The Center Cannot Hold
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
W. B. Yeats
CHINUA ACHEBE'S CHOICE of title for his 1958 novel, Things Fall Apart, seen in context, suggests some period of stability preceding the collapse; before, things were together, then they fell apart. Structures collapsed, people turned on each other, what had been built was destroyed, the center could not hold. The enduring sense is that something has been lost on the way. The process of destruction and decline has plagued much of the African continent, plunged into chaos as it was by colonialism, then promised a kind of freedom after independence, only to find that freedom was in fact a new form of bondage, albeit with African heads of state to lead it.
Understanding the impact of foreign involvement in Africa is important for several reasons, if the turmoil current in much of the continent is to be assessed as a phase that will pass. Colonialism created a kind of schizophrenia: The European model was ordained as superior, despite precolonial traditions having retained a vital importance in the areas of normal life that succeeded in remaining untouched by the colonial infection. Meanwhile, the European model was taught as something to be envied and admired, while by design remaining an elusive goal, beyond the reach of the mass of the colonized. The postcolonial period, dominated by the Cold War, thrust the