As a Pan-African with afrocentric leaning, it pains me to even contemplate this, let alone verbalize it. But I believe it’s worth discussing, if not yesterday, then definitely today, in the hope that we won’t have to tomorrow.
Earlier this week, I was flipping through the Minneapolis Star Tribune when I came across a picture of two crying African children next to the caption, “Fighting – And Heartbreak – Spreads. Siblings wept as they looked for their parents in Kiwanja, a village in eastern Congo.” As I looked at the picture of these kids, one carrying the other on his/her back, with tear-filled face contorted in utter agony, I almost came to tears next to my American co-workers in our break room. The younger, perhaps two or three years old, reminded me of my two-year old son. Who will do this to an innocent child? I asked myself. The answer was in an inset picture of a nerdy looking man with an explorer hat. His name is Laurent Nkunda. This is the new Charles Taylor of Africa, the warlord of the latest disaster on a continent where disasters are always competing for the headlines.
These so called-revolutionaries, “freedom fighters”, will tell you they take up arms as a last mean to force cruel hands of the sitting government. I’m not going to argue the merit (or lack thereof) of these claims; we each have our opinion about that. What is clear is that when these men take up arms and give it to untrained fighters, most of whom are children, the innocent people, who are themselves victims of the inept and corrupt government, become the enemy. Instead of taking the fight to the state house, it’s as if they draw a line from that site to the furthest village and there begin their bloody bush path to destruction. It almost makes you wish for the swift action of coup d’etats.
It’s a shame really. But it seems the story all over Africa since the pro-African euphoria of independence waned. War is everywhere on the planet, but Africa is the only continent that has had the word genocide associated with it at least three times in the last decade. If you broaden that to include conflicts that were/are just notorious for their sheer destruction, then add Sierra Leone to that, add Liberia to that, add Uganda to that, Mozambique, Somalia, and Angola. The list goes on.
Everywhere you turn, Africans are killing Africans. Unfortunately that is just one of many ways Africans are dying prematurely. AIDS is killing Africans, malaria is killing Africans, dictators are killing Africans, famine is starving Africans to death. Anything that can kill a man is killing Africans en mass.
But dying is just one of many scrooges plaguing Africans. When we live, we live in poverty, we lack basic health care, we lack education, we lack good leadership, we lack opportunities, we lack vision, our dreams are stifled before we wake, our economy is considered good at levels unacceptable anywhere else, our environment is going to shambles, technologically speaking we are still in the womb when the world is approaching middle age.
The old rhetoric of blaming the White Man is old and played-out. Not forgiving him for his sin, we have got to move on. After 50 years of independence, we should be showing signs of progress. But for the most part, we are not. The few seem to be progressing only vis-à-vis the backsliding majority.
And it doesn’t look like it is going to get better any time soon. Because Africa’s best and brightest are everywhere but Africa. We are fanned out around the globe helping other countries advance, leaving Africa further and further behind. In other words, the hope of Africa is somewhere else, in the hands of western benefactors such as the IMF and the UN, but more importantly in the hands of those of us that are in the Diaspora. We try to keep the spirit alive and send the $100 and $200 change we hide from bill collectors, but this is a long distance relationship that is not going to survive on phone sex alone. When we die here, so does the light. As much as we would like our children to carry the torch, they won’t. They will be the Obamas of the world outside of Africa. And the circle continues.
So I ask again, is Africa and Africans cursed? Has God forsaken us? Why did we fall victim to slavery, to colonization, and now to the paralysis of our own hands? Some (including myself) will argue we were not always like this; that once upon a time we were at the helm, we held the admiration of the world. When are we going to capture a sliver of that light? Are we ever going to? When we were the most, did we do something so awful that God decided to punish us by making us the least? Maybe Adam and Eve being chased out of Eden is a metaphor about us. What was our apple? We are stranded and lost, the exile has been hard on our body and soul. God, we just want to come home.