Apologists of the empire

Sam Akaki writes in a Guardian article thus

Britain may have “buried a large part of its 20th century history, along with the rest of the country’s tradition of brutality and crimes against humanity in building its empire” (Building Brexit on the myth of empire, 7 March). But, to give the devil his due, it is an incontrovertible fact that Britain left positive legacies of social and economic development in the empire. In Africa, for example, the British transformed a borderless continent inhabited by warring tribes and clans, ravaged by disease, into modern nation states. They built hospitals, schools, elaborate networks of roads, railway lines, air and sea ports. Crucially, they introduced the rule of law, which protected all Africans irrespective of their tribe, clan or religion.

Tragically, the baby was thrown out with the bath water at independence, ushering in a vicious cycle of self-destructive civil wars across the continent, as demonstrated by the current violence in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. At the same time, despotic leaders are amending their constitutions and clinging to power for the sole purpose of stealing development funds. The result is a widespread lack of opportunities, which is forcing hundreds of thousands of African men, women and children to take risky journeys in search of a better life in Europe. In 2015 and 2016, an estimated 10,000 African migrants perished in the Mediterranean.

Ironically, it is Britain which is funding several NGOs that are performing the role of governments in providing basic education, health services and clean water. It is also feeding millions of refugees in internally displaced persons’ camps across the continent.

He, without shame, wants his readers to believe the British in building the Kenya- Uganda railway were concerned with improving our infrastructure for benevolent ends and not to exploit the hinterland. 

He tells us Africa was borderless and warring without presenting any shred of evidence. It should be remembered, especially for those who are ignorant, Africa before colonialism had nation states. They had their boundaries they had their system of governance and they definitely were guided by rule of law. Had they been a lawless horde, they would possibly have been all dead. Besides, in many places, for example in kenya, the boundaries many places have were extant before the colonialists and we’re adopted and have retained their names. I know Akaki doesn’t know this and that explains why he is an apologist for the colonial administration. 

Again, to demonstrate his ignorance further, he points to the Sudan which has been mired in civil war partly because of the actions of the colonial administration that forced the north and south into a marriage where the south is the abused partner that keeps on giving. It is ignorance that is only possible in the mind of a present day African fed on silly TV sitcoms and who does not bother to engage with the history of the continent. 

Lastly in giving the devil his due he tells us about NGOs in Africa. He forgets to mention the history of colonialism that forced almost all the able bodied African men and women to look for work in the settler farms and business to pay a tax regime that served only to impoverish Africa. He conveniently does not mention that most of the whites sent by the colonial administration as administrators were idiots and had failed back home. What were they to teach Africans in governance? 

African states have their own failings. That I must admit. But for an African to start lecturing us on how the British and other powers in Europe helped us is unbecoming of an intellectual. 

One must address issues of imbalance in trade agreements, puppet presidents, SAPs and their effects on the civil service in African countries and other emerging economies of the South. Finally one must address the plunder of resources from Africa that continues to date. The destruction of local ecology to feed Europe. An example in point is introduction of Nile perch in Lake Victoria mainly for export to Europe that has in about 40 years killed almost 400 indigenous species that were only found in the lake.

Akaki,  please give us a break and learn a bit of history.