During his address to The East African Legislation Assembly (EALA) in Kigali, Rwanda on 24th April 2004, Uganda’s long time President Yoweri Museveni said, “Why Africans forget easily… it is really amazing”. Museveni asked EALA Members of Parliament if they remember Mau Mau. As it seems, they did not respond the way Museveni wanted. So he pointlessly attacked all Africans based on the reaction of a few MPs, saying that they forget easily. Is Museveni a white man he likes to beg and blame? Did Museveni utter this out of irresponsibility, arrogance or mere ignorance and forgetfulness?
Today’s piece will pick a bone with Museveni who seems to say much without thinking. Are there any Africans who forget easily like Museveni and Robert Mugabe? I am trying to imagine. If such rubbishes would have been uttered by a white person what’d have been our reaction? I’m wondering. The media didn’t pick this abuse to show how racists sometimes some of our people can be.
Museveni isn’t alone in this racist race. Who’s forgotten how South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, recently showed disrespect and racist remarks about Africans as if he weren’t an African? He said, “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. We are in Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi.” For Zuma, J’burg that’s built by white racists is a big deal. J’burg for Zuma is a symbol of pride that one can pointlessly use to discriminate other Africans. Has he forgotten how J’burg’s built? Is Zuma among the Africans Museveni says forget easily because of the powers they abuse and misuse? None withstanding, Zuma’s forgotten that he’s not one of those whose policies of robbing the public and build his home village, built J’burg. In other words, Zuma’s trying to take credit where he didn’t perform. This is theft by legal definition.
As for Museveni, it is sad for the guy who’s been in power forcefully for decades to say such degrading words. Try to imagine. If such words were uttered by UK Prime Minister or the President of France, what’d have been the response from our Think Tanks and media, even the likes of Museveni? Has he forgotten that he’s an African like Zuma? Does Museveni remember some of his vows, some of which is the one of not overstaying in power? Again, for over two decade now, Museveni’s nary remembered that he’s overstayed in power!
Swahili sage that Museveni likes to mix with English has it, “Nyani haoni kundule namely the monkey does not see its back.” Interestingly, it is the same Museveni who seems to forget easily and think that all African do the same. For instance, Museveni took a dig on others for calling United Nations into their affairs which he called the vote of no confidence from the people. Obviously he’s referring to the DRC after it called UN to flush M23 away. He forgot that DRC was weakened by his invasion and his clandestine support to M23. Again, when the same Museveni tried to catch and kill Joseph Kony failed, he went himself to the same UN. Indirectly, his target was Kenya that took her case before the International Criminal Court (ICC). To Museveni this is failure.
Museveni went on showing how he easily forgets. He said, “China and Japan were backward technologically at that very time. This is not true. Historically, China was ahead of other countries in the world save that the king abolished his ambitious programs of building bigger ships that Europe had ever seen. The Europeans tried to colonise them but failed.” Even when Brits arrived in China for the first time they were baffled with the level of development and technological advancement China enjoyed. History shows and proves that China and Japan were vanquished and colonized. Museveni mentioned Opium war. To prove how he forgets easily he said that the British were defeated. Really? After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, if my memory serves me rightly, Britain won after its troops and those of France under General Sir James Hope Grant and Lieutenant General Cousin-Montauban defeated China three years thereafter. Again, whose fault’s this? Is it Museveni’s or his speech writers? Again, for the person who’s well educated and sane, you don’t pick up the speech and read it as it is. You do your own research in order to corroborate the facts and issues instead of regurgitating just like Museveni did to end up abusing all Africans and telling lies.
Again, Museveni’s naked abuses that Africans forget easily should be taken seriously. And he’d be told to his face that generalization’s the refuge for uneducated and lazy people. Academically, nothing’s sacrilegious to commit like generalizing everything without any gist of research. Mao Tse-tung used to say, “No investigation, no right to speak.” Africans don’t forget easily. If they do, they do so like any other human beings. So too, China didn’t defeat Britain in two Opium Wars.
When faced with reality of America being hated by many people under George W. Bush, Michael Moore, in his book “Stupid White Men”, wrote, “Friends, when are we going to stop kidding ourselves?” The same token fits Museveni and Zuma. Guys, when are you going to stop lying to us yourselves included? Again, Arabic proverb has it that arrogance diminishes wisdom.
This week I was musing about two historical colonial and imperiliastic atrocities which reminded me of the death of Chilean deomocratically-elected president, Salvador Allende (1973) and that of the first and democratically-elected PM of DRC, Patrice Lumumba (1961). Both leaders were toppled and killed by CIA.
Allende was killed by CIA just because he introduced what was known as Chileanization of the economy of his country. This meant: he had to empower Chileans to run their economy. By doing so, he was taking a morsel from the hands of foreigners especially American companies. To stop this, CIA brought one of its Americas school graduate Gen. Augusto Pinochet who ruined the country for many decades.
Another casualty of CIA machinations geared by greedy and exploitation of poor countries was Lumumba who was replaced by CIA agent Joseph Desire Mobutu, who, just like Pinochet, ruined DRC for decades. The involvement of CIA in the toppling of two leaders remained top secret for almost three decades. Many people did not know, and would not think, that CIA committed such sacrilegious acts on the democratic elected governments. Ironically, nobody would believe that the US could topple democratic governments and install dictatorial and kleptocratic regimes as it happened in two incedent above. This raised the question as to whether the US fights for democracy or it just uses democracy as pretext and cover to secure its hidden interests.
Along with Allende and Lumumba was Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala, who was overthrown in 1954 by CIA just because he wanted to buy back the land that was owned by an American company so as to give it back to his landless citizens. Albenz was replaced by Carlos Castillo who also ruined the country. American United Fruit Company (UFCO) owned vast tracts of land which was not cultivated. UFCO used to undervalue its land so as to pay low tax, something our current investors do. Therefore, when president Albenz wanted to buy the same uncultivated land, UFCO found that it’d suffer a big loss. So, it demanded more money than the value it had declared. When Albenz held his horses, CIA decided to dispose him to save an American Company.
The above three incidents remind me to write this as prediction of what is going to happen to Africa, shall currently myopic regime press on with their so-called investment geared by globalization. I can see Africa heading for the so-called economic coalition path with neo-colonialism based on economic exploitation. I am trying to apply history to show how it sometimes repeats itself especially, when those supposed to understand it well fail to do so. Africa, since independence, has been repeating the same mistakes. Our economies still depend on our former colonial masters. Black colonial masters have always been in power to serve white colonial masters. We’re but small and poor banana republics producing what we can’t consume and consuming what we don’t produce like hens. Who could believe that US used to give Mobutu over $1Bn annually to end up in imperialistic and parasitic banks in Switzerland? When it came to Mobutu, the US did not want any litany on democracy of accountability. Many American created dictators came and left without being reprimanded by the “champion” of democracy! Corrupt and kleptocratic regimes are in power in many African countries and US does not preach any democracy to them. Instead of singing democracy, the US is singing free trade and globalization.
Given that the era of dictatorship is gone, currently, the same imperilialist powers are using the so-called democratically elected leaders to ruin and exploit poor countries. In 1995-2005 Tanzania was under Benjamin Mkapa who did everything to see to it that he robbed all public investment. Mkapa offered all profitable firms to investers at a throwaway price. Since then, the country has been cascading to abject poverty despite producing gold in tons. This is but a single example which tells us that if Africa is to go on with the ongoing diabolic investment, chances are that landless Africans will resort into fighting for freedom afresh.
It is sad though to note that many African regimes have been singing the song of investment and globalization without any scientific, fair and safe preparations or measures in place. Many mineral and energy companies are landing multibillion investments in Africa without paying tax or investing in human development. It recently came to light that some corrupt government officials in Tanzania stashed over $ 300,000,000 in Swiss banks. All this money was deposited to the banks by corrupt foreign investors. What is evident in many African countries is the rise of antagonism between poor citizenry and foreign companies, which have much influence in the upper echelons of power due to the kickbacks they give to venal rulers. Human rights and the environment are gravely abused and the champion of democracy is just watching silently!
I am not trying to avoid sounding like a Luddite especially for those who would wrongly think I’m against investment. Omnishambolic and exploitative investment “no”… “yes” to fair and reasonable investment. Without taking a leaf from the above incidents, Africa is going to cascade even more into neo-colonialism. While rich countries are using their companies to rake billions of dollars from Africa in order to invest in their people. African greedy rulers are selling their people with their resources. We are not allowed even to subsidize our poor farmers or offer social services, especially welfare, as it is in rich countries. They don’t allow us to do this fearing that the prices of our produce will rise and therefore making it hard for rich countries to buy them at low and exploitative prices, as it has been going on since time immemorial.
Op-ed submission by Project 21
Our nation’s current political battle about same-sex marriage reminds me of the film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” in which rivals fight it out in a cage to chants of “two men enter, one man leaves!”
I also recall Tina Turner’s song from the film. She belts out: “We don’t need another hero. We don’t need to know the way home.”
Conservatives might take Turner’s lyrics to heart. Look at liberals these days. They championed Barack Obama as a superhero, but have discovered the cape doesn’t fit. Conservatives need not repeat the liberals’ folly.
Obama recently revealed his “evolving” opinion on same-sex marriage evolved into support of it. It instantly created a clear division with conservatives he probably wanted to keep muddled for until after the election. Conservatives, to the contrary, have long maintained that marriage should only be defined as a legal bond between a man and a woman.
But this sudden and clear distinctions on the definition of marriage is not the point. Americans want a life beyond what politicians are offering.
Americans yearn for a simpler time when everyone knew everyone else’s name but not all of their business. Perhaps it’s the fault of so much social networking, tweeting and round-the-clock news. It seems that someone always has the answer, or can at least bluff so convincingly that it appears they do.
Americans are concerned that we are in a real-life political Thunderdome, one that makes our union fragile and headed for trouble. We need a world beyond the Thunderdome of class warfare, legislative immorality and financial ruin.
Turning back the clock to the time of our founders is not an option. Who can ever really go back home again anyway?
Like Turner’s song, we should realize we don’t need to be told the way home in 2012. What we need most is to find a way back to ourselves so we may figure out who we are and where we stand.
We are so distracted and overwhelmed with ideological diatribes and identity politics on both sides that we have lost touch with a basic understanding and appreciation of morality.
All of this drowns out the voice of our Creator, who helps us determine right from wrong and the way home.
We need to realize we don’t need hope and change from a leader in Washington.
We don’t need to rely on what a politician thinks about two men or two women buying a house and shacking up, just like we shouldn’t care about what they think about heterosexual couples doing the same. Individuals are responsible to their Creator for their life choices — not someone in the White House.
Welcome to freedom!
Conservatives would be wise to define their values — beginning with a strong appreciation for individual responsibility. For example, I will not make a list of moral right and wrongs for others. I will let their consciences be their guide.
It’s time to get this country thinking again. It’s time for people to be responsible for their choices and accept the consequences.
But as long as we are still arguing and disagreeing so vociferously, like Thunderdome, we take up all the space needed for the sort of self-reflection that empowers people to turn inward to their own responsibility and away from noise of the world.
Maybe Turner’s song is wrong. Maybe we do need another hero, and maybe we do need to know the way home. But it’s more complicated. The hero is beyond this world, and the way home offers a unique direction for each one of us that only He can give us.
We’ve mistakenly tried to find our home and our hero in government.
We need to look no further than Obama’s ill-fitting cape to realize our mistake.
Jean Russeau wrote in Social Contract, “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.” To free himself, Russeau suggests that man must gain security and a measure of freedom from action, in exchange for surrender of rights and property to the general will. This is not the language of compliance or cowardice but of rebellion. This means, if you want me to pay my tax as my obligation, you must meet my rights as your obligation. As a leader, you are nothing if you cannot deliver. Your right to spend my tax corresponds with your duty to fulfill your duties.
It is no exaggeration to assert that Africa, politically, socially and economically is in the 14th century. Many African countries are sitting on the vast resources which are abused by a cabal of people in power. While this is happening, the big population is dying in abject destitution.
When philosophers Thomas Donaldson and Thomas W. Dunfee coined a phrase, “Intergrated Social Contract Theory” (ISCT), they stated categorically that every right an individual enjoys also has corresponding duty. In business they call this sharing risk and reward. The upshot of this is: whenever there is a risk, change, calamity or needs, the corporate as a big entity benefitting more from the business must help employees- who also benefit from the business but at a less magnitude comparably- in this period of transition.
Running a country is like running a corporation. This is the rationale we are going to use in this argument. The difference though is that when somebody is employed by the corporation, does so because for having some qualities or qualifications the corporation needs to use to make profit and sustain it. When it comes to be a citizen in the corporate known as a state, the citizen qualifies by the right of birth or application for those who apply for citizenship of other countries.
When it comes to men and women manning Africa, they enjoy rights of spending poor taxpayers’ money as they deem fit without the corresponding duty of delivering service. The corporate-government is duty bound to deliver so as to enjoy the right of being a government. Failure to do this, the said government is in power illegally. Hither is whether the situation in African countries worsens more than even under colonialism in 1960s. If anything, African needs a jumping-off point from the 14th century style of management next to Caesars’, to the 21st century of responsible presidents or managers of the corporation known as state. It is high time for Africa to have responsible and accountable leadership championed by our academics.
We need advocates of new social contract who can decisively interpret and champion ISCT. This is possible only and only when our academics will stand and take on dirty regimes instead of joining them to plunder the hoi polloi as it currently is in many countries. It is no longer shocking to see African ignorant rulers using academics in their governments to destroy their country, as it once happened in the Gambia where President Yahya Jammeh used the minister of health, who is a doctor professionally, to claim he had discovered cure for HIV/AIDS. Under new social contract this wouldn’t be possible given that president would be accountable and responsible for whatever he does or says. But under current king-like presidency, Jammeh was able to get away with it. Is this the way academics are supposed to use their knowledge?
“Unless we learn to live together as brothers (and sisters), we will die together like fools.” Desmond Tutu quoting Martin Luther King Jr in No Future without Forgiveness. Indeed, our rulers are prone and proud of being referred to as Excellencies, loved ones and other fake homilies. Actually, they are the opposite of this and they know this too well so as to surround themselves with guards and terror. They live in the heaven amidst the hell of miseries of their people. Who is wrong hither between them and the citizens who are in bed with such abnoxious and notorious vices?
Gandhi once remarked, “How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow-beings?” In the same book by Louis Fischer: Gandhi: His Life and the Message to the World, seems to have the answer. He wrote, “Some men loom larger by lifting up others and some by kicking and humiliating others.” If anything, this is the real situation between Africa and developed world. How can for instance, DRC produce tonnes and tonnes of mineral and Nigeria oil alongside with tonnes and tonnes of poor people? West countries, despite having fewer resources, were able to attain their development, among others, thanks to signing and ratifying a new social contract that empowers people and their governments. It’s through accountability of everybody that made western countries be ahead of us for everything.
Africa cannot forge ahead with the current mediocrity whereby academcs are used abusedly without even resisting. Instead of being in bed with irresponsible rulers for the sake of personal gains, our academics should enlight the hoi polloi so that they can take on their irresponsible rulers. This must be the war between hoity toity and hoi polloi spearheaded by academics. It does not make sense to see our rulers abuse our tax and donor monies while academics scrumble to join politics so as to share the loot. Is there any rationale of dining and wining rulers using taxpayer’s money while they don’t deliver any service to them? How can they spend our hardearned taxes on travelling abroad and recruiting private armies while we are dying wantonly? This is the question our academics need to ask and give the answer, instead of being in bed with those who arrest the future of our continent and her innocent people.
For African to move forward there shall be the force to sign a new social contract that holds our ruler accountable and responsible for whatever they say and do. We can draw a lesson from academics such as Martin Luther, Conrad Grebel, Bathsar Hubmaier, Thomas Muetzer, Ulrich Zwingli and others who gave the Roman Church hard time so as to change the world despite being young guys. We need to start asking our rulers: what have they done for us as agreed in elections or constitutions. What have they done so as to deserve staying in power they wantonly abuse? We need to start enjoying the fruits of our freedom that turned out to be enjoyed by rulers and their henchmen. Academics must pull Africa from the 14th Century to 21st Century by advocvating the signing of a new social contract making our rulers accountable.
“The above outlines the root cause of things in Nigeria and I am sure there is not much difference in other countries. So, at this juncture, are we, black people of the westen hemisphere, truly obligated to step in and do for Africa what it appears that many Africans won’t do for Africa? Are we to assume the Africans are less informed than we? They somehow do not know and understand that they are being dupped, handled and used by the IMF, AFRicom and the world bank and their minions?”
The questions within this statement was asked by Bro. Amenta at the end of his comment on the post: Boko Haram: The New (Black) African Al-Qaeda?. These are questions I have asked myself many times, in different ways over the years. Again they are timely and relevant.
As I was drafting a response last night, life happened. The baby needed attention. The Queen wanted some “stuff” taken care of right away. The little man had to be bathed, have story time and put to bed. Once it was all said and done… I was done! Off to bed I went with the intention of completing my response sometime today.
This morning, by happenstance (if you believe in such a thing), I visited a Black based yahoo group I am a member of here in Ottawa. I hadn’t visited since the beginning of the year and had an unexplainable desire to do so. To my surprise there was this article from the blog Mind of Malaka posted there entitled: “You Lazy (Intellectual) African Scum!” It was so pertinent to this discussion, the comment by Bro. Amenta and what I was going to say, that I decided to share it here first, let it percolate for a few days, then complete my response. The sentiments in this piece could refer to any country in Africa, the Caribbean and Black community in North, Central and South America.
They call the Third World the lazy man’s purview; the sluggishly slothful and languorous prefecture. In this realm people are sleepy, dreamy, torpid, lethargic, and therefore indigent—totally penniless, needy, destitute, poverty-stricken, disfavored, and impoverished. In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations. Africa is the trailblazer. Some still call it “the dark continent” for the light that flickers under the tunnel is not that of hope, but an approaching train. And because countless keep waiting in the way of the train, millions die and many more remain decapitated by the day.
“It’s amazing how you all sit there and watch yourselves die,” the man next to me said. “Get up and do something about it.”
Brawny, fully bald-headed, with intense, steely eyes, he was as cold as they come. When I first discovered I was going to spend my New Year’s Eve next to him on a non-stop JetBlue flight from Los Angeles to Boston I was angst-ridden. I associate marble-shaven Caucasians with iconoclastic skin-heads, most of who are racist.
“My name is Walter,” he extended his hand as soon as I settled in my seat.
I told him mine with a precautious smile.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Zambia!” he exclaimed, “Kaunda’s country.”
“Yes,” I said, “Now Sata’s.”
“But of course,” he responded. “You just elected King Cobra as your president.”
My face lit up at the mention of Sata’s moniker. Walter smiled, and in those cold eyes I saw an amenable fellow, one of those American highbrows who shuttle between Africa and the U.S.
“I spent three years in Zambia in the 1980s,” he continued. “I wined and dined with Luke Mwananshiku, Willa Mungomba, Dr. Siteke Mwale, and many other highly intelligent Zambians.” He lowered his voice. “I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off.” He smirked. “Your government put me in a million dollar mansion overlooking a shanty called Kalingalinga. From my patio I saw it all—the rich and the poor, the ailing, the dead, and the healthy.”
“Are you still with the IMF?” I asked.
“I have since moved to yet another group with similar intentions. In the next few months my colleagues and I will be in Lusaka to hypnotize the cobra. I work for the broker that has acquired a chunk of your debt. Your government owes not the World Bank, but us millions of dollars. We’ll be in Lusaka to offer your president a couple of millions and fly back with a check twenty times greater.”
“No, you won’t,” I said. “King Cobra is incorruptible. He is …”
He was laughing. “Says who? Give me an African president, just one, who has not fallen for the carrot and stick.”
Quett Masire’s name popped up.
“Oh, him, well, we never got to him because he turned down the IMF and the World Bank. It was perhaps the smartest thing for him to do.”
At midnight we were airborne. The captain wished us a happy 2012 and urged us to watch the fireworks across Los Angeles.
“Isn’t that beautiful,” Walter said looking down.
From my middle seat, I took a glance and nodded admirably.
“That’s white man’s country,” he said. “We came here on Mayflower and turned Indian land into a paradise and now the most powerful nation on earth. We discovered the bulb, and built this aircraft to fly us to pleasure resorts like Lake Zambia.”
I grinned. “There is no Lake Zambia.”
He curled his lips into a smug smile. “That’s what we call your country. You guys are as stagnant as the water in the lake. We come in with our large boats and fish your minerals and your wildlife and leave morsels—crumbs. That’s your staple food, crumbs. That corn-meal you eat, that’s crumbs, the small Tilapia fish you call Kapenta is crumbs. We the Bwanas (whites) take the cat fish. I am the Bwana and you are the Muntu. I get what I want and you get what you deserve, crumbs. That’s what lazy people get—Zambians, Africans, the entire Third World.”
The smile vanished from my face.
“I see you are getting pissed off,” Walter said and lowered his voice. “You are thinking this Bwana is a racist. That’s how most Zambians respond when I tell them the truth. They go ballistic. Okay. Let’s for a moment put our skin pigmentations, this black and white crap, aside. Tell me, my friend, what is the difference between you and me?”
“There’s no difference.”
“Absolutely none,” he exclaimed. “Scientists in the Human Genome Project have proved that. It took them thirteen years to determine the complete sequence of the three billion DNA subunits. After they were all done it was clear that 99.9% nucleotide bases were exactly the same in you and me. We are the same people. All white, Asian, Latino, and black people on this aircraft are the same.”
I gladly nodded.
“And yet I feel superior,” he smiled fatalistically. “Every white person on this plane feels superior to a black person. The white guy who picks up garbage, the homeless white trash on drugs, feels superior to you no matter his status or education. I can pick up a nincompoop from the New York streets, clean him up, and take him to Lusaka and you all be crowding around him chanting muzungu, muzungu and yet he’s a riffraff. Tell me why my angry friend.”
For a moment I was wordless.
“Please don’t blame it on slavery like the African Americans do, or colonialism, or some psychological impact or some kind of stigmatization. And don’t give me the brainwash poppycock. Give me a better answer.”
I was thinking.
He continued. “Excuse what I am about to say. Please do not take offense.”
I felt a slap of blood rush to my head and prepared for the worst.
“You my friend flying with me and all your kind are lazy,” he said. “When you rest your head on the pillow you don’t dream big. You and other so-called African intellectuals are damn lazy, each one of you. It is you, and not those poor starving people, who is the reason Africa is in such a deplorable state.”
“That’s not a nice thing to say,” I protested.
He was implacable. “Oh yes it is and I will say it again, you are lazy. Poor and uneducated Africans are the most hardworking people on earth. I saw them in the Lusaka markets and on the street selling merchandise. I saw them in villages toiling away. I saw women on Kafue Road crushing stones for sell and I wept. I said to myself where are the Zambian intellectuals? Are the Zambian engineers so imperceptive they cannot invent a simple stone crusher, or a simple water filter to purify well water for those poor villagers? Are you telling me that after thirty-seven years of independence your university school of engineering has not produced a scientist or an engineer who can make simple small machines for mass use? What is the school there for?”
I held my breath.
“Do you know where I found your intellectuals? They were in bars quaffing. They were at the Lusaka Golf Club, Lusaka Central Club, Lusaka Playhouse, and Lusaka Flying Club. I saw with my own eyes a bunch of alcoholic graduates. Zambian intellectuals work from eight to five and spend the evening drinking. We don’t. We reserve the evening for brainstorming.”
He looked me in the eye.
“And you flying to Boston and all of you Zambians in the Diaspora are just as lazy and apathetic to your country. You don’t care about your country and yet your very own parents, brothers and sisters are in Mtendere, Chawama, and in villages, all of them living in squalor. Many have died or are dying of neglect by you. They are dying of AIDS because you cannot come up with your own cure. You are here calling yourselves graduates, researchers and scientists and are fast at articulating your credentials once asked—oh, I have a PhD in this and that—PhD my foot!”
I was deflated.
“Wake up you all!” he exclaimed, attracting the attention of nearby passengers. “You should be busy lifting ideas, formulae, recipes, and diagrams from American manufacturing factories and sending them to your own factories. All those research findings and dissertation papers you compile should be your country’s treasure. Why do you think the Asians are a force to reckon with? They stole our ideas and turned them into their own. Look at Japan, China, India, just look at them.”
He paused. “The Bwana has spoken,” he said and grinned. “As long as you are dependent on my plane, I shall feel superior and you my friend shall remain inferior, how about that? The Chinese, Japanese, Indians, even Latinos are a notch better. You Africans are at the bottom of the totem pole.”
He tempered his voice. “Get over this white skin syndrome and begin to feel confident. Become innovative and make your own stuff for god’s sake.”
At 8 a.m. the plane touched down at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Walter reached for my hand.
“I know I was too strong, but I don’t give it a damn. I have been to Zambia and have seen too much poverty.” He pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled something. “Here, read this. It was written by a friend.”
He had written only the title: “Lords of Poverty.”
Thunderstruck, I had a sinking feeling. I watched Walter walk through the airport doors to a waiting car. He had left a huge dust devil twirling in my mind, stirring up sad memories of home. I could see Zambia’s literati—the cognoscente, intelligentsia, academics, highbrows, and scholars in the places he had mentioned guzzling and talking irrelevancies. I remembered some who have since passed—how they got the highest grades in mathematics and the sciences and attained the highest education on the planet. They had been to Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), only to leave us with not a single invention or discovery. I knew some by name and drunk with them at the Lusaka Playhouse and Central Sports.
Walter is right. It is true that since independence we have failed to nurture creativity and collective orientations. We as a nation lack a workhorse mentality and behave like 13 million civil servants dependent on a government pay cheque. We believe that development is generated 8-to-5 behind a desk wearing a tie with our degrees hanging on the wall. Such a working environment does not offer the opportunity for fellowship, the excitement of competition, and the spectacle of innovative rituals.
But the intelligentsia is not solely, or even mainly, to blame. The larger failure is due to political circumstances over which they have had little control. The past governments failed to create an environment of possibility that fosters camaraderie, rewards innovative ideas and encourages resilience. KK, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, and Banda embraced orthodox ideas and therefore failed to offer many opportunities for drawing outside the line.
I believe King Cobra’s reset has been cast in the same faculties as those of his predecessors. If today I told him that we can build our own car, he would throw me out.
“Naupena? Fuma apa.” (Are you mad? Get out of here)
Knowing well that King Cobra will not embody innovation at Walter’s level let’s begin to look for a technologically active-positive leader who can succeed him after a term or two. That way we can make our own stone crushers, water filters, water pumps, razor blades, and harvesters. Let’s dream big and make tractors, cars, and planes, or, like Walter said, forever remain inferior.
A fundamental transformation of our country from what is essentially non-innovative to a strategic superior African country requires a bold risk-taking educated leader with a triumphalist attitude and we have one in YOU. Don’t be highly strung and feel insulted by Walter. Take a moment and think about our country. Our journey from 1964 has been marked by tears. It has been an emotionally overwhelming experience. Each one of us has lost a loved one to poverty, hunger, and disease. The number of graves is catching up with the population. It’s time to change our political culture. It’s time for Zambian intellectuals to cultivate an active-positive progressive movement that will change our lives forever. Don’t be afraid or dispirited, rise to the challenge and salvage the remaining few of your beloved ones.
Whenever I meet or watch some ministers in Canada driving their cars I remember home with indignation. When I look at how simple the Prime Minister of Canada is, I remember Africa with sadness. Many questions have been disturbing me since I arrive here. Why do African ministers, RCs or PCs and DCs have drivers instead of driving themselves as it is in rich countries? Why do presidents have many bodyguards and helpers compared to their rich counterparts?
If anyone can nail down the answers of those questions above, she or he will be able to start pinning down the formula of freeing Africa from manmade penury. Many African governments are unnecessarily bigger than the economies of the countries they are running. Extravagance is the suitable term to use when it comes to African governments’ spending. Accountability is the foreign vocabulary for African governments. Alas, many African presidents are constitutionally above the law so are the members of their families! This enables them to make all blunders and get away with it.
The lack of accountability for Africa’s rulers trickles down to their appointees. The chain of reactions goes in this manner down to the mere sweeper or office attendant.
African rulers are not only above the law but also have the discretion of appointing any number and type of people they deem fit to form their governments. Recently, Malawi’s President Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika appointed the first lady Callista to be a minister for a newly fabricated ministry of Safe Motherhood. Mutharika went ahead appointing his brother, Peter Mutharika, minister for Foreign Affairs without any doubt.
In Uganda, just like Malawi, the first lady, Janet Museveni, is the minister for her husband fabricated Karamoja Affairs docket. In essence, Museveni and Mutharika appointed their wives to enable them access to resources and fat perks just like other high rank appointees. African rulers reward relationship, connection, loyalty and sycophancy.
Nepotism and cronyism can also be openly seen in in the son of Senegal president, Karim Wade, who soon after his father ascended to power, was named Personal Advisor to the President of the Republic, in charge of implementing major restructuring projects, among which were the New International Airport of Diass, the restructuring of Chemical Industries of Senegal (Industries Chimiques du Senegal, ICS), and the creation of the special integrated economic zone of Dakar.
After being his father’s advisor, Karim was promoted as Minister of State for International Cooperation, Regional Development (Aménagement du territoire), Air Transport, and Infrastructure. In principle, Karim is no different from Christel Denis Sassou Ngweso or Theodoro Obiang Jr. in the current corrupt and nepotic regimes in Africa. This also was evidenced in Egypt and Libya where the sons of the fallen tyrants would command much and unchecked powers simply because their fathers were presidents.
These are what Niccolo Machiavelli in his book “The Prince” regarded as princes to whom the end justifies the means. The princes or call them freaks, can go over the line without being questioned for they are themselves the power to reckon with within the system in which their relative, father or husband is the pillar. The system always does just that, to kow-tow before this selfish gang of thieves.
Apart from appointing their relatives African president are at liberty to appoint their court jesters and whizkids to whatever position they deem fit. This loophole is used to creating unnecessary ministeries like Safe Motherhood in Malawi or Karamoja Affairs in Uganda.
While presidents have the discretionary powers to appoint their relatives, even their appointees do the same. In the end, the big chunk of power and benefits ends in hands of nepotic regime so to speak. Again this typifies what is currently going on in African countries whether headed by tyrants or democrats.
Many African presidents and their ministers travel abroad a lot, whether doing their private business or government business. This is why many African budgets serve to pay salaries and emoluments for the officials of government instead of development. In this year’s budget, Tanzania’s budget Tshs 5,226.9 Billion went to paying for salaries and running the government whislt Tshs 1,942.4 Billion went to development.
The situation is the same all over Africa. Budgets for running the governments made of a cabal of a few bureaucrats and bootlickers. In essence, the said budgets are passed to serve rulers and their appointees, but not the people. How can budgets serve the people where there is not accountability?