Africa’s politi­cians in tran­si­tion

“African politi­cians must re­vive this trans-African in­tel­lec­tual broad­cast. Me­les Ze­nawe of Ethiopia came to lead Africa’s voice over ne­go­ti­a­tions about Cli­mate Change pol­i­tics. Be­fore him, Balewa, Wil­liam Tub­man of Liberia, and Ah­madou Ahidjo of Camer­oun

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

African politi­cians have been played many bad cards. Bri­tish colo­nial of­fi­cials, for ex­am­ple, hated mem­o­ries of their own an­gry politi­cians killing King Charles 1; fol­lowed by newly rich Amer­i­can na­tion­al­ists over­throw­ing Bri­tish colo­nial rule with armed strug­gle. In Africa they trans­planted Le­banese (in West African colonies), In­di­ans (In Kenya, Uganda and Tan­za­nia) and Greeks in Su­dan to han­dle com­merce; pur­chas­ing har­vested crops di­rectly from farm­ers and sold them to Bri­tish firms for ex­port abroad. They re­ceived man­u­fac­tured mer­chan­dise for re­tail­ing lo­cally; but dared not de­mand po­lit­i­cal power. African politi­cians re­mained safely im­pov­er­ished.

In Kenya, pris­ons were built to host politi­cians stig­ma­tized as ‘’mad’’ be­cause they re­jected white in­vaders tak­ing over their lands; and shoot­ing down own­ers lack­ing guns to shoot back. Politi­cians who com­bined bril­liance with ar­ro­gant pa­tri­o­tism in the run up to in­de­pen­dence were as­sas­si­nated. In Ubangi Shari, Bra­ganza, a Catholic priest tuned na­tion­al­ist politi­cian, died in a plane crash prob­a­bly as­sisted by French in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials.

‘’West Africa’’ mag­a­zine pub­lished a re­port of Bri­tish and Amer­i­can am­bas­sadors fran­ti­cally seek­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of Kwame Nkrumah. In 1958, a year af­ter Ghana’s in­de­pen­dence, he con­vened a con­fer­ence of politi­cians from in­de­pen­dent African coun­tries and those still un­der bondage. Tom Mboya in Kenya joined Pa­trice Lu­mumba from Bel­gian-colonised Congo. They met Franz Fanon, a French med­i­cal doc­tor who had de­fected to join Al­ge­ria’s armed strug­gle. Nkrumah’s doc­trine that Ghana’s in­de­pen­dence was not com­plete un­til the whole of Africa was free from colo­nial dic­ta­tor­ships was clearly sub­ver­sive. White rulers in apartheid South Africa felt threat­ened.

Nkrumah in­flu­enced Pa­trice Lu­mumba form­ing a na­tion-wide po­lit­i­cal party in mul­ti­eth­nic Congo. Lu­mumba as a Batetela; worked as a postal clerk in to­day’s Kisan­gani) in eastern Congo; moved to to­day’s Kin­shasa in the west, and toured Congo as a sales­man of a ma­jor brew­ery had trained in selling a pol­i­tics of in­de­pen­dence. Aime Ce­saire, poet from Mar­tinique, wrote a play on Lu­mumba’s tango with colo­nial po­lice as he sold Po­lar Beer to raise con­sumers. His for­ma­tion of a na­tion-wide po­lit­i­cal party was coun­tered by Bel­gian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials pro­mot­ing tribal par­ties.

Nkrumah’s vic­tory in elec­tions and out­flank­ing the Ashanti, in­formed Bri­tish cre­ation of re­gional gov­ern­ments in Nige­ria and balka­nis­ing the sin­gle colo­nial sky over Nige­ria’s politi­cians. In Sene­gal, a bril­liant strat­egy by Leopold Senghor of hold­ing vil­lage-to-vil­lage talks with re­li­gious lead­ers, won pres­i­den­tial elec­tions for twenty years even though he was a Chris­tian in a coun­try in which 90 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion are Moslems. Julius Kam­barage Ny­erere, who shared with Senghor at­tributes of com­ing from tiny eth­nic and re­li­gious bases, ben­e­fited from coun­try­wide trav­els and imag­i­na­tive use of com­monly spo­ken Swahili lan­guage to make all na­tion­al­i­ties ready for his call for free­dom.

Africa’s anti-colo­nial politi­cians were bril­liant in com­bat­ing im­pe­rial bu­reau­cra­cies while lack­ing even rudi­men­tary think-tanks and fi­nan­cial re­sources; trav­el­ling on des­per­ately poor roads and rail­ways. Nkrumah, Tafawa Balewa. Senghor, Jomo Keny­atta, Ny­erere were literary also writ­ers and po­lit­i­cal the­o­rists. Nkrumah - as­sisted by Ge­orge Pad­more, Ras Makon­nen and W.E.B. Dubois from the African Di­as­pora in the Amer­i­cas and the Caribbean - broad­cast his vi­sion of a United States of Africa across the con­ti­nent with books, pam­phlets and panAfrican football matches by Ghana Black Stars.. Ny­erere trans­lated Shake­speare’s plays ‘’Julius Ceaser’’ and ‘’Mer­chant of Venice’’ into Swahili for lo­cal read­ers. Keny­atta pub­lished ‘’Fac­ing Mount Kenya’’, a sub­ver­sive an­thro­po­log­i­cal work on his Gikuyu peo­ple.

African politi­cians must re­vive this tran­sAfrican in­tel­lec­tual broad­cast. Me­les Ze­nawe of Ethiopia came to lead Africa’s voice over ne­go­ti­a­tions about Cli­mate Change pol­i­tics. Be­fore him, Balewa, Wil­liam Tub­man of Liberia, and Ah­madou Ahidjo of Camer­oun pushed for the cre­ation of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of African Unity, OAU, a his­toric diplo­matic in­ven­tion in global diplo­macy. Nige­ria’s draft of its char­ter won the day.

There was lit­tle aware­ness of Ja­pan’s prac­tice of us­ing its tra­di­tional re­li­gious and core po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy to mould in­dige­nous in­dus­tries, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance and ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems to fuel her catch­ing up with, and over­tak­ing, Euro­pean economies. To fire the imag­i­na­tion of Africa’s youth, this in­tel­lec­tual lazi­ness and par­a­sitism must be aban­doned.

Me­les Ze­nawe, Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni, Paul Kagame and Isa­ias Afew­erki (in Eritrea), turned to bar­rels of guns to mil­i­tarise po­lit­i­cal de­bate and dis­lodge bru­tal gov­ern­ments. Each has shown ex­tra­or­di­nary cre­ativ­ity in po­lit­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing, while sit­ting on ex­plo­sive op­po­si­tion ecolo­gies.

There is a new deadly diplo­macy that uses di­rect vi­o­lence to dis­in­te­grate coun­tries and hu­mil­i­ate their politi­cians. Egypt, South Su­dan, Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic, So­ma­lia and Kenya are hit. It has wrecked Syria, Libya and Iraq. African politi­cians pre­vi­ously suf­fered coups by armed forces that never fought for in­de­pen­dence. A red flag car­ry­ing ‘’TWO TERM LIM­ITS’’ flut­ters fa­tally over the ge­nius of African politi­cian; ig­nor­ing op­tions of trans-African ini­tia­tives by politi­cians for mould­ing the growth of Africa’s pol­i­tics of na­tion-build­ing. For politi­cians, Aluta Con­tinua!

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