Evangelical Christianity and the Struggle for the Spiritual Soul of Haiti

Evangelical Christianity and the Struggle for the Spiritual Soul of Haiti

Priye S. Torulagha

Torulaghareports.com

priyet@hotmail.com

 

 

Introduction

After the Haitians launched a successful Voodoo inspired revolution to gain independence in 1804, Christian missionaries poured into the country in an attempt to purge the country of the ancestral-based religion.  It was unthinkable for the Christians at the time to accept the view that any other religion could be successful enough to overwhelm a Christian-based state.  As a result, the Christians have continuously mounted religious campaigns to get rid of the African religion in the country.

To justify the need to get rid of the ancestral-based religion, Evangelical Christians, in particular, tend to attribute every problem that has besieged Haiti since independence, to the view that the country suffers from a curse because Haitian revolutionaries made a “pact with the devil.”  By implication, the Evangelical Christians are saying that Haitians will continue to suffer until they totally forego their traditional religion.  This further means that Haitians will stop suffering as soon as they convert to Christianity.

Following this line of thinking, when Port-au-Prince suffered a very destructive earthquake in January 2010, some Christian groups, including Rev. Pat Robertson of Club 700 fame, floated the idea again that the devastating earthquake was God’s punishment for Haitian worshiping of Voodoo rather than Christianity. According to him, the Haitians:

were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever.  And they got together and swore a pact to the devil.  They said “We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.  And so, the devil said ok, it is a deal (CNN, 2010, January 13).

Since the devastating earthquake in 2010, some Evangelical Christian groups, while offering humanitarian assistance to the victims, started launching an unrelenting religious campaign to convert those Haitians who are still worshipping Voodoo to embrace Christianity.  As part of the campaign strategy to justify the need for conversion, they reinforced the Robertsonian view that Haitians will continue to suffer because Haitian revolutionaries signed a “pact with the devil” in order to free themselves.

This religious struggle, which could technically be regarded as a Christian crusade in the twenty-first century, is indeed amazing.  It is equally amazing that millions of Haitians, including some respectable Evangelical Christian priests, have also accepted the propagandized view of the unfortunate situation that Haiti has found itself.  The religious struggle for the control of Haiti was recently brought to the attention of the world by Reza Aslan’s television documentary titled “Believer,” which was presented on CNN Channel 202 on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at 10:00PM.  Mr. Aslan did an excellent job in presenting the different perspectives concerning whether Haitians should convert to Christianity and forsake their ancestral religion or not.

 

Purpose of the Article

The purpose of this article is to accomplish the following goals: (1) explore the issue of whether the supposed Haitian “pact with the devil,” as Christians claimed, is the cause of suffering in Haiti; (2)  determine whether if Haitians convert to Christianity en masse, their suffering will stop; and (3) find out whether there are alternative explanations for the situation.

To accomplish these goals, it is necessary to gather data by examining important political, religious and historical facts, events and circumstances in Christendom in order to ascertain whether societies that have converted to Christianity have never suffered in their history, following the Evangelical Christians’ claim that Voodoo is the cause of Haitian suffering. In particular, Europe provides an excellent historical laboratory to gather appropriate information concerning the Christian experience.  Likewise, important events in other parts of the world are also taken into consideration, depending on their relevance to the discussion.

 

Hypotheses

Based on the goals of the article, the following hypotheses are drawn:

(1) There is no correlation between the suffering in Haiti and the worshipping of Voodoo religion. (2) Conversion to Christianity will not stop suffering in Haiti. (3) Societies that have converted to Christianity suffer as much as societies that subscribe to other religions.  (4) There are extraneous factors other than “a pact with the devil” that contribute to the situation in Haiti.

 

Political, Religious and Historical Facts and Events about Christianity and the European Experience

First, in 311 CE, the Roman Empire declared neutrality towards Christianity, thereby, giving it an official status as a legitimate religion in the state.  Emperor Constantine eventually converted to Christianity.  This allowed Christians, for the first time, to worship their religion openly without fear of persecution (Barrow, 1979).

Second, the Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity in 378 CE during the reign of Emperor Theodosius (Ibid).  This led to the conversion of Roman colonies into Christianity and the incremental spreading of the religion to various parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Third, the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 410 CE when Germanic tribes (Vandals, Franks, and Visigoths) whom the Romans had persistently exploited, turned around to invade and ravage Rome.  The fall of the Western Roman Empire led to the collapse of central authority in most of Europe.  The Eastern Roman Empire became the Byzantine Empire.

Fourth, to fend off the criticism that Roman conversion to Christianity was responsible for the downfall, St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) argued that Christianity had nothing to do with it.  Rather, he blamed the Romans for their downfall.  The reasons he gave for the fall of the Roman Empire included: (a) that Romans were corrupt and deserved to be punished, (b) that if it were not for the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, Rome would have been totally destroyed, (c) that Rome had many problems even before the empire converted to Christianity, (d) that if Roman gods were so good, they would have protected Rome against its enemies, and (e) that Rome was not a true Republic because it was united by the love of pride and not of God (Tannenbaum & Schultz, 1998).  It is obvious that the Evangelical Christian argument that Haiti is suffering because many Haitians worship Voodoo and not Christianity is very similar to the Augustinian argument that Rome suffered destruction because Romans worshipped pagan deities.  By implication, St. Augustine maintained that if the Romans had worshipped Christianity, then Rome would not have fallen.  Thus, like St. Augustine, Evangelical Christians are maintaining the view that if Haitians convert to Christianity, their suffering will stop.

Fifth, the Islamic religion emerged in Saudi Arabia in 600 CE and spread very quickly resulting in the capture of Jerusalem and other parts of the Middle East. In 711 CE, the Moslem forces, moving from Morocco, captured Southern Spain.  Around 730 CE, the Moslems advanced towards France from Spain.  The Christians viewed the Islamic expansion as a crusade against them.  The Islamic expansion frightened the Christian leadership in Europe to the extent that it desperately sought a savior to stop the Moslems.   King Charles Martel, a great military leader of the Franks stepped in and fought to stop the Islamic capture of France and other parts of Europe.  By defeating the Islamic forces, he saved Christian Europe from Islamic conquest.

Sixth, the collapse of central authority, coupled with the uncontrollable civil wars, the rampaging war lords, and the Islamic threat forced many Europeans around 730 CE to convert to Christianity, believing that such conversion would help them through their suffering.  Thus, the massive Haitian conversion to Christianity following the earthquake of 2010 is similar to the massive European conversion to Christianity during a time of hardship, unpredictability and hopelessness.  When King Charles Martel passed away, his son, Pepin III inherited the throne.  Pepin III divided the throne between his two sons (Charles and Carloman) before he passed away in September 24, 768. Pope Stephen anointed the two brothers in 754. However, Carloman died in 771 CE, thereby, allowing Charles to consolidate his power over the throne Encyclopedia.com, 2003).  It should be noted that some people suspected that King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) killed the brother in order to consolidate his political authority over the territory his father conquered.

Seventh, In 800 CE, King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) expanded his territory profusely to cover most of Europe through brutal military conquests.  As a major politico-military leader of Europe, the Christian Church had to create a political space for him since he fought, like his father, to preserve Christianity, especially the papacy.  In particular, his proactive intervention to stop the rebellion against Pope Leo III endeared him so much to the pope.  Hence, he was crowned as the Emperor of the Roman Empire on Christmas day in 800 CE and given the name of Charles Augustus (Graves, n.d.).  To avoid conflict between the Pope and King Charles the Great, the Pope devoted himself to spiritual matters of the church and the king served as the politico-military head of state of the empire.  King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) forced the Europeans he conquered to embrace Christianity.  For instance, in one of his military attacks against Saxon pagans, he demanded that they convert to Christianity.    About 4000 Saxons who refused to convert to Christianity were beheaded (Griotto, n.d.) in one day.  Therefore, millions of Europeans were compelled to embrace Christianity through bloody wars of conquest carried out by powerful militaristic kings and the church. In fact, the vast state that Charlemagne and his ancestors created was referred to as the Carolingian Empire (BBC, n.d.).

Eighth, even though most Europeans had converted to Christianity, they were not saved in their hour of need when the Vikings, around 793 CE, rose up from Scandinavia and ransacked many parts of Europe through destructive military attacks.  The Vikings invaded, destroyed, killed and looted even Christian monasteries (James, 2011, March 29)).  Here again, contrary to the Evangelical Christian premise that Haitians are suffering because many of them worship Voodoo and that their suffering will stop if they convert to Christianity, the European conversion to Christianity did not stop pagan Vikings from invading, destroying, killing, looting  and occupying many Christian territories in Europe.  Although, the Vikings suffered a defeat in the hands of King Alfred the Great of England, nevertheless, they continued their raids until about 1066 (ibid.).

Ninth, the end of the Viking era did not stop the disheartening situation in Europe as the Europeans continued to suffer from unnecessary bloody military conflicts and wars of conquest.  Due to lack of jobs, local political leaders engaged the services of military veterans to cause problems in the continent.  The veterans formed the Medieval Knights.  The knights invaded, destroyed, killed and pillaged various communities to make a living. Europe was a living hell for millions of people.  Therefore, the assertion that Haitian suffering will cease as soon as Haitians forsake Voodoo and convert to Christianity has no historical support since conversion to Christianity did not stop suffering in Europe for centuries.

In an attempt to stabilize the situation, the Christian Church developed the Christian Doctrine of War.  Consequently, the church issued the Peace of God and the Truce of God in an attempt to stabilize the continent.  The Peace of God (Pax Dei) was initiated in 1027 by the Christian church and later adopted by civil authorities to protect church properties, pastors, women, merchants and non-combatants during war (Callahan, 2007, August 27). The Truce of God ( Treuga Dei) was also part of the church’s effort to control war by ensuring that warfare was suspended during certain days of the week as well as during religious festivals or events    (Britannica, 1998, July 20).

Tenth, in 1095, threatened by Islamic expansion and a desire to redirect the violence in Europe, Pope Urban II called for a Holy War against the Moslems who had captured many Christian territories in the Middle East, including Jerusalem.  He declared the Crusades and called it “God’s Will It.”  The Christian crusades enabled thousands of military veterans who had been causing problems in Europe to form a Christian Army and launched attacks against the Moslems in an attempt to recapture Jerusalem and other Christian territories. The Christians and Moslems ended up fighting three major crusades.  The Christians won the first crusade, the Moslems won the second crusade and they fought to a draw in the third crusade, led by King Richard the Lion-heart. If the hypothesis advanced by Evangelical Christians that if Haitians convert to Christianity, their suffering will stop, then, why did the Christians and the Moslems fought to a draw in the third crusade? The draw indicates that the Christian God is not superior to the Islamic Allah, otherwise, the Christians would have won all the crusades against the Moslems. Similarly, if the Islamic Allah is greater than the Christian God, then the Moslems would have won the three crusades handily against the Christians.

Eleventh, one of the groups that took part in the crusades against the Moslems was the Teutonic Knights.  The group was established as a military order from the Hospitallers of Holy Mary in Jerusalem by German crusaders. On returning to Europe, they settled in Transylvania, Hungary in 1211 through the invitation of King Andrew II. They helped him to protect the kingdom against pagan Cumans (Coppernickers, June 2008).  However, they were forced to leave as they grew stronger, thereby, threatening the Hungarian kingdom in 1225.  Duke Conrad of Mazovia of Poland invited them to help him fight against Prussian pagans.  He promised to give them the Chelmno lands as well as any land that they could capture from the Prussians.  Pope Gregory IX sweetened the offer by decreeing that any property that the Teutonic Knights conquered would be granted to them in perpetuity.  They settled in Livonia.  However, their effort to conquer Russian territory failed when Alexander Nevsky defeated them in Lake Peipus in 1242. Thereafter, they concentrated their attacks against Prussia, Lithuania and Poland (Medieval Times, n.d.).

Due to incessant warfare against the Polish and Lithuanians, the Samogotians revolted against the Knights and asked for military assistance.  The Lithuanian Grand Duke Witold and the Polish King Ladislaus Jagiello responded to the Samogotians request by forming a united military force.  They fought the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Tannenberg/Grunwald in 1410.  They defeated the Knights and killed their leader, Grand Master Ulrich von jungingen.  The defeat was described as a slaughter as the Teutonic Knights lost about 18,000 men and 14,000 prisoners in comparison to the 5,000 deaths and 8,000 prisoners that the Lithuanians and Polish incurred (Haywood, 2002).

Since the Teutonic Knights felt that they were sacred warriors because they were fighting to convert pagans into Christianity, their defeat in the Battle of Tannenberg/Grunwald was psychologically devastating to members of the organization.  As a result, those who survived the battle felt that God had abandoned or deserted them.  After that battle, they were no longer a formidable military force.  As can be seen, the Haitian defeat of Napoleon’s forces is similar to the Polish/Lithuanian defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the sense that a non-Christian military force was able to defeat a Christian force.

Twelfth, the Catholic Church which became the most dominant religious and political entity in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa found it impossible to tolerate other Christian denominations.  Hence, the church did not hesitate to wage war to destroy other Christian movements.  Consequently, perturbed by the popularity of the Cathars (a Christian sect) in Southern France, Pope Innocent III ordered a crusade against them in 1208.  Thousands of crusaders, mostly from Northern France enlisted, having been promised by the Pope that those who killed Cathars would be assured of the highest place in heaven.

Evidently, the Christian Crusaders arrived at Beziers on July 22, 1209, near Languedoc.  The Cistercian commander of the crusaders, in response to a question about how to identify the Cathars from the townspeople, ordered, “Kill them all – the Lord will recognize his own.”  The crusaders killed, destroyed and pillaged the place (Counterblast, 2006-8).

Thirteenth, the European Renaissance started around 1341 in Italy and lasted until the 17th century.  The Renaissance was instigated by  a number of circumstances, including the excesses (inquisitions, destruction of scholarship, crusades and killings of heretics) and failures of the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire, the break-up of the feudal system and the rise of nationalism among the people.  Eventually, the suffocating political and spiritual environment that did not allow free expression of scientific and intellectual thought prompted scholars and thinkers to call for the revival of the classical world of Greece and Rome (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015, April 17).  Apparently, the European Renaissance resulted in the tactical rejection of Christianity and the revival of pre-Christian Greek and Roman traditions.  The Europeans realized that Christian thought, practices and politics, as perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church, were impediments toward intellectual and scientific learning and advancement.  The Renaissance resulted in the separation of church and state and the institutionalization of secular humanism.

This is why all Western nations today operate their governments on the philosophy of secular-humanism and not through Christian theocracy.  Perhaps, the only entity in Europe today that continues to operate through Christian theocracy is the Vatican.  Due to Western colonialism and global influence, a vast majority of countries in the world today operate their governmental systems based on secular-humanistic ideas and practices.

Fourteenth, the Bubonic Plague struck Europe from 1347 to 1352.  It should be noted that at this time, many European societies had converted to Christianity.  Thus, the conversion to Christianity did not prevent the Bubonic Plague from wiping out a large proportion of the European population.  About 25 million people died from the plague (National Geographic, n.d.).  However, some estimates put the number of people who died from the plague at about 40 to 50 million.  Following the assertion by Evangelical Christians that If Haitians had converted to Christianity, the devastating earthquake would not have taken place, then, how do they explain the fact that Europeans who converted to Christianity were not spared from the ravages of the Bubonic Plague.  More people perished as a result of the plague than the number of Haitians who died as a result of the 2010 earthquake.

Fifteenth, after Christopher Columbus’ epic journey in 1492 landed him in the Americas rather than in East Indies, he inadvertently initiated the bloody Spanish conquest of the Americas.  Hernan Cortes led the Spanish force which invaded and destroyed the Aztec Empire in early sixteenth century.  In 1532, Francisco Pizarro led the Spanish force that invaded and conquered the Incan Empire in Peru.  In fact, his men kidnapped Incan Emperor Atahualpa and promised to release him if gold and silver were exchanged for his freedom.  The Incans agreed and gave them gold and silver.   After receiving the treasures, the Spanish conquistadors still kill the emperor.  (Quijote, 1986).  Although Christians, the Spanish conquistadors inflicted so much pain and suffering by killing Native Americans and destroying their societies to the extent that even in the 21st century, they are still struggling to survive.  In addition, the diseases they brought with them decimated the indigenous population.  It is very doubtful whether Native Americans will ever regard Christianity as a religion of salvation.  It is not surprising that many Native American ethnic groups today are reviving their ancestral religions.  The Christian God did not save them at all from the ravages of the Spanish Christians.

Sixteenth, as the most dominant force in Europe, the Catholic Church became very corrupt.  It got to a point where a member of the church, Martin Luther, a theologian and a monk, could no longer tolerate the hypocrisy and ungodly practices that were being carried out by the Catholic Church to enhance its revenue.  In particular, the notion that some individuals could pay money to the church and had their sins forgiven irked Luther so much so that he compiled the 95 theses in 1517 and pinned the list at the door of a church in Wittenberg for all to see.  The leadership of the church was very angry.  Pope Leo X issued a papal bull in July 1520 that declared Luther’s teachings to be heretical.  Luther was given 60 days to recant and he refused.  Due to his refusal, he was excommunicated from the church in January 3, 1521.  His supporters hid him away.  While in hiding, he translated the Bible into German (History, n.d.).  The effort resulted in the spreading of literacy as people began to read the Bible in German rather than in Greek.

The dispute between the church and Martin Luther resulted in the Protestant Reformation. Europe was thrown into another around of bloody conflicts as the Catholics and the Protestants battled for the control of Christianity.  The struggle eventually led to the Thirty-Year War between the Catholics and the Protestants. Led by European monarchs, the war started in May 23, 1618 and ended in May 15, 1648.  About 20% of the German population died as a result of the conflict between the two Christians groups.

Seventeenth, after the Spanish conquest of the Americas and the scramble by various European states to exploit the resources, one of the worst cases of human brutality took place when the Atlantic Slave trade was initiated in the 16th century.  The forceful deportation of millions of black Africans lasted for four centuries (15th to 19th centuries).  According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, about 12. 5 million Africans were forcibly transported to the Americas (Gates, n.d.) However, some estimates put the number of Africans shipped to Europe and the Americas at about 25 to 30 million people (UNESCO, n.d.).

The Christian establishment and many Christians justified the slave trade by using the Ham’s curse in the Old Testament of the Bible to imply that it was an acceptable act.  Thus, black Africans were equated with being the descendants of Ham, thereby, meriting their enslavement since they were cursed, as Noah did to Ham in Genesis 9:25 “And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren”.  The Ham’s curse continues to serve as the basis for racism directed against black people in the world, even today.

The Christian establishment went further in justifying the slave trade when the Catholic popes issued papal bulls authorizing the Portuguese and the Spanish to import slaves from Africa.  In particular, the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 resulted in the demarcation of global territory into Portuguese and Spanish spheres of influence.  Consequently, starting at 370 leagues, which is about 800 miles, west of Cape Verde, Portugal was given an area involving West Africa, the Indian Ocean, and Brazil.  On the other hand, Spain was given control of the Mediterranean, East Asia and the Americas (Nazeer Ahmed, n.d.).

Eighteenth, it could be said that the Christian Church also contributed directly and indirectly towards the colonization of the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and a sizable part of Asia.  For instance, the Treaty of Tordesillas n 1494, as indicated above, literally laid out the plan for the Portuguese and Spanish colonization of various parts of the world.  It is not surprising that Spain became the colonial master of a territory stretching from the tip of the USA to the tip of South America.  Since Brazil was given to Portugal In the treaty, it is the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America.

Colonialism led to the forceful establishment of agricultural and political enclaves (colonies) where people in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Middle East were forced to embrace.  Likewise, through military conquest and political and religious colonization, many indigenous ethnic groups in the world were compelled to forego their traditional religious cultures and embrace Christianity through education and religious campaigns.

Nineteenth, in 1825, after French slave-owners submitted detailed reports of their losses to the French Government, following the Haitian revolution in 1804, King Charles X demanded that Haiti pay an “independence debt” to the former colonists.  To ensure Haitian payment of the debt, France mounted a naval blockade and demanded compensation totaling 150 million gold francs.  The amount was ten times more than Haiti’s annual income. The figure was later reduced to 90 million gold francs.  Fearful of re-enslavement and recolonization, the Haitian government agreed to pay the “independence debt.”  The interest on the loan borrowed from a French bank to pay the debt was exorbitant.  Not until 1947 was Haiti finally able to pay off the debt (Macdonald, 2010, August 16; The Guardian, May 12, 2015). The debt payment imposed an unbearable financial and economic burden on Haiti, thereby, contributing to the socioeconomic woes of the country.

The action that the French took in Haiti despite their Christianity, resembled the action that the victorious Allied Powers took against Germany after the First World War.  Even though all the countries that fought the war lost so much, the victories powers in the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, inflicted a very high price on Germany as a compensation for causing the war.  The compensation package was so steep that Germany lost 10 percent of its population and territory to the victorious powers.  Likewise, its overseas colonies were taken over by Britain, France and Japan.  The treaty took effect on January 10, 1920.  The Germans were displeased and criticized the treaty very bitterly (Encyclopedia Britannica. 2015, June 9). The severity of the Treaty of Versailles, perhaps, contributed to the massive suffering in Germany that eventually led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.  Thus, anger following the treaty contributed to the 2nd. World War because Germany wanted to pay back in kind for the humiliation it suffered in signing the Armistice after the 1st World War.

The French action against Haiti is also similar to the action it took against the Republic of Guinea, following a referendum in 1958.  In the referendum, Guinea voted against membership in the Community of French Overseas Territories, as proposed by President Charles de Gaulle and decided instead to go its separate way.  The decision suddenly resulted in the country gaining independence from France.  The French reacted angrily against the Guinean decision by taking measures which threatened to cripple the country.   The editors of Encyclopedia Britannica noted:

“The French were particularly vindictive in their break with the country, destroying

valuable equipment and files, suspending all aid and technical assistance, and stopping

almost all investment in Guinea’s mining operations.”  (Gate, 2005).

 

There is no doubt that the French contributed immensely to the economic and financial strangulation of Haiti through the “independence debt” that the Haitians had to pay for their freedom for decades.  France, the Germans felt, contributed to their suffering and anger that eventually resulted in the Second World War.  The feeling of anger probably persuaded Adolf Hitler to force the French to sign the instrument of surrender after Germany captured the country during the Second World War in the manner in which the Germans were forced to sign the instrument of surrender after the First World War.  The National Geographic noted: “The Fuhrer dictated that the surrender be formalized at Compiegne, the very spot where Germans had signed the Armistice ending World War I on 11 November 1918 – Just 22 years earlier.” (National Geographic, 2015, November 11).

 

Twentieth, the struggle for power and influence led to the Crimean War, in which Turkey, Britain, France, and Sardinia aligned against Russia.  The war started in October 1853 and ended in February 1856 after Russia decided to withdraw.  The war took place because Russia attempted to expand its geopolitical influence in the Danube region and the Black Sea.  Turkey opposed the idea since Russian expansion directly threatened its area of influence in the region.  Fearful that Russian expansion as well as its naval enhancement could threaten their geopolitical interests, Britain and France joined Turkey against Russia.  About 200,000 people died in the conflict (Murphy, March 7, 2014).

Twenty-first, by the turn of the twentieth century, most of Europe had converted to Christianity. As a result, a vast majority of the Europeans claimed to be Christians.  Despite this fact, they could not control their nationalistic and geopolitical tendencies, hence, the greatest war ever fought in the history of the world came in 1914 when the First World War started.  By the end of the war, about seventeenth to twenty million people perished.  The scale of destruction was incomparable.  Even biochemical weapons were used to inflict maximum pain and destruction among the competing powers, despite their Christianity.

Twenty-second, quite contrary to the view that Haitians are suffering because they made a pact with the “devil,” the conversion to Buddhism, Christianity and Islam did not stop the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 from afflicting most of the world.  About one third of the world’s population (500 million people) were infected by the deadly disease.  Out of the number of people infected, about 40 to 50 million were estimated to have died.  The influenza affected both humans and swine.  (Taubenberger and Morens, (2006, January).

Twenty-third, political and military leaders as well as scholars thought that the First World War would be the “War to end all wars.” However, in European Christendom, a more deadly conflict erupted in 1939 when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis launched the Second World War.  This war made the First World War looked like a child’s play.  The scale of destruction, suffering and killing surpassed that of the First World War.  As a result, about 50 million people perished.  The conversion to Christianity did not prevent the hegemonic struggle for the control of Europe and the world. Thus, Christians have no hesitation in killing other Christians, as the Second World War indicated.

Twenty-fourth, the amazing thing about Europe is that it is probably the most militarily fortified continent in the world.  The entire continent is dotted with military fortifications and castles, thereby, indicating that destructive wars had taken place quite frequently in the past.  Many of the castles and military fortifications were built after the institutionalization of Christianity.  This meant that the religion did not lead to the cessation of hostilities among rival communities and ambitious military and political leaders.  On the other hand, Sub-Saharan Africa that is often maligned by Christians for being the center of devil worshipping due to the prevalence of Ancestralism, has fewer military castles and fortifications.

 

Twenty-fifth, apart from events that took place in Europe, in the Americas, conversion to Christianity did not make any difference regarding the occurrence of destructive events. In Christian United States of America, a bloody civil war took place, starting in 1863 and ending in 1867.  New estimates now indicate that about 750,000 people died in the American Civil War (Guy Gugliotta, 2012, April 2).  One of the issues that prompted the southern states to secede from the union was slavery.  Even though both regions were Christian, the north wanted to abolish slavery while the south wanted to perpetuate it.  Even after the civil war, blacks in Christian USA continued to suffer various forms of discrimination.  For Native Americans in the USA, it is doubtful whether they will ever be convinced that Christianity is a source of their salvation, following the military campaigns that resulted in the dispossession of their lands.

To ensure equal treatment of all Americans, the United States Government has been very active in passing legislations to reduce discrimination and human and civil rights violations.  Apart from the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution), the U.S. Government passed the 13, 14, 15, 19th and 26th Amendments. Likewise, it also passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957, 1964, and 1968.  Similarly, to ensure the equal right to vote, it passed the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 and expanded it in 1970, 1975 and 1982.  Added to this is the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (Dye, 2007).  Thus, the US is a shining pillar in the effort to address racial, ethnic, class and gender issues in the world.

Compared to the progressive tendencies of the United States Government, Latin American governments, on the other hand, have been lukewarm in passing legislations that could guarantee equal rights for all citizens, including Native Americans and Afro-Latinos.  In fact, many Latin American countries, including Mexico and Peru, find it difficult to acknowledge their black populations, despite their Christianity.  The blacks exist in a state of political, religious and socioeconomic invisibility.  The Christian leadership and the Christians generally does not feel comfortable in discussing the iniquities concerning the treatment of blacks in Latin America but they are very eager to judge the Haitians because of the Voodoo religion.

Twenty-sixth, it should be noted that a major volcanic eruption took place in Martinique in the Caribbean on May 7, 1902.  The Mount Pele eruption resulted in the total destruction of Saint Pierre.  Only two individuals survived the eruption, including a prisoner who was locked up in an underground cell. Thus, Saint Pierre which was referred to as the Paris of the Caribbean ceased to exist.  The fact is that the volcanic eruption took place in an island that had converted to Christianity (History, n.d.). This shows that natural disasters can take place anywhere irrespective of religion.

Twenty-seventh, again, in the Caribbean region, the Soufriere Hills volcano in Montserrat Island erupted in 1995.  The eruption forced about two-thirds of the residents of the capital to flee, even though no one was killed.  Then, in 1997, the volcano erupted again, this time, killing 19 people and forcing the citizens to abandon half of the island. The volcanic eruption took place regardless of the fact that the citizens of Montserrat were Christians (Huffington Post, 2013, October 13).  Here again, there is no basis to infer that a natural disaster was prompted by a religious belief system.

 

Determining the Outcomes of the Hypotheses

Having identified important political, religious and historical events that have taken place in Christendom, it might be necessary now to determine the outcomes of the four hypotheses of the article.

(1)   There is no correlation between the suffering in Haiti and the worshipping of Voodoo religion.

Based on the facts enumerated above, there is no correlation between the suffering in Haiti and the worshipping of Voodoo in Haiti.  By extension, there is also no correlation between the worshipping of Ancestralism and suffering in Africa or elsewhere.  These are the reasons:

  1. Europe converted to Christianity, starting from the time the Roman Empire officially converted to Christianity in 378 CE. Yet, throughout the reign of the Church in Europe, there was much suffering.  The Dark Ages, in particular, was characterized by killings, destruction, pillaging and much more killings.   The Dark Ages was followed by the Christian crusades and the Viking invasion.
  2. The situation even affected advancement of knowledge as classical Greek and Roman scholarly works were destroyed.
  3. In an effort to make Christianity the only religion in the continent, the Catholic Church, working with the Holy Roman Empire, carried out crusades and inquisitions, burnt thousands of people to death, killed and imprisoned heretics and annihilated other branches of Christianity as demonstrated by the liquidation of the Cathars in France.
  4. Despite conversion to Christianity, the greatest wars ever fought in the history of the world took place in Christian Europe. The major wars included (1) The Christian crusades, (2) the Thirty-Year war, (3) the Crimean War, (4) the First World War and (5) the Second World War. Thus, the heart of Christendom witnessed the greatest human disasters, in terms of warfare.
  5. The conversion to Christianity did not prevent the Bubonic Plague and the Influenza from infecting Ancestralists, Buddhists, Christians, Moslems and members of other religions in the world.
  6. Indeed, the facts, as enumerated above, show that there is no correlation between the suffering in Haiti and the worshipping of Voodoo religion. The data show that Christian Europe has experienced much more pain and suffering than any other continent due to the mammoth nature of the wars that had taken place in that continent.
  7. Quite contrary to the stereotypical characterization of Voodoo as a devilish religion, it is like any other ancestral-based religion.  It is based on the worshipping of God through ancestral deities.  It has gods and goddesses, just like other African, Asian and Native American traditional shamanic religions.  It is considered a very sacred religion, hence, the priests and priestesses are called directly by divine entities to serve.  It is based on absolute truth since truthfulness is equated with godliness.  The gods and goddesses in Voodoo are equivalent to the Christian and Islamic angels.  The ancestral deities can be equated with the Christian saints.  Therefore, St. Michael in Christianity is equivalent to Ogun in Yorubaland and Egbesu in Ijawland.
  8. Thus, God and not the devil is at the core of all traditional African religions, including Voodoo. This is why the Acholis refer to God as Lubanga, the Kikuyus as Ngai, the Ijaws as Tamarau or Ayiba or Woyengi or Temeno, the Efiks and the Ibibios as Abassi, the Igbos as Chineke or Chukwu, the Yorubas as Olodumare (Olorun) or Oluwa, the Kongos as Nzamba a Mpungu, the Akans as Onyamea or Boreborea and many others, the Shonas as Mwari, the Zulus as u Thixo or Unkulukulu, the Oromos as Waaqi or Waqi, the Mandes as Mangala, Mandingos as Ndamanso or Mmariyo, the Hausas as Ubangidi, the Tivs as Aondo, the Urhobos as Ogene, the Edos as Osanobwa, the Nupes as Soko., and so on ans forth. Thus, there is a Supreme God, followed by various gods and goddesses that specialize in various aspects of existence and ancestral beings.  This is similarly to Christianity with a Supreme God, followed by angels and saints.  Therefore, it is utterly incorrect to assume that Voodoo is tantamount to worshipping of the devil.  Unlike Christianity and other globalized religions, African traditional religions, including Voodoo and Rastafari are not imperialistic.  This means that they do not force people to convert.  The religions are considered sacred because the religious priests and priestesses are chosen by godly entities and not by human beings.  Hence, the Haitians, Bakongos, Igbos, Kikuyus, Luos, Maasais,  Ijaws, Yorubas, Oromos, Afro-Cubans, Ambundus, Afro-Dominicans, Afro-Brazilians, Ovimbundus,  Hayas, Rastafarians, Chaggas, Mbutis, and so on and so forth, have never gone on religious crusades to convert people by force to embrace their  traditional religions, including Voodoo, Santeria, Trinidad Orisha, Palo,  Candomble, Quimbanda, and Umbanda.   These ancestral-based religions do not depend on written texts or the readings of sacred books to understand God since the godly essence manifests to those pure in heart at its own choosing.  Adherents can achieve a very high spiritual state of consciousness through spirit-possession.

 

2)   Conversion to Christianity will not stop suffering in Haiti, as the Christians claim

Based on the political, religious, and historical facts as enumerated above, Haitian conversion to Christianity will not make a difference regarding whether the people suffer or not.  The same applies to Sub-Saharan Africans since Voodoo is one of the African traditional religions.  These are the reasons for taking this position:

  1. Europeans converted to Christianity, yet, they underwent centuries of unimaginable suffering, involving unrestrained military warfare, rampaging, looting, killing and destruction.
  2. Europeans converted to Christianity, yet, they lost millions of people to the Bubonic Plague. Later, like the Africans, Asians, and Americans, Europeans also suffered from the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.
  3. European suffering started to diminish with the conquest of the Americas, Africa, and some parts of Asia due to the wealth confiscated from those territories. The Congolese paid dearly as King Leopold of Belgium exploited the resources and inflicted pain and destruction on the people.  Native Americans too paid dearly.  Thus, the wealth taken from different parts of the world helped to create wealth that eventually led to industrialization and economic development in Europe.  Thus, Christianity did not contribute to political and social stability in Europe.  It actually made life very difficult.
  4. The Europeans rejected Christianity and opted for secular humanism, which allowed progressive thinking and freedom to bloom in the continent. This accounted for why even in the twenty-first century, the church is still separated from the state in all Western countries, except the Vatican.
  5. The United States was founded based on Christian principles, yet, slavery dragged on even after the civil war. Native Americans paid dearly and are still suffering.  Minorities are still fighting for political, economic and judicial equality.  Actually, ideas originating from secular humanism have been responsible for enhancing progress in human and civil rights in the United States of America, Canada and Australia and not Christian ideas.
  6. While humanistic ideas are responsible for the progress made in the United States and other Western nations, Christianity has not changed the status of blacks in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Indeed, Afro-Mexicans are still treated as a non-existing group of people.  Alexis Okeowo (n.d.) noted when he visited Mexico:

The notion of race in Mexico is frustratingly complex.  This is a country where many are proud to claim African blood, yet discriminate against their darker

countrymen.  Black Mexicans complain that such bigotry makes it especially hard for them to find work.

 

Afro-Mexicans are among the poorest in the nation.  Many are shunted to remote shantytowns, well out of reach of basic public services, such as schools and hospitals.

In Peru, it was in 2009 that former President Alan Garcia Perez rendered an apology to black Peruvians for centuries of discrimination and racism.  He pleaded with public and private institutions to eradicate exclusion and racism (Guerra, 2009, December 8). Former President Alan Garcia Perez, who happened to be a Native American, made the apology. As a Native American, he knew the suffering that his people and black Peruvians have undergone in the country.  The World Bank noted:

Half of Afro-Peruvians have been insulted at least once on the street whereas

four of every 10 have felt discriminated against in their workplace or in shops

or other public spaces.

 

These figures are from the Center for Afro-Peruvian Studies and Promotion,

Which reports that despite some progress, Afro-Peruvians continue to be

Invisible to the government as well as much of society.

 

The country’s international image is tied mainly to its Inca heritage, to the

Machu Picchu and to the indigenous population. It is an image that ignores the

diversity and complexity of the human geography of Peru, especially

Afro-Peruvians (The World Bank, 2013, October 13).

In Brazil, despite the huge Afro-Brazilian population, a vast majority of blacks live at the periphery of society due to discrimination.  Brazilians, Mexicans, Peruvians, and other Latin Americans countries have converted to Christianity but Christianity has not stopped racial discrimination and neglect of Afro-Latin Americans.  They continue to remain generally invisible, in terms of education, health care, employment and political inclusion. Most blacks in Latin America live at the mercy of God, because the states do not care about them.

 

  1. Therefore, if Haitians convert en masse to Christianity, they would continue to experience some of the pain that they are going through now. The reason is that the Voodoo religion has nothing to do with their plight. There is no evidence of conversion to Christianity contributing to happiness anywhere.  Afro-Latinos and Native Americans are living witnesses to their marginalization and neglect, despite their conversion to Christianity.
  2. The clearest evidence that conversion to Christianity will not make any difference is Italy. Rome, which is in Italy, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.    Despite its Christianity, Italy is dotted with earthquake fault lines.  This means that the country experiences earth tremors regularly. The fact that the country is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church has not prevented earth tremors from taking place.
  3. Obviously, the 27 points identified above show that conversion to Christianity would not prevent or stop natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes from occurring. Moreover, Christians have never been in peace with themselves.  Hence, despite the fact that all Christians read the Bible and follow the teaching of Jesus Christ, they are highly factionalized.  They are factionalized to the extent that Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholic Christianity are still in a state of cold war.  The Roman Catholics and the Protestants actually fought a hot war for thirty years (Thirty-Year War).   If the Christiansare at war with themselves, it is impossible for Christianity to stop suffering anywhere, including Haiti.

 

(3) Societies that have converted to Christianity suffer as much as societies that subscribe to other religions.

Many people in the world do not realize that Ancestralism, the worshipping of God through ancestral deities, is the most widespread religion in the world, not Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.  Although different societies use different names for their brand of Ancestralism but the main tenets remain the same.  Generally, it is possible to identify an ancestral religion by examining cultures which practice communalism and have strong respect for elders and ancestors.  Thus, Native Americans, Vietnamese, Thais, Chinese, Haitians, Nigerians, Gabonese, Ivorians, Togolese, Kenyans, Indians, Senegalese, Mongolians, Indians, Tanzanians, Togolese, Fijians, Hawaiians, Australian Aborigines, Samoans, Maoris, and so on and so forth, pay homage to their ancestors.  This is why it is an abomination to lie in the name of the ancestor in the aforementioned societies.  Therefore, not only in Haiti but in many parts of the non-Western world, underneath the façade of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, there is an ancestral-based religion like Voodoo whereby God is worshipped through the ancestors.  The ancestral religion often serves as the foundation for society’s morality, norms and mores. Apparently, any shamanic-oriented religion is an ancestral-based religion.

In this regard, it is not the case that wherever Ancestralism is worshipped as a religion, the people suffer.  By implication, Haitian difficulties have nothing to do with the Voodoo religion or the signing of a “pact with the devil.”  After all, Japan, experiences earthquakes regularly. The fact that Japan experiences earth tremors regularly does not mean that the Japanese worshipping of Shintoism and Buddhism is the cause.  Similarly, Chile experiences earthquakes regularly because it is located in an earthquake- prone zone.  Therefore, the frequent occurrence of earth tremors in the country cannot be attributed to Christianity.  Why is it that only in Haiti and in black Africa that unpleasant circumstances are attributed to the traditional religious culture while other societies that worship similar religions are not blamed when unfortunate situations happen?

Likewise, there is no evidence to support the view that conversion to Christianity will stop the suffering of the Haitian people.  The following provide a short list of instances in which Christianity has not lead to stability or happiness:

  1. Christians were at war with themselves in the formative years of the religion for the ideological soul of the religion, so much so that there were different factions preaching different ideas about the religion. Emperor Constantine decided to end the ideological warfare by convening the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE.  In the council, there was division of opinion concerning the status of Jesus Christ in relationship to God.
  2. Despite the fact that all Christians worship the same religion, Orthodox Christians and Agnostic Christians are not ideological bedfellows. Hence, the King James Version of the Bible represents the Orthodox view of Christianity and not the Agnostic view. This means that the Bible, especially the New Testament, does not represent the totality of Christian views about Jesus Christ and Christianity.
  3. Similarly, despite their Christianity, the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have been in a state of cold war for a long time. The feud between the two branches of Christianity has lasted for about a 1000 years. In fact, in February 2016, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill and the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis met in Cuba in an attempt to resolve their differences (Yardley, 2016, February 12),
  4. After the Martin Luther rebellion in 1617, the Protestant Reformation resulted in a split in the Catholic Church, leading to the establishment of Protestant Christianity.
  5. Today, Evangelical Christianity is spreading all over the Christian world as exponents vigorously campaign to win converts. Haiti, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are battle zones as the evangelicals want to convert even Catholic Christians into their ranks.
  6. Even though Ireland is a Christian country, the Irish people have had problems since the Christian Church split into the Catholic and Protestant branches. The religious conflict magnified when Henry VIII of England had a dispute with the Catholic Pope.  He renounced Rome’s authority and made himself the head of the Anglican Church in 1536.  The Catholic faith was suppressed while the Protestant faith was encouraged.   Hence, Protestants were encouraged from England and Scotland to settle in Ireland in an effort to dominate the Irish Catholics.  Following the crushing of the rebellion organized by the Earl of Tyrone (O’Neill and Earl of Tyrconnell (O’Donnell) in 1603, Irish lands were gradually confiscated while Protestant English and Scots were encouraged to settle in large numbers.  Thereafter, strong-arm military tactics were used to institute a tighter control over Ireland (Holloway, June 2005).  Peace came to Northern Ireland in the twentieth century between the two politico-religious factions. However, even today, the peace in Northern Ireland is very shaky.  Any misstep, either by the Catholics or the Protestants, can turn Northern Ireland into another bloody war zone again.  Thus, it could be said that Christianity has not helped the Irish at all. It magnified their problem by dividing them into two ideological camps.
  7. Christian Europe could be said to have suffered more than any other part of the world despite conversion to Christianity, as indicated by the historical facts above.
  8. Despite conversion to Christianity, many people continue to suffer from poverty and violence in Central America, just as in some parts of Africa.
  9. Finally, the 27 political, religious and historical points identified above indicate clearly that all nations go through challenging periods in their history, regardless of their religion.

 

 

(4) There are extraneous factors other than “a pact with the devil” that contribute to the situation in Haiti.

Rather than blame the Voodoo religion, it is more appropriate to look for other factors that might be responsible for contributing to the problems in Haiti.  The following might help to clarify the position taken:

  1. Haiti is a political victim of its successful revolution.  Even in the twenty-first century, there are Christians who find it difficult to accept the fact that Haitians relied on the spirituality of their ancestral religion to stage a revolution that led to their freedom from enslavement and colonialism in the early nineteenth century.
  2. The success of the revolution neutralized the Christian view that Christianity is the purest and most godly religion in the world. Thus, the success of the Haitian revolution  is a blight on the superiority of Christianity and the Christians are working very hard to clean that history by stigmatizing Voodoo.  Apparently, the struggle for the control of the spiritual souls of Haitians is similar to the struggle for the control of the spiritual souls of the Angolans, Dahomeyans (Beninois), Cameroonians, Chadians, Ghanaians, Congolese, Guineans, Kenyans, Nigerians, Malians, South Africans, Tanzanians, Ugandans, Zambians, Zimbabweans and so on and so forth.  In other words, the Christian war against Haitian Voodoo is a war against African Ancestralism. The Jews have been fighting to stand on their religious faith for about two thousand years now and the Christians have been making it exceedingly difficult for them to be Jews. Jews are constantly victimized by violence perpetrated by Christians in the West.
  3. Due to the fact that Haitians overthrew a highly regarded European leader, the West still continues to be hostile towards them. This is why successive Western interventions in Haiti have tended to drag it backwards, thereby, stunting political and economic development while increasing the suffering and pain of the people.
  4. Thus, Haitian experience in dealing with the West is similar to Sub-Saharan African experience in dealing with the West. Just has nothing good is spoken of Haiti, nothing good is spoken of Sub-Saharan Africa.  Just as most Westerners routinely refer to Haiti as a poor country, so most Westerners refer to Sub-Saharan Africa even though the facts are not necessarily correct. Most Westerners are not aware that Sub-Saharan Africa is highly urbanized with large cities.  The cities of Lagos and Kano in Nigeria and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for example, have populations that are larger than the populations of the cities of New York, London, Cologne, Berlin, Barcelona, and Paris, yet, sub-Saharan Africans are generally viewed as “poverty-stricken, disease-ravaged wild game hunters and gatherers.” Haiti, like other Caribbean Islands, is located in both an earthquake and hurricane prone zones of the world.  This means that once in a while Haiti will either experience an earthquake, such as the one that took place in January 2010 or a hurricane, such as the one (Mathew) which struck on October 4, 2016 in Southwest Haiti, near Les Anglais.
  5. The Haitian situation, in regards to natural disasters, is not unique. For instance, Italy has experienced more than 100 magnitude 4 or more earthquakes since 2000.
  6. The most plausible reason to explain the difficult situation in Haiti is the “independence debt” that France imposed on the country after its independence. Forced to take a loan with a high interest rate, Haiti completed paying the debt in 1947.  The second most plausible reason is foreign interference, which severely inhibits the country’s ability to develop and modernize both politically and economically.

 

Conclusion

Firstly, it is obvious, based on the political, religious and historical facts enumerated above, that there is no correlation between the worshipping of Voodoo religion and suffering in Haiti.  Apparently, there is no iota of evidence to support the view that a “pact with the devil” is the cause of Haitian suffering. Secondly, there is no historical evidence to indicate that conversion to Christianity will stop suffering in Haiti.  In many parts of the world, Christianity actually contributes to religious and political problems which culminate in suffering.  Thirdly, all societies have suffered in one form or another, regardless of whether they subscribe to Voodoo or Buddhism or Christianity or Islam.  History shows that European societies which converted to Christianity have fought some of the most destructive wars since human existence.  Fourth, it is much more appropriate to attribute the problems Haiti faced to the “independence debt” and foreign interventions to dominate the country.  After all, Haiti (pre-independence colonial name – St. Dominique) was the richest French colony in the Caribbean before the inglorious debt wrecked the socioeconomic fabric of Haitian society.

It is inferable that Haiti is being punished for its revolutionary success in 1804 and not through a “pact with the devil,” as Evangelical Christians seemed to imply.  It is apt to conclude this article by quoting Jean-Marc Bouchet, a water trader in Haiti, who said:

We Haitians know that a big reason why we are suffering today is because we were

forced to pay France for our freedom.  If we were not punished for our independence

long ago, we would have had a better time” (The Guardian, 2015, May 15).

 

If Evangelical Christians are serious about enhancing the quality of life in the country, they should lobby the French government to pay back the “independence debt” it collected from the Haitians and not waste unnecessary time blaming the ancestral religion.  The United Nations, the European Union and the United States of America too should put pressure on France to return the funds it collected from the Haitian people.  It is superfluous in the twenty-first century for any group to insist that one religion is superior to another

 

 

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The Riddle of the Abducted Chibok School Girls

The Riddle of the Abducted Chibok School Girls

 

By Priye S. Torulagha

Torulaghareports.com

priyet@hotmail.com

 

If there is one issue that continues to boggle the mind, it is the case of the abducted Chibok school girls in Northeastern Nigeria.  The reason is that the more an individual makes attempt to comprehend the dynamics of the unfortunate incident, the more the person is left with a greater sense of bewilderment about how the matter unfolded.  It is like a story in a Greek tragi-comedy.  Hence, the story is filled with riddles, thereby, necessitating the asking of endless questions about what really happened in order to get to the bottom of the story. Unfortunately, the story never ends, thereby, adding further to the mystery.

It should be recalled that about two hundred and seventy six students from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok were abducted by the militant Boko Haram Islamic sect on April 14, 2014.  The abduction gained world-wide news coverage, resulting in demonstrations and the demand for the Nigerian Government to do everything possible to free the girls from their captors.  About 57 of the girls were able to escape from captivity in the immediate aftermath of the abduction.  However, a majority of the girls were not able to flee, hence, remained in captivity until security forces started to free some of them incrementally.  Former President Goodluck Jonathan was criticized by many Nigerians and some foreign governments for not acting fast enough to rescue the girls.  As a result, prior to the presidential election of March 28, 2015, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) party promised to expedite the rescuing of the kidnapped school girls, as soon as they get into power in Nigeria if they win the election.  The promise to act with military precision convinced many voters in the country to vote for Gen. Buhari and the APC party.  Eventually, Dr. Jonathan lost the presidential election and Gen. Buhari won.

Based on the campaign promises, Nigerians had high hopes that the girls would be speedily freed from captivity with Maj. Gen. Buhari serving as the president of the country and the All Progressives Congress (APC) ruling as the dominant political party.  President Buhari was sworn in as the head of state on May 29, 2015.  Again, like a riddle, despite the campaign promises, there has never been any speedy freeing of the girls as the Nigerian armed forces waged war to destroy the Boko Haram.  Instead, a few number of the girls were rescued through military operations while the majority of them remained in captivity.  Then, on October 13, 2016, 21 of the girls were freed Boko Haram through a negotiated deal Involving Nigeria, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Swiss government. The freeing of the 21 girls raised hopes again in Nigeria and throughout the world that the sad incident would come to an end soon.  Again, like a riddle, nothing else happened and the fate of the remaining girls are still unknown, thereby, raising much concern about their whereabouts.

The political pressure to resolve the matter compelled the Nigerian military to intensify its military operations.  It decided to attack the Sambisa Forest, which has been the major hideout of the Boko Haram from the group.  Eventually, on December 24, 2016, the Nigerian military was able to retake the forest, thereby, forcing the Boko Haram to flee in different directions.  With the retaking of the Sambisa forest, Boko Haram finally lost the last of its territorial stronghold in its self-declared Islamic caliphate.  Again, like a riddle, even the retaking of the Sambisa forest has not resulted in freeing of the remaining Chibok girls.  In short, the girls were not found in the forest.  If the Sambisa Forest was the stronghold of the violent group and no Chibok girls were found, then the question as to where they are looms large again.  So, where are the remaining Chibok girls?  Perhaps, some of them might have been killed during military operations.  However, what about the others?

It should be noted that Nigerian, Cameroonian, Chadian and Nigerien military forces have rescued thousands of abducted civilians.  Despite the successes in doing so, the remaining Chibok girls are still in captivity somewhere that the military forces and intelligence agencies have not been able to locate.

Were the Girls actually abducted or Not?

When the heart-breaking news of the abduction of the students of Chibok Government Girls Secondary School captured the attention of the world, there was a debate about the authenticity of the abduction.  In Nigeria, the debate was very intense.  Some Nigerians strongly believed that the kidnapping was a politically staged event intended to create the impression that former President Jonathan was a weak, clueless and incompetent leader.  The doubters insisted that the staged event was part of the tactical actions taken by some very powerful political leaders in the country to make the country ungovernable so that President Jonathan and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) could be defeated in the presidential election that was scheduled for March 2015.  Following this line of thinking, the doubters continue to maintain that the girls are kept in safe houses owned by powerful political and religious individuals who are working with the Boko Haram to score political points and create personal sources of wealth.

On the other hand, those who believed that the abduction in April 14, 2104 was an actual event, maintained that Boko Haram took the action single-handedly to embarrass the government and to impress upon Nigerians that it was winning the war against the armed forces.  The believers castigated those who viewed the kidnapping as a staged event for being too cynical.  They hoped and prayed that the government would take whatever action deemed necessary to free the remaining students from bondage.  They continue to maintain that the kidnapping was real and should be treated as such. 

The Logistics of the Kidnapping Operation

For those who doubted the authenticity of the abduction, the logistical capability of Boko Haram to plan and execute the operation so swiftly without any hitch, seemed to bother them the most.   At the time of the kidnapping, Boko Haram had not established a protective territorial base. This meant that they were operating in a classic guerrilla fashion, moving from place to place and attacking different targets.  Thus, without a permanent territorial base, it was logistically impossible for a mobile guerrilla force to plan so ambitiously to attack a school and kidnap more than 250 people at the same time, considering the fact that at the time, the Northeast region was under military emergency.  People wondered about the capability of the Boko Haram to abduct the students and drive them away in a number of vehicles without being seen by any branch of the Nigerian armed forces and the police that were posted to the region?

Moreover, the doubters questioned the ability of the group to capture and keep in custody over two hundred human beings.  The reason is that it takes a lot of money, food and other necessities to provide for more than two hundred people on daily basis.  Moreover, under normal circumstances, the toilet needs of the captives would make it exceedingly challenging for a guerrilla force to keep such a large number of people for any length of time without tactical support from some members of the community.  Indeed, even a regular conventional military force might find it challenging to capture, keep and maintain two hundred people.  Therefore, the issue of logistics tends to create doubt about the capability of Boko Haram to carry out such an operation by itself at that time without getting support from some powerful individuals in society who provided money, housing, food and health care to the captives.

The Effort to rescue the Girls

The effort to rescue the Chibok girls too is filled with riddles, thereby, confounding the matter.

First, initially, the Nigerian military was powerless to create an immediate impact militarily since it was penetrated by elements that were sympathetic to Boko Haram.  Fifth-columnists within the armed forces enabled the Boko Haram to operate without fear, hence, it was able to strike at any target it wanted, especially in the northern parts of the country.

Second, many Nigerian soldiers felt that the situation was hopeless due to poor and unworkable equipment.  Some actually ran away and refused to fight, claiming that it was suicidal to confront the Boko Haram without effective weaponry.  It was this period that enabled Boko Haram to capture a large territory and declared the Islamic Caliphate.

Third, the search for the abducted girls did not proceed at a pace many Nigerians expected.  There were too many political and logistical obstacles that disadvantaged the Nigerian military while providing advantage to the Boko Haram.

Fourth, it took a change of army leadership for Nigeria to make progress in pushing the group back. Thus, before the presidential election of March 2015, the Nigerian Army, under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minimah, became very successful in actually recapturing territory from Boko Haram.  This allowed the citizens of the region to vote in the presidential election of March 28, 2015. Thus, by the time Dr. Jonathan left office, about 50 to 70% of the territory that Boko haram occupied had been retaken from the group.

Fifth, despite successful military effort to drastically degrade the capability of Boko Haram, under the Army leadership of Lt. Gen.  Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Army has not been able to locate the remaining abducted girls.  As a result, the 21 girls that were rescued took place through a negotiated effort and not through military operation.  Some Nigerian believed that the federal government paid fabulously, in addition to releasing a number of captured commanders of the organization before the girls were released to the International Committee of the Red Cross.  The government denied any payment but doubting Nigerians wondered why Boko Haram released 21 captives without any precondition. The question of whether money was paid or not added to the mystery surrounding the Chibok girls.

Sixth, the most surprising riddle about the effort to rescue the Chibok girls was the sudden departure of the United States, Britain and France from the search effort after volunteering to do so.  The US and the other Western countries left without informing or explaining to the world the information they gathered about the kidnapped girls.  The sudden departure forced some Nigerians to speculate that, perhaps, the US, Britain and France might have discovered that the kidnapping was a staged political event, hence, they packed and left. Sadly, up till today, no explanation has been given for the sudden departure from the search effort by the United States.  The suddenness of the departure simply adds to the mystery of the abducted school girls.

The Rescued Girls and the Great Silence

Another interesting aspect of the Chibok girls riddle is the unwillingness of those who are familiar with the case to speak publicly about it. Generally, in any kidnapping or abduction situation, as soon as the victim is released from captivity, the media would try to conduct a personal interview in order to get the full story out.  Sometimes, it is the victim who decides to hold a press conference to explain what happened.  In the case of victims involving minors, the parents often make the effort to inform the world about what happened to their children while they were in captivity.  For instance, in the kidnapping cases involving minors such as Ese Oruru, Ifeoma Odugusi, Habiba Isyaku, Progress Jacob, Blessing Gopep, Linda Christopher, Lucy Ejeh,  and Patience Paul, the parents spoke to the  press and informed the world about their painful experiences.  Yet, in the Chibok girls’ case, no one is willing to speak openly about the matter.  The silence is a great mystery that defies common logic in dealing with abduction cases.

First, the few Chibok girls who were rescued through military operations were never allowed to speak directly to the media and explain their experiences during captivity after they had been debriefed by the military and intelligence agencies.  If the girls had been allowed to speak to the media and narrate their experiences, the doubt about the authenticity of the kidnapping would have disappeared.

Second, the 21 girls who were released from captivity through a negotiated deal have not been allowed to speak about their personal experiences in an open manner.  After a group picture of their release was taken, they were immediately whisked away and made to remain very quiet about their ordeal.  The 21 girls are now free but remain psychologically imprisoned by being compelled to remain invisible and voiceless.  Why?

Third, a very baffling thing is that the parents of the girls that have been rescued are not eager to speak to the media in an open manner.  Generally, parents always want to speak and inform the world about what happened to their children while they were in captivity.  In the case of the Chibok girls, the parents are almost invisible. They also remain voiceless, like the children.  The silence on the part of the parents tends to create the impression that there is more to the story than the public is made to believe. It appears that neither the children nor the parents are at liberty to speak about their experiences. This creates the impression that there might be other explanations.

Fourth, Chibok is an African community with communal traditions. This means that when something happens to the community, the leaders of the community would speak to clear the air.  In the case of the Chibok girls, the Chibok community does not seem to act in a communal manner to protect the community.   The community leaders remain voiceless and are not eager to explain to the world the experiences of their children.  This is contrary to the behavior that happens elsewhere.  In the Agatu, Nimbo and Southern Kaduna killings, community leaders and the victims spoke about their personal experiences to the entire world.   They even gave specific details about what precipitated the killings.  In the case of the Chibok community, the leaders, like the parents of the girls and the victims, remain speechless and voiceless.  The speechlessness further adds to the riddle about the authenticity of the abduction.

Fifth, the federal government too behaves very strangely.  Generally, when security forces are able to successfully carry out an operation to rescue victims of kidnapping or terrorism, the military branch that was responsible for carrying out the operation will hold a press conference and speak about the operation.  While addressing the press, the rescued victims are allowed to speak briefly about their experiences before taking the next step.  In the case of the Chibok girls, neither the military nor the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture is willing to allow the girls to address or speak to the media.  The 21 girls were released in October 2015 and Nigerians still have not heard directly from them about their experiences.  The world is still waiting anxiously to hear directly from the mouths of the victims.  It seems that they are in a protective custody.

The Media

The riddle of the Chibok girls is further reinforced by the fact that even the Nigerian media are not too eager to interview the girls. Ordinarily, journalists would have been crawling all over the Chibok area in an attempt to get first-hand information from the rescued girls about their ordeal. By now, reporters and editorial writers would have made comments about the difficulty of speaking to the girls on first-hand basis. It is amazing that Nigerian journalists made strenuous efforts to speak to victims of other incidents in the country, yet, do not seem to show any concerted effort in speaking either to the girls or the parents of the girls directly.  Why?  Is anything preventing them from interviewing the girls directly about their ordeal? Even during the heydays of armed opposition in the Niger Delta, both national and international journalists took the risk to find their way to speak to the fighters in the creeks.  Similarly, the Niger Delta armed groups allowed journalists to take pictures of their captives.  Yet, in the Chibok case, it is a journalistic no-go-area.

Civil Society Organizations

Like the Nigerian media, civil society organizations too seem to behave in a manner that creates a feeling of doubtfulness about the matter.  When the abduction took place, demonstrations and protests were mounted by various groups to put pressure on the government to free the girls.  In particular, the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group captured the attention of the world by mounting demonstrations and speaking in various venues to highlight the unfortunate issue.  However, since some of the girls gained freedom from captivity, suddenly, the civil society groups too have not been eager or interested in speaking to the girls directly and informing the whole world about what happened.  Why are they also maintaining silence? This is puzzling indeed.    

Captured Boko Haram Fighters as Sources of Intelligence about the Girls

There is no doubt that Nigerian, Chadian, Nigerien and Cameroonian military forces have captured thousands of Boko Haram fighters.   Some of the individuals captured were probably top military commanders of the group.  This means that by now, Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon should have been able to obtain reliable information that would have resulted in locating the places in which the remaining abducted girls are kept.   The reason is that, generally, captured enemy troops are always excellent sources of reliable information for unraveling the secrets of the enemy.  This has always been the proven methodology in every war that has been fought throughout the history of the world.  Yet, the war against the Boko Haram seems to turn a common military practice for gathering intelligence upside down.  Why is it so difficult to locate the remaining girls when the Boko Haram movement, as reported by Nigerian authorities, has been degraded to the point of defeat?  It is very difficult to accept the view that the armed forces and intelligence agencies of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have not been able to obtain critical intelligence from some of the captured enemy fighters.  The lack of appropriate intelligence after almost two years of engaging the Boko Haram, further adds to the mystery of the Chibok girls’ case.

The rescued Girls as Sources of Intelligence

Apart from gathering critical intelligence from captured enemy fighters, another way in which information could be obtained is through speaking to those civilians that have been rescued through military operations.  It is a fact that military operations conducted by Nigerian, Chadian, Nigerien and Cameroonian military forces against the Boko Haram have resulted in rescuing of hundreds, if not thousands of abducted children and adults.  There is no doubt that some of those who have been rescued through military operations have important information about the hidden operational bases of Boko Haram.  Therefore, it is befuddling that critical intelligence that can lead to the location of the remaining Chibok girls has not been obtained from those freed from captivity.  Again, this defies common military tactics to gather intelligence for waging war.

Negotiating to Release the Remaining Girls

Not only Nigerians but quite a substantial number of people in the world are baffled that Nigeria is still negotiating with Boko Haram to free the remaining girls after the federal government announced that the group has been defeated, following the retaking of Sambisa Forest. Again, this defies a common military practice.  Generally, when an enemy has been defeated, it would make concessions in return for a better treatment of its fighters by the victorious side.  If Boko Haram has been defeated, then, it is the responsibility of Nigeria to set a condition that all the remaining Chibok girls must be returned by the group before Nigeria decides to reintegrate its fighters into society and rehabilitate them without severe punishment.

Thus, it is a contradiction to indicate that Boko Haram has been defeated and yet, continue to negotiate with it as if it is still a durable force. The fact that Nigeria continues to negotiate with the group, almost on an equal basis, indicates that the group has been degraded but not defeated.  This is why Nigeria is still powerless to rescue the remaining girls without entering into serious negotiations with the group.  Apparently, contrary to the notion that the group has been defeated, Boko Haram has increasingly become very tactical and effective in targeting Nigerian military officers. Here again, the Chibok girls matter creates conditions for people to scream and scratch their heads in bewilderment.

Conclusion

Based on the points identified above, the behavior of the actors/stakeholders in the Chibok girls affair tends to becloud the authenticity of the abduction.  This is unfortunate, considering the pain that the girls, their parents and their communities have undergone. The entire world is waiting anxiously for the facts to be released to the public.  Snap-short commentaries by government officials and civil society groups are not sufficient to calm worried nerves of those who continue to sympathize with the girls.

Thus, when the aforementioned riddles are combined with the reports that N500 million that was budgeted to build the Government Girls Secondary School under the Safe School Fund cannot be accounted for, in addition to the reports that many refugees in the Internally Displaced Program (IDP) camps are starving and being malnourished, it is obvious that current official explanations are not sufficient to douse the view that there must be other explanations. Additionally, the unfortunate bombing of the IDP camp in Raan by the Nigerian Airforce, further adds to the multitudes of questions that need answers.

It is indeed unfortunate that the more an analytical attempt is made to comprehend the abduction, the more questions seem to pop up.  Apparently, the Chibok girls’ abduction issue will not go away, even if all the girls are rescued or released, until the truth of the matter is released to the global community about what really happened. At the moment, the girls who have been rescued are still in captivity even though they are supposedly free.  The reason is that they are not free to express themselves publicly and must remain in great silence like captured prisoners of war. They and their parents are forced to exist in a state of invisibility.  It is sad and painful.

 

 

 

 

 

The International Criminal Court: A Review

The International Criminal Court: A Review

Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

Torulaghareports.com

 

The Necessity for the International Criminal Court

It has always been problematic in enforcing International law since independent states have sovereignty. Moreover, it was generally assumed in the past that political leaders of the states had sovereign immunity, therefore, they could not be easily arrested, indicted and prosecuted as other citizens due to their special status, even when they committed crimes against humanity. Added to this was the fact that there was no designated international agency or organization that was responsible for enforcing international law as it is the case in national or domestic law. In order to solve the problem, 160 countries met in Rome on July 17, 1998 to draft a treaty for the establishment of a permanent international criminal court. The treaty became the Rome Statute of the Permanent International Criminal Court.

Eventually, the ICC was established in 2002. Its main purpose is to deter and prevent the occurrence of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide or mass atrocities by investigating, prosecuting and trying individuals accused of committing such crimes.   The ICC came into existence at the most pressing time since there was a need to fill a void that existed in the international law arena, as indicated above. Although, after the 2nd World war, trials were carried out against German and Japanese political and military officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, however, there was no formalized institution geared towards arresting, charging, and prosecuting individuals who committed unspeakable dastardly acts against people.

Thus, the ICC is to ensure that individuals who violate human rights face prosecution, just as those who commit crimes under domestic or national law face arrest, prosecution and possible imprisonment.

Consequently, due to its noble duty, the ICC received immediate approval and support globally as soon as it was established. Indeed, the birth of the ICC increased hope and assurance that finally, political and military leaders, public officials and non-state public figures who commit monstrous acts against people would be compelled to answer questions in the court of law, regardless of their position in society. It is notable that the Thirty-year War (May 23, 1618 – May 15, 1648) in Europe between the Catholics and Protestants and led by European monarchs contributed to the deaths of about 20 percent of the German population. The First World War claimed more than twenty million lives, including combatants and non-combatants. The atrocities committed during the First World War paled in comparison to the heinous crimes committed during the Second World War. About fifty million people died during this war. The abuse of women and children in conflict situations escalated during the middle and later part of the twentieth century. Likewise, the later part of the twentieth and early part of the twenty-first centuries experienced an increase in the use of children to fight bloody wars.

Apart from atrocities committed during wars against combatants and non-combatants, many political and military leaders, especially in the Third World, have been very horrendous, due to a desire to remain in power for life or enrich themselves through massive looting of public resources. They abuse human rights of their citizens by unleashing security forces against them and act with impunity to create fear by unnecessarily arresting, detaining, imprisoning and killing opponents or those they regard as “enemies.” The Balkan wars of the 1990s and the Rwandan genocide in 1994 increased the impetus for prosecutorial action. Therefore, an international court capable of bringing to justice political leaders and individuals who abused human rights was necessary and overdue. Hence, the great appreciation in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Middle East and Europe when the International Criminal Court was established in 2002.

HOW the ICC Operates    

To ensure that the court is able to operate without undue political interference, the International Criminal Court is an autonomous body. This means that it is not an agency of the United Nations. Hence, it does not need a special mandate from the U.N. to operate. However, since the ICC and the U.N. need to harmonize their relationship so that the court can become much more effective and efficient in carrying out its duties, both signed an agreement to govern the institutional relationship between them in October 4, 2004.

Similarly, to ensure judicial objectivity and avoid undue influence by its financiers, the ICC receives funding through multiple sources, including states and voluntary contributions from international organizations, individuals, corporations, and governments.

To minimize impinging on the sovereignty of the states, the ICC exercises its jurisdiction on the states that signed the Rome Statute of Permanent International Criminal Court. This means that those states that signed the treaty are obligated to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of the ICC on crimes stipulated in the Statute. However, states that are not party to the Rome Statute may also allow the court to carry out its jurisdictional activities in their territories if individuals from those states commit crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. States that are not party to the Rome Statute may also choose to allow the jurisdiction of the ICC extended to their territories in order to abide by the prevailing custom of upholding international law, and subscribing to various conventions and protocols.

The ICC supplements the services of national or domestic courts and is not to replace them. Thus, it helps to strengthen the ability of the national or domestic courts in carrying out their duties in areas dealing with human rights, war crimes, child protection, women protection and other crimes against humanity. If national or domestic courts are able to carry out their responsibilities in an effective manner without intimidation or threat from individuals or political and military leaders of the states, the ICC may not intervene by extending its jurisdiction. However, if national or domestic courts are not able to fulfill their responsibilities due to threats from political and military leaders and powerful individuals within the states, then the ICC may extend its jurisdiction and ensure that perpetrators of various violations are brought to justice while at the same time protecting the victims from retaliatory attacks.

Additionally, the ICC’s jurisdiction is time-bounded in the sense that it cannot get involved in cases which took place prior to its creation. Consequently, it only investigate cases that started after its statute of creation took effect in July 1, 2002. Therefore, victims of human rights incidents that occurred prior to July 2002 must seek other means to address their grievances. This stipulation prevents the ICC from trying cases retroactively.

The ICC has about 34 judges and over 700 staff. It operates on an annual budget of about $166 million. Some people believe that the ICC is an expensive operation and is not cost-effective when its conviction rate is measured against its annual operational expenditure. Some people have argued that instead of spending so much money on the ICC, the funds should be granted to the states to strengthen their national and local courts and judicial institutions.

The Limitations (Weaknesses) of the ICC

Structurally and operationally, the ICC is a cutting-edge legal instrument designed to enforce a global standard for respecting human rights of individuals and groups, based on the principle of natural law. However, despite the nobility of its creation, the court has some limitations that tend to inhibit its ability to enforce human rights universally. The following attest to the court’s weaknesses:

  1. Some of the states in the international system appear to operate outside the jurisdiction of the ICC, regarding human rights. Therefore, countries like the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and so forth, seem to be above international law concerning crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. As a result, individuals from these countries that have been alleged to have committed crimes against humanity are rarely arrested and prosecuted by the ICC. The ICC does not seem eager to extend its jurisdiction to such countries, even if there is a compelling evidence to do so.
  2. Following the perception that the aforementioned countries are technically above international law, the ICC tends to behave like law enforcement agencies and prosecutors at the national or domestic level. It seems very selective in filing charges against political and military leaders, high-level public officials and public figures accused of committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. It does so by targeting individuals from mostly the less developed world and ignore those from the developed and powerful military countries. This pattern of selective prosecution is common in domestic law where law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in almost every country in the world tend to apply the full weight of the law against those in society who are powerless politically and financially to mount effective legal defense against them. On the other hand, they tend to avoid cases in which they are less likely to win without putting a considerable amount of effort. This is why throughout the world, it is mostly members of the middle and lower classes which fill up the prisons.   In the US, the president-elect, Mr. Donald trump, clearly demonstrated the fact that the rich can get away with so many things while those in the middle and lower classes cannot when he said publicly during the presidential debate that he avoided paying taxes because the system allowed him to do so.
  3. Similarly, the ICC seems very hesitant in threatening and filing charges against political and military leaders of Third World countries who have strong ties with Western nations. On the other hand, it does not hesitate to threaten, file charges and possibly arrest the political and military leaders of countries that have little or no ties with Western nations.
  4. Since Sub-Saharan African countries do not seem to have any measurable influence in the international political, military and economic arena, they are treated as semi-autonomous political entities rather than sovereign states. As a result, their political and military leaders, public officials and public figures always face a high probability of being indicted, arrested and prosecuted for alleged abuse of human rights by the ICC. The court is always eager to extend its jurisdiction to Sub-Saharan African countries at the slightest rumor or allegation of human rights violation.
  5. Following the perception that cases of human rights violations are selectively investigated, the ICC does not seem much interested in filing charges and prosecuting political and military leaders that have been responsible for the destructive and bloody wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. , Even the maltreatment of Rohingya Moslems in Myanmar did not catch the eye of the ICC when they were driven away from their communities through violence to flee into neighboring countries. On the other hand, in Africa, any slight rumor or allegation of human rights abuse is immediately investigated in an effort to file charges against someone for crimes against humanity.
  6. Due to the selective manner of enforcing of its statute, the ICC seems to redefine crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in such a manner that if a Western nation engages in such acts, the crimes are treated as non-felonious crimes, but if any country in the Third World, especially in Africa, engages in such acts, the leaders are immediately threatened with arrest. The perceived double standard prompted Gambia to withdraw from the court.
  7. Reuters reported “The government of Gambia said on Thursday it was withdrawing from the International Criminal Court , accusing the world body of ignoring the ‘war crimes’ of Western nations and seeking to prosecute Africans.”
  8. The ICC does not seem to treat the unnecessary killing of civilians through collateral damage inflicted by manned and unmanned aircrafts as constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a result, Afghan, Syrian and Yemeni civilians are paying a terrible price for lack of action by the ICC to reduce the incidents of collateral damage.
  9. The apparent double standard tends to create the impression that some countries have sovereignty while others do not.   As a result, the less powerful countries are easily subjected to the jurisdiction of the ICC as soon as an allegation is made against them. Similarly, individuals from the less powerful countries, especially in Africa, are easily indicted for crimes against humanity. This is why the list of individuals that have been charged with crimes against humanity is mostly filled with African political and military leaders, public officials and public figures. The list includes: 1. Bahr Abu Garda (Darfur, Sudan, 2. Abdalah Banda (Darfur, Sudan, 3. Omar al-Bashir (Darfur, Sudan, 4. Ahmed Haroun (Darfur, Sudan), 5. Abdel Rahim Hussein (Darfur, Sudan, 6.Saleh Jerbo (Darfur, Sudan), 7. Ali Kushayb (Darfur, Sudan), 8. Mohammed Ali (Kenya), 9. Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), 10. Henry Kosgey (Kenya), 11.Francis Muthaura (Kenya), 12. William Ruto (Kenya), 13. Joshua Sang (Kenya), 14. Jean Pierre Bemba (Central African Republic), 15. Germain Katanga (Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC), 16. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, DRC), 17. Callixte Mbarushimana (DRC), 18. Sylvester Mudacumura Bosco Ntaganda (DRC), 19. Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui (DRC), 20. Charles Ble Goude (Ivory Coast), 21. Laurent Gbagbo (Ivory Coast), 22. Simonne Bgagbo (Ivory Coast), 23. Muammar Gaddafi (Libya), 24. Saif al-Islam (Libya), 25. Abbdullah Senussi (Libya), 26. Joseph Kony (Uganda), 27. Raska Lukwiya (Uganda), 28. Okot Odhiambo (Uganda), 29. Dominic Ongwen (Uganda), 30. Vincent Otti (Uganda), 31. Ahmadi al-Mahdi (Mali). Of the list, three individuals have been tried and convicted after trial in courts organized by the ICC. Those convicted are: Thomas Lubanga Dyilo (DRC), 2. Germain Katanga (DRC) and 3. Jean-Pierre Bemba (CAR). Of course, President Omar al- Bashir of Sudan is still a wanted man by the ICC.
  10. The performance of the court, so far, also tends to create the impression in the minds of many Africans that it is a tool by Western nations to control their former colonies and countries that are not friendly to the Western world. Thus Russia, like the African countries, is increasingly viewing the ICC as a tool for the extension of Western geopolitical strategic interest. Following the perception of selective enforcement and prosecution of crimes against humanity by the ICC, three African countries, namely, Burundi, South Africa and Gambia have decided to withdraw from the court. To justify its withdrawal, South Africa indicated that the Rome Statute is in conflict with its law, which gives diplomatic immunity to sitting leaders. It should be recalled that South Africa had objected to arresting President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, as required by the Rome Treaty, when he visited the country despite an ICC arrest order. Russia too has decided to withdraw from the court. To justify the withdrawal, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that “the court did not justify hopes assigned to it and failed to act as a truly independent authoritative body of international justice.” There is no doubt that other countries might decide to vacate the ICC, strongly believing that it is biased against them. Kenya and Uganda too are in a contemplative stage, wondering whether to quit the ICC or not. The African Union too is worried of the lopsided manner in which African leaders and personalities are targeted for indictment and prosecution.

Should the International Criminal Court be Abolished?

In light of the selective manner in which cases involving crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide are developed, should the ICC be abolished? The answer is definitely No. Despite the limitations identified above, the ICC is very essential to the development, modernization and institutionalization of democracy, human rights and governance in the world, especially in Africa. While statistically, African political and military leaders, public officials and public figures have been the most targeted for indictment, arrest and prosecution dealing with human rights violations by the ICC, African leaders have not been very helpful to themselves. In other words, the behaviors of some African leaders tend to create the need for the ICC to go after them. It is a fact that more than any other continent in the world, especially in the early part of the twenty-first century, it is in Africa and the Middle East, where political and military leaders try to institutionalize themselves as leaders for life. Some African and Middle Eastern leaders have ruled for more than twenty years and continue to remain in power. Some of the leaders want to create political dynasties by making sure that their children replace them as political leaders after they vacate their public offices. Some have no qualms about changing the constitutions of their countries in order to allow them to run for office repeatedly. Some encourage tribalism and regionalism by filling critical government positions with officials from particular ethnic groups and regions and clamping down on other ethnic groups and regions. Some promote one religion against other religions and marginalize those who do not belong to the chosen religions. Some use political thugs during elections to cause violence and intimidate the opposition.

A considerable number of African and Middle Eastern leaders rely excessively on security crackdowns to maintain themselves in power. As a result, they spend substantially on security and ignore other important sectors of society in their budgetary allocations. In many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, minority ethnic groups are marginalized and discriminated. The behavior of Gambian President Yahya Jammeh clearly demonstrates the view that African leaders are sometimes their worst enemies. After initially accepting an electoral defeat following the presidential election of December 1, 2016, the Gambian ruler changed his mind and refused to step down to allow President-elect Adama Barrow to take over the leadership of the country. Now, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are threatening to remove him by force if he does not vacate the presidential office voluntarily. The Gambian situation is similar to the situation in Ivory Coast which warranted the international community to use military force to evict former President Laurent Gbagbo from power. Mr. Jammeh’s behavior dampens the spirit of statesmanship demonstrated by former President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and President John Mahama of Ghana who conceded defeat after losing presidential elections to their opponents.

Due to the tendency to abuse power in the continent, in addition to the fact that many African countries have weak governmental institutions, the only institution capable of protecting and speaking for defenseless citizens is the ICC. Therefore, it is absolutely critical for the International Criminal Court to remain in force. Without the ICC to watch over misbehaving political and military leaders in the world, those victimized might not have anywhere to go to seek justice for crimes committed against them. Therefore, it is understandable why many human rights and legal groups in the continent are pleading with South Africa to return to the ICC since it is a major country in Africa.

Thus, while it is possible to accuse the ICC of being biased and selective in enforcing human rights in Africa, on the other hand, it is arguable that the high number of African cases might have been prompted by the high number of petitions and allegations made by African citizens and governments. Thus, it appeared that out of nine cases that the ICC looked into, African governments brought six, the United Nations brought two and the ICC brought one. This indicates that most cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide that the ICC investigated were instigated by African governments. Apparently, the ICC could be pardonable of the charges that it is biased.

Suggestions for Enhancing ICC Performance

Indeed, it would be a mistake to get rid of the ICC. The world needs it to serve as the sheriff to guard behavior and encourage respect for human rights. However, there are certain measures that could be taken to make the ICC much more representative in enforcing human rights.

  1. All cases of human rights abuses must be treated equally, regardless of the country or region. This means that if an African political or military leader or public official or public figure is accused of committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, the individual should be called upon to answer questions in the court of law. Similarly, if a Western political or military leader or public official or public figure is accused of committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, the individual too should be called upon to answer questions in the court of law. The ICC can no longer close its eyes toward crimes committed by Western leaders and their allies in the Third World while subjecting other leaders to undue threats of arrest and prosecution.
  2. The ICC should extend its jurisdiction all over the world since under natural law all human beings have natural rights, regardless of whether their countries signed the Rome Treaty or not. This means paying a closer attention to all regions of the world and being willing to take appropriate action if any case of human rights violation is alleged.
  3. It is necessary for the ICC to investigate clandestine activities that foreign powers engage in through proxy wars that lead to massive violation of human rights in many developing countries. There is no doubt that many conflicts in Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Asia are tactically sponsored by foreign states. Therefore, in conflict situations, apart from arresting military commanders on the ground who are accused of violating human rights, it is necessary to investigate those who sponsor the conflicts, in the first place.
  4. The ICC need to extend its jurisdiction to enable it to prosecute arms dealers who encourage bloody conflicts so that they can sell their arms and make huge profits.   This is very important because causative factors for instability are as important as the symptoms. So far, the ICC seems to be only treating the symptoms while ignoring the causative factors that breed conflict, which ultimately results in the violation of human rights in many developing countries. The United Nations too could be accused of ignoring the causative factors while dealing with the symptoms.
  5. Additionally, if a foreign power supports a dictator or an authoritarian leader who violates human rights of its citizens, the leaders of the foreign power should also be held accountable as the dictator since the dictator is encouraged through the support of the foreign power to act in ways that lead to the violation of human rights. This is one area of international politics that needs to be explored juridically in international law.
  6. African political and military leaders should think critically before signing any international treaty or protocol or convention. International or multilateral treaties, protocols and conventions should only be signed after carefully weighing the implications.
  7. African leaders, from now on, should make the effort to ensure that any proposal for international treaty or convention or protocol includes a language that reflects African cultural perspective before signing such a proposal. Quite often, African political and military leaders sign many bilateral and multilateral treaties, conventions and protocols without paying attention to the cultural and political implications. This is why the African point of view is rarely given credence by the international community before drafting binding resolutions, conventions and protocols that carry the weight of enforceable law.
  8. The ICC must take proactive steps to eradicate the impression that it is discriminative in the selection of cases involving crimes against humanity, otherwise, it might end up with no credibility and defeat the purpose of its creation.

 

References

Ba, Oumar. (2016, February 3). Who is Laurent Gbagbo and why is he on trial at the ICC. The Washington Post. Retrieved on December 30, 2016, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-c

Chan, S. and Simons. (2016, October 21). South Africa to withdraw from International Criminal Court. The New York Times. Retrieved on December 30, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/22/world/Africa/

U expresses regret at Russia’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (2016, November 17. Premium Times. Retrieved on November 17, 2016, from http://www.premiumtimesng.com/foreign/world-f

Gambia announces withdrawal from International Criminal Court. (2016, October 26). Reuters. Retrieved on December 30, 2016, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-gambia-icc-idU

Origin and purposes of the ICC. (2012, April 5). Invisible Children. Retrieved on November 18, 016, from http://www.invisblechildren.com/blog…/origin -and-purpose-of-the-international-criminal-court.

Understanding the ICC. (n.d.) ICC. Retrieved on November 18, 2016, from https://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/pids/publications/uicceng.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Syrian Conflict and the Difficulty of Defining Who is a Terrorist

The Syrian Conflict and the Difficulty of Defining Who is a Terrorist

By Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

torulaghareports.com

 

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to explore the relationship between the Syrian conflict and terrorism by identifying and analyzing the non-state armed groups that are fighting for or against the Syrian regime, and the countries that support them. In doing so, the definitional problem of determining who is a terrorist and which group is a terrorist organization is discussed. It is strongly believed here that the Syrian civil war is going to produce a large number of highly trained and experienced military veterans that might fill the ranks of future non-state armed groups. It is also believed that the Syrian conflict is going to generate enormous quantities of arms that would eventually end up in the arms of Al Qaeda, ISIS and other violent non-state armed groups if the situation is not well managed.

Indeed, the ongoing Syrian conflict has brought to the fore the complexity of dealing with terrorism. While terrorism can be defined as the use and or repeated threat of using violence to achieve a goal, it is much more difficult to identify or determine who is a terrorist and what entity constitutes a terrorist organization.

The reason is that terrorism is like beauty in the sense that it is in the eye of the beholder. While one individual might view the use and or the repeated threat of using violence to achieve a political or religious or an economic end as terrorism, another individual might view the same act as an instrument of liberation or freedom. Similarly, while an individual who uses violence or the repeated threat of using violence to achieve a political or religious or an economic goal could be regarded as a terrorist, another individual might view the same individual as a freedom fighter who is fighting to bring change or free people from political or religious or economic bondage. Likewise, while an organization dedicated to using violence to achieve a political or religious or an economic end might be viewed by an individual as a terrorist organization, the same organization could be regarded by another individual as a freedom fighting entity. As a result, while some people might regard Al Qaeda, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Taliban, Hezbollah, Houthie Rebels, and so on and so forth, as terrorist organizations, those who support them tend to regard them as freedom fighting organizations.

Thus, there seems to be no middle ground in approaching the issue of terrorism. Hence, an individual who uses violence to achieve a political or religious or an economic goal is either a terrorist or a freedom fighter. Due to the zero-sum manner in which the subject matter is dealt with, historically, it has always been a great challenge to resolve or eradicate terrorism. It continues to be so in the twenty-first century.

Hypotheses

1.The Syrian civil war dramatically shows the difficulty of defining who is a terrorist and which entity constitutes a terrorist organization. (2) The war against international terrorism is not winnable since the countries that fight the war also indirectly contributes to its proliferation, as the Syrian situation clearly shows. (3) The Syrian civil war is likely to contribute to the proliferation of sophisticated military weaponry in various parts of Africa, Middle East, Asia and Europe.

The difficulty of determining which group is a terrorist organization and who is a terrorist is demonstrated by the disagreement between the United States and Russia over the characterization of the non-state armed groups in the Syrian conflict. The disagreement arose following Russian effort to assist Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s National Defense Forces (NDF) to push back rebel forces that threaten his hold on power. To reinforce the NDF, Russian Airforce planes started bombarding rebel positions in September 30, 2015 (Zorthian, 2015, October 7). It turned out that some of the rebel forces that the Russians targeted in their military operations were members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The FSA included some rebel groups that the U.S. recruited, trained and armed to fight against the Syrian regime and the ISIS. The US reacted to the Russian bombing by saying that the Russians were bombing moderate Syrian rebel forces rather than the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In response to the accusation, Russian officials replied that they were attacking terrorists. The Russian response indicated that it regards all militant or armed groups fighting against the Syrian regime as terrorist organizations. On the other hand, the US tends to view the armed groups it supports as moderate rebel forces rather than terrorist groups, hence, was puzzled that Russia bombed them, instead of ISIS fighters. Again, in June 2016, Russian Airforce was accused of attacking rebel forces supported by the United States. The U.S. Defense Secretary, Mr. Ash Carter, reacted to the Russian attack by saying “Here’s a case where they actually attacked forces that were fighting ISIL. And if that was their intention, that’s the opposite of what they said they were going to do, if not, then it says something about the quality of the information upon which they make airstrikes” (Schleifer &Starr, 2016, June 17).

On the other hand, the US military carried out an air strike that ended up killing 60 or more members of the Syrian military forces around September 16 or 17, 2016 when a cease-fire was supposed to take place. On realization that it had struck a Syrian military force rather than the ISIS or al Qaeda, the United States immediately rendered an apology through the Russian government to the Syrian state (Fox News, September 17, 2016). In reaction, Russia decided to invite the United Nations to investigate the matter, perhaps, suspecting that the bombing was a tactical effort to gain rebel advantage over Syrian forces during the cease-fire. Here again, it is evident that the Syrian conflict is increasing mutual suspicion between the two most powerful military states, thereby, reinforcing the Cold War between them.

The disagreement between the two great military powers concerning which group should be treated as a terrorist organization and which group should be regarded as a rebel force sharpened the discussion and brought to the fore the lack of global agreement on who is a terrorist and which organization constitutes a terrorist network. It also showed why the Syrian conflict is very complicated and difficult to resolve. Indeed, in Syria, the military situation is so muddled up that it is difficult to make any sense of the conflict as the parties to the conflict continue to unleash violence and destruction, thereby, forcing millions of Syrians to flee as refugees.

The Armed Groups Fighting in Syria and Possibly Iraq

It might be necessary to identify some of the groups fighting in Syria and their backers in order to shed light on the complex situation. The multitudes of armed groups fighting in the civil war can be divided into six main factions: (1) The Free Syrian Army (FSA), (2) Predominant Syrian Islamist Groups, (3) International Islamist Groups, (4) The Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), (5) The Shia Groups, and (6) the Syrian Democratic Forces.

  1. The Free Syrian Army : The Free Syrian Army was the first armed group to challenge the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrian military officers and men who deserted the Syrian regime joined the FSA. It was supported by Qatar, Turkey and some Western governments. Despite the hope placed on the FSA to help topple the al-Assad regime, it was unable to do so due to squabbles among various factions and men within the FSA. Eventually, the Islamists became dominant militarily within the FSA and eventually split to launch their own effort to overthrow President al-Assad.Syrian Islamist Groups
  2. Syrian Islamist Group:  As stated above, the FSA included Islamist groups. Around 2013, the Islamists became the most successful groups in fighting and capturing territory from the Syrian government military forces. The success led them to become the most dominant opposition armed groups in Syria. They split from FSA and started waging war against President Bashar al-Assad. Some of the Syrian based Islamist armed groups include Martyrs of Syrian Brigade, Northern Storm Brigade, Ahrah Souriya Brigade Islamic Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh Al Islam, Suqour al-Sham. (BBC News, 2013, December 13). These groups are Sunni by religious orientation, hence, their support by the Arab Gulf states of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and possibly Turkey.
  3. The International Islamist Groups: The three main international Islamist groups fighting in Syria are the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Nusra Front and Jaysh al-Muhajirin wa al-Ansar. The Nusra Front split from ISIS in 2013 and is an affiliate of Al Qaeda. The ISIS seized territories in Iraq and Syria to declare an Islamic caliphate which it is running as a government. The ISIS offers the biggest military threat, not only to Syria and Iraq but throughout the world as it continues to expand its operational areas to Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and so forth. It also has an alliance with Boko Haram in Nigeria and possibly with Al Shabab in Somalia and militant Islamic forces in Mali.  The ISIS is globally considered as the most threatening terrorist organization, considering its violent tactics. However, in 2015, in an attempt to consolidate the Sunni groups fighting against the Alawite regime of President Bashir al-Assad, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey established a unified group known as the Jaish al-Fateh (the Army of Conquest). Both the Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra Front became part of this coalition. The coalition is fighting against the Syrian regime as well as the ISIS and Shia-related armed groups.
  4. The Shia Groups:   While the groups described above fight with the intention of overthrowing President al-Assad, there are Shia-affiliated groups that are fighting to protect and sustain him. The Shia affiliated groups support him because they share a common strategic interest in maintaining Shia beliefs and influence in Syria, Iraq, Yemeni and some parts of Lebanon.  (a)  In Syria, two main Shia groups come to mind. They are the Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib (LAAG) and Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas. Other groups fighting to support the Syrian regime are the National Defense Forces (NDF), Ba’ath Brigade and others (Friedland, Jawad al-Tamimi & Landis, 2016). (b) Shia armed groups from Iraq that are involved in the Syrian civil war include the Kataib al-Imam Ali (KIA), Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), Harakat Hezbollah al-Nulaba (HHN), Badr Organization, Kataib al-Muqawama al-Islamiyah fi al Iraq, Kataib Aimmah al-Baqiyah, Kataib al-Ansar al Willahay and so on and so forth. ( c)The main Shia armed group from Lebanon that is heavily involved in the Syrian conflict is the Hezbollah organization. It has about 20,000 to 30,000 fighters.  (d)There are also Shia armed elements from Iran that are fighting in Syria to support President al-Assad. The most notable are the Al-Quds Force and Basij Militia (Friedland, Jawal al-Tamimi & Landis, 2016).
  5. The Kurdish Groups:  In the Syrian conflict, Kurdish fighters contribute immensely toward fighting against the regime of President al-Assad and the ISIS, in both Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, the Peshmerga (Iraqi Kurdistan forces) has been very active fighting to contain and push back ISIS. It participated in some of the major battles to retard the expansion of ISIS. In Syria, the Kurdish Peoples Protection Unit (YPG) has also been contributing extensively in pushing back ISIS from the territories it captured (Zavadski, 2015, October 15). Likewise, there is also the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) which has been battling Turkey to create a Kurdish State. There are concerns that the YPG might join the PKK to fight and create a territory in some parts of Turkey and Syria to establish a Kurdish state after the Syrian war ends.
  6. The Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF) :  The Syrian Democratic Forces receive aerial military support from the United States. The SDF are particularly associated with the battle which drove out the ISIS from the city of Kobane (Lund, 2016, January 22).The Syrian Democratic Forces are a coalition of armed groups made up of Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Syrian Christian fighters. However, the SDF seem to be dominated by Kurdish elements known as the Popular Defense Units (YPG). There is also a women’s unit known as the Women’s Defense Units (YPI). There is a strong belief that the Syria Democratic Forces are affiliated with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) which is also fighting to create a Kurdish state.

These are only a few of the multitudes of armed groups fighting in Syria. Some estimate put the number of non-state armed groups in the hundreds while the number of fighters runs into more than one hundred thousand (Sinjab, 2013, December 13).

Apparently, the Syrian civil war is like a mini-world war due to the fact that many states, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, the United States, France, Russia, China and others are involved either directly or indirectly in supporting, financing, training and arming assorted armed groups. Each state does so with the sole purpose of enhancing and reinforcing its strategic interests in the Middle East. The states compete fiercely for hegemony over Syria and the region. For instance, while Turkey supports Sunni-affiliated armed groups which are opposed to President al-Assad, it is wary of the Kurdish armed groups, due to fear that they might grow in strength and redirect their military effort at creating a Kurdish state. On the other hand, U.S. and its Western allies support the efforts of the Kurdish armed groups. Turkey is also antagonistic to the Shia-affiliated armed groups since the Syrian war tends to pit the Sunnis against the Shiites. Iraq and President al-Assad tend to share the same strategic interests as they fight to maintain a Shia presence in both Iraq and Syria. Thus, they are opposed to the Sunni-affiliated armed groups. Iran is aligned with Iraq and Syria and have a common interest with Russia, China, and the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon because they want to sustain the presidency of President al-Assad and the Shia dominance of the political landscape in Syria. The Arab Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Sunni-oriented states, including Turkey, want the hegemonic predominance of Sunni Islam in the Middle East and North Africa. Jordan bears a huge burden in catering to a large number of Syrian refugees. It is working frenetically to prevent a spill-over of the Syrian conflict into its territory.

Consequently, the Syrian civil war is a four-headed strategic monster. First, President Bashar al-Assad wants to remain in power and ensure the Alawite predominance of the political landscape of the country. Second, there is an intra-Islamic power struggle between the Sunnis and the Shiites. The religious struggle is extended to Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and possibly Nigeria. In Nigeria, the majority of the Moslems are Sunnis but there is a growing Shia presence. In fact, in a clash involving the Nigerian Army and a Shia group in December12 and 14, 2015 (Bamgboye, 2015, December 23), over three hundred Shiites were killed, thereby, compelling Iran to make a comment about the massacre. The leader of the Shia group in Nigeria, Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky, is still in detention. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the two major backers of the ideological divide between the two branches of Islam. Third, al Qaeda and ISIS are engaged in a power struggle to become the most dominant international Islamic jihadist movement. They are extending their tentacles everywhere, including the Middle East, Africa, some parts of Asia, North America, and Europe. Fourth, the United States and Russia are reenacting the Cold War as they compete to establish their preeminence in the Middle East. China technically is on the side of Russia while France and Britain are on the United States side.

In this titanic struggle to control the heart of the Middle East, using Syria as the theater, the states are pouring in arms, training and supporting multifarious armed groups. Each state hopes that the non-state armed groups it support would prevail militarily to enhance its strategic advantage over other states. As a result, they do not seem to pay attention to the fact that they could be setting in motion, non-state armed elements that could turn out to be the next groups of fighters threatening the peace of the world.

Thus, it is almost impossible to define who is a terrorist and what group is a terrorist organization in the Syrian conflict. The reason is that each state regards those armed groups it supports as freedom fighters and not terrorists. Although, ISIS and al Qaeda are generally regarded as terrorist organizations, nevertheless, it is not easy to describe the other armed groups in such terms because the states that support them do not agree that they are training, arming and supporting terrorist organizations. This is why they call them rebel forces. The inability of the states to define who is a terrorist and what group is a terrorist organization creates an environment that allows more armed and dangerous groups to emerge, not only in Syria but also in other parts of the Middle East, North, East and West Africa, and Asia.

Since the countries, including the United States and Russia, could not agree in categorizing which armed group constitutes a terrorist organization, the United Nations attempted to solve the definitional problem by setting up a committee made up of European and regional countries to define, determine and establish criteria that could be used in doing so (Hassan, 2016, January 10). However, it is doubtful whether even this approach will solve the problem since sovereign states have a tendency to define their national interests in a manner that makes it difficult to establish unanimity in dealing with global terrorism.

Implications of the Syrian Conflict

The implications of the Syrian conflict are far reaching. First, due to the fact that various non-state armed groups fighting in Syria are being supported in one way or another by various countries, a sizable number of individuals have been trained in the use of military weaponry to fight either conventionally or unconventionally in the Middle East and elsewhere. Second, based on strategic and ideological reasons, various countries are motivated to intervene in the Syrian conflict by training, arming and supporting various armed groups to extend their influence. Third, a sizable quantity of highly sophisticated military weaponry has poured into the Middle East, some parts of Africa and Asia through Syria. Fourth, an increasing number of young men and women have graduated as military veterans in the Middle East, Africa and Asia following their recruitment to fight for various factions of non-state armed groups. Fifth, there is no guarantee that some of the individuals and groups that have been trained to fight in Syria and possibly Iraq would not resort to terrorism in the near future. It should be recalled that both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were organized, financed and trained as freedom fighters (Mujahedeen) to fight against the Soviet Union during its occupation of Afghanistan. During that time, the two groups were not regarded as “terrorist organizations” by Western and Islamic nations, but they are now treated as such. Sixth, the signs are beginning to show that many of the armed groups in Syria would go their separate ways, thereby, developing their own agenda and operating like the al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIS. In fact, it was reported that a U.S. supported and trained group known as Division 30 refused to fight against al- Qaeda despite being encouraged to do so by the United States in 2015 (The Guardian, 2015, August 15). It was also widely reported that some rebels backed by the U.S. and its allies were not comfortable with the cease-fire deal arranged by the United States and Russia recently (Associate Press, 2016, September 11). Some groups referred to the cease-fire as a ‘trap.’ This means that the countries that are training, financing and arming the armed rebels are not fully in control of the groups. Seventh, even if the Syrian conflict, as well as the Iraqi situation end today, there is no guarantee that there will be peace in the region as thousands of young men and women would be left to roam the region, some parts of Africa and Asia looking for ways to utilize their vast military expertise. This means that the ending of the Syrian and Iraqi wars might not put an end to the possibilities of terrorist incidents taking place as thousands of trained military veterans roam about looking for ways to make good use of their military skills. Eighth, the Syrian conflict has generated enormous quantities of arms for non-state armed groups fighting in the country. These arms would eventually find their way into other parts of the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Ninth, as can be seen, the more the states make attempt to fight terrorism, the more they create circumstances that breed the proliferation of non-state armed groups that engage in terrorist acts. The reason is that as the states recruit, train and support various elements to fight against supposed terrorist organizations, the more they inadvertently create more terrorist producing opportunities. Tenth, therefore, the war against international terrorism is not likely to end in victory since the war requires recruiting, training and arming non-state armed groups to do the fighting since most countries do not want to commit their own armed forces to get directly involved in the war. Eleventh, the more non-state armed groups are recruited, trained and armed by various countries to fight the anti-terrorist war, the more terrorism thrives as arms and fighters profligate to feed the scourge.

Conclusion

Obviously, it is a catch 22 situation, as far as the war against terrorism is concerned. It is impossible to solve a problem when there is no general agreement about defining what constitutes a terrorist organization and who is a terrorist. Similarly, it is impossible to win the anti-terrorism war since the same countries that are fighting to eliminate the scourge are also indirectly responsible for germinating it through the sponsorship of non-state armed groups that have no loyalty to any country. The Syrian civil war has provided ample opportunity for many non-state armed groups to acquire sophisticated military weaponry that might spread to other parts of the world. Indeed, the Syrian war is like a witches brew with very complicated alliances.

To solve the problem of joblessness that might arise after the Syrian and Iraqi conflict end, the countries that have been responsible for creating, training and arming various non-state armed groups should prepare a plan of action to strategically demobilize, disarm, rehabilitate and retrain the military veterans so that they can adjust to civil society peacefully. Failure to do so might result in the repeat of what happened in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union withdrew. It should be recalled that in Afghanistan, the veteran Islamic fighters were left to take care of themselves as soon as the conflict ended. Well, the fighters regrouped and formed the Taliban, Northern Alliance and al-Qaeda. The al Qaeda in Iraq later changed into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

References

Bamgboye, A. (2015, December 23). Zaria clash –civil society urges Army to chief to step aside. Daily Trust. Retrieved September 25, 2016, from http://allafrica.com/stories/2015122305.

Fox News. (September 17, 2016). US conveys ‘regret’ for anti-ISIS strike that killed Syrian forces, official says. Retrieved September 18, 2016, from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2016/09/17/us-halt.

Hassan, H. (2016, January 10). Iran won’t surrender militias that conduct Assads war. The National Opinion. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://www.thenation..

Lund, A. (2016, January 22). Origins of the Syrian Democratic Forces: A Primer. News Deeply. Retrieved June 14, 2016, from http://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/201

Scarborough, R. (2016, February 3). U.S. finds Russia focusing fight on Syrian rebels, not Islamic State. The Washington Times. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://www.washingtontimes-

Schleifer, T. & Starr, B. (2016, June 17). Russia bombs U.S. – backed Syrian rebels near Jordan border. CNN News. Retrieved June 20, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/17/politics/russia-airstrike-

Shaheen, K. (2015, August 6). US-trained Syrian rebels refuse to fight al Qaida group after kidnappings. The Guardian. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/.

Sinjab, L. (2013, December 13). Guide to the Syrian rebels. BBC News. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-244c

The Associated Press. (2016, September 9). Syrian rebels leery of cease-fire plan. (2016, September 11). WHDH. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from http://whdh.comm/news/syrian-rebels-leery-of-ceasefire.

Zavadski, K. (2014, October 17). A guide to the many groups fighting in Iraq and Syria. New York Magazine. Retrieved June 16, 2016, from http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/guide

Zorthian, J. (2015, October 7). Who’s fighting who in Syria. Time. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://time.com/4059856/syria-civil-war-explainer/

 

It is Time to Restructure Nigeria

Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

torulaghareports.com

 

More than any other time in the history of Nigeria, this is definitely the time to restructure the country territorially and constitutionally in order to legitimize it as a true sovereign state.  It should be noted that since about 200 to 300 ethnic groups were forcefully put together by the British, Nigerians have never been allowed to decide the manner in which the country should be structured and governed.  Therefore, technically, Nigeria is not an independent country despite the claim of sovereignty until the ethnic groups which constitute it are allowed to freely decide the nature and fate of the country. “Independence” will only take place after Nigerians freely determine Nigeria’s existence.

Nigeria has not been able to move forward due to the fact that it has many structural and governance problems that inhibit its growth. As a result, whenever it takes one very positive step forward, it ends up taking three steps backward.   This is why Nigeria is still being described in terms of its potential rather than by its actuality.  The following provides the reasons why restructuring is absolutely essential for the development and modernization of the political, economic and social institutions and governance of the country:

  1. Nigeria is a product of British military conquest.  Thus, 200 to 300 ethnic groups were forcefully incorporated by the British without their permission.  Obviously, Nigeria, like a vast majority of the modern African states, is a jail house or a detention center where 200 to 300 African ethnic groups are detained against their will. As far as the ethnic groups feel detained or trapped in a cage, they are not likely to cooperate in building a harmonious country.
  2. The Sir Arthur Richards 1946 constitution turned Nigeria into a tribal and regional confederacy. The 1946 constitution embedded a mechanism which has inhibited the country’s ability to create a homogenous united nation out of the diverse ethnic groups.  This is why there is not one Nigeria but many Nigerias, depending on ethnicity, religion and regional affiliation.  As result, every national policy issue is looked upon from a zero sum perspective with one side winning and the others losing.  For example, the South-South and the South-East wants resource control and the Upper North opposes it.  The South-East, South-West, South-South and the Middle Belt want a national referendum and the Upper North is not willing to go that route.  The South and the Middle Belt insist on true federalism but the Upper North seems to be inclined towards the unitary system where the national governments is in total control and the states are given less freedom to maneuver. The Christian and traditional South and the Middle Belt incline toward the Western world and the Islamic North inclines towards Arabia and the Islamic world.  This creates a problem for Nigeria’s foreign policy.  The Upper North wants national grazing reserves for one ethnic group to do cattle business and the South-East, South-West, South-South and the Middle Belt are not eager to grant such a wish to a particular ethnic group to have the right to settle in every territory of the country.  Thus, there is rarely a national consensus on anything.  Sir Richards and the British colonial strategists, perhaps, did not want Nigeria to succeed as a vibrant political, economic and industrial power, hence, a constitutional tool was used to tactically disunite the country through the 1946 Constitution.
  3. Geographically, the manner in which the country is divided into the North and South is flawed. It is only in Nigeria where a country is physically divided into the North and South in such a manner that one region is much larger than the other.  Generally, when a territory is divided geographically, it is supposed to have equal territorial space, using the North, South, East and West configuration.  In other words, it is weird to have regions where the North is two times larger than the South.  This is a fundamental structural flaw in the distribution of territorial land mass.  If those who created Nigeria had wished the country well, they would not have established a country in which one region is twice the size of the other region.  It is obvious that the Middle Belt would have been part of Southern Nigeria.  In this case, states like Kogi, Kwara, Benue, and Plateau would have been placed in Southern Nigeria to create a geographical balance between the North and the South.  The physical imbalance in the distribution of the regions creates distrust, frustration and instability as the Northern region seems to overshadow the Southern region.
  4. Another geographical flaw in Nigeria’s physical structure is that the smaller South is further divided into the East and West with a Mid-West sub-region while the giant North is allowed to stand alone as one region, even though the Middle Belt does not belong to the North.
  5. Before independence, the smaller ethnic groups insisted upon the creation of states during the Willink Commission’s Hearing. The suggestion was rejected. So, the small ethnic groups became vassals of the large three ethnic groups.
  6. On independence, Nigeria adopted federalism which in theory, requires the sharing of power between the national and regional governments. In practice, the country operated as a confederacy in which the regions functioned almost independently. This was why the regional premiers were almost as powerful and influential as the national prime minister. An individual like Ahmadu Bello was even more powerful that the prime minister of the entire country.
  7. When the military came after the January 15, 1966 abortive military coup, the military adopted a unitary system of government which took away the powers of the regions and later the states to make independent decisions. The unitary system centralized political and administrative power at the center and made the states dependent upon the national government. Even while the military regimes centralized political and administrative authority, they still pretentiously viewed the country as a federal entity.  Thus, like in the First Republic, the military era too continued the practice of calling Nigeria a federal state while suffocating federalism through excessive centralization of power.
  8. During the First Republic, since the three major ethnic groups dominated the three regions, national resources were distributed based on derivation. The regions were largely responsible for producing and generating income for themselves using the resources in their territories.  However, as soon as oil became a major economic commodity and it was found mostly in regions dominated by minority ethnic groups and the Igbos, the Petroleum Act was passed by the military regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon. This deprived the ethnic groups in the oil region the ability to make decisions about the exploration and management of oil and gas in their territories.
  9. As stated above, due to the geographical imbalance between the North and the South, the South is compelled to serve as a junior partner, rather than as an equal partner in the political management of Nigeria. The North dominates the entire country in so many ways.  For instance, Lagos States is more populated than Kano State.  Recent statistics indicate that Lagos City has a population of about 21 million people.  However, Kano State has 44 local governments while Lagos State has 20 local governments.    How did this come about?  It is exceedingly difficult to explain or rationalize why Kano State with a lesser population has more local governments than Lagos State with a much larger population.  Similarly, due to the fact that the North is two-third of the entire country, in terms of geography, it has 19 states and the South has 17 states. Additionally, out of the 774 local governments in Nigeria, the North has 419 while the South has 335. Of course, the fact that the North is physically larger than the South does not mean that it has more people than the South.  There is a general believe that the South is actually more populated than the North, yet, the North has more local governments.
  10. Following the geographical imbalance, the North tends to act as the dominant region in the country. This is why most of the country’s leaders have originated from the Islamic North.  It is much more difficult for someone from the South to rule the country.  For instance, whenever, an individual from the South tries to serve as the leader of the country, the person is expected to unduly appease the North as if the individual does not have a constitutional right as a Nigerian citizen to rule the country like someone from the Islamic North.  A would- be-presidential candidate from the South must pass the North’s Litmus test, otherwise, the individual has no chance of succeeding.  Moreover, the Upper North can literarily reject a Southern presidential candidate if the person does not dance to the strategic interest of the North.  As a result, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo from the South-West never had a chance to rule the country.  Similarly, when Dr. Alex Ekwueme was supposed to be the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), there was opposition from the Upper North.  Hence, he was dropped from consideration as a presidential candidate, even after serving as a vice president.  When Chief Moshood Abiola appeared to be winning the presidential election of June 12, 1993 against a Northern candidate, the election was abrogated.  In other words, the Upper North (Islamic) did not want Chief Abiola to become the president.  When the military decided to quit the political business and return to barracks in 1998, the preferred candidate of the South-West region was Chief Olu Falae.  The North opposed Chief Falae and selected Chief/Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo as the presidential flag-bearer of the Peoples’ Democratic Party PDP). When he became the president, he had to give three critical ministerial positions to the North as the region demanded.  Being a Southerner, former President Obasanjo was powerless in stopping the Sharianization of some Northern states.  Thus, Sharia Law was installed without any legislative discussion in the National Assembly.  When Dr.  Peter Odili decided to contest the presidential election of 2007, he had to spend vast sums of money to attract support from the North and the Southwest.  Even then, he was unceremoniously dropped as the presidential flag-bearer of the PDP.  When the late President Umaru Yar’Adua got sick, the Upper North refused to allow the vice president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to take over the leadership of the country.  As soon as he eventually became the president, threats of making the country ungovernable started to saturate the media.  Jonathan had to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in appeasing the Upper North while attempting to run for reelection.  He actually devoted more time throughout his tenure to persuade the North than the South to support him, yet, various tactics of ungovernability were deployed to shipwreck his administration.  Alhaji Aliyu Gwarzo, a prominent Fulani leader from Kano, did not hide the intention of the Upper North when he said “No Goodluck or anyone else will stop us from taking back our power next year.  We will kill, maim, destroy and turn the country into Africa’s biggest war zone and refugee camp if they try it” (Pointblanknews Magazine, October 2, 2014)
  1. As a result of the predominance of the North, the South is increasingly looking like a conquered territory of the North since most critical national decisions tend to favor the North. This is why Southern legislators in the National Assembly are almost voiceless and inactive.  They are seen but rarely heard from.  The governors and religious leaders in the Upper North have tremendous national influence while the governors and traditional rulers in the South have very little national influence. In fact, due to the overbearing influence of Northern political elites in the country, Southern political elites are very cautious in expressing themselves, fearing that if they talk too much, they could be punished.
  2. Apart from the pre-January 15, 1966 period, the Nigerian armed forces are dominated by the North, so much so that Southern military officers are barely noticeable.  Almost all critical military and national security positions under President Muhammadu Administration are held by officers from the Upper North.  In some circumstances, some junior military officers from the Upper North have more influence than some senior military officers from the South.  A Southern military or police officer, to safeguard his or her job, would not take any action without getting approval from an officer from the Upper North.  This was why former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Solomon Arase did not mobilize the police to stop marauding herdsmen from mobilizing and attacking Agatu community in the Middle Belt and Nimmo community in Igboland, even though everyone knew in advance that the herdsmen were about to invade those communites.  The same reason could also be given for why the army remained quiet. They did not act because they did not get clearance from President Buhari to prevent the invasion, killing and destruction of Agatu and Nimmo communities.
  3. A vast majority of the military and police training and educational institutions are located in the North. Similarly, it is much easier for someone from the North to join the armed forces than someone from the South. A letter from an Emir can make a whole difference whether someone is admitted into the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) or get a lucrative employment.
  4. The fear of Islamization is a constant worry among non-Moslems in Nigeria. This follows a statement made by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, to the Moslems to spread Islam throughout the country. He was seconded by the late prime minster of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Tafewa Balewa.  Alhaji Aliyu Gwarzo, electrified the agenda for Islamization by saying:

It was either the Koran or the sword and most of them chose the Koran.  In return                   for the good works of our forefathers, Allah, through the British, gave us Nigeria                    to rule and to do as we please.  Since 1960 we have been doing that and we intend                   to continue. (Ibid.).

  1. Even though the population is almost evenly divided between Christianity and Islam, Nigeria is not a member of any international Christian dominated foreign political or economic or religious alliance.  On the other hand, Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the D8 – an organization of Islamic countries, the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic Coalition against Terrorism, otherwise, referred to as Islamic Military Alliance.  This means that even though Nigeria supposed to be a secular state, it is incrementally being Islamized through tactical joining of Islamic organizations.  Therefore, when some Northern politicians introduced a bill which intends to nationalize the Fulani cattle business by granting land for cattle grazing in every state of the country, Southerners and Christians oppose the idea, suspecting it to be a ploy to spread Islam in the South by creating permanent Islamic enclaves throughout the country.
  2. Since Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914, riots resulting in the killings of Southerners, Christians and non-Moslems have taken place in the North.  It happened in 1953 and has continued into the twenty-first century.  On the other hand, Southerners have never caused riots that lead to the killing of Northerners.  Whenever an anti-Northern riot takes place in the South, it is always in reaction to the killings of Southerners in the North.  Thousands of Nigerians have been killed and maimed due to the riots.  How can the North and South co-exist since the lives of Southerners, Middle Belters, Ancestralists and Christians are always endangered by northern riots.  Thus, for most Southerners living in Northern Nigeria, there is always the danger of being killed through religiously and politically motivated riots.
  3. Nigeria is made up of 200 to 300 ethnic groups, yet, there are some individuals from two ethnic groups who believe that they have an exclusive right to rule the country because the British gave them the mandate to rule the country. Without mincing words,  Alhaji Gwarzo stated:

When I say that the Presidency must come to the north next year I am referring to                   the Hausa-Fulani core North and not any northern Christian or Muslim minority                     tribe (Pointblanknews, Ibid.).

  1. Petroleum started to become a major source of national wealth immediately after the Nigerian civil war in 1970.  By 2015, Nigeria had almost totally depended on oil and gas for its national wealth.  Oil and gas are found mostly in the Niger Delta/South-South, some parts of Igboland and the South-West zones).  However, due to the fact that oil and gas are totally nationalized, the citizens of the oil region are very poor.  On the other hand, the greatest beneficiaries of the oil wealth are Nigerians from the non-oil producing regions. In particular, oil shares (blocks) are owned mostly by individuals from the Upper North.
  2. While for about forty-five years now, Nigeria has almost totally depended on the oil wealth, the country has refused to carry out any environmental cleaning of the region.  As a result, the South-South region is highly polluted with oil leakages, pipeline fires and gas flaring.  Even the Nigerian plan to clean Ogoni land came by way of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).  Thus, Nigeria is not interested in cleaning the polluted environment but wants to exploit the oil and gas with total disregard for the feeling of the inhabitants of the oil region.
  3. The 1999 Constitution was put together through the supervision of the military. Therefore, it was not a product of democratic discussion involving the ethnic groups that make up the country.  This accounted for why an immunity clause was included to protect military officers who had engaged in misappropriation of public funds.  Sadly, elected officials since 1999, have relied on the same Immunity Clause to protect themselves from prosecution for misbehavior while in office.  Similarly, all the decrees and acts passed during various military regimes were imposed arbitrarily without the consent of the Nigeria people.  To have a very representative democratic constitution, it is necessary to have an open debate involving all stakeholders in the country.  Perhaps, the closest exercise to a representative constitutional debate was the National Conference of 2014 because individuals from different parts of the country participated in the exercise.
  4. The coming into power by President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC political party in May 2015 has deepened the desire for a national referendum to discuss the fate of the country. The demand became strident when President Buhari made a statement that he was going to favor the 95% that voted for him against the 5% that did not vote for him.  After making that statement, he seems to have tactically decided to ignore hiring people from the South-East and the South-South zones of the country.  Even the South-West zone which voted for him in large numbers has been neglected.  In addition, he has tactically recruited individuals from the Upper Islamic North to occupy critical positions in the Federal Government.  Meanwhile, he has not taken any active step to contain the violence perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen.  President Buhari war on corruption seems only to be targeted at the officials of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and the members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) while corruption perpetrated by members of the All Progressive Congress Party (APC) are ignored and treated as non-crimes.  His style of leadership creates the impression that he is northernizing and Islamizing the country to fulfil the dream of the late Ahmadu Bello.  Hence, some people in the South-East and the South-South have revived the call for the creation of the Republic of Biafra and the Republic of the Niger Delta.  Similarly, militant opposition to the exploration of oil and gas in the oil region has been reactivated.  Thus, President Buhari’s actions tend to deepen the feeling that Nigeria is increasingly being treated as a country dominated by one ethnic group, despite the fact that it is made up of 200 to 300 ethnic groups.
  5. Due to the dysfunctional nature of the country, creativity and innovation are stifled, hence, Nigeria has not been able to develop as an industrial nation capable of competing in the global marketplace to sell finished industrial goods and services.    It is interesting to note that Nigeria tends to kill motivation, creativity and innovation.  This is why creative and innovative Nigerians tend to do very well in their professional fields outside the country but seem to do poorly inside the country.  The reason is that inside Nigeria, the politics of ethnicity, regionalism and religion intercedes to dampen motivation.  Moreover, the politics of personalism tends to force people to become “LOYAL” boys and girls to political godfathers and godmothers.  The godfathers and godmothers are only interested in how much political power and financial wealth they can acquire.  This is why loyalty is more important than creativity and innovation.
  6. As Nigerians become increasingly dissatisfied with the contradictions, imbalances, and unequal distribution of power and resources,  the level of patriotism declines.  Lack of patriotism feeds the desire to embezzle public funds recklessly to the detriment of the Nigerian nation.

Based on the enumerated points above, it is obvious that an increasing number of the Nigerian population  are no longer satisfied with the current state of the country.  Consequently, there is a need to conduct a referendum so that Nigeria’s 200 to 300 ethnic groups can discuss the fate of the country freely in a democratic manner.  Therefore, the view by President Buhari and others that Nigeria is indivisible is not a convincing one.  The argument for indivisibility of Nigeria has been shattered by the fact that the United Kingdom (UK) which is a member of the European Union (EU) decided to quit the union as its citizens felt suffocated by the policies and actions of the EU.  Based on the desire of British citizens, Mr. David Cameron held a referendum to decide whether the UK should remain in the EU or leave.  The citizens voted to quit the EU.  If the British people who created Nigeria during the heydays of the British Empire can decide to quit a political arrangement which does not seem to satisfy their need, why can’t Nigeria’s 200 to 300 ethnic groups do the same if a political arrangement created through military imposition is suffocating them?  By allowing the referendum to go through, the UK has opened the gate for the Scottish and Irish people to decide in the nearest future whether they should continue to remain in the United Kingdom or go their separate ways.

Indeed, President Buhari should adopt the attitude of Mr. David Cameron by responding to the wishes of a large segment of the Nigerian people and hold a referendum and or implement the recommendations of the National Conference of 2014.  The Indivisibility of a forced union in which some Nigerians are treated as overloads while others are treated as serfs or conquered citizens cannot hold.  A nation in which the citizens of one section of the country constantly use violence against the citizens of the other section of the country cannot be indivisible.  An imposed political association in which one section of the country feels it has a mandate to rule the country cannot stand the test of time.  This is why a referendum is needed.  A referendum does not necessarily mean the dissolution of the country, rather, it is a means to restructure or redesign the country to the betterment of all Nigerians.  Of course, some groups might decide to opt out of the Nigerian arrangement and form their own separate countries, if need be.

Indeed, a referendum is needed in Nigeria to avoid Alhaji Gwarzo’s view that:

The Christians in the north such as the Berom, the Tiv, the Kataf, the Jaba, the Zuru,             the Sayyawa, the Jukun, the Idoma and all others are nothing and the Muslim minorities in the north, including the Kanuri, the Nupe, the Igbira, the Babur, the Shuwa Arabs, the Marghur and all the others know that when we are talking about leadership in the north and in Nigeria, Allah has given it to us, the Hausa-Fulani (Ibid.).

A country made up of 200 to 300 ethnic groups can only stand united as a sovereign nation when all groups are treated equally, regardless of ethnicity, region, and religion. Nigeria must be restructured to satisfy the aspiration of all Nigerians, not just one or two groups.

The Importance of Revitalizing African Religious Cultures

The Importance of Revitalizing African Religious Cultures

By Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

Torulaghareports.com

 

 

Introduction

Human beings on planet earth are currently categorized into three races. The races are: Asian, Black, and Caucasian/White. Of the three races, Caucasians and Asians are very adept in perpetuating and promoting themselves and their cultures, beliefs, values and practices throughout the world. This is why Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are the most predominant religions in the contemporary world. On the other hand, blacks seem not to be proud of themselves, hence, do not perpetuate and promote their cultures, beliefs, values and practices.

 

Instead, they tend to deny, denigrate and run away from their cultures while unquestionably imbibing, mimicking and perpetuating the cultures of the members of other races. Thus, while the members of the two other races actively promote their religious cultures, blacks run away from theirs and increasingly identify with the religions emanating from the other cultures. This is why almost every day somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the black world, a writer is writing and or publishing a story in a newspaper or a magazine or on the web about the importance of the Bible or the Koran and or living as a Christian or as a Muslim. On the other hand, it is rare to see or read about any African or black write-up promoting or touting the importance of maintaining African religious cultures. Apparently, at the frenetic speed in which the globalized religious cultures are being spread and adopted by African people, it is inferable that in fifty or more years, most educated Sub-Saharan Africans might likely become totally ignorant of their own cultures. This means that blacks are either consciously or unconsciously contributing to the demise of their own cultures, without even thinking about the implications.

The downward trend in the black cultural world began when other races invaded, conquered and imposed their cultural beliefs and values on the black race. Today, almost every educated black person is embedded in the political, legal, cultural and religious traditions of other cultures. This is why most Sub-Saharan Africans and black people generally who have gone through the formal educational system are capable of regurgitating various sayings in the Bible and or in the Koran in a twinkle of an eye. Yet, the same individuals might find it exceedingly difficult to intellectually discuss the tenets of their traditional religious cultures.

 

Arguments

 

The need to revitalize traditional African religions, otherwise, known collectively here as Ancestralism is overdue. The word Ancestralism is used here since in traditional African religions, including Voodooism in Benin and Haiti, Candomble in Brazil and Santeria in Cuba, God is worshipped through ancestral beings. In other words, just as Christians worshipped God through the teachings and beliefs of Jesus Christ, Moslems worship Alllah through the teachings of Prophet Mohammed and Buddhists worship God through the teachings of Buddha, Sub-Saharan Africans, like Native Americans, Hindus and other Asian societies, worship God through their ancestors. Thus, the following arguments are made to support the revitalization of Ancestralism:

 

  1. Political independence without cultural and religious independence amounts to no independence;
  2. It is cultural suicide for Sub-Saharan African people and their descendants to continue to subscribe to religious cultures that have nothing to do with their own cultural heritage;
  3. Black people have no respect in the world because they allow themselves to be mis-educated to believe that their own religious cultures are satanic, idol and devil-worshipping and ungodly;
  4. Political responsibility, transparency and accountability in governance will only take place when African religious cultures become the standard for determining ethical and moral conduct of society rather than the amoral precepts originating from secular humanism that are spreading like wild flowers throughout the black world;
  5. Africa will achieve greatness when African people fully embrace their cultural world.

 

 

  1.  Political independence without cultural and religious independence amounts to independence.

 

It is self-defeating for Sub-Saharan Africans to assume that the colonially-induced political entities in the continent are independent states. In theory they are but practically they are not. They are not independent states because of the following reasons:

a.  Almost all of them with the exception of Ethiopia were created by foreign politico-military powers. However, the African countries can change their dependent status by purposely conducting referenda or plebiscites to allow their citizens to determine the nature, structural configurations, institutions and the territorial integrity of the states.

b. The boundaries of the African states were established arbitrarily, thereby, violating the natural rights of some ethnic groups to exist in contiguous territories. In other words, the natural rights of some African ethnic groups are violated through being scattered into different countries.

c.  It could be said that African political independence is meaningless without cultural and religious independence. This is due to the fact that an independent state supposed to have political, social, judicial and religious institutions and processess that are compatible with the cultures of the people. Currently, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the political and legal systems are not compatible with the cultures of the ethnic groups. This is why many educated Africans are not familiar with their cultural systems. It is always strange to see judges and lawyers in many African countries wearing wigs as if they are in European courts. It is amazing that the United States which was established by Europeans decided to do away with the wig while Sub-Saharan Africans continue to maintain that costume.   Due to the fact that some European judges wear wigs, should African judges also wear wigs? Why can’t they design official attire that reflect the African cultural world, instead of wearing those Europeanized outfits that make them look like aliens in their own countries?

2. It is cultural suicide for African people to subscribe to religions that have nothing to do with their cultural heritage.

a. Due to religious propaganda leading to mis-education, a considerable number of Sub-Saharan African people have been educated and socialized to believe that the only way they can worship God/Allah is either through Christianity or Islam. If they continue to follow this path, they risk destroying their cultures, themselves and the qualities that make them unique in the world. Already, it could be said that a sizable number of educated African people today are cultural illiterates, in the sense that they know very little about their cultural heritage. Many ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa are losing their rare cultural practices because of increasing adoption of foreign religious and political cultures. No other part of the world can be compared to Africa when it comes to music and dance, yet, the cultural richness is not appreciated by most educated black people in the continent and elsewhere.

b. Indeed, there is a symbiotic relationship between culture and religion. The culture molds the religion and the religion molds the culture. Both must go together in order for social equilibrium and psychological and spiritual compatibility to take place. It is not possible to be an Amhara or Aka or Baka or Banda or Chewa or Gbaya or Ijaw, or Igbo or Hausa or Yoruba or Kikuyu or Fulani or Masai or Ewe or Ashanti or Shona or Zande or Zulu by claiming the ethnicity while ignoring or denying the culture and religion that go with the ethnicity. Currently, Sub-Saharan Africans are probably the only people in the world that live in a state of suspended cultural hibernation. They claim their ethnicity but generally tend to run away from the religious cultures that are intrinsically associated with their ethnic groups. As can be seen, religious crusades emanating from the two globalized religions are increasingly creeping into Black Africa as the adherents of the religions extend their age-old rivalry. This is why many African countries now have religious fault lines that lead to violence and political instability. Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Central African Republic and so forth, are a few of the countries in which the two major globalized religions are breeding hatred and sowing seeds of violence.

c.  It is interesting to note that while Sub-Saharan African people are encouraged to reject their religious cultures, the Europeans, Native Americans and Asians embrace their cultures without any hesitation or reservation, even while adhering to the globalized religions. This is why a visit to Cambodia, England, France, Ireland, India, Russia, Germany, Italy, Greece, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Peru, Mexico and so forth, is like paying a visit to the historical, political and cultural past of these countries and societies. The citizens of these countries are very proud of their Pre-Christian, Pre-Islamic and Pre-Buddhist past and celebrate the achievements of their ancestors with exuberance. Similarly, the Mayans, Incans and the Aztecs of the American continents too celebrate their cultures with eagerness, even though they have lost much of their cultural and political existence after the bloody Spanish conquest of the Americas.

d.  In countries like Mexico and Peru, some aspects of Native American Ancestralism have been incorporated into Christian religious rituals. This is done to legitimize Christianity in the eyes of many Native Americans, who also worship God through their ancestral deities, like the Sub-Saharan African, Japanese, Indian and Chinese people. In Brazil, especially in Salvador, Bahia, traditional African religious practices are also incorporated with Christian practices. In some cases, the practitioners of Candomble are allowed to carry out their religious services in proximity to Christian churches. In many parts of Asia, particularly in Indonesia, some elements of Ancestralism are merged with Buddhist and Hindu practices.

Thus, while people from other societies consciously continue to perpetuate and promote their cultures, Sub-Saharan African people risk becoming cultureless if they follow the path they are embarking upon. The proclivity towards avoiding anything having to do with African cultures and the tendency towards doing everything possible to embrace everything that has nothing to do with African cultures means that they are incrementally committing cultural suicide and would end up with no culture at all.   Therefore, it was very timely when Prof. Christopher Orubiu and Dr. Emmanuel Biri of Delta State University in Nigeria “condemned the demonization of Urhobo culture under the façade of Christianity” (Egufe Yafugborhi, Vanguard, January 7, 2015).

3.  Black people have no respect in the world because they allow others to convince them to believe that their own religious cultures are satanic, devil-worshipping and ungodly.

a.  Of the three races in the world, namely, Asian, Black and Caucasian/White, it is only the religions that are associated with the black race that are characterized as satanic, devil-worshipping, and ungodly even though these religions are similar to Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, and various traditional religions among Native Americans. In short, there is not much difference between Hinduism, Shintoism and Taoism because they are all based on Ancestralism and are characterized by many deities. Yet, it is only the religions that are associated with Sub-Saharan Africans and their descendants in the Americas that are stigmatized. Why?

b. In fact, Ancestralism, which is the African traditional religion, is also the religion of all traditional societies in Asia, Europe, Native America and the Middle East. In other words, the worshipping of God through ancestral deities is the most widespread and practiced religion in the world. Yet, it is only the African version that is condemned as being satanic and ungodly.

c.  While the Asians, Europeans and Native Americans embrace Ancestralism, it is only Sub-Saharan African and black people who have accepted to deny their own religious heritage by running away from it. The question is, why is it that the Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thais, South Koreans, Japanese, Native Americans and others, have no qualms about paying homage to God through their ancestral deities while Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans, Congolese, Cameroonians, Chadians, Senegalese, Zimbabweans and so forth, are running, hiding and rejecting their own ancestral religions? The answer lies with the educational systems in the African sub-continent and in the black world which continue to produce deAfricanized educated class of citizens.

d.  As a result of the fact that many educated Africans tend to run away from their ancestral religious cultures while working so hard to embrace other peoples religions, they have no respect in the world. The Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thais, Koreans, Japanese, Native Americans are respected because anywhere they go, they carry along with them their religious cultures, foods, attires and other important characteristics of themselves while Sub-Saharan Africans and black people generally are not respected because they find it difficult to carry their own religious cultures, foods, and attires along with them.

In terms of clothing in the African continent, it is North and West Africans who wear their traditional attires proudly, without any hesitation. The Central, Eastern and Southern African regions are devoid of any recognizable formal traditional attire. This is why the political leaders of the countries in these regions always appear in Europeanized suits during major conferences or gatherings. In other words, in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Angola, Mozambique, Kenya, with the exception of the Masai, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, etc., there is no formalized traditional attire. Hence, the leaders always appear in suits whenever they attend major conferences or travel overseas. On the other hand, North Africans, like other Arabs in the Middle East, have a formalized traditional attire and the leaders wear them proudly. West Africa is filled with very colorful traditional attires and the leaders wear them. In Nigeria, it is expected that their political leaders and important personalities wear traditional attire most of the time when they attend major conference. In fact, in Nigeria, people wear their traditional attires to the office very proudly.

e. Similarly, African states have no respect in the world because African leaders and political elites do everything in their power to embrace the political, judicial, religious and cultural systems of other societies while ignoring and denigrating African political, judicial, religious and cultural systems. It is not surprising that not a single African country has made a conscious attempt to Africanize the political and judicial systems. As a result, they force their citizens to embrace systems that are alien to their cultural world.

f.  Whenever the leaders of Britain, France, Russia, India, Japan, China, South Korea etc. travel to any other part of the world, they carry along with them their cultural worlds or perspectives. The Indians, Japanese, Chinese, South Koreans, Thais and so forth, build their religious temples, spread their foods by establishing specialty restaurants, publicize their cultures and actively promote their existence. On the other Hand, African leaders travel to other parts of the world with nothing of African value to show. This is why it is very rare to see or hear of an African country that actively promote African cultures as part of its diplomatic effort to create a better understanding of black Africa. Similarly, Sub-Saharan Africans travel to other parts of the world without promoting themselves and their cultural world. As a result of the failure to actively promote African cultures, the image of black Africa is very negative in other parts of the world. This contributes to the perpetual violation of the rights of black people in many parts of the world. Africans in the Diaspora pay severely for the failure of African countries to promote and perpetuate black cultures in the world.

History shows that the globalized religions have been the most destructive to peaceful coexistence and godliness. Their imperialistic tendencies have led to brutal wars of conquest and conversion. On the other hand, iniquities committed under African Ancestralism pale in comparison to the evils that have been committed in the names of the globalized religions. Even the Holy Bible, especially the Old Testament, is filled with gruesome wars in which people were massacred aimlessly. In some instances, even the name of God was used to justify the need for one ethnic group to massacre another and claim the ownership of land that belonged to the massacred group. African Ancestralism is considered to be so sacred, hence, forceful conversion of people is not encouraged.

Yet, despite the historical facts, it is African religions that are generally condemned for being evil. The sad thing is that African people buy into this erroneous twisting of historical fact by running away from their religious heritage in the hope of catching a ride to heaven through some other cultural bandwagon.

4. Political responsibility, transparency and accountability in governance would be enhanced when African religious cultures become the standard for determining ethical and moral conduct in governance.

Sub-Saharan Africa is bedecked by massive political and financial corruption as public officials embezzle public funds to enrich themselves and their immediate families while subjecting the rest of their citizens to perpetual poverty. Similarly, the continent is filled with political and military leaders who want to rule for life. They do so by rigging elections and intimidating the citizens to allow them to remain in power endlessly.

Due to the aforementioned ills, the law enforcement and judicial systems are fractured, corrupted and toothless, in many instances. As a result, highly connected individuals tend to act as if they are above the law while the politically and financially powerless individuals are subjected to the full weight of the law. Thus, the elite can embezzle with impunity while the rest of the citizens cannot. In Nigeria, for example, about twenty to thirty individuals are given oil blocks (shares/stocks) while the rest of the population are rendered poor. Those with the oil stocks make billions of dollars without even doing anything and the rest of the population scratch their heads and watch helplessly. The elite are able to beat the law enforcement and judicial systems by the hiring the best lawyers and using technicalities of the law to frustrate the legal process. This is why many public officials are not afraid of the law because they know that they can beat the system.

a. It is strongly believed here that as far as Sub-Saharan African countries continue to mimic political, judicial and law enforcement systems that are borrowed from other cultures, Sub-Saharan African countries would always remain unstable due to the contradictions that exist between the African cultures and the foreign cultures.

b. To ensure political responsibility, transparency, rule of law and accountability, it is necessary to compel public officials to swear their oaths of office based on the traditional African religious cultures. If appointed or elected to office, the individual should swear in the name of his or her ancestors to uphold the law and the obligations of the office. Similarly, when someone is suspected or arrested for allegedly committing a crime, the person should be obligated to swear in the name of his or her ancestors to tell the absolute truth. This is very important since no Sub-Saharan African will lie while swearing in the name of his or her ancestors.

c.Swearing in the name of the ancestors would result in the minimization of corruption and an increase in political accountability and transparency.

d. It would also increase integrity, thereby, lessening the threat posed by the two major globalized religions on the national security of many African countries.

5.  Africa will achieve greatness when African people fully embrace their cultural world.

 

It is strongly believed here that as soon as Sub-Saharan Africans realize that it is not possible to exist culturally as Africans without embracing the African religious culture, they would begin to change the world in a dramatic way. Indeed, it is not possible to live in one culture while embracing religions and political systems that originate from other cultures, for the following reasons:

a.  As stated above, the culture molds the religion and the religion molds the culture. Both have symbiotic relationships and must always go together in order to avoid psychological, spiritual, political and cultural incongruity.

b.  Both the culture and the religion that goes with the culture are molded by the environment and the spiritual forces that members of the society experienced in their lives.

c. The culture and the religion help to establish moral and ethical norms that guide the behavior of the members of any given society. Thus, Sub-Saharan Africans are traditionally molded to embrace certain norms by their religious cultures.

d. When people embrace a religion that is quite different from their cultures, cultural and psychological incongruity takes place immediately. They begin to act in ways that create social disequilibrium. As can be seen, corruption is endemic in Black Africa. Similarly, the countries are very fragile because the structures and institutions of the states are embedded in cultures that have nothing to do with the African people. This is why any African country can experience instability due to the cultural contradictions that exist. Similarly, an increasing number of black people are bleaching uncontrollably to lighten their skins. Similarly, artificial hair has increasingly replaced the natural hair for most black women throughout the world.

e.  Indeed, Chinua Achebe was very prophetic when he wrote Things fall Apart.

The Rationale for ReAfricanization of African religious Cultures

To prevent the disappearance of African cultures, after centuries of practicing religions that came to Sub-Saharan Africa through conquest, imposition and colonization and decades of experimenting with political, and judicial systems embedded in secular humanism, it is time to re-traditionalize by consciously revitalizing African religious cultures. African religious cultures should serve as the basis for achieving true cultural, spiritual, psychological and political independence. Moreover, it is essential to use African cultural normative values as the basis for determining ethical and moral conduct and maintaining social equilibrium in society.

Re-Africanization is necessary for the black world to make its presence and its contributions to the world clearly known and appreciated.

 

It is sad that in the 21st century, Sub-Saharan Africa and the black world have no global cultural identity. This means that black people simply exist by mimicking others instead of proactively contributing to the advancement of the world through their own religious and cultural experiences and perspectives.

As a result of the lack of a global cultural identity, a considerable number of black people in the world seem to suffer from racial inferiority complex. The inferiority complex leads to low self-esteem which is a major motivational factor for skin bleaching, the wearing of synthetic hair by most black women, and the caucasianization of beauty today. It also contributes to the reason why many educated African people run away from their traditional religious cultures and embrace imposed religions as if their own cultures are irrelevant or non-existing. They do so strongly believing that their traditional religions are not worth studying and practicing. It also contributes to the reason why almost all post-colonial Sub-Saharan African countries continue to practice and perpetuate political, judicial and governmental systems that have no resemblance to traditional African political, judicial and governmental systems, even though they claim to be sovereign states. How can any state claim to be sovereign when its governmental philosophy, structures, institutions and processes are embedded in foreign cultures?

Indeed, contrary to the negative characterization, African Ancestralism is a very sacred religion which espouses absolute truth and spiritual purity of mind, body, thought and action. It abhors devilish acts through laws that can be described as spiritual commandments, just as the Ten Commandments in the Bible and the Islamic Sharia. This is why every ethnic group in Sub-Saharan Africa has normative rules which divide behavior into acceptable and unacceptable deeds. The unacceptable deeds are generally typified as “Abominations” or ‘sacrileges” or “taboos”. If African religions were so devilish, why do they have stringent rules concerning acceptable and abominable behaviors?

Suggestions

After roaming in the wilderness of cultural confusion, following conquest and colonization, it is time for Sub-Saharan African people and the black world to reinvent themselves by reawakening the African cultural world. To do so, the first step is to rejuvenate African religious cultures that are collectively referred to as Ancestralism. In this regard, the following suggestions are made:

  1. Sub-Saharan African children, starting from the primary school, should be exposed to the tenets of the triple cultural heritage, namely, Ancestralism, Christianity and Islam.
  2. As part of civic education, primary school children should be exposed to African cultures and languages through the school curriculum.
  3. In the secondary schools, students should be encouraged to study National History, African History and Comparative Global Religions, including Ancestralism.
  4. At the university level in the continent, every student should be required to take African Philosophy, African Cultures and Religion and African History as part of the university-wide core courses. These courses should encompass both African and Diasporic African educational curricula for students to develop a comprehensive knowledge about their existence.
  5. To accomplish the items suggested above, it is necessary to change the existing educational curricula which are non-African centered. It is not a secret that due to the foreign-centered nature of formal education, most educated African people are schooled to embrace religious cultures of other societies and not their own.
  6. African governments should gradually introduce African cultural systems into their constitutional, political, legal and governmental institutions and administrative processes. Currently, it is a violation of the natural rights of the African people for African countries to operate constitutional, political, legal and governmental systems that have no affinity with the beliefs, values, norms, processes and practices of the African people.

Conclusion

It might be appropriate to end this article by showing that Judeo/European/Western Christians have no problem acknowledging their pagan past. This is why the month of January is named after the Roman god of the doorway (Janus), March is named after the Roman god of war (Mars), May is named after Greek goddess Maia, and June is named after Roman goddess Juno. Similarly, Judeo/European/Western Christians pay homage to their pre-Christian deities by naming important milestones, inventions and crafts after them. This accounted for why important inventions, military vessels and missiles are named after Poseidon, Jupiter, and Hercules. The spacecraft that went to the moon was called Apollo. Even the Christian Easter is named after Eastre, a pre-Christian Saxon goddess.   Thus, if European Christians have no problem paying homage to their ancestral deities, why are Sub-Saharan Africans running away from their pre-Christian and pre-Islamic ancestral deities? Why are Angolans, Chadians, Congolese, Rwandans, Tanzanians, Togolese, Gabonese, and other Africans running away from their cultural heritage?

While Jewish, Western, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese scholars are busy conducting research studies to uncover the facts about their pre-Buddhist, pre-Christian and pre-Islamic past, a considerable number of African scholars shy away from conducting research studies to find their pre-Christian and pre-Islamic past, fearful of criticism or condemnation for being ungodly and satanic.

Surprisingly, Sub-Saharan African Christians and Moslems have no problem acknowledging the pagan names of the Western calendar, yet, they would not even make the attempt to acknowledge the existence of their ancestral religious heritage. No wonder, the black world has no respect anywhere in the world. While they condemn their own for being paganistic, they eagerly accept paganistic rituals such Christmas Day and Easter.

It is time to launch the African Renaissance. It is time to reawaken a sleeping cultural world. Mr. Ezeana Igirigi Achusim deserves recognition for writing about the power of Dim Orioha in stopping crime and punishing offenders.

Why Africa Should be a Nuclear Free Zone

Why Africa Should be a Nuclear Free Zone

By Priye S. Torulagha

priyet@hotmail.com

torulaghareports.com

 

 

States are like human beings in the sense that they have ego, sometimes, too much of it.  One of the ways in which states try to boost their ego is by acquiring nuclear technology, either for peaceful or military use.  Generally, throughout the world, those countries that have acquired nuclear missiles are considered to be at the top of the technological pyramid of military power.  Such countries or states are feared and respected because they have the capability to unleash an unbelievable destruction on any other state that threatens their national security.  Therefore, the best way for states to guarantee their sovereignty is by acquiring nuclear missiles.

However, those countries that do not have nuclear missiles can also boost their ego by developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  Consequently, while countries like the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have nuclear missiles and nuclear plants to boost their sovereignty as well as electrical energy, a substantial number of countries are seeking nuclear technology to boost their energy supply.  In this regard, some African countries are looking for ways to increase their energy supply capability by wanting to develop nuclear energy plants.  The countries that are seeking this technology are convinced that their path to industrialization and economic modernization requires them to enhance their sources of electrical energy through the nuclear route.

Regardless of the reasons given to justify the need to acquire nuclear energy plants by African countries, it is fervently argued here that the African continent should be made a nuclear free zone.  Thus, given the choice of acquiring nuclear energy plants to boost electrical supply and having an unreliable supply of energy that might retard industrialization and modernization of the economy, it is preferable to go with the latter, which is of a lesser evil than with the former, which is of a much greater evil.  The following provide the reasons why the continent should remain a nuclear free zone:

  1. Almost all the modern (post-colonial) African states were created by foreign powers.  Even those countries that escaped direct colonization experienced a great deal of foreign control through direct and indirect intervention, thereby, making them not necessarily different from those that experienced direct colonization. This means that a vast majority of African countries are not free to exercise their sovereignty since the former colonial powers continue to directly and indirectly influence their actions and inactions in a remarkable manner.  For instance, France played a major role in stabilizing Ivory Coast, Mali and Central African Republic following violent uprisings.  Similarly, Britain played a significant role in the electoral victory of President MuhammaduBuhari in Nigeria. Of course, this does not take away the active role played by African countries to stabilize the continent.
  2. Almost all African countries today were forced through military and religious conquests to become what they are.  This means that most of the ethnic groups which constitute them did not voluntarily accept to be in the countries they are placed in today. In other words, many ethnic groups are compelled to identify with the countries which were imposed upon them.  Obviously, due to the manner in which they were incorporated, African countries would always experience separatist and irredentist conflicts as the ethnic groups and regions try to determine their fate through various means.  This greatly contributes to the frequency of conflict in the continent.
  3. Many African states have territorial disputes with their neighbors as a result of the arbitrariness of their boundaries.  The colonial powers did not care about territorial compatibility while scrambling to extend their geopolitical, economic, cultural and religious control of the continent.
  4. A considerable number of African states have explosive religious situation as a result of the fact that some regions are Islamized while other regions are Christianized. Furthermore, in some countries the religious divide is between the North and the South with the northern region being Islamic and the southern region being Christian.  Quite often, the two sides do not see eye to eye.  The Islamized regions tend to incline toward Saudi Arabia and the Arab world while the Christian regions tend to orientate toward Israel and the Western world.  Apparently, almost all the African countries in which the two religions hold sway are like two headed monsters due to the ideological differences between the two religions. This threatens the national security of the countries as the two sides vie for power needlessly. Generally, Ancestralism, which is the traditional African religion, is suppressed and ignored. Most educated Africans have extensive knowledge of either Christianity or Islam with little or no knowledge of Ancestralism.

The religious factor inhibits the ability of African political leaders to build cohesive nations among the ethnic groups.  In some African countries, the Islamized regions are the most dominant in controlling political, economic and military power while in some countries, the Christianized regions hold power. This creates perpetual friction, thereby, thwarting the effort to build integrated states.  Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Chad, Niger, Mali, Kenya, Central African Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, etc., are typical examples of the countries which suffer from the religious divide.

  1. Due to the arbitrariness of the territorial boundaries of the African states, some ethnic groups are carved into two or more countries.  For instance, the Tutsis are found in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.  The Hutus are also found in Burundi, Rwanda and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Fulanis are found in ten or more African countries, stretching from the Sene-Gambian region and extending to Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic and possibly Sudan. The Somalis are found in Somalia, Kenya, and possibly Djibouti.  The Hausas can be found in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and possibly Benin Republic.  The Berbers are located in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Mauretania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.The Tuaregs are found in Southern Algeria, Western Libya, Eastern Mali, Northern Niger and Northeastern Burkina Faso. The Ewe people are possibly found in Benin, Togo and Ghana.  The Mande people are found in Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Senegal.  This explained why when the Liberian civil war started, it pulled Guinea and Sierra Leone into the conflict.  Similarly, the interconnectedness of the ethnic groups resulted in pulling in Liberians into the Ivory Coast civil war.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a magnet for pulling in other countries into its affairs due to the interconnectedness of many  ethnic groups.  Any conflict in the Lake Chad region is most likely to pull in ethnic groups from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and possibly Cameroon.

The splitting of some ethnic groups into two or more countries creates regional political problems for all the states in which they are carved into.  The reason is that if a part of the ethnic group in one country is embroiled in conflict, the other parts of the ethnic group are likely to join the fray by supporting their kith and kin, thereby, spreading the conflict.  This accounted for why Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and occasionally Uganda are always faced with conflicts emanating from other countries due to the Tutsi and Hutu rivalry.  The spreading of Somalis into Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti and Kenya enables the Al Shabab militant group, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda, to operate freely in Somalia and Northern Kenya.  The Boko Haram is able to penetrate and operate in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad due to the affinity of the ethnic groups in the Lake Chad Basin.

  1. Since the African states supposedly gained independence, the ethnic groups which constitute them have not been allowed to hold a referendum or a major national conference designed to determine the nature, structure and political orientations of the states.  This means that modern African countries continue to maintain the territorial boundaries and constitutional structures that the colonial powers left behind.  Only very few countries have been able to amend the colonial structures of their political, legal and governmental arrangements.  The failure to restructure the states in order to ensure political, cultural and territorial compatibility with the African circumstances contributes greatly to the unstable nature of many African countries. This is why any African state can implode at any given moment due to the contradictions embedded in the colonial structures. It should be noted that after much wrangling and a drawn-out bloody civil war, Sudan allowed a referendum to take place.  This enabled the Southern Sudan region to secede and establish the Republic of South Sudan.  Nigeria continues to dance in circle about constituting a national conference to determine the fate of the country.  The most comprehensive constitutional conference was organized during the presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.  However, there seems to be no political eagerness to implement the recommendations made during the conference.
  2. Almost all African states continue to mimic the political, educational, judicial, military and law enforcement systems that the colonial powers put in place.   This means that the beliefs and political cultures of post-colonial African states are not compatible with the cultures of the African ethnic groups.   Therefore, these countries have imposed political, judicial, and administrative value systems, cultures, and institutions which force people to behave contrary to the traditional African cultural, political, judicial and social systems. In other words, almost all  post-colonial African states operate systems that are contrary to the traditional African cultures of the ethnic groups that constitute them. This is responsible for why so many educated Africans are ignorant of their traditional cultural beliefs, values, practices and traditions. Many tend to justify their ignorance by claiming to be Christians or Moslems. Even African heads of states suffer from the inability to connect with the traditions of their ethnic groups.
  3. In particular, politics is played in a win or loss manner, which is typical of the Machiavellian orientation of European/Western and Islamic political systems which are contrary to the compromise and consensus approach of the African political system. This leads to unnecessary power struggles among individuals, political parties, ethnic groups and regions.  It also increases religious tensions as the Christians and Moslems vie for power.
  4. As a result of the territorial, religious, political, cultural and ethnic problems, African countries have borne a large proportion of the most bloody and destructive wars in the world in the middle and later part of the twentieth and early part of the twenty-first centuries.   The list of countries that have experienced bloody conflicts include Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Southern Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, Libya, Algeria, Mozambique, Angola, Central African Republic, etc. While countries like Burkina Faso, Congo Brazzaville, Egypt, Mauretania, Togo, etc. have not experienced bloody civil wars, they have had series of crises that led to deaths of hundreds of people.
  5. More than any other continent, African leaders tend to cling to power as if the countries are their personal estates.  As a result, many of them have no qualms about amending the constitutions of their countries in order to remain in power as if they are monarchs.  The behavior contributes to instability in many African countries as the leaders refuse to leave.  Burundi was thrown into chaos when the incumbent president decided to run again for another term. The president of Chad has ran for reelection about five times.  Thus, Africa seems to have the highest number of leaders who rule endlessly.  Some of the countries in which the leaders have remained in power for so long include Angola, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Chad, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea and so on and so forth.  Tunisians had to stage the Arab uprising in order to remove a long-ruling leader that acted like a king.  Libyans revolted and eventually had Col Muamar Gaddafi killed. His killing really torn the country apart, thereby, producing numerous armed groups that continue to vie for power.
  6. In some countries, the political and military leaders are bent on establishing political dynasties by making sure that their children succeed them.  Egypt under Hosni Mubarak, Libya under Col. Gaddafi, Togo under President Eyadema, Gabon under President Omar Bongo followed the dynastic format until the Arab uprising shattered the Tunisian, Libyan and Egyptian efforts.  In Nigeria, in order to consolidate the elite control of the country, the Central Bank of Nigeria secretly embarked upon a program intended to employ the children of the political, military, police and business elites of the country, at the general disadvantage of the populace.
  7. Perhaps, more than any other continent, Africa seems to have the least equipped medical facilities in the world.  Sub-Saharan Africa is worse than Arabic Africa.  Sophisticated modern hospitals with latest medical technologies are a rarity in Sub-Saharan African countries.  This means that most Sub-Saharan countries do not have medical facilities that can treat various kinds of maladies since they are poorly equipped. Specialist hospitals are also a rarity. Apart from lack of infrastructure, there is also lack of appropriate drugs for treating various ailments.  The lack of commitment by political leaders in building modern medical facilities forces many highly trained medical doctors in the continent to seek employment in other parts of the world. Of course, African leaders always seek medical treatment overseas while leaving the rest of their citizens to rely on the underequipped and wretched medical facilities at home. Here again, South Africa and may be Morocco might be an exception.  Libya had good hospitals until the civil war came.

12,  Many African countries are bedecked by regional, tribal and religious problems. In some countries, only one region seems to dominate the entire political landscape while other regions are neglected, marginalized and deprived.  In some countries, individuals from one or two ethnic groups dominate economically, politically, militarily and otherwise.  This forces other ethnic groups to react, sometimes violently to express their dissatisfaction.  As a result, many African countries are prone to conflict.  Countries like Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Zimbabwe and so forth, tend to suffer from this kind of political situation.  Nigeria too pays a very high price as the North tends to dominate the country while the South reacts in various ways. In Ivory Coast, the North rebelled due to marginalization by the South. Somalis in Kenya complained that their region was marginalized for decades, hence, no major infrastructural development was instituted in that part of the country until recently.

  1. 1 In almost all the countries in the continent, national resources are not distributed in a manner that benefit all the ethnic groups, regions and provinces that constitute them.  This means that one or two regions or ethnic groups benefit the most while others are ignored, marginalized and or deprived.  In fact, it is strongly believed that the marginalization and discrimination against the Somali part of Kenya resulted in the youths in that region joining Al Shabab in large numbers.  The marginalization, deprivation and discrimination in the distribution of the oil wealth led to the youths in the Niger Delta/South-South to militantly oppose oil exploration before an amnesty program was established to deescalate the conflict in Nigeria. The Cabindan region of Angola threatened to secede due to marginalization and deprivation.  The same factor contributed to the civil war in Ivory Coast when the northern region rebelled against perceived southern discrimination and neglect. The Libyan rebellion began inn Benghazi since the eastern region was marginalized and deprived.
  2. In almost every African country, a tiny minority of the elites wield political power as well as dominate the countries to the point where the vast majority of the citizens simply exist by God’s grace.  The children of the tiny minority of the elites benefit greatly from the resources of the states while a majority of the children of the masses suffer for lack of governmental support of any kind.
  3. In many African countries, social welfare programs are lacking and the citizens merely exist at the periphery of society.  On the other hand, the elites are able to loot vast resources of the state to enhance their wellbeing. Generally, as indicated earlier, the elites seek medical treatment overseas and the masses seek medical services in dilapidated and underequipped hospitals at home.
  4. As a result of the frequency of conflict, Africa seems to have one of the highest proportion of military veterans in the world.  Some of the veterans are as young as ten years old. These veterans move about from place to place seeking to offer their military skills for pay.  Therefore, these veterans are easily recruited to form non-state armed groups by disaffected individuals and groups.
  5. Similarly, due to the frequency of armed conflicts, the African continent is saturated with large quantities of sophisticated arms.  In particular, the collapse of Libya after the killing of Col. Gaddafi resulted in the spreading of large quantities of sophisticated arms across the continent.  In some cases, some non-state armed groups are now better equipped and paid much more than soldiers fighting for the states.
  6. As a result of the unresolved territorial, structural and political problems, coupled with the high number of trained military veterans and the easy availability of arms, increasingly, almost every ethnic group in the continent now has armed elements that can easily be mobilized into a fighting force in a moment’s notice.  This means that technically, every country in the continent has more than one army.

The identified factors (#1 – 18) are listed here to show that the African political landscape is characterized by multiple conflict fault-lines that can result in uncontrollable explosion of violence at any given time.  In other words, due to the contradictions, irreconcilable tendencies, religious and ethnic differences, abuse of political power, corruptible appetites of the political and business elites, tension-driven power politics and the unequal distribution of resources and national wealth, any African country can explode in violence at any given time.  It should be noted that there was a time Ivory Coast was considered as an island of stability in West Africa.  Then the country exploded in violence.  Similarly, there was also a time in which Kenya was considered as an island of stability in East Africa, then it exploded in electoral violence.  North Africa too is very hot since Libya is like a broken glass that has exploded in violence, Before then, Algeria had a very bloody war with radical elements.  Egypt is searching for its soul while Islamic jihadists threaten the entire Middle East, including North and West Africa.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo which is technically one of the richest countries in the world, due to availability of numerous minerals, is also one of the poorest.  It is always bedecked by violent conflicts.  The DRC represents the worst of the contradictions that exist in Africa.  The Republic of South Sudan which is barely four years old, after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, is already ravaged by a bloody conflict.

Despite the frequency of destabilizing circumstances, African people have been able to manage various crises, working by themselves or in cooperation with international organizations to bring sanity to each conflict situation.  However, the African ability to manage crises would be severely tested if nuclear plants are introduced into the continent in an effort to boost the supply of electricity in some countries.

Consequently, it would be a strategic miscalculation of the worst kind for any African country to institute a nuclear technological program, whether for peaceful or military use.  Similarly, it is unthinkable that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would even consider granting an authority to establish a nuclear energy plant to any African country, at the present time when fundamental structural and constitutional issues have not been resolved in the continent.  The following provides the reasons why it would be a monumental mistake for any African country to tread a path that could render itself and subsections of the continent unlivable for millions of people:

  1. Unlike any other technology, nuclear technology is too dangerous and beyond human capability to control and manage it effectively.  As soon as it is instituted, it acts like a genie that has been released from the bottle and immediately assumes a life of its own by perpetually threatening to cause a disaster.Hence, the disadvantages of having a nuclear plant far outweigh the advantages of having it.

2, The difference between a nuclear military missile and a peaceful nuclear plant is not much.  The only perceivable difference is that a nuclear military missile is intended to devastate an external foe or enemy while a peaceful nuclear plant is intended for self-destruction.  The reason is that if a peaceful nuclear plant explodes as had happened in Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union, which is now in Ukraine and Fukushima in Japan, the area could be so contaminated by radioactive materials that it might not be habitable for decades, if not hundreds of years.  Right now, Chernobyl and the surrounding environment is sealed off and people are not allowed to go near the place.  The Chernobyl explosion took place thirty years ago, yet, the area is still too dangerous for people to live or eat any food or fish or meat from the area.  Likewise, the vicinity of the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant too is now a no go area due to the fear of exposure to dangerous levels of radioactive materials. No one can predict how long the area might remain uninhabitable.

  1. Apart from explosion emanating from an accident or a technical problem, there is always concern that someone or a group can intentionally launch a conventional missile or rocket attack against a nuclear plant, thereby, igniting a firestorm which could lead to explosive reaction from radioactive materials in the plant? Thus, as soon as a nuclear plant is developed, it becomes a sitting target.  In the event of a civil war, the plant immediately becomes an attractive target for a group that feels that it can win the war tactically by inflicting maximum destruction.  The world should be grateful that Iraq, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, DRC, Central African Republic, Somalia, Angola, Ivory Coast, Afghanistan, did not and do not have nuclear plants.
  2. Similarly, if a war erupts between two countries, with one having a nuclear plant in its territory while the other does not have a nuclear plant in its territory, the one without a nuclear plant could be tempted to carry out a tactical preemptive aerial bombardment of the nuclear plant in the other country in order to inflict maximum damage.  Indeed, with a jet fighter, it is quite easy to launch a missile attack against a nuclear plant.  In Africa where political conflicts are very common, it is easy to attack a nuclear plant and render a large territorial area uninhabitable for decades.
  3. Nuclear technology is too complicated and expensive to maintain.   A nuclear plant requires a hands on around the clock supervision, maintenance and coordination.  It is foolhardy to cut corners while operating a nuclear plant.  It requires a highly skilled technical workforce that is highly disciplined and dedicated so that mistakes are not made.  No African country, apart from South Africa that has the manpower and technical proficiency to operate a nuclear plant.  Countries that find it exceedingly difficult to operate ordinary hydroelectric plants should not even contemplate about establishing a nuclear plant to generate electricity.  It is a fact that many African countries find it difficult to generate sufficient amount of hydroelectric energy at the present time.  If they find it so difficult to operate a simple hydroelectric technology, can anyone imagine what will happen if nuclear technology is introduced?
  4. 6.  One of the major challenges in operating a nuclear plant is where to keep or store the spent fuel rods safely.  This is always a major challenge because the spent fuel rods can remain radioactive for hundreds of years.  Where in Africa would it be safe to store spent fuel rods, considering the frequency of conflict in the continent? Even the so called advanced industrial countries grapple with the issue of safely storing the spent fuel rods.  Perhaps, a technology might be developed in the future which might make it easy to manage the spent fuel rod problem.
  5. 7.  No amount of security can provide protection for a nuclear plant anywhere in Africa, whether in Sub-Saharan or Arabic Africa.  The reason is that even if ten thousands troops are mobilized to protect a nuclear plant, it can still be attacked.  A missile can be launched from a mile or two away to knock off the plant.  If the plant is attacked with a missile, those maintaining security in the vicinity would flee from the scene to avoid being contaminated by radiation.  Africa should be grateful that Col. Muammar Gaddafi dismantled his nuclear program before Libya erupted in violent rebellion against the leader.
  6. 8.  No African country, perhaps, with the exception of South Africa, has a highly skilled technical manpower that can be able to build and maintain a nuclear plant without an outside assistance.  It is dangerous for any developing country to rely on external human technical assistance to build and operate a nuclear plant.  The reason is that if something goes wrong, the foreign experts and operators might run away, thereby, leaving helpless citizens in the vicinity of the plant to pay the ultimate price.
  7. 9.  Similarly, no African country, with the exception of South Africa, has the technological wherewithal to build the equipment and parts necessary to operate and maintain a nuclear plant.  This means that any country in the continent that builds a nuclear plant is going to rely extensively on foreign technical parts to run the operation.  Here again, there is an inherent risk associated with depending on foreign countries to produce essential technical parts needed to replace damaged and worn out parts of a nuclear plant.  It should be noted that in many African countries, industrial projects are often left to rot away due to lack of replacement parts.  It is risky to operate a nuclear plant based on parts coming from foreign sources.
  8. 10.  A considerable number of African countries do not have the financial resources necessary to run a nuclear plant.  The reason is that it is a very expensive proposition.  It would be too dangerous to stop operating a nuclear plant after it has been built due to lack of funds.  In particular, countries which rely primarily on revenues generated from natural resources can easily run into financial problems if the prices of the resources go down in the world market.  For instance, Angola, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria and many other oil producing countries are now facing financial difficulties since oil price started going Some oil producing countries have been forced to reduce their budgetary allocations due to the shortfall in oil price.
  9. Likewise, it is not advisable for countries which rely on one primary commodity to run their economies to build nuclear plants, regardless of the reasons given for justifying the need.  The main reason why it is strategically inadvisable for one commodity-based countries to build nuclear plants is that if the price of the commodity goes down, the nuclear plant could be jeopardized for lack of funds to run a twenty-four hour operation.
  10. A particularly worrisome aspect of the nuclear energy idea is that due to the rampancy of corruption in the continent, nuclear plant construction could be compromised by the use of cheap or inferior materials that could lead to many problems.  This concern should not be dismissed off-handedly, considering the fact that many modern buildings have collapsed, resulting in the deaths of many people in various parts of the continent due to shoddy work or inferior materials or poor structural foundations. Thus, there is no guarantee that someone might not want to make a considerable amount of money by cutting corners while building a nuclear plant.
  11. 13.  It should be noted that despite the fact that Africa has experienced many bloody conflicts in the last five decades, the people have been able to rebuild their lives and reconstruct the infrastructure due to the fact that the conflicts involved the use of conventional weapons that did not cause radiation.  Indeed, the Nigerians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Somalis, Liberians, Sierra Leoneans, Ivorians, Malians, Congolese, Chadians, Nigeriens, Libyans, Algerians, Angolans, Mozambicans, Rwandans, Ugandans, Sudanese and so on and so forth fought destructive wars in which thousands, if not millions, as in the case of Nigeria and DRC, were killed, yet, they survived and rebuild.   The ability to survive and rebuild after a catastrophic crisis would be severely challenged if a nuclear technology, whether for warfare or peaceful use, is introduced into the equation.  In other words, if a nuclear plant runs into a problem and releases radioactive elements into the environment, the people in the vicinity of the plant would have to evacuate their territory for decades or hundreds of years.  The danger is that an ethnic group could have its territory so contaminated that the members of the ethnic group might be forced to become refugees in other peoples’ territories.  The question is, which ethnic group in Africa would be so favorably inclined towards abandoning its own territory and become nomadic due to a nuclear fall-out disaster?

Moreover, in the event of a nuclear plant disaster, millions of people could be forced to evacuate their homelands as the wind carries the radioactive elements around.  In other words, as it is being proposed in Nigeria, if any of the proposed two nuclear plants intended to be located in Akwa Ibom and Kogi States run into a problem, radioactive elements could be spread around.  In the case of the proposed plant in Akwa Ibom State, the states of Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River and Rivers States in Nigeria and the Republic of Cameroon and possibly Equatorial Guinea might be affected by radiation, in the event of a nuclear melt-down.  This means that thousands, if not millions of Ibibios could be forced to evacuate their territory and seek shelter somewhere.  Such evacuation could render them homeless and make them perpetual refugees.  The same goes for the nuclear plant being proposed for Kogi State.  Kogi State is almost in the center of Nigeria.  Therefore, a serious nuclear plant melt-down could inflict serious damage in the territories of many ethnic groups in that part of the country.  Similarly, if a country like Ghana were to build a nuclear plant, the government must realize that in the event of a malfunctioning of the plant due to overheating or explosion, radioactive materials could be spread to Togo, Benin Republic and possibly Ivory Coast, depending on the exact location of the plant.

Of course, those who support the building of nuclear plants as a means to boost electrical energy might view this writer as an alarmist who is trying to scare people away from supporting the effort.  Nevertheless, it is necessary to consider the points raised here to show the potential danger that can take place as soon as a nuclear plant is built.  Toiling with a nuclear technology is like wining and dining with the devil because any serious mishap can lead to very catastrophic consequences.  It should be noted that after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, European countries became very concerned about the consequences of a nuclear plant meltdown.  Hence, Germany announced a plan to phase out nuclear energy in 1998.  France cancelled a plan to build several nuclear reactors.  It also decided to replace aging nuclear plants with safer fossil fuel plants.  Italy, in a referendum in 2011, rejected a 2003 legislative bill intended to increase electricity by 25 percent through nuclear power.  The Fukushima nuclear plant disaster added to the urgency to phase out nuclear plants in some countries.  Even the Japanese are no longer dedicated to the building of new nuclear energy plants.  These so called advanced industrial countries have realized that it is very difficult to manage a nuclear plant disaster, even with the best of available technology.  Apparently, if the advanced industrial countries of the world are trying to denuclearize their sources of energy, why should any African country contemplates building a nuclear energy plant in its territory?

 

Conclusion

Indeed, the African political environment is too porous and unstable for any country in the continent to contemplate building a nuclear energy plant.  The reason is that the countries have not been able to create sustainable nationhood from the multitudes of ethnic, tribal, regional, political and religious groups that constitute them. Due to the failure, separatist and irredentist incidents occur quite frequently, thereby, negating the concept of national unity.  Most of the countries lack modern medical facilities that are capable of taking care of the medical needs of thousands of people in times of emergency.  Likewise, highly specialized medical treatment centers that can take care of patients who suffer from catastrophic incidents are a rarity.  Apart from the Republic of South Africa, no country in the continent has the technological wherewithal to engage in mass industrial production of technical goods and services.  Added to the deficits mentioned above, nuclear technology demands high technical proficiency that is lacking in the continent.  Moreover, nuclear energy plants are too dangerous and uncontrollable.

Consequently, it is argued that the disadvantages of having a nuclear plant greatly outweigh the advantages of having one.  As a result, Africans must do everything possible in their power to avoid constructing nuclear power plants in the continent.  In a nutshell, Africa should remain a nuclear free zone. Instead of embarking upon the construction of nuclear energy plants, African countries should put a greater emphasis in developing less dangerous sources of energy, such as solar, wind, biomass, biofuel, geothermal and hydropower plants to generate electricity.

It is suicidal to put or place an uncontrollable and untamable technology that is capable of inflicting an irreparable damage in a continent that is already characterized by multitude of unresolved territorial, structural, political, economic, medical and religious issues.