In the early 1990s, Nelson Mandela propounded a concept of African development based on the four trigger countries of Kenya in the east, Egypt in the north, Nigeria in the West and South Africa in the south. These four countries with their trajectory of positive economic development and bright looking future prospects would act as the regional hubs for lifting the whole of Africa to the next level of development, he said then.
The revered statesman – of blessed memory- lived to see this vision threatened in three of the four countries by ethnic and religious violence that continues to keep them often on knife edge. South Africa, his homeland, has not been spared either as it has been fighting to contain xenophobia and industrial actions that have resulted in violent massacres and displacements.
In Nigeria, Boko Haram has eclipsed all other violent protests and criminal movements and turned some parts of the country into virtual outlawed zones. Their supposed Islamic agenda has been disowned by all Moslem religious leaders and groups including the apex global Islamic organization, the Organization of Islamic Conference, OIC. They however continue to operate with impunity, outsmarting the Nigerian security system and claiming to carry out their atrocities in the name of Allah.
A second spate of recent violent occurrences has pitted groups described as Fulani herdsmen against farming communities mainly in the agricultural heartland of Central Nigeria. The threat to Nigeria’s food security is imminent if this disturbing trend is not halted
In Kenya, the recent violence and killings that took place in Mpeketoni District in the Coastal Canton of the country seemed calculated to exert maximum damage to its fragile ethnic relations that citizens across the various divide have been struggling to strengthen for seven years since the post-election violence of 2007.
In Egypt, after the fall of the Mubarak dynasty in the wake of the Arab Spring, the country seems to be plunging deeper and deeper into murky waters of intolerance and militarism. A number of disturbing features run through the crises that these countries, touted as the hope of the continent, share. The violent insurgents, whether they be al-Shabab zooming in and out of Kenya from their Somalia positions or Boko Haram perpetrating violence on the Nigeria, Cameroon Chad tri-country zone have an agenda that is either too obscure or outlandish for meaningful negotiations. What they lack in reasonable discourse, they make up in devastating tactical effectiveness. Their seemingly mindless massacres are targeted at sensitive points that will cause revulsion and sow seeds of inter-ethnic or inter-religious discord among communities. Their geographical targeting seems to pin-point areas of both food and industrial productivity.
The reaction of political leaders in these countries to these happenings also invariably takes the form of accusations and counter-accusations of political motivation, often without proof in spite of all the machinery at the disposal of the state. The opposition may become an easy scapegoat that clouds vision and mars the realization of effective action that is needed to arrive at lasting solutions.
There is no shortage of conspiracy theories with sinister foreign motives on African resources either. In the quest for the security of their people and resources, African leaders need to be alert and proactive in the examination of all options on the table. If they are to be paranoid, it should be in taking into consideration the larger picture instead of focusing on their personal and party interests.
Moreover, whatever the games politicians play in the search for power, calculated “mindless violence” is not the answer and if indeed there are calculating minds behind the hands that throw the bombs and pull the triggers, they should know this. Be it in Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt or South Africa, the leaders and those who aspire to leadership need to know this and for goodness sake, desist from throwing their people in other rounds of violence and retrogression.