Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds
- Bob Marley
Once upon a time, the rain pounded heavily and one village was particularly flooded.
As everyone looked for ways of salvaging their lives and property, one man who held a deep belief in God, climbed to the top of his roof and started seeking divine intervention.
“You know I have been faithful to you, God. Please do something about me and my property.”
Soon, a boat approached and the pilot called him onboard. The man waved him on. He was waiting for God’s miracle. A moment later, as the water levels were reaching his feet, a helicopter buzzed over him and dropped a rescue rope. The man waved it on.
He was waiting for God’s miracle. Soon, the water levels were high and the man drowned. When he got to heaven, he was angry and complained to God. “I have been faithful to you all my life. I have given my whole life to serve you yet you could not save me in the hour of need”, he rambled. God looked at him pitifully and shook His head. “I sent you a boat and a helicopter. What else did you need?”
I pounced on that story on the internet. I have read it again and again and again and have shared it with a dozen friends who have also liked the moral of the story: God gives us the answers to our adversities but we are either too ignorant or too foolish to grasp them.
This story reminds me of Africa, my home; the land of abundance and the land of opportunity. If you are in doubt, ask yourself this question: Why were the Western powers killing each other as they scrambled for a piece of it? Africa is the farm of the world – naturally, it is the most agriculturally productive continent.
By this time, Africa should be among the most industrialized continents – all raw materials and minerals come from around. Then why the flourishing poverty and underdevelopment?
For many years, as I rattled my young mind for the answers, those who came before me taught me to point my fingers at the West. I was told that the West colonized us and took advantage of our resources.
I was further told that when we gained independence, the West continued to control us through
modern colonialism a.k.a neocolonialism by using the principle of divide and rule against us that drove us to perennial civil wars. My older minders even gave me proof of this, “Look at the countries rich in natural resources”, they blurted with authority. “They are the most war-prone.” At that time, I nodded and bought the logic.
Now, since I have become of age, specifically being a young parent endowed with the eternal
responsibility of spearheading a whole lineage, I have come to see things in a different perspective - a black and white perspective. From this new perspective, I have found that what my seniors used to say was partly true, partly false and in most cases, pure hogshit.
THE TRUTH: it is true that we were colonized. The West saw opportunity in Africa that our forefathers never saw cause of limited perception. It is true that the West partitioned Africa amongst themselves – the way robbers share their spoils after a successful “job”. It is true that we had no capacity to resist them at that time, because we felt and acted very inferior to them.
It is true that our forefathers viewed the white man as some kind of a “god” till during the first world war (when they saw him bleeding and dying). It is true that the colonialist governed over us through divide-and rule. There are living testimonies to that. Look at the map of Kenya.
Forty seven years since gaining “independence” (shame on us), we are still talking about Central, Rift Valley, Nyanza, etc. These demographics were laid down by the colonialists to achieve a desired objective. My heart bleeds anytime I hear an ethnic shenanigan in his fourties, thirties or twenties holding these tribal conclaves dear.
From these truths, I came to learn some other truths. I learnt that Africa was not the only colonized continent in the world. I learnt that many countries have experienced colonialism, including the very United States of America that is criticized for acting as the global policeman. Closer to Africa, India gained independence from the British in 1947, Malaysia (British) in 1957 and interestingly, Malaysia gained independence on August 1963 - three months after Kenya had gained independence!
THE FALSEHOODS: First, that Africans are the most oppressed people. I tend to disagree. If you mention slavery, it had been there since the days of Pontius Pilate. If you talk about colonialism, as we have seen above, even the US of A experienced it. If you talk about victimization, no people in this world have suffered like the Jews. Forget about the days of Pharaoh. Remember Hitler in recent years. Then look at where the Jews are today.
Second, that the West make Africans fight each other. Now this is total bullshit. Being incited to fight and commissioning a fight are two different things altogether. Human actions are a result of mental perceptions. No one can fight his bother without the mental conviction to do so.
Therefore, as much as I agree there have been foreign hands in the endless wars in Angola, Sierra Leonne and Zaire, I equally agree that there are few greedy Africans and many small-minded Africans (the executioners) who dance to their tunes. In fact, this exploitation of the “African’s small mind” has not been limited to foreigners. In Kenya, for example, we have seen it working locally in 1992, 1997 and 2007 to impressive results.
THE HOGSHIT: That the West is manipulating our affairs. In their most profound wisdom, our octogenarian, septuagenarian and sexagenarian leaders sing this line in chorus when their leadership is being put to test.
More often than not, this line is dropped at us, the youth, who, just like we had swallowed the pill of negative ethnicity with a single gulp; we swallow this one with gust and rage. We are told that our problems are caused by the interference from the west and that we should take pride in our sovereignty.
Ironically, when these “foreign masters” come with goodies in terms of aid or grant, our leaders turn around and sheepishly tell us they are our “development partners”.
We are further told that it has taken 200 hundred years for those blaming our leadership to be where we are, hence we should be patient with their leadership because our countries are barely 50 years old, and bla…bla…bla…, shit…shit….shit….
What we never ask them and most importantly, ask ourselves is why it takes 6 months or less and not 200 years for the latest piece of technology from the West to reach our shores.
Africa is the author, schemer and executioner of its own problems. The African holloi polloi is not exempt from this blame. As much as African leaders shall be liable for their sins of commission, the masses shall be liable for their sins of omission. The African mass is behaving like the man who drowned in our earlier story.
We have all the necessary tools for our salvation, especially good education, democratic space and sound media. What we need, especially the youth and young leaders is to come together and seek practical and lasting solutions for our continent.
Contrary to what we are being made to believe, most of the foreign countries are in support of this elusive initiative. Africa is a country far left behind because of its own faults. As stated earlier, Singapore got independence 3 months after Kenya got hers. The difference between the GDPs of the two countries today is shameful.
Reasons? While Singapore dwelt on developing their country, Kenya has been perennially immersed in petty tribal politics of “eating the national cake”.
The idea, ladies and gentlemen, is not to focus on eating the cake, but on baking it. Otherwise, our loud day-long Sunday prayers and Friday dusk-to-dawn keshas are just a noise passing in the wind. When we get to heaven masked with our perceived “fear” of God, He would pitifully look at us and say, “I gave you a great country - nice weather, arable land, good scenery, beautiful beaches, natural resources and good friends who were willing to help you every time you were killing each other. What else did you need? Sending My Son again? Never! You have killed Him a million times already!!”
©Daudi Kabingu is a Civil Engineer Working in Mombasa