Monday, February 23, 2009

The beginning of all this: the fate of Africa

Of course, all those dreams from the 1950's of my childhood, even if somewhat based in reality then, would come upon a very changed Africa today.

An Africa changed by modernization, political evolution, independence, internal strife, population growth, urbanization, racism, exploitation, land abuse and degradation of habitats. Much of the story of the past fifty + years in Africa is based on the independence from the colonial hegemony and powers, from the British, French, Dutch, Belgians and Portuguese to name some of them. The shift to independence began in the Gold Coast [now Ghana] with Kwame Nkrumah and spread across the continent over the next few decades. Some were relatively peaceful transitions with some elections happening but most were violent and difficult, greatly impacting the poor and the powerless. A detailed and sweeping record of this time is in the book by Martin Meredith from which I took the title of this post: The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence.

It is the story of a continent of diverse peoples, geography, cultures, languages and religions. A continent carved up by the white colonial powers with little regard for cultural and tribal demarcations, mixing people that had been traditional enemies for centuries and suddenly throwing them together to work and cohabit. This, and many other factors, of course, as nothing is as simple as it might appear, led to much internal strife for dominance, for power, and the riches of Africa that the rest of the world wanted. It led to coup after coup, with much bloodshed and horror, violence and death.

A listing of names and places will bring up the history of wars, civil wars, famines, genocide and self appointed life time dictators, only a few of which were benign. This is by no means complete, I am only attempting to paint a picture of the sectarian violence that has plagued this beautiful continent. Some of the men are Bokassa, Kenyatta, Taylor, Mugabe, Idi Amin, Mengistu, Qaddafi, Nyerere, Verwoerd, and Nkrumah. Some of the places of strife in my memory are Angola, Zimbabwe, Nigeria-Biafra, Sudan-Darfur, Congo, South Africa, Rwanda, Libya, Uganda, Somalia and many more. Some of the heroes are Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Romeo Dallaire, but the anti-heroes and despots far out-number them

Tribalism created much strife and was even exploited by some of the colonial powers as in the case of Rwanda pitting the Hutus and Tutsis against each other. Many countries ended up in endless tribal warfare with self appointed dictators, stealing their country's resources and wealth for themselves their families, their tribesmen and their cronies, setting up Swiss bank accounts and then finding a nice place to live out their days after they were finally ousted. This is a generalization, of course, but it was the case in more countries in Africa than I want to remember. I was horrified by the exploitation and inhumanity throughout Meredith's modern history of the continent. And it is still going on today in a number of places with the rest of the world looking on with the attitude of: It is not our business" - this is what fueled the genocide in Rwanda and kept it going, and now allows violent rape to be used as a weapon of war in the Congo - even though much of the chaos is a result of resource exploitation and the impact of colonialism on the indigenous people and cultures. Again, I recognize that is a generalization!.

No comments:

Post a Comment