Africa is Not a Shit Hole; but not If African leaders have A Say in It
Donald Trump’s latest installment of crass statements has hit the airwaves for all the wrongs reasons for the past week, in his litany of “how not to be a president”. His latest buccal diarrhea has seen him describe Africa, Haiti and other countries as “shit holes”. The response to that is well documented. There are many who would be surprised that such remarks would come from the most powerful man; and by default God’s deputy on the planet. The surprise element is the fact that people are surprised at his statement, as if they expected anything different from such a person. (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray, author)
When Donald Trump burst onto the political scene, he promised a lot of things; but being your conventional politician was not one of them. He promised to drain the swamp in Washington, build the wall on the US border with Mexico, tighten the American immigration system and undo anything and everything that Obama built and stood for. What he did not do was admit that he is a bully, a racist, bigot misogynist, narcissist, and someone with peculiar sexual sensitivities.
The American people knew this but still voted for him, thanks to the twin forces of an adulterated political system that has been erroneously described as democratic; where the Electoral College, whatever that is, holds sway over the popular vote and the alleged interference of a neighbourly love. The Americans knew perfectly well that Trump was susceptible to opening his mouth before engaging his brain into gear. But they still voted for him. So why are people surprised by what he says and does? You voted for him, so suck it. You can say whatever you want about Donald trump; at least he is honest and true to his word. He told the American people that he had no time for “political correctness”. So why is everyone shocked for him being what he already said he is? With Donald trump, what you see is what you get.
So is there any credence to what he said about Africa recently; that Africa is a s… hole? We all know that it takes a shit head to know a “s… hole” , but can we take away the emotional attachments and rationalise with him for one minute. It goes without saying that the world, including poor me is spitting feathers by his latest outburst. But in the cold light of day, is there a ring to it? If not, why did he say that?
Africa is not a “s… hole”, and this is a fact. The alternative fact is that, there are many who would not go as far as describe Africa as such, but their opinions about their continent would be distant cousins of such a description, depending on who you speak to. Africa had long since broken the shackles of colonialism, the step child of slavery. African countries have had their independence, at least in theory, for many years. But have African countries demonstrated their ability for self-governance? Has Africa been truly independent? Has Africa recovered from the victim role.
It is an irrefutable fact that Africa is the wealthiest continent on earth, but it is also the natural habitat for the poorest of mankind. It has the highest mortality rate and least life expectancy. Take a look at the resources available; from oil, gold, diamond, rutile, bauxite, land, timber, weather, fish, climate and man power, etc. Africa has the best of what nature can offer but the worst of what man can offer; including poverty, wars, disease and right down to bad governance. But the continent is nothing like Donald trump described. In the abundance of such natural wealth and resources, Africa is the proverbial man who sits by the river and washes his hands with spittle. When you think that the term “civilisation” was actually conceived and born in Africa, Trump’s insult becomes gnawingly painful.
In the run-up to Christmas, the news was about Africans being rescued from the barbaric hands of brutal cabals in Libya, unleashing untold suffering on Africans who dared to come to their war torn country. The hue and cry for their repatriation was deafening, and some of our African leaders did not miss the photo op to unashamedly invite the press to capture their return, in all its “glory”. Rather than see this as a dark mark on their consciences, if they ever had one, they basked in what they saw as moment of glory in repatriating the same victims they manufactured in the first place; thanks to their bad governance. As we go to press, seven migrants were found dead off the coast of Lanzarote in Spain this week. There is an unconfirmed newsflash report that over a thousand migrants have just been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea.
Now lets us imagine that these recent migrants have heard all the horrible stories that faced their brothers and sisters in similar circumstances. Some may have even met these victims and listened to their first hand stories. Despite all this, they still venture on these dangerous voyages. What drives a person to embark on such suicidal adventures? Have you tried to visualise the inner workings of such an individual? Now try telling these migrants that Donald Trump was wrong in his expletive description of our continent. For anyone to risk such a trip, you can bet your bottom dollar that “shit hole” does not begin to describe what they feel about their country.
As painful as it is, as undignified as it is for the American president to utter these words, are our African leaders responsible for giving him the excuse to insult us? As insulting as it could be, shouldn’t we be engaging on a mass continental reflection, looking inside out of ourselves? Shouldn’t we be holding our leaders accountable for reducing us and bringing the wrath of a foul mouthed Donald Trump? Shouldn’t Africans wake up to reality and face the music? When our leaders have reduced themselves to custodians of the perennial begging bowls, should we be surprised that the Donald Trumps of this world have such a rancid opinion about a whole continent and its people? What makes this insult monumentally disgraceful is that fact that our continent is far from what he described us to be. Ask the Norwegians whom he preferred about their opinion of his country. To think that this guy was of immigrant stock makes it all the more bewildering. Trump’s maternal scion is Scottish and his paternal lineage is of some Bavarian concoction. Imagine where he would have been if America shared a similar view with him, when his parents emigrated? Phew
As a continent, we all know that the wealth of Africa is greater than that of Europe and The Americas combined. The sad reality is that our leaders have successfully transformed us into the universally disadvantaged. It is a very bitter pill to swallow but it is time we faced reality and start reflecting on what could have been. There is no question that Donald Trump is horrible by any standards. But as Africans, perhaps we should consider this a watershed, a time to consolidate all that is beautiful and good about our continent. For all we know, it is quite possible that Trump is actually making public, what others in his position may be whispering in private. It is quite possible that his publicised view may have been a subject of small talk during conferences like the G8, summits at Davos, and even the UN. These are all possibilities.
With Trump once again displaying his penchant for controversy and spewing his gospel of hate and bigotry, the African continent may be forgiven to withdraw into the victim, the disadvantaged and the dehumanised role. But we should remember that there will be no political, economic or social capital made from such a position. What our leaders need to do is come together and give Trump the finger. And there can be no better way to work towards consolidating our efforts than starting with good governance. We can start by showing the likes of Trump that we are capable of self-governance. A good place would be conducting FREE, FAIR, PEACEFUL, and DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS. I know a small patch of land in Africa that will be going to the polls in March this year. Its neighbour has just concluded one PEACEFUL, FREE AND FAIR ELECTION in December. Rather than engaging in some constitutional gymnastics so close to their election, rather than self-diagnosing as selectively amnesic, wouldn’t it be a good message to send to the Tumps of this world that they can take care of their affairs, by ensuring a FRE, FAIR and PEACEFUL ELECTION this March? For God’s sake, this guy threatens us with withholding aid, just because we did not attend and support his decision at the UN meeting to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Phew.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter (M. L. King).
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