Recently, a very close friend of mine declared it would take us another twenty years to be really independent. Was he right? I am afraid there is a lot of truth in this. I do not know what he had in mind but I respect his intelligence and depth of analysing problems. For my own reasons, I agree with him, and here I am not talking about freeing Mozambique, Angola, Portuguese Guinea, Rhodesia, South West Africa and South Africa: I am talking now of countries like ours and many, other independent African States.
In a calm, friendly, world these problems might not have existed; our Independence might have been real. Unfortunately, we do not have the ideal world as yet; ours is a world in which the jungle law is still very much in evidence in spite of claims of civilisation, etc., etc., etc. We live in a world in which survival is for the fittest. . . .
Now we, the so called emerging countries, whether in Africa, parts of Asia or Latin America, are saddled with so many problems that to organise ourselves locally as well as internationally presents a Himalayan challenge.
Most of our weaknesses derive from lack of finance, trained personnel, etc., etc., etc.
We are left with no choice but to fall on either the cast or west, or indeed, on both of them. Some of us choose to be non-aligned, believing that this might give us a breathing space to work out our own systems from which we might grow from strength to strength.
In the latter case we are not trusted by either the cast or the west. When we preach the importance of man, whether he be from the cast or the west, this is dismissed as a meaningless platitude from immature politicians. A very cruel world you might say, but then it is the one in which we live.
When we go to any of these big powers for help they readily will give us that help. They will say aid is being given to us without any strings because this is what they know is popular fancy with us. In fact, there is no such a thing as aid without strings.
A few examples might help to give meaning to what I say. Take training in any field-wherever you send your people they will be indoctrinated, consciously or unconsciously. They will be taught, very vigorously, to look at problems from the aid-giving country's point of view. In most cases, we like to think in terms of getting aid from various sources-that is, from both the cast and west-hoping against hope that this will be a shield against interference from either. In fact we end up with a mixture of various explosive gasses in one bottle, and inevitably, explosions follow.
The question, of course, is-what are we supposed to do? We are in a hurry to reassert our Independence-it is human; it is natural. The strong beliefs we hold about the importance of man wherever be may come from lead us to believe that it is right and proper for us to mix with all our fellow men without regard to ideological differences or, indeed any other differences.
Because of this approach and, as I have already said, we feel we are justified in sending our young people to all corners of the world to attain the necessary knowledge. This is the field in which we find ourselves helpless and yet we see it so very often that this is one of the real sources of danger to our own Independence.
At home we have got to build these extensive civil and military organisations to develop and defend our countries. We have no choice but to train our people in other countries. Some of our civil and military people arc those very ones who were used by colonising powers to suppress freedom movements. In most cases, they have been trained, again by the same powers when they colonised us.
When we make changes that do not conform to the pattern they have been used to, they take offence and the people's Government is first of all doubted, deceived and then overthrown. This often comes without the help of countries and organisations outside our own borders. The sources will depend on which side feels let down.
This is such an important subject that I do not think we should approach it from one side only. If we are honest to the cause we fought and suffered for; if we are honest to our own people, we must see that from time to time we take a critical look of self-inspection.
We are pioneers and, in a way, we are faced with more problems than a pathfinder who has no beaten track before him. The pathfinder who enters a forest has got to find his own track. This in many ways is easier, because certain things have been done in a certain way by certain people from whom we have taken over and we are trying now to redirect things in our own way. Various vested interests will not be happy with us and will naturally react and cause difficulties. We tread on a very tough road for we are not only trying to change the course of history but are also laying down a foundation. The will is there; the path is clear in our own minds; alas, the resources are limited.
I cannot help but mention, once again, that the cornerstone of our constitutions, governments and peoples must be service to man. I know this sounds so simple as to warrant no serious thought, but really when you come to think about this it is the all in all. Without man there is no constitution - there is no government-there is no law - there is no factory-there is no country. In fact, there is nothing that you can think of that would be meaningful. So those of us who are leaders of our people must not only think about the importance of man, it must be an obsession.
We must think and think and think again about bow best we shall serve and not about how important we are as leaders of our people, or bow we can safeguard our own positions as leaders. Why must we, don't we hold these in trust for our people? We must remember we are not elected kings, and that if we believe so much in the importance of man, we must not devise artificial methods of bottling his feelings. On the other hand, those who elected us and those who are our advisers must help their leaders by not doing things that will go to their leaders' heads so that they begin to feel that they are superhuman. . . .
Selfishness in leaders and followers inevitably leads to corruption. I cannot see, however, that uniformed men replacing elected leaders by either killing them, imprisoning them, or, indeed, sending them into exile is the answer to this problem. In some cases, Africa has witnessed the release of thousands, and in a few hours, their places were taken up by tens of thousands.
We should not, however, be over critical at this time because with the exception of one or two of those who have taken over, they have stated that they will hand power back to civil authorities. I do hope they do. If they do not do that, then I can foresee the sad growth of a second Middle East or Latin America right here on the continent. Africa cannot afford that.
To my fellow leaders on the continent of Africa I would venture to send this message - that our task and challenge is to try and help establish Governments of the people, by the people and for the people on the basis of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" - all the time bearing in mind the application of this to the common man.
There is an obvious danger here that leaders on the continent of Africa might become so frightened of what is happening as to be preoccupied only with their own safety. I might say here that looking at the short list of my heroes I see that they have all got one thing in common, whether they were religious, philosophical, political or military, and this is that sincerely and relentlessly they served - almost without exception they were misunderstood and, indeed, all of them were misunderstood to the point where they died at the hands of the very - people they served.
I am sure my heroes must be happy people because later generations understood them, worshipped them and followed them. Of course this cannot be the case with us if we suffered at the hands of our own people for corruptive practices. In other words, much as we deplore violent overthrowing of established governments our main concern is to leave behind us stable and genuine people's systems of government.
A speech, delivered at the opening of the University of Zambia, made available through the Embassy of Zambia, Washington, D.C.
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© Paul Halsall, July 1998