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Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done
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The Sixties
Living in America: An Introduction for Foreigners
Africa and America in The Sixties: A Decade That Changed The Nation and The Destiny of A Continent
Africa and America in The Sixties....(2)
Africa and America in The Sixties...(3)
Tanzania: The Land and Its People
Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done
Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman
Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood
Black Conservatives in The United States
African Countries: An Introduction
Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities
Kenya: Identity of A Nation
Investment Opportunities and Private Sector Growth in Africa
South Africa in Contemporary Times
My Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings (1)
My Life as an African.... (2)
My Life as an African....(3)
Author Profiles
Ethnicity and National Identity in Uganda: The Land and Its People
Tanzania and Its People
An Introduction to South Africa
Kenya and Its People
South Africa: The Land, Its People and History
An Introduction to Tanzania
The Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar: Product of The Cold War?
South Africa and Its People
African Immigrants in South Africa
British Cities
Great Britain: A General Introduction
The United States and Its People
Great Britain: The Land, The People and The Culture
Botswana and Its People
Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done
ISBN-10: 0980253470
ISBN-13: 978-0980253474
 
 

....Sierra Leone was not so lucky. Britain, the former colonial power, did not intervene early to neutralize the rebels who plunged the country into anarchy. But it is also in Sierra Leone where the script is being written of the unfolding drama in the quest for a renewed imperial role by the former colonial powers to restore peace and stability, and good governance, in their former colonies in Africa. And Britain did just that in Sierra Leone, setting a precedent as much as Sierra Leone itself also set a precedent other African countries may follow in seeking salvation from their former imperial masters through partial renunciation of their sovereignty; if the former colonial rulers and technocrats from other industrialized nations assume an increasingly prominent role in running the economies and the civil service of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa as....

....the question is whether or not the former colonial powers really want to play such a role if they are invited, given the kind of mess Africa is in today. As Charles Onyango-Obbo, managing editor of the Ugandan daily Monitor, wrote in the weekly East African:

I have a friend who has given up on the Kampala government. Nothing new there. What is striking are the reasons for his despair.

He says he can understand why the Uganda government is so corrupt. What he can't comprehend is that it lacks even the vision of a "good" corrupt government, because it is not doing anything to help people produce more and create more wealth so that it has something more to steal tomorrow.

Last week in London, I encountered this same despair in several reports in the British press on the murderous rebellion in Sierra Leone. These reports quoted local people begging the British to return and recolonise the country.

It was for the usual reasons. Unlike the British colonialists, past and present Sierra Leonean leaders and rebels had raped the wealth of the country and put nothing back. In between bouts of looting, they passed the time chopping off the hands and legs of the people they had robbed.

The British rulers at their worst as colonialists were still better than past and present Sierra Leonean rulers at their best, some people reasoned, obviously driven to that extreme position by desperation.

The fact that Britain sent troops who salvaged the beleaguered UN peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone - and in the bargain organised the rag-tag bands that passed for the government army and its allied militia into a force which rolled back the advances of the dreaded RUF rebels on the capital, Freetown - helped British reputations quite a bit too.

One can understand where some of that nostalgia was coming from, since the British were once overlords in Sierra Leone. However, across the Atlantic in the US, I encountered similar arguments.

Last Wednesday (May 31, 2000), in an opinion piece carried by The Wall Street Journal, the marvellously acerbic George B.N. Ayittey argued for making Sierra Leone a UN colony. The only effective long-term solution to what he called the "disaster in Sierra Leone," he argued, "is to declare a UN trusteeship or protectorate over [it], just as a bankrupt company is placed in receivership. Like Somalia, Sierra Leone is a failed state, its government hijacked long ago by gangsters."

However, all is not lost. Striking a more positive note, The Washington Post on the same day, in an editorial entitled "Africa's Hidden Hope," began by noting the problems.

Whereas malaria has been defeated in many parts of the world, in Africa it has increased by around 60 per cent in the past 30 years. because conditions are so bad, they discourage investment, and so up to 20,000 African professionals leave the continent every year in search of greener pastures in the West. About 250 million Africans live on less than $1 a day, and more than two million of the continent's children die before their first birthday each year.

The Post nevertheless found hope in a new World Bank report, which notes that since the early 1990s, 42 of the 48 sub-Saharan states have held multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections. Growth averaged 4 per cent in the second half of the 1990s, compared with slightly higher than 2 per cent for 1981 - 94.

These numbers are, of course, meaningless in most of Africa, because they are cooked up. The Post found the usual suspect, Botswana - which, it opined, had "shown that remarkable success is possible; Botswana's economy is among the fastest-growing in the world."

So, will an Africa broken by suffering and all manner of miseries submit to colonialism? I have my doubts.

Even if it did, the reason Africans can be sure that they will continue to be the rulers of the continent, and have the freedom to fight wars and starve their people, is that I doubt that any of the old European colonial powers or USA, would actually want to run the place the way it is today. Our curse, in that sense, is also our saviour.22

But our saviour is also our curse....

It is true that many non-Africans harshly criticize Africa because they are racist, they think they are better than we are. And they couldn't care less if we vanished from the face of the Earth today or got wiped out by hunger and disease.

But if what they say is true, it is still true regardless of who says it. And if we don't want our enemies and detractors to say bad things about us and about Africa, then we should deny them the opportunity to do so by excelling in all fields of human endeavour to be equal to the best among the best among men across the colour line.

They are not going to like us anymore than they do now. But it will be much more difficult for them to write or talk about a condition that no longer exists if we work hard enough and collectively to end our misery. Tragically, we are in the international spotlight precisely because we have failed to do so. And some of us, for example Ghanaian writer and economics professor George Ayittey, have been brutally frank about our condition. So have many others across the ideological spectrum round the globe. As one critic stated in his article, "African Nightmare":

Fears of famine in Ethiopia," says the New York Times; "Mugabe's 'surreal' policies ravage Zimbabwe's economy," add the Washington Post--and those headlines are just from the past two weeks. Meanwhile, a civil war rages in the Ivory Coast, and generalized famine threatens most of Southern Africa---Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi.

And in the continent's most populous country, Nigeria, fundamentalist Islam, complete with the stoning to death of adulterers and the chopping off of thieves' hands, is on the march.

All that in countries which still have governments, because places---one cannot call them states in any meaningful sense---like Somalia, Sierra Leone, or "The Democratic Republic of Congo" - formerly known as Zaire - do not enjoy even that dubious advantage. And then there are the civil wars: in the Sudan, between Arab Muslims and black Christians; and in Zaire, between Ugandans and Rwandans on the one side - or are there two? - and Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia on the other.

Al Qaeda has a presence in Somalia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Liberia, and Libyan troops operate in Central Africa and run interference in West Africa. And last, but far from least, up to 40 percent of the adult population in countries like Lesotho and Zambia, to name but a few, are suffering from HIV/AIDS.

The more recent AIDS pandemic aside, and with a few names changed, similarly depressing headlines could have been read twenty years ago: let us remember Idi Amin, the cannibal ruler of Uganda; Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the convicted cannibal and emperor of Central Africa; Francisco Macias Nguema, the self-described "sole miracle" of Equatorial Guinea, who publicly shot most of his ministers as the band played "Happy Days are Here Again" -- all prior to 1979.

It would seem that sub-Saharan Africa today, as yesterday, remains behind all other areas of the world -- in economic, political and social terms. There are many reasons for this, and, one must say, there are a few flickerings of light at the end of the tunnel.

To begin with, most of the continent's problems today are inherited from the time of independence. With the exceptions of Liberia, Ethiopia and South Africa, not one of the contemporary sub-Saharan countries has any history of independent statehood. They are all creations of European rivalries and European bureaucrats in London, Paris or Lisbon. Nor, again with a few exceptions - Botswana, Somalia, and the island states - do they have any pre-independence sentiment of statehood, divided as they were and are along ethnic and linguistic lines. Declaring the former colonial language the official one is recognition of this reality: only a foreign language could provide a minimum of internal unity.

Once independent, in many cases without any popular demand for independence, country after country fell under the control of European-educated - at the Sorbonne or the London School of Economics - and influenced (naturally enough, by the leftist ideas prevailing there) elites. Socialism, occasionally Marxism-Leninism, was the favorite among the various ideologies that failed in richer countries but devastated Africa.

All this was encouraged by Western intellectuals and often paid for by Western taxpayers.

Thus, for decades, Tanzania's ruinous experiment with socialism was subsidized - at the highest per capita rate in Africa - by the Scandinavian countries. Julius Nyerere, the country's first president and "father" of African socialism, admitted upon retirement that "We failed."

And then there was the Cold War. The countries under Soviet rule aside, no other region has lost more during it than Africa. Non-viable country after non-viable country had muddled through for four decades because outside support kept them together: Western economic and military aid; East German, Cuban, or Soviet arms, secret police advisers, and political support. Fear of some marginal state going to the other side attracted attention and support out of proportion, in many cases, to the state's importance in the larger scheme of things.

By 1989 it all came crashing down, and Africa was faced with the unpleasant reality of its actual status in the world. It turned out that the emperor had no clothes. Their vision no longer clouded by perceived geopolitical or strategic interests, outsiders began to see Africa in its real dimensions.

In fact, with some 650 million people, sub-Saharan Africa's combined GNP is somewhat smaller than that of Belgium (population: 10 million). As for per capita income - $474 in 2000 - it had a negative growth rate of 0.6 percent over the years 1988 - 2000, or 0.3 excluding the region's economic super power, South Africa. All this despite the fact that a few, usually small countries - Sao Tome & Principe, Equatorial Guinea - are experiencing a major oil boom, and a handful - Botswana, Uganda and Mauritius, e.g. - have competent and successful economic policies and healthy growth rates. Simply put, in the new world of globalization, a few commodities aside, Africa isn't a significant market, competitor or exporter.

Nor has Africa's longstanding ability to exploit Western guilt over colonialism retained its potency. Increasingly, taxpayers in the West, if not many intellectuals and the Left, find it harder and harder to attribute 40 years of post-independence decay to 80 years of colonialism---especially since in many countries the statistics suggest that majority were worse off in 1990 than at the end of the colonial era.

The fiasco of the 2001 UN Conference on Racism in Durban was both significant, and in some ways, encouraging. It was significant because it demonstrated that attempts to mine Western guilt, at the cost of insulting both history and common sense, are still popular in some quarters; encouraging because the most vocal advocates of the most preposterous ideas advanced - "reparations for slavery" and open anti-Semitism - were American racial demagogues and Arabs, rather than Africans.

This is not to say that Africans did not engage in racism, often with economically suicidal consequences. In the 1970s Idi Amin expelled the prosperous Indian community of Uganda and stole their property; Lebanese in West Africa have occasionally been expelled and their property confiscated; and today Comrade Mugabe in Zimbabwe is engaged in a massive ethnic cleansing of whites and Asians and stealing their property, with dire consenquences for most black Zimbabweans.

A case could be made that Mugabe is a Stalinist dinosaur and Idi Amin was certifiably unhinged, but the fact remains that there was no pan-African condemination of their actions.

All of which should bring to light the obvious fact, avoided for decades by both African elites and well-intentioned Westerners, that outside the conceptual framework of racism there is no such thing as "Africa." Yes, there is the creation in 2002, through Muammar Qaddaffi's brainstorm and oil dollars, of the African Union, successor to the famously irrelevant organization of African Unity, likely to make the latter an example of effectiveness. But to understand how shallow the concept of African unity is in the real world, one only has to look at the post-1994 events in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa.

In 1994 the ruling Hutu regime in Rwanda engaged in the world's most obvious case of genocide since the Holocaust, with as many as 750,000 Tutsis murdered in a matter of weeks. An invading force of Uganda-based Tutsis then took power and the defeated perpetrators fled to Zaire. The Rwandans pursued them, and the result was an all-African free-for-all war that, for once, involved only African armies - at least six of them - and their local proxies.

It would be hard indeed to blame that war, fought over diamonds, titanium, manganese and copper as much as over territory, on Belgian colonialism. Nor is it easier to blame the recent Ethiopia-Eritrea war over a few patches of bush, with up to a million casualties, on Mussolini's Italy.

All of these are tragedies, but they are strictly African-made tragedies, and the good news is that Africans and outsiders alike are coming to see them as such. After decades of lies, blaming others, and irresponsible elites and outsider interveners, today Africa is forced to live in a global environment in which responsibility is what matters.

In economic terms, some African states are fighting to erase their well-deserved reputation of corruption and bureaucratic red tape and attract foreign investment. Many are oil-producing countries, but Uganda and Mauritius are succeeding even without oil. And West African oil needs not to be sneezed at: it is clean, offshore - thus minimizing frictions with the locals - and abundant.

Though hopelessly corrupt, divided and increasingly threatened by Islamic fundamentalism, Nigeria is for now the major producer. That will change in favor of small states with a need for protection against the likes of Nigeria - which is where U.S. technology, power projection capabilities and capital could come in.

If there is any positive political sign coming from Africa, it is that democracy is making some progress after decades of dictatorships and kleptocracies. A number of the continent's "big men" have lost elections - Kaunda in Zambia, Diouf in Senegal, Ratsiraka in Madagascar - or have retired voluntarily. Moi in Kenya, Rawlings in Ghana, soon Chissano in Mozambique. That does not a democratic march from Dakar to Khartoum or from Bamako to Harare make, but at least the signs are not all negative.

Because sub-Saharan Africa is, and is likely to remain, marginal in economic, political and strategic terms, regional self-sufficiency is the key to progress. To a decisive extent, that means South African supremacy. South Africa is the only country in the region with the capital, technological and professional resources and obvious interest - dictated by its location and experience - to help the entire region, or at least the southern and central areas of Africa.

It controls the transportation hubs - ports and railroads all the way to Zaire; it produces the bulk of manufactured goods and energy; and it has a still large - albeit diminishing due to massive emigration - professional and technical mass of qualified experts. If South Africa fails politically or economically, sub-Saharan Africa has no future outside a few isolated oil enclaves.

The problem is that South Africa does not play the role one would expect or hope. The case of Zimbabwe is a good example. While Mandela or Tutu pontificate about U.S. imperialism and cruelty in using the death penalty, their country's labor minister, Membathisi Mdladlana, just claimed that South Africa "has a lot to learn" from Mugabe's Stalinist "land reform," which has destroyed the economy of one of Africa's few formerly prosperous countries. The minister's opinions may have been disavowed by his government, but the fact remains that it is Pretoria's tolerance and indeed active political and economic support that keeps Mugabe's criminal regime afloat.

Nor is Pretoria the only one at fault. The African Union itself had nothing to say about Zimbabwe's self-immolation - naturally enough, since Mugabe's financial sponsor, Muammar Qaddaffi, is also the Union's promoter. And African members of the Commonwealth blocked efforts to suspend Zimbabwe's membership.

Racial solidarity, once again, as in the cases of Bokassa, Idi Amin, etc., trumped decency and indeed rational self-interest.

If there is any problem that attracts the same old tired and demonstrably ineffective calls for more aid, more sympathy and more misguided and indiscriminate outside interference in Africa, it is the issue of AIDS. Since the pandemic originated in Africa, the continent has suffered longer than any other part of the world from its impact. Today, although sub-Saharan Africa represents only 10 percent of the world's population, it has 67 percent of known AIDS/HIV cases.

There are many reasons for this, and objective causes why it is so difficult to cope with the problem, some independent of whatever African governments could do. A very young population - in some cases 50 percent under the age of 20 - means that the most irresponsible group is unusually large; mass illiteracy and poor infrastructure make education and prevention difficult; and poor health services make treatment almost impossible. More important, however, is the attitude of African governments.

With the laudable exception of Uganda, for years they have denied the very existence of an AIDS problem. Even today, the president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, denies that AIDS is the result of a virus, and thus provides the worst possible example to other, far less developed, countries in the region.

Western pharmaceutical companies have given up their patents for AIDS medication, and relatively cheap generics exist---enriching Indian and Brazilian manufacturers. Massive Western infusions of medicines, medical personnel and funds are now available, but, as is the case with aid in general, these only lead to waste, corruption and demands for more.

Massive amounts of free U.S. food aid to southern African countries afflicted by famine are being rejected by Zambia and Malawi because they are genetically modified types of corn or wheat. Suddenly, starving people are denied food because, under the influence of paranoiac European Greens, their governments have decided to be politically correct.

All of this raises the question, is Africa going anywhere? The answer is unclear, and it all depends on how African states and Western partners treat each others. If African states finally decide that they have distinct interests, rather than pretending to belong to a non-existent "Africa," they could enjoy the fruits of their sound decisions---where those decisions are sound. If not, they should pay the price of failure, just like any other country, whether Bolivia, Nepal or Romania.

As for the West, it should finally stop its irresponsibly paternalistic treatment of "Africa" as a perennial victim of everyone except its own rulers, reward the successful and leave the failed to pay the price.7

It could have been written by anybody: a liberal, a conservative, a racist, an African like George Ayittey or anybody else.

But it makes no difference who wrote it because it is true, painfully true, except for a few remarks here and there;....

 

The article I just quoted was written by a white American conservative, Michael Radu, director of the Center on Terrorism and Counter-terrorism of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, who was also a contributing editor of the institute's ORBIS journal, and whose ideological compatriots have an instinctive aversion for Africa and for Black America.

Yet most of what he says is what Professor George Ayittey says in his book Africa in Chaos9 and other writings in an even more strident a tone. So have other African writers including Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, the late Nigerian Professor Claude Ake who died in a mysterious plane crash in his home country in 1996; and Kenyan Professor Peter Anyang Nyong'o, a fierce opponent of Africa's despotic and kleptocratic regimes who was elected member of parliament and later in 2003 became minister of economic planning under the newly elected President Mwai Kibaki whose election ended almost 40 years of domination by the Kenya African National Union (KANU) which had been in power since independence in December 1963....

 

Few African countries have done that. Instead, most African leaders have been busy stealing, and simply let their countries rot. Asians also steal, of course. Americans and Europeans also steal; so do other people in all countries. But they also have laws and enforce them to fight such corruption, although not in all cases.

By a glaring contrast, theft and corruption in African countries has become institutionalized. Governments and people in other countries also invest in education, health, and national development far more than we do in Africa. That is why South Korea, for example, whose per capita income ($120) was lower than Zambia's ($200) in 1967 three years after Zambia won independence from Britain, now has a per capita income of more than $13,000, while Zambia's is a mere $400; a pathetically low figure after an entire generation since independence in 1964.

In fact, Zambia is far better off than some African countries which have even more natural resources; a sad commentary on Africa's condition today and which shows no signs of significant improvement in the coming years without radical transformation and complete overhaul of entire political and economic systems across the continent. As Peter Anyang' Nyong'o states:

At the very bare minimum, a large number of African states cannot even maintain and reproduce their own bureaucracies: civil servants are often not paid for months, armies and policemen rely on highway extortion to obtain their monthly wages, government offices are falling apart, water and telephone systems do not work, and national airlines cannot even respect their own tickets....

The fiscal crisis begins to manifest itself more dramatically when heads of state accept as valid currency only those legal tenders emanating from the industrialized world, and treat with contempt banknotes bearing their own heads.14

That is on a continent already burdened with enormous problems including huge foreign debts accumulated by corrupt leaders who have some of their best defenders in the West where the mantra among a number of them including liberal academic intellectuals is, "Give them some time. They will change, they will develop," as they continue to bleed our economies and suffocate dissent.

Africa is drowning in debt. Yet the amount taken out of the continent every year by many leaders, which amounts to billions of dollars, and deposited in overseas personal and hidden bank accounts, far exceeds the amount of foreign aid African countries get within the same period. And this is a documented fact, unbelievable as it may seem to some people. As Professor George Ayittey states in his book Africa Betrayed:

An estimated $15 billion - more than what Africa receives in foreign aid - flees Africa annually....Kenyans alone have stashed more than $5 billion abroad, an amount which is greater than their country's foreign debt of $4 billion....In Mali former head of state, Moussa Traore, looted the country to amass a personal fortune worth over $2 billion - an amount equal to the size of Mali's foreign debt....

Even socialist Tanzania suffered (and still, under capitalism, suffers) from corruption. Prime Minister (later vice-president) Joseph Warioba was moved enough to speak out with scathing frankness: "Everywhere you go even in hospitals and schools, corruption and corrupt people seem to rule the day"....And as New African (April 1990, p. 16) reported: "Ordinary Tanzanians are complaining bitterly that they have been let down by their leadership. Even essential services such as education, hospitals, and police are up to their necks in corrupt practices. People who use government hospitals expect to have to bribe doctors and nurses before they can be treated.15

And in neighbouring Congo when it was Zaire, President Mobutu himself publicly congratulated fellow kleptocrats who were bleeding the economy, saying there was nothing wrong with stealing as long as they invested within the country the money they stole. His personal fortune, an estimated $10 billion, was legendary. So was that of his friend, President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo, one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa and in the entire world. In 1991, Eyadema had a personal fortune of $2.8 billion16 in such a poverty-stricken country. And most of his money was in foreign banks.17

Where is Western condemnation of such grand theft and corruption by African leaders? Corruption is destroying Africa. Most of the criticism comes from conservatives, who really don't care about Africa and don't even want to help when such help is needed. Very little comes from liberals who are more interested in defending than in exposing African leaders for their venality, while blaming themselves and their countries for the mess Africa is in today.

And where is African accountability? Most of our problems are caused by us, especially by the leaders, and not by foreigners. As Chinua Achebe, whose analysis is applicable in a continental context, says about his country in his book The Trouble with Nigeria:

The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership....We have lost the twentieth century; are we bent on seeing that our children also lose the twentiety-first? God forbid!18

While African corrupt politicians and officials continue to drain the continent of its wealth in collusion with foreign interests mostly in the West where they hide their loot, hundreds of millions of Africans continue to suffer, living in hell on Earth. And statistics are grim, and heart-rending....

It is true that conservatives in the West, including black American conservatives such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, both economics professors, are the strongest critics of Africa for its failure to develop. But there are also a number of people at the other end of the ideological spectrum, such as Professor Robert Rotberg who taught in Africa – including my country Tanzania - for a number of years and has had working relationships with many Africans on the continent through the decades, who are sometimes equally blunt in their criticism of African corrupt governments.

It's not many of them, and they are not as outspoken as their conservative counterparts, but they can no longer defend the indefensible: Africa's failure to do better than she does now. They also include black Americans such as Keith Richburg who does not want to be called an African-American just as most black American conservatives don't.

Richburg is supposed to be a liberal but his criticism of Africa gravitates towards the other end of the ideological spectrum both in terms of tone and content, as well as prescription for Africa's chronic ailments. He has also kindled the ire of many blacks in the United States and elsewhere for implying that he is glad his African ancestors were enslaved since their enslavement made it possible for him to be born an American.

Wole Soyinka says Richburg hates himself because of his negative attitude towards Africa. As Malcolm X used to say, "By hating Africa, we ended up hating ousrselves." As Richburg, who was the Washington Post Africa bureau chief based in Nairobi, Kenya, from 1991 to 1994, bluntly states in his book, Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa:

I'm leaving Africa now, so I don't care anymore about the turmoil in Rwanda and have no interest in this latest tragic development....From now on, I will be seeing if from afar, maybe watching it on television like millions of other Americans....I will also know that the problems are too intractable, that the outside world can do nothing, until Africa is ready to save itself. I'll also know that none of it affects me, because I feel no attachment to the place or the people.

And why should I feel anything more? Because of my skin is black? Because some ancestor of mine, four centuries ago, was wrenched from this place and sent to America, and because I now look like those others whose ancestors were left behind? Does that make me still a part of this place? Should their suffering now somehow still be mine?

Maybe I would care more if I had never come here and never seen what Africa is today. But I have been here, and I have seen - and frankly, I want no part of it.

So am I a coldhearted cynic? An Africa hater? A racist, maybe, or perhaps a lost and lonely self-hating black man who has forgotten his African roots? Maybe I am, all that and more. But by an accident of birth, I am a black man born in America, and everything I am today - my culture and attitudes, my sensibilities, loves, and desires - derives from that one simple and irrefutable truth.....Thank God my ancestor got out, because, now, I am not one of them. In short, thank God that I am an American.19

It is important to understand the context in which he articulated those sentiments. He left America for Africa with some kind of optimism and romantic feelings about the homeland of his African ancestors. He left the continent full of pessimism about its future. He also left this mangled continent, which is devastated by war and disease and corruption, dazed.

But he also had an ambivalent attitude towards Africa before he left America for the "Dark Continent," as European imperialists called it, and as many other people still call it today, knowing full well what this derogatory term implies : Africa is called the "Dark Continent", not because its native people have a dark skin, although it sometimes also means that; it is called the "Dark Continent" mainly because black Africans also have a dark mind. That's exactly what the term means.

Whether or not Richburg, in the deepest recesses of his mind, also subscribed to this racist and imperialist notion before he left for Africa, is highly questionable. I seriously doubt that he did.

But by implying in his book that...

 
 
Chapter Five:

Which Way Africa?

RECOLONIZATION of Africa has always been a distinct possibility since the end of colonial rule. But what form it may take, if it ever comes to that, is an entirely different matter.

It has also been a subject of discussion and continuing debate among politicians and intellectuals especially in pan-African circles within and outside the continent.

And there are those who contend that African countries are really not free, and have never been free. They only have what President Nyerere called "flag independence." Any country which is not economically independent cannot claim to be truly independent.

And in his book, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,1 Ghana's first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, addressed the subject in a pan-African context, warning of the danger the United States posed to Africa by trying to establish hegemonic control over the continent, using American economic muscles to impose a stranglehold on African countries in order to exploit the continent and promote American geopolitical and strategic interests. He also accused the CIA of fomenting trouble on the continent, including overthrowing governments the United States did not like.

After the book was first published in 1965, the United States government sent a note of protest to Nkrumah and immediately cancelled a $35 million aid-programme to Ghana. A few months later, Nkrumah was overthrown in February 1966 in a military coup masterminded by the CIA.

Yet, what Nkrumah said was true. And it is still true today. He was vindicated by history, himself being a victim of CIA plots including assassination attempts; and his ouster being one of the most dramatic demonstrations of power projection capabilities by the United States in our continent.

The American government never stopped its subversive activities in Africa. For example, when I was a student at Wayne State University in Detroit in the state of Michigan in the United States in the early and mid-seventies, one of the country's leading newspapers, the Detroit News, published a story saying the CIA was active on university campuses recruiting foreign students to work for the agency, targeting those it considered to be potential leaders when they returned to their home countries.

The paper named the University of Michigan and Michigan State University as the CIA's main recruiting grounds in the state because of the large number of foreign students attending those schools. It concluded by saying: "The emphasis is on the emerging nations of Africa."2

The CIA's interest in Africa and African students was nothing new, going back to the fifties. In 1954, the United States government established the African-American Institute, based in New York City, to promote American interests in Africa. The institute was funded by the CIA and published an influential magazine Africa Report.3 Coincidentally or not, publication of the magazine ended in 1989-1990, during the same time when the Soviet Union and other communist regimes collapsed in Eastern Europe.

The African-American Institute also had a scholarship programme, funded by the CIA, as a way of buying influence in Africa, especially with African governments. The CIA, hence the American federal government, hoped that after the students returned to Africa, they would help to advance or serve American interests on the continent, especially if they worked in the government as many of them were expected to.

American interest in Africa included plans to invade Nigeria. In August 1975, a secret military plan for the invasion of oil-producing countries, including Nigeria which is one of the world's largest producers, was sent to Congress for approval in case a second oil embargo - after the 1973 one during the Arab-Israel conflict - was imposed by the oil-exporting countries, thus threatening vital Western interests.

Nigeria did not participate in the 1973 - 1974 embargo imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which it is a member, and launched an era of unprecedented economic growth during which this giant African nation had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. It ranked 33rd during the oil boom of the seventies.

However, the American government did not want to take any chances and feared that the militant new Nigerian military ruler, Brigadier-General Murtala Muhammed would join a second oil boycott against the United States and other Western countries, “crippling” their economies.

Fears in Washington of a possible oil embargo by Nigeria increased when the Nigerian leader rejected a proposed visit to Nigeria by the US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, which would have been the first state visit by an American secretary of state to black Africa's most powerful country and its largest in terms of population.

American officials also expressed deep concern about Nigeria's growing influence and the country's support for the liberation movements and independence struggle on the continent. They suggested that the United States can contain or neutralize Nigeria's rise to power only through sabotage.

In fact, on 2 February 1976, a secret despatch from the American embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, warned that Nigeria enjoyed a "very healthy current account balance as a result of booming oil sales," and advised that the country was moving towards having a modern, well-equipped army.

It was Donald Easum, former American ambassador to Nigeria at the time of Murtala Muhammed's assassination and later head of the African-American Institute, who recommended ways to contain Nigeria's growing military strength; a recommendation which was taken seriously by the CIA and top American government officials and other leaders including senators and congressmen.

American interest in Nigeria - including plans for clandestine operations in this major African country - has frightening parallels to what happened in the Congo which became the bleeding heart of Africa because of American intervention since the sixties with the support of other Western powers in order to control and dominate the Congo and the rest of Africa. And it amounts to nothing less than attempts at recolonization of Africa, best demonstrated in the Congo, renamed Zaire, during Mubutu's reign.

The largest CIA station in Africa was in Kinshasa, capital of Zaire, when the country was ruled by Mobutu. And it was from Kinshasa that the CIA launched its missions to destabilize the MPLA government in Angola and support anti-government factions during the Angolan civil war which lasted for almost 30 years since seventies.

Therefore fears of recolonization of Africa are not paranoia or a figment of the imagination but reality grounded in history and validated by contemporary experience. One contemporary aspect of this is the deep penetration of Africa by Western business interests in this era of globalization at the expense of the indigenous population.

Little is done to meet their needs or redress their grievances, as tragically demonstrated by the callousness of the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta in Nigeria where members of the local ethnic groups have been subjected to all kinds of abuse including environmental pollution, thus denying them basic human rights, including food and shelter.

Their water, fish, and land have been polluted, destroying their means of livelihood without getting compensation from the Western oil companies or from the federal government itself. Their aspirations as a people have been stifled right in their homeland without the slightest concern for their future and well-being.

Yet all this is taking place in a country which is supposed to be free and independent, and under the leadership of Africans who are supposed to care about the welfare of their own people. All they care about is themselves, as they work to serve the interests of their Western masters who never really left when we won independence in the sixties. As Nyerere said, they went out through the front door and returned through the back door. That is what neo-colonialism is all about. And it is a reality in Africa today as much as it has been since independence.

Nyerere also warned of the danger of recolonization as far back as the sixties. As he stated in August 1960, even before he led Tanganyika to independence the following year, at a conference in the capital of Tanganyika, Dar es Salaam:

The phase through which we are emerging successfully (from colonial rule) is the phase of the first scramble for Africa - and Africa's reaction to it. We are now entering a new phase. It is the phase of the second scramble for Africa....

So I believe that the second scramble has begun in real earnest. And it is going to be a much more dangerous scramble than the first one....

The phrase "the second scramble for Africa" may sound far-fetched, in the context of the Africa of the 1960's....But anybody who thinks this is far-fetched has been completely blind to what is happening on the African continent. Take, for example, the Congo: There were obvious weaknesses in the Congo situation, but those weaknesses were deliberately used in a scramble for the control of the Congo.4

Throughout his presidency Nyerere continued to warn about the danger of neo-colonialism and did so even after he stepped down. As he stated in a speech in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States in 1998 not long before he died, multinational corporations were playing a leading role in the recolonization of Africa. And they did not want civil wars and other conflicts to end in African countries because it was easier for them that way to exploit the continent; with the rebels also playing a critical role in looting the continent and selling the resources to foreigners at very low prices.

And there is a very simple explanation for that. Where there is no law and order, it is very easy to steal. Only the strongest survive. And it is multinational corporations and other foreign interests which benefit the most, while the people, the poor masses of Africa, get nothing.

Nyerere's warning is an enduring reality and will remain valid as long as Africa continues to be dominated and exploited by foreigners.


On May 7, 1998, Mwalimu Nyerere spoke with eloquence and prescience about Africa's recent past and its immediate future during the first National Summit on Africa Southeastern Regional Summit in Atlanta.

He warned of a second scramble for Africa, not unlike the one that partitioned Africa at the Berlin conference in 1884 (November 1884 - February 1885) in the interest of European political domination and free trade. He suggested that this time the scramble was led by multinational corporations aligned with rebel leaders, whose goal is to plunder the mineral resources of Africa with the result of introducing new political instability and even civil wars in several regions on the continent. This was the case in Liberia and Sierra Leone and it still prevails in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.5

Yet it is such instability which is invoked by the proponents of imperial order, including some Africans, for a return to the status quo ante - colonial rule - because of the failure by African governments to end conflicts, restore law and order, and even implement principles of elementary justice let alone help fight poverty, hunger and disease on the world's poorest and most disease-ridden continent.

So, should Africa be recolonized? My answer is "No."

We did not fight for independence only to be colonized again. Our struggle for independence was not for temporary relief from colonial oppression and exploitation. We did not intend to be recolonized in the future by our former colonial masters or by any other Western power or by anybody else. And it is the West which still poses the biggest threat to our independence despite its professed commitment to the principles of racial and human equality. It is also the citadel of arrogance because it conquered the world.

And tragically, among all the people in the world, we Africans, black Africans, are the most despised. And much of this denigration of Africa has its roots in the West, although Westerners did not invent racism. It is a universal phenomenon. But the attitude of many Westerners towards Africans and people of African descent is not very good; nor is that of Asians and others. It is patently racist, and condescending at best.

James Baldwin's remarks about the attitude of many white Americans towards black Americans, descendants of Africa, is appropriate in this context in terms of analogy. As he stated in his essay, "Fifth Avenue, Uptown": "Negroes want to be treated like men: a perfectly straightforward statement containing seven words. People who have mastered Kant, Hegel, Shakespeare, Marx, Freud and the Bible find this statement impenetrable."6

It has been that way since Europeans conquered Africa. Success by black Africans in all fields of human endeavour has not changed this attitude. It has become second nature to many whites; with the advancement of the West being cited as proof of their racial superiority even if many of them don't say so publicly. We may be poor and far less developed in terms of material success, but we are no less human and we know when we are being insulted and despised.

The West has, indeed, achieved a lot in terms of material civilization unmatched anywhere else in the world. And there is a lot that we have learnt from Europeans probably even more so than we did when we were under colonial tutelage. And we continue to learn a lot from the West.

But there is nothing intrinsically virtuous, or intrinsically evil, about the West. I have lived in the West for many years and I have seen both. It has its virtues and vices just like any other part of mankind.

One of the worst things that came out of the West, which was a product of Western material civilization, was greed which led to imperial ambitions and ultimately the conquest of Africa and other parts of the world. As Immanuel Kant, one of the leading Western philosophers who is also acknowledged by many as one of the world's greatest thinkers, stated in one his works Eternal Peace and Other Essays:

If we compare the barbarian instances of inhospitality...with the inhuman behavior of the civilized, and especially the commercial states of our continent, the injustice practiced by them even in their first contact with foreign lands and peoples fills us with horror; the mere visiting of such peoples being regarded by them as equivalent to a conquest....

The Negro lands,..., the Cape of Good Hope, etc., on being discovered, were treated as countries that belonged to nobody; for the aboriginal inhabitants were reckoned as nothing....And all this has been done by nations who make a great ado about their piety, and who, while drinking up iniquity like water, would have themselves regarded as the very elect of orthodox faith.7

Yet he did not bat an eye in denigrating Africa. He was an unreconstructed racist who also bluntly stated: "The Negroes of Africa have received from nature no intelligence that rises above the foolish. The difference between the two races (black and white) is thus a substantial one: it appears to be just as great in respect of the faculties of the mind as in color."8

So, the argument that black people are genetically - hence intellectually - inferior to members of other races is nothing new. It is a stereotype rooted in Western intellectual tradition and has been given "credibility" by some of the most eminent thinkers of the Western world.

Besides Kant, other prominent Western philosophers who have ridiculed the African mind include Georg Hegel, David Hume, and Baron de Montesquieu.

Some of them did not even consider us to be full human beings. As Montesquieu stated in The Spirit of the Laws:


These creatures are all over black, and with such a flat nose, that they can scarcely be pitied .

It is hardly to be believed that God, who is a wise Being, should place a soul, especially a good soul, in such a black, ugly body.

The Negroes prefer a glass necklace to that gold which polite nations so highly value: can there be greater proof of their wanting common sense? It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures to be men.9


Another great Western mind, David Hume, used his intellectual power to make this equally superstitious statement:


I am apt to suspect the Negroes...to be naturally inferior to whites. There never was any civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences....

Such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction betwixt these breeds of men.10


Hume was, of course, also an atheist and gave some of the strongest "proofs" on the "non-existence" of God. And he remains an icon in the pantheon of Western thinkers.

Equally irrational was Hegel whose great mind also led him to say: "Africa...is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit."11

It is a sentiment echoed more than 100 years later in contemporary times by many people including one of the most prominent British historians, Arnold Toynbee, who died in 1975 when I was a student at Wayne State University where one of my professors extolled the virtues of Western civilization and the achievements of the West that provided such a sharp contrast with those of Africa as if our continent belonged to another planet.

It was an empirical fact, and I was acutely aware of the difference in terms of material civilization and technological advancement. After all, there I was, from Africa, at one of the great centres of learning in the Western world to be taught by Westerners simply because we did not and still don't have enough schools in our countries. And it makes us look bad, very bad. As Toynbee bluntly stated: "The black races alone have not contributed positively to any civilization."12

No less condescending in his attitude towards us was that great humanitarian, physician, philosopher and theologian, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who worked and died for us, the so-called members of the lesser breed. His work at the mission hospital he established in Lambarene, Gabon, in Equatorial Africa under French rule, is what legends are made of. He also wrote and spoke extensively about the works of Jesus and St. Paul and about the Bible in general as a true Christian who believed in the brotherhood of man and equality of all people here on Earth and before God.

Yet he made one of the most racist and paternalistic statements about blacks ever made by anybody when, without the slightest doubt in his mind, he stated:


The Negro is a child, and with children nothing can be done without the use of authority. We must, therefore, so arrange the circumstances of daily life that my natural authority can find expression.

With regard to the Negroes, then, I have coined the formula: 'I am your brother, it is true, but your elder brother.' 13


The implication is obvious. Whites have divine mandate to rule blacks. And younger brothers never catch up with their elder brothers, chronologically speaking; hence in terms of wisdom as well. The older are wiser.

That was the general attitude among Europeans before and after the conquest of Africa. The conquest of our continent only solidified this attitude, our defeat at the hands of our conquerors, because of our inferior technology, being cited as indisputable proof of our inferiority to them.

That was the technological theory of imperialism. They had guns. We had bows and arrows. And when we met on the battlefield, we were no match for them.

Then they also noticed that, besides lack of modern weapons, we had not achieved much in terms of material progress in other areas, thus further validating their belief in the hierarchy of the races as something ordained by God; or by nature with the black race being on the lowest rung of the evolutionary ladder and destined to stay at the bottom.

And in terms of material progress, there is no question that we did benefit from the West in a number of ways. Our conquerors introduced us to many things. Colonization, of which missionary penetration of Africa was an integral part, brought us material benefits such as schools and hospitals, roads and cars and even railways; and many other things we never had before Europeans came to Africa. And we must admit this instead of lying to ourselves and to the rest of the world that this was not the case. We are deluding ourselves.

So, there were some benefits from all this after Africa met Europe and the two became inextricably linked. And when our imperial rulers left, we did not ask them to take back everything they brought to Africa.

Otherwise we would have told them to close down schools and hospitals, take back their typewriters and even pens and paper, cut off telephone lines and strip buildings of electrical wires and other installations as the French did in Guinea when the people under the leadership of Sekou Toure voted "No," in 1958, to a French proposal to keep their country within the French Community not as an equal partner but as a satellite within the French orbit just like the rest of the former French colonies in Africa.

We asked them nothing of the sort. We would even have asked them to dismantle railways and demolish the rest of the infrastructure including buildings we never had before they came. The list goes on and on.

We didn't do that for obvious reasons. Therefore, whatever benefits we got from Western civilization must be acknowledged by us. And we continue to enjoy them even today, frankly speaking, and probably even more so in this era of globalization despite our denunciation of the West, most of which is justified especially in terms of exploitation of our continent and destruction of African civilization by our conquerors in a number of areas, although much of it remains intact.

So, much as we have benefited from the West in some ways, it still remains a fact that it was also the same Western powers, our conquerors, who ruthlessly oppressed and exploited us for centuries since the era of slavery. They did not come to Africa to help us but to help themselves. And our labour and natural resources contributed significantly to the growth of Western civilization far more than we benefited from the West.

Europeans also robbed us of our independence and dignity when they conquered us. As Kwame Nkrumah said, it is far better to misgovern ourselves than to be governed by anybody else. And in the words of Ghanaian philosopher Dr. Willie Abraham, independence is a state of nature.

It is a sentiment that still echoes across the continent, even if it has not resonated well everywhere. But it is an aspiration, this desire to be free and independent, every human being cherishes and which is an integral part of human nature. We are born free. And we are meant to live free; not to be ruled or dominated by others who, by virtue of their position among fellow men as defined by themselves, think they are better than us and other people.

That has been one of the biggest moral failures, and one of the worst vices, ever to come out of the West: the belief by our conquerors and imperial rulers and many other whites that it is their "divine right" to rule us because they are superior to us; and that as members of "the lesser breed," we have no right, absolutely none, to question their mandate or their wisdom. Thank God, not everyone of them shares this belief, although the majority of them probably do.

So, it is very humiliating to us when hear that some of our people are even thinking about inviting these very same people to come back and rule us again. It is the ultimate insult. But it must also be understood in its proper context.

Where does this sentiment, this agony and anguish, come from? We all know the answer. It comes from the failure of our leaders to do what they are supposed to do for us, instead of enriching themselves at our expense, denying us basic human rights sometimes in a way far worse than the colonialists did, and killing and persecuting those who are brave enough to complain about such rotten leadership. And it rotten to the core.

That is what makes a large number of our people, although not the majority, remember with nostalgia the "good old days" of colonial rule. Compared to what they see today, those were golden days, far better in terms of individual freedom however limited it was; in terms of getting basic necessities and other things that are now totally out of reach; and in terms of law and order which has been replaced by anarchy, civil wars and other forms of civil strife and political instability fuelled by rampant corruption in most countries across the continent decades after independence.

This is also on a continent where in many cases the people cannot even feed themselves but have to beg for food from other countries. Ironically, some of the food we get from abroad, such as maize, can be grown right on our own soil in Africa. But we don't produce enough to feed ourselves. It is also on a continent where we really don't care about each other. If we did, we would not have all these civil wars and other conflicts; tribalism would not be a major problem; and people fleeing from wars would not be left homeless. It is a shame that Africans are refugees in Africa, their homeland, of all places.

We claim Africa is one, yet deny them help, close borders when they beg to come in, refuse to give them citizenship, and even chase away those who are already in some of our countries, telling them to go back where they came from. Where is the African brotherhood we talk about so much? There is no respect for human life on our continent.

We are also talking about a continent where a deranged leader, Idi Amin, was applauded in many countries as a hero for expelling Asians, including Ugandan citizens of Asian descent. Even fellow leaders, let alone many ordinary black Africans, quietly applauded him as a true black nationalist. Only one African leader, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, was vociferous in his condemnation of Idi Amin; and a few others, such as Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Samora Machel of Mozambique, less so.

That is why even fellow African heads of state, as well as many other people, described Nyerere as "The Conscience of Africa."

Tragically, Africa has produced few leaders, if any, of Nyerere's moral stature who also had the courage to admit our failures. As he said not long before he died: "Africa is in a mess." And it is, indeed.

But something can be done about all this. And it can only be done by us. This is what we can and should do.

First, we must acknowledge, however painful, the fact that we don't have the kind of political and economic independence we would like to have as a people and as nations. We fought for it, and won part of it especially political independence. But we have lost most of it. As Julius Nyerere said in what amounted to a farewell speech to Africa a few months before he died, we have lost our sovereignty to the IMF and the World Bank.

We have also lost our sovereignty to donor nations on whose terms we formulate and implement economic policies especially in this era of globalization, however painful this is, as has been tragically demonstrated by the enormous negative impact of structural adjustment programmes on the poor, forcing millions out of work, drastically reducing their incomes, and forcing African governments to spend less or nothing on education, health and other vital social services for the masses.

All this is because of capitalism we have embraced as the best means to develop our countries. In fact, probably more than anything else, it is economic hardship - hunger, starvation, lack of money and jobs as well as basic necessities - which is the main reason why many Africans remember with nostalgia the "good old days" of colonial rule; and why some of them even wish the Europeans were back to rule us again.

And they did so under capitalism, a system which fuelled Western economic growth and industrial might despite its lack of concern for the poor. Under capitalism, the strongest survive and thrive. Each to his own.

There is no doubt that capitalism is highly productive. But it is also ruthless by nature. It thrives on greed. And most people are greedy, of course. They care only about themselves. And that is what makes capitalism so successful, unlike socialism, its antithesis.

But although socialism failed to develop our economies, it did create and foster an egalitarian disposition among the people, especially in Tanzania under Nyerere, which helped to spread equality across-the-board. It is these egalitarian ideals that are worth preserving if we are going to implement policies which benefit everybody.

Development requires lifting everybody up from the bottom. Capitalism alone is not going to do that. It is not even part of its nature to care about the poor. Therefore there must be a concerted effort by the government to curb its predatory instincts and protect the weakest members of society. They cannot be left at the mercy of ruthless market forces. If you do that, be prepared for war, more than just some minor civil unrest.

Who is going to protect the poor if the government does not intervene on their behalf? Good economic policy must translate into good social policy. And that entails fostering and implementing egalitarian ideals to guarantee economic justice and equality for all. Development statistics and other indices of economic growth may be impressive to economists and government officials but they mean absolutely nothing to people who don't have jobs, food, medical care, clean water or other basic necessities they need to live as decent human beings.

And much as we have lost our sovereignty to the World Bank, the IMF and donor nations which help us to develop our countries and sustain economic growth, we can try to regain and retain some of that independence by having a controlling share or interest in all the investment ventures started by foreigners in our countries.

No country worth its name is going to allow foreigners to control its economy and own its assets and natural resources. The American economy is the most successful capitalist economy in history. Yet the United States has not allowed foreigners to own or control most of the country's businesses and assets. And it is not going to. So why should African countries be expected to do that?

Our weakness does not justify injustice we suffer under powerful nations who dictate terms to us simply because they dominate the international system of which we are an integral part despite the peripheral role we play in the global arena. But we can still develop because we are human beings, endowed with the same mental faculties like everybody else. Intelligence based on race has no basis in science. Empirical evidence demonstrates otherwise. And intellectual achievements by Africans in all fields is part of this proof, although we dwarfed by others but for reasons which have nothing to do with genes.

The question is how can we develop?

African countries can develop and attain a degree of independence without being recolonized. Southeast Asian countries - South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand - did not ask Europeans to go back and rule them again in order to develop. They developed without being recolonized. So why not us? We can do the same.

Therefore, instead of saying Africa should be recolonized - which is a minority view, anyway, but with a powerful emotional impact and appeal because of our desperate situation - the following should be done:

Because of rampant corruption, donor nations and aid agencies must insist on administering aid programmes in our countries to make sure that the money they give us is not stolen or spent on irrelevant projects. It is humiliating but we asked for it. And we have to suffer the consequences including wounded dignity because of lack of concern for us by our leaders. They are just cruel; not all, but most of them.

If our leaders don't agree to that, our countries should get nothing from the donors. Then it is for the leaders to explain to the people why they are rejecting economic assistance and refusing to allow donors to administer aid programmes to make sure that the money is well-spent; when it is common knowledge that whenever these programmes have been administered by local experts and bureaucrats, the money has always been stolen or spent on irrelevant projects.

They should also explain why they are blocking foreign aid when they themselves do nothing for us. Appeal to nationalist sentiment, contending that they are maintaining our independence and preserving national honour, is nothing but a diversionary tactic used by our leaders to soothe the masses and numb their sense, and cover up their failures, while they are busy stealing.

They have failed to develop our countries. They have even failed to formulate the right policies and come up with practical solutions to our problems. Therefore there is no reason why they should refuse to allow donors to administer aid programmes to help develop our countries. They refuse to do so, not because they want to protect us from foreign intruders and maintain our independence as free nations. They refuse to do so because they want to administer aid programmes themselves so that they can steal the money. And if that is the case, here is some good advice to donor nations and agencies: Give us nothing.

Another thing that needs to be done to develop our countries is this: African governments should form a new partnership and strengthen ties with the former colonial powers to draw on the reservouir of highly skilled manpower those countries have in many areas. The partnership should include hiring these experts and placing them in key positions in an advisory capacity in different ministries - except foreign affairs, defence, and national security - to help fight corruption, which is destroying Africa, and provide efficient administration.

We should also learn from fellow Africans to find out how and why countries such as Botswana, the Ivory Coast and Mauritius have achieved significant progress through the years, having robust economies - even if by African standards - while the rest across the continent have either stagnated, deteriorated, or collapsed.

Much as we may hate it out of nationalist pride, the kind of relationship the Ivory Coast has had with the former colonial power, France, through the years since independence in 1960, has proved to be economically beneficial to this West African country. It has benefited the Ivory Coast to such a degree that its economy became the most successful in West Africa and on the entire continent, and second only to Nigeria in size in that region, attracting millions of people from other West African countries including Nigeria itself which has the second largest economy on the continent - although a distant second - after South Africa.

Other African countries can learn from the Ivory Coast how this country has been able to have a vibrant economy for decades since the sixties, but without mortgaging their independence the way the Ivory Coast has done by becoming a French satellite and remaining a virtual colony of this metropolitan power.

Our continent does not have to be recolonized or become a neo-colonial appendage to Europe or the United States in order to develop. Southeast Asian countries, the Asian tigers, did not become colonies again in order to develop or build schools and hospitals and other infrastructure. They developed without being recolonized or by inviting their former colonial masters to rule them again.

Do they have innate qualities we don't have? No. But we can emulate them. They are probably the best role model we have since they once were colonies like us; they were poor like us, and some were even poorer than us; and they won independence during the same period we did, that is after World War II....

Source:

Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done

ISBN 10: 0-9802534-7-0 

      ISBN 13: 978-0-9802534-7-4