Africa is one giant continent that has witnessed more man-made conflicts or artificial violence in the course of its modern history than any other parts of the world. Indeed it looks like because Nature has intentionally spared the continent of more natural disasters than she has done the rest parts of the world, then its inhabitants are anxious to make up for this Nature’s supposedly uneven distributions of disasters. In the style of some deranged sadists, many African politicians go about this mission self-destroying with relish and with the worst dastardly method just for the sake of destroying and having fun at it. Unlike in the other parts of the globe, about 85 to 90% of all violence to lives and properties in the African continent is man-made and could have been avoided with just a little effort on the part of the political wheelers and dealers of the continent. African political class turned the business of people’s leadership which is supposed to be the most important career, into a joke. These leaders for their own greed and, due to their intellectual timidity and laziness act like they are on a mission to make up for this difference in what they believe was Nature’s over-sightedness.
Across the timelines of human existence here on Earth peace initiatives or conflict resolutions have always occupied a central focus among political and social leaders of the world. The reason for that is because it is generally agreed on that it is within a social atmosphere with a considerable level of peace or minimal existence of conflicts that civilization and human progress can occur. It is based on this understanding that every move for peace initiatives or conflict resolutions and a sustainable peace building is always welcome by all everywhere. And because, about every part of the world has experienced one form of violence at one or more times in the course of their history, there is hardly anybody anywhere who does not tend to have an opinion on how he or she thinks that peace can be achieved and sustained in all places of conflict. So in this piece we want to consider a few things that we think is fundamental to achieving a sustained peace and by extension, progress in the African continent’s quest for a comprehensive development.
To lay the groundwork that will promote peace and stability in the African continent the leaders must have to take the initiative. They must have to address the root-cause of the conflicts in Africa which as we will expatiate on here is what we will call the clash of cultures. The cause for this seemingly endless and very destructive situation has everything to do with the current political map of the continent which is in an urgent need to be redrawn. It is from this distortion that the hydra-headed monster, corruption and other vices that have held down the growth of the continent for so many years emanate.
When the Europeans first came to Africa, they came to do business and not to run any governments. But with the passage of time and as their business interests grew they became anxious to find ways to effectively protect their investments and citizens. So they concocted what we have today in the name of countries in Africa to manage and control (maybe manipulate will be a better way to say it) the territories where they carried on their business activities. And in order to run these so-called countries they established, in connivance with their home governments, pseudo-governments that suited best their business interests and, no more. In the process they carved and Balkanized the entire continent into fictitious geographical configurations to best serve the interests of their businesses rather than those of the indigenous peoples of Africa.
Their home governments got very actively involved because most of the business organizations were in the first place sponsored or backed by them. In no time these places had become colonies or vassal states of these governments which they ran to the best of their conveniences and experimented with all kinds of administrative styles that were strange and completely unsuitable, even detrimental to the local peoples’ cultures and way of life. Of course we have to bear in mind that basically it was business and profit that were behind every decision they took and since the aim of all businesses is to maximize profit, one could not have expected any better deal for the local population and environment from these business people.
With this background knowledge and, since these structures have remained about the same as when the colonialists left, we can see that all the countries in the African continent today are just mere arbitrary and adverse-to-the-indigenes creations of the European colonialists which did not take into consideration the tribal and cultural boundaries of the indigenous peoples neither were the opinions of the peoples sought when the boundaries were set up. The current African states’ boundaries were actually made in Berlin Germany and by Europeans in the years between 1884 and 1885 (during the so-called era of Scramble for Africa) without any input from the Africans for whom they were made.
And for more than any other reasons, virtually all the conflicts that have bedeviled the countries in Africa since the 1960s till today are nothing other than the clash of cultures which is the direct result of these arbitrary and insensitive boundary creations of the colonialists. The cultural crises, during the colonial days were effectively managed by the colonialists because they served as the go-between of the diverse cultures and peoples. So except in the case of a few places such as Nigeria where the hatred and resentment that the rest tribal components have for the Igbo and the other peoples of the Southeast, the rest places remained under relative calm during the colonial time. But in the case of Nigeria, in spite of the presence of the colonialists, the rest tribes were able to descend on the Igbo and other South easterners, murdered and maimed thousands of them and looted their properties on two different occasions during the colonialists’ watch in 1945 in Jos, Plateau State and in 1953 in Kano, Kano State.
Apart from those relatively isolated incidents, the colonialists ran their businesses and administrative structures and everything seemed alright till the late 1950s and early 60s when they were forced out by the indigenous peoples who claimed independence and self-governance from these erstwhile rulers. And because the indigenous peoples who inherited these administrative structures were anxious to assert themselves and consolidate their new found powers when the colonialists left, they failed to look critically at the terribly faulty contraptions they received. That was the greatest disservice that these political elites did to their own people.
They chose stable political structure which only served their own immediate individual selfish interests over sustainable long-term growth for the general good. The colonial states were already made for them so in laziness and for their selfish interests they would not change anything, they would only have the easy way out, readymade powerhouses to the detriment of the collective growth and the sanctity of their peoples’ lives. Among the qualities that leaders should possess are critical and pragmatic approach to all issues and being able to predict the impact of present decisions and actions on the people and society of the future. In the case of these so-called leaders they were either unforgivably lacking of these visionary and analytical abilities or they were simply selfish, timid and lazy and would not dirty their hands at redoing a dirty and shoddy job that was left to them by the colonialists.
I would rather judge these political leaders by the later assessment which is that they were selfish, timid and lazy and were satisfied to get all the immediate temporary rewards that accrued from their newly found positions just for themselves rather than build structures that are practicable and beneficial to their peoples and societies. So within the first decade of the so-called independence and self-governance of these fictitious countries nearly all of them had erupted and plunged themselves into crises and conflicts that have their roots in the clash of the peoples’ irreconcilable cultural differences and the distrust of one another.
From experience, we know that no true society can be built on distrust and, trust can only result from a truly harmonized culture (cultural sameness) of all the stakeholders in any given society. Here, we do not have to go into all the details on how many stable and progressive societies in other places achieved the growth but we know that at the very first level of the foundation of their stability is cultural homogeneity.
A unified culture is the primary cement that holds any society together and enables them to achieve a strong and progressive entity or nation state. People can only work together and progress when they have a unified or similar perspective on most fundamental life questions and social issues. All societies that have succeeded are always only those ones that can say; this is the way we do this thing when they are confronted with situations that require their definite decisions. Herein, therefore lies that all-important difference between a nation states and the mere conglomeration of divergent societies and peoples into fictitious and unrealistic creations and call them countries, like we have today in Africa.
In this year 2010, most of these so-called countries in Africa are celebrating their 50 years anniversary of independence and one cannot help but ask; independence from what or to do what? Well, the truth is that going by the very disheartening record of innumerable man-made disasters these countries have unleashed on their peoples and societies, one is again constrained to ask if they are morally justified to celebrate shame, deceit, genocides, miss-governance, corruption, ineptitude and every form of self-destructive political policies and moves they have consistently made over the years.
Under a different circumstance nobody should be celebrating such a disgrace but for some strange reasons these countries chose to. And just for one instance only, Nigeria is one prominent member of these countries which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of shame, failures and genocides on the 1st of October this year.
After fifty years, what these countries should be doing is to reflect on the reasons why they have fared so badly in all areas of human and social development. At this point it would have been very commendable if these countries had resolved to walk the path of honor and do the right thing. They should resolve to assume responsibility for the destiny of their peoples and societies. They should resolve to right the wrong they have done to their own peoples and societies. They can choose to boldly and honestly face the truth and realities. And that truth is that these colonial creations they inherited as countries can never work or serve the interests of their peoples. The truth is that now is the time to redraw the African map by Africans.
It is worthless and demeaning to go about celebrating when you are holding onto dishonesty and falsehood because you do not want to work a little bit harder and bolder to get it right. This time should be the time for a bold action on the continent. It is time for a radical and comprehensive change. It is time to lay a new foundation and start all over. This foundation must be fundamentally and radically different from the one laid by outsiders and non-stakeholders in Africa for Africans.
Africa cannot continue to sacrifice the lives of African babies and their mothers at this altar of intellectual laziness, timidity and absurdity. It is simple enough, pull down these false walls and re-erect in their places a seamless string of connectedness that had once held the entire continent together, where each people recognized the invisible boundaries between their neighbors and respected them. Africans must redraw the map of Africa, today.
•Ebiem has joined as a contributor on human rights and international issues toUSAfricaonline.com and our blog Nigeria360@yahoogroups.com. This, his third commentary for USAfrica multimedia networks, has been edited for exclusive publication across USAfrica platforms. Web links to this page are permitted but archiving on any other web site is not authorized without written authorization from USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu.