Kwibuka23: A call for EAC leaders' political responsibility

As Rwanda commemorates the Genocide against the Tutsi (Kwibuka23), the Committee of the Intelligence and Security Services (CISSA) conference has just ended in Khartoum, Sudan.

Themed, “The Phenomena of the Mercenary, Foreign Fighters and Terrorism” and bringing together 27 representatives of CISSA countries as well as representatives of regional and international organizations, the Khartoum meet was a follow-up to the 13th ordinary conference in Kigali last year.

In the meantime, the Trump administration has just granted more authority to the US-Africa Command to wage a campaign against the terror group al Shabaab.

The US military will now be able to conduct “precision airstrikes” in support of the African Union Mission in Somalia and the Somalia National Army in their fight against the terror group.

These happenings, only a span of days between each other, may be coincidental, but there’s no doubt about their complementary nature and unity of purpose.

Note that genocide and terrorism is twinned, not only in ideology and political objectives, but in their individual and group processes of radicalisation.

Political scientists observe how the radicalisation processes involve social construction of the enemy and the revision of moral norms in order to permit justifiable acts of violence against members of the enemy group.

While one of genocide objectives may be the destruction of the “out-group”, terrorist objectives may range from religious separatism to ethnic cleansing, or even maintenance of the status quo.

In both cases an internal rationality exists within the perpetrator group which renders acts of violence comprehensible and justifiable. This mechanism of rationalization eases the cognitive dissonance perpetrators may normally feel when committing acts of violence. (Also see the book, Rethinking Security in the Twenty First Century: A Reader, edited by Edwin Daniel Jacob)

Either way, both forms of violence unleash attention seeking terror and destruction through targets often chosen for their symbolic effect to “send a message” to observers.

The dynamics are well known. Therefore, while Kwibuka23 is a solemn reminder for “Never Again”, CISSA is to keep anticipatory tabs on the current and eminent threat, especially with the realization that the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organisation has been formed in the sub-Saharan region to unleash mercenaries and foreign fighters following defeat in Iraq and Syria.

The US military support in the Somalia and the region, therefore, also is par for the course given the knowledge that where an ideology of violence is allowed even half a chance to take root it tends to virulently spread posing a threat everywhere on the planet.

In the EAC we are all too aware of this. And yet, it may appear counterintuitive that of the five partner states that signed the EAC Peace and Security Protocol in February 2013, only Rwanda and Uganda have so far ratified it.

This was the concern raised earlier this week by members of the East African Legislative Assembly, as reported in this newspaper, with the inexplicable delay by Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi to ratify the protocol.

South Sudan, the sixth and newest member, was admitted into the EAC only in March last year; and, perhaps not too soon, given the seemingly never ending violence in the country. The fully ratified EAC Peace and Security Protocol could provide yet another front to seek stability in the country.

The protocol seeks to prevent genocide, combat terrorism and piracy, as well as offer guidelines on disaster management, including of refugees and co-ordination of humanitarian assistance. It broadly undertakes to protect the rights of citizens and safeguard the development of the Community against instability.

Which brings me back to Kwibuka23: It points to the many dimensions of the commemoration, along with others such as the Jewish Holocaust and the memorials that serve as year-round reminders of the humanity’s precariousness anywhere in the world.

As we await the CISSA Khartoum workshop report, it behooves leaders in the remaining EAC member states to ratify the Peace and Security Protocol as a measure of their political appreciation as stewards of the entire citizenry in the region.

For this reason, along with the memory it must evoke, Kwibuka23 should serve as a rallying cry and reminder to their political responsibility.