Newt Gingrich, Maureen Dowd and the Congo…

It’s no fun having to come to Newt’s defense against Mo Dowd’s column, linked to here, especially because I so fundamentally disagree with the politician’s position, which is basically a defense of Belgium’s legacy in the country.
On technical grounds, however, one is obliged to offer this limited defense.
The position Gingrich laid out in his thesis was neither original nor even remotely rare for its time. Scholars, Western diplomats and plenty of “Old Africa Hands,” said much the same thing.
The argument went something like this: “Congo (and for many sub-Saharan Africa in general) had been decolonized too soon. Can’t you see, once the ‘blacks’ took over it’s all gone to hell…”
Even much more recently, say in the last 10 years, it has been common to see Western commentators promote the “solution” of recolonization of Africa, via the United Nations or via special international trusts that could be set up to administer countries or regions. How quickly we forget.
The best antidote for this kind of nonsense is better information about the continent. This begins with much better reporting; reporting that shows the rich political and demographic complexities at play, the fast changing economic dynamics (what Western publication bothers with serious business reporting in Africa?), etc.
What we mostly get instead is a very anachronistic approach focused on crisis, and parochial Western obsessions like terrorism and Islam. That’s how it comes to be, to take just one example, that Somalia heavily dominates East Africa coverage for some important publications, even while East Africa emerges as the fastest growing region of the continent.
The Dowd column: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/opinion/sunday/dowd-out-of-africa-and-into-iowa.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

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