Struggle against Imperialism in Africa.
By Ali Mazrui
The 20th century opened with the Maji Maji war in Tanganyika against the Germans. The overwhelming majority of the casualties were, of course, Africans. What is more, African blood was spilled on the African soil.
In those early years of the 20th century, the Boers fought the British. This was white-on-white violence but strictly on the African soil.
Several decades later there was a struggle against Apartheid. The economic and diplomatic war against Apartheid was global. But the spilling of blood was overwhelmingly on African soil.
Next door in Zimbabwe, blacks fought against white minority rule. Most of the white Rhodesians were of British descent, and many still had British passports. But blacks did not export the anti-colonial struggle into the streets of London or the alleys of Manchester.
In Angola, the Movement for the Peoples Liberation of Angola fought the Portuguese exclusively on Angolan soil. The anti-colonial nationalists of the MPLA confined their military operations to the borders of the colony. Lisbon was never at risk from the liberation fighters.
What the militants of the 20th century have demonstrated is that it is possible to punish Western imperial powers not just on the soil of the colonised people, but also on the planes, trains and buses in Western capitals themselves. This is a whole new stage in the struggle against imperialism.
Colonial Kenya had a very influential white settler community. Kenya's liberation required an armed struggle. The Mau Mau movement was indeed a liberation army that resorted to "terrorist" methods from time to time. But Mau Mau never fought the British on British soil in the United Kingdom.
The London bombs of July 7 and July 21, last year, illustrated a new Afro-Asian readiness to carry the anti-imperial struggle into the heartland of the hegemonic forces. The vanguard of this new kind of imperialism consists of radicals from South Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Africa, mainly of Muslim faith.
Two weeks after the London bombast of July 7, new attempts were made on the London underground transport network and on a London bus. Either by choice or because of incompetence, this second attack on London's transit system disrupted the city without killing anybody. While the main actors of July 7, in London seemed to be of South Asian descent, especially Pakistani origin, the main actors of the July 21 London attempt seemed to be Africans from Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and, presumably Sudan.
The phenomenon of heroic masochism is hundreds of years old in the Indian sub-continent. During the struggle against British rule in India, passive resistance became a version of heroic masochism, bearing British punishments in the cause of liberation. Mahatma Gandhi also repeatedly attempted to fast unto death as a way of forcing Britain's hand.
As for the radical suicide bomber as a weapon of national liberation, the Tamils of South India and Sri Lanka started it before Palestinians copied. A female suicide bomber assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India, in 1991. She approached him with a garland of flowers to adorn him, and then released an explosive device that killed Rajiv, the woman and a number of others.
Arabs are relative newcomers to the strategy of suicide bombing, long preceded by South Asians. During the American war in Vietnam in the 1960s, there were Buddhists of South-East Asia who burned themselves in protest, self-immolation.
The most spectacular Arab suicide bombers were those 19 Arabs who hijacked four passenger planes on September 11, 2001, and hit the World Trade Centre in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed. It's also the Arab who led the bombing in Madrid in 2004, though this did not involve suicides.
The most spectacular south Asian suicide bombers against a Western power were indeed the blasts, which hit London's transit system on July 7, last year. The other blasts, planned and feebly executed in London two weeks later, seem to have been an African project, undertaken by Muslims from the Horn of Africa.
The New World Order that is being attacked by these Muslim suicide bombers is the American empire, rather than the British Empire per se. The United Kingdom has allowed itself to become an extension of Pax Americana.
Israel is also an extension of the American Empire, although paradoxically Israel has shown far more independence as an international actor than most British governments.
The new American Emporium is an empire of control rather than of territorial annexation. The American flag does not fly on government buildings in Iraq or Afghanistan, but the United States is trying its best to maintain control in both countries.
Indeed, there is some degree of American military presence in about 100 countries in the world, including about half the members of the African Union.
International terrorism of the kind that hit the London and Madrid transit systems was fundamentally anti-American. So were the terrorist strikes in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August 1998. The attack on the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa in 2002 was more obviously anti-Israeli, which is widely regarded as a protÈgÈ of the United States.