It’s tempting to think of the current violence in Jamaica as a local matter, a clash between a slum lord “don” and a failed government, a bomb that was waiting to explode when an attempt to arrest gang leader Christopher “Dudus” Coke (photo above) ignited the fuse.
In an article exploring the popularity of Jamaican crime figures like Dudus, the United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper declares:
Because parliamentarians have largely failed to improve the lives of their constituents, dons like Dudus are considered role models. They act as ‘fathers’ who ensure the children of single mothers go to school, or provide food for families struggling to make ends meet.
Hey, who does that remind me of? Wasn’t there some English dude who did that kind of thing back in the days of Bad King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham?
But this romantic notion is a minor aspect of a complex truth.
Granted, Jamaica’s governments through the years have failed to provide for the basic needs of the island’s population. The powers that be have persistently allowed a small minority to pillage the scant resources of the island and have turned a blind eye to widespread injustice, oppression and cruelty.
But how different is that, really, from America? Or Britain? Or most European nations? Or all those Asian and African countries?
“Donkey say the world no level,” and the donkey is right. The conflict in Jamaica is a microcosm of a worldwide struggle between haves and have nots, oppression and rebellion, justice and abuse.
The Guardian article accurately points out that:
Some of Jamaica’s most high-profile politicians represent garrisons. In addition to [former prime minister and member of parliament] Edward Seaga, former prime ministers Michael Manley and Portia Simpson Miller presided over communities where crime, teen pregnancy and unemployment are rife. Yet, these same politicians are easily re-elected when general elections are held every five years.
I was there a generation ago when Seaga developed a gang-based constituency in the crime ridden slums of western Kingston. Some of my cousins were involved in Jamaican politics at the time and I worked for a local newspaper. The poisonous seeds sown by Seaga and Manley have sprouted into deadly organisms that threaten to engulf the fragile island.
It was inevitable that this vast criminal network should become involved in the illicit drug trade that flourishes unchecked throughout the world.
And it was this involvement that led to the Dudus crisis.
Dudus is wanted in the United States on charges of gun smuggling and drug trafficking. American law enforcement officials say he is the leader of the Shower Posse, one of the most violent units in the U.S.
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who owes his political career, in large part, to the gang leader’s support, stubbornly resisted American attempts to extradite Dudus. But in the face of overwhelming popular opposition, he finally relented.
Two weeks ago, he ordered Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne to sign an extradition order.
It was this action that triggered the current confrontation between the gunmen and the government. Dudus supporters blocked roads leading to their neighborhood, and attacked a police station.
So far, at least 30 civilians have been reported killed and 25 injured. And according to a recent report, a total of 211 people, including six women, have been detained.
As the violence rages in Jamaica, astute observers might recognize it as part of a global infection. Until recreational drugs are legalized and brought under government control, a massive criminal operation will continue to flourish worldwide, spawning crises like the current Jamaican conflict.
And until the world’s existing economic structure is overhauled to create a more equitable system of exchanging goods and services, resentment and rebellion will persist.