And We Now Know

By Paul Japheth Sunwabe

The Perspective

January 11, 2002

As an African Child sets out to reflect on events and developments on the African Continent, he is perturbed by the agony of millions of babies, children and teenagers who have been orphaned either by the AIDS Virus, or the brutal post Cold War civil wars, which are now too common to the African Continent. Indeed, as I focus on the history of my people’s gallant march to self-determination in the 1960s, and simultaneously come to term with the lamentable reality of an independent African promise betrayed coupled with the marginalization of Africa in contemporary world and economic affairs, I am overwhelmed with profound sorrow and sadness. Yet, determined, and inspired by the plights of my forebears, and rejuvenated by the intrepid voice of a renewed Africa, which demands freedom for all, I have resolved to chronicle the tumultuous events, which have unfolded on the African Continent for the past 50 years. As I embark on this historical journey, I am mindful of my responsibility (i.e. fairness), which entreats me to remain true to clarity and historical accuracy while disabusing myself of all forms of prejudices, intellectual racism and dishonesty.

Africa’s current political and economic torpors are not matters of fortuity. Rather, they are results of combination of misguided priorities, poor leadership and century of social injustices visited upon our people by racist Europe, the spineless leaders of Africa, and the bifurcated international system, which supports the venality, brutality and banditry of the black leadership of the world to our chagrin and consternation. When Europe invaded Africa in the dark days of colonization, Africans were stripped of their history, culture and the various institutions that held Africa together prior to the coming of the Europeans. To defend the gratuitous, oppressive and exploitative system of colonization, European intellectuals and governments invented and imposed a fabricated Europecentric version of African history on the African people, thus justifying their colonization and subsequent subjugation. At the notorious 1848 Berlin Conference, King Leopold of Belgian and his fellow Europeans carved up Africa in spheres of European economic interests without Africa’s consent or representation.

In flagrant disregard for national shrines, ethnic kingships and cultural affinities, African tribes were removed from their homelands, transported to new environments, where European inspired iron curtain borders were imposed on their communities. What ensued after the Berlin Conference were centuries of mass murder, perpetual economic exploitation and the planting of the seeds of discords through the imposition of the much abhorred divide and rule systems in which minority tribes were elevated to the status of lordships and European favorites with specific instructions to meet brute force and violence against dominant African tribes. Eventually, this would be the catalyst for much of Africa’s manipulated ethnic woes and pervasive civil carnage.

In his 1998 historical narrative titled “ King Leopold’s Ghost”, Adam Hochschild estimates that as many as 5 to 10 million Congolese Africans perished as a result of overwork, malnutrition and blatant slaughter carried out by King Leopold’s colonial army. Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novel, “Heart of Darkness” decried Leopold’s wanton killings and economic exploitation of Congolese Africans, and points out that during King Leopold’s oppressive reign, Europe was outraged with the king’s inhumane treatments of Africans to the extent that he was forced to abdicate and renounce his right to the Congolese river basin. Regrettably, Leopold’s departure was replaced with Belgian’s own exploitation and draconian set of colonial system, which had the same results: mass murder, an underdeveloped and uneducated Congo that had just 16 college graduates out of a population of 15 million at independence in 1960.

Elsewhere in Africa, the colonial subjugation of Africans was very similar to that of the Congo: the policy of ethnic divide and conquered, dilapidated cities and townships, a destitute population, thorough and effective economic exploitation, high rate of illiteracy; poverty, and an economic system based on cash crops production and exportation for Europe’s consumption. My fellow Africans, we now know that the colonizers were never in our interests.

Crushed under the feet of brutal Europe and with the whimsical demands of Europe placing unwarranted burdens on our people, Africa rose to heroism in the late 1950s, challenged the racist ideological justification for colonization, and impugned the West’s commitment to the universal declaration of freedom, which we all fought for during the WW II. Indeed, our heroes (i.e. Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, George Padmore, etc) demanding equal justice, freedom of association, freedom of the press and parliamentary democracy not only for Europe and America, but also for all of God’s children. In 1945, delegates at the Pan African Congress Conference in Manchester, England tabled Africa’s de-colonization request in these lucid words, “we are determined to be free … we want education, we want the right to earn a decent living; the rights to express our thoughts and emotions, to adopt and create forms of beauty… we will fight in every way we can for freedom, democracy, and social betterment” (Africa Betrayed, 1990;p.99).

President Julius Nyerere echoed Africa’s freedom sentiment in these words, “democratic reforms are naturally well suited to African conditions. For me the characteristics of democracy are: freedom of the individual, including freedom to criticize the government, and the opportunity to change it without worrying about being murdered [Langley, 1979; p.134].” Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana summed Africa’s quest for freedom in these words, “I described Positive Action as the adoption of all legitimate and constitutional means by which we could attack the forces of imperialism (Africa Betrayed, 1990; p. 99).” Sir Abubakar Tafa Balewa, Nigeria’s first premier was even more succinct, “difference of opinion there are bound to be in any country, and in a free country they will be expressed openly, and, I hope fearlessly, but let them also be expressed honestly and unselfishly…And not only among leaders but especially between the members of different religious and political parties. Let there be tolerance [Langley, 1979; p.49].”

True to their words, these gallant Africans fought for and won our independence from imperialistic and racist Europe. But, on the very day of independence, these very men betrayed our parents, the unborn generations of Africans and ourselves. As American University Ghanaian born economics professor Dr. George B. N. Ayittey put it, “by the time Gambia gained its freedom in 1965, the Ghanaians, Nigerians, and the Togolese were asking what had happened to theirs [Africa Betrayed, 1990;p.100].” We now know that our founding fathers re-colonized our continent, denied us the right to freedom and self-rule, imposed inchoate political institutions on our people and subverted democracy. You see, when our leaders shouted “freedom and democracy” on the eve of independence, they truly meant, “Give us the right to brutalize you.” Indeed, my beloved African people, we now know that neither the European colonizers nor the African independence fathers really care about us. Combined, they looted our wealth, killed our parents, enslaved us, denigrated and consigned us to the title of domestic African and international refugees, who are always begging for handouts. Yes, Africans, we now know these truths.

With trepidations and apprehensions sweeping across Africa a few years after independence was achieved, our founding fathers insulated themselves by manipulating ethnicity, building huge, but brutal colonial style African Armies, resorted to historical inventions and prosaic interpretation of African history in desperate efforts to divert attention from their ill-conceived policies and political failures. One after another, they contradicted themselves, became garrulous, paranoid, and embarked upon continental grandiloquent speeches with little positive economic dividends. In the ultimate post colonial African Independence betrayed, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania recanted his previous stance on freedom and democracy in these disgraceful words, “the characteristics of democracy…the freedom of the individual, including freedom to criticize the government, the opportunity to change it without worrying about being murdered were emphatically not well suited to African conditions [Africa Betrayed, 1990;p.102].” Before long, Nyerere declared Tanzania a one party state, arrested and incarcerated Chief Abdallah Said Fundikira and James Mapalala founders of “Civil Movement Campaign for Greater Political Pluralism.” In other independent African countries, our founding fathers rejected democracy and capitalism, proclaimed and embraced socialism as indigenous African political and economic instructions. Again, while they shouted socialism and communal unity, they were busy looting Africa for Western and Swiss Bank deposits.

By 1965, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the so called “father” of Africa's independence, and the mastermind of African socialism, while denouncing farming as a poor man’s job, looted up to five hundred million US dollars from Ghana’s indigent farmers (Africa Betrayed, 1990; p. 105). Houphouet Biogny of the Ivory Coast, President Tubman of Africa’s oldest criminal republic, Liberia, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Leopold Senghor of Senegal, and Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia all declared some forms of single party political state, and went on to loot their national treasures with impunity. In some bizarre cases such as Malawi and the Center African Republic, African vacuous dictators declared themselves presidents for life. With the looting of national wealth in vogue in post colonial Africa, and the resulting paucity of available resources to go around, Africa’s founding fathers became victims of their own inventions. By 1965, the oppressive “Armed Forces of Africa” rose up in revolt against their masters, and one after another, dictators and self proclaimed presidents for life were booted from power. However, military coups only compounded the misery of our people, and resulted in pervasive ethnicity, economic decline, violence, grotesque plunders, and indebtedness. Yes, mother Africa we now know that despite some fifty years of independence, you are still an oppressed continent.

When military rule took hold of Africa, it was evident that the African Continent’s military leadership lacked the technocratic expertise needed to run African states. So, they rightly turned to Africa’s technocratic elite to assist them in conducting the affairs of various African states. Soon, however, Africa’s thieving technocrats resolved to steal from their countries rather than to assist the continent’s military dictatorship to rebuild and revive the already chaotic African economies. In a classic boxing tale of Ali vs. Foreman, Africa’s military leaders perfected the acts of thievery and beat the elites to their own game. By the early 1980s, almost all of Africa’s discredited technocratic elites had either been killed, or forced into exile by the illiterate African Armies. And, with the Cold War at its peak, African military regimes turned to the West and the East in desperate need for development, economic and military aid. Even then, aid from the West and East only insulted the buffoons and thwarted genuine political and economic reforms across Africa. Indeed, neither the West and the East nor the African military regimes of the eighties and their technocratic associates ever had Africa’s people at heart. Sons and daughters of Africa, we now know these lamentable truths.

Since we now know these truths, let us join our efforts in truth and brotherly spirit and do what is just in the eyes of God: a prompt reformation of Africa, political and ethnic harmony, genuine reconciliation and economic reforms. To this end, Africans must rise above ethnicity, tribal hatred and racism to embrace the dignity of the human spirit and always keeping their eyes fixated on the price: the coming redemption and restoration of our dignity. As always, I want to leave you with one of my many platitudes: “bless is the man who upon hearing the truth, acts on what he has heard and adopts positive measures, which are geared towards the liberation of his people.” May the true liberation of Africa come very soon!

About the Author: Paul Japheth Sunwabe is a co-founder and President of Freedom and International Justice Foundation, a Washington; D. C. based multi-racial organization seeking democracy, social justice and economic reforms in Africa.

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