Recolonization Is No Solution to Africa's Real ProblemsI...

SATURDAY MAIL BOX

July 09, 1994

Recolonization Is No Solution to Africa's Real Problems

I must respond to William Pfaff's column "Africa's Dilemma" (Opinion * Commentary, June 23).

The real problem in Africa today is not a lack of an educated professional middle class. Most African countries have more masters and doctorates in the social and physical sciences than their economies can absorb.

Most have more qualified citizens driving taxi cabs and laboring in the cities of developed countries than are needed to develop Africa. Most are being destroyed not by the ignorant military stereotype of an Idi Amin but by a highly educated elite, who facilitate the tyranny and wholesale governmental corruption that typify most African governments.

Their motive is personal enrichment. The luxury cars and lavish homes in the cities of Africa's poorest countries amply testify to howsuccessful they are at this.

These men are not different from the African chiefs who sold Africans into slavery for tobacco and rum 500 years ago. They are today's slave traders.

The inhumanity of slavery and the inhumanity of the war-torn, drought-stricken plains of Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, of the genocide in Rwanda, of the devastation in Liberia are basically the same phenomenon. They all happen because of the greed and the insatiable lust for power of very ruthless men.

Well-meaning, ill-informed or simply miseducated experts compound the problem with the misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatments. Such experts abound in the development agencies of the United Nations and the World Bank. You just have to look at the long legacy of failed programs spanning four decades, and amounting to billions, to know that there is something very wrong with their methods.

It is no secret that Western aid in Africa was more a weapon of the Cold War, wielded to combat the spread of communist influences, than a tool of development.

The primary intention was control and influence of African leaders, and any development was merely incidental. That is why countries like the United States, in spite of their unending rhetoric on human rights, have traditionally supported the worst tyrants in Africa.

The failure of democracy in Africa is not due to the absence of a political middle class. Whatever exists of this class is the primary culprit in the destruction of Africa today.

Democracy failed because it was abruptly introduced into former colonies in which the political structure by which they were administered was necessarily tyrannical, exploitative and perpetuated by violent means. African leaders who inherited this legacy merely continued the usurpation and exploitation, with the moral and material support of the superpowers competing for influence.

The tribal differences that colonial powers exploited to divide and rule Africa are still being exploited by African leaders today. Replacing a European tyrant with an African tyrant in countries ,, that have structurally been conditioned to facilitate tyranny and exploitation by over 200 years of domination by Europe is the reality of Africa's independence.

These are some of the real reasons behind the seeming hopelessness in Africa. Any suggestion that Africa lacks the capacity to develop itself is absurd and dangerously approaches the realms of racism.

The ill-conceived notion of recolonizing Africa for its own good evokes frightening images of slave masters who indulged in the belief that Africans were better off in slavery than in freedom.

While proponents of such dangerous ideas may honestly believe in them, and assuming their intentions are benign, encroaching on any people's right to self-determination is a prior presumption of superiority.

If a country like America, the obvious leader in the developed world, is so adept at " . . . allocating resources for the development of civil society," why then can it not fix the problems in the ghettos of its cities?

By all indications, various Third World conditions persist in America's inner cities, where infant mortality rates, life expectancy, literacy, crime, violence and prison population indexes approximate those of the Third World.

If the developed world really wants to help Africa develop, it must stop supplying arms to Africa's terrorist leaders.

It must stop protecting the looted wealth of Africa's politicians. It must stop harboring fugitive tyrants. It must stop condoning crimes against Africans.

If the world imposed sanctions against South Africa because of injustices against its African population, then it must do the same against any other African country guilty of the same injustices.

Africans are fully capable of fixing their own problems. But we will never have the chance to prove it if the world continues to arm our rulers against us.

Michael Foray

Baltimore

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