BY YAHYA SSEREMBA
In a 2010 science fiction action film, Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio plays an exceptional thief whose specialty is to extract valuable commercial information from the minds of tycoons. Like a hacker who penetrates computer systems and secretly accesses data, DiCaprio enters into the subconscious of his targets and digs out their secrets as they dream. His excellent espionage skill prompts a wealthy businessman to use him to bring down the business empire of a competitor.
Thus DiCaprio embarks on his toughest mission ever, this time not to steal an idea, but to plant one in the mind of the competitor that should drive the target to destroy his own business empire. In real life and in Africa particularly, western organisations are busy playing DiCaprio by indoctrinating whoever they expect to gain political influence sooner or later. Their goal is to make the next generation of African leaders receptive to western whims and caprice.
Prominent among such organisations is the International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, Christian Democratic International Center, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. These organisations, ideologically dissimilar as they may claim to be, have a common agenda of entrenching and perpetuating western subjugation of Africa.
Their capacity to posture as innocent apostles of good governance, democracy and human rights – concepts that the West defines and twists according to its interests – makes them the least suspected of Euro-American strategies for global dominance.
The quest by the West and the rest for dominating Africa is not new. Through the millennia of known history Africa has suffered intrusion after intrusion, invasion after invasion, occupation after occupation. This recurrent violation of the continent’s self-determination was once perpetrated by races claiming biological superiority that granted them the right to rule over “biologically inferior” Africans. It is this illusion that the Blacks are intrinsically inferior that motivated Europeans to enslave Africans en masse – first in the New World and later in Africa during colonialism.
The notion that some races are superior to others soon turned around to haunt its Western proponents when German Nazis waged war on everyone except their own “master race” – everyone including Europeans of other kinds – whom Nazism considered subhuman and who must be subjugated at best and annihilated at worst. If Hitler was fought on account of his racial chauvinism, it followed that White supremacy could no longer be sustained as a basis to deny African-Americans their rights and to rule over people of other races.
Thus the end of the Second World War marked the start of the end of the racial justification for oppression and domination. Another justification for the domination of Africans was invented: yes, Africans are not biologically inferior to Whites, but African culture is inferior to Western culture.
Suddenly, African culture, rather than the African race, became the obstacle to the modernisation of the continent. It was therefore in the interest of Africans to be ruled by the Whites, for this rule provided the Blacks with the opportunity and the motivation to overcome their inferior traditional cultures and embrace superior western cultures. And even after independence, the Whiteman would carry on the burden of civilizing Africans through all possible ways.
One such way was – and continues to be – indoctrination through mass media propaganda. In The Passing of Traditional Society, Daniel Lerner convinced the West that the people of the Middle East, and by extension all ‘uncivilized’ peoples of the world whose traditional cultures hampered their modernisation, would be westernised and hence modernised through constant exposure to western media propaganda. To Lerner and indeed to the West, westernisation equals modernisation and development; any other culture equals backwardness and barbarism.
These backward and barbaric cultures would attain ‘social transformation’ through constant exposure to media propaganda, cosmetically coined as Development Communication. This approach has since supplemented military action and sanctions in spreading western culture and entrenching western hegemony. These and other methods of subjugation have now been joined by the programmes of western-based NGOs.
Under the guise of strengthening the youth leagues of political parties in East Africa, the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Swedish Christian Democratic International Center, or KIC, established in 2008 an enticing and alluring school of indoctrination known as the Regional Youth Political Leadership Academy (RYPLA).
Renamed recently as Program for Young Politicians in Africa, or PYPA, and expanded to cover several other countries in central and southern Africa, the academy admits each year an average of two promising youth members of each party represented in parliament. I was admitted in 2009 on behalf of the Justice Forum (Jeema), a party with which I worked as an intern and as a volunteer and of which I was consequently thought to be a member.
In the three module-training of one week each conducted in some of the best hotels in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, participants are introduced to western ways of thinking and living. Like the media propaganda that was called Development Communication, this indoctrination is not called by its real name; it is described using innocent phrases like capacity building, value-based leadership, gender mainstreaming, and others.
Indoctrination experts, who often wear a neutral title of facilitators, are hired from the U.S. and Europe to introduce participants to western political ideologies, from conservative liberalism to social liberalism, from social democracy to democratic socialism, and from right wing to left wing politics. These dogmas, for which no critique is entertained, are devotedly taught as if they make any sense to jigger-ravaged villagers of Kamuli District.
The people of Uganda and Africa at large do not need ideology – they need hospitals, roads, electricity, clean water and schools. They need security from hunger and starvation. These are basics that any sane government must provide regardless of its ideological orientation.
Equally committed to spreading ideology is the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, or FES, which, unlike NDI or IRI, doesn’t deny its partisanship. Through its full-year annual Young Leaders Training Programme in which I was a pioneer trainee in 2008/9, the German NGO openly indoctrinates participants into Social Democracy, whatever that means. Another NGO that makes no secret of its mission to propagate ideology is the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, which is here to strengthen Christian Democracy.
These organisations compete for ideological converts among Africa’s emerging leaders. In the 19th Century western powers scrambled for African territory; today the agents of the same powers are scrambling for the hearts and minds of the continent’s ‘leaders of tomorrow’.
These so-called leaders of tomorrow are also programmed to despise their own culture. They are taught that the roles African society allocates to men and women are meant to oppress women. They are told that attaining gender equality requires eradicating everything indigenous that distinguishes, for instance, a Muganda woman from an Anglo-Saxon woman. In the eyes of these NGOs, a Muganda woman who kneels for her husband admits inferiority to the husband. Kneeling, to them, denotes male rule and privilege and proves female servitude. This they summarise in one word: patriarchy.
To these cultural chauvinists, western culture is universal; anything African is inimical to civilized behavior. It is this arrogance coupled with ignorance that has prompted some in the West to campaign against the Buganda women tradition of okukyalira ensiko, a revered practice of elongating the vagina’s labia minora to enhance sexual pleasure (for both women and men) during intercourse.
Without seeking to understand the wisdom behind the practice, some western cultural chauvinists have dismissed it as a form of female genital mutilation and attempted to get it banned. This is more than interference in Africa’s domestic affairs; it’s interference in Africa’s bed affairs. Africa must stand up to this egotistical violation of the African identity.
To confront this arrogance governments need to take a lead role. The authorities should censor the content of the courses taught by all foreign NGOs and root out the poisonous influences contained therein. These foreign agents should be required to hire local trainers identified by the government rather than import oversees propagandists to preside over youth trainings. At a convenient time some of these NGOs should be expelled from our countries, as Egypt demonstrated recently.
The parties in opposition, aware of the danger posed by the agents of foreign interests, are expected to stand with the government in confronting indoctrination. In the meantime, all political parties should stop sending their youth members to indoctrination workshops. If parties choose to participate for one reason or another, they should strongly sensitise their representatives against unquestioningly swallowing the propaganda that is disseminated through such programmes.
As for the youth who are the primary targets, each one of them should know that the Whiteman’s determination to control Africa has never receded. The youth should recall how European colonialists used small gifts to compromise pre-colonial African rulers and takeover the continent. Today the offspring of the 19th Century imperialists are using luxury hotels and delicious food to compromise the next generation of African leaders.
Eating their food and swallowing their propaganda is the inception of surrendering Africa to them.
(Yahya Sseremba is a Ugandan blogger and activist)