I was sometime back informed that the revolutionary leader of Venezuela, Hugo Rafael Chavez intended a visit to our African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on the 3rd of September 2007. I haven’t been updated of the visit yet.
Amongst other things, Chavez was expected to discuss with our ambassadors and AU staff of ways in which to strengthen Latin American relations with Africa; and indeed we should take this man seriously, after all, he surely knows a thing or two about struggling to achieve real independence in this time of Globalization and amidst the militaristic American Imperialism.
Listed as the possible topics he would discuss included: Venezuela’s proposal of South-South development cooperation in the fields of petroleum, telecommunication, banking and tertiary education.
The experience of South America does not differ too much from that of Africa. After decades of colonial rule under the Spaniards they also became victim to US Imperialism of which resembles that which the US is trying to introduce in Africa today.
The US fortified its colonialist project by first establishing a firm military presence on the continent- in similar form of the US AFRICOM military project. As soon as the US had its military in place, then followed a period of coup d’etats and ‘mysterious assassinations’ which effectively destabilized the sub continent for many decades.
Countries such as Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Cuba soon became the backyards of US business elite who would travel to such exotic destinations to gamble in high class casinos, enjoy the cultural riches of South America, and engage in sexual adventures.
Of course these privileges were being guarded jealously by the American Military project-guarded even from the citizens of those countries, and the American GIs soon earned a harsh reputation amongst the youth of the sub-continent.
Eventually, the youth began to agitate for ‘Independence’ from American occupation and started to resist albeit in small but nonetheless significant ways- anti American demonstrations soon became the norm in many countries.
The US propaganda machinery did not fail to reassure their citizens that such sentiments were unfounded and unfair, and that it was probably some sort of ‘Soviet-Marxist’ influence that was taking its toll.
The resistance took a different turn when one small island defied the biggest bully in our recent history while being merely a few miles away off the coast of this Imperialist power.
Cuba can be seen in many ways as being the main inspiration for Latin America’s subsequent ‘shift to the left’. The Cuban Revolution, led by the able Fidel Ruz Castro also inspired movements as far away as Mozambique and Angola.
The US has remained steadfast in her ‘Economic Warfare’ against this tiny nation yet most of the world seems not to be bothered by a country that has chosen its own destiny which apparently seems to have a Socialist undertone.
Somehow this is unacceptable by the self proclaimed ‘vanguard of Democracy’-yet more ‘students’ (read terrorists) have graduated from the US CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) school of coup d’etats than any ‘terrorist’ has been trained from a dusty bunker academy in the rocky hills of Afghanistan or Iraq.
Nonetheless we are expected to believe that for a country that is materially wealthy it must be because it is ‘democratic’, while for another that has amongst the highest literacy levels in the world and a renowned health system is poor because it is ‘socialist’- frankly speaking, I do not see the logic in such fabricated myths of neo-liberal thought.
However, as a consequence of continued US imperialism in South America, the masses of the American people finally organised themselves into more efficient movements to combat their continued subjugation.
It is a result of such grassroots movements that have given rise to the current crop of revolutionary leaders in South America. From trade unions to farmer associations sprung up leaders such as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales.
The frustration with ‘democratic’ structures under minority elite rule and foreign domination has been voiced quite loudly in the countries that these revolutionaries lead.
Only recently, in a move that affirms my analysis, the president of Bolivia- Evo Morales, himself a former Coca Farmer (plant used to develop Cocaine), led the way and donated part of his salary to the victims of the earthquake in Peru.
Having done that, his entire Cabinet followed suite and donated 25% of their salary to the same cause. This new wave of populist leadership seems to be what the South Americans have sought for such a long time.
The South American example of a popular democratic leadership is quite inspirational for anyone living in the African continent. Sometimes it is frustrating to see our leaders lining up on the steps of the White House to seek ‘development assistance’ yet the only ‘development’ we see clearly are more young white men and women jogging up and down the streets of our capitals. Development seems to mean ‘stability’ at all costs- even at the cost of our independence.
Thus whenever we challenge the status quo, we are automatically labeled as ‘anti democratic’, ‘reckless’, or ‘communists’!
Surely we should take advantage of Chavez’s visit- which comes ahead of the second Africa-South America Summit, and commit ourselves to charting our own path of true independence and sustainable development for the masses of the African people. If South America could do it, we too can make similar if not greater leaps ahead.
Until Africa is seen as taking her destiny into her own hands- which possibly might mean resisting the temptations of our traditional ‘development partners’ in the West for alternative models and approaches to development, we shall continue to serve the interest of the Western capitalist ambitions.
The author, Kagenza Sakufi-Rumongi is a Rwandan pan Africanist student leader at the United States International University, Nairobi-Kenya