Conflicts, Moral Judgments and The African Situation

As long as men need food, wine and women there will always be wars. Since ancient times, bloody wars are always fought to eliminate the children of the devil and save the children of god and as I said earlier, these wars are fought by men – men with flesh and blood, not gods. The genocides that rocked the African continent in the past are well known throughout the world – that of the Hutus and the Tutsis of Rwanda, the two Sudans, the Ivorian and Kenyan electoral massacres, the Congo, Somalia and many others, you name them. International news agencies, like hungry vultures, are always scavenging for something about Africa – something horrific that they can publish to console themselves that they are better off.

This destruction of the African image has an intellectual start point. It begun with writers such as Lord F.W.D. Lugard, Joseph Conrad and many others who in their books and sermons implied that the African was merely an animal. But thanks to Darwin, at least we know now, that we all share a common ancestor. Never has any African made a big show of taking human life with the sole aim of sending a message to those he considers his enemies. Africans in the past have fought for economic and political reasons, but never for religious reasons (W. Soyinka, 2006). Indeed, in as much as I would like to avoid Africa’s colonial past, there is a story which I wish to narrate to illustrate my point. It is a story of how the purported animals fought alongside the gods and in the end realised that their colonial masters are not gods at all. And that they are capable of sustaining fractures should they be punched in the rib or chest or even on the nose.

During the Second World War many brave African soldiers voluntarily enrolled in the British army. The English-speaking African colonies automatically became British allies. The African soldiers were also promised better wages, benefits and general improvement in living conditions. This encouraged them and alas! As the bombs flew in – whew! BOOM! Black men fought ferociously alongside white men, if not to the astonishment of the whites. Flesh and bones of black and white alike were scattered everywhere on the battle field and in the end the enemy forces were driven back. This was how we came to know that the colonial masters were not gods at all and that was the beginning of the demand for equality, justice and self-governance. Lord Lugard himself admitted in his book, that, he (the African) is not naturally cruel but has the courage of the fighting animal.

But after the war, the promises were not honored and this led to riots and the subsequent shooting and killing of three Black army officers. This happened in I think 1949, but let’s not dwell too much on race and the African past. The big question is: why is Africa the way it is today and what is the way forward. By all means our leaders have failed us. I cannot blame the woes of Africa on any individual, nation or international organization but the lame leaders, whom we the people have ignorantly elected. These politicians always expect to be spoon-fed by IMF and World Bank.

I am convinced that the political process cannot produce any remarkable leader. Most African politicians lack a clear vision and their philosophy is that of Carpe Diem. In other words, enjoy the moment. Individuals can enjoy the moment but communities and nations have perpetual existence and therefore they cannot settle solely for the enjoyment of the moment. African leaders sign long-term loan agreements without taking interest rates into consideration. Many do not thoroughly read the contracts themselves. And then many years later, the poor peasant and market woman is made to labour hard and pay back those loans in the form of taxes. Until we begin to elect businessmen as leaders, we will continue to suffer.

A few weeks ago there were reports that Ebola patients in Sierra Leone or rather Liberia, I cannot recall correctly, have been forcefully freed by their relatives. I am sure many westerners will yawn again and say “O, these Africans, what the hell is going on with them? Don’t they want to be cured? Well let me tell you something my friend. The fact that people are sick and possibly going die doesn’t mean they must be held hostage and treated like a herd of cattle. I am not at all defending the irrational behavior of those relatives but humans as we are, we are social beings and an irrational or unreasonable policy along one arc of the circle of life produces an equally irrational response at the opposite end. Yes, people suffering from any deadly disease must be quarantined but under humane conditions until the last day of their breath.

International news stories are just summaries – black and white, you never get to know about the grey areas. It is possible that these patients were simply barricaded in a corner somewhere, waiting to die. If my parents or spouse or a close friend had been put in a confinement, without any further explanation as to what the next line of action is, and on top that, many of those confined continue to die day in day out. Did you think the right thing to do is just sit there and support your chin with palms? It was a case of helplessness. Doctors and medical practitioners can sometimes be stingy with information. And where there is scanty information assumptions rule.

Africa has not always been treated fairly. If five people die of HIV, Cholera or Ebola, the researchers simply extrapolate and conclude that thousands will die in the next two or five years. They don’t even have the courtesy to prefix their figures with the word “approximately”. Very funny statistics and research findings you know. When I was in high school thereabout, there were reports in the international media, of HIV infections that implied (considering the statistics they provided) that the disease will wipe out entire generations of Africans in the next decade or so. Are we dead? At that time we were all asked to wear condoms even if we had no intention of having sex and I was a celibate then (honestly) – saving myself for that special person.

You will be shocked to know that only few people were accurately diagnosed because back then, there were no reliable tests for the disease – the kit available tested only for high levels of antibodies in the patient’s bloodstream which they thought was indicative of HIV. One tested positive if one had large antibodies count, which could also be as a result of prolonged malaria which many mistook to be HIV; until a more reliable testing method was invented many years later. It is possible to go through all the meticulous scientific processes and at the end, still make a mistake. Mankind is a spiritual being.

The fact remains though, that, Africa has been used and desolated by all humanity. But should we Africans break down in tears? I say no. We cannot blame history, we cannot blame evolution. Why I am saying all this? It is because Africans, as retarded and uncivilized as we are branded, we cannot, “tufia kwa!”, – even the least educated or evolved African cannot behead another human in such a crude manner and afterwards, make a big show of it. I am obviously not an American but a murderer in one corner of the world is a murderer everywhere.

And they stopped their ears and ran upon him with one accord and cast him out of the city and stoned him: And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

                                                                                                         – RIP James Foley.


The stoning of Stephen in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”


Office Gossips

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Ah! a little advice for the youth:

Be careful how you communicate

In the office if you are lucky enough to

Be in regular employment.

Sometimes you may be involved in

Informal conversations that seem

To gag your boss.

Some may say she or he has a pot-belly or

An ugly face; others may refer to some

Other obsession of him or her.

Be sure not to make any remark.

For the “birds” will hear your remark

And somehow, exclusively, report what you said.

All other gossips will mysteriously be left out.

I am speaking from experience.

Whatever you do, socialize, listen more,

But say nothing.

Henley’s “Invictus”

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Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

–William Ernest Henley. 1849–1903