The image above is the common pop up when you type “poverty” into your search engine. The articles, blogs and stories are often times about starving African children, AIDS in Africa or some other terrible ailment affecting the beautiful continent, home to the people many Caribbean people are descended from.
The question is often ask; why? Why is there so much poverty concentrated in one place? The responses are usually: cause of brutal dictators, the leader is a mad man, the people are dumb and so on and so on.
When African problems are discussed I’ve come to realize that all of Africa’s ills are laid on the shoulder’s of its current leaders and all the historical undertones go unspoken. The late Muammar Gaddafi was never a favourite in the West but in Africa he was a central piece in promoting unity and solidarity among what he described as African brothers and sisters.
If you are from the United States the mere fact that I spoke about Gaddafi in a relatively good light may have you feeling something is a bit off here, that I may be a supporter of terrorism; not one bone in my body supports vicious acts against human beings. The fact remains, despite all the allegations and the murder of the former Libyan leader, the once stable Libya is in severe turmoil and its oil is now under the control of thugs and corporations as opposed to the people as it were with Gaddafi and the oil was nationalized and subsidized for public use . Libya is in a situation like post-invasion Iraq which independent reports show over a million dead since the war!
As Libya falls into a deeper hole the truly observant mind will notice something; this is nothing new. It has been happening ever since Columbus came and exterminated the indigenous people of what is now called “America”. The guiding philosophy has been used from ever since, “we will civilize them and teach them our ways” is what was said in the 15th century and “we will bring them democracy” is said now. Regardless of declaration the people being “civilized” or “freed” for the most part wined up dying in amazing numbers.
So why am I saying all of this? The answer is simple, I just want the reader to know exactly where I’m coming from with my point.
When you speak of Africa’s plight and throw the blame at Robert Mugabe or Patrice Lumumba, remember they were reacting in a very serious manner to the colonial experience. Mugabe imposed strict land reform and Lumumba nationalized the diamonds of the Democratic Republic of Congo. For a more inciteful look at what Lumumba’s decision meant for countries like Belgium and the United States read ‘The Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. In the book you’ll find information on how Leopold II of Belgium claimed the DRC and its people as his personal property.
Leopold would commence a butchering of man. In his thirst for Congolese rubber he would chop off arms of all who didn’t bring sufficient amounts at days end. In all of this the first country to approve these savage acts was the US, and yet today every waking day we hear of the US helping people.
The wealth gained from barbarianism would be used to build Belgium. These are not acts unique to Belgium but all of Western Europe, from the United Kingdom to Germany, Portugal, Spain…etc plus the leading imperial force in the world today; The United States of America or Uncle Sam, which ever you like. In fact had Mussolini took Ethiopia the entire African continent would have been colonized.
For all my Caribbean readers if you went to any high school you will know all too well of the destructive force of imperialism both here and in Africa. To imagine what 500 years of it can do is mind boggling yet evident in the present state of the African continent.
I’m not saying blame should be relieved from some of these careless leaders, but to judge Africa’s present situation based solely on about 50 years of “self rule” is like evaluating an entire house by just looking at the roof.