The question of true African independence

At the occasion of celebrating the 50th independence anniversary of three African countries: Burundi, Rwanda, and Somali, which occurred on Saturday 1st July, AWIP radio programme talked to Africans who are active on issues prevailing on their continent. Ambrose Nzeyimana who is from Rwanda but lives in UK answered for the listeners of the programme, the following questions, which focus on the issue of true African independence. This is an edited version of the live interview led by Rema Diallo which was aired on Tuesday evening 3rd July, 2012 on GFM.

1. Brother Ambrose Nzeyimana, welcome to Another World Is Possible [AWIP]. Do you think that Africa can ever be really independent?

Yes Africa can be fully independent. I am 100% certain of that possibility. Other parts of the world have been independent economically, politically, culturally, socially, etc for decades if not centuries. Of course the process has been gradual, but today looking at what they have achieved, one can rightly confirm that they are relatively independent. In many regards, they make their own choices about the way they live, are led, or treated by their leaders, or even by the rest of the world. And there is no fundamental reason that Africans cannot reach that same level of independence.

2. What are the main factors which militate against the true independence of Africa today?

a. Dependence has been embedded in African minds so deep that Africans seem fearful of being independent; it’s like the majority are convinced they would become miserable without dependence;

b. There is significant dependence for example through aid which kills the spirit of Africans of finding adapted/ or innovative solutions to problems their people face; there is a wrong assumption from the receiving Africans that AID is helping them more than countries providing it; they don’t see it as the gifts Europeans used to give to traditional African kings of the past to access whatever they wanted in new territories to conquer;

c. Globalization is another factor which is challenging African independence. It is applied through World Trade policies and financial markets operating systems where for example the World Bank and International Monetary Fund appear to be instruments created by developed countries among other things to control world economy and put Africans in permanent economic dependence;

d. There is equally, and this is unfortunate, a lack of adequate and accountable African leadership ready to stand as a block to defend African independence against external forces only interested in exploiting the continent.

e. Lack of a strong spirit of sacrifice and patriotism on the part of African younger generation in leadership also hinders the continent independence; when external predators are plotting against Africa, they put in their full intelligence and resources to get what they want and they usually get it [for example Libya and Ivory Coast cases]. Why not our fellow Africans can’t do the same, or more, with all their learning and other resources at hands?

3. To what extent is the way that Paul Kagame not opening political space in Rwanda militating against Africa’s independence?

By not letting the existence of other political party except his Rwandan Patriotic Front and its affiliates, Paul Kagame is limiting the scope of thinking of Rwandans, and without thinking outside the box, one cannot pretend developing some independence. Ironically, he announced on Saturday 1st July that by sticking to his policy of authoritarianism, this was his way of showing his country’s independence. Surprisingly too while addressing Rwandans on the day, the Rwandan president spoke lengthily in English to an audience which mainly speak and only understand Kinyarwanda, the national language.

4. Can you describe the political situation in Rwanda for us so that many of our listeners who are not informed on this?

Briefly, I would say that the current Rwandan political situation has been defined by the Rwandan Patriotic Front narrative of the genocide which occurred in April 1994. Since that national tragedy the regime of Paul Kagame has used it to monopolize everything in the country around a small circle of Tutsi extremists. The tragedy has been also used to blackmail the international community and get US, Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and others providing billions of dollars which made that group extremely rich leaving the rural population poorer than they were before the genocide. Equally the genocide has been used to silence any dissent voice and as a discrimination tool against the Hutu majority. Finally, the genocide has officially justified several invasions of the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

That entire situation has created a political opposition which has been crashed so far inside the country where you have tens of political prisoners. But outside the country, the political opposition to Paul Kagame is very active in exile.

5. What do you see as the way forward in Rwanda today?

On the one hand, countries such as Britain, US, and others in the West which have been unconditionally giving Paul Kagame all the means to oppress his people should stop. Instead of continuing to support him, they should put pressure on him to enable all required political reforms. On the other hand, Rwandans themselves should seek more actively that change. Nobody will be as committed towards their future welfare as themselves, whatever help they can provide.

6. How are events in Uganda, Rwanda and Eastern DRC related to day and how can those events advance or militate against Africa’s true independence?

Today Uganda and Rwanda are like protectorates of the US. They are implementing US foreign policy in the region in terms of peacekeeping and ensuring illegal access to Congolese minerals. Uganda and Rwanda plus Burundi invaded Congo twice in 1996 and 1998. After peace agreements in 2002 were signed, those countries officially move out of Congo, but they have remained on the ground under disguised structures. They have local rebel movements or militia groups that they fund and equip. Eastern DRC, and particularly the Kivu provinces, constitutes the area under the watch of Paul Kagame. That is the reason why you have for example this recent UN Group of Experts report accusing Rwandan authorities of supporting M23, a rebel movement. Of course Kigali denies categorically such accusations.

How this context antagonize Africa’s true independence is very obvious. Two African governments, Rwanda and Uganda, are meddling in affairs of other countries, causing deaths of millions to benefit their greedy elites and external sponsors of their regimes. Without a change of the leaders of these particular two countries, unfortunately Africa economic and political independence will continuously be jeopardized.

7. How do you think Africa’s political unity contribute towards Africa’s true independence?

It’s not only political but as well economic, monetary, fiscal, military, etc which can contribute towards Africa’s true independence. Today, what we see in Europe in terms of political union, economic, monetary, and else should teach us Africans strong lessons about how to be truly independent.

8. Africans studying abroad during the colonial period like Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral etc played an active and leading role in the struggle for political independence from colonialism. How are Africans abroad now playing an active role for Africa’s further independence?

Contexts have changed, but I have noticed a long the years organizations led by Africans trying to influence policies around aid and other ineffective plans that developed countries continue to promote for Africa. I have also witnessed individual voices such as Kambale Musavili, Patrick Mbeko, Professor George Ayittey, Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam, Professor Mahmood Mandani, Dambisa Moyo, and many others who are trying to tell the African story from an African perspective, or organizing to raise awareness on things going on the continent that Western media distort for their own interests. Obviously, there are no Nkwameh Nkrumah or Amilcar Cabral. Maybe we don’t have preeminent personalities anymore but effective structures through which creative solutions for change in Africa can be channeled. However, with the corruptive core values of capitalism which seem to have reached deep in the minds of many Africans abroad, there is a serious challenge that needs overcoming to be able to move forward.

9. What factors are militating against Africans abroad today playing a role in Africa’s further independence the way Kwame Nkrumah and co contributed to independence from colonialism?

a. There is no apparent active or supportive network for activism towards contributing to further independence of Africa from what I would call Neo-colonialism, a new form of capitalism disguised under multiple systems of rapport between developed countries and Africa

b. The West general public has been convinced by its thinkers and opinion leaders [through its mainstream media] that the African continent’s problems are created by their own leaders.

c. There is less empathy from Westerns today than there was before when colonization at the time of Nkrumah’s could be easily understood as humanly in a negative perspective

d. The spirit of selflessness beyond family circles back home does not seem to prevail among the African elite abroad; capitalism has fatally eroded their engagement towards their continent or countries of origins and working to change the chains which hinder total independence.

10. What forms of concrete cooperation is being built between Africans in the Diaspora and the grass roots in Africa for genuine independence of Africa.

a. There are networks of contacts which have being developing particularly online; they are enabling the sharing of information and mutual support

b. Grass roots in Africa are providing information to share, discuss and then disseminate for raising awareness and demanding action

c. Based on information passed on by grass roots people, and from an African perspective, African activists around the globe are using media platforms to tell the world about African problems that develop countries are aggravating.

11. Can you analyse how the economic potential of Africa today and its state of economy be positive indicators for Africa’s future development?

a. Rightly used the economic potential of Africa today can lift the continent to a higher level of economic independence, which could as well reflect in other many areas

b. There are challenges though. Without proper accountability from leaders in a number of countries, such independence will be much mitigated.

c. Without unity of action to exploit the current economic potential, the continent will be taken advantage of by the usual beneficiaries of its resources [and new ones like China, India, Brazil, etc], who will approach countries individually and probably corrupt leaders to gain access.

d. In the current global financial crisis which Europe as its centre, Africa is today in a position that could dictate how the crisis could be resolved at the benefit of all parties involved. [How? I will discuss this under a different topic]

12. You attended the historic Conference of African Migrants in Europe in January 2011 in Tripoli. To what extent do you think that that conference was going to contribute to Africa’s further independence?

a. The conference was an historic moment for the continent, as the African Diaspora came together to develop a new framework for speeding up Africa independence, particularly economic.

b. As the conference brought together the African diaspora from all the corners of the world (Africa, Europe, Americas, Asia, Australia, etc), I hoped Africans in general and particularly those living outside the mother continent, more than at any other time, were going to understand the role that the diaspora should play towards African unity and progress.

c. Africans leave their home countries for different reasons: wars, persecution, study, and work. While away, the majority of them send home money to support families. There are many African countries whose migrants’ remittances constitute a significant fraction of their foreign currencies.

d. The Tripoli conference was a waking call for African migrants around the world to get more organized and think more of Africa as our motherland, make people play more their part, not thinking that it should be somebody else’s responsibility. Most of us would do anything for the good of our mothers.

13. How do you think that the overthrow of Muammar Gadhafi in Libya has further deepened Africa’s dependence on the Western world?

After personalities such as Nkrumah, Lumumba, Nasser in the 60s, then Sankara in the 80s, Muammar Gadhafi and Robert Mugabe, despite their undemocratic style of ruling, were the remaining true Pan-Africanists who put the means where their mouth is when it comes to defending the continent’s interests. With Mugabe soon to leave power because he is aging, the overthrow of Kadafi has truly deepened Africa’s dependence on the Western world. And one would argue that on top the false allegation of humanitarian intervention of NATO in Libya, the main reason of going after the Libyan leader was to stop the growing influence that he was gaining with time in bringing Africans together, situation which is not understandably advantageous for those who benefit from the statu quo.

14. Having followed and listened to our Another World Is Possible radio programme, how do you think our programme can contribute towards the struggle for Africa’s true and genuine independence?

a. Your persistency in raising issues and educating Africans on what really matters for their sustainable development either on the continent or else where they are will surely pay off. I strongly appreciate your dedicated work of making Africans feel proud and have a dignified place in the world. So keep up the good work.

b. Link up with other organizations which are doing relatively similar work as yours. There are synergies that could emerge from such cooperation that you cannot have presently.

You can find Ambrose’s views on different Africans issues on his blog: The Rising Continent. You can also contact him by emailing at theblogaboutafrica@gmail.com

Ambrose Nzeyimana

Ambrose Nzeyimana is an Pan-Africanist and Human Rights activist. He coordinates Organising for Africa, an organisation and a platform advocating continental solutions rather than national to problems the continent faces in its development. He is also member of the Executive Committee of Ubuntu Pan African Network.

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