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Opinion | Jun 5, 2017

Rubbishing Grievances Does Not Solve A Problem

Osama Bin Laden may be dead physically today, but his spirit and what he stood for, will live on forever, unless, and until the question or the grievance he and other like-minded individuals have, are addressed (Palestinian Statehood and Western Military presence in some Arab countries).

Bin Laden was not just an uneducated person hiding somewhere in the remote mountains of Afghanistan (Tora Bora), spotting a long beard and clinging onto an AK 47 assault rifle, but a literate person with a Masters Degree in Business Administration.

Bin Laden, who in the late 1990’s became a guest of the Taliban after fleeing Sudan, did not start the problems of Afghanistan that has refused to go till date. Let’s go down memory lane!

Before the arrival of Soviet troops in Afghanistan in December 1979, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan had taken power after a 1978 coup , installing Nur Mohammad Taraki as President. The administration of Taraki initiated a series of radical modernization reforms throughout the country which turned out to be highly unpopular, particularly among the more traditional rural population and the well-established traditional power structures. The government vigorously suppressed any opposition and arrested thousands, executing as many as 27,000 political prisoners. Anti-government armed groups were formed, and by April 1979 large parts of the country was in open rebellion. The government itself was insecure, with in-party rivalry, and in September 1979, the President was deposed by followers of Hafizullah Amin , who then became President. Deteriorating relations and worsening rebellions led the Soviet government, under leader Leonid Brezhnev , to deploy the 40th Army on December 24, 1979. Arriving in the capital Kabul , they staged a coup , killing President Amin and installing Soviet loyalist Babrak Karmal from a rival faction , as President of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has known no peace since then. This is all as a result of failure to address the grievances of a section of the Afghan population.

Taking this to a much wider perspective to drive the point home, during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, some of the liberation leaders were killed along the way. Those that easily come to mind are Steve Biko and Chris Hani. Steve Biko received anonymous threats and was detained by the apartheid government security services on four occasions. Following his arrest in August 1977, Biko was tortured by state security officers, resulting in fatal head injuries, and died shortly after.

Chris Hani was assassinated on 10th April 1993 outside his home in Dawn Park , South Africa. He was accosted by a far-right anti-communist immigrant named Janusz Waluś , from Poland, who shot him in the head and back as he stepped out of his car. Waluś fled the scene, but was arrested soon afterwards after Hani’s neighbour, a white Afrikaner woman, called the police. Clive Derby-Lewis , a senior South African Conservative Party MP and Shadow Minister for Economic Affairs at the time, who had lent Waluś his pistol, was also arrested for complicity in Hani’s murder.

Historically, the assassination is seen as a turning point. Serious tensions followed the assassination, with fears that violence could erupt and plunge South Africa into the abyss. Nelson Mandela addressed the nation appealing for calm, in a speech regarded as “presidential” even though he was not yet President of South Africa. He said, “Tonight, I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life, so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world. ... Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for, thus, the freedom of all of us”.

While riots did follow the assassination, the two sides of the negotiation process were galvanized into action, and they soon agreed that democratic elections should take place on 27th April 1994, just over a year after Hani’s assassination. Grievance addressed and today, we have a peaceful South Africa.

The message to Presidents, Prime Ministers, Chief Executive Officers, Managing Directors, heads of organisations/institutions, etc., is that, when grievances are raised, side-stepping them does not solve the problem. Negotiating to find a common ground, is the only way out. Military might and other dubious methods, are not the solution! Has the killing of Bin Laden stopped the springing up of Boko Haram, Islamic State, and several others? No!!

Currently, a section of the Ghana Armed Forces, have raised some grievances with regard to their deployment in the fight against galamsey following the degrading and worse than animal killing of Capt. Mahama. The current leadership of mother Ghana need not brush those grievances aside!

Alhassan Salifu Bawah
Lecturer & Social Commentator
[email protected]

Alhassan Salifu Bawah
Alhassan Salifu Bawah, © 2017

This author has authored 86 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: AlhassanSalifuBawah

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