Why Africa is not Independent & The myth of African Independence.
During the 60’s and 70’s a multitude of African countries had “freed” themselves from colonization. Although many on the continent have tended to equate decolonization with the dawn of independence in the 1960s, the independence, actually, turned out to be a bit of a hoax. Africa is not independent.
The European imperialists were smart, so they did not leave without keeping control over the entire economy and natural resources of the continent with a well-crafted system keeping Africans in extreme poverty. Besides the obvious treasures of African soil such as gold and diamonds, Africa has about 20 unique and precious minerals. By all means, they needed Africa for their mobile phones, airplanes, cars, jewelry, construction technology, etc.
Although many believed that the struggle against colonialism was also supposed to vanquish economic exploitation and introduce social justice, democracy and respect for human rights and civil liberties, the new overlords entrenched an authoritarian political culture that mimicked the style of those colonizers they had succeeded.
During the colonial era, African nationalist leaders identified themselves with the ordinary peasants and workers to fight for independence. However, these African leaders were the products of colonial schools and European universities. After independence, the European imperialists gave them the opportunity to prance around the international stage pretending to be the equals of the colonial masters whose bidding they were and are still doing.
African leaders who refused to cooperate were assassinated or became victims of coups, those who obeyed are supported and rewarded by western powers with lavish lifestyles while the majority of their people have to endure extreme poverty and desperation.
While independence undoubtedly improved life for some on the continent, for the most part, it did not mean freedom. Rather, it marked the internationalization and indigenization of colonialism. It became a tool to transform Africans from being the objects of colonial subjugation into partners in their own exploitation.
African countries remained essentially what they were: "agricultural appendages to the West". African elites are still heading to foreign capitals to preach their Pan-Africanism rhetoric while consigning their countrymen into debt and bondage.
Across Africa, those who led the fight against colonial rule and those who came after them became just as brutal as those they had deposed.
As Mmusi Maimane, leader of South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance once said, the same pattern is repeated. "First comes the era of colonial rule - unjust and exploitative. Then comes independence along with a new, democratically elected government. And then follows years, even decades, of oppression by the very same people who were meant to deliver freedom."
Although for many, "liberation" is synonymous with freedom, it is plain that few of the peoples "liberated" from colonial rule actually got freedom. And those few are the elites only.
Are Africans free? Were they liberated? Or was the situation more akin to the one described by South Africa's Nelson Mandela following his country's triumph over apartheid: "The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed."
Sadly, there is little or no recognition among Africa's governing elites today that the failure to reform the inherited colonial systems of oppression embodied in the states continues to be at the root of the continent's malaise. And things are unlikely to change unless we redefine independence to mean real freedom for the continent's people rather than simply the freedom to be oppressed and plundered by African elites.
That is the work that remains to be done.