04 January 2013

Who is At Fault for West Africa's Woes?

Reuters freelance journalist Simon Akam argues that people are too willing to blame colonialism for the problems experienced by countries, like Sierra Leone, at the expense of countries shouldering responsibility.
At the same time, aspects of Sierra Leone are improving. Economic growth is high, and the infrastructure is strengthening. Electrical power is more plentiful than it was. The daily struggles of living there can blind you to this progress. 
But it would be a lie to say that those struggles, over a period of two years, did not have an effect on me. Many Westerners I met in West Africa took it as an article of faith that all of the region’s woes were the result of outside malfeasance—someone else’s fault, going back to colonialism and the slave trade. After two years in Freetown I not only cannot agree, but I think such views—promulgating as they do an abdication of responsibility—are bad for Africa. The Western world undoubtedly committed atrocities to the continent. But today it is up to Africans to carve out a brighter future for themselves.
Akam's full reflection is worth reading.  He discusses the challenges to reporting from Sierra Leone for the past two years in an article for the Columbia Journalism Review.

HT Geoffrey York