Many who watch Guyana closely will feel relieved that the situation is calmer after days of ethnically-charged violence triggered by the brutal killing of two Afro-Guyanese youngsters, cousins Isaiah and Joel Henry, after they went into a coconut farm owned by an Indo-Guyanese.
The deaths have to led to violent protests and reprisal killings, including another youngster, Haresh Singh.
Although ethnic tension is not new in Guyana, these events take place at a particularly difficult time for that nation.
First, because it is just emerging from one of its most bruising ever elections, with the country left in political limbo as both main coalitions disputed the results. Eventually, and not without considerable external pressure, votes were recounted and the PPP/C coalition declared the winners over then President David Granger’s APNU-AFC alliance.
The bitter dispute and the fact that the political parties there are mainly defined though ethnicity rather ideological hues may explain why both sides seem to have chosen to blame each other for the incidents first, before toning down the rhetoric and appealing for calm.
And then there is the oil curse already reaching Guyana’s shores.
Although the country will benefit from the phenomenal GDP growth forecast for the next few years, as Guyana joins the hydrocarbon sellers’ club, the sudden influx of oil money also risks bringing more corruption, greed and inequality, creating perfect conditions for opportunists to light up the race touch paper.
The problem is, once lit, especially in a world of easily faked news or doctored pictures, no one knows what this evil fire can do to lives and entire nations.
If we look at history, the omens are not good.
Just the 1994 Rwanda genocide, when tension between Hutus and Tutsis triggered a massacre that is believed to have killed up to 1 million Rwandans, mostly Tutsis, Twas and moderate Hutus, with the country still reeling from the physical and mental scars of the bloodshed.
The context of these explosive events may vary but they invariably start with a relatively small trigger incident, often used by people with divisive and racist agendas to whip up hatred and start what are invariably uncontrollable violent chain reactions.
We all have a moral duty to stamp out racially-charged behaviours and actions from every society, even more so in countries like Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, where we have the opportunity to be better places through the unique ethnic mix we share, with people coming from all over the world to make our lands culturally and intellectually richer.
One way to dampen the risks of starting catastrophic racist fires is for our societies to be relentless in stamping our any kind of discrimination, be it in relation to race, religion, gender, abilities and sexuality.
To succeed, this must take place every day. And even more so at sensitive times, like now, when careless opportunists in our midst may be tempted to play human beings against fellow human beings in a despicable and destructive way.