Africa: A child of woes

From the 16th century onwards, the continent underwent 300 years of slavery. Literally, millions of Africans were dragged screaming (figuratively and literally) into a life of hell, deprivation and inhuman treatment. Many were never saw their homeland or even Africa ever again. Today we call them the African Diaspora.

Colonisation followed enslavement. At first the Europeans were slow to seize black Africa, ruthless in doing so, harsh when they had done it.

They were loath to fight each other for slices of a continent that they barely knew. So in 1884 the powers met in Berlin to share Africa out. In some areas, ignorant of people and geography alike, they made frontiers simply by drawing straight lines on the map.

The area today called DRC was then called the Belgian Congo and, for most of the time until the 20th Century, was nothing more than the Belgian King’s personal hunting grounds; Zimbabwe, the former Southern Rhodesia, was the playground of coloniser and capitalist extraordinaire John Rhodes and his British South Africa Company; South Africa became the guinea pig of man’s inhumanity to man through the former racist regime of the National Party’s experimentation with Grand Apartheid, denigrating Africans to third class citizens in their own country.

So the tales of brutality go on and on.

The 60s of the last century gave rise to hope. One by one the former colonies of France, Britain, Portugal, etc, attained independence.

Namibia, one of the last to escape more than 100 years of colonisation and apartheid, became free, sovereign and independent only in 1990. Now Africa was, at last, free and able to progress up the ladder of success, rung by rung.

With the latest conference on global warming and climate change, however, it became extremely clear that Africa once again was to become the scapegoat for issues that were none of its makings. Our beautiful continent, probably ‘ except maybe for the Arctic and the Antarctic ‘ the least polluted on Mother Earth, was told in no uncertain terms that it would have to bear the brunt of the Western world’s excesses.

It was recently made clear that even if the Kyoto Protocol were to be fully implemented immediately, climate change (CC) is unavoidable.

The countries most vulnerable to CC include many developing nations; while those better able to adapt and less willing to mitigate are those most guilty of past pollution, including many developed nations.

Namibia is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. In 2006, the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism admitted that climate change was one of the most serious threats to Namibia’s environment, human health and well-being, as well as its economic development.

If, as some models predict, the climate in the region becomes hotter, drier and more variable in the future, marginalised rural populations and the urban poor will be most severely affected.

The question now is why should we have to suffer because, for instance, a country with 5 percent of the world’s population emits 20 percent of the pollution?

Why should we, who have already suffered endless degradation at the hands of the First World over the centuries, be made to pay for their greed, their profligacy, the carelessness, their total lack of understanding and their equally total lack of empathy.

If there was ever a time to dare, to make a difference, to embark on something worth doing,


We know, though, that things worth doing seldom come easy. There will be good times. And there will be bad times. There will be times when we will want to turn around, pack it up, and call it quits.

We must not. We must make our voices heard and we must make those pay who are at the heart of the misery. Let us treat the cause and not the symptoms.

December 2006
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