The wrong kind of feast

The English say “shooting oneself in the foot”.
It is a fairly straightforward idiom that is often used in reference to accidentally doing harm to yourself.
But there are some other interesting interpretations of this idiom, one of which is related to cowboys in America’s Wild West who were said to be so trigger-happy that they inadvertently ended up discharging the gun while it was still in the holster and thus shooting themselves in the foot.
Another interpretation is that the idiom has its origins in World War I when British soldiers, who did not understand why the monarchy was sending them to die at the Kaiser’s hands, purposely shot themselves in the foot so that they could claim injury and be exempted from going to the frontlines.
Of course, that latter interpretation is not often referenced due to its unflattering depiction of some British soldiers who were not prepared to die for King George V.
Most commonly, the idiom refers to accidental self-harm, unwitting self-injury.
It is something that we in Africa are very well acquainted with. From the time we collaborated with slave traders to raid our own kith and kin for sale to American plantations, European households and Arab households, down to the present when we sign off our most precious natural resources for a song, we sure have much experience in shooting ourselves in the foot.
One could say it is a continental pastime.
Nathaniel Manheru, a columnist for Zimbabwe’s The Herald newspaper, has another way of looking at the matter.
For him, it is about the etiquette that’s needed when one is supping with the devil.
The conventional wisdom has been that when supping with the devil, one must use a long spoon – anything shorter would be akin to shooting oneself in the foot.
But for Nathaniel Manheru, and it is something I cannot help but agree with, that supper with the devil should not even take place at all.
His take is, “Revolutions are most imperilled when they sit down to negotiate.”
This is something that Zimbabwe understands only too well. After having waged a war against colonialism from 1966, the country found itself supping with the devil at Lancaster House and the result was entrenchment of white privilege after our flag-and-anthem Independence.
It has now taken 13 years of abrasive attritional war with the West to undo the fruits of that supper with the devil, but at least Zimbabwe has learnt its lesson.
South Africa supped with the devil in the lead-up to 1994. And the consequences are there for everyone to see at Marikana and in the fact that South Africa is often rated by the experts as “the most unequal society in the world”.
Namibia has had its dinner with the devil, and today the country is struggling to give its people land in a country where some privileged whites privately hold more than 50 000 hectares each while the “independent” people shack up in the Katutura hovels.
The DRC had a sumptuous meal with the devil back in January of 1961.
Today, Rwanda and Uganda – stomachs distended from feasting at the devil’s table – are pushing for the ultimate act of betrayal to Africa’s development aspirations.
The DRC is the region’s key to real industrialisation. With known natural resources estimated at US$24 trillion, and with an Inga dream that can provide electricity to much of the continent, peace, stability and security in the Congo should be every African’s ambition.
Instead, Rwanda is pushing for a balkanisation of the DRC through the UN Security Council.
Rwanda heads the Security Council as of this April, and it has already laid the groundwork for the DRC to be broken up. Let us not expect any help from the UN on the matter of the DRC for the next six months because Rwanda is sitting at the head of the devil’s table for now.
By the time Rwanda’s Presidency of the Security Council is up, the DRC could be well on its way to final disintegration. On February 11 of this year, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said “the treatment to be applied to the resolution of the Congo crisis, must be those already experimented in the former Yugoslavia and the former Sudan”.
There is no more Yugoslavia, and we all talk of the “former” Sudan.
It is simple divide and rule. They want to break up the DRC so that they can all create their own fiefdoms where they will dine lavishly on the riches that the DRC has to offer.
The people of the DRC are unlikely to get much out of it; the people of Africa (except perhaps Kagame, Museveni and their buddies) are unlikely to get anything at all.
At a table in Berlin in 1884-85, devils divided portions of Africa for their own nourishment. Nothing has changed since then. And just as there were Africans ready to dine with the devils back in the 19th century, there are still such among us today.
There can be no compromise with devilish intentions when it comes to the matter of the DRC or the destabilisation of any African country for that matter. There should be no negotiations when it comes to our peace, security and development.
Our revolutions should not be imperilled by sitting down to dine – even with the longest of spoons – with the devil.


April 2013
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