During the 70s and 80s, South Africa's apartheid was the target of civil rights organizations, politicians, and campus radicals. They called for sanctions, boycotts and disinvestment in protest against the injustices of apartheid. There were plenty injustices. South African blacks had little or no political say-so. Codified discrimination restricted: what jobs blacks could hold, where they could live, whom they could marry and a host of other encroachments on personal liberty. Between 1900 and 1990, before apartheid finally ended, roughly 10,000 blacks lost their lives in civil conflict with the South African government.
In countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Zaire, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan and Chad, millions upon millions of blacks have lost their lives in civil conflict and genocide. Much of that conflict continues today and includes murder, torture and genocide. Many victims reach their end in unspeakable ways that include dismemberment, boiling in oil and "necklacing, a procedure where the victim is bound with barbed wire, a tire placed around his neck, doused with gasoline and torched.
In Sudan and Mauritania, blacks are bought and sold into slavery by their fellow blacks and Arabs. In the Sudan, there has been decades of warfare that has claimed nearly three million lives of African Southern Sudanese. Five million civilians have been displaced internally and another half million fled to neighboring countries. Iran, Iraq and Libya have sent both materials, including chemical weapons, and troops to assist Khartoum's Islamist government in its war against the South.
Africa's tragedy is horrible. Compounding that tragedy is the deafening silence of the do-gooders and the media who loudly protested against South Africa's injustices. South Africa's injustices were child's play compared to those in Africa's other countries. When President Clinton, black congressmen, and their civil rights entourage visited Africa, did you hear them condemn these horrors and suggest the kind of sanctions they supported against South Africa?
Dr. George Ayittey, director of the Washington-based Free Africa Foundation and Professor of Economics at American University, says that the fundamental factor behind virtually all of Africa's civil wars is the struggle for political power. He adds that rebel leaders who set out to remove tyrants are really tyrants themselves, as demonstrated by the ouster of Zaire's Mobuto by Kabila. Ayittey, a Ghanaian, doesn't have kind words for Africa's leaders. He says, "Africa's liberation struggle is a trenchant story of betrayal, choreographed by an assortment of crocodile liberators, quack revolutionaries, Swiss bank socialists and grasping kleptocrats."
Forty percent of Africa's people live on less than $1 a day. In most countries, per capita income and economic growth, if at all positive, is less than they were at the time of independence. In 1957, when Ghana gained its independence from Great Britain, it had very high prospects. If you were a betting person, you would have betted that by 1990 Ghana would be far richer than South Korea or Hong Kong. There are some bright spots in Africa. In countries like Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa, there's more democracy and economic growth.
In the face of Africa's tragedy, where are the civil rights leaders, politicians and campus radicals? Why aren't they staging demonstrations in front of the embassies of those brutal African governments? The only answer I can come up with is that for them brutal injustices are important only when it's whites mistreating African blacks. It's the same reasoning at home. Thousands of black Americans are murdered each year by fellow blacks. But Jesse Jackson gets animated when some Texaco executives don't speak nicely about their black employees.
Walter E. Williams
June 26, 1998
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