Somebody go tell these our rulers on the African continent that they are not even funny anymore.
Time was when people everywhere would be regaled by the clowning idiocies of such macabre characters as Uganda’s Idi Amin Dada, VSOP, B737, BBC, WHO, LKS, CBE, among his many self-inflicted honours, and Jean-Bedel Bokasssa, grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte and ruler of the Central African Empire.
In those days, it was easier for the world at large to laugh at the excesses of such individuals and to a certain extent discount their murderous enterprises, because the world saw these monsters as quintessentially African: Primitive, childlike, innocent savages. As long as the deaths they authored remained exclusively African — and were not on television — it was possible for the moralists of the world to ignore the whole thing and still keep a tranquil conscience.
Today’s atrocities are transmitted in real time to our handheld platforms. Twenty four-seven, the living rooms of the world become mini-theatres where the most gory and heartrending dramas are played out. The audio-visual informational nexus has given a new urgency to many crises the likes of which would have flown under the radar a generation ago.
The African people, too, have changed, transformed in part by the very technology that is allowing the above to be true, but also by the inexorable laws of motion that tell us what was an infant last decade must morph into an adult today and an elder next decade as it progresses toward death, itself allowing for a new infancy.
Notwithstanding the rear-guard battles waged by our rulers who would wish the Web away, even elderly citizens are learning to use these liberating spaces on the net to receive and transmit information concerning their lives and the issues affecting them.
All this is bad news for our rulers who thrive on opacity. It is even worse for them when bodies they signed up for start using the information that is out there in the public domain to hold them responsible for criminal acts they commit against their people and others.
Hence the African Union’s hostility to the International Criminal Court on the ground that the Court is targeting Africans for censure while ignoring wrongdoing elsewhere. Which has an immediate ring of fallacy to it, because I certainly am an African but am not targeted by the ICC, and no one I know personally in Africa is thus targeted.
I suspect the ICC is targeting a certain type of African for engaging in a certain type of behaviour — almost certainly against their own people — and now these suspected criminals seek to use all of us Africans as human shields to deflect the charges they face.
I refuse to be made a human shield by someone who did what they did without my leave, in the process hurting my fellow Africans. The lame excuse that the likes of George W, Tony Blair and others have not been indicted should be treated with the derision they deserve: You just don’t plead innocence because other offenders you know have not been apprehended.
We should be hearing many more voices demanding that other offenders be brought to justice as well, but that should in no way lighten the charges preferred against those already arraigned.
African rulers have since our fake Independences behaved as if all of us are their property, and that they can do pretty much what they please with us and that no one should say a thing about it. It is this “seigniorial proprietorship” described by the sociologist Max Weber that allows them to go on carrying the colonial DNA in their body politic.
Did I say they are not funny anymore?
That may be true, but it’s not for want of trying. Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta has been quoted as saying that the activities of the ICC were seriously undermining proper governance in his country. One wonders why, because the case against him was dropped some months ago and the two Kenyans who remain indicted are appearing as individuals and not representing the Kenya government.
Just where is the funny part?
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]