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Africa In An Abyss: Who Is Responsible?

Posted on April 21, 2011 in GlobeScope, Specials

By Himanshu Chauhan:

It is ironical and dismal that when one portion of the human civilization reaches the sky, and prepares for reaching further than the farthest, another’s greatest desire is to just survive for another day grows. While one is progressive, advanced and developed another’s greatest achievement is to reach the lowest levels of safety and protection.

There are two pictures of the African scenario. Only one of it is much promoted and known and the other one, the one decorated with the colours of misery and blood fails to get the needed attention. The known picture is of the rich wild and tribal culture while the other is full of hunger, devastation and turmoil.

Africa, especially the sub-Saharan region, is the contributor of world’s most horrific and gruesome cases of human rights violations and leads both in terms of their intensity and figures. Except for a very small part, the whole of Africa is torn and crippled by civil war, violence, corruption, poverty and food insecurity.

Research and studies have shown that Africa does not lack in respect of resource conditions and has enough potential to reach a progressive and developed stage but there are human-made factors that have limited its growth and development. Some clearly identifiable historic, intrinsic and international conditions are dominantly responsible for the tragic state of African people.

Historic Reasons

The most significant event that has contributed to the present picture of the Africa is the Berlin Conference 1884. Due to various conflicts that arose in between the colonial powers of Europe at that time, Otto von Bismarck, first Chancellor of Germany organized this conference and its outcome was the establishing of the General Act of the Berlin Conference whose aim was to regulate and formalize the colonization of Africa between imperial powers. The enforced boundaries were drawn in the most senseless manner without considering their social implications. Africa was divided like pieces of cake and these lines are very much there on the present day map of the continent. Africa is full of tribal groups and these arbitrary boundaries not only divided ethnic groups but also brought enemy tribes under one government.

Today there are 54 sovereign states in Africa at large lying on the same political boundaries. Due to the ongoing heinous conflicts innocent civilians are subjected to massacres, rapes, displacement and nearly every kind of gruesome war crime conduct.

Even when these states became sovereign, most were left in a vulnerable and unsecure condition in feudal and aristocratic hands thus the colonial legacy is one of the major reasons why Africa is in a tragic state. Only 13 of these states are completely democratic.

Intrinsic Conditions

African nations always had the resources and the ability to get past the hurdles created in the way of progress by the colonial legacy but irresponsible leadership and elite class became the major hindrances in its growth. Other conditions also prevail like agricultural dependability, weather factors and poor climate conditions, but then those problems were even there before the colonization process but even then, Africa was well-developed; so the culprit behind all the anomalies is the corruption in the leadership. Due to this factor most of the Africa and specially the Sub-Saharan nations are pushed into a state of extreme poverty and depravity.  Due to the failure of the institutional design that should have contained corruption, the African population has not only been denied the right to develop but they are also forced to lower their personal standards of honesty for the cause of survival.

Modern day Africa is ruled by autocratic leaders and political operations and involvement is the major source of wealth intensification.

“The governance modality in Africa is generally based on top down authoritarian approaches to problem solving, perpetuates the shift of vast resources from the periphery to the centre, destroys existing locally-based popular initiative and discourages participation in the political process by anyone other than those sanctioned by the state. It is known to be notoriously insensitive to local wants and needs and has come to symbolize as the primary instrument for retaining the power, wealth and status of those who wield the authority of the state.”

When reviewed, most laws dealing with corruption were found to be archaic or unsuitable considering the African scenario. White elephant projects (referring to those which are carried out for individual or monarchy based glorification), corruption in international transactions, poor economic and political policing are responsible for the poor conditions of the African people.

International Factors

The international community has largely been indifferent towards the issues of African nations and most countries that are carrying out operations in Africa have been dubious on development initiatives and have maintained double standards to intensify their personal interests.

The most heinous fact and finding is that most of the money offered as bribe in Africa by organizations of other nations are subjected to tax benefits in their homeland. China and Russia are the known providers of arms and ammunition to military forces.

While drug trafficking and terrorism have been highly promoted as global issues. Corruption has never been given the needed platform. Leaders who perpetrate crimes against humanity for personal gains are provided safe havens in countries to the north of Africa and this practice has catalyzed the motivations of those who have the tendency to do anything for personal gains in creating and organizing military momentum. The concept of ‘aid’ for ‘trade’ carried out by many nations in context to Africa has proved to be the breeding ground for corruption.

Here are some facts that will be helpful in conveying to the readers, the conditions in Africa.

  • 33-35% population in Sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished.
  • Only 3 out of 10 people can merely read and write.
  • 42% of African population does not have access to safe drinking water.
  • 70% of food insecurity out of the total in the continent is in rural areas.
  • Most of the agriculture is based on weather conditions and 95% of food crop are irrigated through rain and famines are abundant.
  • 41% of people in Sub-Saharan Nations live on less than $1 a day.
  • Africa holds 11% of the world population but contributed to 60% of aids cases and 90% of malaria deaths most of which happen to children below 5 years.
  • 19 of the top 20 countries in the maternal mortality stats are African.


Participants in the Leadership Forum on Corruption, Democracy and Human Rights in East and Central Africa, Entebbe, Republic of Uganda (12 — 14 December 1994) agreed that Africa will require no foreign funding or aid only if the African money illegally stashed into foreign accounts is returned but that seems to be a quite astound gesture and will require great audacity to be fulfilled on the part of both the African governance sect as well as on the part of the international society.

Africa does not lack the presence of natural resources but the reason behind the menace is the treason of the elite class and the greed of other nations who have carried out unethical practices and policies on African grounds. While the plight and slaughter faced by the public of Africa is very much known the international community has largely followed the policy of appeasement and has enjoyed as an avid spectator of devastation.

Due to this dismal situation, the African lands are becoming breeding grounds for international terror organizations and anti-social elements. Various civil wars have caused millions of deaths in direct or indirect manner. More calamitous developments can be expected whose impact will not remain in the regular perimeters, because all words of harmony and good will be just be words to the one who has no average means of survival.

Facts and figures taken from data of WHO, UN, UNESCO, Leadership Forum on Corruption, Democracy and Human Rights in East and Central Africa, Entebbe, Republic of Uganda.