Donald Trump got himself into terrible trouble for referring to some African countries as “s—holes.” The fact is, most people who live in those countries would probably agree with him, but the truth matters little these days. The Biden administration will probably revert to type, forgive all the debts, cozy up to the despots, and start throwing more money at the problem, most of which will be stolen by the ruling elites and the woes will continue.
The fact is, Africa’s problems are about little else other than poor to atrocious governance and the existence of massive bureaucracies that do little other than steal and stifle growth in the private sector. A good start to addressing this deficit would be to hold African governments accountable, and that would involve criticizing the incumbents, but no Western leader will do this for fear of being labeled a “neocolonialist” or, worse still, a “racist.”
Unfortunately, this moral malaise has left the continent wide open to the real neocolonialists, the Chinese, who are working assiduously to entrench themselves by luring one country after another into a debt trap while flooding the place with their nationals, many of whom have a military background. Unlike the IMF and Western lenders, the Chinese are unscrupulous; they are in Africa for themselves and they want value for money.
While the Chinese approach to African hegemony is subtle and mainly peaceful, the Islamic one is aggressive, militant, and often hideously violent. Islamic State associate groups, having established strong toeholds virtually throughout the Sahel, are now moving swiftly south and meeting little meaningful resistance. Their recent arrival in northern Mozambique has taken the region by surprise.
Here Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah, which is an ISIS (Islamic State) offshoot, is seeking to establish nothing less than a full-blown caliphate in the province of Cabo Delgado and fracture the country. Colonel Eeben Barlow, head of the private security company Executive Outcomes, which has operated all over Africa, does not mince his words: “This is spreading like wildfire and meeting little resistance. My immediate concern is that the strategically vital Cahora Bassa Dam may soon fall under the control of the insurgents, which will be a game changer; not only for Mozambique, but also for South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the sub-continent. I am very worried about how this will impact my own country, and our government must react soon and react decisively or we may be on track toward a disaster.”
Against this backdrop there is growing concern being voiced by Africans at virtually every level about the deteriorating economic and security situation, but which is seldom heard or reported, possibly because it does not resonate with the politicians, academics, and the media that peddles a strong anti-“white supremacy” line premised on the Europeans’ historic links to slavery and colonialism.
With all this in mind, I was in touch recently with several men, all senior, hardened combat veterans of the armies raised with strong Chinese and Soviet backing, to end white rule in Rhodesia. We swapped stories because there was a time when I tried to kill them, and they tried to kill me, but their message was astonishing.
They are one voice, in lamenting the course of events since “liberation” by Robert Mugabe in 1980. They state quite bluntly that the departure of the whites from their homeland was a tragedy and similar events in other former colonies are the fundamental cause of the continent’s socioeconomic collapse. They are scathing in their criticism of African politicians throughout the continent who do little more than abuse their power for self-enrichment. They acknowledge a huge governance deficit and the fact their country was far better run by the whites they sought to dislodge. While Europeans everywhere are being vilified for their historic links to slavery, they point out slavery remains alive and well in Africa, but nobody is doing anything to stop it. They are scathing about their erstwhile allies the Chinese who they see as avaricious racists plundering the continent’s resources for their own enrichment while, unlike the white colonists, they contribute little or nothing to the welfare of Africans in general. They are gravely concerned about the spread of militant Islamic groups south and the fact there is no effective opposition to stem this tide. We are Christians, they say, but where are the Christian soldiers to fight these people?
I ask, “So what is to be done?” And they say we need the white people back on the ground here; we need the Americans with their military and economic power; we need the British, the French, the Germans, the Portuguese. We want them to invest, but we also need their expertise in the private and public sectors; we are rudderless and badly led, they say. If the Europeans come back, they assure me, we will all prosper together.
Irritation and a measure of anger follow when I point out these people are not coming back; not because they do not want to—these countries are brimful of the people and resources they so desperately seek—but because they are cowed by guilt relating to their imperial pasts and connection to slavery.
And herein lies the ongoing tragedy of Africa. A powerful media peddling a false narrative bolstered by a propaganda campaign in schools and universities have destroyed the confidence of hitherto great nations and people who hold the key to making Africa and the world a better place.
To my former foes I say, there is little I can do; I’m a white African in a white-hating world, and “illiberal” to boot, so few listen. But you men of war have the skin color and hard-won credentials to make people in high places listen, and I’ll do all I can to help pass your message on.
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