An empty bag does not stand upright – it dwindles

OPINION – A story is told of a nation that existed a couple of years ago. This nation was under oppression by some visitors who over stayed their welcome. The men and women of this nation organized themselves and toppled the visitors.

All thought it was rosy and honey, but it was not. Those entrusted with safe guarding the rights of the citizens started without delay, to emulate the lives lived by the toppled visitors. The new leaders moved into the houses formerly owned by the disgraced visitors, occupied positions and offices of glamour. They immediately forgot that they were only political trustees.

For thirty years, political trustees in this nation thought there is only one way of being mwana wevhu and one way of participating in national politics. They made themselves powerful and thought there was one legitimate way of understanding life and being patriotic – their way only. This monolithic perspective began to break apart in the early 80s with dissenting voices, then the late 90s, with massive outbursts.

These two periods mark volatile moments in the history of this post disgraced visitors’ nation. The early 80s dissenting voices were thwarted in a brutal way in the regions of down South and in the mid-lands. The 90s outbursts met with a hostile political platform, made up of cruel war-mongers, labeled war-veterans, most of whom were mercenaries. The ruining party’s brutality spread to farmers, whose farms were invaded, with some being tortured, killed, and loss of property being the end result.

Since then, this nation has been a nation of rule by the gun. What used to be clandestine state operatives or secret agents became known and operated in broad daylight. People were abducted, kidnapped, arrested for dubious crimes, people disappeared, people were tortured in before all to see, and thousands killed. Millions fled over and across the borders of the nation. The leadership was desperate. One can repeat what the first prime minister of the nation, RGM, once said, "an empty bag does not stand upright – it dwindles". The same could not be applied to his now brutal system. His regime could not stand upright, for there was no righteousness in them. To avoid dwindling, they resorted to disregard of human rights and despising human dignity in an attempt to garner support. The ordinary person had a taste of hell.

Tragically, elections were stolen over the years. The leaders of the then trade union saw reason to grab the bull by its horns as the best way to answer people’s questions about the meaning of life. They were convinced that human rationality, working with the people could eventually create an ideal nation. They tolerated dissenting political views; they had foresight of a new nation that respected all people, in spite of differences in political views. They dreamt of a new nation that would once again participate on the international arena. They paved way for a democratic nation, a nation that respected citizens for who they were, not for who they voted for. They pictured a nation with plenty freedoms, – of expression, of affiliation, of movement, of identity; and rights, – to participate in rebuilding the great nation, or rights to education, to work, to travel and to own an identity.

Such dreams and visions met a brick wall. The vanguard reminded the people of the war of decades past. This war has been privatized to have been fought and won only by a small section of the population. This small population seems to have a short memory. They forgot who fed them, who hid them and who provided them with vital information. They forgot that not all were combatants; some of them were ‘white collar’ planners. Their short memory betrayed them into thinking it was only the combatants who suffered, who had a dream for a liberated nation. They forgot the hundreds of thousands of non combatants who died in the cause of liberating the nation. Amnesia led them to forget all else apart from themselves and lining their fat pockets.

The political, social and economic tsunami of the late 90s came against the ‘ruining party’. Defenses were erected, and attacks on civilians became the order of the Tsar. The tsar has since lost his heart, if he still has any; it is a lion’s heart. He has lost track of what makes a nation. To him and his little dictators, the nation belongs to only but a few.

The empty bag of the nation needs only but to be filled by the rightful people. Such people think and dream for the great project of prosperity, equality and freedom. There is much to admire in a new dispensation. The notion of the individual as a person with inherent rights that the state must uphold and protect is a vision for a new dispensation. Pluralism and tolerance of social and political difference will become legal principles. The new democratic movement has unfortunately suffered from an exaggerated confidence in the ability of political rationality to solve national problems. They backtracked on opportunities; they made hushed and rushed decisions. Caught between two hostile parties in bed, the new movement is often forced to choose between principles and survival. There is no middle ground. Still, an empty country does not stand upright? It dwindles.

Capulet B. Chakupeta

Libya Now – Where Next?