Show the World Your Friends and They Will Know Who You Are

Posted on | maart 6, 2012 | No Comments

Birds of a feather flock together, is a cliche, so true! Like mindedness is the foundation for friendship and co-operation. The international community exists because of similarities, and any form of conflict is ironed through an intricate legal framework. The tiered structure of the international community, signify the inner trappings between the haves and the have-nots, rich and poor states, between democracies and autocratic states, between the G-7 and the G-20, between Europe, North America on the one side and the so called developing world on the other.

There is also a general consensus obeyed by the seminal members of the international community that a head of state should be incorruptible, a non convict, upstanding individual. It is uncertain how governments deal with heads of state that are at best shady, illicit individuals. Heads of state that infringe upon rights and freedoms, that torture political prisoners, steal from the people to enrich themselves and their immediate circle are not necessarily ostracized by the international community.

President Bashar al-Assad exemplifies such a leader, the atrocities committed against the people have not prompted the international community to take firm action. On the contrary, the Russians professed undying love as did the Chinese, and president Assad is resting assured, that his actions to deploy snipers in Homms will be forgiven.

Another example is president Teodoro Obiang Nguema, said by Forbes magazine to be one of the wealthiest heads of state, a paradox indeed, because Equatorial Guinea is one of the poorest nations in Africa according to the human development index. Despite massive natural wealth, there is 22,3% unemployment, and 20% of the children die before reaching the age of five. Rights Watch organizations make mention of blatant violations, hampering freedom of speech, impeding opposition and organization. Worrisome is also the fact that the president is working to achieve a cult like status, A god, a Nemesis, the man that has the power over all man and things in the country, a man able to kill, without going to hell (…). It is therefore inconceivable that Mr Nguema who also claims to be a devout catholic, was invited to the Vatican by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But again the choices made by the international community lack transparency, it is hard to find out what objectives lay behind such a controversial invite.

Last month Mr Nguema visited Suriname, allegedly official, but without the pump and circumstance. Instead Mr Nguema was whisked away to the second home of Mr Bouterse in the interior of Suriname, out of the public eye and media scrutiny. He only showed his face on the 25th of February, the so called Day of the Revolution to receive one of the highest honers of the land, and meet and greet some of the political inner circle.

But whatever transpired behind closed doors, one thing is certain, Mr Bouterse after this visit immediately rekindled the cultivation of his personality. During the elections, his supporters claimed that Mr Bouterse was a Messiah, a Divine Force called by the Lord to lead the country as president. These claims could be attributed to the fact that prior to the elections Mr Bouterse and his wife had been devout church goers, born again Christians, members of the Pentecostal denomination led by Steve Meye (a self-proclaimed Doctor of Philosophy). Mr Meye currently the Spiritual adviser of the president, last Saturday reiterated the Messianic calling of his boss, Mr Bouterse, a sign that the cultivation of personality is ongoing and perhaps inspired by the visitor from Africa.

The experiences of the 1980s, teach that the Surinamese military leadership hooked up with unlikely bed fellows after being cut off by the Netherlands. After the 2010 elections, the Netherlands saw no reason to continue on the same foot, arguing that Mr Bouterse was facing charges in Suriname for murder and was moreover convicted in the Netherlands for drug-smuggling. Again to prevent tumbling into splendid isolation, the Surinamese government turned to the region, to make new friends, Nicaragua, Curacao, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba. The rest of the region is not too keen, neither of the Caricom members attended the inauguration, nor neighboring Brazil or Guyana to become an ally of the Surinamese president, to befriend in the name of regionalism or perhaps, good neighborship. A disgrace indeed, to which the new president tried give a peculiar spin, forgetting that times had changed, that through internet the news of the shaming proliferated faster than lightening.

But it is highly unlikely that Mr Bouterse will have the same grip on the country as Mr Nguema. In Equatorial Guinea, the people are very unfamiliar with democracy, free speech and organization, the country has been in the clutches of authoritarian regimes virtually since its independence in 1968. In Suriname, the people are familiar with the trappings of democracy, are on average better educated than the people of Equatorial Guinea and have more access to the internet, information sources and international media. The difference between Suriname and Equatorial Guinea is exemplary of the strength of social movement in South America and the Caribean, conversely of the weakness of social movement in Africa below the Sahara. Throughout history the Surinamese civil society, managed to join forces to end dictatorial or autocratic regimes, Mr Pengel, Mr Arron, Mr Bouterse, Mr Wijdenbos were all forced to step down after massive popular unrest.

AUTHOR: Natascha Adama
E-MAIL: nataliapestova23 [@]


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