Jamaica Killings: What Should Africa Do?

Published on 31st May 2010

The cry: ‘Let My People Go!’ by former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Edward Seaga, is perpetuating the status quo of Africans killing one another in Tivoli. He has never been part of the solution. He cannot shake off the rivalry between him and Prime Minister Michael Manley whom he took over from.

It is not surprising that he is calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister of his Labor Party because Bruce Golding finally resolved to take on Christopher Coke. Jamaicans in Kingston still bear scars unleashed by thugs and drug dealers of both political parties. Since the seventies, some African/Jamaicans have not returned home due to incessant political violence that has deteriorated into murders by gangs and drug barons. Those at home have resigned to the mercy of ruthless gangsters.

Seaga used to represent West Kingston including Tivoli where an estimated seventy-seven people have died trying to flush out some gangs that have supported his Labor Party. The area is now represented by another Labor Prime Minister, Bruce Golding. Chris Coke is the strongman and a drug dealer wanted by United States but also a supporter of Labor Party. By trying to arrest him, many young African men under the age of thirty years have died.

Golding hired a law firm in the US to lobby with private contribution from Jamaica, so that US can drop their request for Chris Coke’s extradition. He claimed Coke’s wiretap by US was illegal. When he finally made up his mind to take back Tivoli and dislodge Coke’s gangsters, they started burning police stations and cars, demonstrating that they are ready to die for Coke. Coke was in full control of Tivoli where he controlled crimes, gave clothes, education, gangster and drug peddling jobs to youths. Some innocent women traders shuttling between United States and Jamaica were forced into drug mules. Christopher also sponsored weekly passa passa street dance.

When all negotiations with Christopher Coke to surrender failed, Golding finally realized that Coke has almost taken over the soul of Labor Party without the conscience of Jamaicans. If Seaga had the guts and had put the Country first instead of political gains, he would have taken back Tivoli from his thugs so that it would not have fallen on Golding’s lap. The feeling in Tivoli is that Golding, the Prime Minister has betrayed them and ready to arrest Coke as asked by United States for trial. 

Seaga’s seeking of support from people in his former constituency (now represented by Golding) against Bruce Golding is the problem with Africans. We want power by all means and are ready to raise thugs as supporters against our opponents. The father of Chris Coke, Lester or Jim Brown, died under controversial circumstances in a prison fire when the Government of Jamaica had enough of him and invaded his stronghold in 1992. Chris the son, fears the same fate because he knows about all the corrupt politicians.

Lester Coke was not as lucky to die of natural causes as our own strongman Adedibu of Ibadan. Chris Coke’s father and Adedibu lived a parallel life as thugs turned gangsters that became Frankenstein. They outgrew their political godfathers and became godfathers themselves. They infested the poor and the young providing succor where the government had failed and used that as a recruiting tool to attract young men as thugs.

As much as we [Africans] have our own problems, we ought not to watch our people inside or outside the Continent engage in self annihilation. Selfish politicians all over the world (be they Africans or not) ought to be condemned. It is even worse when those who never identify with us treat us like crabs in a barrel fighting and pulling one another down.

Most of the young men we see fighting and dying on the street in West Kingston look like us. Very few look like Edward Seaga. We are not sure if Seaga is more Lebanese than African, but he was chosen as the Prime Minister of Jamaica in the seventies after Michael Manley was defeated. He came into prominence as minister who developed his constituency in West Kingston Jamaica. Tivoli was one of the first government housing.

Politics in Jamaica is as fierce as in Africa. I almost lost a friend that happened to be a supporter of Seaga in a discussion at an international conference. She made it clear that if we were in Jamaica, writing with a bias for Manley, Seaga’s rival would have earned the writer some hard lesson.

Seaga has since become an elder statesman but like our Nigerian Obasanjo or Ghana’s Rawlings, refuses to quit the stage and still wants to be relevant. In the middle of a difficult time for Jamaica, when politics should take a back seat, Mr. Seaga said: Let My People Go! Where he wants them to go in Jamaica, we are not sure.

Fortunately, Nigeria has always supported Jamaica. If they need a peace-keeping force, they can apply for it through the usual United Nation channel or directly to Nigeria. Nigeria is always there to help and is internationally recognized for its peace-keeping efforts. 

By Farouk Martins Aresa
Farouk is a columnist with Nigerian Village Square.

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