Volume No. 2 Issue No. 42 - Monday June 9, 2008|
The rule of Law Vs the Law of the Jungle (part 2)
Gerald La Touche JP
In the first part of this commentary celebrating Dominica’s 30th anniversary of independence, I praised the maturity and resilience that we have shown thus far in staying the course, amidst tough economic, political, environmental and social challenges. I recognised such stability across the wider Caribbean and compared this to other post-independence scenarios, case in point Burma in the Asia-Pacific.
Angry South African mobs attacked African migrants.
In my continued effort to justify how well we have done in the Caribbean, though at times, it does not seem that apparent, I now take you into post-independence Africa. As I write this commentary there is a crisis escalating in Southern Africa. There have been riots in South Africa.
Xenophobic attacks are back in South Africa, but with a difference. This time black South Africans are attacking, beating and killing black Zimbabweans, black Mozambiquens, and black Malawians. South African President Thabo Mbeki has called the violence an "absolute disgrace" and the worst act of inhumanity South Africa has seen since the end of apartheid.
South Africa is under pressure from economic migrants from neighbouring countries moving into its townships in search of a better life. Local black South Africans, who were already finding it hard to get a job and have a decent life, are blaming these immigrants for taking their jobs and homes.
This is the same everywhere in the world! Western Europe has the same fear of Eastern Europe; they are coming to take our jobs. On my recent visit to Mumbai a local politician was calling for anyone from northern India to return north, as he claims Mumbai was running out of jobs and homes for northerners.
Gun-ho Americans are shooting Mexicans at the border for fear that they are coming to take American jobs. As the Caribbean contemplates deeper integration through CSME and a stronger CARICOM region, the same rhetoric can be heard from the better performing economies - so and so will come to our island and take our jobs. Well, for the time being, the Caribbean has not yet sunk to the level of the countries reflected above.
In South Africa, the tipping point for this crisis is Zimbabwe - The large numbers of Zimbabweans forced to run from President Robert Mugabe’s rule. Do you remember when Bob Marley sang, “Africans ah liberate Zimbabwe, I and I ah liberate Zimbabwe”. Bob actually performed in Zimbabwe twice.
He performed before independence, under Ian Smith rule, the British Butcher of Rhodesia. It was then that Bob first met Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), who were engaged in guerrilla warfare to liberate their country from minority white rule.
Britain failed Zimbabwe then and has continued with this failed legacy to this present time. Bob would again perform at Zimbabwe’s independence in April 1980, now invited by the black President Robert Mugabe. What went wrong with that independence, so many proud, black people like myself have asked?
It is the same thing that has gone wrong in several other African nations after independence. Here are just a few African precedents to Zimbabwe’s situation: -
On Thursday 10 April 2008 members of the Cameroon parliament voted to scrap presidential term limits and enable the Cameroonian president, Paul Biya, to run for the presidency again in 2011 and stay in power until 2018 (or beyond) when he will be 85 – having already served 26 years in power.
Despite great objection from the people, riots and killings, and the opposition, the bill was approved by a parliament where the governing party has an overwhelming majority, controlling 153 of 180 parliamentary seats. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, moved past the 20 years in office landmark after parliament scrapped the two-term limit on the presidency in 2005.
MPs settled for $3,000 bribe for them to approve the move. In Chad, after term limits were removed, President Idriss Deby, a former army chief who seized power before winning two elections, said the change was not meant to benefit him personally. [Nice one – he really cares about his people]
Here is the classic scenario: - Malawi became independent on July 6, 1964. Two years later, Malawi became a republic. Hastings Kamuza Banda was elected president, eventually being made president for life in 1971.
The 1966 constitution established a one-party state under the Malawi Congress Party, which was controlled by Banda for nearly 30 years. In 1992, public condemnation of the government's record on human rights issues generated anti-government demonstrations and riots.
This would lead to a referendum on democratic reform in 1993, in which Malawians voted overwhelmingly to change to a multiparty political system. Later that year the National Assembly stripped Banda of his “president for life” status.
The first multiparty presidential election was held in 1994, and Banda lost to His Excellency Dr Bakili Muluzi, the leader of the main opposition party, the United Democratic Front. However, having not learnt from his predecessor His Excellency Dr Bakili Muluzi, who ruled from 1994 to 2004, tried and failed to change the constitution to get a third term in office. Unbelievable but true!
In Zambia, former leader Frederick Chiluba tried and failed to change the constitution to get a third term in office. After 10 years in charge, the former bus conductor and trade union leader, mounted a campaign to change the country's constitution to allow him to run for the presidency a third time.
He was forced to abandon this plan, after massive opposition from within his own ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy [how ironic] and from the Zambian public.
Nigeria's former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, also tried to remove term limits, but lawmakers stood firm and rejected the plan. A former military ruler himself in the late 1970s, he had already handed power back to an elected civilian government, a rare move in Nigerian politics [Which we must give him credit for].
However this did not stop him from trying to remove term limit and extend his stay in power. On 28 May 2007 he stood down after 8 years rule. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki 2008 elections – you know that story - You recently saw it on TV. And now, yes, the struggle continues, President Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe 2008 elections – you should know that story. It is still being played out and it is not over yet!
So the next time you think to yourself, independence, what was all that about? Dominica independent? Where? Although it may be true, that we still have to depend on the more developed nations for economic survival.
And that our little island nation, which is ever so frequently at the mercies of Mother Nature, constrained by her rugged terrain, may well have to continue being economically dependent on the more developed nations, amidst the economic challenges faced in this world, driven by mass consumption and global consumerism.
It could be a lot worse! I tell you, when you see some of the countries out there and read some peoples’ stories, Dominica has done well on the independence front. We must always remember that there is only one hope, one protection against the catastrophic post-independence African scenarios cited above, and that is, the rule of law – the constitution. In part three I come home to the Caribbean region and Latin America.
Read part 1
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