Lately, we’ve been bombarded with analyses of fake news, God knows why. Or is it that President Donald Trump’s vexed sneezes over it, as leader (or with a “mis-” prefix?) of this earth’s most powerful country, must be our inescapable ’flu?
In truth, though, many in the West are fretting over fake news. It could be that their deadly games have come home to roost.
Otherwise why is it now raising hackles, when the West has always been its source?
Fake news, propaganda, conspiracy theories, haven’t they always been the bane of Africa? Aren’t they hoaxes intended to use, belittle, fool, harm or even destroy us?
For instance, we were born to stories of this World War 1 whose centenary has just been commemorated, only to learn in our maturity that it had everything to do with tribes and nothing with the world. It concerned us not, in Africa.
Idem WWII. Apart from some being forcefully conscripted into it, Africans had no reason to pick a quarrel with anybody. Our luckless elders had no bone to pick with Burmese (Myanmarese today).
When we got an education and thought ourselves worldlier, now we realize that it was only to recruit us into confusion. The other day we talked about the hoax that was sold us as a deadly void supposed to be a grave for anybody and anything that ventured near it.
Pray, do we hear these macabre stories about the Bermuda Triangle any longer? Wasn’t it a ruse to scare us against Cuba and the late larger-than-life figure of Fidel Castro?
Yet for the hatred of one person, yes, one, thousands of lives perished.
Also, you remember how we grew up, in our education, hating Mongolia without knowing much about it. Mongolia, Mongol and Mongoloid had been deliberately mixed up to paint pictures of a people with abnormally huge, flat and tall heads.
A reason innocent I, having been ‘cursed’ with a sizable head, was called Mongol, Mugwanafiririmbi, Kinyarwanda for Whistle-carrier-when-I-fell. Once down, it implied, only a whistle-sound alarm could see to my lift-up rescue!
If you were born with a large foot, yours was a Patagonian foot. Did we know about the existence of Patagonia? Hardly! Only later did we learn that the fairy tale was cooked up by a European explorer of yore.
Religion was not spared as a vehicle for recruiting us into ignorance, self-hatred and the hatred of our own. So, when you adhere to one faith, you are courting death. To get my drift, refer to the trail of inter-religious wars down the lane of history.
Some of the above may be trivial experiences but they give us a glimpse into how parochial and petty these frauds have rendered some of ours.
They’ve led them into forgetting that the hard rock of who we are must always be our alpha and omega of what we pick from out.
To see how these deceptions could engender destruction, think Rwanda.
When we stepped off that rock and swallowed fake news, propaganda and conspiracy theories hook, line and sinker, ugly 1994 came staring us in the face.
Some of ours, when they gave short shrift to the cord that predicated us on our unity rock, totally lost it.
We were not Rwandan, they parroted. We were émigrés: some from the forests of the continent; some from the western-central part of the continent; some from the northern part of the continent and beyond. And so the land belonged to the majority émigrés, they advanced.
No pausing to consider the common language, culture, religious belief, village-habitation; common everything. No considering, especially, the good fight we put up together to defend this land in times long past, under the guidance of the God of Rwanda, Imana y’u Rwanda.
No considering how, just maybe, some were the braves who answered the call to defend the land before others, an undeniable fact in any family. And how, maybe, the toll was higher on those that raced faster than others to the frontline of that defence.
All of which annuls any thought of majorities or minorities as it all depended on who in our family lived in which trench and how, during our good fight to defend one another.
In a word, then, as Africans, without exception, we have to be discerning. We’ve learnt the bitter way how inability to read between the lines; readiness to gobble up any rubbish of fake news, conspiracy theories or hoaxes can confine us to an eternal sinkhole.
We should be able to recognise and reject what’s bad for us. But at no time should the fact be lost on us that what’s good, once adapted to our ways, can improve us.
And so, to attain progress, peace, security and stability, we must of necessity cultivate good relations with all countries.
For, as the Rwandan adages of the ages saw it: “Akanyoni katagurutse ntikamenya iyo bweze”. Literally: a bird cannot find harvest except by flying about. Or “Umutwe umwe wifasha gusara”, the Kinyarwanda equivalent of “Two heads are better than one”.
In Africa, we must see through all forms of propaganda to remain seized of our international-cooperation focus.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.