Politics knows no permanent enemy, is it true?
By Christopher Sebit
Of all political theories I have so far encountered in my scholarly life, I always find myself in direct, absolute confrontation with concocted truth underlying the statement that there is no permanent enemy in politics. On several occasions, I terribly disagreed with those politicians who argue in favour of the statement. My justification for holding such a radical divergent view is that the supporters of the statement couldn’t see the hypocrisy shaping and influencing the thinking of power seekers, who are in continuous disagreement and confrontation with the bulk of the population in a country.
The change in the behaviour of one’s political enemy is not necessarily linked to genuine feeling of co-operation, but rather it is linked to temporary deceit that gradually undermines the spirit of co-operation itself with changes in political environment. Hypocrisy is deceit. In a country, the power seekers, who were used as oppressive tools by the dictatorial regime, had hypocritically shifted their allegiance to the liberation political party that seized power from the oppressors. The power seekers were quickly rewarded with the constitutional positions at the expense of qualified, patriotic comrades with outstanding liberation record, who deserved those positions. Has the trend of events in that country changed? The answer is a capital no.
The trend of events has not changed, and it appears to be irreversible. What will happen if power moves to the hands of other rivaling political parties? Without wasting a minute, the power seekers will definitely shift allegiance to the new ruling parties—thus picking enmity with the political party that took power from the oppressors. Again if the liberation party comes to power for the second time, the power seekers will abandon the other parties and get married to the liberation party. This vicious cycle implies that interest is permanent, but enmity varies in any given political context. This is the point of contest. In the author’s view, enmity like interest may stay permanently for quite a length of time if the root causes of the conflict are not adequately addressed. Unhealed trauma is one of the major root causes of conflict in societies. It is transferable from generations to generations— thus perpetuating enmity. Successful conflict resolution processes transform the conflict or trauma at all the levels of community: personal, relational, cultural and structural— thus minimizing the gravity and continuity of enmity.
Minor conflicts involving individuals or groups may be resolved amicably and these individuals or groups are reconciled and expected to resume harmonious life. Enmity as such is assumed to be terminated and is not, to a greater extent possible, expected to reoccur. However, in a situation of serious conflict, where individuals and groups experience severe traumas and deep hatreds that have not been subjected to a credible and satisfactory healing process, it is illogical to assume that the individuals or groups can be haphazardly reconciled and expected to coexist harmoniously in the light of a sluggish and fragile peace agreement.
As long as the offenders or perpetrators stay far away from restorative and retributive justice processes and the victims of their actions are accorded zero compensation, the likelihood of the enmity staying for decades is higher. For this very reason, it is not true to say that politics knows no permanent enemy. The reverse is true. Politics is home for permanent enemies under a great deal of circumstances. For example, the political atmosphere in many places around the world is enough evidence to tell us that there are permanent interests as well as permanent enemies in politics.
What can we say about the power seeks who have not parted with power for more than three decades? Are they not living in continuous conflict and hatred with the deprived citizens? Yes they are. What about members of a community who despite lacking credentials and technical know-how, are imposed by the ruling regime as representatives of their people in government? Imposed incompetent political representatives are in serious conflict with their people. They are hypocrites. They pretend as if enmity doesn’t exist between them and the deprived citizens. Hypocrisy disguises enmity. Hypocrisy is enmity by itself. It nurtures and makes enmity assume permanency. Sometimes, deep enmity leads to fragmentation of a country into several states or regions.
A political environment characterized by excessive subversion of democracy provides ground for perpetuation of extensive conflicts, tensions, hatreds and enmity. And in the absence of feasible way to healing accumulated wounds or finding appropriate solutions to the present conflicts within a society, enmity continues to rise indefinitely. Enmity that tends to rise dramatically in the direction of infinity is what can be described as permanent or stable enmity. It is a setback to peacebuilding efforts and peaceful cohesion.
Can we get rid of permanent enmity and open way for just peace and embark on development projects benefiting the present and the coming generations? Yes it is possible to do that provided that we change our political attitudes. We need to avoid employing public servants on ethnic lines. Let employment be based entirely on merit lines. That is the right person must be put in the right place. It is useless and disgusting to continue entertaining incompetent and unproductive power seekers, whose interest is enmity. They must be asked to pack and go where they can fit in. Enough is enough. We need outward looking mentalities. Inward looking mentalities have destroyed our ability to govern ourselves peacefully and democratically.
We want peace and development now, not tomorrow. The warring parties must stop this senseless war before it is too late. May God the father guide and give us strength and wisdom as we strive to forge a true democratic state (not a theoretical nation-state) capable of embracing harmonious coexistence of ethnic groups!