5/13/2015

A tale of two African Generals

Something is falling apart, once again, in Burundi. Or, something seems to be falling apart in Burundi.

This morning, I posted on the video that has emerged of the protests in Burundi. It was, now it appears, a premonition.

The news, at this point, is that a coup has been declared in Burundi. Pierre Nkurunziza, who at the time of the coup was the President, is in Tanzania. It is said he went to meet with other African leaders to discuss a solution to the problem he has created in Burundi. Or, to be a little crude and patronising, to discuss the problem he is to Burundi.

Back at home. The ending has began. An army general, Godefroid Niyombareh, has declared him an illegal President. He has claimed that a committee has been set up to run the government.

If successful, Nkurunziza will go like Compaore. Once hailed. Now a memory. All for a little hangover of power.

However, it is too early to declare now. The world media is watching. And expecting. Praying that something happens. Waiting for Nkurunziza to strike. Rather, to fall. That is the news.

In the moment, from the pictures I have seen, Niyombareh is the hero. He is the General all countries need. Like Malawi's former army General, Henry Odillo, in 2013.

In that year, the tale is that Malawi's democracy was on the altar. The tale is that there was an administration so power hungry that they wanted to rape the constitution and install a private system. Not in sync with the spirit of the constitution. The tale is that, if not for one General  by the name Henry Odillo, Malawi would have disintegrated. In tiny and little fragments.

For his achievement, Odillo was honoured. The Malawi government gave him a high award of honour. The US government did the same. It inducted him in some International Hall of Fame for military officers. With a little tinge of regret, one would declare Odillo was the equivalent of Niyombareh. Only Odillo's heroic acts were done in private.

But that was until a few months ago...

The reports started emerging: Odillo was at the center of corruption. Operating under a cover of secrecy that has come to characterise the Malawi Defence Forces, the General signed cheques in nine figures for services not rendered. The money, in the end, had a way of coming back into his pockets. The allegations went further that the money as well found itself in the purse of the President who honoured him, Joyce Banda - now a fugitive of some sort.

At first, the reports were laughed off. It is inherent to bring a good man down with lies, at least in Malawi.

Then, this week, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in Malawi moved on him. It appears Odillo has a mountain to climb if he is to redeem his image. The public opinion, so far, seems unflattering on his character. There is a debate, yes, but somehow the majority in my opinion feels Odillo has a case to answer.

The good man, now, has swapped seats. His arrest is not a cause of celebration of course but, so far, it is not a cause of worry. Most, almost, feel the law should take its course. Those who are barking, it is argued, are doing so because they know Odillo's arrest means theirs or that of their masters is imminent.

At this moment, taking a safe stand not to interfere with issues in court and eventually operating on the 'innocent until proven guilty' maxim, one can still say the mighty has fallen.

At the  fall of a mighty General in Malawi, another General is arising in Burundi. Poised to leave a mark and, maybe, get an induction in some hall of fame in the US.

These two African Generals have tales,  nay, a tale. Time, the savage, will pass an important indictment. Maybe the tales of these two will submerge in one. Maybe they will continue being shaming parallels. Maybe. Maybe. Perhaps. Perhaps.