least. I was shocked on how they tried to downplay the atrocities committed by security agencies on innocent citizens.
So let me set the record straight.

It was 13th August and it was the last day of campaigns in the Arua municipality by-election. As always we had a great campaign day. As I left the rally, I was convinced that our candidate Hon. Kassiano Wadri would win the election. So we moved from the rally at about 5:30pm and the people followed us, singing songs of freedom and chanting “People Power – Our Power.” Together with Hon. Kassiano and a few other leaders, we parted with the multitude, bade them farewell and went into Royal hotel where Hon. Wadri was staying.

We watched the 7:00pm news from the hotel lobby as we took tea and took stock of the day’s events. It was of course very exciting to watch that day’s news. The anchor said we were clearly ahead of the other candidates and the television relayed images of the massive rally and procession we had had on that day. Shortly after, I decided to move to Pacific hotel where I was staying so as to rest after the very busy day. It was at that point that I sat in my tundra vehicle, in the co-driver’s seat. The gentleman who was driving the tundra that day is one of our drivers (not Yasin). He moved out of the vehicle to call other team members who were supposed to drive with us. He took a bit long and I moved into my other vehicle (a land cruiser) which was right next to the tundra and whose driver was already seated on the driver’s seat. We immediately set off for Pacific hotel as the tundra drove behind us. I did not even see what happened after or how late Yasin ended up on my seat in the tundra. For clarity, he had been driving another vehicle that day.

I had started taking the stairs to my room when this driver came running to say that Yasin Kawuma had been shot. I could not believe it. I asked him where he was and he told me they were parked outside the hotel. We paced down and I saw with my own eyes, my friend and comrade Yasin, giving way as he bled profusely. I quickly asked a team member to take him to hospital and another to call the police. We had not stepped away from that place when angry looking SFC soldiers came, beating up everyone they could see.

As soon as they saw me, they charged saying “there he is” in Swahili. So many bullets were being fired and everyone scampered to safety. I also ran up into the hotel with a throng of people who had gathered around. Inside the hotel, I entered a random room and locked myself in. It is at that point that my media assistant shared with me Yasin’s picture which I tweeted because the world needed to know what was going on.

I could hear the people outside and in the hotel corridors crying for help. I could also hear the soldiers pulling these helpless people past the room in which I was, saying all sorts of profanities to them while beating them mercilessly.

I stayed in the room for a long time. At some point, I heard soldiers pull some woman out of her room and ask her which room Bobi Wine had entered. The woman wailed saying she didn’t know and what followed were terrible beatings. I could hear her cry and plead for help as she was being dragged down the stairs. Up to now, that is one experience that haunts me; that I could hear a woman cry for help, yet I was so vulnerable and helpless. I could not help her.

I stayed put for some hours, and I could hear the soldiers come every few minutes, bang some doors on my floor or other floors and go away. At different times I would sleep off, but was always rudely awakened by the banging of doors and the impatient boots that paced throughout the hotel for the whole night. In the wee hours of the morning, the soldiers started breaking doors of the different hotel rooms. With rage, they broke doors, and I knew they would soon come to my room. I therefore put my wallet and phone into my socks. I also had with me some money which I had earned from a previous music show. I also put it into the socks.

A few minutes later, a soldier hit my door with an iron bar and after two or three attempts the door fell in. We looked each other in the eye as he summoned his colleagues in Swahili. Another soldier pointed a pistol on my head and ordered me to kneel down. I put my hands up and just before my knees could reach the floor, the soldier who broke into the room used the same iron bar to hit me. He aimed it at my head and I put up my hand in defence so he hit my arm. The second blow came straight to my head on the side of my right eye. He hit me with this iron bar and I fell down. In no minute, all these guys were on me- each one looking for the best place to hurt. I can’t tell how many they were but they were quite a number.

They beat me, punched me, and kicked me with their boots. No part of my body was spared. They hit my eyes, mouth and nose. They hit my elbows and my knees. Those guys are heartless!

As they dragged me out of the room, they continued to hit me from all sides. After some time, I could almost no longer feel the pain. I could only hear what they were doing from a far. My cries and pleas went unheeded. The things they were speaking to me all this while, I cannot reproduce here. Up to now, I cannot understand how these soldiers who I probably had never met before in person could hate me so much.

They wrapped me in a thick piece of cloth and bundled me into a vehicle. Those guys did to me unspeakable things in that vehicle! They pulled my manhood and squeezed my testicles while punching me with objects I didn’t see. They pulled off my shoes and took my wallet, phone and the money I had. As soon as the shoes were off, they started hitting my ankles with pistol butts. I groaned in pain and they ordered me to stop making noise for them. They used something like pliers to pull my ears. Some guy unwrapped me and instead tied the thick cloth around my head. They forced my head below the car seat so as to stop me from shouting. Then they hit my back and continued to hit my genitals with objects. The marks on my back, ankles, elbows, legs and head are still visible. I continued to groan in pain and the last I heard was someone hit me at the back of the head with an object – I think a gun butt or something. That was the last time I knew what was going on.

By the time I became conscious again, I was somewhere in a small room with a small window. My legs were tied together with my hands with very tight cuffs. I was bleeding from the nose and ears. I was in great pain. The cloth they had tied me in was red- soaked in blood. My whole body was swollen. I was shaking uncontrollably.

Two soldiers came in. I can now recall that they were visibly pleased to see that I was still alive. They came close to me. One of them apologized in tears about what had happened. “Bobi, I am sorry but not all of us are like that. Some of us actually like you,” he said. He said that doctors were on their way to treat me. I stayed in the same position and after a few hours, about four soldiers came in and lifted me on a piece of cloth. One of them took a picture of me, (I hope to see that picture some day in my life). As we went out, I read “Arua airfield’ somewhere. I was taken into a waiting military helicopter and taken to a place which I later found out was Gulu 4th Division military barracks. It was at that facility that some military doctors came in and started giving me injections.

At that point I could not even complain as I was not yet fully alert. I was very dizzy and had not eaten or drank anything for many hours. My sight was very weak as well. I spent the night there. Late in the night, I was picked again from this detention facility. With my head covered with a dark cloth that felt like a t-shirt, I was taken to Gulu Police Station where I was forced to sign a written statement by an officer called Francis Olugo in the presence of some other officer who I later learnt is the CID head of Gulu. I can hardly recall what was contained in that statement! I was then returned to Gulu military barracks, put on a metallic bed and handcuffed on it. Very early morning, I was picked from this room and taken to another very secluded and dirty room where I was put on another bed, hand-cuffed again and injected with a drug that immediately sent me into a deep sleep.

The following day I can recall that at some point, Hon. Medard Ssegona and Hon. Asuman Basalirwa came to me. My efforts to rise and speak to them didn’t yield much. The moment they saw me, they could hardly hold tears. I have a faint recollection of what they told me, but their visit was very short.

I was later carried into a hall where I saw soldiers dressed smartly. I would lie if I said I fully appreciated what was going on at that point. I was later told that I was appearing before the General Court Martial!!!

After a short while, I was again carried into a military helicopter.

When it landed, I was put into a vehicle and driven to another place which I later found out was Makindye military barracks.

At Makindye, I was now fully alert and had a drink for the first time after two or three days. I saw doctors come in several times and they gave me all kinds of injections. At some point, I tried to object and these guys would hold my arms from behind and inject me anywhere. If I asked what drug it was, the guy would say something like, “This is diclofenac, can’t you see?” At some point, some guy came in and wanted to stitch my ear which had an open wound. I pleaded with him not to, and he relented. All the while I was spending the day and night with my hands and legs cuffed until a few days later. Thankfully although the scars are still visible, the wound on my ear healed.

It was after some time at Makindye that I was able to see my wife and my brother Eddy Yawe, who came in with some lawyers, some friends and dignitaries from the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). I will never forget the atmosphere in that room- people started crying upon setting eyes on me. At that point, I could not sit, walk or even stand by myself. I was still swollen and spoke with great difficulty due to chest pains. My teeth were shaking and the headache was unbearable. I am thankful that the UHRC made a report which I later read. At least it captured in part, the state in which they found me. As the government agency mandated to fight human rights violations, I am eagerly waiting to see what actions they will take to ensure that no Ugandan is taken through this ever again. Not even President Museveni. I cannot wish what happened to me upon anyone. Not even those soldiers who violated me as if they were beasts. I remember two other things about that visit. Despite the pain I had that day, I remember forcing a smile when they told me that I had been charged with unlawful possession of firearms.

I was told that three guns had been assembled and said to have been found in my room! I could not believe that the state would torture a Ugandan so bad and then frame him with possession of guns! I did not stop thinking about that for all the days I spent at Makindye. How ruthless, how callous, how inhumane could these guys be? It was also on that day that I was told about the alleged stoning of the President’s vehicle.

The other thing I remember is this- I asked my visitors if we had won the Arua election. They told me we had won with a big margin and I thanked God. That strengthened my spirit because I knew that the people were with us, even in the kind of sufferings and indignities we were being subjected to.

I was very sad as I am today, that they murdered my brother Yasin in cold blood and did not allow me to bury him. They told me about my other comrades who were also incarcerated and I kept praying for them. (Of course every visitor had to speak to me in the presence of military personnel.) Although I was very pleased to see all visitors, when I was released, I read the comments which some of the visitors made to the press (particularly government officials). I felt sad that we have a lot of dishonest, cold people who don’t care riding on someone’s tragedy for political capital. I want to believe that we are better than that, dear Ugandans.

Anyway, while at Makindye I was briefed that I was expected in court on 23rd August, about nine days after I was taken there. Some military doctors continued to come in to inject me, wash my wounds and give me pain killers. At night on two occasions, I was put into military vehicles and driven to Kampala Imaging Centre for scans. I could not object or even ask questions. I am worried because one of the machines seemed very dangerous. As soon as I was placed into it and it was switched on, the doctors ran to a safe distance and started seeing me from a small window. It was there that the radiologist told me how one of my kidneys and back had been damaged during the assault. I was however not given any written medical report by the military.

It was clear they wanted me to appear in better shape at the next time of my court appearance and they did everything possible to achieve that. A day or two at Makindye, this guy was candid. He told me it was in my interest to eat well, take in all the medicine and look better by 23rd or else they would not allow the press to see me and I would be remanded again until I was presentable enough! They even forcefully shaved my hair and beards. When I hesitated, this soldier told me, ‘gwe osaaga’ (You are kidding). Two of them held my hands from behind and shaved me by force. At some point, they insisted I must wear a suit for my next appearance before the court martial and asked me to tell my wife to bring me one. I also insisted that I did not have it. At another point I hesitated to allow some eye drops for my right eye which was very red and swollen. I always wanted to know what drugs I was being given. These guys held my arms from behind and one of them literally poured the entire bottle into my eye! Later, the military doctor also provided me with a crutch to aid me in walking. At that point, I was able to stand up, although with difficulty. When you hear all this you may think that all our soldiers are brutal. Far from that, most of them are wonderful people. There are many I interacted with during this ordeal who were extremely professional and sympathetic. It was hard to comprehend how people serving the same force, putting on the same uniform could be very different in appreciation and approach to a citizen of Uganda.

When I was taken back to Gulu on 23rd, I was very happy to see the people who came to court including family members, comrades in the struggle and lawyers. I cannot explain how I felt when the lawyer for the army said that charges of unlawful possession of firearms had been dropped. I did not feel vindicated. I was not excited. I was not moved. I just cannot explain how I felt. I just remembered what these people had done to me and tears came to my eyes. Shortly after, I was rearrested right in front of the courtroom and taken to Gulu prison. At the military prison, I was wearing a red uniform – this time, I was given a yellow one.

Friends, you cannot believe that you can be happy to be in prison but that day I was. I was very happy to leave solitary military confinement and meet up with colleagues who were being held at the Gulu prison. That night I was taken to Lachor hospital in Gulu- other tests and scans were conducted. At that point I was feeling better, especially psychologically since I had reunited with my comrades in the struggle.

Later that night the prison authorities decided to take me into the sickbay as opposed to staying with the other comrades. The other comrades led by Hon. Wadri protested. I could hear them bang the doors of their cell. The following day I was allowed to stay with them. This is when I interacted with the other 32 colleagues who had been arrested in the Arua fracas. Being in the same prison ward with Hon. Gerald Karuhanga, Hon. Paul Mwiru, Hon. Kassiano Wadri, Hon. Mike Mabike, John Mary Sebuufu and many other comrades made it feel like a boarding school. It was not a very happy reunion though. Because of the torture some of our comrades had been permanently injured. I cannot forget the pain which Shaban Atiku was going through. He spent every day and night groaning. The doctors had told him he would never walk again because his back had been permanently broken. Sadly, the world may never know him, but he will never go out of my mind. He would later collapse during a court session at Gulu. When I later met the women who were brutalised, it was very painful to see them and listen to their stories.

Many times we joked about the possibility of being hanged if the regime decided to give us the maximum penalty of the offence we had been charged with! This got many of our comrades silent.

Away from these sad moments, the overall prison leader had a box guitar in the ward and together we sang songs of freedom all night. This was the routine every night until we appeared before the Gulu High Court a few days later, for our bail hearing.

My next communication will be a vote of thanks to the world for the overwhelming support and comradeship. I will also talk about what I think we must do together to continue this struggle for liberty and freedom.

I am glad that authorities finally have bowed to your pressure and #HonZaake has been given bond to travel for urgent specialised treatment and I join the world to demand authorities to #FreeEddyMutwe and other political prisoners. WE SHALL OVERCOME.

1. Please ignore calls from my phone number (0752013306). It was taken from me by soldiers and am told they’re using it to call my friends pretending it is me.

2. Please ignore any communication from other social media accounts and pages under my name apart from this one (with a blue tick) and my verified twitter account (also with a blue tick).

Hon. Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine

Forgotten Refugees of South Sudan

By Catherine Nalule

21st February 2017

Photo by Charles Atiki Lomodong

South Sudan is currently the source of Africa’s largest refugee crisis. Since the beginning of the civil war in 2013, over 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Why has there not been sufficient media coverage of this crisis?

Surely, the circulation of dead black bodies and warfare in Africa, is something the Western media has never failed to perpetuate. So why are so many people unaware of what is happening in South Sudan, and even more so, the severity of it?

Gaining its independence in July 2011, South Sudan is the world’s newest country. Before their succession, Sudan as a whole suffered civil wars lasting decades, most notably; 1955-72 and 1983-2005. With the latter civil war being a continuation of the former, it stands as the longest running civil conflict in history. Caused by political and ethnic tensions; the current civil war in South Sudan is not so different. In 2016, almost 350,000 people fled South Sudan into neighbouring Uganda alone. A total of 200,000 people fled Syria in the same year. Without demeaning one country’s refugee crisis for another, the crisis in Sudan is dire and must not be overlooked. Daily, an estimated 2,500 people from South Sudan are becoming refugees, often with stories of the turmoil. Perhaps by focusing on the more specific causes of the past civil wars in Sudan, we can gain a more profound understanding of the current crisis in South Sudan.


Political Manoeuvres: the War of the Educated

Ethnic tensions have remained the forefront for reasons behind the violence within the Sudanese region. At least for the civilians. However, J.H. Jok et al. write about this wave of realisation among ordinary citizens; that this new form of warfare has “transgressed all the ethical limits on violence.” In short, up until 1991 when the SPLA (Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army – the army of South Sudan) split, the conflict was less aggressively centred around patterns of cattle raiding. However, once SPLA-Nasir formed (the split faction of SPLA), there was an increase of militarisation in South Sudan. This cultivated a rise of military assaults; intentionally killing women, children and the elderly.

The SPLA-Nasir, led by Riek Machar (former Vice President of South Sudan), and SPLA, led by John Garang (former Vice President of Sudan and former President of South Sudan), had been fighting a proxy war. Aside from any ethnic, economic or religious tensions, the fighting that has been ongoing since the outbreak of the second civil war has been politically motivated, by the politicians themselves. Jok writes about former SPLA Dinka soldier who explained how political differences were confined to the educated elites. They struggled for political backing, so by converting Dinka / Nuer conflicts from the above tensions to a political conflict, was in interests of the politicians.

Mixing political differences with economic competition, and emphasis to each group the danger presented by the other is the only way Riek and Garang can get us to fight their wars for them.”

Today, Riek leads the Nuer dominated SPLA/M-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Army / Movement – In Opposition) after being dismissed as Vice President of South Sudan in 2013, following coup allegations by current President Salvar Kiir Myarditt.

As a Dinka, Myarditt’s decision to dismiss key figures of the ruling party, who were mostly Nuer, saw to an imbalance of representation and increase in retaliatory, targeted, ethnic attacks in villages. A repeat of past events, with rival politicians causing those loyal to them to wage war, has resulted in the displacement of over 1.5 million refugees.

Uganda has welcomed almost half a million refugees since the outbreak of violence in 2013. Built in just six months, Uganda boasts the largest single refugee settlement globally, the Bidi Bidi. However, it’s the rapid growth of this camp that depicts the severity of the conflict in South Sudan.


Ethnic Tensions or Ethnic Cleansing?

While the conflict has proven to be driven by political and (later) ethnic tensions, the growing number of refugees indicates that South Sudan may actually be facing a genocide. Displacement is targeted along ethnic lines. This is carried out through killings, abductions, rape, arson on homes and looting. By 2016, almost a quarter of South Sudan’s population had left their homes. A third of the country’s teachers have fled.

For a country that was only established six years ago, its crisis appears almost irrevocable. A lot more media attention is required to raise awareness of the region. While countries like Uganda are acting in accordance with their humanitarian duties, they don’t have the resources and capabilities to continue such an intake in the near future. The Bidi Bidi camp is now full, and another camp is already under construction in order to meet the pressing inflow of more refugees.

With neither international interest, nor adequate media coverage, one can go as far as to say that the brutality in South Sudan is being interpreted as permissible. The current feud between the political government and the armed opposition requires intervention from the international community. It has become unresolvable domestically. An entire race’s existence is at stake. Urgent help is needed as the number of refugees and deaths continues to multiply daily.

What is really going on in Ethiopia? 

By Catherine Nalule

4th November 2016

Photo by Buda Mendes (2016)
When it comes to crossing the finish line in Olympic Games, many competitors have their unique celebratory gestures; from Usain Bolt’s lightning pose to Mo Farah’s “M” sign.

However, Ethiopian Olympic medallist, Feyisa Lilesa’s gesture, was far from celebratory. In Ethiopia, having your arms crossed above your head is a sign of suffering under the government and its institutions. It is traditionally used by Ethiopia’s Oromo people who have suffered from police brutality. Lilesa took it upon himself to finish the race by forming this anti-government gesture to stand in solidarity with his fellow Oromo tribespeople. A gesture which potentially put both his life and career at risk.

The Oromo people make up a third of Ethiopia’s population as the largest ethnic group in the country. Despite this, they have felt marginalized and underrepresented. Their largest and legal political party Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), currently holds no seats in Parliament. Many have felt that their human and constitutional rights have been and continue to be infringed upon. This has resulted in protesting and unrest throughout the country since April 2014. The initial trigger for these protests was the proposal for the expansion of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromo territory. Although this proposal has since been dropped after an unforgivable death toll of approximately 150 people, there has been a continuation of protests from the Oromo people as well as Amhara. This therefore highlights an underlying sentiment of marginalisation. The Amhara are the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and have joined in protest against the ruling Tigrayans; for greater autonomy and ownership of their own land. The Tigrayans, one of the smaller ethnic groups in Ethiopia, make up just over 6% of the population but hold the most power.

A few responses from people on social media living in Ethiopia, on the current political state of the country:

“We are under occupation for 25 years by the tgrien [Tigrayan] elite mafia government. We live 25 years under state of dictator so there is no new thing happen. We need freedom.”

“We the Oromo people had enough of what’s going on in Ethiopia and so are others ethnic groups. The Ethiopian government all they care about is money and giving / selling away the Oromo lands to the foreigners. The government thinks that by shutting down the internet in Ethiopia and burning people alive while they’re in jail for a crime they never committed just because they’re Oromo, doesn’t mean that we will step down! Enough is enough, we the Oromo people want freedom and our land!”

“They [the government] are accusing Egypt and Eritrea, when they know they don’t give freedom to their people politically and economically. This government is fully corrupted.”

The death toll has since risen to over 500 people and having almost 60% of the country’s population in protest; Ethiopia has thus declared itself to be in a state of emergency – its first in 25 years. Recent events have seen the government act overwhelmingly brutal against what they deemed to be anti-peace demonstrations and have even accused the protesters of acting together with terrorist groups. Are the government’s actions just a tactic to curtail their dissenters? Are the historical scars of the Oromo people, fuelling their current frustrations to go beyond peaceful protesting?

Ethiopia’s current political dynamic is uncertain. While the central government remains a close ally to the West and has total control over its security and intelligence, its social capital continues to deteriorate. The future of the state’s stability lies in the hands of ethnic disparities and provocations. Although not as economically and politically strong as the Tigrayans, the population size along with the determination of the Amhara and Oromo cannot be overlooked. The government’s authoritarian and ethnic minority style dictatorship appears to retain its legitimacy through rather illegitimate means.

Cartoon by Alex Tefera (Alemayehu Tefera)

Titled “Democrazy” with a z instead a c, the above cartoonist depicts how voters are forced to vote for the current government by literally placing their political freedom into corrupt pockets. The writing in the cartoon is Amharic for “ballot box”. It is represented by a pair of shorts, similar to the ones worn by members of the current government when they fought against the previous regime.

Oftentimes authoritarian regimes tend to present themselves as a democracy by simply holding elections. However, in the case of Ethiopia, these elections are heavily restrictive and recently excluded international observers from Western countries in 2015. This is not to say that Western observation necessarily equates to a fair election – they are after all in alliance with the central government. What must be flagged however, is the landslide victory for the ruling party (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), who attained 100% of the parliamentary seats. EPRDF is dominated by Tigrayans, who hold the most important government posts. Choosing people to manage key institutions based on ethnicity and loyalty to the Tigrayans elites, has seen to an emergence of a patron-client system. This is what is perpetuating the current protests.

Ethiopian writer and blogger, Befekadu Hailu, deems the treatment of the Oromo and Amhara people to be evidently unfair; with the ethnicization of Ethiopia’s politics showing clear underrepresentation of the larger population.

“We never had political freedom in our history. In this regime, however we have a constitution that guarantees the basic political rights, it is not respected by the government. There are hundreds of political party members, journalists and activists jailed in notorious prisons of the country. I perceive that the government is not viewed as legitimately assigned to office by the majority. Despite the occurrence of violence and protesting, the government will take any measure to elongate its stay in power for unlimited number of years. The ‘State of Emergency’ is important for the group in government; it helps silence protesters but does not actually bring peace. It was a necessity for the government’s short sighted control of power, but dangerous for the long term stability and peace of the country, as well as the region.”

When asked about the severity of the restriction on people’s freedom of speech and expression, Hailu gave a personal account:

“As an author, I was jailed from April 2014 to October 2015 for writing. I was charged with my colleagues who were blogging for ‘Zone 9 Bloggers Collective’, as well as another three journalists. Every time I write on something political, I must censor myself. What happened to my colleagues and I before, during and after our arrest is evidence enough of the restriction of people’s freedom of speech. What had begun as blogging in enthusiasm to influence the government with our opinions, landed us in jail. Although we were able to challenge the charges in court and be freed; we lost our jobs, banned from travelling abroad and now live a life of fear that we may be arrested again.”

What may appear to be a democracy in Ethiopia, is gradually emerging to be a brutal authoritarian regime; with censorship, civilian control and death toll increasing.

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