The two im­pe­ri­alisms: A lament

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Per­spec­tive Stephen Mpofu

THE coloni­sa­tion of Africa in the 19th cen­tury was the first, or fore­run­ner, of the two im­pe­ri­alisms, the other be­ing hege­monic or con­tem­po­rary im­pe­ri­al­ism now try­ing des­per­ately to sneak into in­de­pen­dent states and helped by power-hun­gry op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties to worm their way into the hearts and minds of Africans.

In the first im­pe­ri­al­ist on­slaught, Euro­pean pow­ers sought and scored a marked suc­cess in emas­cu­lat­ing the African per­son­al­ity, shunt­ing the whole com­plex of the at­tributes of black peo­ple, in­clud­ing their hu­man rights, well be­yond the shade and into limbo, even into obliv­ion in some cases.

The colo­nial­ists were helped by tra­di­tional chiefs in their project to tame the Africans into sub­mis­sion to colo­nial au­thor­ity, the chiefs them­selves be­ing will­ing part­ners in seek­ing the sub­mis­sion of those liv­ing un­der their ju­ris­dic­tion.

Of course, the white set­tlers dug in their heels af­ter fail­ure by their fore­run­ners to weaken Africans by cart­ing off, again with the help of chiefs, count­less num­bers of blacks, as though they were inan­i­mate com­modi­ties for sale, to the West dur­ing the slave trade.

Once they had set­tled down, the colonis­ers plun­dered Africa’s rich nat­u­ral re­sources, blued them away to build pala­tial ed­i­fices back in their na­tive coun­tries, while in the coun­tries of their sub­ju­ga­tion the white set­tlers named streets and schools af­ter their own he­roes in their na­tive home­lands so they would feel at home away from home.

While this went on, African na­tion­al­ism started to bud and although still nascent it gave off strong hints of in­vin­ci­bil­ity which would clearly man­i­fest it­self in the 1950s and 1960s dur­ing im­pe­rial Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Mau­rice Har­rod Macmil­lan’s “winds of change” blow­ing across Africa with Ghana be­com­ing the first African coun­try to achieve in­de­pen­dence un­der Kwame Nkrumah, fol­lowed by Nige­ria and other coun­tries also un­der Bri­tish colo­nial rule in East Africa and those ruled by France in West Africa.

Those coun­tries re­ceived free­dom from their for­eign rulers dur­ing the strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence which even­tu­ally took on a revo­lu­tion­ary, armed lib­er­a­tion strug­gle di­men­sion in im­pe­rial Bri­tain’s colonies in South­ern Africa, in­clud­ing South­ern and North­ern Rhode­sia now Zim­babwe and Zam­bia re­spec­tively as well as in Por­tuguese East Africa, to­day’s Mozam­bique, as well as in Por­tuguese West Africa with An­gola as Por­tu­gal’s most prom­i­nent pos­ses­sion in that re­gion.

In­spired by the new free­dom en­joyed by other coun­tries, two and at most three po­lit­i­cal lib­er­a­tion par­ties in each of the coun­tries still un­der colo­nial rule com­peted, as it were, with one an­other, not against each other, for the ouster of colo­nial gov­ern­ments that were racist and op­pres­sive against in­dige­nous pop­u­la­tions.

Thus the enor­mous, com­bined pres­sure mounted on the for­eign rulers fi­nally paid hand­some div­i­dends of the free­dom and in­de­pen­dence for which count­less num­bers of young men and women paid with their lives.

In this re­gard Al­ge­ria’s revo­lu­tion­ary and so­cial­ist Pres­i­dent Ahmed Ben Bela, in power from 1962-65 ob­vi­ously, de­serves ku­dos for the as­sis­tance that his coun­try gave Zim­bab­weans in the armed rev­o­lu­tion against the white, colo­nial Rhode­sian rule for Al­ge­ria be­came an in­spi­ra­tion for free­dom fight­ers still fight­ing the bush war to re­claim their land from in­tru­sive, for­eign rulers.

Now comes the tragic de­vel­op­ment that has negated, and con­tin­ues to re­tard Africa’s po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic eman­ci­pa­tion to a higher plain. It is a sit­u­a­tion that calls for the mother of all laments as it demon­strates a lack of mat­u­ra­tion in Africa’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

The uhuru that came to so many coun­tries af­ter a pro­tracted armed strug­gle has and con­tin­ues to shift, like the sands of the Sa­hara, with po­lit­i­cal par­ties in in­de­pen­dent states at each other’s throats to wrest power from fel­low black rulers, and aided in this ironic twist of the hunger for power by for­mer colonis­ers, or Western im­pe­ri­al­ists malev­o­lently cit­ing the need for “democ­racy” and/or the preser­va­tion of hu­man rights.

In their own coun­tries the con­tem­po­rary im­pe­ri­al­ists boast at most two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties that take turns to rule with a third, smaller party, act­ing as a po­lit­i­cal cat­a­lyst. These hege­monic in­trud­ers pro­mote as agents of “democ­racy” a mul­ti­plic­ity of op­po­si­tion par­ties in each African state to pro­mote the for­eigner’s hid­den agenda.

The po­lit­i­cal par­ties that the for­eign­ers pro­mote through fi­nan­cial sup­port in turn be­come a bo­nanza for the re­cruit­ment of prox­ies or stooges or in­stru­ments for the ouster es­pe­cially of gov­ern­ments formed by lib­er­a­tion move­ments to avenge their de­feat by gueril­las dur­ing the armed strug­gle as well as to con­sum­mate the sec­ond im­pe­ri­al­ism via hege­monic con­trol and ex­ploita­tion of Africa’s rich min­eral and wildlife en­dow­ments.

Of course, when the op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties act as Tro­jan horses by smug­gling in for­eign pow­ers in hopes of be­ing el­e­vated to power them­selves against their fel­low black rulers, can one blame, and with jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, the for­eign­ers us­ing their po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­en­tial su­pe­ri­or­ity and im­punity for want­ing to run in­de­pen­dent African states as though these were back­yards of the im­pe­ri­al­ists?

The dis­unity of Africans po­lit­i­cally should be seen as a pre­scrip­tion for their own down­fall as na­tions, the in­dict­ment of the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem on the African con­ti­nent which re­mains far, far from ma­tur­ing.

Is it not a shame, and a sign of their small po­lit­i­cal mind­ed­ness when lead­ers of an op­po­si­tion party that loses an elec­tion, as what hap­pened next door in Zam­bia, say they want to “lib­er­ate the coun­try” from a party of fel­low blacks in power?

Sim­i­larly, op­po­si­tion par­ties in Africa’s new­est state, South Su­dan, and those in our own coun­try say they want to lib­er­ate the coun­try from fel­low blacks in power by oust­ing the in­cum­bents.

The strug­gle to achieve that “lib­er­a­tion” ob­jec­tive re­sults in losses of lives and limbs and of prop­erty — the kind of in­sta­bil­ity that re­verses the clock of eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and so­cial eman­ci­pa­tion of the peo­ple.

Why do par­ties on ei­ther side of the po­lit­i­cal isle shy away, or are afraid of di­a­log­i­cal engagements for peace­ful res­o­lu­tions of their dif­fer­ences so that a pur­pose­ful unity over­rid­ing po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences will help en­gen­der progress in the de­vel­op­ment of the moth­er­land, any moth­er­land?

The al­tru­ism that “vi­o­lence begets vi­o­lence” is valid to the ex­tent that those who seek to re­move oth­ers from power by vi­o­lent means will them­selves be sub­jected to the same taste of fire should they ac­cede to power by vi­o­lent means.

The pos­tures of saviour by im­pe­ri­al­ists should al­ways make small, free coun­tries wary of the in­ten­tions of Big Brothers and ques­tion any ges­ture prof­fered by the for­eign­ers whether these pro­nounce­ments are made with tongues dipped in a sugar so­lu­tion to sweeten them.

The Arab Spring of 2010-2012 in North Africa and in the larger Arab world in the Mid­dle East, which left the coun­tries af­fected per­pet­u­ally dis­ta­bilised, should make African coun­tries guard them­selves against self­anointed good Sa­mar­i­tan coun­tries with track records that have never passed the lit­mus test of gen­uine­ness or hon­esty.

Even though Amer­i­cans, who launched that project, have chris­tened it “a demo­cratic rev­o­lu­tion”, there is ab­so­lutely noth­ing demo­cratic about the in­sta­bil­ity and chaos re­sult­ing from that im­punity.

There­fore Zim­bab­weans and those oth­ers in free, in­de­pen­dent and sov­er­eign African states should not be­have fool­ishly, like chil­dren who touch a fire with their fin­gers to dis­cover if it in­deed burns and, if so, how much sear­ing pain the burns cause.

Kwame Nkrumah

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