As hurricane Dorian bore down on the Bahamas making its way to the United States and amidst the latest gun violence in Texas, second in the last 30 days, the United States President, informed of these crises, went golfing. In less than one year, the United States has recorded nearly 10,000 deaths from gun violence.
As is the case for Africa, the international community or systems should declare a humanitarian crisis from the impact of gun violence in the United States. If 10,000 people had been killed in a year in an African country, the word `genocide’ would be thrown into the reports and reflections from international systems by now. The heads of international and multilateral organizations would be drafting and releasing letters in the public domain calling the government to act.
So far in 2019, nearly 70 people have been reported killed by insurgents in northeast Nigeria, in the same period 10,000 people have been killed through gun violence in the United States, yet international humanitarian assistance is expanding in Nigeria because of the northeast insurgency. Nigeria has accepted plans to expand food assistance and aid across the country. Majority of this food assistance and aid would be coming from the United States where more conditions for an international humanitarian presence exist due to communal gun-violence.
In the last decade, African countries have witnessed a reduction in conflict. The continent has experienced the least amount of sudden-onset disasters than any other parts of the world. Asia and the Americas are increasingly becoming the epicenters of major sudden-onset disasters. We have growing poverty in African countries because of gaps in development and reduced resilience to slow-onset disasters like drought. Yet we have long-standing peacekeeping and growing international humanitarian presences as the main means and ways Africa’s issues are addressed, including messaging and how international systems interact with the continent.
International humanitarian action is required for sudden onset disasters that overwhelm the capacity of national authorities to address. The humanitarian principles of independence in the international humanitarian system are ignited when the national authority is perceived to be aligned to one side, and has interest in the root causes of the humanitarian crisis. Access and protection of vulnerable civilians become the bases of advocating for a protection cluster to be established. These are all elements in the United States gun crisis. So why are the relevant international/multilateral systems not calling for international action as they do for Africa?
Double Standards in Holding Leaders Directly Accountable
Since 2018, one or two Western-international journalists have built their careers on the back of negative reporting on Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed with claims that the Prime Minister has failed to act to curb the invisible `so-called’ IDP crisis in Ethiopia. This is despite the phenomenal achievement of Prime Minister Abiy. Within 4 months of assuming power, Ahmed broadened political, civic liberty and economic spaces and improved the human rights landscape.
The Prime Minister released thousands of political prisoners, journalists, and bloggers; decriminalized opposition groups; invited exiled opposition groups to Ethiopia and started initiatives for peaceful engagement in the reform process. On the legal and policy front, the passing of the new Charities and Societies (CSO) Proclamation on March 2019, as well as other legal reforms, including media and refugee laws, are noteworthy.
The Government Strategy to address Internal Displacement in Ethiopia, which was released in April 2019, is a step in the right direction in a country that has yet to ratify the 2009 Kampala Convention. Globally, the Government of Ethiopia has been praised for achieving gender parity in Cabinet and for ending the state of war with neighboring Eritrea after two decades of diplomatic and armed strife.
I have followed some of these journalists who remain bent on blaming Ethiopia’s Prime Minister for the country’s displacement situation, noting the resounding silence in the context of the homelessness crisis in the UK and the United States, and the humanitarian impact of Europe migrant laws. I am hoping one of these reporters would write an article on the United States’ President’s perceived inaction leading to the death of 10,000 people in the US.
So why this Double Standards?
The naming of crises and solutions in Africa is indicative of the way the continent has been viewed and treated for centuries. The western obsession with naming African leaders and leadership negatively has increasingly become a case of `giving a dog a bad name to justify hanging it’.
The silence in international systems regarding the worsening humanitarian and human rights violations in the `so-called’ developed world is the reason international systems are increasingly ineffective everywhere in the world. If 10,000 people died from gun-related violence in a year in an African country or Muslim country, the United States, Canada, etc. would have issued a travel ban and alert warning its citizens not to travel to those countries by now.
Many African leaders look away from the way conflicts and disasters in their jurisdiction are presented because such reports are often prefixed by the call for funding. But, charity/Humanitarian appeals are announcements to the world of the weakness of a Government. The bigger the amount of funds required, the more a government appears weaker. The more recurring and repeated the appeals are, the weaker the national systems are perceived to be.
Bottom line, African countries, and its citizens must be less receptive of the injustices in the naming and categorization of its events and challenges. Because misnaming is more than mere words. Misnaming creates wrong response or assistance ultimately stalling development and growth in the continent.  http://archive.ipu.org/splz-e/unga08/s1.pdf