In 1960 when Congo got independence, a young intellectual, fiercely Pan-African was its first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. Belgium was reluctant to leave Congo and had installed Joseph Kasavubu as president. On the day of independence, in a speech said to have sealed the fate of Lumumba, in the presence of the Belgium king and dignitaries, Lumumba delivered the most profound speech any African head of state would give in the presence of colonialists.
The King of Belgium, the grandson of King Leopold II, King Baudouin during the ceremony had said, “The independence of the Congo, is the result of the task conceived by the genius of king Leopold II.”
This speech was countered by Lumumba, who said things as they were, “Although this independence of the Congo is being proclaimed today by agreement with Belgium, an amicable country, with which we are on equal terms, no Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in struggle, a persevering and inspired struggle carried on from day to day, a struggle, in which we were undaunted by privation or suffering and stinted neither strength nor blood. It was filled with tears, fire and blood. We are deeply proud of our struggle, because it was just and noble and indispensable in putting an end to the humiliating bondage forced upon us”.
“That was our lot for the eighty years of colonial rule and our wounds are too fresh and much too painful to be forgotten. We have experienced forced labour in exchange for pay that did not allow us to satisfy our hunger, to clothe ourselves, to have decent lodgings or to bring up our children as dearly loved ones. Morning, noon and night we were subjected to jeers, insults and blows because we were “Negroes”. Who will ever forget that the black was addressed as “tu”, not because he was a friend, but because the polite “vous” was reserved for the white man?” Lumumba said.
Later on, the western press started labelling Lumumba a communist, an ideology he constantly refuted by stating he was a nationalist. Despite the fact that Lumumba was a democratically elected leader, the Belgians and Americans interfered with his leadership. This establishes the fact that many times, democracy by the West is an agenda pushed because it would benefit the former colonisers. There are many cases in Africa where European and Western powers have sponsored rival political groups to seize power, destabilising many countries.
In an article published in Crescent International, it said “Lumumba’s blood is also on the hands of the many journalists who demonised him, and portrayed him as a bloodthirsty, power-hungry, revolutionary demagogue. The rhetoric of the media during the period discredited his political achievements, and he was described in the press as an illiterate thief. . . The press and media were also a key element in the cover-up of Lumumba’s murder, portraying the murder as a defensive action by the Belgian authorities.”
In 2011, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi was killed in gory war. The Western press had drummed up so many theories and half truths about Gaddafi’s rule in Libya. Just like Lumumba, Gaddafi was seen as a Pan-Africanist and widely respected on the continent, but portrayed by the western media as a ruthless dictator. In Guy Gabriel’s article in Arab Media Watch ‘Monitoring Study: British Media Portrayals of Libya’ he wrote of the media’s conception of Libya, with analysis from British newspapers, “Libya features a “brand of Arab socialism” in which public criticism of Gaddafi “is a criminal offence and opposition parties are prohibited,” writes Daily Telegraph diplomatic editor David Blair (22 August 2007). This amounts to what Anthony Giddens describes in the Guardian as a “de facto dictatorship” (9 March 2007).”
By 2011, enough damage had been done to Gaddafi and Libya by the Western press. Libya and Congo are in the same state of chaos, politically unstable and insecure. In an article, how the West murdered Gaddafi twice it states, “Gaddafi was typically portrayed in Western media as a rambling, delusional dictator. . . . Western nations accused Gaddafi of everything from blowing airplanes out of the sky to sexual assault and crimes against humanity. At the time of his death, he was wanted by the international Criminal Court . . . for crimes against humanity and stifling political opponents and ordering attack on civilians during uprising against his rule.”
Hugh Roberts, in his article who said Gaddafi had to go? wrote, “The overthrow of Gaddafi & Co was far from being a straightforward revolution against tyranny, but the West’s latest military intervention can’t be debunked as being simply about oil. Presented by the National Transitional Council (NTC) and cheered on by the Western media as an integral part of the Arab Spring”.
“The Western media generally endorsed the rebels’ description of themselves as forward-looking liberal democrats, and dismissed Gaddafi’s exaggerated claim that al-Qaida was behind the revolt. But it has become impossible to ignore the fact that the rebellion has mobilised Islamists and acquired an Islamicist tinge,” Roberts says.
Libya’s current crisis is no longer extensively covered by the western press and the western press has moved to a new prey, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. A few examples of the often critical headlines by Western media houses show there could be an agenda whose intention is unclear. Example’s of the headlines include the Financial Times Rwanda’s autocratic president Paul Kagame poised to extend 23-year rule, Paul Kagame should put country before power, the Guardian’s Is Kagame Africa’s Lincoln or a tyrant exploiting Rwanda’s tragic history?, the Telegraph’s Paul Kagame: Rwanda’s redeemer or ruthless dictator?, to BBC’s Rwanda’s Paul Kagame- visionary or tyrant? and The Economist, Paul Kagame, feted and feared. The declaration by The Economist, a western media house that has taken it upon itself to tell Africans how to view Kagame is puzzling. In the publication’s latest post on Kagame is titles Many Africans see Kagame’s Rwanda as a model. They are wrong. The Economist didn’t stop there; it went on to make a twitter video demonising Kagame.
Meet Rwanda's eternal president: Paul Kagame, who could rule until 2034 pic.twitter.com/L4pmKIGtlb
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) July 31, 2017
Several African countries have been left in crisis after military interventions and biased reporting by the western media, which cements stereotypes that Africa has a leadership crisis and the continent incapable of producing outstanding leaders. If the western media has done anything for Africa, it has tarnished her image and causing more havoc for it. The western media is ultimately Africa’s first enemy and the biased reporting must be countered by Africans retelling their own stories. Ultimately, Africans have learnt from the past and current mistakes and hopefully will not allow that pattern to continue.