Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A First Chance to Make Good on the New American Promise

Two weeks after President Bush's inaugural speech and four days after his State of the Union speech, in which he articulated a new U.S. policy in support of democracy and freedom around the world, a tiny country in West Africa lost its ruler to a heart attack. He was not just any ruler, he was Africa's longest-serving tyrant and the world's second-longest serving tyrant after Fidel Castro of Cuba. His name was Gnassingbe Eyadema and the country he ruled for the past 38 years is Togo. Hours after his death, Togo's military high command installed his son in power and nullified the country's constitutional order. In Washington, the State Department reacted by extending condolences to Eyadema's family and encouraging the country to embrace a more representative democracy. State Department spokesman Edgar Vazquez said: "The United States has long encouraged Togo to move toward a full and participatory democracy and it continues to believe that this must be the goal for the people of Togo." Say what? Is it me or did that sound like the weakest and most generic statement State can come up with. Maybe they just wanted to make a statement for the sake of making one and dusted something off the shelf. Who cares, right? Most Americans probably think Togo is some kind of carry-out service anyway.

Fortunately, the African Union reacted with stronger words through its current chair, the president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, who said: "All African leaders should not accept what has happened in that country until there is a democratic transition." Following some more condemnations from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations, and the European Union, many hoped that the Togolese military junta would reverse itself and agree to a process that would put the country on a path to democracy. Instead, the regime not only reaffirmed its position, it also unabashedly sent a stern warning through its Minister of the Interior to all Togolese citizens and political parties planning to demonstrate against the military coup and in favor of democracy. The regime directly threatened democracy-seeking demonstrators and dissenters with outright violence without fear of any consequence from the international community. Is it arrogance or ignorance, I just can not decide. Or is it that this regime perceives the democratic world as full of it, in other words, lots of talk and no action. Maybe they believe that the words of the president of the United States are a pile of hot air.

The President of the United States said in his inaugural speech: "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." This is one of the greatest promises freedom-seeking democrats around the world have ever received from the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. It is time for Uncle George to put his money where his mouth is. The people of Togo need the United States to get behind the African Union and strongly condemn this military regime. They need to hear the United States demand that the Togolese tyrants stand down and allow democracy to take its course or, in the words of Secretary Rice, "the Security Council looms". But, again, this is West Africa we are talking about.

When a few words say it all. "We are all ready to die. When they've finished us all, let's see who's left for them to govern". - The cousin of a Togolese demonstrator who was shot dead by government troops.


Blogger shadylayne said...

Unfortunately, American promises traditionally do not apply to Black Africa. We know the President doesn't like to read; do you think he's at least watched Hotel Rwanda?

February 19, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

Thanks for your comment regarding Togo. I believe we can raise the conciousness of people in this country and beyond about the suffering of their fellow human beings in distant lands like Africa. I am what you would call an optimist when it comes to people. I believe that, once properly informed and educated, people generally do the right thing. The government of a Democratic nation is the property of its people. So, If enough of the people rise up in support of the oppressed, the leaders of the country, including the President, can no longer enjoy the comforts of silence and inaction...Even when it is Black Africa that is at issue.

February 20, 2005


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