Swans Commentary » swans.com September 20, 2010  



Euro-Africa Relations
The End of Lecturing and Hectoring?


by Femi Akomolafe





"The mistake our ancestors made, and which African leaders continue to make unto this day is that: Non Europeans people, especially Africans and the Indigenous Americans in the Caribbean Islands referred to as 'Indians' initially attributed to the Europeans a humanity and spirituality that they did not have, and still do not have in their relationship with most of non-European people of the world. This brings us to a conclusion that might be difficult for a lot of people to accept. Maybe the world outside of Europe didn't need the Europeans in the first place. Maybe in this fakery about spreading civilization he destroyed more civilizations than he ever built and did the world more harm than good."

—Dr. John Henrik Clarke


(Swans - September 20, 2010)   It looks like European leaders are, at last, realizing the folly of their imperial and haughty manners in their relationship with Africa.

Since Europe borrowed Chinese-invented compasses and gunpowder and launched its unremitting aggression against the world, the Euro-Africa relationship has been one of Master/Servant relationship. It was (and still is) a relationship of unequal with Europeans believing that they have the manifest destiny to dictate and control how Africa (especially its people and resources) should be managed.

We know little about the sinister maneuvers Western intelligence outfits deploy in order to maintain their neo-colonial imposition on our continent, but we are all witnesses to how naughty Western diplomats continue to belittle the integrity of our nations and heroes.

All in the name of giving their so-called aid, these ambassadors break every diplomatic norm to insult African leaders they do not like. These are invariably African leaders who try to break the neo-colonial yoke the West imposed on the continent. Of course, African leaders that are prepared to lick the boots of Westerners are elevated to sainthood.

Now it appears snotty Westerners are learning some manners and common sense. French President Nicolas Sarkozy led the way. Apparently miffed by its inability to control events in its former jewel possession in Africa, la Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), France announced a change in its African policy.

Long rated the worst colonial master on the continent, France, until recently, continues to make a mockery of the independence it claimed to have granted its erstwhile African colonies. Whilst French military bases, until recently, dotted much of the ex-colonies, French diplomatic relationships with Africa, also until Sarkozy announced a shift, relied heavily on unflinching French support for fossilized, utterly corrupt African elites, who love France more than their own countries and were willing to do France's bidding.

Franco-Africa diplomacy was a personal, cozy, and utterly corrupt relationship whereby African quislings sold out their national patrimony, and settled for crumbs thrown at them by their colonial Masters in Paris.

Of course, those leaders that found disfavor with France, like the self-proclaimed imbecilic Emperor Bokassa, were hastily dispatched by French marines. When he ran afoul of his masters, Bokassa, who was a darling of French presidents and had lavished them with expensive gifts, was overthrown by the French secret service in Operation Barracuda in what was then termed "France's last colonial expedition" (la dernière expédition coloniale française).

The post-independence French relationship with Africa has been one of totally amoral and utterly corrupt pursuit of selfish French interests. Scant regard was ever paid to the interests of the ordinary Africans for whom independence meant little or nothing.

The republic of Guinea exempted, France transferred control of its African colonies to trustworthy Francophile leaders like Senegal's Leopold Senghor who could unabashedly wax lyrical that L'émotion est nègre, la raison est héllène. ("emotion is Negro, reason is Hellenic"), in support of the age-old racialist nonsense about a happy go-lucky Negro incapable of thought beyond food and sex.

According to one estimate, France has intervened 46 times since 1960 to prop up its quislings in Africa. (Source: http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/7/8/6/2/p178629_index.html) These interventions were not informed by a desire to save lives or to transform the lives of the ordinary Africans for the better. No, they were conducted to maintain cruel, corrupt, and uncaring elites in power to guarantee France's reaping good returns on its colonial investments in the continent.

Yet, tongue-in-cheekily, French and European media and academia continue to mouth nonsensical about the corrupt Africans without telling us how their governments and companies are doing the corrupting. US Halliburton, German Siemens, and Julius Berger are among Western multinationals that have been indicted for bribing officials of the Nigerian state. In Ghana, British M&J and German Mercedes are among companies that were recently fingered in bribery scandals.

On paper, Africa was independent and free. Symbols and other appurtenances of nationhood like flags and anthems were handed out in solemn ceremonies at "independence." Little were we told that it was all "Mickey Mouse Independence," as the late Reggae Star Lucky Dube dubbed it.

Little mention was made of the simple fact that the continent has been badly Balkanized into meaningless geographic entities than can exist only to support the metropolitan (i.e. former colonial master) countries. Not only were the borderlines demented geometric patterns that defied cultural, historic, and even geographic logic, minorities were, in many cases, deliberately promoted into positions of authority -- situations that were guaranteed to promote bloodsheds in later years -- Rwanda, Nigeria, and Burundi being good examples.

Before granting independence to its former colonies, France, more conscious and more ardent than the English to spread French culture and the French version of civilization, consciously sought to make its overseas possessions part of France proper. It also evolved the system of assimilating Africans who were thought to have sufficiently imbibed French culture and these were the people promoted to positions of power.

The results were schizophrenic leaders like Houphet Boigny, Ahmadou Ahidjo, Leopold Sedar Senghor, and Papa Bongo who ruled their countries like rentier states on behalf of France. Several agreements, some of them still secret, were signed that made it possible for France to maintain military bases and act as the central banker for its former colonies.

Although Senghor waxed poetical about Europe's rationality, but having lived in Europe, he should have known better. Nothing demonstrates more vividly Europe's irrationality than its relationship with Africa.

Let's forget the nonsense European mythorians (myth creators masquerading as serious historians) were to propagate later about some Europeans bringing the light of civilization to a Dark Continent (where the sun shines throughout the year). The truth of the matter is that Europe has had contacts with Africa for at least a thousand years; it has traded with the continent for at least six hundred years; it enslaved vast numbers of Africans for four hundred years; it colonized Africa for over one hundred years; and yet most Europeans remain ignorant of their near neighbor whose wealth (human and mineral) contributed so much to the wealth they so callously and so immodestly flaunt at the world today.

One of the most shocking things to yours truly when he arrived in Europe in 1984 was the unpardonable ignorance of the average European.

To many of them, Europe remains the center of the universe with the rest of the world its satellites. This vast ignorance might be responsible for the mindless arrogance many Europeans exhibit, especially to non-white folks. That, however, being the province of psychologists -- let them worry their heads over it.

I have seen no study, but it surely will be interesting to find out how much ignorance and racial arrogance contributed to the decline of Europe.

For a people that boasts so much of its rationality, not many things in Europe make much sense. Take for example Europe's political system. The so-called democracy turns the simple act of governance into open warfare between clashing oligarchists -- pitting one group against the other all in the name of governance. No wonder the late Nigerian musician, Fela, called it democrazy or demonstration of craziness.

And it's this wretched system that European leadership/scholarship foisted on the world with lies, bayonets, bullets, and the rest.

We can compare the Western model with the traditional systems of governance in Africa. Until recently the African system was totally devoid of acrimony.

The Asantes demonstrated how vastly superior our political system was about ten years ago when their new king (Asantehene) was installed. Following well laid down rules, as soon as the new king was proclaimed, all loyal Asante rallied behind the new king.

We can contrast this with what transpires at the political scene where mayhem rules the day and litigations are commonplace.

If the political system evolved by Europe is irrational, the economic system developed by European minds, capitalism, is truly absurd.

Capitalism is the greatest crime Europe committed against the world. This is not a treatise on capitalism, but Europeans should not expect the rest of us to be grateful for an irrational economic system that has brought the world to the brink of financial, economic, and environmental disaster.

Senghor should have told us how on earth a supposedly rational people could have managed to developed such illogical, dog-eat-dog, man-eat-shit economic system that continues to suck the life out of mother earth all in the name of the pursuit of progress. No European has come out to tell us what exactly "progress" is.

To those who argue that capitalism brought progress and civilization, I say stop confusing mechanization with progress/civilization. And civilization at what price?

The ancient Africans in Sudan and Egypt built their awe-inspiring Pyramids without employing diesel-gobbling mechanical aids. The Chinese built their Great Wall without employing environmental-destroying technologies. Why then is it that it is rational Europe that is bringing about global calamity with its economic system?

We can also contrast capitalism with African communalism, which guarantees that every member of the society is well catered for. There was not too much to go around, but no one is allowed to go hungry or without a roof over his head. Today many people are sleeping in tents on empty stomachs in what is supposedly the "richest" country in the world -- the United States of America!

Another thing that did not make sense to me is the irrational fear of foreigners I witnessed in Europe. Apart from Moors conquering and occupying Spain (711 - 1492) I do not know of any other occasion when Africa aggressed Europe. What then could be responsible for the rabid racism there?

Why do European youth still derive pleasure in forming gangs to beat up Africans on the streets? Call them what you like -- Skinheads, Proto-Nazis, Neo-Nazis -- they are to be found across Europe with the German, Pole, and Russian gangs the most brutal

The question remains to be answered as to why a rational people will be so preoccupied with their irrational hatred. And, more importantly, why would any rational being expect that Africans will continue to look up to Europe with gratitude? Jean-Paul Sartre cautioned that Europeans should not look for adoration in the eyes of the victims of its vast aggressions; no one listened to him.

Let's contrast this with Africa where people, despite all European atrocities committed against them, continue to treat the Europeans among them as humanely as possible.

What I believe that any rational people should have done was to take advantage of the African kindness and his willingness to let bygones be truly bygones and try to write a new chapter in their bloodied history.

Given that Africa has vast amounts of mineral resources and Europe has built its economies on processing these minerals, a genuine attempt should have been made to build a mutually-beneficial relationship between and among the people of Europe and Africa.

This, however, appears too daunting for Europeans who are credited with so much rationality. Europe, even after giving its colonies their so-called independence continues to want to be the Man.

Forgetting that the world's geopolitical configurations have shifted dramatically in Europe's disfavor, Europeans want to continue to behave as though the world still revolves around their continent. Europe still wants to continue its haughty, nasty, and imperial ways. It wants to continue to dictate.

Sadly for Europe, the rest of the world has moved on, leaving it behind. The Asians dusted themselves off and overtook Europe so much so that two of the three biggest economies of the world today are Asian. Today, no European nation is counted among the first leagues of nations. The British Prime Minister was recently in India, a former colony, supplicating like a common beggar.

These are facts that appear too opaque to European scholarship/leadership.

Leopold Senghor told us that Greek (by extension Europe) is pure reason. But it is difficult to imagine what role logic played in Europe's treatment of Africa, especially in the post-colonial phase.

Okay, okay, Africans are champions when it comes to forgiving one's enemy and turning the other cheek (especially when their aggressors are Europeans), but Europe should have been more modest, show some remorse, and pay some penance.

But now it looks increasingly like Europe is changing gear in its approach to Africa. The former colonial rulers of Africa have almost been sidelined as the Asians and the Brazilians are scrambling around the continent collaring business that had hitherto been the preserve of Europeans.

Has anyone noticed that European officials are becoming less and less belligerent towards African rulers? Has anyone noticed that the volume has been tuned down in Western cacophonous denunciation of Robert Mugabe? Has anyone noticed that Western diplomats have become less haughty, less imperial in Africa?

Are we then on a new, improved track in our relationship with former enslavers and colonisers?

The newly minted British Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, seems to think so. On a visit to Sudan recently (July 2010) he said Britain wants to boost its trade links with Sudan despite US sanctions and the international arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir over the Darfur conflict.

"One of our top priorities is to increase trade with different countries around the world, particularly in Africa," Bellingham told a news conference in the Sudanese capital. He continued: "The trade we have with Sudan at the moment is very good. Our bilateral trade is well over 100 million sterling but we feel the scope for that trade can increase."

The British Minister even sought to play down the sanctions imposed on Sudan. "There are no UK sanctions, there are US sanctions, and they do not affect Britain. We want to see more UK banks taking a positive view toward Sudan."

Bellingham called oil "very important" but said British companies were "lagging behind in the exploration and exploitation of oil all over Sudan, in the south and elsewhere. We think there is great potential there."


Let's hope that more and more Europeans are waking up to smell the coffee.


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About the Author

Femi Akomolafe (see his profile on Swans) is a computer consultant, a writer and social commentator, an avid reader, and a passionate Pan-Africanist who lives in Kasoa, Ghana. Femi is known to hold strong opinions and to express them in the strongest terms possible. As he likes to remind his readers: "As my Yoruba people say: Oju orun teye fo, lai fara gbara. It means that the sky is big enough for all the birds to fly without touching wings." Femi Akomolafe's views, opinions, and thoughts can be accessed on the blog he maintains: http://ekitiparapo.blogspot.com/.   (back)


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published September 20, 2010