A number of years ago, a friend of mine who's life had been touched by the continent of Africa wrote a song and entitled it "O Africa." It's been so long, I don't even remember any of the lyrics except the title, which continues to resonate in me. It's amazing what is contained in the single letter interjection: "O!" How much passion, emotion, hope, despair.
If you've been to Africa, you know what I mean.
My wife and I spent two amazing, enlightening months in Zimbabwe in 1985, just five years after the British colony of Southern Rhodesia had achieved independence and renamed itself. Robert Mugabe was still the Man of the Hour, having led the nation not only into independence, but ongoing relative prosperity as well. Not by any means that Zimbabwe was a model society -- inter-tribal conflict and racial inequality were very present; but it was a period of peace, and most of all, hope. Twenty-three years later, Mugabe is regarded by most as a power-addicted despot, desperately clutching what authority remains in his 84-year-old hands. For the rest of the world, his moral authority has long since dissipated.
We freedom-touting Westerners are inclined to immediately take sides with whichever side appeals most to our idea of liberty. I'll admit that I'm more than ready to see Mugabe hand over the reins of that nation in demise, the nation that was once called the Bread Basket of Africa. And Morgan Tsvangirai seemed like the man for the job. Now we'll just have to wait and see what unfolds.
I hear the word "O" with the word "Africa" because she has so much to offer. Like a slave who has just been offered freedom, she struggles to find her footing, her role on the international stage. South Africa, which many consider the bellwether nation of the continent, finds itself facing a whole new set of challenges as foreigners flock to its already swollen cities.
More later -- in the meantime, share your "O Africa" experiences and thoughts by posting a comment.