Aren't Africans Humans Too?
By Patrick L. N. Seyon

In 1996 in northern Uganda, an eight-year old African child tried to escape from his captors. He was caught and beaten to death by his peers in a bizarre initiation ritual set up for new child soldier recruits of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Hundreds more were abducted from their villages, raped and brutally murdered. Although this was reported by Human Rights Watch/Africa, the world took little or no notice, not to mention action to bring the perpetrators to justice. In Liberia, a pregnant woman, in a group of terror-stricken civilians, approached a check-point manned by child soldiers of Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). The child soldiers cast bets on the gender of the fetus. The woman was taken aside, screaming and begging for her life, and ripped open to see who won the bet. At another check-point, a group of civilians approached. There was a table with a human skull and a freshly severed head with blood dripping from it. The child soldiers were also playing a game. The freshly severed head had to be replaced when the blood dried. Someone had to choose between the skull and the bloody head. The head was then replaced with that of its selector. A horrified woman was pulled from the group and shouted at to make a selection between the two. At a third check-point, a group of civilians, fleeing the violence , approached. A man and woman, husband and wife, were pulled out of the group and taken aside. The woman was raped. The husband watched at gun-point.

Between 1989 and 1997, 250,000 Liberians were massacred and their villages set ablaze. Two-thirds of the country's population of 2.5 million was uprooted and 850,000 sent fleeing into neighboring countries. One of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, Charles Taylor of the NPFL, is in power in Liberia. Another, Alahaji G.V. Kromah of the ULIMO faction, has been given refuge by United States, and now lives in the state of Maryland. And the world watches in dead silence.

In Sierra Leone, between 1991 and 1999, Foday Sankoh and Johnny Paul Koroma's murdering bandits, known as the so-called Revolutionary United Front (RUF), have mutilated thousands of innocent civilian men, women and children, savagely murdered more than 20,000 and uprooted and displaced two million. Instead of being charged with crimes against humanity, these mass murderers have now been incorporated into Sierra Leone's legitimate government. And still the world looks on in deafening silence.

But this is the way it has always been when it comes to Africans. For two centuries, if not longer. The world apparently took no notice of neither the 50,000 - 60,000 people murdered by the Siad Barre regime of Somalia between 1985 and 1990, nor the scores of massacres that followed the fall of the regime.

Even though the world had ample time and could have prevented it, for a period of 20 years going back to 1972, the world watched as Hutus and Tutsis massacred each other in Rwanda and Burundi in the hundreds of thousands. And then in 1994, when the world was warned, through the United Nations, of impending danger to the Tutsis, it still took no action to prevent the massacre of 700,000 Tutsis. The Sudan's bloodletting of the past quarter century has claimed an estimated 2 million lives. At the beginning of this century, the Herero people in present day Namibia rebelled against German brutality and savagery, and for that the Germans committed genocide against the Herero people, killing up to 65,000, three-quarters of the population.

And between 1885 and 1913, Leopold II, King of the Belgians, had 10 million Africans killed to take their land, wealth, and to enslave them for rubber production. In the American south, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, African slaves who revolted against the barbarity of their white masters were often lynched, and others were hanged with limbs stretched out, and hacked into quarters. The world watched all of this, and perhaps with a wink of approval.

The then prevailing American, Belgian, and German view was that it was "almost impossible to regard [the Africans] as human beings." They were mere "raw material" needed to fuel industrial production. In the face of current atrocities against Africans, the question now arises: What is today's prevailing view of Africans? This question looms large and takes on great significance in light of the United States Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright's visit to Freetown, Sierra Leone. She maintained the world's silence, displaying its disdainful contempt for African lives taken in gruesome atrocities all over the continent. She was there to meet with, and, apparently perhaps, to congratulate two of Africa's mass murderers, Foday Sankoh (who failed to show up for the meeting) and Johnny Paul Koroma for a job well done, for the brutal murder of thousands. More significantly, she was there giving US assurances of full support for the accord that incorporates the mass killers into the government of Sierra Leone.

The United States is still pursuing Nazi war criminals, more than half a century after the end of the Second World War; Cambodian Khmer Rouge war criminals; and has charged Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia with crimes against humanity. But when it comes to the mass killers of Africans, the United States embraces them, and even gives refuge to others. This raises a basic and very troubling question: Aren't Africans humans too with the inalienable right to life, whose killers need to be brought to justice?

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