By Felix Ahadzi
“Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity” (Patrice Lumumba).
“The world is at critical juncture, and so are you…Go ahead and make your plans…and don’t stop learning. But be open to the detours that lead to new discoveries”(Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General).
For many years the political arena of Africa had been played into the hands of foreign actors. In some cases by naked coercion, deceit, treachery or by share greed on the part of some African leaders. History has provided us a lot of data or information. History is about the systematic record of what men and governments have done in the past and in what perspective present institutions and development stand in relation to the past. Political history is what is left when history is arrested, analysed and sifted for its political content.
In 1884, in the German city of Berlin, an event took place among European leaders or powers that would change the history of the entire continent of Africa.
The Berlin Conference can be seen as the formalization of the “Scramble for Africa”. Out of that, Africa lost its autonomy and self- governance. But quickly, before the arrival of the “white man” to consummate the process of balkanization of Africa, there were social, political and economic structures in place throughout the continent. Notable among those structures or pillars include Axum, Ethiopian, Songhai, Ghana etc. empires to mention a few and several kingdoms. These empires and kingdoms were at heights of a renaissance at the time when all of Europe was on the decline(the dark ages).
The “white men” labeled the black race as savages and that through colonialism they would seek to make the latter civilized. But throughout history, and the engagements with Africans and the people of African decent, the former has demonstrated an entrenched predisposition for brutality and racism that is matched by their proclivity for deceit, greed and hunger for power. They came as Missionaries to preach equality of Man to Africans. However, they were involved in racial segregation. The education they gave to the African was only an attempt to get semi-literate workers at their mines. Our culture was buried. They turned themselves into plunderers who took from where they did not sow and invested it in their home economies. Furthermore, their involvement in Africa has brought subjugation and exploitation of the continent and the murder of its prominent and visionary leaders. They didn’t end there. They harvested Africans in the infamous Slave Trade and since then, the continent has lost its shine and it is no longer at ease. The Gold trade of the people of the Gold Coast was destroyed entirely as the people were afraid to step deep into the hinterland in search of the precious mineral.
Before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was the Trans –Sahara Slave Trade. Sometimes called the Arab Slave Trade, which spanned from the time of the Roman Empire to the early part of the 20th century. During this time, Arab Slave Raiders entered deep into the hinterlands of Africa and captured Africans and took them as slaves. Historical accounts indicated that the Arab Slave Trade had destroyed the lives of many Africans that can be imagined. Today, Arabs use the word “abed” which means, “slave” to refer to Africans or any Blackman. But the question that begs for an answer is that why are “blacks” absent among the race of the Middle East where the slaves were taken? The answer is that they were killed for rituals with the excuse that the “black man” is not capable of becoming a good Muslim.
After the end of the Second World War, many enlightened Africans began to lead their people to demand independence. But that road to independence was very tough, bitter and dotted with conflicts. Especially, in the Lusophone- speaking countries, guerrilla tactics had to be adopted in the fight against the imperialist’s forces.
Ghana was the first country south of the Sahara to emerge out of colonial domination in 1957 with the government of the Convention People’s Party (C.P.P.) led by Kwame Nkrumah. Immediately after wrestling the country from the British, Nkrumah saw a bigger threat ahead and he declared that in the statement: ” The independence of Gold Coast (former name of Ghana) is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent”. That the time has come for Ghana to help other countries on the continent to fight and redeem Africa from the grips of the white imperialist that have created artificial boundaries to separate Africans; using divisions as a tool to weaken Africans, they called some parts of Africa as a Anglophone, some Francophone and others Lusophone speaking colonies. To Nkrumah, Africa should remain indivisible. That “To us, Africa with its islands is just one Africa. We reject the idea of any kind of partition. From Tangier or Cairo in the North to Cape Town in the South, from Cape Guardafui in the East to the Cape Verde islands in the West, Africa is one and indivisible. (Kwame Nkrumah; Africa Must unite, 1964).
Kwame Nkrumah’s posture of uniting the entire continent of Africa to completely dismantle and uproot imperialist structures, sent fear down the spines of the Europeans who know very well that the common denominator towards the attainment of progress and liberation of the continent lied in the unity of Africa, began by influencing certain leaders of colonies newly emerging from domination to oppose Nkrumah and his cohorts calling for the creation of a Supra-national continental body that would see the entire of Africa having its artificial boundaries obliterated and as well with one president in charge. Notable among these traitors or stooges was Felix Huophet Boigny of the Ivory Coast and a host of leaders who found themselves in the Monrovian Bloc confederacy that opposed the Casablanca Bloc during the formative years of the Organisation of African Union (O.A.U) by opting for the maintenance of the boundaries of the independence states and rather work towards cooperation among states to achieve harmony. Again, the role of Felix Houphet Boigny, in shooting down the drive towards Pan-Africanisation is very legendary and as such deserves a special mention. No wonder the Presidential Palace of the Ivory Coast was built by France and rented out to the Ivorians. He is also known to have played a vital role for France, in ousting Thomas Sankara from office in 1987.
In the heat of the Cold War and damaged Western economies particularly Europe, newly emerging states were faced with two major problems. First, international politics was viewed through the prism of East-West dichotomy. The ideological divide posed much of a challenge and a dilemma to Africa as it was used as a justification to interfere in their internal affairs. In other words, the Cold War led to the emergence of a client states in Africa whereby leaders were to be maintained in power in return for their allegiance to one of the superpowers (the US and its allies on one side or the Former Soviet Union). Second, with the final liquidation of Western imperialism in Africa had caused the capitalist economy to shrink considerably. The above two factors made the former colonial masters return this time, by influencing some locals to their side and to succeed in making Africa a hunting ground for the exploitation of resources and the practice of adventurism. This some Political Scientist have christened as “The New Scramble for Africa”. In furtherance of the above, France, operated a unique policy called “The France Afrique” (French Africa Connection). This policy was one of cooperation from the national leaders of French former colonies so that they can continue to exploit resources to enrich themselves. These western powers were prepared to even go all out to secure their desire in the continent come what might.
In 1961, before the continent of Africa could put a continental body in place, an event took place in Congo (Former Zaire) that showed how the West would deal with Africa for a long time to come. The newly elected Prime Minister of that country in 1960, Patrice Lumumba, a Pan-Africanist, had his government in crisis. This led to the dismissal of Lumumba by the President, Joseph Kasavumbu. In retaliation, the former also went to Parliament and passed a vote of no confidence in the President on the grounds that he was elected by the people and cannot be removed from office by one man. This power struggle was exploited in the West. The US moved its propaganda machinery to Kinshasa. Patrice Lumumba was accused that he had aligned his government to the ideology of the East (Socialism; a variant of communism in practice in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and by that a communist puppet. Through Western financial inducements, Patrice Lumumba was arrested by his countrymen and taken to Katanga Province where Belgian assassins assassinated him. His body was chopped into pieces and dissolved in an acid. The Congo enjoyed a good relationship with the West after ousting Lumumba. This is because Mobutu Sese Seko, who became the president shortly, installed a totalitarian regime and developed a cooperative relationship with the West. Relationship through which the resources of the country were plundered. The Congo has since been unsettled.
Furthermore, having been seen as a colossus among his contemporaries, his strong objection to foreign imperialism in the continent of Africa, a Pan-Africanist (a torchbearer of ideas on Africa unity) and an ardent believer in socialist ideology, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana became the next target on the radar of Western powers. Having led his country out of colonial domination in 1957, first in Sub-Saharan Africa to attain independence and his involvement in the Congo by sending troops to that country to save the Prime minister, he became an enemy to the West. His growing influence across the entire face of the continent made it imperative for him to be removed from the point of the US. P.L.O. Lumumba once asserted that what Nkrumah can see while sleeping, cannot be seen by many leaders whiles standing.
Several CIA agents were unleashed in Ghana to help topple his regime many of their attempts were unsuccessful though. In 1966, whiles Nkrumah was away in China to attend an international forum against US atrocities in Vietnam, a coup was staged behind him that ended his regime. The key actors in that illegitimate exercise were some Military Officers namely Colonel Kotoka, Lieutenant -General J. A. Ankra, Major A. A. Afrifa and the Inspector-General of Police J. W. K. Harley. The finance was of course provided by the President Johnson’s administration.
The removal of Kwame Nkrumah from power dealt a big blow to the attainment of the unity of the continent. The coup was described by June Milne in the New Africa Magazine as “ The coup that disrupted Africa’s forward march” (No. 448, Feb. 2006). Also, according to the African Exponent, Nkrumah’s dream of a united and a successful African continent and the narrative he was creating for Africa was a foreign policy concern for the United States of America. To President Johnson, the Nkrumah’s coup was ”…a fortuitous windfall”. That “… Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other Black African”. That he was strongly pro-communist leanings and that informed the new military regime‘s that took over’s pathetic pro-Western character.
Throughout the 1960s, several military inter-regnum rocked the continent of Africa all with western assistance. 16 in French-speaking Africa alone.
In far away Mozambique, a Portuguese – speaking colony, fought a violent war of independence from Portugal. Samora Machel (1933-86) who joined FRELIMO in 1963 and waged guerrilla warfare against the colonial administration. After gaining freedom for his people in 1975, Machel installed a socialist-Leninist ideology. A distinct variant of Marxism formulated by Lenin of the former Soviet Union. To provide a direct rule by the proletariat (workers) with the FRELIMO party serving as the vanguard of the working class for the provision of political conscience. The political awareness of the workers coupled with the decision of the government to stop sending cheap labour to Apartheid South Africa to work in the mines would prove risky for Machel. South Africa reacted by sponsoring an anti-FRELIMO movement called REMANO, which executed a vicious campaign of destroying educational, health and other public infrastructures in order to the government of FRELIMO unpopular. The quest by Samora Machel to encourage the rise of the black bourgeoisie in that country was fought by external actors and finally, his administration was uprooted in 1986 when his presidential plane was brought down over the territory of Apartheid South Africa.
A year after the killing of Machel, Africa witnessed yet another Western intervention in its political arena. This time in Burkina Faso, through the direct involvement of Felix Houphet Boigny.
Thomas Sankara (Africa’s Che Guevera) who seized power in 1983 at the behest of the worst drought in West Africa (Lee, 1994), rise to become president of a promising West African state. He institutionalized tree planting in that country to curb the spreading desert. Under his leadership, Burkina Faso attained food sufficiency and became a net exporter of food. The railway to link Ouagadougou to the Manganese mines was also built. He code-named it “The battle of the railways’.
France witnessing the change that was taking place in her former colony and the enormous opportunities and benefits that it could offer it jumped in as usual through an unorthodox means by emboldened Blaise Campaore, a close ally of Sankara to stage the 1987coup that had the president killed and he former taking power and brought the country to one cooperation with France.
Liberia in 1989, a civil war broke out. One of the key actors in that atrocious war, Charles Taylor, who supposed to be in prison in US charged with the offence of money laundering and other crimes was seen emerged from the Ivory Coast to prosecute the destabilization of that country. Many scholars believed that the US deliberately released him to come and oust the first indigenous president, Samuel Doe, a “Krahn”.
The Sierra Leonean civil war, which lasted 10 years, 9 months, 3 weeks and 5 days, had outside hands in it 1991. One Russian businessman, Victor Bout was behind the supply of the needed arms through Charles Taylor to the war front in that country. At the height of the war, external pressures from the West were brought to bear on the Ahmad Tijan Kabbah (the then president) to negotiate with the rebels. This was contained in the President’s memoir entitled: “Coming back from the brink in Sierra Leone. That “…increasing external pressure on me to engage in negotiations with the rebels (Kabbah, 2010). When there were clear reasons that Foday Sankoh (leader of the RUF) had been erratic and inconsistent at the previous negotiations. Kabbah’s government was forced by the international bodies to grant amnesty to the rebels. The president was forced to evoke the prerogative of mercy clause under section 63 of the Sierra Leone constitution to set the rebels free.
Analysts have argued that in the international system, the principle of stare decisis hardly applies. Those analysts contended that in the case of Ghana in 1979 coup, the demands of the people and their quest for justice was acceptable hence the execution of those army officers (Kabbah, 2010). The fear from those rogues and renegade soldiers still lingers on in that country. Justice had not been served the victims of that civil war. With their presence, that country can no longer be at ease.
More so, the Arab Spring offered yet another great opportunity for the West to strike at a vibrant Pan-Africanist. Someone described as a successor of Nkrumah. Through their propaganda news channels, they succeeded in painting the Muammar Gaddafi’s government as illegitimate at the height of the “Arab Awakening” in that country in 2011.
Being know and called the “Mad Dog” of the Middle East by Regan administration, Gaddafi, was able to expose the fraudulent nature of the West’s concept of democracy in his Green Book, arguing that power should be directly in the hands of the people and through representatives in parliament. That parliament is the misrepresentation of the people and that parliamentary systems are a false solution to the problems of democracy. That anything short of direct participation of the people is a façade.
He further renewed the call for African unity and the creation of Gold-backed currency to compete with the Euro and US Dollar. That Africa can develop without depending on the West and the Britton Woods. This orientation and posture were the major factors that precipitated the USA and France acting behind NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to cleverly intervene in Libya to oust Gaddafi. Prior to the uprising, CIA agents were sent to Tripoli and Benghazi to incite the people to demonstrate against the government. A country that at the time having a good welfare system for its people than Britain. No one was homeless in Libya, unlike the USA that still has some fraction of its population sleeping under bridges.
When the NATO bombs went silent, Muammar Gaddafi was captured and assassinated by his countrymen. The video of the capture and killing of the Libyan went viral and when it was shown to then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, she remarked: “We came, we saw and he died”. The fact is that, by his assassination, the West is telling Africans that it had set boundaries and whomever that steps out of it will be dealt with.
The collapse of the Libyan regime has unleashed a destabilizing force in many North African states. A consequent manifestation is the advent of the National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA), which now has access to dozens of arms inherited from Gaddafi’s vast weapons caches (Aning et al, 2012). Gaddafi’s administration provided a kind of buffer for the countries like Mali and Niger. With the fall of the government, the Tuareg Rebels that were under the control of the Gaddafi returned home in North Mali were they fought the Malian government in an attempt to create an independent state of Azawad. Moreover, under Brother Gaddafi, the regime gave citizenship to many Africans who lived and worked in that country and sending remittances home to support their dependents. The return of these breadwinners did not portend well at all. Some suffered from cultural shocks while others became a security threat to their respective countries by engaging in the kidnapping of foreigners for ransom. It must be placed on record that an unstable Libya today, can exacerbate the security situations in the Sahel.
Another front where the West particularly the US is interfering is in the military of many African states in the execution of its War on Terror. The former is investing heavily in terms of military hardware for the latter states to fight a war that is not originally its war. The US under the policy of Revolution in the Military Affairs (RMA) of which it has decided not to put its military boot on a foreign soil for combat, is now using countries like Kenya and Somalia to fight its War on Terror. Kenya, over the years, has to pay heavily for this as militants continue to wage war on the government forces and many innocent civilians.
Moving forward, Africa should know that there is a new “Scramble for Africa” and this time there are new powers onboard. China, India, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Iran and Turkey are all coming to Africa in various forms to exploit local resources. What Africans must do is to learn how to craft their own game and unlearn the game of the exploiter. The continent must encourage the growth of black bourgeoisie like the Aliko Dangote’s, Mo Ibrahim’s, the Adenuga’s etc. As the foreigners are trooping into Africa and they are being received with open arms, the question is where is the African in this regard. Where have Africans putten their own entrepreneurs?
Again, African leaders should not forget that these foreign actors who come in under the guise of trade have their own hidden interests. China is building several infrastructures in many East African countries and those investments are going to be owned by China forever. There are no agreements of handing them over to the respective governments. As it stands, projects such as these do not inure to the benefit of the people but the few “comprador elites” or some few oligarchs in government.
On the front of ensuring social cohesion, Africa must rehabilitate its Pan-African ideas in the minds and hearts to agree unanimously that the problem of Africa is one of poor leadership and to believe also that the last 50 years the Achilles heels of the continent has been disunity.
The African Union’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) located in The Hague, can be described as a naïve move when the continent had not created institutions parallel to the Hague-based court nor the continental body has taken steps to first develop and strengthen the Pan- African court. A move that can lead to the growth of authoritarian governments on the continent. To Kofi Annan, the ICC should a source of hope to those victims of serious abuses whose domestic judicial systems have let them down. Unfortunately, however, the perception in parts of Africa and elsewhere that the court is not impartial, and that big powers that are not members apply double standards, is undermining its credibility and effectiveness. We know that in Africa, Hyenas are elected to take of Goats.
Therefore, there is the need to have strong institutions in place to safeguard the people and state resources. The AU must observe the occurrences on the continent critically to know that there is a growing phenomenon on the continent whereby leaders in power change the very constitution that brought them to power in their respective countries to entrench their rule over the people and address it. This is because any political upheavals that this action gives rise to is likely to encourage some form of foreign intervention. Burundi under Pierre Nkuruziza has been described in the recent UN Report as systematically killing and persecuting its citizens with thousands fleeing to Tanzania. The Congo (Zaire) is unsettled as Kabila does not want to relinquish power. The Gambian opposition was in a state of fear as the coercive instruments of the state were unleashed after them.
Africa must learn to invest in itself. Fight cultural entrenchment whereby Africans are forced to live the dreams of the imperialist. Africa must celebrate its own; like Ghallywood, Nollywood etc. Let me end by citing the famous Bantu proverb: “ The man who gives, rules”.