Peace Pieces – Peace Points, by Gabriel Banda, June/July 2015:
Shorter than Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, these are compressed, shorter, pieces on topical issues.
Burundi and Solomon’s Child
By Gabriel C Banda
THE recent events in Burundi have deep implications not only for Burundi, but the region, the whole of Africa, and beyond the continent. They affect current and future generations in Burundi and many places.
The President, Pierre Nkurunziza, wants to push on with elections where he will stand. Opponents say he does not qualify to stand as the Constitution restricts candidates to two terms. He has argued that the first term he has had, given in August 2005 when he was elected, unopposed, by parliament, should not be counted.
In August 2010, he was elected for another five year term in elections opposed by some parties. Opposition regard his current 2015 attempt to stand for another five year term as a third term attempt. He regards it as his second term. Whether his interpretation is true or not, there are many factors to consider.
Already, differences have led to protests, violence, and even deaths. An unsuccessful coup attempt happened on May 13, 2015. Many persons have been displaced and fled Burundi. Neighbours and beyond have been affected.
This being one common and very interlinked world, one person’s action in one place affects the lives of many others in other places of the world. That effect will be now or at some later time, even to those who are not yet born. The lesson is not just for Burundi and Africa. It is an issue of human action in any place of the world.
Even now, actions with great negative consequences for people in other parts of the world, such as on Libya and Syria, are being made by rulers in the western world.
Key here for leaders and rulers in various situations is how to handle contested issues that have grave bearing on the life, or even death, of many persons in many places, now and in the future. What is the effect of our individual or team situation on others? What is the effect of our actions on the greater society, on current and future situations and generations?
In Burundi, there is a situation where a significant number of persons and with significant force, are opposed to Pierre Nkurunziza standing for another term. Parties involved are dug in. The effects for now and the future are heavy. In such case, whether Nkurunziza’s stance is legally correct or not does not help the situation where people are deeply divided.
The elections will not have the blessing of significant numbers of the population. Clearly, even the days leading to the election day will be stressful. If Pierre Nkurunziza gets into office again, he will not have the acceptance of a significant number of persons. The disapproval and forces against him will be such that it will be difficult for Nkurunziza to rule. In such situation, he and his colleagues will not have real calm and peace.
Ruling works best through consent and support by significant numbers and forces in a society. Already, Burundi has some long history of violent conflict and insurgency. In very recent times, there was a political settlement after some long armed rebellion. But in this current situation, a culture of armed reaction may again come into play.
It is important for Pierre Nkurunziza’s team, the opposition in Burundi, the East African Community, the African Union, the United Nations, and various actors, to settle the current dispute before it gets further damaging, more costly, and more difficult to settle.
Key is how to consider the stability of the society, and humanity in general, and let go one’s personal situation and interests. In fact, there are times when letting go is not loss, but very healing and fulfilling. There is no other purpose higher than the harmony of life.
In that harmony, our contentment and happiness will also be. Acting to fulfilling that purpose, we will inside ourselves find contentment. There is no loss in doing something good. Letting go may be gaining one’s peace. Holding on to stress imprisons us.
We may need to yield in order to save the greater society and serve the greater Good. There are lessons about how letting go frees us. There are practical examples amongst governments. There are practical examples amongst heads of governments.
Zambia’s First President, Kenneth Kaunda has received great respect, for, amongst other things like the building of basic infrastructure and people’s access to basic needs, national unity, and also supporting freedom struggles against racism and apartheid.
Another reason for the respect he receives is how he managed transition of political situations. With a unified party system, a form of Government of National Unity, Zambia’s UNIP government was in 1990 confronted by pressure for change of government system back to a multiparty system.
In December 1990, sidestepping a proposed referendum required by law, Dr Kaunda signed the reversal of the Article 4 legislation that had restricted the formation and operation of opposition parties. Kenneth Kaunda yielded to changing the system and, in the process, cutting his government’s term in order to allow for new elections, which took place in October 1991.
Around the time, even before elections, Dr Kaunda told the story of Solomon and the two women claiming a child. In the Bible, in 1 Kings Chapter 2, is the story of two women brought before King Solomon. Each of the two women claims a living baby hers. King Solomon eventually asks for the living child to be split into two and shared between the two women.
One woman says the child should not be split but be given to the other woman. The other woman says, yes, the child should be split into two and shared so that, “he shall belong to none of us. Cut him in half!”
Then King Solomon ordered that the child not be cut into two but be given to the woman who had said the baby should be left alive and given to the other. King Solomon knew that woman, with interest of the child’s life, was the real mother. The mother had sacrificed so that the child would live.
In thinking about the Solomon story, Kenneth Kaunda’s decision was, like the good mother in scriptures, to let go so that the Zambia society he loved could be stable and go on living and growing. Zambia’s multiparty elections took place in October 1991, with results declaring opposition’s Frederick Chiluba winner and new president. Kenneth Kaunda let go and yielded to the results.
Dr Kaunda later got very involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS. But from that experience of letting go through cutting short his term and accepting the results of the elections, Dr Kenneth Kaunda gained much admiration worldwide. Sought after, he travels a lot and continues to be greatly respected.
Letting go for the common good can be honourable. It can be freeing. Like Rwanda, a place of many Christian Church goers, many Catholic, in Burundi it may be necessary to learn from events in scriptures. Also, we can learn what happened in places like Côte d’Ivoire, and other places of the world, when rulers do not let go to allow the child to live.
We can also follow the examples of letting go as Kenneth Kaunda and others have shown and benefitted themselves and societies through. Letting go and making some fair settlement will benefit Pierre Nkurunziza, the people of Burundi, neighbours, and humanity.
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing and the arts, social development, and peace issues. He holds an MA in Peace Studies, University of Bradford.
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GCB, June/July 06th, 2015