Way back in the day, Marvin Gaye crooned this plea even as the Civil Rights struggles of MLK and Malcolm X had been waged: “Mother, mother/ There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother/There’s far too many of you dying/ You know we’ve got to find a way/ To bring some lovin’ here today, yeah/ Father, father/ We don’t need to escalate/ You see, war is not the answer/ For only love can conquer hate/You know we’ve got to find a way/ To bring some lovin’ here today”.
Well, fifty years later, the plea’s still being made by People of African Descent– including Guyana. But at least the UN heard their cries and in late 2014 declared an “International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) 2015-2024) under the theme, “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development”. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) took the lead to strengthen actions and measures to ensure their full realisation of the economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights…and their full and equal participation in society.
The Decade provides an operational framework to encourage States to eradicate social injustices inherited from history and to fight against racism, prejudice, and racial discrimination to which people of African descent are still subjected. The PPP Govt welcomed the initiative and noted they’d already facilitated the creation of a Guyana Reparations Committee under the chairmanship of African political activist Eric Philips, who’d been their trenchant critic of African rights.
However, all of this occurred just as we became embroiled in electoral changeover as the APNU/AFC coalition checkmated the PPP in 2011 and assumed power in 2015. The PNC then decided to pass on the initiative in 2017 to a group formed by most of the Afrocentric groups in Guyana – IDPADA-G and funded it to the tune of $100 million annually. IDPADA–G was headed by Vincent Alexander, the PNC representative on the gatekeeper for political power – otherwise known as GECOM!! In our ethnically-dominated politics since the 1950s – even before Marvin Gaye!! – it was inevitable that politics and IDPADA-G’s activities would be seen as political. That’s just the way the political cookie crumbles in Guyana!!
Well, after the PPP was elected back into office in 2020, relations with IDPADA-G did become testy after the Ministry of Culture asked in 2022 to see how the $500 million disbursed to them by then had been spent. Not satisfied with the disbursements, the Ministry decided to work directly with the constituent Afro-centric groups.
IDPADA-G took them to the Courts, which advised the two sides to settle the matter between themselves!!
…at the UN??
In the meantime, the UN Agencies that had been given the mandate to follow through to ensure that States “eradicate social injustices inherited from history and to fight against racism, prejudice, and racial discrimination” were holding meetings to find out the ongoing status. There was one meeting in Geneva by the OHCHR’s “Permanent Forum on People of African Descent” earlier this year at which IDPADA-G made several presentations.
Then this month there was another meeting of the Permanent Forum in NY where this time the Government and IDPADA-G both made presentations. It became very clear that the two sides are still very far apart in their evaluation of the status of African Guyanese – as far as the UN goals are concerned. The government’s contention – as articulated in a letter to the press this week – is that there are constitutional and statutory provisions in place to deal with all of the discrimination, etc, being claimed by IDPADA-G.
However, the major bone of contention isn’t just the interpretation of IDPADA-G’s facts presented – but the misrepresentation of those facts!! That’s political!!
…with educational dorms??
Seems there are 24 school dorms in the country. A UNICEF survey highlighted their “deficiencies”. Almost half of the students think they should get a stipend!! Never mind the State’s already footing their lodging and boarding!!