Monday 27 July 2015

Africa and the mind-set of non-issues

Not waiting in vain any longer
I was not particularly ululating over Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya, neither did I find time to see what he was up to.
I did my share of waiting to wave at dignitaries in the 1970s when we stood as pupils of Corona School by the railway line at Bukuru, Jos waving Nigerian flags at the convoy of Yakubu Gowon the then Head of State of Nigeria and his friend Gnassingbe Eyadema from Togo when they drove up to Yakubu Gowon’s homestead near Pankshin.
Besides, every Children’s Day, the 27th of May, we went marching to the salute of the governor of Benue-Plateau, J. D. Gomwalk, really, I had had enough of that stuff.
Treating people differently
However, there were some things one could not miss about what Barack Obama said in Kenya, some brilliantly highlighted by the Independent.
Obama was always going to talk about gay rights, but he had a broader thing to say about rights which, unfortunately, was lost on his host.
When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen.
He could not have said that in any simpler terms, to codify the treatment of people differently because of their difference in the law will not only erode the freedoms of those people, it sets the stage for eroding the freedoms of the next vulnerable group.
Missing the point totally
There is no doubt that there are many vulnerable, voiceless and somewhat powerless groups in Africa, women, children, girls, the poor, the sick, the indigent, the minority by tribe, religion or some other association, they are all in line for a form for erosion of their rights eventually, even if it does not seem obvious now.
Uhuru Kenyatta a few months younger than Barack Obama and son of Jomo Kenyatta who led the struggle for Kenyan independence said in response, ‘gay rights was "generally a non-issue" for most Kenyans’.
That sort of dismissiveness is dangerous makes you wonder about the allegations of culpability that led to ICC charges against Uhuru with regards to the post-election violence in 2007 to 2008.
How many other non-issues?
The question becomes how many other rights are generally a non-issue for most Kenyans? How many minority groups have had their freedoms eroded because they have become a non-issue, an insignificance, a nuisance, a distraction and are readily ignored because they do not matter?
For how long will the leadership of Kenya follow the inclination of the majority to the detriment of the minority who they are also elected to serve and protect?
It was a poor choice of words, but broadly the issue of gay rights in Africa has become a litmus test of what its leadership is ready to address progressively in the name of human rights.
We lost many opportunities
They have expended so much energy in promulgating anti-gay laws to persecute and prosecute people who are generally invisible and in the shadows whilst ignoring the critically important aspects of rights for women and children, national development, education, health and welfare for all.
In the meantime, the seriously disaffected who have already concluded that they are viewed as a non-issue to the majority, have found the comfort extremist Jihadist companionship to wreak the havoc of unspeakable terror all around Africa.
The non-issue talk is a mind-set, a rotten one at that, because it goes without saying that many who have resorted to terror would never have considered it pathway of protest or emancipation if those who were supposed to represent them listened, engaged, participated and contributed to their wellbeing that they did not feel they were a non-issue but were acknowledged, respected and included in the greater and laudable pursuit of being part of their nation for its good, its development and its progress.
In pursuing gays, we lost opportunities to improve the lives of, and consolidate progressive laws with respect to people we see daily who are affected the most by our inaction even if they support our actions against the minority of the different and the other.

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