I once read that when slavery ended in America, the now free men and women had a difficult time interpreting what it meant to be “free”. Some even went on to buy broken down pianos, torn umbrellas, old dresses and anything else that they saw white people use and they saw that as representing freedom. It was so bad that they neglected feeding their own families in order to live this lifestyle of “freedom” that their former masters lived, in an effort to be on the same level as the white man, which was impossible to do overnight.
This slave mentality, unfortunately, has not gone away – in fact, it has taken on a new form.
The effects of colonialism are still being felt today by many African countries; 14 African countries are currently paying France for “the benefits of slavery”. The countries are:
Central African Republic
And the terms attached to these payments? Read for yourself:
Right of first refusal on any raw or natural resource discovered in the country
Priority to French interests and companies in public procurement and public biding
Exclusive right to supply Military equipment and Train the country’s Military officers
Right for France to pre-deploy troops and intervene in the country to defend its interests
Obligation to make French the official language of the country and the language for education
Obligation to use France colonial money FCFA
Obligation to send France annual balance and reserve report
Renunciation to enter into military alliance with any other country unless authorized by France
Obligation to ally with France in situation of war or global crisis
And we are supposed to think that we are free?
When you read up on these countries, one finds that each one was subject to a coup or a measure of military action backed by the French, who then imposed the tax on these countries with the rulers that they propped up. The alternative did not bode well for their nations – the French citizens would engage in a war of attrition, where they took any and all moveable property and destroyed everything else, from schools, nurseries, books, medicine, public administration building, cars as well as food in warehouses were burned or poisoned. Without a measure of support and sense of unity, these African countries did not see any other way out, plus combined with greed, everything worked out for the benefit of the French.
So now, each year, these 14 African countries pay their “former” colonial masters money to “thank” them for the benefits of slavery. And each year, the other African nations say absolutely nothing about it; in fact, if one listens to speeches made by any current African leaders, there is absolutely no mention of the tax that France is making Africa pay for colonizing some of its sons.
The fact is that the current generation of leaders seems to be more focused on getting as much money and influence out of their positions than truly establishing Africa as an independent powerhouse. They have aligned themselves with western interests that take from Africa instead of truly building up the continent, making us more dependent on imports than ourselves.
At the same time, it can be argued that these leaders are a product of a passive people, because we come from a recent history of slavery, colonization and being raised as subhuman individuals, who do not have a right to walk freely on their own continent. All we know to do is to “respect” our leaders by not challenging them and defending them at all costs. The moment we disagree with them it is no longer an issue of the facts, but that of betraying the “vision” of the country bestowed on the leaders through the electoral system. We are so trained to accept what our “leaders” say that we are incapable of challenging the wrongs they do – otherwise we are viewed as traitors.
This is so prevalent that even when it comes to issues of everyday life, we cannot think outside this construct ingrained in us by our former colonial masters. The belief is still strongly entrenched that there is only one approved way to succeed, that is studying, getting a job, buying things we can’t afford and embracing the illusion of “success”. Trying new means of making money is such a foreign concept to the black citizens of our continent that anything new scares and repels many, mostly because they judge the product based on who is presenting it. The darker the skin the more suspicious it is; but the moment we put a white face to the very same product presented to black people, there is an immediate trust given, because the expectation is that “white is right”.
We can only truly begin to break away from this type of slavery when we recognise ourselves as worthy of life. We are still walking around as if we are less that we are, believing that success is for the lucky or the whites. We forgot the very rich history of this continent that we call home, the kings and queens who ruled our people, whose strength held up this continent and made it a shining light of the world. We allowed invaders to define our languages, our history, our diet, how we raise our children and even our faith.
Any spiritual interaction is funneled through some church teaching or preacher/prophet, without acknowledging the fact that for centuries the people of Africa have communed with the spiritual realm in many ways. Now it is deemed pagan/demonic if one engages in any “unsanctioned” spiritual activity. So many of our young people struggle with the notion that African spiritual practices are seen as evil, as if we do not have a rich spiritual history, while at the same time cannot relate to the notion of a white Jesus.
To break free from our imprisonment, we need to allow ourselves permission to look beyond the stated boundaries of what we are supposed to be. The measure of opposition we will encounter will be enormous, especially from black Africans themselves, but the need is there to break off our shackles and truly be free. Our worldview is filtered through an imposed perspective and we need to find our own path.
Africa as a whole needs to take the resources that it has and build itself up. So many of our natural resources go to eastern and western nations, which turn them into products that they sell back to us for exorbitant prices. We need to learn how to turn our own resources into material that benefits us and the world need to come to us for things we have produced not for the raw materials.
The listed African countries that are currently paying the French colonial tax need to stop and invest that same money into their own nations. France has not right to demand anything from nations that they colonised – in fact, it has been substantially quoted that without these countries, France would be nothing more than another third world country. There is no shame in abandoning slavery for freedom, even under the threat of violence from this nation. If all other African nations stand behind them, the French will be helpless. Their citizens within these countries should not hold our people hostage – if any of them try to destroy the country’s resources on their way out, as in the story of what they did to Guinea, they should be criminally liable. No European country should continue to dictate the Africa that our children will inherit.
Yet the slavery of the mind still remains. And we still look at whites as better, while looking down on ourselves. This cannot continue – because no man should be a master over another because of the colour of their skin.