Afghan President Karzai's angry ultimatums have parallels in post-colonial Africa
After the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a US Army sergeant, Afghan President Karzai told the US to speed up withdrawal. Post-colonial experience from Africa suggests that US departure may not be pretty.
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Mr. Obama, for his part, said this week that the US had no intention of staying any longer than necessary in Afghanistan, but in an interview with CBS affiliate KDKA, he added, “it's important for us to make sure that we get out in responsible way, so that we don't end up having to go back in ... but what we don't want to do is to do it in a way that is just a rush for the exits."Skip to next paragraph
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Afghanistan and Congo, Ghana parallels
While Karzai may be playing domestic politics by voicing the growing Afghan exasperation over misdeeds by US forces, consider the similarity of his tone to these examples from some of Africa's first post-colonial leaders, which seriously complicated the ends of those relationships. There are also strong parallels between Karzai’s outbursts and those of post-colonial leaders toward their European colonizers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which seriously complicated the ends of those relationships.
Consider the barely veiled contempt of Patrice Lumumba, prime minister of the newly liberated Democratic Republic of Congo, in his liberation day speech. With the king of Belgium – Congo’s former colonial ruler – seated beside him, Mr. Lumumba said: “For this independence of the Congo, even as it is celebrated today with Belgium, a friendly country with whom we deal as equal to equal, no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that it was by fighting that it has been won, a day-to-day fight, an ardent and idealistic fight, a fight in which we were spared neither privation nor suffering, and for which we gave our strength and our blood.”
“We are proud of this struggle, of tears, of fire, and of blood, to the depths of our being,” he continued as the Belgian king reportedly sat stone-faced, “for it was a noble and just struggle, and indispensable to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force.”
Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, in his liberation day speech of March 6, 1957, spent no time thanking his former British colonial masters for their time and effort in developing a 20th century Ghana.
For Nkrumah, physical liberation from British troops and administrators was only the first step. The real liberation would come when Ghanaians freed their minds from the belief that they needed the British to be present to make their country run.
From now on, today, we must change our attitudes and our minds. We must realize that from now on we are no longer a colonial but free and independent people. But also, as I pointed out, that also entails hard work. That new African is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all, the black man is capable of managing his own affairs.
If Karzai is following the similar anticolonial path of Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah, the US government should not be waiting for a “thank you.”
* Keep Calm, a winking reference to the World War II slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On," is a new blog that aims to provide a bit of context to help make sense of confusing news events.
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