Why are African leaders silent on the brutal treatment of ordinary Africans while they loudly condemn brutality elsewhere, asks New African correspondent Moky Makura.
During our weekly Zoom catch-up call, a young colleague of mine based in Kampala told me how he would be spending his weekend. Like many Ugandans, he is planning on staying locked indoors with his family, waiting for sanity to prevail and calm to return to the streets of Kampala.
His weekend plans were influenced by fear, caused by the killing of at least 37 Ugandans caught protesting against the arrest of the musician and activist, Bobi Wine. The 38-year-old opposition leader is a strong contender for President in the country’s January 2021 elections. Uganda’s Security Minister Elly Tumwine has been quoted in media interviews as saying, “Police have a right to shoot you and kill you…”
My colleague has told me that he won’t be voting in the elections.
In a continent of 54 countries, many of which are at peace, there is worrying evidence of a disturbing trend of Africans being killed, brutalised or disregarded in plain sight while Africa’s leaders – and the rest of the world – watch in silence.
The result is that young people who make up the bulk of the population in Africa – like my colleague in Uganda – are being sent a powerful message; stay home, stay quiet – because your life doesn’t matter.
The #EndSARS movement against police brutality in Nigeria, which resulted in the massacre of at least 12 young protesters by the police, reinforced this message.
So did the shooting of ordinary citizens in Angola, protesting against the high cost of living in Luanda, said to be one of the most expensive cities in the world.
And as with much of the violence on the continent, elections and their aftermath have confirmed that exercising your democratic rights may very well get you killed.
The post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire, where President Alassane Ouattara was voted in for a third term, has seen dozens of Ivorians killed and thousands more flee to Liberia, Ghana and Togo.
Presidential elections in Tanzania, Burundi, and Guinea were also followed by violent clashes and allegations of the abuse of citizens by officials in power.
Writing history in blood of citizens
But it’s not just protests and elections killing Africans. The Nobel Peace Prize winning Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed is at war with part of his own country. Hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed with more than 40,000 displaced as conflict rages between the state army and regional forces of the people of Tigray.
In Mozambique, more than 50 people were beheaded in the province of Cabo Delgado in the north of the country by a group affiliated with Isis. Attacks in the region have been ongoing since 2017 and more than 2,000 people have reportedly been killed and 390,000 people displaced as a result of this ‘low-level insurgency’.
Although many of these stories have been widely reported, few of our African leaders have publicly condemned the loss and abuse of life, perpetrated largely by those who are supposed to protect us.
Where are the African voices of condemnation and indignation that prove that the lives of Ugandans, Nigerians, Angolans, Ivorians, Tanzanians, Burundians and Guineans matter? These countries are choosing to write their history with the blood of their citizens, and our leaders appear to be looking the other way.
The African Union, whose goal it is to propel the continent towards peace and prosperity, may be failing in its duty. Ironically, it declared 2020 the ‘Year of Silencing the Guns’ around Africa – a campaign aimed at creating an Africa free from wars, conflict, human rights violations, humanitarian crises and genocide. It seems the AU has conveniently forgotten or chosen to ignore violations of its own mission.
In May this year, the AU didn’t ignore the human rights violation of an American citizen when they issued a statement condemning the killing of George Floyd at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. In that statement which received global attention, it asked America to “ensure the total elimination of all forms of discrimination based on race or ethnic origin.”
How is one American life worth a statement, whilst thousands of African lives don’t warrant a mention? Don’t African lives matter?
How much longer do we stay in our houses with the doors locked, for fear that asking for change could be a death sentence? It’s time to act. #Africanlivesmatter
Moky Makura is the Executive Director at www.AfricaNoFilter.org