In Neocolonialism in West Africa, author Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, a journalist and political activist in Sierra Leone, demonstrates that imperial powers continue to exploit West Africa. Throughout this collection of essays and articles, he provides practical answers to the root causes of poverty, conflict, and political instability.
By examining modern forms of capitalist colonialism in West Africa from the perspective of an African revolutionary leader and political activist, he shows how capitalist corporations and Western nations control the economy and resources of West Africa, rig elections, and promote wars and military coups. He also explores how North American and European capitalist corporations prop up anti-democratic regimes that support Western economic interests in West Africa and how outsiders continue to scramble to control the continent's natural resources.
West Africa's transition from direct colonial rule to "independence" was supposed to usher in a new era of freedom. Instead, it has only changed the colonial bureaucratic structure, as imperialists continue to exploit the continent and its people.
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Neocolonialism in West Africa
A Collection of Essays and Articles
By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 Chernoh Alpha M. Bah
All rights reserved.
THE ESSENCE OF POLITICAL IDEOLOGY: ADDRESSING THE THIRD FORCE ARGUMENT
Sierra Leone is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. But statistics from agencies of the United Nations have always ranked its people among the poorest in the world. These statistics of poverty and unemployment have been blamed on a corrupt political leadership and intensive multinational corporate activities in the country. For more than fifty years, the country has been governed only by middle class politicians of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and All Peoples Congress (APC).
These groups of politicians have grown extremely wealthy by diverting revenue and resources from mining concessions into their private accounts while the rest of the population struggles without basic social services. For more than fifty years, efforts towards challenging the political monopoly of the SLPP and APC have only succeeded in strengthening their influence on the political landscape of the country. The country itself, split along ethno-regional lines by these two groups, continues to suffer from political corruption, poverty, massive youth unemployment, a declining economy and a crippling infrastructure. Political discourses on the way forward have been influenced by the existing ethno-regional dimensions. One school of thought believes that a solution to the problem is the creation of a "third party" that will bridge the ethnic and regional divide created by the SLPP and APC, which many blame for the underdevelopment of the country. In this article, Chernoh Alpha M. Bah examines the origin and limitations of the so-called "third force tendency" and argues that a solution to the problems created by the existing status quo is the overhaul of the entire social system. The article historically traces the origin of the ethno-regional divide to the colonial policy of the British, pointing out that it forms the basis for the creation of the neocolonial project in Sierra Leone. The article concludes that an ideology of liberation with self-determination as its objective will be the guiding worldview to defeat the social contradictions created by the politicians of the APC and SLPP in Sierra Leone. This article was first published by the Africanist Bulletin in 2006 and later republished by Africa News.
The reactionary effort of the African middle class politicians in Sierra Leone to defend their class interest has created vague ideas and arguments purposefully designed to distort efforts to organize for genuine liberation and unification of the oppressed masses against neocolonialist and imperialist oppression and exploitation.
This is not strange; however, as the African liberation movement in general is usually confronted with these obscuring ideas often emanating from the increasingly selfish ambitions of the African petty bourgeoisie to accomplish their immediate political and economic motives through the exploitation of the people's miserable conditions and aspirations for genuine change. It is a major part of the battle of ideas. It is an ideological battle that constitutes a significant part of the struggle for self-determination and the continuous efforts of the masses to free themselves from the numerous contradictions facing them as a people. It becomes extremely significant in the struggle since it creates an opportunity to openly discuss and create a clear understanding of what the responsibility of the revolutionary organization should be to the people. Its appropriateness becomes obvious when it is seen as part of the desperate efforts to free the majority of exploited masses from the death-threatening conditions that they continuously face today because of the actions and inactions of a failed neocolonial system imposed on them by imperialism and its corporate allies.
This situation can only be understood and taken seriously by the mass of exploited people if it is addressed from the basis of a fundamental responsibility of the revolutionaries to put into clear and correct context certain debates around certain issues relating to social problems and the search for a concrete solution to resolve or put an end to such problems.
It is obvious today that in Sierra Leone, like any place in Africa, the country is faced with so many suggestions and opinions in the search for solutions. And the most difficult thing we are confronted with as well is the fact that even when these suggestions appear to identify the sources or circumstances of these problems, the suggestions themselves lack any ideological basis or explanation of the problems. In consequence, the suggestions themselves appear to revolve around the same contradictions. This has been and is still the most crucial issue we have to deal with in the struggle for self-determination especially so when certain sections of the people are now talking about a so-called "third force" approach to changing the current status quo.
Third force ideology is a reactionary argument
The argument advanced by "third force" proponents has its origin on the reactionary position that since the attainment of "independence," the country and its people are being controlled and governed by a single class of individuals who have proficiently developed a permanent system that facilitates their continuous recycling from one position of power to another. This system itself has consequently created a situation whereby possibility for access to power is only possible through a marriage or political baptism with the system. It is a system that has created the illusion that it is impossible for any neutral force not tied to its organizational arrangement to rise to power.
This year, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) had just celebrated ten years of its continuous stay in power with Ahmed Tejan Kabbah as president. Since 1996, the SLPP and Kabbah have been struggling and are still struggling to maintain control of political power regardless of ceaseless attempts that were made by both the army and the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) to remove them from power. Kabbah himself is completing his second term as president of the country after he reportedly won two consecutive elections between 1996 and 2002.
The SLPP came to power as a consequence of the general campaign for democracy undertaken by the mass of ordinary people in 1995. At that time, the argument for a "ballot-box solution" to military rule—a legacy of the one party era—was so popular that it gave rise to the emergence of what was then called the "election before peace" movement. The belief was that only elections could end the people's problems.
Middle-class opportunism betrays the people and obscures the struggle
Consequently, the mass of the oppressed and poor people across the country were eventually miscarried to fight or struggle for a "ballot-box democracy," and they successfully removed a heinous military dictatorship from power. Unfortunately, they paved the way for the imposition of a neocolonial administration that represents the interests of Britain and its imperialist allies.
Today, the very people who formed the vanguard of that campaign are equally tongue-tied and completely bewildered. They can no longer understand how this cohort of middle class politicians manipulated their conditions in pursuit of their own selfish political aspirations.
But the realization came belatedly. Almost eleven years after attainment of the vote, the poverty and underdevelopment that the politicians swore to fight are still eminent and alive. Within this despair and confusion, people are still finding it extremely difficult to make accurate summations of the types of situations facing them.
The aspirations of the political class manifest themselves regularly, and they, ultimately, obscure the vision of the people for the future. So, it is important for the revolutionary organization to understand that it is the misleading actions and activities of this class of selfish kleptomaniacs that distort the efforts and aspirations of the masses to genuinely free themselves from the numerous contradictions they are faced with as a people. And the reality is that the status quo is formed primarily to serve the interest of this class, and its continuous existence depends on the oppression and denial of the people's right to be a self-determining people.
In Sierra Leone, the formation of political parties in the country had its historical basis on a notion of exploitation, greed and political banditry. This has been the case at least since the late 1940s and early 1950s to the present period. It is a status quo that emerged through an unhealthy and insincere struggle for power, which, resultantly, created a dichotomy among the people. It shaped the foundation for the further development of a corrupt middle class that views political power as the license to personal aggrandizement and ultimate access to wealth and prestige in the society. It is a phenomenal development, the result of a colonial social construction, which propelled and heightened a crude contest for power and greedy accumulation of wealth among middle class puppets interested in controlling and maintaining the neocolonial political and economic infrastructure created by British colonizers. The immediate result of such an unhealthy arrangement and its accompanying horizontal contest came at the expense of both ethnographical and geographical cohesion: ethnic and regional fragmentation of the country.
It is this historic desire to exploit and control the national resources of the country that gave birth, through oppressive and deceptive methods, to all other kinds of social contradictions in the country: ethnic divisions, regional fragmentation, political corruptions, economic exploitation and greedy accumulation. The end products include mass poverty, underdevelopment, and the collapse of social institutions, illiteracy, and absence of social services, growing unemployment, low wages and family crisis.
These above conditions are the direct ramifications of the vicious system that functions as a pedestal for imperialist exploitation and oppression. Its real character and functioning is neocolonial in nature and style. It is a system that necessitates the implant and perpetuation of a failed neocolonial class that remains insensitive to addressing the people's problems.
Today the vast majority of the masses in Sierra Leone live in abject poverty despite the abundant resources in the country. Thuggish ruling classes who continue to run a failed neocolonial state are growing extremely rich by living on the blood of the people. They continually hold the rest of the masses hostage to poverty and underdevelopment. Those who are responsible for this chaotic phenomenon are conscious of the penury they inflict on the masses. It is a conscious decision to protect their own class interests—a primitive petty bourgeois interest designed to reap the people for the benefit of a handful of rank opportunists.
Ideological analysis should form the basis of the struggle
That is why it is our responsibility to add our voice to this whole debate over a "third force approach" to solving the people's problems. Any serious solution to the problems confronting the country has to have a thorough ideological analysisofthe current statusquo witha viewtohelping the people arrive at the understanding of the relationship they have with the system in question. This analysis should not only be based on the simple idea of the people's aspiration for change. But it should have its starting point on the efforts to overturn the existing social system, which is the source of the troubles they continually experience. More importantly, the analysis should also have the potency of presenting a world view that will help the people to understand the circumstances that necessitated the existence of the system and how other oppressed people around the world are suffering as a consequence of the collective relationship to an international capitalist order that survives from their own oppression and exploitation. It is only through this systematic analysis that we will be able to juxtapose a strategy that will genuinely answer to the people's ever increasing aspiration and desire for freedom from this stagnating system responsible for the miserable conditions they collectively face as a people exploited and oppressed.
Imperialism and Neocolonialism create misery
The people should know clearly that this system is not an isolated system but is tied to an international exploiting system referred to as capitalism, which itself became a world system as a consequence of the exploitation and oppression of Africa and African people worldwide.
They should equally understand that it is the relationship between them and this international capitalist order or imperialist system that blocks and jeopardizes their struggle for self-determination and, ultimately, snatches away their right to take control of their national resources and decide how they should live or ought to live.
They must also recognize that this process of suppression and or denial of their democratic right to decide how they should live have been made possible by the forceful installation of puppets on the rest of the African world who function exclusively as agents carrying out imperialist decisions and policies in their various communities. It is this international conspiracy, giving support and backing to a rogue middle class, which necessitates the functioning of a neocolonial system serving the interests of imperialism that in turn protects its continuous existence.
Today, the conditions of the people of Sierra Leone, for instance, have worsened and continue to deteriorate at supersonic speed since the British flag was lowered in 1961, raising the question as to whether it was necessary for the country to demand "independence" from Britain. But the truth is that what happened in 1961 was not an event of independence but another transition of power from one group of colonial exploiters to another; the only difference is that Africans were now in control of state affairs but working for the interests of the same imperial power.
Years after that event, the British themselves are visibly in the country running the affairs of the state. The British Department for International Development (DFID) is in charge of deciding whatever economic program is undertaken in the country. The British International Military Advisory Training Team (IMATT) is in charge of restructuring, training and controlling the country's army. The Office of National Security (ONS) is headed and supervised by British military officers; the senior defense adviser to President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is a British officer; the Deputy Anti-Corruption Commissioner is also British; the Director of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security is a British expatriate official; British judges now sit and adjudicate matters in the courts; the British train the police and until recently a British police officer was head of the police; and the Commonwealth Police Training Team was in charge of the police service.
In November 2005, the British government also sent a team to the Sierra Leone Police Training School at Hastings in Freetown to discuss arrangements of direct affiliation with Bradford University in England. This arrangement will allow police officers from Sierra Leone to be sent to England for advanced training whilst at the same time making it necessary for British police officers to come to Sierra Leone under the guise of training the country's police personnel. A British military base had already been created in the country and no one knows the current number of British troops stationed up the Freetown peninsula at Hill Station.
This is being done to provide protection and security for a puppet middle class government which is frantic with fear over the increasing aspiration of the oppressed masses to overturn their suffering by ending the life span of this suffocating system. It is a counter insurgency program designed primarily in response to any efforts by the masses to galvanize themselves in defense of their inalienable right to self-determination.
Third force is not the solution
This is also a clear indication that the so-called "third force" argument is no solution to this political struggle between the mass of ordinary people and the primitive African petty bourgeoisie. The reason for this is that the proponents of the "third force" alternative are themselves sections of the middle class who feel alienated from their compatriots due to the growing power struggle within and among the middle class parties themselves. It is the contest for power and leadership within the various existing middle class parties that led to the emergence of this other group of disgruntled power hungry politicians whose aim is to equally manipulate sufferings and aspirations of the people for genuine change to fulfill their political ambitions and economic motives.
Excerpted from Neocolonialism in West Africa by Chernoh Alpha M. Bah. Copyright © 2014 Chernoh Alpha M. Bah. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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Table of Contents
PART I: MANIFESTATIONS OF NEOCOLONIALISM: SOME THEORETICAL & IDEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS,
CHAPTER 1 THE ESSENCE OF POLITICAL IDEOLOGY: ADDRESSING THE THIRD FORCE ARGUMENT, 1,
CHAPTER 2 SOCIALISM, DEMOCRACY AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, 15,
CHAPTER 3 THE ETHNIC AND CITIZENSHIP QUESTION IN AFRICA: A CASE OF FULAS IN SIERRA LEONE, 31,
CHAPTER 4 CREOLE NATIONALISM AND WALLACE-JOHNSON'S LEGACY, 41,
PART II COMBATING NEOCOLONIALISM: THE INTERNAL CONTRADICTIONS,
CHAPTER 5 ELIMINATING "INTER-COMMUNAL VIOLENCE" IN AFRICA, 51,
CHAPTER 6 INTERNAL CONFLICT OF THE AFRICAN LIBERATION MOVEMENT: THE AFRICAN SOCIALIST MOVEMENT VERSUS UHURU MOVEMENT, 57,
CHAPTER 7 UNITY OF THE AFRICAN LIBERATION MOVEMENT: A PREQUISITE FOR LIBERATION, 85,
PART III MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS, ELECTIONS & RESOURCE EXPLOITATION IN WEST AFRICA,
CHAPTER 8 GUINEA: GENERAL LANSANA CONTE AND THE WESTERN CORPORATE MAFIA, 93,
CHAPTER 9 GUINEA: HOW AMERICAN CORPORATE INTERESTS CREATED A NEOCOLONIAL REGIME, 101,
CHAPTER 10 SIERRA LEONE: HOW ELECTIONS CREATE A MIDDLE CLASS CRISIS, 115,
CHAPTER 11 BRITAIN'S CORPORATE AGENDA IN SIERRA LEONE, 127,
CHAPTER 12 PRESIDENT KOROMA: A PATH TOWARDS AUTHORITARIAN DEMOCRACY IN SIERRA LEONE, 135,