Africa: Towards South to South Dialogue

> Mkhosana Mathobela Bingweni

IN AFRICA and outside, even in the West itself, most serious thinkers agree that the problems of the world from terrorism to social inequalities and poverty are still problems of the ‘West’ versus the ‘Rest’ of the world.

In earnest, there is no single economic and political problem of the countries of the South, Africa and Latin America, that is not linked to the enduring colonial problem.

The reason for this enduring Western problem in Africa and Latin America is that after decolonisation peoples of the South were made to believe that they can rely on ideas and strategies from the West or the Global North for their economic and political progress.

Many years of the Global South trying to depend on the Global North for ideas of economic and political progress have proven to be wasted years.

The Western promises to the world, from civilisation, democratisation, development, human rights and lately globalisation, have all proven, in actuality, to be the historical fraud of the centuries.

Historically and politically speaking, it is either the West is a great fraudster or the countries of the South are slow learners, or never learn at all.

As Southern African countries and communities enter 2017, as another year in the progress of the present century, leaders and their people must invest thought on how ideas can be invented and generated that will recover Southern Africa and the entire Global South from the present entrapment in the crisis of the world that manifests in extreme poverty, disease, ignorance, terrorism and the ecological catastrophe that threatens the entire planet with annihilation.

Our baptismal understanding should still be the time-tested wisdom that in reality we cannot solve a problem using the same thinking that created it.

The West introduced slavery and colonialism as capitalist economic strategies that have brought the world to this condition of misery for the peoples of the Global South.

That the same West will provide the ideas and strategies to get the world out of this planetary crisis is at best an article of blind faith and, at worst misguided belief in miracles.

Almost all threats to humanity that have emanated from the Western world have come dressed in the form and shape of one promise or another.

After so many broken promises and so many historical lessons that the people of the South have gained, wisdom would dictate that 2017 should at least provide a turn where leaders and peoples of the Global South should take seriously South to South dialogue, relating and learning from each other how to navigate the present world.

The Bandung Conference of 1955 was such a brief but meaningful moment where some countries of the South sat to imagine a world that was not dictated by the Global North. Africa and Latin America, and some parts of Asia need more of the Bandung moments.

The Fraud of Civilisation

Both the enslavement of the peoples and colonisation of the countries of the Global South were justified using the tantalising and mesmerising promises of modernisation and civilisation.

We were told by both imperial politicians and Christian preachers that forced labour and abuse of the enslaved and the colonised were the pain that came before the big gain of civilisation and modernity.

After centuries, the peoples and countries of the South have their pain and their poverty to show for it.

The gains of the slavish and the colonial encounters are yet to be seen. A careful study of the state of world affairs instead shows that slavery itself and colonialism are actually continuing by other means and guises.

This is happening after Latin America started decolonising in the 18th to the mid 19th century, and Africa effectively after World War II.

Multiplicities of experiments of decolonisation, de-westernisation, and even de-imperialisation have not delivered the liberation that is desired in the Global South.

The Fraud of Democratisation

After the Atlantic Charter of 12 February 1941, an agreement that put importance in the autonomy of imperial colonies in the South, most colonial administrations in Africa started pretending to democratise.

The Atlantic Charter resulted from a meeting between Franklin D. Roosevelt the then US President and Winston Churchill who was the Prime Minister of the Britain.

Powered by the promise of the Charter, revolutionaries of Africa intensified the pressure for decolonisation and independence.

Colonial administrations, trying to elongate their stay in the colonies promised democratisation and the granting of freedoms and rights to the colonised.

In the process, unfortunately, the struggle between the colonisers and the colonised changed to being a struggle for democratisation and not full liberation.

Many decades after the decolonisation and democratisation of Africa, Africans have nothing to show for the democracy except new forms of colonisation that are perpetuated in some cases by some black governments.

Like civilisation, democracy has largely been another fraudulent promise from the West to the Global South.

The Fraud of Development

When democratisation, in the sixties and seventies, in Africa was emerging to be another tyranny with its own problems, the United States of America as part of its fear of the scourge of communism, started preaching and sponsoring development in the Third World.

Up to today, there is so much talk even in Southern Africa about the developmental state. In all the talk about development there was little and there is still little talk about that Africa needs development because in the first place it was underdeveloped.

Enslavers and colonisers might have found Africa undeveloped and what they went on to do was to underdevelop the continent.

The Western gospel of development in Africa grew from being a theory to being an ideology of developmentalism but all the same the years of trying and failing have shown that as preached and sponsored by the West, development in Africa has been another gigantic historical and political hoax.

The underdevelopment of Africa by the West continues under a litany of names and pretences.

The Fraud of Human Rights

When the dreams of civilisation, democracy and development were appearing to be real nightmares in Africa and in the entire Global South, the western gospel of human rights was given new importance.

Without a sense of irony and paradox, the people that introduced the cruel systems of slavery and colonisation, the worst abuses of human right throughout the centuries became the same people who promised the world human rights.

Throughout Africa, non-governmental organisations sponsored from the West arose to claim that the problem in Africa was the abuse of human rights by African post-independence regimes.

Fighting for human rights became an industry in Africa. When decolonial philosopher, Walter Mignolo asked the question “who speaks for the human in human rights ?” he meant to probe why those who spoke so much about human rights on record appeared to be the same people who introduced the abuse of human right in the world.

The Western sponsored religion of human rights is fundamentally a religion that does not have humanism. Before enslavers and colonisers conquered Africa and the entire Global South, peoples of the South had their civilisations, forms of democracy, ideas of development and progress and they respected humanism. Western human rights discourse compared to African humanism is a perfect fraud.

The Fraud of the Colonial State

Part of the dilemma of the Global South is that countries are trying to solve the frauds of civilisation, democracy, development and human rights using the platform of the colonial state, institutions of government that came with slavery and colonialism.

The universities are also reproducing political and economic ideas that were generated by philosophers and thinkers of Empire. Even leaders that pioneered African decolonisation such as Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Leopold Sedar Senghor and Nnamdi Azikiwe, among others, were fiery revolutionaries who paradoxically relied on ideologies and theories from Western and Eastern Europe in trying to liberate and develop their countries and peoples.

The enslavers and the colonisers produced the African intellectual, political and economic elite that took over African countries from the white colonial administrators and there our problems began and continued up to today.

Civic societies in Africa bemoan corruption, tyranny and human rights abuses by African leaders but refuse to realise how these problems are still connected to the slavish and the colonial problem.

African governments blame civic societies for being western sponsored and perpetuating coloniality and forget to realise that in a strong way, African leadership ethics are products from the colonial system and perpetuate colonialism by black people against other black people.

The 2017 should realise a decolonial turn in Africa and Latin America where intellectuals and political leaders generate vigorous South to South dialogues aimed at recovering the Global South from the fraud within the world political and economic system.

Decoloniality means exactly that awakening from the myths and frauds of coloniality to a realisation that there is another possible world besides that which the West has defined and structured for us.

*Mkhosana Mathobela Bingweni writes from South Africa

January 2017
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