Until Tuesday 3rd September 2013 I ignored how revolutions started from a personal perspective.
There are times in life when injustices that we face as people get to a certain intolerable level one needs to say that they cannot take it anymore.
I have been active for many years campaigning for human rights issues in Africa and particularly the Great Lakes region where I come from.
What I experienced on the above mentioned day convinced me that Africans needed a revolution, nothing more and nothing less, to change what is wrong with our continent. And we don’t need to ask anyone permission to do that. It is our fundamental right and primarily moral obligation to fix what is not working for us.
What effectively happened?
Since July of this year I have been working tirelessly with colleague activists from different countries but mainly from the Great Lakes region on the initiative we have called Dying in the Great Lakes – A Living Portrait. It is mainly a live spectacle to be performed in a public place and aimed at touching the indifference of Westerners towards the millions of victims in the mentioned region caused significantly by their governments/ multinationals using local leaders like Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda and Joweri Museveni president of Uganda.
As I write, the event is scheduled to take place on 14th September 2013. Being a public event this requires from the organisers to introduce a request to the authorities in charge of public order in London. Initially, since the event was planned for Central London in Trafalgar Square, when we approached the London Metropolitan Police, they replied saying that the particular location we sought for did not fall under their responsibility. They directed us to the Greater London Authority. This office was immediately contacted.
The Greater London Authority succinctly said that because we planned to show to the British people how victims of genocides and wars in our region die, they could not allow the event because some of their citizens could be distressed seeing that.
“The GLA [Greater London Authority] also has a duty of care to consider any activities that may cause distress to members of the public including families and children who would not be expecting the content that you are proposing. We understand that your proposal is regarding an emotive subject but as stated the GLA has to consider all visitors to the square as it is not a private venue.“
Of course the British public can be distressed because they don’t know what their government and multinationals some headquartered in London and others elsewhere are doing to Africans to maintain the standards of living they enjoy.
Then we received the following response from the London Metropolitan Police from which we were seeking permission to hold our event, and apparently saying the same thing.
“…you’ll be exposing children and other potentially venerable people to a sight that some may well misunderstand, not comprehend or quite possibly may find distressing or upsetting, which on receipt of complaint could represent a public order offence, again hardly a sensible thing to do.“
When I read this paragraph of their response I thought there was an orthographic mistake on the word venerable. I thought the author wanted to say vulnerable. Then after checking I found out that he meant respected. Maybe these honourable people referred to are the same ones who are shareholders of multinationals playing havoc in the Great Lakes region. As a consequence, an event that can distress them, especially from a region where their businesses are, cannot be allowed.
From a procedural perspective, I could agree at some extent with the points put forward by the Greater London Authority and even the London Metropolitan Police to refuse granting the permission. In their position, I could’ve probably proceeded similarly. But on the other hand, not considering that the cause in question concerns several genocides totalling close to 10 millions of victims in the Great Lakes region, it seems irresponsible to give too much weight the fact that Dying in the Great Lakes as a public event could cause harm or distress to Londoners, when one is aware of the scale of what has been going in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in the last two decades and does not appear to stop.
Would have, during the second world war or a little bit before because of the persecution, Jews been prohibited from showing to the British public what Hitler was doing to their community for the sake of not distressing people? I don’t think so. The scale of the atrocities we are referring to in the case of the Great Lakes region is far bigger than the Jewish situation. One argument against such comparison would possibly claim that Jewish are different from Africans. I would concede that. However, both communities consisting of human beings there is no logic they should be treated differently.
What should be the response?
On that very same day I was informed of the position of the London authorities about our event, I had a chance to attend an inspiring conference where the invited speaker Luwezi Kinshasa talked of the necessity of an African revolution to fix what is not going right with Africa. He stressed the imperative requirement for people getting organised and not expecting that forces we are against will let us achieve what we want, since they are only interested in a status quo.
If the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi all together have been steadily losing their people over the years at the rate of millions so capitalism can prosper, does it really matter to its cheerleaders how many more are killed as long as the status quo prevails? I don’t think so.
As I started stating, most revolutions are not planned. A time comes when all the ingredients come together: people’s understanding of the injustices they are victims of, the readiness for sacrifice to make the expected change happens, and then that is it. In fact, the apparent preparation of a revolution is only a reaction to the level of suffering of the victims of a particular situation.