On Thursday, July 28th, between 7PM and 10PM, WBAI presented a three hour African marathon special focusing on the situation in two critical countries, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, offering perspectives that differ from major media reports. The report covered the time period of “Education At The Crossroads”, 7-8PM, with Basir Mchawi; “Where We Live”, 8-9PM with Sally O’Brien and Rosa Clemente; and “Afrikaleidoscope”, 9-10PM with Elombe Brath, and featured excerpts from two fact-finding trips organized by Mr. Brath to both the DRC in 1997 and Zimbabwe in 2002. The program afforded people who have only had a chance to form their opinion of the situation of major events in these two besieged countries by the U.S. mass media, to listen to people not usually given an opportunity to speak on their own behalf .
It was also an opportunity for listeners to show their support for African programming which, even on WBAI, does not give enough time for African issues to be covered. In fact, even if the station could cover one African country a week during a year they still would fall short; there are 53 countries in Africa (including island nations) and there are only 52 weeks in a year. But WBAI is the only station that seems to recognize what is really at stake in Africa, which the media consistently and erroneously reports as being the poorest continent in the world because its leaders are all corrupt or inept. In fact, Africa is acknowledged as being potentially the richest continent in the world but has the most impoverished people in the world because they have not been able to regain control of their natural resources, which remain under foreign domination, and an enormous illegitimate debt to international banking consortiums, the IMF and the World Bank. And leaders that seriously try to extract their people and countries from such an unfair relationship are targeted for either overthrow, character assassination and, in some extreme cases, physical assassination as well.
Zimbabwe and the DRC are countries whose leadership has been denounced by western media whose corporate benefactors have a vested interest in trying to remove governments which are engaged in armed national liberation struggles to achieve their independence. Especially those western critics which never wanted them to become independent in the first place. Thus, while the majority of countries are being savaged by an incalculable debt service that has hobbled their development, only those who cave in to the monumental pressures of the Washington Consensus and the G-7 will be spared some relief.
But even this has not satisfied the west, because the African Union and regional organizations like the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) refuse to submit to western domination and instructions to collaborate in undermining Presidents Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe and Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa, Congo. The latter government, which has been under U.S. and Belgian control for over 37 years of its 45 years of “independence,” is currently undergoing yet another interference in its political affairs, the same as at the time of its independence when it saw it’s democratically elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba deposed and assassinated and his government replaced by a CIA-installed regime led by then Col. Joseph Mobutu (cum Mobutu Sese Seko). Mobutu, who, after having the support of nine U.S. presidents, turned what many consider the world’s most resource endowed country into an “economic basket case” while enriching himself to the level of the second richest individual leader in the world.
Likewise, no matter what people have read in regards to Zimbabwe, whose leader Mugabe has been targeted by George Bush and Britain’s Tony Blair for regime change, much in the same way as they had fabricated bogus reasons to wage an illegal war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The American people have now come to realize Hussein was once a staunch ally of the U.S., when most of the charges against him were carried out. They are now demanding answers to a growing number of questions and have turned against the U.S. war in Iraq. The current growing consensus is that the war in Iraq was not valid nor worth the effort. They see more and more of their children being horrendously killed daily in a war that was supposed to have been over more than a year ago.
With the DRC being destabilized by a seven year war that was waged against the newly freed country by two U.S. military African client states after the Congolese people had just ostensibly regained their independence, Africa’s third largest country – both geographically and by population numbers – has been reported to have had four million people killed as a result of a war which has had more casualties than any war since World War II.
The DRC is also being victimized by UN personnel who have brutalized and raped Congolese women. They had been invited into the country to safeguard it from the same appalling behavior and outrageous atrocities that were being committed by anti-government militias.
This ws dealt with on Thursday’sprogram as the people not normally heard from Zimbabwe and the DRC had the opportunities to rebut most of the subjective spins against their leaders and governments, still struggling to gain control of their natural resources from the colonial powers which ruled and exploited African countries for centuries during a 500 year old presence on the continent. It is necessary to hear reports on the prevailing issues from a people’s perspective based on a cause and effect analysis to place the current struggles in an historical and political context to truly understand what is really going on.
Indeed, the same can be said with a host of other African countries which have also had their respective countries destabilized and exploited during their history with the west. This includes from the time of the European Trans-Atlantic slave trade, followed by the 1884-85 Berlin Conference and its subsequent colonial epoch, and after the post-World War II decolonization period, neo-colonialism based on Cold War objectives – to now in the post-Cold War period where the U.S. and its erstwhile European allies are engaged in a new “scramble for Africa” and its treasure trove of mineral resources, including a growing discovery of oil deposits.
At the same time U.S. anti-war movements have mobilized thousands of people with little or no mention at all of the events in Africa where more wars have been fought and more casualties have been documented since the decolonization struggle began at end of the Second World War and the founding of the United Nations.
WBAI is also suffering a severe crisis at a time when it is needed more than ever before. Based on an escalation of costs of its office and studio space in a non-profit building which has been hit by the phenomena of gentrification on Wall Street that has now upped rentals to market rates, antenna rates in the post-9/11 reaction, and an insidious campaign by an opposing faction at the station which continuously tried to scare listeners from financially supporting the most important radio station with a progressive agenda and news analysis. They do this by falsely claiming that Black voices like Malcolm X, Dr. John Hendrik Clarke, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan, and Dr. Joy Leary, among others, are spouting racism and the airing of Palestinian views, and that supporters of them is anti-Semitism. They say these points of view are being broadcasted because of Black people at the helm. People such as program director, Bernard White, who has been doing a tremendous job of programming brilliant issues which the mass media refuses to honestly deal with; and general manager, Don Rojas, recently resigned after a systematic denigrating conspiracy, to take up another post on the west coast, which delighted the opposition.
It has been argued that it is not just the fact of Black people being on air that has caused concerns to the ensconced racist opposition members but their mere presence on the premises. It has also been argued that “years ago an anti-Semite was someone who didn’t like Jews, but today an anti-Semite is someone that Jews don’t like.”
Whatever or whichever way you view these problems the fact remains that WBAI has become a major source of information for the entire African community, including those born not only in Africa but within the Caribbean, Latin America and the U.S. To continue to support WBAI is critically important. To support WBAI’s African programming is a life and death issue. WBAI, 99.5 FM. (www.wbai.org)