When Civilization kicked us in the face
When holy water slapped our cringing brows
The vultures built in the shadow of their talons
The bloodstained monument of tutelage….
David Diop. The Vultures.
Many African youths do not have any idea of African history; and honestly, I feel they really do not care. The numerous volumes available on African history and politics are tedious, and but for the most tenacious and knowledge-thirsty youth, they are largely ignored by majority of youths. We cannot blame the youths. They have many challenges to contend with, from the serious school materials to the pervasive audiovisual entertainment, which actively competes for their time and attention.
However, these youths find it difficult to understand why there are many shortcomings in their environment. They do not understand why their society should be different from those of other cultures. They are concerned that they do not have the same access to services and goods as their contemporaries in other parts of the world. They know that something is wrong; and they cannot put their fingers on it.
In order to understand the present, one must sometimes make a journey into the past. However, the journey to the past may be volumes of books that may prove to be a challenge to the youths. And knowing where to start from may be a major constraint too.
Here in these extracts from my book, I have tried to make a satirical sprint through African political history. I have focused on the most important moments of African history, namely slavery period, colonialism and post independence period. The focus is on the calamities that befell black Africans during these periods.
By presenting this in a short satirical form, it is my hope that the different historical facts deftly hidden in the text will engage the curiosity of the reading youths, and will encourage them to find out more about their past, get them more interested in their present, and inspire them to selflessly contribute to the building of a better Africa.
Hear this activist riding On The African Bus:
I nurse the pains of loss of courage, pains of transformation of the hunter to the hunted; of metamorphosis of an aristocrat to an unwanted classless being. I am a pained witness to the deconstruction of a creator of ideas to a crass consumer; to the change of roles of benefactors to beneficiaries. We, the drivers of history have become passengers of life, living on the fringes of our appropriated past. Disrobed, divested of our princely garments in the predatory arena of conquerors, we, the descendants of Kmt[i] say “…yes to the whip under the midday sun.”[ii] How have the mighty fallen!! And while the tired builders of ancient Egypt take their rest under the neem tree in the Sahel and on the coast, others claim their feats as theirs and then confine the exhausted warriors to books of historical failures. Like all conquerors, they rewrite history. They forget at will things that happened when they were historical infants; and frequently remember things that never happened. They choose to forget their own foundation, the origin of their knowledge, the beginning of their existence, the KMT. History begins at their point of convenience, from the moment of their prowess.
They rewrite everything; they whitewash it. They whitewashed Kepre Kare Senworsert the First[iii], Latinised Narmer[iv], and even assigned the writing system of the Land of Blacks to Raceless creatures! The conquerors took everything; they take everything: small and big, old and new. If it is good, it cannot belong to this part; “….anything of value found here does not belong here.”[v]
It belongs elsewhere, far from these shores, somewhere in the north, occasionally, grudgingly in distant Asia.
Now, at the mercy of the elements, sans direction, sans plan, we dance to all winds. We are drenched when it rains. Our brain sizzles in the cooking sun. Fried. Barbecued. Roasted. Boiled. Cerveau Sauté à la carte. And even now in our prostrate state everyone picks the brain. Each according to his appetite. They eat as much as they want and even do take-away. No credit to the brain restaurant. No mention of the incorrigible Good Samaritan except in bad books. He is not even mentioned as the Foolish Samaritan. Just plain bad. Useless. Bad genes. Black sheep. God’s mistake! No history – we had no history until the arrival of foreigners. No culture – “their condition is capable of no development of culture…”[vi] No past except a savage one. No present, except aid - left, right and centre.
Their Seine swallowed our Sine[vii] as recently as six hundred years ago. Dyed its mind blonde and blue. Hapless Sine digested, it gives up its calories and proteins. Now, stripped of everything except misery, disease and hunger, and mangled in assimilation, acculturation and globalisation, Sine is spewed in putrid vomitus. And in big banners, Sine is declared detested, unwanted. Mission accomplished: pushed, used, dispossessed, now thrown to the bottom of the ladder. Faux Fraternité forgotten. Dubious Solidarité sequestered. The human Race is now categorised: Super humans, humans, and the maybes. Who dares challenge the conqueror?
The sapostles (development guys) then came among us, waved Canaan of development in our faces, and we packed our bags out of Egypt. Out of Kemet. Yes, they promised us snow and we believed that snow was good for us. They said the Red Sea was nothing but a dying stream. That our pyramids were nothing but chunks of stones; that we needed to forget our past in order to be free. Forget the past to be free was what they told us. The past is a chain, it is bondage. Leave it. Let it die a quick death. One of their wise men called it “Aid-Induced Accelerated Collective Amnesia” in a conference.
They said the road out of Egypt was not difficult. They claimed it was laid with cheese, burgers, salad, caviar, foie gras, French fries, curry and every other thing alien to our palate. And our mouths watered! We believed that alien foods were good for us. We did not think about indigestion, diarrhea, flatulence and indeed cancers.
We left everything behind, sold every possession, and moved out into the wilderness, straight for the Red Sea. How on earth could we have believed that the sea was not wider than a stream? Did they hypnotise us? Or are we just plain naïve?
And at the banks of the sea, when we began to understand their intentions, they did not give us any chance to go back or to escape. They blinded us with flipcharts and beamer lights, conferences, workshops and seminars. Some of us even got some perdiem and some, time at the podium. Tons of industrial words, phrases, plans, objectives and indicators. And we forgot everything. Yes we forgot everything as soon as each meeting was over.
Our mistake. They thought we were ignorant, that we couldn’t hold anything except combs in the tiny curls and they organised more meetings and workshops. And we chose to forget again. We told them what we wanted, what we needed. We needed glucose, not grammar. We needed proteins, not programs. We needed vegetables, not variables; we demanded our stolen dignity, not pity. We demanded respect, not project. They wouldn’t listen. They said donors would not want to hear us. We were beneficiaries, and donors were donors. Beneficiaries do not know what is good for their benefit. Donors know better what the beneficiaries need. Beneficiary compliance is very important or the donor could go into fatigue mode.
We began to complain. And when the sapostles heard rumbles of rebellion, they threatened us with selective and collective sanctions, visa restrictions, aid withdrawal, credit denial. We acquiesced, then they herded us into the sea. They pushed our bus in. Some of us broke their legs and others, their heads in the fall.
Many pensioners lost their lives. The hardy ones lost all their teeth. Our bus lost all its shock-absorbers. The silencer broke. The radiator sucked in mud. Even, our normally obedient driver silently complained.
And now, look at the sapostles in their tight jeans at the banks of the sea, guzzling beer, eating prawns, munching lobsters, watching sunset on our beaches, laughing at us, making studies and writing endless reports. They now call themselves the local international community.........
[i] Kemet – Ancient Egypt
[ii] David Diop – Africa. A Poem
[iii] Twelth Dynasty King of Kemet (1897BC). Known to the Greeks as Sesotris and Kekrops. According to Greek mythology, he was the founder of Athens.
[iv] Known by the Greeks as Menes, he was the founder of Dynastic Kemet.
[v] Ayi Kwei Armah – The Identity of the Creators of Ancient Egypt – New African April 2006.
[vi] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - Philosophy of History
[vii] A river in Senegal.