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The War Nerd December 25, 2002
 
Live from the Skeleton Coast
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 2
 
The divvying got so crazy that one man, King Leopold of Belgium, ended up as the owner of the Congo. It was his personal property, not Belgium's. And he ran it like a slave plantation. Nobody knows how many poor bastards he killed there between 1884 and 1910, when he left Congo to Belgium in his will. The best guess is that Leopold's overseers hacked, shot, starved or otherwise knocked off ten million people. So don't be too quick to blame the poor Africans for the state of their continent. They may have messed it up pretty well, but they had lots of help.

The best parts went to places that started colonizing early, like Portugal, or countries that were just plain strong enough to take what they wanted, like Britain. If you look at a map of Africa from, say, eighty years ago, you'll see that the Brits got all the best stuff. They had the southern tip of Africa, very important for a naval power. They got it off the Boers, who stole it from the Hottentots, who were already losing out to the Bantu, who'd been marching south from central Africa for generations. You get the idea: the borders of African countries don't mean much. The border is however much you can defend.

Now that's true everywhere, sooner or later. Take you guys in Russia: how long do you think you're going to hold on to Siberia? I mean, look at your falling birthrate and think about a billion Chinese pushing against the border. If I was going to live long enough, I'd take a bet with those London bookies who'll supposedly put odds on anything. I'd bet Siberia will go Chinese or Korean no more than fifty years from now.

The difference is that in Africa, you lose fast once you can't keep a strong hand on your borders. And that's what's happening all over Central Africa, including the IC: the coastal tribes are losing their grip, the Muslim hillbillies are swarming over them, and the villagers in the in-between zones are getting pulverized.

In the case of the IC, it's the French who get the blame. They claimed the place in 1842 The locals declared independence in 1944-because the French, as you may recall, were, uh, slightly busy at the time dealing with a little Nazi-invasion problem.

What happened after independence was totally typical for West Africa. First, a local strongman from the Coastal tribe grabs power. In IC, it was Felix-let's see if I can spell this right-"Felix Houphouet-Boigny" who became president-for-life. When he died in '93, all Hell broke loose, and it's still going. There were the usual rigged elections. Then, when the rigged elections kept the coastal, French-speaking tribe in power, the Muslims up north and inland went on a sulk that turned into an on-off war. That's more or less where things stand today.

The government still controls Abidjan, the big city on the coast. But the "rebels" are carving out the interior for themselves. There are a lot of immigrants from inland, Sahel, Muslim countries, especially Burkina Fasso, and they're helping the Muslims push toward the coast.

The "authorities" go through all the motions, UN style: they've even got a "National Reconciliation Forum," if you can believe that. And the other West African countries, those great military powers, have sent troops to enforce "peace." But peace in a country like the IC is a myth. It's tribe vs. tribe, religion vs. religion, till one side wipes out the other. And if that never happens, then the sneak attacks and small-time massacres will just go on and on. And if that seems terrible to you, try this thought on:

Maybe they LIKE it.

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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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