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Now, welcome to real people’s republics!

by Lesotho Times

IF there was any fairness in the world, two countries would today cease to style themselves as “people’s republics”.

These are the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I realise that, even as members of the United Nations, these countries need not conform to any nomenclature which is appropriate to their real status.

In any political language, they are out-and-out communist dictatorships.

Many of the African countries whose liberation struggles they sponsored tried to turn themselves into similar monstrosities, much to their grief.

Happily, none of them succeeded.

The UN Charter does not require for member-countries to be truly democratic, in the true sense that word.

In reality, the two are run by cliques, which are not answerable to the people — the real, poor but responsible people. Russia and the other former republics which belonged to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics all claim to be democratic. Recent elections in Russia were so plagued with irregularities there could be trouble for that former Soviet KGB supremo, Vladimir Putin.

Yet there is the example set by Cuba under Raul Castro. He has turned the communist system to which his brother, Fidel was attached since 1959, into something refreshingly “uncommunist”.

Not surprisingly, not many of the African leaders obsessed with one-party rule have commented glowingly on the new Cuban system.

My suspicion is that it scares the hell out of them.

But recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have taught the world of a fresh interpretation of what a people’s republic ought to be.

This is not necessarily to conform to Time magazine’s cover story which announced the winners of their Persons of the Year 2011 prize as those who changed the course of their countries’ political direction — the Arab Spring or Arab Uprising.

My own interpretation of what the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya did was to sacrifice their lives for the sake of bringing a change to their countries. Nothing is ever going to be the same again in those three countries, even if there may be forces ranged against the realisation of their dream of turning their countries into real people’s republics — unrelated to the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, long dismissed as ensuring the real existence of government of all the people, for all the people and by all the people.

Thousands of these people died at the hands of the brutal forces of the dictators.

They were mostly young people, taking their cue from the Tunisian vendor who set himself alight in full view of his shocked compatriots.

All those dictators who viewed this as the isolated act of one mentally deranged man must have broken wind many times as the real people of those countries decided they had had enough of the cruelty, corruption and callousness of their longtime leaders.

In the one instance where they killed the dictator, they had most likely been incensed by his incredible arrogance — “We will show no mercy!”, Muammar Gddaffi announced before launching a murderous campaign against his own people.

African leaders who sympathised with Gadaffi were too stunned to make any rational, coherent comment on his fate.

Tunisia’s Ben Ali had fled the country like a cur, his tail between his legs.

Hosni Mubarak, having failed to bluff his way out of the dilemma, had been disabled by the shock that the people he thought were stupidly loyal to him had decided he would pay the ultimate price for ruining their lives — with his own life, ultimately.

What is vital for all Africans to understand is that not any of the people who died were led up the garden path by the West.

All were acutely aware of their misfortune before Nato came on the scene.

Their countries had been led by the same people for more than 40 years.

Most of them had harboured the hopes of all Africans freed from colonialism. Like all of us, they had endured the terror of broken promises.

They had endured many years of pain and poverty, watching the fat cats parading their obscene wealth while the majority, in their tattered clothes, queued for scarce bread and cooking oil.

There are still countries in that state of hopelessness, ruled by dictators paying only lip service to true democracy.

All African leaders who try to fool themselves into believing that all the people’s anger against them is the work of the West must know they are reaping the whirlwind of their foolishness.

Ringing in their ears must be Gadaffi’s boastful claim “My people love me!”

All of them believe this falsehood too. It is what drives them to continue in power, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that, given a chance, the people would spit at them as they passed them by — if it wasn’t for the sight of the armed guards, Moreover that is only a temporary fear: Once the people realise how much power they have in their numbers, this fear will evaporate — as it did among the Tunisians, Egyptians and the Libyans.

At the end of it all, they realised fear itself could be their enemy. So, they triumphed over it first.

Bill Saidi is a veteran journalist based in Zimbabwe

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