I was reviewing headlines and saw this stark headline on the BBC News Africa section titled “Guineans Mark 50 years of poverty“.
Fifty years ago the country of Guinea on the West (duh… I said East originally, sorry I am directionally challenged) coast of Africa achieved independence from France. Celebrations were recently held to mark this anniversary and the BBC correspondent heard the cries of “fifty years of poverty”. The article goes on to interview a man at a train station who laments that the trains used to run when the French ruled the country but now they have collapsed like everything else as the country runs low on electricity and other elements of a civilized society.
Guinea took their opportunities for independence and squandered them with 2 brutal dictatorships over the last 50 years as strongmen systematically looted the mineral rich country and let the infrastructure collapse. This is a sad story since the country has access to the ocean and a coastline as well as mineral wealth. Unfortunately it shares borders with failed states and risks becoming one itself as the strongmen wind down their time in power, with no likely successors in sight.
In college I remember reading articles, books and novels about how horrible colonialism was and certainly this is not something that anyone would willingly embark on in this day and age. I don’t remember, however, seeing how a country that has been independently managed for fifty years managed to do it so badly, in the aptly summarized “fifty years of poverty”. For many years the blame was always on the formal colonialist rulers for this or that, the borders, or how one ethnic group was favored over another.
At some point, likely today for Guinea, this doesn’t make sense any more. From the fact book, the average life span of a Guinean is 54 years old; so they don’t have any memory of the former French rulers while they were in power. At some point they need to look at how they have mismanaged their country and hopefully find a way to change it from within.
I will wait in vain for colleges to re-appraise their brutal picture of colonialism with a more nuanced picture, contrasting the infrastructure development and investments during colonialism with the asset stripping, infrastructure decay, and utter chaos that came after they left.