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WHAT LIES UNDERNEATH

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 The history books will write that in the region where I was born, democracy was at war and the constitutions that were drawn up had been scripted on low cost paper.

 

Decades ago I was an avid student of history. I could remember details of inane events at the drop of a hat.  Driven by an unrelenting curiosity in school, I always wanted to understand the seminal events of the past; the decisions that occasioned them and actions of the major players.

 

Rather than merely accept the headlines disseminated in standard textbooks, I sought to dig deeper and would go so far in my subjective interrogations as to formulate my own hypotheses in a bid to further decode the facts.

 

Those were the days before ‘googling’, when the ocean of your imagination could fuel your learning. It was this need to dissect ‘intent’ to decipher what ‘lay underneath’ that kept me enthralled.

 

So for example, in learning about the First World War, we were informed that the global catastrophe was sparked by the assassination in June 28th 1914, of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife by a Serbian.

 

As could be expected, Austria-Hungary was upset at Serbia. Serbia was closely affiliated with Russia which was an ally of France. France was an ally of Great Britain.  On the other hand Austria-Hungary was closely aligned to Germany and the Ottoman Empire. When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in August 1914, after receiving a supporting nod from Germany, the different sides took their positions in what accelerated into a massive tragedy.

 

What for, one asks? Was Franz Ferdinand worth all that or was there more than met the eye?

 

What the good teachers did not sufficiently emphasize was the curious but relevant datum that the rulers of Great Britain, Germany and Russia at the time shared a grandmother in Queen Victoria. Thus, the people fighting themselves and drawing unprecedented collateral damage were nothing more than first cousins Kaiser-Willem II against George V and Tsar Nicholas II. Ceteris paribus, one could quite rightly conclude that WWI was fuelled by a family feud kindled by egos, petty peeves or ancient snubs. Could family dinners have prevented base feelings from escalating?

 

What can history teach us? The importance of going beneath the surface, peeling the onion, appreciating intent and seeing ‘it’ before sleep walking to hell can be critical.

 

Fast Forward.

 

2015 has recently ended. It is 2016 and around me in the East African region a theatre of the absurd is glorifying in a field year, relentlessly showcased in screaming newspaper headlines and invasive social media that lays bare all the dirty linen. Massive looting of public coffers by none other than those entrusted to keep custody of the resources in the country of my birth have become so commonplace that one wonders whether one is in a bad dream. Incredible stories of wanton compromise of the judiciary, bringing the country to the edge of a constitutional crisis boggle the mind.  A befuddled leader, uncertain of where to turn, what to do, whom to trust, make one tremble.  How did Kenya reach here?

 

 Across the borders, a hyperbolic Hollywood is similarly at play with Oscars of the absurd hotly competed for in scenarios William Shakespeare could not have conjured in his wildest dreams.

 

While our regional economies continue to hobble, side step and leapfrog the psychopathic shenanigans of superior thespians dressed in the garments of politicians, history is unfolding at the whim of testosterone-driven mad men and women.

 

Thoughts of the 1215 Magna Carta which outlined that all people including rulers were subject to the law are top of mind.  What was its intent? What did we take from its direction?

 

Within a few months of each other, a majority of Burundians have  been forced to cower despite a brief spirited attempt at rebellion as President Pierre Nkuruzinza insisted on re-interpreting the Constitution to allow himself further time to rule.

 

Across Nkurunziza’s border, the rather successful Paul Kagame who ably master-minded a spectacular recovery from a heart-breaking genocide and should by all accounts be exhausted is as ambitious as ever to continue his leadership. Despite naysayers he has insisted on bending the Constitution to facilitate another seven year term at the helm.

 

 In February 2016, Kenya’s immediate neighbour Uganda, performed what could be a termed, a Shakespearean tragi-comedy in broad daylight. As tongues wagged and eyes opened wide in bewilderment, Yoweri Kaguta Musevi ignored the snides and simply ensured that his thirty-year reign was summarily extended in a not so pretty process. Presumably the desperation to hang on to power and perhaps to one day hand over the reins to family in monarchical style seem top of mind. Mon Dieu!

 

What lies underneath?

 

The history books will write that in the region where I was born, democracy was at war and the constitutions that were drawn up had been scripted on low cost paper. With what effects?

 

Tempers seethe underneath.

Level 3 (XP: 950)
What lies underneath? A question I have been pondering since I read your excellent piece, Susan. I come up with two words: Greed. Vanity.

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