I Remember the March 21, 1960 Sharpeville Massacre in South Africa [Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam]

Sharpeville Massacre 20

Every year, I remember two massacres in Africa.

In March, I remember the March 21, 1960 white apartheid regime Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.

In November, I remember the Meles Massacres of June 8, 2005 and November 1-10 and 14-16, 2005 in Ethiopia committed by the black apartheid regime of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF).

There is no difference between racial apartheid and ethnic apartheid.

There is no difference between racial segregation and ethnic segregation.

There is no difference between apartheid “bantustans” (homelands)  and T-TPLF “kilils” (homelands).

There is no difference between prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd’s apartheid which developed into a policy known as “separate development,” and “prime minister” Meles Zenawi’s policy of “ethnic federalism”.

Apartheid has no color, no ethnicity, no religion, no language and no nationality. It is a scourge on humanity.

On that fateful March day 56 years ago in Sharpeville (some 70km south of Johannesburg in Transvaal, presently Gauteng, one of the nine provinces of South Africa), a crowd estimated at five thousand (according to apartheid police 20 thousand, inflated to justify their extreme response) gathered in front of a police station to protest “pass laws” (a internal “passport” law enacted by the white regime to limit the physical movement for black South Africans).

Unarmed protesters began throwing rocks and tried to break the police barricades. The police responded with tear gas and batons initially.  A few protesters charged the gates to the station. Police opened fire indiscriminately on the crowd with sub-machine guns and assault rifles.

According to official figures, police fired 705 bullets killing 69 protesters, including 8 women and 10 children. The number of wounded and otherwise injured exceeded 180, including 31 women and 19 children.

By May 1960, 18,011 alleged participants and supporters of the Sharpeville protest were held in detention. The vast majority of the victims were shot in the back as they fled the scene.

Lt. Col.  Pienaar, the commanding officer of the police reinforcements at Sharpeville, did not mince words when he told The Guardian, “It all started when hordes of natives surrounded the police station. My car was struck with a stone. If they do these things they must learn their lesson the hard way.” He added, “The native mentality does not allow them to gather for a peaceful demonstration. For them to gather means violence.”

On June 8, 2005 in Addis Ababa and November 1-10 and 14-16 in Addis Ababa and “some parts of the country”, T-TPLF apartheid forces indiscriminately fired into unarmed protesting crowds and killed 193 protesters and wounded 763. This was the official finding of the Inquiry Commission personally appointed by the late T-TPLF leader Meles Zenawi. The Inquiry Commission was not allowed to report hundreds of other related deaths and injuries that occurred on other dates between May 16 and December 2005. (Click HERE to read the authorizing Proclamation.)

Meles Zenawi’s response to the massacres was remarkably similar to Lt. Col. Pienaar.

Meles explained, “I am saying there was no peaceful demonstration as such. It was an uprising, and we put down an uprising. Regrettably, it involved loss of life. But it was not a peaceful demonstration at all.”

Following the May 2005 election, 30,000 persons were jailed by the T-TPLF.

The crimes against humanity committed by the apartheid South Africa regime have been recorded on film. (Click HERE to see one emotionally moving video footage.)

There is no publicly available video footage of the crimes against humanity committed by the T-TPLF apartheid regime in Ethiopia in 2005. But the name of each victim of the Meles Massacres is known. We have a few photographs (warning extremely graphic; viewer discretion strongly advised; scroll document to end of list of names to see victims photos).

Why remember the Sharpeville Massacre? 

When we remember the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, we are also remembering the  hundreds of “Sharpeville” massacres that are taking place in Africa today, that have happened yesterday, last year, ten years ago and 100 years ago.

Over the past year, Human Rights Watch and others have documented large scale extrajudicial killings in the majority of sub-Saharan African countries.

Last month, Human Rights Watch reported, “Ethiopian security forces are violently suppressing the largely peaceful protests in the Oromia region that began in November 2015. Almost daily accounts of killings and arbitrary arrests have been reported to Human Rights Watch since 2016 began.” (Emphasis added.)

The fact of the matter is that “Sharpevilles” occur in Africa every day, except the massacres are done by thugs who are in power with the blessings and huge financial support of the Western governments and China.

Extrajudicial killings by the security, military and police forces of thug regimes in the Sudan,  Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere in Africa have been so rampant over the past two decades, few are shocked by reports of fresh massacres.

The simple fact of the matter is that the “great” Western powers do not want to hear about crimes against humanity in Africa. They would rather lie through their teeth to protect murderous thugs garbed in state power.

Last year, Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya, was set to stand trial on a five-count charge of crimes against in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.  In 2007-8, over  1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced in post-election violence in Kenya. There was substantial evidence that Kenyatta directing a Mafia-type criminal organization in Kenya called the Munguki was responsible for the ethnically motivated deaths and injuries in one of Africa’s biggest slum areas, Kibera in the southwest of Nairobi. Western governments successfully brought pressure on the ICC prosecutor to drop all charges. I predicted a full year in advance Kenyatta would walk out of the ICC. In December 2014 Kenyatta walked out flipping the bird at the ICC.

The gracious accommodation of African thug regimes does not stop there.

The great leader of the free world, Barack Obama, traveled to Ethiopia in July 2015 and said, “I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues. We are opposed to any group that is promoting the violent overthrow of a government, including the government of Ethiopia, that has been democratically elected.”

The “government” Obama called “democratic” is none other than the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front, currently classified as a terrorist group by the Global Terrorism Database.

Obama has been pontificating for years,  “Africa does not need strongmen. Africa needs strong institutions. Africa’s strongmen are on the wrong side of history.”

Oh! Why does Obama speak in forked tongue!

Obama reminds me of a couple of lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Your hand, your tongue. Look like th’ innocent flower,/ But be the serpent under ’t./

Ethiopians have a proverb for a man with a forked tongue: “Beware of the man with lips of butter and heart of dagger (stone)”

Behold, the checkered serpent under Obama’s tongue!

Do African lives matter for Barack Obama?  (That’s a trick question, don’t answer yet.)

Obama and the West maintain double standards for criminal thugs in power in Africa. They give them not only free get-out-of-jail passes but also hundreds of millions of their tax-payer dollars and Euros to bankroll them.

That is exactly what Obama did to the T-TPLF. He gave them a pass by certifying them as “democratic”. Obama has been doling out billions of of American tax dollars to that gang of ruthless and corrupt thugs in Ethiopia.

In August 2012, black South African police officers fired on protesting miners in Marakina in north west South Africa killing 44 and leaving at least 78 injured.  (Watch actual footage [extremely graphic] of the incredible and heart wrenching massacre as unarmed protesters are cut down by machine gun fire.)

South African President Jacob Zuma said, “We are shocked and dismayed at this senseless violence.” Those are words one would use to describe “senseless violence” against domestic animals.

I wonder if Zuma would have chosen such mild and completely impersonal bureaucratic language to describe the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre.

Obama didn’t say a word to condemn the Marakina Massacres. Obama has on numerous occasions since 2009 expressed outrage over mass killings by domestic and international terrorists. But not a word about massacres committed by African thug regimes on Africans!

Now, you can answer the question, “Do African lives matter to Obama?”

The Marakina Massacres occurred because the leadership of the African National Congress knew it could not be held accountable for its actions or omissions before internal or international tribunals.

To add outrage to insult and injury, after “more than three years after starting investigations into the Marikana Massacre, independent police investigators can still not find a single police member liable for the mass killing.” NONE OF THE POLICE OFFICERS WHO GUNNED DOWN 44 UNARMED PROTESTERS AND LEFT AT LEAST 78 INJURED IN THE MARAKINA MASSACRE WILL EVER BE PROSECUTED!!!

Similarly, NONE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY OFFICERS IN THE MELES MASSACRES WHO GUNNED DOWN 193 UNARMED PROTESTERS WERE EVER BROUGHT TO JUSTICE. But the list of the 237 killers  in the police and security departments is readily available.

If the Marakina Massacres can happen in South Africa in 2012, the land where the Sharpeville Massacres took place over one-half century ago, should we be surprised when similar massacres happen in Ethiopia or anywhere else in Africa in 2016?

Evil without borders

I believe all massacres in Africa are well-calculated crimes by thugs in power and sometimes by thugs out of power trying to thug their way into power.

Massacres in Africa are weapons of mass destruction.

There is no difference in the way the white apartheid regime committed crimes against humanity in the Sharpeville Massacre and the 2005 Meles Massacres; or the genocides that take place all over Africa. None!

The minority South African regime then and the T-TPLF regime in Ethiopia today uses massacres and extreme violence as a tactic to prove to the population that they will kill and destroy anything in their path to cling to power.

The Sharpeville Massacre was the white minority government’s way of “teaching the kaffirs [ethnic slur used by white South Africans] a lesson they will never forget”.

Their message was simple: “Resistance to white minority rule is futile.”

The Meles Massacre and the massacres that continue to be committed by the T-TPLF today also aim to teach the majority population exactly the same message:  “Resistance to T-TPLF rule is futile.”

The legacy of evil occasioned by extreme violence and massacres is predictable. South Africa today is  so deeply divided and the majority population so angry, most informed observers believe South Africa is a “ticking time bomb” whose detonation is long overdue.

The same can be said of Ethiopia under T-TPLF rule. I wrote three successive commentaries over the past few weeks demonstrating that Ethiopia, like South Africa, is a powder keg with a fast burning fuse. It is a matter of when, not if, the fuse will light the powder in the keg.

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing…”

Evil triumphs when each individual makes a conscious decision to hear no evil, see no evil and say no evil. To stand for the truth, what is good and right is the hardest choice of all because it  requires moral clarity and courageous acts of conscience.

The most evil thing about evil is that it gives us easy choices: Be silent. Be indifferent. Become apologists and accomplices of evil.

Only we as individuals can choose to exercise moral courage and damn evil.

Robert Kennedy eloquently provided a moral prescription for the dilemma we face when we face evil:

Each time a man [woman] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

Why we must remember massacres in Africa

History shows that the massacres committed by tyrants are often manifestations of the tyrants’ weaknesses, vulnerabilities and fear of popular uprising.

When Black South Africans protested the pass laws outside the Sharpeville police station, they sent a clear message to the white apartheid regime that they are not afraid and are willing to stand up to them at any cost.

The white apartheid regime was afraid the black protests of Sharpeville could spread nationwide and bring them down to their knees.

The greatest fear of the white apartheid regime was not that black South Africans could obtain a military victory in short order. Their greatest fear was that black South Africans could wage a nonviolent struggle of strikes, work stoppages, slowdowns, passive resistance, street protests and marches, picketing, consumer boycotts and economic shutdowns among other things.

The T-TPLF is in exactly the same situation as the white apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1970s and ’80s.

I am afraid the end for the T-TPLF will not be as rosy as the apartheid rulers who were smart enough to cut a deal with the African majority and continue to live luxuriously in South Africa today.

It will be a hard and thorny road for the T-TPLF.

Impunity for massacres in Africa MUST end NOW!

The first most important treason for remembering the Sharpeville  and Meles Massacres and so many others is to ensure that there will be no longer be impunity for African thugs in power who commit crimes against humanity.

When the Rwandan Genocide occurred in 1994, much of the world kept quiet. President Bill Clinton said two decades after that genocide, “If we’d gone in sooner, I believe we could have saved at least a third of the lives that were lost…it had an enduring impact on me.”

Because of silence and inaction to prevent the Rwandan Genocide, there was the Darfur Genocide in the Sudan in 2003. The regime of Omar al-Bashir in the Sudan carried out mass ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs causing the deaths of at least one-half million people.

Because the world gave al-Bashir a pass in Darfur, Meles Zenawi and his T-TPLF massacred  hundreds of people following the 2005 election. The T-TPLF continues that murderous tradition on an industrial scale today.

Because the world gave Meles Zenawi a pass, in 2007 Uhuru Kenyatta and his accomplices used criminal organizations to commit crimes against humanity after the 2007 elections for which Kenyatta was charged by the International Criminal Court Prosecutor. The ICC trial was “fixed” and Kenyatta walked.

The second most important reason for remembering the Sharpeville and Meles Massacres is to fight collective amnesia, what I call massacre “Afrimnesia”  and “Ethiomnesia ”. It seems to me Africans generally tend to avoid remembering the crimes against humanity committed against them. It is too painful to remember.

I was once asked by a good friend why I am always talking about the Meles Massacres. Why talk about Meles who is dead? My friend said it is almost an “obsession” with me. It is all in the past. Nothing can be done. I should forget about it, at least not remember it all the time, and move on. I am sure there may be others who share the same view.

Should I share a Shakespearean word of wisdom with my friend?  “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”

The evil Meles Zenawi has done in Ethiopia lives after him. That evil is personified in the T-TPLF which is alive though not so well.

Meles Zenawi is alive in his make-believe clone Hailemariam Desalegn.

Hailemariam has pledged time and again  to  continue Meles Zenawi’s “legacy without any change”.

That is right, “without any change.”

Meles’s, the T-TPLF demi-god, lives and is alive in the body and spirit of of Hailemariam Desalegn.

Meles Zenawi is the Second Coming for the the T-TPLF and its unholy alliances.

Meles Zenawi is alive so long as the T-TPLF is alive.

Meles Zenawi is alive so long as Meles Zenawi prisons warehouse hundreds of thousands of political prisoners.

Meles Zenawi is alive so long as the T-TPLF makes Ethiopia its private resort (I did not say for sex tourism) and playground.

I wonder if my friend would have asked me to shut up if the victims of the Meles Massacres were my friend’s mother, father, sister, brother, relatives and friends. I wonder if my friend would have said, “Well, my family has been wiped out by Meles and his T-TPLF. You know, bad stuff happens. Let bygones be bygones. Forget about them. Move on!”

My answer is a simple question:  If I don’t speak for the victims of the Meles and T-TPLF massacres, who will? Who?

The day someone else takes the mantle to speak on their behalf, I will forever hold my peace. Until then, tune in every Monday to listen to the “Voice of the Meles Massacres”.

But the basic principle I am arguing for is that without remembering, there is no accountability for those who committed the crimes. Without accountability, the same crimes are repeated time and time again.

That has been the history of massacres and genocides in Africa. There is no accountability, therefore massacres take place everyday.

All Africans have a duty to remember, a duty not to be indifferent and duty to speak up when their brothers and sisters are victimized by thug regimes. It is easy for Africans to lull themselves into self-deception and say massacres always happen in Africa. Ho-hum! It is easy to say the massacres are flukes, isolated occurrences.

I understand that people who face constant suffering, people whose rights are violated constantly would rather forget than remember the past. It is too painful to remember. It is easier to forget or even doubt the occurrences of massacres.

To let a culture of massacre “Afrimenesia”  and “Ethiomensia”  flourish would be the greatest crime committed against the younger generation of Africans and generations to come.

Africa’s young people must live in a culture that condemns the ignoble maxim “might makes right”. Only right, the rule of just and fair laws, makes might.

To develop a culture of law, Africa’s youth must remember and must be reminded constantly that massacres sponsored by thug regimes must stop, NOW!

The crimes and massacres committed by thug regimes in Africa in the past must be scrutinized with rigorous historical analysis so that the younger and coming generations could learn from them and ensure they are never repeated.

That is why it is important for young Africans to remember and to learn the truth about the Sharpeville Massacre, the Marakina Massacre, the Kibera and Meles Massacres and so many other massacres that have occurred on the African continents.

Understanding the root causes of these atrocities and keeping the memories of the victims alive is the most powerful way of helping future generations prevent massacres.

Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

It could be equally said that Africa has been made a dangerous place to live — with rampant crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes — not because of the evil dictators alone, but more importantly because not enough good African people, particularly young ones, (and friends of Africa) are willing to stand up, speak out and do something about gross human rights violations on the continent.

I remember the SharpEVILle Massacre of March 21, 1960 in South Africa.

I remember the Marakina Massacre of August 16, 2012 in South Africa.

I remember the Kibera Massacres of December 2007 and January 2008 in Kenya. 

I remember the genocide in Rwanda and Darfur, Sudan.

I remember  the genocides and massacres committed by European colonist in Africa.

I remember the Meles Massacres of June 8, 2005 and November 1-10 and 14-16, 2005 in Ethiopia.

Won’t you join me in remembrance?


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