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WEAKNESSES IN THE AFRICAN STATE
The African State is a creation of the West; it was created to serve the interests of the former powers in lieu of their absence. The clamour for independence gave us the nations we wanted but not the freedom; our fate was caused by a large information gap, lack of control of our own resources, a corrupt bureaucracy and the monopoly of violence without justice. On the days when we won our independence we were as illiterate as before, the former masters controlled the resources and we charged rent for mines, our civil services were tribal and corrupt; the military was the only viable manifestation of the state.
The African State is a mirage, running on indicators, fuelled by aid, supported by external forces against itself, it is unable to deal with the complexities of globalization. It often just needs a slight nudge to tip over the African State. The dreams of our independence days were destroyed by the greed of our leaders; they viewed their own resources as a threat to their own power if they landed in the wrong hands. It was better to give it to the white man and keep just enough to keep the state going, enough to grease the wheels of patronage and no more.
As the machine grows it needs more grease, it has more parts and consumes more, luckily it was the Cold War and aid was aplenty. Cut to 89, party’s over!!! All the aid you got? It was loans, not grants, stupid, I swear I told you in the fine print. Now you guys are gonna have to democratise and be nice, plus you have to cut your budget in half while doubling efficiency and paying off 1000% of your GDP in debt.
Then you have to sell off all your minerals to private western companies to access credit on the global market. This brought rioting in the streets, coups, counter-coups, civil wars, genocides and that was just the start. Then the guilt, maybe they were too harsh on Africa. Okay, let’s make a deal – if you take off the military uniforms and become civilian presidents then we’ll accept you, we’ll slash all your debt (which you have already paid several times over) and give you aid to sustain your dying venture called a state. They all nodded, slapped each other on the back, but as they walked out, there was a condition. You can only serve 2 terms!!! This was the perfect solution, soon all these goons would be out the door, the strongmen replaced by weaker, more pliable democrats. It was like giving a kid a packet of chocolates but saying he can only have two. So now leaders are all in a quandary of how to extend, how to finish the packet of chocolates.
As a patient lays sick in their bed, their main problem switches from their original malady, to the opportunistic diseases that will take advantage of the lack of immunity and will finish you. It could be anything, a market protest over a trader who had his scales taken, or a sudden rise in the price of staple foods, a rebel movement or even a disease. Boko Ebola is killing West Africa, Boko Haram and Ebola are the same organism, the same species, the opportunistic infection that fills the gaps left by the African State.
This is Globalism, the free movement of people, goods, services, capital and diseases. It makes the stock market tick, it brings us fresh imported produce in the morning, but it also brings diseases. Ebola previously used to hit in villages deep in the middle of nowhere, the isolation would help contain the disease. Today, we have millions on the move who potentially have this disease; it has brought about a panic of epic proportions. The most educated of nations seem to be making the most irrational decisions; Ebola has brought a change in our philosophical outlook, and has brought our very own sense of mortality to the fore.
Now mothers no longer kiss their kids, everything is a non-contact affair, no touching please, no touching. No one is ploughing the fields, the markets are closed, and fishermen no longer fish. It has brought about a collapse in the state in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The biggest threat to governments is now biological, ask Sata of Zambia, he’s dead so you can’t, but it seems disease is the biggest political opposition that leaders face.
African power is so pure, so absolute, that it gives a sense of immortality, you feel downright impervious to disease. In a way, this is caused by the type of leaders we choose, the Alpha Males, the Type-A’s who admonish any doubts, we want certainty from our leaders, be it good or bad, we want certainty. There is no room for disease in that matrix, no room for variables, our leaders are immortal until they die. None ever thinks of setting up a hospital for him and his elite clique to live longer. They get a private jet as the ultimate medical insurance to fly you 12 hours to medical facilities worthy of a person of such stature.
You can die on the plane, or be beyond repair and they hide your vegetative corpse while your entourage fights for power amid denials of your death. The people – the unsullied, see the excesses of the state, the state clamps down on media hoping the people didn’t notice, or that they are happy fools to be ruled in perpetuity. We have had two “Black Springs” so far, one in Senegal and another in Burkina Faso, both were caused by leaders over-estimating their popularity. In both cases, it was not the masses that removed them; it was the “Invisible hand” of the West. France claims it wrote a letter asking Campaore to resign and not seek a third term; the truth is it would have been happy for him to stay.
Many other dinosaurs are now fit for the pluck, Biya of Cameroon, Nguesso of Congo, Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, Mugabe, and many more.
You can kill a man but not an idea – Thomas Sankara on his impending doom. To watch the documentary “The Upright Man” you see the foolhardy tragedy of African existence. He castigated Mitterrand in the most dismissive way, with the cameras rolling; he delivered rapier-like cuts to the French ego. “Mr. Mitterrand hosted the president of apartheid South Africa and accorded Botha full honours of state, in the land of Liberty, Fraternity and equality. It is a mockery to the ideals of France.” The look of murderous anger on Mitterrand’s face said it all, he almost felt sorry for the murder he was about to order.
He awaited his fate patiently while Blaise dithered on his command because he had to kill his cousin here. People told Sankara to arrest Campaore, Sankara laughed it off and said “I don’t want to be the bad guy, I can’t kill him, if he kills me then I know he was sent by someone.” Days later, the prototype of the modern African president was dead, buried in a latrine and his memory expunged from the social conscious.
Paul Kagame and other leaders of his generation were influenced by Sankara, as was Meles Zenawi, and Jerry Rawlings. His opinions and teachings from 30 years ago are still revolutionary, women’s rights, control of resources, self-pride, honesty, dedication, and economic justice for African nations. When Sankara threatened a boycott of payment of debts that were a product of immoral interest rates, he pre-empted a move by the West to cancel debt. This cancellation of debt was the basis for African growth in the 21th Century.
We are still very far from Sankara’s dream of self-reliance; he banned foreign imports of clothes and encourages Burkinabe to wear locally made clothes. When you look at an African, every item on his body is imported, the clothes, the watch, the shoes, the phone, the jewellery – this is called commodity fetishism. When Africans first encountered Europeans they were blinded by the products they had, mirrors, beads, cups, spoons, and such. In our primal cultures we attach meaning and significance to items; they become totemic symbols of wealth and power, not the wealth itself but a symbol of it. So we adopted Western products in the hope that some of those qualities of the European would rub off on us.
We can make all these products, we can make clothes better than what we import, shoes better suited to our African soil but we don’t, they wouldn’t be imbued with Whiteness. So commodity fetishism costs us trillions of dollars, selling our resources to buy a finished product from elsewhere, this makes us poorer every day. We are swapping real wealth for symbols of wealth. People will tell you African products are not as good, economists will tell you economies of scale make it impossible, it is better to import they say. Others decided to bypass the industrial process and jump straight to IT in the 21st century, like Rwanda, but this doesn’t solve our deficit problem. This deficit caused by fetish for imports create inequality within society that leads to social breakdown.
So who is the true heir of Sankara? Who will acknowledge the inherent weaknesses in the African State? Who will look beyond their immediate needs to fix those weaknesses? The outside powers will hijack these popular movements, they will back one General over another, pay lip service to the grievances but support a Status Quo. The interests of African Democracy and the West are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive. African Democracy is failing because it does not control its own resources, the West controls these resources and sets the price. Our democratic deficit is caused by a fiscal deficit.
The West tends for the child called African democracy but starves the Child of the Mother’s Milk. You cannot have your cake and let someone else eat it, there is only one cake, either they have it or you do. So they seek cosmetic democracies, the mascara of human rights, the lipstick of accountability, the powder of inclusion, and the eyeliner of development. The question still hinges on control of resources, first people want a bigger share then they want their own cake. We need an African Commodity Exchange, we unite and boycott for a bigger share. They tell us that we are not capable of controlling our resources till we have democracy; we say we cannot have democracy until we have control over our own resources.
The stalemate continues……. the struggle hasn’t even begun yet
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