Africa, who are your prophets of change? Sept 2012

Ideology died on November 10th 1989, under the weight of hammers and pick-axes, with the fervour of 44 years of rage and the assassins dressed in stone-washed jeans. As we all watched the Berlin Wall collapse and hands meeting across the divide, we never thought the price of freedom was the death of ideology. Thus we have the paradox of juxtaposition, if the devil dies, then so does God, the two need each other. So we have only one ideology with various strains of individualism/capitalism, into this void has come many mini-ideologies; Islam radicalism, neo-liberalism, nationalism, and then you have single-issue causes like Gay-rights, Tea Party, Occupy, Indignados in Spain. For all this fragmentation we have no world vision that humanity can subscribe to; Capitalism, Communism, socialism, social democracy, etc were specific visions of the world that people aspired to.

Today is also the anniversary of the death of father of modern African consciousness, Bantu Stephen Biko, he died 35 years ago in a horrific way after serious torture. They killed the man but his ideas were harder to kill, and they have permeated into Black peoples thoughts that they seem hardly revolutionary like “Black is Beautiful” that is a mantra we all know but never truly believe. The truth is that deep down Africans feel inferior to the White man, to his skin, to his eyes, to his straight hair, to his language, to his technology and knowledge. We have somehow equated his external qualities to his internal qualities. As if his knowledge came from his white skin and blue eyes, however much we try to believe we are equal, the world around us says we are not. What Africa fundamentally suffers from is an inferiority complex coupled with a superiority complex of the West. We always look to the West to save us, often from ourselves.

The last decade has seen a rise in the fortunes of Africa, mini-renascence is taking place among the small urban elites in Africa, we are connected to the world, we tell you how wonderful it is. These elites are often dislocated from the masses that clean their toilets. Surely there can be an ideology to bring the two together. Who are the heirs to Biko? Who is truly revolutionary in thought? Revolutionary not in the armed sense, but in thought, to change the way we think. We had anti-imperialist like the fathers of independence Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, etc, then we had coups to remove these leaders and one-party states emerged. With the fall of communism we saw a new type of leader emerge they were led by Meles Zenawi, these leaders were half-democrat, half-dictator, they straddled the worlds between freedom and tyranny.

A new ideology called ‘Developmentism’ was born, a mixture of cancelled debt, targeted aid, efficient bureaucracy, performance appraisal and a disregard for human rights, a coalition between donor and undemocratic governments. Human rights were a small price to pay for development, as if to think that a man can be thankful for golden chains that bind him. When progress was made it could not be threatened in any way, not even by democracy then progress (whatever that means) was paramount. Now the world is at a crossroads, the capitalist system is on its knees, we Africans are trying to enter a club that is bankrupt and closing down, we have changed our economies to suit the West but that game is over. What ideology will bring us forward? When will we develop an ideology that is productive for us? That makes the world meet us on our terms? That enriches us culturally, unites us, that defines and refines us. Communism was a unifying force for China and forced the world to meet it on its terms. We go begging to the West, more for approval than money, and this is our downfall.

Who are the heirs to Lumumba, Biko, and Sankara? No man is worthy. We are yet to see the first 21 century African leader, because there is no 21st century African ideology, so all we discuss is personalities. The mark of a true revolutionary is whether your ideas are bigger than your personality, no African leaders have big ideas, those few who do don’t have the resources to fulfil them. What are the components that will make this new ideology? All ideologies are born of necessity not dogma, the land, the people, the history, the present circumstances all conspire to make fertile ground for a new strain of thought that occupies a void in the human conscious. Therefore communism sprouted revolutions in quick succession because the situations on the ground were similar and dictated so. Lenin dusted the old manuscripts of Marx and changed the world as we know it. Regardless of the merits of Marxism, whether it was wrong or right, or oppressive, it was a force of necessity, as much as the American or French revolutions.

Our situations in Africa are the same in many ways, give or take language and minor cultural differences. We all suffer in our coutries from corruption, lack of democracy and rights, marginalisation, cronyism, divisionism, and poverty in the inside. On the outside we suffer from international corruption, lack of international democracy and rights, lack of opportunity with high tariffs and trade barriers, preferential trade cronyism, international racism and division, and enforced poverty on 80% of human beings, while the 20% are obese and dying of wealth-related causes. We have realised it is pointless to have revolutions in our own countries if the world stays the same. We have to change the world, there is no other way, it is not about overthrowing the white man, it is about overthrowing the whole system. Westerners tell us that Africa will reach middle income by 2050, I’m sorry we can’t wait that long. WE WANT IT NOW.

The new ideology says “I am a Human Being, I also count, both as an individual and as a collective” that ideology is Ubuntu, the name has been stolen by software engineers but the concept is the same. Humanism or Humanity is not really a direct translation, in Kinyarwanda it means Humanity but also kindness, generosity, a human collective. The Bantu language reminds us that we were once one tribe that spread out over the continent, a single language that morphed into dialects and finally into distinct languages. This language was human software, an operating system for nations, within its words were stored knowledge. We Africans have to start with what we know, it has to be a revolution of language, of thought, of aspirations. This revolution will not be in the streets but in the halls of power of the world, we must stop electing cronies and elect leaders who will DEMAND a better deal for Africans. Like Sankara said “If we all refuse to pay the debt then there is no debt.” He was killed for it but his prophecy came to pass in the 90’s when most of that debt was cancelled, which led to our current boom.

We cannot render unto Caesar anymore, we cannot wait for tomorrow to have a better day, we can have it TODAY. All we need to say is I AM A HUMAN BEING. We will show our resolve, those Berlin trade walls will come down and an African will have a better today, not tomorrow. We must fight corruption, cronyism, elitism, tribalism, that seems hard – but if we have what united us the barriers will go down. We must stop electing ass-kissers, we must demand leaders who will stand up, who are elected to overthrow the global system, who will form alliances with other oppressed souls to demand a better day. Imagine if all African leaders took part in a protest in the UN, grabbed the microphones and said “We’re fed up with being your niggers, we are declaring a new African Order, if you want to trade with us then these are the terms.” Dreams……..

Divide and rule will only tear us apart
In every man’s chest, there beats a heart
So soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionary
Coz I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries
Brother you’re right, you’re right, you’re right
We have to fight, we have to fight, we have to fight for our rights

Bob Marley – Zimbabwe

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