“History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity,” read the instructive words left by Patrice Lumumba for his wife, Pauline. It would be foolish to think such moving words were meant to simply remain a love-letter from a man about to meet his demise; these were a revelation for the greater continent. The major lesson to draw from Lumumba’s letter is that the history propagated by the West is not always accurate and yet it is written even now through propagandist Western news agencies. One Professor Wosene Yefru (University of Tennessee) conclusively said, “It’s not really our history from our point of view. It might be African history from a European point of view.”
The thousands of books written on African history by Europeans are increasingly becoming hard to accept as the accurate sources of African history. Generally, the philosophy behind the authoring of African history was articulated by a rather blunt Hugh Trevor-Roper, a British historian who said, “Perhaps in the future there will be some African history to teach. But at present there is none; only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness...and darkness is not the subject of history.”
Such arrogance and absolute disregard for everything Africa was before the imperialist disturbance is what still dictates the formulation of history even now. The only thing that may have changed is the fact that the agents of this motive now have a bit more tact than Roper and will only implicitly follow the same grain without exposing themselves. This explains why Western media has a fascination with the dictators of Africa, the poverty and wars, and not on Magufuli of Tanzania. This is how history is rewritten right in front of everyone’s eyes; by deliberate selective handpicking of what makes the news and what does not. Mahadeo, M and McKinney, J’s “Media representations of Africa: Still the same old story?” hammers home the point that nothing has changed about Euro-centric history. The pair posits that the West portrays Africa has a “democratic deficit” only they can fix. The media conveniently skips that “many of the failed power structures are derived from Western origin, foisted on the continent at formal independence”. The two also go on to assert that, “They focus mainly on ‘warlords’ and dictators, while underplaying the role played by Transnational Corporations (TNCs), and the western dominated global economy.”
This reads like one monumental conspiracy theory but the interventionist approach of the West has always been justified by the media polemics of targeted figures in Africa and the Middle East. This makes Mahadeo and McKinney’s point look a little more credible.
It is an interesting fact of the past that Europe did not give any credit to Africans for anything as they were “darkness” and “darkness is not the subject of history”. One has to simply question why David Livingstone and other Europeans of similar “hobbies” were called explorers; what were they exploring that had not been seen before by Africans? Some people still harbour the ridiculous idea that Livingstone discovered the Mosi oa Tunya (Victoria Falls) yet locals clearly lived close to it from time immemorial. What then makes Livingstone a great explorer? What makes him the man who discovered the Victoria Falls? If anything, he may have been the first European tourist and no more. Such whitewashed history again rears its ugly head in the case of the Benin bronzes and the Great Zimbabwe. These are attributed to white influence on the basic premise of natives not being mentally endowed with the requisite faculties to achieve such feats of sophistication. Carl Mauch is recorded as going as far as claiming that “a civilised nation must have once lived” in the Great Zimbabwe area. He did not mean the civilised Africans; his idea was that some whites must have lived there and he was not the only theorist to that extent.
All this seems inconsequential but by stealing civilisation from African history, the West asserted its authority under the guise of helping savages repent of their uncivilised ways. It was psychological warfare and this instituted supremacy of Europeans is still a part of modern day society.
Rosemary Traore of the University of Carolina then said colonialism relied on a false sense of superiority to justify the domination of colonized people.
The age is now for Africa to rewrite history as Lumumba prophesied it would. Kwame Nkrumah in Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for De-colonization instructively said, “Our history needs to be written as the history of our society, not as the story of European adventures. African society must be treated as enjoying its own integrity: its history must be a mirror of that society…”
There is now more need than ever for Africa to write its own history. What is taught in schools should be African history by Africans themselves. It is also time to fashion a new route to success not that set for the continent by the former oppressors. This is how Africa can write a new chapter of history that is purely Afro-centric and devoid of European “adventures”.