AFTER World War II, Africans woke up to the realisation that their own freedom had not been a factor in their participation in that war — on behalf of the colonial masters.
Thousands of them had died for the cause of the Europeans.
In truth, it had had absolutely nothing to do with Africa. Yet Africans had died for the glory — if you want to be absolutely cynical — of the white people.
Among all Africans — and not just the intelligentsia — there was the instant recognition of the tragic irony of the outcome of the war against Adolf Hitler.
Europe had been saved from the jackboot of the Nazis — with the help of the Africans. Yet the Africans were still under the jackboot of the Europeans.
As they say, “something had to give”.
The Africans rose against the Europeans. They were, once again, killed by the Europeans, for daring to challenge their masters.
But this was not going to deter them. They fought on and on until the Europeans realised — as Hitler did, in the end – that they would not win this war.
The Europeans did not commit suicide. They gave up very reluctantly, some of them plundering the countries they had occupied.
Moreover, few of the Africans were prepared for their new nationhood.
Most did not embrace the doctrine of unity as wholeheartedly as they ought to have.
Instead of celebrating their victory in unity, some of them chose to confine the new wealth to their own kind.
So, in almost every instance, there was civil war. There were assassinations and military coups. There was internecine bloodshed.
It is probably not entirely untrue that some of the former colonialists rubbed their hands in invisible water as they watched the bloodbaths.
It was their hope that they would be called back to the former colonies — to restore order, to clean up the mess the Africans had made of their nationhood.
To this day, there are Africans still gripped in the vise of civil war. The Ivory Coast, the DRC, Somalia and the Sudan come immediately to mind.
But hope has been kindled for the continent by the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The youth in those countries have virtually waged a war against their elders, their reasons being that their geriatric rulers have failed them.
The youth have borne the brunt of joblessness, hunger and general worthlessness. The young man who so publicly killed himself to spark the revolution in Tunisia will be immortalised in the annals of African political history.
He single-handedly pronounced that the youth of Africa had had it up to here with the bungling and corruption of their elders.
Muammar Gadaffi may rant about “showing no mercy” against his detractors. But even he must know it is futile.
His breed is no longer relevant to the future of the continent. People who rule countries for 20, 30 or 40 years are no longer relevant.
They have had their time and must step aside or be kicked out. The youth will seek help wherever they can find it to get rid of the Gadaffis. If it means turning for help to the former colonial masters, they will do it.
Accusations that they are selling out the countries to the rich nations will bounce off them harmlessly: the alternative — to allow the Gadaffis to continue to mount them like asses — would be unconscionable.
A look at the broader picture would seem to suggest that Africa has reached a watershed: the principles that motivated the old guard to safeguard independence have been rejected.
These seemed to be anchored on an isolationist tendency of rejecting close relations with foreign nations — unless they allowed them to murder their own people without raising a peep.
For far too long, the independence of most African nations was not premised entirely on the total transformation of the people’s living standards.
It was never guaranteed that the primary aim of the struggle against colonialism was to end poverty and powerlessness.
The African youth have reminded us all that, after colonialism, poverty and powerlessness are our greatest enemies.