This weekend will live in quite a few people’s minds for a long time. Either because they are American, and they had to undergo the trauma of witnessing an attempted assassination. Or because they were African and got to see the dawn of a new country, Southern Sudan. I find both these events quite interesting for different reasons. Let us start with the events in Tucson Arizona.
On Saturday Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting her constituents when she was targeted by Jared Lee Loughner, a 21 year old with obvious mental issues. He shot at her repeatedly and hit her in the head and then started shooting indiscriminately, killing six people including a child and a judge.
While the events were a tragedy, many observers, myself included, thought that it was to be expected. For almost a year now, rhetoric like “lock and load” and talk of a “Second Amendment remedy” (the Right to Bear Arms) have become a mainstay of the American political landscape. To somehow remove the violent rhetoric issued by the politicians from the actions of this deranged fellow would be a fallacy. It is a simple case of cause and effect.
You cannot scream about perceived “enemies of the Constitution” as many in the Tea Party have and not expect a nut, who’s already close to the edge, to act on this kind of urging. There must be a manner in which political discourse is undertaken where certain language is frowned upon. The political arena cannot become a free for all. There must be certain rules of decency and good taste.
The right to free speech has to be tempered with good sense. I only hope that this is what shall be learnt from these tragic events.
The power of the gab is something that is often under estimated. Very often I’m asked why by my expatriate friends and colleagues why Rwanda has such strong laws against genocide ideology and the like. A demagogue, with a slick tongue and double speak, can throw an entire community into a frenzy and unless there are protections against someone like that, we are all at risk. People like Victoire Ingabire shouldn’t be allowed express their hateful views without any consequence. If a tragedy like what happened on Saturday can happen in a mature democracy like the United States, I fear for what can happen in nations like ours, where democracy is nascent.
Speaking of democracy, the people of Southern Sudan on Sunday begun voting in a referendum on whether to stay in a united Sudan or not. I wish the people of Sudan the best. But they cannot remain in isolation vis-à-vis the rest of the region. We are living in a time where the world is becoming more and more united, in a world where the nation state is seceding some of its sovereignty to larger regional blocs.
That is why I’m urging Salva Kiir and the leadership of the SPLM movement to make all haste and apply to join the East African Community. The people of Southern Sudan share many things with the peoples of East Africa economically, historically and socially and it would be a benefit to all concerned if Southern Sudan is invited into the regional bloc. The people of Southern Sudan have a lot to offer the EAC and the EAC has a lot to offer in turn.
I’ve heard that our very own Inyange food processing industry is expanding its reach to Juba. Remember the high oil prices? Well if the oil in Southern Sudan can be refined right here we might have a situation where East Africa is petroleum-independent. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful day?