Blaming The West For Africa’s Woes? African Leaders Are Making A Mistake Here.

Photo source: Lusaka Times

By Gershom Ndhlovu

It is nearly six decades since sub-Saharan African countries started gaining independence from their colonial masters. Sadly, the continent is still blighted with hunger, poverty, disease and wars—and the irony is that most of these problems are still blamed on the former colonial masters.

At the last EU-Africa Summit held in Belgium, Zambia's president Michael Chilufya Sata reiterated what other African leaders had said in the past about the West contributing to wars on the continent through the sale of guns and other military hardware. Quoted by Eil D’Afrique, Sata told the gathering that Africa had no gun factory that fuels conflict and that Europe was responsible for conflicts on the continent because weapons used in conflicts are manufactured in Western countries. "Most poor child soldiers involved in conflicts in Africa carry guns manufactured in Europe that cost thousands of dollars. These poor children could not have money to buy these weapons," said Sata.

In its post-independence existence, Africa has had its fair share of coups and counter-coups and civil wars. Of course, most of these were brewed in smoky backrooms where Western diplomats met military officers while sipping on expensive wines and spirits, enticing them with not only the control of national resources if they kicked out an anti-Western radical leader but also the support of their capital. This is how megalomaniac tyrants like Mobutu Sese Seko rose to power and maintained a hold on it.

Ever since the African Union changed its stance regarding the issue of unconstitutional change of governments by suspending countries where a coup takes place, the prevalence of this type of government change has minimized. Egypt, hitherto a major player in African Union affairs, was itself suspended in 2013 after the military ousted democratically elected Mohamed Morsi barely two years into his tenure.

But to blame all or most of the recent conflicts in Africa on Western countries and European gun factories is being disingenuous and burying heads in the sand, ostrich-like. It is pathetic that African countries still blame their former colonial masters today for their economic failures clearly caused by corruption, mismanagement and sheer incompetence.

For starters, President Sata whose country is celebrating 50 years of independence this year, has displeased Zambians lately. He appointed a committee to come up with a new constitution. The committee has spent two years and millions of dollars without much to show.

To worsen matters for him, one region of the country, the Western Province, is agitating for secession from the rest of Zambia over unfulfilled provisions of the Barotse Agreement of 1964 which linked the region to the rest of the country just before independence in October 1964.

The restlessness of western Zambia reflects the situation in other African countries, and the best example of this is the achievement of independence of the now South Sudan which had been at war since about 1983.

Some secession movements are high profile while others are low-level demands only known to a few people. The one for Biafra is very much alive. It runs an internet radio station and distributes posters in the diaspora. In Zimbabwe an organisation called Mthwakazi Liberation Front wants to slice western Zimbabwe from the rest of the country. Elsewhere, Zanzibar wants to part with Tanzania after 50 years of union.

If anybody took up arms in any of these countries to fight for secession, you would not blame Europe in particular or the West in general. The problem is that conditions exist for people to take up arms. For instance, the repressive regime in Zimbabwe monopolized by one man for over three decades is enough to drive anyone from an unevenly represented region to fight for his political rights like Mthwakazi is agitating.

In the case of Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Al Shabaab in East Africa, it is more a case of one religious group trying to impose its will on the rest of society. Obviously, these two organizations are part of an international terrorism franchise that is against the West, which incidentally is accused of ‘selling arms’ to Africa.

Anyway, African leaders must come to terms with their failings in governance. Attributing problems to an external source, nearly 60 years after the first wave of independence, is not good sense.

Selfish African leaders, who Franz Fanon referred to in his book Black Skin, White Masks, do not make matters any better for their citizens. All what African leaders want to do is live in opulence and perpetuate themselves in power while citizens wallow in poverty.

Gershom Ndhlovu is a Zambian journalist with over 25 years of experience. Follow @gndhlovu.

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1 comment for: "Blaming The West For Africa’s Woes? African Leaders Are Making A Mistake Here. "


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  1. Africans need to learn to think before they shoot. The need to develop long range plans based on constitutional authority and term limits. The rule of law must be enforced. Africans must learn to put the people first.

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