Columns, Opinion

SONI: Cry, the beloved continent

Rotten democracy is a common theme in Africa. One can see it in places like Zimbabwe, where corrupt and power-hungry politicians like Robert Mugabe are willfully letting their beloved lands go to waste so the reigns of power will not be handed to those who truly deserve them. Genocide rages on in Darfur as we turn a blind eye, and the African continent has yet to heal from the scars of atrocities such as the Rwandan Genocide and the Somali Civil War more than a decade later.
A few weeks ago, South African politics was torn asunder by a rift within the leading party, the African National Congress. ANC leader Jacob Zuma’s charges of corruption were thrown out after the judge ruled that opposing members within the party had interfered with the case. The ruling then led ANC members to call for current president Thabo Mbeki to step down and a new interim president, Kgalema Motlanthe, to replace him.
It is common knowledge in South Africa that Jacob Zuma will become the next president, yet for many it is a scary prospect. When questioned about his rape charge, Zuma claimed that the woman involved was wearing a short skirt, which in Zulu culture meant that she was provoking him and that he had no choice but to oblige. He later said that the fact that he had showered after having sex with her reduced his chances of becoming infected with HIV.
Even Thabo Mbeki, successor to the much-loved Nelson Mandela who was South African President for nine years, has been publicly blacklisted by corruption charges as well as his soft stance involving Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
South Africa is arguably the most stable democratic nation in Africa. But now, 14 years after gaining its independence from the apartheid regime of the National Party, the ideals of democracy are once again atrophying.
Africa has become the world’s nagging child, pulling at our pant legs and wailing at us for help as we put our fingers in our ears and close our eyes, pretending that the matters are out of our hands.
So why don’t we do something? As the world’s biggest superpower and self-proclaimed champion of democracy, surely the United States has a moral obligation to intervene. I mean, if we’re going around saving the Iraqis from warlords and dictators like Saddam Hussein, can’t we go in to Africa and do the same thing? Well . . . yeah, but not really.
In 1993, after humanitarian aid from the United Nations failed to quell uprising and famine in Somalia, the United States led by Bill Clinton undertook Operation Gothic Serpent to take out the warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid (see Black Hawk Down). The mission was unsuccessful and resulted in 19 American deaths and a complete reappraisal of the American foreign policy. From then on, the U.S. government has approached the Third World with oven mitts, always weary that it might get burnt.
But the problem of intervention in Africa is two-fold, since internal problems within the continent often do not permit outside nations to help.
Perhaps the biggest problem facing Africa is the spread of disease. Countries often do not have the resources to set up fundamentals like clean water and basic education, necessities that would drastically reduce the impact of sickness on both an individual and systemic level.
The political systems of many African countries are riddled with corruption, a problem that leaves the wealth in the hands of a privileged few while the rest are left to starve. Those starving have little incentive to revolt since they are too busy scrounging for their next meal.
Yes, Africa would benefit greatly from Western companies wanting to establish infrastructure in their land, but the truth is that the political systems within these African nations and the politicians running the show are just too sketchy to trust.
What’s more, Africa is suffering from a collective brain drain; anyone willing and able to leave his or her homeland will do so in search of a better life. All these factors, in turn, hinder Africa’s ability to trade which, in turn, continues to drive its economies deeper and deeper into poverty.
When the Europeans packed their bags and left after the Scramble for Africa, they divided it like greedy preschool kids fighting over candy. Then they covered it with shoddy democracies so they wouldn’t have to look at it again. Now, more than 100 years later, the deep ideological and cultural traits embedded in Africa are bubbling to the surface and cracking the democratic fabric.
It will be many years before the reverberations of the African atrocities ever reach our shores. Until then, Africa will remain more of a distant planet than the cradle of civilization, made half-real by actors like Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda and Josh Hartnett in Black Hawk Down. But for the millions of people struggling to survive everyday, these problems are all too real.
International organizations like the United Nations and government superpowers like the United States are wary to act since they see Africa as a dangerous quagmire. Ultimately it is up to the individuals, who must inform themselves and do what they can to make a difference, before Mother Africa slowly rots away and dies.

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One Comment

  1. your comment offends me. i was born and partially raised in South Africa and i think it is a shame to see such a beautiful continent fall to ruin without any propper intervention.