Editorial: Enemies of peace could unite Africa

In South Africa today, university students are leading something of a cultural revolution. In Tunisia and Egypt, students led revolts against oppressive governments. Throughout the history of tertiary education, students have been at the head of, or symbolised, change and growth and development, radical or otherwise – as they should. What they should never be is the lifeless symbols of a savage ideology that seeks to capture through terror what it cannot gain through reason and persuasion.

Had al-Shabab sought to mobilise peacefully at Garissa University College in Kenya, we would have faced some uncomfortable questions about freedom of speech and where propaganda ends and radicalisation begins. Instead, it has made things brutally simple, proving beyond any doubt that it has no meaningful politics but only an agenda of death and destruction. In this it echoes Boko Haram, its counterpart on the western side of the continent, and they add up to a terror threat the continent has to deal with urgently.

The Garissa massacre, for which al-Shabab claimed responsibility, left at least 148 students dead, families in mourning, a nation in shock, and questions about an inadequate security response. But it also brought terrible clarity: al-Shabab deserves no quarter. No justification can redeem acts such as this massacre. Such clarity is a boon at a time when it can be hard to sort freedom fighters from terrorists, and when the roots of conflict are often obscure. The Garissa outrage had an immediate response: Kenya launched airstrikes on al-Shabab bases in Somali territory, and there was not so much as a murmur of dissent from the rest of our often fractious continent.

Africa does not have a sterling record when it comes to peacekeeping. In this country, we usually want a national-interest justification before we accept the deployment of our military north of the Limpopo. Other African countries are also often reluctant to send fighters into troubled zones; the African Union has slow response times and is often tangled in internal battles between different interest blocs, hobbling its ability to come up with a strong, unified response to conflicts in the continent. Mutual suspicions often impede communication and co-operation: Francophone Africa is suspicious of Anglophone Africa, and Africa north of the Sahara can feel like a different continent entirely from sub-Sarahan Africa.

Perhaps, in a single bloody day, al-Shabab gave us a clear vision of an enemy that could unite us. That enemy is mindless terror perpetrated against innocent civilians. And perhaps such unity will last long enough for us to prevent, rather than mourn, the next Garissa.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday