The African Balance

Ng’ang’a Thiong’o writes that Africans have a vision that ‘everything is living. The sky is part of us, so is the Earth, air, water, the plants and the animals. We have to keep the balance between all these aspects for the community to survive.’ It is a vision ‘that is reflected in our dances, our music, languages, our stories and our customs.’ [ewl, 173, 174]

It’s like we in the West have collective ataxia. We are unbalanced, and we have infected through the social venereal diseases of slavery and colonialism, even democracy and capitalism, much of the rest of the world. Can Africans’ vision inoculate or even combat the infection and how so?

This African vision is contained in customary law. Thiong’o, Kenyan lawyer, writes that customary law is returning because ‘you need to take into account local circumstances such as people’s customs’ [ewl, 174]. Customary law is communal law, law that thinks of the whole community, indeed the whole of life, and of several generations, whereas the 1948 Universal Declaration of Rights enshrines individual rights: ‘The concepts of ownership, property, and property rights regime are alien to customary law…. [In customary law, human rights and responsibilities] encompass a wider understanding of community’ [ewl, 174].

He writes [ewl, 178-179] that ‘the current leaders only believe is economic growth and economic development’, who believe that solving issues like poverty and AIDS requires an external saviour like China rather than listening to the ancestors via the elders. But external saviours want to use Africa as a source of raw materials and a garbage dump for waste. That won’t solve poverty and AIDS, save Africa, or satisfy the ancestors. Only by listening to Nature and indigenous cultures can Africans.

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