Ebola: Where we are; where we should be

Is it coincidental that nation-states just emerging from brutal civil wars cannot cope with Ebola because of their broken institutions?

Is it coincidental that the so-called Ebola humanitarian crisis — dubbed global complex emergency by the West — is unfolding on the upper Guinea coast the site of intense activities during the European slave trade? Is it coincidental that the upper Guinea Coast, or precisely the Mano River Basin, which include two Pan-African state projects, Sierra Leone and Liberia, are at the centre of this so-called humanitarian crisis? Is it coincidental that these two nation-states — Liberia and Sierra Leone — just emerging from a brutal civil war lasting more than a decade and bringing life to a complete halt cannot cope with the ebola epidemic because of their broken institutions? Lastly, is it coincidental that Guinea-Conakry, where the Ebola scourge allegedly started has the singular distinction of being the African nation that rejected De Gaulle’s offer of integration with France, which eventually unraveled the French colonial empire?

The above layerings — thick descriptions — do not arguably speak to any historical conjuncture in particular. What they do is that they foreground, by way of backgrounding, the issue of context in understanding what has been dubbed a monumental crisis of global proportion by those who always claim to speak for us in their language: the ubiquitous West!

There are at least two fundamental and complementary moral levels at which we can begin to make sense of the current situation. Again not coincidental, the President of Sierra Leone contacted Mr. Ban, the UN CEO, asking for help on 25 May: a date permanently penned in the calendar of African patriots wherever they may be. 25 May entered African history as a shameful compromise wrenched from the progressive forces from above by the internal enemies of African liberation under close watch by the West. 25 May was therefore not a victory for progressive forces in Africa. As if history was trying to mock the Sierra Leonean President, CEO Ban of the UN refused to budge even as Koroma kept on bombarding the CEO with phone calls regarding the Ebola issue. CEO Ban’s decision to ignore President Koroma’s raises fundamental questions about independence, dignity, survival and nationhood in our neo-liberal in 21st century.

Why would an independent nation-state in Africa continue to depend on external support from the UN when history has shown time and time again that the UN is not the global all-nations organization that its advertisers make it out to be? Do we need to recall its role in the Congo? In Somalia? In Rwanda? Lacking the wherewithal to tackle issues of daily reproduction, the decadent power brokers of the nation-states in Africa have increasingly become dependent on the West and their multilateral institutions for virtually everything. This dependence; now bilateral; now multilateral; continue to shape relations between Africa and the West as the neo-liberal economic machine becomes the only framework within which solutions are sought. But this internal dialectic — concretely related to the external dialectic — is profoundly about “governance” and the failure to deliver the proverbial fruits of independence. Like the nationalist paradigm before it, the so-called struggle for second independence has failed to take us to the promised land.

How revealing that the response – silence, which should be read as a deafening response— to Koroma’s plea was not a UN mission to save what the West now call the Ebola pandemic in West Africa. As a throw back to the history of yesteryears the three countries are to be rescued by their respective colonial patron!!!!! How sad? The British embraced their Sierra Leone creature in the same manner in which the French cuddled their rebellious and prodigal contraption — Guinea-Conakry. To crown it all an African-American president, Hollywood-style, dispatched “boots on the ground” to distant Liberia to continue the work of the American Colonisation Society of the nineteenth century.

If the internal dynamic is profoundly about “governance”; the external dialectic is also about “global” governance particularly as it affects Africa’s relations with the outside world. That an imperial rescue mission had to evolve as the preferred form of Western response to the so-called Ebola crisis begins to undermine the lie about the UN and WHO in providing the necessary wherewithal to make robust intervention a reality. Both the UN and the WHO are dependent on funding from the imperial citadels. Starved of funds they just cannot function. Much more important is the use of the UN architecture as cover for imperial ambitions. The UNDP, UNIDO, WHO et al operate, or are in business, because of us; the other; they were not designed for or operate in the West. Similarly organizations like WHO, UNDP, UNIDO serve the interest of those at the imperial citadels through funding and control. Like the UN, WHO could not intervene in a timely manner not only because they have funding problems but precisely because the organization’s hemorrhagic fever department had being dismantled after the SARS scare in 2008/09. Why dismantle a department that exclusively serves a disadvantaged region of the world in an outfit that is supposedly designed as a global institution? Here again we confront the vexing question of governance and its corollary: democratization and accountability.

Ebola has come to signify all that it is wrong in the current world order. It is a metaphor for neo-colonial machinations, internally as well as imperial dominance globally. Ebola is about governance and democratization at both the internal and external levels. This underlines the moral imperatives of participation; consent; and inclusivity. Internally, absolute-maximum leaders and their minions empowered by top down constitutions sanctioned by the neo-liberal West are incapable of delivering on anything under the sun. Externally, the extent to which so called global institutions — the UN and WHO — are controlled and dominated by those whose activities/interests run counter to our collective national and continental interests, these problems will continue to hamper our forward march. It is not enough to raise these issues only in time of so-called crisis. These issues should perennially be on the menu — they are the issues!

Freetown, Sierra Leone
October 9, 2014

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