Editorial: Learning from history

In the midst of struggles for national liberation and independence in Africa in the early 1960s, African intellectual Frantz Fanon, made the following observations on African national struggles that were trying to break from the yoke of colonialism and build national independence.

“The people who for years on end have seen this leader and heard him speak, who from a distance in a kind of dream have followed his contests with the colonial power, spontaneously put their trust in this patriot. Before independence, the leader generally embodied the aspirations of the people for independence, political liberty and national dignity. But as soon as independence is declared, far from embodying in concrete form the needs of the people in what touches bread, land and the restoration of the country to the sacred hands of the people, the leader will reveal his inner purpose: to become the general president of that company of profiteers impatient for their returns which constitutes the national bourgeoisie.

In spite of his frequently honest conduct and his sincere declarations, the leader as seen objectively is the fierce defender of these interests, today combined, of the national bourgeoisie and the ex-colonial companies.

His honesty, which is his soul’s true bent, crumbles away little by little. His contact with the masses is so unreal that he comes to believe that his authority is hated and that the services that he has rendered his country are being called in question. The leader judges the ingratitude of the masses harshly, and every day that passes ranges himself a little more resolutely on the side of the exploiters. He therefore knowingly becomes the aider and abettor of the young bourgeoisie which is plunging into the mire of corruption and pleasure…

The people stagnate deplorable in unbearable poverty, slowly they awaken to the unutterable treason of their leaders. This awakening is all the more acute in that the bourgeoisie is incapable of learning its lesson. The distribution of wealth that it effects is not spread out between a great many sectors, it is not ranged among different levels, nor does it set up a hierarchy of half-tones…

The leader, who has behind him a lifetime of political action and devoted patriotism, constitutes a screen between the people and the rapacious bourgeoisie since he stands surety for the ventures of that caste and closes his eyes to their insolence,… The leader pacifies the people………”

Images of African leaders of the 21 st century

In what we have done and continue to do to rebuild parts of the continent, it is undeniable that we come across these traits of a leader described by Frantz Fanon.

In many parts of the continent, the hopes of the people for a better and prosperous life have been dashed by a combination of both external and internal factors, and, included in those opportunities, squandered by what in yester-years were progressive national movements for liberation, now turned into instruments against the people they were meant to serve.

In our neighbourhood, Zimbabwe , Zanu-PF has become an instrument of the state to deal, in whatever form, with genuine grievances of the people ranging from starvation, hunger and unemployment.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, joined by states nearby under the pretext of protecting their states, was fundamentally about the mineral spoils in the DRC.

In another conflict in Sudan , the UN failed to declare a genocidal act against innocent civilians. Had the UN condemned this barbaric act, the economic interests of the United States of America would have been compromised.

In the Ivory Coast , a conflict, which is primarily an Ivorian problem, must be attended to by foreign political interests in the main.

In Angola , in spite of rampant corruption perpetuated by international oil interests, the regime is not condemned for squandering its natural oil resources.

In the Middle East, many countries have been surrogate states serving both the economic and political interests of the United States of America .

In this day and age, a leader who does not, as Fanon says, embody “the aspirations of the people for independence, political liberty and national dignity,” is imposed through military action and coercion.