Governance of violence is a major challenge in Africa, says Okello Oculi

The horrific gun violence inside and outside St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, South West Nigeria has drawn various characterizations. Some people saw it as a ‘sacrifice’ by politicians vying for the presidency of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – scheduled for June 7, 2022. Albinos are killed to succeed in business. Shedding blood would bring political triumph.

Others blamed foreign intelligence agencies that saw the opportunity to incite interfaith chaos across Nigeria as enraged Christians take revenge. The Buhari government has bruised financial appetites for winning contracts awarded to China to build railways, bridges and other infrastructure.

His rebuke of President Quattara of Côte d’Ivoire for extending his term; failing to openly criticize Russian intrusion into Mali, the Central African Republic and Chad would annoy business leaders accustomed to playing lucrative games in West Africa.

These lines of thought converge on the governance of violence; a subject in which Japan’s record is instructive. A combination of very cold weather, periodic earthquakes that killed thousands; religious beliefs that emphasize self-denial and intensive discipline, forced the Japanese to rule violence. The deadly cold imposes discipline on the mind. The violence in full loss of certainty caused by an earthquake teaches the value of a calm discipline, of a dialogue with destiny and nature.

A Japanese film about LOVE I saw in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, showed a young man having farewell dinner with a girlfriend, calmly cutting off her little finger, wrapping it in a towel and handing it over to the girl to keep as a pledge to her. They were very calm. Snow was falling outside as a witness.

In everyday life, the Japanese greet each other a lot in conversation. It is a form of “gentle violence”. Japanese business leaders are aware of the heaviness of this ritual. As a relief, corporate executives drink a lot of alcohol together late into the night.

The Toyota company developed the ritual of getting its management to relieve stress by queuing near a train track and SHOUTING loudly at an undercarriage. The young women are skilfully trained to instill relaxation in an exhausted cadre. Upward-moving executives are expected to sing to their superiors and peers when socializing. A common song is the latest hit on the music chart.

. “Soft violence” was also channeled into the two extraordinary forms of barbarism; and know-how in the manufacture and creation of consumer goods…

The genocidal violence which, in 1959 and 1994, saw Hutus massacre thousands of Tutsi compatriots, women and children, indicated a compulsive rejection of the soft violence underlying social relations. Some observers have reported cases of Tutsi elites rising from a common pot of beer, standing on the backs of Hutus and spraying them with urine.

. The seemingly senseless barbarism that flared up periodically demonstrated the failure of this governance of both soft and hard violence in past relations in Rwanda and Burundi.

. These were regimes of permanent insecurity by a minority group who assume that the constant humiliation of those who are different from them is the most effective means of protecting their power and enjoyments.

Fidel Castro, the son of a large landowner and a student at a prestigious law school in Cuba, was offended by the demeaning attitude of the American mafioso towards Cuban girls forced into prostitution by poverty. He took up arms to put an end to this contempt. Land inequality drove the rural poor to join his fight to end their hunger.

The NUER (in South Sudan), the BALANTE (in GUINEA BISSAU) and the SOMALI, on the other hand, reject expressions of “soft violence”. An insult is instantly challenged. If confrontation leads to bloodshed, it must be countered by bloodshed. The dignity of the person is paramount. The NUER do not like to be ruled by the DINKA majority. “Balanced respect” can easily turn into anarchy.

A notable response in dealing with soft violence against African Americans and Asians is the emerging publication of SORY BOOKS FOR CHILDREN in which all races, colors and ethnic symbols are included. A computer artist in the Central African Republic creates computer games that allow young Africans to explore and learn about African achievements in history to overcome inferiority complexes induced by Euro-American racist lies.

The protection of “balanced respect” in Somalia and South Sudan has led to 30 years of violence and the failure to maintain central government authority.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, unequal access to firearms has led more than 120 militias to terrorize communities to supply valuable minerals to arms suppliers.

The governance of violence has become a major challenge for Africa. It is imperative to draw inspiration from the Japanese example of creativity transforming its “soft violence” into a tool of economic and political governance, as a power stronger than weapons in the hands of individuals and ethnic groups.

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