Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Commemorating Africa’s Liberation on May 25… But is Africa Really Free?

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

In the 1960s the struggle to wipe out white imperial rule on the continent of Africa gained steam with several nations gaining political independence – to govern themselves without the interference of western imperialists. During that time revolutionary movements on the continent became strong and the battle for independence became fierce. Some western powers yielded to compromises, some were defeated and forced out.

In the first three years of the 1960s independent African states formed what was the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) with the aim of decolonizing the rest of Africa. Through the OAU several efforts were made to help territories under colonial rule become independent. Before the OAU, there were some other pro-independent African organizations like the Pan-African Movement, the Conference of Independent African States, and the All-African People’s Conference (made up of territories under colonial rule) all vociferously advocating the total independence of Africa.

Then before them and even during their existence, there were so many wars during which thousands of Africans died at the hands of imperialists just to gain access and control over their own lands. This article also recognizes the role of the mosquito in inflicting malaria on the imperialists, something that also feared them away.

But the question now is after all of these efforts and years of independence… is Africa free? The answer here is a big NO – and open for extended arguments. The first burden on the continent was slavery through which Europeans captured or bought the living and healthy bodies of African men and women, took them away as their properties. They were made to work on plantations and in homes, and tied in chains with their freedom restrained in all aspects. Above all, they were dehumanized as they were made to believe that they were sub-humans. Since then, Africans have lived with the mentality that whatsoever is Western, and whosoever is not a black by race, is a superior. Here individual worth does not matter, but race and country of origin. This is one burden on the mentality of Africans.

During exploration, either through geographical adventures or the search for resources, the westerners discovered that Africa was a rich continent, and to claim ownership of that wealth was to establish political authorities on the continent. Then came colonization and imperialism. They came and took over territories and established governments amenable only to themselves. They looted, pillaged, plunder the continents resources. They desecrated African cultures, religions, and traditional values. They colonized and corrupted the mentality of the young Africans and made them to believe that anything African is uncivilized, even though civilization began in Africa (Egypt). Then it came time when there was a scramble over African territories, so they met and partitioned the continent like a piece of pie.

The new bondage on the continent is huge debts. While the West is keeping Africa in bondage through huge debts, they are also keeping the continents development in check through international institutions that enforces rules of governance and for development assistance only applicable to Africa. International laws are also enforced in Africa then any part of the world.

Those are the external factors that have over the years affected the states in Africa. And by extension the people. In the midst of the threats from imperialists in the 19th and 20th centuries and neo-imperialists of today, African leaders pose a second and more frustrating threat to the total liberation of their people. Yet, they are politically free to run sovereign nations. But their people are impoverished to the ebb. African leaders in many countries have not done much to liberate their people from poverty and make them feel proud of the abundance of resources and potentials endowed to the continent. Africa tops in all of the vices: Highest HIV/AIDS rate, highest malaria rate, highest rate in teenage pregnancy, and harbors the world’s poorest people; even though those poor people own lands and resources that are making the world’s richest people to be who they are. As a result there are mass exoduses of Africans everyday to western nations in such of greener pastures. There, they work as casual laborers to process raw materials from their homes, and the end-products sent back to them to purchase.

Corruption and autocratic leadership have been the most internal obstacles to the freedom of African people. I accept that we are running sovereign states, but I argue that we the people are not free. And that remains the basis of my argument. In Zimbabwe the man once revered to be the freedom fighter and the ‘people’s popular leader’ has clinched unto power, terrorizing and crushing opposition dissents, and at the same time westerners have imposed sanctions on him in vengeance to his stance against neo-imperialism. That is a dilemma for the people of Zimbabwe. Their economy has sunk into an abyss, and socio-economic conditions have become too harsh. In the central region of the continent, most of the states have failed, collapsed or are weak. Congo has failed, Sudan has collapsed and secession is eminent by next year, Chad and the Central African Republic are weak. West Africa is dominated by weak and failing states. Corruption is uncontrollable in this region. This is where society frowns on accountable leaders and cherishes murderers and corrupt officials. In Liberia, few groups of people, about 75 persons have held the country for over forty years and it is among them leadership circulates. The rest of the population still lives in poverty and hopelessness. Corruption is at its peak in the present government, and it is not just casting doubts on the credibility of the present regime, but also eroding public confidence in the state as a whole. Warlords and former corrupt government officials are the most ‘honorable’ citizens.

Guinea, Niger, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, and Madagascar are failing as a result of coups and civil uprisings. Madagascar is a rear case and deserves extended political research. This is where civilians launched a coup and the coup was endorsed by the military.

Again I continue to argue that with poor leadership on the continent, bad governance, mass poverty, poor health care, mass illiteracy, huge debt burden, and the external threat of neo-imperialism through international organizations, AFRICA IS NOT FREE!

The vices are enormous and pathetic to name. Africa’s solutions to total liberation must begin now! And that must be a priority of every African, mainly the continent’s leaders. True independence in Africa will come when the leaders of the continent are accountable and transparent in public service; when the people of Africa participates freely and openly in a system of democratic governance; when the people are free to choose among options that will advance their socio-economic needs; when the nation-states in Africa will be strategic partners in international development and cooperation not mere receivers of aid, or not ‘gatekeeper states’; when civil uprisings and violent conflicts end; and when the first priority of every African government will be to advance the human security of its citizens. LONG LIVE AFRICA, AND LONG LIVE THE PEOPLE OF AFRICA!!!!