THE MUTUMWA MAWERE COLUMN
Now that the entire continent is liberated, it is incumbent upon every African to reflect on whether in fact the continent has moved along the trajectory that its liberators and citizens intended it to move. Any farmer that sows a seed only does so in anticipation of a harvest leading us to question the nature and content of the African harvest.
The nationalist struggle was spurred by a desire to assert the rights of the majority in determining their political and economic destiny informed by a democratic constitutional order. Democracy’s universal character is that those who exercise political authority in society must do so with the explicit consent and genuine mandate expressed at regular intervals by the governed in an open, free and fair electoral process.
The colonial state was founded on the premise that natives were uncivilised and, therefore, would need to be civilised before they could make their own independent and sovereign choices.
The architects of the national democratic revolution can be likened to farmers who had the task to transform a seed into a crop. The success or failure of any farmer is reflected not on how much he sweats but on the quality of the crop harvested.
The civil rights movement was informed by the frustrations experienced by African farmers who were alienated from their land and graduates or products of the colonial system i.e. African intellectuals who were denied access to privilege on race-based grounds. Democracy was the rallying cry of all nationalists and yet 50 years later many Africans are asking whether the harvest was worth the effort.
Colonialism was at its core an economic project motivated less by an interest in empowering natives to make their own choices but in spreading a Eurocentric civilisation and way of life. The colonial architects sought to make Africa a little Europe and this was achieved.
It was clear from the outset that democracy as described above was incompatible with colonialism and in fact it was argued that the natives had no interest in being part of a system whose values and norms were foreign. Many settlers observed that natives did not have the institutional framework to inform any democratic order making it expensive to create a government in which people with no vested interests in a progressive society are given a say.
It was argued that if someone has no say it is counter productive to give him a say because he will not exercise his purported right. Accordingly, the decolonisation project was inspired by revolutionaries who argued that democracy should underpin any progressive constitutional order and citizens are endowed with inalienable rights that can never be compromised by their social or economic status. In other words, a rich person has the same vote as a poor person.
With that construction, independence brought with it black hope and white fear. Blacks were expecting a bumper harvest and whites were expecting a bitter harvest.
However, the status of blacks and whites in Africa after 50 years of uhuru confirms that black hopes have not been realised in as much as white fear has also not been realised making any rational African to begin to ask what mind informed the decolonisation project. Was it about the right to vote? Was it about musical chairs i.e. replacing a white oppressor with a more lethal black oppressor? Was it about elevating the standard of living of the majority? What was the struggle all about?
If the struggle was about asserting the right of the majority to determine their destinies through a democratic system, then no-one can argue that the majority of Africans in 2007 boast of such a right. Equally if the struggle was about democratising the economic space, then surely it is evident that less was achieved on this front than expected. The colonial system was good to its promoters and sponsors and the post colonial system seems to have been a good project to a few and not the majority as anticipated.
Bitter refers to an emotion similar to resentment. Many Africans are bitter and rightly so that they were misled by a few that the national democratic revolution was about their collective interests and yet in reality the majority were used as pawns to legitimise tyranny.
In many African states, institutions exist to regulate competition – many known as Competition Commissions -- and yet in the political sphere the process is monopolised by a few with no checks and balances in place to ensure that any citizen who wants to be a President is afforded the opportunity to do so without being intimidated or being asked for a college certificate or a title deed as was expected in a colonial state.
Yes we have the right to vote and yet exercising such a right has its own perils in Africa. Many Africans have lost hope in the power of the vote to change governments they don’t like. The colonial administrations had argued that only responsible governments would advance the interests of Africa and we thought otherwise, naively expecting better things from the post-colonial experience.
African resources are still being harvested by non-Africans. African decisions where it matters i.e. the economy, are still made outside Africa and yet we seem to have no plan to nurture our own seed to fruition and harvest.
In conclusion, we need a new paradigm informed by strategies and tactics of a wise farmer. A bitter harvest is only possible because Africa’s liberators lacked the maturity and the mind of a good farmer. You can never expect to have an outcome that you have not invested in.
How many of us have invested in a working and functional Africa? Any harvest is a function of effort, resources and management. The colonialists were not many but they behaved like good farmers and managed to make Africa a home from home with enduring legacies. We now know better and can do better.
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