The memory remains vivid in your mind, as sharp as yesterday. It was a Saturday evening. You were sitting in your student’s flat in Edinburgh, having a relaxed post-prandial discussion with your friends who were visiting. There was Malcolm, your regular squash partner, who was English, and his Chinese wife, Wan Yin. And there was Reuven, and his wife, Yemina.
The news television station BBC2 was showing scenes of some recent disturbance in Soweto, South Africa. Pictures of brutal beatings, guns firing, and arrests of demonstrators by white policemen, armed to the teeth. The reporter switched to an interview with Winnie Mandela.
‘When is all this violence going to stop?’ he asked. ‘Isn’t it futile for young black men to be getting killed and maimed fighting with a state which controls so much power, including nuclear power?’
Winnie, as usual, showed her power of repartee. Her husband Nelson was in prison on Robben Island. Winnie, beautiful, crisp, eloquent, was the visible symbol of the anti-Apartheid struggle. You felt a thrill in your heart as she responded.
‘As long as they are in our land, oppressing our people, we will fight them. We will fight them with everything we have. We will not stop till we win this war.’
There was a long silence in the room, as everyone digested what they had just witnessed. And then the voice of Reuven came from where he lay slouched on your couch.
‘I hate what the Russians are doing to young black Africans. They put rifles in their hands and send them to their deaths’.
You had known Reuven for a little over one year. He told interesting stories and seemed to have a genuine compassion for all humanity. One of the stories he told was of how elite paratroopers of the Israeli army, as part of their training, were taken to Masada, a mountain redoubt in the south of Israel where, seventy-four years before the birth of Jesus Christ, a group of Jews had been besieged by a Roman army. Rather than submit to the superior military power of Rome, 960 Sicarii rebels committed mass suicide. At the Masada ceremony, modern-day Israeli soldiers would recite a solemn pledge,
Reuven had told you, in another moment of frankness, that if the survival of Israel was threatened, he would not care if the whole world went up in flames.
It was as though the scale suddenly fell from your eyes.
‘It is okay for you to say “Never again” at Masada, but it is not okay for black youths to be ready to fight and die for their land? It must be the Russians. The Africans have no mind of their own.’
Military coups, such as the recent one in Niger Republic, or internal wars, such as in Sudan, usually fall along existing fissure lines of religion and ethnicity, or greed and despotism
The evening was over, as was your friendship with Reuven.
The original ’Liberation Wars’ have since ended. Fifty-four African countries are independent. Nominal democracies, for the most part, with faulty elections, shaky transitions, and a vague practice of the letter, but not the spirit, of democracy. Stories of coups, attempted coups, and chaos almost everywhere.
Much of the fault for the situation is with Africans themselves, in truth. But it is becoming clear that the endless conflict and lack of development are also being fuelled by foreigners whose interests would be jeopardised if Africans suddenly got their act together. Military coups, such as the recent one in Niger Republic, or internal wars, such as in Sudan, usually fall along existing fissure lines of religion and ethnicity, or greed and despotism. The common point between all the ‘wars’ is the presence of interested Europeans, Americans, Russians, and more lately Chinese, pulling the strings, fighting by proxy. Irrespective of their rhetoric, they are not motivated by ‘democracy’, or the good of Africans, but their own overriding national strategic and economic interests. It is a story as old as mankind itself.
The real and present danger for Africans is from world powers and purveyors of ‘World Order’ who see their vital national interests in controlling the crucial minerals located under African soil. Those interests could not be guaranteed if the countries of Africa were stable and well governed. The minimum requirement for ‘stability’ in the present ‘World Order’ is permanent chaos and poverty in Africa. That is why people who have no gold in their land can set ‘Gold Standards’ for the world, while the people with the gold under their soil languish in poverty. 30% of the uranium used to generate constant power in France comes from Niger Republic, a country where most of the population cannot read or write and lack constant power. Precious minerals are ‘bought’ from Africa for a pittance, with prices set through ‘international agreements’ backed up by ‘international law’ in which the buyer, not the seller, dictates the price. The relationship is reminiscent of petroleum, before OPEC emerged to ‘liberate’ Arab wealth.
In addition to the dislocations caused by Islamic terrorism, the coups in the Sahelian belt from Mali to Burkina Faso to Niamey need to be seen in the light of a growing movement to recover ownership of African resources. The ‘democratic’ governments on the continent need to understand and lead the wave of this groundswell, so that they are in lockstep with their people, and not perceived by them as agents of foreign powers.
However, the danger in the logic of the masses, exemplified by the crowds in Niamey who are waving Russian flags today, is that ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is naive in the politics of nations. Europe, especially France, the USA, Russia, and China are equally ravenous for Africa’s mineral resources, and ready to fight clean or dirty to get them. Putin and Prigozhin are no knights in shining armour, riding to the rescue of the majority Hausas of Niamey. Africans, desperate to ‘possess their possessions’, must take responsibility for their destiny, and think strategically. There are no friends out there, only interests.