Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Are Africans Anti-American?

Ben Mensah

"Certainly, disagreement alone with the United States and her Caribbean allies over the involvement in Grenada does not, and should not, make Commonwealth African leaders anti-American."
Differences of opinion over wide ranging issues that appear on the agenda of Commonwealth summits have not succeeded in the past to break up this family of former British colonies.

Hence, even though discussion of recent events in Grenada at this year's Commonwealth summit in Delhi, India was generally anticipated to cause a row, this writer, aware of the fact that the Commonwealth has had its fill of confrontations, did not argue for a special treatment of Grenada. Other topics on the agenda - Namibia, World Economic Order and the arms race between East and West were equally capable of generating differ- ences of opinion among the forty seven leaders at the Delhi summit.


What perhaps placed the discussion on Grenada on a different plane was the fact that for the first time at an international meeting in recent months, the lines of disagreement were drawn not between the developed and developing countries but rather on a horizontal level between developing countries. As the African leaders, particularly, Zimbabwe Prime Minister Robert Mugabe and Zambian Presi-dent Kenneth Kaunda condemned what they termed as invasion of Grenada which they feared might set a precedent and encourage South Africa to take similar action against neighbouring states, leaders of the East Caribbean countries who acted in concert with the United States also pleaded for understanding for what they also termed 'a rescue mission to help the people of Grenada'.

This trend of disagreement afforded Britain to emphasise its leadership role in the commonwealth family during which Mrs Margaret Thatcher urged her colleagues not to look back in anger, but to look forward to the establishment of normality in Grenada.

On Namibia's independence the majority of the Commonwealth blamed the United States of America for South Africa's intransigence while the proposal from New Zealand Prime Minister, Mauldoon, for another world-wide conference to discuss economic imbalances between North and South tallied with the aspirations of Mrs Indira Gandhi and her fellow leaders from the developing world.

But if Grenada failed to generate extraordinary feelings at the Delhi summit, certain comments of Com- monwealth leaders during the discus- sion of that Caribbean Island need to be further analysed. I am here referring to a bombshell released by Mrs Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica, in a retort to the African leaders condemnation of her country and others' involvement in Grenadan affairs.

She said: "We are in the Caribbean. and know what is good for us". Mrs Charles said she would repeat her action in similar circumstances and pledged that the East Caribbean countries would institute measures to protect their interests. Then she threw the bombshell by describing her African critics of "simply being Anti-American".

Given the background and policies of the Commonwealth African leaders involved in the anti-American charade Mugabe, Kaunda and Nyerere of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania respectively, one is tempted to agree with the Dominican Prime Minister in her assertion.


On the other hand, one is tempted to ask Mrs Eugenia Charles to classify the British Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher who also disagreed with President Reagan for sending American troops to Grenada. Certainly, disagreement alone with the United States and her Caribbean allies over their involvement in Grenada does not, and should not, make Commonwealth African leaders anti-American. Nor should the US 'invasion' of Grenada necessarily throw neighbouring African countries to the South African 'lion', who in the absence of the Grenada factor, had regularly devoured, raided and arrested countries like Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho.

Ironically, while those Africans who condemn American involvement in Grenada should not be presented as anti-American, it is those Africans who praised President Reagan's flexing of muscle over Grenada who have felt disappointed by American policies, accused the US of hypocrisy and are gradually turning away from American idealism.


They are the ones that were not impressed by President Reagan's reason for sending the marines to crush "the brutal leftist thugs in Grenada". For, across the length and breadth of the African continent, they have observed the United States of America discovering a different method of accommodating similar "brutal leftist thugs". In Liberia, the Libyans were the initial friends of Master Sergeant Doe until he was discovered by the Americans who made him throw them out with other socialists.

In Ghana today, the anti-American rhetoric in government circles and the media is giving way to American praises and understanding for Flt-Lt Rawlings administration.

In Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko warns daily that democracy, freedom and human rights should not be used as ammunition by his opponents yet he remains the darling boy of American policy in Africa. And in Southern Africa the perpetrators of apartheid policies are kept in power through the connivance of the United States. Such are American policies which generate frustration among certain Africans and are also likely to whip up anti-American feelings in them.

With President Nyerere and Kaunda leading one-party governments in Tanzania and Zambia respectively, and Prime Minister Mugabe of Zimbabwe also itching to turn his country into a one party system, Mrs Eugenia Charles of Dominica may be pardoned for generalising that they are anti American in their condemnation of US involvement in Grenada.

But she must also realise that she and other East Caribbean leaders who espouse western democracy are privileged to have trustworthy America which protects them from "brutal leftist thugs". President Hilla Limann of Ghana who headed a multi-party democracy and joined the United States to boycott the Moscow Olympic Games was not “reinstated" by President Reagan when a Libyan inspired coup toppled him.

Presidents Jawara and Diouf who head multi-party based systems in the Gambia and Senegal are among the African leaders who in the wake of Libyan presence in Chad, complained about Col Gadaffi's destabilization policies in West Africa but have heard President Reagan assert that Chad is not in American sphere of influence.

Those two Presidents and ex-President Limann of Ghana, unlike Presidents Nyerere, Kaunda and Mr Mugabe, may quietly be praising American involvement in Grenada, but Mrs Eugenia Charles can be assured that they are also the one that are being let down by American policy on Africa and may therefore soon be overtaken by anti-American feelings.

talking drums 1983-12-05 Donor nations to Ghana's rescue