Lest we forget, China trained African freedom fighters

Politics and Society

Lest we forget, China trained African freedom fighters

How much of the history between China and Africa do you know exists? China, in its relation to Africa looks at its past and sees itself as a trusted and consistent comrade. However, many Africans presently see China as another imperial country like Britain or America.



To understand the relationship between China and Africa, one has to dig past Western media propaganda to fully see why many African leaders, apart from obvious reasons, are receptive of China.

China’s policy of non-interference in the political and governance issues of the African countries the global power does business or trade with is one of the reasons many African governments have leaned towards China. Wen Jiabao, Chian’s former Premier said, “we do offer our assistance [to Africa] with the deepest sincerity and without any political conditions.” The statement by the former premier was a subtle jibe at countries like America and other western and European nations, which offered assistance with conditions and interference in the governance of various African states.

China’s assistance to Africa in various capacities is however not new. China’s policy towards Africa in the 1950s at the height of the liberation struggle to the end of the Cold War in the 1990s was formed in the Bandung Conference, the first large scale Afro-Asian Conference. The aim of the conference was to oppose colonialism or neo-colonialism of any nation.

Read: Africans deserve to know details of deals their leaders sign with China


President of China Xi Jinping at an informal meeting of heads of state and government of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Photo:

Read: China-Africa: A New Accord

Chris Alden, in his book China in Africa notes that, “in contrast to Western countries, was [China’s] solid record of support for independence.” He further stated, “China’s construction of the TanZam railway and the role of barefoot doctors and agricultural specialists in West Africa were remembered positively in Africa.”

Ousman Murzik writes that, “China offered military intelligence, weapons, and training of freedom fighters to Algeria, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, and Namibia.” While there is a valid criticism by many Africans that the Chinese are flooding the continent, engaging in unfair trade practices, there is need for a more nuance approach in analysing the relationship between China and Africa. There is an obvious gap in retelling the history of the role China has played on the continent even before the independence of many African countries.

If there is something many African citizens should understand about their countries in relation to trade with China it is that, as former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe once said, [Africa] will be looking to the East where the sun rises, and not the West, where it sets.

The often racist and unjust antics of the West have finally awoken the leaders of many African countries, who have voiced their displeasure at the skewed relationship with Western nations, and indicated intentions to partner with China. Many African leaders who find similarities with China, either in relation to a sort of dictatorship amongst other qualities, will keep on trading with China. It is however up to Africans to hold their own leaders accountable and demand more transparency in whatever trade deals their leaders sign with China.


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