Saturday, August 26, 2023
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Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)

"Now Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built. 'So they are all a single people [a single nation] with a single language!' said Yahweh. This is only the start of their undertakings! Now nothing they plan to do will be beyond them. 'Come, let us go down and confuse their language there, so that they cannot understand one another.' Yahweh scattered them [separating them to become different independent sovereign indigenous nations] thence all over the world, and they stopped building the city [tower of Babel]" - Genesis 11:1-9. - (Biblical testimony of the dispersal of nations - the beginning of separate sovereign independent indigenous nation states, as willed by God, after his wrath on the builders of the infamous 'Tower of Babel'. (Cf. Genesis Chapter 11).

The Colonialists' Two Broad Systems of Governance in Africa

he colonialists adopted two broad systems of governance in Africa. There was the system of assimilation, used by France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal, which tried to make Europeans of their African subjects or make them feel that they were Europeans. The colonies were generally seen as overseas extensions of the colonizing country.

The side effect of this system is that it never took account of the diversities of the cultures and peoples of Africa. Again, the practice of the system shows that the colonialists have no aim of granting Independence to their colonies. Moreover, the system alienated some Africans who refused to bow to the policy of assimilation or who could not meet up with the requirements prescribed by the colonialists.

For instance, in French colonies, only those colonial subjects who fulfilled the requirements stipulated by French authorities would be accepted as French citizens. Such requirements included, the passing of a test in the French language, becoming a Christian, and assimilating French customs and traditions. This dual policy divided the colonial peoples into two categories: the assimilated French citizens who enjoyed all rights and privileges of French citizenship, and the colonial subjects to whom the word "Indigénat" (indigent) applied. The "indigénat" was a system introduced in the 1880s, whereby any commandant in the colonies could summarily punish the Africans for certain specific offences without trial. No appeal was allowed under this system. This system was very much applied in Belgian colonies.

The British, on the other hand, adopted a system of indirect rule, governing through the local chiefs (and the so-called "Warrant-Chiefs"). It must be noted, however, that this British dependence on traditional political institutions arose less from a theory of the government of dependent territories and people than as a pragmatic and economical solution to the financial, personal, defense and communication problems, which confronted them. This system shows as well that the British did not assume that Africa would become an extension of Britain, or that Africans would one day become "Britons". Again, it would appear that the British had the intention of preparing their colonies, especially the large ones for independence at a future date. They hoped to do this by imposing their particular brand of parliamentary government on the African peoples. This is why the colonies inherited Houses of Assemblies and Chiefs along the patterns of their British overlords. In other words, the colonialists had no intention of turning Africans into British, but to exploit the colonies for commercial gains.

On the part of Germans, it can be said that they adopted a highly centralized administration in their colonies. The colonial officials were regarded as supervisors and were responsible through the chancellor to the emperor. African traditional laws were subordinated to the German codes.

The African Revolt after the European World War II

However, events began to change after the Second World War (1939-1945). Africans educated through schools set up by the colonialists and Christian missionaries soon got discontented with the injustices of colonial rule. In spite of the economic benefits, which some Africans might have derived from colonial rule, ultimately this failed to satisfy the needs and the aspirations of the majority. Already there was a widespread of discontent among the rural population. This widespread of discontent was demonstrated in various ways. Africans began to realize the strength they could draw from their ancestral history, and wanted to build a new and free future on the foundation of their pre-colonial past. Their desire was to remove the myth of White superiority and assert the natural equality of humankind, especially in respect of relations between the White and Black races. A spectacular demonstration of discontent by the rural population was the organized Cocoa Hold-up of 1937, mainly in the Gold Coast (Ghana), during which the cocoa farmers refused to sell their cocoa to the Europeans until the prices were increased.

The tendency to resist was not only in the economic but also in religious arenas. Many African Christians could not reconcile the Christian doctrine of brotherhood and equality with the discriminatory attitudes of the Europeans, some of whom were clergymen. Moreover, as a result of their experience under colonial rule, Africans came to believe that some of the early White missionaries in their midst taught them how to say the "Lord's Prayer with the Bible held to their chests", while their other White brothers robbed them of their wealth. For this reason, some Africans left the orthodox Churches and formed the independent African church movements (the Kimbangu Church of Belgian Congo (Zaire), provides an excellent example). Hence, the prophetic movements in Africa emerged as resistance groups. Even those African Christians who still adhered to the orthodox Churches, began to demand that Africans be accepted fully as the leaders of the African Churches.

Furthermore, the Second World War exposed the weakness of the colonial masters. So much so, that Africans had to be recruited to help liberate the motherland of the colonial giants. As Edward Tamba Charles of Sierra Leone, tells us, "that experience (of the Second World War) effected a real demystification of the European in the mind of Africans, destroying as a result the long-held myth of a European superior civilization. If the Europeans were so civilized as they claimed, and if their civilization was truly Christian as they made others believe, why did they kill their own kind brutally? Thirdly, if other European nations said that Germany had no right to dominate Europe and the rest of the world, then they too had no right to keep Africans under the colonial rule. From that the Africans drew the conclusion that the European colonialists were not any more civilized than the Africans or any other peoples they had colonized, and therefore had no moral authority to keep Africa and its peoples in colonial bondage."

All these gave rise to the birth of nationalist associations and independence movements. Generally, speaking, after the Second World War, African nationalist leaders were poised in pressing harder for independence of their various countries. Hence, the emergence of African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, to mention just a few. They fought and won Africa's political independence. The period between 1950 to 1965 saw the birth of many new African nation states. However, some other African countries, like the Portuguese colonies (Some of those colonies achieved independence only in 1975. Unfortunately, however, soon after independence, some of them, e.g. Angola and Mozambique were back to war because of ethnic and ideological differences), Namibia and Zimbabwe, had to fight long years of war before they were granted independence. South Africa was subjected to apartheid regime until the 1990s.

Politics in Post-Independence Africa

The newly independent African States were modelled politically and economically on the nations which had colonized them. However, some of them followed the communists' ideologies of Eastern Europe and China.

At independence, the former French colonies followed the presidential parliamentary system of the Fifth French Republic. On the other side, the former British colonies were modelled on Westminster. The Constitution handed over to the new nation states was not founded on African cultural tradition, worldview or philosophy of life and value systems. Ultimately, the independence lacked content, because the political stability of the new African nations still depended very much on closer ties with their former colonial masters.

In the same vein, the new system of administration inherited from the colonial masters changed the content and modality of African traditional authorities and created new kinds of power-holders in society. Furthermore, post-independent Africa saw the introduction of multi-party system of government in some countries. Some others began with dictatorial single-party regimes, many of them influenced by the defunct communist regimes in Eastern Europe and China. Most of the political parties that fought for independence re-emerged in a new name and were still discovered to be based on ethnic interests, a practice which has not changed much in present-day Africa.

However, the military came in later and began to demonstrate its political ambitions. On the pretext of removing corrupt politicians from power, several military coup d'état, staged each time by young military officers, and hitherto, often, instigated by the foreign powers for economic reasons, have plunged various African nation states into dark age. The military officers have succeeded in alienating everyone, eliminating or driving into exile political opponents, and reducing Africans to abject poverty, while enriching themselves and their political supporters. While on the other hands, the politicians have continued to use the primordial divisive elements in ethnicity and religions, thanks to the arbitrary colonial configurations of the post-independence African nation states, to manipulate elections and put themselves in office as heads of states or presidents. In all therefore, both the politicians and the military officers who came to power either through the so-called elections or military coups have continued to thrive in corruption and looting of public fund, while the masses wallow in abject poverty and all kinds of human degradation. In each case, "democracy' was destroyed as basic human rights were violated. Many of the so-called 'democratically elected' African heads of State manipulated the constitution and declared themselves "president for life".

The "Cold War" Ideologies and Africa

Immediately after independence in the 1960s, the new African states were left at the hands of their former colonial powers. However, the United States of America (U.S.A) and the Ex-Republic of Soviet Union (U.S.S.R) - the super powers of the Cold War era, came in later and started to manifest openly their interests in Africa. Initially, America had to rely on her allies - NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), to satisfy their dreams of geopolitical domination, manifest through economic and military interests.

This so-called 'global geopolitical system', is a system whereby the countries of the North (Europe, North America and Japan and other allies) tend to dominate those of the South and to control them, not only in a colonial type of dependence, but in a post-colonial type. This type of domination leaves a façade of seemingly political independence to the Southern countries, but controls them primarily through economic and military means. Hence, even though independence has been achieved by many African countries, the political ties severed; yet economic and military ties remain not only between African governments and the old colonizing powers, but between them and the super-powers.

With passing of time, however, seeing the steady penetration of Moscow in Africa, and knowing its increasing military presence in the continent, Washington became more directly involved, and as it were, assumed the role of active agent of political influence in the continent. This implies that Washington held a position of advantage over Moscow. The latter's strategy was one of active military support and involvement and decisive action to make its influence known and felt by the various governments.

Moscow carried out its approach by setting up or rather by supporting revolutionary movements and communist parties which would bring about the perceived 'revolution' or violent changes. The second strategy of Moscow was to ally with African leaders who seemed radical enough to embrace the revolutionary ideals of the USSR. However, since the first two strategies were not yielding the desired results, Moscow decided to try a new strategy - the strategy of "structural-economic ties". This is a long-term structural relationship through which the USSR would furnish the financing, technical advice, and equipment for economic projects which would produce goods for the Soviet market when completed. This was to be followed by a new and more holistic strategy - devised to help African governments which showed sympathy with the Russians' goals, in constructing institutions that would permit these governments to entrench themselves in power.

This last strategy involved several components: economic help, military assistance, training of local military personnel, exchange of students and teachers, creating intelligence services, helping security material, etc. The economic aspect of this approach became more evident that at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Moscow's economic commitment to states of North Africa was estimated at $2.4 billion, and its delivery of weapons and equipment stood at about $6.5 billion. During the same period, USSR proffered nearly $2.1 billion in economic assistance to the countries of Africa South of the Sahara, while its arms deliveries to them reached more than $5.9 billion. During this term also, nearly 9,000 military technicians were functioning as advisers in African countries. (Cf. M.D. SHULMAN (ed.), East - West Tensions in the Third World, W.W. Norton & Co., New York 1986, pp.119-120.)

The USA on the other hand, followed almost the same strategies as the USSR (in addition to working together with her allies - members of NATO). For instance, Washington tried to woo those African leaders who seemed Western or capitalist minded, such as Presidents Kenyatta and Moi of Kenya, President Obote of Uganda, Kaunda of Zambia, etc. The greatest success in this strategy was in Kenya which allowed USA to establish naval and air bases, surveillance devices and satellite tracking stations on its territory.

Anthony Bellagamba explains that the main reason for America's move rests on what is called in politics the "Zero-Sum Mentality". A. BELLAGAMBA, "Global Ideologies Affecting African Politics and the Church's Response", in AA.VV (Various Authors), Towards African Christian Liberation, St. Paul Publications - Africa, Nairobi 1990, p.107.) This mentality obsessed Moscow and Washington. It did not allow any territorial, political, economic and especially military gain to the opposite block, and so, for any move of one of the two super-powers, there must exist a counter-move, which should neutralize its effects, so that the balance of power should never be tilted one way or another.

For instance, in Ethiopia, when it became clear that the Emperor Haile Salassie was not bowing to the woo of USSR, Moscow turned to rebels of Eritrea and to the new government of Somalia to destabilize him. Consequently, USA lent its support to the Emperor, and supported revolutionary movements of forces which would counter the moves of the Russians and those governments which leaned towards Moscow's goals. Thus came the USA support to the "rebels" of Eritrea and to the government of Somalia to destabilize and counter the moves of Ethiopia against the "rebels" of Angola, Namibia and Mozambique in their respective fights against the communist-inspired governments, the Cuban troops, and to support Chad against Libya, etc.

From support to revolutionary forces and political leaders, the USA moved into massive financial assistance through aid, loans through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (I.M.F), to capture the sympathy of African governments, and into huge sales of arms. To strengthen the military powers of those African governments or revolutionary forces and "rebels" that show sympathy to the Western capitalist policy. Till today, the military aid, the arm sales to Africa are rapidly going on and in more sophisticated dimensions, however silently. Any military weapon manufactured today in Europe or America is in a question of days found in the hands of African military/civilan dictators, one-party system overlords and "rebels", as well as the Islamist terrorists operating in different parts of the continent.

In all these circumstances, the USA came with its extreme capitalist policy and Russia with its communist ideology. However, it needs to be said that the major reason for the super-powers' expanded interest in Africa is not necessarily for the spread of the two ideologies, although it can not be ruled out altogether. But as David E. Albright states "ideological considerations still play a role: however, they have become decidedly secondary as an influence ... The USSR has come to rely upon military instruments ... and the Americans are doing the same more and more, and with greater direct involvement than ever before". Quoted in M.D. SHULMAN (edt.), East - West Tensions in the Third World, p.118

The Kenyan Anderera Morara explains that what is involved here is "cosmopolitan politics", which means that international politics revolves around money. He quotes Richard Nixon, former president of USA, who says that, "American business interests come first in any deals with the rest of the world". (A. MORARA, "Politics and the Form of Money", in: Daily Nation (Nairobi), 19 February, 1988, p.4.) This implies, in the opinion of Morara, that the new form of world domination is not through direct political interference with countries and their governments, but subtle economic and military assistance, which create even greater dependence, but with a façade of political freedom.

From this context, after the Cold War, Africa's relation with the outside world was privatized, not only through the subversion by the private interests of African politicians and military dictators both inside and outside the continent, but through the displacement of the traditional state-state relations - which were handed over to the international financial institutions and the Multi-Nationals. Christopher Clapham writes that, this in turn, made it possible for the super-powers and the former colonizing nations, "to hand over the conduct of their policy in some degree to other organizations, operating either at a multinational level like the European Union or the International Financial Institutions, or outside the formal state framework altogether. ... The United States consequently switched to policies which emphasized the role of non-state activities such as those of private companies or civic associations, while the more state-centered and security conscious of the super-powers, the Soviet Union, disappeared altogether". (C. CLAPHAM, Africa and the International System: the Politics of State Survival, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, p.256.)

The Present-Day Politics in Africa

Africa today is witnessing a new wave of political awareness. In spite of the presence of tyrannical and dictatorial military/civilian corrupt presidents, and one-party regimes, people, especially, the younger generations, are beginning to raise their voices, to request for a return to fair and credible democratically elected governments.

This implies that all across Africa today, there are growing numbers of popular movements for the promotion of a really, authentic, African-oriented democracy, human rights, and for the actualization of true and authentic statehoods among different colonial created African nation states. Members of these movements are calling for an end to the despotic rule of one-party regime, corrupt politicians and military dictatorship which, have created a de facto culture of silence by systematic repression of all forms of opposition, freedom of speech, and have kept the African peoples in oppressive and sub-human conditions.

Today, Africans are the main critics of their leaders and of the continued foreign interference in the affairs of African governments and elections, as well as their exploitation and plundering of African resources. This is a new and happy development where Africans themselves have started to assume the responsibility of not only criticizing their own political leaders, military dictators, and especially, the colonial and neo-colonial powers; but also advocating respect for basic human rights, rule of law, credible and fair elections, and for greater participation of all sectors of society in government.


One way of correcting the errors of the colonial past in Africa, which is the main aim of this write-up, is for the International Community, especially, the West, and African leaders, as well as the United Nations, to come together, and revisit the 1885 Berlin Conference. To begin now to put in action, the mechanism for promoting and organising referendum for self-determination in different African nation states, among the warring indigenous ethnic nationalities or geopolitical regions. That is, of all those aggrieved large indigenous ethnic nationalities (or groups of minor ethnic nationalities that have decided to come together (as a geopolitical region) for such a purpose), in different African nation states - indigenous ethnic nationalities or geopolitical regions, that want to separate to form their own independent sovereign state. Because, at the long run, referendum for self-determination, is going to be the resultant solution, judging from what we see happening in different parts of Africa today. That is, the experience of inter-ethnic or inter ethno-religious violence, killings and bloodbaths, been witnessed in many African countries, during and after each general elections, or each time there is a military coup or change of government in most of the post-colonial, modern African nation states.

Self-determination is an inalienable right of every indigenous ethnic nationality. Self-determination is not a crime. It is an extant and customary law recognised by the United Nations' Convention and the African Union's Charter on Human and People's Rights, as well as by all the known international and municipal laws of the countries of the civilised world.

People in positions of power should stop been afraid of granting referendum for self-determination to those indigenous ethnic nationality/nationalities that are clamouring for such a thing in their domain. Because theirs, is a struggle for survival as a people under constant threats against their very continued existence in a hostile environment. Because also in that self-determination for self-rule, is where their survival and future as a people lies in the present dispensation and for the coming generations of their children yet unborn.

After all, what we call states or countries in Europe today, are practically, all ethnic-based. France, for example, is not multi-ethnic but rather an ethnic-based nation state that shares the same value system, language, worldview, philosophy of life among its people, founded on Judeo-Christian religious values and traditions and on Greco-Roman philosophy, culture and civilization. The same are true of each of the other separate independent nation states in the entire Europe. Be it, Italy, England, Scotland, Portugal, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, etc. This is also why, Europe's closed neighbour, an Arab Muslim country like Turkey will never be admitted as a member into the European Union (EU), in spite of Turkey sharing the Mediterranean Sea coast neighbourhood with countries of Europe.

In other words, each of the modern European nation states, is organically and fundamentally, ethnic-based. There is no multi-ethnic or multi-religious European nation state. Rather each European nation state is constituted and predominantly, populated by people of the same "ethnic nationality" (which they call country or nation-state in Europe); by people who speak the same language, have one predominant religion, share the same cultural affinity, philosophy of life, worldview, value system, etc. And are allowed to live together as a nation state, control their own lives, and manage their affairs as a people in their own God-given ancestral land and country. Their Constitution and societal political organisation as a nation state, is founded on their shared ancestral cultural and religious values, value system, philosophy of life, and history as people of that determined cultural context.

It is on the basis of such shared common cultural affinity as a people, that each nation state makes its own constitution and laws. Which, of course, such constitution and laws must accommodate strangers or foreigners who come to work, live, or do business in that country. Such Constitution and laws are therefore, not meant to be discriminatory but rather open to accommodate foreigners living among the people of that country. This is how modern nation states in the civilised world function. And this is the true meaning of the so-called 'multiculturalism.' The question is, why can't the same right of self-determination - or rather self-rule, be extended to African people in the continent?