Africa’s search for foreign value and validation: the obsession for foreign advocacy and the expensive (hiring of) foreign PR firms and communications experts (gurus).

It’s hard to confidently say whether it is a uniquely African phenomenon or a widely used tactical approach, mainly in the political world, where foreign advocacy on local (national) issues is given more weight and value than local voices/advocacy.

It’s obvious that African governments and their officials attach high value on what foreigners and/or foreign agencies think and therefore say about them and their affairs more than they care to engage and pay attention to what their people think and say on issues that directly affect them. Consequently, many African governments and their officials have become, and are increasingly growing dependent as well as highly sensitive on foreign opinions about them than they are concerned with local (national) opinions on their policies and the behaviour of some government officials.

Many African governments and their officials are constantly chasing for foreign validation than they care to engage and listen to the genuine concerns of the people they, supposedly and ironically, claim to represent. Local concerns and grievances are of little consequence to such governments and their officials, and therefore can be and are easily ignored without direct consequences. All they care for is foreign (international) concern and perception about their behaviour and actions.

This is mainly due to the fact that, the public – the ordinary citizens – have no effective stake, participation in the affairs of governance: what governments and their officials do, supposedly on people’s behalf. The people are treated as a mere non-essential product in the governance process and government affairs. The government can do with or without them; so, sod the people, after all!

In most cases, the ordinary people have no power at all to influence government policies and actions, and the behaviour of government officials some of whom behave and act with impunity towards and in their often overly patronising engagement with the public. Governments and their officials behave and act like feudal lords over the people – the public – who they evidently treat as their serfs.

Consequently, this government behaviour and mindset, has brought about the phenomenon of the “reign of the tyranny of the public servant/government official“. This is because people have been systematically and effectively robbed of power by the[ir] governments through the mechanism of policy: using policy as a whip with which to whip the public in line with government agenda, whether it’s in public interest or not, and have the public cowed into silence.

Increasingly, many African governments are turning to and hiring, quite expensively, foreign public relations (PR) agencies/firms and influential media houses to speak for them; on their behalf. To do something of an “image building” for them by writing glowingly and painting rosy impressions of their (domestic) policies. Obviously relying on and using fictitious tactics and methods to create a certain desirable reality that enhances government image internationally.

It’s strange and a shameful contradiction that demonstrates a lack of ideological conviction and political maturity as well as independence; to have and hear, on the one hand, many such African governments and their officials publicly, in a rather chest-thumping manner, speaking ill and complaining about colonialists and their “neo-colonial” agenda in Africa; yet, on the other hand, running and paying hefty sums of, what’s assumed to be public funds, to colonialist agencies for their colonialist image building (enhancing) expertise.

It’s mainly in Africa, if not a uniquely an African phenomenon, where the affairs and policies of an African government, supposedly in public interest, are communicated, lauded and written about glowingly by, and appear often more in, foreign media outlets. Spoken and written about glowingly by foreign officials and other communications agencies than they are written about by local agencies and/or publicly lauded by the people – the public- who are directly affected by or stand to benefit from them.

It speaks volumes about such governments, many of which claim to be “democratic“, therefore guided by principles of democracy. But what is a democratic government if it is not, fundamentally, or, at the very least; in the words of President Abraham Lincoln “government of the people, by the people, for the people“?

What kind of government puts trust in, values and puts a high premium on foreign voices (advocacy) for its policies and activities on its own people more than it trusts, and can trust its own people to speak for themselves and by implication, speak for it and on its policies and actions?

What message does and should that send about the government’s attitude towards, not only the professional expertise and capacity/ability of its own citizens, but also its own policies on national professional development, i.e, mainly the national education system?

Of what use is a national education system that cannot produce competent people (minds) that can and should be trusted by their own governments, to speak on and about national issues on an international level, be taken seriously and trusted as much as hired foreign mercenary expertise?

What message should such demonstrated government behaviour and actions, more importantly, its clear lack of trust in the professional expertise, capacities and abilities of its own citizens, send to such hired foreign mercenary expertise (foreign consultants) and the entire international community?

If a government, demonstrably, cannot and does not trust the professional expertise, capacities and abilities of its own citizens as to entrust them with advocacy on its behalf, for its policies, activities, actions and other national matters; who should bother put trust in them; and why should they?

The African is caught between two forces in the world

On the one hand, the world is committed to teaching the African out of his/her Africanness – how not to be African; yet, on the other hand, the African is constantly reminded – by the same world – of his/her ‘Africanness’.

So, naturally, the African buffeted by these two extreme forces on both sides, will be pushed to defend himself/herself by demonstrating that he/she has agency over his/her own identity and destiny. Ironically, to do and achieve that, the psychologically battered and defeated African will always, almost unfailingly, turn to the same world that has inflicted that psychological torture on him/her, for what the African has been made to believe are the tools of “empowerment“.

The African will therefore seek, from his/her tormentor, all possible tools of empowerment – mental, physical, socioeconomic and whatever else the African has been made to believe (swallow), by his/her tormentor is what he/she (African) needs to stand up to his/her tormentor. The African runs for protection from his/her abuser.

The African truly believes his/her tormentor is committed to (and can) teach or empower him/her enough to the point that the African can stand shoulder to shoulder with and rival his/her tormentor. Put simply, the African, in his/her glorious naivety, believes the tormentor can and will empower the tormented to torment his/her tormentor.

So, the African will seek his/her tormentor’s education, effectively adopting his/her tormentor’s value system. The African will copy and paste his/her tormentor’s way of life (lifestyle) and socioeconomic development model and the tormentor’s tormenting systems. But more importantly, the African will be extremely concerned with – and highly values – what and how his/her tormentor thinks and perceives of him/her, especially in his/her ambitious attempt to stand up to his/her tormentor, who has been a little generous to empower him/her.

This concern, therefore, creates a certain unpredictable level of anxiety in the mind of the African to the degree that whenever the tormentor raises a slight concern on how the African uses his/her acquired power (tormenting systems); the African will panic with uncontrolled anxiety. Because of that panic and uncontrolled anxiety; and not sure how to deal with his/her tormentor, the African will, again, instead, run to his/her tormentor to seek help.

So, it becomes a cycle of dependency; which, in effect, creates, in the mind of the African, the need and therefore makes the African feel bound to (always) seek for his/her tormentor’s validation on his/her (African’s) actions.

This explains why, when Africans are battered by western forces such as the powerful western media, will still run to western media and other communications ‘experts‘ for help, pay them extortionate amounts, so they can help them out to deal with their own on behalf of Africans.

Pathetic, as Eeyore would say!

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?