It was hard to watch – BBC’s Panorama programme on the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The programme makers conveyed a sense of helplessness and ignorance of the deadly nature of the virus amongst the population, and almost criminal complacency on the part of African Government representatives. A Guinea Government Minister admitted that their initial response to the outbreak was to keep a lid on it for fear of scaring away foreign investors.
The only heroes to come out of the programme were the Medicines Sans Frontier (MSF) who had experience of dealing with Ebola outbreaks and understood the deadly nature of the virus. Whilst they were shouting and waving their arms to be heard, politicians, aided by dithering representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) conspired to down play it. Fear swept through communities and rumours spread that there was no Ebola, only mass murder of people in makeshift hospitals and cannibalism. Riots ensued, leading to more deaths of patients and more infections. Traditional burial practices served to intensify the spread of the deadly virus, said to have crossed over to humans from infected bats – either their consumption or through contact with their bodily fluids.
Only after six months when the outbreak had spread from Guinea to neighbouring countries Sierra Leone and Liberia (and a small outbreak in Nigeria), with over 800 dead and many more infected, did the WHO reluctantly declare it an emergency. Is it because poor Africans simply don’t matter? A similar outbreak in Europe would be identified and dealt with quickly, and there would be calls to the European Union (EU) to intervene. In this West Africa horror story, there was not one mention of the African Union (AU) – Africa’s equivalent organisation. Finally, after intervention from the USA and some European countries, the outbreak was contained and the number of deaths and new infections decreased to a point where the emergency is now over.
Come to think of it, the AU has not even been mentioned in the current mass migration of people from Africa to Europe – most are simply escaping poverty. Are poor Africans doomed to suffer from famines and disease, whilst the wealthy elite just look on with mild disdain, bordering on contempt? When the Africans themselves jokingly refer to the AU as the ‘African Dictators Club’ then you know there is little hope. That joke isn’t funny anymore.
For too long the West has turned a blind eye to post-Independence African leaders fixing elections to stay in power so they can rape and pillage their countries, denying education and information to their people in order to control and exploit them more efficiently. Their sham elections are accepted by Western Governments, the IMF and World Bank because it ticks the boxes. They have ‘democratic’ elections so they qualify for loans and aid. Mugabe and Museveni are laughing at us. We have failed to help Africans realise the full meaning of independence, development and personal freedom. They have simply swapped one form of dictatorial rule for another, with African leaders using the full might of Western technology to control and suppress the people. Power and money corrupt. This we know.
How can Europeans and the rest of the Developed World help Africans to be empowered and improve their quality of life? Surely this massive gulf between the poorest countries of the world (most of which are in Africa) and the wealthiest should be addressed. The current attempted migration of thousands of Africans prepared to risk their lives to get to Europe shows that something must be done. The bizarre ‘solution’ proposed by EU officials to accept African economic migrants and send them to different countries on a quota basis will surely send a green light to Africa for more to come. By next year the numbers will have doubled or trebled, and the Mediterranean Sea will be a graveyard of floating corpses. The underlying social and economic causes must be addressed and the Human Trafficers neutralised. Hello AU, are you listening?
A proper plan for Africa must be made, involving African Leaders, academics and professionals. Yes, Africa must be encouraged to lead the process, but the West must be prepared to back it up with real investment. Hard decisions must be made, even to the point of regime change and international interim administrations. Vested interests must be swept aside. Unless quality of life improves for the masses, Africa will continue to be the poor relation of the World, slipping further behind as the rest progresses – South East Asia and South America have fared much better in the last seventy years than poor abused Africa. Perhaps the time has come for a re-appraisal of post-Independence rule (and the AU) to see what can be improved. Clearly, the whole Free and Fair Elections thing has been massively abused.
Perhaps this Ebola epidemic story, only ended by direct intervention from the USA and Europe, is a direct parable for ailing Africa to have its ongoing problems finally addressed by the international community. The current Aid programme is simply (and cynically, some might say) putting a plaster over a gaping wound. China should get involved, as they now have substantial mineral mining interests across the continent. Surely the time has come to stop the heartless pillaging of African resources and economic oppression of its people. They deserve something better. ACT NOW FOR REAL AFRICAN FREEDOM!
NB ‘Ignorance’ means the absence of knowledge, and does not imply stupidity. State owned media still exist in many African countries, as Governments actively control information flow to the masses…a barrier to achieving an empowered and educated population.