I engage in a lot of political debates on and offline and its obvious that the wind of change blowing in North Africa has made a huge impact on how we, as individuals, analyse current affairs. Certain illusions have been shattered. It has also made some of us more aware of the power of information, media, positive networking and the power of citizens. Some of us are aware of how long African leaders generally cling on to political powers, but for those who may not know, here is a snap shot:
Ben Ali of Tunisia - 23 years - 1988 - 2011................fallen
Hosni Mubarak of Egypt - 30 years - since 1981.........fallen
Moummar Ghaddfi of Libya - 42 years - since 1969
Mbasago of Equatorial Guinea - 32 years - since 1979
Jose Santos of Angola - 32 years - since 1979
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe - 31 years - since 1980
Paul Biya of Cameroon - 29 years - since 1982
Yoweri Museveni of Uganda - 25 years - since 1986
Blaise Campore of Burkina Fasso - 24 years since 1987
Mswati III of Swaziland - 24 years - since April 1986
Omar Bashir of Sudan - 21 years - since 1989
Idrissu Deby of Chad - 21 years - since 1990
Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea - 18 years - since 1993
Yahya Jammeh of Gambia - 17 years - since 1994
Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia - 16 years - since 1995
Pakalitha Mosisili (Lesotho) - 13 years - since 1998;
Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti - 12 years - since 1999
Mohammed VI of Morocco - 12 years - since 1999
Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast - 11 years+ - since 2000
Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal) - 11 years - since 2000
Paul Kagame (Rwanda) - 11 years - since 2000
Today's guest writer looks at one of the reasons why such leaders are 'enabled' to hold on to their office for so long. ENJOY!
Many people here constantly talk of the white man's ills, by blaming him on almost everything. African dictators are said to have been placed on power by the white man, hunger is caused by the white man, disease, also by the white man. Destruction, slavery and wars, once again, are caused by the white man. But does any African ever think that he/she is partly responsible for his own demise? There are corrupt dictators everywhere in Africa, but how many actually seek to examine their own cultures and see how these dictators are cultivated?
The African, when he is a child, is mostly being groomed for conformity, first, by his parents, then his relatives, and finally the society.
From when he is young, the African child is forced to obey his parents. His dad is his god, his mom, next in command to the god. Each of his movements are watched, and his actions are carefully scrutinized. Every unruly act is punishable by canning, and sometimes by depriving of the basic necessities. So the African child learns early in life that brute force is necessary, in order to achieve civility.
The African child also never questions, because every question can be misconstrued as as a gesture of an on-coming audacious behaviour. If he asks his parents questions that they are not able to answer, they will lie to him. If they can answer the question, but think that the answer may be too lewd, they will scold him and send him to his room, or worse, cane him. So the African child learns early on in life, that questions are not to be asked, unless absolutely necessary.
The African child's interactions with other adults who visit the home is also carefully controlled, lest he becomes naughty out of his own curiosity. All the adults are introduced either as Aunty that, or Uncle that. Those Aunties or Uncles holding lots of political or academic power, are introduced carefully, and presented as demigods. So the child knows right away that titles are to be respected, that all adults are to be respected without question. After greeting visitors, the African child is told to go outside right away and play, lest he disturbs these honourable sirs and madams with questions they may not like.
Going on to school, the African child learns even bigger lessons of conformity. his classes are highly structured, his games are carefully planned and just like Pavlov's dog, he is reminded of these by the bells that are rung at certain times. He is also exposed to other superiors called prefects. These prefects are often the eyes and ears of the teachers and the principle. Disobedient behaviour, will be aptly punished by these prefects, and if they take you to the teachers, it gets even worse. So obedience is the order of the day. Because of this extreme obedience, the free interaction of teachers and student is often reduced to fear. In very few instances does a child ever get away with defiant behaviour in an African school. With the kind of rigor that is present in African schools, its highly unlikly that there will be any time for asking meaningful questions, and developing a proper student teacher relationship, or even creativity.
Anyways, by the time the African child is now an adult and has graduated from college, he has learnt important lessons in conformity. He now respects every person with a higher title than him. He will treat a Doctor, or a PHD guy like a demigod. He will kiss and lick the hands of any millionaire. If he ever gets in touch with a white man, he will treat him better than his fellow African, because of course the white man lives in heaven, and thus carries with him his heavenly goods. Any politician this African may meet, he will regard as a god, because he has been taught to respect titles. He will not ask questions, because again, he has learnt not to ask any, lest he gets in trouble. So this man becomes a slave to his own fear.
The only Africans who ever emerge out of this vicious cycle of conformity, are the square pegs in round holes. The ones who were free from childhood. The ones who mastered their fear by going against the norm. These ones often become the leaders of the sheeple, whether good or bad. Some of them become great politicians fighting for the people's rights, some become tyrants. Those who become tyrants are often times used to not being questioned. They are used to living in a society where fear reigns. Where titles are respected, etc.
It is for this reason why, a politician in Africa can get away from murdering a couple of thousands of the citizens, while one from the west can hardly get away from getting a blow job in the office. It is also for this reason why several Kenyan politicians who have embezzled millions in the golden-berg scandal, will still stay in office, while one in the west will be forced to resign. Africans simply will not question. They will seek the least resistant way possible. This has to change. The culture has to change.
If we contrast the African child's behaviour, with that one who has been raised in the west, we notice a few things;
The western child is shockingly honest. He mentions exactly how he feels like, asks for what he wants, not what his parents thinks he wants, and he questions anything and everything his mind desires. The African child on the other hand, is dishonest. He doesn't mention anything that may make an adult angry, or that may get him in trouble. He has been taught to conceal thoughts of curiosity from early on, so he is timid and never questions when given a command.
The difference in behviour of these children comes about because their parents treat them differently. In the west, parents hardly cane their children. They scold them, and explain to them why they are being sent to their room as punishment. The African child on the other hand, gets a good beating if defiant behaviour is discovered. So, you may say, doesn't this make the westernized child more spoilt? Yes it does in a sense, but the Westernized child learns an important lesson - brute force does not get you obedience. The African child learns that brute force keeps you aligned and reason is not good. So you can imagine how an African dictator will act? By brute force,and not by reasoning.
p/s you are free to use words such as uncle tom, sell-out, bad african, etc to describe me.
My thoughts: The above piece, titled 'How Africans prepare themselves for conformity' was written by today's featured author, the brilliant non conformist, Oketa Otira.
(will give you sweets if you click 'like' he he he ;)