Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

by Baffour Ankomah

September 1, 2003


New African, July 2003:

"Africa is a beautiful continent, full of potential and attractive people who deserve so much more than the way in which they are forced to live, and die. Yet it is not clear that the continent can generate its own salvation. It may be necessary to devise a form of neo-imperialism, in which Britain, the U.S. and the other beneficent nations would recruit local leaders and give them guidance to move towards free markets, the rule of law and - ultimately - some viable local version of democracy, while removing them from office in the event of backsliding"
--Bruce Anderson, columnist of The Independent (London), writing on 2 June 2003.

There is nothing so harrowing as to see a Western writer consumed by nostalgia parodying himself because these days the "natives" of Africa have "ideas above their station", and will no longer carry Western explorers in hammocks to go and discover many a lake, a mountain, a river, a waterfall, even a people, somewhere on this "beautiful continent" of ours.

Poor Bruce Anderson. He must blame his parents. If he had been born in 1813 and died in 1873 like David Livingstone, he would surely have ridden on the shoulders of my grandfather, Nana Kwaku Twumasi, to discover the stream behind our village from which our ancestors had always drank.

How very sad that Anderson was not so lucky as David Livingstone. But that is his problem. Not ours.

Now, being a native and still kind-hearted, I would make Anderson an offer he can't refuse: Since my grandfather is dead and Anderson is under 50 (from the look of his photo), my four brothers and I (pristine natives all) would volunteer to take our grandfather's place, and carry Dear Bruce in our chief's palanquin, not a hammock, to go and discover the hill that stands in the middle of our father's cocoa farm. He could call it Mount Anderson or Bruce Mountain since Queen Victoria has too many things named after her in Africa. He shouldn't worry about the name anyway, because it won't affect the knighthood that would await him in London. Arise Sir Bruce.

Was I angry when I read Anderson's piece? You bet! What was sickening was the sheer pretentiousness that he loved Africans so much that he wanted the best for us. So his headline was: "Africa Deserves Better; But Not All Of Its Problems Were Created By The West." Eat your heart out, Bruce Anderson. We can do without your condescension and patronising.

No African has ever said that "all" of our "problems were created by the West." We know the percentage we carry ourselves, and the percentage that the West (or in Anderson-speak, "the beneficent nations") carry. But if the "beneficent nations" would do us a favour and drop their percentage, we would be fine. Absolutely fine. We know it. And we know that they know it.

Therefore, Anderson and people like him (including R.W. Johnson of The Daily Telegraph who, two years ago, advocated the same Western recolonisation of Africa), should stop crying for us. We don't need their crocodile tears.

As our elders say in Ghana: "Wo nsa akyi beye wo de a, ennte se wo nsa yam" (If the back of the palm of our hand can feed you, it won't surpass what the palm itself can do).

I must make a confession here: What I liked in that outrageous piece was Anderson's accountancy skills. He submitted that the recolonisation of Africa would cost the "beneficent nations" far less than their "current misapplied aid budgets... The military commitment would also be sustainable. If it is good enough for Iraq, it should be good enough for Africa," he argued.

And then, it suddenly dawned on him that we were in the year 2003, not 1859. "This will not happen, however," he wrote, perhaps sobbing onto his keyboard. "Western liberal guilt has an armlock on policy; Conservative guilt has no political momentum. Western liberals would far rather that Africans continued to suffer if the alternative was an admission that Europeans and Americans might be better at directing the continent's destiny."

Honestly! What arrogance!

Why do Westerners of Anderson's ilk still think that Africans don't think? The "natives" would gladly welcome the Europeans and Americans who "might be better at directing the continent's destiny?"

Well, in Ghana, our elders, again, say: "Dua a Ananse adi awu no, Ntikuma nkotena ase nto nko" (Ntikuma does not sit and doze under the tree whose fruit killed his father, Ananse). We may have no political clout globally, but we do know the record of Europe and America in Africa!

And Anderson was not finished. To let the Africans know he really has our interest at heart, he started off by insulting two of Africa's heroes. "Some Tory idealists such as Iain McLeod," he wrote, "convinced themselves that [early independence as against independence in 'many decades'] was in Africa's interest and that mountebanks such as Nkrumah of Ghana and Nyerere of Tanzania could actually teach the rest of mankind something about statesmanship."

I immediately rushed for my English dictionary. "Mountebank", according to my dictionary, means: "1. (Formerly) a person who sold quack medicines in public places. 2. A charlatan; fake."

Since Nkrumah and Nyerere were not known to have sold quack medicines in public places, they could only be "charlatans" and "fakes." Imagine, if I, Baffour Ankomah, were to write that about Winston Churchill or Queen Victoria, and still pretend that I love the British so much that I want for them the best in the world, even including recolonisation by the Romans!

If Nkrumah was a "fake" and a "charlatan," why did the "beneficent nations" expend so much energy, time, money, spies and media space to bring him down? No African leader has attracted such Western animosity as Nkrumah. And he was a "fake" and a "charlatan!" Come on, Bruce Anderson.

Behind Nkrumah, at No.2 on the list of Western animosity, comes Robert Mugabe over whom Anderson prefers Ian Smith ("Ian Smith was displaced by Robert Mugabe," is how he put it).

Well, since Anderson pretends not to know that his "beneficent nations" have always been doing in Africa what he suggests, ("it may be necessary to devise a form of neo-imperialism," he says, "in which Britain, the U.S. and other beneficent nations would RECRUIT [emphasis, Baffour's] good leaders and give them guidance to move towards free markets, the rule of law and -- ultimately -- some viable local version of democracy, while REMOVING them from office in the event of backsliding"), may I take him to Zimbabwe, the home of Robert Mugabe and Ian Smith.

Before then, may I remind Anderson that Field Marshall Idi Amin of Uganda was one of the "good" leaders so "recruited" by Britain to serve the purposes of the "neo-imperialism" he writes about. Another Field Marshall, this time in Congo, Mobutu Sese Seko, was the other "good" leader recruited by America for the "neo-imperialism" project. And the records of these two men are there for all to see.

Now, could Anderson come with me to Zimbabwe. I won't mention names, but we all know the latest "recruit" or "recruits" there for the "neo-imperialism" project. And since Anderson's accountancy skills are well honed, may I show him the following expenditure in furtherance of the "project": It comes from the website of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) which was set up in London in March 1992 "to provide assistance in building and strengthening pluralist democratic institutions overseas."

The WFD receives its funding from the British government (£4m a year at the last count) and accounts to Parliament through Jack Straw's Foreign & Commonwealth Office. All the three main British political parties (Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats), and even all the smaller parties, are represented on the WFD's board of governors.

Three years ago, the WFD published the following list of expenditure on its website (www.wfd.org) only to take it down when the Zimbabwean government made noise about it, by presenting it as evidence of British interference in its internal affairs:

1. Zimbabwe: To fund the Conservative Party to provide the opposition to Robert Mugabe, with support from like-minded democratic parties in Africa, by funding a second visit to help the campaign organisation leading to the election in June 2000: Budget £13,876. Approved: 01-06-00.

2. Zimbabwe: To fund the Labour Party to provide further assistance to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), in a project part-funded with the UK Liberal Democrats, to continue to train MDC party representatives on election monitoring techniques for the June 2000 elections: Budget £10,000. Approved 12-06-00

3. Zimbabwe: To fund the Labour Party to assist the MDC to increase political awareness through radio, in advance of the elections due in June 2000: Budget £8,594. Approved: 01-06-00.

4. Zimbabwe: To fund the Labour Party to assist the MDC to target women voters through media communications to encourage them to vote in the elections due in June 2000: Budget £7,018. Approved 12-06-00.

5. Zimbabwe: To fund the Labour Party to assist the MDC to produce leaflets in preparation for the elections in June 2000. Budget £18,750. Approved 01-06-00.

6. Zimbabwe: To fund the Conservative Party to provide assistance to opposition forces in Zimbabwe in advance of their parliamentary elections by bringing to the UK key leaders of the two opposition parties for briefings, in May 2000. Budget $4,460. Approved 15-05-00.

And so the list goes on, including this entry: "MDC party development: To fund the Labour Party to assist the MDC to consolidate party structures throughout the country: Budget £30,000."

Not only does the WFD fund the political opposition in Zimbabwe, it also funds NGOs, newspapers and magazines there (in a so-called "media reform campaign"). And all this for what? "Removing" Mugabe (as Anderson suggests the "beneficent nations" do in Africa), and "recruiting good leaders" for the "neo-imperialism" project.

What destiny, Africa?

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Baffour Ankomah is the Editor of New African, a British-based magazine published by IC Publications, an international publications company, founded in London 40 years ago. With offices in New York and Paris, the IC group specializes in producing newsletters, magazines, special supplements and reports on Africa and the Middle East. In addition to New African the IC Group publishes two other magazines, African Business and The Middle East. This article appeared in the July 2003 issue of New African and is republished on Swans with the generous and kind courtesy of the author.

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Published September 1, 2003
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