by Femi Akomolafe
Empire: "lands ruled by single authority: a group of nations, territories, or peoples ruled by a single authority, especially an emperor or empress."
(Swans - July 27, 2009) Although Americans are loathe to admit it, their country is a classical example of an empire. With US military bases dotted all around the world and with American corporations operating in virtually every nation on earth, the American Empire is probably the largest empire in the history of the world.
Former President Kufuor firmly took Ghana, the birth land of Nkrumah, into the orbit of the American Empire. It was during his rule that the presence of American marines became commonplace in Ghana, especially in the port city of Takoradi. Kufuor was the one that signed the notorious "Non Surrender Agreement" with the U.S. He also gave tacit approval to American militarization of West Africa by signing up to the new American Military Command for Africa, AFRICOM. It was under Kufuor's rule that the U.S. built a gigantic, totally out of place and proportion embassy close to the headquarters of the Ghana Armed Forces. The edifice is whispered to be the headquarters of the CIA in Africa. Today, Ghana is a vassal state of the American Empire.
With huge hype, President Bill Clinton's visit to Ghana in 2001 was presented as that of a Father Christmas bringing all the goodies that would banish all of Ghana's economic woes. He was presented as the best friend of Africa ever to occupy the White House. A frenzied crowd welcomed him to Accra like a Messiah. It was this friend of Africa who was later to order the bombing of Sudan's only pharmaceutical factory. Clinton revealed his bigoted self during last year's battle for the nomination of the Democratic Party's presidential candidate. In 2007, the imbecilic and brain-challenged George W. Bush also came for a visit. And the press also hyped him to high heavens. He was said to be bringing with him enough money to banish hunger and diseases from our land. Songs were composed and sang in his name. The same baloney is being sold to us by the recent visit of Barack Obama. Are we ever going to learn that American leaders come only to promote American interests?
As our elite jostle for position near the Emperor grinning like village idiots, methinks that they should bury their collective heads in shame. Their lack of vision and ideas is largely responsible for why the vast majority of our people keep looking up to foreigners for salvation. Their ineptitude and total lack of capacity to think is what made Ghanaians believe that a visiting US Emperor is the answer to their problems.
The truth of the matter is that the West needs Africa more than Africa needs the West. The West needs our natural resources but is unwilling to pay fair prices for them. Their industrial plants were designed and built to process Africa's mineral resources. It is the West that has developed an insatiable appetite for our oil, gas, manganese, gold, copper, diamond, uranium, cobalt, and coltan, to name a few of Africa's mineral wealth the West (led by the U.S.) continues to take away from Africa at thieving prices.
The trouble is that instead of African elites sitting down and planning their future, they prefer to go around the world with begging bowls. Instead of setting the prices of their produce, African leaders continue to beg for handouts. In doing so, they make our oppressors look like our saviours. They make those who are destroying our lives look like those who are to salvage us. It is a game the West loves to play. Our infirmed leaders continue to portray their continent as one inhabited by children totally incapable of self-help or self-redemption. And that is our tragedy.
There are a good number of things African leaders could do to help their countries and cut of the colonial string that binds them to the West. One example should suffice: Ghana and her neighbor, Côte d'Ivoire [Ivory Coast] produces more than half of the world's cocoa production. There is no reason why the two countries cannot form a cartel to protect their cocoa interests. Today, we have the ridiculous situation whereby traders in London are determining the prices of cocoa, and European merchants are making eighty-five percent of the profit accruing in the cocoa industry. And everyone is pretending not to know why Africans remain poor!
The sad truth is that more than any other nation, the United States of America is responsible for Ghana's current economic problems. I say this fully cognizant of the fact that the blessed land of Nkrumah was colonized by the perfidious albinos from that Isle of Iniquities that called itself Great Britain. But the intervention by the U.S. in 1966 is largely responsible for the total mess we see our dear land in today. The trajectory of Ghana's economic development was rudely curtailed when Uncle Sam decided to derail the industrial ambitions of Ghana's first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
While it is true that the U.S. never had a colony in Africa, it decided to pitch tent with its European brethren to oppress us. Its so-called Cold War with the Soviet Union was hot, very hot, in Africa as attested by the millions of African lives lost in Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique. The last two countries were just emerging from brutal colonial wars when the U.S. decided that they needed the West's brand of democracy and foisted on them brutal "civil wars." John Stockwell's revealing book, In Search of Enemies, reveals how American officials ran amok in Africa causing wars, coups, and other mayhems.
The U.S. emerged after WWII as the world's biggest power militarily and economically. It also possessed the moral authority to make the changes that would have made the world a better place for humanity. Instead of choosing the path of righteousness, the U.S. decided to go on a rampage against the rest of the non-white world. Alas, the country that had the capacity and the resources to become a beacon of hope for the newly decolonized nations of Africa lacked the moral character to make the world a better place.
A nation's foreign policy is said to be a reflection of its internal policies. The U.S., more than any nation, is sadly encumbered by a history of racism that is rabid in its ferocity. Its treatment of its non-white, especially black, citizens has been one of unremitting cruelty. Africans were shipped in the millions and in chains as chattel slaves to build the wealth America today flaunts at the world. It is impossible to recount the brutalities visited on the slaves without the blood recoiling in shock. Abraham Lincoln, whom Americans like to wheel out as the Great Emancipator, once sold one of his slaves for a bottle of molasses. Thomas Jefferson, the so-called Great Libertarian, owned slaves without any hint of compunction. At the end of slavery, the blacks were promised 40 acres of land and a mule, a decision reversed by a rabidly racist President Johnson. The end of slavery did not bring succor to the blacks in America, as bigoted racists continue to use legal and illegal means to keep them in bondage. While sharecropping and Jim Crow continue to keep blacks firmly at the bottom of the economic rung, bands of racists continue to lynch black people on the streets of America.
It is true that things have changed and that the United States now boasts a black president. But given its history of violence against the non-white world, the onus is upon the U.S. to prove its sincerity. Africa has been treated very badly by the U.S., and this is a fact that must be strongly brought home to the visiting Emperor. It remains both a mystery and irritation why Western commentators always omit the role the West played (and continues to play) in the morass in which Africa presently finds herself. Our continent was just emerging from the serious dislocations of four centuries of slavery when European cartographers sat down in Berlin and sundered our societies into colonies. And just seven years after independence, the West (again led by the U.S.) ganged up to remove all the progressive leaders in Africa -- Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, Congo's Patrice Lumumba, et al. In their places they elevated quislings and today they deride us as non-achievers.
Our leaders ought no longer be satisfied with smiles and sanctimonious and totally meaningless platitudes, even if offered by a US president who happens to be black. It is true that President Obama is handsome, urbane, very articulate, and has a wholesome family, but does he truly represent a paradigm shift in US thinking vis-à-vis the non-white world? His record so far in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan does not suggest that there is going to be any radical shift in US imperial and arrogant dealings with the non-white world.
The truth is that the worst enemy of the U.S. is its foreign policy, and our leaders should demand a total reassessment of our neo-colonial relationship with that imperial power. It is true that Brother Obama brought a whiff of inviting, cool, and fresh air necessary to purify the nauseating and very odious effluence of Bush and Co., but the only changes that Obama has wrought so far are cosmetic at best. Zimbabwe continues to be sanctioned, even after it has satisfied demands for an inclusive government. Afghans continue to be needlessly massacred by American war machines. The rape of our resources by American corporations continues unabated.
Instead of dancing for joy because the US Emperor came to town, Ghanaian leaders should have presented the American leader with a long list of demands. These should have included demand for reparation for slavery, of which the U.S. remains the biggest benefactor. It should also have included demand for reparation for the February 24, 1966, coup that the Kennedy and Johnson regimes instigated and financed. It should have included demand for the return of our atomic reactor that the Americans took away after the coup. Electricity blackout would have been a thing of the past in Ghana, were the ambitious atomic energy programmes of Nkrumah not have been truncated by agents of the US government. It should have included a threat to drag the U.S. before the International Criminal Court for the overthrow of a legitimately elected government of Ghana if adequate compensation is not paid. It should have included demand for the return of the oil rigs the Americans took away from Ghana -- also after the 1966 coup. It should have included demand for compensations for families of the victims of the CIA-instigated coup. We should boldly demand that Emperor Obama apologize to us for the crimes of slavery his nation committed against us. We should also insist that reparations be paid to us the way it was paid to the Jews. We should demand of Emperor Obama pledges that his country will stop negatively impacting our lives through its selfish interventions and policies.
We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Emperor Obama did not visit us as a brother from the Diaspora: he visited us in his capacity as the president of the United States of America. His was not an emotional or sentimental journey to reunite with us; were that to be the case, he'd have chosen Kenya, where his father was born and where his step grandmother still lives.
As a cultured African, I welcomed Barack Obama's visit to our shores because our culture demands that we warmly welcome visitors, but I am not naïve to believe that his visit will have done Ghana or Africa any good.
On this I pray to be proven wrong.
Nkosi kelele Afrika!
A voice from Africa worth hearing... Femi Akomolafe asks you to make a donation to keep Swans going. Money is spent to pay for Internet costs, maintenance and upgrade of our computer network, and development of the site.