"If you push a goat to the wall, it will bite you." - African proverb
"The limits of tyrants are prescribed by those whom they oppress." - Frederick Douglass
(Swans - March 14, 2011) These are definitely among the most exciting times we have had on the continent of Africa for a long while. Even for a continent that likes to spin surprises now and then, the happenings across Africa in recent weeks are enough to make one's head reel!
First, it was the people of Southern Sudan who had the opportunity of a lifetime to determine their own future. An internationally-brokered agreement they signed with the leadership of the Khartoum government gave them the right to choose whether to separate or to remain in a United Sudan. Wow!
Many tribal and national groups across the continent would kill to be given such opportunity.
When the colonialists sat in Berlin in 1884-5 and carved the thousands of tribal and national groups of Africa into fifty or so states to satisfy their colonial ambitions, they gave no thought to history, or geography or even common sense. Whole "nations" like Gambia, for example, were completely sandwiched between another (Senegal) and given the appurtenances of a national entity.
When the wind of change blew across Africa in the 1960s, and the former colonies were given at least their nominal independence, the leaders of the new countries, in their collective wisdom, thought it best to leave the colonial inventions alone, lest they will be courting serious wahala.
So the fictitious entities were maintained and the leaders were saddled with the ponderous task of building viable nations from the amorphous conglomerations cobbled together by European colonialists.
It didn't take long for tears to begin to emerge from the seams of these hotchpotch and patchworks of nation-states. Not only were the new countries geographical absurdities, many were simply economically unviable. Competition to share scarce resources among tribes and nations with deep tribal antagonisms (ruthlessly suppressed by the colonialists) soon led to civil and uncivil wars.
The Cold War rivalries among the superpowers, coupled with the shenanigans of erstwhile colonial masters, to continue to dictate tunes, also contributed to create the mayhem that has now become associated with the continent Conrad prefered to call the "Dark Continent."
South Sudan was not actually the first country to break free; that honor goes to Eritrea. But unlike the Eritreans whose independence was negotiated peacefully with Ethiopia, South Sudanese were the first to be given the power to choose their own destiny in popular plebiscites. Given the bitterness with which the war was fought, it was not surprising that the overwhelming majority of the people of South Sudan elected to govern themselves.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) held its congress to choose its presidential candidate for the April 2011 elections. And the party did what it knew best: announcing logic-defying and dubious election results. No big surprises emerged as the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan emerged the winner amidst claims and counter-claims of corruption and bribery with cows and cash!
In the meantime, in La Côte d'Ivoire (CIV) the imperialists are also doing what they know best: doing all within their power to impose their preferred candidate, Alassane Ouattara, as president by all means necessary.
As in everything they do, the imperialists have muddled the water and released enough disinformation to sell their perfidious lies. A local election, in a region not known for sterling election performance, was transformed into a major global production. The imperialists' script neatly reduced a contested election into a titanic battle between forces of evil versus good. Of course, their preferred candidate, Ouattara, was made to smell like roses.