Ble Goude: Looks tough; good fall guy.
We’re in one of the lulls, war-wise, where the short bursts of action stop so the lawyers and whiners can sing their little songs. In Ivory Coast, the UN public-relations department is doing its best to make you believe that the losing side, Gbagbo and the coastal tribes, were the bad guys all along.
The BBC first announced that the leader of the Young Patriots, an Abidjan-based Gbagbo militia, has been arrested for human-rights violations, then retracted that story.
That’s a bad sign, when the designated lie-provider has to tinker with the story after putting it up. This one just won’t stand up for even a little while. The trouble is, the winners, the UN and IMF-backed northern/Muslim group led by Alassanne Outtara, have clearly been chopping and raping their way south through the enemy Christian/coastal peoples’ territory, but that doesn’t fit the IMF storyline. So somebody’s got to be fall guy on Gbagbo’s side. They seem to have decided that Gbagbo isn’t a good fit—maybe he looks too much like a sad beagle:
Gbagbo: Sad beagle
…or more likely he cut a deal with the French to go into quiet exile in Nice—so the Young Patriots leader, Ble Goude, is the next nominee, a much younger, tougher-looking face to put in the bad-guy poster.
But even if Ble Goude and his Young Patriots were dedicated rapers and killers (and they may be; I can’t say), they didn’t have the time or opportunity—or heavy-weapons backing—that Outtara’s men had. They rode behind IMF/French/UN APCs all the way south, free to jump down and do whatever they felt like while the foreigners took care of any real combat. (Not that there was much to take care of.)
The one paragraph in this BBC story that amounts to the reporter saying, “Please read between the lines here, because even I can’t stomach what they’re making me say” is this one:
“A new report from the International Rescue Committee aid agency says alarming numbers of women and girls have also been raped, sexually assaulted, beaten and harassed by armed men as they were fleeing violence, many to neighbouring Liberia.
The IRC’s Liz Pender, in the Liberian town of Ganta, said those who are reporting incidents represent a tiny fraction of the victims.
“The types of sexual violence we’re hearing about is devastating,” she told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.
“It’s rape, it’s gang rape, it’s sexual slavery – men taking them as ‘wives’, keeping them for a week, exchanging them with their friends and the girls or women either manage to escape or are subsequently killed.”
One woman told Ms Pender how she was forced to watch as several men took turns raping her sister who was then beaten to death.
The women were reluctant to say which side’s fighters had attacked them.”
That last line, “The women were reluctant to say which side’s fighters had attacked them,” is the kicker. When the victim won’t say who did it, it usually means, “The winners did it.” It’s just too easy to name the losers, the designated bad guys. If they won’t say, it’s because they know their story contradicts the IMF version.
* * *
Kenya: Good Healthy Denial in Progress
Cristina Odone, The Scarlett O’Hara of Kenya
In yesterday’s blog I talked about the way a healthy empire reacts when the really nasty stuff comes out, like it’s coming out now about what the Brits did in Kenya in the 1950s. I said a healthy empire has no conscience, never apologizes, and never gets Nuremburg’d. Well, last night I went looking for British reaction to these archives that prove Caroline Elkins was right, and the colonial rulers in Kenya really did run one of the deadliest Gulags of the century.
What I found, or didn’t find, was just what I expected. Most of the Brit sources don’t mention it at all. The best way to “refute” something like this is never to mention it, and that’s what they’re doing. A few pundits over there are writing about the news, but mainly to say, “Nonsense. Couldn’t have happened.” I found this hilarious column from the UK Telegraph, which seems to be a paper for crusty old patriotic types, where someone named Cristina Odone says the whole fuss about torture in Kenya is just a plot by “self-hating” Britain. And to prove she’s not biased or anything she says, “I know a little about the Mau Mau because my parents lived in Kenya just as their reign of terror drew to an end.”
Lost your plantation, didja Chrissie? It’s like Scarlett O’Hara testifying on the horrors of Yankee rule and Reconstruction. To get a good idea how real imperial loyalists deal with bad news, just check out her reader comments. No matter where you are, there’s only a few ways to deal with days like this, when your own archives prove you’re guilty. One is the good ol’ “It must be a conspiracy to make us look bad” approach. Here’s a neat little example of that from Chrissie’s comments:
“There is more to this than meets the eye, who is pulling the strings behind this?”
Yeah, that’s it! Those international Kikuyu bankers who control the world are putting those dead Africans up to it.
Then there’s the “You got off lucky” line, and there’s plenty of that in the comments:
“The [Kikuyu] people in the photo should count themselves lucky to be alive! Other nations that we can think of would have been far, far harsher with the Mau Mau than Britain was!: They would ALL be dead.”
Well, at least you tried. You killed something like 15% of the total Kikuyu population; that’s not bad. This notion that there’s some Dr. Evil out there who can wipe out every last one of the ethnic group, that’s just not realistic. You can do that to hunter-gatherers, maybe, especially if you’ve got the edge in disease resistance, but Africa has more genetic diversity and disease resistance than the rest of the human world put together, so there’s no way you were going to kill every last Kikuyu. Besides, you weren’t trying to. Who’d have done all the work then? Not Chrissie’s plantation mumsy and dadsums, that’s for sure. Actually the British administration decided, in writing, not to kill off the entire Kikuyu population in 1895 “because we depend on them for food supplies.”
Then there’s the argument that they had it coming:
“I grew up in Kenya from 1953 to 1956. The atrocities committed by those barbarians defies any form of human decency and as such I believe they forfeited any claim they may have had to human rights.”
This might fly if you didn’t know the actual figure for British colonists killed by Mau Mau: 32. Thirty-fucking-two. And on the other side of the scoreboard? Well, they ran out of room: something like 300,000 Kikuyu, and over a million shoved in concentration camps. There’s usually a ratio of 10:1 or so in irregular warfare, natives killed : settlers killed, but a rate of 30,000:1…I mean damn, the Nazis never came close to that.
All this bluster is good enough to keep Chrissie’s audience huffing along in their parsonages or wherever they hang out, cursing this here modern world.
But then something really interesting happens. Somebody quotes actual testimony by Kenyans who survived the Gulag. Here’s the quotes, and then the reaction to them:
I was born in Kiambu District. On 5 May 1954, I was arrested during Operation Anvil. I was then put in a train and transported to Manyani Camp under heavy armed guard. At Manyani, the reception was frosty the next day. We had to be disinfected forcefully in a cattle dip, just as cows are. I was also injected with a substance I did not know. At Manyani, a white officer nicknamed ‘Mapiga’ hit me with a baton on the back of the head after news had come that some detainees had tried to escape. I fell down and lost consciousness from the impact of the blow. I was unable to move around for a week and was helped by fellow inmates who would mop my injured head until I recovered. Manyani was a place in which I was forced to perform one of the most dehumanising jobs possible. The sanitation system was the open bucket system, where inmates defecated and urinated into open buckets. I was among those tasked to carry this human waste in buckets upon our heads. The buckets would be overflowing with human faeces and urine, which would get into our faces and even pour on our heads as we went to empty the buckets. We would then wash these buckets and get disinfected. The hard labour, which included breaking stones with a 10 kilogram mallet, was supervised by a white officer nicknamed ‘Kiuga’, who would also supervise incessant beatings throughout the day.
Wambugu wa Nyingi alias Kagotho
I was born in 1928 in Nyeri District. I was arrested on 11 December 1952, having been accused of having taken the Mau Mau oath. I was taken to a screening camp called Kia Riowa in Aguthi, near Muthinga. We were repeatedly beaten at this place in order for us to confess, or ‘vomit’ the oath, which the detainees had denied knowledge of. From the screening camp, I was brought to Nairobi to a place unknown to me, and then to Athi River Camp. I then went to Manyani Camp where at times, we would clean the buckets used to carry human faeces with sand and then use them to fetch drinking water. At Hola Closed Camp, where I stayed for three months, I was a witness and victim of the infamous Hola massacre. I was hit on the lower back of the head around the neck until I passed out. All the 11 were killed with clubs, and no firearms were used. I lost my friend, Migwe Ndegwa and a Turkana detainee. I lay unconscious with the 11 corpses for three days at a room where the corpses had been placed awaiting burial. I was taken to the hospital at Hola by a European doctor. The hospital was outside the closed camp. I stayed at the hospital for one week and I was then taken back to the closed camp. An inquest was opened and we would normally go to testify at a court near Nyali.. I gave evidence for three hours
This gets one response:
“For the avoidance of doubt the above post is written by a white englishman with a large guilt turd on his/her shoulder. I am not having it.
If you don’t like it here then go back to Bonga Bonga Land.”
That’s morale. Morale and silence beat argument every time. First the guy says this is the work of a white Englishman, then he says, “Go back to Bonga Bonga Land.” Doesn’t matter. The real line is “I am not having it,” and that’s how real empires deal with the stuff they can’t stomach or hide. They just ain’t having it.
I always used to wonder when I was a kid how people dealt with stuff they can’t bear to know. What’s funny, looking back, is that I could’ve had all the research material you’d want without leaving the house—Denial City Central, 3brd 2 b–but I never thought of it that way, just figured my family was messed-up and had nothing to do with the big picture. Actually we were pretty typical, a little crumbling empire, just like every American family I ever saw. They deal with it by not dealing with it. Probably when people are willing to deal with stuff, “face” stuff, they’re near the end. Logic is not healthy for empires and other spreading things.
There’s this myth that people argue, discuss things, and the best argument wins. I never noticed that in my life. Did your family do that? Mine never did, never heard it in anybody else’s house either. Maybe people argue about a few little things, things no one’s willing to kill or die for. Although even those boil over into firefights pretty damn often (“Tastes great!” “Less filling!” followed by burst of small-arms fire). But for the really serious stuff, there’s no rational argument. There’s our guys good, your guys bad, and that’s all anyone wants to hear. We walk around on our hind legs like circus poodles and pretty soon the poodles who teach in the colleges and write for the papers start believing it: “We are a hind-leg walking, rational species known for its reasonable nature.” And backstage all the poodles in the little spangly human vests and tied-on hats are trying to kill each other because Poodle A sniffed Poodle B’s butt the wrong way.
In that way, and I hate to admit it, Chrissie’s blue-hair nazi commenters are kind of right: it really is a bad sign, a sign of decline, when people face facts. It’s not what we’re designed to do.
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