Category Archives: History

Don’t you know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?

An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur? By Christian Koumtog

France, please stop exploiting French African countries. Their PRESIDENTS may not have A choice but the African people we are will no longer tolerate seeing our children dying of hunger and our parents suffering from malaria because there’s no potable water.

Great Britain, please stop taking advantage of English speaking Africa. These so-called HEADS OF STATES are only thinking about their personal bank accounts set up in Switzerland not realizing that those are funds from our natural resources.

China and the United States of America are setting themselves up for a piece of this pie made up of young boys and girls in dire need of education. Subsequently real and Substantial changes will eventually occur. We are rejoicing in being alive but won’t just stay still.

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Filed under Africa, African Diaspora, African history, African Independence, African Youth, DIASPORA YOUTH ENGAGEMENT, History

When 96% of Africa Became Insignificant…or the Means to being Awarded

It has been months. Yes- Months since there was a blog written. But to be fair, a lot was going on.  I have made some transitions in both my personal and professional lives. I am seating on my new desk, in my new home office, and thinking of all the things that could be packed in this one blog.

But first things first…. I am so excited for what can only be termed as ingenuity-yes the word is OVERUSED.  I am currently listening to a song by Zambian Artist JK- his new single is out, and I can’t get over it. In one song, his producer, a young Ghanaian Genius, has been able to produce beats that are what I can only term as “afropolitan”- yes, that word that is slowly being used by every Tom Dick and Harry who thinks they have become experts on Africa.  Anyways, I love these collaborations! Ghana and Zambia, Congo and Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Somalia…. yes, it’s finally happening.  We just might find that as Africans, we don’t have to tell the one story that is trending.

As I see budding stories of collaborations among Africans across the continent,  I can finally put away my anger about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s words at this past Harvard Africa Business Conference where she had the audacity to say that “If you are not in Nigeria, you are not in Africa”.  Off course, the rest of us non-Nigerians who were in the room sank in our seats a bit more trying to figure out just how offended we were-but let that be a story for another time.

This past Sunday, I sat in a cafe and I did the one thing that was overdue- go to brunch with a book in hand and completely ignore the rest of the world while I inhaled pancakes and eggs, with loads of tea.  At that moment, I felt I was back- and to that was the accompanied sadness in what I was reading- AMERICANAH.  What a disappointment! I had thought that maybe for the first time, we had a female literary figure who could really capture people’s imagination without falling to simplicity- but alas there goes the “danger of a single story”.

This single story is being told, the only catch is that – now its about Africa’s glass being half full instead of being half-empty. Meanwhile, while some mighty people are playing with Africa’s coffers, the Diasporan Africans are happy to seat and accumulate awards, speaking engagements, world travels, and having what can only be simply termed as meaningless conversations. – Don’t worry, I am guilty of this also.  It seems, that those of us who do not end up returning home to become a problem, or a solution , have become masters of how to claim Africa, without really trying. We have become do-gooders, we have mastered the art of celebrating ourselves, patting ourselves in the back on all the good work we do. We have even developed some sort of recipe on how to appropriately talk about Africa as the new “it” thing without realizing that this New Africa is shiny glossy representation of a minority. I am all for being hopefully, but COME ON! We are now perpetuating that “single” story, where Africa is hopeful, and instead of the glass being half empty, we think that saying that Africa’s glass is half full justifies our false presentation of Africa, and the people who are living with the everyday realities of the continent.

We have forgotten that maybe Africa is a continent- not a country. We have forgotten the basics- Collaboration, process over outcome, and in its simplicity, liking ourselves as Africans. Because really, at the end of the day, we really don’t like each other.  At the end of the day, those of us who are in the Diaspora have decided to ignore the fact that the there is a very large percent of those who reside in Africa that still live in pure, terrifying poverty.  So we forgot about them, but we are happy to seat and think of all the wonderful things we are doing for Africa, happy to collect the awards, and feel really good that we are the “new Africa”- the Saviors of Africa.

As I said, I am guilty too. For the last couple of days, I have wondered though-, how can we change the conversation.  OR even, better, does the conversation on Africa, and African countries specifically, need to change? It might be that we are comfortable with where we are in which case, I’m just a frustrated African woman who just needs a good reason to vent.

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Obama and Africa: Keeping Things in Perspective

Image Is Obama better for Africa? The question had to be asked. Watching the third and final presidential debate Africans all over twitter and Facebook were applauding Obama’s statements and having the “ooh” and “Aha” moments. Yours truly was part of the twitter mob. As we watched the last of the presidential debates, as wannabe pundits on African issues butchered African political history and sang praises for Obama, one had to wonder whether this whole messianic support from the African community was a misplaced trust or lack of facts.  It was off course a disappointment to have Africa get an honorable mention in the debate, and you could feel the disappointment on twitter and Facebook too, as  only Mali and Sudan were barely mentioned, and Egypt and Libya taking the top honor in African politics.

There is something disturbing about the relationship between Obama and Africa (yes, Africa is a continent, and there might be a sweeping generalization made, but humor the use of the general term). Four years ago, it was like the Messiah had finally arrived. Africans all over the continent thought’ Now here is a black man- and “African” Man” and we can only assume that they thought Obama was their answer to every problem they had. The prodigal son had returned- and joy to Africa restored. And when Obama made the visit to Ghana, the continent welcomed their “son” back, and enough could not be said at how Obama was going to change matters in Africa. In his speech, Obama made a promise to help Africa in strengthening its democracy and building infrastructures. He promised to help in encouraging economic growth with international trade and investment.– Little did we know that, besides that “symbolic” visit, Obama turned out to not being the hero everyone might have imagined. Unless you count the military involvement and intelligence operations.

If any other American president had done what Obama did in Africa- there would have been “hell” to pay so to speak. In Libya, Obama- just like the Bush’s Iraq decision- did not seek the permission of congress to attack. Was war the only other option for him? This is the man that seats down with Netanyahu to find peaceful solutions to Israel and Palestine- so you wonder, why act in haste with Libya?

But that is just the obvious point. How about direct US- Africa strategy? He has given the same rhetoric as his predecessors. Obama’s strategy included introducing multilateral initiatives in hope that one of them might ping to Africa and make a difference. The only problem with this kind of approach is that it is like putting one fish in a group of 7 sharks in hope that the weaker Shark will actually get a bite out of the meal.

There has be a lack of a clear vision for Africa when it comes to trade. One of the easiest way to improve Africa’s relations with the US would have been to do away with the subsidies- but that as it may will not happen very soon. But even with the strategy released earlier this year- one could not help but see that nothing really had changed.

“In substance, the Obama Africa policy does not differ from his predecessors’. His immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, initiated the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003. Through that program Bush funneled $18 billion into the HIV/AID fight in Africa. The Bush Malaria initiative is reputed to have helped cut in half malaria cases in 15 African countries. The Bush administration also backed programs to cancel $34bn in debt for 27 African countries, at the same time pumping $5.7 billion a year in aid to the continent.”-  Obi Akwani

What is surprising up to this day, is why any African state would trust the American government. Recent history from the Cold war to now indicate that there is little of “good intentions” when it comes to African states- just ask Somalia and Congo.

So when Obama was announced for another term  in the White House,  there was a bit of relief. However, there was no need to celebrate.  Africans should know that by now, Obama’s engagement with Africa is on the basis of “ Africa has resources that the US wants, and if they can get it for cheap, then so be it”- It doesn’t help that China is digging its paws into Africa too.

Will Obama change the state of Africa’s democratic process, or make any lasting impact? The answer to that is probably NO.  Obama’s first obligation is to America and American interests. Thus throughout his presidency, expect him to act indifferent to Africa, and African state of affairs. Expect him to care for Africa when it matters only to his advancement of policies. For Africans to expect anything more than this is to set themselves up for failure.

Keeping things in perspective however, the alternative to Obama aka Romney could have been worse- the man needs a geography lesson first before he runs for president again.

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The Price of a Revolution?

The UN General Assembly is in session, and if you have not heard the words “Arab Spring” over and over again, then you were not listening.  It has been now the super example of democracy..but is it?

When the Arab spring became an Arab fall there were celebrations in the west at the fall of the dictators and as Libyans took the life of their own leader the US and its NATO allies celebrated at the “process of democracy”. Like a commodity democracy was being sold for a small price. Or maybe the price was not small after all. It is surprising that there was shock when the celebrated democracy turned to bite them in the back. As the west turned around to celebrate their victory over Qadhafi, the Innocence of Muslims was released and thus the west saw the other side of democracy-the price of freedom. In a matter of hours the west particularly the US learned that democracy is not a commodity and cannot be transported.

When a real estate developer becomes all of a sudden an expert on religion and foreign affairs then we do need to worry.  Can someone blame the Muslims on their rage? Maybe not but neither can we condone their actions in Libya. In the recent weeks, protests in Cairo and Benghazi were the talk in news, and escalated as the death of a US diplomat became the prices for what has been a gruesome process.

In this unfortunate incidence both sides are culpable. The West for making international politics a matter of one religion against another and a matter of the color of one’s skin. The protesters for taking a matter into their own hands for what was and is a stupid and awfully produced film.

But then again you wonder why is it that violence escalated to death in Libya and not in Egypt?  For  many months the Libyan rebels were told that nothing is impossible. They were told that it was okay to kill as long as NATO had their back. They were told that it was okay to kill their own leader- so how did NATO not see that this would backfire on them?

At the end of the day, why is it we never learn that there is no cookie cutter solutions to years of oppression? Particularly that military intervention for domestic matters never really end well. It is time to face the fact that Democracy while it carries a price, is not a commodity that can be transported from one country to another.

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Akata or African Booty Scratcher? Appreciating the differences and Building on Commonalities

The term “African Booty Scratcher” might mean very little to many ethnic groups in the United States, but to young African immigrants in New York City and many other city with a high concentration of African immigrants, it holds meaning that reflects on discrimination they experience from their African-American counterparts. On the other hand, the word “Akata” is a word commonly used by Africans to refer to African-Americans. The word loosely translated from its Yoruba origin means a wondering cat without a home. These two terms, in their literal translation summarize the tension that exists between African American and African immigrants in the New York City, and in other metropolis regions in the United States.

Mostly young people in both groups feel the effect of these terms as they try to find ways of living together in the same communities, going to the same schools, and facing similar prejudices. It will not be uncommon for young Africans, during their years in school, or as they learn to assimilate/survive in America, to be called an “African Booty Scratcher” (which is derived from the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy”). On the other hand, Africans will refer to African-Americans as the wondering cat, “Akata” In highly African concentrated areas like the Bronx and Staten Island, the two communities do not often see eye to eye, which not only affects their development, but it makes it harder for any type of assimilation to take place. They might have different cultural identities and practices, but at the end of the day, they are facing a similar struggle with economic independence and social mobility. These two groups that are more or less identified by the same race and face the same types of discrimination based on the color of their skin and their broken relationship makes them ineffective forces both in politics and economics in national affairs.

Nesbit Njubi in his article “African Intellectuals in the Belly of the Beast: Migration, Identity and the Politics of Exile” points out that both African immigrants and African Americans face the same stereotypes. One of the glaring examples for this is the shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999. Diallo, a 23-year old Guinean immigrant was on his way home from a meal with a family member when he was confronted by four street-clothed policemen and gunned down right in front of his apartment in the Bronx.  He had been mistaken for a rape suspect. Obviously the policemen did not stop to ask him if he was African or African-American.  Even though the shooting brought both communities together to protest this outright discrimination, it was not long until the tensions returned. As an article in New York Times pointed out in 2009, a couple years after the shooting of Diallo, the post-9/11 environment was not friendly to African immigrants, especially those originating from Islamic countries. Zain Abdullah, an assistant professor of religion, race and ethnicity at Temple University, attributes this tension to the deep seated psychology affects of the slavery and the separation of African-Americans from what they term as their homeland. He states “many African-Americans feel that the influx of Africans coming in represents a kind of invasion. Culturally, African-Americans have always imagined themselves as Africans, or at least of African descent, but they might have never encountered Africans from the continent. The actual encounter is shocking.” While this might hold some truth, it does not give the whole picture as to why two groups who are identified in the same race are hostile towards each other.

So the question  is can these two groups learn to appreciate their differences, and learn from each other, while building each other up on things that they do have in common? African and African Americans come from different experiences. Their historical trajectories are not similar, yet, they can find commonalities in fighting for both economic and social mobility in their communities. They could learn to appreciate that whether you eat fried chicken or chicken stew, it is all essentially chicken.

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To Be a Fly on That Wall…..Times Magazine “Useless” 100 Most influential People in the World

Times’ 100 most influential people in the World list is out. You have one guess to as how many Africans made it to the list…Three, if you count a quote by Dambisa Moyo, four…but if you want to claim President Obama as African, then you have five!  One of the largest continents and hmmm…only 3-4 individuals? – let us not get into the politics of this. But just one point…There is nothing to celebrate because really, out of all those individuals that made it, only one is worth even mentioning- because let’s be honest Goodluck Jonathan is not an influential man, only a nuisance. (Thankfully he is not in dictator mode-not yet anyways)

Yet, wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall listening to the Times’  staff as they selected the greatest  individuals of the world?  Maybe you would have been puzzled as to how Jeremy Lin is one of the most influential individuals.  or even Tim Tebow…although he is a missionary of sorts.  Either way, there you have it. Egypt, Tunisian, Nigeria and Gambia made it.

But even more interesting a topic is the choice of the ICC’s new Prosecutor. Drum roll Please……YES! its a woman and African!  The second prosecutor of the ICC is not only African (which almost makes sense), but its a woman.   Interestingly enough, the woman is from South…not West…Double Shocking there. Oh to be a fly on that wall indeed!

(Although that might perpetuate the myth that the south is much more reasonable and probably peaceful than the West  part of Africa. Or maybe it might be that African women are the much more peaceful kind thus more suited for the ICC.)

Anyways, on June 16th, Ms Fatou Bensouda from Gambia will take the seat as the ICC prosecutor. If you are familiar with the ICC’s history, then it is much befitting to have an African taking charge of this international entity. Since the beginning of the formation of the ICC, Africa has been the largest bloc in support of the court. African delegation actively, if not persistently, participated in discussions regarding the creation of the court, with forty-seven of these states available for the drafting of the statute. Presently, forty-three states are signatories of the statute with thirty states having ratified the Rome Statute.  Furthermore, there are approximately one thousand African civil society organizations that have actively advocated for the African States to comply with the ICC in their investigations. They are also members of the International Coalition for the ICC, a global organization meant to rally up support of the court.

So maybe, Africa is going to get its day in court after all  with this new prosecutor in town!


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A $200 Million Insult to Africa

In an Africa where Mugabe claims to have beaten Christ because he has died and resurrected more times, a country is starved, and where a president curses in public only to die of a heart attack later, it is no surprise that the AU is so proud of its recent achievement.  China has bestowed upon Africa and its leaders-not its people though- a $200 Million building that is to house the HQ of the AU in Addis. It should be fair to say that African Leaders should enter this building wearing sack cloths…if not to mourn the loss of their dignity, then to just mourn for their lack of shame. This so-called “gift” is an insult to Africa. Especially since the AU is the single most important institution for Africa! How did anyone in their right mind agree for the  Chinese to build Africa’s most important infrastructure-even though the AU is a mighty joke?  This is where an African Shakespeare equivalent- Soyinka or Wa Thiongo will do- needs to  seat down and write a tragedy titled ” Fooled Once, Fooled Twice”.

HE Meles  Zenawi talked about the “African Renaissance”, during the opening ceremony. It sounded even more corny than when Thambo Mbeki made the famous speech on a reincarnated Africa! Apparently, African countries now want to be like China. So instead of learning from them, they are letting them build their institutions.  So there goes Africa’s unity. In fact, forget the last 50 years of independence for the African Countries. So much for  all those celebrations!

Dear African Leaders…aka the Old Guard… Pay attention, because this needs to be said only Once: China is not any better than the US, UK,  or France! They will rape you, plunder you, chew you, and when they are done with you, they will spit you out.  All this rubbish about China helping African economies would make sense, only and if only, the Chinese were not using their own resources, including human capital to build the very infrastructures you are so proud to parade around. And then you have the childish audacity to stick it to the West for their lack of faith in Africa…the only problem is that you give them the reason to actually take advantage of you!

Every African should mourn, and if mourning is beyond your sensibilities- then at least have the audacity to feel insulted! This time, Africa is being cornered from both the East and the West. The East says, here is a gift, but let us come in and run your money for you, and the West are coming for a second round with their EPAs saying, we take your resources and you get nothing in return!…and all this time, Africans in the Diaspora gather in conferences, and have meetings, and continue their very same fluffy conversations, oblivious to their economic feet being sawed off slowly.

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