Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Part In All This

This past few months, beginning with the latter stages of the previous year, has seen the continent in a turmoil not quite seen before. In November last year, after the election in Cote D’Ivoire came to an inconclusive end, with the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refusing to concede defeat to the man Alhassan Ouattara, who the international community mostly agree was the winner of the election, it had been generally thought and felt that with overwhelming support for the opposition leader it was only a matter of time before Mr. Gbagbo stood down and relinquished power. Five months on and he’s still holding on to power and much worse than that the country is heading towards what looks like a second civil war in a decade.

And then came the new year, 2011, the whole world was caught unawares with ousting of the Tunisian president, brought on by days of demonstration on the streets of the Tunisian capital, Tunis. As shocking and as quick a revolution as that was, it was only the beginning of a wave of unprecedented happenings that was about to sweep the entire region, with the biggest one taking place in Egypt. Now as mature as I’d like to think I am, I’ve only known one Egyptian leader and witnessed him in action, even if only on TV, and that was Mubarak. But he was to follow the trend of the Tunisian leader in an astonishing way.

Unlike Tunisia, Egypt was, is at the forefront of world affairs, playing major roles in the region, including the Israel-Palestine conflict, and well-acclaimed in the halls of the international community, Mubarak the man at helm of all this. So it was forgivable to think that the protests, populate by young people rocking the country was able to be resolved with a few concessions from the government and Mubarak staying on in power, what with the world, especially the US, caught in a dilemma as to whether to allow their trusted ally ejected and possibly replaced by an Islamic even if moderate one, or appear to be unsupportive of the will of the people. In the end however, the protesters did get what they want and the international community appeared to side with them.

And then there was Libya. Colonel Gaddafi has been in power for four decades, haven claimed power at the rather young age of 27. Far, far longer than I’ve been alive. And yet it seems I’ve known him for negative things, at least that which I’ve read and heard. Perceiving himself to be cast in the mould of Kwame Nkrumah, with the unity of this continent at the forefront of his desire, he was, until quite recently that is, viewed by the West as a psychotic, egotistic terrorist/dictator.

Well one thing is clear, as the “rebels” are finding out, Mr. Gaddafi will sink the country of Libya before he relinquishes power, and he’s made that clear and still doing so; churning out a strong, disproportionate response to the protesters turned “rebels”, leaving scores of innocent civilians dead, the international community all the while dilly-dallying on the issue.

In all the above-mentioned cases one thing is clear; young people are at the forefront of all this. In all of the cases mentioned, old people have relied on the strength and vitality of youth in the pursuit of whatever purpose, much more so in the Cote D’Ivoire case. Sitting before the TV each night to watch the news it bleeds my heart to see our young people in the neighbouring country being used as tools to hold on to or gain power by so-called leaders, “old and wise”. It bleeds my heart because unlike their fellows in Egypt and Tunisia, who stood up and demanded what was rightfully theirs, devoid of any political or religious ambition, this young people in Cote D’Ivoire wielding sticks and knives on the streets of Abidjan, are doing so only for the sustenance of a man who refuses to relinquish power after ten years of wielding it, and for another who hopes to step in.

It is not to the fulfilment of a broader socially acceptable goal that they allow themselves to be manipulated. Because it seems to me that beneficiaries of power come the end, would be whatever man is in power and his immediate family, whilst women and children and your everyday man with no passport become the sufferers should a civil war erupt. And yet continuously on this our continent and in some other part of the world, young people allow themselves to be brainwashed and used in ways that in the end bring nothing but hurt to the people in the society who cannot help but stay and suffer it.

To end, the main conclusion is this, young people can be an unstoppable force for good when their in control of their senses and will, but a scary prospect for anyone when they allow themselves to be manipulated by selfish leaders. Seeing that this a year for quite a number of elections on the continent, young people should be aware of what actions they take should something go wrong, and be aware of the wiles of these so-called leaders to manipulate them for personal ambition and gain. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women’s Day

My mother celebrated her 52nd birthday yesterday, which was a day after Ghana turned 54, a fact she likes to go on about. A few of the family gathered to celebrate what we all tacitly understood and felt was among the most important of days for us. Now I like celebrating women’s day and mother’s day and all other days that celebrate women, because it serves as a reminder for me to show the women in my life how appreciative I am of them; and although I may not always say it or show it, I believe every one of them knows how much and how well they’re loved. And so today being women’s day, I gladly stand up to all women around the world and say “Thank You”.

I say “thank you” to women, because it seems to me that it is not said to them enough. Whether by the men who hold them by their sides and acknowledge them as wives, or the sons who’ve grown up under the strong arm of mothers to become leaders in positions of authority, or most of all by the society in which these women quietly under its radar run its affairs with their big hearts and effective hands. Whatever appreciation there is, it is certainly not at a level that can be surmised to be indicative of the high value we place on these our women. For in all facets of life, the success of society, traditionally fronted by the faces of men, is indeed laid in the every day workings of the woman, be it the mother, wife, sister or your average everyday female and the constant toil of her hands.

In my family, mother is the center of attention. Nothing goes on without it being routed through her. Her status as mother, having been appointed to her by divine giving, apportions her a quality and power that permeates the lives of those she calls her own, even those old enough to have families of their own. Unfortunately, I cast a look at the wider berth of society, its politics and its motoring, and I find the presence of women as sparse as the “thank yous” we offer them. Especially in the avenue of politics, where most the decisions that affect the way of society are taken, it is sad to note that the inclusion and impact of women are only but a hand full. And where there is the presence of women it is often common to find their opinions overlooked.

On this day, Women’s Day, it is important that we acknowledge the status of our women and remember them as, first of all mothers nurturing the futures of all societies, and also as a societies bedrock for sustainable development.

Happy Women’s Day to you all!