AFRICA HAS TO CLEAN ITS POLITICS BEFORE IT MARKETS ITSELF ON THE WORLD STAGE
A PAPER PRESENTED AT THE MARKETING AFRICA NIGHT
By Jerry Okungu, Africa News Online, Nairobi, Kenya
September 4, 2009
When I was a little kid in rural Africa, my late father had this discussion with me about the heavy political events of the time, issues I hardly understood:
“I hear Jaramogi has left the government of Jomo?”
“Yes, he did.”
“How many guns did he take with him?”
“He did not take any guns.”
“Then, how can he fight Jomo who has guns when has none?”
“If you are spoiling for a fight; you must prepare for it.
“To prepare for a fight you must choose a fight you can win, have your weapon and fight to win.
“Tell Jaramogi that this is not his fight. He cannot win it.
“Let him go back to Jomo or go to Bondo and bide his time”
Years later when I was grown up and he was long gone, I finally understood his message.
Africa’s liberation movements and those sons of Africa that fought for the liberation of the African continent had a dream. The likes of Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Tom Mboya of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Siaka Stevens of Siera Leone, Ben Bella of Algeria and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya had their noble dream for the continent.
When that dream became a nightmare, Kenya lost two chances of producing a Mandela. First was in 1963 when Kenyatta’s patriotism and statesmanship was hijacked by a cabal of ethnic centered advisors.
The second time we failed to produce a Mandela was in 2003, when again we surrounded Kibaki with narrow-minded advisors and took him the same route we took Kenyatta. The dream of Africa’s founding fathers in the 1960s was to create a United States of Africa in order to be as powerful as the United States of America. They had foreseen that there was strength in unity of purpose based on a strong consumer base; the only sure way to become economically self sustaining.
They knew that despite their new found freedoms, their former colonial masters would not leave them alone. They would use other methods to recolonize Africa. After all, after more than 100 years, they had left their cultural and religious footprints on the continent. There were so many Western educated Africans that had consumed their cultures, values and ways of life. They would use these people to regain control of the African continent. This time round, it would not be brute force to subdue the native. It would be economic domination, control and exploitation.
In doing this, they needed strong and influential partners on the ground. They needed partners that had power over the masses and controlled the purse strings of the government. Partners that would not lose sleep over a few natives dying of hunger or treatable diseases as long as they and their families were able to stash billions of their dollars in foreign banks abroad.
How did we lose the dream and the path to United States of Africa?
Our today’s problems started right from the time of independence. There were so many issues that were left unsolved. Arbitrary boundaries that had destroyed pre-colonial nation-states (tribes) were left unsorted. These would later be used as perfect re-entry points by former masters now turned world powers.
Remember the Shifta war in Northern Kenya in the early 1960s and ‘70s?
Remember Obote and the Kabaka of Uganda in 1966?
Remember Moise Tsombe of Katanga Province, Patrice Lumumba, Mobutu and Kasavubu in the Congo?
Remember the Nigerian Biafrian War of 1967 and 1968?
The same Berlin power brokers of 1884 when they divided Africa among themselves would use broken kingdoms and nation-states to fuel ethnic animosity among young African states.
Sooner, rather than later, we had coups after military coups staged by Western trained military elite.
Where local soldiers were incapable or unwilling, they would fly in mercenaries known then as the dogs of war or soldiers of fortune.
Where the military did not carry out a coup such as Kenya for the first 18 years, it was not lost on observers which politicians were allied to which super powers.
Then they started knocking the heads of our leaders against one another; Kwame against Kofi Busia, Jaramogi against Jomo, Obote against Kabaka and Kambona against Nyerere, Tsombe against Kasavubu and Shamarke against Siad Barre.
What was the impact of the Cold War, its end, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumble of Soviet empire on our continent?
Africa became a continent of brutal dictators for at least three decades. Instead of Haile Selassie, we got Mengitsu for a ruler. Instead of Tolbert in Liberia, we got Sergeant Doe for a head of state.
Closer next door, we replaced Apollo Milton Obote with Idi Amin Dada while Joseph Mobutu murdered Lumumba and Kasavubu at the behest of the Belgians and the CIA and ended up being the head of a puppet regime in the Congo.
In Central Africa, we produced another Idi Amin in the form of Emperor Jean Batiste Bokassa whose story we all know.
Where coups never took place like in Kenya and Tanzania, civilian rulers like Kenyatta and Nyerere imposed one party rules that made them absolute rulers like Kamuzu Banda of Malawi.
The West never raised a finger against them because the Cold War was in effect and they needed allies for a possible Third World War!
For Kenya, the worst was yet to happen. When Kenyatta died in 1978, Moi, his successor promised to follow in his footsteps and indeed he kept his promise. He applied all the bad things that Kenyatta became known for and made sure he surpassed Kenyatta’s excesses.
After the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union crumbled in 1989, the wind of change started blowing across the African continent a second time.
Dictators that once supported America and Britain against Communism started feeling the heat. The likes of Mobutu, Moi, Banda, Kaunda, Abacha, Rawlings and even Tanzania’s CCM were forced to democratize.
Mandela had to be released from Robben Island because white supremacists in Pretoria were no longer useful.
Communism, the biggest threat to Western Capitalism was dead.
So, suppose we were to market Africa to the rest of the world today, where would we start? It is not like we have not tried in the past. We have on record past attempts that have faulted.
But this does not mean that we must stop further attempts at marketing Africa the way America, Asia and Europe have successfully done.
The latest international governance survey says that of the 53 African states, 20 of them are on the road to democracy. This means that all is not lost. We still have a chance to redeem ourselves of bad governance; our biggest headache on the continent.
However, we must urgently deal with pertinent issues that have become cannon fodder for Western press who, for all practical purposes are least concerned with Africa’s plight.
Their brief is to put the African down at any cost in order for their economies to thrive. Africa must forever remain a charitable playground of Western “humanitarianism”.
It must never be allowed to be self reliant because if it does and succeeds, Western economies will collapse. They have lost China, India and South America. Africa and the Middle East must not go for reasons of oil and other raw materials.
But what are we really up against?
The forces lined up against this continent are mighty and powerful. They are not forces you can confront with conventional weapons. More often than not, they are invisible as they are invincible. The fight for control of the continent has moved from militarism to intellectualism. To fight this war, we must arm our fighters with intellect.
We must go back in time and find out how the Americans, Chinese and Russians fought ideological wars during the Cold War era and who won those wars! We must go back in time and find out how Apartheid South Africa fought a bitter propaganda war against Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania to win the hearts and minds of the ANC and Frontline States.
Like the war between Communists and Capitalists, the war between Pretoria and Dar es Salaam was the war fought on the airwaves- the media propaganda war. It pitted Radio Moscow against the Voice of America. Radio Moscow had to counter propaganda from BBC. Radio Beijing had to deal with propaganda from Voice of America.
In Africa, Radio RSA in Johannesburg found itself pitted against the External Service of Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam. The reason we are losing the war against Western propaganda is because we have remained passive consumers of their propaganda. When Ranneberger abuses us in Nairobi, he finds readymade cheer leaders amongst us.
When a pony tailed German ambassador and other European colleagues call a press conference to tell us how rotten we are; we climb the rooftops to cheer them on. The question to ask is this: How many African ambassadors can raise their voices in London, Washington, Berlin or Brussels to tell Americans and the British off about their killing of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan?
When one American Madoff rips off poor Americans with his pyramid scheme to the tune US$ 50 billion, are our ambassadors ready to condemn the American government for it and get away with it?
When the giant Enron Company collapses with billions of tax payers savings, do we condemn American leaders for it?
When Wall Street brings down the American and global economy, do we condemn the White House for its failures?
How many of our foreign ministers and heads of state have travelled to Washington or London to lecture the ‘White House or the Queen’s Palace about injustices, human rights abuses and inequalities there? Yet we know that millions of Americans, especially blacks face the same poverty we face here.
This war is a propaganda war and Africa must fight it as such. However, to succeed, we must emulate Botswana, Singapore, and Malaysia. We must first clean our house and put it in order.
Before we sell our rivers, mountains, valleys, wild life and tourist lodges to the Western tourist,
Before we sell our Masai culture, exotic and mystic Africa to the West,
Before we sell our investment opportunities to the multinational dollar man, let us first make it possible for us to live in peace, harmony.
Let us deal with insecurity, senseless killings, violent politics, uncontrolled greed for land and public resources and wanton destruction of our forests.
Let us first strive to be responsible people with a measurable ability to be ashamed and embarrassed.
What does Africa have?
Africa plenty of oil, minerals, raw materials, good weather, sunshine, wind, water, educated workforce, intellectuals, researchers and most importantly, a 700 million consumer base. All we need to do is to learn how to exploit these resources for the good of all of us.
What does Africa not have?
Africa does not have visionary and moral leadership, working justice systems, technological innovations, and capacity to chart its own path of development, capacity to discard dependency syndrome, the will to eradicate poverty and the will to provide social services to its citizenry.
The reason it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell Africa to the rest of the world is the perception deliberately created out there that the black man is an irresponsible race, incorrigibly corrupt, insatiably greedy, brutal flawed with no capacity to run a responsible government.
For these reasons Western media would rather see famine, disease, poverty, corruption, coup de tats, tribal wars and other forms of civil strife than anything else positive.
They see Africa as a continent that if left alone without external intervention would consume itself in its own turmoil. And they have many examples to give. The cite Kenya’s 2007 post election violence, Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Congo’s unending civil war, conflicts in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Darfur, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Africa’s Xenophobia killings and Nigerian oil delta conflict.
What does Africa need to do?
Africa needs to deal decisively with frequent famine disasters in the Horn of Africa. If Egypt, Israel and other desert countries in the Middle East can be food sufficient, why should our region that is blessed with good weather, rivers and lakes not feed itself?
Why should the Horn of Africa be an eyesore on the continent year after year begging for food for its starving people?
Why must we depend on rainfall to feed our people when we can irrigate our land for sufficient food production?
Endless wars in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea have become lucrative arms market for military industries of Europe and America. As we spend our meager fortunes buying arms and butchering one another, our foreign masters are smiling all the way to their banks.
We have to get rid of our dictators, corrupt political leadership, military regimes, Human Rights abuses and election irregularities if we have to move from this black hole.
Finally, we have to embark on intra Africa trade by breaking the artificial barriers that divide our people and hamper freedom of movement in Africa.
Only through trading among ourselves can we promote our diverse cultures, harmony and create real homegrown wealth for our people. Only after we have attained our economic independence can we exploit the AGOA opportunities from a position of strength.
Africa must clean up its politics, stop corruption and greed for public resources and adopt justice systems that work. We have to start holding our leaders to account and deal with poverty and inequality decisively.
We have to embark on programmes that will feed our people in a sustainable manner because a nation that cannot feed and protect its citizens is not worthy of its name.
We must start honoring the promises we make to our people as leaders by providing social services using taxes paid by the citizens.
We have to stop spending huge budgets on arms and opulence when our people are starving to death.
Africa must spend more funds on research in scientific food production rather than arms and military hardware even when there is no possibility of war in the horizon
Only when we can feed our people without begging outsiders can we claim to be sovereign states.
A man who feeds clothes and shelters his family gives no room for another man to prey on his wife. Because the wife has been empowered and given dignity.