I've been silent over the last few weeks, unsure of what would be right to post next, and instead of writing, mostly reading the various reports, increasingly horrifying out of Cote D'Ivoire. I am always uncertain what is worth saying, what I can add, when so many professional journalists are telling the story first-hand, or analyzing the situation so astutely.
Nonetheless, I want to express sorrow, anger, frustration, disappointment, and disbelief that I feel now that it has all happened again.
Women were raped, then hacked to death with machetes. Girls were raped in front of their families. Whole families were shot. Babies died on their mother's back, their bodies left on the dusty road in the tropical sun.
Young Liberian men marched through the bush, destroying what small, destitute bits of human existence they came across. What few possessions people had come by in their difficult, marginal lives were abandoned as they fled for their homes, cut down by bullets and blades, torn, violated, destroyed.
A once-thriving West African capital's normally-bustling market is burned and bullet-holed. Shops and homes are looted and destroyed. Office blocks are empty, ministries are vandalized. A government, already weak and dysfunctional, is even more crippled, mistrusted, and ineffectual.
Families are separated, loved ones are dead. Children starved, and are starving. Individuals, families and villages have been exterminated due to their language, ethnicity, appearance, location, or possessions.
At what scale is called genocide?
It has all happened again. Sierra Leone and Liberia from ten and twenty years ago is Cote D'Ivoire from two weeks ago. Nothing is different, nothing has changed. There is a new cycle of pain, trauma, and vengeance to either address, or once again ignore.
The United Nations, the African Union, the French, and the other parties do not get a passing grade or better marks for improvement just because the fighting didn't continue into state-wide open warfare. These foreign powers, African, European, American, made the region a low priority, not in the last four months but in the last three decades, usurping it only for their own needs, not the welfare of its many helpless and hopeless people.
Gbagbo is to blame, and Ouattara is to blame. The shame of these crimes stretches from their private apartments, down to the recruiters in the borderland, those making promises to idle youth to come and fight. Those young men are to blame, too, for being willing to bring hell on earth for the chance at $500, for their insane, random violence.
I keep thinking, over the last few weeks, as I have been working, traveling, eating dinner, going to the gym... What was I doing at the exact moment that that baby died? Where was I that morning when that village was burned and looted? Did I do anything different? Could I sense it? A flinch, a pang of pain in my back, as I sat on the train, ran on the treadmill, closed my eyes and slept through the night... did it effect me at all? Could I feel it?