Chatham House Exposes the Hypocrisy of Western Democracy

Britain boasts of democracy,

Brotherly love and fraternity,

But British colonists have been ruled in perpetual misery

-Patrick Jones

Chatham House, which is a British policy institute, has decided to invite President Faure Gnassingbé for a discussion on regional security in West Africa. The invitation is yet another example of the fact that Western institutions continue to maintain a colonial relationship with African nations. The government of Togo is the oldest military dictatorship in Africa, and it has been sustained in power for as long as it has been because institutions such as Chatham House support the dictatorship rather than support the people of Togo who have been brutally oppressed by that dictatorship.

The reception that Faure Gnassingbé continues to receive from Western nations is especially noteworthy giving the fear among Western nations over what is perceived to be a reemergence of fascism and undemocratic tendencies among Western nations. In an article that I wrote for Africans Rising, I pointed out that the global rise of fascism is a concern among Western nations, but so far as the African people of the world are concerned, we have always lived in a fascist system which has been upheld by these very Western nations. For example, before Donald Trump was elected, America was a society in which a Black child could be shot and killed without justice. This has always been the reality that African Americans have faced in the United States. The United States and other Western countries have also supported dictatorships throughout Africa. Malcolm X once famously declared that democracy is hypocrisy and for African people that is what it has always been.

This is especially concerning coming from an institution which purports that its “mission is to help governments and societies build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.” What part of this mission involves inviting a dictator to speak on an issue that he is not qualified to speak on? How much support has Chatham House provided for the many activists in Togo who have had to contend with this regime for decades as the rest of the world turned a blind eye?

For me it is also significant that Chatham House is a British institution given that Britain has had a long history of promoting such hypocritical policies among the Africans that it has colonized. I am from Guyana, which is a nation that has direct experience with this problem. When the citizens of British Guiana voted to elect Cheddi Jagan in 1953, Britain invaded the country, suspended British Guiana’s constitution, and overthrew British Guiana’s elected government. Several of the members of Jagan’s People’s Progressive Party were jailed. British Guiana was only granted democracy so long as the citizens of British Guiana voted in a manner that was satisfactory to the British colonizers — keep in mind that the citizens of the British West Indies had to struggle just to gain the right to universal adult suffrage. Another example that I have written about is Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, who was arrested in the Sudan for demanding independence from colonial rule. The anti-colonial movements against British imperialism throughout Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia were met by undemocratic resistance on the part of the colonial forces. Very often those who advocated for independence were arrested and detained by the British for the crime of simply demanding freedom. In Africa Must Unite, Kwame Nkrumah wrote that it was a “standing joke in Africa that when the British start arresting, independence is just around the corner.”

Chatham House provides a recent example of the fact that Western institutions which purport to stand for justice, equality and democracy have failed to extend these ideals where African people are concerned. Rather than providing support for the people of Togo by highlight their struggle and by helping to put pressure on a dictatorship that has been in power for the last five decades, Chatham House has instead opted to host one of Africa’s worst dictators and in doing so is helping to provide the type of international legitimacy which Faure Gnassingbé relies on to maintain his power at the expense of the Togolese people.

Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.

Dwayne Wong (Omowale) is a Guyanese born Pan-Africanist, author, and law student.

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