By: Daniel Otero
When anybody conjures the images of Africa, people like to think of those with Hemingway in Kilimanjaro on wild safari searching for elephants and lions. For others, it takes them to images of war and poverty across these deserts and lush lands. One thing that Africa does have is the feeling of going back to the perfect state of nature and savouring it all. And Africa is not just one country, but a continent of nearly one billion people and 60 countries. Also, the Dark Continent is extremely rich in natural resources: from the lands’ timber, oil, to gold and diamonds.
Images cannot escape in the news of Africa and places in conflict. In present times it has been Somalia, Egypt and Nigeria to name a few. Can we escape the problems of Africa or can we just blame it on the Africans? Well now, that’s not so easy. Given the fact that since the 15th Century Africa has had a constant intrusiveness by superpowers taking from ‘her’ human and natural resources! It has been estimated that in a period of 300 years over 30 million people died on the voyage across the Atlantic, mostly from Angola into the Americas (1500 to 1800s). Empires like Portugal, Spain, Belgium, France, Germany and even a given for England’s colonial past had cut Africa into territorial pieces! Empires built on the sweat of slaves. Once the colonial wars began and the Europeans left, Africa was left in shambles to say the least. Then, it was countries like Russia and the United States getting into these areas and causing a further mess! And China is no exception, it has been in Africa investing and taking since 1976.
What’s left today is a continent that has at least 35 countries in a fragile peace and 15 others still combating each other in tribal and regional warfare. To say the least, the favourite weapon of most combatants is the Kalashnikov (AK-47). Usually, it’s weapons in exchange for diamonds to fuel warfare. What’s tragic about today, are the people doing the fighting. They are child soldiers!
I’ve been visiting Africa since 1989 and soon after fell in love with it. I knew I was one of those ‘strange’ white men that loved the wild! And it was Africa in truth that broke my heart and still does. These days I love to go on my holidays hoping for the best and one day see lasting peace. I’ve been back ‘there’ five times and sometimes I get frustrated when seeing the same problems never going away! At least from my point of view… But some recent events got my hopes up. What the United States or other countries haven’t done in decades, a group of civilians are trying to do in one country, Uganda. They’re trying to stop a brutal mass murderer and warlord called, Joseph Kony. This man has been abducting children and training them for war for 29 years. After taking the children, he forces them to kill their parents and mutilate or kill anybody whom will get in their way! These are issues that move my soul to its core and I can feel young again; without the hypocrisy, sarcasm or false idealism I had in years past. As an American and former serviceman, I comprehend the deep reality that U.S. will not get involved into conflicts that do or will not benefit them as part of the National Security and Foreign Interest. How quickly we forget mass murders like the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the Third Balkan War. Here the world watched and nobody did a thing! Today we have a choice, to take action, create consciousness and do something by teaching others about the realities of the world. Maybe we can start by making our world better, and in which way? By starting with ourselves!