I remember the first time I saw raw images of war crimes & crimes against humanity… what I saw then cannot be erased, what I feel today cannot be undone… it is as if finally coming face to face with the crimes I work daily to end awoke in me a deeper understanding of why peace and justice are so important. Which brings me to an issue that never ceases to irk me… the seemingly blase attitude of African heads of state to the realities that Africans are facing every day… and continued disrespect for both peace and justice. There is so much chaos in Africa, yet the heads of state will sit & discuss a bunch of theoretical propositions. Don’t get me wrong, its worth talking about “economic integration”, but it’s an ideal we may never realise *stares at Europe*. We have bigger problems than trying to mirror European trends. We have war, impunity, bad governance and a general lack of respect for the rule of law and human rights. Yet our “leaders” are meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this week to primarily discuss economic integration. Issues of peace, security and justice are likely to be discussed on the sidelines. There is a glaring absence of sessions to discuss justice on the agenda. In fact, you can be forgiven for believing that as far as African leaders are concerned, justice is a non-issue. They will spend their week in air conditioned halls pretending like all is peachy across the continent. They will waste yet another week talking abt economic integration! Considering most African countries rely on donor funding for their budgets anyway, I dare ask: Whose “economy” are they proposing to integrate exactly? But, like I always say… People often get the presidents they deserve. We (the people of Africa) like to “sit back” & let raging megalomaniacs do what they wish THEN (& only then) do some of us “uprise”. These “leaders” are our products. Most of them ride on the coattails of misplaced support. Most of them – self-imposed additional terms aside – are people who we allowed to seize power. And where we did not, somehow we still find it in ourselves to “at least” respect them. For what? For plundering our nations resources? For systematically violating human rights? For corrupt (and generally just bad) governance? If we paid as much respect to the basic values of human rights, good governance & rule of law, as we do presidents… Who we let govern us is an indictment on us. Autocracies do not “just happen”. We, let’s face it, give them the space to thrive. Today, someone somewhere is being tortured to death… tomorrow it could be you. Give voice to the voiceless, legs to limbless… you are not human if you do not respect human rights. You are not human if you do not respect human rights.