There is something inherently wrong with Africa. It seems that no matter how much a country in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa, progresses at some point it all falls apart and returns to what Africa is apparently used to being: a land of chaos. I suppose there is a reason it is called the “Dark Continent” and it has nothing to do with the color of the skin of a majority of the people.
I have a great fascination with Africa and in terms of political/social desires, there is nothing that I would rather see than a generally stable and prosperous Africa. What a sight that would be to behold. A continent so ripe with conflict and war, being able to rise above it and enter into the developed world while providing relative peace and prosperity for even the poorest of people.
In the 80s and 90s it appeared that there was a shift towards this vision. While many countries continued to reside in hell (Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda), many were stablizing and becoming prosperous. However, today many of those same countries are or look as if they are regressing and being trapped by the grasp of ethnic strife and war once again or, at least, are in the grip or totalitarian leaders who are destroying their country.
There are three countries that come to mind that have fallen into this trap. In the 80’s and early 90’s the Ivory Coast was often considered Africa’s shining star. An example of openness and relative prosperity, however today it is embroiled by war and strife.
Even worse, and I would argue the most serious, is Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe had a burgeoning economy and was Africa’s breadbasket. They too were among the most prolific examples of African prosperity all while under the same leader they have today, Robert Mugabe. Yet around 1998 something snapped in Mugabe (or at least that is how it seems to me), perhaps he became paranoid of losing his power, but he instituded terrible economic reforms and has continued to do so since. As a result, Zimbabwe is arguably the worst country in Africa, or at least the worst country that was somewhat prosperous a decade ago (it is hard to compare Zimbabwe with Somalia, a country that has always been in chaos). And through all of this, Mugabe and his government refuse to recognize that it was their policies that caused this devastation.
Perhaps the most disappointing is what is currently going on in Kenya. Kenya WAS as late as last fall Africa’s proud country. The one that Africa could show the world the potential they have. Granted, things have never been as prosperous as the West there, but they were a far sight better than most of the rest of Africa and became the standard bearer of success. Yet, for some reason, Africa’s nature would not let it be. Just like with the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe (and throw Nigeria in there), Africa is pulling Kenya back to what it is apparently supposed to be; Chaotic.
As a result of a contested and likely corrupt election, huge swaths of minority tribal people are dissatisfied and are partaking in ethnic cleansing of the Kikuyu people. It is in sharp parallel with the Rwanda genocide in 1994, except that it has not overtaken the whole country. All is not lost yet in Kenya however, the President can take a nearly unprecedented step for Africa and step up and either resign and call for new elections or bring all sides together and forge a new political and power sharing agreement. But even this is no guarantee of success.
What a complete shame and disappointment. Will there ever be a country in Africa that will be able to rise above the fray and stay there? I don’t know, but there are reasons for optimism. Right now, Botswana is doing incredibly well. They have a stronger economy and higher GDP than even South Africa (last I checked) and have a stable, though relatively totalitarian government. Their biggest issue is AIDS; an issue that can easily bring down the country.
Ghana, too, is a strong country with decent leadership, though with it’s own corruption issues. However, what Africa needs immediately is stability and security, they can deal with corruption later, but stability is essential for international investment, key to fixing Africa.
So the question now becomes, can Botswana or Ghana continue it’s rapid rise? Can countries recently embroiled in strife, yet now seemingly out of it and improving, like Liberia and Uganda, continue to hold together it’s fragile stability? Or will the curse of Africa strike again and tear these down. My guess is that only one or two of them make it out alive and I would put my money on Botswana and Liberia.
Africa is a sad yet fascinating place. One that probably has so much more to offer in terms of U.S. national interest (which it takes for the U.S. to care about truly helping a country) than we realize. The question is, will any country there stablize enough for us to find out? Will the tribes put aside their differences for the good of the whole? I doubt it. Certainly a small handful of countries can pull it off, but as a whole Africa looks doomed with little hope. I pray that I am wrong, but this latest failure in Kenya shows that chaos and genocide are only a moment away.