Presentation made by Djeukam Tchameni at Black History Month Celebration, Johannesburg, February 25, 2005
I – African Renaissance, Rebirth and Warfare
We are indeed living in an era characterized by the spirit of African Renaissance. Renaissance means Rebirth, which subsumes that we, as African People, were born before, died from natural or unnatural causes and that we are about to be born again. “When a child is born in Africa, we are so happy” says the singer. But Birth in itself is never a painless process. For a plant to be born, it has to break the ground. For the bird to be born, a shell has to be broken. The birth of mammals is particularly painful, bloody and traumatic for the mother and the child.
If birth is rarely a peaceful process, why have African leaders made PEACE a precondition for the success of the African Renaissance Project? The NEPAD presentation document states: “African leaders have learned from their own experience that Peace, security (…) are conditions for sustainable development”. This position, which may be appealing to our common sense, is nonetheless invalidated by the history of “developed” nations, by the current globalizing world and by the evolving nature of warfare.
A quick look at the history of the countries that make up the G8 today unveils a long trail of bloody mayhem. Europe, America and Japan have thrived and developed in war. Europeans made war on each other for the entire first millennium and for most part of the second millennium. The Hundred-Year War which in fact lasted 200 years, the first and second European wars in 1914-16 and 1939-45 – which are mistakenly called world wars - are just some examples of the violence that characterizes intra-European relations. The Europeans also took the war outside of their continents: The genocide of Native Americans, the deportation of Africans, colonialism, neocolonialism and even globalization are basically acts of war.
Globalization is precisely the second element that invalidates the position of our beloved Heads of State. Searching for peace in Africa as though the continent is cut off from the rest of the globalizing world is at best a dubious proposition. Halting military conflict within and between African countries does not by itself stop the more deadly war that is being waged by imperialist powers against Africa. In Fact, many of the numerous conflicts throughout the Continent are nothing but expressions of that bigger war.
Last but not least, our leaders seem to hold narrow and obsolete notions of war and peace. For them, the absence of armed conflict is synonymous with peace. Nothing is further from the truth. The nature of war has changed and we are dealing today with what experts call Fourth Generation Warfare. In October 1989 of the US Marine Corps Gazette, Colonel Keith Nightingale states: “The goal of Fourth Generation Warfare is to collapse the enemy internally rather than destroying him physically. Targets will include such things as the population’s support for the war and the enemy’s culture (…) The distinction between war and peace will be blurred to a vanishing point. The distinction between civilian and military may disappear. Fourth Generation adversaries will be adept at manipulating the media to alter domestic and world opinion to the point where skillful use of psychological operations will sometimes preclude the commitment of combat forces. Television news may become a more powerful operational weapon than armored divisions”.
Whoever understands a paradigm shift gains a decisive advantage. Conversely, a Nation that is slow to adapt to change opens itself to catastrophic defeat. The nature of war has changed. In today’s war, the target is the entire society as a cultural not just a physical entity. The military aspects of warfare- though still important- do play a lesser role. The aim is to control the mind of the enemy’s population. Why is the control of the mind more potent than physical control? Prof. Carter G. Woodson, an African American educationalist explains: “When you control the man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told. In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary”.