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Open Letter to African Leaders: Do Not Follow the West Into the Abyss

Doomsday clock, a magazine founded by the people who built the atomic bomb, say we will probably edge closer to annihilation when Donald Trump takes over as president. The danger is not just because of nuclear weapons, but climate change as well. In a letter to African leaders, Mukoma wa Ngugi argues that Africa can offer the world an alternative dream of peaceful and clean-energy egalitarian societies.

Dear African Leaders,

American democracy is dying under the weight of white nationalism, racism and xenophobia, a staggering 46 million poor, a debt-ridden middle class that is one pay check from destitution, extra-judicial killings by the police and exceptionalism that allows for war crimes to be committed in the name of defeating terror.

The New York Times reports that at Tuesday morning meetings, President Obama “insist[s] on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list”. In other words, the president of the United States of America has been openly engaging in extra-judicial killings and assassinations. Obama’s drones, constantly humming above Pakistani and Afghani villages, have caused so much fear, destruction and civilian death that they can only be understood within the framework of counter-terror terrorism.

Obama’s drones, constantly humming above Pakistani and Afghani villages, have caused so much fear, destruction and civilian death that they can only be understood within the framework of counter-terror terrorism.

Frantz Fanon, writing in 1961, had already warned us against following the West. Of the United States, he wrote: “Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions.”

Frantz Fanon, writing in 1961, had already warned us against following the West.

That President Barack Obama, who has earned the monikers ‘President Drone’ and ‘Deporter-In-Chief’, is being replaced by Donald Trump, a wall-building racist, sexist, isolationist, champion of white nationalism, war and torture, should serve as a warning. Western democracy is not to be emulated but feared.

U.S. president elect Donald Trump Photo: Gage Skidmore via https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/)
U.S. president elect Donald Trump Photo: Gage Skidmore via https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/)

As if all of Trump’s traits were not terrifying enough, he now enters into power, wielding the three prized pillars of Western democracy – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – not to mention the military power and nuclear weapons, all the while denying climate change. Meanwhile, in Europe, rightwing white nationalists have besieged democracy. This should not be Africa’s future; it should not be people’s future.

Instead of going to war over colonial borders, why not open them and let people, like money, travel freely? Why not let ethnic groups, who had been arbitrarily cut off from each other by colonial borders, live together, instead of colonising and killing them?

Regarding climate change, why can’t you take advantage of the continent’s abundance of wind and also turn that hot African sun imagined by the West into clean solar energy? Why can’t we manufacture our own clean cars in our own clean factories?

Industry category winner: Esdore Hakizimana, Rwanda. This solar power industry, situated in the 20 miles east Kigali, Rwanda, has a capacity of 10 megawatts. The energy it produces powers nearly 1500 homes. The solar farm has had a large impact on the people of Rwanda. Photo: Agility
Industry category winner: Esdore Hakizimana, Rwanda. This solar power industry, situated in the 20 miles east Kigali, Rwanda, has a capacity of 10 megawatts. The energy it produces powers nearly 1500 homes. The solar farm has had a large impact on the people of Rwanda. Photo: Agility

Instead of rushing to hospitals in Europe whenever you have a health problem, why not be at the forefront of building life-saving technologies at home? Instead of privatising social services, resulting in the death of thousands, why not have universal health care and education for all?

What is the point of a small elite owning millions of hectares of land when millions are landless and fighting each other? And why lease millions of hectares of arable land to Western, Asian and Middle Eastern countries? Why should you let the US lease 4 334 134ha; the United Kingdom 1 193 433ha; the United Arab Emirates 2 794 121ha; Saudi Arabia 1 307 912ha and India 838 180ha of our land instead of allowing African farmers to grow whatever is needed and sell it to the countries who need it? How can we demand equal trade if we have nothing to trade with?

Farmer from Kenya working in the field with his cattle. Adapting to the changing climate in Kenya is crucial in order to sustain farming and the livelihoods that come with it. Photo: P. Casier (CGIAR)
Farmer from Kenya working in the field with his cattle. Adapting to the changing climate in Kenya is crucial in order to sustain farming and the livelihoods that come with it. Photo: P. Casier (CGIAR)

You have already done well by turning your backs on nuclear weapons. But there is more to be done. There is no difference between nuclear-armed North Korea or Iran and the United States, Israel or Russia. An unhinged Donald Trump can happen anywhere. You have the moral authority to take a stand against nuclear proliferation.

I could go on and on but you can see what I am trying to say – that instead of dead-end caricature democracies, we need people-powered and people-centered democracies. So let me turn to Frantz Fanon once again: “So, comrades, let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions and societies which draw their inspiration from her. Humanity is waiting for something other from us than such an imitation, which would be almost an obscene caricature.”

We did not listen then. But now, as the American war on terror creates more terror in the world and opens up more spying and drone stations in Africa, and turns the denial of climate change into foreign and domestic policy, we simply have no choice but to change course.

If human life is to end with our children or grandchildren, what was the point of having been here?

It is not enough to sit at the helm of caricature democracies. If not through war, then through climate change we edge closer to the abyss. Our lives matter to the extent that they make future life possible – that is the difference between memory and erasure. Memory is continuation, erasure – what the West is giving us – is never having been here. If human life is to end with our children or grandchildren, what was the point of ever having been here?

If indeed Africa is the origin of human life, what better way to honour Fanon’s plea than to intervene and save humanity from the West? What could be a better present to future generations than life itself?

With an eye on the future, I am yours,

Mukoma Wa Ngugi

Writer & Assistant Professor of English, Cornell University

 

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