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It’s 1884, again, and Africa is up for the pickings! – Tola Adenle

 The recent call for an Africa Marshal Plan – a la the United States’ massive aid to Europe after World War II – by Alhaji Yar Adua caught my attention enough for a reworking of this essay that had been started under this same title.  One newspaper, whose lead writer apparently understood NOT the import of the headline he chose, announced how Yar Adua has called for another Berlin Conference!  May be the lead writer took his cue from Yar Adua’s reference to  “This Forum is a veritably-apt platform for laying the foundation of another Berlin Conference …” while doing what African leaders seem to do best during his medical/official trip to Germany: begging for massive aid.

I was surprised at how Alhaji Yar Adua could have gone from asking for a sort of Marshall Plan – which is not a new request, anyway  – to listlessly switching to anything containing the words “Berlin Conference.”  Apart from the expensive and wide apparatus of state at his command that should prevent these continuous and embarrassing faux pas, Nigeria is supposedly “lucky” to have an educated head of state unlike in the past.  What does all those highly-paid and over-pampered assistants, advisers, et al. do if they cannot craft a simple communiqué that would not cast Nigeria, nay, the whole of Africa, in embarrassing light?

In what was known as the “Partitioning of Africa”, the “Scramble for Africa” or, simply, “Berlin Conference” in elementary and secondary school History, Nigerian school kids of my early years were taught how European powers sat in Berlin, Germany and carved up the African continent into areas of hegemony for themselves.  Even tiny Belgium got huge Congo!  Needless to say that Africa has never recovered from the haphazard cutting up with people who spoke the same language divided into different countries along a sort of straight belt, especially in West Africa.

Now, for the person heading Nigeria’s government to call for the “…foundation of another Berlin Conference” is not only unconscionable but disgraceful.  What kind of so-called “giant” of the continent is this country when it keeps dragging other countries along with herself down into the mud?

My essay was planned to touch the matter of foreigners who see the vulnerable situation of Africa’s corruption-driven poverty as openings to move in for the kill.  Yar Adua’s “Berlin Conference” communiqué therefore becomes a necessary diversion.

The cases fuelling armed conflicts to gain Africa’s minerals; sponsoring coups as Margaret Thatcher’s son, Mark, and some associates attempted to do from the younger Thatcher’s outpost in South Africa a couple of years ago; women trafficking for prostitution in Europe and, perhaps the most important human plundering, the kidnapping of a hundred and three “war orphans” from Chad recently were the impetuses for the planned essay.

It is not impossible, as many have contended since the Chad problem began, that those kids were stolen for the purpose of harvesting their organs for the lucrative organ business.  In some Far East countries like Malaysia, an army of enfeebled – mostly males – citizens are being created; men who have traded one kidney for money for a thriving “organ tourism” that has a ready market in the affluent West.  Sick rich Canadians, Americans, et al. are taking trips to these poor countries to buy – pardon me, get “donated” – vital parts of their bodies that are diseased.  I’m not against people getting organs replaced but these poor men in Asia’s slums are left unable to provide for their families or even care for themselves; the couple of thousand dollars – sometimes, as much as five thousand dollars – they are paid, quickly runs out.

The French do-gooders who claim to have taken the “orphans” so that they would have “better lives” in France were found to be no orphans because most have parents who were not aware the kids had been kidnapped.  One of the kids, a little girl who was able to express herself, put a dent to the do-gooder story by the French men and women who even offered money to lure some of the kids.

The world is also aware of the promiscuous appetite of Western pedophiles whose sexual interests lie in assaulting pre-pubescent kids – male or female.  This very thriving “sex tourism” business attracts Western men to countries like Thailand, Cambodia, etcetera.  In these countries, there are whorehouses where girls as young as eight are prostituted, sometimes in full glare of local law enforcement agencies.  Only God knows what fate would have been the Chadian kids’ if the French “kidnappers” have been successful.  Worse to contemplate, how many of Africa’s children had been clandestinely stolen to a second slavery or to be dismembered with hearts, kidneys, eyes (cornea), etceera fetching millions for the “kidnappers”.

Could this happen or could this have been happening in Nigeria?  I wouldn’t say no; neither would I think it is in the realm of impossibility.  Some months ago, I read the story of a Mid-West (Nigeria) girl who got “married” to a European and then traveled to the guy’s country in Europe “to meet his family”.  Her passport was in possession of the guy who promptly disappeared after leaving her in the “care” of his family.  She was saved from a life of servitude that she had endured by her “sister-in-law” who helped her escape to the Nigerian Embassy.  There have been others but one that has also caught my attention was about a young girl, a beggar in Sierra Leone who was “rescued” from the streets only to become a punching bag for the European lady before being taking to England where she was used as a slave.  Before being finally rescued, she had been “rescued” by a Sierra Leonean man who prostituted her.

What about all the conflicts fuelled by European individuals – or country – to aid the plundering of the continent.  If Thatcher & Co. had succeeded in their plan to destabilize Equatorial Africa, the modus operandi would have kicked into gear: install a stooge at the head of government and voila the oil becomes Baroness Thatcher’s son’s!  Why is Congo’s case so intransigent?  What of Sierra Leone and Liberia?

After Africa was cut up like a dish of pizza that is more about symmetry than anything else, the Boer War was about minerals; hence, South Africa’s long and arduous march out of apartheid. And then, one by one, independence was won – not given – by the grand masters of the Berlin Conference but it must be said that no African country became independent AFTER the wealth so richly endowed her by nature had been discovered in vast quantities.

Why does Africa make easy pickings?  She has loads of wealth buried under her soil; her weather, for the most part, is excellent most of the year and, perhaps the most important from the standpoint of the plunderers, her leaders are the world’s worst, a most thieving lot led by the so-called “giant of Africa”, Nigeria.

With plane-loads of “orphaned” children being clandestinely flown out commando style, with her young women plying Italian city streets in the depth of winter in skimpy call girl clothes, with diamonds, oil and other minerals fueling modern European adventurism, and with thieving rulers driving more and more people daily into grinding poverty, Africa is back in 1884 on a Berlin Cutting Table.

American-type Marshall Plan she really needs NOT but rather, leaders who will marshal her resources – human and natural – into engines of growth for her various countries.

The Nation on Sunday, November 18, 2007.

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