Heartless, hopeless Africa
By Alan Caruba
For as long as I can remember in my nearly seven decades of life, the most enduring image of Africa was of a starving black child. Not only has this not changed, there is little hope this will improve.
I was thinking about Africa when the G-8 meeting in Scotland was rudely interrupted by a bombing in London on July 7. It was testimony to the fact that Islam remains intent on spreading its "peaceful" religion to the world and the way Islam has been one of the major causes for the genocides and the rape of Africa since it first swept out of Arabia in the 600s AD. Islam fairly swiftly took control of the whole of the northern part bordering the Mediterranean, moving south against the tide of Christian missionaries who later would convert a large portion of the continent's population.
The Arab Muslims discovered wealth in the form of slavery, a trade still practiced to this day, as had many of the indigenous tribes. Every one of the most vile aspects of human behavior can be found in Africa, including some of the most awful diseases known to man.
All of this is carefully documented and told in a remarkable book by Martin Meredith called The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair. ($35.00, Public Affairs) This litany of murder, rape, torture, greed, and megalomania is told in just over 680 pages and, if it were not for the fact that the author has a most agreeable writing style, the process of moving from beginning to end of this history would prove daunting. Ultimately, like some horror film, one reads simply to reach the end. Almost every page is splashed with the blood of murdered Africans.
The purpose of the G-8 meeting was to propose yet another series of financial bailouts to the various nations of Africa while forgiving debts that cannot be paid. In short, it was about throwing good money after bad. The history of Western help to Africa is one of seeing most aid stolen by whoever was in charge of the particular nation receiving it.
Of course, preceding that history was one of European colonialism wherein vast chunks of Africa were simply declared to be the property of England, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. The people in those colonial possessions were not consulted and, in many cases, cruelly treated. They would, after World War II and the independence granted to one African nation after another, discover their new masters had learned well how to enrich themselves, often bringing with them a new plague called Marxism or simply exploiting the old one of Islam.
Africans have proved immune to democracy, i.e., self-governance, preferring loyalty to their immediate families, then to their tribe, then to their religion, and vaguely to whatever passed for a nation. Throw into that mix, Islam, Marxism, and some of the most rapacious dictators to ever walk the Earth, and you have a litany of starvation, murder, and theft that even the many pages of Meredith's thick volume could not adequately record.
One is reminded of former President Bill Clinton's visit to six African nations in March 1998. "Within three months of Clinton's visit," Meredith relates, "Ethiopia and Eritrea embarked on a futile border war in which 100,000 people died." Then, "two months after the start of their war, Rwanda and Uganda plunged headlong into another round of war in Congo and then began fighting among themselves over the spoils of their occupation there. The much-heralded "African renaissance" descended into a host of conflicts in Angola, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Central African Republic.
Two years later in 2000, "there were more than ten major conflicts underway in Africa. One-fifth of all Africans lived in countries battered by war. Some 12 million were classified as refugees—40 percent of the world's total."
If constant war on the continent wasn't enough to discourage one from holding out any hope after fifty years of independence, then there is the scourge of AIDS. "Sub-Saharan Africa is home to just 10 percent of the world's population but bears more than 70 percent of the world's HIV/AIDS cases. With the pandemic still in its infancy, by 2004," wrote Meredith, "some 20 million people had died from Aids; 30 million were infected by the HIV virus and their number was rising by an estimated 3 million new cases each year. "
The next time you hear our President or other Western world leader talk about foreign aid for Africa, keep in mind that "Africa has received more foreign aid than any other region in the world. More than $300 billion of Western aid has been sunk into Africa, but with little discernible result."
Aside from economic growth, what Africa needs most and, after fifty years of independence has shown the least possibility of achieving, is good government. Routinely, the educated population of any African nation was the first to be slaughtered by dictators, leaving few to administer the governance required to address the needs of the millions within their borders.
As Americans were responding to the needs of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, busing them to safety and taking other steps to help, in Zimbabwe, largely unreported by the world's media, Robert Mugabe, the Marxist dictator, was evicting 700,000 of its most vulnerable people from their meager shelters in that nation's cities. This is a microcosm of the way most of Africa's nations have behaved since gaining independence.
As anyone who has ever received the email scams to transfer huge sums of money from Nigeria, Benin, or South Africa, the other predominant factor at work in Africa is the total culture of criminality that exists there. Between the poverty and the looting at the state level estimated to cost Africa $148 billion annually—more than a quarter of the continent's entire gross domestic product—Africa is a virtual continent of criminals.
"After decades of mismanagement and corruption, most African states have become hollowed out. They are no longer instruments capable of serving the public good," concludes Meredith.
Is there any hope for Africa? Not in the foreseeable future. Like much of the Middle East, it is a pestilent sinkhole of disease, war, famine, and death. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are quite at home in Africa.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, September 2005
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