Sankofa. It is an African word from the Akan tribe of Ghana, Africa, which literally translates to “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind” and derived from the root words SAN, which means to return, KO, which means to go, and FA, which means to seek. I think a reference on that principle is key when I sit and reflect upon where we are politically and especially for someone like me who wishes to analyze how it is that we got here and how we as a collective can build consciousness to progress. In conversation with my elders, I often tell them that they have done us a grave injustice by not infusing into our societal tapestry the struggles they endured to have us be here, whether that perspective be one that celebrates how far we have come as a nation state or whether we are suffering from an internal hemorrhage that does not seem to carry any air of urgency.
I sat at the April 12th, 2019 special sitting of the House of Representatives, a meeting spurred by an injunction filed by claimants of the opposition against the Prime Minister of Belize, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Attorney General and Chief Elections Officer to halt the anticipated ICJ referendum that was to be held on April 10, 2019. This sitting was to present, debate and pass a newly drafted Belize Territorial Dispute Referendum Bill. The meeting was filled with fanfare as anyone would have expected and complete with protestors amassing on the steps of Independence Hill in the Belmopan heat. Inside the chambers, I watched as parliamentarians engaged in a jostle of words across the floor of the Madam Speaker’s House. A thrilling spectacle for me! The story of the day, though, came out of representative for the people of Fort George and Former Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Said Musa. He started by chronicling the timeline of the claim based on his knowledge and then said gasp-inducing words that he would be abstaining from the day’s vote. This was said in tandem with maintaining that he is PUP — I assume to ensure that he was not toeing the ‘Crossing the Floor’ legislation— and maintained his yes to the ICJ position, which aroused a standing ovation from the now Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Dean O. Barrow. This then triggered a proper tongue-lashing and shade-throwing from his colleague, Hon. Julius Espat, who mentioned that “we are where we are in this country because of the last two leaders that we have had.” I could not help but think back to our 2004-2006 political landscape. A situation I had previously been doing much reading on because it is a time marked by much civil unrest, the tentacles of austerity and a day which 7News archives notes as the most turbulent in political history when seven cabinet ministers signed a one-sentence resignation letter. A time when I was about 10 years old, a time when the Rt. Hon. Musa was prime minister of Belize.
In 2019, a time when Belizeans are to make the most existential decision of Belize’s and our lifetime, the Right Honorable is one of the persons at the center field once more. I would even dare to say that his contributions made on that sweltering April day was maybe his most honest. They say, whoever they is, that if you have to choose between being at peace with the world and at war with yourself or at peace with yourself and at war with the world the wise thing to do would be choosing the latter, and he proved to be wise. Mr. Musa is to my knowledge our longest sitting parliamentarian at age 75 and so has been on the field to bear witness to and influence some of Belize’s best and worst times. His leadership has with no doubt been tested and those of us who sit in any leadership position know that leadership is hard. I myself experienced this to some degree when I was thrust into leadership of the National Youth Council of Belize, so I speak with a level of expertise in that arena. On the ride home from the capital that night, my mind was trying to unravel how it is that the G7 times influenced what happened earlier during that sitting and how those historical times will continue to influence us in ways that we can’t even see. Those times that I do hope remain in the fore of the collective consciousness of Belizean people at home and abroad because political party history, whether shameful for them or not, is legitimate Belizean history. Until and only until we accept that as fact and make actionable the lessons from those times, free of pseudo ideologies of progression can we claim the victory that Walt Whitman speaks of in “O Captain! My Captain.” As a closing thought, Damian Marley packages the essence of this musing so beautifully in his song “Speak Life”, which for me is more of a poem and a prayer. It goes, “I feel like it’s a mystery how we can keep repeating our history, making the same mistakes as our ancestry. Seems like all of life lessons missed we. It’s risky.”