BY EMMANUEL OGBECHE
As a continent basically of oral tradition, we love to tell stories, folklores and tales in Africa. It was for this reason that sitting round the fire place at night was common. It didn’t matter whether you were Yoruba, Akan, Igbo, Bedouin and or Tutsi, storytelling was our thing.
Though fraught with inconsistencies, folklores helped to preserve and promote the African worldview. It is for this reason I wish to bring to our remembrance; to remind those who have forgotten of historical narratives or pretend not to remember that they were once ‘mighty men’, seemingly unconquerable ‘mighty men’ who straddled this hemisphere.
These men were cruel, sadistic, expansionist, terrible and unconscionable. Theirs was for economic gain, military prowess, and preservation of hegemony. Without a doubt, these men had a bargain with the devil.
One of such men was Leopold II also known as Leopold Ludwig Philipp Maria Viktor. Wikipedia notes that he was the second King of the Belgians from 1865 to 1909, and was the ‘owner and absolute ruler’ of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908.
Leopold II’s atrocities are well documented and were listed to include torture and murder, resulting from notorious systematic brutality. ‘The hands of men, women, and children were amputated’ for not meeting the quota of rubber production. Conservative estimates suggest that 10 million Congolese people died in Leopold’s hands.
Sixty years after the Congo gained independence, Belgium’s King Philippe was compelled to send this apology to President Félix Tshisekedi; “I would like to express my deepest regrets for these injuries of the past, the pain of which is now revived by the discrimination still too present in our societies.”
Do you remember the one infamously referred to as the ‘Butcher of Bangui?’ Oh yes, the self-proclaimed emperor of the Central African Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa. His reign was one of absolute terror -cannibalism, assassinations, torture, murder, concealing of bodies, poisoning and theft of crown jewels, etc. The most telling of his rule was his rounding up of 100 school children who had protested overpriced school uniforms from the emperor’s wife’s factory.
50 of those kids faced the firing squad! You know what? His 13-year inglorious rule ended in 1979 and he was put on trial in November, 1986 and sentenced to death in June, 1987.
Today, Jean-Bédel Bokassa’s once palatial palace in the village of Barengo, south of the capital Bangui, is in total ruins and his memory is steeped in villainy and reproach.
I can cite a dozen more examples but these two suffice.
At present, those who have the constitutional responsibility to end carnage in Southern Kaduna but will rather dither, make excuses and turn the other way whether to gain ethnic advantage and religious superiority clearly lack grasp of the telling and poignant verdict of history.