Review: At the Deep End, Morgan Tsvangirai

0 0
Read Time:5 Minute, 22 Second

 

Morgan Tsvangirai has been the subject of much speculation and anecdote, and of books by others. This is his account of himself, written with T. William Bango, but very much in his own voice. Even the intonations and phraseologies are Tsvangirai’s, so I imagine Bango was copy-editor to a type-script drawn from dictation by Tsvangirai.

It is a huge 663-page book, which suggests it has been copy-edited but not edited in any normal sense. This renders Tsvangirai’s account somewhat baggy and it would have been a tense and tight read at half the length. However, its length does allow Tsvangirai’s reflections and descriptions full rein and, of the two, it must be said that the book is one of descriptions first and foremost. Tsvangirai describes his side of the momentous events of contemporary Zimbabwe and, as such, provides an extremely valuable first-hand account – the text of a key player and, clearly, a momentously courageous one.

Tsvangirai, Mugabe and ZANU-PF

It begins right at the beginning, that is at the beginning of his life. And the first chapter is the best-written of the book as the adult Tsvangirai describes the child Tsvangirai and his infant impressions of education, health, religion and race. How much of these impressions are wiser after the fact is impossible to judge. Ironically, his impressions of land and its importance could have been penned by Mugabe himself, or one of Mugabe’s spokesmen. The striking memories are of the child’s recognition of racism and its effects. These are powerful and there is again a corroboration of Mugabe’s own recollections of racism and how it perpetuates a slow burn in one’s consciousness.

Indeed there is a series of parallels between Tsvangirai and Mugabe that neither man would freely admit. But there is another comparative dimension that Tsvangirai does not labour, and that is – for all his denigrations of Tsvangirai’s intellectual capacity – that Mugabe has not yet authored his own book, and is now unlikely to have the time to do so. Someone who has written books is Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe’s confidant and critic in a kind of revolving door history. If there is a single person who is essentially despised in Tsvangirai’s book, it is Jonathan Moyo who comes across as opportunistic, duplicitous, damaging and dangerous. The spokesman of Mugabe is excoriated, in measured tones, even more than Mugabe himself. But if Moyo is criticised, someone who is almost forgiven is the influential ZANU-PF member Ibbo Mandaza on the grounds that Mandaza has essentially always been ZANU-PF, whereas Moyo is a turncoat who turns without conviction but rather the prospect of advantage for himself.

The little episodes that Tsvangirai describes, for instance of Solomon Mujuru’s quarrel with Margaret Dongo in which Mujuru seemed to want to assault Dongo in Parliament, are marvellous character revelations. And those on the fringes of politics, but who have played influential roles traversing the borderlines between inside and out – people such as Nkosana Moyo – are also given pithy judgemental dispatch by Tsvangirai.

Reflection and self

As a book of Tsvangirai’s formation, of his descriptions of people and events, the tome is quite marvellous. However, where it is without full reflection is in the later sections on his premiership. It is here that, certainly, an alternative account to that of ZANU-PF is given – but Tsvangirai gives it without being particularly critical of himself. His is an account without reflexivity. He certainly describes when he felt angry or depressed but, by and large, fault is ascribed to others. Welchman Ncube, for example, is at fault for the split in the MDC, and Tsvangirai himself emerges merely as the man Ncube misjudged. Of course it is the nature, indeed almost the purpose, of memoirs to exonerate and present in the most favourable light possible the history and accomplishments of the narrator. Tsvangirai’s book does this, but he could have come across as a more fully philosophical figure if he had elaborated on his failures and doubts.

Tsvangirai clearly under-writes Thabo Mbeki’s contribution to, and understanding of, the Zimbabwean situation. Mbeki, if ever he wrote his own version of events would undoubtedly return the favour. There grew a lukewarm accord between the two men, and there was no chemistry between them. This much is acceptable, but Tsvangirai never seeks to interrogate the chemistry that did develop between Mbeki and Mugabe. In fact, the key word, the interrogative word, ‘why’, is seldom asked in this book. The difficulties still faced by Zimbabwe are simply put down to the ZANU-PF’s refusal to cooperate fully with Tsvangirai and recognise his ‘executive authority’.

Hopes, thoughts and action for the future

The book ends with a typical Tsvangirai clarion call for the future direction of Zimbabwe to be established by the democratic will of the people. His trust that the people will prevail despite immense ZANU-PF intrigue and intimidation is at once Tsvangirai’s most touching and revealing attribute. He really does trust the democratic impulse yet he cannot offer any guarantee of real protection for the people who want to exercise democratic choice.

Tsvangirai’s has been a most volitional path. Sheer willpower, wishing for a better future and genuine selflessness have led him to where he is today. There can be few more genuine and brave Prime Ministers in Africa or anywhere else. This is his account of how it happened, from his perspective, step by step. He does not stop to think, he just wishes for a better future and acts. This would be marvellous if he also had around him people who were more inclined to think than act – people who could provide balance.

The true tragedy implicit in this book therefore, but never admitted explicitly, is his quarrel with Ncube. This is not to exonerate or champion Ncube who freights around with him a heavy load of mistakes and misjudgements, but ZANU-PF can only be stopped by true unity. The real question to be asked of Tsvangirai, as the most senior figure of a mini-phalanx of opposition parties and personalities, is why he has not been able to achieve this unity.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
Happy
0 0 %
Sad
0 0 %
Excited
0 0 %
Sleepy
0 0 %
Angry
0 0 %
Surprise
0 0 %

Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Terrorist Insurgency Evolves

0 0
Read Time:12 Minute, 18 Second

Before 2011, Boko Haram was a little understood, dangerous but parochial Islamic sect believed to be in decline after a purge by Nigerian security forces in 2009. Now, with the year drawing to a close, it is clear that Boko Haram, which remains little understood, has evolved into Nigeria’s most serious security threat, one which shows no sign of abating in spite of the repeated government line that it is solving the problem.

Boko Haram has been blamed for 100 deaths last month alone and is thought to be behind 361 killings this year, a figure predicted to increase by the year’s end. In May it launched a series of attacks on the day of Goodluck Jonathan’s inauguration which stoked the endemic fear of sectarian violence splitting Nigeria “ the inauguration was a sour moment for many northern Muslims aggrieved at a perceived breaching of the PDP zoning pact and the electoral loss of the widely respected Muhammadu Buhari, who claimed the government rigged the presidential election. It then grabbed national news headlines once again with an attack on the Nigerian police headquarters in Abuja in June, before demonstrating heightened ambition with the bombing of the UN building in Abuja, its first international target.

In line with Boko Haram’s surge in activity, the Nigerian government is finally taking the sect seriously, while US attention has also been drawn. “Security” featured prominently in the recently announced government budget; a former Nigerian president “ Olusegun Obasanjo “ attempted to open dialogue with the sect; a presidential committee has investigated it; a sect spokesman has been jailed; a ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) senator is standing trial for disclosing the phone numbers of prominent politicians and public officers who were later threatened and providing logistics to Boko Haram; and a US Congressional report is recommending diplomatic engagement, military and intelligence support for Nigeria, and the classification of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation on the basis that the group is an emerging threat to the US homeland.
Boko Haram: the origins

Boko Haram’s name “ the book [Western education] is prohibited “ is a local moniker derived from the group’s abhorrence of Western education: former leader Mohammed Yusuf said education spoils the belief in one God. The sect “ full name Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (“People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”) “ seeks to create an Islamic state governed by Sharia law in Nigeria by, seemingly, whatever means it has at its disposal and at whatever human cost it deems necessary.

The sect is thought by some to have its roots in the Sahaba group, which Mohammed Yusuf came to lead in the late 1990s before reorienting the group as Boko Haram. Yusuf was a favourite student of prominent Nigerian Islamic scholar Sheikh Jafar Mahmud Adam. It has been reported that the two fell out over Yusuf’s extremist positions, with Boko Haram, then known by some as the Yusufiyya sect, moving from Kano State to Yusuf’s hometown of Maidaguri, in Borno State, in 2004. Jafar was murdered in 2007. Kano clerics have alleged that Yusuf loyalists, who reportedly interrupted Jafar’s sermons after their falling out, were behind the murder.
The early rise and fall

Most of what is known about Boko Haram comes from its bloody emergence in 2009. The sect was thought to be behind attacks in Yobe State in 2004, but the deaths of some 700 people in Bauchi, Maiduguri and towns in nearby Kano and Yobe states, in a series of coordinated attacks on police stations, military barracks and churches over five days in 2009 catapulted it into the national spotlight. The response of the state was fast and brutal. On July 29, police stormed Boko Haram’s base in Maiduguri. Days later, Mohammed Yusuf was dead. At first, police claimed he had died in a shoot-out. Then that he had died while trying to escape. Now, with policemen on trial for his murder “ widely suspected by journalists at the time “ it seems clearer than ever that Yusuf, along with his father, senior sect member Alhaji Buji Foi and a group of young Boko Haram foot soldiers, were probably summarily executed by police.

Had warnings about the sect been heeded, things could have been different. A local imam claimed that the government failed to listen to and act on advice: “A lot of imams tried to draw the attention of the government ¦ we used to call the government and security agents to say that these people must be stopped from what they are doing because it must bring a lot of trouble.” There were also allegations that the reluctance to monitor and tackle leading militants was due to connections with powerful families linked to government. “People believe the government didn’t want to crack down on these people because their parents would get angry,” said one journalist working in the area. Alhaji Buji Foi was a former Borno State commissioner for religious affairs, while there was much speculation that other sponsors included religious leaders and businessmen.

After the purging of the sect in 2009, many thought the group would dissipate. Government spokesman Sunday Dare argued he did not foresee a swelling in the group’s ranks. Academic Patrick Wilmot claimed the group only need to be monitored and did not need to be taken seriously because it is seen as crazy by mainstream Muslims. However, Nigerian Islamic scholar Hussein Zakaria warned it was only a matter of time until a new leader would emerge to replace the martyred Yusuf.
Finding Boko Haram

There is little of real substance known about Boko Haram – a government committee reported to have been created to begin dialogue with Boko Haram was actually established as a fact-finding team.

What is known is that Boko Haram is evolving, both in its ideology and the scope and scale of its attacks. Its targeting of Abuja, especially the UN, shows a new level of coordination, expertise with explosives “ semtex or a similar military-grade explosive was used in Abuja, leading to theories of links with other terrorist groups “ and, critically, a new choice of international target which the sect claims is the forum of all the global evil.

Also indicative of Boko Haram’s change in tack is its posting of video messages, which conform to an al-Qaeda, international jihadi style, and a new online presence – a tactic taken to a new level by al-Shabaab this month with its launch on Twitter. In the aftermath of the UN embassy bombing, Agence France Presse obtained a video in which Mohammed Abul Barra, a 27-year-old from Maiduguri, explains his reason for driving an explosive-laden car into the UN. Another video from this year indicates that the sect’s leader is Abubakar bin Muhammad Shekau, thought to be the former deputy of Yusuf. While claiming to defend our religion and be persecuted by the state, Shekau rejects claims of an attack on a beer parlour being targeted at random drinkers. You people should know that we do not kill those who drink alcohol, he is reported to say. It is mere propaganda that we attacked a beer parlour. We had heard that it was purely soldiers who gathered there to drink, and we confirmed it, that was why we went there and killed them.

It also seems that there may have been a split in Boko Haram, although this is denied on the sect’s website. In July, the Yusufiya Islamic Movement, which claims to have been founded by Mohammed Yusuf and, as with Boko Haram, likely draws a lineage from the Yusufiyya sect, distributed leaflets in Maiduguri distancing itself from Boko Haram. It is thought that the split comes from Shekau’s more extreme ideology and tactics “ the move from targeting individuals in northern Nigeria to targeting the UN and the posting of video messages would support such a notion. We are concerned that some people with evil motives have infiltrated our genuine struggle with a false Holy War that is outright un-Islamic, the leaflet said. We call [on] this evil group to desist, failing which we shall have no option than to expose and hunt them.
Historical threads

Key to understanding Boko Haram is understanding its forebears. Reactionary attempts to threaten the secularism constitutionally enshrined in the post-colonial Nigerian state are not new, while during the colonial era a revolutionary Mahdism which received little elite support but attracted radical clerics, disgruntled peasants and fugitive slaves sought unsuccessfully to overthrow the British colonial regime which controlled the Sokoto Caliphate founded after the jihad of Usman Dan Fodio. With stark resonance to today, northern Muslim elites made a pact with the British colonialists that they would rule indirectly in return for British education not being imposed on the protectorate.

The Maitatsine uprisings of the early 1980s, inspired by Cameroonian dissident preacher Muhammadu Marwa, catalysed by massive socio-economic inequality and, following on from constitutional debates in 1977 which polarised the country, were the first incidence of Islamic fundamentalist agitation against the secular state. At around the same time, two other Islamic fundamentalist groups emerged, Jama’atu Izalatil Bidi’a Wa’iqamatic Sunna (Society of Removal of Innovation and Reestablishment of the Sunna), founded 1978 in Jos and known as Izala, and The Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a Shiite movement led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, funded by Iran and in which Yusuf was thought to be a major player – exactly how and when Yusuf was involved and how this related to his links with Sheikh Jafar is unclear.

Both groups have been associated with Boko Haram’s modern incarnation, a link both deny. In 2009, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria rebutted claims that El-Zakzaky was the founder of Boko Haram, arguing it could never be so against Western education when it owns 300 schools in Nigeria which teach a mixture of Islamic and Western education. Izala threatened legal action against publishers of pictures of its members labelled as Boko Haram footsoldiers.

What is clear is that the combination of constitutional debates in the 1970s, military rule under successive despots “ including the jailing of El-Zakzaky by Sani Abacha’s regime “ and entrenched poverty in the areas in northern Nigeria where such groups are active have all been grist to the fundamentalists’ mill. Many Islamists were not satisfied by the adoption of Sharia law in 12 northern states between 1999 and 2001, either believing it to be too watered down a form of Sharia or that the whole Nigerian state must abandon secularism for an Islamic state. And in the democratic, post-1999 Fourth Republic of Nigeria it has been perceived that an imported system of government based on Western values has resulted in ostensible corruption, poverty, unemployment and the continued suppression of true Islam. Perhaps symptomatic of the hypocrisy seen by such groups in putatively liberal democratic government is the state’s reaction to Boko Haram in 2009: Nigeria has admitted that it was overzealous, while its use of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful arrests escalated Muslims’ grievances against the state and were condemned by Amnesty International and the influential Sultan of Sokoto.
International attention

The linking of Boko Haram to non-Nigerian terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabaab ensures the sect will now be in the international spotlight.

At the end of November, a US House of Representatives subcommittee submitted a report on the sect, headlined Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the US Homeland. The report found that the sect has quickly evolved, has the intent and may be developing capability to coordinate on a rhetorical and operational level with AQIM and al-Shabaab, that the the environment is ripe for recruitment and that the US should work with Nigeria to build counterterrorism and intelligence capability to effectively counter Boko Haram.

Nigeria has increased budgetary spending on security, ushered in a Terrorism (Prevention) Act, increased its military presence in northern states, tightened border controls with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, and is rumoured to have dispatched soldiers to the US for counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and bomb disposal training in order to combat Boko Haram. However, there remains little progress in tackling the underlying conditions that catalyse Boko Haram’s appeal to impoverished, alienated, jobless northern Muslims who feel that the south of the country benefits at their expense: a life devoid of hope and economic opportunity, shaped by politicians reaping the huge economic dividends of office under an imported system intended to represent the voices of those who it seemingly expropriates. US Ambassador Terrence McCulley told Reuters in an interview about the sect that, It’s important for the government to look at how to redress these social-economic indicators in the north. Pick any one you want, whether it be health, literacy or access to clean water, the situation is really appalling. In reference to McCulley’s comments, the US report argues that such pressure should continue.
Combating and change

Indeed, the positioning of Boko Haram within a civilisational clash discourse and asserting that it represents an attack on Christianity are, at best, ill-informed. Boko Haram’s grievance is against the state and the secularism constitutionally enshrined in it. While the group is undoubtedly fundamentalist to its core and influenced by the rise of groups such as al-Qaeda “ early 1980s militancy was influenced by the Iranian revolution of 1979 “ of equal influence in fuelling the sect and its ability to recruit is the prevailing situation of economic dislocation which it has been argued exceeds that which sustained the Maitatsine riots of some 20 years ago.

The trial of PDP senator Ali Ndume and rumours that the sect received funding from brothers inside Nigeria only serves to illustrate the depth of the Boko Haram problem for the Jonathan government. And although calls for dialogue over all-out confrontation with a group prepared to fight to the death are being heeded, the re-orienting of Boko Haram under Shekau gives little cause for hope that dialogue will bear fruit “ after Obasanjo’s visit to Maidaguri, the representative of Yusuf’s family who hosted Obasanjo was killed.

Facing such a situation, it is evident that the government must focus on what is achievable and is indeed its responsibility: change the socio-economic injustice and political corruption that creates a supply line of willing Boko Haram adherents.

The emergence of Boko Haram signifies the maturation of long festering extremist impulses that run deep in the social reality of Northern Nigeria, argues analyst Chris Ngwodo. But the group itself is an effect and not a cause; it is a symptom of decades of failed government and elite delinquency finally ripening into social chaos.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
Happy
0 0 %
Sad
0 0 %
Excited
0 0 %
Sleepy
0 0 %
Angry
0 0 %
Surprise
0 0 %

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il dead, son hailed as heir

0 0
Read Time:5 Minute, 51 Second

 

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack while on a train trip, state media reported on Monday, sparking immediate concern over who is in control of the reclusive state and its nuclear program.

A tearful television announcer dressed in black said the 69-year old had died on Saturday of physical and mental over-work on his way to give “field guidance” – a reference to advice dispensed by the “Dear Leader” on his trips to factories, farms and military bases.

 

Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s youngest son, was named by North Korea’s official news agency KCNA as the “great successor” to his father, which lauded him as “the outstanding leader of our party, army and people.”

Little is known of Jong-un who is believed to be in his late 20s and was appointed to senior political and military posts in 2010.

KCNA news agency said the elder Kim died at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday (2330 GMT on Friday) after “an advanced acute myocardial infarction, complicated with a serious heart shock.” Kim had suffered a stroke in 2008, but had appeared to have recovered from that ailment.

South Korea, still technically at war with the North, placed its troops and all government workers on emergency alert but Seoul’s Defense Ministry said there were no signs of any unusual North Korean troop movements and President Lee Myung-bak called for people to carry on with their normal lives.

Lee held talks with President Barack Obama over the telephone as the United States is the main guarantor of South Korea’s security. Seoul was also due to hold talks with government officials in Tokyo later in the day.

“Up until tonight, if anybody had asked you what would be the most likely scenario under which the North Korean regime could collapse, the answer would be the sudden death of Kim Jong-il,” said Victor Cha, a Korea expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank in Washington.

“And so I think right now we’re in that scenario and we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”

The White House said President Barack Obama had been notified of the reports of Kim’s death and it was closely monitoring and in touch with South Korea and Japan.

The United States was committed to stability on the Korean peninsula as well as to its allies, the White House press secretary said.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told ministers at a special security meeting to prepare for the unexpected, including on border affairs, Japan’s top government spokesman said.

China, North Korea’s only major ally, has yet to comment.

Market players and regional powers will be on edge over what might happen next in the isolated state, whose collapsing economy and bid to become a nuclear weapons power pose major threats to northeast Asia.

Asian stocks and U.S. index futures fell, with South Korean shares tumbling as much as 5 percent, and the dollar gained after the announcement. The Korean won fell 1.8 percent.

Kim Jong-un was at the head of a long list of officials making up the funeral committee, indicating he would lead it, and a key sign that he had taken, or been given, charge.

But there will be enormous questions over how much credibility the younger Kim has, since he is only in his late 20s and has had little time to prepare for the role.

“Kim Jong-un is not yet the official heir, but the regime will move in the direction of Kim Jong-un taking center stage,” said Chung Young-Tae at the Korea Institute of National Unification. “There is a big possibility that a power struggle may happen.

“It’s likely the military will support Kim Jong-un,” he added. “Right now there will be control wielded over the people to keep them from descending into chaos in this tumultuous time.”

UNCHALLENGED HEAD

Kim Jong-il’s sister and her husband have also been promoted to important political and military posts, creating a powerful triumvirate ready to take over the family dynasty that has ruled North Korea since its founding after World War Two.

Experts say Jong-un has the intelligence and leadership skills that would make him suitable to succeed his father. He is also reported to have a ruthless streak that analysts say he would need to rule the country.

There is likely to be an enormous outpouring of emotion over Kim’s death in North Korea, where the country’s propaganda machine turned him into a demi-god. His funeral will be held on December 28.

On the streets of Seoul however the death of a man whose country had threatened to turn South Korean capital into a “sea of fire” ranged from indifference to over-joyed.

“The whole earth should celebrate it as much as Christmas,” said Kim Ok-tae, a 58-year old pastor.

“I am not at all afraid. I don’t see any likelihood of North Korea lashing out unexpectedly.”

Kim was the unchallenged head of a communist state whose economy fell deep into poverty during his 17 years in power as he vexed the world by developing a nuclear arms program and missiles aimed at neighbors Japan and South Korea.

North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in 2006 and again in May 2009, is seen as one of the greatest threats to regional security.

In 2010, the secretive North unveiled a uranium enrichment facility, giving it a second route to make an atomic bomb along with its plutonium program.

Cha said communication between China, the United States and South Korea was vital.

“Because these are the three key players when it comes to instability in North Korea. And the Chinese have been reluctant to have any conversations on this,” he said.

“Now the situation really calls for it. It will be interesting to see how much the Chinese will be willing to have some sort of discussion.”

The North has repeatedly threatened to destroy the conservative government of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who ended a decade of free-flowing aid to the North after taking office in February 2008.

It also has a reputation for provocative external action in response to internal pressures.

“Often in times like this, the regime will do something to demonstrate that it is still viable, powerful, still a threat,” said Dane Chamorro, a regional director at the Global Risks consultancy.

“It might be a missile test, some type of aggression or conflict.”

Known at home as “the Dear Leader,” Kim took over the reins of North Korea in 1994 when his father and founder of the reclusive state, Kim Il-sung, known as the Great Leader, died.

Tension between the two Koreas spiked to its highest level in nearly two decades in 2010 when 50 South Koreans were killed in two separate attacks on the peninsula, but relations have improved this year due to pressure from Beijing and Washington.

About Post Author

Anthony-Claret Ifeanyi Onwutalobi

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
Happy
0 0 %
Sad
0 0 %
Excited
0 0 %
Sleepy
0 0 %
Angry
0 0 %
Surprise
0 0 %