African leaders are masters at ‘post-truth’ politics

“Post-truth” politics may have recently trended, but since independence from colonialism African leaders have been the most adroit exponents of manipulating the truth, distorting facts and fashioning alternative realities to cover-up their failures, to enrich themselves and stay in power.In fact, African post-independence leaders have been masters in an appeal to popular emotions, perceptions and myths to drum up continued mass support.

The Economist magazine described “post-truth” politics as a “reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact. The term “post-truth politics” were originally formulated by David Roberts in 2010.

African post-independence governments and leaders either wholly distort the truth and facts, use partial truths and facts or manipulate historical beliefs, fears and perceptions of their citizens.

Many African leaders deliberately hide their corruption, failures and self-enrichment, by lying, distorting and manipulating these widely beliefs, experiences and sentiments – blaming all their own self-inflicted wrongdoing on the machinations of these old enemies – which is perfectly believable from the perspective of the former colonised communities.

Many African leaders have used the bogey of former colonial powers supposedly coming back to colonise their countries and wanting to destabilise their countries as the sole reason for their own lack of performance, mismanagement and corruption. These include the belief that former colonial powers will try to control the former colonies – whether their resources, stunting their development or undermining their leaders – in new disguised ways. This is of course only part true.

African leaders spice their rhetoric with just enough truth to hoodwink the gullible, the naïve and the uninformed. They would say things which may not be factually true, but which “feels to a great many people like it ought to be true” or at least more comforting. They emphasise existing prejudices, feelings and beliefs.

(Guest Editorial)

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