Article Written By Rémy-Christophe Mariotti
“Africa Needs a New Map,” in Foreign Policy Magazine.
It would seem that Libya’s flamboyant Colonel-leader, who was instrumental in the founding of the African Union, called for the dissolution of the Nigerian state and its partition into two or more independent entities. As expected, the Nigerian political class revolted against such statements, sending home the Libyan ambassador; these sorts of declarations – sensible and based on a half-century of empirical evidence of state-failure – are not acceptable in the discussion on Africa.
To Western powers, to bring up the pernicious effects of post-colonial African borders is to experience a sanctimonious feeling of shame and to invite a renewed diatribe against Europe and the white man; to the African élite, it spells death (or at the very least, the end of their freewheeling, lavishly IMF-funded lifestyles). As the article points out, both the former colonial overlords and the newly empowered local leaders chose an emphasis on “stability” over functional, democratic states. This allowed for the Idi Amins, Sekou Tourés, Mobutus, and Mugabes of the continent to rule with relative impunity for years.
Col. Qaddafi takes a stand on Nigeria. As he rightfully points out, there has been years of violence and brutality along the north-south divide that separates the primarily Christian river volta and the overwhelmingly Muslim hinterland. As such he argues for a separation. To use an example from recent European history, let’s look to the “Velvet Divorce” that peacefully and successfully created the Czech Republic and Slovakia out of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia. Or even more recently, Montenegro and Kosovo both left a larger Serbian state to become sovereign entities. This begs the question: why not Africa?
It’s not for lack of material – the separatist provinces of Cabinda in Angola, Biafra in Nigeria, Kivu in the DRC, and Casamance in Sénégal; the Sudan, where Khartoum-centric North Sudan, Juba-centric South Sudan, and the blighted Darfur region coexist in perpetual unease; and of course, Somalia, where the officially-recognized Somali government doesn’t extend past the city walls of Mogadishu, but the nearly-viable proto-states of Somaliland and Puntland remain ignored. These are all candidates, just like Nigeria, where sectarian, ethnic, and regional violence could all potentially be minimized by the voluntary devolving of state authority to ethnic or regional units, perhaps even granting them independence.
These are difficult decisions, and they won’t be made easily, especially not by the current class of African leaders who have so much land and prestige to lose in the transaction. But do they really have that much to lose? Wouldn’t the prospect of ruling a viable, functional, increasingly prosperous and increasingly democratic state be something of an incentive? With smaller, better-run states, we may even see a few developing African powers on the rise on the international stage.
This is not the first time such ideas have been discussed; in fact, it was once a dream of colonized Africans, who (rightfully) saw the Europeans’ divisions as merely lines of control, stunting potential growth and unnecessarily creating tensions. This idea was dropped, of course, by the first generation of decolonization leaders, who saw these pre-made states as easy sources of power and decided to focus on the continent’s stability rather than its sustainable growth.
The famous Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, wrote a heart-wrenching memoir of his life as a “Nigerian.” It reveals the bittersweet relationship that a citizen of a newly-independent nation has with his newly-minted homeland. As he puts it, he started life as a second-class citizen of the British Empire, and – after a devastating three-year civil war that claimed two million of his co-tribal “countrymen” – a second-class citizen in a large and wealthy, but inept and fragmented banana republic that went out of its way to disenfranchise his ethnic group. A life-story such as his could have been avoided had the secessionist Biafra state had been allowed to exist and, eventually, thrive.
I am not one to lavish easy praise on a despot of the likes of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. But I will be the first to admit that the African system of nations, such as we’ve seen over the course of a half-century, is haphazard, exploitative, and finally, broken. If a man like Qaddafi can recognize this injustice, men of integrity in Africa and throughout the West should study this blighted continent and come to their own conclusions; I humbly think that you will agree. Let us begin the process of liberation and rejuvenation of the African continent. Let them join us as proud citizens of their own countries..
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Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch
Welcome to Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi-bin/library