- Do not be fooled by empty speeches against America and her friends on the United Nations stage, ruthless African dictators are not Pan-Africanists.
People are quick to forget the crimes of dictators the moment they (the dictators) spew anti-West and pro-African rhetoric. It also makes some analysts and scholars feel learned that they can argue out the positive influence of known despots to Africa in long, tiresome essays. The remainder of supporters who rally behind African dictators have benefitted from the tyrants or have been whipped into line and conditioned to not simply endure but also enjoy their suffering under totalitarian governments.
That the West does not always have African interests at heart should not mean anyone who opposes neo-colonialism is good for Africa. It does not follow that every dictator who speaks against Western machinations is baptised by those words and is all of a sudden forgiven for violation of human rights.
That has been the inherent flaw in the Pan-Africanism discussion; the perpetrators of killings and enforced disappearances in thwarting dissent, the looting and destruction of economies are branded champions of African progress. The whole truth, however, is that dictators are no friends of Africa just as neo-colonialists are no allies of the continent.
Pan-Africanism now an excuse
In July 2015, Barack Obama visited Africa and made history by addressing the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His message was just what the youths needed. He said, “Nobody should be president for life and your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas.” He went on, “I don’t understand why people want to stay so long, especially when they have got a lot of money.”
Naturally, there was a massive backlash from different quarters with some saying “Obama acted like a colonial headman lecturing the natives on how to behave as good subjects” and the best he could do was mind his own business. A simple statement on respecting term limits ended up being attacked using the neo-colonialism argument. Respecting a constitution somehow plays into the hands of the West, according to this flawed reasoning.
A Zimbabwean analyst, Charles Mangongera then rightfully said, “…the message tends to find resonance with the younger generation who are fed up with autocratic leaders. The younger generation will find Obama’s message appealing, while the old league of leaders on the continent will try to evoke Pan-Africanism to say Obama cannot lecture us.”
When one begins to analyse this, there is a realisation that African dictators are making democracy and rule of law seem like foreign concepts to Africa. They feed right into Western stereotypes of a continent ruled by strongmen.