Opinionista Onkgopotse JJ Tabane 14 January 2015

Dear Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, let’s talk frankly

There are few examples as stark as the events of the past week, when it comes to illustrating the difference in value between European and African lives. Is the African Union going to do something about it?

I am sure your stint in Addis Ababa has been an interesting one so far – and I don’t have to ask whether you have discovered some good shopping corners to increase your collection of colourful African garments. At least someone represents Africa’s dress sense on the international stage.

Forgive me, I don’t mean to be trivial. I am writing to you on the back of the Paris shootings and I am sure you, like other African leaders, have been falling over yourself declaring that you are Charlie. This is, of course, quite apart from the inaction that the AU has been demonstrating in calling on these same leaders to release journalists who are languishing in various African jails. It must take some talent for African leaders to speak with such a forked tongue. Is there a school where this is taught, perhaps? Speaking with such a straight face about the terrorist attack in France and the death of 12 people, when in the same week over 2,000 black lives have been lost in the face of deafening silence from so many African leaders?

I am sure it was really the odd measly statement here and there by some bored diplomat who was asked to concoct something for some half-asleep head of state who had never even heard of Charlie… but be that as it may, what of action when it comes to our own losses? What of troops that can be mobilised to defeat this terror called Boko Haram? What of resources from this continent? When will Africa be mobilised? What is this silence of the lambs?

And so, as the AU stumbles from day to day, hundreds of innocent African children are daily being abused. We go about our business as usual – it’s been months, and the question is: if any of the daughters lost were daughters of these fat leaders, would this inaction carry on? Why is Nigeria not in a state of emergency? Why is the continent not up in arms to find the missing girls? How can a terrorist group that does not own any territory find a place to hide 200 young girls and get away with it for so many months? How can our security situation be that pathetic? While we are twiddling our thumbs, these girls are being infected with all kinds of diseases, and, worse, they are allegedly being converted to Islam against their will. This must be the cruellest joke that these terrorists are playing on us – exposing the underbelly of our so-called Union.

People always say there is a silver lining in every cloud. I struggle to see it here, other than in the fact that the actions of these terrorists have the unintended consequence of showing us just how toothless the African Union is. So toothless that 200 of its young daughters can be kidnapped for months and all 54 armies that are probably armed to the teeth can’t find them.

Why are troops not descending on Nigeria? For the death of 12 people, France is reportedly mobilising 80,000 troops. For the death of 2,000 Africans, I am yet to be told how many troops have been placed on the streets of Nigeria to hunt down a clear and identifiable threat. Instead, the Nigerian army is involved in skirmishes with these people instead of unleashing a necessary assault to bring an end to the madness.

One wonders how may must die before real action is taken. Instead the incumbent president could not even delay his announcement that he was standing for office again. This should show you what really matters to him.

Madam, what are you going to do about this? The death of 12 people has resulted in a security summit to be held in Washington. What action are we hearing from the AU, following 2,000 deaths of fellow Africans? This thing is not good for the prospects of your return to be our head of state. Under your watch, 200 girls are living in horror somewhere in a bush, somewhere in our continent. Under your watch, the leaders of Africa have so far failed to locate these girls and do something to show the world they care, to show the families of these girls that Africa can stand its ground and defend its citizens. Under your watch, no armies have been mobilised to defend Africa. Yet I am sure some of these leaders were the first to rush to the phone to call France and pledge their undying love and support to the families of the 12 people who died last week.

The world couldn’t care less. The Security Council is not finished with this matter. When some imaginary weapons were alleged to be in Iraq, the USA was the first in line with tanks and bombs. When 200 girls are abducted in Africa, the USA offers a measly scouting helicopter. The Security Council is yet to be convened to deliberate on what the implications of this disappearance are. I am yet to hear a call from the AU or even the so-called African Parliament that such a meeting must not only sit, but also come up with tangible actions to find these girls.

I don’t pretend to know the workings of the AU bureaucracy. Neither am I suggesting that you are doing no work in between visiting the flea markets of Addis. But as a citizen of this continent I feel let down. No one is making an effort to give me a sense of comfort that something is being done to defeat this terror. I would like to believe something must be cooking behind the scenes, but I know today that there were 80,000 troops on the streets of France (or so we are told), yet I have no idea whether two or three soldiers are on any mission to find our girls.

When the president of the CAR was under threat of deposition, I woke up to know post facto that some of my fellow citizens had gone to that country to die. I have not heard any rumour that any of our idling troops are helping Nigeria to bring back our girls. Your friends here in the Women’s League promised to march to Nigeria months ago. Maybe they are afraid of TB Joshua and the possibility of dying in Nigeria, never to be found. But we have not heard of plans since the hurriedly organised ANCWL Jo’burg City Hall rally, where ‘bring back our girls’ was a popular chant. As usual, no follow-through – just noise.

I am sorry to dump all this on you, but I can’t imagine your job as the closest thing to the President of Africa can come with only roses. All roses come with thorns, in any case. Will my cry fall on deaf ears, or will something happen to bring back our girls…? And in the meantime, can someone tell us what on earth is going on?

Yours frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane DM



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