In a week that witnessed the flareup in Khartoum between rival military formations of the same country, we also got news of a very different type of clashes between two political parties in a province of Zambia.
The two events look very different. The former is an eruption of rivalries tween two generals who have hitherto acted in tandem to thwart, at every turn, the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people to live under democracy but now, at the point of sharing the spoils, it looks like there is no honour among thieves.
The two anti-democracy generals are unto themselves a curious study in how military forces can hold their country to ransom. Gen Abdel Fatah al-Burhan and his former deputy, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, seem unable to agree on how to “eat and let eat” because each one wants to be the top dog.
The killings and other atrocities meted out on the people of Darfur by Dagalo and his Janjaweed militia some years ago have emboldened the ruthless (and uppity) general to the extent that he won’t accept playing second fiddle to Burhan.
Sudan has been the unfortunate theatre in which many politico-military dramas have recently played out, involving sinister power-hungry Islamist clerics and their whisky-swigging military protectors who have earned the muftis’ acquiescence by “banning” alcohol, in a rather surreal masquerade in which the ban affects neither general nor imam!
Now move down south, where we found the spectre of hooligans allegedly belonging to (President) Hakainde Hichilema’s party beating up supporters of an opposition party, which, seriously, comes across as small beer, a trivial affair over which no ink ought to be spilt, if we think of what is happening in Sudan.
But then Africa has often shown that it is such similar small incidents that morph into grave trouble as tempers flare up and the violence is energised.
HH has had a very favourable press until recently, and most of it has been well earned. When he came to power two years ago, he was greeted as a breath of fresh air, having tried unsuccessfully to be president five times and having suffered police detentions several times.
He has, on several occasions, sounded conciliatory, self-effacing and accommodating, eschewing ostentation and bluster.
Would his supporters have failed to follow the cue from their leader — in which case a rebuke from HH should be coming — or is HH himself bowing to the whims of unruly supporters because he is discovering that running a country is much thornier than running a successful electoral campaign? As they (should) say, the taste of nshima is in the eating. We shall see.
While all this was playing out around Omdurman and Lusaka, Al Jazeera was winding up a serial expose´ on “The Gold Mafia” in southern Africa, India and Dubai, where a motley crew of hoodlums are brought together in a spider’s web of smugglers, fixers and money-laundry men who have captured powerful politicians in our region and are now using them to externalise gold that should rightly belong to the people of southern Africa.
The Al Jazeera documentary reminds us yet again that a lot of the crises that keep erupting out of the African continent are of our own making, and that they are almost invariably triggered by the insatiable appetites of those who rule over us on the one hand, and our people’s inability to rein them in on the other.
Fight over resources
The fight is over resources and how they are divided up among the varied constituencies and desires.
The Afro-Arab generals in the north-east have had a stranglehold on the resources of the Horn for as long as exploitative relations have brought Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Arab Gulf together.
Southern Africa has become prominent in these illicit exchanges, courtesy of unscrupulous elements who have taken their elevation to public office as a license to enrich themselves, their families and cronies in a shameless and never-ending scam.
Where the people have been more active and more vigilant, a few crooks have been brought to book — remember the Guptas? — but it looks like the list of such fraudsters is endless, and their guises as inventive as ever.
The Al Jazeera documentary should be an eye-opener, apart from providing blue-ribbon entertainment via an array of characters who sound like they have just walked off the pages of a whodunit novel: A Nairobi hustler who once got himself “compensated” for gold he had not exported, then became a born-again Christian preacher (Brother Paul) before becoming a Christian, and also joined Muammar Gaddafi as one of Africa’s robed traditional leaders who has not yet found his tribe;
A “prophet” who manufactures “miracle money” during the day for his church faithful to be rich, but in his spare time he can put the president of his country on speakerphone so you can hear him give personal assurances as to the safety of a gold transaction.
At other times the “prophet” is also his president’s “plenipotentiary and extraordinary” ambassador to all countries of the world…
While we grapple with the troubles of the present, we are busy manufacturing future ones.
Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]