I am more than amused at the current trend of teenage boppers and serious college students catching up with the decades-long war happening in the Congo basin. It makes feel superior! If we really want to solve the problem of war in the Congo basin (and everywhere else in the post-colonial world) then we are going to have start looking at the political structures that have been left behind by the colonialists and enhanced by the indigenous (and socialist-educated) elite.
I have a quick blurb that may be of use. I say “may be” because I have decided to use Nigeria as an example rather than Uganda because it is a region I am much more familiar with, but the underlying concept is still the same. My more intelligent readers will no doubt grasp this nuance right away, but it may be harder to grasp for those readers not well-versed in social theory. I would, as always, be grateful for critiques and comments alike.
Religion has virtually nothing to do with the current conflict tearing Nigeria apart, and everything to do with the legacy of British imperialism (which went hand-in-hand with socialist legislation in the late decades of the 19th century).
In short, Nigeria itself was constructed by the British after centuries of piecemeal gains made by London to gain control of the trade routes throughout what is now Nigeria (if the British government had been kept confined to defending the individual rights of its citizens, then the corporations of Britain would have had to trade fairly with the various kingdoms and confederacies that made up modern Nigeria; alas, the socialist parties and the Anglican Church pushed for a more “humane” state).
When the British finally succeeded in wresting control of the region from their rivals (both African and European), they set up a highly centralized state that was charged with doing just one thing: extracting wealth (hence the centralization). The beautiful but deadly handmaiden who accompanied the centralization of power in Britain’s new colony was a series of reforms pushed by both the socialists and the Church of England to “help” the subjects of the Crown become more civilized. These initiatives included building public schools (and destroying privately-owned, indigenous-run schools in the process), a health care system based on modern medicine (real live human experiments!), and a brand-new judicial system based around “enlightened” Western law (though not around the Western law that made the West prosperous and free, rather it was based around socialist conceptions of how a judicial system should be run – arbitrary arrests and new laws as you go!).
For more on how imperialists go into other countries and set up systems of government far different from their own, see the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003 as an example. The U.S. government built from above a parliamentary democracy that contains none of the checks and balances enshrined within its own political system and has required their subjects to maintain a gender-based quota in the parliament, something that is also missing in the American political system.
Anyway, back to Nigeria. Today’s conflicts in the country are caused by the elites of the various ethnic groups grappling for control of the centralized power structure left in place by the British. You can pinpoint all of the African continent’s wars today to this historical fact.
So can the Nigerian state “survive”. I think that this is both a short-sighted and condescending question. Of course I believe that the people within Nigeria can prosper and achieve peace, but I think that this won’t happen until the Nigerian state simply dissolves, and the people of the region are able to build, from the bottom up, their own nations on their own terms.
In terms of how the West can “help” the Nigerians and the rest of the African continent, I believe that it all starts with a change in attitudes and beliefs about the people of Africa. They are just like me and you, and I think a foreign policy of beginning to recognize that the states in place now are actually more of a burden to peace and prosperity than a boon would be a great start. Perhaps its time to start looking at these failed states not as failures to be fixed by the international community, but rather as the last legacy of colonialism on the African continent beginning to fall by the wayside. Perhaps its time to stop supporting summits and armies propping up these colonial boundaries, and instead start to recognize the claims of independence by the various nationalities within the colonial borders as legitimate.
Perhaps, but recognizing that there is a whole other world out there with radically redrawn political boundaries, boundaries redrawn by the African people themselves, would mean an end to the white power structure currently dominating the world, and an end to all the do-gooder’s hopes and aspirations of lifting up the African continent onto a pedestal for all the world to feel guilty about.