By Firoz Osman – Media Review Network
(source: Star Newspaper, Mon 28/03/2011, Pg13)
In her trenchant piece on the conflict in the Ivory Coast “ Africa is back to bowing to West”, Christine Qunta bemoans the fact that “African leaders are back to being summoned to Washington, Paris and London to take instructions on how to act as protectors of Western interests on this continent.” (The Star, 23/03/2011).
French-backed Allassane Ouattara and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo both claim to have won the democratic elections, threatening to plunge the country into a civil war. Opportunists will exploit the toxic issue of tribalism, given that Ouattara is from the Dioula ethnic group and Gbagbo, a Bete, consider Ouattara from the north as “foreigners” or immigrants.
The previously colonised world in Africa and Asia will never be free from this vicious cycle of internecine conflict and war until it reverts to a form of governance that preceded colonialism. The democratic, nation-state is no panacea. Historians note that it was a meeting at the Berlin residence of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1884, that the foreign ministers of fourteen European powers and the United States of America established ground rules for the future exploitation of the “dark continent.”
The European colonial powers shared one objective in their African colonies- exploitation. But in the way they governed their dependencies,they reflected their differences. Some colonial powers were themselves democracies (the United Kingdom and France); others were dictatorships (Portugal and Spain). The British established a system of indirect ruleover much of their domain, leaving indigenous power structure in place and making local rulers representatives of the British Crown. This was unthinkable in the Portuguese colonies, where harsh, direct control was the rule. The French sought to create culturally assimilated elites whatwould represent French ideals in the colonies.
Naom Chomsky, the American thinker and author, stated that “the nation-state system has been one of the most brutal and destructive creations of Europe ..”. Despite its abundance in natural and human resources, parts of Africa and Asia is still mired in conflicts, famine,wars and instability.
The New African (February 2010) proposed that to move forward, Africans will have to “conceive Africa as one continuous space, as opposed to theimprinted colonial mental geography that has Africans growing up “in administratively separated territories thinking of themselves as Kenyans, Ugandans…and so forth, but linked with Portugal [Britain, France, etc] in such a way that the first impulse they have when in need”would be to think of going [turning] to Lisbon [London, Paris…] and not to any place in Africa.
So “we are caught in the smaller frame of reference. That is the dilemma…”. This will require a paradigm shift, abolishing the artificial borders and nations imposed on Africa by the rapacious West still dominating Africa’s economy.
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