Indeed, Africa’s conflicts to the world appear perennial, endemic or unrepentantly malignant. However, the forces of world politics cannot be totally absolved of contributing to the conflicts that have persisted on our continent today. While world leaders have continued to promote legitimate trade between nations as a way of strengthening world ties, eliminating conflicts and spreading freedom; illegitimate trades have contributed to the sorrow and cries of Africa’s children over the years.
The most destructive trade with Africa till date is the slave trade. Not only was the wickedness this trade represented in itself destructive, the social dislocation as well as the development gap that developed as a result of wanton destruction of the human resources of the continent as well as the willful plundering of a natural resources to develop foreign lands was a disservice to all mankind. The subsequent colonial authority that developed in response to the “abolishment” of the trade was only a façade to the continued plundering of human and natural resources as well as deliberate under development of the motherland. The psychological war on Africans or people of African decent around the world in form of racial discrimination was on its own a strategy that have over the years contributed to the perpetual under development of the world’s second largest continent and the consequent crisis of poverty, hunger and war that developed post independence.
However, the most effective foundation for conflict that developed during and after the slave trade was the balkanization of the continent to serve parochial western interest. The single most destructive event in human and African history was the Berlin conference. Knowing the evil history of Germany, it is no coincidence that it held in Hitler’s eternal capital. The conference at Berlin virtually laid the foundations of Africa’s world till this day- in many ways it created a middle age Europe of balkanized fiefdoms built to protect the interests of nobles (in our case kleptocrats) that benefit from an oddly deficient system of government that promotes selfish interest over collective welfare. The balkanized Europe that led to the bloody hundred years’ war is what created the Africa today that have created have 40 years of persistent crisis and blood shedding – it is a shame of history! The juxtaposition of people of unfamiliar or disagreeable culture into artificial borders to satisfy the longings of European powers for an empire is one reason why grandstanding by Europe today is unjustifiable and totally unacceptable considering their culpability in creating the monster of a political marriage in the nook and carnies of Africa.
Post independence however, two types of predatory trade have developed that have fanned the embers of conflicts in Africa. The trades quite importantly have a global dimension to them. On one hand is the arms trade led by Eastern powers most notably nations of the Soviet bloc on the other hand is the illegal mining trade (crude oil, diamond, gold and copper) led by the western corporation. If the global dimension is what confounds any conventional human mind, it is by far the moral neglect that will befuddle God.
The arms trade developed courtesy of the cold war between the super powers and festered when the old soviet bloc broke up. Individuals that are well connected in CIS states of Ukraine, Georgia etc. have made billions of dollars from funneling illegal aircrafts, AK-47 and military artilleries to fuel the war in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Congo as the United Nations Report on Arms trade have shown persistently between 1995 and today. The inability of the government of these near bankrupt states that have the most destructive weapons left by the then sophisticated soviet military has provided fuel to the conflicts that have devoured our continent. Investigation indeed have shown governments of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and other Far East Asian Soviet bloc nations have benefited indirectly from this blood trade, and look the other way while the trail of blood leads from the tundra of the East to the grasslands of East, Central and West Africa. The inability of world bodies to get a consensus to track and punish the traders in this weapons of mass destruction (far greater than the one sough in Baghdad) shows the failure of world leadership and the lack of concern the super powers have had for ages to solving Africa’s problem practically, truthfully and with focus.
While the likes of George Bush, Tony Blair and Kofi Annan would want us to believe that nuclear, biological and chemical weapons represent the most potent threat to the modern state in the future, I posit that small arms and heavy military artilleries that find their way to the hands of dissidents, terrorist and so called ‘freedom fighters’ in Africa, East Asia, Middle East and South America represent the greatest threat to the peoples of the world and the state that pretend to represent their interests. A good read of the report, Lethal Commerce: The Global Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (Introduction available here) would give any reader a good picture of how small and light arms have destroyed our world courtesy of unbridled greed and profiteering by countries in the ex-soviet bloc with the connivance of their western counterparts that look the other way in any case to avoid paying up foreign aid since this illegal trade provide incomes to these near bankrupt resource deficient nations (not because they don’t have natural resources but because they are hard to mine) that live in the most unforgiving parts of the world.
The resource tainted trade that have developed over the years between western corporations and corrupt African leaders is just a modernization of what have been taking place since the Royal Niger Company plunged headlong into stealing resources to the south of the Niger in the 1800s. In this case, the subject just changed and the percentage of sharing might have become fairer between the corruptee and corrupter. What is definitive however is that the rules of engagement have not changed – the denial of the common people of Africa of the benefits of their naturally endowed resources to the benefit of few corrupt elites courtesy of the systematic support of western governments and corporations seeking cheap and easily accessible natural resources to develop their neon lighted capitals! Over the years, the marginalization of minorities in Nigeria for crude oil, of poor people in Angola in exchange for Diamond and Oil, the poor people of Congo for oil, timber and copper, as well as the blood Diamond trade of Liberia and Sierra Leone to the persistent conflicts in these countries is emblematic of this system of corruption instituted more than two hundred years ago in post independent Africa.
Today, we now know that these trades are indeed not benef
icial to the world at wide but the way to stop them has degenerated to a matter of ideological debates at world congresses, summits and the halls of the United Nations. Since the events of September 11 Africa conflicts have taken a back seat to terrorism as a world concern, but it represents a rather myopic view of the war on terror. If there is any breeding ground for future world terrorism, any discerning analyst would say is Africa. A continent riddled with discontent, bad leadership, denial of basic human freedoms and necessities in the midst of plenty is a fertile breeding ground for preachers of religious fundamentalism and brash philosophers of violence and death. If the bull is not taken by the horn to put brakes on the merchants of death be it well oiled and connected multinational oil or mining companies, or the super rich Moscow protected Russian Jew arms trader that have turned Africa to his play ground, the Africa and the entire world will know no peace!
We are convinced that the risen masses must stand at the heart and in the vanguard of the great historic process to eradicate the legacy of slavery, colonialism, apartheid & neo-colonialism.
Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki