Brazil Discourses -- Africa, the state, genocide and the Future
Text of 10 lectures on Africa delivered between 13 June and 10 July 2009 at the following universities in Brazil: Universidade Federal da Bahia, Salvador, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Universidade Federal de Sergipe, Aracaju, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro and Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Campinas, São Paulo. I wish to thank Alyxandra Gomes Nunes of the Universidade Federal da Bahia, Salvador, for her excellent planning and coordination of the lecture tour and to Professors Paula Barreto, Eliane Veras Soares, Claudio Pereira, Antonio Mota, Walteir Silva, Hypolite Brice, Luiz Eduardo Oliveira, Marie Teresa Salgado, César Nunes, Fábio Akcelrud Durão, Jose Augusto Alburquerque and Jamie Ginzburg for their stimulating contributions and exchanges during the lively post-lecture question & discussion sessions and for creating the enabling environment in their various universities which made the tour such a resounding intellectual success. To you all, I say, “Obrigado. Tchau!” All notes and references are in the original – HE-E]
Arms, arming, armies and armed conflicts as well as a deleterious political economy characterise the tragedy of contemporary Africa. With 10 major ongoing-armed conflicts, including the genocide in Darfur being perpetrated by the Arab-led state in the Sudan, Africa has more wars raging on its territory than any other continent in the world. Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, more than 120 wars have been fought in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America/the Caribbean resulting in the death of 40 million people. This figure represents about 80 per cent of the total number of those killed during the Second World War. Of these 40 million fatalities, well over one-third or 15 million are Africans, killed in the genocidal murders and other so-called “internal-based” wars that have been fought across Africa since the 1960s – notably the 1966-1970 Igbo genocide executed by the Nigeria state and its allies, the foundational and most gruesome genocide in Africa to date where 3.1 million Igbo people were murdered, the 1996 Rwanda genocide, the ongoing Darfur genocide, and the wars in the Congos (Congo Democratic Republic, Republic of Congo), Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Senegal (southern Casamance province), Liberia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Guinea Bissau, southern Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire. Elsewhere, the war theatre fatalities of the period that complete the grisly tally of 15 million occurred in the following countries where Africans waged wars against occupying European conquest regimes: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya and Angola. Presently, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, the Congos, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Angola, Central Africa Republic, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea are still ravaged by simmering conflict or the aftermath of one, and the spill-over consequences on contiguous states and regions have been devastating. The displacement of millions of people and the prevailing extensive food shortages and desperate famine conditions in west, central, east and southern Africa that affect 38 million people have indeed been exacerbated by these varied war and post-war situations.
In essence, the state in Africa that emerged on the morrow of the late 1950s/early 1960s’ “termination” of direct European conquest occupation of the continent demonstrates a glaring inability to fulfil its basic role. This state does not provide security and welfare nor does it enable the growth and _expression of society’s transformative capacities. It is virtually at war with its peoples, having murdered 15 million since 1966 as we have highlighted. The typical African state, 53 years after the so-called “restoration of independence”, is essentially a genocide-state.
Currently, Africa has the world's largest number of refugees displaced by wars – a total of 15 million or just short of one-half of the world's total of 38 million that includes the Middle East, South-West Asia and South-East Asia. As can be imagined, the effect of these wars on the African family and the community at large has been profoundly tragic – bereavement, separation, disorganisation, displacement. Life in a refugee camp that could be miles away from one's village, town, province, district or region in another part of the country (or even in a foreign land) with a missing mother or father or daughter or son, has taken a heavy toll on Africa's legendary family cohesiveness. The effect on children is particularly grave and the ever contentious questions increasingly posed in several intellectual circles on the survivability of the African family life in its present form can no longer be shrugged off. As casualties on the war front mount inexorably, the recruitment of children from refugee camps and elsewhere into the military intensifies. Africa has the highest concentration of child-soldiers (boys and girls) presently. Of the 120,000 children fighting in the world’s wars, 80,000 or two-thirds of the total are Africans – actively involved in the continent's major conflicts in the east, central and west regions.
Economies and Indebtedness
The economics of Africa's arms, arming and armed conflicts, as should be expected, have had a strangulating effect on the continent's resources. The variegated features of African militarisation and wars have been very costly, creating crippling indebtedness. These constitute US$170 billion or about a 40 per cent share of Africa's total so-called “external debt” that currently stands at US$350 billion. Africa's annual servicing of these “debts”, with ever spiralling interest rates on them, has ensured that the continent has been a net exporter of capital to overseas, mostly to the Western World, since 1981. During the period, Africa transferred the gargantuan amount of US$400 billion to the West – a sum which is in fact four times the size of the original US$100 billion principal of the continent's “debt” as it stood in 1980, and in excess of the present value of US$350 billion. The militarisation component of African “indebtedness” will surely continue to rise as more resources than ever before are allocated to this across the continent. In the era of the virtual collapse of the so-called African “nation-state”, it is not as ironical as it may seem that the only sector of the state's economic activity with the rest of the world that has retained an unrivalled dynamism is its arms, arming, genocide, conflict and war capability. Africa as a whole now spends 25 per cent of its GNP (Gross National Product) on militarisation and wars while it allocates a paltry 2.4 per cent of its GNP to education – despite the general collapse of the continent's educational infrastructure at all tiers – and 2.1 per cent of its GNP to health, despite the HIV/AIDs pandemic that afflicts millions of its people and other equally debilitating maladies. It should be stressed that this stated expenditure on militarisation is highly conservative as it does not account for the usual “military/security-oriented” funds that many a regime in Africa surreptitiously lodges in the budget of the Office of the President or those of the Ministry of Public Works or Ministry of Reconstruction and Planning or some other quaint-sounding government department of dubious tasks. Neither does this expenditure fully account for those that emanate from quasi-state operatives (for instance, the notorious Sudanese janjaweed) the non-state/anti-state insurgent organisations and their constituencies that sprout up here and there as this emergency deteriorates. In countries and regions with multi-sectoral sites of ongoing wars (Côte d'Ivoire/central West Africa, Chad, the Congos/Great Lakes, the Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria), quasi-state and non-state/anti-state insurgent groups now compete actively in Africa's arms build-up and proliferation. In effect, Africa's expenditure on militarisation and wars is closer to one-third of its GNP than the 20 per cent stated above. What is therefore certain is that until there is a dramatic de-escalation of this grim crisis, the ratio of both Africa's annual militarisation budgetary provision vis-à-vis the rest of the economy, and the share of this provision to the continent's overall “debt” budget, will continue to expand.
Fuelling Killing Fields
Besides South Africa and Egypt and the very limited arms production base in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Morocco, Africa does not, in the main, produce the array of weaponry that fuels the killing fields that stretch across the continent. The United States and Britain are Africa's principal suppliers of weapons and the impact of their roles here need highlighting. Both countries make up 70 per cent of Africa's total imports while Russia, France, China, Germany and Belgium account for 20 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent are made up of the so-called “illegal weapons”, most of which are imported from east and central Europe. If US arms sales and transfers to Egypt and Morocco could be ignored for now (transactions that are more related to the US's Middle-East strategic considerations than Africa itself), Britain is in fact the leading arms exporter to Africa. In 1999 alone, Britain sold US$80 million worth of arms to Africa which represented about one-third of all US sales to the continent (Egypt and Morocco excluded) in the entire 1990s decade. In this first decade of the new millennium, British military sales to Africa have leapt to an average of US$180 million per annum or about 80 per cent of US's total military exports to the region (Egypt and Morocco again excluded) in the previous decade.
British arms exporters were the leading beneficiaries of the billions of dollars that Nigeria, to use the example of the country in Africa that inaugurated the genocide state in 1966, spent on arms and other “state security-related” imports during the 16 years of the appalling military dictatorships of Generals Buhari, Babangida, Abacha and Abubakar. At the time, budgetary allocations to the Nigerian military and other paraphernalia of the juntas' repressive apparatus averaged US$2 billion per annum with Britain enjoying 60-70 per cent of all imports. The dictatorships were therefore fully equipped to pursue their notorious state of siege on the populations with such devastating consequences: a run-down economy, the murder of scores of political opponents, the detention of several others, the catastrophic military interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone which cost the country US$13 billion and thousands of casualties (never acknowledged officially by any of the latter three military regimes that were involved in the intervention nor indeed the so-called two “civilian” successor regimes), and the flight of tens of thousands of intellectuals and professionals into exile. Contrary to popular expectations across the country in 1999, the formal end of military rule did not reverse the underlying anti-democratic policy and manifestation of militarisation. The situation had not least been helped by the leadership of the new regime, headed by none other than Olusegun Obasanjo, an ex-military dictator himself who led a junta for three years in the 1970s and a genocidist commander during the Igbo genocide of 1966-1970. In an era when the rest of the world appeared completely exasperated in watching Africa forced to its knees by a cyclical retinue of colonels and generals wielding the cudgel of their brute usurpation of state power, Obasanjo had essentially followed in the footsteps of former military dictators in west and central Africa (Togolese General Eyadema, Ghanaian Flt-Lt Rawlings, Burkinabe Captain Campore and Central African Republic General Bokassa, for instance) to “civilianise” himself into state president. The outcome, his eight years in office, was a disaster in the country. Rather than slash the budget on militarisation, “Civilian” President Obasanjo increased it! When Obasanjo took over from the formal military regime in 1999, the junta's stated budgetary allocation to militarisation was US$2.2 billion. In Obasanjo's own first budget in 2000, he earmarked US$2.4 billion for militarisation/state brutalisation, an increase of almost 10 per cent from the previous year. In contrast, US$500 million was assigned to education while health care received US$150 million. The widespread human rights abuse and personal insecurity that were the hallmark of life in the country during formal military rule did not abate. Instead, the situation worsened markedly with the increased levels of state and quasi-state violence on principally Igbo people and the further strangulation of the economy of occupied Igboland.
In the eight years that Obasanjo was in power, 20,000 people in Nigeria were murdered by the state, quasi-state agencies and others. Eighty per cent of those murdered were Igbo. In all, Obasanjo had overseen one of the most corrupt and incompetent governments in Nigeria. Transparency International branded Nigeria the “second most corrupt country” in the world. But the Obasanjo regime's more detailed and graphic indictment came from a January 2003 damning report on its financial life published by its own auditor general, noting gross irregularities: “over-invoicing, non-retirement of cash advances, lack of audit inspection, payments for jobs not done, double debiting, contract inflation, lack of receipts of back pay, flagrant violation of financial regulations, release of money without approving authority…” Thousands of employees, especially in public services, were owed salaries ranging from 12-18 months. Industrial enterprises operated at about 30 per cent capacity and acute shortages of petrol and petroleum products were the norm for a country that is the world's sixth largest exporter of petroleum oil! Several universities and other educational institutions of higher learning were strike-bound for long stretches during the academic year due to both staff and students' protests over lack of adequate state funding for education. Hospitals were also frequent sites of strike action by doctors, nurses and other medical staff protesting over the government's poor funding of healthcare. What Obasanjo has shown demonstrably in Nigeria is that rather than ease an already desperate situation, the “civilianisation” of ex-military dictators in the politics of their countries deepens the crisis of militarisation and brutalisation, with the predictable consequences on the welfare and aspirations of the people. The haemorrhage on the economy as the regime ploughs even more resources into the procurement of armaments to suppress recalcitrant/targeted population(s) intensifies. More armament requirement for these regimes is of course welcome news to Britain, Africa's chief weapon exporter, and the others contending for a slice of this scrumptious pie…
Britain's pervasive entrenchment in the very lucrative business of African militarisation and wars is equally evident in central and southern Africa. Despite its rhetoric of an “ethical foreign policy”, the British Labour party government that took office in 1997 was heavily involved in the Congo/Great Lakes war. Similar to the United States's intervention in this conflict, Britain had sold arms to both sides of the principal protagonists – Congo Democratic Republic itself, Rwanda, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Burundi and Uganda. In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation at the height of the conflict in 2000, Charles Onyango-Obbo, the editor of the respected Ugandan independent newspaper, The Monitor, did not fail to stress the significance of the British role in the region:
Britain is supporting both sides – it just robs [it] of any moral authority and a lot of people rightly do despise the British government in this affair.
Despite this “ethical foreign policy”, British Prime Minister Blair at the time personally visited South Africa in 1999 to lobby successfully on behalf of the British arms industry for a substantial share in the massive US$6 billion arms build up planned then by the South African military. For South Africa, such an outlandish expenditure on militarisation was a shock to many observers concerned about the country's priorities. None of South Africa's neighbours posed (or poses) any threat to the country's security and no such threats were envisaged from elsewhere in the world in the foreseeable future. The post-conquest years of urgently required reconstruction of institutions, and the provision of services to ensure equitable inclusion and participation by all races and peoples in South African society, would surely have benefited immensely from the injection of US$6 billion rather than the government’s allocation of such a huge sum to the armaments of certain death.
For yet more thoughts on Britain’s “ethical foreign policy”, it is worth noting that this “orientation” was equally unsustainable in the light of the convoluted phases of the controversial British military intervention in the Sierra Leone wars during the 1990s, including the highly embarrassing “arms-to-Africa” affair. In this affair, well-placed British government officials connived with Sandline International, a British-based mercenary force, which was in combat operations in Sierra Leone to install a pro-British regime. British arms were also sent to contending combatant groups in the country, often in clear violations to stipulated United Nations arms embargo on Sierra Leone and the region. Finally, an “ethical foreign policy” did not in any way sway Britain's decision in its most scandalous participation in African militarisation to date when, in 2002, it sold a military air traffic control system to Tanzania (a country without a credible air force) for the price tag of US$42 million. Not even the usually reticent World Bank and the IMF restrained themselves from publicly criticising a deal that had been struck by London only after putting “unbearable” pressure on the Tanzanian government. As for the latter, it was an ignoble occasion at the time to watch senior state officials struggle pitiably to explain or rather rationalise how a country that had no obvious need for the expensive machinery that they had just purchased would hence slide into certain debt as a result.
Onyango-Obbo's observations on Britain could equally have been made, with the obvious substitutions, to also capture the nature of US foreign policy towards the scourge of African militarisation and wars as we show shortly, and indeed those of other countries such as Russia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the 1998-2000 war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, one of Africa’s few but most costly inter-state conflicts, Russia and Bulgaria, for instance, sold expensive weapons’ systems (especially fighter aircraft, bombers, helicopter gun ships, tanks) to both African neighbours throughout their devastating confrontation. Thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans were killed in the war and it is estimated that both sides spent about US$1 million per day throughout the duration of the arms build up and hostilities. Less than three years after the end of fighting, the two countries made a startling appeal to an outside world still bewildered over the sheer idiocy of their conflict: they urgently needed international support to feed 11 million of their citizens facing hunger and starvation. Nothing in this appeal indicated that the political leadership in either Addis Ababa or Asmara really cared for the welfare of its citizens when it drove thousands of them into war to face untimely deaths just a few years earlier. In so doing, these leaderships laid the very foundations of the deaths that presently stalk their lands through starvation.
As for the United States, it sold weapons totalling about US$230 million to Africa during the years 1990-1999. Significantly, about 50 per cent of these sales went directly to the countries steeped in the very fractured contours of the epicentre of the raging wars of the Congo/Great Lakes arc: Congo Democratic Republic, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Angola, Burundi, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The fact that some of these countries and their varying non-state insurgent forces' allies were in opposing military alliances during the conflict (necessitating using US weaponry against enemies similarly armed by the same supplier!), was of little consideration in Washington's arms transfer policy. Furthermore, Rwanda, which consistently maintained an intransigent position towards innumerable peace settlements at the time, received an additional US$75 million worth of “emergency aid” during the period, that hardly disguised the incorporated military/quasi-military components in it. Similarly, US arms sales and transfers to war-torn Sierra Leone and Liberia (and to contiguous states with interest in the wars such as Guinea and Mali) during the era did not in any way enhance the goals of conflict resolution. On the contrary, more arms were just being poured into a region already bursting at the seams with an unimaginable array of destructive arsenal…
“Legal” vs “Illegal”?
We should now focus briefly on Africa's so-called “illegal arms”. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Ukraine and Bulgaria make up the bulk of exporters of weapons to the continent's ever-expanding non-state insurgents, some of whose missions are anti-state (as the innumerable clusters in Somalia, for example, are) or are indeed pro-state (as the janjaweed, in the Sudan, for instance). These armaments, often made up of small and light arms (pistols, rifles, machine guns, grenades), are usually categorised as “illegal weapons” to highlight the juridical status of their destinations or recipients, but not their sources. There are about 500 million of such weapons circulating in the world and one-fifth of these or 100 million are used in Africa's wars, armed banditry and other escapades. To underscore the seriousness of the situation at stake, the deadly AK-47 assault rifle, for example, can be purchased as cheaply as six US dollars in a number of African countries. This is equivalent to the cost of a chicken or a bag of corn in many parts of the continent! Yet, thanks to the fragility of the African state with its underlying unpredictable upheavals, millions of items of weaponry that ultimately make up this “illegal” pool of categorisation do have their origins from the sources of the (African) “sovereign states”’ armouries initially supplied by the principal arms exporter powers cited earlier. In other words, an item of AK-47 rifle or a rocket launcher on the African scene that may have started its original classificatory placement as a “legal weapon” in some state armoury could, in a few weeks, or even much less time, transmogrify into an “illegal arm” label because it is now in the hands of some dissident or insurgent organisation opposed to the state or a pro-state militia murdering targeted individuals, groups or, especially, targeted constituent nations. The converse of this transmutable process is also the case.
It should therefore be stressed that whilst the dichotomy often placed between “legal arms” and “illegal arms” by some observers (in the African militarisation, genocide and war debate) has some analytical credit, its outcome on the ground, particularly in enabling us evaluate the comparative impact that the two categories ultimately pose on African social co-existence and security always comes as a shock! Contrary to the initial value judgement that most people would make between the “legality” of a particular commodity (in this case, arms) and its “illegality”, it is definitely no comfort at all when it is shown at the end of the exercise that the overwhelming majority of the 15 million killed in Africa's genocides and wars in the past 45 years were in fact slaughtered with the use of “legal” armaments, operated seemingly legally by the armed forces of the state and their allies. The examples of the Nigeria state in 1966-1970, the Rwandan central government in the 1990s and the current Arab regime in Khartoum are acutely illustrative of this cataclysmic sequence. In effect, whether “legal” or “illegal”, armaments in Africa, controlled overwhelmingly by the African state and its allies, are used to murder targeted African nations and populations domiciled within these states; the African states, since the Igbo genocide, have deployed armaments in their armouries to murder their peoples most brutally, massively and extensively. These states, starting from Nigeria, have murdered a ghastly total of 15 million Africans in a generation. They are still murdering without let up… They have devastated communities. They have disfigured and traumatised peoples’ lives and aspirations. In the hands of the typical African state, since the Igbo genocide, these armaments, even though classified “conventional”, are indeed weapons of mass destruction. Nothing else, but weapons of mass destruction… In Africa, the pistol, the rifle, the grenade, the rocket, the bazooka, the landmine, the helicopter gunship, the naval gunship, the fighter aircraft, the bomber, the tank – each and every one of these items, imported by and large from abroad, is a killer used primarily by the state to murder targeted peoples within its border. The African state should and must be stopped from murdering peoples within its frontiers. The rest of the world, especially from where weapons to these African states originate, day in, and day out, can no longer remain bystanders as this orgy of death is brazenly played out in Africa. Since the Igbo genocide, the African state has been destroying African lives; they are presently destroying African lives; they will continue to destroy African lives until stopped. The African state must surely be stopped from its pursuit of this pulverising mission of death.
“Failed States”? “Sub-Sahara Africa”?
It is perhaps difficult not to conclude from our portrait of the contemporary African state that its being is symptomatic or even indicative of that term that several scholars and political commentators increasingly employ in characterising most of Africa – the “failed state”. The concept “failed state” of course has a melodramatic import! It designates the outcome, penned in a professorial manner, of a project supposedly observed and assessed over time and space. In that case, the recipient or audience to which this outcome is conveyed is assumed to be well in tune with the progress or otherwise of the subject matter. The problem though is that the evaluative parameter of this enterprise of assessing and therefore concluding that this or that African state has “failed” is often not clear or certain. Or is it? Was Nigeria, for instance, a “failed state” during the course of May to September 1966 (that is just six years after its so-called “restoration” of independence after the British occupation) when it murdered 100,000 of its Igbo citizens in the first phase of the genocide that would over the subsequent three years cost the death of an additional 3 million Igbo people? Before Somalia became a state without a central government, which has now lasted for well over a decade, was it a failed state? Successive central governments in Kinshasa, Congo Democratic Republic, have for over 20 years hardly exercised effective authority over a quarter of the country’s territory which is twice the size of western Europe; is Congo Democratic Republic a “failed state”? A devastating war raged in south Sudan for about 20 years and a genocidal one is being waged on the people of Darfur (northwest of the country) by the Arab government in Khartoum currently; is the Sudan a “failed state”? All of Africa, since 1981, has been a net exporter of capital to the West – 85 per cent which accounts for the servicing of its so-called “debts”. In 1981, Africa recorded a net export capital export of US$5.3 billion to the West. In 1985, this figure increased to US$21.5 billion. Three years later, this net capital transfer was US$36 billion or US$100 million per day. In 1995, this figure jumped to US$100 billion and on the eve of the new millennium in 2000, Africa’s net capital transfer to the West hit the US$150 billion mark. As we indicated earlier, Africa has exported a total of US$400 billion in the past 30 years in this way – these are funds that should easily have provided a comprehensive health programme across the continent, the establishment of schools, colleges and skills’ training, the construction of an integrative communication network, and finally, the transformation of agriculture to abolish the scourge of malnutrition, hunger and starvation. Would this outlandish export of critical resources merit designating all of Africa as “failed states”?
It should be stressed that none of the figures referred to above includes the national accounting of the Arab states in north Africa – namely, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt – but the rest of the 48 countries on the continent which some commentators, especially the CNN, BBC, International Herald Tribune, Reuters, Associated Press, Fox News, Yahoo! News, the UN/allied agencies and some governments and academics in the West, increasingly categorise as “sub-Sahara Africa”, a term that requires some examination forthwith. Its users routinely invoke the reference to the Sahara Desert when writing, speaking about or broadcasting on Africa, especially when they wish to refer to Africa that excludes the five predominantly Arab states of north Africa just mentioned. Pointedly, they also exclude the Sudan, a north-central African state whose overwhelming territory is south of the Sahara from the “sub-Sahara” tagging because the regime in power describes the country as “Arab” despite its majority African population.
As we show now, the concept “sub-Sahara Africa” is absurd, misleading, if not a meaningless classificatory schema. Its use defies the science of the fundamentals of geography but prioritises hackneyed, stereotypical, racist labelling. It is not obvious, on the face of it, which of the four possible meanings of the prefix, “sub”, its users attach to its “sub-Sahara Africa” labelling. Is it “under” or “part of”/“partly”? Or, presumably, “partially”/“nearly” or even the very unlikely (hopefully!) application of “in the style of, but inferior to”, especially considering that there is an Arab people sandwiched between Morocco and Mauritania (northwest Africa) called Saharan?
The example of South Africa is apt here. Crucially, this is a reference underlined in the relevant literature of the era especially those emanating from West states, the United Nations (principally UNDP, FAO, UNCTAD, ILO), the World Bank and IMF, the so-called NGOs/“aid” groups, and some in academia who are variously responsible for initiating and sustaining the operationalisation of this dogma. Prior to the formal restoration of African majority government in 1994, South Africa was never designated “sub-Sahara Africa” by anyone in this portrait unlike the rest of the 13 African-led states in southern Africa. South Africa then was either termed “white South Africa” or the “South Africa sub-continent” (as in the “India sub-continent” usage, for instance) i.e. “almost”/“partially” a continent – quite clearly a usage of “admiration” or “compliment” employed by its subscribers to essentially project and valorise the perceived geo-strategic potentials or capabilities of the erstwhile European-minority occupying regime. But soon after the triumph of the African freedom movement there, South Africa became “sub-Sahara Africa” in the quickly adjusted schema of this representation! What suddenly happened to South Africa’s “geography” to be so differently classified?! Is it African liberation/rule that renders an African state “sub-Sahara”? Does this post-1994 West-inflected South Africa-changed classification make “sub-Sahara Africa” any more intelligible? Just as in the South Africa “sub-continent” example, the application of the “almost”/“partially” or indeed “part of”/“partly” meaning of prefix “sub-” to “Sahara Africa” focuses unambiguously on the following countries of Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, each of which has 25-75 per cent of its territory (especially to the south) covered by the Sahara Desert. It also focuses on Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Sudan, which variously have 25-75 per cent of their territories (to the north) covered by the same desert. In effect, these 10 states would make up sub-Sahara Africa.
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the five Arab north Africa states do not, correctly, describe themselves as Africans even though they unquestionably habituate African geography, the African continent, since the Arab conquest and occupation of this north one-third of African territory in the 7th century CE. The West governments, press and the transnational bodies we referred to earlier (which are predominantly led by West personnel and interests) have consistently “conceded” to this Arab cultural insistence on racial identity. Presumably, this accounts for the West’s non-designation of its “sub-Sahara Africa” dogma to these states as well as the Sudan, whose successive Arab-minority regimes in the past 53 years have claimed, but incorrectly, that the Sudan “belongs” to the Arab World. On this subject, the West does no doubt know that what it has been engaged in, all along, is blatant sophistry and not science. This, however, conveniently suits its current propaganda packaging on Africa, which we shall be elaborating on shortly.
It would appear that we still don’t seem to be any closer at establishing, conclusively, what its users mean by “sub-Sahara Africa”. Could it, perhaps, just be a benign reference to all the countries “under” the Sahara, whatever their distances from this desert, to interrogate our final, fourth probability? Presently, there are 53 so-called “sovereign” states in Africa. If the five north Africa Arab states are said to be located “above” the Sahara, then 48 are positioned “under”. The latter would therefore include all the five countries mentioned above whose north frontiers incorporate the southern stretches of the desert (namely, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and the Sudan), countries in central Africa (the Congos, Rwanda, Burundi, etc., etc), for instance, despite being 2000-2500 miles away, and even the southern African states situated 3000-3500 miles away! In fact, all these 48 countries, except the Sudan (alas, not included for the plausible reason already cited!), which is clearly “under” the Sahara and situated within the same latitudes as Mali, Niger and Chad (i.e., Between 10 and 20 degrees north of the equator), are all categorised by “sub-Sahara Africa” users as “sub-Sahara Africa”. To replicate this obvious farce of a classification elsewhere in the world, the following random exercise is not such an indistinct scenario for universal, everyday, referencing:
1. Australia hence becomes “sub-Great Sandy Australia” after the hot deserts that cover much of west and central Australia
2. East Russia, east of the Urals, becomes “sub-Siberia Asia”
3. China, Japan and Indonesia are reclassified “sub-Gobi Asia”
4. Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam become “sub-Himalaya Asia”
5. All of Europe is “sub-Arctic Europe”
6. Most of England, central and southern counties, is renamed “sub-Pennines Europe”
7. East/southeast France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia are “sub-Alps Europe”
8. The Americas become “sub-Arctic Americas”
9. All of South America south of the Amazon is proclaimed “sub-Amazon South America”; Chile could be “sub-Atacama South America”
10. Most of New Zealand’s South Island is renamed “sub-Southern Alps New Zealand”
11. Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama become “sub-Rocky North America”
12. The entire Caribbean becomes “sub-Appalachian Americas”
So, rather than some benign construct, “sub-Sahara Africa” is, in the end, an outlandish nomenclatural code that its users employ to depict an African-led “sovereign” state – anywhere in Africa, as distinct from an Arab-led one. It is the users’ non-inclusion of the Sudan in this grouping (despite its majority African population and geographical location) but its inclusion of South Africa only after the latter’s 1994 restoration of independence that gives the game away! More seriously to the point, “sub-Sahara Africa” is employed to create the stunning effect of a supposedly shrinking African geographical landmass in the popular imagination, coupled with the continent’s supposedly attendant geo-strategic global “irrelevance”. “Sub-Sahara Africa” is undoubtedly a racist geo-political signature in which its users aim repeatedly to present the imagery of the desolation, aridity, and hopelessness of a desert environment. This is despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of 800 million Africans do not live anywhere close to the Sahara, nor are their lives so affected by the implied impact of the very loaded meaning that this dogma intends to convey. Except this increasingly pervasive use of “sub-Sahara Africa” is robustly challenged by rigorous African-centred scholarship and publicity work, its proponents will succeed eventually in substituting the name of the continent “Africa” with “sub-Sahara Africa” and the name of its peoples, “Africans”, with “sub-Sahara Africans” or worse still “sub-Saharans” in the realm of public memory and reckoning.
We should return and conclude on our reflections on the so-called “failed state” in Africa – scientifically understood and unambiguously expressed! Christopher Clapham has argued that the concept “failed state” is “one of those categories that is named after what it isn’t, rather than what it is”. He obviously has a point for a state that routinely wages wars on its population(s), does not provide basic services for its people, and immanently churns out successive leaderships that fleece the collective wealth can hardly merit such a description as the concept connotes in social science discourses. All we need to do is to reflect on the fact that crucial state functions such as the provision of security, rule of law, a rationalising but flexible structure of management, accountability and open and unfettered competition especially with respect to regime change have never existed in the African “nation state” in order to highlight the obvious flaw within this concept. Ultimately, the major limitation of the use of the “failed state” concept to assess the crisis in contemporary Africa is that it confers an unjustifiable rationality on an enterprise in which a spectrum of outcomes ranging from perhaps “very successful” to “failure” or “outright failure” is typecast; it is assumed that those who run the Africa state (Museveni, Obasanjo, Gnassingbé, Buhari, Yar’Adua, Idi Amin, Mengistu, Abacha, Mugabe, Mohammed, Abubakar, Eyadema, Banda, al-Bashier, Numeiri, Bokassa, Toure, Biya, Moi, Gowon, Taylor, Habre, Ahidjo, Babangida, Obote, Rawlings, Doe …) are aware of this test and its evaluative scruples and, like any rational participant, would want to succeed… If they do not do so well, at some instance, so goes the logic, they would try to improve on their previous score and, hopefully, do better… Success is always a possibility! On the contrary, there is limited indication on the ground that African state operatives in the past 40-50 years have approached statecraft as a challenge to succeed in transforming the lives of their peoples. “Success” is never a goal set along the trajectory of their mission. For the Obasanjos and Gowons, for instance, “statecraft” is a fiendish opportunity to murder as many millions of Igbo people as they can possibly achieve … Furthermore, it should be noted that given the evidently limited concerns on just “measuring” the scoreboard of performance, “failed states”’ discourses tend to overlook the much more expansive turbulence of underlying history.
So, rather than organisations that bring benefits to many of its people, the state in Africa has “evidently been a source of suffering”, to quote Christopher Clapham, again, an imagery consistent with Basil Davidson’s description of the impact of this state on the African humanity as a “curse”. Richard Dowden also uses a health metaphor in capturing the legacy of the African state when he notes, alluding to its genesis – a feature that we shall confront soon – “[this European]-scissors and paste job [has indeed caused Africa] much blood and tears”. For her own observation, Lyn Innes is in no doubt that the African state has created what she describes as a “deeply diseased [outcome]” on the continent. William Reno’s categorisation of Sierra Leone as a “shadow state” may appear more of an aesthetic judgement than pathological, but the psychosocial outcome of vivid alienation evident in the country in the 1990s as state and disparate insurgent military forces battled up and down the country as the state was in free fall was palpable.
Chester Crocker has observed, succinctly, that the fundamental problem with the nature of the African state that we have been discussing has been its lack of “legitimacy and authority to manage [its] affairs… As such, [this state has] always derived a major, if not dominant, share of [its] legitimacy from the international system rather than from domestic society”. It is this question of alienability that is at the crux of this grave crisis. T o live in the typical African “nation state” presently is to live in the most oppressively centralised state in the world that denies most peoples in constituent nations their fundamental human rights. This has been a debilitating legacy for most Africans since Europeans created this state during their occupation of the continent. It was, and still remains a conqueror’s and a conquest state, having clobbered together peoples of varying political, cultural, religious and ideational heritage with no identifiably-embracing organic transnational sensibility, save an ensemble or organisation to rationalise the exploitation of critical human and non-human resources for transfers to the West World and elsewhere.
It is precisely in this context that what P. Chabal and J-P. Daloz have ironically called the “political economy of disorder” actually works in Africa: it offers immense opportunities to those who control the instrument of the state but who clearly lack or do not subscribe to the domestic or internal legitimacy to work the system. This state was a boon to the European occupation project as was expected. It was the instrument to harness and enforce the African occupation in its entirety and maximise the expropriation of the spoils of conquest. The African take-over of this state in the 1950s/1960s, without any efforts to transform it into an African-centred ethos and enterprise, witnessed a new era of even greater disregard for domestic legitimacy with cataclysmic consequences – creating that “deeply diseased [outcome]” Innes has referred to: the slaughter of 15 million, colossal decapitalisation of the economy, degenerative poverty. It should never escape the attention of the observer that the flip side of the coin that tells the tale of Africa’s staggering capital transfers to the Western World, day in, day out, as we have just highlighted, is the emaciated, starving and dying African child, woman or man that has for long been the abiding image on television screens across the world. In effect, Franz Schurmann is right to note in his illuminating study on the subject that African leaderships who oversee the non-deconstructed state of the European conquest “are not traditional but rather a phenomenon of modernity. They are fighting for power in a Western-type state with its armies, police, bureaucracies [and] control over economic institutions”.
Pertinently, these leaderships have failed to incorporate into the state structures “inherited” in the aftermath of the European occupation pre-conquest African institutions of politics and governance aimed at maintaining a democratic, fully participatory process and government to respond to the needs and aspirations of individuals and constituent nations. The resulting imbalance in power relations so widely witnessed in Africa today between the state and its people, among constituent peoples, and between men and women have their roots in this systematic marginalisation of Africa’s traditional democratic legacy. Thus, structural alienation from the political process typifies the overall disposition of peoples in the African state. The overwhelming majority of the people are not involved in the process of their own governance and of course one obvious and serious consequence of this is the ease with which political differences and disagreements often deteriorate into major conflicts and wars. This is dictated largely by the unresolved nature and character of the state vis-à-vis the constituent nations. Evidently, the underlying structural basis of independence, or, more correctly, the restoration of independence in Africa has never really been defined. There is no rigorously worked-out agreement on the fundamental character and role of the “post-conquest state” by the constituent nations that make up the state. The broad sectors of African peoples are yet to be placed and involved centrally in the entire process of societal reconstruction and transformation. Not surprisingly, the nature of the state that emerged after the European conquest and occupation had, and still has limited organically shared values linking its peoples. Most African conflicts have therefore centred on the continuously thunderous demands made by desperately deprived and exploited nations and peoples in these states for the construction of decentralised and decentring alternative political structures and institutions which empower people at their locale. It is as a result of this unresolved historical factor of conquest that Africa remains a tinderbox, exploding uncontrollably from time to time, with the devastating consequences that the world has come to know in the past half of a century. Until there is a far-reaching restructuring of political and economic relations within the state to ensure inclusive participation by all nations and peoples, conflicts in Africa will remain endemic. Decentralisation and democratisation are essential in creating a sense of inclusiveness amongst African peoples, a crucial ingredient in overcoming the present causes of disempowerment, instability and underdevelopment. Only within these parameters of justice, equality, freedom, the cessation of violence and alienation can true peace occur.
Disarming Africa: Brazil, Africa Arms-Free Zone, Obama Legacy
Inevitably, Africa must resolve the contentious issues that fuel the current conflictual existence of most of its peoples before achieving urgently needed socio-economic transformation. This is a political question. The widespread feeling of alienation by most constituent peoples in a typical African “nation-state” is palpable enough. This state, in which African peoples were cobbled together in the past by the triumph of external conquest to serve the spoils of occupation, has been a monumental failure in the past 40-50 years of mismanagement by African leaderships. Africans urgently need a principled, unfettered, and unsentimental debate on the “inherited” state, with its ultra-centralising and utterly unviable ethos. It cannot lead to that transformation of a very rich continent that has been the expectation of millions of Africans across the world. The way out is for an extensive political and economic decentralisation which is essential in creating a sense of inclusiveness amongst peoples, a crucial ingredient in overcoming the present causes of disempowerment, instability and underdevelopment. It cannot be over-stressed that if people are not actively involved in the affairs of their society, issues of human and civil rights as well as civic responsibilities will be subverted, creating societies that are clearly not at peace with themselves.
Militarisation, including arms confrontation, is obviously not a viable option to resolve Africa's outstanding problems – especially those that affect constituent peoples in the current state. Arms should henceforth be removed from the African scene as the vehicle for the settlement of disputes. All Africa's problems, however complex and intractable they may appear presently, can and should be resolved through painstaking negotiation even if this seems or becomes protracted. As it was generally in pre-European/pre-Arab conquest times in most of Africa, there should be no limits or ultimatums placed on negotiations and conflict resolutions in Africa: the talking went on and on until some resolution was achieved… The mutual bombardment of ideas, not bullets and shells, was the driving impetus for the avoidance and overcoming of conflicts. Thus the genocide killing field or the battlefield or indeed the riot-field, whether it is Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Congo, the Sudan or Kenya should no longer be an option for the settlement of Africa's extant problems.
On this score, the ethos that governs the African journey of recovery is the commitment of all Africans and the demand that they need to make to the rest of the world to place a mandatory embargo on all arms sales and transfers to all of Africa, as well as a complete demilitarisation of the continent. Africa needs justice and peace for, and with itself, to enable it embark on the much-vaunted era of reconstruction. Britain, the world’s leading arms-delivery-state to Africa must now mothball its arms-delivery behemoth destined for Africa. The British public opinion and British-based human rights and charities such as the British Red Cross, Amnesty International, Oxfam and Christian Aid can no longer live comfortably with the seeming anomaly whereby the British ministry of defence approves to send weapons of death to Africa (whose sales enjoy cast-iron official guarantees for the British arms manufacturer readily provided by the British ministry of trade) and then respond to the inevitable devastating aftermath of the use of these weapons on the African scene by initiating radio and television campaigns to raise and send “relief aid” to the targeted African population(s). It is really no longer sufficient for the Amnesty Internationals and Oxfams of Britain to issue periodic condemnations of the misdemeanours and transgressions of the African state when they are silent over the crucial role that the very heart of the British political establishment at Whitehall (London), located just a few miles away from these organisations, plays in propping up the African genocide state. The Amnesty Internationals and Oxfams must be in the forefront of the campaign calling for a total, unconditional arms ban on Africa and the demilitarisation of the continent. This focus on British charity/human rights institutions’ relationship with their state and the latter’s arms shipment to Africa also applies to the US, France, Belgium, Canada and other countries in the West that export arms to Africa.
Thanks to Brazil’s current impressive scientific and technological advancement, which has, understandably, impacted on its arms manufacturing industry, this country is rapidly expanding its arms export capacity. As a result, Brazil is steadily climbing up the Africa arms-delivery-states’ ladder. But Brazil shouldn’t be on any of the rungs of this notorious ladder in the first place. Yet, on this very important subject of our times, Brazil can act as a beacon to the rest of the world by being the first country to descend from this ladder and walk away. If the indolent African regime is ever interested in Brazil’s exciting technological innovations, it should instead be presented with a catalogue of Brazilian-made tractors, harvesters, irrigation machinery … Brazil should immediately place a blanket arms embargo on all of Africa. Even arms being negotiated presently with any African state and those in the pipeline of delivery to the continent should be abandoned, withdrawn or blocked. Brazil has the enviable status as the country in the world outside Africa with the highest number of peoples of African descent in its population. It should not at the same time be sending weapons of death to Africa’s genocide states to murder Africans who live east of the Atlantic. Brazilian intellectuals and students have their work very much cut out on this in their dialogue with their state. Finally, US President Obama, his country’s first African-descent head of state, can be assured of a lasting legacy of his presidency by imposing a comprehensive US arms embargo on this continent of his fathers at the cusp of constructing new states of organic sensibilities – away from the terror of the genocide state. Obama should expand this initiative to involve other arms-exporters-to-Africa especially on such forums as the UN Security Council and the G-8. Arms ban to Africa should be internationally mandatory and enforceable.
On this, Africa’s challenge to the rest of the world couldn’t be clearer: those who live outside Africa but “care so much for Africa” should now scale down their multitudinous “aid-ventures for Africa” and turn their incredible talents to lobbying their respective states and other institutions in their countries and elsewhere to ban arms sales/transfers to Africa. This new focus for the world’s leading charities, away from the band-aid syndrome, will surely be more exciting, even less taxing, but definitely more rewarding for the ultimate outcome for Africa and the rest of the world alike. Africa seeks no resources from anyone, not even for one US dollar, to accomplish its current transformative mission to dismantle the genocide state. It is simply asking the world to completely seal off its vast armouries to deny access to the deadly claws of the Africa genocide state. For once, no one is asking anyone to raise money for Africa! Given the devastating impact of arms, arming, armies, genocide and other armed conflicts on Africa’s tragic history and the present, Africa, in 2009, projects an unwavering signpost for the world’s attention that proclaims: Africa Is An Arms-Free Zone. A demilitarised continent. No More Arms Sales Or Transfers To Africa.
The African genocide state has now run the course of its bloody trail in history. The greatest challenge facing Africans in the new millennium is to dismantle this state and create new state forms based on Africa’s critical re-engagement with its rich cultural heritage. This is to enable them to safeguard the lives of their people and embark on the vast topography of reconstruction of society after a depressing and devastating history. This task is a cardinal facet of the African renaissance or renewal. Africa’s alternative path of survival and reconstruction is clearly a path that emerges from the people re-connecting to the continent’s enduring cultural precepts and institutions emplaced in its ancient nations or in “real Africa”, as some scholars have aptly categorised them. It attaches a high priority to the resuscitation of the treasured position of the family in African community affairs and the full operation of the ethos and institutions of the dual-sex complementarity that has for centuries defined the central tenets of African social existence. These spheres of African life have come under sustained assaults and, in some fronts, have had considerable fractures during the course of the European occupation of the continent and the last 40-50 years of disastrous African overseeing-management. One such emergency zone of fracture has been the outrageous marginalisation of African women from participating actively in the key institutions of the state and society. This has been an historical setback for women who in the past controlled and exercised extensive rights and authority over their own affairs as well as those of the rest of society as has been demonstrated extensively in the writings and studies of novelists such as Flora Nwapa, Ama Ata Aidoo and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and scholars such as Kemene Okonjo, Adiele Afigbo, Ifi Amadiume, Nkiru Nzegwu and Okwuonicha Femi Nzegwu. The re-positioning of women in the shared complementary spaces of responsibility, power and authority must be at the epicentre of the reconfiguration of African fortunes in these new state forms of decentralisation.
Already, this alternative Africa, this reconstituted land of renewal, translated into decentralised, organically articulated new states, is being built amidst the chaos and brutality of a tragic epoch. As should be already obvious, this future of Africa discussed here is antithetical to Muammar Gaddafi’s current “Africa Unity” theatrical digressions, which, more seriously as I demonstrate in a 2007 essay, are indeed a cover for an ominous proto-islamic, neofeudal Africa-wide continental dynastic fiefdom modelled on Gaddafi’s own family firm and patronage formulations in Libya since 1969. This contraption will only reinforce and expand the stranglehold of the genocide state in Africa. Whilst the death machine that is the African state is undoubtedly ruthless, as we have shown, it has an immanent weakness which the people are presently exploiting across different regions of the continent to recast a new social existence. Thanks to the sheer size of the territorial space that it has to contend with in its existentialist quest to enforce its legendary brute power, and given its notorious inefficiency and stunted technological development, this pulverising state of death has not been able to exercise an all-embracing, omni-present Gestapo-like or Ba’athist party-like control of society. It does not have tentacles embedded all over the place. The ever-bubbling currents of enhanced globalisation with attendant flashes of instant communication, 24 hours a day, have further exposed the tenuousness of the foundation of its existence. The peoples have therefore exploited this weakness with aplomb. Africa is currently saturated with communities actively experimenting and exercising control of their immediate, surrounding societies by setting up a people-oriented security and a working justice system, developing infrastructure, building schools and hospitals and negotiating operating terms of relations with transnational companies or corporations or even the odd government or quasi-government organisation from overseas. The operationalising slogan that appears to underpin this exercise is the “Survival of Our Nation”. From Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Ghana, Benin and genocidist Nigeria in the west, through Cameroon and Gabon in the centre, to Uganda, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia to the east and to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in the south, a new Africa of constituent nations-based reconstruction is emerging to pursue the tasks of reconstruction as the genocidist/so-called “nation-state” collapses or retreats into insignificance. The well over 100,000 African intellectuals and professionals who have left Africa for overseas (particularly in the West) are playing a crucial role in this renewal. They are part of the 12 million-strong Africans who left the continent since 1980. These émigrés are now the most active source of Africa-directed investment presently. It is people-targeted and the results are astonishing. These African émigrés now dispatch billions of dollars per annum as well as lend their skill and time to Africa’s growth – investing directly in the development of the people as they literally take care of the feeding, clothing, housing, education, health care and other social needs of relatives and indeed the wider community, amongst a re-emerging/revivalist ethos of local initiative, local control, transparency and accountability. In 2003, according to the World Bank, African émigrés sent to Africa the impressive sum of US$200 billion – invested directly in their home communities. This is 40 times the sum of “Western aid” in real terms in the same year – i.e. when the pervasive “overheads” attendant to the latter are accounted for. It is interesting that the source of the information of the instrumental role of African émigrés in current external capital transfers to Africa comes from the World Bank. It is this same World Bank, which, in alliance with the International Monetary Fund and the string of kakistocratic African regimes in the past 30 years, contributed to the virtual destruction of the African economy in its so-called “structural adjustment programme” of the era. Contrary to the very partial, stunted imagery of the African situation of this period propagated with relish by predictable, stunningly uncritical pastiche of international media reporting on the continent, Africans, themselves, have, on the whole, taken central care of coping with the punishing aftermath of the socioeconomics of state collapse and terror, and in charting new pathways to construct organically-responsive states to subvert and replace the extant genocide state.
We cannot overstate the immeasurably favourable resource base that would support this goal of African renaissance. An overview is necessary to underscore the immense possibilities that exist. Africa has developed and continues to develop an advanced humanpower capability that will drive the transformation of the post-genocide state. Eighty per cent of Uganda’s arable land, some of the richest in Africa, remain uncultivated. Were Uganda to expand its current food production by just 50 per cent, not only would it be completely self-sufficient, but it would be able to feed all the countries contiguous to its territory without difficulty (the countries in question are Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and the Congo Democratic Republic). The overall statistics of the African situation is even more revealing as with regards to the continent’s long-term endowment. Just a quarter of the potential arable land of Africa is being cultivated presently. Even here, an increasingly high proportion of the cultivated area is assigned to the so-called cash-crops (cocoa, coffee, tea, peanut, sisal, floral cultivation, etc.) for exports mainly to the West World at a time when there has been a virtual collapse, across the board, of the price of these crops in the West’s commodity markets. In the past 30 years, the average real price of these African products in the West has been about 20 per cent less than their worth during the 1960s-70s period which was soon after the restoration of independence. As for the remaining 75 per cent of Africa’s uncultivated land, this represents 66 per cent of the entire world’s potential. The world is aware of the array of strategic minerals such as cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, industrial diamonds, iron ore, manganese, phosphates, titanium, uranium, petroleum oil found in the Sudan, Congo Democratic Republic, Namibia, South Africa, Angola, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and elsewhere on the continent. These countries are among Africa’s most wealthy and potentially some of the world’s wealthiest. However, what is not always or simultaneously associated with the wealth profiles of these countries is that they have vast acreage of rich farmlands with capacity to optimally support the food needs of generations of African peoples. In addition, the famous fish industry in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for instance, Botswana’s rich cattle farms, west Africa’s yam and plantain belts extending from southern Cameroon to the Casamance province of Senegal, the continent’s rich rice production fields, etc., all highlight the potential Africa has for fully providing for all its food needs.
In effect, what the current African socioeconomic situation shows is extraordinarily reassuring, provided the acreage devoted to cultivation is expanded and expressly targeted to address Africa’s own internal consumption needs. Land used directed at agriculture for food output, as opposed to the calamitous waste of “cash crop” production for export, must become the focus of agricultural policy in the new Africa. It is an inexplicable tragedy that any African child, woman, or man could go without food in the light of the staggering endowment of resources on this continent. Africa constitutes a spacious, rich and arable landmass that can support its population, which is still one of the world’s least densely populated and distributed, into the indefinite future. There is only one condition, though, for the realisation of this goal: Africa must utilise these immense resources for the benefit of its own peoples within newly negotiated, radically decentralised political dispensations which must shed any resemblance to the genocide state. Thus, Africa’s pressing problem in the past 53 years has not been “poverty”, as it is often uncritically portrayed, but how to husband phenomenal resources, human and non-human, for the express benefit of the peoples at a time when the strategic goal for change is to dismantle the architecture of annihilation posed to African existence by its genocide states.
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is a leading scholar of the Igbo genocide, 1966-1970. His books include Conflict and Intervention (Macmillan, 1990), Issues in Nigerian Politics Since the Fall of the Second Republic, 1984-1990 (Mellen, 1991), Africa 2001: The State, Human Rights and the People (IIAR, 1994), African Literature in Defence of History: An Essay on Chinua Achebe (African Renaissance, 2001), Biafra Revisited (African Renaissance, 2006) and Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature (forthcoming, 2009).