Invalidation of African Countries' Independence: Cunning and Credulity
Dr. Zacharie Nzepa Petnkeu
What is going on in the political scenery of Africa? In April 2011, French Special Forces equipped with tanks backed forces loyal to Ouattara to capture Ivory Coast President, Laurent Gbagbo. who had been struggling for more than four months to stay in power after losing the presidential elections in his country. He was thus ousted in favor of his opponent. In March 2011, a coalition of countries led by major superpowers such as the United States, France, and England launched a military intervention in Libya so as to protect civilian populated areas and civilians who were being massacred by late Libyan President Muarnmar Gaddafi. This came as the result of a civil war known as the Libyan revolution, emulating insurrection that had already toppled long term presidents in Tunisia and Egypt. These are the most obvious and recent cases of direct action of Western countries in Africa, in addition to many other secret or indirect intrusions in the affairs of the continent.
In both above-mentioned instances. the raison d'etre of the intervention is United Nations resolutions, namely resolution 1975 on Ivory Coast, and resolution 1973 on Libya that gave a green light to external forces to authoritatively take "all necessary" measures to protect civilians from violence. Though the military intervention has been implemented time and again on humanitarian grounds, the omnipresence of a country like France, whose colonial history in Africa is well-known, is symptomatic. One may therefore ask this simple question: What is behind the maneuver of powerful countries flagging the UN approval and humanitarian motive as the rationale of their military action in Africa? Neocolonialism emerges from possible answers. Beyond this, I shall argue that Western mischievous intervention repeats the historical disrespect of people of young countries in Africa and ends up in the obliteration of people's nation-building efforts, as well as the invalidation of their independence. The process which relies upon cunning and credulity is so far successful. Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and Albert Memmi provide the backbone of my theoretical lens, whereas the US and France's intervention policies will serve as my supporting evidence.
I. HISTORY AS AN ENDLESS REPETITION
Like other superpowers, much of France's appetite for violence and brutality directed towards other territories and people is originated in its colonial history. Prior to the year 1960, by and large considered as the milestone of political independence in Africa, many territories on e continent were under colonial rule from European nations. From the seventeenth century to I 960, France had conquered large territories and reinforced its position in North, West, Central, d East Africa. France held the lion's share of all the European countries' possessions in Africa. Assimilation lay at the base of France's colonial policy, with the aim of making the territories a art of France. Though the tiny islands of Mayotte and La Reunion around Madagascar in the Indian Ocean are French territories today, the venture didn't fully pay off in Africa because of the strong and sustained resistance from the African people. Nevertheless, the practice of violence and brutality allowed France to control a large empire, causing serious wounds and scars to occupied territories and people. The Martinican poet and thinker Aimé Césaire equates "colonization" to "thingification" and provides the following inventory that accounts for the aftermath of the colonial process as a destructive force:
I see clearly what colonization has destroyed..., I see clearly, the civilizations, condemned
to perish at a future date, into which it has introduced the principle of ruin; ...I look
around and wherever there are colonizers and colonized face to face, I see force, brutality,
cruelty, sadism, conflict, and, in a parody of education, the hasty manufacture of a few
thousand subordinate functionaries, "boys" artisans, office clerks, and interprets [sic]
necessary for the smooth operation of business. (1)
In many respects, Césaire's assessment is really topical with regard to the current situation in Iraq as the result of the US military, or in Ivory Coast, and most recently in Libya after the military action led by France and England. In Iraq. for instance, the US created and trained a 200,000 member Iraqi colonial puppet army, says James Petras who upholds that the US war against Iraq was the destruction of a civilization. He goes on by emphasizing that with their puppets in power, the US policies and long-term colonial presence in Iraq would consist in using Iraq as a launching platform for its strategic pursuit of other targets like Syria, Iran, Central Asian Republics...He concludes that with the assassination of hundreds of Iraqi intellectual, scientists, and scholars, the bombing of universities and other research institutes, ''The US imperial conquest of Iraq is built on the destruction of modern secular republic."(2)
As for Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, who is considered as the West's puppet, too control of the country with the assistance of the French military forces. It should be recalled that before winning their independence in 1960, Ivory Coast was a French colony and was governed such for 73 years.
Concerning Libya in the colonial context, the territory was formerly an Italian colony. British and French troops occupied Libya in 1942. It became independent in 1951. In 201l, England and France stood for Libyan war. France took the lead of the NATO coalition and side with Libyan rebels to take up the fight against Muammar Gaddafi 's troops. The operation was successful. Gaddafi was killed. Today, the National Transitional Council's officials in charge i Libya are regarded by many as the West's puppets.
At this point, one may ask whether or not Africa is not on the brink of another disaster similar to the Scramble for Africa and the crumbling of the continent in 1884. Events in Ivory Coast and Libya, not to mention Tunisia or Egypt where the West military intervention was no direct. may be viewed as a part of what is considered as the Arab spring, but the parallel wit historical events is uncanny: the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference divided the African continent into spheres of influence between the major European powers. Ivory Coast was taken by France, and Libya by Italy. Today, the U.S. and all the major former European colonial NATO member states, among which are France, Britain, Belgium. Germany. Italy and the rest, are again "planning t establish dominance over what has become the world's second most populous continent.''(3)
Oddly enough, let us note how striking the evidence is that the replication of history is happening before our eyes. So was colonization, with the same European powers craving for the same continent. But today, Europe and the US are cunningly duping and numbing their peoples and the international opinion with a treacherous rhetoric. This is the way the president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, tried to rationalize the military action in Libya: ''We do this to protect civilians from the murderous mandate of a regime that, by murdering its own people, has lost all legitimacy. In addition to its Arab, European and North American partners, France is committed to playing its role, its role before history."(4) The president was comfortable with his speech, since France's intervention was backed up by the United Nations' mandate. The Secretary General of the World Organization, Ban Ki-moon, could declare after overthrowing Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast: "This is an end of a chapter that should never have been. We have to help them to restore stability, rule of law, and address all humanitarian and security issues."(5)
It's a pity how credulous a large part of the opinion is in the US, in France and other major powers. Many succumb easily to the perfidious justification. The truth, as Peter Dryer notes,
Three major powers invoked the United Nations Charter in order to violate it. The United
States, the United Kingdom and France engineered a 'humanitarian' intervention that was
in reality an unprovoked act of war against a sovereign state... Although the imperialists
claimed that their motivations in Libya are designed to protect civilians, many of the
victims of their airstrikes and financial backing for the National Transitional Council
(NTC) resulted in the removal, injury. persecution and death of innocent civilians. (6)
Isn't it dishonest and treacherous in trying to justify violent and brutal invasion by invoking humanitarian reasons? Above and beyond the number of the civilian victims, countries like Ivory Coast and Libya will face and suffer from long-term adverse consequences of planned violence and brutality, the same way colonized countries had suffered in the past.
II. OBLITERATION OF NATION-BUILDING EFFORTS AND ANNIHILATION OF FREEDOM
As I stated above, by 1960, many French colonies in West and Central Africa had achieved independence, but only to find out that the gap between freedom and nation-building requirements was immense, and with good reason. In hopes of keeping a strong control on its former colonies, France left after destabilizing and fragmenting territories, cultures and people. Aimé Césaire harshly criticizes the disastrous effects of colonization in the following lines:
I am talking about societies drained of their essence. cultures trampled underfoot,
institutions undermined, lands confiscated. religions smashed, magnificent artistic
creations destroyed. extraordinary possibilities wiped out.. .. millions of men tom from
their gods, their land. their habits, from life, from the dance. from wisdom. I am talking
about millions of men in whom fear has been cunningly instilled, who have been taught to
have an inferiority complex, to tremble. kneel. despair, and behave like flunkeys... I am
talking about natural economics that have been disrupted. harmonious and viable
economies adapted to the indigenous population -about food crops destroyed,
malnutrition permanently introduced, agriculture development oriented solely toward the
benefit of the metropolitan countries, about the looting of products. the looting of raw
Césaire's blunt depiction is merely the severe panorama that engulfs many postcolonial societies today.
After 1960. the newly independent states were faced with difficult challenges, but had nothing to draw upon in their desire to build and develop stable nations. The era of colonization had led them to economic subjugation and cultural destruction. Without any solid cultural heritage or genuine education system. the nations would turn to their former masters for help. In so doing. many leaders have been trapped. as Césaire asserts in Discourse on Colonialism: "Europe has gotten on very well indeed with all local feudal lords who agreed to serve, woven a villainous complicity with them. rendered their tyranny more effective and more efficient; it has actually tended to prolong artificially the survival of local pasts in their most pernicious aspects"(8)
Thus, it's no secret that France ·s interest in its former African colonies continues to this day. But it's amazing to notice that after the era of colonial looting and ransacking that precipitated the decline of traditional cultures. the very leaders who were supposed to help their countries emerge from the economic stagnation are operating as French representatives: as such. they maintain the rape of their own nations. Why? As power mongers. leaders are in the good graces of France, whose army would not hesitate to intervene fiercely in the event of people's anger against their leaders. France usually supports any rigged elections as long as the process is in favor of their puppets. The examples of Togo, Gabon. Congo. or Ivory Coast and Cameroon are of a recent date and therefore, fresh in our memories.
One good example of African leaders· involvement in the pillage of their own countries is their support to the ongoing debate about a possible devaluation of the CFA franc. This is the common currency used in some fourteen countries of West and Central Africa. most of them being the former French colonies. The currency (which is currently pegged to euro at the rate of leuro for 655 CFA francs) was established in 1945 in the era of colonization. In 1994, the currency was devalued by 50% with disastrous consequences on populations. Another devaluation is on the brink to take place in January 2012. Dr Gary K. Busch writes:
French wars in Ivory Coast and, especially Libya, have cut a major hole in the French
pocket. Their tame African partners, the presidents of francophone African states, are
complicit in this plan for devaluation and continue to follow the lead of their
protectors, the French Army, in whatever they suggest. This relationship is long-standing
and a paradigm of neo-colonial enterprise. (9)
The emasculation of the economy in former French colonies goes hand in hand with an unprecedented brainwashing that has left sociological and psychological scars detrimental to people's efforts to achieve any form of development story and success on their own. People's inertia results from trauma that the colonizers took time to fabricate and cunningly instill in millions of minds. As Césaire points out. and as Frantz Fanon details in this way:
If the colonized asks the question whether he is a man, it's because his reality as a man
has been challenged. In other words. I start suffering from not being a white man insofar
as the white man discriminates against me; turns me into a colonized subject: robs me of
any value or originality; tells me I am a parasite in the world, that I should toe the line of
the white world as quickly as possible. and that we arc brute beasts, that we are a walking
manure... that I have no place in the world. So I will try quite simply to make myself white;
in other words, l will force the white to acknowledge my humanity. (10)
Albert Memmi on his part echoes Fanon and Césaire on how colonization works to depersonalize the colonized. He calls the stubborn effort to dehumanize the colonized the ''mark of the plural''. He writes: "The colonized is never characterized in an individual manner; he is entitled only to drown in an anonymous collectivity ("They are this." ''They are all the same.'')."(11)
In the long run, and by dint of repetition. the process becomes extraordinarily efficient: the colonized internalizes many of the labels invented by the colonizer. ··constant repetition carries conviction.''(12) People's indolence in postcolonial societies in Africa results partly from decades of propaganda and disinformation. No wonder leaders and many people. including some intellectuals. are skeptical about their own ability to stand up for their rights and answers to development challenges without imitating Western models or getting their approval. An article in South Asian Voice Review is by far unambiguous about this malaise:
Robbed of any measure of self-confidence, the colonized (and even post-colonial)
intelligentsia looked upon its heritage with skepticism or disdain, or conversely, sought
refuge in fundamentalism, obscurantism, or idealistic myth-making. When a native
tradition had the stamp of approval from a 'respected' Western 'authority', it attracted
excited and flattering attention. But rarely and only in relatively isolated cases, was it
possible for the colonized cultural intelligentsia to rise above the cultural stereotypes, and
critically explore and examine its cultural legacy for any intrinsic (or sustainable) merit.
Following the analysis above, one may wonder about the fate of freedom and independence in African postcolonial countries. Freedom many leaders of the liberation movements shed their blood in seeking becomes meaningless. Obviously, many impediments skillfully set by former colonial masters and approved by their puppets render independence futile or simply invalidate it. What shall we then characterize African countries? Are they independent or postcolonial dependent entities? Anyhow. history of colonization is repeating itself; wrapped up in its humanitarian garments. neocolonialism is so effective today that one would wonder if colonization ever ended. What a utopian idea to imagine the advent of a whole new world. Césaire, for instance, was dreaming at such a world with the overthrow of the old colonialist system. (14) Robin D. G. Kelley writes: "As the true radicals of postcolonial theory will tell you, we are hardly in a postcolonial moment. The official apparatus might have been removed, but the political, economic, and cultural links established by colonial domination still remain with some alterations.''(15) It's sad to notice how the aggression of sovereign countries is carried out for fallacious or fabricated reasons with the help of the United Nations, which is supposed to stand guarantor for justice and equity, freedom and peace in the world.
The West would like to flatten the world not so as to explain it, like Thomas Friedman does in his acclaimed book, but to dominate it. (16) And yet, the world is bigger and more diverse than their interests. Postcolonial citizens are improving their access to knowledge through education that helps them grow stronger and prepares them for genuine freedom. This reminds me of the famous poem, I too, Langston Hughes wrote to express his will and readiness for equality, despite the subjugation of his body in the days of racial segregation in America. The excerpt of the poem reads:
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"(17)
Langston Hughes's poem stands as a metaphor for struggling for freedom. Since the years of colonization, the world we live in has been very much controlled by the former colonial powers, with no respect to the sovereignty of the so-called independent, but weak countries. The poem speaks of hope of growing strength for equality in a changing world. To this end. we may say no matter the West's efforts to reproduce the past in postcolonial societies, people's awareness of lies is growing, for a lie cannot last ad vitam aeternam: "repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.''(18) Unless Europe turns to tolerance and understanding to undertake "a new policy founded on respect for people and cultures. it will have deprived itself of its last chance and, with its own hands, drawn up over itself the pall of mortal darkness," Césaire concludes. (19)
1) Aimé Césaire. Discourse on Colonialism. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000) 42.
2) James Petras, "The US War against Iraq: The Destruction of a Civilization". Web. 29 Aug.
3) "From Ivory Coast to Libya and Beyond: Africa Threatened with Western Military
Subjugation." Web. www.rickrozoff.wordpress.com
4) Nicolas Sarkozy. Web. Jan-Jun. 2011.
5) Ban Ki-moon. Web. Jan-Jun. 2011.
6) Peter Dryer is an online writer. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.
7) Césaire 43.
8) Césaire 45.
9) Dr. Gary K. Busch is the editor and publisher of the web-based news journal of international relations. Web. 26 Nov. 2011.
10) Frantz Fanon. Black Skin, White Masks. (New York: Grove Press, 2008) 79.
11) Albert Memmi. The Colonizer and the Colonized. (Boston: Beacon Press) 85.
12) Robert Collier, American motivational author. Web.
13) "Colonization, "Westernization" and Social Culture in the Post-Colonial Societies" Online review: South Asian Voice: Politics and Culture in Modern Society. This online source has no contributor's name. Web. March 2004.
14) Césaire 10.
15) Robin D.G. Kelley. "A Poetics of Anticolonialism" in Discourse on Colonialism. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000) 27.
16) Thomas Friedman. The World is Flat: a Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.
17) Langston Hughes wrote his poem in 1932, a time racial discrimination in the United States of America was reinforced by racist laws.
18) The saying is attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd US President.
19) Césaire 77-78.