Friday, May 23, 2014

Dark continent celebrates half-century of corruption and misrule

Africans from Casablanca to Cape Town are looking forward -- or maybe not -- to Sunday, when many of Africa's states will celebrate the 50th anniversary -- more or less -- of the "liberation" of the Dark Continent -- or much of it -- from the white settlers. If this sentence seems a little vague, that's because things in Africa are always vague.

A couple of African writers have noted that in throwing off the shackles of the European colonialists, the Africans (in the lands below the Sahara, at least) seem to have liberated themselves from the bonds of peace, order and good government -- indeed, of civilization itself. Vince Musewe (Zimbabwean) writes that "Africa remains in the economic backwoods and torn apart by civil wars, coups and counter-coups."

In Malawi (formerly known as Nyasaland, and before that British Central Africa) violence erupted during Tuesday's presidential elections. No-one was killed though, so that's considered a peaceful election by African standards.

In northern Africa, Al-Qaeda terrorises the Sahel region and is fomenting jihad against Christians in the Central African Republic and Mali south of the Sahara. That there hasn't (yet) been mass genocide is due mainly to the presence of armed forces from France, which happens to be, errr, the former colonial power.

A bit farther south, civil strife in the diamond-rich Congo (Kinshasa -- not to be confused with Congo Brazzaville) never seems to end. The UN has a token force in the Congo's far east, but local people seem to fear them as much as any of the other gangs of marauders.

In western Africa, Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc in Nigeria. #BringBackOurGirls slacktivism doesn't seem to have had much impact on them. Just yesterday, suicide bombers killed scores of people in marketplaces in two northern towns. The Disunited Nations is threatening to impose sanctions. US assistance in searching for the missing schoolgirls has been delayed by "technical problems".

Want more? In Zimbabwe, Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, once touted to by western liberals as a great freedom fighter and another Mandela, clings to power at age 90-odd, crushing opposition and establishing a de facto one-party state, while turning the former Rhodesia into an economic basket case.

Like Zimbabwe, most of the states of central Africa have failed, collapsed or are weak. South Sudan -- the world's newest nation! -- has collapsed into tribal war. Guinea, Niger, Mauritania, and Guinea Bissau are failing as a result of coups and civil uprisings. Walt's agent in Madagascar reports that water and power outages, banditry and looting are daily occurrences.

Corruption is out of control in every African state, with one or two possible exceptions. African society laughs at honest and accountable leaders and cherishes "big men" like Mugabe and South Africa's Zuma.

In Liberia, from whence Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei writes, about 75 people of Afro-American descent have held power for over 40 years, circulating the leadership amongst them to keep up appearances. The rest of the population still lives in poverty and hopelessness. Corruption is at its peak, casting doubts on the credibility of the regime and eroding public confidence in the state as a whole.

Conclusion: "Uhuru" (freedom/independence) remains an empty event for the majority of Africans. Why so? Could it be that the fact that blacks look like human beings and act like human beings, does not necessarily make them sensible human beings? This the theme of "Are we beast or man?", by Vince Musewe, an economist and author based in Harare.

Musewe quotes (with sorrow) from a speech made by former South African President P.W. Botha, speech made in that country's Parliament in 1987.

“We are not obliged even the least to prove to anybody and to the blacks that we [whites] are superior people. We have demonstrated that to the blacks 1001 ways. The Republic of South Africa that we know of today has not been created by wishful thinking. We have created it at the expense of intelligence, sweat and blood. We do not pretend like other whites that we like blacks.

"The fact that blacks look like human beings and act like human beings does not necessarily make them sensible human beings. If God had wanted us to be equal to blacks, He would have created all of a uniform colour and intellect. By now every one of us has seen it practically that blacks cannot rule themselves. Give them guns and they will kill each other.

"They are good at nothing else, but making noise, dancing, marrying many wives and indulging in sex. Let us all accept that the black man is a symbol of poverty, mental inferiority, laziness and emotional incompetence."

President Botha was a co-winner, with Nelson Mandela, of the Nobel Peace Prize, not because he changed his views on the fitness of blacks to run a modern nation-state, but because he worked with Mandela to ensure that the transition to "majority rule" in 1994 was as smooth and peaceful as possible, in the circumstances. Since then, South Africa has sliding the slippery slope downward, much like Zimbabwe, only not as quickly. It could take another 20 years or so under ANC rule before it hits bottom.

In his article, Musewe asks his fellow Zimbabweans: "What have we to show as a country since our independence in 1980?

"Horrifying corruption and outright theft, a leadership with an inexplicable obsession with luxury cars and sexual encounters, the destruction of prodigious value in all sectors of our economy, the use of arms of war against our Ndebele brothers and sisters, the decimation of agriculture and the dogfight over diamonds, the deliberate extermination of a national indigenous bourgeoisie, the destruction of our environment that is now happening particularly by small-scale tobacco growers and small-scale miners all under the name of indigenisation.

"In addition, just look at the dirt in our cities and townships, the noise that goes on daily, the potholes and sewage all over, the overcrowding and the common face of poverty, hopelessness and serious deterioration of our living standards. Look at our values and morals as a society and what we have become; the greed and selfishness all around us; all this, despite having the highest literacy rate in Africa!"

Can it there be said that Botha was fundamentally wrong or blinded by racism? Corruption, autocratic leadership, mismanagement, incompetence and misrule are the norms in today's Africa. Such is the fruit of the "liberation struggle" of the 60s which will be celebrated on Sunday.

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