Africa’s Leadership Deficit and Colonial Trauma: Freedom without Liberation

By Published On: 25th May 2017

Africa Liberation Day, 25 May 2017

On 25th May 2017, Pan-Africanists across the length and breadth of the continent and in the diaspora celebrate Africa Liberation Day. This day marks the annual anniversary of an event that took place on 25th May 1963, when the leaders of what was then 32 independent African countries met to establish the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as a collective expression of their solidarity towards each other and their commitment to ensure the total liberation of their continent. Today, Africa has the nominal freedom that was acknowledged by the formal hand-over of power from the European colonial empires to African governments, but the continent is still gripped by the yoke of the negative practices which were the legacy of its history of conquest. Africa is extremely well endowed and this is the reason why the colonial empires came to pillage and plunder the continent. In order to achieve their nefarious objective the European colonisers created a fiction of the superiority of “white” races over their “darker” skinned fellow humans. This fiction of inferiority regrettably remains a sad reality in the mindset of many African people, in particular Africa’s leaders. The Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC), categorizes colonialism as a “crime against humanity”. If colonialism was a “crime” then we need to subject the benefactors of the perpetrators to a process of accountability. Colonialism in its criminality created a racial hierarchy of human beings and the dispossession of the land from communities was one of the side-effects of this institutionalised racism. Today, some of Africa’s so-called “leaders” continue to behave as though they themselves are the colonial criminals who came before them. This suggests that these African “leaders” retained a “colonial mindset” even after independence. Consequently, African societies are not “healed” and reconciled with our past, which is why we continue to victimize and perpetrate injustices against ourselves. Africa has not received “justice” for the colonial crimes that were committed. This is one aspect of why Africa’s soul is traumatized and wounded by this colonial criminality. Africa’s so-called “leaders” are also deeply traumatized and wounded even though they refuse to admit it on public platforms, for fear for looking weak or vulnerable. Yet these leaders place themselves in positions of authority over societies and the resources required to survive, and continue the colonial practice of pillaging and plundering from their own people. Why should an individual leader steal from their own people and place their ill-gotten gains in off-shore accounts in Panama, and elsewhere? Clearly this is an indication of a morally diseased mindset. African leaders need to acknowledge that they are deeply traumatized and behaving like their colonial victimizers. Through a process of recovering the truth of colonialism and working towards the restoration of the dignity of the African person, the continent can once again resume its trajectory to asserting itself of the global stage. This is the only path that Africa can take in order for the so-called “freedom” that was achieved at the point of physical independence can genuinely be converted into a form of “liberation” of the African soul.

Prof. Tim Murithi is Head of the IJR Justice and Peacebuilding in Africa Programme, @tmurithi12

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