Monday, October 6, 2008

Our leaders as modern day slavers

One thought that has often worried me about Africa's slavery experience, the biggest holocaust in human history, is the role Africans themselves played in the tragedy. I always found it difficult to understand how Africans could sell their fellow Africans to European slave traders. My reading of history tells me it was mostly the chiefs and kings that controlled the trade. Armed with guns they had received from Europeans on the coast, they launched raids on largely defenseless hinterland peoples to procure the valued human cargo that wast then shipped to the Americas. As they made more money, they became more powerful, more addicted to the trade and inflicted more terror on their hapless neighbors.

It wasn't long before the trade became the order of the day as powerful men built their own slave-raiding armies, attacking their neighbors, pillaging and plundering. It must have been a period of great insecurity, war and pestilence, ravaging a huge and healthy African population that had been built up during the preceding successful agricultural revolution that had brought stability to many African societies and propelled the flourishing of a great world culture.

Yes, it was hard to imagine how Africans could easily ruin their land by their own hands, until I compared them to Africa's present crop of leaders. Like the slave dealers of old, they're allied to Europe, essentially Western Europe, whose ordered prevailed then as now. The slaving chiefs were beneficiaries of the slave system, just in the same way our present leaders are beneficiaries of the present-day slave system. So the powerful, ruling minority collaborated with the West, just in the same way the tiny ruling minority of today are colloborating with the West and profiting from the suffering of the majority. By so doing the best interests of African people are negated and thwarted and people are forced into crushing poverty, permanently enslaved to disease, hunger and ignorance.

The more I think about the similarities, the more it occurs to me, with some sense of horror, that another 300-400 years down the line, our children are going to wonder how on earth our leaders allowed the criminanlity that has passed for governance in Africa since the end of the slave epoch. They're going to view us with utmost contempt as a generation, who failed,, despite the relative clarity (to put Fanon's famous phrase upside down), to realise our destiny and to pursue it. And they would condemn us, like we've condemned our forebears, not realising that a majority were mere victims of a plundering, unthinking elite so carreid away by the joys offered them by the toys that the West brought.