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Opinion:Knowledge, Power and Anonymous Africans
 
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18-Mar-2010  
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To develop Africa, each individual citizen must wrestle the 'comfort' in anonymity. I was appalled by the coincidence in history records that hit me in less than thirty minutes of scanning through literature.

I bought Edward Paice's book, Tip and Run: The untold tragedy of the great war in Africa and encountered thousands of unknown Africans variously referred to as 'loyal askari' and 'askari.' An in-flight magazine in a plane I recently boarded had great stories on the history of Lamu, Mombasa, and Zanzibar; yet again the indigenous Africans remained nameless; recorded erroneously as watchers!

Debates on African issues reveal that nothing has changed. Allowing other people to assume expertise on our predicament has made us remain but watchers! We must rethink the way we position knowledge or science to unleash the data that is held deep in the heads of 'watchers' for more than 400 years. Below I discuss East Africa's community interest in science and technology.

In the quest to use science and technology as a strategic driver of East Africa Community integration, it is important to use history as a source of inspiration and guidance. All the five East African countries, namely, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda are all creations of the gunpowder technology. Superior technology from the Portuguese, Arabs, Germans and the British made it easier for indigenous kingdoms to be conquered and dominated.

The fate of East Africa region's indigenous kingdoms is well illustrated in Jared Diamond's book: Guns, Germs and Steel. Jared describes a scene where an Inca Emperor Atahullapa, with an 80,000 - strong army was confronted and defeated by Spaniard Pizzaro's army of only 200 soldiers. This clearly illustrates that numbers of people do not always count; but the 'quality' of the citizens.

The defeat of the Incas can be attributed to factors such as the use of science (prescriptive practice that results in correct prediction or reliable predictable outcomes) and superior technology (usage and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization).

Probing why the Spaniards traveled to Cajamarca but not Incas to Spain and why it was the Portuguese, Arabs, Germans and British who headed to East Africa but not the other way round helps shed some light on why East Africans must elevate science and technology as a strategic tool for integration and preparation of the region's citizenry to confront local threat and global challenges.

Developments in Kenya in 2007/08, Uganda in the late 70s, Rwanda and Burundi in early 80s and recently in Tanzania on Zanzibar; point at the weakness of using technology to forge and impose nation states on people without taking into account individual citizens' input. Nation states born out of use of technological tools by a few against many create a scientifically predictable outcome of resistance from the majority. Science and technology ought to be used to address the quest by the majority to effectively participate in the forging of nation states.

East Africa Community members ought to use science and technology to enable citizen participation in endorsing regional integration. Imposed integration will not be any different from what colonialists did when creating the five nation states in the region. Science and technology should not be used to suppress the fears and obstacles to East Africa Community integration.

The global economic and political systems confine us to anonymity. Without informed participation by the citizenry, we remain but watchers! History will record 'loyal academician, politician, mkulima, askari and businessman!'

 
 
 
Source: By James Shikwati.
 
 

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