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Trump, Africa, and Recolonisation

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trump-in-africa.pngSource: The Millennial Eye

According to Africa Updates, Trump was rumoured to have said:

Look at African countries like Nigeria or Kenya for instance, those people are stealing from their own government and go to invest the money in foreign countries. In my opinion, most of these African countries ought to be recolonised again for another 100 years because they know nothing about leadership and self-governance.

If we for one second forgets, that Trump never said this, I do find the comments on Africa Updates’ Facebook page interesting.

Africans from across the continent agreed with this fake Trump quote.

One from Nigeria said: 

He is right some African countries needs to be recolonised most especially Nigeria whose leaders are thieves and cowards. Nigeria is a fake country that forcefully trap 3 to 4 nations in it. Ghana is far better than Nigeria when it comes to Economy sincerity on management duties. Shame on Nigeria leaders.

One from Uganda said

Yes, recolonisation bcoz the whites even now allow us stupid africans to enter their countries and get employment when all the jobs in our countries are for one family, Amin was a dictator but still he is best leader africa has ever seen!!!

One from Ethiopia said:

absolutely right, African leaders loss self governance knowledge

Most people, however, even they agreed with the fake Trump quotation, also became wary about recolonisation, like this person from Kenya saying:

That’s the bitter truth. African leaders are very corrupt, power hungry, dictators, self centred and don’t care if people loose their life for them to ascend to power. But for the issue of recolonisation, I tend to differ with you.

I would like to talk about why the fake Trump quote is absolutely off the mark.

Scholars have written books and articles about this for decades, so I apologise for the lengthy reply.

Colonialism 

Colonialism introduced a new system of ruling. It was inherently an illegitimate type of government, why the colonial powers used widespread violence to keep people in their place. A reason for the violence was also the strange artificial borders drawn by ignorant and oblivious white men with a ruler and a map. In the book “Inside Africa”  by the American journalist, John Gunther, he interviewed a Yoruba Oba, and the Oba said that:

God did not make Nigeria. The British did. (p. 742)

When bringing a multitude of kingdoms, chiefs, systems, ethnic groups and more into a block, where people share nothing in common, violence is an effective tool to control the people.

Additionally, the prime aim of colonialism was not to civilise or cultivate the people. It was to systematically loot their country. Regardless whether the colonial power used centralised or decentralised despotism, the aim was the same: the colonies should bring in a surplus to the powers!

During colonialism, Africans were turned into subjects deprived of a history, culture, and identity, and the state racialized through White rule, that took the shape of official or de facto apartheid. Africa was important from an export perspective only, mostly of raw materials. It could be coffee, ivory, gold, rubber, cocoa, diamonds and more, meant to serve as an income for the European power. Infrastructure was constructed to enable this theft. What the locals produced for themselves did not count.

The state was not meant to protect the people or serve the interest of the people, but alone to serve the interest of the colonial power.

This kind of regime paved the way for atrocities such as genocides, massacres, concentration camps, and forced deportation. Most notorious was the atrocities committed by the Belgium King Leopold II in the Congo Free State. But he has also been used to overshadow the other European powers’ heinousness crimes. No European colonial power can claim any moral superiority.

The Fight for Liberation Failed

The fight for total liberation was twofold. The first one was to deracialise the state in an effort to end apartheid. The second one was to democratise the state in order to remove the previous colonial system based on despotism that manifested itself through violence and theft.

The first struggle was successful, locals took charge, and the state was deracialized, when a new local elite took charge. But they new elite failed in getting rid of the rule of despotism left by the colonial power.

The Failure in Addressing the Colonial Legacy

I will divide this up into three subsections. A) Describing the failure in democratising the state through the failure in becoming independent from raw materials, b) failure in turning the people into citizens, and c) the focus on the problem of clientelism.

The Failure in Becoming Independent from Raw Materials

The colonial power’s job was to export raw materials to the nearest port.

An example is Senegal. During the Colonial era, France had a surplus of poor quality rice in Vietnam. Senegal produced groundnuts to the French market. To avoid empty ships, France decided to sail rice from Vietnam to Senegal (both French colonies), where the cargo of rice would be replaced by groundnuts.

Today, Senegal is still depending on imports of rice -not only from Vietnam though – and the country is still a leading exporter of groundnuts. The groundnut business employees up to 50% of the total population.

People cannot make a living selling groundnuts, especially not, when the state has to import nearly 1 million tonnes of rice annually.

The political elite in Senegal continued where the colonial power left. A failure to industrialise the country. Instead, the production is fit to serve the same purpose as during the colonial era. To export raw materials.

The same is the case in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, DR. Congo, CAR, Angola, Cameroon, and several other countries to a larger or minor degree. The countries lack industrialisation, where the focus is on the export of raw materials. A dependency of raw materials creates a chronic dependency on aid.

A reason for this is the gatekeeper state, is that the state does not rely on the people, but on tariff when goods cross the border. That enforces an emphasis on trading with raw material since that has to cross the borders, where the elite in power earns its money. When industrialisation begins, the raw materials stop crossing the borders, and the elite loses their main source of income, and they lose control over resources.

This creates new problems, where the state does not rely on taxation from the people. Taxation is a mean for the state to care about its people since they are the ones from where the state gets its money. And if the people do not pay money to the state,  the people do not create a feeling of belonging or to get used to the state having their interest at heart.

When you pay taxes, you expect something in return, why taxation is an important factor in the making of a good state.

By focusing on taxation of exported goods, the interdependence between the state and the people are never developed. Furthermore, raw materials represent a low value, and if you want to create jobs, you need to process the goods in order to maximise your income, that again can be used to develop new technology, that can ignite further industrialisation.

But countries are stuck in the same position, as they were during colonialism. Prime exporter of raw materials. Combined with the current population boom, there are no jobs for the youth.

By having a minor elite controlling the resources ensuring wealth stays in the hand of the few.

Failure in Turning the People into Citizens

In the perfect world, the police are meant to protect the civilians, and the state will uphold the law by strengthening the institutions in order to protect the citizens and secure equal treatment.

However, during colonialism, the job of the state was the opposite, to protect itself from the people. Today, we still witness this. When the local elite took power after fighting for independence, the new elite failed in uprooting the despotism based on tyranny and violence left by the colonial power.

In a good democracy, when the rights of a citizen are violated, the perpetrators are punished. If a police officer beats me, I can take that officer to court, and he will be punished.

That is not the case in most African countries (or the USA). The police, politicians, and military still operate with impunity. Rape, torture, prison conditions treating people like animals, corruption and more, and nothing happens to the perpetrators. If you threaten them, that you take them to court, they might even laugh.

This is not an African problem. The USA faces similar problems. The ones in power are still oppressing the ones once enslaved. You have to be a white person to believe, that offering a police a Pepsi will make everything good. The blacks are still treated as subjects or at best as second class citizens. The once colonial state never really changed the system, where the relics of despotism are still in place. Former colonies face multiple problems non-colonies do not.

The system is more than a person. If the system is rotten, changing the person will not change the system. The Nigerian historian Falola tells how this is the case in Nigeria. Recently, I can also use South Africa as an example. Since Apartheid ended in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) took over, the ANC has failed in changing the system. The poor black majority are still poor, the whites still control the economy, and the new black political minority are becoming increasingly corrupt, where President Zuma displays signs of a dictator.

The colonial system used to oppress people while the elite looted the country is still in place. Why? Because it benefits the elite. An old proverb says, that power corrupts, and ultimate power corrupts ultimately. When a new now black elite suddenly got access to power and privileges formerly held by the whites, it is hard to turn your back. You might even believe, that you are incorruptible. You are not.

Wealth in People – Clientelism 

According to Sean Stilwell, throughout Africa, wealth was not in things but in people. Production in things was important, but only insofar that it led you being able to attract more people in order to expand your clientelistic network. Hence, production became a mean rather than an end, where the end was gaining control over as many people as possible.

Once it was believed, that clientelism was a mean of equalisation. Everybody got something. It is not. Successful patrons attract more people and wealth at the expense of others. As money is allocated, there is less and less left for the ones in the bottom. All this not only creates inequality, it escalates inequality.

Clientelism is still well alive in several African countries. The problem is again twofold. As a patron, you have to spend your wealth to show people, that you are a strong patron. That nourishes ostentatious living. The display of wealth is meant to attract more clients, since wealth is in people, and investment in things are meant to attract more people. That further nourishes the interest in earning money fast.

That paves the way for blatant corruption, and less money is left for investment, public spending, and to pay public servants on time. It is unbelievable how troublesome it is for several African states to pay public workers their salaries. That is a reason several African countries are haunted by strikes when public servants want to have their pay after waiting months.

When the African countries got independent, clientelism became part of the state apparatus (fancy term for this is neo-patrimonialism). That makes the president the supreme patron. That is an extremely powerful position since he (mostly he) allocates money to whom he wants, or more importantly, can starve the groups he dislikes. If there is not a system in place to get rid of this person through peaceful methods, the only way to remove him is through a coup d’état.

A new person takes office. The new person might have the best intentions at heart, but if he fails to reform the system, he inherited, that gives him enormous power. The despotic and exploitive system of government he now controls will consume you and nothing changes.

The second issue is, that people look for a strong patron, the ones flouting their wealth.

The African writer Achebe (RIP) argued, that Africans wanted to be oppressed in style. If you have power, then you must display your wealth for others to know, that you are a powerful patron.

This means, that if you have the right ideas, and you are a good person, but you arrive on a bike wearing normal clothes, no one will listen to you, and you will never be president. The consequence is, that people end up favouring and encourage corruptive behaviour by listening to people exhibiting an ostentatious behaviour. That being a pastor or politician.

That further means, that if you suddenly get a good job, your networks expect you to share your wealth. So if you decide to uphold the law, you can be accused of corruption by refusing to be corrupt. People are victims of the corruption clientelism beings, but they are also producers by requesting a friend to be corrupt. If their friend refuses to offer them a job (aka nepotism), money, a car or something else, you are in trouble.

Western Givers and African Receivers

During the Cold War, the West and the USSR acted like patrons. The discussing among scholars and laypeople are, whether the foreign powers exploited Africans, or if African leaders exploited the foreign countries, mostly former colonial powers. Personally, I stand in the middle leaning toward African leaders exploiting the ignorance of white people.

Western powers and the USSR became the patron from where the African leaders got their money during the Cold War.

Klitgaard correctly points out, quoting Steinbeck, that

[G]iving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and higher and larger than the receiver (p. 13)

On the other hand, it is easier to give than to receive. To be a receiver,

you cannot appear, even to yourself, better or stronger or wiser than the giver, although you must be wiser to do it well. (p. 13)

Several African leaders did very well in telling the receiver aka donors what the donors wanted to hear, that gave access to aid.

On the other hand, African leaders had to speak into a discourse controlled by donors. If an African leader caused too much trouble, he could be removed. The willingness of donors to support corrupt African leaders is a reason for the accumulating debt, several African countries still have today.

Even both the donors and the then African leaders were both equally blameable, it is only the African population, that are punished for past wrongdoings.

The givers also told the receivers what reforms should be carried out. So even if a good African leader came to power, the demands from the givers would be contra-productive, which again would handicap an African leader trying to clean up the mess.

However, as Chabal and Daloz mention, some African leaders apply the “politics of the mirror” to get access to resources. The African leaders say what donors want to hear, and then they do whatever they want hereafter. The African leaders know, that donors’ knowledge of Africa is limited at best and that donors tend to overestimate their felt superiority. The African leaders use that to their own advantage.

A reason NGOs can be part of the problem. They represent access to wealth. People interested in money will then try to get access to the money by telling the international NGOs what they want to hear, and then put the money in their own pockets. That harm local NGOs, that do hard work. But they rarely have the means to fill application forms or to travel to get the needed contracts. When massive wealth enters a community, where just a few selected ones benefit, it creates inequality, that again ignites conflicts and xenophobia.

If the state is depended on aid, the people get used to that help is not coming from the state, and the state gets used to outside agents doing the work, they were supposed to do. Therefore, they can keep more of the wealth to themselves. This prevents the needed nation-building since the countries were not created by God but by the colonial powers in the 19th and 20th century, where a sense of togetherness has to be created from scratch.

What is the Status of 2017?
African countries are very different. Though, we witness a change in having wealth in people. Because of the control of raw materials, in too many countries, the state does not need to listen to the people at all. That has created a tiny rich elite, that rule the country with an iron fist, and view the country and the national coffers as a personal belonging. By a small elite controlling all the resources, the people at large are ignored and kept in poverty. This is the case in countries such as Angola, Burundi, Mozambique, Liberia, CAR, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. For the people, this means that both the state and their patron have deserted them.

On the other hand, allow me to be hopeful. A new generation is on their way. They have never experienced colonialism, and the old rhetoric from the elite not longer works. The youth demands action. This can start a process where an internal pressure for true reforms is possible.
We also witness that African leaders find it harder and harder to hold onto power. We have seen that in the Gambia and Burkina Faso. We witness African leaders accepting defeat and respecting the constitution. An African leader clinging onto power has become the exception of the day.

We also see a growing group of Africans willing to fight for their rights. Education is improving, and education gives access to networks, new strategies, and power. The African intelligentsia does not shut up either, but the people speak their mind. They want to be heard, they want to criticise the elite (givers and receivers), and they are becoming more vocal. The latest example is that of the Ugandan scholar Stella Nyenzi, who recently was arrested for criticising Museveni calling him a pair of buttocks, which then trended on Twitter under the hashtag #PairOfButtocks, when it became public she was arrested. In court, Nyanzi defended herself saying, according to Celebrity Patrol, that:

Museveni is a very dishonourable man who reneged on his promise of free sanitary pads to girls. Only an honorable man would fulfill his promise which Museveni isn’t! For how long are Ugandans going to be silent?

Her trial will continue on April 25, 2017 #FreeStellaNyanzi

But we still see the African Union living in the past, protecting the old autocracy, the guardian of the despotic relic of the colonial past, while the people suffer.

While it appears the former colonial powers and the US care less and less about Africa, which is good. Historically, their involvements have done nothing good.

But it seems the European Union (EU) is renewing its interest in Africa because of the increasing numbers of people trying to enter Europe from Africa.

The new money stream to countries, such as Sudan, Libya, and Eritrea, can prevent regime changes because the money from EU can be used by the local brute government to centralise power and to strengthen the army. In doing so, they can continue to rule with an iron fist, making it harder to reform the system. It will be a cause for new atrocities because Western powers do not know what they are doing.

A Conclusion

If Africa was recolonised, everything gained the last 70 years would be lost, and Africans would again be deprived of everything.

The local leaders are reachable, and the new generation of young educated people can pave the way to win the last fight for liberation; to get rid of the despotic system left by the colonial powers.

Signs are present, that leaders have begun to listen to their people. Such as in Ghana, where the opposition party won by promising industrialising. Time will tell if the party is able to deliver.

When I lived in Ghana, some Ghanaians believed that corruption was caused by some few bad apples. I argued, that the entire system inherited from the colonial past was bad. It was not a matter of a few bad apples, it was the apple tree that had to be dealt with.

Regardless, if the problems are caused by some bad apples or if the entire the apple tree is rotten, the only ones who can fix it is the local population. Locals know best and foreigners, including myself, do more harm than good when interfering in African countries’ domestic affairs.

If African leaders do not begin to create jobs, and get independent from raw materials, to effectively fight corruption, and to free themselves from aid, nothing will change.

At the same time, locals need to stop reproducing corruption and stop to vote for whom they believe would be the best patron. Instead, candidates you sincerely believe will do what is best for the country need to be voted into office.

If nothing changes soon, several African countries are heading toward a revolution.

The youth have hopes, dreams, and they want a job to create a future. If the various African governments fail in creating jobs and fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the youth, the youth will take their disappointment to the streets. It will not be pretty, and some African leaders will be removed by force.

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2 Comments

  1. We need The US President ACT ON THIS PROMISE AND ACT FAST…

    Like

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