A little incidence that demonstrated the all-encompassing nature of colonial powers took place in Brazzaville, Congo, in 1936. The European administrators of Congo had made a law banning all Africans from playing football with boots. If you are interested in playing football as an African, no matter your social status, you must do so with your bare feet.
The spirit behind the laws was simple: the African was unsportsmanlike. Allowing such a brute force that the African was to wear shoes while playing football would result into unimaginable violence. Protestation by Africans against this particular law and similar ones were always met by the strongest arm of the law. It could result into unwholesome and unjustifiable murder of protesters, imprisonment, fine, and so on.
When during the 2018, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, urged all heads of governments of Commonwealth nations to legalise same-sex relations in their various countries, it was easy to see how she romanticised the days of long-dead colonialism. May knew that if it were during the colonial days, it would only take a stroke of her pen to enforce her wish on all the countries that are today members of the Commonwealth.
The colonial officers would be ready to deploy the soulless colonial soldiers to enforce the will of the prime minister. It would not matter how dehumanising such law was to the people it was meant for or whether they were in consonance with common sense or with any tradition known to the people.
In dishing out her ‘directive’ in London, May had thought that this character of the colonial government bequeathed to the postcolonial African governments was still intact. Her vision of the non-Western nations whose leaders she addressed must have been of countries whose rulers’ words were laws. Theresa May needs to be told that through sheer force and determination the former colonial people sought and obtained for themselves, even against their rulers’ wishes, the right to self-determination in the sense of charting their own course as previously deprived them by colonialism.
While the colonised lacked this power to self-determination under colonialism, the colonial masters arrogated to themselves the power to create and set the boundaries of reality. May had this in mind when she informed her audience that the laws criminalising same-sex marriage in all the commonwealth nations were British creation. Her logic was simple.
Since they were British creation, the British who saw reason in creating them then had seen contrary reasons to abolish them now. And since, by the nature of all colonised people, they are not wired to discover these reasons by themselves, they should trust the British reasons to serve as their guide.
It is disgusting that in an era of sovereignty of nations that a sovereign state could think of other sovereign states in the manner May thought of the nations gathered in that table. Such undiplomatic arrogance as exhibited by her would have been resisted to her face by such conscious and African-centric leader as Robert Mugabe (not minding his many faults). He would have told May that the ideal she was urging was not only unAfrican but also against Africa.
He would have informed her that she was in error to think that there was no social control against homosexuals in precolonial Africa. He could have let May know that if African nations were to legislate about same sex marriage without colonial influence it would have done so deriving from its tradition. But Mugabe is out of the way.
This article is not an argument for or against same-sex marriage. I know too well that debate about the nature of homosexuals is ongoing. As a result, one cannot say with complete assurance that one way of treating them is right while the other is wrong.
In situation like this nations should decide for themselves according to the light of reason available to them how to treat same-sex union. Their positions should evolve from their tradition, public opinion, and learned discourses engaged by their citizens and not through an order issued by a former colonial master nostalgic about its past colonial dealings.
May and her cohorts in the West should learn that Africa is aware and is also engaged in the discussions about same-sex union. What this means is that there are Africans, non-homosexual men and women, genuinely sympathetic to the course of homosexuals. Such men and women should be allowed to advance their arguments to convince their people about the nature of homosexuals as well as about how harmless they are to society.
Laws that are product of such conviction will be more meaningful to African society and more beneficial to them than one deriving from an order issued in London or Washington.