AFRICA, ARE WE HONESTLY INDEPENDENT?

There is no use screaming about how independent you are by driving away colonialist if you do not make independence meaningful

– Ama Ataa Aidoo

The above quote should make one reflect on the true meaning of independence. What does it mean to say a country has gained independence? Most people may have their own views on what independence means. Nonetheless, let’s take a flash back into the history of Africa, specifically, Ghana’s Independence.

“At long last the battle has ended! And thus, Ghana, your beloved country is free forever”. Sounds familiar? This is the famous quote from the speech that the honourable, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumahnkrumah 1

gave to the people of Ghana on March 6th 1957;the day Ghana was “finally free” from her colonizer.Colonialism is the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of colony in one territory by a political power from another territory During the colonial days, Africa was limited and had little or no say in their own personal lives. Colonization shuttered our freedom to speak as we desired, to discuss issues as we would have loved to and to make decisions for ourselves as we would have wanted. As Nkrumah cites in his book, Africa must unite, we were reliant upon the outside world and more particularly the United Kingdom for practically everything we needed.

Colonialism extracted most of Africa’s wealth (Gordon). On departure, colonial administrations left Africa with weak, mal integrated and severely distorted economies. These realities and others placed most of Africa into a multifaceted and tenacious dependency relationship. Africans were eager to wake up from the nightmare of being at the bottom and not the top. We desired to be our own bosses and joyfully shout on the streets of our motherland about how we feel and what makes us happy. But could we? No, we could not because we had rulers, bosses and caretakers who saw us as not more than servants.

However, Kwame Nkrumah came along and delivered us from these so called “monsters”. We were no longer under their manipulation and we could finally do things as we deem fit as a nation. So then can we say that we have been totally liberated? Nkrumah, in his independence day speech stated that our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.

This is because, Nkrumah’s vision was for a united Africa, a Pan-African continent. If one African country is suffering, we all suffer and our independence was supposed to be a liberation for the other African nations. The infrastructures that our colonizers built are being used now. The education system that they instituted improved a lot of lives and brought a lot of enlightenment to others. The health system they instituted, reduced the intake of herbs and concoctions which our forefathers used to make and consume.

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Education-Achimota School and Infrastructure- Takoradi harbour

Nonetheless, the whole point of independence was so that we would be able to do things on our own and not have to depend on a foreign person to build our roads or schools. However, this is not the case for Africa. We are still dependent on most of these western nations for aid and still look up to them for help and support. Whenever we borrow money from the West, there are conditions attached to it and they tell us what to do with the money and how to use it so then we ask again, ARE WE TOTALLY INDEPENDENT? Independence is freedom from outside control or support.

However, this is not the case. Struggle and sacrifice does not cease with the attainment of freedom. We still find ourselves being controlled and told what to do by the West whenever we get support. For instance, the UK threatened to cut out aid in 2011 over the legalisation of homosexuality in Malawi, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. All these strings being imposed on us does not allow us to be free.  Even the mere fact that we are borrowing from our colonial masters and they can still tell us what to do just emphasizes the fact that there is still some part of our lives that they are controlling.  As such, Imperialism is still a most powerful force to be reckoned with in Africa. It controls our economies. It operates on a world-wide scale in combinations of many different kinds: economic, political, cultural, educational, military; and through intelligence and information services.

Africa now no doubt, is better than the Africa centuries ago that notwithstanding, can we say that we are totally independent? Can we say that we can finally do things on our own and we appreciate our culture and heritage? Does Ghana, being a part of Africa, have an identity? These and many other questions are what we as Africans need to ask ourselves.

Precious Nyarko-Antwi

Maame Kyerewaa Antwi

Sharon Kpare

WHAT IF THEY NEVER CAME?

We know what happened after ‘they’ came; we know what their ‘coming’ did to our continent. We know of the national boarders that materialized the imposition of ideals and a cultural invasion that marginalized us. We know of the medical breakthroughs, the incomprehensible infrastructural advances and relish in the outrageous roller-coaster of fashion trends each year. But alas, what we do not know and will probably never know, is what things would have been like if our colonizers had never dropped anchor at our shores. Well let us walk you through our own version of what would have been true then.

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The Uncolonized African Continent

For starters, there would have been no slaves, well at least not African ones. The industrial revolution would have taken forever to come around. All of that arable land in the European colonies would have been burial grounds for the Native Americans who would have died trying to till the land. The world’s greatest economies would have suffered greatly and the Berlin Conference would have been held to discuss what to do with all of the land. In fact the World Wars would have probably never happened because there would be no food for the soldiers, especially not sugar. Ben Bella would have never joined the French army because there would have been no racial indiscrimination to fuel his decision to do so. Leopold Sengor would have become a planter and trader like his father and Kwame Nkrumah would have been mending shoes or catching game in the bushes of Nkroful. Rosa Parks would have been playing ‘pilolo’ in Cape Coast somewhere and Malcom X would have never known social theory. Martin Luther King wouldn’t have had a dream and Obama wouldn’t have been such a big deal. In fact Jay Z would have been Mutende Mulongo, a Zambian Herdsman and we would still be commending Kai Mansa (Beyonce) on her immaculate kenkey making skills at New Ashonmang. Even more interesting to note, Obinim and Efia Schwarznegga would have never had that ridiculous fight because who would bother with Christianity and false prophets on a continent that had never heard of Jesus?

Amanda Ofosu-Siaw

Justina Sefakor Etteh

Joseph Amo Nti

Redemption from ‘mental’ slavery

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally –Abraham Lincoln

 

The above quote is reminiscent of an era where people (or more historically appropriate, Negroes) were traded like commodities.   Slaves captured were either used domestically or traded to another party. This trade of slaves led to the infamous transatlantic slave trade which saw over twenty million Africans being shipped from our continent to south America, Europe and the Caribbean. Two thirds of all the slaves shipped were males and this era lasted for over 400 years.

Fast track into the new millennium and you find Africans still raging over the effects of slavery on our continent. Undeniably, we are still reaping the consequences of the slave trade. We lost a huge percentage of our workforce during this period but it is high time we had a shift of mentality and start to act responsibly. Just like how the functionality and mentality of a human being alters from childhood to adulthood, Africa will stand on a very good pedestal had it adopted these human tendencies. As it stands, Africa can be likened to suffering from Parkinson’s disease by our own doing and until severe measures are taken, we will continue to wallow in this and point the blaming finger to slavery while in reality four fingers point at us.

The reality on the ground is that, we were the perpetrators of our downfall that is if to say we see slavery as such. Slavery can be seen as a blessing in disguise as Africa generated huge sums of money from this. The question which should be asked, and which we have asked and which we have been asking not only in terms of slavery but in other aspects of our economy is “Na sika no w) hi”?(which loosely translates ‘where is the money’?). Misappropriation and embezzlement of these funds have been synonymous with us as Africans and these are issues we should address as Africans instead of blame “Akwasi Broni” (white man) who is sitting “at his somewhere” trying to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling.

A lot of time has elapsed after the slave trade and had we started sowing seeds of development instead of seeds of blaming, we would have reaped development. The irony of this situation is how often we as Africans dance to the tune of Bob Marley’s song “Redemption Song” especially to the line which says “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery , none but ourselves can free our minds” while we practice the exact opposite of it. Could it be that we enjoy the rhythm so much that we forget the contents and message Bob Marley is trying to put across?

All in all, we could always turn over a leaf and this change starts from us!! Our social studies teachers in elementary school have done their best to educate us on history which includes the slave trade, it is about time we gave these teachers new contents to teach such as the new Africa. New Africa which is able to compete with Asians and Europeans. The new Africa which provides aid to foreign countries. The new Africa which is a beam of light which shows mansions and tourist sites on BBC and CNN not slums and hungry children. It starts now and it starts by closing the chapter on slavery.

Read this and gradually change a mindset a day. Africa will rise!!!

With a collective effort and the past behind us, we can build the Africa we all want, The Africa of hope not despair.
With a collective effort and the past behind us, we can build the Africa we all want, The Africa of hope not despair.

By Nana Kweku Odum Arhin, Kwaku Ofori Osei-Ameyaw and Jesse Opoku-Asiedu

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A poster advertising the arrivals of slaves into the European markets waiting to be sold off
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A male slave being sold off at an auction like a commodity

Are the “gods” to blame?

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The word slavery brings tears to our eyes, pains to our hearts, and hunger to several bellies. Slavery ended centuries ago and yet still people harbor the pains that their ancestors went through.  The African Holocaust, begun around the mid-15th century (Trans-Atlantic slave trade) based on the fact that the New World demanded a large workforce for expansion. In this case, Africa seemed to be the only solution! Innocent natives of Africa were abducted either by outright kidnapping by local traders or as a prize of war and transported via cargo ships to a land of uncertainty.  Once captured and transported, a slave begun his/her life of servitude to a presumed master and awaited the fate of brutality, pains, hunger and in some cases death.

There have been debates as to whether the West or the Africans were to blame for the African Holocaust since Africans were already practicing slavery before the Europeans started. Truth be told, Africans already had slaves before the Europeans came along, and this trade had been going on for over 600 years, especially in the Islamic empire. As a matter of fact, Africans consented to sell their fellow Africans to the Europeans during the slave trade. However, these slaves under the Law of the Islamic empire, required owners to treat slaves well and provide medical treatment. Slaves, could marry with the permission of their owners, and were considered to be chattel. In some cases, some slaves were highly educated and some worked in the military and could eventually be free. Other slaves were seen by their African masters as “dependents” with a clear intention of being integrated into the families of their owners.

Now, let’s fast forward to the European version of the slave trade. The Europeans did not consider Black people as human beings yet alone treat them in a humane way. Many slaves were packed like “sardines” in a ship, forced to sail to another man’s country and suffered from sicknesses and malnutrition on the way there. They basically used Africans as machines that built their country and treated them brutally. They had no rights, no freedoms, no human respect, no medical treatment, and were not treated well. The end product of their sweat was brutality, death, pain, constant wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Let’s take a close look at this critically, who is to blame for these innocent lives that were sacrificed on the “cross” of European industrialization; European traders or African traders? An argument stemming up from the European point of view is that Africans started slavery prior to their arrival.  To them, no African’s hand was forced to trade in slaves, in that some African leaders and traders willingly accepted the offer given them by the Europeans to sell their captured slaves because it was a lucrative venture. Continually, another argument states that European slave traders supposedly rarely ventured beyond Africa’s coastal regions based on the fact that some interior parts of Africa precisely the West, was riddled with disease (Malaria) which constantly caused their demise.  As a result, they stayed in their coastal habitats and have the natives bring the slaves to them. However, after a while, the Europeans forcefully took people out of Africa even without the African slave traders.

To every cause there is an effect, and to every argument there is a stance. By carefully analyzing the roles played by both parties, we believe Africa started slavery, even though their form of slavery was completely different from the European concept. Most importantly, Africans sold other Africans for goods or money even when they knew that their fellow Africans were being maltreated. By willingly choosing to extend our trading relations with the European counterpart by abducting Africans for them, we sold to them, the “right” to also engage in such an act. Had we said no to their thirst for cheap labor, slaves captured through warfare as well as through other means wouldn’t have been delivered to the Europeans to be subjected to the harsh treatment given to them by their European owners. Notwithstanding this, it is obvious that the selfish nature of some African leaders for which we are still suffering today, contributed immensely to the escalation of slavery outside the African domain. For example, when the West decided to abolish slave trade, some African leaders were upset because they knew their source of income was being reduced. This clearly shows that some African leaders had no remorse over their contributions to such a deadly event.  As a result, we strongly stick to the stance that Africans were the main perpetrators for this trade.

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By: Andrews Osei Bonsu, Abena Gyekye, Henrietta Gzisi

Note: gods in the main header means the Europeans