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A new generation of fighters and a legacy of contradictions

THERE is a rich legacy of contradictions in Africa today than ever before. The advent of political or national independence spanning over three decades produced a broadly identifiable national cadre consensually called a freedom fighter or liberator.

In the post-colonial

era, the cadre became known as an ex-combatant or ex-freedom fighter of the liberation struggle or affectionately known as a war veteran, or simply a true national hero given the fact that they sacrificed life, limb, youth, education, employment, wealth in search of freedom for their motherlands.

The war veteran’s public standing or image, political opinion or behaviour were considered nationalist or patriotic and could therefore not be doubted or questioned by anybody for that matter. In countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, South Africa, Namibia, among others, a freedom fighter was/is often addressed as comrade or camarada.

Due to the privileges their societies conferred on them the ex-combatants could take advantage to access whatever they wished to have. Examples are everywhere to see: endless allowances, subsidies and loans, among others.

Many observers believe that had Africa’s political independence turned into a success case of nationhood coupled with political, social and economic prosperity, development and equity for the generality of her citizenry, there could have been no need for a new generation of freedom fighters as we witness today. Therefore, the main challenge could have been to strike a balance between nation-building and democracy on the one hand, and economic growth and social justice on the other.

The truth is that neither the former nor the later were achieved. The reasons were manifold, ranging from general greediness, selfishness, corruption, nepotism and dictatorship, on the part of leaders as well as the conspiracy by ex-colonisers to create a sense of dependency among the generality of the population through handouts or donations.

The net effect of all this was a crisis of expectations, total loss of confidence in the new independent states and loss of support for the nationalist leaders in general. That is the reason why if one was to have a conversation with many aged people throughout Africa, one often hears them saying “during colonial times it was like this, there was no crime, no inflation, unemployment, bureaucracy, offenders were duly punished,” etc.

Loss of political support and confidence slowly turned into a loud call for national leadership regeneration or simply a new set of freedom fighters or liberators. This is what we have seen in Zimbabwe and everywhere in Africa as represented by the emergence of the Morgan Tsvangirais, John Kuofors and Mwai Kibakis.

In response, the incumbent leadership turned to violence and tyranny to protect their rulership, claiming the role of an ex-colonial hand in all their failures. Of course, no one can deny such a role, but it is however true that external factors are always at play in a global environment characterised with interdependence and symbiotic linkages created by history. Whether the new generation of Africa’s freedom fighters can add value to her fortunes, time shall tell.

The resurgence of resistance to this reality (call for a new order characterised by democratic values, social and economic justice) on the part of the first generation of freedom fighters brings us to the legacy of contradictions.

In the event that the first generation forces the second generation to seek ways and means to overcome such resistance, most probably through violence, then Africa’s history shall be full of serious contradictions.

Simple and patriotic advice is that the first generation of liberators should avoid this scenario at all costs, because sooner or later they will no longer have control of circumstances. 

Jorge Chins,

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