South Africa's reconciliation sets example in Africa

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- What emerged from South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission or TRC has encouraged a number of other African states to initiate similar moves in a bid to heal wounds afflicted by protracted conflicts.
Mozambique's peace agreement signed 1994 between the government and the rebel Renamo movement, backed by the defunct apartheid South African regime, was another success story in a continent rocked by civil wars and ethnic conflicts.
Ghana has become the latest to declare its intention to embark on a similar reconciliation process in a bid to unearth the wrongs that have been committed in the first black sub- Saharan country tht obtained independence from Britain in 1957.
The new Nigerian civilian government of General Olusegun Obasanjo, a former death-row prisoner for his alleged involvement in a bid to topple General Sani Abacha's tough military regime, has formed a commission that is hearing testimonies from people aggrieved during the long years when soldiers were in the saddle.
However, the commission's success might be compromised by the refusal of Obasanjo's predecessors to appear before the panel, headed by retired Judge Chukwudifu Oputa.
According to political analysts in Dakar, South Africa's TRC succeeded to some extent because of the acceptance of the rules of the game by both the former white minority leaders and Nelson Mandela's new "rainbow" government formed after the April 1994 all-race election.
South Africa's ambassador to Senegal, Rantombeng William Mokou, attributes the TRC's success to Mandela's determination to bring about reconciliation "without any animosity or revenge" after his release from 27 years of imprisonment by the apartheid regime.
"Mandela was the best person to lead us out of the divided society we were in, which was obviously created by those who were oppressing us," explained Mokou, whose country would host the Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance 31 August-7 September.
"I think much has been achieved by the TRC judging by the fact that other countries want to emulate the way in which we dealt with our problems in South Africa," he said.
A South African envoy was a member of the commission, which negotiated the so-called "Good Friday" agreement in Northern Ireland, where bloodletting has raged between Protestants and Catholics for more than two decades.
What was important, Mokou told PANA in Dakar, was that whites and blacks confessed their offences before the TRC and pledged "to see to it that the type of things that happened to our nation should not happen again.
" However, the former South African High Commissioner in Botswana recognised that certain people still believe they were "short-changed" because of the amount of remuneration promised under the TRC process for the ills committed against them.
Mokou conceded the economic disparity between the poor black majority and the wealthy whites still needs to be bridged to bring about sustainable harmony.
In this connection, he cited President Thabo Mbeki's drive to level the playing field by economically empowering blacks so as to reduce the existing gap in living standards.
The South African government has also introduced the "affirmative action" under which blacks would be given priority in the provision of education and jobs.
"The next stage will be for the people to ensure that they maintain what the government has created for them because it can only create the conditions under which they can move around to get education and jobs to enable them to create what can be called South Africa as an opportunity country.
" Mokou said that it was right for other African countries to look for inspiration from the TRC model "because even we had to observe examples from other countries, including Chile before we got into the TRC process.
" Authorities in countries like Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire need to analyse the prevailing conditions in their respective states and then "look at the South African model as a tool and not as a complete blue-print.
" Cote d'Ivoire's social-political problems started after the death of the first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny.
The Speaker, Henri Konan Bedie, who succeeded him in accordance with the constitution, brought in the "Ivoirite" condition, which barred Houphouet-Boigny's last Prime Minister, Alasane Ouattara, from vying for the presidency because he had at one time taken Upper Volta's (now Burkina Faso) nationality.
Bedie was overthrown in a coup d'etat 24 December 1999, headed by General Robert Guei, who conducted a constitutional referendum.
The referendum endorsed a close that effectively barred Ouattara from contesting the October 2000 presidential polls as well as the parliamentary elections that followed in December.
Serious rioting occurred each time Ouattara was barred from standing and the majority of the victims were Muslims or other people with names from northern Cote d'Ivoire, Ouattara's region of origin.
The current Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo, denies that his government had any hand in the post-election quagmire although a suit has been filed against him in Belgium, which has been trying crimes against humanity cases from other countries.
Gbagbo, like his predecessors, also says Ouattara does not deserve to be Cote d'Ivoire's president because he once behaved like a "vagabond" jumping from one nationality to another.
However, Outtara's party, the Rally of Republicans emerged on top during municipal elections that were held after the presidential and parliamentary elections, raising questions what the voters' verdict would have been in the previous two polls.
For reconciliation to be credible in Cote d'Ivoire, it will be necessary to unearth the truth of who caused the mayhem in the country where West Africans used to migrate in search for prosperity.
On the other hand, Burkina Faso needs to drag all those who committed murders with impunity, including those who killed the investigative journalist Norbert Zongo, to bring about pardon and national reconciliation.
The big question, however, is whether President Blaise Compaore's government would allow the hearing of an inquest on how his predecessor, Captain Thomas Sankara, was assassinated in October 1987.
A civilian court recently ruled that Sankara's case was a military affair, as was the case involving presidential bodyguards who were accused of killing the driver of Compaore's's younger brother.
Zongo is said to have attracted the wrath of the state because of his investigative reporting on the killing of Francois Compaore's driver, who allegedly stole money from him.
For national reconciliation to emerge in the various African countries now facing civil strife or underwent similar situations before, it is necessary that all actors be prepared to confess, repent and pledge not to repeat those vices.
Short of that, aggrieved communities would continue to harbour the spirit of revenge and counter-revenge like what is happening in certain countries in the Great Lakes region.

18 august 2001 16:52:00




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