A Certain War Storytelling

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What about our mothers?

Ever since the Russia — Ukraine war started, we, the public, have been bombarded by numerous videos, photos of the reality of this war. Some would like to believe that bloody conflicts are a foreign concept on European soil but those people are modifying European history. I have tried my best not to let myself be flooded by information especially after having spent two years under lockdown, free speech has been defined as one way conversation.

As I continue to surf the net and mind my own business, I am often reminded by headlines of how insensitive or/and racial the conflict has been portrayed by “mainstream media”. Being on social media, I was able to see videos of Africans being treated by the Ukranians that reminded me of the equation of war, “chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous”.

What is the reality of somewhere who is trying to flee bombs flying over his/her head, well, it is priorities is one’s safety. It is a harsh and ugly survival mode.

War is ugly, war is unfair, war brings trauma for generations, I pray for maybe one traumatized generation and not four.

When wars were and are still happening in African countries or in the Middle East, the populations have been portrayed as resilient or being used to losing family & friends. The West has been quick to synthese violent deaths as a normal thing in those parts of the world.

Ukraine is now a reminder to them that losing father, mother, sister, brother, grandparents, cousins sometimes in one day, is not something that can be synthesized in 140 words plus a hashtag. The problem now is the discrimination against Russians (take a moment to process what I wrote, Russians and not Russia the country), again, is a reminder of a narrative by some pundits who happened to “scream” the loudest. I am aware that from stories from side to side differ completely but living in a country, France, that prides itself on diversity, the case of everyday Russians has been discarded at best. Again, this is no essay for the ones funding the war.

Two months into this horror, I wondered how our mothers were able to cope with such violent realities and at the same time, “go on” with their own lives. I wonder how they were able to start families with an understanding that children will be brought up in war zones, will grow up scared, in most cases, some will die. I wonder where their strength came from. Or what is insanity?

I saw a headline from the Russian war; I was taken aback by a headline of a mother who was going to give birth, who lost her child and later died after an explosion hit her safe place. How many have I heard journalists share casually the number of immigrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean sea, some children, some pregnant ones. I wonder if I became like the ones who confess out loud that seeing a “Ukrainian” refugee is more tragic than perhaps an “Afghani”one. I will not go as far as to write about a Congolese child because you know, over there, they are resilient. It is a daily thing.

Having lived in a country that does not believe in much free speech since the 1990s, it is safe to say that I have heard a lot of things growing but one thing I never managed to grasp is the number of Burundian people who died since 1993. We are in 2022.

I still can’t process the loss of so many of my compatriots on grounds I still don’t grasp. And I am 34!

I am writing this for you to not be tempted to think that I am foreign to trauma, to pain and to the realities of injustice. I am, what you call, a collateral. I grew up in times where bombs would fly over our house, grenades will explode in the neighborhood then wake up in the morning and go to school. Make sure to not be late, because … I knew about AK-47 at a very young age and it was not thanks to Rambo.

Nowadays, I wonder how our parents managed to handle the fear of losing us, the fear of losing everything they have known, everything they have built. I grew up hearing of friends whose parents have fled the country or simply were killed. I grew up in a family whose adopted cousin lost her entire family … until years later she was reunited with her blood sister. How do you explain this to the children? Like most parents, you don’t — you do this instead, go with the flow.

How about the ones who never had a break because they were born outside the more secure capital? How do you reconcile the fact that in most cases, children never knew much about their grandparents, about where their parents grew up before moving into the city? Most do lose a sense of belonging, then, the solution, go with the flow.

During my teenage years, I was surrounded by music, movies, sport and literature, things that help me see the world outside my bubble. I knew life was unfair and nobody seemed to challenge that.

Why was I born here? Why did I have to go through all of this?

As an adult, am I a better person because of it or does it hinder my relationships? Am I a trusting person or a fearful one?

One thing that seems to not have challenged my take from it all is the ignorance that outsiders have of a war based on Hollywood movies. I have seen so many war movies to know that most of the “journalistic” accounts are sponsored by Disneyland.

Now that a certain reality has set in Europe about how the consequences of one or a gang of people can jeopardize the lives of millions, my optimistic side is hoping to see the same for “white” refugees being similar to the “browns and Africans ‘. Those who are already in the know are well aware that not every black life matters. Among our community of Africans, we are of a certain discrimination that is alive and well against sub saharian Africans i.e black Africans from the African American community. I see African in African American but let’s move on for the sake of the article.

Imagine for a second, someone covering the conflict and stating he feels more a Chadian than for a Ukrainian child. Can you hear the protest and the call to cancel me? Imagine for another second, taking a stand with Russia, the country, that the leaders are gambling big on their future but the need to protect their land is a maneuver that any patriot could comprehend. Picture this, the African Union standing with Russia for the need to stand against something African countries have been unable to thwart, US/European foreign intrusion. Could this be one of the reasons why many African countries have had a hard time denouncing Russia? I guess the Ukrainian president will be more understanding to African leaders if they do not align with his agenda. You just need to hear the current African Union chairperson, Senegalese and the Secretary General of Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rwandan, Louise Mushikiwabo to hear the diplomatic uneasiness.

The Ukrainian president has seen first hand how promises can be easily broken by allies that look like him and we have seen how his population has treated our brothers and sisters.

When the focus will again be in the Middle East for some geopolitical agenda, I hope pundits will be quick to point out that Yemenites do not deserve to suffer or that Iranians are not evil. Bringing clarity will help them and many who are ready to point out the evil Russians by developing anti Russians sentiments. I have yet to travel to Iran or Russia, the day will come where I hope to experience the legendary hospitality of both countries.

War destroys souls.

When the time comes to start a family, I know my children will be brought up in a world, where evil has been defined as good and good evil, where wisdom is in short supply and leadership is a concept that might be obscur to many. Is this insanity on repeat?

Still for obvious reasons, I want to bring up my children in a peaceful land and I will never be ok with violence and injustice.

Social media can be used as a tool to learn from others and connect with the world. Why not try to connect with everyday Russians, to understand what the war means to them and how it is really affecting them (I have heard many on the streets or in the subway about how fearful and anxious they have become knowing that this could happen to them, in France). Flash news, something similar did happen under Vichy not long ago, they just needed to check with their grandparents. Anyway, hear from the people who cannot work, who cannot pay their mortgages because their banking system has been put on hold. Why not connect with the Russians who are living in France, UK, Germany to hear from them. Knowing that nobody seems to hold the monopoly on the truth, I bet some might understand the geopolitical strategies of their president where others might be appalled. Again, after two years, it is really difficult to trust any Western leader.

And for those who cancel shows, representations, and overall demonizing the Russians, you might learn the hard way that today is them but tomorrow it might, could, will be you.

For those living in France and who have been around for some time, remember the time when Le Pen père was demonised for everything he stood for? I do remember the 2002 elections. Fast forward, Le Pen fille : 2017 and 2022.

Wind is in your favor now, tomorrow you might find yourselves in deep waters.

On this past weekend of Passover and Easter, I am continously praying not only for my country, but also France, Russia, Ukraine, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Albania, Iran and those countries that still have conflicts that linger, known and unknown.

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alex nyamoya boyi

Kirundi & Frenglish. Entrepreneur working in the media sphere by producing podcasts & consultant in tourism, sports & tech in Africa. Instagram & Twitter.