Thursday, February 20, 2020

African turmoil (1965)

“Malawi,” said Dr. Hastings Banda recently, “is at war.” He is not the first of the leaders of the new States on the African continent to-make such a declaration.
Egypt, we have been told, is at war. So is Zambia. Nigeria and the Congo are immersed in internal conflicts of varying intensity. And so on.
There have been, of course, no formal declarations of war. But that is not what Dr. Banda and his counterparts mean when they use the word.
The new states are struggling to establish themselves against pressures both external and internal. One of their governments’ problems is to break down the old tribal allegiances and substitute a wider ranging patriotism.
Africans who once thought of themselves as belonging to this or that tribe, under this or that chief, must now be persuaded that it is better to belong to a developing capitalist nation, under this or that leader or dictator.
And how is this achieved? The techniques are wearyingly familiar. There are the patriotic declarations, the empty mysticism over the new flag, the dark warnings of impending danger from outside, the calls to arms. There is also the synthetic worship of the new nation’s leader—the personality cults of men like Nkrumah and Banda.
Part of this process is the “discovery” of alleged plots against the security of the state. Dr. Banda said that his former Foreign Minister, Mr. Chiume, is combining with the Zanzibar rebel Mr. Okello in a scheme to invade Malawi. Neighbouring Zambia is to spend £7 million on “defence and internal security,” double its border posts and step up its naval forces on the boundary rivers and lakes.
Dr. Banda appealed to the Malawi people to arrest any strangers and report them to the Congress Party; “ Investigate every strange face,” he said.
This is like a small-scale re-enactment of Europe in the Thirties. It is also reminiscent of the spy-scares which helped to keep war fever up to pitch during the two world wars.
But the African nationalists always claimed, when they were struggling for power, that they would be above the tricks and subterfuges of the old colonialist powers.
There need be no surprise that they have turned out to be different. Tricks and lies are always used in the fights between capitalist powers. As the new, African states enter these fights, it is inevitable that they should use the time honoured methods.
Perhaps Dr. Banda is right; perhaps Malawi is at war, for in war the first casualty has always been the truth.

No comments: