Felicien Kabuga: International Justice on the Cross

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Although eastern Africa is a host to the world’s most severe conflicts, the Rwanda genocide, with close to a million deaths within a hundred days, was a showstopper.

The execution of the war crime is delivered with rudimentary, machete, technology, tribal or ethnic cultural indoctrination, and designed to inflict maximum (sensory and emotional) anguish to the victim.

The victims, ‘them-now,’-‘next-season-you’, keep trading places. No one could blame the other for the situation. The international justice system is the only hope for the most vulnerable poor of all gender and across all ages.

Besides hosting, and bearing the brunt of, the Alshabab terror group, eastern Africa has also witnessed brutal civil conflict in South Sudan, over and above, endemic politically inspired conflicts in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Felicien Kabuga is a specimen of east African politicians. They, initially, delve into public life with seemingly altruistic intentions. Then somewhere along the road, they begin to eat their people.

The game plan begins with mobilizing masses along with issues of concern. In Rwanda, for example, the issue had been the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana.

Once the politicians have used the masses to ascend to positions of influence, the next stage of the game plan is eliminating any voice of dissent. Executions and forced disappearances are common.

The stage, with the resultant fear at this point, is set for economic looting. The spillover effects trickle to all political and social sectors. And the cycle replicates with precision.   

In the 1970s, President Idi Amin of Uganda, faced with a cash crunch, asked the governor of Uganda’s Central Bank (the Bank of Uganda), “why is there no money in the country?” without caring to listen to the winding response, Amin blurted, “…then print more money!”

Recently, South Sudan, which, following a protracted rebellion, gained autonomy from Sudan in 2011, had a devastating fall out among the political elite over the sharing of the crude oil export loot.

In 2008, Kenyan politicians, smarting from a recently successfully mobilized masses for the removal of a then decades old authoritarianism of President Daniel Toroitich, could not agree on subsequent election results.

Within a couple of days, over one thousand people, most of them attempting to free to perceived friendly zones, were hacked to death with machetes.

For the abundance of, among other natural resources, gold in DRC, it is sold in regular stores alongside other fast-moving consumer goods such as coffee, tea leaves, beans, salt, and sugar. Theirs, although they just managed an election that brought a new president, is a story of poverty amidst plenty.

There is no need to mention Somalia was devoid of a functional government for decades, has seen the growth of an international terror network base led by the infamous Alshabab.

Burundi had to rely on international pressure to get a president who was stuck in the office against constitutional limits.

In Tanzanian, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, founded by the Nelson Mandela of eastern Africa, Dr. Julius Nyerere, and the base for the increasingly authoritarian president John Maghufuli, has made headlines by defying the World Health Organization’s (WHO) protocol for the management of the COVID 19 pandemic.

The next step in the game plan of the eastern Africa politician builds a financial chest to sustain the network for the preservation of the loot. Offshore accounts and property are set in tax havens and the developed world of Europe, Asia, and or America.

Felicien Kabuga – on the run for more than a couple of decades and who, after fleeing Rwanda through Kenya, was traced in Germany and arrested in France – is, therefore, a homeboy.

In eastern Africa where Felicien comes from, there is nothing strange about a war crime. The elite are the perpetrators, the jury, and the judges.

If the international Justice system, activated for Rwanda in 1994 and Kenya after 2008, fails, once again, to deliver the sense of justice to the victims of the ruthless massacre in the hinterlands of eastern Africa, the cycle is inevitable.


Surviving the COVID-19 Lock-Down on the Shores of Lake Victoria

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“We need some groceries.” It is a statement from the home manager. It is an early afternoon of a Thursday in the fourth week of the night curfew.

Ordinarily, this type of discussion would be taking place early evening but with the curfew starting at seven we have had to readjust the home schedule.

“Maybe you can do a list,” I suggest.

Since the advent of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, the government has instituted several measures to curtail the spread.

You are not allowed outside of your residential compound after seven in the evening and, in the absence of passenger public or private transport allowed on the roads, it is no longer the sort of usual household shopping trip.

You will have to shop within walking distances or get a home delivery service. With a non-existent formal home delivery infrastructure, walking becomes inevitable.

Today, like in a previous couple of days, I will be walking around the village looking for fresh supplies from local farmers.

The tropical sun, striding the partially overcast sky, is majestic in splendor. A calming breeze, along the shores of the lake on this neighborhood of Entebbe, blows from the freshwater Lake Victoria.

The beaten village paths, which feed onto the main Entebbe-Kampala highway, are scattered with people and cargo vans. Most people are walking in solitude, or in pairs. Young people seem to enjoy walking in companies of threes. The maximum crowd allowed is five.

The decongested paths are a welcome break from the mad congestion you would ordinarily encounter on market centres. The mannerisms are impeccable. No one, apart from the occasional absent-minded loner, is coughing or sneezing carelessly.

Handshakes have been shelved. People, unlike before when it was usual to find yourself edged out of the road by boisterous people exchanging hi-fives (or by drivers racing imported, inefficient, used engines along dusty neighborhoods) give way as if by magic.

You find, courtesy of government-led social distancing campaign, yourself walking in your own bubble.

The shopping list from the home manager determines my walking route.

Over the past weeks, the effects of people being bound in their homesteads are starting to show. Most roadside bushes next to households are giving way to fresh gardens. Roadside barbeques are giving way to fresh produce, vegetables, and fruits.

More are more people are allowing their sweat to trickle down their bodies freely while walking, jogging, and riding bicycles. Intimate friends are finding their peace as they walk huddled together, sometimes hand in hand, and shielding themselves from everyone else, as if to say, ‘we die together.’

People are, moreover, strutting better toned bodies.

Last night when the president was giving national COVID-19 updates, almost every homestead in the neighborhood was tuned in. The president, a former guerrilla fighter, congratulated his subjects.

“We are in a war and we are winning.”

The president, who also took the time to extend the curfew for a further twenty-one days, was referring to the fourth consecutive day without an additional positive case of COVID-19.

I have, after walking-shopping for a couple of hours, managed enough supplies for a couple of days.

By the time I get back home I am, forbidden from hugging my daughter who does not take it kindly, ushered to the bathroom after which, over a cup of tea, I narrate the details of the market to my attentive home manager.


Fake News and Conspiracy Theories In the Face of COVID 19

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Navigating the internet is a breathtaking experience. What with the screaming headlines, expert columns, miracle cuisines, and conspiracies. The sample headlines are a cocktail to toast to: ‘Best Food to Heal COVID 19,’ Israel Invents Vaccine for Coronavirus,’ ‘China Admits to Manufacturing COVID 19 to Spite US Over 5G,’ ‘Italy Warns of Infected Face masks from China,’ ‘Tea leaves for Healing Coronavirus,’ e.t.c. The list is endless.  

The danger of fake news to the average consumer of internet news is, not the bewildering velocity and enormity but, in the ability, or lack thereof, to discern the fake from the real. The effects, needless to say, can be profound. The impact of fake news has long pervaded, with research indicating that fake news contributes to worsening disease outbreaks. The advent and growth of the internet brought a new dimension to fake news. While to the experienced eye, it is easier to skip the clicks, many internet users end up swallowing line, hook, and sinker.

Of the estimated 2.4 billion users of the internet, nearly two-thirds receive breaking news from social media, which include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. Whereas social media channels account for over forty percent of fake news, mainstream media has not provided the authority and credible alternative. Traditional media, going by the standards set by their social media handles, has acted catch-up. Indeed the mainstream media-run social media handles are driven by the sort of sensationalism characteristic of grapevine and gossip pieces that serve to increase the traffic through click-baiting.    

There is a famous Turkish saying that the candle of someone who lies almost always burns just to midnight. After his candle goes out, nobody gives him any light. He remains without light.

It would serve fake news propagators well if the audiences are empowered to avoid falling prey to the click baits. This, considering the aggressiveness, enormity, and velocity of fake news is, however, easier said than done. A better approach would empower advertisers so that they could have greater control of determining where their ads are served. The latter would enable advertisers to reward purveyors of truth by advertising on their platforms.

The advertiser empowerment model runs contrary to the audience-driven model. The latter seeks to drive ads to higher traffic sites while the former seeks to empower credible sites and in the process empowering credibility. This has the potential to increase the potency of credible news and saving lives. News firms that seek the audience-driven approach seek to flood their sites with clickable headlines and links while the advertiser empowerment model seeks to give more control to the advertiser regarding where the ad is to be served.

In a free market, however, the forces of demand and supply reign supreme. The best alternative then would be a model that involves of empowerment of audiences by making them able to discern fake news from credible news. Social Media companies have designed verification systems where verified accounts are assigned to credible sources. Perhaps the verification model can be extended to other platforms to enhance the visibility and utility of credible sources.