Sunday, 13 December 2015

ZO KWE ZO, a man is a man

Today, December 13th 2015, the new Constitution of the Central African Republic is put to vote.

Gunshot has been heard in Batangafo, though much less than in Bangui, where, in the Muslim PK5 neighbourhood, ballot boxes have disappeared and grenades have been fired. Two people have died so far, and over twenty are injured.

ZO KWE ZO. A man is a man, said Boganda, the country’s founding father. He who for the first time sang the national anthem, with a vigorous voice. ZO KWE ZO, each human life is precious, one feels compelled to whisper to the human being who is about to throw a grenade at other human beings, in his dusty ear.

However, when, in that context, someone tells you that he will go to vote so that he can start cultivating his field once again after two years, you understand that each man is precious. That there is always hope.

But what does the new Constitution say?

According to Sandra Martin-White, “one would need to be crazy to vote for it”. Why? According to her, because, in addition to giving the parliament enough power to cause institutional paralysis, it creates, in a country with the scarcest resources, an apparently pointless Senate and unnecessary councils. One such example would be the Economic and Social Council proposed in article 112. Or the High Council for Communication (art. 115) and the National Council for Mediation (art. 116). A more welcome addition, in principle, is the Special Court of Justice. But let’s dwell on some peculiarities.

Article 18, for instance, states that the Republic is a secular state; the President, however, must swear by God when taking up the post. A minor detail. Among the most anticipated articles is probably number 24, where a limit of two 5-year terms is imposed for a President’s tenure in office. However, one need not look further than Rwanda to see how this can always be changed in the last moment.

As you can imagine, some articles are heavily political and influenced by the current situation, such as number 107, which states that the President will only be responsible for acts committed during his tenure in the case of high treason. Other than that, seemingly full immunity.

But I believe the most controversial article is number 24, which excludes as candidates all persons who have not resided in the Republic over the previous year, or who do not own a residence in the country. And it is precisely because of the exclusion of candidates that the drums of war are being heard again in Bangui and even here, in Batangafo.

Leaving paper for reality, today the Christian-majority Antibalaka groups have been firing in Bangui, and the Muslim-majority Séléka have been firing here, and in Ndele, Birao and Kaga Bandoro (for instance, the FPRC faction of Nourredine Adam). Some quarry because their candidate has not been accepted, the others because they say the necessary conditions are not met to hold elections, such as the return of all the exiled.

I have just seen again the person who told me he was going to vote in order to be able to cultivate his field again. I asked him once more and he said that, after today’s gunshot, voting for a constitution whose contents he does not know is not worth the risk. He will vote, but in the elections. As the Brassens song went, “dying for your ideals is ok, but let it be a slow death”.

Others say they will vote both yes and no, so as to make their votes void and thus voice their complaint that here, in Batangafo, where there has been no TV or radio for months, no one has explained what exactly they are voting. Not to mention the fear that there will be no elections – and no peace – if they vote no, when in principle nothing would prevent the elected president from writing a new draft.

There are others who do not even intend to vote in the elections. According to them, whatever the people vote, it will be transformed into a yes in the capital; and, in the elections, the international community will do whatever it takes so that their candidate, Martin Ziguelé, will win. Ziguelé, who is thrown stones even in his own village since, after stating that he would strike a deal with the devil to bring down the former president, he is associated with the majority-Muslim Séléka armed group.

ZO KWE ZO, no one is more than anyone else. Thus began the former constitution and thus begins the likely new one.

Let’s hope the Founding Father turns up today in Bangui and pulls the ears of a few and people can soon cultivate their beloved fields again and send their children to school.

Bon courage Centrafrique.


Michel Umurame said...

Straight to the point Cesar! Thank you. Let's hope to see soon the power of vote overtaking the power of guns

Michel Umurame said...
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