When the #Kony and #bringbackourgirls campaigns started, they only gained momentum when Westerners retweeted and commented. Only then did some of us start jumping up and down, saying something should be done about the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls. We still haven’t educated ourselves on the real stories behind Boko Haram or Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Movement, who is also alleged to be behind the abduction of children to become sex slaves and soldiers.
Perhaps some of us are still waiting for Beyonce and Kanye West to say its “cool enough” for us to learn of our continent’s history, challenges, successes and where we stand now.
And while the Western media quickly publicises our failures and we all shake our heads in disbelief, wagging our fingers in judgment, who do we actually expect to hold our leaders to account? When African leaders fail, the continent as a whole fails – and that includes you and me.
Africa has a rich history, but it’s the now that needs work. Our claim to fame should be more than hunger, coups, dictators, rapes, corruption, poverty, Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe. Surely there must be more to offer the world. Yet the world only knows of the hunger, the conflict and the money African leaders go, cap-in-hand, to the International Monetary Fund to ask for more, “just to tide us over”.
We are slow to educate ourselves on the positives, yet quick to remind ourselves to hate each other – black against white, male against female, South African versus Somalis and even heterosexuals versus homosexuals. If there were awards for hatred, we’d come out tops.
But when and how did we learn to hate this deeply?
The truth is, as Africans, we might not know how to love. It might be because we were so busy learning to defend ourselves that we never learned how to love ourselves and those around us. Though years of struggle and oppression might have given us reason to hate, no oppressor ever actually sat people down and concluded a life lesson by saying “and this, Jabu, is how to hate”. Nobody taught us hate, we taught ourselves hate and ultimately we must teach ourselves to love.
While we hate each other, burning and terrorising “because I am from South Africa and you’re from Mozambique”, those who oppressed us look at us from afar, TV remote in hand and laugh at us, saying: “They shouldn’t have fought us from colonising them. We were good for them.”
While others call it Africa, we have to call it home and every home has its challenges. But are we seriously going to wait for First World countries to give us approval for our shared and brilliant history before we celebrate it?
Africans, during Africa month and every other month, celebrate who you are and do so proudly with your brothers from across our borders.