It’s a myth, you know? This whole business about African’s being divided, unable and unwilling to cooperate. That we can’t think beyond ourselves. Who does this myth benefit? Certainly not WE the People. The Myth of African Disconnection only serves those groups and individuals, both foreign and home bred, who seek to dominate over our resources and destroy us as a people.
More than two centuries ago – no longer satisfied with merely taking Africans away from the Slave Coast and shipping them to the New World – our freedom was threatened (and taken) by European invaders. African nations – as a collective – fought for and won their individual independence. It is well documented how revolutionary leaders during the struggle for sub-Saharan independence worked in tandem to provide intelligence, tools and weapons in some cases in the fight against colonial rule.
Today, we face a similar threat from Boko Haram and our leadership corps acts like; looks like; functions like they don’t see it coming!
We the People have been moaning about the lack of intelligence, wit and compassion in our governing bodies for time immeasurable now. I’ve heard friends and family and the country cat asking God anyone else who will listen for “new leaders” for as long as I have been able to understand the basic concepts of politics. “The ones we have now just won’t and don’t cut it!” they say.
That’s actually a misnomer. I have come to a different conclusion. What we need is ‘old leaders’… leaders of the ancient ilk, in fact. In my own native Ghana, many of the social structures that exist now were conceived and developed by the first regime after independence. For almost 40 years, we hardly had a new road built (let alone a library!) as we were caught up in coup d’états and government manufactured food shortages . This is the sort of self-serving leadership Africa has suffered under for decades and we are yet to recover from. But way before that, before there was an Afrifra, a Rawlings or a Limann or the long list of other puppet presidents preceding them and those who are yet to follow, we had rulers who took their sovereign mandate seriously.
These early rulers, some of whom I have only become recently acquainted with, saw the threat of colonial invasion for what is was and gallantly fought against it. Nana Jonkone, whom I just learned about in 2013, was one of such heroes. When the Dutch came to his coastal town of Pokesu to take possession of a fort the German’s had built and abandoned (on donated land), he was understandably hostile to the invasion. With neither enough guns nor military power to repulse the invasion, he sent for military assistance from Nana Prempeh in the Ashanti Kingdom. For the ‘small price’ of one calabash of gold per mercenary, Nana Prempeh sent a contingent of forces down to battle the Dutch. One can imagine that the Dutch did not find it easy to overpower this band of fighters, because the Dutch left and didn’t return until almost 20 years later when they received wind that the Ashanti warriors had left. It was only at that time that they were able to overpower Nana Jonkone who has since disappeared into history.
Now, why do I bring this story up, and what in the name of good gravy does it have to do with modern Africa and Boko Haram? Because, like 17th century colonialism and Islamic militancy (or whatever the politically correct term is), the players have changed but the motivations have remained the same. The who thing reads like a perverse version of a Tolkein tale. Like Saruman cross breeding uruk hai, they are raping with young, frightened girls with the goal of creating the next wave of child soldiers.
Boko Haram, al Qaeda, al-Shabaab and any other Als a-comin’ have made it abundantly clear that they are not playing around with the idea of dominating Africa. They have been left to stew and fester in their poverty, mistrust and disenfranchisement for too long; and now that they have rotted beyond redemption, they are striking ordinary citizens. That’s what a terrorist cell is: a disenfranchised group of people abandoned by its government which is in turn further brainwashed and funded by lawless private entities seeking to take advantage of the same poverty that plagued this group in the first place. It sounds like the plot of a Steven Segal movie, except it’s very real.
The attack on the Girls Government School in Chibok is only the latest in a string of growing attacks. These outbreaks of violence against the ordinary citizenry of Nigeria have largely gone unchecked and underreported for close to five years. In that time, the militants have gotten bolder, more strategic and more cunning. I said it before, but I believe it bears repeating that “peaceful” nations like Ghana must make a real show of their solidarity with Kenya where the Westgate attack took place and with Nigeria where the Chibok 200 have been abducted. Did we not lose our own Kofi Awoonor in the Westgate attack? Do we not see how terrorism anywhere in Africa is terrorism EVERYWHERE in Africa? Yet still, our leaders are sucking their thumbs waiting on…shoot. I don’t know what they are waiting on! I do know our people are looking
I don’t know much about Hannah Tetteh other than she’s the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Ghana and was/is a barrister. She took the brave step of coming onto Twitter to field questions about Ghana’s response to the attack. I say “brave” because Africa’s leaders have been largely silent on the matter and people were swift to swoop in on her timeline to get a reaction.
I swear…this silence reeks of utter apathy. It’s heart breaking, gut-wrenching and soul rending.
We’re human beings, us Africans, whether the world believes it or not. Like any other human, we want to have confidence that those we have appointed and trusted to guide and care for us actually have that mandate on their agenda. It’s all about the show, and that’s one aspect the Americans understand very clearly. Like the Maori warriors, they know that half of the battle is getting into the mind of the enemy. They have press conferences, they leak articles, they hint (but never reveal fully) that there are plans of doom and destruction coming to their enemies, they bloody get public opinion on their side!
What do we have in West Africa? Excuses.
I don’t know if her twitter handle is personal or official, but on it Hannah Tetteh herself pondered aloud what good it would do to send local forces to Nigeria who do not speak the language nor know the terrain. How? What an excuse in 2014! When I can give you a general description of my house this instant and anyone in the world can find me on Google Earth? So why can’t our soldiers read a 3D map of the area? Google has it! And when 80% of all West Africans speak some sort of pidgin English? Did Nana Jonkone let unfamiliar terrain or a language barrier hinder him from seeking help from Nana Prempeh or the other from giving it? What is she talking about???
But again, I appreciate her coming online to make her position clear, since it most likely mirrors those of her counterparts: and that’s scared. Just straight up afraid! And that’s why Boko Haram stays winning. They are not scared. They are ruthless. They are innovating and reinventing how they do warfare and more importantly, they are motivated to win. What are our collective governments doing? NOW trying to figure how they can share intelligence with each other, hoping that these guys will be kind enough to resort to the regular rules of wartime engagement. SMH.
Have you heard any statements from YOUR government (Nigerian or not) on the crisis? Should Africa do more to assist in this issue and others like it? Should every African nation just shrug and expect to deal with terrorism on its own? Discuss!