DR Congo War: Rethinking the concept of Africa

Author: Phillip Matogo. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Africa is thus the creation of imperialism. In spite of this, some Africans want us to unite.  

The escalating violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between M23 rebels and government forces is of grave concern.

The fighting has sparked massive displacement towards several areas with thousands of persons, more than half of them children, being affected.

It is a tragedy which gives the lie to the possibility of a United Africa.

The DRC, the UN and Western countries say Rwanda is backing the rebels in a bid to control the vast mineral resources of the DRC, an allegation official Kigali denies.

Nonetheless, a month ago, in the heat of elections, President Felix Tshisekedi was bellicose during a final campaign stop in Kinshasa.

“I’ve had enough of invasions and M23 rebels backed by Kigali,” Tshisekedi huffed and puffed. “If you re-elect me and Rwanda persists… I will request parliament and Congress to authorise a declaration of war. We will march on Kigali. Tell Kagame those days of playing games with Congolese leaders are over.”

With a potential continental war reprising “the Great War of Africa”, which began in August 1998, little more than a year after the First Congo War (1996-1997); a Rogues Gallery of combatants is poised to populate the DRC Theatre.

If African nations take up arms against one another again, it will not be a surprise. Africans tend to kill Africans in the name of an Africa which is not even theirs.

Let us start with the appellation ‘Africa’. The epistemology or origin of the word is disagreed upon. However, it is widely accepted that the word ‘Africa’ was first used by the Romans to describe parts of Tunisia and northern Algeria 2000 years ago, subsequently giving the continent its name.

Accordingly, we see that even the name Africa was given to us by foreign conquerors.

So, we ask ourselves, why was this land we call Africa not given an indigenous name like, say, Zimbabwe or Zambia?

Well, partly because these countries did not even exist then.

They are colonial constructs arising out of arbitrary borders and an imperialistic need to fatten up the continent for the kill.

The Berlin Conference of 1884–1885, also known as the Congo Conference, formalised colonial rule across the continent and African countries sprang into being.

Africa, as a geographic entity, is thus the creation of imperialism. In spite of this, some Africans want us to unite.

This cannot happen since Africa, as we know it, is a veritable zone of influence for imperialist powers.

Thus, supranational organisations like the African Union and the East African Community operate only at the pace and with the purpose the imperialists envisage.

One way to unshackle Africa of this reality is to return to pre-colonial times, geographically speaking, by abolishing all borders created by the colonial powers.

It makes no sense for us to change street names when they reflect the names of colonial personages, but leave African borders intact.

Yet it is these very borders, not the street names, which dislocated African polities and became a means by which we are held captive.

Ipso facto, the countries of Africa should be abolished.

Migrations, after all, were (majorly) the determining traits of the ethnic identities of the people we call Africans.

Indeed, it is out of waves of migrations and not colonial boundaries that African tribes were originally born. This means we are a continent of migrants, not of mismatched tribes and contrived geography.

Therefore, if Africa does not return to its pre-colonial roots; it will continue to wilt on the vine of its existence.

To be sure, the war in DRC gives us the opportunity to rethink Africa.

Mr Philip Matogo is a professional copywriter  
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