The African condition: Of Imperialists, tyrants and puppets

Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana

Chief among the many challenges that confront the African continent are three evils that African thinkers and intellectuals must urgently find durable solutions to—The vicious scramble for Africa’s oil, diamonds and other rich pickings by Western countries and corporations, venal genocidal tyrants who maim and kill civilians to remain in power and treacherous political puppets  who are bent on auctioning the freedom and sovereignty of Africa back to former colonial powers under the guise of ushering in human rights and democracy.

The year 2011 saw a spectacular manifestation of these enduring evils across the troubled continent of Africa. The gruesome murder of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddaffy, the violent overthrow of Ivorian dictator Laurent Gbagbo, the humiliating downfall of arrogant Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak and the continuing violence menace of Zimbabwean genocidal tyrant Robert Mugabe are but some of the happenings of the past year that are strongly cinematic of the triple evils of imperialism, tyranny and political puppetry that punctuate the unfortunate political and economic condition of Africa. As these three prominent evils escalate, the ordinary people of Africa continue to sink deeper into the dark mire of poverty, disease and pestilence, throwing a stubborn challenge before African thinkers and progressive leaders who must produce fresh insights and inspire strategies to navigate the continent out of the three legged dilemma.

As Libyan rebel forces that included Alqaeda fighters, backed by NATO gunships and snipers closed in on Gaddaffy, two African presidents had a fierce public argument on the now late African political maverick. Paul Kagame of Rwanda charged that Gaddaffy “had to be stopped” because he was not only a tyrant but also a sponsor of other despots across the continent. With volcanic vehemence, Museveni of Uganda opined that Gaddaffy was a gallant Africanist whose resistance to Western imperialism was legendary and therefore he deserved survival. In a way both leaders has a point, but, as I write, Libya is being ruled by a loose coalition whose loyalty and political puppetry to Western countries is blindingly obvious. Presently, millions of oil barrels are being siphoned away from below the feet of deserving Libyans to Western capitals, for next to nothing. Again tyranny, imperialism and puppetry have left the Africans in Libya the poorer.

In Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo who refused to hand over power after losing a presidential election to Alassane Outtara was violently removed and arrested by forces loyal to Outtara, backed by many French special forces equipped with tankers and stealth helicopters. No one can win a prize for guessing that even after replacing a cruel tyrant, Outtara rules over Ivorians as a proxy of the French, former colonisers of Ivory Coast. Poor Ivorians have been removed by a French puppet from the pan of tyranny and delivered back to the fire of imperialism.

Even after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, political chaos, corruption and unemployment which sparked the uprising in Egypt in the first place, continue escalating, even as the deposed tyrant goes on trial for crimes against humanity and graft. While the ruling guard has changed, life remains a nightmare for ordinary Egyptians who continue to suffer poverty, disease, pestilence and the scarcity of political freedoms. The human rights and democracy that the leaders of the uprising promised remain a pipe dream and a remote possibility.

Aging and ailing Zimbabwean genocidal tyrant Robert Mugabe is preparing for another presidential electoral showdown against his British financed and advised rival Morgan Tsvangirai this year. Tsvangirai’s support from Britain was publicly confirmed by the then foreign secretary David Miliband in 2010 who went on international TV to announce Britain’s backing of the MDCT party that is widely understood to be a puppet organisation that seeks to restore British control of Zimbabwe. What ordinary Zimbabweans will reap from the impending elections is clearly more scars, dead bodies and disappointment as once again a violent tyrant battles against a massively financed Western puppet who is bound, if he wins, to smuggle back British imperial interests into the economic and political affairs of Zimbabwe

The long suffering and heroic people who fought and defeated British colonialism now find themselves in the unenviable position where they have to stick with a genocidist geriatric who has sent more than 40 000 innocent civilians to their graves for political gain or choose a decorated puppet who is a front for British political and economic agendas in Zimbabwe. The political parties that stand for the interests of Zimbabweans remain under-funded and ignored by the media while Mugabe and his Zanu Pf fleece Zimbabwe’s diamond wealth to fund their partisan activities at the expense of the schools and hospitals that are in a deplorable state of disrepair.

In a shockingly revealing book, Cry Havoc, self confessed British dog of war and soldier of fortune, Simon Mann narrates in brutal candour how a former British Prime Minister in league with the CIA and some international oil barons funded him and other mercenaries to violently dethrone Obiang Nguema, dictatorial ruler of the oil rich Equatorial Guinea. In the coup that was foiled in 2004, Nguema was to be replaced with Severo Moto, a puppet who had already signed contracts to confirm how he was to allow the mercenaries, international oil barons and Western countries to access oil concessions and other rich business deals in Guinea. The human rights and democratic interests of the poor people of Guinea were not an issue at all but oil for Western expansionists, oil corporations and mercenaries.

Former ANC official and veteran Journalist Andrew Feinstein in his recently published valuable book, The Shadow World: Inside the global arms trade, reveals how Western arms merchants in pursuit of mega profits sponsor wars, from the invasion of Iraqi to the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The cunning gun runners even supply weapons to both sides of the warring groups to maximise their profits while they ignore international regulations and embargoes on the sale of weapons. In this cruel business, African civil wars become a fertile opportunity for testing newly manufactured weapons to measure their suitability and value.

Clearly, the long suffering people of Africa are at the mercy of enduring Western imperialism, caught in between the rock of tyranny and the hard place of treacherous puppetry. This is the stubborn challenge that stands before Africanist thinkers and strategists who must urgently generate ideas and novel visions that will help recover Africa from the triple evils. A new generation of African leaders who love and fear the people must arise and stand on the shoulders of legends like Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel and Thomas Sankara to rescue Africans from imperialist, tyrannical and treacherous forces.

Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Zimbabwean writer who is based in Lesotho.

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