What should Africa borrow from other countries and civilisations, ancient and modern? Africa’s intellectuals, philosophers and writers have a duty to reflect on this question. They must give guidance to the nations of Africa because without explicit guidance there is the danger of letting into Africa the folies, diseases and crimes of other continents.
Except for countries like Ethiopia and Liberia, the majority of African nations have been independent of foreign rule for less than a century. They are at the beginning of maturity. Those which were under the British rule still show traces of British cultural influence. Those which were under France and Portugal also reflect the culture s of those countries.
The Osagyefo, Kwame Nkrumah — the first President of Ghana — used to speak of Africa as having its own personality. What type of personality is the question not yet discussed in full, and not yet determined.
Nkrumah dreamed of a United States of Africa, that goal is still beyond the horizon of time yet the existence of the African Union and regional groupings is evidence enough that Africans realise that the nation state is not adequate for the purpose of economic and political powers.
Is there something to borrow from the ancient and modern civilisation, to either avoid or copy? We must begin with the ancient civilisations.
The earliest civilisation sprang in Asia, West and East. Western Asia is known to the people of Europe and North America as Middle East. There the civilisation centred on Mesopotamia, nowadays called Iraq and Egypt. The artistic cultures of the civilisation that were developed there are a wonder to the modern eye.
From the Middle East, Africa has borrowed great religions Christianity branched out of Judaism in Palestine but reached Africa through Europe. Islam arose in Arabia and reached Africa directly from there.
These great religions have been accompanied by secular cultures and practices of Europe and Western Asia or Middle East. Africans must adhere to Christianity and Islam as they are reflected in their sacred books. But where secular matters are concerned Africans must not imitate blindly if they are to achieve continental unity.
When we read the history of Mesopotamia and Egypt one thing disturbs us — there were constant wars. We read of the Sumerians being attacked and conquered by King Sargon of Akhad. Later we read of the Persian King Cyrus conquering the whole Middle East, and his successors Darius and Xerxes invading Greece. Egypt got occupied by the Hyskis, Greeks and Romans consecutively.
We read of Hebrew under the leadership of Moses and Joshua setting out from Egypt to invade Canaan, later called Palestine. No permanent peace or victory was attained. It was wars and wars until Judea, home of the Hebrews henceforth to be known as Jews, was overrun by the Babylonians and taken into captivity.
Books written by Western scholars about the Middle East do not take us beyond the Hellenistic and Roman Empires. We do not know if the countries of these regions ever achieved regional political unity and peace.
Certainly there is not much of regional peace and unity at present in Palestine and Israel, the birth of the religions o f Abraham (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Bloody conflicts are endless. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition intervening in the Yemen civil war, where Iran — which is has vowed to destroy Israel — is assisting the rebels.
Now compare the Middle East with Chinas other home of ancient civilisation. There we have a huge country that achieved unity centuries ago. Attempts by Western imperialists to partition it in first half of the 19th Century failed entirely. Having reclaimed Hong Kong the Peoples Republic of China will certainly re-annex Taiwan.
Western democrats generally comment unfavourably on the Chinese system of government yet they ought to admire the Chinese ability to dwell together in huge members under one government, a process which in Europe is proceeding slowly under the European Union.
European imperialists in partitioning Africa created great inequalities. Africa was balkanised with some countries almost as big as subcontinents such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan with others as small as what elsewhere are mere counties or provinces.
To remedy this imperial injustice, Africa statesmen and visionaries should promote regional groupings. They should look to China for inspiration. Let us continue with the great religions that have come to us from the Middle East but avoid that part of their culture which uses religion to perpetuate blood conflicts and disunity. Common humanity is more important than common religion.
Before embracing Christianity and Islam, we Africans used to approach God using our ancestors spirits as go-between. We accepted the right of each family or individual to worship through their ancestor. We should resist religious intolerances which have made it difficult in certain parts of the world to unite like the Chinese.
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