Africa in auto-correction mode; let it be!

Two executive resignations in a week, first, Jacob Zuma quitting power in South Africa, hours later, Ethiopia’s Hailemarian Desalegn followed suit; both, barely four months since Robert Mugabe’s departure in Zimbabwe. All three have been bloodless and no direct foreign sponsor.

Two executive resignations in a week, first, Jacob Zuma quitting power in South Africa, hours later, Ethiopia’s Hailemarian Desalegn followed suit; both, barely four months since Robert Mugabe’s departure in Zimbabwe. All three have been bloodless and no direct foreign sponsor.

There was a time in post-independence African political history when the ouster of a leader from power meant the involvement of sponsorship from the West.

During that period, it was the norm for opposition leaders to seek external support to remove an incumbent; that was mainly because Europe’s objective at the time was to limit the spread of Communism as was practiced in China, Soviet Union and Cuba.

To the West, African post-independence leaders were expected to subscribe to the Western School of economics that favoured capitalism and those who dared trot on the opposing path of Communism risked losing power through sponsored assassinations or coups.

Mere suspicion that a leader was not a fan of capitalism easily invited ouster from outside. There is the classic example of how Patrice Lumumba lost power in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Early in the day of August 18, 1960, Allen Dulles, CIA’s first civilian director and his deputy Richard Bissel met to brief President Eisenhower about a Cuba taskforce planning to oust Fidel Castro.

{Read Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes}. During the twenty or so minute meeting, they asked for $10.7milion to finance the paramilitary training of 500 Cuban rebels who would do the job.

President Eisenhower said yes but on one condition “that…we have a good chance of being successful in “freeing the Cubans from this incubus.”

Later that day, at National Security Council meeting, the president ordered Director Allen Dulles to ‘eliminate a man the CIA saw as the Fidel Castro of Africa – Patrice Lumumba,’ the prime minister of the Congo. Lumumba was not a Communist. But he was suspected to be one by CIA.

Shortly after being freely elected, history has it that Lumumba appealed to the United States for assistance as his government shook off Belgium’s brutal colonial rule and declared its independence in the summer of 1960. But American help never came because the CIA regarded Lumumba as ‘a dope-addled communist dupe.’

In response to being rejected by the Americans, Lumumba accepted Russian guns, trucks, and mercenaries to bolster his barely functioning government as it tried to fight off Belgian paratroopers who were attempting to reassert control in DRC.

As the Belgian soldiers arrived, Dulles sent Larry Devlin, then station chief in Brussels, to take charge of the CIA post in DRC and assess Lumumba as a target for covert action. After six weeks in the country, Devlin cabled a report to CIA headquarters alleging ‘active communist takeover.’

The response:”…It is a clear-cut conclusion that his {Lumumba’s} removal be an urgent and prime objective…of our covert action. Hence, we wish to give you wider authority {to act}.

“It was Devlin’s job to deliver death to Lumumba,” writes Weiner {page 163}.

While under oath, in a secret testimony declassified in 1998, Devlin is reported to have asked, “on whose orders are these instructions {to kill Lumumba}.”

“The President,” was the short answer he got.

Lumumba was assassinated on January 17, 1961. The CIA had already selected DRC’s next leader: Joseph Mobutu, “the only man in the Congo able to act with firmness,” as per Dulles advice to President Eisenhower.

Capitalism won. Communism lost. Today, even in former communist strongholds, one can’t miss the shouting colours of capitalist tendencies. The economic global status-quo was established.

But not without lasting effects. After decades of playing expensive interventionist politics around the world moreover with limited success and major failure especially in the Middle East; the UK and USA have significantly been worn-out, financially and with barely any domestic morale left.

The UK and USA foreign policy on Africa has taken a sharp turn, shifting focus to domestic affairs and pulling back on their covert sponsorships abroad. For instance, President Obama administration resorted to proxy agents to advance his agenda while returning his troops home.

The stunning decision by British voters to remove themselves from European Union can also fit in this frame of analysis; it was a result of decades of costly involvement in foreign politics.

This new discourse has created a vacuum; there is no ready sponsorship for African opposition seeking to remove incumbents in their respective countries. This situation has in a way, empowered homegrown solutions to cause change without foreign sponsorship.

The Tunisian revolution that ended Ben Ali’s reign and several other domestically organized protests that ensued were spontaneous and generally lacked direct foreign sponsors.

In Libya, the apparent involvement of foreign support from USA, only worsened things with the country now looking for hope from the son of a man brutally murdered in the name of change. Clearly, there is failure when auto-correction is denied a chance. 

The Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ethiopian bloodless removal of their respective incumbents is proof that Africa can auto-correct itself without having to involve foreign forces.

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that was only ended by the collective efforts of exiled victims, is another case of successful auto-correction.

The AU’s new wave of reforms to achieve self-financing capacity is also an attempt at auto-correction. Africa can and should be allowed chance to auto-correct.

Views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.


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