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Africa: Still room in the gloom

By Tichaona Zindoga Senior Political Writer
Divided. Directionless. Doomed. These are hardly compliments as Africa turned 51 last Sunday, amid growing crises, chaos and carnage on the African continent which, on marking Africa Unity Day, should really be having something to write home about.

Disappointing, one may add. That is even if one were to consider that the continent is set to register economic growth at a pace bigger than that of other continents. Africa has stumbled on some potential riches such as oil and gas fields in Mozambique and East Africa.

This adds to the existing glut of natural resources such as minerals, water, timber and wildlife.

There is also a ready human resource base in Africa whose population is largely young. However, that is about where the positives end. In fact, some of these blessings have turned out to be veritable curses as they have become centres of contention and conflict from both internal and external players.

The patriarchs of modern Africa, such as Kwame Nkrumah, envisioned a liberated, self-determining and united Africa. Kwame Nkrumah envisioned a United States of Africa. However, it is becoming hard to frame the continent as one cohesive unit but one of disparate countries that are invariably afflicted by one trouble or the other. Today the continent is torn by strife - which can only worsen in years to come, leading to the break-up of countries.

Already, the continent is steeply marked by contradictions among the major blocs of Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone countries. Regional bodies such as Ecowas, Sadc and Comesa have tended to be more effective in their small spheres but their unity and successes have not been replicated continentally. A strong, united continental body should have been able to face up to major questions of the day such as peace and security, funding and development.

Sadly, the AU has been found wanting. Conflict is a major concern with a number of flashpoints on the continent. There is Libya, where the cold-blooded murder of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 has led to the destabilisation and regression of the country. Only a couple of days ago, an ex-general named Khalifa Hiftar, seized power leading to a fresh bout of anxiety as reports say Saudi Arabia and several other Arab states have evacuated their diplomats from Libya, while the United States has been said to be preparing for possible evacuation of its personnel as Libya teeters on the brink of civil war.

There have not been happy summers following the Arab Spring revolutions in North African countries of Tunisia and Egypt, either. The story of Nigeria and the instability is by now well told. What is more disconcerting, though, is its invitation of USA, which has dutifully heeded the call by sending its military personnel, not just to Nigeria but to neighbouring Chad as well ostensibly in search of missing girls.

One Graeme Wood says "Hell is an understatement" in relation to the Central African Republic where conflict started in December 2012 when Seleka rebels launched attacks on the government. The situation has deteriorated into sectarian and religious violence with thousands having been killed and thousands more displaced and 2,2 million, about half the population, said to be in need humanitarian aid. This trend replicates itself in Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, DRC and the Horn of Africa region.

And, oh, there is also South Sudan, Africa's youngest nation that has imploded before it could even get on its feet. South Sudan may yet present other typically African long years of conflict and unrest. In all these woes, foreign actors have loomed large - that is on top of the myopic and corrupt leadership that characterises much of presentday Africa. Francophone countries groan under the influence of France, the former colonial master.

France has made a virtual playground of these countries by not only stealing money from and binding them to dubious colonial obligations but also acts as the puppeteer and regime changer in chief. Cote d'Ivoire is a classic example where Laurent Gbagbo was toppled because he had refused to grant the French freedom to pick capital projects as they had always done, in favour of the cheaper and more efficient Chinese. The US is posing an even bigger menace to Africa as it has increasingly shown an imperialist side, evidenced by its growing military footprint via Africom and politically by seeking regime change in countries that it perceives to be hostile to its corporate interests.

An expert on America's Africa policy, Nick Turse, says that for the past five years the US military "has been ramping up missions on the African continent, funnelling money into projects to woo allies, supporting and training proxy forces, conducting humanitarian outreach, carrying out air strikes and commando raids, creating a sophisticated logistics network throughout the region, and building a string of camps, 'co-operative security locations', and bases-by-othernames."

This is what is becoming of Kwame Nkrumah's Africa. There is conceivably still room for optimism in every pan-African heart. There is still room in the present gloom. How Africa answers some hard questions will largely determine what will become of the continent going forward. African leaders will need to seriously revisit the concepts of sovereignty and African unity.

The former has slowly been withering, largely owing to leaders that have sought quick gains by prostituting themselves to the former colonial powers. Some countries' national budgets are being funded by Western countries to which they become eternally indebted. The invidious situation stems from lack of creativity by both individual and continental leaders who should harness and add value to their resources.

Africa cannot even build its own headquarters, and has China to thank for the current multimillion-dollar building in Addis Ababa.

Africa must simply fund its own activities and programmes not the current state of affairs where a reported 60 percent of AU's funding comes from donors in the vile West. There are also the questions of monetary union and Africa peacekeeping force, which perhaps should have been searching for some missing girls in Nigeria, not US Navy Seals who for all we know may not be intent on the girls alone.





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