As this is being written, counting of votes in the South Sudan referendum on independence is going on. This far, there has been no suggestion that the South Sudanese will vote to remain in a Union with Khartoum, so I suppose a premature congratulatory message to the people of South Sudan upon their pending independence is in order.
As a cautionary footnote, the next years of turning this new nation into a prosperous and peaceful one will be far more challenging for the leadership than waging war against an oppressor.
To paraphrase Mario Cuomo, the independence struggle was done in painful poetry during the war, and the subsequent transition period, but governing a new nation with as many issues as this one has will be in difficult prose.
Last week, the first week of 2011, saw troubling manifestations of religious intolerance with the assassination of Mr. Salman Taseer, a Pakistani Governor who had spoken out against a law on blasphemy, by his own bodyguard.
This was of course on the heels of the New Year bombing of a Coptic Orthodox Church in the city Alexandria - Egypt by suspected Islamic extremists.
The Copts celebrated a tense Orthodox Christmas last Friday as a result as their day of joy and peace was marred by fear. In the case of Mr. Taseer, just as worrying as his assassination was the public support that his assassin and former bodyguard was receiving for his actions. His justification for killing the governor is that extremist clerics had called for the governor’s murder following his stated opposition to a law on blasphemy that includes a death penalty for insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
That such intolerance can be enshrined in law in the 21st century and that some of the lead practitioners of a religion that proclaims itself as the religion of peace find it so intolerable that a person speaking against it should be murdered beggars belief. If ever there was an argument for a secular state, this was it.
I read an article in The East African last week on the subject of the succession to the position of Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) now that Juma Mwapachu’s term is about to lapse. It reported intra-state jostling for the position with the original three EAC members pushing for a Secretary General from one of their countries on the one hand with the new entrants Rwanda and Burundi stating that it was now their turn to send one of their own to fill the position.
This far, Uganda’s East African Affairs Minister, Mr. Eriya Kategeya, has indicated support for a Kenya’s bid to fill the Secretary General’s position. This contradicts Uganda’s official support for Rwanda and Burundi’s bid.
In accordance with the policy of the EAC, the position is rotational so in theory Rwanda or Burundi should be sending a candidate for the position.
The article went on to warn about the possibility of waning enthusiasm in Rwanda and Burundi should a Secretary General be chosen from anywhere else. I found this to be true. Ever since joining the community, Rwanda has made every effort to comply with all practises East African and has expected no reciprocal actions from other member states to accommodate Rwandan practices. I am not sure how things are going in Burundi.
Why, only last year there was talk of switching driving in Rwanda to the left lane [I was opposed to this]. The last thing the EAC needs is to alienate its two newest, and arguably most enthusiastic, members by choosing a Secretary General in violation of its own rules.