(Lessons from the first (mis)steps following modern Africa’s independence)
History is the teacher of the wise, and Mandela himself proved to be a good student – for he had many dramatic examples to learn from. Long before South Africa’s struggles for liberation from apartheid yielded fruit, other African nations had shot out of the starting block, propelled forward by the momentum of independence and freedom, to grapple each with the daunting task of forging a modern nation-being. It reads like a soap opera, one unresolved episode after another, with dependable repetition. A few examples suffice:
In newly independent Egypt, the leader of the revolution Colonel Nasser, despite his political victories against Britain, his Suez heroism and his Sinai vicissitudes, despite his enduring popularity at home and abroad, his inspiring effect on colonised nations worldwide, his influence on the afro-arab stage and the cultural boom that his tenure occasioned, was reluctant – when it came to internal affairs – to allow or foster the blossoming of a political system in which his personal power was anything less than absolute. He crushed all opposition parties, be they communists, capitalists, muslim brothers or any other grouping critical of him. He imprisoned thousands of opponents, including some who had been his comrades in the revolution. He centralised the planning of the economy, nationalised industry and everything he could nationalise, controlled both state and government, and placed a tight grip on all types of unions and institutions, from academic, to religious, the media, to the youth. He became, in effect, the modern-day pharaoh. By the time he died, in office, in 1970, after fourteen years as president, he had written his name eternally into the history books of not only Africa, and had attempted to industrialise and modernise Egypt; but also, portentously, he had practised largely only political repression during his reign. He did not use the momentum of liberation to propel all sides of the country into the forging of a political culture of unity and inclusion. Very simply, he had omitted to lay the foundation for a balanced political system of representative, rotational, shared democracy – an omission, the after-effects of which still plague a restless, internally unreconciled Egypt to this day. Nasser was succeeded by another military veteran, Sadat, after whose assassination many years later another soldier, Mubarak, took over. In 2011 the people arose in a popular revolution against him. The Revolution culminated in the election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mursi who, after more violent protests, was ousted in a coup-d’etat by his own head of Armed Forces Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who in turn a year later transformed from Military leader to civilian president in an election boycotted by most other political parties. Despite being one of the most ancient civilizations of mankind, and an independent modern nation, Egypt is today still struggling to find internal reconciliation, peace and socio-political harmony.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije
(Continued in Part 3 of 11:
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES : 3 – (Tunisian Troubles, Libyan Losses, Ethiopian Woes)
MANDELA, LEARNING FROM OTHERS’ MISTAKES: Part 1 (Preamble)