Africa is trying my patience. But the continent with the oldest human findings was once a source of pride. With the giddiness of a young southerner who gleaned images and stories from magazines and newspapers, I can still recall the legendary names that helped the dawn of independence on a continent ruled by European powers. Nkrumah, Senghor, Nyerere, Kenyatta, Azikwe, Mandela, and many others were men of intellectual reach and moral integrity. Their vision brought to the world brand new nations, at the time, struggling like young calves, to stand on their own. The voices of these towering leaders give weight to justice beyond African borders and were a powerful underpinning of American movement for civil rights.
Yet their words and deeds failed miserably to establish a legacy of progress at home. They had glorious hopes that the new African nations they fought and sacrificed to establish would provide prosperity to African people by the sustained development of natural resources and by educational advancement.
These noble dreams have deteriorated into tribal and religious conflicts, to remote villages of innocent families of herders and farmers becoming killing grounds. Rebels and war lords, absorbed in a false glory, arm children with sophisticated weapons—and deny the unconscionable deaths of hundreds shot and stabbed for the powerful flash and rush of exhilaration killing brings.
Now, in Africa, there are too many massacres, the spread of too many preventable diseases, from AIDS to cholera, the assault of too many women, the repeat of too many cases of famine and starvation, the creation of too many refugee camps, and the growth of too many unchecked cases of desperate, greedy, vainglorius little men whose drive for power is a grotesque, hideous malady and whose easy, facile lies are an outrage against their history.
They seek the glory of the self through fear, force, and death. How great I am is measured by how bad I am. They excuse and sanction their greed and pursuit of power in a variety of ways, but the result is always achieved by the same methods, with the same grief and devastation.
Restore the dream and stop the killing and lies, help heal the disease and bring prosperity by supporting small scale projects to bring fresh water to villages (www.watermissions.org/
), help provide medical support (http://www.thegcg.org/health.html) or sponsor scholarships (http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/grants.html), and back UN and broader African efforts to stablize areas at war (www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2008/April/20080422102908dmslahrellek0.2288019.html).
I’m losing patience, but we don’t need to lose Africa.
Coming Sunday: the release of my new e-book, “From the Front Porches of Charleston:” The Election of Barack Obama, a free special edition e-book with over 100 pages of photos! Sunday, I’ll post the free direct acess code for the download.