A License to Kill Juxtaposed Against the Arab Awakening/Spring
During my attendance of the recent Easter Sunday festivities, I wondered why my fellow Africans were so callous and heartless with African lives. My being was still traumatized by the recent mass murders in Nigeria and a tragic family situation that occurred a decade ago. I was in an Easter Sunday family dinner in the Washington DC metro area were Senegalese and Gambian Muslims had congregated with Nigerians, Ivoirians, and Sierra Leoneans Christians and Traditionalist to break bread with their fellow black Africans irrespective of their religions. Moreover before we completed the referenced feast and actually got to “Item 7” (which is the infamous time for eating in Nigerian program of events), I had to attend the tenth year remembrance of my brother in-law, a young black Sierra Leonean with Islamic beliefs. Mr. Alhaji Yusuf Conteh was murdered on the streets of Landover in Prince Georges County, Maryland, United Stated in April 2001. The paradox of Princes Georges County is that it is the wealthiest African American county in the United States and has notoriety for pockets of high black on black crimes. Mr. Conteh was killed by fellow blacks less than six months after he came to America. He had survived untold horrors in then war-torn Sierra Leone and emerged as a refugee in Guinea. My speculations are that he was slayed because he was (African, had an African accent, dresses differently etc.) different.
However, as I crisscrossed both gatherings with my children who can be classified as Nigerians, Sierra Leoneans, Americans, and African Americans, I contemplated why my people are so heartless with African humanity. Why are we so filled with pain, animosity, vengeance, selfishness, misinformation, and hate, which are manifested in our ability to take each others lives with impunity and lack of regard? I wondered why despite our sycophantic pronouncements of solidarity and love for each other we tend to get to our demise faster through the doings and workings of each other. My heart raced to the victims of the just concluded national elections in the United Nations of Nigeria. I marveled at why northern Nigerians with Islamic roots are quick to murder and maim their fellow countrywomen and countrymen in the guise of religion? I puzzled about the contradictions of declaring God's omnipresence while assuming the punitive role of enforcers for the Almighty. The Koran says that it is man's responsibility to deliver the message and the Bible says judgment is mine says the Lord.
Notwithstanding, we have governments, rulers, and people in the African continent and the Middle East who are quick to cloth themselves in religion while perpetrating and enforcing brutality on others. Groups like Boko Haram in northern Nigeria are keen to point out the shortcomings of western education whilst importing the primordial elements of Arabic, Persian, and Asian cultures to our shores. These embrace of horrendous pseudo-spiritual colonial subjugation is a mirage that does not address any of the key issues that bemoan the Nigerian and African streets. The pervasive impunity of our elites, the corruptions of the government are not because of the lack of religious dogmas, instead they are functions of a system where religion is politics and is used to hoodwink a traumatized and vulnerable public. The likes of Boko Haram act as though they are oblivious to the ongoing situations in the Arab and Northern African streets.
But this hypocrisy is not confined to organizations; they are very prevalent within nation states. We have governments and people in the Middle East and Africa who are quick to cloth themselves in religion while enforcing brutality on others. In Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and Iran citizens and residents are treated like non-humans because of their desires for human rights, decency, economic emancipation, and true peoples' democracy. The same governments that is eager to point fingers at the United States for supporting the apartheid regime in Israel, have no hesitations in enthroning carnages on their societies. As a clinician, I thought about the heights of psychosis and neurotic schemes it takes to maintain such cunning ingenuities. I harkened unto the Niger Delta adage which states that- birds flew from a market place to complain that people were making noises and causing commotion in the market square, however when further investigations were conducted it was revealed that the people causing the nuisance and the birds were one and the same.
Thus, is has become radiantly illuminating and is becoming clearer that the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and the Shiites in Iran are comfortable with the status quo which disenfranchises large segments of their populations. Both sides are united in maintaining the monstrosity of their authoritarian and Unitarian governmental structures. These oppressors are quick to label and stereotype the demonstrators for true peoples' democracy as agitators, foreign influenced and unpatriotic elements. One recalls that the great Madiba Nelson Mandela of South Africa was branded as an agitator among other things by the Pretoria governments. There is reluctance and denial as we face modern challengers to see and/or understand the core human aspiration for self-actualization that is devoid of suppression and dictatorship.
Though it is tempting for some in the West to invoke banal interpretations of the situations in northern Nigeria, Africa, and the Middle East, there needs to be objective deductions of the “compoundness” of these problems. For example in the United States the much acclaimed Freedom Riders of the 1960's were presented with similar terrors that have been manifested in Africa and the Middle East. The young people, who we are still celebrating after 50years, wanted to change the country for the better but were subjected to killings, bombings, tortures, imprisonments, and various untold hardships. As they journeyed from Washington DC to the south, some names that they were called include agitators, the n-word, and n-word lovers.
Consequently, as we spoke, joked, and snacked in the metropolitan area in 2011, I sought for more empirical understanding of the license to kill syndrome that seems to be inescapable irrespective of geographical boundaries. Before leaving with my family from the family dinner event, I asked my fellow guests who happened to be Muslims from Senegal, about what they thought of the killings in Nigeria. Their report was that religion has become a scapegoat for pure hatred and other masked issues. I thought of how grave the situation is in the Disunited Nations of Nigeria, that foreign reporters are quick to identify the linguistic differences of the southern and northern Nigeria. In that moment of Easter related get-together, there we were Africans in harmony and peace in faraway United States of America. My heart went out to my in-law Alhaji who died too soon, the victims of the carnage in northern Nigeria especially the young youth corpers that were serving their country by acting as election invigilators, and the masses that have been killed in cold blood by their so-called governments in North Africa and the Middle East.
Nnamdi F. Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist