The historical disadvantage of Africa

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The start of the transatlantic slave trade around the year 1519 was the beginning of tragic events that systematically displaced millions of people in Africa.  By the time the last slave ship left Africa around 1867 to Cuba, the continent had been stripped of valuable human capital for nearly 3 centuries. After the abolition of slavery, the scramble for Africa in the late 1800s saw European countries colonising the well resourced African countries for another century. The history of colonialism has  lived on to affect the the contemporary sociopolitical issues in Africa with detrimental effects that have hampered growth and stability for the continent. In this article I argue that Africa lags in development performance in comparison to other continents, due to its history which subjugated free thinking to develop in Africa.

Initially before the slave trade, the Portuguese were the first to establish contacts with sub-Saharan Africa and much to their surprise, they found societies which were engaged in trade, had a similar range of pre-historical industrial crafts and they were also organised into Kingdoms with class divisions. The sub-Saharan Africans were much advanced than the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean or the Brazilian littoral such that they were able to maintain equal relations with the Europeans. For the next centuries to come, Africa fully engaged in the transatlantic slave trade which accounted for an estimated 10 million slaves.

The transatlantic slave trade disturbed any pending advances in African society such that Francis Moore a merchant along the coast of Senegambia in the 1730s observed,

“Since this slave trade has been us’d, all punishments are changed into slavery.”

In 1730 the Dutch Director General of Elmina Castle on the modern coast of Ghana also observed,

“The great quantity of guns and powder which the Europeans have brought have caused terrible wars between the Kings and princes and Caboceers of these lands”.

What is evident from these observations is that the slave trade brought chaos (which in some respects is irreversible) to the continent of Africa. For 2 centuries Africans got accustomed to one mode of trade and that was the capturing and selling  of valuable human capital for the development of other continents. The it can be inferred that the slave trade may well have hindered Africans from having innovative ideas, those which could have helped in the development of trade and the advancement of other aspects of society. The chiefs of Africa in conjunction with the Europeans systematically raided villages of humans, who could have played an important role in the development of Africa.

What started the transatlantic slave trade is hard to pinpoint, but evidence points out that slavery was prevalent in African societies when the Europeans arrived. Whatever the cause, the slave trade changed the African landscape in that it encouraged inter-ethnic wars with the sole purpose of capturing slaves for sale at the north African coasts. Between the 14th and 19th centuries, the most lucrative trade in Africa was the slave trade, which helped Africans to acquire guns which were used for slave wars. The violence and brain drain of Africa carried on for atleast 2 centuries and it is no wonder that by the time missionaries arrived in Africa, they witnessed brutal scenes of savagery.

Africa reeling from the effects of slavery, European countries carved up Africa into nation states which bundled different ethnic groups together. The rush to colonise Africa by the European powers, was influenced by the vast deposits of untapped natural resources which were mostly unknown to the locals of Africa. For nearly 70 years, indigenous Africans were utilised to provide manpower for farms, to fight wars,  in mines and many other income  generating avenues for the benefit of European countries.

To add on from the 2 centuries of slave trade, another century of colonialism was added on to the ills that crippled Africa. It was the politics of colonialism which championed the tactics of ‘divide and conquer’, where some African tribes were pitted against each other to avoid the unification of people. These tactics were triumphant in that modern-day societies of Africa still have tribalism as a hampering obstacle to national unity. Today some countries in Africa are embroiled in bitter tribal wars which seem to have no end in sight, due to long standing feuds which stem from the effects of colonialism.

During colonialism, African natural resources were excavated for the sole purpose of developing the imperialist countries while neglecting Africa. Africa’s palm oil, petroleum, copper, chromium, diamonds, platinum and in particular gold helped Europe’s earlier development, which has lived on to contemporary societies. Robert Beckford who shot a documentary titled ‘The Empire Pays Back’, claims that Britain’s debt to Africans on the continent and in the diaspora is estimated to be in the trillions of pounds. This assessment by Beckford’s experts was considered to be false because the real amount of wealth that was pulled out of Africa is arguably incalculable. It is incalculable because vast deposits of resources were pulled out of Africa, to the point that it is near impossible to document or estimate the actual volume of wealth extricated from the continent.
Which is why it is insulting. deeply offensive and laughable altogether to attack ‘migrants’ as the source of Europe’s economic and social problems, when the same European countries are largely responsible in creating the conditions which have greatly hampered the development and prosperity of African countries today.

President Barack Obama last year addressing 500 young Africans who were attending a leadership course:

“As powerful as history is, and you need to know that history, at some point you have to look to the future and say, ‘OK, we didn’t get a good deal then, but let’s make sure that we’re not making excuses for not going forward,”

This statement by Obama is a double-edged sword because a people’s history defines how modern day society is formed. It is through history that one tends to look for answers to contemporary problems which hamper nation-building activities.  It is indeed true that Africa needs to look to the future rather than the past, but how is that possible when colonial borders are still a source of attrition for the thousands of tribes in Africa? When there is a huge economic divide between black Africans and Whites who live in Africa (many of whom benefitted from the proceeds of colonisation and slavery)
Further, there are young and educated Africans today with no assets who can’t get loans(therefore can’t start impactful businesses), and are barred from participation in their country’s politics because of ageism and a neopatrimonial culture. They are powerless and Obama’s statements can’t address their plight.

Ethnic conflicts in Africa are well documented and one of the clearest examples is that of the Arabs  (and the Tuareg, who are Berbers) and sub-Saharan Africa(black Africans)s. Historically, the Arabs enslaved sub-Saharan Africans for about a 1000 years with about an estimated 18 million people carted off into slavery. In the 1800s when the Scamble for Africa begun, the Arabs and the sub-Saharan Africans were thrown together to form modern countries along the Sahara such as Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan. This history of nations in Africa has been detrimental for nation-building, because different ethnic groups were lumped together to form nations when they had no sense of belonging to these nations.
In the past decade Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan have experienced rebellions fought over resources, politics, religion and history. In the middle of all these causative agents, ethnicity played a central role, when it came to which side the Arabs or sub-Saharan Africans picked to fight for.

Perhaps one of the most bloodiest ethnic conflicts in memory on the continent of Africa is that of the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. In 1994, Rwanda’s 7 million population was composed of Hutu (85%), Tutsi (14) and the Twa (1%). In the early 1990s Hutu extremists resented the Tutsis with claims that all the social, economic and political problems that Rwanda was going through, was down to them. On 6th April 1994, a plane carrying President Habyarimana was shot down and Hutu extremists under the cover of war, began to systematically exterminate the Tutsi population. Within weeks after 6th April, 800 000 men, women, and children were killed in a brutal manner, with ethnicity being the dividing line.

Years of animosity between tribes who were forced to form nations together, remains one of the biggest challenges for development in Africa. When Obama says that Africa has to look in the future to move on, the past still has a nefarious hold on Africa’s nation-building capabilities. Africa’s history of being under subjugation and slavery has all to do with the current disorganisation of the society of Africa. To look beyond history as Obama asserts, would be quiet difficult because the reconciliation solutions of Africa lie in the past where current problems were created. It is therefore important that the past is revisited to help in establishing the starting points of the many problems that have engulfed Africa.
The same could be said of the problems faced by African Americans, who for years have been persecuted in one form or another.

The other problem that lies with Africa is that through slavery, colonialism and post-colonialism periods, Africans have always lived in the shadow of the West. For centuries Africans have not been self-thinkers, and this has obviously affected innovative ideas on the part  of African free thinking. It was through slavery and colonialism that the African way of life was made to be inferior, and whole cultures and traditions were systematically wiped out only to be replenished by western culture. Today, most sub-Saharan Africa struggles to emulate western cultures because their culture through years of subjugation, was made to look inferior. This in turn has created an identity crisis with modern Africa where society struggles with being an ‘African’,  in a world where western culture is seen to be superior.

Looking at the political picture of Africa, one can see how a western style of democracy is not working in Africa. A lot of African countries that became democratic states, are today still grappling with corruption and bad governance issues because of poor accountability structures. Since the the early 1980s of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), Western ideology has been central to African affairs and time and again this has led to failure.

This historical disadvantage has and is still one of the biggest factors why Africa lags in the social, economic and political arenas. To disregard the linkage of the past and the current problems of Africa, would be a mistake because it is through history that nations are built. Africa’s tumultuous history needs to be understood and addressed, to create the many needed solutions for the continent because on the average, many African countries have only been independent for 50 years. To forge a strong Africa, Africans need to disregard assertions like those of Obama and seriously begin looking into the past to rectify the factors that disadvantaged societies, economically and politically. The options are few (for example it’s hard for countries to reunite into bigger and stronger nations), but it’s not an impossible task.

Should we pay reparations – The Big Questions

I saw this video this morning. I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t seen it before, but again, I don’t own a television, so its easy to miss things.

This is how I see it

Hidden & Falsified History

The Kızlar Ağası, head of the black eunuchs of the Ottoman Imperial Harem. The title literally means
The Kızlar Ağası, head of the black eunuchs of the Ottoman Imperial Harem. The title literally means “Chief of the Girls”

African History has not been taught. At least not in the way that it deserved to be taught. Definitely not in the way European or American history has been taught. This is a pathetic fallacy that must be rectified. I’ve written and cited quite a lot of information about this in the past, including on the following links, and so I will not repeat these here:-

Context

It is not only unfair, but disingenuous to say that everyone suffered from history, so lets all just forget about the past and move on. As Esther Stanford Xosei points out in the video, the transatlantic Slave Trade was unparalleled in scale, ferocity and effects. You can’t brush that fact under the carpet, and tell everyone to move on, because history simply won’t allow you. Pushing anything that contravenes this clear historical fact is tantamount to rewriting history: a lie.

Further, I think it’s very difficult if not impossible for white people – who have not experienced the stigma and pain black people live with, to identify with it or completely understand the numerous ways in which that pain afflicts its victims.

Just because you don’t feel something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. And in my view, there’s a lot of apathy in the western world regarding the plight of black people. Most white people in positions of authority simply don’t care enough. Which is not surprising to be honest.

Multiple Effects

I can’t elaborate any better about the different psychological conditions talked about in the video. What I can say is that whether the medical professions in the western world accept their existence or not, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Often, the same medical professions are controlled and run by predominantly white-folk, who as I pointed above have never experienced these things first hand, so I wouldn’t be surprised if organisations such as National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) or Royal College of Psychiatrists don’t recognise them.

More importantly, I can say hand on heart that at least 9 out of 10 of all my black friends have some kind of ‘mental’ issues relating to their position in society, and how they feel about being black, African or of Afro-caribbean descent living in a western country.

Predictably, these ‘mental issues’ don’t feature in the white or Indian Africans I know – many of whom I studied with at College and University.

Both educated well-paid black Africans (those who work as Solicitors, Doctors, Engineers, Lecturers, Consultants and Accountant Managers), and the not so educated – who work in low paid, low skilled work have this ‘complex’ , if you can allow me to call it that. It sometimes manifests itself as apathy i.e. ‘ there’s nothing we can do about it‘, and at other times it’s rebellious i.e. ‘after the way we have been treated, why the hell would I pay for such and such‘, and yet at other times it comes out in the form of religious resignation ‘God will punish them for their wrongs

I doubt it is cultural, because my friends come from varying different backgrounds, with no single identifiable culture. For example a few of my Kenyan friends have cultures very different to those of my Zambian and Tanzanian friends. Even in Malawi, our cultures across the country vary greatly, so I very much doubt it’s down to culture.

The closest description I can think of, of this complex is a powerlessness when it comes to racial identity and racial issues (past and present), which has caused many black people stress, depression (complete with tablets) and anger, and which can negatively interfere with their lives. A description that I must admit is incomplete, and doesn’t quite capture the whole complex…

Implicit bias

I like to study people, especially if they don’t know they are being studied, I enjoy it. Their behaviours, the assumptions, the stereotypes, it’s very easy for me to pick on certain words they use, certain familiar habits – and identify what they actually mean. Or what I think they mean.Take a look at the following cartoon to see what I am talking about:-

cartoonAnd this alone may not be harmless, until you find out who owns the industries. Who the employer is, who administers justice, who is in charge of policing…who educates the children, and suddenly these biases become relevant, because it is possible (consciously or otherwise) to favour white kids over black kids; in stop and search (which disproportionately affects black people than it does white people). Or to incarcerate more black people for the same crimes than white people; to be prejudicial to black people in the criminal justice system; to be prejudicial in the job market; to be prejudicial when giving loans; Or to target black people with falsified or politically motivated attacks with the goal of incriminating them – to make them look bad, and emphasise the ‘black criminal’ stereotypes.

It is happening across the world, not only in the UK and the US, and sadly much of it goes unreported.

Indeed schools in the UK have been accused numerous times over the years of providing an insufficient if not inferior education to black children. Top Universities have been accused of not attracting enough ethnic minorities. The effect of all this is that real economic power, whether in Manchester, Brixton, Lilongwe or Kampala, predominantly rests with white middleclass middle-aged men. What Grayson Perry in the New Statesman calls Default Man.

And then we wonder why hundreds of thousands of Africans flee their countries wanting to come to Europe (dying in their thousands along the way), or Australia, or the United States.

Polar opposite Experiences

The differences and life outcomes also couldn’t be starker, not only in identity and confidence levels, but also in economic terms. Opposite ends of a behavioural spectrum – if such a thing could be said to exist, is evident when you contrast behaviour in a board meeting full of predominantly white male directors (among which I was the only black person), with a luncheon with members of a predominantly black church (where there were no white people).

Just sitting there and watching people within such groups interact teaches you a lot about race, wealth, power, inequality, confidence and many other qualities/ behaviours.

It shows you how different people are. It lays bare for example the financial constraints in black families; that when a minority is in a place where they are not expected – it becomes news. Instead of people focussing why they are at the conference, many questions are asked about this new guy, this brown-skinned guy: who is he, why is he here. Questions which are not asked to the other participants, most of whom are white.

I learn that the kinds of multi-million pound deals which white company directors sitting around a table in a plush conference centre discuss, would be totally alien to a group of black businessmen (or indeed to any group of black people). The large majority of them have never been exposed to that kind of money, and the video above – to an extent – raises the issues as to why this is so.

Many times I’ve found myself in predominantly white gatherings, including a few years ago in Shanghai, as the only black person at a business event; spending several nights in a $300 a night hotel in a different city, again as the only black person; I got exactly the same sentiments and reactions.

And it’s bizarre when strangers come to you asking you to take pictures with them…in 2010

To me the whole thing makes perfect sense:- the reason more black people are not found in such business environments is because they do not have the money or are under-represented at board level in many professional fields. The generational obstacles stacked up against them are high enough to ensure too few of them independently amass any serious amount of  wealth, and almost no one amasses power.

And here, i must mention something else. When a black business person is driven, confident, arrogant, pushy and a go-getter, they are often feared and labelled as ‘aggressive’ or difficult to work with; whereas white business folk who exhibit exactly the same qualities and characteristics are called ‘shrewd’ and ‘alpha males’.

Redress

While I understand why people and countries seek reparations, for me it’s not about reparations per se, but how to change for the better the current unfair system of Capitalism (which clearly favours a tiny few over the majority of people in the world); in the system we currently are under, Africa, and people of African origin are at the very bottom of the socio-economic pyramid.

I’d like to see a world of responsible capitalism  (which i’ll define exactly as I understand it on this blog at some point).

In the video above, it’s interesting that someone cited Israel, and I’m glad to see that Esther tackled that point perfectly. Israel  (if we can put its internal and regional politics aside) in my view is a good demonstration of how you can create a liquid democracy from nothing, and ensure of its relative success. The Israeli post-holocaust experience is different from the African post-genocide/post-slavery experience on a number of points such as:

  • Israelis in the diaspora have been given preferential treatment that has enabled them to succeed. Most don’t need Visas to visit or live in Western countries, and their established networks make it very easy for their people to get loans, and start businesses or to find jobs. Thus, they can access markets and capital relatively easily. In contrast Africans or Afro-Caribbeans have at no point enjoyed such privileges, and find it harder than most others to find jobs, start businesses or get loans.
  • Jews were never given an inferior education for any considerable length of time during the time they were persecuted across Europe. They were prohibited from studying, over certain periods, and prevented from entering certain professions in many countries, but they weren’t purposely fed a poisonous and destructive educational experience that continues to affect their communities even today. In contrast, Africans have been given an inferior education (or no education at all), for centuries! Which affects the jobs they get in today’s economies, and their economic circumstances from one generation to the next – as this article on Forbes demonstrates. I’m not saying that its impossible to break this cycle. No. What I’m saying is that it’s a lot more difficult for a black person to break through this vicious cycle of poverty, discrimination, oppression and debt because they have a lot more obstacles stacked against them, and face a lot more prejudice/discrimination (institutional or otherwise) from so many places.
  • Apart from Nazism, there were few ideologies in history designed to oppress, repress and steal from Jews. That can’t be said of African and Afro-caribbean people, who have suffered one ideology after another all designed to incapacitate and dispossess them. You can’t brush all that under the carpet and claim it doesn’t have a cross-generational effect; without publicly acknowledging the scale, impact and long-term effects such oppression has had, without putting effective measures to address the anomaly, very little will change.
  • Israel was never in debt in the same way as African and Afro-caribbean countries have been in debt. Israeli citizens own a lot of their own industry, whereas in Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of large / lucrative industry is owned by foreign corporations, who siphon the profits out of the country, with the consequence that African countries fail to raise sufficient funds from tax collection to be able to invest in their economies. So there’s under-investment in almost every important sector of public spending from infrastructure maintenance and development, to education, healthcare and national security. This in turn affects crime (which will be on the increase), lack of infrastructure deters foreign investment (which affects the number of jobs), and lack of resources in healthcare means most hospitals have no medicines or sufficient staff and therefore fail to function.
  • Israel has a powerful and well-funded lobby, which in many respects is a good thing. It means you are not perpetually broke and your interests are safeguarded on the global scene. Africans and Afro-Caribbeans have no such luxuries.

So ask yourself, how can black people move on when there are such grossly unfair inequalities that continue until this day? Not only in the UK, but across the world…?

I will never believe the lazy and totally untruthful claims that poverty in Africa is due to corruption and inefficiency of Africans alone.

NEVER.

I know enough not to be taken in by such rubbish.

Cecil Rhodes: He can never be an African hero

The issue of Cecil Rhodes’s statue being pelted with excrement has deeper issues, of the emerging free thinking young Africans who do not want to be influenced by warped views of Westerners who cannot identify with the enlightened African – of whose breed there are no averages. Scouring the many debates of this issue exposes a deep divide between Africans and Westerners on the issue of colonialism and how it should be remembered. The young minds of Africa who are free from biased views of the world from a western context, are beginning to question certain aspects of African history which was mostly written by Westerners.

First of all, it is of no wonder that the students of University of Cape Town have reacted in this way, because for centuries the African life and history has been dictated by Europeans. Today, a spirit of rebelliousness is slowly fermenting in the young minds of Africans who are fed up of western hegemony on public life in Africa. For once, this new breed of Africans want to decide on what is right for their culture and history, without any distortions or sympathy for imperialism and its so-called advantages from anybody.  They want to decide by themselves, and they will decide for themselves – Kwa wenyewe! Ngokwabo! Pawokha! Nipa ara wọn! Da kansu!

Scouring the many social media comments on this issue, it is disparaging to hear of the lazy argument that claims that there would be no South Africa without colonialism. The claim is that Africa would not be introduced to the modern pillars of life that is education, technology and democracy if it was not for men like Rhodes. Basically what they are saying is that Africa would not be what it is today without imperialism and somehow Africans need to be grateful despite colonialism’s grave flaws.

What a load of bullshit!

What these arguments seem to forget is that, no one in Africa asked for this so-called intervention by Europeans. Africans had their own interpretation of life before the Europeans came, and it is unintelligible to claim that Africans should be grateful for colonialism.

Kerr Cross for example writing in 1890 had this to say about the social and economic life of Northern Malawi:

Food is everywhere abundant, bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, yams, Indian Corn, beans, peas, millet and other seeds, wild fruits, honey, milk and beef

And in regards to the social order, a look at the village life provides a good picture:

All weeds, grasses, garbage and things unsightly are swept away by little boys. Each house is built of bamboo, with clay worked by the women into little rounded bricks ….The doorsteps are often painted with designs in red, yellow and other colours, and altogether there is an air of comfort, and plenty

(Cross, D.K., Geographical Notes of the country between lake Nyassa, Rukwa and Tanganyika, in: Scottish Geography Magazine VI (1890) pp. 283-4, quoted in: McCracken,J., op. cit., p.98.)

So life for the Africans living in those days must have been reasonable enough in the African context. In fact innovations used in agriculture, in the military and in industry developed in the Northern parts of Africa, by earlier civilisations in Egypt, and those developed by the Nubians, and by civilisations like that of Great Zimbabwe would later  find their way southwards, to be improved upon. [For a much more indepth description refer to this video by Dr Yosef Ben Jochannan ]

Toyin Falola and Tyler Fleming of the Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, USA, writing in AFRICAN CIVILIZATIONS: FROM THE PRE-COLONIAL TO THE MODERN DAY, says:

Though people have lived in Africa quite some time… Iron tools enhanced weaponry, allowed groups to clear and manage dense forests, plow fields for farming, and basically better everyday lives. Ultimately, iron tools allowed Africans to flourish in every environment, and thus they could live in larger communities which led to the formation of states and kingdoms. With state formation came the formation of modern civilizations with common languages, belief and value systems, art, religion, lifestyle and culture

They go on to say that:

Later European explorers and settlers often argued that territories were unsettled upon their arrival and thus were ripe for the taking, but these assumptions were misguided. Often land had been abandoned due to poor soil quality, infrequent rainfall, or had been claimed for future use

No matter how people frame these spineless arguments that portray pre-colonial Africans as having been in need of a white saviour, Africans had their own way of life which was derived of African innovations. The unfortunate thing is that we shall never know what life in Africa could have been without the slave trade and colonialism. Having said that, pre-colonial communities were never completely isolated,and there was interaction between states and with outsiders including the Middle East, India, the Chinese and Europeans. Thus, there are credible grounds to suggest that exchange of ideas on a purely economic relationship (as opposed to coloniser and colonized), relationships in which African truly benefitted, would have ultimately led to a level of development comparable if not superior to those witnessed in other parts of the world.

It needs to be noted that when colonialists came to Africa, they found a continent that was rich in both resources and culture. Africa was home to kingdoms, chiefdoms and previously had housed some of the most intriguing empires which were built using a sophisticated craftmanship previously unknown to Europeans.

But somewhere along the way theories were cooked up which concluded that Black African lives were inferior to White lives. In the absence of written African accounts (many of which were purposely destroyed) that disproved this thesis, such ideas, peddled about by racists such as Arthur de Gobineau and Georges Vacher de Lapouge then spawned the belief that it was in the best interests of Africans that Westerners erase their way of life, whether they liked it or not because the African could not comprehend what was right or wrong for him/her. According to such supremacist theories – which were driven more by propaganda that needed to find an excuse to use in the dispossession of the African, and were devoid of any truthful and verifiable science –  the African needed ‘help’ from a superior being: the white man.

No matter how anyone tries to frame these argument, the fact remains that when the Europeans first arrived, Africans were not lacking. And while they may not have had certain ‘luxuries’, most parts of Africa were stable, had capable people who were content with their lives.

There were diseases (e.g. malaria and dysentery), just like everywhere with such warm climates, and the usual tribal conflicts, but at no point were Europeans asked for their ‘civilization’ to be transplanted to Africa. Put simply, it was forced upon them.

So, its absurd to suggest that colonialism despite its barbarism, needs to be applauded for it ‘civilised’ the savages of Africa.

What people who push that argument seem to forget is that most of the so-called savagery in Africa at that time was fermented because of the transatlantic slave trade which pitted one African tribe against each other. For example in East Africa, before the Arabs came in search of slave labour, the various tribes that inhabited the area were either subsistence farmers or practicing animal husbandry. Society was orderly, and discipline was observed. (Here i must say that the ‘savagery’ painted on Africans at the time doesn’t come anywhere near to the level of savagery by Europeans in the middle ages – from religious persecution to wars of conquest in which thousands were massacred). 

It is this sense of entitlement on the part of Europeans and Americans that has lived on up to this day, that still fuels western countries to meddle in the domestic affairs of other countries, even when they wouldn’t have others meddle in the internal affairs of their own countries. Because some of them are raised to think they are more important than anybody else; that the world owes them resources, wealth, happiness, and it doesn’t matter what or who is in their way; that others who have better things must be dispossessed; that others cannot enjoy their own resources without interference. Jealousy and Greed. This kind of mindset still remains, as Rhodes said,

I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.

And that is just so sad.

This imperialist kind of thinking is what explains Western countries aiding dodgy rebels to kill Gaddafi, in a country that was more prosperous than any other country in Africa. It is what causes them to back fascist militia to oust an elected government in Ukraine…

Remember what happened to Morsi?…. how a shady military general who is ex-CIA was entertained into pushing out an elected leader in Egypt…

The Syrian conflict and 200,000 people who have died as a result. Iraq and the over one million people who have died as a result…

Gaddafi, Morsi and others were no saints (and yes Morsi was incompetent), but as I’ve argued on this blog before, Gaddafi’s Libya was a hundredfold better than the current Libya, which is ruled by a thousand different murderous militias, causing mindless carnage that is destroying the last vestiges of African prosperity. Many Libyans today openly regret what has become of their country. And the sad thing is western countries can’t fix the mess they helped create.

So, as an African who lives in a country that was a former colony (to which colonisation deprived access to sea – leading to a perpetual volatile economy, and a never ending high cost of living), I’m deeply offended and find it appalling when some fools still think Cecil Rhodes should have a place in African history. I think that decision is for Southern Africans to make and if they deem him to be a villain not a hero, then it should be so – at which point some of us will gladly applaud.

In the same manner that most Africans accept that Adolf Hitler was a murderer, a pillager and conqueror, is the same way the Europeans should accept the view of some Africans on Cecil Rhodes. Having a statue of Rhodes at UCT is abhorrent in all types of rationality, because it was only about 110 years ago that an infestation of men like him masqueraded as angels across the African landscape when in fact they were on a mission of exploitation and pillage. Plundering Africans and their natural wealth: a theft that has clearly benefited the West up until the present time, and whose negative effects are there on African soil, visible for all to see.

I therefore believe that the towering statue of Cecil Rhodes should be pulled down at UCT because it is a constant reminder of colonialism and white superiority. Unlike the pulling down of Saddam Hussein’s statue in 2003… or unlike the pulling down of Lenin’s statues in former soviet republics after the fall of the USSR ( the fall of whose reigns were fingered by foreigners) I think it is time that Africans get to decide on what pages of history they want to write for themselves, and to remember – whether such is accompanied by ‘faeces flinging’ or not, without any foreign interference. And I’ll tell you why: because for years we have been brainwashed with the ‘heroic’ deeds of such charlatans who did nothing for us of any real value. If anything, accepting Cecil Rhodes as a hero is accepting and validating white superiority which once thought African cultures had no place in the world. It’s a bit like trying to convince Iraqis to erect a statue in honour of George Bush and Tony Blair, the two politicians who in recent years have done the most to destroy any hope of peace, security, prosperity and normality for ordinary Iraqis. Glorifying Cecil Rhodes and people like him is tantamount to accepting Slavery and Apartheid.

Slavery…dishonors labor; it introduces idleness into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress. It enervates the powers of the mind and benumbs the activity of man. – Alexis de Tocqueville

For the enlightened African, Cecil Rhodes is a pillager, murderer  and a bigot who may have made wealth for some countries in Europe, but is partly responsible for the poverty, sickness, corruption, hegemony and human suffering that we see across Africa today. He has no place in our societies that are striving for love, equality, peace and prosperity for all (irrespective of gender, colour, nationality or race).

So then…Kwa wenyewe! Ngokwabo! Pawokha! Nipa ara wọn! Da kansu!

Edited: S Nkhwazi

Missionary or Mercenary [Part 2]: The circus of the Arab Slave Master

arab-slave-master

David Livingstone famously proclaimed of the East African slave trade,“Satan has his Seat,”.

Here bubbled the sadistic orgy of the Sultans, Arab slave masters, tribal chief accomplices and other adventurers who carved a luxurious life created on the back of spices, fabrics and other commodities but whose main valuable commodity were slaves. Below is a map via filipspagnoli.wordpress.com that shows the main slave routes of the slave trade:-

slave_trade_map

It is said that the Arabs traded more slaves than the West ever did. That their notoriety transcended color, ethnicity, or religion and affected both Arabs and non-arabs. According to one source, Muslims in Uganda even went as far as forming a political party:

“…Henry Stanley [British explorer and Journalist] wrote a letter to Britain appealing for Christian missionaries to be sent to Buganda. This received an immediate response, with generous financial donations pouring into the coffers of the Anglican missionaries of the Church Missionary Society who arrived in Uganda in 1877 as the first group of Christian missionaries. Two years later they were followed by the Catholic White Fathers lead by Father Lourdel who was called by the Bagandans ‘mapera’. But the separate Protestant and Catholic missionary efforts sadly set the stage for some of the religious conflicts to come. … When Kabaka Mutesa died in 1884, his son Mwanga was a volatile head-strong teenager who took the throne just as the complex religious rivalries in Buganda were building to a climax. Things were getting out of control. The Muslims, Catholics and Protestants had turned themselves into incipient political parties and were competing for political influences around the royal family and the court noblemen. “

According to Bernard Lewis in Race and Slavery in the Middle East, chapter 1 of which is printed here by the Fordham University, when in 1757 a new sultan, Sidi Muhammad Ill, came to the throne in Morocco:-

He decided to disband the black troops and rely instead on Arabs. With a promise of royal favor, he induced the blacks to come to Larache with their families and worldly possessions. There he had them surrounded by Arab tribesmen, to whom he gave their possessions as booty and the black soldiers, their wives, and their children as slaves. “I make you a gift,” he said, “of these ‘abid, of their children, their horses, their weapons, and all they possess. Share them among you.”

Over a hundred years later, and when the reigning Sultan himself happened to be a slave master, different dynamics were at play:

“…The Moors were by no means indifferent spectators  of their Sultan’s friendship with Europeans. They saw that these foreign advisers were likely to do  much harm to himself and his country, and on that account he soon lost the confidence of the natives, who showed their wrath against the Christians by murdering a missionary, Mr. Cooper; …The natives did not object to Christians as such; what they objected to was to see around the Sultan adventurers who were more inclined  to ruin the country than to raise it from its present degradation…”

wrote Donald Mackenzie in THE KHALIFATE OF THE WEST. Mackenzie was the founder of the British Settlement at Cape Judy and Special Commissioner for the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society for Zanzibar, East Africa, and the Red Sea. The latter organisation sprang from efforts of the likes of William Wilberforce  and Thomas Buxton (who himself was a founding member)

In a report (Report on Special Mission to Zanzibar and Pemba) published in the Manchester Guardian on August 3, 1895, Donald Mackenzie chronicles his fact-finding journey across East Africa while on commission by the Anti-slavery Society:

1. He encounters numerous Arab owned prisons of heavily chained slaves at Chaki Chaki, in Pemba. At Shamba, while visiting a plantation belonging to a Mr Cotoni, a Frenchman who had died a few years ago, he finds 100 slaves who were part of a group of 150, 50 of whom have since died
2. At Kishi Kasha, Mr Mackenzie befriends Sheikh Mohamed ben Jema ben Ali who tells him that he owns 500 slaves. Mackenzie thinks the number is more like 1000. In a valley nearby, large numbers of slaves were working in the fields. The women ran away when they saw him coming…he says

we observed them in the distance peeping behind the trees. Probably they had not seen a white man before

The Arab slave owner tells him that some of the slaves live up to the age of 70 and that mortality rate was not high, unless an epidemic striked. He notes that some Slave masters sell their slaves to traders from the Congo who sell them off to the Americas.

3. In another part of the country, he is told that sometimes the slave masters beat the slaves to death to strike terror into the minds of the others [a tactic commonly used both in Australia and Jamaica] – that the punishment of the slaves was to the masters own discretion, with no check of any sort on the part of the authorities..“and as they are all slaveholders, from the authorities downwards, they would play within each others hands.”
4. On the island of Pemba he describes the aboriginals (Wa Pemba) as slave traders who like the Arabs sell slaves and are equally cruel. He suspects that the Arabs give a bad name to Pemba to discourage westerners going there. He concludes that the presence of an English Vice Consul would go some way to keep a check to the trade and the cruelty inflicted on the slaves by their masters.
5. Next, he describes the plight of women in Pemba :

“They mix mortar, carry loads of sand, stone, or any other material, and , if hired out, they have to pay all they receive to their Arab Masters who live luxuriously on the hard earnings of these poor women.”
6 In Zanzibar he met commissioner Johnston, of Nyasaland, who “expressed his horror of the whole business and his determination to use every means in his power to put it down within the sphere of influence.”

The most striking thing though is a statement made by a Mr Pigott, who is described as an administrator of I.B.E.A, who he meets in Mombasa. Mr Pigott tells Mr Mackenzie that he has liberated many slaves but the result was unsatisfactory as they would not work. Mackenzie writes that:

“He (Pigott) was opposed to the abolition of slavery, as the slaves seemed to be perfectly happy, and, in his opinion, they seemed only fit for bondage….Mr Pigott assured me that many missionaries were of his way of thinking, and from what I heard, some of his assertions were correct, as to their (the missionaries) opinion.”

So, it seems there were quite a considerable number of missionaries who thought the natives were only good for bondage. Which probably suggests that there was in fact a well documented unwillingness to work or ‘laziness’ amongst the natives??

7. He suggests that if former “treaties and decrees [I assume this means between Imperial subjects and the Arab slave traders or tribal chiefs] had been carried out slavery would not be found in Pemba or Zanzibar“. Mackenzie categorises the slaves into 3 main groups:

(i) domestic slaves

(ii) plantation or field slaves

(iii) labourers in port towns

“The various occupations of all these different kinds of slaves is called ‘free labour’ – quite a misleading name made to suit European ears, – the only difference being that all British subjects deal with slaves direct, and not with their master [the Arab Slave masters], or they may hire from a contractor [Gosh, there were even contractors!!!] who need not necessarily be a slave-holder, but who knows where to get them. Payment is made to the slaves direct, who in turn hand to their masters half the earnings; with the other half they have to buy their own food and clothes…they have to march 12 miles a day … these slave porters are the only means of transport for our government, for missionaries and merchants between the interior of Africa and the coast. If any of them are taken ill they are left by the pathside to die, their loads are distributed among the others, and the caravan proceeds on its march without any further notice being taken of those who drop by the way. The mortality amongst them was given to me on the very highest authority at 30 percent – a terrible loss of human life. One traveller went into the interior [of Africa] a few years ago with 450 men, and he came back with only 190..

8. On the importation of slaves he says : “I am of the opinion that some 6000 slaves are imported yearly into Zanzibar and Pemba from the mainland of Africa…” he notes that “according to the report of the Select Committee on the East African Slave Trade presented to Parliament  in 1871, the export from the main land into Zanzibar and the Arabian coast amounted to upwards of 20,000 slaves per annum….The sultan is the biggest slave owner with 30,000 slaves”

Among the trading partners of the Arabs were the Ajawa (Yawo/ Yao). So unscrupulous were they that at one time, it is said that they even attacked David Livingstone.

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According to this source by Shirley Madany ,

“many Africans may be unaware of the fact that Islamic traders carried on a steady slave trade from East African ports for many centuries.”

and that according to an early ninth century geographer Ibn Kurradadhbeh, there were Jewish merchants from the south of France ‘who speak Arabic, Persian, Greek, Frankish, Spanish, and Slavonic. They travel from west to east and east to west, by land and sea. From the west they bring eunuchs, slave girls and boys, brocade, beaver skins, sable and other furs, and swords’. However, more interestingly, she poses an interesting question: If the Arabs were active participants of the slave trade, why does the Arab world have no corresponding Black population as is found in the New World?:

‘One reason is obviously the high population of eunuchs among Black males entering the Islamic lands. Another is the high death rate and low birth rate among Black slaves in North Africa and the Middle East. In about 1810, Louis Frank observed in Tunisia that most Black children died in infancy and that infinitesimally few reached the age of manhood. A British observer in Egypt, some thirty years later, found conditions even worse. He said, ‘I have heard it estimated that five or six years are sufficient to carry off a generation of slaves, at the end of which time the whole has to be replenished’.

Looking at some of the materials I have been ruffling through, I can’t help thinking that in the late 19th century and early 20th century (which was hundreds of years into the Slave Trade – and by then the British public’s view on it had changed), actually it may be the case that Britain HAD to colonise Southern Africa to have any chance of freeing it from Slavery most perpetrated by the Arabs (and others) because even after the abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807 within the British Empire, slavery itself lingered in most parts of Africa. The British even went as far as appointing a Special Anti-Slavery Commissioner for East Africa.

This view is largely confirmed by Wallace G Mills, who in Christian Missions and their Impact writes about the situation in South Africa:

“.. many of the early missionaries were prepared to take political action on behalf of indigenous people they believed to be treated unjustly. This became a matter of debate among missionaries even in the same mission society as some felt that certain missionaries became too involved politically …on the first, they tried to remonstrate with and affect policies of the colonial government in Cape Town. When that failed, they took their appeals and activities to Britain, enlisting the so-called ‘philanthropic’ pressure groups (anti-slavery groups, aborigines protection societies and mission societies) on their side…on the second, they tried to reduce conflict and disunity within indigenous society as mediators and advisors; also, they assisted African leaders in negotiations with gov’t in Cape Town (especially to get the latter to restrain and control the whites who were pressing in search of new land)….later, after the Great Trek, missionaries began to switch in their goals. Threatened by trekboer pressures, missionaries felt that control by the imperial gov’t was the least evil option

What is more disturbing though are reports that Arab led slavery still persists up to this day. According to an article by Samuel Cotton titled “Silent Terror: A Journey into Contemporary African Slavery “:

…In the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, black Africans continue to be enslaved by their Arab-Berber masters. Although slavery was declared abolished three times since Mauritania’s independence in 1960, it persists. Slaves are given as wedding gifts, traded for camels, guns or trucks, and inherited. The children of slaves belong to the master and slaves who displease their masters or attempt escapes are tortured in the most brutal manner imaginable.

In Sudan, Africa’s largest country, the Islamic Republic of the Sudan, as a result of an Islamic-vs.-Christian civil war, black women and children (mostly Christian) are captured in raids on their villages and sold as chattel slaves, sometimes, according to the UN in “modern-day slave markets.”

He goes on to quote  an executive of American Anti-slavery Group who says:
“Black Africans in Mauritania were converted to Islam more than 100 years ago,”  [and]. . .”the Koran forbids the enslavement of fellow Muslims, but in this country race outranks religious doctrine. . . Though they are Muslims, these people are chattel: used for labor, sex and breeding.”

Obviously, exploring such a diverse and somewhat multi-faceted subject can be tricky without heading off in tangents in terms of providing a sober + concise summary from the haystack of references. But somehow, after browsing through all these sources, I’m beginning to realise why I’m not entirely surprised with what is currently happening in Mali.

Other references:

The Arab Muslim Slave Trade of Africans