citizen in a country at war

What should a model citizen do in a country at war?

5 minutes approx.

I do not know.

And I have never felt that powerless in front of a question, a simple string of common words.

That question was asked to me by the translator/blogger Simeon Nkola M. from the Democratic Republic of Congo. As we all (should) know, his country is going through political tensions and violence. I will not give further details about that, click on the link if you wish to be informed on the situation. The actual question was “What should a good citizen do to put an end to war in his country?” As I told you before, I do not know.

The question struck me. I attempted some answers, but they were lame to the point that I gave up trying. I do not even have the courage to go through my tweets to find some of these answers to share them with you. Elle Citoyenne is all about citizen participation, basically what citizens from Africa in general and Cameroon in particular should do/know to empower their communities and build better societies together. I do not pretend to know everything. I do a lot of reading and research and I share the gems I find with you, as well as my opinions on various topics, be they good or bad. Simeon showed me through his question the limits of my reflection on a topic I am very passionate about.

I have never experienced war or even violence in my country or in the country I am currently living in, Senegal. I pray God I never will. Elle Citoyenne was created last December and, in 9 months, I learned and shared a lot about citizen participation, duties and rights. I saw everything through the lens of peace. Not peace as in “everybody loves everybody”, but peace as in “no gunshot heard, no (open) violence”. I thought (and still do, but in a different way), that citizens could do everything. But what can a powerless and unarmed father do when powerful and armed people burn his house, kill his sons and rape his daughters? Tell them about his rights or all the good things he has done for his country?

Unarmed people cannot fight armed and violent groups.

Unarmed people cannot fight armed and violent groups on the same ground. But they still can fight. They may not fight against the violence and killings they are experiencing at that moment, but they can and should fight for what their future should be.

They have to learn from that war, that violence. Most of the time, wars are triggered by hatred between tribal groups or political leaders’ personal interests. The sad thing is after those wars, hatred is exacerbated, fuelled by the painful memories of what people went through, and the new leaders (who are most of the time the same old leaders playing musical chairs) stay consistent with the past, perpetuating the legacy of their predecessors despite the horrible outcomes.

Hatred. I cannot talk about hatred between tribal groups because each case is particular, with its own story, history and dynamics. All I can say about it is we should stop teaching our children to hate other people for nothing. “You do not need to know why you have to hate them, but you have to hate them, my child. That hatred is a legacy for generations now, my child.” Hatred for the sake of hatred is way more dangerous than hatred for a particular reason. In the latter, solutions can be found to the problem, but in the former, nothing can be done. No logic explanation can put an end to hatred for the sake of hatred because it has no origin, no beginning.

Politically speaking, citizens in a country at war should not replicate/let replicate in the future what led them to that point. I am not saying or even thinking it is the easiest thing to do. It demands courage, boldness and, most of all, unity and common belief in what is best for the people as a whole. In many of our countries, our fear is our leaders’ main asset. We fear them and they know it. We fear them, and we have to. They made themselves almighty, they are masters of our fates and can oppress, torture and even kill us anytime. All they need is to wish to do so. We have to fear them. But what happened in Burkina Faso in 2014 or Senegal in 2012 gives me hope. These countries were not at war, but the oppression was real and they said NO together. The rest is history.

This sentence may sound cliché, but there is no better way to say it: children are our future, we need to teach them well. A model citizen should remain a model citizen as much as he can in times of war for his children to learn from him. I am not saying to go out and sweep the roads while military men/rebels are shooting at sight. An exemplary behaviour for a model citizen takes many forms, and the best of them is the love he feels for his country. Despite turmoils, hatred and killings, the love should remain and should be passed down to those who have the huge task to rebuild the country. They will need that love and a sense of patriotism to do it well.

I still feel powerless, but I attempted to answer. If you know anything that should be done by a model citizen in times of war to help his country, do not hesitate to share in the comment section.

Photo: The Global Quorum

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