Western Imperialism and the Recolonization of Africa

From national independence and regionalism to neo-colonialism

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Libya 360°

Author’s Note: This address was delivered during a panel discussion at the United National Antiwar Coalition Conference held in Secaucus, New Jersey on May 9, 2015. The panel was chaired by Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report and also featured Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo.

On June 30, 1960, the former Belgian Congo gained its independence from Belgium. Patrice Lumumba of the Congolese National Movement (MNC-Lumumba) became the dominant political party within the newly-created parliament in Leopoldville, now known as Kinshasha.

Several days later the Force Publique (the paramilitary force trained by Belgium) revolted plunging the country into uncertainty. Later Belgium along with the United States engineered the secession of the mineral-rich region of Katanga.

Lumumba requested the intervention of the United Nations in an effort to maintain some semblance of an international balance of forces in Congo. Nonetheless, the UN would act to isolate Lumumba leading to a coup and the subsequent capturing and brutal execution of the revolutionary leader and his close comrades in January 1961.

These developments along with others, such as the civil war in Sudan beginning in 1955 on the eve of its independence, portended much for the future of Africa during the remaining decades of the 20th century. The imperialist utilized the situation in Congo during 1960-61 to justify its military intervention either directly or through proxy forces in Africa, a policy which extends into the 21st century.

In Cameroon the long-forgotten mass and armed struggle of the people during the 1950s and early 1960s is another case in point. Ruben Um Nyobé (1913 – 13 September 1958) was an anti-colonialist Cameroonian leader, who was assassinated by the French military September 13 1958, near his village of Boumnyebel, located in the department of Nyong-et-Kellé in the Maquis Bassa.

It was Nyobe who created the Cameroon’s People Union (UPC) on April 10, 1948. The national liberation movement used armed struggle to obtain independence from French colonial rule. After Nyobe’s death, he was replaced by Félix-Roland Moumié, who was also assassinated by the SDECE (French intelligence agency) in Geneva in 1960.

Since these developments in Congo, Sudan and Cameroon, these states have been a source of conflict on the continent. Fighting continues today in these three countries largely stemming from the ongoing role of imperialism.

Ghana, formerly known as the Gold Coast, gained its independence from Britain in 1957 under the leadership of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) founded by Kwame Nkrumah in 1949. At the time of its independence on March 6, 1957, Nkrumah announced in Accra that the liberation of Ghana was meaningless unless it was linked up with the total independence of the continent.

Yet some nine years later, the CPP government was overthrown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which was also involved in the removal of Lumumba, in alliance with counter-revolutionary agents within the police and armed forces of Ghana. Since 1966, Ghana has still not reclaimed its leadership within the African revolutionary process.

Later in 1978, the U.S. imperialist government under the-then leadership of President Jimmy Carter encouraged the government of Somalia headed by Mohamed Siad Barre to invade Ethiopia’s Ogaden region in an attempt to destabilize and overthrow the socialist-orientation of the Ethiopian state which was then allied with the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Since 1978 Somalia has been a major focal point of U.S. imperialist intervention with a direct occupation during 1992-94 and through various surrogate forces since 2006-2007. Today the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is trained and financed by Washington and Brussels, although peace has not been restored to the country in light of the spreading of the war into neighboring Kenya and Uganda.

Pan-Africanism and Socialism

These harsh facts require the need for a re-examination of the theories of Pan-Africanism and Socialism as advanced by Nkrumah and other anti-imperialist liberation movement leaders of period between the 1950s-1980s. Africa cries out for unity more than any other period of the post-independence era.

The continent also needs socialism based on the realities of events over the last two decades. U.S. imperialism and France have escalated their militarism on the continent. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is operating in dozens of continental states with a large base in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier which is being strengthened and enhanced under the Obama administration.

Despite the claim that the Pentagon and CIA are working through AFRICOM to increase the national security capacity of African states in the so-called war on terrorism, in every country where AFRICOM has established a notable presence, instability has grown, i.e. Mali, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, etc.

A meeting this coming week in Zimbabwe of African Defense ministries is designed to discuss the development of an African Standby force. Nonetheless, until Africa unites under socialism, such a force will inevitably serve the interests of Washington and Brussels.

Impoverishment in the West and False Notions of Economic Growth

Over the last five years, the western-based financial publications have hailed the rapid growth within various African economies. In this process the Federal Republic of Nigeria has ostensibly surpassed the Republic of South Africa as the largest economy on the continent.

Nonetheless, Nigeria has been wracked by civil war in the northeast where Boko Haram took over large swaths of territory terrorizing the people of the region. This war has spread into Cameroon, Chad and Niger prompting a regional response to the crisis.

Ghana, the former leader in the Pan-African struggle prior to 1966, has also been championed by the West for its phenomenal economic growth. However, over the last several months workers have engaged in industrial actions and mass demonstrations over the deteriorating financial situation they find themselves in through the decline of the cedi and the rise in joblessness.

The dialectics of world capitalism has been most profoundly illustrated in the mass outmigration from Africa, the Middle East and Asia through Libya and across the Mediterranean into Southern Europe. The contradiction is that despite this putative growth, there is no real process of genuine development in Africa.

There can be growth without development and this situation coupled with imperialist militarism poses a toxic mixture of social calamity and human disaster. Libya, whose government was destabilized and overthrown by imperialism four years ago, was a proponent of African unity through the Sirte Declaration which led to the formation of the African Union (AU) between 1999-2002.

Under the guise of humanitarian intervention the most prosperous state in Africa was destroyed. Consequently, as anti-imperialists, we must categorically reject all imperialist interventions in Africa. This is a monumental task now facing the anti-war and peace movements in the West.

If we do not seriously take up this calling we will be doomed by the increasing impoverishment of the cities and suburbs and the idleness and mass incarceration of the growing Black and Brown populations of the U.S. Our struggles are united in the quest for unity and progress. Socialism in the West and the oppressed nations is the only solution to the world crisis of declining capitalist relations of production and terms of trade.

The decline in oil prices and the driving of African Americans out of many of the major cities in the U.S. represent two sides of the same coin. We must throw out this declining currency and create a system of survival and development based on the interests of the majority of humanity for a future without exploitation and degradation.

Abayomi Azikiwe has written extensively on African affairs with specific reference to historical studies and political economy. He has done research on the origins and political ideology of the African National Congress, its leaders as well as other national liberation movements and regional organizations  in Southern Africa.