In the middle of March 2019, New Zealand was hit in the most terrific manner. An armed fellow entered a mosque and by the time he was through with his evil intentions, 49 persons had been killed and another 48 injured. The lone gunman, identified as a white New Zealander, was later overpowered, captured and handed over to the police. From that point a sequence of events began to unfold. It was as if the whole world had been set on fire by the dastardly event.
The Western media was on it, and for a greater part of the two days following the development, the story grabbed the headlines in most of the Western traditional and online media platforms. The beauty of it is that nearly all of them expressed clear indignation over the incident. They saw it not as an isolated attack on the Muslim population, neither was it an affront against the New Zealand state, rather they interpreted it to mean a confrontation against the entire Western world. They believed it was a sign that Western countries could come under new waves of terrorist attacks. They condemned the act and urged other countries in the Western world to switch on the alert button.
For any keen observer this alone was impressive. The victim population may not be European, yet European nations saw a clear reason to react on a very positive note. The fear of spread of possible terrorist attacks could have been a motivating factor, but their statements and positions also made it clear that those people will not compromise when the issues involve human lives and particularly, the desecration of it. The New Zealand government reaction told the latter story far better. The reaction of the law enforcement agencies was superb and very commendable. It is a style we in Africa should emulate. In few minutes after the development they were at the scene and they were very professional in their approach. They were not adding to the burden of the victims by shoving them aside and asking unnecessary questions. From their pose and movement, you could tell why they were there. They were purposeful, comforting and very professional. They took over the scene in the most professional manner and knew what to do to preserve evidence.
New Zealand is basically an English nation, the greater population is Christian, but this bent did not show in the manner the security forces handled the situation. There was a manifest show of respect for the dignity of human life irrespective of race and creed. The security leadership conveyed the point strongly to the victims, in very clear terms and severally reminded them of their rights to existence in addition to freedom of worship. They re-emphasized their resolve to offer them maximum protection.
What happened in New Zealand is similar to what happens here frequently. In recent years hardly a day passes in our country without the sad news that Islamic fundamentalists invaded one Christian community or the other, terminated lives and destroyed properties including sacking an entire human settlement. So both countries now share similar experience in this case, but the handling appear very different. In our case, response is very slow where it happens at all, and the officers very unprofessional. Our troops move in as if they in the war front and in such circumstances, we have heard victims become targets of brutality by those supposed to be their saviours.
In place of assurances of adequate protection, our rescue forces dwell on warnings against reprisals and the need for co-habitation with the enemy yet to be identified.
The New Zealand authorities were different. From the mayor of the town to the Prime Minister, all were available to the people; each spoke very well and condemned the act in very clear terms. There were no ambiguities, there were no calls for co-habitation, there was no mentioning of Christian or Muslim; religious or racial sentiments took a back seat. What was in focus was the ugly development and as far as they were concerned it was about criminality of the worst kind and the challenge was clear to bring the culprit to face the consequences of his reckless actions. It didn’t matter who he was and what faith he subscribed to. They demonstrated that governance is a dynamic art. To make the victims be at home, they went the extra mile of bringing white New Zealanders who subscribed to the Islamic faith to talk to the victims, especially to reassure them that there is no conspiracy either from the government or from the majority Christian population to do them in. This is creative and that is exactly what should be expected from any government that runs on sound rationalization.
We cannot fold our hands in our country and believe that the killing happening every day in different parts of the country is normal or something to be tolerated. No, it is not normal and ought not to be tolerated even for one minute. Till this day it is difficult to say what the motive of those perpetuating these acts is, but whatever it is no cause is enough to consume the life of even one individual. In our case where a pattern has emerged, where Christian populations constitute the bulk of victims here, the simple derivative from this is that gradually we are sliding into a religious war and if history is to believed, religious wars are the most difficult conflicts to resolve. So we should not allow what is going on to continue.
The most embarrassing thing about our situation should be the fact that with the shape of destruction of human lives taking place almost on a daily basis, the political class and the national stakeholders have not seen the need to make the fight against such deviant behaviours a national fight. At the stage the killings have reached, it is no longer a government affair, even though we conceive they have the leading role; it is a national challenge that requires collective national effort. The central government reactions have in most cases been tepid. Prominent national figures especially from the areas affected, have tended to play the game of indifference. Religious leaders seem confused about the state of things and where a few have offered their voices, it has been more of a lone ranger activism which has great limitation on a critical issue such as the one in question. By now we should be embarrassed that terrorists and other blood thirsty hoodlums talk loudly about the possibility of a strike and still do so without any trace or arrest being reported. This is absurd. It is unbefitting of a country like ours of which much has been expected. The New Zealand example offers us a lot of lessons.