Saturday 17 November 2012


...proves the veracity of JFK's words on the power of myth:The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.
A couple of years ago in Juba,capital of S.Sudan,then and now an underdeveloped urban agglomeration haphazardly spread across the savannah,populated with sullen armed Dinkas plagued with endless temper tantrums and impulse control issues I shared  some drinks with an old Englishman. He was of  a type;pushing 70,a firm believer in the England of old when honour and mission meant something at least to the eager fresh faced administrators she sent out to her colonies,well mannered yet quite firm in his convictions.
It was 5 years ago; I had just opened my second beer in the crowded lounge when he asked to join me at the only other free seat. Like all conversations in such places it had unstructured beginnings; starting when he commented on the snarkiness of the French manager who informed him he'd have missed his reservation if he'd arrived 5 minutes later.
You should understand where he's coming from:France in Africa is utterly selfserving; you should see their ex colonies! Ahh,yes unlike Anglo Africa where there is at least a desire on both sides to get things done. Talk inevitably turned to football as the 3rd round appeared;at which point the tide turned to Britian in Africa. A retired teacher in Ethiopia,he was checking up on business opportunities in the soon to be free S.Sudan,doubtless things would soon be looking up as they like Kenya had a good friend in London,and a history that though occasionally rocky was generally positive-look at the development in Kenya-my word!
I don't seek arguments with people especially those old enough to be my dad but I had to get clarification,which was soon forthcoming and it was all I could do not to burst out laughing. Britain during the colonial era selflessly provided the Kenyans with everything they could-health,education and most importantly new avenues for upward mobility;after all that was their ultimate mission in Africa since they were the first to abolish the slave trade.

Firstly, Kenya is a prime example of Africa's extremely rapid post colonial development. What happened here was replicated all over the continent from Nigeria to Zambia and from Senegal to Rwanda. Here are the health facts:Since achieving independence from Great Britain in 1963, Kenya has worked to improve the health of its nearly 40 million people, more than half of whom live in rural areas.  By the late 1980s Kenya had more than quadrupled the number of health facilities serving its growing population; extended life expectancy from 40 years to 62 years; and improved child survival rates.

Post independence education regularly topped each governnment's budgetary allocation at 25-40%. It showed since illiteracy fell from from averages of 70% to 30%. Again,Kenya mirrors the African experience in this regard:At independence, there were 6,056 primary schools with a total enrolment t of 891,600 children. At the same time, trained teachers numbered 92,000. In 1990 there were over 14,690 primary schools, with an enrolment of slightly over five million children and with nearly 200,000 trained teachers respectively.

Of course not all colonisers and colonies were alike. There was the indirect rule like Uganda where local leaders actively collaborated with the colonial administation after the true patriots were neutralised (killed),the settler colonies like Kenya and Rhodesia suffered the heavy hand of unvarnished administrative force whenever it was deemed necessary. Rebellions and protests over everything from hut tax requirement,low wages,forced labour or restrictions on cash crop cultivation were regularly put down with bloodshed.

One of the favourite Brit bromides is how they were the first to abolish slavery-it was such a successful act after it was first passes in 1807 another law in 1811 was needed to make it illegal all over the Empire. The newly independent Haitians were actually the first to declare slavery illegal in 1804.
The colonial process managed to kill almost a million Africans. Piles of dead Kikuyus,Zulus,Ashantis,Balubas,Banyoros and Nandis were left in mute testament to superior firepower.Here's one guesstimate I strongly suspect to be on the low side.For colonies by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom, in Africa and Asia, 1900 and after, my grand democide total is 870,000 murdered. This measures a human tragedy by itself, but is nonetheless puny in comparison to just the many millions murdered by Leopold in his private Congo Free State
And people still talk of shared glories and happiness that never were! Africa's introduction to the modern world via colonialism was a brutal affair-by any means. No amount of sugar coating or revisionism will alter that reality. Neither do we need Dr Rodney's treatise, 'How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,' to explain it.

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