01.05.2000 Feature Article


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Chaos! Chaos... and chaos, all over. Yes, there is chaos all over the place. Out of Africa comes nothing but chaos. If one thinks of Africa, what readily comes to mind is a continent in distress, wars, anarchy, ruthlessness, hopelessness, refugees, hunger, disease, abject poverty, rebellion, people incapable of ruling themselves, etc., etc. The list can go on endlessly. AFRICA can perhaps best be represented by the mnemonics Anguished, Failing, Region In Constant Anarchy. And rightly so.

Yesterday it was Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia etc. Today it's Algeria, Zaire, and still a whole lot, including Nigeria, sit on a potentially explosive powder keg. People are being displaced by wars, ethnic conflicts, and sheer greed. Towns and villages are being turned into necropolis, and the necrology is laboriously tall mainly consisting of helpless and defenseless women and children (the future). The flute of dirges blow unceasingly, and the farmyards now produce sepulchral fruits, instead of food to feed the hungry masses. Children ( the greatest of the continent's assets), instead of being in the classrooms to accumulate knowledge and learn a trade to carve their future niches, have become comrades in arms fighting to overthrow oppressive and tyrannical regimes. People live on $5 a week, and even for the vast majority of people in the countryside, this figure may be an exaggeration. $5 is about 10,000 cedis in Ghana, a peaceful country which is often hyped and variously cited as being on the path of economic recovery and thus a "model" for other African countries. But how many rural, land-dependent Ghanaians have 10,000 cedis to spend in a week?

And come to think of it: at this time in the history of human civilization, (with all the advancement in science and technology and their concomitant paraphernalia) when one group of people is exploring the possibility of life on a different planet, another group of people elsewhere on our earth is still wallowing in abject poverty with majority living at the periphery of life, virtually unable ( so to speak) to feed, clothe and shelter themselves. If you belong to the latter group of people, the more you ponder over this irony, the more you feel the sharpness of the poignancy of your situation.

The paradox of the African situation is that the continent is blessed with a lot of rich natural resources - which can make a country like Japan envious. So how come all this hopelessness, all this listlessness? Why is the continent so zonked by poverty and deprivation? These are some of the multi-dollar questions whose answers seem so trivially simple and obvious, yet have been so enigmatic and elusive over the years. The problem is that over the years, instead of looking at our own backyards for our enemies, most of our African leaders, through well-orchestrated propaganda machinery, have succeeded in brainwashing the citizenry to blame the international community, especially the so-called West for our development woes. The mundane mantra goes like this: blame the Slave Trade for taking away our best brains and able-bodied men; blame the world economic order for paying us less-than-deserve for our exports; blame colonialism and neo-colonialism for all our conflicts and wars; even blame the West for not making the rain fall on our crops. More often than not Africans tend, by sentimental and historical reasons, to discuss African problems with every whipsaw wallop of emotions, and in so doing turn a blind eye to the internal causes of our problems.

While acknowledging that some actions and inactions of the so-called West might have contributed to our predicaments, its puerile and unacceptable to continually engage in this half century-old external blame-searching to the detriment of internal soul-searching for the causes of our troubles. Leaders and their henchmen often resort to this blame-them propaganda as some April Fools' Day prank to conceal their own wrong-doings and failures.

As far as I am concerned, the continent's public enemy number one is bad leadership: the all self-important self-declared life Presidents who have injected personality cults into the presidency and who wade in a false sense of belief that they are so inviolable that without them their respective countries cannot survive; the shamelessly irresponsible leaders who choose to run their countries to suit their own whims and caprices; leaders who carry on the presidency with sybaritic kleptocracy; leaders who stash away our hard-earned much-needed dollars in foreign banks as personal treasuries - that Mobutu is richer than his ailing country, Zaire, is no news; the modern slave trade created by oppressive and tyrannical regimes that have driven some of our best, fecund minds and able-bodied people out of our countries.

Haven't bad and visionless leadership helped to hold our economies hostage by discouraging private enterprise and encouraging excessive government participation in the production of goods?

It does not require more than average human intelligence to see that our exports would continue to face fluctuating prices ( and thus revenues ) so long as we continue to produce and export raw materials. Prices are determined by basic supply and demand conditions. Do we have to blame the West for our failure to invest in our human resources - the minds that would produce the capital and technology for development?

It is about time we stopped blaming "outsiders" for our problems. Our enemies are in our own backyards, and we can no longer afford the luxury of shifting blames and discussing our internal failures in sotto voce.

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