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Chinua Achebe

Ethiopia Shall Rise!

Ethiopia rise 1H.I.M. Haile Selassie and bronze statue of Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah

Ethiopia Rising! 

The Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU replaced OAU in 2002) began celebrating its Golden Jubilee in Addis Ababa this past week. In May 1963 when the OAU was founded, Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah accentuated his closing remarks by reciting a poem he had specially commissioned as a crowning tribute to an ascendant Ethiopia. Addressing H.I.M. Haile Selassie, President Nkrumah said, “It only remains for me, Your Majesty, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, to convey to the Government and people of Ethiopia especially to His Imperial Majesty, my sincere expression of gratitude for a happy and memorable stay in Addis Ababa…” With confident cadence, Nkrumah recited a poem of such exquisite eloquence and grace that my eyes well up every time I read it.  These were Nkruma’s own words.

Ethiopia shall rise

Ethiopia, Africa’s bright gem

Set high among the verdant hills

That gave birth to the unfailing

Waters of the Nile

Ethiopia shall rise

Ethiopia, land of the wise;

Ethiopia, bold cradle of Africa’s ancient rule

And fertile school

Of our African culture;

Ethiopia, the wise

Shall rise

And remould with us the full figure

Of Africa’s hopes

And destiny.

ethiopia rise 2HI.M. Haile Selassie (C) and Ghana’s first President  Kwame Nkrumah (L) at the OAU (1963)

When the erection of a commemorative statue on the grounds of the AU was proposed for H.I.M. in 2011, the late “great visionary leader” in Ethiopia opposed it saying, “It is only Nkrumah who is remembered whenever we talk about pan Africanism. It is a shame not to accept his role.” He succeeded in denying H.I.M. Haile Selassie the simple recognition of a bronze statute. What a shame to be black hearted! What a shame to be shameless! What a crying shame to minimize, trivialize and marginalize the contributions of the prime architect of African unity! History bears witness that H.I.M. exterted extraordinary effort and brought together the “Casablanca” and “Monrovia” Groups making itpossible to launch the OAU. He worked tirelessly for the cause of African unity. At that historic inaugural conference, H.I.M.  made the most compelling case,  the most passionate plea for African unity, independence and Pan-Africanism:

…We look to the vision of an Africa not merely free but united. In facing this new challenge, we can take comfort and encouragement from the lessons of the past. We know that there are differences among us. Africans enjoy different cultures, distinctive values, special attributes. But we also know that unity can be and has been attained among men of the most disparate origins, that differences of race, of religion, of culture, of tradition, are no insuperable obstacle to the coming together of peoples. History teaches us that unity is strength, and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to true African brotherhood and unity… Our efforts as free men must be to establish new relationships, devoid of any resentment and hostility, restored to our belief and faith in ourselves as individuals, dealing on a basis of equality with other equally free peoples…

As I reflect on the efforts of the Founding Fathers of the OAU, I am nary concerned about erecting bronze or marble statues for them. I am concerned about and outraged by the mangling and distortion of history by self-important blind “visionaries” who hide behind the robes of the giants of African unity (instead of standing on their shoulders) to ply their mission of Ethiopian disunity.  If history were about symbols and titles, H.I.M. Haile Selassie had more of it than any African leader. He was elected by his peers as the “Father of African Unity” at the 1972 Ninth Heads of States and Governments meeting of the Organization of African Unity. He was elected the first chairman of the OAU in 1963 and elected again in 1966 to serve in the same position, making him the only African leader to have held that position twice. He was the African face of resistance, defiance and victory over European colonialism. He does not need the advocacy or opprobrium  of a myopic Johnny-come-lately to erect a statute in recognition of his singular contributions to the continent.

History is full of ironies. Those who championed a statue for Nkrumah because “only (he) is remembered whenever we talk about pan Africanism” would roll over in their graves if they only knew of Nkrumah’s deep love for Ethiopia. Nkrumah had a special place for Ethiopia in his heart. Though he was the foremost Pan-Africanist, he also saw Ethiopia as a special beacon of light and freedom for all of Africa in its defiant struggle against European colonialism . He took pride in the fact that Ethiopia was able to defend its sovereignty and independence against repeated incursions by European colonialists. He saw Ethiopia as the spoke in the wheel of African unity.

Nkrumah was passionate about Pan-Africanism, but he never commissioned a poem for Pan-Africanism. Nkrumah was passionate about Africa, but he never commissioned a poem for Africa Rising. Nkrumah loved Pan-Africanism and Africa, but he had a love affair with Ethiopia. That is why he commissioned a special poem in honor of her beauty and bounty for his final words at the closing of the very first OAU summit.  Nkrumah is the only leader in the world who has ever commissioned a panegyric poem for Ethiopia!  We  should all be happy and proud to have Nkrumah’s statue on the grounds of the AU in Ethiopia. H.I.M. Haile Selassie will no doubt get his statue in time because “truth cannot remain forever on the scaffold nor wrong remain forever on the throne.”

Looking back, I believe Nkrumah was not only an ardent Pan-Africanist but also an African “prophet”. Nkrumah knew Ethiopia shall rise long before the blind visionaries made her slip and fall into the quagmire of ethnic politics. Nkrumah knew Ethiopia shall rise long before the shameless declared “Africa is rising… The African Renaissance has begun…” Nkrumah knew Africa should beware of  neocolonial and imperialist ambitions, machinations and designs lest she fall, long before the witless panhandlers sought to make a name for themselves by maligning “neoliberalism” while sucking its teats dry.

Nkrumah’s poem is indeed “prophesy”. “Ethiopia shall rise!” Like the morning sun and the full moon at midnight, Ethiopia shall rise. She shall rise up and shake off the sooty dust of dictatorship that covers her. Ethiopia shall rise again and brightly shine like a precious gem. She shall rise above sectarianism and communalism.  She shall rise from the depths of doubt to heights of faith. Ethiopia shall rise, and stretch out her arms and embrace all her children and in turn be embraced by Providence.

Nkrumah is a true son of Ethiopia. When they said Ethiopia’s history is only one hundred years old, Nkrumah said “No. Ethiopia is the cradle of Africa’s ancient rule.” When they tried to shroud Ethiopia in the darkness of tyranny and dictatorship, Nkrumah said, “No can do. Ethiopia is Africa’s bright gem.” She must shine. Let her rise and shine! When they said, “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the Ethiopian people,” Nkrumah said, “No. Ethiopia is the land of the wise.” When they hatched plans to make the Nile a source of war, death and destruction,  Nkrumah said, “No. Ethiopia is the birthplace of the Nile” which gives the gift of life to Africa. When they toiled day and night to crush our spirits and cast our souls into the pit of despair and misery, Nkrumah said, “Hold on! Ethiopia is Africa’s hope and destiny. ” We must forge ahead.  Nkrumah is not only Ghana’s son, but also Ethiopia’s. When we sometimes lose faith and feel downcast, let our spirits rise and be carried on Nkrumah’s prophetic words, “Ethiopia shall rise.” So, there is no competition between H.I.M. and Nkrumah. They are both Ethiopia’s distinguished sons. Honoring Nkrumah is honoring H.I.M. Haile Selassie.

As I read Nkrumah’s poem from May 1963, I also remember H.I.M. Haile Selassie’s speech  before the United Nations General Assembly in October 1963. In that speech, H.I.M. passionately defended the cause of Pan-Africanism and articulated the ideology needed for the ongoing struggle to protect and defend African independence and secure world peace:

… Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nature; until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes, and until the basic human rights are guaranteed to all without regard for race… the dream of lasting peace … will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained…. That until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and South Africa in subhuman bondages have been toppled and destroyed; until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding, tolerance and good-will; until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men as they are in Heaven — until that day the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil…

Bob Marley used these words as lyrics to his song “War”, which became the battle hymn of African unity and independence. (I wish someone could put Nkrumah’s poem to music: “Ethiopia shall rise…rise…” Up-rise!)

In a risen Ethiopia, there shall be no place for a philosophy that holds one ethnic, religious, linguisitc or gender group superior to another. There shall no longer be first class and second-class citizens in Ethiopia. In a risen Ethiopia, ethnicity, religion, language, region or gender shall have no more significance than the color of  one’s eyes. In a risen Ethiopia, human rights shall be guaranteed to all.

Aah! The OAU/AU

It is heartbreaking for me to comment on the OAU/AU. In 2013, of the 47 countries in the world with the lowest human development index, 36 of them are in Africa! President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania once described  the OAU as “a talking Club of Heads of States”. Others have described it as the  “Dictators’ Club”  or “Dictator’s Trade Union”. George Ayittey, the internationally acclaimed Ghanaian economist does not mince words sizing up the AU: “Please, please, don’t ask about the African Union. It is the most useless organization we have on the continent. It can’t even define ‘democracy’ and it is completely bereft of originality.”

I expressed deep disappointment and disillusionment when the new AU headquarters in Addis Ababa was constructed by the Chinese government at a cost of USD$200 million and delivered to the AU in February 2012  as “China’s gift to Africa.” Not only was I ashamed to learn that the China State Construction Engineering Corporation constructed the building using nearly all Chinese workers, I was also distressed to find out China picked up the entire tab for the building, fixtures and furniture. At the dedication ceremony, Africa’s shameless “leaders” lined up to shower praise on China. “Africa is rising… The African Renaissance has begun and we have the means to keep it going…”

I said Africa is not rising. Africa has fallen into beggary. China is rising in Africa. China has the means to keep itself going in Africa. China’s Renaissance in Africa has begun. The new AU building in Addis Ababa is a symbol of African shame not fame. Its claim of renaissance glory is illusory. If the African Union and its leaders cannot afford to chip in and collectively build the most visible, iconic and symbolic edifice for an Africa Rising,  there is not much I could say except to call it, as I did, “African Beggars Union Hall”.

The OAU/AU and Human Rights

Despite OAU/AU aspirations to secure the political, economic and social integration of African countries and lead the continent into development and prosperity, I view the organization as having at its core a human rights mission. I do not believe there can be African development or unity as long as the human rights of ordinary Africans are trampled and trashed every day. OAU’s core values of anti-colonialism, -neo-colonialism, -imperialism and Pan-Africanism were essentially human rights values in the struggle against European dehumanization of Africans. Colonialism (neocolonialism) had no regard for the human rights of colonized (neocolonized) peoples.

The OAU/AU has been ineffective and largely irrelevant in African human rights. In many parts of Africa civil and border wars have raged for decades costing the lives of millions as the OAU/AU looked on with folded arms. The OAU/AU has  turned a blind eye, deaf ear and muted lips as African dictators massacre their own citizens.  The OAU stood fidgeting as the Rwanda Genocide consumed a million innocent Africans, without plans to avert or  stop that genocide. The OAU did not even want to label it “genocide”!

For over two decades, the OAU/AU has watched Somalia spiraling into chaos, unable to help free the suffering people of Somalia  from the clutches of competing warlords and protect them from aggression. The AU  could not even deliver a sufficient number of peacekeeping troops in Somalia to secure peace and begin its reconstruction. The AU twiddled its thumbs as French troops entered Cote d’Ivoire to restore democratic rule. The AU sat on its rear end as France sent less than 5 thousand soldiers to expel a ragtag army of terrorists  from Mali. The OAU stood by idly as elections were stolen in broad daylight in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda.

The AU closed ranks to coddle criminals against humanity.  When Omar Bashir of Sudan was indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, the official line was “The AU Member States shall not cooperate pursuant to the provisions of Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the ICC relating to immunities, for the arrest and surrender of President Omar El Bashir of the Sudan”. The AU will protect and shelter the Butcher of Darfur from facing justice in the name of “African sovereignty”. Because the AU has failed miserably to curtail flagrant violations of human rights, the ICC had to step in to protect Africans.  As of 2011, the ICC has opened investigations in seven African countries.

The AU’s idea of human rights is having endless conferences, meetings and issuing declarations, resolutions and MOUs on human rights. There is an African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) with all sorts of protocols for children and women. There is an African Human Rights Commission. It has little to show for itself except lofty declarations and resolutions. There is an AU Department of Political Affairs which is supposed to deal with human rights, democracy and elections. It claims as one of its core missions election observance in member states. In 2010, when the late Meles Zenawi declared electoral victory by 99.6 percent, the 60-person African Union (AU) observer team led by former Botswana president Ketumile Masire concluded the “elections were free and fair and found no evidence of intimidation and misuse of state resources for ruling party campaigns.” Masire proclaimed:

The [elections] were largely consistent with the African Union regulations and standards and reflect the   will of the people… The AU were unable to observe the pre-election period. The participating parties expressed dissatisfaction with the pre-election period. We had no way of verifying the allegations.

Today Africa is more disunited and fragmented than ever. Pan-Africanism is dead. A new ideology is sweeping over Africa today. Africa’s dictators are furiously beating the drums of “tribal nationalism” all over the continent to cling to power. In many parts of Africa today ideologies of “ethnic identity”, “ethnic purity,” “ethnic homelands”, ethnic cleansing and tribal chauvinism have become fashionable. In the Cote d’Ivoire, an ideological war has been waged over ‘Ivoirité’  (‘Ivorian-ness’) since the 1990s. Proponents of this perverted ideology argue that the country’s problems are rooted in the contamination of genuine Ivorian identity by outsiders who have been allowed to immigrate freely into the country.

In Ethiopia, tribal politics has been repackaged in a fancy wrapper called “ethnic federalism.” Ethiopians have been segregated by ethno-tribal classifications in grotesque political units called “kilils” (reservations) or glorified apartheid-style Bantustans or tribal homelands. This sinister perversion of the concept of federalism has enabled a few corrupt kleptocratic dictators to oppress, divide and rule some 80 million people for over two decades.

The great African author Chinua Achebe wrote a book (Things Fall Apart) asking why things keep falling apart in Africa. My answer is simple. Over the past one-half century of independence, it has been nearly impossible to hold Africa’s so-called leaders accountable and institute the rule of law. For fifty years, African “leaders” have evaded accountability and hoodwinked the people into believing that Africa’s problems are all externally caused. Africa is what it is (or is not) because of its colonial legacy. It is the white man.  It is neocolonialism, capitalism, imperialism, neoliberalism, globalization… It is the International Monetary Fund. It is the World Bank… The continent’s underdevelopment, poverty,  corruption and  mismanagement are all caused by evil powers outside the continent.

Things fall apart in Africa because African “leaders” do not respect the human rights of their people. To paraphrase Achebe, Africa is what it is because its leaders are not what they should be.” Few African leaders respect the dignity and humanity of their people. How can Africa rise when her leaders trip and make her fall every time, and keep her from rising up by pressing their boots on her neck. But things that fall apart also  come together and rise.

So, here is my anniversary poem on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the OAU/African Union, which I dedicate to H.I.M. Haile Selassie and President Kwame Nkrumah, the undisputed Champions of Pan-Africanism) .

Ethiopia up-Rising! Africa Rising!

Ethiopia Africa’s bright gem

Shall rise up from the ashes of tyranny

Like the spring sun rising at dawn over the African horizon

Like the full moon rising over the darkness of the African night

Ethiopia shall rise and shine!


Ethiopia shall rise from the heights of Ras Dejen

To the peaks of Kilimanjaro

From the pits of the politics of identity

To the summit of national unity and diversity

Ethiopia shall rise and shine!


Ethiopia of the wise

Shall rise above the streetwise

Its people to galvanize, mobilize and organize

To humanize, harmonize and compromise

Ethiopia shall rise and shine!


Ethiopia Africa’s hope and destiny

Shall rise and its tyrants shall fall

Their lies, cruelty and corruption

Buried with them in the steel coffin of history

For “justice will rise in Ethiopia like the sun, with abundance of peace forever.”


Ethiopia shall rise by the sinews of her youth

Up-rise on the wings of her persevering children

Ethiopia shall rise and rise

Her youth will up-rise

Rise Ethiopia, up-rise.


Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.

Previous commentaries by the author are available at:

Amharic translations of recent commentaries by the author may be found at:

Why Do Things Always Fall Apart in Africa?

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

Copycat Dictators and Cartoon Democracies in Africa

Ivory Coast, December 2010. Laurent Gbagbo says he won the presidential election. The Independent Ivorian Election Commission (CEI) said former prime minister Alassane Ouattara is the winner by a nine-point margin. The African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations, the United States, the European Union all say Ouattara is the winner. Gbagbo is only the latest African dictator to steal an election in broad daylight, flip his middle finger at his people, thumb his nose at the international community and cling to power like a barnacle to a sunken ship.

Ethiopia, May 2010. Meles Zenawi said he won the parliamentary election by 99.6 percent. The European Union Election Observer Team said the election “lacked a level playing field” and “failed to meet international standards”. Translation from diplomatic language: The election was stolen. Ditto for the May 2005 elections.

The Sudan, April 2010. Omar al-Bashir claimed victory by winning nearly 70 percent of the vote. The EU EOM declared the “deficiencies in the legal and electoral framework in the campaign environment led the overall process to fall short of a number of international standards for genuine democratic elections.” Translation: al-Bashir stole the election.

Niger, February 2010. Calling itself the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD), a group of army officers stormed Niger’s presidential palace and snatched president Mamadou Tandja and his ministers. In 2009, Tandja had dissolved the National Assembly and set up a “Constitutional Court” to pave the way for him to become president-for-life. Presidential elections are scheduled for early January, 2011.

Zimbabwe, March 2008. In the first round of votes, Morgan Tsvangirai won 48 percent of the vote to Mugabe’s 43 percent. Tsvangirai withdrew from the runoff in June after Mugabe cracked down on Tsvangirai’s supporters. Mugabe declared victory. The African Union called for a “government of national unity”. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki mediated and Tsvangirai agreed to serve as prime minister. A stolen election made to look like a not-stolen-election.

Kenya, December 2007. Mwai Kibaki declared himself winner of the presidential election. After 1500 Kenyans were killed in post-election violence and some six hundred thousand displaced, intense international pressure was applied on Kibaki, who agreed to have Raila Odinga serve as prime minster in a coalition government. Another stolen election in Africa.

Massive election fraud, voting irregularities, vote buying, voter and opposition party intimidation, bogus voter registration, rigged polling stations, corrupt election commissioners and so on were common elsewhere in Africa including Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria and Egypt. In 2011, “elections” will be held in Chad, the Central African Republic, Malagasy, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria and other countries. Will there be more stolen elections? One thing is for sure: In January, the Southern Sudanese independence referendum will be held with little doubt about its outcome.

Ivory Coast Headed for Civil War?

The tragedy about Gbagbo is that the one-time university professor was one of the courageous Ivorian leaders who had struggled against civilian and military dictatorships. He was the chief opponent of Ivorian president-for-life Félix Houphouet-Boigny. Today Gbagbo wants to become Félix Houphouet-Boigny reincarnate. After a decade in power, Gbagbo has become addicted to the sweet life (la dolce vita) of dictatorship. He is said to have the support of the country’s military. He controls the south, and “rebels” are said to control much of the north where Ouattara has his support. To complicate matters, there are reports that rogue remnants of Charles Taylor’s bloodthirsty Liberian army are being recruited by both sides of the crises as a perfect storm of civil war gathers over the Ivorian horizon. Is Ivory Coast headed for a replay of the two-year civil war that began in 2002? Unless Gbagbo peacefully leaves power, it seems inevitable that violence and conflict will again reign in the Ivory Coast destroying thousands of lives and the economy of one of the more prosperous African countries.

The international community led by the U.S and France appears to be orchestrating diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions and a cutoff of access to funds at the regional West African bank to force Gbagbo to step aside. ECOWAS (a group of some dozen West African countries) is said to be considering military action; but there is little evidence that it has an offensive military capability to rout Gbagbo’s troops. Gbagbo has intimated that he will retaliate against immigrants from ECOWAS countries in Ivory Coast should military action be initiated to dislodge him. He remains steadfastly defiant and has escalated the crackdown on opponents. He continues to round up opposition supporters; and street killings, abductions and detentions by the military and armed youth thugs are said to be widespread. Gbagbo has repeatedly claimed that the “international community has declared war” on Ivory Coast and he has a constitutional duty to defend the country against such aggression.

The Lesson of Ivory Coast

Informed analysts suggest that Ivory Coast will prove to be a global test case of whether the international community could develop consensus to uphold the outcomes of democratic elections against a defiant African dictator who refuses to leave power peacefully. I disagree for two reasons. First, dictatorships in Africa have always been tolerated by the international community. As in the past, the West will cackle, bray, neigh and yelp about Gbagbo, but at the end of the day they will yawn and walk away shaking their heads and repeating the words of former French President Jacques Chirac, “Africa is not ready for democracy!” Second, the AU and ECOWAS will make sure that nothing is done that will set a precedent for an African dictator being removed from power through international action. These are the same crooks who are today coddling and shielding al-Bashir from prosecution in the International Criminal Court. Today it is Gbagbo; tomorrow it could be any one of them. Africa’s dictators will never, ever allow such a precedent to be established.

Things Keep Falling Apart After One-Half Century of African Independence

Things keep falling apart in Africa because over the past one-half century of independence it has been nearly impossible to hold Africa’s so-called leaders accountable. For fifty years, African “leaders” have been telling Africans and the world that Africa’s problems are all externally caused. Africa is what it is (or is not) because of its colonial legacy. It is the white man. It is imperialism. It is capitalism. It is the International Monetary Fund. It is the World Bank. The continent’s underdevelopment, poverty, backwardness, mismanagement are all caused by evil powers outside the continent. The latest re-invention of the old African Boogeyman is “globalization” and “neoliberalism”, which Zenawi claims has “created three consecutive lost decades for Africa”.

There are indisputable reasons why things keep falling apart in Africa. The major one is the lack of competent leadership with vision, purpose and integrity. Indeed the common thread that sews the vast majority of post-independence African leaders is not steadfast commitment to good governance and democratic practices, but their incredible sense of entitlement to rule forever and ever and ever. In 1964, Kwame Nkrumah invented the whole idea of president-for-life becoming the first certified post-independence African dictator. Many others followed. In 1970, H. Kamuzu Banda of Malawi declared himself ‘President-for-Life”. Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the military ruler of the Central African Republic, kicked it up a notch in the mid-1970s. He coronated himself “Emperor”. Idi Amin of Uganda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Ivory Coast, Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Albert Bernard Bongo of Gabon, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Ismail Omar Guellah of tiny Djbouti, and countless others have clung or continue to cling to power as rulers-for-life. It boggles the mind to call these individuals “leaders”; they are, as the great Afrobeat legend and human rights activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti described them, “animals in human skin”. I would call them hyenas in designer suits or uniforms.

These “animals in human skin” have stoked ethnic and tribal hatred, caused fragmentation and sectarian tensions and have unleashed unspeakable violence on their populations to cling to power in much the same way as the old colonial masters. In Ivory Coast and Nigeria today violent confrontations are being orchestrated by “leaders” along ethnic and religious lines. Just in the past few days, there has been a surge in violence in Nigeria, a country said to be evenly split between Christian and Muslims, with the firebombing of churches. Various scholars have expressed concern over the “heightening of the resurgence of ethnic identity politics in Nigeria” and the rise of armed ethnic militias which not only challenge the legitimacy of the Nigerian state but are also spearheading separatist movements to dismember the Nigerian nation. Given these tensions, more and more “marginalized” Nigerians are said to choose their ethnic identities over loyalty to the Nigerian nation. No doubt echoes of the Biafran War of 1967 reverberate in the minds of concerned Nigerians. Ethnicity and sectarianism are also a core element of the current Ivorian crises. Gbagbo accuses Muslims, who are in the majority in the north, of aiding and supporting the “rebels” who control the region. They have been subjected to attacks and persecution.

As Africa burns in ethnic, political and sectarian fires, the unctuous, hypocritical and self-righteous Western governments frolic in bed with the corrupt dictators in power. They jibber-jabber about democracy, human rights, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and the rest of it, but will gladly hold hands with bloodthirsty African dictators and walk down the primrose path to maintain their oil, mineral and military strategic interests. No Western government involved in Africa will openly admit it, but each and every one of them shares wholeheartedly Chirac’s view that “Africa is not ready for democracy” and that “multi-partyism” is a “kind of luxury,” that is unaffordable by a country like the Ivory Coast (or any other African country for that matter).

Chinua Achebe and Why Things are in Free Fall in Africa

In Things Fall Apart (1959), the great African novelist Chinua Achebe tells the story of the initial encounters in the 1890s between Ibo villagers in Nigeria and white European missionaries and colonial officials. That was the time when things really began to “fall apart” in Africa. The white man “put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” But his depiction could apply to the “falling apart” of many other African societies as a result of contact with colonialism and Christianity. But over the last one-half century, colonialism has become extinct and the white man has “left” Africa. The African leaders who replaced the colonial masters have not hearkened back to pre-colonial Africa and used traditional values and methods to hold the center and keep things from falling apart. Rather, they have followed in the colonial footsteps and lorded over vampiric states which have attenuated and frayed the fabric of the post-independent African societies to ensure their hold on power.

Robert Guest, Africa editor for The Economist, in his book The Shackled Continent (2004), argues that “Africa is the only continent to have grown poorer over the last three decades” while other developing countries and regions have grown. Africa was better off at the end of colonialism than it is today. According to the U.N., life expectancy in Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Mozambique and Swaziland for the period 2005-2010 is less than 44 years, the worst in the world. The average annual income in Zimbabwe at independence in 1980 was USD $950. In 2009, 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollars (with a “T”) was worth about USD $300. In the same year, a loaf of bread in Zimbabwe cost 300 billion Zimbabwean dollars (with a “B”). The tens of billions in foreign aid money has done very little to improve the lives of Africans. The reason for things falling apart in Africa is statism (the state as the principal change agent) and central planning, according to Guest. The bottom line is that the masses of Africans today are denied basic political and economic freedoms while the privileged few live the sweet life of luxury, not entirely unlike the “good old” colonial times.

Guest concludes that “Africans are poor because they are poorly governed.” The answer to Africa’s problems lies in upholding the rule of law, enforcing contracts, safeguarding property rights and putting more stock in freedom than in force. Much of Africa today is under the control of “Vampire states”. As the noted African economist George Ayittey explains, the “vampire African states” are “governments which have been hijacked by a phalanx of bandits and crooks who would use the instruments of the state machinery to enrich themselves and their cronies and their tribesmen and exclude everybody else.” (“Hyena States” would be a fitting alternative in the African landscape.) Africa is ruled by thugs in designer suits who buy votes and loyalties with cash handouts.

Things have fallen apart in Africa for a long time because of colonialism, capitalism, socialism, Marxism, communism, tribalism, ethnic chauvinism… neoliberalism, globalism and what have you. Things are in total free fall in Africa today because Africa has become a collection of vampiric states ruled by kleptocrats who have sucked it dry of its natural and human resources. It is easy to blame the white man and his colonialism, capitalism and all the other “isms” for Africa’s ailments, but as Cassius said to Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” The fault is not in the African people, the African landscape or skyscape. Africa is rich and blessed with natural and human resources. The fault is in the African brutes and their vampiric regimes.

Achebe took the title for his book Things Fall Apart from William Butler Yeats’s classic poem, which in partial rendition reads:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, (substitute Africa)
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

For what it is worth, my humble view is that the African center cannot hold and things always fall apart because the best and the brightest of Africans lack all conviction to do what is right, while the worst are full of passionate intensity to divide the people ethnically, tribally, racially, ideologically, religiously, regionally, geographically, linguistically, culturally, economically, socially, constitutionally, systematically… and rule them with an iron fist. “Ces’t la vie en Afrique!” as the French might say; but to gainsay Jacques Chirac, “Africa is ready for democracy!” (L’Afrique est prêt pour la démocratie!).