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10-08-2015, 22:57


Nowhere in the developing world is the dilemma of continuity and change more agonizing than in contemporary Africa. Mesmerized by the spectacle ofWestern affluence yet repulsed by the bloody trail from slavery toWorldWar II and the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, African intellectuals have been torn between the dual images ofWestern materialism and African exceptionalism. What is the destiny of Africa? Some Africans still yearn for the dreams embodied in the program of the OAU. Novelist Ngugi Wa Thiong’o argues that for his country, the starting point is a democratic Kenya. More broadly, he calls for “an internationalization of all the democratic and social struggles for human equality, justice, peace, and progress.” 12 Some African political leaders, however, have apparently discarded the democratic ideal and turned their attention to what is sometimes called the “East Asian model,” based on the Confucian tenet of subordination of the individual to the community as the guiding principle of national development. Whether African political culture today is well placed to imitate the strategy adopted by the fast-growing nations of East Asia—which in any event are now encountering problems of their own—is questionable. Like all peoples, Africans must ultimately find their own solutions within the context of their own traditions and not by seeking to imitate the example of others. For the average African, of course, such intellectual dilemmas pale before the daily challenge of survival. But the fundamental gap between the traditional village and the modern metropolis is perhaps wider in Africa than anywhere else in the world and may well be harder to bridge. The solution is not yet visible. In the meantime, writes Ghanaian author George Awoonor-Williams, all Africans are exiles: The return is tedious And the exiled souls gathered at the beach Arguing and deciding their future Should they return home And face the fences the termites had eaten And see the dunghill that has mounted their birthplace? . . . The final strokes will land them on forgotten shores They committed to the impiety of self-deceit Slashed, cut and wounded their souls And left the mangled remainder in manacles. The moon, the moon is our father’s spir it At the stars entrance the night revellers gather To sell their chatter and inhuman sweat to the gateman And shuffle their feet in agonies of birth. Lost souls, lost souls, lost souls, that are still at the gate.