Advertisement 87
Advertisement 211
Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (iWN file photo)
Advertisement 219

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(“Plain Talk” Dec. 22, 2023)

Guest column by Clairmont Chung, a Guyanese lawyer, writer, film maker and progressive activist.

Indigenous citizens of Guyana and Venezuela must lead a challenge together against the idea of a border dispute. As the first “American” victims of European expansion, Indigenous “Americans” have an opportunity, and obligation, to lead the resistance against war, European expansion and resource seizure in the Americas as part of  a global, intentional, reconnection of all indigenous peoples hemmed-in by borders drawn by European settlers.

No one should feel left-out. We are all indigenous somewhere. Many of us have multiple indigeneities and therefore multiple levels of responsibility. The Warrao nation that straddles the Guyana/Venezuela border, the other eight nations in Guyana, the Maori in New Zealand, the Lenape in the USA, Inuit of Canada, Papuans, Africa’s Ogoni, Hausa, Tutsi, the Adivasi of India and the so-called Aborigines of Australia, all need to add their voices.

Advertisement 21

This is not about Guyana’s and Venezuela’s legal claims to the land. European nations fought endless wars among themselves and against Indigenous peoples to annex the world and to divide it among their empires. After all that, they get to preside over border disputes they created. There lies the problem.

Maybe, our logic was “they created the problem, let them solve it”, That logic is wrong. US troops at the border escalate the problem. A decision from the International Court of Justice will not end this conflict for us because the responsible parties are not in court. Until then, we continue as surrogates of the empires and at risk of becoming another front in their 500-year war.

But there is a way to peace and justice, but not without the understanding that when we fight over borders Europe created, we are fighting to expand a European project. That project is what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine. Nowhere on the planet is safe. Useless treaties and court rulings lay among the bodies sacrificed in this pursuit. They have drawn and redrawn borders and renamed capitals. Portuguese against Dutch, Spaniards against British, British against everybody and now the USA and NATO: European imperialism created a global mess for us. This is not about treaties and tribunals because none of it has ever mattered to the people who wrote them. For them it was development, but not so for us.

Being born anywhere has come to mean a promise of your life to defend a land in a war not of your own making. We inherited the problem. It’s unlikely that we can stop it and especially while voting with our feet. We do because we know whose children would be collateral to fight and to die. For now, the threatened war is political theatre: raising cheap nationalist sentiments.

Venezuela’s referendum is an example of this political opportunism. Referenda are almost always fraudulent. Even if the count is accurately tallied, it is still rigged because a “yes” or “no” answer cannot resolve historical and ongoing genocide. You don’t see mangled bodies of the innocent when you plant your “X”.

The potential horror possible in the Essequibo, is being telegraphed and televised in Gaza and Ukraine, Darfur and Congo. We cannot now say we did not know. There is a forced mass exodus globally with people attempting to cross borders looking for a better life. None is more instructive a warning than the herding of Palestinians from lifetime house arrest into a bare desert. This televised helplessness is triggering comparison with Indigenous Africans herded to ships bound for the Americas, to be worked to death.

Before the arrival of enslaved Africans, Europeans visited the same unspeakable cruelties on America’s Indigenous populations. It’s a great irony that conditions created then are continuing to force people from their homes and to cross into the USA or the Mediterranean into Europe and to relative safety.

It’s the oil stupid

The war between Ukraine and Russia is about oil and gas. Gaza’s oil and gas reserve is estimated at US$534 billion. Oil is energy for the whole project. Before that it was the energy of indigenous bodies everywhere that drove the project. Colonised peoples were forced to labour as the energy in building empires and are now partially replaced by industrialization and the new energy: oil and gas.

This project cares very little about race and ethnicity. These differences are important only to create sufficient discord so the work can continue. It does not even care about Europeans. The 65th Israeli soldier to die in the recent Gaza invasion was described as 20-year-old, Sgt. Yinon Tamir. That number is approaching 400 IDF soldiers. Europeans need to rediscover their indigeneity. The Resistance Project needs everyone. Africans and other ethnic groups are also in the Israeli army. They may not sit in the Knesset, but the army has always recruited us in their wars against us.

Thanksgiving dinner in the USA is a commemoration of the arrival of Europeans in the British American colonies of Virginia in 1619 and in Massachusetts in 1621, crossing of the Atlantic, and Indigenous generosity in saving those early immigrants from starvation. The same happened in Essequibo when the Dutch arrived and in New York too. But we rarely recall the genocide that followed. (The sacrifice and consumption of turkeys should serve as a metaphor for the indigenous peoples upon contact with Europeans and instruction for the rest of us separated from our indigenous identities.)

The title of Guyanese musician Dave Martin’s song, “Not a Blade of Grass” was converted from a statement of an Indigenous Chief resisting European expansion into western parts of what is now the USA. That song has become a rallying cry for Guyanese against Venezuelan claims and aggression to the Essequibo. And yes, President Maduro is the seeming enemy.

But the local actors are only acting out a script set elsewhere. It is Europe who should be on trial at the International Court of Justice for its role in creating global inequities and insecurities. Instead, Europe sits as the arbiter of aggression. meanwhile Israel’s Netanyahu will never see the inside of that court.

It is from this understanding a solution should emerge. We are all suffering under the weight of colonial annexation. We who were brought forcibly or otherwise coerced into coming can begin to connect our adopted borders to that imperial expansion and to see ourselves as victims of an ongoing war.

Also to see ourselves as the arbiters of peace and justice and to resist war by denying the machine what they need: our children; And to join in rejecting all forms of European intervention. Reattach what was separated. Offer a newer version of the Bolivarian revolution that the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez outlined to include all the countries of the region in a United States to resist further European control. We do not want as our legacy, a border bathe in blood and genocide. We want Cuffy, and Toussaint, and the end to slavery, finally.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

3 replies on “Saving the Essequibo from becoming another Gaza”

  1. A really powerful and thought-provoking essay. Thanks Jomo for presenting this on behalf of Clairmont Chung.

    Vinci Vin

  2. Jomo Essiquibo can never be another Gaza, they do not have the same characteristics. The topography and population are enough to make it impossible to have another Gaza.

  3. Maduro speaks with a fork tongue , on one hand he speaks as if he is an advocate for peace at the same time he is advocating war. He realized that the US marines are on the border and is just looking for any lame excuse the ramp up the antics.This can signal the end of the Maduro regime as we know it. Maduro should abide by the ruling of the ICJ which is imminent. It’s imperative he with draw his troops from Ancoco island which was occupied in 1966.

Comments closed.