Ebola... Lumumba, Mobutu etc

HARARE - The accusation is fairly justified that the European colonisers of Africa were not inspired by altruism or Christian zeal in this adventure of mass looting of the continent’s riches.

When, at last, they realised the jig was up — the Africans wanted them out like yesterday — they would do so with little grace or dignity.

In some cases, they desired to leave nothing but chaos in their path.

I always refer to the Europeans who were so furious they decided to take with them even the typewriters they used in their offices.

Their fury was perfectly understandable: they lived like kings, being served hand and foot by the native servants, and being paid a huge salary to “civilise” the natives.

Yet we must seriously examine how the speedy departure left a period of confusion on the continent.

The Belgians left the former Belgian Congo in such a mess it is not far-fetched to speculate on how political chaos ensued and how scourges such as the Ebola epidemic spread like a wildfire.

The country became independent in 1960, but to this day, only very benevolent commentators would place on it a tag except that of a FAILED STATE.

The Belgians are like the French, Italians, British,  Portuguese and Spaniards in dismissing out of hand allegations it was their shoddy conduct which caused the post-colonial chaos.

All would blame it on the beneficiaries of what they say was “our generosity” in granting the colonies the independence for which some had agitated so loudly and violently.

In most cases, the civil service was in a shambles. In some instances, there was such confusion the colonial civil servants were begged to stay on until order was restored.

There is no doubt that those granted such largesse ensured they exploited it to the full, extending the training of their African replacements for much longer than necessary.

Yet, most seriously, was the neglect of the age-old routine of how a civil service is run.

Apart from the specialists in government business to run the civil service efficiently, more doctors, nurses and medical specialists were hurriedly trained.

The institutions to train them had to be set up in a hurry.

Meanwhile, the expatriates from the former colonial power were recruited to fill the gaps.

But in the former Belgian Congo, the chaos was incredible.

The political tranquillity that ought to have followed independence was not immediately available.

In the headline, I mention Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Mobutu, key leaders of the crucial birth pangs period of the nation.

Lumumba was killed before he could implement the great socialist programme he had probably envisioned for his country.

Mobutu when he shot his way to power, had nothing like a blueprint on which to craft Zaire’s development.

Mostly, his was a plan to a mass personal wealth.

There is no evidence he made any notable strides towards improving the health delivery.

The Ebola epidemic is named after a river in the DRC, from which it started.

Thousands of people have now died in the region, as there is no cure for Ebola.

What is also clear is that in the neighbouring countries, little had been done to boost the health delivery system to the extent it would easily deal with the epidemic.

Some of this could be a result of individual governments’ shoddy handling of every vital aspect of the public service.

On the other hand, it could be the legacy of the handover of power from the colonial power: slapdash and it’s-all-yours-to-mess-up.

    Comments (1)

    The problem with us African blacks is that we misplace blame for our woes on colonialists. We don't have the audacity to fathom our serious short comings as failed Administrators. We 'elect' imbeciles who have no clue as to what governance is and when those fools are in power they won't leave as they cannot satisfy their looting prowess. To add insult to injury cronies who are administratively clueless are imposed to run vital depts based on how much they can sing praise of the Dear Leader. Some are even grooming their academically impotent wives to succed them. Leave colonialists alone and squarely face the music. that we have created as a failed continent. Growing up in Rhodesia I have been able to compare administrations and say whites were better at running not only a country but its citizens as well.

    Rudolph - 16 September 2014

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