Wed, 23 Nov 2016 13:13:55 +0000
Last week I wrote about the legacy of the slave trade. Several readers made comments on the article and I picked two of the comments which had some salient points that deserve answers before I proceed.
The first comment is from a Mr. V. Mweene and it reads as follows: “If blame was to be objectively apportioned and properly pinned between the white slave buyers and the African chiefs who sold their people, who is to blame more?”
He goes on the say: “By extension, over the centuries only the ‘product’ has changed from ‘African Human Merchandise’ to ‘African Resources’ in modern times and could there be modern equivalents of “African Chiefs” of the past in the way we Africans trade with the bazungus?”
The second comment is from a Mr. Jonathan Soko who is asking for a similar article on the slave trade in Zambia.
“We have the slave tree and dungeons in Ndola which were associated with the slave trade. In around 1960s we had people called “Kamunyama” who used to kidnap boys and girls for sale as slaves.”
“In Mpongwe – rural Luanshya we have the lake called Chilengwa na Lesa (Created by God). On this lake it is said that the whole local tribe committed mass suicide by throwing themselves in the deep lake as opposed to being taken slaves.”
The critical question in Mr. Mweene’s comment is the apportionment of blame between the African chiefs and the white slave traders. The truth is that there was slavery in African societies even before the Europeans came to engage in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
In fact slavery existed in all societies and races in the world from ancient times. The practice of slavery is even recorded in many texts in the Bible.
There is a clear distinction between slavery as practiced in Africa and the slave trade. In Africa slaves were treated in a more humane manner except in certain cases were human beings were killed as sacrifice to the gods or in rituals.
On the other hand, the slave trade commercialized the buying and selling of human beings as merchandise. The slave traders and slave owners across the Atlantic did not consider their black chattels as human beings.
The black slaves were stripped of their humanity by the white slave owners. The slaves were not even allowed to speak their own languages or use their own names, instead they were brutalized by their masters. It is the dehumanization of the black people that makes the slave trade such an abominable offence against Africa. On the issue of apportioning blame, the African chiefs were outgunned and those who resisted were either killed or taken into slavery. The notorious slave trader Tipu Tip threatened Mwata Kazembe towards the end of the nineteenth century and the Chiti Mukulu had to send Bemba battalions to protect his brother.
The African chiefs cannot therefore share any blame with the white slave traders and owners. After all the slavers claimed to be more civilized and carried the Bible in their hands.
Mr. Mweene states that it is just the product that has changed from “African Human Beings” to “African Resources” and that we have the equivalent of African chiefs from the past leading our nations.
I completely agree with this position. African resources are getting stolen under the noses of our “chiefs” aka our politicians and technocrats. The difference is that the chiefs from the past were outgunned while our politicians and technocrats have all the laws and the support of the population if they were willing to fight exploitation with honest hearts.
Many African countries have gone past the half century mark as independent states, and what do they have to show for their achievements? A few successful footballers and growing poverty amidst all the rich resources that continues to enrich capitalists at home and abroad.
African failures should no longer be blamed on the colonial masters. Of course we cannot forget our history because as the late Maya Angelou once said: “The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.”
The ordinary African’s lack of knowledge of the slave trade contributes immensely to our underdevelopment. Every Jewish child knows about the Holocaust and it is the responsibility of every adult Jew to educate their children about the genocidal killing of six million Jewish people by Adolf Hitler during World War II.
The Holocaust keeps the Jews united no matter how divergent their political views will be – the lives of Jewish people come first.
Tragically for the black man, self comes first. We act as if we have no past to lead us to a shared destiny.
How many African children or even adults know that our continent was depopulated by the slave traders who stole fifteen million innocent black people and sold them in the Americas and the Caribbean?
Religious wars are causing untold misery and yet when we look deep into history, whose religions are we fighting for? None of the leading religions in the world were founded by Africans but Africans are killing each other in the name of this or that religion.
Kwame Nkrumah once said; “It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.”
Our founding fathers ─ Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Bouteflika, Ben Bella, Dedan Kimathi, Milton Apollo Obote, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenneth Kaunda. Azikiwe Namdi, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Leopold Senghor and many others ─ had this great dream for Africa.
Unfortunately, the majority among them soon fell in love with western luxuries leading to corruption and degeneration of national economies. Some countries were taken over by dictators in uniform such as Mobutu Sese Seko in the Congo, Id Amin in Uganda, Jean Bedel Bokassa in Central African Republic and many more.
A culture of corruption and theft of public funds became the norm in many African governments. Leaders stole public funds and hid the money away in offshore accounts. This has not changed even after the departure of the dictators. It is not only the rulers who are stealing money from the African public. African business leaders also seek to hide money from their corrupt dealings in offshore accounts. In its 2010 survey, the Global Financial Integrity, a non profit organization based in Washington concluded that the total illicit financial outflows from the African continent were anywhere between $854 billion and $1.8 trillion.
Real capital flight from Africa for the thirty-five year period to 2004 has been calculated at $420 billion.
A report by the University of Massachusetts notes that Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world with its external assets vastly exceeding its debt. The tragedy is that these external assets belong to very narrow elites who work day and night to keep the majority in perpetual poverty.
For how long can Africa allow this to go on? There must be a new dawn and education is the key to that dawn. Africans in the Diaspora and on the continent must reposition themselves through education, by seeking knowledge, by knowing our history. There is plenty of knowledge on the Internet.
Some of my recommended readings include Mandingo, Drum, Falconhurst by Lance Horner and Kyle Onstott, and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass an American Slave. Other leading black authors include James Baldwin, Marcus Garvey, Franz Fenon, Aldridge Cleaver, Maya Angelou, and Malcolm X.
Last week, the following message went viral on the Internet:
When they move form Europe to Africa it’s called Voyages of Discovery. When they move from Africa to Europe they are called illegal immigrants. A group of Africans in Europe is called Refugees. A group of Europeans in Africa is called Tourists. A group of Africans in the bush is called Poachers. A group of Europeans in the bush is called Hunters. Black people working in a foreign country are called foreigners. White people working in a foreign country are called expatriates. This world has failed Africa.
I will hasten to say that we are equally to blame. Why do we repress our own people and give special treatment to white people? Why do we keep quiet when blacks are killed in cold blood in America? Why do we allow our children to go and drown in the Mediterranean Sea? Why do we connive with multinationals to steal from our fellow Africans? Why do we engage in corruption even when our offices give us huge awards? Why do our engineers watch the Chinese building bridges?
We are all to blame, everyone from the top leaders in all spheres of life to the common man on the street. We lack passion for our land and our people and our careers. I have seen it in so many African countries that I have visited over the years.
Why Africa? Why? Somebody tell me: What’s wrong with black people?
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