The Debris of the Berlin Wall Litters Africa

Few can agree on why the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago. However, the recent suspension of the Burkinabe constitution and the takeover of government by the army well demonstrates that its debris remain in Africa, where ideological proxy wars are ongoing.

The 27 – year rule of Blaise Campaore, Africa’s fifth longest- serving president has been largely sustained by his pro-West stance. For following the dictates of his allies in Paris, Campaore’s authoritarian rule which has survived five coup attempts and his attendant human right abuses, have been ignored for allowing the growth of GDP at the expense of the quality of lives of Burkinabes. As a result, there is much nostalgia in the West African country for the old times under Thomas Sankara’s regime — well-known as, “Africa’s Che Guevara.”

The recent protests remind one of the words of Thomas Sankara’s inaugural address to the United Nations General assembly where he “…protest[ed] on behalf of all those who vainly seek a forum in this world where they can make their voice heard and have it genuinely taken under consideration.” It seems  Campaore’s cronyism with his western buddies has proven Sankara’s claim that while revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.

While Blaise Campaore’s policy of rectification replaced Sankara’s Marxist ideologies was not also tolerant of dissent and disregarded human rights, the favorable position Campaore enjoyed in the sight of France and the US reveals the arrogant triumphalism of capitalist countries after the Cold War and the understandable suspicions of the citizens of countries where such two-faced policies are ongoing.

Paul Kegame and his Rwanda, another Western ally, has promised to have explanations in the likely event he intends to extend his stay in officeis another country where the watered-down, double-faced version of capitalism without the rule of law is allowed condescendingly.

It is easy then to understand why the evils of colonialism and bundling arrogance of capitalism are difficult to dissociate in the minds of Africans.

Democracy promotion, especially in countries with dictators like Zimbabwe’s Mugabe and Angola’s dos Santos, has been reduced to second burner as a price to pay to protect the resurgence of communism. This was the reason Margaret Thatcher and Western Capitalist nations infamously defended Apartheid in South Africa in the past. It remains so in Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea; one of Africa’s longest serving dictator who continues to enjoy the fawning of the West due to astrategic indifferenceto democracy for the country’s oil.

While the legacy of Berlin is contestable, little has changed from the post-cold war stance of China, United States, Europe and Russia.

The  rumored visitof President Putin to Tanzania, one of Russia’s long-standing allies in Africa, and thefavorable disposition of African countries surveyedto Russia’s annexation of Crimea, has made the hegemonic influences of America not only unpopular to Africans, but also in want of alternatives found in China.

It seemed the ricochet of the debris bounced off China and spurred incursion into Africa. The efforts made to prevent the changes in Europe in affecting China, especially with the crushing of the Tiananmen uprising with the subsequent surrender of political rights for economic well-being by the Chinese, transformed into a foreign policy of economic partnerships unhindered by political considerations of civil rights with Africa.

China’s growing empire in Africa and her search for fuel to drive its economic growth has found friends in countries such as Cameroon, Angola and Uganda, whose presidents prefer the non-judgmental stance of doing business with no unnecessary questions asked.

For Africa, the fall of the Berlin Wall did not mark the victory of capitalism over socialism; it began the search for alternatives in centralized capitalism as seen in countries like Singapore. Proponents of benign dictatorships, especially in countries that tried to extend their rule in Africa, have accepted the ascent of China as the third way.

The historical pall of an event in a European city on a distant continent looms large in the new debate of whether the end of liberal capitalism is imminent. While democracies increased shortly after the cold war in Africa, capitalism, brought about by austerity measures tied to external loans from International Financial Institutions, became unpopular.

It would seem that Africa is constrained to choose between development and democracy. Whatever answer is given to the popular questions of whom is Africa rising for, and what is the best route to take, the debris of the wall remains in Africa.

Ajibola Adigun wrote in from Nigeria

The Berlin Wall and Africa today