Monday, October 29, 2007

Imperialism/Globalization - Part 1

One cannot sum up developments in Africa in a single article, report or even book. Africa is an enormous continent, the second largest both geographically and by population, being home to nearly 900 million people. It is also the least understood continent among the US people. There are more myths and misunderstandings about Africa than perhaps any other place. In fact, while most places in the world are identified by country, Africa is often treated as one big place. This ignorance is largely due to racism and the legacy of slavery. Of course, it is also due to the racist inattention by the media and US foreign policy, which is in equal measures dismissive and scandalizing. But things are changing. There is a new interest in Africa among the US public today and a new focus in government policy. Beginning with President Clintons historic tour in 1998, there has been more debate and discussion of African issues than since the end of apartheid. The debate over trade with and aid to Africa has been in Congress as well. This June, Africa was on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine in a special issue edited by popstar and UN peace ambassador Bono. Of course, the highly public campaigns against human rights violations in Darfur, Sudan have also been a major factor in putting the continent on the US political agenda. 2007 is also a historic marker. It has been 50 years since Ghanaian independence. Ghana is the first liberated country in sub-Saharan Africa. The architect of Ghanaian liberation, Kwame Nkrumah, was also the champion of continental unity and Pan-Africanism. The golden anniversary of Ghanas independence has been celebrated around the continent because that countrys freedom symbolizes the beginning of the era of African liberation. The General Assembly of the African Union (AU), the continental governmental organization made up of 53 member states, recently met in Accra, Ghana partly in honor of the occasion. African History I cannot give a serious account of African history here, but some broad conclusions can be made. The history of colonialism, conquest and foreign domination plague Africa today and is the source of many of the root causes of the conflicts and crisis throughout the continent. And of course, the ongoing political, military and economic intervention of the imperialist powers continues to affect African developments. One of the main challenges before us is to understand how Africa went from being the frontline of the international struggle for national independence and against imperialism to becoming a continent of crisis, corruption, poverty and war. African nations like Ghana in 1957, Algeria in 1962, and Kenya in 1963, were beacons of anti-colonial struggle worldwide and were examples to liberation movements in Asia and the Middle East. The Pan-African movement throughout the 20th century played a key role in creating continental unity to solve the problems of colonialism, neocolonialism, racism and poverty. Also, it should be noted that the Soviet Union and other socialist countries financed and trained many of the national liberation movements. Many of those movements not only had Marxists in their leadership, but several enshrined Marxism-Leninism in their statutes and principals. Many of them, however, abandoned Marxism in name and practice following the crisis in socialism in the early 1990s. The newly liberated peoples of Africa were united for the last half of the 20th century against apartheid and its clients in Southern Africa. The front line states of Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, bordered South Africa and were destabilized by military and covert intervention by the apartheid regime. They also provided support for the African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP) and other liberation forces, which often operated from exile in their countries. With the unprecedented victory over apartheid in 1991 and the subsequent collapse of the UNITA in Angola, RENAMO in Mozambique, the racist regime in Southwest Africa (now Namibia) and other right-wing forces propped up by apartheid, conflicts between the frontline states and within them came to the fore. One example is the internal discord in Zimbabwe that has gained so much attention in the ruling circles in the US and UK. At the Treaty of Berlin in 1884-1885, the European powers carved up Africa into colonial holdings. Previously, Europe mostly traded with existing African states and tribes, staking claim to coastal fortresses and ports. The Treaty of Berlin mandated that European powers hold agreements with local leaders and stake claims to physical territory in order to solidify their claim to a colony. The scramble for Africa began. By 1900, nearly all of Africa was under direct colonial control by European countries. There was also notable economic and political influence of the US, including its near-puppet state in Liberia. Within 100 years, Africa was transformed. By 2000, nearly all the continent was independent. It went from being a massive landmass of hundreds of peoples, languages and cultures with little to do with one another, to being a continent dominated by foreign powers, carved up into arbitrary nations, united in their common experience of slavery, brutality, imperial control and struggle for freedom.

To be continued.

Political Affairs Magazine - Africa Today