The Beginning Of The Turning Of The Tables?

  • PublishedDecember 16, 2008

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness; and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts” – Mark Twain, the American author and humorist whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

So it has happened – America’s vote pointed to its future instead of its past. Welcome President Barack Obama. If for nothing else, your election will help educate those who have for a long time believed in black inferiority. As the great British journalist, writer and broadcaster, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne (born 22 December 1923) once confessed in an article for the Daily Mail in April 1998: “Race is still a problem for some of my generation. No longer because we regard blacks as inferior but because, having done so in the past, traces of that prejudice remain in the blood despite being banished from the brain. Looking back, I am amazed about the depth of racist indoctrination which I received at school and in the home, not explicitly but implicitly. At the best, blacks were regarded as delinquent children, and at the worst cannibals and savages. For years, those assumptions lingered, seriously affecting my reporting on the decolonising process in Africa.”

Well, perhaps, I am getting ahead of myself. But why not? If an established journalist and broadcaster like Sir Peregrine, who was once editor of the Sunday Telegraph and contributor to numerous British newspapers and radio programmes, could publicly confess that assumptions about blacks lingered for so long that it “seriously” affected his reporting of the decolonising process in Africa, it is a cause for celebration that today one of these “savages” now sits in the White House, not as a “cannibal” but as the President of America! In fact, three things happened in 2008 that deserve celebration by our people. The first was Obama’s election, followed by Lewis Hamilton becoming the first black person to win the Formula One motor racing title (which my countryman, Cameron Duodu, so eloquently elaborated on in our last issue, NA, Dec pp74-76); and last but by no means the least (and I know I will be damned for saying this, but I will still say it because it is the truth!) is the success of the first African leader in both pre- and post-independence history to be still standing after having been assailed for 10 long years by the combined might of the nations of European stock: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

When Obama said in his victory speech, “this is our time … and where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can”, I read it as: “Yes, there is a God, and He can’t be mocked. I don’t know what Obama, a Christian himself, will say about this, but we must admit that his election is a huge jump from the days when people of African descent were considered as mere chattels worthy of being flung into the sea to save the slave master’s insurance costs. As Lord Mansfield, the UK’s Lord Chief Justice, put it in 1783: “…Though it shocks one very much, the case of slaves was the same as if horses had been thrown overboard.”

Now, we pray that this new “horse” in the White House will open the eyes and the mind of the Mother Country to give more “horses” a chance around the cabinet table in London, in fact in all walks of British life, and, hopefully, someday at No. 10 Downing Street. I bet it must have put the British to shame, their faces red, when Obama’s landslide victory flashed on their TV screens. “We are the Mother Country,” they must have whispered to themselves, “and yet we don’t have one – just one – black person as a full minister sitting at the cabinet table with us.

And blacks have been here for over 400 years, since the early 1600s?” As S. I. Martin reveals in his book Britain’s Slave Trade, published in 1999: “By the last quarter of the 18th century, London had become the largest black metropolis outside the Americas. It was home to an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people of African origin among its 800,000 residents.” Today, London has a population of 7.5 million, of which over 2 million are black and minority ethnic people. Yet, over 400 years after the first arrivals, not one person of African origin is anywhere near the top echelons of the British government! Will Obama’s election bring any change? Will we ever see a black British prime minister? And why not? It is a challenge that the Mother Country should relish. Come on, prove us wrong, Great Britain!

Elsewhere, and especially for discerning Africans, the other significant success in 2008 was achieved by the man so despised in the West that some call him Hitler (as though Hitler was African): President Mugabe. Looking back into history, from the first encounter of Europeans with Africans on our shores, we can’t find one single example of any African – leader, community or nation – that was assailed by the combined might of the nations of European stock and survived!

The Asantes held the British at bay over nine debilitating wars but finally succumbed in 1900. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was cut down in five years of assault by the nations of European stock; his economy then overwhelmingly dependent on cocoa exports, collapsed dramatically when an artificial credit crunch was induced in Ghana by the West via the deliberate manipulation of the world cocoa price which fell calamitously from a high of £480 a ton in the early 1960s to an incredible £60 a ton by 1965. In 1999, 33 years after Nkrumah’s overthrow, the British daily, The Times, admitted in a leader comment that “Nkrumah was brought low by the cocoa price”. Patrice Lumumba fared even worse in Congo; he was gone within seven months of independence, his Belgian killers cutting up his body as a butcher does beef, and dousing it in a barrel of acid to obliterate the evidence. Today, the same people come to us as preachers of human rights and democracy. May the Good Lord help them to see beyond their feeding spoons.

Yes, just look around you, in Africa’s pre- and post-independence history, every one of our leaders who was disliked by the nations of European stock was cut down and overthrown. The French were particularly brutal in this venture, dispatching all they disliked in their so-called “sphere of influence” in Africa. And typically, for the past 10 years – since 1998 – when Zimbabwe had a dispute over land reform with Britain, and Britain assembled its allies to its side, President Mugabe has been under a continuous assault by the combined might of the nations of European stock. As they did in Nkrumah’s Ghana, they have deliberately engineered an artificial credit crunch in Zimbabwe, cutting the country off from the international financial system for 8 years now, and thereby inducing an economic implosion and an inflation rate that have never been seen since the bad days of Germany between 1914 and 1923.

And yet, at issue in Zimbabwe is a just cause – the land issue. I have gone back to my scrapbook to find this entry for Charles Powell, Mrs Thatcher’s long-time foreign policy advisor who, while at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1979, was instrumental in the Zimbabwe independence negotiations at Lancaster House. Talking about Zimbabwe’s land issue in an interview with David Dimbleby for a BBC1 documentary broadcast on 24 June 2000, Powell said on camera: “We tackled it really from the point of view of the Rhodesian regime, not the future of Zimbabwe. The real concern at the beginning was to offer guarantees, assurances, protection, to the white farmers.”

In 1979, Zimbabwe was like a baby about to be born, and the parents of this baby, according to Powell, did not tackle the core issue in the life of the baby from the point of view of the future of the baby, but from the view of the dying Rhodesian regime. And yet, because Zimbabwe wants to reverse this horrendous legacy, the man at the helm of the reversal must be cut down via an artificial credit crunch of which the aim is regime change. And so we have seen Iceland, a country of just 301,000 people, being given a $2.1bn emergency loan by the IMF to rescue it from the jaws of the credit crunch now sweeping over the nations of European stock. Another $2.5bn facility from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, and additional funds from Russia, Poland and the Faroe Islands, will take Iceland’s package to $5.2bn. In all, Iceland intends to borrow $10bn or $330,000 for each of its 301,000 population.

In contrast, the IMF has been prevented by the same nations of European stock from giving Zimbabwe, a nation of over 13 million people, any loan at all for the past eight years. And Zimbabwe is still a member of the IMF! Instead, during the same period, the IMF has been religiously calling time on its old loans to Zimbabwe without mercy, forcing a nation in a far worse credit-crunch condition than Iceland, to pay up or face the music. The irony is, the IMF has recently announced a bail-out package of $100bn for Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia and Pakistan, but nothing for Zimbabwe, which is going through worse economic conditions.

Over 2,000 years ago, the philosopher Solon of Athens wrote that: “The Law is like a spider’s web. The small are caught and the great tear it up.” All this must have greatly displeased the Creator of Mankind, who upon looking down on what is happening, must have said: “Well, these nations of European stock, I will let them taste a teeny bit of their own medicine. I will see how they would like it, confronted with a credit crunch.” And now they are all scampering like headless chickens!

Gordon Brown, whose country, along with the Americans, has been a cheerleader in the campaign to deprive Zimbabwe of international credit, has suddenly realised how important the flow of credit, or government borrowing, is to nations and their economies. Just imagine the effect it will have on British life if Brown’s government is prevented from borrowing the £118bn it says it needs to get Britain out of the credit crunch and recession. Zimbabweans are human beings too! All told, with high inflation, an economy on its knees, and an electorate justifiably voting with their stomachs or “stoning the leadership” as the late Robin Cook had warned would happen, Mugabe was a ripe candidate for a big fall. But what do we see – the man is still standing! Though wounded somewhat politically, he has nonetheless become the very first African leader to be undefeated after 10 years of brutal assault by the nations of European stock. Is it the beginning of the turning of the tables?

Written By
Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

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