Photo: The Rwandan Focus, Rwanda’s Kigali City infrastructure boom (file photo).
By Patrick Creary
An unverified story circulates on the internet. It reports a speech made by Lord Macaulay to the British Parliament on February 2, 1835. While the Lord in fact existed, he is reported to have been in India at the time. The rumour goes as follows:
Lord Macaulay said to the British Parliament, “I have travelled across the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one person who was a beggar, who is a thief; such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Africans think that all that is foreign and English is good, and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture, and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”
Fake news aside, the sentiment expressed is not far removed from the fundamental attitude of the colonisers towards Africa. Chancellor Williams, one of the most venerated scholars of black antiquities, in his book, ‘The Destruction of Black Civilisation’ wrote of his experience while studying at Oxford University; how the great “Professor Madden – recited how difficult, if not impossible, it was to rule Africans in view of their “wild and most primitive system of democracy.”
For just as fast as African kings or chiefs undertook to carry out British laws (which displeased the people), “the people would remove them from office,” therefore, this “primitive African democracy had to be destroyed” before the British system of Indirect Rule could be effective.”
Professor Madden had spoken after 10 million Africans had been taken from the continent to fuel British conquest of the Americas, and after more than three hundred years of Africa’s exploitation. Yet remarkably, the matter is more significant considering that Dr Williams’ book spans the time between BC 4500 – 2000 AD. Therefore, we must consider the affliction of Persia, Greece, Rome, Arabia, and all of Europe in light of Africa’s resistance.
Given the similarity of the sentiments expressed in the quotes above, one may take them together, and ask: What were the spiritual, cultural, and democratic heritages that kept Africa together, thus preventing its dissolution? Are they written, or molt within the minds of sages living in remote places? If they exist, may we use them to restore Africa’s past glory, or redeem her restless offspring languishing across the globe? In all, what methods beyond the willful slaughter of millions did the colonisers use in their conquest?
While not rhetorical, we will not answer these questions here; for I presume agreement that our present state is undesirable. Nevertheless, any contemplation of reasons why, would provide answers vis-à-vis our condition. Reasons may unfold in the way we worship, in our deferral of physical solutions to suffering, if not in the default mechanism of war to resolve conflict. Those automatic impulses are not endemic to Africa. But a fruiting revolution has come; now Africans everywhere revive the timeless habit of using their enduring will to defeat adversity.
Africa embraces the enigmatic triumph of will and intellect over adversity. A modern example of this unfolded during the Rome Olympics in 1960, when Abebe Bikila won gold running barefoot. Appalled, the commentator drew parallels between the victory and Mussolini’s failed attempts to conquer Ethiopia with a million soldiers; proclaiming that “Tonight one Ethiopian has conquered Rome … “
Indeed, Africa’s resurgence has global connotation. It became evident in a movement within the Caribbean, when a group of holy men looked eastward to establish the creed of Ras Tafari; embracing the old cultural and spiritual ways of the continent they created a new religion, essentially African.
They love their women, making them queens through a reciprocal necessity that sent a message to the world saying, “God is an African king ruling in regal wisdom. Africa’s resurgence has taken root. It will not wait for a more convenient day.