Africa’s Leaders are ‘fiddling while Rome burns’

Fiddling while Rome burns

The mad Roman Emperor Nero was a great lover of music and is said to have played his fiddle while Rome burned in a great fire that destroyed most of the city in 64 AD. Whether true or not, this legend and its associated phrase, “to fiddle while Rome burns” has come to mean doing trivial things even when one is aware that something disastrous is happening.

It is not too difficult to compare, metaphorically and literally, Nero’s behaviour with what our continent’s leaders are doing. The issue of pulling out of the ICC highlights this, the AU will hold a summit to decide whether to pull out of the ICC or not.

Now, as I have said before, I think the ICC is ineffective and discriminatory and African leaders have a strong case. My problem however is that there are more pressing issues on the continent, and honestly speaking this ICC business is really only of interest to Sudan and Kenya- two countries whose leaders are accused of heinous crimes.

The proposed summit will most probably result in African leaders agreeing to pull out of the ICC. Whether that is a good or bad thing is hotly contested but elsewhere the continent burns.

In other words there are more pressing matters that require African leaders to hold summits.

Take for example the recent deaths of hundreds of refugees and migrants trying to reach the Italian coast.

Rows of coffins containing the bodies of Africans who drowned of the Italian coast last week. (from the Guardian)

Rows of coffins containing the bodies of Africans who drowned of the Italian coast last week. (from the Guardian)

Since the late 1990s, more than 15000 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross into Europe. The vast majority of these are Africans. This year alone an estimated 12000 – 30000 people have attempted the dangerous crossing. Last week about 300 people died off the coast of a small Italian island called Lampedusa filling the sea with bodies. A distraught mayor of the town told Italian TV: “The sea is full of bodies, it’s a horror without end. How much longer can this go on? This had to stop.”

Yesterday another boat capsized near Sicily and more than thirty people are reported to have died.

Yet African leaders have not held an emergency summit to discuss this tragedy and question why Africans are dying trying to get to Europe.

There have been no special summits to discuss how to end war, poverty and disease on the continent. The Egyptian crisis, the Arab Spring, numerous coups, Boko Haram, Al shabab and other events have largely bypassed the African Union. At the most all they give is a weak condemnation.

Our leaders continue to fiddle while the continent burns. They don’t care, they can drink and dance on the ruins.

Majoring in Minors, Minoring in Majors

Closer to home, there were reports last week that the government had summoned the American ambassador over the frisking of Foreign Affaiors Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi at an American airport. Of course, Minister Mumbengegwi must be treated like the diplomat that he is but he cannot be too offended by experiencing just once what ordinary people go through each day.

The story reminded me of one of my friends who in his days as a student leader liked to accuse the authorities of “majoring in minors and minoring in majors.”

It seems he was right, why was no one summoned by top officials when a man died after spending an unreasonable time in a queue trying to licence his car? Why is no one summoned for the bureaucracy that is killing our country?

The passport offices are slow, corrupt, inefficient and backward.

Why is there no transparency on one of the world’s biggest diamond fields? Incidents of corruption costing the country millions of dollars are brushed aside as unimportant.

This “majoring in minors” habit is why during our elections as little time as possible was spent on telling the people the national vision and plans for the future. Instead all we got was talk of Tsvangirai’s face, his wife and his affairs. As a result, two months after elections there is no evidence of things getting any better, just a steady decline in services.

You know there is something seriously wrong with a country when the news bulletin regularly has a story of one of the employees getting married or a lead story of a minister so and so who “has described his late mother as a loving woman.”

That is majoring in minors and minoring in majors, and we, as Africans, have perfected that.

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2 thoughts on “Africa’s Leaders are ‘fiddling while Rome burns’

  1. Moyo, the issues dzana Boko Haram dzinoita slow because dzinonzi the UN is taking care of them. Court cases and arrest warrants have long been issued, They cripple us because they dont care. they are playing the fiddle whilst Rome burns. If we try to address the issues tega, we will be accused of overriding the UN and challenging its mandate… like zvatakaitwa when we participated in the Congo war. Europe is responsible for the long term suffering in Africa, they create a situation that attracts poor Africans to their countries for cheap labour…… they create a vacuum, we fall in

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