One of the saddest, even most tragic phenomena (occurrences) facing Africa today is the reverse in the trans-Atlantic voyages taking place. This time it is not across the Atlantic Ocean, but across the Mediterranean Sea, claiming thousands of lives.
Do we Africans understand or come to grips with what this really means? Have we forgotten what happened to us Africans – 15 million of us – in the 15th through the 19th centuries?
It was called the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade when millions of Africans were captured, chained and held in the bottom of ships, mostly from England and America, and shipped to the Western Hemisphere as slaves.
Yes, this was one of history’s most despicable, inhumane and tragic incidents, which went on until March 1807, when William Wilberforce and others successfully pushed through the British Parliament the Anti-Slave Trade Law that ended slavery in Britain and all of its colonies. But slavery continued in the southern United States, provoking the American Civil War. The southern states, determined to continue slavery, seceded from the Federal Government, challenging President Abraham Lincoln.
But the Federal Government won the war and in 1865 President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in America. But this was followed by Jim Crow by which the southern whites instituted vicious racism and segregation against blacks that lasted more than a century. But the faith of the black people, expressed in Negro Spirituals and the Civil Rights Movement, led by the NAACP and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, ended the legality of racial discrimination throughout the USA.
The struggle was climaxed eight years ago with the election of Barack Obama as the first Black President of the USA. He won a second term. But now Donald Trump, a white American billionaire, has been elected the new President, backed mainly by white
Americans. It is too early to tell whether this election is a “white-lash” against President Obama’s political success. But already, Trump has selected as his Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor a man known by many to be a white supremacist. What kind of signal Mr. Trump seems to be sending remains to be seen.
Why must we go through all this? It is simply because we in Africa seem to have forgotten our horrific past.
For here we are today, with the entire continent free and independent, yet faced with terrible governance in so many parts of the continent—from West to East, from North to South. This situation is forcing Africa’s young people to flee the continent for Europe, not in chains this time, but of their own volition, taking dangerous, even suicidal risks to cross the Sahara Desert into Libya only to reach the Mediterranean Sea for the cross over into Europe. In the process, thousands of these young Africans have drowned in the Mediterranean. Why are they dying in the Mediterranean graveyard? Only because they have lost hope in Africa and have decided to vote with their feet, running away from their beloved homes in their dear Mother Africa to hopefully seek a better life in Europe.
Why? Because too many African countries have failed them and so they—the young people—have lost hope. The main problem is bad governance. Take oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, the son of whose president is behaving like a billionaire. Just recently the police in Switzerland found in his garage eight expensive sports cars, each costing at least US$400,000. This is how the ruling family is squandering the nation’s money while its people are languishing in poverty?
One of Liberia’s most lucrative state enterprises, the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) became bankrupt under the watch of the Liberian President’s son Robert Sirleaf, with over US$30 million lost? It is an extraordinary blessing that Liberian youth are not among the Africans perishing in the Mediterranean. Or are they?
Travel across West Africa and to the East and see how an Ethiopian minority government has marginalized the nation’s two major ethnic groups, the Amhara and the Oromo, threatening a civil war.
There is yet next door, Eritrea, whose leader has inflicted upon his people one of the worst tyrannies found anywhere. Tens of thousands of Eritreans have fled to Ethiopia and abroad because of this unbearable existence.
In Southern Africa, President Jacob Zuma has damaged the legacies of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. Such a rich and promising country is going downhill because of one corrupt, greedy and selfish man! Go further to Zimbabwe, whose president, now in his nineties, is still holding on to power, and doing so in oppressively brutal fashion as though it was he alone who fought the war of liberation from white minority rule.
These are but few examples of bad governance in Africa that is forcing our young people to flee their beloved continent to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, thousands of them dying in the process from the dilapidated or tattered boats in which they traveled.
There are some powerful African Organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union, that are watching all these things happening and saying and doing nothing about them. What have these organizations to say about bad governance in Africa? Or are they the same ‘Old Boys Club’ that treat with benign neglect the corruption and mismanagement plaguing the continent and frustrating the hopes and aspirations of African youth?
Will these organizations rise up and do something to save Africa and restore the hope of our youth?
That remains to be seen.