Combat torrent of misery in world, says Pope Francis

“Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated. The arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world.

We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims… We are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights…”

That is an extract from Pope Francis’ New Year message in which he also urged people to challenge “a torrent of misery” by “building an evermore just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace…”

Pope Francis’ message is timely. He quoted from a letter received from a man who had suffered personal tragedy and asked: “What has happened in the hearts of men, in the heart of humanity? It is time to stop! It is time to stop!”

However, will the misery end in 2016? It is hard to believe. Our neighbouring Somalia, South Sudan and now Burundi are the hottest spots. Nearly 500 people have died in Burundi since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza declared that he would be running for a third term. It does not help that there was an attempted military coup in the mix.

In December 2015, unknown people attacked three military camps and fighting went on for nearly a day. The government reported that the attacks failed but many soldiers died. Right now, Uganda is offering refuge to thousands of Burundians who have fled.

It is now known that more than 260,000 Somalis died in the 2010-2012 famine. However, despite government and military support from Uganda and Burundi, under the African Union, regular terrorist attacks continue to take lives. Incredibly, it is only in November 2011 that Somalis finally went to their lovely beaches after many years of denial due to insecurity and drastic governments.

Is it true that almost everyone in Libya has a gun now because it may be the best way to survive? There are reports that the government yonder depends on militias to survive.

Previously, it was the North Africans, mostly Libyans, who dominated the news with deaths on the high seas. Many did not survive the terrible waters crossing to Italy and Greece. On reflection, that was just a trickle seeing the millions fleeing from Syria now!

There is misery in that country and all interventions by the world’s superpowers do not seem to help the everyday person stranded in between European borders. European Union (EU) leaders are engaged in talks that are not really about helping migrants, but more about stopping them from coming into their countries.

In western Africa, there is carnage in Central African Republic due to religious intolerance. About half a million people have fled the country and three million others are stranded and in dire need of help, according to UN reports. In Mali, chaos reigns as well and nearly 50 peacekeepers have been killed in two years. Many Malians are living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has killed many in recent years including citizens of Cameroon and Niger. Nigerian deaths account for nearly 50 per cent of loss of lives due to conflict in sub-Saharan Africa!

Then there was the deadly Ebola! About 12,000 people died from this disease. Communities have been destroyed in the three affected countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Their economies have not been spared either!

Kenyans have also suffered massively from terrorist attacks. It is pleasing that the most recent one was foiled when bus passengers defied attackers by refusing to abandon their fellow Christian passengers.

Back home in Uganda, election violence is picking up. Right now there is an outcry following the disappearance of an opposition activist suspected to have been taken in by police, who have denied it all. Thirteen bodies washed up on Lake Victoria beaches in Entebbe but we are yet to receive a satisfactory explanation.

Now the pope asserts that good news must be reported, although this may be difficult. “There are many good things in the world, and I ask myself: why aren’t these things publicised?” Pope Francis mused. “It seems people like to see and hear bad news more.”

Well, there is some good news expected in Uganda! For the first time ever, a presidential candidates’ debate is scheduled for this Friday! Good news, indeed, and as the Baganda say: amaaso ku lutimbe!

The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.

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