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The hope of generations

By Owei Lakemfa

I WAS absolved by various  reports on the collapse of the Socialist bloc from 1989 to 1992. Most of the reports took their theme song from the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was particularly engrossed in the “Velvet Revolution” in the old Czechoslovakia which began to unfold from the November 17, 1989 students demonstrations.

It was a revolution  based on a lie, which when told many times over by political agitators and the CIA-funded Radio Free Europe, began to wear the garb of truth and was believed by the masses.

The country was a unique one founded on November 14, 1918 by the voluntary unity of seven million Czechs, three and half million Germans, two million Slovaks, 700,000 Hungarians and 450,00 “Ruthenes”. The new country combined the names of the Czechs and Slovaks.

World War II saw it  over run by Hitler’s Germany. In the post-war 1946 elections, the communists won 114 of the 300 seats and became the dominant political party. Over the years Czechoslovakia became quite industrialised and reform minded.

In November 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and the after shock, seven days later, propelled Czechoslovak students to take to the streets demanding concrete multi-partyism and release of political prisoners. There was a clash with the police and a lie was circulated that a student named Martin Smid was killed during the clash.

In truth nobody had died but the opposition decided to circulate the rumour in order to put pressure on the government. An unsuspecting populace was enraged that a student can be killed.

They took to the streets, and rather than confront its own citizens, the government within eight days handed over power to the opposition National Civic Forum led by writer, Vaclav Havel.

Unfortunately, the “revolution” also consumed the country; it led to the split of the unique federation into Czech and Slovak republics. Today, 20 years later, there is a hot debate in Czech whether the revolution was worth it, did it deliver?

The basic necessities of life the people had taken for granted in the old order has given way to social disparities and want. As for the November 17 commemoration of the “Velvet Revolution”, the International Herald Tribune of November 18, 2009  reported that “many Czechs said it was just another excuse to take a day off from work”.

Havel tried to rationalise his fellow citizens lukewarm attitude to the 20-year ‘revolution’ by arguing: “If you live in this ( communist era) for years and are then suddenly released, freedom becomes a burden”.

So in a world where  big business is merging and many people want bigger, stronger countries, unions  and ties, Czechoslovakia broke apart on lies , illusion and delusion.

I was reading and thinking of all these while sitting at the Frankfurt Airport. My thoughts were broken when a lady with Asiatic features sank in the sit beside me. “Is this the transit point to Geneva?” “Yes” She heaved a sigh of relief.

The airport is large and long and she seemed to have been walking for long. “You live in Geneva?” she asked “No” “What are you going there for?” “Conference. What about you?” “I’m going there to live for a short period, maybe three, four years”. “You got an employment there or you are on transfer?” “No, I’m joining my husband”.

“Where are you from?” “Korea” “Which Korea?” “Korea”. “No, I know there are two Koreas: Republic Of Korea in the South and the Democratic Peoples Republic in the North, so which of the two Koreas do you come from?” “No, there is only one Korea”.

“I see, then you must be from the North”. She smiled, nodding her head.  “ I studied the writings of Kim Il Sung in the university”. She brightened up. “ You did?” “Yes, privately of course”.

We discussed Kim and the Juche  idea for a short while. She was surprised that a Nigerian is familiar with Kim’s writings. On the other hand, I was amazed that after over 60  years of separation and a savage civil war that almost snowballed into a  Third World War, with the American war hero, General Douglas MacArthur seeking to use the atomic bomb, North Koreans still see the entire Korea as one.

It was an irony to me that Koreans are still struggling to reunite their country just as the Germans and Vietnamese  had succeeded in doing while the Czech and Slovaks threw away  their country. Like the Koreans, the Chinese are hoping to reunite their country which has for 60 years now seen the remnants of the Chiang Kai-shek regime holding on to Taiwan as a breakaway republic

The reasons for the split of Germany into East and West, Vietnam and Korea into North and South and China into the mainland and Taiwan were primarily due to the Cold War and the rivalry of the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States of America (USA).

Now that the USSR has disintegrated, the Warsaw Pact has dissolved leaving only NATO, and the world becoming effectively unipolar, there are no longer reasons why peoples should be split unless they so desire.

It is still morning in the Barack Obama administration; this might just be the administration that made the world a safer and better place than it met it. It can do so by helping to end needless and endless conflicts and wars  such as those in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing to reality the two – state solution in the Palestine and encouraging the reunification of countries like Korea and China.


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