By Hannu Afere

As recently as 1931, African families were being displayed in Berlin zoos alongside elephants. German zoologist Professor Lutz Heck was a happy enabler.

Years before that, Brussels in Belgium had a model Congo village where people came to watch African savages living in their ‘natural habitat’. It was a lucrative business for the monarch at the time, King Leopold as about 1.4 million Belgians of the 4 million inhabitants in Brussels paid money to visit and throw bananas or candy at black people.

If you think this was just a problem peculiar to Europe or Arabia, think again. The Bronx Zoo in the US is famous (or infamous?) for parading Africans in their monkey house. The most popular of which was Ota Benga a native of Congo. He was purchased by the missionary Samuel Phillips Verner.

If you are thinking, why is a ‘missionary’ participating in such evil? Verner wasn’t just a missionary, he was also a businessman searching for African people for the exhibition at the zoo. Ota Benga was simply a good fit for his business. The poor chap was so tortured that by the age of 32, he had killed himself. His death is recorded as a suicide by gunshot to the heart

Now, if one looks closely, it is not difficult to see the role of religion in the aforementioned anecdotes. King Leopold was a racist but a ‘Christian’. Professor Lutz Heck thought black people were just animals and Verner was a missionary

The ability to inject oneself into a community on account of one being holier than the other person, or being spiritual superior to the other person was a skill the missionaries perfected. They ended up becoming lethal tools for the Atlantic slave trade and later for the European governments colonizing Africa.

For context, I have reproduced the letter which shows the objective of the Christian missionary journey in Africa below:

“REVERENDS, Fathers and Dear Compatriots:
The task that is given to fulfill is very delicate and requires much tact.
You will go certainly to evangelise, but your evangelisation must inspire
above all Belgium interests.
Your principal objective in our mission in the Congo is never to teach
the niggers to know God, this they know already.
They speak and submit to a Mungu, one Nzambi, one Nzakomba, and what else I don’t know.
They know that to kill, to sleep with someone else’s wife, to lie and to insult is bad.
Have courage to admit it; you are not going to teach them what they know already.
Your essential role is to facilitate the task of administrators and industrials, which means you will go
to interpret the gospel in the way it will be the best to protect your interests in that part of the world.
For these things, you have to keep watch on disinteresting our savages from the richness that is plenty
(in their underground. To avoid that, they get interested in it, and make you murderous) competition
and dream one day to overthrow you.
Your knowledge of the gospel will allow you to find texts ordering, and encouraging your followers to
love poverty, like “Happier are the poor because they will inherit the heaven” and, “It’s very difficult for
the rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
You have to detach from them and make them disrespect everything which gives courage to affront
I make reference to their Mystic System and their war fetish – warfare protection – which they
pretend not to want to abandon, and you must do everything in your power to make it disappear.
Your action will be directed essentially to the younger ones, for they won’t revolt when the
recommendation of the priest is contradictory to their parent’s teachings.
The children have to learn to obey what the missionary recommends, who is the father of their soul.
You must singularly insist on their total submission and obedience, avoid developing the spirit in the
schools, teach students to read and not to reason.
There, dear patriots, are some of the principles that you must apply.
You will find many other books, which will be given to you at the end of this conference.
Evangelise the niggers so that they stay forever in submission to the white colonialists, so they never
revolt against the restraints they are undergoing.
Recite every day – “Happy are those who are weeping because the kingdom of God is for them.”
Convert always the blacks by using the whip.
Keep their women in nine months of submission to work freely for us.
Force them to pay you in sign of recognition-goats, chicken or eggs-every time you visit their villages.
And make sure that niggers never become rich.
Sing every day that it’s impossible for the rich to enter heaven.
Make them pay tax each week at Sunday mass.
Use the money supposed for the poor, to build flourishing business centres.
Institute a confessional system, which allows you to be good detectives denouncing any black that has
a different consciousness contrary to that of the decision-maker.
Teach the niggers to forget their heroes and to adore only ours.
Never present a chair to a black that comes to visit you.
Don’t give him more than one cigarette.
Never invite him for dinner even if he gives you a chicken every time you arrive at his house.
Consider all blacks as little children, and require from them to refer to you as father.
My dear compatriots; if you apply to the letter all this, the interest of Belgium in the Congo will be
protected for many centuries.
I thank you.
King Leopold II. ”

But while the Atlantic slave trade was a brutal experience, one must not forget how equally horrific the Arab slave trade was.

In April 1998, Elikia M’bokolo, wrote in Le Monde diplomatique. “The African continent was bled of its human resources via all possible routes. Across the Sahara, through the Red Sea, from the Indian Ocean ports and across the Atlantic. At least ten centuries of slavery for the benefit of the Muslim countries (from the ninth to the nineteenth).” He states: “Four million slaves exported via the Red Sea, another four million through the Swahili ports of the Indian Ocean, perhaps as many as nine million along the trans-Saharan caravan route, and eleven to twenty million (depending on the author) across the Atlantic Ocean”.

We as Africans had to deal with all these in history, and it was/is inhuman. But NOW, we must begin to deal with the aftermath.

Why am I saying this? It was in the news last week that nearly 500 men and boys were rescued from a building in the northern city of Kaduna, Nigeria, where the detainees were allegedly sexually abused and tortured, in the name of Islam.

Children as young as five, some from as far as Burkina Faso, were among those in chains in the Islamic school. And for what? The parents felt their wards would be better off learning about the Koran in this camp!

While it is true that a huge percentage of Nigerians are poor and unable to afford quality education, one is forced to wonder: what happened to commonsense? How would someone take your child away, to a remote location, without you seeing them for years on end and you would just chalk that up to it being ‘the will of Allah?’

Even the supposedly educated ones are badly damaged by the years and years of propaganda from both the West and East! We see them all the time on social media, supporting the dastardly acts of thieves and whoremongers who pose as ‘men of God’. How long before we get our commonsense back?

Before the dust surrounding the case of the Kaduna ‘Torture house’ had even died down, we were hit with the news headline: “Zamfara governor shuts down school, suspends workers over desecration of Qur’an.”

Apparently, pages of the Holy Qur’an were discovered around in the sewage of the school and the Governor Bello Matawalle sent all staff on an indefinite suspension and the school shut down. Till today, Shattima Model Primary School, Gusau is still shut down.

I shall round this off by saying, you can’t understand what’s going on today, unless you understand what happened and why it happened yesterday. We must learn our histories and learn to think critically.

We MUST do better. Not just for ourselves, but for posterity. Religion has been, for a long time, a tool for physical slavery. Today it is being used in mental enslavement. Only now, we have a choice: to break free or to remain in the ‘Torture Houses’.

Hannu Afere (c) 2019