Thursday, July 5, 2007

The New Mandela

DISCLAIMER: The following post was sparked by my frustration with the recent AU Summit. It is a rant of my disappointment. My personal views are pro African-Unity, however in light of the recent summit, I was feeling a bit cynical and wrote this. My hope is to spark some form of discussion on the issue.

I have great admiration for our Former President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. He laid the foundation for the relative peace we have in the country today. Nyerere was also, instrumental in advocating a united Africa. He and Nkrumah, and to an extent Toure were largely responsible for re-activating the Pan African Debate.

However, that said, Tanzania and Africa as a whole have moved a long way from the unity-filled thoughts of yesteryear. The East African Community (EAC) which is now being fast tracked as is not as grand in practice as it is in theory. Although the East African leaders are pushing to ensure that the community will be established, this is largely based on selfish motive. Kenya knows that they will be able to encroach on Tanzanian and Ugandan jobs as they have more skilled labor. The free trading bloc will benefit the countries which are either rich in resources or manufacturing ability. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the countries in East Africa which feel they are unable to compete will have to adapt and likewise fast-track their progress in terms of education and commercial production.

The difficulty arises when one examines the reality on the ground. The majority of the Tanzanian people do not have concrete information on what the EAC will entail, and those that do are skeptical about its potential for success and the possibility of failure. Just as the initial EAC fell to pieces when Kenyatta went on the opposite road; more traveled; then Nyerere i.e. capitalism vs socialism, a rift grew. This was the same time Idi Amin Dada came into power, and shortly after Tanzania decided to invade the country to depose the despotic leader.

So the reality behind African unity is much more complex for anyone to be able to hold a stance one way or another. Although it is ideally what Africa needs, it is not as easy to be put into practice. There is immense tribal difference in much of Africa, and where it is not conflict it is just a dislike, in fact, apart from Tanzania, I don't think there is any African country which has not suffered negatively from tribal tension.

The past in which Nyerere was hailed as a hero is also starting to fade. It is so painful and disappointing to hear my fellow countrymen saying that Nyerere is the cause of the problems they face today. It is unfortunate that these people are unable to grasp the political and cultural context in which Nyerere made his decisions, and how beneficial they actually were to the country. Nyerere was also humble enough to know that, when the political context changed, he had to step down and admit his failure and inability to persist with his current political ideology. The frequently quoted ‘failure’ of Ujamaa, was in fact brought about by external factors, the chief being: The Cold war (which Tanzania tried to stay out of), the oil crisis of the 70's, the crash in the price of coffee and sisal and the Uganda problem.

So as you can see, the ideal of a united Africa, or even in smaller terms a united East Africa is minimal, at least in the current continental framework.

The ideals of Nyerere, Nkrumah, and Toure, have been replaced with the mimicking of western pop culture. The African heroes of today are no longer our homegrown advocates for peace, but rather the violence-promoting figures of urban America.

50 cent is the new Mandela!!

Ironically, the only real prospect of having a united Africa is actually dependant on a complete cultural intrusion by the West and its proxy's. It has already started, and will persist until and unless we speak up. Once the African culture has been diluted and disbanded for the more hip western culture, we will have the perfect cultural milieu for a United Africa to persist. With single mind and single thought and no room for alternative ideas, a united Africa will flourish in the congruent stupidity of popular western invasive culture.

At the end of the three day AU summit recently held, the African leaders agreed to shelf the United African Government indefinitely.

Where do we go from here?


Black Shepherd said...

very well written. i concur on almost all points. we have to realise though that AU leaders have thought about this much more than we have. In an age where corruption is rampant, senior level leaders are barely educated, and many countries are held in a foreign debt choke-hold, the idea of a united AU government seems second place and would only exacerbate preexisting problems. Most countries are still recovering from their independence struggles or are embroiled in internal conflicts.

Lets go over it for a minute. we have

The middle east is in chaos, south america is teetering on the brink of it because of Chavez' bolivarian revolution, Russia is still stepping on chechnya, estonia and all its other little offshoots. India and Pakistan are still at it. The USA is in mountains of debt to china mostly, and China is about to tip the power scales and become the worlds next superpower.

- Zimbabwe: inflation in the 1000s, paper money is useless, and people are paid in food.

Botswana - ravaged by AIDS, have their own problems to deal with.

South Africa - The deputy president and maybe even president in a matter of years Jacob Zuma professes he takes warm showers to avoid contracting HIV, and has appeared in court on rape charges (later found innocent - although the impartiality of the courts can be argued). Amidst the generally dismal level of education highlighted by Zuma's 'warm showers' there is one of the highest murder and crime rates in the world and an increasingly testy general populace (take the recent national strike for example).

DRC - its the DRC, need I say more?
Rwanda - as above
Uganda - as above
Burundi - as above
CAR - as above
Angola - as above
Sudan - as above
Somalia - as above
Sierra Leone - as above
Liberia - as above
Cote d'ivoire - as above

etc etc

You may argue that this is precisely why the AU is needed. And youd be right. But amidst all this instability, war and corruption its formation would be best postponed.

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hj said...

I agree with you in the sense that the situation is highly complex and the idea of a comprehensive African government is currently quite idealistic. However I do not agree with all your examples of problem areas.

Firstly Chavez's Venezuelan and Morales' Bolivarian revolutions are not causing South America to teeter on the brink but rather breathing new life into the continent. There presence in the region and the more leftist view many other Latin American countries are taking has allowed the region to once again have the proletariats best interests at heart. I will concede that some of Chavez's policies are harmful to the progress of the region, especially his crackdown on independent media, however unlike during the Cold War, the people are more vocal in their disdain for negative policies, and debate is once again raging. Which is what I think is important.

Zimbabwe, I will concede is a huge problem to the progress of the continent, and the inaction by African leaders is disgraceful, yet I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Botswana, yes it is ravaged by AIDS, and they have to concentrate more on their social policy, but in terms of economic development they are a model for the continent. Don't you think Uganda would be able to offer their expertise on the issue? A united Africa would make this more possible.

South Africa- I highly doubt Zuma will be elected the next president. Yes, the scandal of his situation is something to look upon with disgust, however with the most progressive constitution in the world, SA is a testing ground for new political ideas.

DRC- Yes DRC is ravaged with problems, political strife, poverty, civil war. But don't you think there first multi-party elections in history is something to look upon with optimism? Obviously there was rigging, intimidation,etc. But it was the first step to a stable democracy.

Rwanda- I think as important as it is to remember the atrocities of the genocide and not let them happen again (darfur?), it is also necessary to look beyond the bloody past and look at their ever-promising present and future. Rwanda is currently a model country in terms of growth, social integration, civil society engagement and public policy. The country is trying to rid itself of its negative image and I think they deserve that opportunity.

Uganda- The current peace talks between the LRA and government is a good sign for peace.

Burundi- Similar to Rwanda, although to a lesser degree, they are trying to pave the way for a more stable future. Repatriating all Burundian refugees is a good sign. They are trying to recapture a strong human workforce.

CAR-Needs help.

Angola-blossoming with their newly found oil wealth, needless to say natural resources in diamonds. Yes they still recovering from a bloody civil war but they are trying to make the most of their natural wealth and liberalize the markets. They have also found a new trade partner for their oil; China, who is offering better prices than others. Yes China's intentions are questionable, but Angolan government is doing much to boost the living standards of their people.

Sudan- A crisis that exists because we allow it to persist.

Somalia- A major crisis because of our inaction and American interests .

Sierra Leone- Trying to recuperate from a bloody civil war. The Kimberly process is a good first step.

Liberia- Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf, a smart woman working towards a better future.

Cote d'ivoire- As Sierra Leone.

etc etc.

As cynical as I may be in the likelihood of a African government, I am optimistic in the potential of one existing. That may sound slightly contradicting, and in examination it probably is.

but hey, what's new?