Letter From Africa: Of Nelson Mandela, South Sudan, Anti Homosexuality Law In Uganda And More!

Posted on December 26, 2013 in GlobeScope

By Ronald Ssekandi:

These past days, a myriad of events have happened and I just couldn’t get my mind focusing on one particular issue to write about. I felt that choosing one thing over the other would probably be undermining another issue. I have therefore decided to do a wrap up of the many issues that have taken place in the last few days.


Nelson Madiba Mandela was finally laid to rest in his ancestral home of Qunu. He was a hero celebrated not just in Africa but the entire world. A post apartheid figure revered for his resilience during the rough times in South Africa. Having served a jail sentence of 27 years and served as the first black president of South Africa, Mandela’s contribution to his people’s liberation was enormous and exemplary. The various leaders in attendance at his funeral bore witness to this. The fact that the whole world stood to mourn him bore witness to his global fame.

However, as all the glory and praises for Mandela were going on, some sections of the public started raising issues about this great leader. There was talk about his private life and his involvement with various women, key of who were Evelyn Mase (1944-1958), Winnie Mandela (1958-1996) and Graca Machel (1998-2013). The talks got so far as to characterize Mandela as a promiscuous man who could not maintain steady relationships. Needless to say that for moralists, this was a chance to pierce a few holes in this cult worshiped leader.

On the African continent, there was also a queer discussion analyzing whether Mandela was a true African hero or just a proponent of the West; a mere colonial legacy creation meant to draw the world away from the reality of the plight of South Africans. It is the general understanding of so many people around the world that with the ascent of the hero Mandela, the ruthless apartheid policy in South Africa came to an end and that black people equally enjoy the same rights as the white people in South Africa. However, talking closely to those in the country, it is evident that white supremacy is still a very common trend in the country and thousands of black people are still holed up in strings of oppression curved during the apartheid days. Mandela, who began with an armed resistance, later adjusted to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the country and it was at this point that these people believe he slipped his way into the beds of the oppressors.

Now, as the sun sets over Mandela, the question is whether South Africa will truly heal from the scars of the apartheid regime? The test of this will be the ability of all races to co-exist in South Africa without any form of prejudices. We should be able to see economic and social reforms that will ensure equal opportunities for all in the country. Until then, we cannot clearly state that we are past the dark days.

In other news, the International Criminal Court prosecutor announced to the court that they did not have “enough” evidence to prosecute Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for crimes committed during the post election violence in Kenya. This was after the key prosecution witness pulled out. This was not a big shock to many considering the recent development in the prosecution of these Kenyan leaders. Earlier on, the African Presidents had organised themselves and voiced threats to pull out of the ICC citing it as a biased legal system targeting only the African leaders. Uhuru Kenyatta was able to gain enough political capital to bargain his way out of the ICC dark cloud which has been looming over his Presidency. In the East African community, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda gave up his turn at chairmanship of the regional East African Community block to Uhuru Kenyatta in a move that was cited by many as intending to cushion the Kenyan leader by increasing his political influence. Of course, the ICC was not only going to be prosecuting a seating Kenyan president but also the leader of arguably the fastest growing regional integration in Africa.

Meanwhile in the neighboring country of South Sudan, war broke out in the capital Juba in what many termed as an attempted coup to oust President Salva Kiir in the world’s youngest state. South Sudan is a largely multi-ethnic state and it has, over the years, been locked in ethnic conflicts. The sitting president comes from the Dinka tribe which is arguably the most dominant in the country. Earlier this year, Salva Kiir sacked his Vice President Riek Machar who comes for the Nuer tribe; another relatively dominant ethnic group. The many political analysts predicted a possible political impasse in the country arising out of this move and true to their fears, this week we came to see the break out of a war that has quickly taken on an ethnic description. President Salva Kiir came out clad in military fatigue and announced that it was an attempted coup led by his opponent Riek Machar. The latter rubbished the claims although he ran into hiding claiming that his life was at stake.

The conflict spread from the capital Juba out to especially the oil rich Junglei state which, earlier this week, was pronounced to have one of its cities in the hands of the rebels. The international community has rushed in with USA and Uganda sending in troops to help calm the conflict. Uganda and the USA are especially fearful because the destabilization of South Sudan could mean the re-emergence of ICC wanted Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony who has on many occasions benefited from the instability in South Sudan. Gladly, we have received news that President Salva Kiir is ready to hold talks with his opponents and hopefully this should bring an end to the current bloodbath in the young democracy.

Finally in Uganda, our parliament has passed two Bills; the famous Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the Anti-Pornography Bill that is largely known as the “mini-skirt” Bill. These two laws have been dubbed by our parliamentarians as “gifts” to Ugandans this Christmas season. The controversy surrounding these Bills cannot be justifiably dealt with in the closing paragraph of this article. We shall pick it up from here in the coming days.