The African Continent Mired in One Violent Conflict After Another

By Kate S. Peabody

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 2, 2004

Is it any wonder that the African continent is mired in one violent conflict after another? Consider the comments made by Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi at the recent Censad conference in Bamako, Mali.

According to a British Broadcasting Corp. report, referring to the upheaval in the Ivory Coast, Mr. Gaddafi said that President Laurent Gbagbo was the "victim of adventurers," and that as an elected leader he should be left alone to do his job.

And on the crisis in Sudan, he said, "A tribal conflict" should not be taken to the United Nations Security Council.

Just how does Mr. Gaddafi propose to resolve such problems? Is this not the same man who provided military training to exiled Liberian President Charles Taylor, who later unleashed a reign of terror on innocent Liberians and is alleged to have played a central role in the debilitating wars in neighboring countries?

Did Mr. Gaddafi consider the 14-year turmoil in Liberia that is responsible for the loss of thousands of lives and the destabilization of an entire region a tribal dispute? It would be a novel idea if African leaders would band together to resolve such issues. In fact, it would be a welcome departure from the hands-off approach usually adopted when one of their own is acting badly.

But rather than condemn these actions, leaders like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is treated with kid gloves and is left alone to wield unmitigated power over their people.

And so, what we have seen emerge overtime are strongmen bent on clinging to power, as they appoint themselves president for life or at some point they are disgracefully forced from power.

The travesty is that most of these men do not possess the moral authority to objectively address these kinds of issues because, they, too, at some level are guilty of governing their nations in the same manner.

Few leaders have veered from this path into greatness by serving their terms and making way for new leadership.

But for the vast majority of African leaders, the presidency is regarded as a lifetime trophy. Driven by greed, they pillage the treasury and horde millions of dollars, as the rest of the populace languishes in abject poverty.

Until we objectively examine these problems that so permeate every sector of our societies, we will always need the help of others.

And even in such instances, we seem unable to rise to the occasion to use such help wisely.

Take Liberia, for an example. Even as the United Nations works to restore normalcy to the country after more than two decades of instability, some seem hell bent on thwarting the process.

The delicate peace process hangs in a balance as these so-called leaders once again put self above the good of the nation, bickering over everything from positions in the government to the kinds of cars they want to drive on roadways that are barely fit for a bicycle.

Some criticize the U.N. mission for even being there. But one has to wonder what the alternative would be if they were to leave? Another 14 years of death and destruction?

It is not enough to say that Africa's problems should be solved by Africans, when leaders look the other way, while hundreds of thousands of people die.

The continent is replete with such cases. We have seen it in Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and now with the current crisis at its height in Sudan.

We must offer some concrete ideas and solutions to address these problems that are so pervasive on the continent.

We should start by discouraging the exportation of mercenaries from one country to another that maim innocent people in these horrific and senseless wars.

Mr. Gaddafi would do well to encourage the Ivorians to solve their problems without using the barrel of a gun.

Similarly, he should call for serious dialogue to bring an end to the kind of carnage in Sudan.

At this point, it doesn't matter who doles out the help, so long as the bloodletting stops.

About the Author: Kate S. Peabody is a Liberian living in Gainesville, Georgia.