Potholes in the Road to Peace

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Is peace a lost cause?

Submitted: February 21, 2017

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Submitted: February 21, 2017

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The Tanzanian government under President Julius Nyerere, with no help from western nations, kicked Idi Amin out of Uganda. Amin was a thorn in the side to Britain, a loose cannon. At the time, Tanzania was one of the world’s poorest nations and the cost of the operation was a setback to the nation’s growth. I had no idea of this until my mate Emanuel told me about the enduring cost to the nation.

Idi Amin is probably best remembered for booting out most of the South Asian people who had drifted into Uganda over the years. Most of them were Indian. They had ninety days to get out and 27 200 ended up in the UK, 6000 in Canada, 4500 went to India and some 2500 to Kenya. It seems the world was more accommodating to refugees in those days, although it has to be said that the British Commonwealth tended to look after its own! 

Amin’s rule was typical for guys of his ilk. Human rights abuses, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, corruption, nepotism, political repression and gross economic mismanagement. When the Tanzanian army were close to catching him he fled to Libya, (good old Gadhafi, now there’s a fella for you) and he lived out his days in Saudi Arabia. Presumably the Saudi government weren’t too concerned that as many as half a million met an early demise at the hands of Amin! They gave him humanitarian sanctuary yet are happy enough to stone women for adultery and lop heads off!

Among my childhood pastimes, playing cowboys and Indians with my mates was a favourite. Nobody wanted to be an Indian, because they ended up dead – how inglorious! We had no idea what Native Americans were, because nobody told us. It seemed a natural thing to shoot them! That’s what sanitised history does for you! In the movies the Native Americans were called ‘savages’, a title that we, the misinformed, happily accepted. But hang on, who were the savages? Our hero, William Cody, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill, had the job of exterminating the bison, otherwise known as buffalo – yes, exterminating! He was working for wealthy New Yorkers and the US Army with the plan to starve the indigenous inhabitants, Native Americans, into submission forcing them onto reservations!

So back to Tanzania, I witnessed the beginning of the Rwandan genocide trials and the difficulties that were faced establishing the terms of reference and finding judiciary prepared to do the adjudicating. Some were threatened, some lawyers were murdered and the length of the trials meant that the people involved could not see the trials to conclusion because it would tie up their lives for too long.

Atrocities and genocide are nothing new, going on since man first noticed his neighbour was different and if you look at history, it is inappropriate for any of us to point the finger at another because several fingers are pointed right back to our own ancestors! After seeing the difficulties and expense of the Rwandan trials, which is a huge factor.  So who pays to bring modern offenders to account? Prime example: what’s going to happen when the Syrian crisis ends? Atrocities have abounded in that particular conflict and it is a fair guess that Bashar al-Assad will not want it to end because when it does, he will face some accountability, perhaps by his own people. But then there are his underlings who carried orders or those who acted without sanction, what happens to them? How many of them did inhuman acts without their boss’ authority? What about al-Assad’s cohort Vladimir, he’s not lily white either, but who will knock on his door to arrest him? Are innocent civilians killed by erroneous drone strikes atrocities or collateral damage? Who judges?

Part of the resolution of any conflict, is figuring out what triggered it and who gave the relevant order to start proceedings? Example: The Holocaust. Historically, the Jewish reputation for making money has made them a target, not so much because of religion but because of envy. So what the charismatic Hitler did was stir public sentiment against Jews, which became populist. To mount his war, Hitler did not need to attack Jews, but because he had the power and it was a popular move it was opportunistic at the time. He recruited a bunch of deranged perverts, and sadists, including the odd drug-befuddled to do the job. Just how it was carried out is history, but if Hitler had not committed suicide, what would have happened to him? Then again, what punishment would have been good enough? Revenge may be sweet but we all die only once and a simple death somehow does not equate to the horrific torture and deaths of millions.

No question, the world would be a better place if there was no Boko Haram, no Isis, no Palestine/Israel conflict, no Russian intrusion into Ukraine, no China vs Taiwan or Tibet, no North Korean sabre-rattling, no Syrian war, no other civil wars, no starvation. All these crises have leaders who don’t understand the basic principles of harmony, negotiation or conflict resolution. They all want to be perceived as strong leaders with a certain amount of mongrel, because they’re all scared that they will be usurped by some other moron with even more mongrel. So often, live by the sword, die by the sword plays out. 

It is wrong to suppose all conflict is religion-based. Boko Haram, Isis, Taliban and others are certainly religious bigots. But look at the rag-tag lot, who would want to be like them? Are they filled with happiness? Do the find life fulfilling? Do any of them ever smile? No they are hate-based and it is hatred that is their overriding cause. Example: Why does North Korea hate the USA? Of course it is ongoing resentment from the Korean War and all those bombs! Instead of allowing time to heal the past, it is in the best interests of Kim Jong Un and the regime to cause those wounds to fester because the last thing he wants is change, the regime is sitting pretty at the expense of the people! 

Peace is elusive, difficult to forge and maybe mankind has evolved with too many aggression genes. Was Darwin right? Survival of the fittest might well mean blitzing the opposition, after all the world’s natural resources are already stretched. Hang on! Surely we can be better than that! The possibilities of life within peace are worth striving for. But doesn’t that come by spreading wealth? Money isn’t necessarily the silver bullet, but equity just might be.

In Yemen, a child dies of starvation every ten minutes. The principle antagonist is Saudi Arabia. Britain, has taken advantage of the situation by selling weapons and ammunition to the Saudi government! Has been doing so for a long time, reaping millions in the process! Yes, if Britain doesn’t provide the firearms and ammo, some other country will. But remember those old western movies where the baddie sold firearms to the Indians?  It’s the same thing. Key word: morality.

A personal philosophy: Every action causes a reaction. A little example: If a leader complains about the media taking the piss, of course the media will continue to take the piss. If the said leader stopped targeting the media (acting responsibly would do no harm either), how would the media react? Yep, nothing to report. ‘Turning the other cheek’ was a metaphor for this very thing. Exception: Should North Korea manage to fire a nuclear warhead at the USA, USA’s early warning would fire up, and likely they would destroy it, but if the device did get through, the retaliation would be devastating for both countries. No winners! No sense!

Any solutions to what’s going on? Unlikely. Egos, accumulation of wealth, and a craving for power are potholes on the road to peace. Too many issues, no consensus.


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