If anything can be determined as a permanent feature of living in or keeping up with Africa, it is the persistent cycle of wars, crisis and riots. Think about it, conflict was the major loophole the Europeans and Arabians exploited to take slaves to the Americas from the mother continent and subject them to untold terror. Indeed, it was not uncommon to see local tribal chiefs sell their prisoners of war from a recent conflict with a weaker or unlucky next-door neighbor to the ‘white’ men for ephemeral gifts of jewelries, alcohol or umbrella! What a shame! The kings of the coastal city financed these trades, while the rulers of the hinterlands implemented the actual captivation of these unfortunate species for untold terror and manipulation on the other side of Atlantic. Indeed, the colonization of western Nigeria was predicated on the Yoruba civil war that culminated in the Ekiti Parapo war, after which the British picked the pieces of a divided Oodua land.
Even then, on the abolishment of the slave trade and consequent institutionalization of European administration across the continent of Africa all in the name of “civilizing” us, conflicts still persisted during the period of colonization and ran high as the struggle for independence increased in tempo. From Angola to Algeria and even Kenya, African liberation fighters took to the bush and fought their European colonial masters to stand still until they (Europeans) abandoned ship and gave up on their hundred years experiment!
If pre-colonial and colonial conflicts were tale bounding, then post-colonial conflicts were theatrical. First, initial unplanned or haphazard exit of the European colonial masters (as emblematic in Guinea where De Gaulle could not stand the guts of our compatriots to abandon French dominance and seek independence) have laid a veritable groundwork for future chaos. Undeniably, this having been cemented in the Berlin Conference when national lines were best drawn by people who for whom the closest they came to Africa was to know that the lead of their pencils were indeed black not white!
The postcolonial conflicts of our continent have been breath taking. First, with military coups across sub-Sahara Africa with the great country of Ghana, firing the first shot and them the beast moved across almost all other countries in the region. The spate of secessionist ideals fanned by the political class also produced bitter civil wars in Nigeria- perhaps the biggest and dumbest of them all! The extension of the contentious cold war to our continent by the then super-powers of the world cost Africa fratricidal wars in Angola, The Congos, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Algeria. In fact, ethnic hatred has accounted for the most loss of lives in our continent- brother killing brothers in Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and more recently Ivory Coast.
Almost fifty years after the first modern African nation became independent the situation appears hopeless. The results of five decades of instability, conflicts and strife are written all over the continent. From corridor to corridor, hunger and poverty have overtaken our children. Today, we are the most under developed continent in the world, retrogressing while others are progressing. I am ashamed to admit that we are worse than our colonial masters left us; years of conflicts have left our children and women raped, desolate and confused. We have produced generations that was welcomed to the world by the boomerang of a gun and the fiery gushing of blood and guts! Today, even though we fail to admit it, generations have survived as street children hooked up to drugs and illicit sex that have produced HIV/AIDS victims across our continent and men who are not scared to kill a fellow human being by using illegally acquired drugs and raping their sisters and mothers with unheard of bravado.
It is with this image in my mind, which has kept me pondering if we are a cursed. I must admit that I don’t subscribe to the esoteric explanations of curses be it spiritual or scientific – the curse that we have brought upon our self is the curse of bad leadership. Africa is filled with bad leaders, and the good people have effectively failed to participate in the governing of their nation. The few good people who make it to power like Nelson Mandela have very little impact because of the enormous evil that have been wrought before they came to power. It is important to point out that every nation gets the kind of government they deserve. The rulers of Africa are our brothers, our cousins, uncles and fathers. We raised monsters among men that have effectively sold the soul of our continent. To reclaim our continent there are a number of steps that would be taking, beginning with a commitment by good people to participate effectively in politics. Politics is too important to be left for thieves, jobless mongrels and evil doers. Corruption starts from the house, and our houses of worship must lead the fight against corrupted and dirty tithes, offerings and gifts in the Houses of God. Allowing African women participate in government fully is a reasonable alternative to egoistic men, who would push their nation head on to war just to prove a point rather than negotiate.
Fueling the conflict in the continent however is a malaise. It is a malaise of the elites. In the absence of the fabulously rich, corrupt elites- division in African society is more nominal that original. Elites have continually used divisions among groups of people to hold on to power and corruptly enrich themselves. The collusion between the military and African politicians over three and a half decades has its basis in this concept. When the elites promote division in the society they can get away with anything including corruption. Apart from a generational change, Africans need a regular and dynamic system that would allow for a seamless movement of people from lower classes of the economic class to become elites without necessarily corrupting themselves.
A proactive economic system founded in the bedrock of free market economics, trade liberalization, innovation and Afro-style communalism coupled with a sane democratic government is the answer. This system must shun ‘sit-tightism’, allowing every man contribute his/her quota for a specific periods instead of the useless ‘life president’ system- a common favorites of dictators in Uganda and Egypt among many others today! Needless to mention that smaller governments that don’t impede societal progress with laws and regulations but seeks the security and welfare (health and education) of her people without unnecessary tax burden is the great impetus to the road to development Africa should embark on immediately. We as a people must be committed to law and order as well as obedience and respect for authority for conflicts to be reduced to barest minimum in our society: We must pay our full tax as at when due!
Conclusively, conflicts are inevitable in any society- however; it is the
manner in which they handle that separates civilized society from uncivilized ones. Taking up arms to make your point clear to the government of the day should not be a choice of first resort; neither should government work to marginalize one or more sections of her population. Africa should return to the drawing board and unite for good- Africa needs unity and stability to achieve sustainable growth and progress to make her compete effectively in the world.
True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.