The OAU's Hypocritical Reparations
Special Editorial

As African rulers converge in Togo for what has now become an annual circus of bigotry, disunity and treachery that plague the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU). Hopes that the OAU would serve as a rallying entity for rescuing the world's poorest and chaotic continent from the clutches of endemic horrors have long faded. Now, a number of countries, among them Angola, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, have all boycotted the circus in protest over its hypocrisy, clearly evident in its call for reparations for the Rwandan horrors.

We note the call for reparations from the UN and Western countries a shame, not because we disprove the findings and causalities of the OAU Panel of Experts, but because of the hypocrisy contained in the report, along with the belief that Africa's problems can best be solved by nations and peoples who have sowed its seeds of poverty and misery. Says the OAU Panel:

"We begin by drawing immediate attention to the title of our report, Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide. This tragedy never had to happen. It is of course true that there would have been no genocide had a small group among the Rwandan governing elite not deliberately incited the country's Hutu majority against the Tutsi minority, but this terrible conspiracy only succeeded because certain actors external to Rwanda allowed it to go ahead. Of these, the most important was the United Nations Security Council. Its members could have prevented the genocide from taking place. They failed to do so.

As a direct result, as many as 800,000 Tutsi and many thousands of anti-government Hutu were murdered. Hundreds of thousands more, including women and children, suffered unimaginable suffering and suffer still.

As one of its main recommendations, the Panel calls for a significant level of reparations to be paid by those who failed to prevent or mitigate the genocide. The case of Germany after World War Two is a precedent here. The Panel calls on the Secretary-General of the United Nations to establish a commission to determine a formula for such reparations and to identify which countries have an obligation to pay them.

The United States had the influence within the UN Security Council to ensure the authorization of a military mission that could have prevented the genocide before it was launched. Even once the genocide began, a serious military mission could dramatically have reduced the magnitude of the slaughter. But the US made sure that no such force would ever reach Rwanda, even after it was known beyond question that one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies was unfolding.

Even today, the nature of the international betrayal of Rwanda is hard to believe. Weeks into the genocide, the Security Council, led by the US, actually voted to reduce the inadequate military mission that had earlier been authorized for Rwanda. Later, once a new mission was finally authorized, American stalling tactics ensured that not one single additional soldier or piece of equipment reached Rwanda before the genocide had ended..."

Here lies the erroneous and dangerous belief that Western nations owe Africa, care about Africa's problems, and must do something about them. When Africa's noble sons and daughters, visionaries such as Kwame Nkrumah, Monibo Keita, Sekou Toure, Julius Nyerere, founded the OAU, the dream was to end the dependence on metropolitan Western nations that have turned Africa upside down for their own selfish economic and political interests, and to bind the Continent as one giagiantic unit in the drive towards emancipation and economic progress. These men and women saw an opportunity to thrust Africa forward, freeing it from ingrained inferiority complex, and propelling it towards a proud and prosperous future. But from the very beginning, external enemies, the very ones now expected to free us from bondage, conspired to ensure failure. Foreign inspired coups deprived the nascent organization of its best minds, leaving it to the whims of the Judas at the service of foreign masters. This has not changed. If anything, the OAU has become the direct opposite of what its Founding Fathers wanted it to be. It has become a burden on African taxpayers and a shame to the Continent.

The call for reparations for the genocide in Rwanda is a classic example of the mediocrity within this once noble organization. Over the years, mediocrity has replaced vision and wisdom within the OAU. Opportunism, bigotry have become the rules. For how else can we understand the demand of Africa's so-called leaders for reparations from foreigners for problems caused by the greed, ineptitude and barrenness of Africans themselves.

The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, responding to the findings, said he appreciates the report but cannot understand the demand for reparations. In short, Annan is telling his fellow Africans that they simply have lost their heads. We agree!

Although the horrors of Rwanda (and most conflicts around Africa) were partly caused by historical ties between that country and its colonial relations, it is time African stop blaming others for problems made and parceled at home. We must state here emphatically that the belief that the world owes Africa something depicts a terrible mentality and is one of the fundamental causes of our backwardness. The fact undisputable is that the world, or the thing they call International Community, owes Africa nothing. Yes, slavery disfigured the Continent. Yes, colonialism implanted the seeds of economic subjugation difficult to uproot within the confused framework of what they call now "globalization." Yes, the Cold War (which gave birth to rebel leaders, warlords and criminal syndicates running the Continent) helped to confuse us even further, dividing us to ensure that we remain at the bottom of the global economic ladder. But we cannot continue to cling on these justifiable causes for solving our problems. We must make a new beginning in hope and pride, and put our past miseries behind in our giant step for a better tomorrow, a tomorrow full of pride and self-reliance. But this cannot be done with criminals and bandits, now assisted by citizens from the very countries blamed for our misery, at the helm of power. Without a determined effort to alter our misery independent of outsiders equally determined to keep us down deep in racism and exploitation, we are our own worst enemy!

That Africans are their own problems can be seen in the recent United Nations report implicating countries in the continuing pathetic decay of Angola, countries like the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Togo, and leading African rulers including Togo's Eyadema, the soon-to-be chair of the very OAU. For diamonds, African rulers prefer to see fellow Africans reduced to a state worst than animals. For diamonds and quick wealth, those we call leaders are digging mass graves for their fellow Africans. And yet, they shamelessly demand reparations from people devoid of any real desire to see us out of our horrible trap.

We believe that if reparations are to be claimed from the UN, America and others, the exercise should start from home. The Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Libya should pay war reparations to Liberia and Sierra Leone for using their territories, as springboards in the irreparable destruction of these countries now at the mercy of the very countries asked to pay reparations. Again, the Ivory Coast, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Togo and other implicated in the UN report, should pay reparations for fueling the war in Angola because of the diamond greed.

But the hypocrisy of the Africans can be seen in the recent decision of Mali to abstain during a UN vote against blood diamonds from Sierra Leone because Liberia was named as a conduit for diamond smuggling causing horrors for that country's 5.6 million people, the poorest on earth according to UN statistics. In the phony wisdom of the Africans, Mali could not endorse the Sanctions because Liberia's President Charles Taylor "has done well" in releasing UN peacekeeping hostages, hostages he captured through his remote control of the RUF rebels. However, the real reason for Mali's abstention is beyond recognition of Taylor's so-called goodwill. The personal inter-relationships amongst African rulers, relationships based on personal interests of "friend and brother in theft and plunder", are the real reasons for compromising principle for justice. Despite worldwide evidence that Liberia is the backbone for Sierra Leone's rebels, African countries, including Nigeria and South Africa, see this criminal enclave as a respectable country with a positive role in regional security.

The truth is that this country, a founding member of the OAU, has become problem with devastating consequences for the region and Africa as a whole. Although over 70,000 people have been killed in Sierra Leone, children as young as five amputated among thousands, no single African country is on record for condemning Liberia's criminal gangsters in their of terror. Over 250,000 people were killed in Liberia itself, a country with a population of less than 3 million, and yet, not a single African leader sees any moral wrong in dinning and dancing with the man who continues to reign havoc on a helpless people. South Africa and Nigeria, two of Africa's leading countries, see the perpetrators of these horrors as honorable men deserving their national honors. It is such callousness, such hypocrisy that are driving Africa to the brink of more brutal scenarios, not the insensitivity of nations and cultures that have ensured the Blackman's misery over the Ages.

The OAU would therefore do well to look at its inner self for Africa's spreading calamities. As African rulers dine and wine in the blood of the millions of starving refugees, as they are paraded in luxurious cars to their "deliberations", as they sleep in foreign-made luxurious beds while their people scramble under tents in refugees camps, they must realize that the seeds of the Continent's horrors may be sowed by issues reiterated in the Panel's report, but fertilized by Africans, the rise of gangsters as leaders on a Continent deeply in need of vision. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Sadako Ogata, recently blamed African rulers for the miseries of their people. She could not have made a better point. To accept known criminals as national leaders is to accept crime as a political denominator on a continent needing creativity, integrity, and hard work to thrust it out of the orbit of poverty and anarchy. We doubt if the current class of African leaders is capable of undertaking this difficult but necessary task. Let charity begin at home. Let propriety, humanity and integrity be guarding principles of politics, not cutthroat methods now entrenched. When this done, Africa will be proud again, in the memory of the OAU's founding heroes.

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