West Africa: An Indictment
By H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr.
The very peculiar West African habit of rewarding criminals, mass murderers and assassins must have by now disabused our idealistic minds that in the absence of political consciousness by leader and people, peace with justice ban be achieved. The lack of moral decency which is demonstrated by rewarding the likes of Charles Taylor, Foday Sankoh, Blaise Campoare, etc., points to one undeniable truth: there can never be stability in West Africa as long as West African leaders ignore the clamor of the people for justice and instead preach the hollow gospel of stability, which in reality is a plea for "staying in power" at any price.
Of what use is any peace when the people are brutalized and victimized by callous zombies in the service of a repressive state structure? Of what benefit is peace which compensates evil and ruthlessness? Where is the psychological compensation for a traumatized people when the perpetrators of murder, rape and banditry are ushered into the citadel of power as governors? In certain historical context, racist psychologists have tried to show that the inferiority complex of the black man derives from his willing acceptance of dehumanizing injustice which men with superior intelligence would find intolerable. What this says in reality is that there are certain injustices which force rational men to rebel. Under similar circumstances, those who do not rebel are irrational and unintelligent, for they have no defining parameter to determine what is humanly unacceptable.
The tragedy for the people of West Africa is that they live in a region dominated by men who are comfortable being leaders of empty and paralyzed countries. The image of a leader for most of these men is a bloated figure who bestrides the world stage donned in expensive suits or flowering African customs, while their starved and undernourished people dig in the bottomless pits of their imagination for ways to find the basic necessities to survive from day to day. For most of these leaders, having rigged, murdered and cheated their way to power, they do not mind ruling barren lands, for their purpose of taking power has to do with individual gratification and not with the upliftment of the people through participation and empowerment. The stability these leaders plea for is that which protects their power--no matter how brutal and corrupt.
In North, South and East Africa on the other hand, there is a clear vision of leadership and what its responsibilities are in relation to the people and the nation-state. From the dawn of independence, leaders like Mwalimu Nyerere, Robert Mugabe, Agostinho Neto, Samora Machel, Nelson Mandela and others have defined the nation-state and the leadership's responsibilities and relationship to the people. These ideas and views have served as the points of departure for subsequent leaders of a younger generation like Museveni, Dos Santos, Mbeki, Nujoma and Chissano. An example will help to clarify our argument. In a statement on "The African Renaissance," Thabo Mbeki, the new president of South Africa who belongs to the younger generation of leaders in South and East Africa averred: "Africa has no need for the criminals, who would acquire political power by slaughtering the innocents, as do the butchers of the people of Richmond in KwaZulu-Natal. Nor has she need for such as those who, because they did not accept that power is legitimate only because it serves the interests of the people, laid Somalia to waste and deprived its people of a country which gave its citizens a sense of being as well as the means to build themselves into a people. Neither has Africa need for the petty gangsters who would be our governors by theft of elective positions as a result of holding fraudulent elections, or by purchasing positions of authority through bribery and corruption." These ideas speak volume about the consciousness of the progressive leaders who understand their responsibility to the people.
Even in North Africa where Ghadafi often demonstrates a naive understanding of the essence of the struggle in black Africa, the spirit and vision of Gamal Abdel Nasser hold sway. The enduring quality of Nasser's leadership was that he enmeshed himself into the struggle and aspirations of the Egyptian and Arab masses. He was a leader who led by example and he gave his people a sense of direction. Under the rule of this African nationalist, Cairo became the political home of many freedom fighters from the Third World. Nasser was a leader of Mica and an inspiration to many African nationalists, not because he ruled over a large country which had significant geographical importance, but because he exuded the ideas and vision which fired the imagination of millions of ordinary people.
In West Africa, the insipid verbiage that comes from most of the plantation overseers who regard themselves as leaders is enough to bring on somnolence. Listen to warlord and escaped prisoner turned president by the sleight of Abacha's hand--Charles Taylor: "I am going to have the largest farm in the country so this can encourage you all to go into farming." Here in plain language is the mind-set of a petty thief The land belongs to the peasants and they should be encouraged to produce food on it for consumption and sale. It should not be expropriated by a plantation overseer who does not understand the social and economic consequences of proletarianising helpless peasants. This example can be extended to many areas in West Africa where conspicuous consumption and greed by parasitic ruling cliques have doomed the people to poverty, backwardness and stagnation. It is within this framework that these nation-wreckers and modern-day slavers plea for stability!
We can argue and with the confidence borne out of historical experiences that the deaths from tribal wars, banditry and gangsterism are no worse than the deaths from malnutrition, poverty and debilitating diseases. All these deaths are the result of neglect and the lack of vision which create the conditions for the derailment of the nation-building process. In this context, one ought to define the parameter in which collective upliftment can take place and in which leaders with a conscious commitment to the people's progress will emerge. This then is the determinant of whether there will be stability based on repression, injustice and parasitism or stability based on the collective awareness of social justice, human decency and equality.
Thabo Mbeki argues poignantly that: "The call for Africa's renewal for an African Renaissance is a call to rebellion. We must rebel against the tyrants and the dictators, those who seek to corrupt our societies and steal the wealth that belongs to the people." We would add that the people themselves must lead the rebellion and thus develop the consciousness which would make it impossible for swindlers and parasites to nibble at the courageous spirit of the masses.
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