With the entry of the Kenyan armed forces into the DRC imbroglio has come with media attention from their journalists, bloggers and Twitter mavens back home.
The Franz Fanon book, Black Skin, White Masks’ comes immediately to mind when I see what they are publishing on their platforms.
President Kagame has spent his entire administration pushing back against those who would give us lessons on how to live our lives.
Often this message has been towards the Western power apparatus, particularly the human rights organizations and media that spend their time lecturing and hectoring us to kingdom come.
However, this hectoring isn’t always simply a black and white thing. It’s about a sense of superiority and muzungus’ aren’t the only ones who walk around with their noses in the air, acting like they have innate righteousness. Sometimes it’s our very own African brothers and sisters.
Funnily enough though, when I think of where the derision comes from, I detect, as Mr. Fanon declared in his 1952 tome, an imitation of the culture and behavior of the colonizer.
This imitation is often evident in upwardly mobile (read ‘developed’) black people who have acquired the status symbol of white ‘civilization’ (read ‘liberal western values and money’).
In my experience, the media and political elite of two African nations have behaved awfully muzungu when it comes to the affairs of the Great Lakes region; Kenya and South Africa.
What do they all have in common? The many trappings of the global liberal political order, strong economic ties to the West and a small but hugely powerful minority (read, ‘Europeans and Asians’). In other words, a state that seamlessly moved from colonialism to ‘independence’ without any structural upheavals or revolutions.
Some can argue that the fall of apartheid and the now present black majority rule was a structural upheaval. My reply to that is this question, who owned the vast majority of the means of production in 1985 and who owns them now? If the answer is the same, then we cannot talk of revolution.
We can only talk about some of our people partaking in the feast. Ditto in Kenya. The colonial power structure is still alive and kicking.
This structure creates a superiority complex to those who have been raised in its embrace. In South Africa it will manifest in violent and deadly Afro-phobia and the idea in the corridors of power and media that the country must lead and the rest of black Africa follow.
If you think I am exaggerating, take a moment and peruse through some of the African reporting of their most influential media. Funnily enough, as the country has gone through some of their domestic issues, the volume of the crowing has been slightly turned down.
Not by too much, but still noticeably. On the other hand, as our East African sister country has moved up the gears, the crowing has increased.
Crowing in of itself isn’t an issue for me. There is nothing wrong with having an Über alles (above all else) attitude when it comes to one’s country. It becomes tricky when this crowing is then externalized and becomes part of foreign policy.
It’s problematic because, if you think that you are the end all and be all, it’s impossible to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and become an equitable partner.
What I am seeing today from some influential Kenyan commentators (mirroring what happened in 2013 when the South African Defence Force dominated UN FIB-Force Intervention Brigade, attacked the M23 rebels) is a myopic and narrow minded view of the Eastern DRC issue, dominated by geopolitical and economic concerns instead of the real issues plaguing the Congolese people as well as DRC’s neighbors.
For them it’s all about projecting power and regional influence. And that’s all okay. Just remember that, while you sleep peacefully in Westlands, Nairobi there are people’s lives who will be affected in Rubavu, Rwanda (as well as Masisi, DRC) by your cheerful sabre rattling. And when you get bored and move on to the next big thing, the people in the region will still have to bear the brunt of unhelpful rhetoric.
The writer is a socio-political commentator.