Kenya’s Elections Crisis Manifests Africa’s Challenges

5 January 2008 at 10:42 | 702 views

(A case for re-orientation of Africa’s geopolitics)

By Mohamed Boye Jallo Jamboria, Norway.

The crisis following the elections in Kenya, seemingly in contrast with what happened in Sierra Leone, is something that all Africans and African organisations must be very concerned about.

Since the inception of the electoral campaign and the events leading up to the elections, a lot had happened and more will happen to create push and pull in the Kenyan society thus manifesting and cataloguing the challenges that Africa and African political entities and peoples must face with a lot more serious and unbiased approach if the future is to be worth it’s salt.

Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Congo have all had their rounds of socio-political crises, some being outright ethnic and regional conflicts whilst others were conflicts on the diversities of political opinion and may be economic interests influenced, aided and abetted by some huge multinationals and powerful individuals in some other parts of the world.

All commentaries on this issue up to now have been based purely on the events as they are or were in the now timeframe. However if the challenges faced by Africa and her political entities today are to be properly understood these challenges must be examined from diverse timeframes and within a multiple of disciplinary contexts. The what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) approach, like in web design, to the present challenges of Africa cannot help the situation but rather further compromise and consolidate these challenges.

In as much as the challenges are as complex as a well designed web page, yet the challenges are more historical and sociological than political. They are not insurmountable yet can be very difficult and conflict catalytic if not properly handled with an approach to resolve in the interest of all the stakeholders involved.

The challenges in present day Africa are expressions of conflicts of consolidation of statehood out of the shambles left by the granting of independence to artificial geopolitical entities that were created without the participation of the affected peoples, the Africans, at conferences far removed from them and which had little or no understanding of the socio-cultures and politics they played with like a game of checkers.

A lot of intellectual discussions and papers have been written about this but yet for the neo African political class it all sounds like intellectual noise and they tend not to take a cue and find amicable resolutions to some of these challenges, most of which could be otherwise avoided if and only if the very big and most times thought overriding egos do not take precedence over reasoning.

In the early days of post independence and the cold war , futuristic socio political analysts like Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Professor Ali Mazrui, Mohamed Babu and a host of others(most of whom were one time teachers at the then Makerere University along with Bhutros Bhutros Ghali ,the former UN secretary General who did not finish his term because he was too radical to be anybody’s stooge)had written on this issue.

Most of them suffered the wrath of the powerful West, some like Fanon and Rodney dying in very suspicious circumstances as they were considered too anti-West or rather pro-communists by the systems they lived in and which wanted to answer to their masters’ voices.

Today some like Fanon, Rodney, and Babu are dead and gone but the manifestations of some of their theories and treatises still linger with the peoples and continent of Africa.

Some, like Professor Mazrui still express in their usual succinct mode the refrain:“let those that have ears to listen, listen!” on the roots of these challenges, but yet still these solutions are always shoved aside as being out of touch with the realities of now.

If now is not taken from the acts, existences and states of being of the past then there is no need for the human race to look into the future as that will be the product of now, a now that by the present egoistic and materialistic dialectic outlook have very little or no relations to the past.

Affected by a multiple of foreign socio-cultures of the past, most of which has had indelible imprints on the mind of the African today, the Modern African can be likened to a mentally controlled live Zombie who struggles through life trying to find an identity lost over a thousand and more years ago but who feels at ease with the very contradictions of his present state as that allows him to express his underdeveloped ego over his kinsmen whenever the opportunity arises and that is the undeclared reason why most of them take politics very seriously.

The renowned Nigerian writer, Chinweizu, in an excerpt from his anthology “Admonition to the Black World” said:
“For twenty -five centuries now, invaders and hegemonists from white lands (Iran, Greece, Rome, Arabia, Western Europe, and Russia) have assaulted Africa....From the seventh century AD, Arabs overran North Africa, spread their imperial religion with sword and guile, and enslaved and sold Africans....
From the sixteenth century AD, western Europeans carried off slaves from Africa before finally conquering the whole continent at the end of the nineteenth century ....”

A very critical look at this statement points to one very big present challenge, that of diversity in the social intelligence created by the diverse influences of all the invaders and hegemonists that have left their indelible marks on the minds of the African.

These marks, usually manifested by a holistic approach to religions and beliefs the African has little understood over time but whose overriding influence is expressed by the Africans belief in the predestination of people, events and circumstances, an instrument wilfully created, auto suggested and indelibly imprinted into the mind of the African to continually keep him in a hallucinatory state that subjects him to external controls.

Next is the challenge that most endangers the continent’s existence, the use of the divide and rule and totalitarian approach by all these white hegemonists.Such divide and rule strategies operated on regional and ethnic lines, created, maintained and institutionalised by the last of these hegemonists.

In his recent publication on Africa, renowned journalist and African historian, Martin Meredith in “The State of Africa: A History of fifty years of independence”, stated in the introduction:
“During the scramble for Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, European powers staked claims to virtually the entire continent .....Their knowledge of the vast African hinterland was slight...; only in Algeria and in southern Africa had more substantial European settlements taken roots."

"The maps used to carve up the African continent were mostly inaccurate; large areas were described as terra incognita. When marking out boundaries of their new territories, European negotiators frequently resorted to drawing straight lines on the map, taking little or no account of the myriad of traditional monarchies, chiefdoms and other African societies on the ground...."

"In some cases, African societies were torn apart: the Bakongo were partitioned between French Congo and Belgian Congo and Portuguese Angola; Somaliland was carved up between Britain, Italy and France. In all new boundaries cut through 190 culture groups. In some cases, Europe’s new colonial territories enclosed hundreds of diverse and independent groups, with no common history, culture, language or religion.

By the time the Scramble for Africa was over, some 10,000 African polities had been amalgamated into forty European colonies and protectorates.

Thus were born the modern states of Africa.”

The statements above summarise one of Africa’s biggest challenges for the development and consolidation of statehood. These challenges have had various treatments and theories postulated but have had little done to find lasting solutions in resolving the various conflicts emanating from the heterogeneity inherent in these challenges. Where there have been workable solutions they are either ignored by those who wield power or seen as expensive or non realistic because of the consequent political attitudes that were developed by these colonising powers who find out the land mass they had divided up was too large and unmanageable as far as the available resources then were concerned. Moreover, the primary concern behind the demarcation of Africa was not political but economic or rather for trade.

As a result decentralisation or delegation of power was the primary modus operandi of all these colonial powers, given different nomenclatures and political conceptualisations.

This decentralised system was executed through collaborating traditional leaders and religious institutions whose duties were to further the processes of mental domination by a two-prong, theological and educational, approach and a small European staff whose policies were to only coordinate the activities of these agents and protect them where need be from rebellious forces.

In most cases the traditional rulers were given a lot of unnecessary powers and most of them were despots and dictators protected by a power that had imposed itself on a people with a godlike stature, a situation that has been copied in post independence governance in Africa and which is one key conflict catalyst that has been very instrumental in most wars and political crises that have so far erupted.

Most of these traditional rulers had to resort to totalitarianism because they did not get the willing cooperation of those ethnic groups that were not traditionally within their domain but who had been incorporated by the geopolitical units created at the Scramble for Africa.

In other words, in as much as these traditional rulers got entrance or selective legitimacy from their collaboration with the colonial powers and peoples of their traditional jurisdictions, in some cases, yet they had to enforce their legitimacy on those incorporated or amalgamated.

To consolidate their rule, the colonialists introduced, maintained and inculcated into the minds of the traditional political class the unnecessary use of force and totalitarianism that later were transformed itself into post independence one party and other repressive political systems. The fallacy of democracy in Africa before independence is one area that must be examined thoroughly as all historical and recent political anthropological facts indicate the converse existed before and after independence.

Fifty years to date Africa is beginning to realise and see the direct transformation if not translation of those inherited “conflict potential or catalysing” issues that she did not have time to address since independence.

It is only today that these issues are taking new and more serious translations and making the dimensions of the political transformations more critical and explosive in potential. All the recent wars and what is happening in Kenya today indicate how serious the potential for explosions are in Africa.

From a more theoretical but practical view and going by the works of some renowned sociologists, like Simmel and Coser,the conflicts in Kenya and the rest of Africa have both pathological and non pathological ingredients of a sociological concept as it obtains in an environment of great diversity in ethnic,languistic and in some cases religio-cultural settings operating under the artificially created and amalgamated geo-political non-states that have not been able to exist as one units today; these have been wrongly classed as “Failed States” when as a matter of fact these states are what was described by Nigeria’s first Federal Prime Minister,Abubakarr Tafawa Balewa,in 1948:

“Since 1914 the British government has been trying to make Nigeria into on country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show the sign of willingness to unite...Nigerian unity is only a British invention.”

This statement directed specifically at Nigeria and made years ago and which to unanalytical minds may look rash is a truism that summarises the biggest challenge to African unity and development. There are variances in the reasons or parameters but yet the underlying fact is that Nigeria and all other polities were established to unite peoples that have little or nothing in common and they are faced with the challenge of living as nations when in actual fact they are mere artificial entities struggling to find identities and as political sovereignties in a world that is constantly changing in political ,economic and technological structure and stature.

Happy New year to all readers of the PV from me!