Cry My Beloved Country

Abdulai Mansaray, Author

Africa is unquestionably a beautiful continent, with wonderful landscapes, good climate and all the beauty that nature has to offer. Sadly, the continent is more often than not remembered for the ills that afflict human nature. The continent has unfortunately become a synonym for drought, famine, war, sickness, corruption etc. Interestingly, our continent has been in the news this week for various reasons; thanks to the loss of its sons, the former Presidents of the Gambia Sir Dauda Jawara and Zimbabwe Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Both late presidents will be remembered as some of the last vestiges of freedom fighters who mapped out the roads to independence in their respective countries. As comparisons go, both died at the age of 95. Both ruled from independence until they were literally ousted from power. Both had the interest of their people, when they sacrificed their lives in exchange for freedom. But like so many African leaders before them, they gave up power reluctantly.

It is the sign of times, that the list of African leaders who fought for the independence of their respective countries is growing smaller and smaller. It therefore goes without saying, that our continent is now facing a new breed of leaders that is expected to take the continent to a different political stratosphere. It is one thing to demand and gain independence, but what we do with that independence, when attained is a different matter. Has African independence been worth the fight?  With the recent events taking place in South Africa today, that is what makes African independence glaringly questionable. What will the likes of Nelson Madiba Mandela, who also died at 95, and all those who sacrificed their lives be doing in their graves today?

The history of South Africa will never be complete without conjuring images of apartheid, war, suffering, poverty, segregation, crime etc. The Nigerian footballer, late Rashidi Yekini would be remembered as the man that got the whole of Africa to shout with one voice at the same time, when he scored Nigeria’s first –ever goal in a World Cup in 1994 against Bulgaria. The next time Africa got the chance to shout with one voice again was when the late Nelson Mandela, stepped out of the front gates of Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town on the 11 February, 1990. That year 1990, marked the end of an era and the beginning of another. Hope for the African child, which had become an elusive and seemingly insurmountable dream was now a reality, and a new South Africa was born; to become the beacon of the African continent.

South Africans will be deluded to think that the case of apartheid was just confined to the townships of Soweto, J-burg or Natal Province. The suffering of South Africans at the hands of the apartheid regime was not only seen as a crime against South Africans, but a disease and crime against the African race. It is no wonder then, that the fight against apartheid became the bench mark for total African freedom, as many concluded that the independence of African states will never be completed without the independence of South Africa from apartheid. The list of musicians, who dedicated songs in the fight against apartheid, is endless; and it included artists like Bob Nesta Marley, Ishmael Isaac, Alpha Blondy, and many others.  Ironically, Sonny Okosuns, one of Nigeria’s most popular and revered musicians popularised the fight against apartheid with songs like “Fire in Soweto” and “Papa’s Land”. The fight against apartheid became a fight for the WHOLE OF AFRICA; one that Mandela acknowledged, when he said that “the titanic effort that brought us liberation to South Africa, and ensured the total liberation of Africa, constitutes an act of redemption for the black people of the world”.

That the continent of Africa was never FREE UNTIL, the philosophy which holds one race superior and other inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned became a moral attitude and not a policy for the continent. The new born South Africa became the beacon of hope and light for Africa. It is not surprising that many Africans looking for a better life flocked to South Africa. South Africa became the fist African country to host the World Cup. In today’s South Africa, South Africans are turning against their own brothers, killing them in the most barbaric ways known to man. South Africa was supposed to be the country where the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes. It was supposed to be where the basic human rights are equally guaranteed without regard to race.  But looking at what is  going on in South Africa today, where brothers have turned against brothers, you can safely say the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, and the rule of international morality , will remain but a fleeting illusion that will be pursued but never attained (B. Marley).  Now you know why many revered Bob Marley as a prophet.

On June 16, 1975, thousands of school children in Soweto marched to protest the poor quality of their education and demand the right to be taught in their own language.  More than a hundred were mercilessly gunned down in cold blood. Since Mandela came out of prison in 1990, the Organisation of Africa (OAU) initiated the Day of the African Child in 1991; to honour all those who participated in the Soweto Uprising on that fateful day in 1976. It is because of what happened on that fateful day in Soweto that every year on June 16, international organisations, NGOs, and many other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realization of the rights of African children.  This has led to the African Charter on the Rights and welfare of the Child. South Africa owes the world, and especially the African continent some gratitude; at least.

South Africans turning against their fellow Africans today has marked a new chapter in their chequered history. Like some animals, they have resorted to filial cannibalism; the act of eating one’s offspring. Seeing South Africans targeting especially Nigerians and vice versa is nothing short of pathetic. Video clips of wanton destruction of property and death on social media have been gruesome. Desmond Tutu once said that “your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value”. Mangosuthu Buthelezi the Zulu tribal leader and founder of the Inkatha Freedom Party, also once said that “South Africa is blessed to have women and men like yourselves who have little to give but give what you have with open hands and open hearts”. If today’s events in South Africa are anything to go by, these leaders and many more cannot be more wrong.

But why are South Africans angry against their African brothers and sisters?  It is understood that the South Africans are angry among other things, that other Africans and other non South African Africans (listen to how that sounds) are engaged in criminal activities. This is on a massive scale. Even their historical neighbours from Zimbabwe, are not spared. Can you imagine what Mugabe will tell Mandela if they should meet, now that both have left this earth at 95? You can bet that they will not be sharing trench war stories but the appalling state of affairs. South Africans claim that their African counterparts (I refuse to call them immigrants; how can you be an African immigrant in Africa? Ask Mugabe), are responsible for drugs and crime in their country. Much of these allegations of drug and crime are targeted against Nigerians. If truth be told, it can be difficult to argue against the allegations of crime and drugs against some Nigerians. Every country has its own share of criminals, but some Nigerians have not covered the country’s name in glory. The recent crackdown by the FBI charged 80 people, most of whom are Nigerians with participating in a conspiracy to steal millions of dollars; conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. Nigeria has a lot to offer the world, but the action of a small percentage of some, may give the impression that crime is the major export and GDP of Nigeria. Let us be honest and imagine what first comes to your mind, when someone tells you that they are Nigerian? Just be honest. Even at airports, we see how special attention is given to Nigerians by immigration services. By Nigerian standards, is it now a risk to be an African?

But as we know, crime, drugs, prostitution is not the monopoly of one country; but Nigeria is fast becoming a synonym for it. Aliko Dangote is not the only good thing to happen to Nigeria. The tendency to label Africa in negative terms has always been the oxygen of the world media. Sadly the actions of our brethren have not been helpful in that vein. The country and its citizens should not allow the action of the few to define the rest in terms of  romance scams, credit card scams, 419, etc.,

What happened against the African “diasporans” in South Africa is inexcusable. Did you feel how awkward it sounds; African diasporans in South Africa? How contradictory. No amount of such behaviour is justifiable. But again, is it time for us, and especially Nigerians to take a look at them now? Just like South Africa, should Nigerians be holding their heads in shame; for creating such a world opinion about their country and its citizens? As Africans, this is a shameful for us all; period.

But before we jump to conclusions, it might be worth noting that what is happening in South Africa today is an inexcusably clear manifestation of how intolerant the world has become. The world is now run on a climate change of xenophobia, islamophobia, racism, etc. with zero carbon emission. With what is going on today, you may be excused to think that it is becoming acceptable and trendy to hate. We appear to focus on the things that make us different than our common denominators.

 After the first leg during which Sierra Leone’s Leone stars lost to Liberia, the latter was reportedly forced to abandon their training for the second leg at the National Stadium after the team came under attack. In America, mass shooting is fast becoming a past time for certain groups of individuals; which many believe is the result of Trump’s weaponising racism. In Europe, a new breed of leaders is emerging; where pro xenophobic policies are a sure ball to win votes. The UK is currently in a headlock with Brexit; a still birth from xenophobia. Even in little Sierra Leone, some say that we have the Mendes and Temnes at each other’s throat. Chai. Sadly, these types of behaviour are either promoted by the deafening silence of the leaders, or the tacit approval from their rhetoric. With the exception of Julius Malena, very if any, South African leaders raised their voices against the xenophobia. Just listen to their foreign Minister.

Is this a new world order gripping the world?  But unlike the others, the example in South Africa is more alarming, because it’s intra racial. While our founding fathers and freedom fighters fought for liberation, our present day leaders seem to have a different fight on their hands; to keep us together as one. I wonder what Nelson Mandela, Samora Machel, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Leopold Senghor, Thomas Sankara, Kofi Annan, Bob Marley and many others would make of it today. Is this what they fought for? While in their graves, they will surely be turning and turning in the widening gyre, because the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, and mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere, the ceremony of innocence is drowned. This was W.B Yeats in 1919. But this is 2019. They will be wishing for a second coming.  Cry My Beloved Country.

Don’t forget to turn the lights off, when you leave the room.


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