Why do Black heroes die so soon?

Abdulai Mansaray: 18 June 2021:

Today marks three months since John Pombe Joseph Magufuli passed away, but like many before him, his death has not passed without the proverbial conspiracy theories. We all know how conspiracy theories can be persuasively plausible, and like Thomas Sankara, Samora Michel, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and many others, their deaths have all attracted these theories.

By some imagination, their deaths have been widely regarded as suspect. Some theories maintain that their deaths were not natural, and that they had all the hallmarks of the dark arts, originating from our imperial masters.

The litmus test to these theories lies not only in their seemingly untimely deaths, but also down to the common denominators that they shared. Many Africans see or saw these men as heroes and nationalists of the continent. They harboured socialists’ views of government, which did not sit well with the capitalist governments. They also imbibed DNAs of Pan Africanism. They occupy a select pantheon of freedom fighters, who did not only fight for the freedom of their respective countries, but also fought to remove the yokes that continue to politically and economically enslave and asphyxiate the African continent.

As a common denominator, these heroes believed that African countries have the world’s resources, enough to make the continent the leader. It was not surprising that Kwame Nkrumah’s clarion call for the United States of Africa was considered a direct threat to the lifeline of the western world.

Under his tenure, Nkrumah embarked on the policy of Africanisation; to provide better career opportunities for his people. Unfortunately, he took his eye off the national realities, when his focus on the unity of Black Africa became his obsession. In addition to developmental projects ranging from healthcare, schools, banking etc, Ghana sank into huge debts. He was deposed in a coup, while on a visit to China, a communist entity.

Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara, a pan Africanist theorist became known as “Africa’s Che Guevara”. In staunch opposition to foreign aid, Sankara vaccinated 2.5 million children against measles, meningitis and yellow fever in a matter of weeks. In keeping with his socialist views, education, wheat production, land ownership, female empowerment etc came to prominence. In keeping with his negritude stance, he opposed foreign aid, saying that “he who feeds you controls you”. He promoted local than foreign industry.

The west knew that they had trouble on their hands when he changed his country’s name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (Land of Upright Man) upon taking power. During his reign, infant mortality rate dropped, school attendance increased from 6% to 22%, railway and road constructions increased, etc. Sankara’s policies were dyed in anti-imperialism, with a DNA of debt reduction, averting the power of IMF, and nationalising its resources.  All these did not make good reading for the vultures. Sankara sought the second independence for his country but paid dearly for it.

Patrice Emery Lumumba was another with the Pan African approach to leadership in Africa. Moise Tshombe was heavily backed by Belgian troops to secede mineral rich Katanga from Congo. Patrice Lumumba’s request for a concerted effort from independent African countries at the time; to resist the Belgian backed cessation alarmed the West about the potential of a United Africa. The rest is history with Mobutu Sese Seko taking over.

Like Kwame Nkrumah before him, John Magufuli embarked on a war against corruption, resource nationalism and massive infrastructural developments in his country. He ruled his country on the platform of reducing government corruption, spending and investing in Tanzania’s industries. He was well known for his “anti Covid” stance; believing that it was a phantom disease. With such a stance on a worldwide epidemic, you can bet that his name was not on the Christmas list of many world powers.

Among his many achievements, Magufuli gained worldwide respect as a stalwart statesman for his innovative, ethical standards and vision for Tanzania. He was pragmatic in tackling the numerous social problems he inherited in Tanzania. He worked towards financing economic projects with domestic finance, cutting out largesse, and replaced many employees who worked in cohort with foreign companies to defraud the state by under-declaring the mineral exports. Magufuli’s reign was cut short by his death in March this year, but he will be remembered as proof that you can transform a country in just five years.

Samora Machel became the first president of independent Mozambique in 1975. He had a radical political stance, which he claimed did not come originally from Marxism but the experiences of his family; with his parents forced to grow cotton for the Portuguese  and forcefully displaced from their family land in the 1950s in favour of the Portuguese. His ascendancy to power saw him immediately implement reforms including nationalising land, health and educational institutions, which had hitherto been in foreign hands. He gave support to other revolutionaries fighting against white minority regimes in then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)and South Africa. He died in suspicious circumstances in a plane crash in 1986.

A close look at these African leaders draw a lot of similarities that at face value, could be dismissed as fantasy land for conspiracy theorists. Firstly, all these leaders had one thing in common: a negritude approach to leading their respective countries. They rejected imperial influence and rule from the West. The majority were not only pioneers but imbibed the DNA of Pan Africanism; the belief in the value, ability, and potential of Africa and its people to be politically and economically independent to run their affair; without the need for breast fed foreign aid or debts. They believed in working with the rest of the world and especially the West, as symbiotically equal partners and not one dyed in some misguided sense of racial superiority, with one holding the begging bowl.

They also believed that the citizens of their respective countries should be the first beneficiaries of their country’s resources; saving them from the resource curse. As a result of these political stance and ideologies, they were tagged as communists with socialist’s views by the capitalist West. There are many schools of thought, who believe that these freedom fighters became red rags to the capitalist bulls of the west. They were regarded as personifications of anti-imperialism and certain death warrants to Western capitalist world domination. Their very existence in power was judged to be unpalatable for the palates of foreign and western capitalist gastronomy. Did these leaders require political enema to flush them out of an already constipated bowels of the cold war?

On the flip side, and despite their valiant ideals and policies, hidden underneath the veneer of their Pan Africanism lurked the spectre of authoritarian rule. Even with the best of intentions, their critics and especially political opponents saw them as potential despots bent on creating personality cults and a culture of fear in their countries. Some viewed them as abrasive enough to bulldoze any opposition in their way.

Magufuli was fondly known as “the bulldozer” of human rights, whose patience for LGBT rights, freedom of speech and his crackdown of political opposition and civil society groups left a lot to be desired by his critics. Like his fellow freedom fighters, they conversely looked at issues like LGBT rights, freedom of speech and many other issues as the trojan horses for foreign interference and influence in their countries. They regarded these as a direct affront to Africa’s ancestral heritage of values that are now threatened by the nauseatingly perceived notion of “everything black is bad”, and that even Jesus and the Angels were/are white.

But interestingly, Africa has the unenviable record of having the longest serving heads of states. Ironically, none of these negritude leaders fall in that bracket. John Magufuli (2015-2021), Thomas Sankara (1983-1986) Kwame Nkrumah (1957-1966), Samora Machel (1975-1986) etc. On average, they ruled less than a decade. The issue becomes glaringly obvious when you compare it with the longevities of leaders like Paul Biya (45 years- Cameroon), Teodoro Obiang (41 years-Equatorial Guinea) Yoweri Museveni (35 years-Uganda), etc. I wonder why “Black Heroes die So Soon”?

Meanwhile, Zambia’s founding father Kenneth Kaunda, and one of the last freedom fighters for African independence passed away yesterday. Among others, he would be remembered for his book, “Zambia Shall Be free”. May his soul rest in peace.

Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.


  1. Magfuli had his good points, he seemed genuinely willing to wage a good fight against corruption, however, I can’t help but call him crazy. He was a covid denier and while his govt refused to confirm, it seems covid was his undoing. We have a global pandemic and instead of looking to protect your people, you seem more interested in practicing your Donald Trump imitation. Now, if for entertainment sake we want to go on nonsensical conspiracy theories, why not blame those around him? He fell ill, disappeared, no news was released and Tanzanians had to speculate about his whereabouts while govt officials, including the PM who is now the president actually said Magfuli was off working hard for the country and that he is good health. Really? Did they kill him? Maybe they had their way with him for their benefit. Yes, the west is accountable for a lot of Africa’s ills and I’m not even including slavery in that, but until we start blaming ourselves, holding ourselves responsible for our problems and look to fix our problems ourselves, we will stay behind.

    We go borrow money, then people complain about the IMF for instance. Now people are complaining about the uneveness of covid vaccine distribution. How come Africa is not in a place to have been rushing to develop its own covid vaccines? Why are we always looking for handouts, which as it is, most African countries do not even have the required cold storage infrastructure for those vaccines, so how many people are getting vaccines, which according to the manufacturers, will be no good? And are we now saying the West/UK put Bio in power because the APC got too close to China (comments by Abraham amadu Jalloh)? Wow! Just about every African country is “too” close to China nowadays.

    If trying to curtail that, why go with our inconsequential country? Bio is a thug who stole and pao pa-ed his way to power. Wasn’t his sister caught with fake ballots her company had printed up? Didn’t they have a house set up with computer equipment that it seems they were using to hack into NEC offices? People please, stop it.

  2. It’s always difficult to disagree with Abdulai Mansaray because his writings are based on irrefutable facts; he bows to no one. This does not imply that he doesn’t have his personal political views or preferences, but he would rather express those at the ballot box – he is nobody’s propagandist. This current piece unambiguously tells the true story of how the powers that be do not want to see a rising Africa, capable of pursuing its own independent course to success and, more importantly, to sit at the table as equals with those who believe that we are only good for a subordinate and subservient role. That’s why when any African leader emerges who disrupts this equilibrium he is seen as a threat and must be eliminated.

    To the nationalist, patriotic and Pan-Africanist leaders mentioned by Abdulai Mansaray, who were seen as a threat by the West, I would add Agustino Nato of Angola. What should give us all hope as Africans was the recent contention of the Ghanian leader, Nana Akofo Addo, that “a new crop of African leaders is emerging “. These leaders, including President Addo himself, fully understand the unconscionable and subliminal game to which Africa has been subjected for decades to undermine its development , and are not afraid to start reversing it openly. The open challenge to norms set for Africa by outsiders is what makes me afraid for Paul Kagame of Rwanda , President Addo of Ghana and a couple of others. But I hope and pray to Allah that nothing will happen to them, especially Paul Kagame, who can be abrasive and aggressive.

    The death of John Magufuli hit me like the death of a close blood relative. Whenever I watch the video of his funeral processions through the streets of Tanzania, while listening to the haunting music that went with it, my hair rises on end. Tanzanians took off their clothes and spread them on the path of the motorcade, to demonstrate their grief. May the Almighty grant him eternal peace. He was a great man whose vision for his country should not be lost.

  3. Point of correction. Nkrumah was overthrown whilst he was on a peace mission in North Vietnam and Communist China. Later after his overthrow, he was invited to Guinea by then Ahmed Sekue Turay and made a vice president. Since he was a Pan Africanist, no one objected to his appointment, since his mission in life and politics was to unite Africa under one umbrella government. Hence the foundation of the organisation of African unity.

  4. Sometimes we tend to blame Western countries or western intelligence services for the demise of well meaning African leaders. Western countries might be, but without the active, and willing participation of our own African brothers that are close to this African leaders,one is forced to ask the inevitable question will western intelligence, or governments that took a disliking of this promising African leaders, succeed in overthrowing this theirs government, or in some cases carrying out assassinations against this leaders? Or better still why fomer Cuban leader, Fidel Castor, the leader that holds the longest assassination attempts on his life survived, but our own leaders didn’t survived? Because tbe Cuban people and the people around him supported him and protected him against coup plots despite American blockade of the communist Islands. Thomas Sankara was overthrown and killed by his very close friend, Bliase Campaore his second in command in 1984.

    Even the parents of Sankara especially his mother that used to cook for both of them as Campore used to spend time in the Sankara family home, that he was capable of killing or ordering the killing of Sankara a man he once considered as a brother. In which he stands accused today of killing, and an outstanding extradition awaits him to be returned from the Ivory Coast, back to Bokina Fasso to stand trial. Then during the 1960s independence celebrations, Lumumba the frist prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo made a rousing speech against the brutalitis of the former colonial power,and King Leopard of Belgium. The Belgian king got unflattering remarks from Lumumba and all the amputation Congolese were subjected to, if they meet the quota of rubber their Belgian masters gave tthem. The Belgians didn’t take it lightly to what they see as an other ungrateful African liberation leader Lumumba was brave enough to remind of their colonial record in the country.

    And since they have what I call the African useful idiots, Colonel Mubutu Sesekoh and Katavubu of the Katanga region was used to undermined the well meaning Lumumba, and he was subsequently arrested and executed. And the blood of Lumumba is still hunting the DRC. Since his death, the DRC have never enjoyed peace. Only recently was his teeth returned to his family by the Belgians. Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966 whlist he was in Vietnam attending the Non – Aligned conference by General Kokota. In his first speech, he said he was trying to librate Ghana from Nkrumah’s dictatorship. The first African country to gain it independence in 1957.Here again fingers were pointed at Western intelligence, because despite making Ghana a neutral country in the battle of supremacy between the United States and the USSR, there were still some healty scepticism that Nkrumah has taken, or was taking Ghana to the Soviets orbit. Hence he needed to be eliminated from the political scene . So the reason floated by General Kokota, for removing Nkrumah, is nothing to do with looking after the welfare of Ghanaians, but everything to do with East /West relationship.And this has always been Africas problem. Western countries were hell bent on preventing any African country becomeing a satellite states. Today we are seeing the same thing.The same rule book, the same politics has been replayed all over the continent again. Not the USSR but Communists China. Ernest Bai Koroma was getting too close for comfort towards China. So anyone but Bai Koroma, or Sumura of the APC party is not allowed to be the president of Sierra Leone. We are left with indecisive Bio, to satisfy western hegemony over our country.

  5. Brilliant writing. To quote “You can find more mercy in a cage of starving tigers than at the hands of the imperialists”.

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