African continent’s curse of dictatorship

FOR centuries, the historiography of African history has been at the centre of a heated debate. Eurocentric scholars like Oxford University’s Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper said Africa had no history before the advent of colonialism as the motherland was a “dark continent”.

Candid Comment
brian chitemba

This imperial historiography was trashed by prominent African pundits like Walter Rodney who thoroughly examine the impact of colonialsm on Africa in his book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”.

Renowned academics like Sabelo Nldovu-Gatsheni and Enocent Msindo, among many, have written extensively on colonialism and decoloniality. The quest to tell the continent’s story from an African perspective saw the African Union (AU) commissioning Zimbabwe to write The Africa Factbook which was signed and sent out to 54 AU countries this week by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The factbook aims to “be an educational tool that enriches knowledge and the pride of Africans through tales of liberation struggles.”

Those who push for the factbook — more of revisionists — cry foul about colonial oppression and imperial historiography as the minority white discriminated against Africans. But 40 years into independence for some countries like Zimbabwe and 58 years of freedom for Uganda concerns over oppression are widespread.

As he sought an unprecedented sixth term in last week’s plebiscite, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni — in power since 1986 — trampled on civil liberties and shut down the internet and social media platforms. This fits well into authoritarian theory of mass communication.

Ugandan security forces dealt with opposition protestors ahead of the elections with a heavy hand resulting in the death of 54 people. Similarly, Zimbabwe has a checkered history, which lately has included shutting down the internet while dissenting voices have been ruthlessly crushed.

On August 1, 2018, six civilians were gunned down on the streets of Harare in broad daylight. None of the culprits have been brought to book more than two years later. These incidences show how Africa still falls short of freedoms. Therefore, governments across the continent should allow democracy to flourish; of course within the confines of the law.

Apart from political problems; identity issues related to class, race, ethnicity and gender cleavages remain unresolved.

Poverty is still Africa’s biggest challenge as the gap between the haves and have-nots widens. Classism cannot be denied as the ruling elite live in luxury while the ordinary man scrounges for food.

Ethnic and religious wars are rife across the motherland in Nigeria and South Sudan, among other nations. Thus, as we seek to tell the African story which was distorted by Eurocentrism, rulers must also address socio-economic and political problems to improve the livelihoods of the masses.

Africa, with countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, is indeed endowed with rich mineral resources but remains poor.

A lot still needs to be done to improve democracy and blur the class and ethnic cleavages on the motherland.