HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsWhy war, if peace is what we want?

Why war, if peace is what we want?


I was born during World War II. As little boys, after the war, we played dangerous games with left-over ammunition. Later, on my way to school, I walked every day through a bombed-out city.

When rebuilding houses the builders often found unexploded bombs, sometimes dead bodies of civilians killed in bombing raids as well. No more war, became the slogan.

Germans and French had been killing each other in their millions in three wars in less than a hundred years.

We listened with fascination and great relief to the first post-war German chancellor explaining in parliament his strategy for peace between France and Germany through economic cooperation and human ties between young French and young Germans.

I spent my last school vacations as a volunteer on a building site in France helping French villagers build a school.

But there was still the Cold War. Atomic bombs on both sides kept a delicate balance between the great powers of East and West through mutual deterrence.

This was infinitely more dangerous than our playing as small boys with discarded bullets for which we had our bottoms smacked. But who knocked the heads of Cold War leaders together to make them see the extremely dangerous game they were playing, in an arms race that cost trillions, not of Zimbabwean, but hard currency?

I was in Berlin when the Berlin wall was built cutting through a city and a country, cutting family and friendship ties between people. I saw Belfast and its burnt-out, blackened lines of brick cottages where the Irish Republican Army and the British Army had been battling it out.

Much later I saw the Berlin walls which were supposed to protect Jerusalem and Bethlehem from Palestinian rockets.

And I lived through seven years of war in this country. Remembering friends and countless, nameless ordinary people who had not survived, we swore, once more, No more war.

But did we learn anything? Did we throw the guns down? Did we decide never to pick them up again? Not at all.

The guns were buried alright, but the spots where they lay hidden were clearly marked. It took only three years for the guns to speak again, in Matabeleland.

Readers are old enough to know the rest. Violence has never been abandoned. Like an evil spirit that possesses people it keeps haunting us. There is now an arm of the government working for reconciliation and national healing.

Even those always glorifying revolutionary violence claim now that they pursue peace. But on one condition; that their position of power is not touched. In other words; they want peace, but they want it for nothing. They are not prepared to pay the price. They want their cake and eat it too.

And they do not want to face the truth. No truth and reconciliation for them. They have, in a rare moment of honesty or was it just a slip of the tongue ? , admitted the madness of Gukurahundi. But they have not accepted responsibility for the madness.

They do not see their guilt, or at least will not admit it publicly, and thus do not ask for forgiveness. So they cannot be forgiven.

Those who are asked to forgive are being told: Forgiveness does not mean that you submit to injustice or let people walk all over you or that you do not stand up for your rights.

Nor does it mean that forgiveness should be all one-sided. The person who causes the hurt should help bring forgiveness into being by saying: I was wrong, I am sorry, I should not have done that, forgive me. (Catholic Bishops of Zimbabwe, 2009). Nor does forgiveness mean that we have to pretend that the past atrocities never really happened, or that they must be swept under the carpet.

Nor is forgiveness a matter of sentimentality, of emotions and feelings. You will never be friends with the people who have tortured you, burnt down your house, raped your sister and killed your son.

But you may eventually be able to say, probably after a long inner struggle; I do not judge. I do not condemn. If you are a believer you may perhaps be able to say; God alone is the judge. I leave it to him.

But the real culprits do not ask for forgiveness as a first step towards reconciliation. They are afraid that if they do so they will lose their wealth and positions of power.

They cannot admit that they really have no moral claim to their newly-found prosperity and well-being. It takes indeed great courage to admit ones guilt and accept responsibility for the mess we are in, a ruined economy resulting in unemployment for the urban majority, overcrowding and lack of housing, hunger, disease and emigration.

Pope Benedictwrote in his recent letter to Africa:Reconciliation has to be accompanied by a courageous and honest act: the pursuit of those responsible for these conflicts, those who commissioned crimes and who were involved in trafficking of all kinds, and the determination of their responsibility. Victims have a right to truth and justice.

It is important for the present and for the future to purify memories, so as to build a better society where such tragedies are no longer repeated.

Forgiving is not forgetting. In fact, there is no reconciliation without remembrance, no peace without truth. All political manoeuvres to achieve reconciliation will come to nothing if there is no inner transformation.

Unless the power of reconciliation is created in peoples hearts, political commitment to peace lacks its inner premise. The Letter to Africa calls it pre-political, a change of heart.

People who defend their power and wealth are prepared to live a lie. It takes courage and is risky to face the truth: Gukurahundi was not just madness, it was wholesale murder. It need not have happened. It could have been prevented.

Current sporadic township violence is not an inevitable happening. Hapanazvokuita there is nothing we can do. Not at all. It happens because certain identifiable people make it happen. Will they ever admit that that is what they did, knowingly and willingly?

Anyone my age has lived through many wars. No more war, we say. We want peace. But peace only comes after the wounds caused by wars have been healed, the ruins have been cleared away for rebuilding, hearts have been purified.

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