Birth Pangs

By Museveni, Yoweri K. | Harvard International Review, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Birth Pangs


Museveni, Yoweri K., Harvard International Review


Abstract:

There are presently 2 contending views of the African continent - one pessimistic, the other optimistic. The pessimists, regularly flashing images of Africa's miseries across the world's television screens, dismiss Africa as a hopeless case whose situation is getting gloomier every day. The optimists, on the other hand, see Africa as finally emerging from its long years of decline and stagnation. What Africa must do to rejoin the world community as an equal partner is discussed. Internal contradictions will disappear once the transformation of Africa from a backward into an educated modern society becomes firmly rooted. Although still in its infancy, this transformation has already started.

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Headnote:

Africa in the Coming Millennium

Of the major problems that plague our time-including terrorism, religious fundamentalism, and bigotry-the biggest challenge is the existence of islands of opulence in a sea of poverty and underdevelopment. Most of the imbalances we see in the world today can be put at the doorstep of uneven development. It is a sorry statement on our times that great strides in the intellectual, scientific, and technological realms have not benefited the huge majority of the world's population, who continue to live in poverty and underdevelopment while a small minority prospers. This is the situation that, in my opinion, must be resolved with the advent of the new millennium if humanity as a whole is to thrive.

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a lot of talk about creating a new world order. But in order for this to happen, the wealthy nations of the world must discard protectionism and practice real free trade, the best tool we have to bring about even development on our globe. Furthermore, these nations must recognize that in an age of easy and fast communication, islands of opulence cannot remain isolated from the sea of poverty that surrounds them. If current disparities continue, millions of people will flock to the affluent countries in search of opportunities and a better life-a phenomenon already evident with recent increases in immigration into the United States and Western Europe. Policing borders endlessly is not the answer and, in any case, is not sustainable. Rich and poor countries must work together to change conditions in the poor countries so that people stay where they are. That said, while we want our developed partners to sacrifice in order to help the poor countries take off, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Africa must have a fallback position-her own strategy of economic development, security, and defense.

Africa in this Century

There are presently two contending views of the African continent-one pessimistic, the other optimistic. The pessimists, regularly flashing images of Africa's miseries across the world's television screens, dismiss Africa as a hopeless case whose situation is getting gloomier every day. The optimists, on the other hand, see Africa as finally emerging from its long years of decline and stagnation.

At the dawn of this century, Africa was in very bad shape. Having survived the onslaught of slave traders for over 400 years, the whole of Africa, apart from Ethiopia and Liberia, entered the century a colonized region. The African people had lost their sovereignty and almost the whole continent had been subjugated. By the 1940s, however, the anti-colonial movement had gained momentum. When India and Pakistan became independent in 1947, the stage was set for all other colonized countries to become independent. Thus, while the century started off with most of Africa colonized, it is ending with all of Africa independent. Those who take a pessimistic view of this continent should recognize the resilience and strength of the African people, who have survived, albeit injured, the dismantling of their way of life, culture, economy, and dignity over 500 years of slavery, imperialism and colonialism.

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