“Africa should give up the idea of promoting itself as a nuclear-free zone except in terms of keeping outside powers and external bases at bay. Those African countries which signed the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) should review their positions, and consider setting up a continental nuclear consortium allied to a strategy of developing a small military nuclear capability, first in Nigeria and later on in Zaire and black-ruled South Africa. For these three countries, going nuclear would be a new initiation, an important rite of passage, a recovery of adulthood. No longer will the Great Powers be permitted to say that such and such a weapon is ‘not for Africans and children under 16’…To move from the periphery to the mainstream of action in the nuclear field, Africa will have to get out of its technological shyness and nuclear inhibitions…” – Prof. Ali Mazrui, The Reith Lectures, 1979
“As the richest, largest and most powerful Black country in the world, Nigeria has a sacred responsibility to challenge (the West’s)…monopoly of nuclear weapons by developing a ‘Black Bomb’, thereby ensuring that if, in a moment of madness, there is a large-scale annihilation of man, it will not be…one-sided…” – Prof. Akinwande Bolaji Akinyemi, 1987
With Africa set to have the world’s largest population by 2023, should the continent take the next logical step in becoming a global superpower by building NUCLEAR WEAPONS and joining other nuclear powers of the Global South (such as China, India, Pakistan and North Korea) in the world’s Nuclear Club?
In 1964 Malcolm X famously praised China for her successful detonation of an atomic bomb at her Lop Nur test site. The test was part of China’s ‘Two Bombs, One Satellite’ project and helped to pave the way for the status Beijing now enjoys as a global nuclear superpower. And as the rest of the world’s nuclear powers proceed apace with the modernization of their own nuclear arsenals, many are now asking why South Africa, the first nation in history to voluntarily dismantle its nuclear weapons, continues to remain nuclear-free when no other country has since followed her 1994 example and eliminated their own nuclear arsenals.
There can be little doubt that, were Malcolm X alive today, he would be most displeased to witness the shameful manner in which the African Union’s leaders continue to abide by the castrating 1996 Pelindaba Treaty (banning nuclear weapons from Africa) when no such requirement has ever been imposed on either Europe or America.
It would have disgusted Malcolm to watch as the world’s Africans failed to come to the aid of their brothers in Libya when they were brutally invaded by Western nuclear powers in 2011 – in marked contrast to the NATO nations who immediately invoked Article 5 of their charter when America was attacked on September 11th, 2001.
Malcolm would have been revolted by the shameful spectacle of Africa’s continued obedience to the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) while the USA continued to disregard its own obligations under that same accord by boldly declaring its intention to expand its nuclear arsenal in a megalomaniac bid to ‘Make America Great Again’.
With this in mind Africans now have a duty to salvage their dignity and make Malcolm proud by announcing our intention to break free from the global system of nuclear apartheid and embark on an African ‘Manhattan Project’ aimed at building a powerful nuclear arsenal that can finally defend our continent against the foreign invasions which we have endured for far too long.
And as Africa awaits the arrival of its nuclear deterrent, her heads of state should call upon the nuclear nations of China and India (both of which have extensive strategic interests in Africa) to provide our continent with a nuclear umbrella not unlike that which China granted to Ukraine in 2014.
Building Malcolm’s ‘African Bomb’
Those who may scoff at the notion that the world’s Africans possess the technical know-how and expertise with which to pursue any nuclear ambitions would do well to recall that South Africa’s Pelindaba Nuclear Reactor, which once lay at the heart of the former apartheid regime’s nuclear weapons program (and through which it developed seven nuclear devices), remains fully operational and that South Africa currently retains some 220kg of the bomb-grade uranium (U-235) with which the former white-minority regime’s nuclear warheads were armed.
That stockpile of HEU-235 now provides South Africa’s Black populace with the means with which to build and deploy up to twelve implosion-design nuclear warheads for Africa’s nuclear deterrent arsenal within a matter of months. Indeed, for a mere fraction of the $37 million unit cost of a single Ugandan air force Sukhoi Su-30, the U-235 metal stored at Pelindaba could be recast into a dozen nuclear cores to be integrated into the re-entry vehicles atop a fleet of African Shahab-3 ballistic missiles.
And when that capacity is married with nuclear plants in Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Morocco and Nigeria (along with Russian and Chinese reactors that are under construction in Kenya and Uganda), Africa also possesses a nuclear infrastructure that is larger than those of nuclear-armed North Korea and Pakistan (and rivals that of nuclear India) – along with the expertise with which to sustain an African nuclear deterrent.
The need for an African nuclear arsenal is rendered all the more urgent by the likelihood that white South Africa may have issued a false declaration in 1992 that massively understated the stockpile of bomb-grade U-235 that was produced at her uranium enrichment Valindaba ‘Y-Plant’ between 1978 and 1990. That discrepancy of some 526 kilos of HEU-235 would have enabled rogue elements of the former apartheid regime’s security apparatus to assemble a secret stockpile of up to 30 Nagasaki-yield nuclear weapons for a ‘Samson Option’ in the event of a future threat to South Africa’s white population.
Africa’s Nuclear Brexit
In the absence of a legally-binding timetable for the complete elimination of the Western world’s own nuclear weapons, Africa should declare its intention to stage a ‘Nuclear Brexit’ by withdrawing from the NPT and Pelindaba Treaties and joining the same nuclear weapons club which the West’s nuclear powers have thus far stubbornly failed to disband.
Africans are under no obligation to abide by the shameful terms of a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) treaty banning nuclear weapons from our continent. That pact (along with similar accords in Latin America, South East Asia and the Pacific) has entrenched a global system of nuclear apartheid which outlaws the right of nuclear self-defence throughout the Global South while preserving the nuclear hegemony of the (white) North.
Furthermore, the NATO invasion of Libya in 2011 was a blatant violation of the spirit of the Pelindaba Treaty by Western powers who felt emboldened to proceed with their aggression by virtue of the impunity afforded to them by their own nuclear arsenals. That act of banditry would have never crossed their criminal minds had Africa been in possession of a nuclear capability with which to hold their populations at risk. As a consequence of the Libya invasion, the African Union’s member nations were instantly freed from their own obligations under Pelindaba and the treaty itself was rendered null and void.
Having since watched US President Donald Trump successfully defy world opinion by withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, NAFTA, the INF Treaty and the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the world’s Africans would be doing themselves an unforgivable disservice were they to continue to abide by the NPT or Pelindaba Accords for which the rest of the planet has displayed nothing but contempt.
Malcolm’s ‘Samson Option’
Those African intellectuals who would argue that Africans have far more ‘pressing concerns’ than wasting their energies on the ‘quixotic’ pursuit of nuclear weapons place upon themselves the burden of explaining how focusing on economic development at the expense of national security would have spared Africa from Western colonization or prevented the trans-Atlantic enslavement of her people. The existence of a prosperous society and thriving economy did little to protect Libya from NATO’s 2011 invasion – a sickening act of Western barbarism which could have only been deterred by a Pan African nuclear capability.
Indeed, the fact that Europe’s Jews were among the most successful people on their continent at the turn of the 20th century did nothing to save them from the genocidal embrace of the Third Reich when the Nazis seized power, dispossessed the Jews of their precious assets and marched them to their deaths by the millions in the gas chambers of the Holocaust.
Having learned the bitter lesson that those who seek prosperity while neglecting their own security will end up with neither, the Jewish survivors of ‘the Shoah’ vowed to never again repeat that mistake and quickly armed their new homeland with nuclear weapons in the 1960s at a time when Israel was a poverty-stricken upstart fighting for her survival.
And if Israel’s mammoth arsenal of nuclear weapons is now justified by the need to avert any repetition of the Nazi genocide (in which six million Jews were slaughtered) who could argue that Black Africa – which lost one hundred million souls to the trans-Atlantic slave trade – is any less entitled to a nuclear ‘Samson Option’ every kiloton as capable of obliterating Africa’s enemies as that possessed by the Jewish state?
Black America’s ‘Hidden Figures’ of the Manhattan Project
The proud nations of China and India, both of which were once colonized by Britain, also took it upon themselves to build the Bomb during the 1960s, decades before either of them had become the economic powerhouses we know today. Both countries had learned the lesson that security is a precondition for prosperity and in all three cases the assembly of nuclear weapons by such relatively underdeveloped nations served as a source of national pride at the surmounting of so formidable a technological challenge. This technical feat made national heroes and role models of their scientists which, in turn, spawned the armies of mathematicians and engineers whose achievements helped to propel India, China and Israel to the front ranks of the global economy. But the building of the Bomb came first.
By shameful contrast the African world, having attained no comparable scientific or technological achievements, instead saw its young people reduced to idolizing athletes and entertainers as role models in whose footsteps to follow. But imagine just how different the story of the African world might have been had her youth of the 1940s, rather than lauding Jackie Robinson’s induction into America’s National Baseball League or cheering on the pugilistic prowess of Joe Louis, instead been captivated by the ingenuity of the Black physicists and mathematicians who participated in the WWII-era ‘Manhattan Project’.
Those are not hypothetical musings. Several Black scientists did, in fact, play key roles in America’s effort to build the atom bombs that won the Second World War. Some of these ‘Hidden Figures’ of the Manhattan Project include: Lloyd Albert Quaterman, Ernest J. Wilkins, Sidney Thompson, Clarence Turner, Samuel P. Massie Jr., Robert J. Omohundro, Sherman Carter, Jasper Jeffries, Benjamin Scott, Ralph Gardner, Harold Evans, Clyde Dillard, Edwin R. Russell, George W. Reed, Moddie D. Taylor and the brothers William J. and Lawrence H. Knox.
The gifted Black American chemist Moddie Taylor of Chicago University played a central role in helping to demonstrate that a fissionable material could achieve critical mass, thus proving that nuclear fission could be used as an energy source – or a weapon. Another black genius, the physicist Lloyd Quaterman, was specifically praised by the US Secretary of War for “work essential to the production of the atomic bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of WWII.” And yet another brilliant black physicist and mathematician, Ernest J. Wilkins, was a member of the Enrico Fermi research team and played a central role in helping to solve the riddle of the atom.
In addition, ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’, the two atom bombs that were dropped on Japan by America in 1945, were armed with uranium from the Congo’s Shinkolobwe mine. Indeed, so central were Black scientists to the Los Alamos project that the eminent white physicist, Arthur Holly Compton, remarked that the atom bomb program was unique in bringing together “coloured and white, Christian and Jew” for a common purpose.
The deliberate suppression of the critical roles played by Black scientists in the Manhattan Project was designed to deny an entire generation of Black youngsters the scientist-heroes in whose inspirational footsteps they might have trodden. This crime condemned millions of our brightest hopes to failure, underachievement and mass incarceration in the decades that followed. We now owe the present generation of Black nuclear physicists and engineers, many of whom lie buried in obscurity at America’s nuclear weapons laboratories like Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos, every opportunity to emulate their WWII forerunners by unleashing the full force of their scientific prowess in the building of an ‘African Bomb’.
The West’s Nuclear Threat To Itself
Any Westerner insolent enough to lecture Africans about how our continent is “too unstable to have nuclear weapons” need look no further than the appalling safety record of the white nations of the Western world whose own endless catalogue of nuclear incidents, accidents and meltdowns dwarfs that of all of the nations on Planet Earth combined.
From the 1961 Idaho Falls ‘Faded Giant’ to the 1980 Titan II ‘Broken Arrow’ to the 2007 Minot/Barksdale Base ‘Bent Spear’ to reactor failures at Three Mile Island and Windscale to the loss of fully-armed nuclear weapons on no less than eleven known occasions, Africans have stood witness to the genocidal recklessness and cartoonish ineptitude with which the white world’s nuclear powers have mishandled the world’s most dangerous weapons and we will brook no sermons about our own fitness to develop the same technology nor will we ever entertain the surrender of Black Africa’s priceless inventory of highly enriched uranium into such irresponsible Western hands.
The threat to global security posed by America’s stubborn refusal to deactivate the hair-trigger ‘Launch-On-Warning’ status of her own nuclear arsenal – a suicidal doctrine that dooms humankind to the persistent threat of oblivion by means of an accidental nuclear war – dwarfs by a thousand orders of magnitude the exaggerated ‘proliferation’ risks arising from the stash of fissile material locked away at Pelindaba.
Towards a Nuclear-Armed ‘Pax Africana’
As the first nuclear weapon state to unilaterally rid itself of its nuclear arsenal, South Africa now has the moral authority and historic obligation to withdraw from the failed NPT and Pelindaba accords, rebuild her nuclear weapons and re-join the nuclear club for as long as the West’s nuclear powers fail to make good on their own commitments to dismantle their own nuclear arsenals.
And having once mobilised humankind in the battle against racial apartheid, South Africa is uniquely placed to lead the world in the abolition of nuclear apartheid by proceeding to rearm herself with the nuclear weapons she once possessed.
Africa’s decision to rebuild its nuclear arsenal would enable South Africa to unify the entire African continent into a single state and thus realise the long sought-after dream of a nuclear-armed Wakanda-style ‘Pax Africana’. Through an Africa-wide ‘Manhattan Project’ that brings together the nuclear specialists of the African Diaspora (under the scientific leadership of an ‘African Oppenheimer’) the AU should embark upon the full nuclear rearmament of the African continent in order for the world’s Africans to take their rightful place alongside former colonies-turned-nuclear powers like India, China, Pakistan and Israel.
The Earth-shaking spectre of a renuclearised Africa could also be utilised to leverage the former colonial powers of Europe into paying reparations to Africa’s slave descendants throughout her global diaspora as well as forcing the African Union’s admission onto the UN Security Council as its sixth permanent member.
President Trump’s ‘America First’ pledge to build an even ‘bigger and better’ nuclear arsenal than his predecessors (in open defiance of America’s NPT undertakings) compels Africans to pursue their own corresponding ‘Africa First’ policy that will seek to ‘Make Africa Great Again’ through the reassembly of Pretoria’s previously dismantled nuclear warheads – along with the assembly of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fleet to deliver them.
Inspired by India’s Agni-V, China’s DF-41 and the DPRK’s Hwasong-15 ICBM programs, the African Union – working through South Africa’s National Space Agency (and aided by South African patriots like Elon Musk and his SpaceX corporation) – could rapidly deploy our very own Falcon Heavy-style ICBMs as key elements of an African Nuclear Triad built around a fleet of Liaoning-class African aircraft carriers (under the collective command of a ‘Pan African NATO’) that would equip our continent with the means to deter any would-be aggressor.
The outgoing apartheid regime’s racially-motivated 1991 decision to dismantle its nuclear weapons out of fear that the incoming black majority government may get its hands on that vital nuclear asset was a despicable deed which the international community has conspired to depict as a stellar act of civic responsibility. That act is one which we must now reverse through Africa’s rebirth as a nuclear power – and seal it with the successful conduct of a Vela-style nuclear test to demonstrate Africa’s nuclear capability by no later than December 2022.
Malcolm’s Nuclear Phoenix
The choice which the world now faces is crystal clear: the West’s nuclear powers must either rid themselves of their own nuclear arsenals or the day won’t be long in coming when African billionaire patriots like Aliko Dangote, Robert F. Smith, Mike Adenuga, Patrice Motsepe, Elon Musk and Folorunsho Alakija, could one day bankroll a Pan African ‘Manhattan Project’.
And in some top secret ‘African Natanz’ bunkered deep in the continent’s jungle, thousands of Zippe centrifuges, digitally synchronised by IBM and Fujitsu supercomputers and spinning at supersonic speed, could one day churn out hundreds of kilos of HEU-235 which, once deposited in secure canisters, would be transported to a covert African nuclear weaponization facility.
Upon arrival at ‘Africa’s Dimona’ quantities of the U-235 would be metalized into grapefruit-sized spheroids and married to the multi-point initiation systems inside the nosecones of an African arsenal of Assegai-III thermonuclear ICBMs that will finally turn the dream of an ‘African Bomb’ into a planet-convulsing reality.
Not long thereafter an orbiting US spy satellite on a routine assignment might find itself having detected a seismic tremor in the Kalahari Desert. For just days earlier a team of African nuclear engineers, led by an ‘African A.Q. Khan’ and working under the cover of darkness, would have carefully lowered a 750Kt Teller-Ulam device down the kilometre-deep shaft of a disused Namibian diamond mine and awaited instructions.
And in some remote African presidential palace, its ornate entrance flanked by two Sphinx-sized lion mega-sculptures and its airspace defended by a battery of Umkhonto surface-to-air missiles, a secure Samsung Galaxy handset would have buzzed to life in the bejewelled hand of an ‘African Ben Gurion’ to announce the historic news that the ‘item’ was now securely in place and “ready for testing, Your Excellency.”
If this hypocritical world wishes to avert a ‘Castle Bravo’ or ‘Ivy Mike’ event on African soil, the West’s nuclear weapon states would be well advised to keep their long-broken disarmament promises lest mighty Africa make good on its own rearmament threats and become the nuclear superpower she has every moral, political and strategic right to be.
Paul Bitakaramire is a freelance writer based in Manchester (UK) who has previously been published in Britain’s Spectator magazine and has launched a petition to secure the declassification of the FBI and CIA files on the Malcolm X assassination. That petition can be found here.
Copyright © 2020 Paul Bitakaramire. All rights reserved.