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TRACING AFRICA’S DECLINE

 Justice Patrick Tabaro

NewVision

18 October 2009

 

The date of the decline of Africa presupposes a period of African prosperity in the past, Patrick Tabaro writes:

In the kingdom of the DR Congo, a teeming crowd clad in silk and velvet, large states, well ordered down to the smallest detail, powerful rulers, prosperous industries. Civilised to the marrow of their bones” – Frobenius, an early explorer, describing DR Congo before colon-isation.

“For the complexion of men, they consider black the most beautiful. In the kingdoms of the southern region, it is the same”- Maspero, describing Southern China of 192(C.E). In this article, however, there is no intention of repeating what has been covered; rather we intend to demonstrate in historical perspective that the misery now prevalent in Africa and among Africans in the Diaspora is relatively new – just 500 years old.

Of course, it might be retorted polemically that five centuries of decline are long enough to break a people’s spirit. Possibly. However, we should not lose the sight of the historical fact that Europe was in decline for equally long, if we take the Dark Ages (from 400 AD 900 AD approximately) as the yardstick, but is now in ascendancy.  So, it is possible to recover and prosper and alter centuries of decline. The tempo, pace and duration of recovery would depend on the society in question and other factors impacting upon it globally.

In this article black and African are used inter-changeably; this notwithstanding, some clarification is imperative. In some African languages I am acquainted with, for example, Rufumbira (Kinyarwanda), my mother tongue, three shades of black skin are differentiated in speech without any racial connot-ations -- brown (inzobe), black (inyarabure) and black-brown (imibiriyombi- literally meaning a combination of two complexions) – just objective descriptions describing indigenous people – the negroes in proverbial Africa south of the Sahara.

Since Egypt, now Arab in character, occupies a special place in the history of civilisation, it is pertinent, nay imperative, to demonstrate its original black origin. In everyday parlance, an ordinary person might refer to an Egyptian/Arab as simply an Arab rather than an African, whereas outside Africa, Arabs are often described as black. It is not unusual for every non white to be referred to as black in America as readers will recall. Apparently, colour is in the eyes of the beholder.

Africa would appear to be the original home of mankind. Stephen Oppenheimer (online) has gone as far as to demonstrate the dispersal of original human beings from Africa to the rest of the continents. If this thesis is true, then the non-negro character of northern Africa must be a consequence of cross-breeding between Negroes and other people.

The genetic make-up of Arabs and Hebrews seems to indicate this theory (Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop). The Arabs and other Semites appear to be descendants of whites from the steppes of Eurasia and Negroes from the interior of Africa. Earlier on, there was an endeavour in this column to show that southern Asia was civilised by black people, but later the civilisation was destroyed and replaced by a succession of Aryan invasions (Runoko Rashid). This explains why the character of Asia is progressively non-black from south to north and becomes lighter the further to the north one goes.

There is a surfeit of evidence to support African’s claim to the eldest civilisation in the World, such as agriculture in the Nile valley more than 10,000 years, and mining of iron ore as far as South Africa for as many years. The best piece of evidence is in the form of the Egyptian calendar dated 4241BC based on the solar year and daily revolutions of the earth round the sun. Evidently, to reach this feat in calculating the days the earth takes to move round the sun in one year, the Egyptians by then must have possessed knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. Egypt derives from Greek and means land of black people. 

Egyptian civilisation, to which atomic theory is traceable, as well as all major world religions and philosophical systems, could not have originated from Europe or Asia. It has been observed that when Negroes were constructing pyramids (with the most prominent being built in 3000 BC by pharaoh Khufu (Cheops in Greek) Asians, then led by Mesopotamians, were constructing in mud bricks. Form the Great pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) at Giza near Cairo one can calculate the circumference of the earth as well as the distances between the sun and the earth. There is a claim that before Arab invaders damaged the Great pyramid, its reflections could be seen from the moon!

The technology used to construct Pyramids developed from the interior of Africa in Sudan and spread northwards until it reached its zenith in Egypt.  The Egyptian system of writing was hieroglyphic in character.  Greeks who civilised the rest of Europe wrote in the alphabet (which developed later from hieroglyphics).  Hence, ideas which are in hieroglyphics belong to Egyptian systems (civilisation). The basics of arts, mathematics, astronomy, governance, medicine, philosophy and religion abound in hieroglyphics which developed in Egypt before the Greeks came to the historical scene (Cheikh Anta Diop).  The development of civilisation from the interior in Sudan towards Egypt rules out Asia as the founder of civilisation.

If it were not for racism, the black character of Egyptian civilization would not be questioned.  At the 1974 UNESCO symposium in Cairo, primarily convened to determine who should be credited with the founding of Egyptian civilisation, Cheikh Anta Diop and his pupil, friend and colleague, Dr. Obenga, demonstrated that the level of melanin, to which Negroes owe their blackness, found in the mummified bodies of the pharaohs, buried in the Great Pyramid 3000 BC, is the same as that found in Africans South of the Sahara.  Having clinched the debate in favour of Africans, some scholars now contend that races do not exist.

Races exist, and can be identified by the varying amount of melanin in their bodies.  In everyday life, we can tell that there are black people, white people, brown people and yellow people. Experts distinguish between genotype and phenotype that is, genetic make-up, as opposed to apparent characteristics.

Having demonstrated, from publications as seen above, that Egyptian civilisation was black, it remains to be accounted for its current non Negro character and with this, the discussion of its decline.

In ancient times, the earliest date of military defeat of Egypt is taken to have fallen between 1730 – 1580 BC when the Egyptian Empire was partially occupied by Hyksos (Shephard kings) from the East.  They were, however, soon expelled in 1580.  It is only in 525BC that Egypt was fully occupied by a foreign power, Persia.  This date marked large scale movement of blacks from North to South as they fled from the invaders.  The fugitives might have included the so-called Bantu.

As far back as 2500 BC, the word “Untu” meant “people” or “community” in the Egyptian language (EA Wallis Budge – Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, 1911). 

Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, Arabs, Turks French and Britons did later colonise Egypt and left their imprint there.  The peculiar character of Egypt – ranging from white in Alexandria on the Mediterranean Coast to black in Southern Egypt, is explained by the mingling of different races who interacted with and impacted upon the black indigenous people.

But the military defeat of Egypt in 16th Century BC or indeed the various invasions did not mark the final obliteration of black civilisation as the quotation at the beginning of this essay  indicates – incidentally, at this juncture, the nexus between Egyptian civilisation and black Africa must be reiterated.  Civilisation   spread from the Nile valley to the rest of Africa.  The oldest mathematical statement available so far is the Ishango Bone discovered in the Congo River Basin, related to the Lunar Calendar calculations, apparently. It is dated about 8,000 years ago (Ivan Van Sertima ‘Blacks in Science’2009). 

The observations on the high level of civilisation in the Congo Basin were made in 15th Century AD.  There were similar levels (Ivan Van Sertima ‘Blacks in Science’2009) of civilisation in other parts of the continent.  This takes us to 500 years ago.

The revival of learning in Muslim countries after Prophet Muhammad (520-632 AD) requires emphasis.  The destruction of Roman civilisation was mild, comparatively, in North Africa.  Islam encouraged learning and the Islamised black people of North Africa (the Moors – which in Latin means “black”) occupied many parts of Southern Europe, especially the Iberian Peninsula (today’s Spain and Portugal).  They spread knowledge there, thereby triggering off the Renaissance in Europe.

There were supplementary factors in Europe which contributed to revival of learning in the Renaissance. In 1492 (again approximately 500 years ago), the Spaniards expelled the Moors from Europe and this is regarded as marking the beginning of European triumphalism and the decline of Africans in modern times.  In the same year, Christopher Columbus landed in Americas, crowning the era of European expansionism.

In highlighting the landmarks of African civilisation, this author endevoured to show that Copernicus reinstated what Africans had arrived at several thousand before him.  Isaac Newton acknowledged that Egyptians were acquainted with gravitation, astronomy and atomic theory.  Lastly, as a lay person, the question was paused as to whether Albert  Einstein’s theories surpassed Egyptian Memphite Theology (from which derive theories concerning the origin of the Universe)I have since learnt that Dr.Lloyd Quarterman, a black man, was among Einstein’s workmates in the Atomic Bomb programme (Ivan Van Sertima ‘Blacks in Science’2009). 

In 1954, Quarterman was awarded an accolade by the USA War Department for his contribution to America’s Nuclear war programme, and ending war II.

Black Africa declined, but the African people in the Diaspora proved they are equal to the task any human being can accomplish; racial theories of inequality should be put to rest for good.

Honorable Patrick Tabaro is a High Court Judge in Uganda.