African viewpoint: Pock-marked politics
In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, film-maker and columnist Farai Sevenzo reflects on Africa's democracy and new wars of terror.
A third of the year 2012 is nearly over and we can take stock if we are that way inclined - and conclude that it has been a bloody year in parts of our continent now more used to blood than rain.
Or we could rejoice in the orderly transition of the Senegalese elections, and be thankful that Mali's soldiers have had a change of heart in their pursuit of a coup led regime, and that the people of Malawi's constitution triumphed in their hour of need as the late Bingu wa Mutharika became yet another African leader to die in office.
Correspondents could cover up to 29 coups in a lifetime during the 20th Century”
But in the scales of triumph and disaster we cannot have failed to notice the bloodletting which continues unabated in the Horn of Africa, in the Maghreb and in northern Nigeria.
We have been told by the experts that "global jihad is being sustained through Africa" and that "recent attacks in Nigeria… insurgency in Somalia and turmoil in Mali underline that the jihadist challenge may be migrating to Somalia, Kenya, north Nigeria and the borderlands of some of the vast territories of West Africa".
Over in Mogadishu a large and long-running peace mission (read: guns, war, dead Ugandans, Burundians, Kenyans and Ethiopians fighting to keep the Islamist al-Shabab at bay) was dealt a blow when Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali's speech to celebrate a year in existence of Somali TV was interrupted by a bomb at the Mogadishu National Theatre.
In one blast the head of Somalia's Olympic Committee and the president of the country's football association lost their lives, while many members of the journalism fraternity present were gravely injured while simply doing their jobs.Easter bombs
This bloodletting, as we have seen in other parts of the planet is harder to combat because it has its roots and conviction in religious faith.
The faithful - and they seem to be all around us this century - would like to turn the clock back in northern Nigeria, northern Mali and, of course, Somalia to a time none of us living have seen but which, we are assured, renders their faith purer and unsullied by the imperfections of the modern world.
Ironically, al-Shabab's communications team, however, has embraced Twitter - that megaphone of the 21st Century for character-challenged publicity seekers - and we learn from their profile, for example, that "Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen is an Islamic movement that governs South & Cen Somalia & part of the global struggle towards the revival of Islamic Khilaafa".
The enemy, though, for this particular brand of faith is everywhere, and the bomb which nearly claimed the prime minister's life in the National Theatre was strapped, according to the Mogadishu officials, on the body of a 16-year-old girl who can only be more of a victim than a martyr.
End Quote Writer John Updike
Conquerors and governments pass before the people as dim rumours, as entertainment in a hospital ward”
And what is more, scores of African soldiers seem to be paying the ultimate price to contain this growing threat and it is difficult to gauge how long it will take to end it all.
Over in Nigeria as Christians marked Christmas last December, Boko Haram struck a church with devastating effect. And now as Christians marked Easter Sunday, it seems that Boko Haram may be behind the two car bombs that exploded in a crowded area in Kaduna.
This battle of faiths is one that will pull us all in different directions and there is no sign that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is any closer to getting an authoritative handle on the situation.Gentle persuasion?
Meanwhile Mali reminded us all that the coup is still our continent's most likely source of a sudden change of government. From Libya's Muammar Gaddafi to Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile Mariam, men in uniform became heads of state and correspondents could cover up to 29 coups in a lifetime during the 20th Century.
Even in this century a splattering of presidents came from the barracks and only last year we had Guinea following that well-trodden path.
"Conquerors and governments pass before the people as dim rumours, as entertainment in a hospital ward," wrote John Updike in his novel The Coup.
And laughter for the sick is a painful thing.
Mali's Capt Amadou Sanago, the head of this coup, has been gently persuaded to abandon his putsch by an economic blockade and a lack of support from the regional body Ecowas.
In exchange for an amnesty for the captain and his men, the economic embargo would be lifted and the captain must hand power to the head of the national assembly - Diouncounda Traore - to organise national elections within 40 days of the power transfer.
The death of a president in Malawi and the successful transition of power to a female president in Joyce Banda can be seen as a miracle of sorts”
But those national elections, should they happen on schedule, may well not include large chunks of northern Mali.
For as Capt Sanago was taking over power in Bamako, Tuareg rebels said to have been once fighting for the dead Colonel Gaddafi led a rebellion in the north and took over large chunks of the country, including three key towns that included Timbuktu, a city of staggering significance to the continent for its cultural and religious importance.
The Tuareg rebels have been unclear about their rumoured alliance with Ansar Dine, yet another radical Islamist group that is part of the new northern Mali nation the rebels have named Azawad.
Ansar Dine are rumoured to have even closer ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
And so this vast region, that is home to the Djinguereber Mosque, Timbuktu's oldest mosque built in 1325, may soon see rocket-propelled grenades smashing into its ancient towns as various sides try to establish control.
We only have to look at Mogadishu's pock-marked visage to imagine what northern Mali's towns will one day look like, should these wars of faith head that way.
Given these events, the death of a president in Malawi and the successful transition of power to a female president in Joyce Banda can be seen as a miracle of sorts.
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