THE 2008 KWAME NKRUMAH MEMORIAL LECTURES BY H.E. BENJAMIN WILLIAM MKAPA, THIRD PRESIDENT (1995-2005) OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA, UNIVERISTY OF CAPE COAST, GHANA.
5TH NOVEMBER 2008
Lecture One: Post Independence: Skewed Relationship with Erstwhile Colonial Alliance
Introduction and Abstract
I thank the University of Cape Coast for the invitation to deliver this year’s Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Lectures. I will always treasure this honour, just as I will always treasure memories of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
I feel especially privileged to have been given the occasion to address this university community. A product of a University college whose motto was simply “to prepare for the future” ( an undefined future), I am deeply impressed by the clear mission which Dr. Nkrumah charged the University of the Cape Coast with – “to play a unique role in national development by identifying national needs and addressing them.” I want to use this privilege to explore Africa’s national as well as international needs and address the challenges they pose at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
The basic question I ask in these lectures is this: Fifty years after independence, why are African countries, and especially sub-Sahara African countries, the weakest and poorest of the weak and poor states of the developing world? Were Kwame Nkrumah to come back to life today, he would have been very disappointed that having sought and got the political kingdom, Africans do not yet have the Prosperity that was to flow from it.
In Nkrumah’s memory and honour, I want to challenge Africa to rethink its political, economic and social identity in the globalizing world of the twenty-first century so that it assumes its rightful independent identity of honour, dignity, self-development and decisive voice on the international scene. For, I feel that we have mirrored ourselves too much on the western model of nationhood, political organisation, regional economic integration and cultural identity and expression. It is basically a challenge of Leadership, and African good governance nationally and internationally.
I begin this series of lectures with two important caveats. The first is that recalling critically the historical past is not tantamount to engaging in a blame game or finger pointing in which the suffering, the pain, the humiliation and the exploitation of the African was done wholly with malice aforethought. Nor am I arguing a case for retribution or reparations. The intention is to underscore the imperative of rethinking corrective paradigms hitherto considered to be conventional and contemporary wisdom.
The second is that with this recollection of history and the independence struggle, one is not underrating the heroic and triumphal role played by the first leaders of independent Africa and their inimitable achievements. It is rather to underwrite the importance for the youthful leaders of the 21st century of learning from the shortcomings and failures of their predecessors. The youthful leaders must be asking, as now President – elect Barack Obama asked of America, can Africa Change?!
Time has passed since those early and euphoric days of independence, as Ghanaians who celebrated their fifty years of independence last year will attest. Younger Africans on the continent with no personal memories of those trying but heroic times of struggle for freedom, independence and unity, have graduated on to the voter’s register and are increasingly getting into leadership positions. It behoves them, with new eyes, to rethink and harness the spirit, commitment, determination and sacrifice of the early freedom fighters and continental leaders. We must design our future on the basis of lessons learnt from the present and the past.
In this, the first of three lectures, I want to explore, from an unorthodox viewpoint, what we were, where we were and what we had become at Independence – from slavery and colonisation to the raising of the Independence Flag. I call this Cataclysm Berlin, after the event historically marked as the Berlin Conference, which divided the African people into arbitrary extensions of the colonising states. This division ignored and even disrespected ethnic, tribal, religious and governance contours of history. It was an invasion that would lead to the creation of the “modern nation” state at Independence and caused the pregnancy that would mature into the civil strife, attempted and successful coups, civil wars and genocides which would characterise the first decades of African Independence.
Let us not forget: Slavery and Colonial Legacy is Enduring
Slavery is an old institution; it did not begin or end in Africa. However, Africa bore the brunt of what eventually became a trade—the Slave Trade. No other race has suffered, and has to this day carried the scars of slavery longer than Africa. The trade dimension of slavery was fomented deliberately through the militarization of Africa with superior European weaponry. Wars created captives, and the slave trade thrived on conflicts.
The slave trade brutally took away from Africa some of its best people—most able-bodied men and women, skilled people, artists and blacksmiths, farmers and traders, soldiers and teachers, doctors and hunters, and many more upon whom the future development and prosperity of the continent depended upon. For close to 500 years, between the 15th and 19th centuries, an estimated 25 million Africans were shipped out in the transatlantic slave trade, mainly from West and Central Africa; from Eastern Africa and in trans-Sahara slave trade, mostly to Europe and Arab countries. Millions died en route to their final destinations. Africa was robbed of valuable human resources for its sustenance and future development, as well as its reproductive capacity.
Likewise, before colonialism, Africans had political systems suited to their life. Empires and kingdoms developed and thrived, often at the expense of others, as was the case everywhere else in the world at that time. Some empires like Songhai, Mali, Benin, Kanem-Bornu and Kongo became large and powerful—militarily and economically—to rival European powers of the day. They had complex, and in some cases very democratic governance systems. At its height in the 14th Century, the Mali Empire covered an area larger than Western Europe, and was believed to be one of the richest and most powerful in the world. Kanem-Bornu Empire lasted 1000 years, from the 9th to the 19th Century. Timbuktu was without question a great commercial centre and an international centre of learning, including Islamic learning.
Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah believed in an African Personality, he believed in the dignity of his roots (which he saw the Western world deliberately ignoring or blackening out) and he believed the time for an African cultural renaissance had come. In a speech to the First Annual Meeting of the Editorial Board of the Encyclopaedia Africana Project at theUniversity of Ghana on 24 September 1964, he passionately argued the case for providing Africa with an Encyclopaedia portraying vividly the glory of Africa's great past. Hesaid, “It is unfortunate that men of learning and men of affairs in Europe and America from a century ago down to yesterday, have spent much valuable time to establish this unscientific and ridiculous notion of African inferiority.” He added:
“Thus it is not simple ignorance of Africa, but deliberate disparagement of the continent and its people that Africanists and the Encyclopaedia Africana must contend with. The foulest intellectual rubbish ever invented by man is that of racial superiority and inferiority. We know now, of course, that this distortion and fabrication of the image of man was invented by the apostles of imperialism to salve their conscience and justify their political, cultural and economic domination of Africa.”
It was not that Dr. Nkrumah was unaware of Africa’s shortcomings. Far from it! In fact, he made clear reference to this when he added:
“I will not romanticize or idealize the African past, I will not gloss over African failings, weaknesses and foibles, or endeavour to demonstrate that Africans are endowed with either greater virtues or lesser vices than the rest of mankind. There is undoubtedly considerable evidence of much that is noble and glorious in our African past; there is no need to gild the Lily nor to try to hide that which is ignoble. But here again it is a question of whose standards and values you are applying in assessing something as noble or ignoble, and I maintain that the Encyclopaedia Africana must reject non-African value-judgments of things African.”
In highlighting Africa’s pre-colonial achievements, Kwame Nkrumah, in his speech, quoted from LeoFrobenius, a well-known German archaeologist and anthropologist and an authority on prehistoric art and culture, especially of Africa,who made 12 expeditions into Africa at the dawn of the 20th Century in order to learn at first hand of the culture of the African peoples.
"When they, European navigators, arrived in the Gulf of Guinea and landed at Ouidah in Dahomey, the captains were greatly astonished to find streets well laid out, bordered on either side for several leagues with two rows of trees, and men clad in richly coloured garments of their own weaving. Further south in the kingdom of the Congo, a swarming crowd dressed in silk and velvet, great states well ordered and down to the most minute details, powerful rulers, flourishing industries, civilised to the manner of their bones.
And the condition of the countries on the eastern coast, Mozambique, for instance, was quite the same. The revelations of the navigators from 15th to the 17th century gave incontrovertible proofs that Africa stretching south from the edge of the Sahara desert was still in full flower - the flower of harmonious and well-ordered civilisations. And this fine flowering the European conquistadors or conquerors annihilated as far as they penetrated into the country."
It is not true that all traditional African leadership was without any restriction or responsibility to be responsive and accountable to the citizens. The literature review that Al-Yasha Ilhaam Williams has done shows clearly that democracy and accountability were not anathema in traditional African governance. In fact, they were the cornerstone of legitimacy. From the review, she reveals that “the political structure and stability of pre-colonial African kingdoms, some relatively large such as Ghana, Songhai, Benin, Bornu, and Sokoto, and others relatively small such as Nso’, Bafut, Kom reveals a combination of leadership strategies, including the important role of democratic processes in traditional governance… Specific formal practices (which may vary between cultures) positioned the citizenry to authorize, critique and sanction the ascension of their ruler, his/her continued reign and the selection and ascension of his/her successor.” (Williams 2003).
She adds from the evidence that, “traditional leadership was not just the authority of ‘kings and queens’ … but was rather composed of queen-mothers and councils, secret societies and mystics, rituals and ceremonies, rules and doctrines, and subject-citizens … On this account, perhaps African redemption is to be found not in the ‘return to royalty’ but to the democracy which makes a respected leadership possible.” (ibid).
There has been considerable debate about how much European colonial legacy has impacted on post-colonial Africa; and what influence, if any, this legacy continues to have on the African continent. More to the point, how helpful and constructive, or unhelpful and destructive, was the colonial legacy in terms of the development of post-colonial Africa. How responsible was this legacy for the quality and character of post-colonial Africa leadership?
It is significant that, for the majority of African countries, the period they spent under colonial rule is still far longer than the period they have since enjoyed independence and self-rule. European colonial powers ruled most of Africa from 1885 to 1960, a period of 75 years. Portuguese rule goes further back. In some African countries, European colonialism started much earlier than the Berlin Conference, which sought to end the scramble for Africa and formalize the partition and bequeathal of “ownership” to what was mostly already claimed.
At independence, Africans inherited, with little variations here and there, the language, political and economic systems of their colonizers. An objective evaluation of political systems and processes, and of governance, in contemporary Africa has to go that far back and ask: What did Africa learn and adopt from the colonial rulers, and how has it shaped and directed post-colonial leadership, political systems and governance in Africa?
In all the years of colonialism, the relationship between rulers and the ruled was basically one of master and servant. Every white man, woman or child was made out to be superior in all respects, including colour and culture, and the black man, woman or child was made to feel inferior. African confidence and dignity was deliberately undermined. This is a historical fact. Slavery, which in itself was an enforced inferiority on black people, was superseded by colonial administrations, which made little, if any, effort to disabuse the black people of such imposed inferiority. In other words, Africans were protected from slavery abroad, but were condemned to be an underclass at home.
The white people’s democratic values that were maturing in Europe in the 19th century were not spread to Africa; and any efforts by Africans to demand democratic rule and civil rights were ruthlessly suppressed. Traditional political and administrative systems in Africa, as those described by LeoFrobenius,were also rendered inferior to the colonial administrative systems, which were developed specifically for the colonies. And, these too were presented as superior, except where local chiefs could, through carrots and sticks, be enlisted to be part of different forms of indirect rule. It is also a historical fact that indirect rule, coupled with “divide and rule” tactics, characterized most colonial administrations in Africa, and planted the seeds of post-colonial ethnic conflict, the most tragic manifestation of which is Rwanda and Burundi.
Professor Makau Mutua of SUNY at Buffalo has written, “Slavery which affected East, West and Central Africa developed in us a residual psychology of inferiority to the Arab and White man, Colonialism left us dispossessed materially, spiritually and culturally. We were taught to believe that everything about us is savage and barbaric. The post colonial era has been a continuation of colonialism in another guise.” (The Nation, Kenya, 30.08.08)
Colonialism’s stamp on 1st generation independence leadership
Among the first generation of independent African leaders were very gifted, charismatic and visionary leaders. How else could they mobilize and earn the following of their compatriots in the face of sometimes very brutal repression by the colonial authorities. But there was little effort by the colonial administrators to enable, empower and prepare these potential leaders before independence.
The colonial authorities would naturally consider those agitating for independence as enemies of the realm that had to be stopped, incarcerated or even killed. They would not see them as potential leaders of independent Africa to be properly prepared for the job. Champions of African independence would have to be seen as having been irresponsible in pushing for premature independence, and handing over countries to weak and incompetent leaders. Weak and incompetent leaders would also create a perfect environment for the political influence and economic advantage of the metropolitan powers to persist.
Leadership of newly independent African countries which were no longer traditional African entities but appendages of metropolitan powers, inserted into a global political and economic order unfamiliar to most Africans except the educated few, required adequate preparation and capacity building. However, educating the “natives” beyond basic literacy was not a priority for colonial governments, who left it mostly to Christian missionaries to produce the clerks and the messengers needed to staff the lower echelons of colonial administration.
There were, however, a few of differences between the approaches of the two main colonial powers in Africa - the British and the French – as far as education for Africans was concerned. And they were philosophical, cultural and strategic differences.
The French with their background of the 1789 French Revolution that emphasized notions of equality and egalitarianism adopted an assimilation policy towards their colonies. It was as if they were saying, “Africans are of equal worth to us as long as they are as cultured as we are”. Such a philosophical outlook would make education an important part of the French strategy to create an African elite imbued with metropolitan cultural and political values, such that they could even sit in the French Parliament. By its nature, however, such an education was inherently elitist, geared towards a denial of one’s Africanness and embracing a new culture irrelevant to the real challenges of leadership and development in Africa at independence.
Jules Ferry was twice Prime Minister of France between 1880 and 1885. In a speech to the French Chamber of Deputies on 28 March 1884, just before the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, at which Africa was officially parcelled out into colonies of European powers—Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Belgium—he justified and defended the then French colonial policy. He said, “The policy of colonial expansion is a political and economic system…that can be connected to three sets of ideas: economic ideas; the most far-reaching ideas of civilization; and ideas of a political and patriotic sort.” (Ferry 1884)
In further justifying the civilization aspect he added, “Gentlemen, we must speak more loudly and more honestly! We must say openly that indeed the higher races have a right over the lower races…I repeat that the superior races have a right because they have a duty. They have the duty to civilize the inferior races…” (ibid).
The British for their part had no pretences of the equal worth of people, and had no intention to turn Africans into Black Englishmen. Using various sources, the British historian, David Cannadine, described the British philosophy as follows:
“Like all post-Enlightenment imperial powers, only more so, Britons saw themselves as the lords of the entire world and thus of humankind. They placed themselves at the top of the scale of civilization and achievement; they ranked all other races in descending order beneath them…” (Cannadine 2001: 5)
One can only imagine the place of Africans in that descending order. To make matters worse, an African was made to understand that he/she could only be considered civilized upon embracing the language, religion, ways and mannerism of citizens of the colonial power. Cannadine adds that:
By the end of the nineteenth century those notions of racial hierarchy, supremacy and stereotyping had become more fully developed, and stridently hardened, as exemplified in Cecil Rhodes’s remark that ‘the British are the finest race in the world, and the more of the world they inhabit, the better it will be for mankind’, or in Lord Cromer’s belief that the world was divided between those who were British and those who were merely ‘subject races’. (ibid)
The British, unlike the French, preferred to rule indirectly through existing traditional systems, and (with few exceptions) educate to the appropriate level only those few Africans needed for clerical or technical duties to make the wheels of colonial administration turn. In reality, however, the British colonial education also ended, to a large extent, in detaching the educated African from the real challenges of development at the local level. Yet, it was these educated Africans who were to form the core of the administration of newly independent African countries.
Some of the Africans who received this education realized its effect on them—that it was not preparing them for leadership that addresses the development challenges that faced newly independent African countries, but was putting them on an ivory tower, much removed from the realities and challenges that their people faced. A review of post-colonial African literature by Omoregie (1999) found it replete with concerns shared by African and Caribbean writers as to the effect of colonial education on them. He quotes, for instance, Walter Rodney who said that:
Education is crucial in any type of society for the preservation of the lives of its members and the maintenance of the social structure… The most crucial aspect of pre-colonial African education was its relevance to Africans in sharp contrast with that which was later introduced (that is, under colonialism)… [T] he main purpose of colonial school system was to train Africans to participate in the domination and exploitation of the continent as a whole…Colonial education was education for subordination, exploitation, the creation of mental confusion and the development of underdevelopment. (Rodney 1981)
Omoregie also mentions other African writers such as Amilcar Cabral, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Ferdinand Oyono, Chinua Achebe, Mongo Beti, Charles Mungoshi, Okot P’Bitek, Leon Dumas, S. Ousmane, Pepetela, Frantz Fanon and Tchicaya U’Tamsi all of whom lament that colonial education made those few Africans who received it privileged political and economic functionaries in a colonial system that militated against the interests of their own people. He concludes, “Colonial education, therefore, creates a black elite to succeed it and perpetuate its political and economic interests in the post-independence period.” (Omoregie 1999) In other words, not only did colonial education not prepare those who received it for leadership, but it was also not directed to the solution of economic and social problems of newly independent countries.
It is true most of these writers wrote in the 1960s and 1970s, a time of particular revolutionary fervour in Africa. But there is no gainsaying the depth of feeling they had that colonial education was not the best preparation for the leaders of post-colonial modernising African States.
My country’s founding president, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, was one of the few educated Africans at the independence of the then Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania today). He was equally unhappy about colonial education. A few days before his country became independent, he wrote an article in the East Africa and Rhodesia, a Journal that used to be published in London during those days, as follows:
Our whole existence has been controlled by people with an alien attitude to life, people with different customs and beliefs. They have determined the forms of government, the type of economic activity—if any—and the schooling that our children have had. They have shaped the present generation of Tanganyikans, more than any other influence. (Nyerere 1966: 133)
In addition to the inappropriateness of colonial education in terms of preparing Africans for self-rule, the fact was also that too few Africans received any education at all, let alone higher education and specialized skills.
Nyerere was pleading with the United Nations that people from his country should be educated in preparation for independence. The human resource capacity for development needed to be built. Africa had to be prepared for independence. But, as I will show later, his pleas and those of other African leaders largely fell on deaf ears. As these statistics at Tanganyika’s independence in 1961: offer a striking example:
Only 15 percent of adults were literate. Only 23 percent of Tanganyika men and 7.5 percent of Tanganyika women over 15 years of age had attended any formal school at all. There were only 3,100 primary schools with 486,000 students in a population of 9 million. There were only about 20 secondary schools with 11,832 students. The first Tanzanian to get a university degree graduated outside the country in 1952, only 9 years before independence. The few professionals the country had at independence included only 1 Agricultural Engineer, 1 Surveyor, 16 Medical Doctors, 12 Accountants, 158 professional nurses, 50 agricultural scientists and 427 government administrators. And that is about all. (Nyerere 1973:296-7)
The case of the then Belgian Congo is also instructive. As Larry Devlin, the first United States of America Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Chief of Station in the Congo at independence has noted in his recent memoirs:
…the Congolese were well-educated and trained but only to a limited level. At independence, the country had one of the most literate and healthy indigenous populations in Africa. But out of fourteen million people, there were fewer than twenty university graduates. There was no Congolese cadre of doctors, dentists, engineers, architects, lawyers, university professors, business executives, or accountants. The Force Publique,the country’s army soon to be re-named Armée Nationale Congolaise(ANC), was officered exclusively by Belgians… What seemed clear was that Brussels planned to allow the Congolese their political freedom while keeping the military, economic, and commercial levers of power in their own hands. (Devlin 2007: 7)
These 2 may have been the worst cases. West Africa may have fared better. But in reality the best were not sustainably better. A similar situation prevailed in practically the whole of colonial Africa.
International Support to the Independence Movement
At the United Nations the colonies were the responsibility of the committee of 24 – The Decolonisation Committee.
A review of United Nations General Assembly Resolutions in 1960 and 1961 reveal great international concern that while the poor preparations for independence should not be used as an excuse to further delay self-rule, it was imperative and urgent to train Africans, to build institutions and to support the new governments with human and financial resources. For example;
Resolution 1534 (XV) of 15th December 1960 on “Preparation and Training of Indigenous Civil and Technical Cadres in Non-Self-Governing Territories” among other things
Urged “the Administering Members to take immediate measures aimed at the rapid development of indigenous civil and technical cadres and at the replacement of expatriate personnel by indigenous officers”…
Resolution 1643 (XVI) of 6 November 1961, among other things “Noting with regret that full use is not being made of all offers of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Trust Territories;
“Urges the Administering Authorities to provide all the necessary facilities to enable students to avail themselves of offers by Member States of study and training facilities;”
Resolution 1696 (XVI) of 19 December 1961 reiterated these concerns regarding colonial authorities deliberately obstructing the use of scholarships by inhabitants of their colonies. The resolution, expressing regret that in several instances students who have been granted scholarships have not been accorded facilities to leave the Non-Self-Governing Territories in order to take advantage of such scholarships, Invites once again the Administering Members concerned to take all necessary measures to ensure that all scholarships and training facilities offered by Member States are utilized by the inhabitants of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and to render effective assistance to those persons who have applied for, or have been granted, scholarships or fellowships, particularly with regard to facilitating their travel formalities;”
Resolution 1697 (XVI) of 19 December 1961 on its part says: “Reiterating that the existence of adequate indigenous civil servants and technical personnel in the Non-Self-Governing Territories is necessary for the effective implementation of satisfactory plans and programs of development in the educational, social and economic fields, Urges the Administering Members to take immediately all necessary measures to increase the strength of indigenous civil service and technical cadres and to accelerate their training in public administration and other essential technical skills”
The attitude of the Powerful USA
At this time the USA was not, relatively speaking a Colonial power.
This great democracy generally disapproved colonial occupation, and lethargically chastised colonial powers’ slow pace in decolonisation. It did not follow through with practical help. Addressing the Empire Club of Toronto on 22 March 1962, the then Director of Operations Crossroads Africa, Inc, Dr. James H. Robinson, referred to this lack of interest in Africa as follows:
At the end of World War II, almost no great nation in the world had any significant plans for relating to what was shortly to be the cataclysmic events of emerging African nations. Most European nations, with the possible exception of Great Britain, still evolved their policies of relationship to the areas of Africa they controlled, in terms of what they thought would be an indefinite extension of colonial relationships. The United States, at the time, did not even have a desk of any consequence in the Department of State to advise on Africa and obviously had no well defined African policy. Our policies, if any, were related to Africa through our colonial allies. (Robinson 1962)
This was quite a bit of disappointment for the African intellectuals of the post-World War II era who, having studiously absorbed the American war of independence, had expected the United States of America to be on the forefront not only in championing and actively supporting decolonization efforts in Africa, but also in helping to prepare the new corps of leaders of independent Africa. Dr. Robinson pointed out that in the late 1930s there were less than 500 African students studying in European and American universities. (ibid).
In an address to the Toronto Empire Club he also referred to an encounter he had with students here in Accra, Ghana, in 1954. In discussing the Mau Mau unrest in Kenya he had referred to the freedom fighters as terrorists, upon which one student promptly chastised him saying, “Dr. Robinson, they are not terrorists, they are like your patriots in 1776 fighting for their land, their freedom, and for independence.” (ibid).
The Alignment to the West
The natural instinct of the independence leaders in most of Africa was to turn to the West for support in building their newly independent countries. Even those who turned to the East did so as a last resort, having been rebuffed by the West. It was only after being ignored by the USA that Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union. Nkrumah, like Nyerere, maintained good relations with Britain at independence, and kept British advisors and administrators for many years.
The French left Guinea in a pique, ripping off even telephones. Yet, Sékou Touré, the first president, turned to the USA for help, and it was only when he was turned down that he went to the Soviet Union. Sékou Touré wanted genuine independence, but he did not want to distance himself from France. It was France that did not want to have anything to do with him.
In other words, despite the colonial history, most independence leaders in Africa reached out to Western countries for assistance, whether in education and capacity building or in economic development. The Western countries had the first option to develop mutually beneficial relations with newly independent Africa. They did not always do so, driving some of the African leaders eastwards, only to undermine them in a communism containment policy.
Furthermore, colonial economic legacy meant that African countries would become independent with very little wherewithal with which to promote development and meet the phenomenal expectations of the people for a better life. It is common knowledge that colonial economic policy and strategy was never meant to develop the colony in question and reduce poverty. Rather it was an imperialistic economic policy and strategy to secure sources of raw materials for Europe’s industrialization through a settler economy, whether plantations or mining operations, as well as the infrastructure to make this happen.
Quite a few modern metropolises were built across Africa during colonialism to cater for the needs, convenience and comfort of the colonial and settler community. They were largely islands of prosperity in a sea of poverty. Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) was one. But, to this day, the countryside has little to show for Belgian colonial economic policy except the lasting effect of cruel resource exploitation. As Devlin describes it, “The Belgians…exploited the huge natural riches of the country. For Leopold, the lure had first been ivory then rubber; for his successors, it was copper, cobalt, and diamonds. Belgians, not Congolese, controlled all economic and commercial enterprises.” (Devlin 2007: 6).
I believe that Africa’s trajectory of development would have been very different, in a much more positive way, had the departing colonial powers behaved differently— treating Africans with greater respect, helping to train and build the capacity of independence leaders and administrators, helping to build strong institutions to deal with the challenges that the new countries faced rather than trying to perpetuate those intended to promote, sustain and defend Western economic and political interests, and giving the new governments the space and the wherewithal to realize the vision and dreams they had for their newly independent countries. The colonial powers did not do this.
In a speech to the National Assembly on 16th December, 1959 Dr. Nkrumah captured the African Aspiration with these words: “What are the aspirations of Africans? Above all, they desire to regain their independence and to live in peace. They desire to use their freedom to raise the standard of living of their peoples. They desire to use their freedom to create a Union of African States on the continent, and thus neutralize the evil effects of the artificial boundaries imposed by the imperial powers and promote unity of action in all fields. These are African ideals.”
The tardiness of the response to the repeated appeals by the UN should have done two things. The first is that it should have served as pointer for the new generation of African leadership, that, in the global architecture of the time, there was no fundmental interest in the development of developing countries, and that the developed country colonisers had not renounced in Kwame Nkrumah’s words their “political, cultural and economic domination.” The second is that it should have aroused more intensely the new spirit of dawning independent existence and ownership of the state and its fortunes.
Obviously our ancestors valuation of the European “Exploration” of our continent had not been sufficiently ingrained into our under standing of colonialism. In my own country the Sukuma warned against the “sweet worded Englishman who finally hurts you”. Your Tshi people observed very circumspectly that, “if there had been no poverty in Europe then the white man would not have come and spread his clothes in Africa.” As was the experience of the Yoruba who found that “When the white man is about to leave a garden for good he wrecks it.”
Instead we made an independence start, with a costly presumption. We flattered ourselves by replicating western political institutions – witness the emergence of the British Commonwealth, Francophonie and latterly Lusophonie. And so with the econmy – in agriculture, mining, forestry, fisheries – we did more of the same things in the same way with more efficient tools to feed metropolitan industries and satisfy Western people’s appetite for consumption. We planned economies according to the gospel of the IMF and the World Bank – The Bretton Woods Calamity which I discuss in my next lecture. Educationally and culturally we carried forward variations of colonial systems and values, what Nkrumah described as “non-African value judgements of things.”
These realities have to be factored in any objective analysis of Africa’s leadership of development and poverty reduction efforts during the early years of independence. It is not enough to look at economic statistics. Africa’s slavery and colonial legacy is not the only reason for Africa’s poor economic performance, but it is certainly a significant one. As Africans, we must not forget this, and we must ensure that our former enslavers and colonisers do not forget it either, however much they would rather continue lecturing us about good governance and human rights. I uphold the wisdom of the Ghanaian proverb namely, “You can blame a man for pushing you down but you have yourself to blame for refusing to get up!”
In the next lecture, I will dwell on the efforts of independence era African leaders “to get up”, to come to terms with the very poor hand they were dealt at independence.
CANNADINE, David, (2001), Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire, London, Allen Lane Penguin Press.
DEVLIN, Larry, (2007), Chief of Station, Congo: A Memoir of 1960-67, New York, Public Affairs-Persus Books Group.
FERRY, Jules François Camille, (1884),"Speech Before the French Chamber of Deputies, March 28, 1884," in Paul Robiquet, ed., (1897), Discours et Opinions de Jules Ferry, Paris, Armand Colin & Cie, [online] URL: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1884ferry.html
NKRUMAH, Kwame, Speech to the First Annual Meeting: EAP (Encyclopaedia Africana Project)Editorial Board, University of Ghana, West Africa, September 24, 1964
NYERERE, Julius K., (1966), Freedom and Unity, Dar es Salaam, Oxford University Press.
NYERERE, Julius K., (1973), Freedom and Development, Dar es Salaam, Oxford University Press.
OMOREGIE, Fani Kayode, (1999), “Rodney, Cabral and Ngugi as Guides to African Postcolonial Literature”, in African Postcolonial Literature in English, University of Botswana, [online] URLhttp://www.postcolonialweb.org/africa/omoregie11.html
ROBINSON, Dr. James H., (1962),‘International Aspects of American Race Relations’, in The Empire Club of Canada Speeches 1961-1962, Toronto, The Empire Club Foundation, pp. 226-240.
RODNEY, Walter, (1981), How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Harare, Zimbabwe Publishing House.
WILLIAMS, Al-yasha Ilhaam ( 2003 ) “On The Subject Of Kings And Queens: ‘Traditional’ African Leadership And The Diasporal Imagination.” African Studies Quarterly 6(4): 1. [online] URL: http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v7/v7i1a4.htm