Africa- A Bleeding Heart

Africa is a continent which has formed a distinct picture in minds of even those who haven’t even remotely studied it. Several characteristic features come to mind – dark complexioned people, tribes, underdevelopment, conflicts, Egypt and cricket (courtesy South Africa). Hence, when I was given the task of studying terrorism in Africa and made a delegate from Guinea, my ignorance of the intensity of problems faced by the continent shamed me and nudged me share the facts with others who might want to know more about the continent in a larger perspective.

Africa has always been a land of tribes. The pre-colonial period saw various tribes in Africa which were culturally different and often chose highly divergent methods of subsistence. Another important part of pre-colonial African history was the conversion of many Africans to one of two different religions-either Christianity or Islam. Many Civilizations embraced Christianity. With these conversions, Christianity became a major religion on the continent. Just as prominent, however, was the rise of Islam. By the time the Europeans arrived, there was a sizable chunk of population under the two religions. As early as fifteenth century, the Europeans had started building base for claiming colonies by paving pathways leading to trade dependence. The true grabs for the colonies were made only in the late eighteenth century and the Europeans divided the land among themselves irrespective of the tribal status of the population and straight lines were drawn to demarcate different colonies. Even today, if the map of Africa is studied, majority of the countries have straight line borders. And this is what spelt doom for the Africans. Rival tribes were placed in the same colony and later countries which emerged from the colonies after independence and members of the same tribes were split into different countries. It gave rise to conflicts popularly known as ethnic conflicts and the seed of tendencies of separatism were sown. As is expected, when the foreign rulers left the land, the native population was spent, their resources exploited beyond imagination, human life was a despicable prospect for the majority of population. Absence of strong leadership having country’s benefits in mind was absent and terror for power prevailed. All these reasons proved a deadly combination of terror and gave rise to terrorism in three forms. Ethnic clashes giving rise to genocide, Islamist terror spearheaded by anti-western sentiment and rise in terror for power.

Africa has suffered severe blows from different directions with each blow aggravating the affects of the previous one. Numerous acts of terror have been committed which has left the continent in terror. In all the indicators whether economic or human, Africa occupies the last position. Due to the economic instability, the poor have no means through which to fight off repressive governments that seek to terrorize them. Oftentimes, it is economically advantageous to join forces with these repressive governments in a quest to simply stay alive. With the lack of education, there are also few leaders calling for democracy and human rights. Finally, with disease rampant, people are often not physically able to resist oppression.

Infrastructure, health and education will go a long way to promote a dream which the majority of Africans have long forgotten. It is easier said than done and a lot of regional and international organizations are working on it. A bright future is not impossible but very difficult to achieve.

Himadri Agarwal