During the last sixty years as the colonial rulers pulled up stakes in Africa and headed home, a number of independent, sovereign nations emerged in their wake. The birth of these nation-states was always an occasion for joyful and wild celebrations as the people were convinced that independence would lead to a better and brighter future. But subsequent events in many of these countries have left the people completely disillusioned and deathly afraid of what might lie ahead.
No sooner had the excitement of the independence revelries worn off than the people's dreams of a brighter future evaporated and turned into a nightmare. Countries like South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Somalia, to name the most extreme cases, have known little or no peace since independence.
Congo, a.k.a. DRC, gained independence from Belgium in 1960 and quickly descended into bloody chaos. Its first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was savagely murdered after barely a year in office, triggering a civil war that prompted the first ever deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops in Africa. The U.N. has had a military presence in Congo at various times ever since as a new bloody upheaval would pop up every now and then. The initial instability in Congo was widely blamed on the treachery of the departing colonial power, but let us not forget that the Congolese have been running their own affairs for more than half a century now and the script has barely changed.
Then there is South Sudan which, after years of bitter conflict, finally wrested control of its own destiny from Sudan in 2011. Less than two years later, however, a power struggle between the country's president and vice president driven primarily by ethnic rivalry plunged the world's newest nation into a genocidal civil war that has so far claimed thousands of lives and uprooted millions more from their homes. Like the DRC, South Sudan now hosts a U.N. peacekeeping force that is struggling to keep the peace.
In the Central African Republic or CAR, a succession of brutal military dictatorships culminated in a civil war in the former French colony in 2013 pitting, strangely enough, Christians against Muslims as opposed to tribe against tribe, which is typically the pattern in Africa. And after more than a year of a vicious slaughterfest, a fragile peace prevailed with the help of U.N. peacekeepers.
Perhaps Somalia has the dubious distinction of fighting the longest-running civil war on the continent, the situation there further complicated by the injection into the mix Islamic fundamentalism sponsored by al-Qaeda and ISIS. African Union troops backed by the U.N. have been trying to pacify the country for many years with limited success. Somalia hasn't had a government worthy of the name for more than two decades and is now a metaphor for anarchy.
These countries represent the most egregious examples of African countries whose independence has been a total disaster for their citizens. They define the term "failed state" perfectly well. In these countries, not only are lives and limbs constantly at risk, but the perennial conflicts and their attendant instability have robbed the people of much-needed social and economic benefits. The populations live in abject misery, starvation, poverty, and disease their constant companions. It is a picture of utter human despair and degradation, a tragedy of unfathomable proportions.
In a nutshell, what is happening in many of these countries is a crime against humanity. Can anyone look at those harrowing images especially from South Sudan and Somalia and honestly conclude otherwise?
What can the international community do save the people of these failed states who are being starved, raped, brutalized and killed? It is no mystery who the villains are in these African horror shows: the corrupt, blood-thirsty tyrants and warlords who masquerade as national leaders. Eliminating them and making sure they never return would be the answer to the problem. But how can such a goal be accomplished short of landing an invasion force for which, unfortunately, there seems to be neither the political will nor the appetite at the U.N?
Arms embargoes and other forms of sanctions have always proved futile because there are countries that have no qualms violating the sanctions for their own selfish reasons. This is a big conundrum. But let us hope that the world's creative minds will come up with a solution before it is too late. Meanwhile, millions will continue to suffer and die needlessly in Africa at the hands of their own rulers. It is a very steep price to pay for independence for these poor, innocent people.