A War Cry for Africa’s Environment | Episode 1

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” 

― George Orwell, 1984

Africans cannot afford to underestimate the cynicism and sheer hypocrisy of the advanced countries when it comes to economic and political matters in general. While this behavior has been consistently displayed over the past few centuries through the colonial and neo colonial mendacity of their institutions, this time as the world teeters on the edge of the point of no return with the climate change crisis, perceptive people may have known what to expect from the developed world. However, the naked greed and corruption, particularly of the “West”, now rebranded as the “Global North” has exceeded our worst expectations.

This shameless duplicity is once more laid bare for all to see as the world grapples with the climate change chaos caused in most part by them to the detriment of Africa and the so-called Global South. Bear with me, I don’t want this to go the way of much of the discourse that passes for analysis of Africa’s plight, ie that it is all the fault of the colonial and neo-colonial evil empires and Africans are passive victims with little agency in determining their fate.  But we must recognize as a fact that ever since the colonialists arrived bearing the Bible to mask their true motives, worthless trinkets to bribe the chiefs with, one -sided contracts written in language and script only they could understand, and finally guns to enforce their “ownership” of territory with, Africans have gotten a raw deal.

The Western canon of literature and pseudo-history is embroidered with a rich tradition of blaming the victims of their brutal exploitation for the unfortunate fate that befalls them. Africans welcomed the colonialists as friendly visitors; the colonials blame them for being naïve. They defrauded Africans and then blamed the victims for being gullible; they invaded Africa inflicting terrible violence, disease and mass murder and blamed Africans for being defenseless; they enslaved Africans and declared that the Africans had sold themselves; you get the idea. With this clever sleight of hand repeatedly drummed into society through books, media, and western education syllabuses, it is no wonder that most Africans have grown up believing in the benevolence of western governments, businesses, churches and other NGOs, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Make no mistake: that African communities have survived the colonial yoke, badly battered, and bruised as they are, is not a testament to the good intentions of the colonial and neo-colonial powers but rather to the resilience and hardiness of the much-maligned African ancestors. This fact cannot be taken for granted as it is a fate unfortunately not shared by other indigenous communities that have been to all intents and purposes wiped out in the “New World” genocides and ethnic cleansing conducted so effectively in America, Australia, etc. 

But the reason for stating some plain facts is not to convert the European descendants and get them to accept the sins of their forefathers and return stolen loot, making good on genuinely horrifying misdeeds from which they continue to benefit.  It would be nice if they could live up to their scriptures, that speak to notions of being benign custodians of nature but in reality, the evidence points to the opposite: They have fought every attempt at even making halfhearted apologies for their brutality against indigenous people and the environment, claiming disingenuously that they cannot be held responsible for the actions of their forefathers. The upshot is that real development that will uplift African masses out of poverty will only come from African society itself, if Africans can cast off the blinkers that have conditioned their thinking. Therefore, Africans are the primary audience for these observations.

Africans of our generation have not demonstrated the levels of introspection required to undertake the fundamental societal renewal necessary to change the prospects of dark-skinned people worldwide. As I said, the freedoms won by Africans including abolition of slavery, emancipation, decolonization of the continent, and so forth have come about due to the self-sacrificial efforts of brave African freedom fighters who have collectively been airbrushed out of history. For every freedom fighter labeled as a rebel and terrorist, a corresponding collaborator was erected by the colonialists and promoted as the leaders bringing about the changes. We have ended up with false leaders beguiled by the trinkets of the colonialist once again to the detriment of their community. African leaders have become specialists in parroting platitudes borrowed from the very plunderers of their environment, who do not practice their own teachings. Meanwhile the true leaders of the struggle such as Dedan Kimathi, Toussaint Louverture, Steve Biko to name a few have been reduced to footnotes in history, often deliberately, by the false leaders of Africa. After the vision shown by the fathers of Pan-Africanism, Anti-Colonialism and the Civil Rights leaders of the 20th century, not many contemporary African leaders have emerged with much credit.

There is a peculiar rapacious streak in hegemonistic western culture that led colonial adventurers to ruthlessly extract resources that our ancestral communal cultures regarded as communal resources bequeathed to successive generations for their common good.  It is an instinct that lingers to this day where indigenous people are still being murdered in the Amazon by European settler colonialists for their land and natural resources. There is a particular sense of entitlement to natural resources that comes of being a colonialist. It involves an antipathy and often ill-disguised naked hatred for indigenous cultures that have different beliefs and value systems especially when it comes to veneration of flora and fauna, rivers and mountains. Once the missionaries branded all these values as heathen, pagan, idolatrous notions of primitive people, then it was open season to eradicate these beliefs and practices.

Thus the colonial and neo-colonial world view does not recognize the conservation efforts that indigenous communities have been responsible for over the centuries. Were it not for these indigenous communities, in the Amazon, Australia, Africa and elsewhere, it is absolutely certain that the end of the world as we know it would have come about sooner than it is about to.

And so now news reaches us of “carbon offsets” where polluting companies and countries pay non-polluting countries money to go towards the conservation of the environment. These schemes are once again concocted in western centers of finance where their arcane spreadsheets are kept under lock and key and treated as “intellectual property”. These middlemen make outrageous claims on behalf of the communities who actually do the day-to-day conservation. The middlemen get paid, the communities never see the money. This is a scam that must be challenged head on.

An unholy trinity has emerged yet again comprising sanctimonious NGO’s, rapacious multinationals from the polluting countries, and the usurious development financial institutions that have an interest in ensuring the survival of the current status quo. They are all aided and abetted by the consultancy houses led by Mckinsey and Co and the usual suspects of their ilk whose role is to create complexity out of simplicity, to make simple things appear very complicated so that only pseudo experts and jargon peddlers can claim to understand what is going on. That is the approach behind the calculation of carbon credits and offsets. Any attempt to understand them is met with a claim that it is “intellectual property”. 

Meanwhile the real intellectual property is embedded within indigenous communities that have protected the biodiversity of their traditional flora and fauna through the ages. With their callous cold-hearted cunning, the prevailing neo colonial trifecta above unerringly identify these communities as the enemy. Therefore the collective wisdom of indigenous communities goes unrecognized, their belief systems are vilified, and their environmentally friendly way of life is furiously fought through all means. Having ensured they are reduced to poverty, the “donors” then come in shedding crocodile tears and offering “foreign aid”. The thing is that their companies and NGOs do receive money in the name of African communities. But none of these are owned or controlled by indigenous people. They tend to be controlled by the same communities who come in the name of social enterprises but the local governments don’t even receive taxes as the said amounts are paid off shore.

At the forefront of these efforts are slick propaganda and strategic communications activities calculated to subliminally position indigenous communities as enemies of development. They are dehumanized and anonymized and their persecution is barely covered in the mainstream press. While in the Amazon and Australia the capitalist forces do their dirty work largely with their own hands because they settled there permanently and qualify as modern-day Brazilians, Columbians, Ecuadorians, Australians, etc, in Africa the approach is more covert, with the promotion and funding of civil strife, often through mysterious warlords and militias who terrorize local communities while enabling extractive industries to flourish. And bear in mind that is their fallback position, as they prefer to (mis)guide so called democratic African governments to do their bidding and achieve their aims surreptitiously. That is the biggest threat to the equatorial forests of central Africa that are so crucial to maintaining the equilibrium of Africa’s climate.

And so we must throw our weight and our lot in with like-minded people and communities who are sailing in the same boat and face the same predicament as us. We must stop this naïve belief that our former and current oppressors are suddenly seeing the light and turning into the saviours of the planet. That distinction needs to be reserved for the indigenous communities whether in the Amazon or the Congo Forest or indeed the remnants of Kakamega forest.

The question is how do we revive our land for our own benefit first and foremost? With the wild and mercurial nature of climate change, who is to say that equatorial and tropical Africa will become the least affected land on which the modern-day Noah’s Ark will come to rest after the flood brought on by the melting of polar icecaps? Would we wait passively for this to occur, or shouldn’t we proactively take care of our environments as a whole community and reformulate our own financial arrangements to take into account the production of environmentally beneficial products and services?

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