Meles Zenawi’s Death: Why Don’t Africans Trust Black Doctors?

Meles Zenawi
Meles Zenawi died in a Belgian hospital

Initially, there was no news about where Ethiopian leader Prime Minister Mr. Meles Zenawi died or his illness, but later it was revealed that he died in an hospital in Brussels, Belgium.

He was aged 57 years., According to the Information Minister of Ethiopia, “”The prime minister had been sick for quite a while., And he was attending medical support in, somewhere in, ah, abroad., And he had some chance in recuperating. But ultimately some infection happened to him and doctors couldn’t control that infection.”

This is not the first time that Africans have woken up to learn that their presidents have died in a foreign hospital., On January 9 this year, it was announced that President Malam Bacai Sanhá of Guinea-Bissau had died in a hospital in Paris, France., He had been flown to France, after being taken ill in November of 2011., According to a statement from the presidential office, “with pain and sadness that he died at the Val-de-Grace military hospital in Paris where he had been receiving treatment.”, It was speculated that he died of diabetes.

Let’s not forget the fiasco that greeted the death of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria in 2010., After many absences for treatment abroad, he was finally flown to Saudi Arabia on the 23rd of November, 2009, having been diagnosed  with “Acute Pericarditis”, an inflammatory condition of the coverings of the heart., His return to Nigeria was shrouded in secrecy after speculations had been rife with his death by Nigerians., President Yar’Adua died on May 6, 2010.

Of course, we could recount other situations.,(On 7 June 2009, French media citing sources “close to the French government” reported that Ali Bongo had died in Spain of complications from advanced intestinal cancer). Therefore, the question really is why do African presidents or leaders prefer to go to hospitals abroad for treatment?

African presidents or leaders unfortunately are not unique in what I call a syndrome of lack of trust and confidence in ourselves., In my book, “Capitalist Ni**er: The Road to Success,” I talked about this syndrome., I said that, for instance, in the United States, you may have a Black doctor who graduated from the Harvard Medical School, while his White counter-part might have graduated from Chattanooga Medical School., If both doctors opened their practice, you will see that most Black patients would prefer to be treated by the White Chattanooga doctor., In the White doctor’s office, you will find many Black patients, while in the Harvard Medical doctor’s office, you will not find one White patient.

I remember one of my Black doctors who was from Nigeria, and has since unfortunately passed away. For a long time, as I had selected him as my primary physician to recommend me to other specialist physicians, he always sent me to White doctors., One day, I said to him, “Why do you always recommend me to White doctors?, Do you understand what this tells me, that you have no confidence in yourself otherwise you will be recommending other Black specialist doctors.”,

“Listen, I want to keep you alive,” he said to me., I was not happy with his answer, because I always felt so uneasy going to those White doctors who though taking a lot of my money through the insurance companies, yet treated me like a leper., When he died, I went to another doctor born in Haiti, who has never recommended me to a White doctor.

In fact, throughout last year, I suffered from acute benign prostate, which escalated when I visited my home country, Nigeria in March, 2011., When I returned to the US, I sought and was granted immediate appointment by my White urologist., During my appointment, he cursorily examined me, and in less than five minutes, said to me, “Call my nurse next week and schedule an operation at a hospital” and it was a hospital that we knew had a history of a lot of people dying there.,

When I returned home, I told my wife what the doctor had said., “Definitely not,” she shouted., “What kind of tests did he do?, Did he consult your primary physician?, Does he know your medical history?, Does he know what other conditions you have -, heart problems, high blood pressure, etc.?, If he doesn’t know all this, how could he schedule an operation on you?”

I was about to question my wife’s objections, but then I decided to speak to some physician friends of mine., One was a director of pathology at two hospitals and the other an internist, living outside the New York area., They both advised me never to talk to that White doctor again. I made an appointment with my primary physician after that, and she recommended a Black urologist. This man took a whole 40 minutes to sit with us and explain what was involved in terms of my prostate, how he was going to proceed, what he would need, like a cardiologist’s report and especially my medical history from my primary physician. To cut the story short, after eight months of tests, I finally had a successful operation in November of last year. By the way, my cardiologist is also Black and he has the most impressive high quality state of latest equipments.

Until we begin to trust and have confidence in ourselves and others of our race, we will continue to die at the hands of people who hardly care whether we live or die – our death is one less (Black person) in the world to contend with.


By; Chika Onyeani