Colonial ‘Apologism’ in Africa and African colonialists.

It’s beyond any doubt that colonial “apologism” is rife in Africa, particularly in Africa’s corridors of power. Colonial “apologism” is the habit (tendency), usually by those in western political, academic and international development circles who argue that European colonialism in Africa was more a force for good than the evil it’s made out to be.

It’s one thing to condemn European colonialism and, no doubt, its devastation and subsequent effects in Africa. But it is strange of many Africans to attack western circles or indeed, Africans who criticise the behaviour of African politicians and governments, and accuse them of being apologists for colonialism without considering the fact that post-independence African politicians and governments have behaved and continue to behave like, in some cases worse than, European colonial administrations.

Post-independence African politicians and governments, through many of their policies and actions, have reinforced colonial legacy and further entrenched not only colonial mindset to power but perceptions and aspirations to power. This has effectively turned African politicians and governments into colonialists themselves.

Strangely, however, this is not seen, by the type of Africans who criticise, both western circles or Africans who criticise African politicians and governments for their colonialist policies and behaviour, as yet a form of apologising for colonialism. It does not occur to this type of African who is quick to accuse anyone who dares criticise post-independence African politicians and governments for their dismal failure; calling on them to own up to their failures instead of trying to explain them away by blaming them on neo-colonialism and continued colonial interference in Africa.

Post-independence African governments and their officials, through their many – usually copy and paste policies from western policy papers – are and have been the worst apologists for colonialism in Africa. Post-independence African governments maintained the colonial administrative structures (systems) and order. ‘Independence‘ was merely a replacement of European colonial administration and administrators with African administrators with a colonial mindset to governance and (public) administration.

This is because their formative experiences and education about (in) governance and (public) administration was shaped by colonial experience and education. They knew no other ways, forms and experiences of governance and (public) administration; so they looked up to colonial administration as a benchmark, particularly because they had taken over (inherited) all its systems and infrastructure. Naturally, they saw no substantial reason or had no incentive to dismantle the colonial administrative structures and infrastructure and build anew. That is, build their own systems they had consciously conceived, designed and implemented to bring about, in revolutionary speak, ‘total change’, as indeed, many immediate post-independence African politicians had promised in some of their independence struggle manifestos and literature.

They had no reason nor the incentive to re-invent the administrative wheel; particularly because what they had inherited, accorded them power – over the people and their affairs and national resources – as it had to colonial administration and administrators. The inherited colonial administrative structures (systems) and the entire infrastructure served them well. It made many of them overnight kings; and not just kings but authoritarian multimillionaire kings.

Most came from impoverished peasant background and lifestyle to suddenly live in State sponsored opulence, and in colonial administrative palaces, so-called, ironically, “State Houses” that are cordoned off public access and with heavy security. It’s a criminal offence for the public to attempt to gain access to such so-called “State Houses“.

They took on the hat of the ‘White/European’ colonial administrator, complete with all the titles and regalia, and effectively became the new colonisers. Many, indeed, despite their pre-independence ideological convictions and reasons for the agitation for self-rule and against colonialism; within a matter and the inevitable test of time, transmogrified into the kind of ruthless, merciless behaviour, if not worse than typically that of the colonial administration and administrators.

They treated their own people like, if not worse than, the colonial administrations. They oppressed, beat up and subjugated their own people in the manner and the same way the colonial administrators did. They saw their own people as their subjects; and they as their new masters, despite claiming (falsely of course) to have ‘liberated‘ the people from the colonial rule and oppression.

The people had to respond, recognise and defer to them, as they – both the new masters and the people – did to the ‘White/European’ colonial administrators who wielded the whip, the gun and was trigger happy with an itchy finger on the trigger of the gun. The African colonialist, through his military, the police and a slew of other oppressive quasi security organs, is as trigger happy as the ‘White/European’ colonial administrators, through similar instruments of oppression and repression, were. Suffice to say, in the words of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”

The new African colonial masters (colonisers) have, since independence, modeled and/or sought to model their development aspirations and policies towards those of their ‘erstwhile‘ masters. Yet, African colonisers – these hypocrites in politics and government – have the gall to criticise and accuse (often through their articulate stooges) others, be it from the western corridors of power and academia and/or their ‘educated‘ African protégés, of being apologists for colonialism.

They engage in vitriol and level such accusations from the comforts of their European colonial legacy such as “State Houses“, palaces and mansions with all the colonial paraphernalia. They hire and pay foreign, mainly western, PR firms and communications agencies extortionate sums of money to speak for them; to create favourable public images of them in the eyes of western corridors of power and the public. Put simply, they hire and pay extortionate sums of public resources to seek and buy external – foreign (western) – or colonial validation. But they think this is alright; it’s not and does not amount to colonial “apologism“.

They criticise European colonialism (and/or neo-colonialism) and interference in their affairs; but they happily benefit from colonial legacy and enjoy its privileges. While they complain about imperialism, colonialism and colonial interference; they happily send their own children to western countries they accuse of and criticise for interference and imperialistic (and colonial) agenda, to be educated and be socialised in the western socio-educational value systems.

They, therefore, through that act of hypocrisy effectively, albeit, ironically, import cultural imperialism – in the behaviour and values of their children – into their countries they supposedly want to protect from imperialism and foreign interference.

Their lifestyle alone, would constitute enough incriminating evidence, if being an apologist for European colonialism was a punishable crime. They live in colonial inspired State funded opulence, and import everything from western economies – usually each inclined to draw inspiration from (and aspire to) their former colonial masters’ aspirations and way of life.

It goes without asking: how many post-independence African governments built their own so-called “State Houses” and furnish(ed) them with national (local) artefacts and locally made (manufactured) furniture instead of importing everything from their colonial masters’ economies and cultural heritage?

Rwandan Culture and Values: political propaganda behind the veil of national ‘culture’ and ‘values’

Nothing is more hurtful as the generational toxic (political) propaganda being propagated in the contemporary sociopolitical environment in Rwanda by so-called ‘high‘ profile (government) officials and their partners – those under the umbrella of ‘Civil Society’, who claim to have influence in society – claiming to teach Rwandans, especially the young, what they claim to be and therefore call “Rwandan culture” and “Rwandan values

For, hardly anyone of them, when asked, can explain what they mean by both “Rwandan culture” and “Rwandan values” in the contemporary context. But they hide behind the garb of officialdom – their eating positions and titles – to pretend to be ‘experts‘ on “Rwandan culture” and “Rwandan values“; no less their manufactured propaganda – lies – and propagate it in the minds of Rwandans, especially the unsuspecting young.

They pretend to be promoting, advancing and in many ways, developing [a] “national culture” and “national values“. Yet, through their own individual behaviour, actions and, not surprising, their religious beliefs, contradict themselves by contravening what they pretend to promote.

They cannot – and none of them has taken their time, from their eating positions, to reflect and try to – delineate the meaning (and relevance) of what they claim to be “Rwandan culture” and “Rwandan values” in the context of colonialism and its influence on the Rwandan society. Or what impact colonial education (system) and foreign religions such as – predominantly – European Christianity and its doctrine (ideology) with its Bible as the weapon of indoctrination and mind falsification – and Islam, have had and continue to have on the Rwanda psyche.

How is it possible to have – and/or speak of – a “national culture“, i.e, a set of customs, ideas, social behaviour, etc, collectively identified and observed by a group of people – nation, speaking in national terms, in a country that’s a hotbed for foreign culture importation?

What is “Rwandan culture“?

What constitutes “Rwandan culture“?

Who defines “Rwandan culture“?

What is their cultural as well as educational background and influence?

What culture do they project and/or promote?

What is and does being Rwandan mean?

Who is [a] Rwandan?

What are the so-called “Rwandan values“?

Who defines the so-called “Rwandan values“?

What values does the definer of the so-called “Rwandan values” have, promote and/or project?

What is their socio-educational value background and influence?

How Rwandan are they?

What “Rwandan culture” does the Rwandan government promote and/or project?

What so-called “Rwandan values” does the Rwandan government promote and/or project?

What “Rwandan culture” does the Rwandan parliament promote and/or project?

What so-called “Rwandan values” does the Rwandan parliament promote and/or project?

What “Rwandan culture” or “Rwandan values” do Rwanda institutions, private or public, promote and/or project?

If Rwandan culture and values are not manifested in national aspirations – in the aspirations, attitudes and behaviour of people, but what is manifested are foreign aspirations, attitudes, behaviour and desire for foreign values, achievements and everything; of what use is it, and what sense does it make, to speak about national culture and values?

When ‘high‘ profile Rwandan (government) officials such as Jeanne d’Arc Gakuba @GakubaJeanne claim to be “Happy to share with the youth of Gasabo district about Rwandan values, discipline and accountability“; it makes one wonder what exactly they’re sharing with the Rwandan youth, who will not have the courage to challenge them to explain what they mean by “Rwandan values“, let alone ‘discipline‘?…

Discipline in (and for) what?

What do they mean by discipline?

Is discipline a skill or skill set?

If it is, is it and can it be transferable, or transferred by (and from) one generation to another? Are these people who purport to teach others, or the Rwandan youth, discipline; disciplined themselves?

But it also brings to mind the poignant reflections (remarks) by the prominent Czech writer and former President of Czech Republic, Václav Havel, in his essay “The Power of the Powerless”.

The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies…Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything”

Rwandan Culture: realistically, there’s no such thing, today, as a distinct Rwandan “culture” or “values”

I cringe whenever I hear Rwandans, particularly the proudly ‘educated‘ ones whose colonial education means they’ve been inculcated with a colonial value system and its bourgeois values and aspirations, speak, sometimes irritatingly, about Rwandan “culture” and Rwandan “values“.

Rwandan “culture” is simply an illusion of the past, rooted in the false perception, if not due to the ignorance, of colonial influence and the present, often subtle cultural dynamics as a consequence of globalisation.

Realistically, there’s no such thing, today, as a distinct Rwandan “culture” or “values“. However, this is not to suggest that Rwanda has no culture and values; or there’s no culture and, importantly, there are no socioeconomic and, to some degree, political values in Rwanda.

Far from it, Rwanda has a culture, and it has values; and there’s a culture in Rwanda and that culture has its own values. It is, however, a culture that is inseparably interwoven in and influenced by colonialism, its experiences and value system.

That is the culture of borrowing, copying and mixing cultural practices from other cultures in the world, and blending in vestiges of pre-colonial Rwandan cultural and traditional practices, such as, prominently, Rwandan traditional dance and its distinct regalia. And many other pre-colonial Rwandan cultural and traditional facets exhibited today, often in formal social occasions such as weddings; and/or the usual entertainment (and beguiling) of foreigners from a supposedly uniquely and culturally and traditionally Rwandan identity.

It’s particularly this blend, and therefore apparent veneer of vestiges of pre-colonial Rwandan cultural and traditional practices that create a false perception, and give an equally false impression of what many Rwandans, more likely out of an unconscious need to create a unique cultural as well as national identity, call Rwandan “culture“.

But what’s referred to as Rwandan “culture” today, like cultures of all colonised societies, is a hodgepodge of native cultural and traditional as well as borrowed foreign cultural practices. What was pre-colonial Rwandan culture died with the advent of colonialism and its aggressive (colonial) cultural influences on the colonised societies and their cultures, particularly through the colonial educational and religious value systems.

Rwanda today, like many other African countries, is a country with many different nationalities from all over the world. It’s a country, again, like many other African countries, where people of various nationalities, with different cultural and traditional value systems, go and form their own small communities and maintain their cultural, traditional and socio-commmunal values and languages. They form settler communities akin to colonial settler communities in Africa.

Rwanda is a country, like many other African countries, that warmly welcomes and accommodates foreigners, sometimes to the point that it gives the impression that it favours foreigners over Rwandans.

It’s not uncommon to hear muted complaints by and from Rwandans about being discriminated against, by Rwandans (employers), for foreigners on the basis of various criteria; the more common one being – sometimes assumed – superiority in skills and foreign language proficiency. Even though the proficiency in language is due to the fact that the foreigner is speaking and communicating in his or her first (native) – and possibly only – language. The mastery level is naturally different: one is a native speaker and the other is a foreign language speaker.

Rwanda is a country, like many other African countries, where foreigners are not required to learn and speak Kinyarwanda – Rwanda’s national language – as a prerequisite to their legal (permanent) settlement in the country. Or the acquisition of the Rwandan citizenship (nationality).

Although the government introduced a mandatory citizenship test for foreigners wishing to acquire Rwandan citizenship (nationality), often the test is set and hence taken in one of the officially accepted foreign languages; thus making it a lot easier for foreigners to pass and effectively acquire Rwandan citizenship (nationality). It doesn’t give primacy of language to Kinyarwanda and therefore doesn’t require knowledge of – and doe not test proficiency in – Kinyarwanda. Contrary to what happens in many other countries where knowledge and satisfactory proficiency of the national language is a prerequisite for citizenship.

This is partly because various foreign languages are spoken in Rwanda, mainly, by ‘educated‘ Rwandans, a part of whom have either had the opportunity to travel to different countries for business and other reasons. Or have been ‘educated‘ and lived in various foreign countries and as such, have been inculturated in foreign value systems and hence, exhibit foreign values and practices which foreigners easily identify with, making them feel rather at home. So, foreigners will have no problem living and working in Rwanda without speaking Kinyarwanda.

Rwandan “culture” or Rwandan “values” are things foreigners in Rwanda or those who travel to Rwanda frequently, back and forth, will speak about; but often from a Rwandan perspective, i.e, what Rwandans tell them Rwandan “culture” and Rwandan “values” are.

Hence, foreigners with their conscious or unconscious biases about Africa and African socio-cultural and traditional values, will look around for all possible signs and things that are compatible with – and to confirm to – what they’ve been told what constitutes Rwandan “culture” and “values“. They will swallow that often uncritical presentation and therefore view of Rwandan (national) “culture” and “values“, like they swallow most things intentionally and well prepared for them. They will hardly pause to ask and critically examine how that culture and the said values are reflected in Rwandan administration: the national administrative structures.

Ideally, national culture and values should be reflected in national administration and its structures. National culture and values should form the basis of national identity and national administration and its structures. National language, therefore, must be at the centre; it must be the primary language of communication, and other languages as added advantages.

The national legal system must have developed from national culture and experiences and as such, reflect national culture and values. The Rwandan legal system is a patchwork of foreign legal regimes and practices, with practitioners educated in different legal regimes.

If national culture is not reflected in the national legal system, in the laws that govern a country (nation); then what culture does the legal system – and the laws of governance, reflect?

What kind of Rwandan culture and values does a “Rwandan” born and raised outside Rwanda, and outside a particularly Rwandan community influence, who does not speak Kinyarwanda, exhibit?

What kind of Rwandan culture and values does the Rwandan government exhibit in its structures?

What kind of Rwandan culture and values does the Rwandan ministry of foreign affairs and cooperation promote and/or project?

Arrogance of Power and Rogue Diplomacy in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Clearly, it is a no-brainer that arrogance (of power) and rogue diplomacy as part of foreign policy, are not a good recipe for inter-state, inter-national relations and cooperation; they’re a recipe for hostility. There’s no winner in a hostile environment; everyone is a loser!

Ideally, diplomacy should not be a one-upmanship characterised by arrogance and rogue behaviour and attitude.

Fundamentally, diplomacy developed out of the need to deal with problems in the relationship, initially, between neighbouring countries; but has, overtime, extended into various areas of international relations and affairs such politics and trade.

Diplomacy, in essence, is about advancing an idea or cause in such measured manner, yet with impact, without inflaming passions and still attract interest of engagement. It’s about, for instance, circumnavigating an issue that people feel strongly about that might, if approached or handled clumsily, otherwise trigger them off, arousing negative sentiments and reaction such as anger, resentment and/or revenge.

Diplomacy between countries (international diplomacy) therefore, must be exercised from and with that basic principle of diplomacy fully in mind. A diplomat, therefore, must adhere to and endeavour to demonstrate understanding of such sensitivity in their diplomatic engagements.

If diplomatic engagements are conducted with arrogance, i.e, from a position of and with a sense of superiority rather than seek consensus on issues at hand without the need to be condescending towards another party, however weak they may be at the time, it risks to cause, and it will in most cases, cause disharmony in diplomatic relations.

A diplomat who seeks and engages in diplomatic activities or relations with no respect for those with whom they’re engaging; with the sole intention and purpose of proving superiority, to infuriate and humiliate others; is no diplomat: he or she is a misplaced rogue in diplomacy. A true diplomat should avoid trying to prove a point, or seek instant victory; but seek to find a middle ground; especially on issues that are sensitive and prone to misinterpretation, hence, causing misunderstanding and likely to result in negative reactions.

History is awash with examples in the world of cases/instances where a minor misunderstanding or oversight on protocol standards and expectations on relations have led to disharmony in diplomatic relations between countries, eventually deteriorating into devastating political conflicts with far-reaching consequences.

Based on the ongoing political and diplomatic events, there’s a sense in which Africa’s Great Lakes Region seems to be entangled in rogue diplomacy; with those in diplomacy and designated diplomats, violating basic standards and expectations of diplomacy such as foresight and sound judgement.

The level of arrogance of power by and from those who wield the levers of power in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, has effectively bred a growing sense and attitude of arrogance in diplomacy which, in itself, has been an integral factor in the growth of the kind of rogue diplomacy that’s increasingly prevalent in the region and its relational affairs.

That arrogance of power, by those in and with power in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, has thus turned diplomacy – otherwise an important arm or tool of politics supposed to handle and settle political matters, grievances without aggression – into a tool of aggression with rogues as diplomats.

Consequently, the inexcusably intransigent childish, insensitive behaviour and arrogant attitude of some rogue diplomats in diplomacy in Africa’s Great Lakes Region, has stoked and continues to stoke perpetual sociopolitical conflicts in the region with disastrous sociopolitical and economic outcomes.

Institution Building: African Perspective

Interestingly, there’s an almost universal claim that many of Africa’s socioeconomic and political afflictions are due to, and therefore an indication of institutional dysfunctions or lack of institutions altogether.

While that claim is without its substantial merits; there’s and has been, consequently, an equally universal trumpet call, not least from Africans themselves, for, not only building functional institutions but also – and with much emphasis on “strong” – institutions. However, what is and should be cause for concern, is that, the call for “strong” institutions lacks critical consideration to the nuances of the word “strong” in (much of Africa or) African context.

The word “Strong” is widely interpreted (and mistaken) for and associated with physical strength; in many instances, with brutality and, importantly, dominance. So, strength is applied, in most circumstances, to subdue others, often the weak, into submission.

Many Africans, not without exceptions, of course, especially with cultural nuances, tend to demonstrate and convey their “strength”, even in their voices (and intonations), purposely to intimidate those around and surrounding them into fear and eventually submission to their will.

As such, a “strong” institution in a wide African context, is one that displays – and is widely known for – excessive use of physical force, i.e, brutality. Too often, when people say an institution is “strong“, they mean it’s brutal; known for excessive use of physical force.

Where that’s less or, sometimes, entirely not the case, a “strong” institution usually means an institution built on and therefore whose credibility and functions rest on the shoulders and/or head of one person: a single individual in whom institutional power and life is vested. So that, the “strength” of such institution, is in effect and in reality, the strength of such individual. The individual becomes, and is thus, the institution. The institution becomes a conduit of – and functions on – the whims and diktats of such individual.

In other words, the institution works primarily for – and to serve – the interests of such individual. It’s beholden to such individual, in whose (sudden) absence or death, the institution is effectively kaput and rendered ineffectual. That also helps to explain why, for instance, corruption within institutions – institutional corruption, i.e, organised institutional mischief, sometime borderline criminality – and nepotism, cronyism are endemic in many supposedly government or public institutions in many African countries.

It’s not uncommon, for instance, for individuals to brag about their proximity to – or close relationship with – the President (Head-of-State) and his/her spouse and family, and owing their position in a government or public institution to that proximity or relationship with power. So, they serve the individual and his/her interests; and not government or public interests.

Their primary purpose is to effect orders from ‘above‘ and ensure the whims and fancies of those to whom they owe their positions, are catered for and served well, above all else. Theirs, is a concierge relationship with those to whom they owe their positions in what are, supposedly and ironically, government or public institutions.

This also explains why many supposedly government or public institutions in many African countries are run as though they are privately owned entities.

“A system that depends on the right man is a bad system” Milton Friedman

Too often, supposedly government or public institutions are built around a single individual, vesting all institutional power in one individual as the right and only capable individual. This is why, it is imperative to consider avoiding the use of the word “strong” in institutional vocabulary in Africa. In fact, there should be campaigns against the concept or idea of a “strong” institution in Africa because it often means it’s prone to all manner of abuse.

Strong institutions will require strong people, i.e, powerful individuals in and with power to remain strong. Powerful individuals, i.e, those with sociopolitical and economic power in Africa, have demonstrated that they hijack and individualise, otherwise supposedly government or public institutions, hence, the genesis to the creation of the malaise of “Strong men” that blights Africa’s politics.

Institutional building should really be about the building of stable and independent structures of governance and interactivity. That means building structures and systems of interaction, communications and ethos within the institution and inter-institutional relationship and interaction.

Building internal institutional structures and systems that primarily serve the purpose of the institution but also ensure institutional independence from individuals, such as heads of institutions and checks on the likely abuse of institutional power (and privilege) and therefore, ensure institutional continuity beyond individuals.

The strength of an institution lies and should be in the institution’s ability to continue serving its purpose with or without a designated head of institution. Institutional independence, checks on power and privilege and continuity are and should be, among other important factors, what make a strong institution.