By Amandla Karungi
While watching the superhero movie Black Panther set in the imaginary African country Wakanda, I presume I was just like so many other Africans: filled with a strong sense excitement and anxiety. Excited that a big screen film was glorifying African-ness and nail-biting anxiety for it to do well, because it was about black and African people.
The movie succeeded in getting a lot of positive reaction and some people felt almost vindicated against white tyranny and oppression. While I was generally happy and rejoicing with everyone else, I was left with an uncomfortable feeling about the lack of responsibility that we Africans have towards our own past, and more importantly our own future.
The coloniser is long gone, but we are no better. Some will say, it’s because they buried us under and created a world where we could not fit. This could be partly true, but we cannot blame others forever. We cannot and should not always play the role of victim when it suits us. It justifies our failure to advance economically, our failure to be accountable politically, our failure to love and protect our countries and continent. There are countries that have not seen peace since the day, the colonizer brought down its flag. If we hate and kill each other, who then do we expect to love us?
My perfect country
If I was to imagine a perfect country, it would be a country where we cared strongly about climate conservation.
In my perfect country, we would accept our role in our own suffering, because even though white people carried our ancestors across the Atlantic, some of our own Kings and tribesmen collaborated to hand them over. And even though colonialists have long since packed up and gone, post colonial Africa looks like the aftermath of a tsunami.
We have failed to look after the coming generations, with our machine guns, shooting at everyone and everything in sight, with our hearts and hands like a black hole greedy for power and public resources.
Life in my own African country goes like this
This happened to a traveler on a bus trip from the South Western Uganda to the capital city. The traveler was a young woman going back home.
This so-called modern bus had a policy of checking passports or any other identity documents on entrance. On the exterior of the bus there is a sign that read, “We do not stop or pick passengers during the journey.”
However, ten minutes after departure from the official bus stop, the bus conductor let in two passengers. These passengers slipped through the doors without flashing any identity documents. They found some seats in the back in the aisle next to the traveler. They settled into upsettingly loud conversation in the dead of the night. It was a 10:00 p.m bus and it is an 8 hour journey.
The traveler was suspicious of these raucous passengers and she quickly set her phone back into her bag before falling asleep. Shortly before the bus reached its offices in Kampala, there was a loud hiss and puff of the brakes and the opening and closing of its doors, letting off once again, the two men before the official stop.
The young traveler woke up to the sound of the doors closing and instinctively touched the inside of her bag. And true to her suspicions, her new phone was missing. She knew that none other than her rude neighbours had left with it. She hurriedly left her suitcases at the bus station as soon as the bus stopped again and hailed the next motorcycle, leaving some of the other passengers around her shaking their heads with concern. One had tried to dissuade her, warning her about her own life’s safety. But she could not let it go, not this time.
With the other phone that she still had, she called her number and true to the level of confidence that the criminals in our world have amassed, they picked up and said to her, “Yes, we have your phone. How much do you have for us to give it back?”
It was very early in the morning now, the cold hazy breaking of dawn and perhaps the thieves were still slow and maybe even sleepy, least of all, they could not have expected a fight from the girl on the bus. They probably had not figured out how to switch the phone off either.
The tracking device on the phone she was using led her through a dusty bumpy, pothole filled road between a bus park and dilapidated stadium to a run down housing shelter right behind a police post. The area is one of the deepest slums of metropolitan city Kampala; garbage hidden in plain daylight. Her highly unlikely ally that morning, a bodaboda man. On another day, he would be the thief.
He advised her that they should only enter that rat hole with the help of one of the policemen just outside the establishment. They spoke to a police officer and he agreed to escort them. Inside the building, there were dark smoggy congested rooms where both men and women slept and in the narrow dirty hallways, memories of thefts and robberies they had just carried out filled the air.
“Stay here!” the police officer commanded. In less than two minutes he had rounded the corner with the men on the bus. With no handcuffs, no preventative hold, but a familiar air of partnership, they stood beside each other, none afraid of the other.
“Are these the ones?” he asked. The men had in their possession a bag with about five phones, and one of them did indeed belong to the traveler.
She pointed at it and the police officer picked it out.
“How much are you giving me?” he asked. “I want Two hundred thousand Uganda shillings.”
Her phone was in sight, albeit in the hands of the Law and Order. She hesitated.
“If you don’t want to give me the money, you can leave it here as evidence and make a statement.”
It was a mockery. She knew all too well that if she left, the criminals and their patron would share the proceeds of the evidence.
Shaken, and suddenly realising how much worse things could have gone, she accepted to give him the money and only after he had received it was she allowed to take her property.
And so only for that day, justice was restored, somewhat.
While we dream of WAKANDA and abuse from the hands of the colonizer, may we remember that we have been nearly greater perpetrators of inhuman crime against each other than the colonizer ever did. In fact, we are a self-fulfilling prophecy, unable to govern ourselves.
We do not even have a heart for the land that nourishes us. We abolish plastic bags only to bring them back through the backdoor. So shortsighted, we live only for our own comfort.
“Let the future come!” we say, “With no trees, no lakes, no swamps, no honour and no virtue, we shall stuff our pockets with money for the helpless, jobless masses. Let tomorrow take care of itself after all we won’t live for ever!”
In my Wakanda, we would not be portrayed as victims, we would be rehabilitated villains rebuilding our earth from the trenches we have dug ourselves into.
Interesting article. Clearly expresses African mentality