BY Addisu Tesfaye 11-16-16
Relations between Europe and Africa is old one and oriented by the colonial rule when almost all African countries were subjected to the untold suffering under the whims of the colonialists. Africans fought and paid heavy sacrifices to emancipate themselves from the yokes of colonialism. Post-colonial relationship was based on the donor receipt conundrum and Africa depended heavily on their colonial masters for handouts to run their governments. What is saddening and disheartening is that a continent endowed with huge potentials and resources heavily leaned on the west to finance their governments for up to now.
The west continued to interfere in the internal affairs of African countries even in the 21st century without any shame. And Africans also allowed this to happen happily. We are in a totally changed global order and that the current relations ought to be governed by taking this reality into account. While European Union and Africa forged a new partnership, defamation, harassment and intimidation by one of the European institution, the European Parliament persists and amazingly with total contempt and disregard of respect to Africans, their governments and institutions. The condescending attitude leaves one in total loss to comprehend what kind of partnership we are talking about. The way EP behaves and debates about African countries is in the typical colonial mentality that does not augur well for promoting mutual interest based on equality and respect.
Africans have come a long way to distinguish between what is good and what is bad for themselves. Some of the African countries have democratic mode of governance long before the west introduced modern democracy. Had the colonialist did not mess it up, Africans by now would have home grown and solid democratic governance. Mention could be made at this point of, for instance, the Geda system in the OROMO community of Ethiopia that possess a meticulous governance system with respect for rights of its members and with long term succession plan of its leadership and with peacefully transfer of power from one generation to the other. There are several other old traditional systems that ensure participation, transparency and accountability, with all elements of good governance inherent.
The premises that African governments are not responsible for their own citizens and hence the civilized world should import democracy as commodity is missing the whole essence of the very principle of democracy. In doing so the west is totally forgetting how democracy took root in their own society and at same time ignore the context in which Africans are democratizing their societies. The diversity of African society, the social and economic level of development, their political history and culture are factors that ought to be considered. Failure to appreciate that reality will not help to promote the cause of democracy that we all aspire to consolidate. Instead of working with Africans to strengthen democratic institutions and help build their capacity, MEPs act like political activists hoping they will achieve democracy in Africa by defaming Africans with propaganda based resolutions. They are overwhelmed and inspired by Facebook and Twitter information from dubious sources. Knowledge of some of the MEP about Africa, its history and its culture is unbelievably dismissal. They behave on the basis what the activists talk and write. Never they make any effort to balance it with mainstream views back from Africa. That surely makes many to think and feel their works lack credibility. Some MEPs think that Africa is their turf because EU provides financial support through EDF to African countries. EDF is not an instrument to dictate terms on African governments. We in Africa believe that the interest is mutual.
In a multi polar world, Europe must rethink its attitude towards Africa, as Africa has several partners to work with. The era that EU is seen as the only partner is slowly changing. That is why the criticism that is thrown by EU on Africa about its relations with china is not making any sense. Africa should diversify its partnership and that is in the making. Partnership not based on equality and respect cannot be sustained. Instead of criticizing china for doing business with Africa, it is time EU changes its attitude towards Africa, from donor - recipient to real partnership. No doubt EU remains Africa's important partner and so is Africa to EU. Relations based not equality and respect are doomed to fail and unsustainable. Africans care for the dignity. The narrative from EP to ridicule and demonize African governments is totally unacceptable. Moderate MEPs who understand Africans and the situation in Africa should make sure their voice heard loudly and clearly. It must be clear that we are not trying to avoid criticism. Not at all. We simply call for a positive and constructive engagement.