Reviewed by Ogova Ondego
Published January 20, 2008
Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo’s book
Though Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare: A Critical Observation of the Neighboring Continents was published shortly before the much discredited December 27, 2007 presidential election charade that was marred with fraud and has ended up sending some Kenyans to an early grave, robbed hundreds of thousands of their livelihood, spewed some across the border into Uganda as refugees and created a wide rift of suspicion and mistrust among those still standing, this book appears to be describing the Kenyan situation. It even casts doubts as to who is in control in this eastern African nation that had been for a long time described as an island of peace in a troubled ocean. OGOVA ONDEGO reviews the book.
Upon being elected president in 2002 on ‘zero-Tolerance’ on corruption, Mwai Kibaki appointed John Githongo as his advisor on corruption. When “he unearthed security contracts by government officials to non-existent companies worth as much as $1 billion”, Kibaki demoted him, “publicly, on television, on June 30, 2004, announcing that Githongo ‘had been transferred from the Office of the President to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.”
It later transpired that, the writer quotes Githongo’s 91-page report, “someone had surreptitiously inserted my name into the wrong place in the President’s speech and therefore my transfer was not meant to have happened at all”. This makes the writer to wonder: “How on God’s earth can the president of a nation announce the transfer of one of his closest and most senior staff members, who reports to him each day or even many times a day, without realizing what he is doing? Couldn’t the name John Githongo alone, and the details of ‘Office of the President to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs’, make something click in the president’s brain?” And this poses the question as to who is in control in Kenya. It certainly is not Kibaki.
Like a loving African grandmother who reprimands her grand child in an effort to nudge him in the right direction, the Kenya-born author who holds diplomas from the London School of Economics and the London School of Journalism states that Africans are the only people on the planet who seem to be convinced that they do not deserve any happiness whatsoever.
Accordingly, the most audacious and unimaginable things- like presidential oaths being empty rituals that one goes through if only to identify with the Prime Minister of Britain or president of the United States- happen only in Africa. No sooner is an African president sworn in than he starts ruling by decree, unleashing police and military terror on the public.
Saying many parts of Africa are ruled by absolute despots with the ordinary citizen bereft of any legal defense against oppression by the government and officialdom in general, the writer correctly opines that the police are viewed not as friends but ‘terrorists’ in many sub-Saharan African nations.
“When African soldiers, militia and police are set loose on innocent demonstrators, they seem to lose their humanity.
Whether unleashed on university students or ethnic groups that have been deliberately incited to butcher each other by politicians motivated by dubious ambitions, these armed forces kill their own fellow human beings with feral abandon…it is also their anger and frustration in having employment that regularly stock them with weapons and uniforms but does not pay them regularly and well enough to feed their families. They kill fellow human beings as if they were butchering wild animals because their superiors expect them to, or else they may lose their jobs to a “stronger” rival. They seem to lack the human moral conscience that would make them command empathy.”
Having said this, Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo then moves on to describe how slavery, colonialism and post-independence dictatorship have traumatised Africans.
“Africans”, she writes, “are the psychologically lost branch of humankind” due to a physical and psychological brutalisation that she says lasted five centuries. However, this Bavaria-based writer argues that slavery and colonialism be not used as excuses by Africans for “retreating towards archaic forms of living” while the rest of the world gallops ahead. She contends that Africans are the only human beings whose average lifespan is declining while other human beings are living longer and healthier than ever before and that unless urgent measures are taken, one in three Africans will not see one’s fortieth birthday over the next decade!
The author accuses most African leaders of suffering from ‘acquired narcissism’. “They are drowned in infatuation and obsession with themselves…they display a chronic pursuit of personal gratification and attention, infantile verbal abuse and insulting of each other in the media and during parliamentary debates…feel omnipotent…feel themselves to be almighty.”
Despite this perceived ‘invincibility’, the author writes, “they cannot develop a sense of security” as their ‘narcissism’ “is garnished with the largest dose of paranoia”. Consequently, they do not tolerate any opposition.
The writer then looks at contemporary political, humanitarian and economic trends. She considers the World Bank, WTO, G8 and the IMF to be the long arms of the world oligarchies.
The West, Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare points out, deliberately keeps Africa poor and warring through ‘aid’ disbursed through the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
Princess Akinyi writes that “While the per capita GDP in sub-Saharan African countries continues to drop, the NGOs are proliferating”. In other words, the ‘aid’ industries do not want to solve the problems plaguing Africa if the solutions would jeopardise their vested interests. The writer further says the aid-dependence the West creates in Africa renders African countries unable to negotiate effectively in world trade. This dependence encourages governments to relax instead of working out viable economic strategies for their citizens. The aid industry further undermines the struggle of Africans to be independent economically, socially and politically.
But it is startling that about 75% of the money aid agencies collect is spent on the administration of their own organisation. The World Food Programme, for instance, spends more than a million dollars per day (75%-80% of which is spent in the administration of WFP alone) for southern Sudan.
As Africa loses because some of the cures prescribed by the NGOs are worse than the disease, Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo argues, “The whole world makes a fortune in Africa except the ordinary Africans themselves.”
The author thus views NGOs as a menace to Africa while serving as a job-creation to the rich Western nations. She suggests the aid industry dissuades Africans from defending their turf while foreign corporations scoop up all the resources. At the same time, the author equally reprimands not only the predator politicians and elite of the African continent but all Africans for their passive resignation to a fate they can change through affirmative action.
She says that “under the cruelest and most dehumanizing conditions”, Africa, since the 16th century, has assisted and made it possible for the West to accumulate its incredible wealth.
She wonders why these same Africans are now ‘in the 21st Century’ willingly allowing themselves to be dehumanised by forces of neo-colonialism, globalisation and China.
“All members of humankind are born with innate pride, dignity, self-worth, self-esteem, protection for the self and those of one’s family when there is a common enemy. And the will to fight to the death to maintain these virtues, however poor one is. So why this abject submission by the majority of Africans?”
Though China comes to Africa posing as ‘equals, with no colonial hangover, no complex relationship of resentment, no outward show of hegemonic clout’, Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare argues that this ‘Middle Kingdom’ nevertheless has an agenda which African nations should beware of and ‘should make sure that this agenda tallies with the African one.’
In an unflattering exposition, the German-based Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo argues that China is ‘making a fortune on Africa’s natural resources without addressing the African people’s poverty and that she demands ‘no good governance, adherence to human rights, an end to corruption, environmental rules’ and democracy.’
Author Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo
Instead of African governments allowing the Chinese to “dig, shovel, saw, clear and carry away the rubble themselves,” the author argues that the Chinese be made to mentor Africans as “Africa does not need a Chinese bricklayer or ironing person”. Everybody in Chinese businesses in Africa is Chinese, right from the engineers to the office messengers, she writes, adding that no African gets employed in any position whatsoever in any Chinese projects.
Globalisation, on the other hand, is demarcating and fragmenting the world and its people besides pushing the world back even further than the pre-historic barbarism. Princess Akinyi says Africans are opposed to globalisation because it devalues cultural mores and conceptions of the world and humankind. “Africans are not as ‘ready to be freed’ from their traditions as Westerners are,” she writes. “The West is on a rapid course of socio-cultural and spiritual degeneration.”
While arguing that Africans have suffered serious psychological damage from slavery and colonialism, the author, who considers globalisation the fourth stage in the penetration of Africa by world powers, nevertheless contends that this “can no longer be a legitimate explanation of all of Africa’s underdevelopment in the 21st century.”
For an author who studied in England right from pre-school to college, she has good command of the English language which she puts to good use in her writing. I may not agree with her on every point she raises ‘humans evolving from apes, for instance’ but I find her writing style quite appealing.
This book is available in trade paper, hard cover and e-book formats from amazon.com and other stores and online outlets.