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Friday, May 05, 2006

African Guyanese, Armed Resistance And Racial Peace In Guyana: A Reply To Stabroek News




By David Hinds

Hardbeatnews, PHOENIX, Arizona, Fri. May 5, 2006: As Guyana turns the last corner along the seemingly inevitable road to self destruction, one hopes one last time that good sense prevails. In the last analysis reason must continue to show its hand. In this regard the media must lead the way all the time, but in Guyana the media often act as cheerleaders.

Stabroek News’ editorial “The Armed African Guyanese Resistance,” (March 2, 2006), sought to address some of the points raised by Tacuma Ogunseye in his letter on the same subject. My own disagreement with Bro. Ogunseye on the so-called resistance is public record. Although I agree with the thrust of the editorial, I find some of the statements to be too generalized. Hence the African Guyanese fears and demands articulated by Bro. Ogunseye and their implications for racial democracy and peace in Guyana are presented by Stabroek News as humbugs rather than cause for national concern.

Stabroek News stated, “The whole country has suffered from economic stagnation, Indians and Amerindians as well as Africans.” True. But it must also be said that contemporary African economic stagnation happens in the context of a historical economic strangulation that have been deliberately designed to ensure that Africans remain at the bottom of the economic ladder. Africans today are experiencing the present effects of a past system of social organization that has sought to punish them for daring to overthrow the slave system that produced African underdevelopment and white western development.

I have argued before that no post-colonial government, including those presided over by the PNC, has ever frontally and deliberately sought to correct the historical wrongs done to the African. Even America, with its vicious history of anti-Africanism, has attempted to grapple with this question through initiatives such as affirmative action. In Guyana we have not even pretended. We continue to ignore the fact that Africans were the only race brought to Guyana in chains and against their will and kept in chains. Hence the African problem, while it shares some characteristics with that of the other races, has its own peculiarity.

Second, given this historical condition that is grounded largely in economic relations that have been motivated by race, African economic stagnation is not confined to the African poor. Today the African middle strata is more vulnerable than its counterparts of the other races. There is a global dimension to the African condition, but there is an equally debilitating domestic dimension that is rooted in the evolution of the post-colonial political economy. In an atmosphere of racial competition and insecurity where the reins of ultimate official decision-making lies with the representatives of one race, the African economic stagnation is further aggravated.

Stabroek goes on to ask “But can that {economic stagnation} justify armed resistance?” My answer is a resounding NO. I continue to believe in a negotiated settlement to Guyana’s racial problems. Nowhere has violence solved racial problems. But when the side that holds the reins of official power stubbornly continues to use formal-legal arguments to frustrate a settlement to a problem that has its genesis in racial insecurity and fear, then it is baiting the other side to reach for gun-solution. Similarly, when the official representatives of so-called Civil Society groups and the media continue to pretend that there is not an overriding racial problem or trivialize it in abstract discussions of democracy and the rule of law, they are helping to create the ground for a gun-solution.

Stabroek continues, “And the claim that the winner takes all system should be replaced by some form of consociational democracy is a claim that can legitimately be pursued but should it be at the point of a gun?” Again my answer is a resounding NO. But even as I take this stand, it must be noted that since 2002 the African representatives—ACDA and the PNC—offer to share the burdens of governance have been rebuffed by the Indian representatives in the most lewd manner.

Finally, Stabroek asks, “Do minorities in plural societies have a right to assert what they perceive to be their rights by violence? Is that what Mr. Ogunseye is suggesting?” I hasten to add: “Do majorities in plural societies have a right to assert what they perceive to be their rights by arrogance, disrespect and triumphalism and violence-baiting? Is that what Stabroek is suggesting?

EDITOR’S NOTE: David Hinds lectures in Caribbean and African Diaspora Studies at Arizona State University in the USA. His writings on Race and Politics in Guyana and Caribbean Politics can be found in his book Race and Political Discourse in Guyana and on his www.GuyanaCaribbeanPolitics.com website. – Hardbeatnews.com


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