Africa Day – May 25, 2011
We’re nearing the end of Africa Day 2011. As I sit and reflect on the day, I would like to repeat what I posted on my Facebook profile this morning, “I look forward to the time when we can celebrate this day when countries in Africa are freed of the yokes of dictatorship and mismanagement.
Africa Day will have meaning when politicians serve the people rather than themselves and their small clique of lackeys, when a citizen’s vote will be respected, and when everyone on the continent is free to fulfill his or her potential.
Recent events in north and West Africa show that young people are rapidly becoming fed up with the crippling status quo, and are beginning to demand their place in the sun. It’s now for the geriatric ‘leaders for life’ to start listening to their voices.
As foreigners in Africa, we too have a part to play, but not, perhaps, the role many might think. For far too long, we from the West have come to Africa, thinking we have the solutions to their problems if they would only listen and do what we say. Well, I’ve a bit of news for my fellow foreigners, it is we who need to listen, and find out what young Africans want. And, once we find that out, not to give it to them, but help them create an environment where they can get it for themselves. We must continue to hold leaders here accountable for their lack of effective leadership, disrespect for human rights, and flagrant disdain for rule of law, but in the end, it is the people of Africa who must decide for themselves how they want to live their lives.
We outsiders must view ourselves as passengers in the vehicle that is Africa, sitting quietly in the back seat, and only offering information when it’s requested. We should never attempt to drive, nor should we tell them in which direction to drive. We can give advice when it is sought, but that advice should be given sparingly and with the full realization that, no matter how long we live here, we will never know Africa like its own people know it. As an American of part-African descent, that applies equally to me. I constantly remind people that, despite the fact that some of my ancestors came from Africa, I am an American, and only have a smattering of knowledge of this continent.
One more Africa Day is almost past, but the true Africa Day is yet to come.