From Congo to Nairobi, Gbagbo to Tundu Lissu, we stumble from one crisis to another

Saturday January 19 2019

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A fact of the modern news cycle is that important happenings and developments fall over each other in the 24-hour headlines parade, all competing for attention and urgency. PHOTO | NMG 

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Another attack on Kenya by elements claiming to act in the name of Islam is always just as abhorrent as the last one, and this last one on Riverside is no exception.

I take my turn in expressing my heartfelt condolences to my Kenyan sisters and brothers, wishing them fortitude and continued serenity in the face of yet another despicable, outrageous and cowardly assault. Here is hoping that all the authors of this ignominious crime, some of whom will certainly have wormed themselves into the bosom of Kenyan society, will be made to pay appropriately.

It is a fact of the modern news cycle that important happenings and developments fall over each other in the 24-hour headlines parade, all competing for attention and urgency.

Such that before you can one can get your head around Congo’s miserable apology for an election, you have to shift your attention onto the Dusit complex at the same time as worrying over the International Criminal Court in the Hague deciding to let Laurent Gbagbo walk.

Gbagbo had been accused of crimes against humanity in the Cote d’Ivoire after he lost an election and refused to give way to the presumed winner, Alassane Ouattara. Now the ICC has found the prosecution’s evidence wanting, and so Gbagbo and his chief ally, the youth leader Charles Ble Goude, may soon be back in their country as free men.

Even here, I am papering over other important news items, such as the announced imminent return to Tanzania of Tundu Lissu, MP, the miracle man who, some 15 months ago, was showered with bullets as he left a parliamentary session in the blazing Dodoma afternoon sunshine. His assailants, like the three Macbeth witches, “made themselves thin air into which they vanished,” never to be found. Yes, he is back, he is walking gingerly and he has announced his intention to vie for the presidency two years hence.

We did not even have enough time to contemplate the arrest, and public handcuffing, of Botswana’s former spy chief, Isaac Kgosi, apparently on tax evasion. This man’s arrest at the airport as he arrived from Dubai must have delighted a sizeable number of people in the country because during the reign of former president Ian Khama he was the most feared man in Gaborone.

With the shoe on the other foot now, Mr Kgosi has to face the indignity of being whisked away, in cuffs, by the country’s revenue authority under the leadership of one Peter Magosi. Not to be subdued, the former spy chief shouted at his captors, that he was going to “topple this government, I promise you. You will force me to do things I never intended to do.” Almost funny.

So, what happens with all that we have gathered for the past one week or so. Congo is in trouble. Once again. A large section of its population has rejected this past election as another farce.

Martin Fayulu, who came in second, claims victory, but the electoral body has named Felix Tshisekedi the winner. The Catholic church, so powerful in Congo, seems to be on the side of Fayulu, while Joseph Kabila, the outgoing incumbent, is in Tshisekedi’s corner.

Another perfect storm seems to be on the cards. There is widespread suspicion that Kabila and Tshisekedi conspired to steal the election. Someone is spoiling for a fight.

In Cote d’Ivoire, where Gbagbo enjoys considerable support, the stage may be set to re-enact the ominous north/south divide that led to the deaths of more than 3,000 people in 2010, the basis of Gbagbo’s indictments in the Hague. His return to the Ivorian political scene could reignite the old enmities that have all but ruined a once superficially well-to-do country.

Kenya can expect another attack, and all of us must be on deck to render whatever support we can while at the same time we watch our own backyards, because there is no solid reason why we will not be the next victims of this senselessness.

In Botswana, many people will be having a Schadenfreude celebration of the humbling arrest of Kgosi, and remembering how this man used to strike terror in their hearts.

In Tanzania, the returning Lissu will find that his hunters are waiting for him, and this time they will have better shooters; they will kill him.

In Africa, generally, we will continue stumbling from episode to sad episode.

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]