It is intriguing to observe how Africans have so eagerly embraced the Europeans as role models and godfathers barely a century after suffering decades of dehumanizing victimization and exploitation under oppressive colonial rule. Though time is a healer, the extent of atrocities meted out during slave trade and apartheid alone should have left indelible memories and taught bitter lessons sufficient to make generations of Africans extremely wary of the “white-man”. And even if we could forgive, we should not forget so soon what the Europeans had in store for us had God Almighty not intervened with divine mercy.
Sadly, from all indications experience even when harsh and brutal is not always the best teacher if the pupils just won’t learn. From national governments that kow-tow sheepishly to the dictates of neo-colonialist leaders and institutions to the average African who would rather ape Western culture than dignify his forefathers with respect and emulation, the mind-bending tragedy of cultural imperialism whitewashing the dark history of colonialism is unmistakable. It is a measure of the depths of indoctrination to which we have plunged that we remain hopelessly hoodwinked despite clear signs of unmitigated hostility towards our collective well-being and progress after decades of “development partnership” with Western nations and institutions.
We have just been offered yet another devastating wake-up call on what is aptly tagged “the Crime of the Century” courtesy of a phenomenal documentary detailing the callous antics of Western pharmaceutical companies and governments as they tirelessly and ruthlessly worked to block access to cheap AIDS drugs for African countries from 1996, leading to the death of an estimated ten million African AIDS victims who could have lived with the disease. FIRE IN THE BLOOD is the title of the documentary that focuses on the morbid mix of “medicine, monopoly and malice” deployed by the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies with the tacit support of collaborating national governments and international health organizations who simply turned blind eyes and deaf ears to the 20th century holocaust against Africans.
According to the film’s director Dylan Mohan Gray the inspiration for embarking on the investigative journalism film production came in 2004 from an article in The Economist about the travails of Yusuf Hamied, an Indian generic drug maker who was battling to get lower-cost AIDS drugs into developing countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa where the disease was killing people “like flies” as former US President Bill Clinton who was interviewed in the film remarked. As the human catastrophe unfolded the issue of unfettered and urgent access to available medicine became a matter of desperate concern to everyone- except the pharmaceutical conglomerates who held onto patents on the drugs that blocked production of cheap generic versions in order to maximise their profits.
As a result, while AIDS victims in Europe and America were living with AIDS as benefit of affordable anti-retroviral drugs manufactured by their pharmaceutical conglomerates, millions of their hapless African counterparts suffered painful deaths, not just because the drugs were expensive but also due to the callous denial of rights to produce generic lower cost varieties by people like Yusuf Hameid of India for local distribution to poor AIDS victims.
The film captures vividly the epic battle fought by DESMOND MPILO TUTU, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1984), anti-apartheid activist, WILLIAM J. CLINTON . 42nd President of the United States of America (1993-2001); PETER MUGYENYI, Director and Co-Founder, Joint Clinical Research Center (JCRC), Kampala; physician and leading authority on treatment of HIV/AIDS in Africa, PETER ROST, Former Vice-President of Pfizer Inc., Pharmacia and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals; physician and author of The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman that described the illegal business practices in the pharmaceutical industry, WILLIAM F. HADDAD “Father of the American Generic Drug Movement”; co-founder, the Peace Corps and the Generic Pharmaceutical Industry Association; investigative journalist, DONALD G. McNEIL, JR. Health and Science Reporter for the New York Times and JOSEPH STIGLITZ, Economist, Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics, among others against the formidable pharmaceutical giants backed by complicit governments and duplicitous international health organizations.
The film throws the spotlight on how the drug patent/license monopolies operate solely motivated by profit-accumulation, leveraged by the awesome influence they exert on world leaders and governments to compromise state policy and morality at their behest as demonstrated in the saga of AIDS treatment deliberately priced above the majority of African victims. It is therefore disheartening to observe the irresponsible aloofness of African elite and leaders to the ugly side of the “civilized world” even when so compellingly exposed in hostile actions causing human tragedy targeting Africans. Colonial mentality is a continuation of colonial rule !
ABDULHAMID BABATUNDE is a former editor in Kaduna