Of White Farmers and Exploitation

20 February 2006 at 11:35 | 614 views

The news that white farmers from southern Africa are about to descend on Sierra Leone should not be taken lightly by intelligent Sierra Leoneans.Over the years, since Sierra Leone became a British crown colony in 1808, our people have gradually lost most of their wealth:their forests(through reckless logging),diamonds, gold, rutile, you name it.Now the last thing the people call their own, their land, is about to be taken away. Saidu Kaye Sesay examines the issue:

By Saidu Kaye Sesay, London, UK

It is true that this time, more than ever, Sierra Leone needs all the assistance it could garner, but this should not mislead us into to the trap of ‘Greeks bearing us gifts’.
Courtesy of the Freetown media, I have read with great concern efforts by Ombudsman Francis Gabbidon to pave the way for Zimbabwean White farmers now resident in Kwara State, Nigeria, to settle in Sierra Leone with the promise to export to our country their mechanised farming skills which they noted will benefit Sierra Leone ‘immensely in the acquisition of food sufficiency within a short period of time’. How sweet that sounds to the ears of the ever hungry populace of our country. I do not wish to look at the intention with any suspicion, but rather to share my fears and concern, with regards to inviting some controversial aliens to settle in Sierra Leone in what would inevitably be in large numbers. In as much as we live in a global village where cooperation is a virtue, we must as a nation tread cautiously, lest we undermine the very foundation of an African Union, thus playing into the hands of sworn enemies of the south-south cooperation.
Excuse me; I would be digressing a bit, meaningfully though, as I seek to recapture historical drama.

Dispossession History
I am not immediately suggesting that Robert Mugabe was right in stripping White farmers in Zimbabwe of their rights of land possession, but we must as a nation seek to study the factors that culminated to his actions, and if possible, digest what lessons we can learn from that. The history of White farmers in Zimbabwe and South Africa, to name only two countries, is not encouraging reading. An article titled A Land Dispossession History, based on the South African experience narrates:

“By the 1860s, subjugation of African people in the immediate vicinity of the Cape had been achieved. Other than a small enfranchised minority who owned land, the majority of Africans living here had been proletarianised, and were reduced to the status of labour. This labour was kept subservient through legislation and force, or the threat of such’.

Right an ancient wrong
I am willing to concede to the argument that those were colonial days when natives had no say in legislations, if only I would be assured that the people’s representatives in our present parliament, would not for a fee turn a blind eye if these nomads are allowed to settle in our land, and decide to subjugate our less fortunate compatriots. It is note worthy that such bestial behaviour becomes commonplace wherever these White settlers farmed: From South Africa to Zimbabwe unto Kenya, their serfs (the African labourers) were over worked like donkeys. Slavery was abolished, but not with the blessing of some sadists. The insatiable thirst of some White settlers to lord it over cheap labourers at all cost became evident in the Zimbabwe saga. All what Mugabe wanted, according to the man himself was to right an ancient wrong by returning land, expropriated by white settlers to its rightful black owners. To my mind, I see nothing wrong with it, if only Mugabe had done it in a more civilised fashion.

But again what is accepted civilised behaviour is open to debate, because as far as the white settlers are concerned Zimbabwe is their ancestral land and therefore, no one has the right to remove them from those lands. But it was a bold and critical decision Mugabe had to make, where Mandela didn’t dare. I am sure that silently the front line states supported his decision, but hypocritically succumbing to diplomacy and world opinion, shunned him. That is the way the West wants it, to divide and rule Africa, even in an era when unity is what we need most as a continent.

In an article, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe and White Farmers, Dr. A. Chika Onyeani, of The African Sun Times, wrote:

“It seems the height of hypocrisy that the world should be focussed on the plight and non-payment of compensation to white farmers, without as much as a mention of the savagery with which the Black African owners were massacred and their lands seized without compensation.”

My research indicates that the word Bulawayo, which is the name of the second largest city in Zimbabwe, is an Ndebele word, meaning slaughter, apparently referring to the savagery of the British settlers, including the infamous Cecil Rhodes who had crushed the attempt by the indigenes to fight back, leading King Lobengula to swallow poison rather than be captured. Are there lessons in this?

The following statistics should wake us all to the reality of the mental torture Black Zimbabweans were going through. Zimbabwe, with a population of about 11 million people, had more than 60% of its arable land controlled by the whites who make up less than 2% of the population. Are there not lessons in this?

Traverse memory lane
Back to the Sierra Leone scene. We seem to forget so soon the unpleasant tales of our history. And as usual, it is always one man that brings to bear woes upon a population of about 4.5million...always one man; some one who wines and dines along the corridors of power; let it not be you Gabby. Let’s traverse memory lane: Remember Shabtai Kalmanovich of the Liat criminality and Nir Gouaz of the NR Scipa rip off in the APC days?

But the most shameful and detestable of all was the NPRC introduced Executive Outcomes, who exploited poverty stricken ladies of Waterloo; an incident that was dubbed BAFANA BAFANA. Those guys did not only sexually exploit our female compatriots, they photographed their sexual activities, presenting the women in the most humiliating postures against a background of forests and streams, and then distributed these at the Waterloo lorry park as a farewell to a genuine people who showed them love. Now, if Gabbidon’s campaign succeeds, the White Zimbabweans would settle in the interior, right? With paedophiles on the loose, only history would give a recount of more sordid activities to come. Don’t tell me they would be prosecuted. Who ever prosecuted Italians attached to SALCOST at Bumbuna, who paid our sisters to allow their dogs to "do" them?

I have the ‘privilege’ of living in the UK and the ‘luxury’ of shopping at Shepherd’s Bush Market. I have come across White Zimbabwean farmers who have settled in b grocery businesses. Most owe their new found lives to compensations. If these examples could resettle in their original homes, why not those, who have decided to become nomads?. The answers could be found in the possibility that some are afraid of their criminal pasts. Britain as a civilised country is ready to offer them support, but not when (note, even if it takes centuries) they would have criminal questions to answer. So, most of them, like the perpetrators of the holocaust, are still lurking in the continent of Africa. Some maybe are in search of cheap labour, which is hard to come by in the UK. Some know what it means to evade taxes in the UK. Some are genuinely searching for the be it.

Let me make myself clear. I am not against investors coming to Sierra Leone. But should we allow them,should the people who own the land allow them(a distinct possibility in a poverty-striken country) I would advise that proper screenings be done. More so for sexual perverts,murderers,racist thieves and evil exploiters.

Photo: Saidu Kaye Sesay