In Britain, every October of each year, a series of events is set across the country to remember and celebrate black people in the history of humanity. The period is called the Black History Month. ‘How do you become a slave?’ I had been watching on television documentaries on slavery sitting with a young person eager to understand and make some sense out of such experience as slavery. That was a question she threw at me still captivated by the inhumanity of humankind well represented through the lenses of the filmmaker.
I had never looked at the whole slavery journey from that angle. The question helped to assess effectively the weight of each involved actor in the human trade tragedy of black Africans in past centuries. One of the findings was that slavery couldn’t have reached the heights it did get to if some African leaders of that time didn’t play an active role in selling or betraying their own people to benefit Europeans. In the last 50 years of African history, aren’t there plenty of African leaders who have sold or continue to sell their brothers and sisters to external interests as did their ancestors?
The year 2010 marks 50 years after the African independence period of the 60s.
The last half century has not been glorious in many respects for the continent. There have been decades of coup d’etats, years of the worst tribal wars such as Biafra in Nigeria, famines, corruption, nepotism, dictatorships, discrimination exemplified by Apartheid in its time and of course the Rwandan case, and no tangible social and economic developments, except a few exceptions.
Independences enabled the continent to shift political and administrative authority from colonialists to African elites. This shift of power didn’t address the fundamental principles of creating sustainable institutions. Colonialism morphed into modern tribalism where characteristics of the latter concept had this time the means to shine. Even there, lessons had not been learnt properly from old masters. That’s the reasons there were decades of coup d’etats. Normally, in traditional African tribes, you rarely hear of coup against authority.
Dictatorships which became part of the political scenery of the 70s until today are emanations of that modern but failed tribalisation of Africa and colonialist interests which are proving difficult to expel. These interests from past ties with the continent hinge on supporting oppressive regimes, criminal leaders, through a multitude of channels, sometimes unconditionally as long as gains are assured.
With the help of globalisation, a more sophisticated approach has been adopted to cover up injustices Africans have become victims of both by their leaders and foreign interests behind them. This is where international aid agencies, UN experts, mainstream media coverage; advisory committees with foreign origins to the continent, all become instrumental and play a part in creating an image of powerlessness in our mother continent.
Not everywhere on the continent everything has been following the sloppy path during the past 50 years. There are few islands of hope which demonstrate that the continent can emerge from its seemingly hopeless and helpless destiny, as described by many vested interests around the world. Countries like Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Tunisia, Ghana, Mali, are few examples of what is possible, feasible, and at different paces. Individual countries with enlightened leaderships are realizing that there are citizens for whom standards of lives must and should be improved.
For the next 50 years, the continent can excel and become the beacon of the world as it used to be at the start of human civilization. Its chances are that it doesn’t have legacy systems to build on its future. Its structures have not been completely tampered by what most of western countries have been suffering from such as excessive pursuit of materialism.
We have young populations. Technology is available. Choosing the right resources for the interest of the continent should be the key. We need to learn quickly and correctly from continents and countries which transformed their social and economic landscapes from near ashes. Additionally, it is worth pointing out that if we as a continent do not address issues with a sense of urgency, many generations of Africans will be being let down. This has been missing and must be addressed.
For example, as Ms Alice Ukoko from Women of Africa clearly highlighted on Monday 27/4/10 while addressing a London audience on the subject of Britain aid effectiveness in Africa, ‘shouldn’t we talk about how Britain has been exploiting Africa instead?’ Aid is a very serious and dangerous issue for Africa. After seriously researching what triggered the development of countries today classified as developed, none of them got where they stand today through aid. Even the Marshal Plan which helped rebuild Europe after World War II had totally different components as the one Africa suffers from persistently.
After 50 years of missed opportunities, it is time for Africans to wake up and move forward. Take charge of their destiny. Create strong institutions which make leaders accountable fearlessly. As Barack Obama indicated in Accra when he was addressing the Ghanaian parliament in July 2009, Africa does not need strong personalities. It has had enough of dictators serving external interests. ‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how,’ said Friedrich Nietzsche. It is up to Africans to get organized for the purpose.