YEARS ago, when most African leaders declared, “the people have spoken”, they lied.
What they meant was that they had spoken, or the ruling and only party or the army had spoken.
This was “the people’s voice”.
In 2011, the declaration took on a far more potent significance: the people spoke and acted boldly, risking life and limb, to reclaim their right to what legitimately belonged only to the people — the right to determine their destiny.
Call it the “Arab” spring or uprising: what it turned out to be for Africa was a call for independence from colonialism to be accorded proper meaning — freedom from indigenous oppression.
They laid down their lives —not at the behest of the former colonialists, but of their own free will.
They died for their new freedom.
Most rabid Pan-Africanists will scoff at this as so much “colonial stooge” garbage, a parrot cry ordered by the former colonialists, bidding for a new subjugation of their former colonies, under the guise of a new “salvation” from what was said to be tinsel independence.
One cold, hard fact of the events in North Africa in 2011 is that the independence wrested from the colonialists turned out to be ephemeral.
A vulgar description would be “phony”.
The exciting improvement of the people’s lives, promised with such passion at independence, was probably experienced only in the early years of independence.
Later, as power was abused by the few people at the top, so was the wealth of the country plundered by the few.
Corruption, impunity and a willingness to shoot to kill those who protested, took over.
Another cold hard fact being ignored is that even in those countries where “people’s coups” had not taken place, the twin scourges of poverty and disease have the people in their vice-like grip.
The few people in power are filthily, obscenely wealthy. To quell the simmering discontent, they will kill and kill and kill.
This is not propaganda from the West: it is an African reality.
Countries with oil, gold, copper, silver, uranium, diamonds, emeralds and fertile land waiting to grow anything from maize, wheat, cotton and everything Mother Earth can give robust life to are today struggling to feed, clothe, educate and provide robust health to all their people — only a few have all this in abundance.
They will not give it up for anything: they will kill to keep their slimy fingers on what they have – unless the poor decide death is preferable to living so close to death they can smell it every waking minute of their lives.
Since 1957, few countries have achieved independence without strife, in which thousands died — from bullets and hunger.
One country which made the transition peacefully was Botswana. After the death of Seretse Khama, there never was the upheaval experienced in other newly-independent countries.
To this day, there has not been blood-letting caused by the insane rivalry for power.
The upheaval in North Africa originated with poverty. Poor people wondered why there was this chasm between them and the rich.
Their conclusion was that the chasm was man-made — nothing to do with climate change or the depletion of the ozone layer.
Then they identified the real enemy — and went for the jugular.
The people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya mustered the intellectual capacity to disintegrate the theory that there was anything “natural” about their plight —some had to be at the top, others at the bottom.
They concluded it was feasible for most people to be at the top — all they needed to do was to act decisively to change the situation.
It’s likely that many others will emulate their fine example — as others did after Ghana gained its independence from the British in 1957.