By Abdoulie John
The US-based Gambian academic Professor has blamed the politics of blind mimicry and neo-exceptionalism for causing Africa’s current problems. Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow exposed how the nation-states failed to develop and distribute resources within their societies.
“Africa’s crises are linked to the failure of African governments to transform in a creative manner the geopolitical, human and natural resources of the continent in response to the challenges of independent nation-statehood,” Jallow said during a public lecture last at the University of The Gambia (UTG) last Thursday.
Initiated by the School of Arts and Sciences, the lecture provided an opportunity for Prof. Jallow to take his audience to a two-hour journey through African political history, during which he revisited the fundamental questions that constitue the problem itself.
“To understand why Africa keeps failing we must begin by looking at the origins of the African State as we know it today,” he stated in an attempt to circumscribe the debate. By taking this approach, Dr. Jallow believed, historians can best elucidate and explain the bases and nature of Africa’s political formation. “The African state is not indigenous to Africa. It is a Western political artifact,” he reiterated.
The visiting lecturer on African history at the University of The Gambia used the occasion to highlight attempts made by colonisers to perpetuate their hegemony through what he described as ‘developmental colonialism’ during the post-World War II era.
Despite the fact it did not last long, he added, the move was subsequently followed by the independence movement that brought African countries to international sovereignty. “Africa’s new leaders inherited a state apparatus that was a carbon copy of the coercive, exploitative and domineering colonial state,” he said. Such a context, Jallow concurred, allowed new leaders to quickly deviate from the way that led them to independence “to step into the saddle of power vacated by colonial governors and continued cracking the whip against the backs of their newly independent citizens as if they were still the powerless subjects of an alien colonial despotism.”
Blind Mimicry and Neoexceptionalism
Prof. Jallow made a disturbing broad historical scan showing that since independence the African state has fallen into an endless trap, compelling new leaders to engage in “blind mimicry and
“In other words, after independence, African governments adopted and perpetuated most of the instruments and traditions of colonial rule and their attendant legitimating ceremonies and practices without questioning their utility or relevance for an independent people,” he stressed.
Jallow reminded his audience that the immediate post-colonial situation demanded a transformation of the authoritarian cultures and practices of the colonial state into cultures and practices of inclusiveness and collective responsibility for the new national project.
In dealing with the emergence of African neo-colonialism, Prof. Jallow threw a jab at Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule and rubbished the argument put forward by Gambian longtime ruler to justify his authoritarian regime.
“Here in The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh tried to justify his oppressive regime by calling himself a dictator for development,” La Salle University lecturer said, making reference to the origins of African neo-exceptionalism with Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaïre as emblematic figure. In this regard. Prof. Jallow recounted the tragic incident that led to the public hanging of Zairean ministers by dictator Mobutu. “We are Bantu,” he told those trying to understand the reason behind such a heinous act. Mobutu played at his best cultural differences to legitimise his crimes, challenging the universality of the concept of human rights.
“For this reason, the cultures of respect for human rights and the rule of law that characterized Western societies were considered neither suitable nor applicable to African societies. Political pluralism and other aspects of democratic practice were branded totally Western and unsuited to African conditions,” he said.
The Gambia is moving towards an era of hope although factors that hinder Africa’s development are yet to be overcome. Expectations are high that this vicious cycle will ultimately be broken…