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Feature: Africa Underdevelopment: Don't Blame It On Diet!
 
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17-Mar-2010  
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I wish to kindly refute the sentiments expressed in Poor Diet: Cause of Africa's Underdevelopment. The article is an insult to our [African] intelligence and history. Most respectfully, this is an uneducated and stereotypical and unscientific report that has no basis in fact or science.

First, it sustains the myth of the inferiority of the African as a human- which is false. There is no continent on earth that has not experienced invasion, partial or full occupation by other peoples or races. In fact, modern science holds that the common ancestor of mankind as we know him or her now is African. This means that of all the possible races of humans, the African was the one that succeeded against nature's odds, thrived and gave us modern humanity.

Second, how does one then explain history in which Ancient Egypt, Cush and Ethiopia not only led civilization but even colonized the Arabian peninsula? How does one explain the fact that Black moors led the conquest of the Iberian peninsula?

Kindly note that according to Arabic and Judaic tradition, the ancestor of modern Arabs, the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael were the Egyptian handmaidens of the Egyptian Pharoah, now more and more accepted as African as recent genetic studies are proving that Queen Tiye, Nefertiti were all not only African as indeed Egypt is on the African continent but also Black.

It is recorded in history that until the advent of Islam, Black Abyssinia was not only a leading power that competed with the Roman and Persian Empires but one that could offer asylum to the early Muslims and were viewed as more attuned to the precepts of fair play and justice and Christian compassion than the Jewish and Christian Semitic peoples that shared the Arabian Peninsula with the early Makkan Muslims. This is authentic Islamic history and the asylum and protection afforded the early exiles upheld Prophet Muhammad's faith in Black Abyssinia.

How does one explain the latter day Great Empire of Mali that existed from the 1300 to 1899 in one form or another and continues today to dominate the Western African subcontinent?

According to the great and possibly the greatest explorer of his time, Ibn Batuta, the capital of the Ancient Mali empire, Timbuktou was a seat of learning and university, and the Malians had an exalted sense of justice, decency and fair play that put the rest of the known world to shame. Today, South Africa and other foundations have invested millions of dollars on the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project to try to preserve for all humanity over 70,000 historical manuscripts dating back to the 13th Century.

Should one therefore claim that a decline in food and diet quality lowered the quality of Africans [between 1500 and 1900 when Europe started its ascendancy] hence their subsequent colonization? This is not accurate.

My own original and ancestral homeland of Macina in Mali, then part of the theocratic Fulani kingdom under the rules of Imams, Alimamy, fell to France in 1899 and by 1914, half of France was occupied by Imperial Germany and again from 1940 to 1945, and Mali gained its independence in 1960, meaning for me, colonization was not even a 61 year affair.

If you read history truly, you will find that history has epochs, with different civilizations rising and falling. From Ancient Egypt to Greece and Persia, Rome, the Mongols in China and India and Eurasia including most of modern Russia to the Eastern Roman, Islamic and then Western European which extended to the US American. You will find that most of the ascendancy has more to do with the study, advancement and application of violence, mostly.

When Europe mastered gunpowder and more deadly and sophisticated ways of mass killing, they became the major power because their violent power enabled them to subjugate loot, enslave, rape and pillage. To this day, the West retains this advantage whether from canons, the rattling machine gun to Atomic and Nuclear weapons.

The cycle of power (violence), wealth through looting, enslavement, pillage and through the wealth, leisure and ability to sponsor research and do note that most research centred on war research, leading to invention of more deadly weapons, more power to subjugate and loot and the cycle repeated until two world wars and a cold war and now the war on terror and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The poverty of the diet of modern Africa's diet can be linked to the advent of the slaver and colonialists and also our so called “cadre” or “mis-educated” elite who in my view aped the European and evolved a diet that is neither European nor African and resulting in our poor nutrition.

Real education is the answer not just additional neo-colonial verbiage. I recall in my history lessons in high school in the early 1980s, the same page discussing Slavery and its negative effect on Africa added that its advantages were education and the introduction of the potato! I could have done without the potato.

Real education, involves doing away with any complexes as to greater or lesser human beings; accepting our common humanity and dealing with our challenges. No one can deny that by Western standards and by all known measures, in terms of access to clean water, the modern amenities of life, life expectancy, ratio of doctors and access to schools, clinics and hospitals, the mass majority of Africans are some of the most deprived.

We [Africans] have the challenge of developing our continent. We must be cognizant that the Western European model of capitalist consumption cannot be sustained by our planet. We have to innovate ways of increasing productivity in our farmlands without polluting the waters and destroying forests and the ecosystem. We must generate electrical power which is the foundation of modern human civilization without polluting the Air and Land.

We must build the cities, towns and villages in a more environmental sustainable way. We ought to know that the current global economic system is neither free nor fair but a legacy of the slave-mercantilism of the last 300 hundred years that gave the West an edge over all others, including Indians and Chinese, all non European populations. This must be corrected.

This is our challenge not only as Africans but as human beings to bring a more fair and equitable system that does not destroy our environment as well, that ensures access of clean water, a decent wage and better livelihoods for all.

But we have to ascertain the real facts about our conditions, our modern African states result from the carved up spheres of influence that the European powers created at the Berlin Conference in 1884, not for us, but actually to maximise the exploitation of Africa and minimise the conflict and expense on their part. That notwithstanding these false boundaries, we have to forge ahead and create a continent wide zone with the free movement of peoples and goods that give us a better chance of development and benefiting our people.

Yes, we must also study our diets and nutritions to ensure that we give our people the balanced diets that our bodies need and do not follow Westerndom into diabetes, hypertension, obeisity and the attendant problems. So I appreciate the need and the role nutrition plays in the wellbeing and thereby development of any people but I disagree with how the author premised his article. Most respectfully, I believe the piece is a disservice to our collective history and our people.
 
 
 
Source: By Musa Jallow, Bamako, Mali
 
 

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