Open Journal of Philosophy
2013. Vol.3, No.1A, 213-217
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 213
Dukor’s African Unfreedom and Moral Responsibility
John Ezenwankwor
Department of General Studies, Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo, Owerri, Niger i a
Received September 11th, 2012; r evised October 13th, 2012; accepted October 2 7 th, 2012
It is axiomatic for most African scholars that the colonizers are responsible for the present problems fac-
ing the African continent. This is given much credence by Maduabuchi Dukor citing a barrage of issues
which in summary pointed to the fact that the legacy of the colonizers to the African continent was ill
willed to create chaos and therefore to make the African perpetually dependent on the colonizers. This
paper accepts this fact but insists that the African as a human being with free will and responsibility can-
not continue to blame the colonizers when he has choice either to reject the colonial predetermined events
or to accept them taking responsibility for his actions.
Keywords: Africa; Freedom; Unfreedom; Moral Responsibility
The society generally demands that people take responsibil-
ity for their actions and in doing this, some particular actions
are considered blameworthy or praiseworthy, morally right or
wrong. The imputation of blame or praise makes a moral sense
only when the agents are free to choose from available options
following the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP). Ac-
cording to this principle, one is morally responsible for his
actions only when there are alternative choices available to him.
The principle is stated thus:
An agent X is morally responsible for performing an ac-
tion A only if X did something B (which might or might
not be identical to A) such that 1) X could have refrained
from doing B and 2) it is at least in part in virtue of X’s
having been able to refrain from doing B that X is morally
responsible for performing B (Hunt, 2006: p. 126).
Following this principle, two theories are often considered in
discussions about moral responsibility and freedom. The first is
libertarianism and the second which is very common among
ethical philosophers is compatibilism. With a preference for
compatibilism, this paper will show that the African, though
rendered unfree as declared by Dukor, is not totally bereft of
free will and therefore to that extent should be morally respon-
sible for his actions that continue to dehumanize him.
For a very long time, freedom or liberty has been in wide
usage even by people in opposing views in different epochs.
Sometimes freedom is demanded by the oppressed minority
from their oppressors, sometimes by churches repressed by
atheistic regimes, by sects facing a traditional monolithic
church, nations repressed by colonial masters, workers resent-
ing the monotony in an assembly line in an industrial plant, by
children from parents etc. In most of these times, the freedom
sought is a kind of specific freedom and in some other times,
freedom is sought as such, equating freedom with life itself:
give me freedom or give me death (Roshwald, 2000: p. 1)! In
our present discussion, we will limit the understanding of free-
dom to the autonomy not of individual persons but to individual
states and governments in Africa. Freedom is not often linked
to morality in most typical academic discussions but we intend
to show in the proceeding pages that freedom cannot be di-
vorced from morals especially when we need to impute some
level of responsibility to an agent. In our discussions of African
freedom, we will consider to what extent the African is morally
responsible for his woes as well as the culpability of the Afri-
can colonizers to the African present problems.
African Freedom and Unfreedom
Freedom in simple terms is defined as the right and power to
act or behave as one chooses. It is the absence of internal re-
straints and external constraints. African freedom as presented
in Dukor’s work, The African Freedom, the Freedom of Phi-
losophy, is considered to consist in greater detail from the
negative sense of liberty as the freedom from external con-
straints in making desired choices. African unfreedom is there-
fore her “lack of the capacity to choose, act and decide for her-
self what or what not to do (freedom to) and the capacity for
cultural, political, economic and psychological independence
(freedom from)” (Dukor, 2012: p. 50). The African incapaci-
tating constraints include a barrage of issues emanating outside
the African continent which make it difficult for her to organise,
rule, and fashion out her life and future according to her desired
choices. Among these external issues are the ones implanted by
the colonial masters who like politicians of Lord Macaulay in
1827, laid it down as a self evident truth that “no people (in this
case the African) ought to be free till they are fit to use their
freedom” (Thierstein & Kamalipour, 2000: p. xxi). Africans are
considered by the colonizers unfit to be free or to be at liberty
in making desired choices. To succeed in making Africans per-
petually unfree they came in like a big brother and made sure
that whatever value considered African is totally considered
primitive, antiquated and unfit for humans. In replacement for
the “primitive and antiquated’ African values, they left for the
African, crises of values and negation of values as an enduring
legacy in the form of European education and religion which
were all presented and are still being presented in the European
language, conception and mentality (Dukor, 2012: p. 68). They
came with a deceptive intent to civilize and modernise Africa
but Pennycook (1998: p. 24) points out that their colonizing
mission “was to destroy African and Australian society and halt
its natural progress by excluding the native people from any say
in making the decisions that controlled their li ves.” The decep-
tive colonizing mission of Europe severely impaired the Afri-
can values to the extent that she found herself confused on the
ways to advance economically, politically and morally.
While agreeing with Dukor that the freedom denied the Af-
rican is responsible for most of her present woes, this paper is
intended to show that the African is as well culpable and there-
fore morally responsible for most of her problems. The African
should not be exonerated from most of her woes, even though
true to Dukor’s stand, the greater responsibility should go the
colonizers. The colonizers are technically responsible for Af-
rica’s present woes while the African is morally responsible for
Moral Responsibility and African Freedom
Mark Bernstein in his work, Can We Ever Be Really, Truly,
Ultimately, Free? (2006), narrates the tale of a woman–Dora,
charged with stealing of clothing from a departmental store.
She was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to prison. How-
ever after a short while, her defence attorney discovered that
she was injected with a serum that fixed her will. This affected
her neurophysiology in such a way as to deterministically cause
her to desperately want to steal. On bringing this information to
the jury the defence attorney urged that “since her client did not
steal “on her own free will, “she ought to be exonerated.” This
did the magic, and the judge rescinded his earlier decision of a
jail sentence (Bernstein, 2006: p. 1). To be morally responsible
for one’s actions is to have the power to be the ultimate creator
of one’s intentional acts or behaviour. Any lack in the power to
be one’s intentional creator of his own actions, ultimately im-
plies that the actor is not free and therefore not morally respon-
sible. Our concern here is to ascertain the level of freedom of
the African in determining her affairs and consequently the
level of responsibility that can be imputed to him in his actions.
Like Dora, there are a number of indices but for which, the
African would have acted differently. These include among
other things, the colonial legacy enumerated by Dukor which
has like the serum injected into Dora, been injected into the
African to deterministically force her towards some set choices.
He further states that:
The state of things in Africa is never an accident of his-
tory. It is a historically designed legacy of turmoil left be-
hind by the conquerors. The pendulum of dictatorship,
military rule and militarism swaying across the continent
of Black race is a necessary fallout from the selfish and
long term capitalist policies of the colonial rule. There is
of course no altruistic motive in the self-imposed civiliz-
ing mission of the white man (Dukor, 2012: p. 69).
Dukor’s presentation of the African subjection under the
colonizers’ legacies of education and religion within the
framework of European civilization is deceptively convincing
and therefore could grant the African the leisure of blaming the
colonizers for all her past and present problems. We will grant
the African this leisure only if she agrees to be an “everlasting
child” and therefore eternally “unfit to be free”. The underlying
question about African freedom, is whether the African has the
free will to make other choice beyond her present state? An
affirmative answer which I think is more reasonable will render
him culpable for most of her present problems while a negative
one will render the colonizers eternally responsible for the Af-
rican misfortune.
The initial consideration of Mark Bernstein’s “Dora” men-
tioned above as one acting under the influence of serum, made
the judge rescind the jail sentence. In the same way, the initial
consideration of the colonial legacies as noted by Dukor could
be enough to grant the African the leisure of imputing the guilt
of all her past and present misfortunes to the colonizers all
things being equal. However, things are not always equal, fur-
ther considerations of the story of “Dora” will put us in better
perspective to appreciate better the complexities in an immedi-
ate imputation of guilt. A week after Dora’s exoneration and
acquittal, the prosecuting attorney on further discovery that
though Dora was injected with the serum, volitionally allowed
its use just to experience the state of being a thief hoping that
she will be able to deal with the stealing force of the serum and
avoid stealing. With this further discovery, the prosecuting
attorney petitioned the judge who now reversed the acquittal
and reinstated Dora’s one year sentence in jail (Bernstein, 2006:
p. 1). The judge in the first instance was very hasty in acquit-
ting Dora and therefore lost sight of the fact that though the
serum was the main driving force of Dora’s stealing, Dora also
has the stupid and unwholesome desire of experiencing the
feeling of a thief even though she never intended to indulge in
the act of stealing. We will neither be hasty in imputing blame
to the African nor in exonerating her.
Colonizers’ Culpability
Dukor rightly considered the whole gamut of the colonial
legacies in Africa as a doom and a problem that needs to be
solved. It is a misnomer coming from a “parent”—the coloniz-
ers to her children—the Africans. He describes the colonizers
legacies succinctly in the following words:
A parent gives her child the legacy of good training, good
manner, religious values, and perhaps assets which may
be educational or material establishment. A teacher gives
his or her student education and requisite skill. A society
grooms an individual with the mores, norms and values of
co-existence. A state or nation now enhances these ele-
ments for proper development of the individual for his or
her relevance to the nation and humanity. But th e colonial
legacies in Africa are a problem in the sense they are
legacies of crises of values and negation of values. The
“crises of values” is an index and measure of Africans’
unfreedom from within and the cause of her underdevel-
opment from without (Dukor, 2012: pp. 67-68).
The colonizers came to Africa with some positive values but
these were distorted because of their selfish intent. The African
was made to throw away his nature, his real self and then wear
the European cloak. None of her cultural, religious, political
and social values were considered equal to the “gifts” coming
from the colonizers. The traditional African cultures were mali-
ciously considered inhuman and their religion, otiose. The po-
litical organizations of the pre-colonial African were not given
better treatment. They were regarded as primitive and un-pro-
gressive. In fact, the African in the eyes of the colonizers and
their commentators were encumbered with self serving myths
and as a people without a history, culture and religion except
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
for the European intervention (Nkrumah, 1964: p. 62). In a
popular work written in 1965 by the historian Trevor-Roper,
Africa was presented as having no history and it has nothing to
offer than “the unrewarding gyrations of barbarous tribes in
picturesque but irrelevant quarters of the globe”(Wesseling,
1996: p. 25). This view was further expressed with much more
emphasis a year after by the Hungarian Marxist Endre Sik thus:
Prior to their encounter with Europeans the majority of
African people still lived a primitive, barbaric life, many
of them even on the lowest of barbarism … therefore it is
unrealistic to speak of their “history”—in the scientific
sense of the word before the appearance of the European
invaders (Wesseling, 1996: p. 25).
Following this ugly picture created by the colonizers and
most Europeans, the African is required to free himself from
everything considered traditionally African and get himself
emancipated into the religious, cultural, political and social
orientation of the colonizers in order to be considered human.
Various kinds of resistance put forward by the native Africans
to freely choose the direction of their future were rebuffed by
the colonizers with fiercer and stiffer resistance that “reduced
populations, dispossessed people of their land, culture, lan-
guage and history, (and) shifted vast number of people from
one place to another” (Pennycook, 1998: p. 18).
If the traditional African is considered “a baby” at the onset
of colonization, will he remain so on gaining independence and
after independence? The affirmative answer, true to Dukor’s
position, is rightfully the intention of the colonizers for their
“baby”—the African. The efforts of the African nationalists to
assimilate the European values and the African culture into a
distinct value that can be called African has not been fruitful
because the colonizers never intended to give the African the
level of autonomy to decide what to choose and what to keep.
In order to make sure the African never stands on his own, he
continues his interference in the African affairs through what is
termed by the African Peoples Conference in Cairo (1961) as
“neo-colonialism”. The conference viewed the situation of the
African after independence which they designated as “neo-
colonialism” as “indirect political and; economic manipulation
designed to perpetuate external control in Africa in more subtle
ways” (Mazrui, 1998: p. 528). After independence, the Africans
were basking under the euphoric state of freedom and inde-
pendence until the colonizers came again to substitute the
euphoria with what Christof Lehmann (1) referred to as chok-
ing massacres and conflict. He describes the indirect return of
the colonial masters back to Africa thus:
The old colonial rulers had returned with a vengeance.
Over fifty years later, most African nations are, in spite of
the richness of their resources and productivity of their
population, still catastrophically under developed, impov-
erished, indebted, plagued by conflict, unrest and instabil-
ity due to the return of the colonial powers influence.
Those African nations who failed to comply with their re-
turning rulers were and are mercilessly attacked. Libya
and the Ivory Coast are examples for the new coloniza-
tion’s subversive influence and a warning for African
leaders to face the lion in solidarity or be devoured one by
one (Lehmann, 2011).
Following this kind of manipulation, the situation of the Af-
rican on the exit of the colonizers rather than changing to the
status of freedom, changed to the status of “neo-freedom”. The
African though free in general terms to choose the course of his
future, is subtly dependent on the colonizers who now dictates
what he is to choose by indirect political, economic and social
manipulations. In recent times, precisely in November 2011,
Nigeria and Ghana experienced neo-colonial threats from Brit-
ain, Germany and some other western countries for their insis-
tence that homosexuality is an evil which is considered a taboo
in both countries. The two countries stand the risk of losing
economic benefits if they continue to legalize against homo-
sexuals. The Nigerian country men and legislators rightly in-
sisted that the act is profoundly immoral and consequently a
taboo and therefore refused to extinguish from her law books
the sections that criminalize homosexuality. Obviously aware
of the implications of saying no to the wish of the colonizers’,
the response of the Nigerian senate president, David Mark to
the German ambassador to Nigeria about homosexuality laws is
considered great bravely. According to him:
Any aid (foreign aid to Nigeria) tied to endorsement of
same sex marriage is not welcome. It is unfair o tie what-
ever assistance or aid to Nigeria to laws we make in the
overall interest of our citizens. Otherwise we are tempted
to believe that such assistance comes with ulterior motives.
If assistance is aimed at mortgaging our future, values,
custom and ways of life, then they should as well keep
their assistance (Folasade-Koyi, 2011).
Indeed, most of the supposed economic, political religious
aids to Africa are as Dukor (2012: p. 69) rightly noted, not al-
truistic. They are geared towards total African unfreedom under
the bondage of the colonizers and their social, political, eco-
nomic and religious whims and caprices. Under this kind of
manipulative bondage, the African may not be totally held
morally responsible for all her problems. This does not however
mean that he is totally exonerated, he has a moral burden to
bear for such problems and to that we now turn.
African Culpability
In Africa, the concept colonialism and its related terms—
neo-colonialism and imperialism are often the central themes in
most academic discussions. Usually in such discussions, the
blame is not commonly laid on the Africans but on the coloniz-
ers who are constantly projected as having exploited and are
still exploiting the African continent. When Dukor (2012: p. 69)
states that “the state of things in Africa is never an accident of
history. It is a historically designed legacy of turmoil left be-
hind by the conquerors”, he is not imposing a new view on his
fellow Africans. Indeed, this view is general among African
scholars who see the modern day curse to Africa as having its
clear roots in the colonial era. For example, the colonial state
was fundamentally authoritarian and therefore the independent
states of Africa have remained essentially authoritarian. The
colonial leadership in Africa was entirely despotic; the current
leadership in African countries has remained essentially des-
potic in democratic garb. The colonial administrators were
corrupt; the present administrators in Africa have remained
essentially corrupt. This has remained the most common way
Africa has viewed colonialism, neo-colonialism and the African
problems. Another uncommon way to see the African problems
is to beam the searchlight not on the colonizers but on the Afri-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 215
cans themselves.
Following our simple description of moral responsibility
where imputation of blame or praise is made on the agent ac-
cording to his choice, an agent bereft of the ability to make
choice is not imputed any form of moral guilt or responsibility.
Imputation of moral responsibility is made to the agent who is
the ultimate creator of his intentional acts.
The description of the African under colonialism and ne-co-
lonialism, on its first value just like the case of “Dora” depict s a
state of unfreedom, a helpless state where only the bidden of
the colonizers are the available choices. In the case of “Dora”
the serum injected into her was enough for the judge to relieve
her of the moral responsibility for her act of stealing. On further
consideration that she intentionally wanted to have a feel of
what it means to steal, the acquittal was withdrawn for a well
deserved one year in prison. Are there further considerations
based on the actions of the Africans that could make her culpa-
ble for her problems other than the influence of the colonial
masters? In other words, was the African bereft of choices in
her actions such that the actions that brought her doom are the
only options before her?
The most fatal reason for the African problems is not the ac-
tivity of the colonizers but the activity of her government and
leaders. They have a number of options in which they were to
lead Africa to a glorious future but ignored these options to
pursue selfish interests such that they “emerged as worst
nightmares to the advancement of the African person” (Chihuri,
2012). We can no longer continue to cry woe for the corrupt
leadership of the colonizers. In fact African nationalists fought
to gain freedom from such corruption. How do we explain the
present situation where those who sought freedom under cor-
rupt leadership have themselves become more corrupt? The
essence of our humanity is our rationality and therefore we
cannot continue to say that the colonizers led us through corrupt
means and therefore we are replicating what they taught us. We
were not happy with their actions and we criticised them be-
cause we felt that there were better choices before them than
what they did. In the same way, we are also aware that there are
other options rather than corruption but we chose corrupt lead-
ership. We must therefore be morally responsible for whatever
pains our corrupt practices inflict on our collective values as
African problems today have little to do with the colonial
legacies. Her problems lie in the defective political and eco-
nomic systems established by the African leaders after inde-
pendence. George Ayittey (1998: p. 322) states that despite the
diversity of cultures and ideological differences among African
leaders, “the systems instituted across the continent were strik-
ingly similar. They were all characterized by a great deal of
concentration of power in the hands of the state and ultimately
one individual.” Even though the African leaders resented the
authoritarian colonial masters, the political state after inde-
pendence was not different, the black administrators especially
the military rather strengthened the unitary and authoritarian
system since it favoured them as individual leaders to the det-
riment of their subjects. Practically most of the actions of the
leaders were self serving. Their actions after independence
were aptly summarized by Ayittey (1998: p. 323) thus:
They misused their parliamentary majority to subvert the
constitution, declare their countries “one-party states” and
themselves “presidents-for-life.” Opposition parties were
outlawed. “Dissidents” were arrested and, in some cases,
“liquidated.” The rationale for this burgeoning repressive
system was “unity.” Multi-ethnicity precluded multi-party
democracy, it was argued back then. Zaire, for example
has about 200 ethnic groups and multi-party democracy
would easily degenerate into “tribal politics.” … Further,
some African leaders such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire
argued, rather deviously that, the “one-party state system
was derived from African tradition.
All these were in a bid to satisfy the selfish desire to remain
in the seat of power notwithstanding the wishes of the popu-
Afric ans did n ot only go wro ng by the self ish an d corr upt ac -
tions of their leaders; they also went wrong in choosing an
economic policy for the young independent states of Africa.
The African nationalists were in a hurry to develop Africa and
so failed to plan properly in order to choose a suitable eco-
nomic system for the post-colonial African states. Because of
the general distaste for the colonial masters, the nationalists
were quick to reject everything associated with them. Capital-
ism being the economic system for the colonialists was for this
reason rejected as evil. In its stead, socialism was a preferred
economic option for Africa. States came to assume ownership
of major enterprises which were hitherto managed well by
capitalists. They managed these firms haphazardly and most of
the firms went comatose while the ministers were busy sharing
the loots and stocking them in foreign accounts. George Ayittey
(1998: p. 324) reports that the socialist economic system never
worked in Africa. In fact, “country after country, from Guinea,
Mali, Ghana to Tanzania—the socialist economy turned out to
be a miserable fiasco.” In few countries such as Nigeria, Kenya,
Malawi and Ivory-Coast where socialism was eschewed, the
economy was still badly managed and the government were
still involved in managing most of the firms.
Final Comments
The position which we subscribed to at the beginning of this
paper—compatibilism remains our litmus test in determining
whether the African is to blame for some of his problems or
whether he is to be entirely exonerated. Compatibilists accept
determinism with a slight modification in order to allow ac-
countability for human actions. It upholds the view that humans
are either free or they are not. If they have free will they must
use it otherwise whatever they call free will can only be re-
garded as only the appearance of free will. That there are con-
straints do not matter but what matters is that one can still make
a choice. Compatibilism allows for a free marriage of the ideas
of determinism and free will and hold that it is possible to be-
lieve both without being logically inconsistent. It is therefore
“possible to embrace compatibilism without denying that the
past is fixed in a robust sense or that the natural laws are fixed
in a robust sense (Fischer, 2001: p. 48). In the same way it is
possible to assert that the colonial powers have deterministi-
cally fixed the events within the African present and future and
at the same time assert that the African has a free will to alter
the cause of her past determined events. The repercussions of
altering these deterministically scheduled events should not
bother us at the moment but what is important is that the Afri-
can as human a being has a free will. Her decision to continue
in the colonial set agenda is her choice and she should therefore
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 217
be morally responsible for whatever comes out of it.
Crying woes about the misdeeds of the colonizers is no
longer necessary, she needs to stand up and be responsible for
her affairs. It is not expected that the greedy colonizers will
rescind their neo-colonialistic attitude in the African continent
because doing that will amount to a great economic loss on
their part. The African should, like China rise up and be a man
for all her affairs!
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