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"Education for colonial people must inevitably mean unrest and revolt; therefore, had to be limited and used to inculcate obedience and servility lest the whole system be overthrown."

W. E. B. Du Bois

"It is the white man who creates the Negro. But it is the Negro who creates negritude."

Frantz Fanon

"White is right
Yellow mellow
Black, get back!"

Langston Hughes

Diatribe it is not. Certainly not vitriolic. Anger at a sad situation? Maybe. Fury at our inability to be free? Perhaps. The whole thing was spurred by me seeing a security guard at a super market asking (once again) a black man to open his bag for inspection.

Africans who live in Paris know a particular African species, black of course, often bald and muscular, sometimes puffed up but still looking less menacing and more pathetic, dressed in a cheap standard issue black suit, sometimes wearing dark sunglasses, often found at the doors of super markets and department stores. Maybe the species exists elsewhere. This is no African to be categorized as a paperless émigré, a street cleaner, a frightened unemployed soul, the majority, as it were, in the increasingly unwelcoming capital that Paris has become. This special species is the security guard, the keeper of His Masters gates, a trusted mastiff, underpaid but still proud--he has a job and he has his working papers in order. Two valuable things that thousands other Africans do not have at all. These guards and elderly white women share the same phobia --they fear the African. In the Metro or in the buses, if an African stands close to her, the elderly white woman will usually hold her purse tighter after casting a fearful glance towards him. The black, often African, security guard will also stare at the African entering the supermarket or the department store, follow him with his eyes and more often than not accost him as he leaves to ask him to open and show the contents of his bag just as (or while) the whites, some of whom may have indulged in shoplifting away from the prying eyes of the camera, calmly walk out. "Good day Bwana, Have a nice day Sir, Please open the bag!"-- This last one addressed to the African, of course. At the airport, the black policeman or woman soften stop the black person and rarely dare to do the same with the white ones.

It is all connected to the colonization of the mind, an inculcated self hatred and inferiority complex. There is no denying that the slave trade and colonialism ruined Africa to no end and that the wounds open up even today to debilitate Africa 's search for development and overall progress. That said, it is equally true that all of Africa's woes cannot be traced back to those two evils even though 50 years after the so called independence from colonialism, the enslaved African bourgeoisie owes its rottenness and lack of nationalism to the colonial (mis)-- education and formation. Colonialism was wanton murder but it was really worse than that. True that Germans almost wiped out the Herero in Namibia, the French killed thousands over thousands in the Maghreb, the British committed heinous crimes in Kenya and in their colonies, the Belgians slaughtered 15 million Congolese, Mussolini killed at least one million Ethiopians as he attempted to colonize Ethiopia, but all this and other crimes pale when it comes to the crime of the colonization of the minds of millions of Africans. The former passed, the latter crime still persists. Slave owners of America called it seasoning, the deculturization process that knew no end, leading to total subservience of the mind and the acceptance of the slave holder's beliefs. The slave hated himself or herself, his culture, his blackness, his name his, kinky hair, lips and nose and in general his very being. This variety of "epistemic violence", as some call it, afflicted many colonized Africans and Indians too. Structurally, British colonial control over India ended a longtime ago but the British left " persons, Indian in blood and color, but British in taste, in opinions, morals and in intellect". Indian society worships the white skin, hates black and millions of the untouchables are, yes, quite black. In Kenya, a typical example was the Attorney General Charles Njonjo who assumed he was British and refused to shake hands with ordinary Kenyans thereby provoking the anger of Kenyan students who, when they demonstrated, often held placards calling on Njonjo to " Go Home to England!". And they were not joking at all.

Brainwashing is another word for it, massive brainwashing or what some have called "menticide". Mental colonialism as the Iranian Jalal Al-e Almadi argued in his book Occidentosis. It has afflicted most colonized peoples. African Americans had to struggle against "seasoning" to decolonize their minds, to realize that black is also beautiful. It took a long time and is still not victorious. Even James Baldwin, as Eldridge Cleaver put it in his "Soul on Ice", could himself qualify as a "reluctant black", Malcolm X and others had to spend hours "conking" their hairs. The struggle for national liberation in Africa was not accompanied by a cultural struggle that was just as fierce. The African leaders and ruling elite left in power by colonialism were black in colour but white at heart and in desire. The Western companies that make skin lightening creams and lotions profit millions in Africa and India as their products spread skin diseases and reinforce the feeling of self loathing. Having a pale or white skin has become a must. Many colonized people bleach their skins, want to identify themselves with the colonial entity, are ashamed of their origin and punish their hairs. The French refer to light skinned blacks as the "saved colors" (couleur sauvé) meaning saved by a miracle from the disaster that would have been "being black". Even in Ethiopia , where colonialism never took place, we talk of color of various hues, differentiating Ethiopians as black, red and brown--ignorance being bliss and you can imagine what color is frowned upon. Wearing wigs over kinky hairs has earned millions for wig makers (Comedian Chris Rock has made an interesting film on the hair issue amidst African Americans). And the African male is accused of going wild for blondes fulfilling the white stereotype of ages--the black man yearning and lusting for blue eyed blondes. We are the eternal King Kongs, no? This is the most serious colonial crime committed on Africa --the colonization of our minds, now continued by the West under new forms. The African yearns to be a caricature of the white, to ape the white man's culture, to have little or no self respect. We do not even consider ourselves able to express our woes and look up to self appointed stars and foreign self declared do-gooders to voice our plight and find us some solutions. The African was colonized and now he himself, devoid of an independent mind, continues with his own colonization, perpetuates negritude.


I am, however, of the opinion that Afro centrist positions often reflect, albeit in reverse and at times unwittingly, the base inferiority complex that characterizes the colonized mind. We do not have to insist that everything under the sun originated with the black person or in Africa to be proud of our heritage. Mobutu launched the authenticité campaign and changed his name from Joseph Desiree Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Wazabanga but that did little to change his colonized mind or state of servility to the West. Civilization, what is right, progress and what is or is not modern are all relative and not always white. The concept of the mind as an occupied territory, this same mind becoming the enemy within of the assimilated "natives", filled with self contempt, who imbibe the education of the colonizer (language and all) and become carbon copies of the colonizer highlights the confusion and debilitating trauma and tension the colonized have to live under. Ngugi wa Thiongo, in his book "The Decolonization of the Mind", raises the problem as it relates to language and the dominance of English. He argues that writers should write in their native languages as a means of decolonization of the mind. How far is the relevance and even importance of Western education? Should the African elite feel proud and gloat just because, as one Western African put it, he has "sat at the foot of the white man and drank from the fountain of knowledge" in some Western university and got a degree. And yet the resort to what is generally known as tradition is fraught with deadly mines. Automatic deliverance is not offered--actually this solution may be worse than the problem in many instances. Harmful traditions are many; the overall rejection of all that is labeled Western (what is really Western and not universal?) could also be disastrous. After all the Taliban mind is not decolonized, they and the likes of the Somali Al Shabab, who rile against music, sports and the rights of women and decapitate, stone or throw acid at the faces of young girls going to school, are not a better deal over the colonized mind. Choose your poison.

Hence, the black security guards and policemen who tend to believe that all blacks are first class suspects are not to be blamed--they need to be pitied. Next time you go to a supermarket or a department store, do open your bags voluntarily to give the black security guards articles and books on the need to decolonize our minds. It is tragic to stay a slave and not know it at all. Fifty years after mostly fake independence, the real liberation of Africa demands an end to servility and to the colonization of our minds.



Ever since he was elected to power, French president Sarkozy has not disappointed those who were itching to ridicule and chastise him. A small man with a sharp tongue that has, alas, seceded a longtime ago from his big ears and common sense (if any), Sarkozy, of Hungarian descent, has proved from the outset that he would be more condescending and insulting towards Africans than his predecessor Chirac . Jacques Chirac was liked by many people but he was the very person who condemned Africans in France for their noise and smell and refused to apologize to former French colonies who suffered French brutalities and massacres or to properly acknowledge the role of African soldiers who fought for France in the world wars.

Sarkozy did start out by blatantly and boldly telling Africans that they have yet to enter the present century and he was not referring to the calendar of Moslems or Ethiopians which are not the same with his. He was telling Africans that they are actually retrograde, not yet civilized, and savage if you will. There was some hue and cry but this did not deter Sarkozy from sticking to his belief and befriending the dictators at the same time. Now, a French president who acts and talks like all French presidents of the past is not a problem for us Africans--we know how to deal with the creature after so many years of sad experience. We do not expect much and thus we are not really very disappointed when a president comes after another and the same racist and oppressive policy continues albeit with a different name. No African émigré or sans papier is really shocked when Air France planes routinely transport the deported ones back to Africa . The important thing is not to be caught without papers and not to expect France to really be the land for asylum seekers as the officials never cease to remind us. Liberté , Fraternité , Egalite , France terre d'asile and other such nonsense. What has now shocked us Africans in France is that Sarkozy has practically swept the rug from under our black and jigger--mutilated, coarse feet and blamed the Roma (otherwise known as gypsies) for all the ills and malaise of France .

Africans have lost again. What do we have but our notoriety as the problem children wrecking the peace and order, the conscience of the world? We are the famine children, the war mongers, the lands of warlords, symbolized by the killers in downtown Mogadishu, the rapists in the Congo, the mutilators of the LRA, the ones who perish en masse trying to invade Europe, the impoverished refugees, the ones who steal the menial and dirty jobs from the Europeans who would never be caught doing them , the criminals and dope dealers, the con men and swindlers, and more. Back in History, we were the nightmare of the white maidens and spinsters, the black Mandingo hordes, cruel and barbarian, the ones even those claiming to be enlightened, from the ancient philosophers to Voltaire and even Marx the "Moor", considered alien to enlightenment and education. Of such notoriety we thrived, playing on the troubled conscience of the liberals and those desperately trying to suppress their racism by doing something good for us "boys". Refer to those who rush to help famine victims in Ethiopia while spending much of their tax payers' money bankrolling tyrants whose regimes cause the famines in the first place. Sierra Leone, Eastern Congo, Darfur, and more--who fanned the wars and why? Their slave trade, colonialism and imperialism, their unbridled exploitation of our resources, their cruel plunder assured and worsened our poverty, made us destitute, turned us into beggars, turned them into our unwanted benefactors and the circus continued. Much as we hate to admit it, we Africans benefitted from the situation, we were a permanent prick on their shriveled conscience, and, as they insist on telling us alleged lazybones, it seems it has been easy to wait for the dole rather than work. We even got bona fide guardians and defenders from the same West, men and women who told us they knew better what was good for us and vowed to campaign to have our debts cancelled no matter the question of ongoing agricultural subsidies and the continuing robbery of our resources. No matter if the greed for these resources, from oil to Coltan fuelled, the so called "tribal and militia wars" ravaging the continent. Some praised the malaria mosquitoes for reducing our number while others promised and did send us nets for protection. What do they really want?

Reduced to a state of "the scum of the earth" most repressed Africans got some solace and salvaged some pride from the fact that they were notorious as problem children of the world and that they were blamed for most of Europe's ills and mostly incarcerated in camps, reduced to doing degrading menial work, subjected to racism and also deported. Of course, the Arabs had started to threaten this particular position and notoriety of the African but ask an European and he would tell you that the African émigré is lazy and present in Europe only to rob the riches of the hardworking white people, to engage in swindling of the social security system, to benefit from the medical care, to marry the innocent white (but preferably blonde) maidens. Many polls in Europe have confirmed this prejudice to be that of many if not the majority. That Sarkozy has from the outset exhibited his racism to Africans was also a solace and this is why his sudden diatribe against the Roma and his racist actions caught all Africans by surprise. Sarko did not consult or warn Africans before he took away their status as the main targets of his racist wrath and replaced them with the Roma ( who are not even that many in France!) whom he accused as a people ("they are....") of being criminals, exploiters of children, drug traffickers, prostitutes and thieves, illegals. The accusation made no distinction between those living legally and without resorting to crimes and those who were not. It covered the whole people from child to eighty years old and the accusation brought to mind the same kind of stereotype used against the Roma by the Nazis (who murdered no less than 1.5 million Romas and dumped them into anonymous mass graves). The Africans carry their crime on their face--they are black and easily identifiable for the prejudice package, forever victims of the prima facie. The Romas had also the misfortune of looking somewhat different, having their own lifestyle and tradition and the tendency to be present day nomads (gypsies in trailers and whites in trailers are not the same as a Bedouin in a tent and Gadafi in a tent are not the same at all). Still, the Romas are not blacks notwithstanding the assertion that they did originate from Egypt which (sorry, Mubarek) is really black and Nubian (and not Arab) as many do insist.

Sarkozy has shamed republican France by this crude racism against Romas but he has hurt Africans the most by relegating them to a position of non importance. Compared to the fate of the Romas that of the sans papiers pales. The Romas are hogging the front page, eliciting not only condemnation ( which is not always bad so long as you are NEWS) but also sympathy all over the world and exposing Sarkozy and those French people (60% according to one poll) who backed his racist measures. Sarko's popularity has increased a little bit and he has stolen the thunder of the vociferous and fascistic right wing but, care he may not, he has lost his salt amidst Africans. As for racial stereotyping and deporting people en masse, African tyrants wrote the book on it and are not that impressed by Sarkozy. In Ethiopia , Meles Zenawi had deported thousands of Eritreans and claimed he did not like the color of their eyes"( no, the tyrant in Addis Abeba does not have blue or green eyes!). African émigrés have also stopped being surprised by the racist stereotyping that has been their lot in Europe as they clean sewages and toilets, sweep the streets, take the pampered dogs for walks , labor as nannies, coolies, etc. Horrible as their condition was and still is, they had some pride in the masochistic realization that they were the main specters haunting fortress Europe . No more though, unless our marabous, juju and voodoo men come to the rescue. As for the Romas, they should stop complaining and enjoy their condition as they are now in the eye of the world and they, as deported Africans, can always come back with the help of the corrupted police, immigration officials and human traffickers of white European origin. To elaborate on this would not be proper but Romas should be happy that they have a position much more important than the perennial victims, the Africans. They have beaten the recession and so many other serious problems to become the main and foremost problems of France . What more can they ask after taking away this exalted position from Africans?



"We don't know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans,"( Col Gaddafi said in Rome, August 30/ 2010.

Arab racism to wards Africans has for long been taboo subject--it is politically incorrect to even say that Arabs who are Moslems are racists to boot and consider Africans--Moslem or Christian it does not matzter- as inferior.

Reference is made to the Genesis and the three sons of Noah – Ham, Japheth and Shem with Arabs claiming that “the accursed Ham was the progenitor of the black race; that Japheth begat the full-faced, small eyed Europeans, and that Shem fathered the handsome Arabs with beautiful face and hair.” Arab philosophers also laid the ground for the racism of their kin towards Africans and all blacks. Ibn Sina (Avicenna 980–1037), Arab’s most famous and influential philosopher/ scientist in Islam, described blacks as “people who are by their very nature slaves.” He wrote: “All African women are prostitutes, and the whole race of African men is abeed (slave) stock.” He equated black people with “rats plaguing the earth.”
Ibn Khaldum, revered especially by Algerians, an Arab historian stated that “Blacks are characterized by levity and excitability and great emotionalism,” adding that “they are every where described as stupid.” Al-Dimashqi, often described as an Arab pseudo scientist wrote, “the Equator is inhabited by communities of blacks who may be numbered among the savage beasts. Their complexion and hair are burnt and they are physically and morally abnormal. Their brains almost boil from the sun’s heat…..” Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadhani said of black people: “…..the zanj (the blacks) are overdone until they are burned, so that the child comes out between black, murky, malodorous, stinking, and crinkly-haired, with uneven limbs, deficient minds, and depraved passions…..”

Colonel Gadafi of Libya has continued in this tradition albeit masquerading as a Pan Africanist though he has been attempting since the early 70s to Arabize Africa .
Gadafi may not be an honorable man but he sure is a desperate man. He paid two hundred Italian female models 70 to 80 Euros each to listen to his lecture on Islam and his infamous Green Book. He told them quite blatantly that "Islam should become the religion of Europe " and gave them free copies of the Koran, after he had lectured them for an hour on the "freedoms" enjoyed by women in Libya . Where does one find women who are free in Libya ? Is he referring to the majority forced to wrap themselves up like burritos in black covering dresses in the stifling heat? Or to the majority of women beaten as a matter of routine by the males including his notorious son Seif al Islam who has already shamed himself in Genève and Paris as a criminal spoiled brat?  And then again, Gadafi may be called a realist in that he knew not many people would voluntarily come to his lectures unless they get paid. For a vain dictator that he is, this is a commendable foresight and grasp of the cruel reality of his cheap worth especially when compared to other dictators who relish and wallow in their own lies and propaganda.

It is all a matter of perspective and having a modem of respect for the truth, for numbers, for the people and Africa as a whole. For all his claims to the contrary, Gadafi has no respect for Africa and Africans. This is not just manifested by how he treats African workers and asylum seekers (very, very inhumanely), nor by his self declaration as the King of All African tribes but mainly by his deeply ingrained chauvinism and pretension to be an African Messiah. No wonder he refers to Africans as starved and ignorant and violates the rights of Africans in Libya . Gadafi, in his recent visit to Rome , even went as far warning Europeans to beware of the starving and ignorant barbarians: "We don't know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions." The desert prisons of Libya (some just containers for goods) are filled with African asylum seekers. Algeria refers to blacks as Kahlusha and black Africans are spat upon in many Algerian cities. The same is true in Morocco and Tunisia . Mauritania, its majority black and its minority considering itself as Arab, still has the salve system in place as was the case in Southern Sudan where the "natives" were compared to "haiwanin" (animals) by the self declared Arab North. The same so called Arab Sudanese are considered as abeed or slave in Saudi Arabia . The claim that Muslims cannot be racist is debunked in the Holy Land of Moslems itself where Africans on the Hajj pilgrimage are victimized by Arab racism and contempt. Lebanon has time and again shown its ugly racism towards Africans in its vile treatment of domestic workers from Ethiopia and other African countries. This crude racism was in evidence when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed just off Beirut and the Lebanese authorities ignored the Ethiopian victims and their relatives and focused on the few Lebanese who were aboard. Even Arab Sudanese were called Nubian monkeys by the Lebanese police at one time. Egypt, itself an African country calling itself Arab, the Nubians and all blacks are discriminated against. Anwar Sadat was not happy when he heard a film on his life would have an African American actor portraying him and the late Hassan II of Morocco was never amused by a reference to his black ancestry.

Arabs think they are superior and exhibit racism towards Africans. This is the undeniable truth. Let alone white skinned Arabs even the black skinned ones ( Sudan for example) consider themselves superior by virtue of their self declared Arab identity. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia hoodwinked Gadafi and got Libyan aid during the struggle against Mengistu by assuring Gadafi that Ethiopians are Arabs, Zenawi (Meles' father) a Yemenite and that Ethiopia under Meles will join the Arab League. Over the years Libya has been accused of racism and of officially provoking the beating and killing of African migrants. Gadafi's pan African pretensions have always appeared shoddy and hollow as a consequence and his recent statement in Europe-- calling Africans ignorant and barbarian invaders-- has nailed his coffin as an Arab racist. Gadafi has brutally deported thousands of Africans and Saudi Arabia is doing the same every week. The degenerate Sheikhs and princes (who drink alcohol and maintain harems) have hypocritically been subjecting blacks to cruel punishment on flimsy charges of drinking alcohol, adultery and what have you. An Ethiopian woman was hanged in public in Riyadh a few years back while Saudi women who beat up and throw acid at the faces of African domestic workers have never been charged or tried. How many black skinned Libyans, Omanis, Saudis, Algerians and Moroccans hold high positions of government in their own respective countries?

There was a time early in his reign when the young colonel was somewhat funny with his proposal of unity to all and sundry countries with Sicily excepted, his female bodyguards, his tent palace, and his air of a true Bedouin lost in oil and a modern century. But that time has passed. Gadafi the racist has for long been also Gadafi the dictator, killing off his opponents both inside and outside the country, financing the likes of Fode Sankoh in Sierra Leone and meddling in the affairs of other countries like Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia, etc. During his Rome visit recently , Gadafi asked the EU for 5 billion Euros to block black Africans from Invading Europe and turning the continent into "another Africa" ( that is for Gadafi into a continent of starving and ignorant black barbarians). Yet, he told Europeans to open their doors to rich Libyans and offered to the Italian female models he paid to attend his lecture that he can find them Libyan husbands so that they can be free like Libyan women. We can still take all this as funny but his alliance with Berlusconi has not augured well for Africans. Gadafi in not funny, no--he is just a pathetic racist Arab who should be shunned by all of Africa


The Return of the coup

Was the recent coup in Niger that saw the removal of Mamadou Tandja, who despite both domestic and international criticism pushed through a constitutional amendment that scrapped presidential term limits, not expected or wished for? The West African economic body, ECOWAS, which had warned in May 2003 to impose sanctions on those who seized power, in fact, imposed sanctions on Mr. Tandja’s government and has stopped short of announcing that the short-lived dictator had it coming. Meanwhile, the coup-makers have not received any sanctions nor an iota of the international criticisms that were levelled at Mr. Tandja. Niger’s main opposition leader, Mahamadou Karijo has praised the coup plotters as "honest patriots". Many have silently agreed with him on that point.
President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, one of many African leaders seeking to a create dynasty, is seemingly begging for a coup after spending close to US$ 30 million to erect an African Renaissance monument. Unmitigated waste. Just like the contradictory Ethiopian dictator who, after selling close to 3 million hectares of fertile land to the Chinese, Indians and Saudi Arabians, has embarked on a multi-million spending spree on one of many monuments in the name of the unfortunate victims of the previous regime’s Red Terror, while he hunts down the same victims (the EPRP).
Hypocritically, the very same African leaders who vigorously advocate against the acceptance of coup makers into the African Union are themselves of questionable legitimacy. While some of them usurped power, less than a handful are freely elected and almost all are notorious coup makers: Campaore, Sassou, Nguema, Beshir, Gaddafi, Ould Abdel Aziz… Indeed, a meeting of the AU heads of state, — notwithstanding the exquisite designer suits, diamond studded gold watches, hand made shoes, the strong smell of expensive cologne, and a few real democratic presidents,— reeks of coups makers.
The dismal African situation continues to make coups look like an enticing alternative. And if neophytes on the springboard of intellectual disability, like Idi Amin, Bokassa and Samuel Doe, to mention but a few, have done it, who can blame other sergeants for trying? Is it not their "turn to eat" like it is aptly put in Kenya?
But above all else, it would be fair to note that coup d’etats were a gift to Africa from former colonial powers and new would be masters. Independence in the sixties, at a point, became a banal occurrence during which the only change, in many countries, involved the unfurling of new national flags and carefully structured emotional speeches. But would the masses jump for joy and shed tears if they knew for a fact that neo-colonial puppets had been strategically installed to ensure continuity?

The deception was great, the disappointment unbearable. Harbingers of hope or at least those promising change, national pride and real self governance were expeditiously extinguished. After Mobutu of the Congo was "puppeteered" into absolute power following a sponsored coup that saw the horrible butchering of Patrice Lumumba, Africa woke up to the news that the first Ghanaian President, Nkrumah had also been ousted by a coup in his absence, like many to follow. By then, Sekou Toure who had survived a coup by the skin of his teeth, had an inkling of what was happening on the ground. Fearing an overthrow, Mr. Toure turned into a despot and ruthlessly flushed out any aspiring or potential coup maker.
With flamboyant names and promises of all or nothing — Redemption, Salvation, Correctional, Revolutionary, Resurgence and Nationalist — coups had come to stay, assisted by the West or freelanced by our own. Some were brutal, some accidental, others were bloodless, while some did not even have the trappings of a military coup.
Oddly, we enjoyed the fact that the coup ended the constitutional, parliamentary, democratic and even the One Nation falsehoods of those one-party de facto dictatorships and military regimes. Knowing that their corruption had made them infamous, the dictators tended to promote Tribalism or "ethnicism", as we know today, to create strategic bastions and consolidate their power. The principle of divide and rule that had been perfected by their accursed colonial masters against them had made a grand comeback as the politics to uphold.
One coup corrected another. The first put an end to the civilian one-party system of government and established the one man military rule, with or without a party. As time went on, the coup became much part of a normal working day. In the Comoros, so many coups were registered in such short intervals that a coup-maker proudly held power for only a day. Does this mean that there had been two coups in a day? You bet!
And after an incalculable number of coups in Dahomey (now Benin), it simply came to be baptized as a movement. They were all the same: A coup occurs; the leader announces the end of corruption; thoroughly rigged elections take place; the coup maker dumps his uniform for Armani suits; the coup maker drops his military title for the less intimidating one — henceforth, he is to be called "His Excellency"; shortly another coup takes place...
By virtue of constant renewal, the indisputably enriching coups had grown into highly sophisticated warfares that saw the rise of specialised coup businesses like the Executive Outcomes. It was a dangerous place for naive souls who took their own dreams for reality.
Whipping naked women
Sankara, among others, was physically removed by a sober and correctional coup that skillfully brought the situation back to its rails. Henceforth, Burkina Faso will entertain no more talk of freedom. In Ghana, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings or J.J. Rawlings, otherwise known as Junior Jesus by his admirers, mourned his close friend, ordered more arms to consolidate his own position and renamed an important square in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, in memory of Thomas Sankara. In the meantime, Junior Jesus’ military junta had become notorious for stripping market women naked and whipping their behinds in the open for daring to make profits.
Coup plotters have since burned the midnight oil for their coups to appear as non coups. Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar’s coup is a brilliant example. He only used the military in the end after having began with popular support. But regardless of the effort put into masking them, coups end up producing juntas who tend to develop an addiction to power. From The Gambia to recent events in Guinea, unprecedented violence and repression against their own people, while rewriting the rule of law, are commonplace occurrences.
But notwithstanding the metamorphosis of coups, counter coups, and conflicts that have bedeviled our hapless continent, only the severely naive would believe that the superpowers and colonial masters are in no way involved. Emperor Tewodros of Ethiopia, who killed himself rather than surrender to an invading British force, told the British to spare the political meanderings and procrastination by sending their invading troops outright and forget sending missionaries and spies.
In spite of our dislike for coups, Africans, like myself, sometimes, and only sometimes, tend to welcome them simply because they summarily halt the travesty of democracy, the fiction of good governance, the restriction of free elections by the people. We hail the return of coups not because they suit us, but because they highlight the reality in which we live; the massacre within the confines of the Conakry stadium, the murder of political dissidents, the campaign against the free press, the blind violence against defenceless people, the whimsical rewriting of constitutions, the superfluous enrichment of a few while whole nations suffer from diseases and abject poverty. A headline like "Paul Biya’s holiday bill thirty times more than Barack Obama’s" is not exaggerated... That is the truth.



Some people accuse us old guards of not adopting new ways and new solutions even to old and persistent problems and I think it is perhaps time we consider novel approaches and solutions to deal with our serious problems that have refused to leave us.

Take the ongoing attempt to try alleged Somali pirates in the courts of Holland. Though a 17th century law against piracy is used it is proper that a notorious pirate should deal with another pirate. The Dutch were not only pirates but responsible for introducing foul racism to many parts of Africa, they are the mothers of Apartheid. In Ethiopia, where we rush to point out we have never been colonized, our serious taste of racism came from the Dutch who ran the Wonji sugar factory. The Dutch were pirates and it takes one to know one as they are the best placed to identify Somali pirates. The whole question of human rights and why a Dutch court that does not even claim to be international would be trying practically kidnapped/captured citizens of another country is neither here nor there. The Somalis have no State to speak of and they are by their own acts exposed to be tried or punished by any other State that gets its hands on them. As for the invocation of an ancient law to which no Somali was signatory it can be argued that the hard line Islamists invoke old Salafist edicts to stone people and thus have no moral ground for complaint. Generally, we can even argue that, given most African courts are inept and bureaucratic, transferring our cases to Europe and America may untangle our legal problems. A solution to consider....

And India has given us another solution that we in Africa should rush to adopt. After fifteen days of rigorous testing it has now been confirmed that Yogi Prahlad Jani lived for seventy years (he is now 83) without eating or dinking. The ascetic had never urinated or defecated, said the examiners confirmed the puzzled scientists (30 in number). The problem of food is so serious in Africa that, for example, more than 10% of the population of Ethiopia survives barely thanks to food aid. The thug claiming to be the Prime Minster of the country claims that it is the fault of the West if millions starve in Ethiopia and has shown that he is not inclined to change his disastrous economic and political policies to keep famine away. Problem of famine is afflicting Africans all over the continent. The shortage of water is another problem in African countries with many rivers and the ongoing conflict over the use of the Nile indicate that wars may even break out over water. Imagine then if most Africans learnt to survive without eating food and drinking water. If we produce millions of Prahlad Janis our most serious problems would be no more. At first, this may seem an impossible task, also because the African may not be ascetic that much. But, at close examination, we discover that Africans ascetically suffer under brutal dictatorships, they are said to get food but most of the time starve (and therefore have the necessary practice to stop eating altogether), they lack drinking water for most oft he year and can easily forego the need to drink. If we produce millions of Prahlad Janis then we can do away with dirty and stinking cities. As India is, like China, taking over our resources, it can at least reciprocate by giving us the secret of the Yogi who did not eat or drank water for seventy years. Forget foreign aid and development (a fantasy) --- this is the new solution, no eating or drinking, no need for aid.

And yet another solution could be closing up countries that fail to work, closing them up like bankrupt companies. Much as I hate to quote the pompous Sir Geldof I am forced to since my call for declaring countries bankrupt had received no positive response and his may get some noises going. Admitting that the problem of famine may be with us for long, Sir Bob Geldof told the Weekly Telegraph (issue no 590): "Part of you has to accept that maybe certain parts of the world for the moment are untenable. That is very hard to say to the people who live in that area". Actually, it is not really very hard to say or to have it accepted. If a government that claims a 10% per year economic growth has to deal with 14 million famine victims then there is for sure something wrong somewhere, notwithstanding euphoric World Bank and IMF endorsement of the growth figures. A regime that cannot feed its people despite the massive aid it received from abroad over the years should be removed--it is untenable to say the least. If my suggestion of declaring countries bankrupt is complicated (what is the criteria for bankruptcy? Immorality and carnage? Economic failure in most cases caused by foreign predators? Inability o come out of stifling poverty? What?  I can understand you cannot just padlock and declare a country closed but the same can be done as regards the regimes in place.  Why not? We can declare regimes bankrupt and call for their immediate removal. Most of the tyrants that are lauded by the West are alien to democracy and good governance, Tony Blair's darling boy Meles was a killer of hundreds who ruined Ethiopia in all fields for years. If famine still stalks the land it is because of his rule and his policies not because Ethiopia is a desert or its hardworking people lazy. Untenable and bankrupt is the stamp that should be made on the tyrant's forehead.

In the same interview presented above Sir Bob said what kills him is to observe that a starving eight years old boy was just waiting to die and "wants death to hurry up and come". An eight year old boy is not a tired cynical old man and if he wants death to hurry up then his reality must be so horrible as to make him wish for and to his innocent and young life. That says a lot about the regime of the very person that Britain and America consider as their closest ally. Perhaps, this alone should also make the systems there cynical, cruel and untenable. A determined, humane and radical change may be the solution but then this has been a call we have been hearing for years and for all we know may be one solution that has not become dated and irrelevant.


Or (Forgive Me for Asking)

This is really a joke, a pastime actually as dictator and intelligent are oxymoron. Sort of an idiot Savant, a fine mess, a little pregnant, accurate rumors. An Amhara Weyane and abundant poverty. Of late some quarters have insisted on calling the tyrant in Addis Abeba intelligent at a time when he is blatantly rigging an election while at the same time insisting on calling Robert Mugabe a blundering fool. When Idi Amin of Uganda was engineered by Britain and Israel to stage his coup against "Socialist" Milton Obote the British media was quick to mention and even praise his "native" intelligence. Native was the code word used for covering up "almost illiterate brute soldier of British colonialism". Toe the line and you will be called intelligent.

The whole charade stems from two sources or motivations: the fist one being that notorious racist prejudice which makes a coherent black person intelligent, surprise, surprises the Kaffir boy knows how to talk at least. Or as the surprised Italian fascist officer said in a famous Ethiopian poem:  "I saw the blacks eating like human beings" sort of surprise. In my own experience I have met this monster many times, with my listeners being surprised that I could explain the situation in my country and Africa as a whole and even debate with them. Without being cruel I have to state it is like the monkey doing new tricks very well, the ape speaks English and he can hold his own in a debate, hallelujah! And thus every street smart smooth talker becomes an intelligent person, with qualifications of course. As Santiago Carrillo, the late leader of the Spanish CP said it, "to ask for Western type democracy in countries like Ethiopia and Vietnam is to bray at the moon". He was arguing that Ethiopians have to make do with a brutal colonel called Mengistu and his fake democracy as Carrillo, a pro Soviet to boot, was supporting the tyrant backed by Moscow. Thus, intelligent is by our own reduced standard, no one is comparing Meles with even any joke of a western miserable leader, mind you.  The tyrants have used this prejudice to their own advantage as expected, they wear their Yes Bwana smile as a permanent fixture, they do the slave dance to perfection ( as Meles did sometime ago backing Sarkozy and Obama and betraying Africa in Copenhagen), repeat the buzz words that please the ears of the donors and, presto or voila, whichever you prefer, they or he appear as intelligent. When they say Meles is intelligent they do not mean he is crafty, devious, sneaky, able to hide his ignorance, intriguer, cruel, and a docile puppet, no. Meles said give me an opposition lest I become corrupt with absolute power and they clapped (intelligent was the cry). The dictator of Turkmenistan was one step ahead as he said: there are no opposition parties so how can I give them freedom? An intelligent chap!

The second reason for some calling these depots intelligent is because they are their puppets, instruments of neo colonial domination, and their mercenaries.  Albert Camus called an intellectual an unsuccessful idiot and the late Walter Rodney defined the dictator as follows: 
 "A dictator is defined as one who elevates himself above all other citizens and often makes claims to be closer to God than mere mortals. Emperors, kings and nobles of the feudal period easily became dictators because they could justify despotic acts on the grounds that royal power and authority were of sacred origin. In more modern versions of dictatorship, the absolute ruler has to fabricate an elaborate cult of the personality to prove that he is more intelligent, more potent and generally superior to any other human being. Idi Amin fancied himself not only a physical giant but also as an intellectual giant. Besides, he boasted of a direct line to Allah. Eric Gairy, our Caribbean ex-dictator, dabbled in obeah and convinced himself that he was better than the world's leading scientists and would personally solve the problem of unidentified flying objects. This is the stuff of which dictators are made". Not intelligence at all unless one mistakes vulgar notions and instinct for intelligence.

Back in 2008 TV personality Barbara Walters went to Damascus and called dictator Bashr Al Assad an intelligent and charming man. The friend of many African dictators, peanut farmer Jimmy carter, went to Korea and declared "I find Kim Il Sung to be vigorous and intelligent". Castro came to Addis. talked to the killer who declared: "I hate hurting even a fly" and publicly declared "Mengistu is an honest revolutionary!" America's admired and "intelligent" allies ranged from El Salvador's General Maximiliano Hernandez (the very man of the occult who said "it is a great crime to kill a fly than a man because men are resurrected while flies die forever") to Ian Smith, apartheid Botha, Mobutu and Samuel Doe, Franco and Videla, Pinochet and Papadopoulos, Suharto and Nguema ( the latter who said "I am in permanent direct contact with God and the only man who can kill and will never go to hell" and then went ahead to slaughter thousands in Equatorial Guinea), So long as the dictators are  theirs they are called intelligent. Washington, London, Berlin and the EU as a whole bankroll the dictator in Ethiopia. One western diplomat in Addis Abeba has gone on record admiring Meles Zenawi's capability to lie outright and in more than four directions. He is so intelligent he can rig elections, slaughter hundreds and stay in power! The man who makes a fine mess, intelligent!

The admired native intelligence of Idi Amin (His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Conqueror of the British Empire [CBE] in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular and King Of Scotland”)
fast evaporated when he started to step on British and Western interests. He quickly became a monster, a fool, a cannibal, a savage, anything but intelligent. The "demonization" of all those who refuse to toe the line of the West is swift, cruel and relentless--just ask Gadafi, Mugabe, Sadam and others. The very people who praise Baathist and dictator par excellence Basher as intelligent would not be caught dead uttering one word of consideration as regards Sadam for example though he was a close ally of America at one time. Mengistu became crude and cruel because he was pro Soviet and not because he killed Ethiopians en masse which the new darling of Washington, a.k.a Meles, has been doing in earnest.  The political alliance and consideration dictates the qualification. In actual fact, where there is intelligence there is knowledge and this does not mean vulgar and pedestrian groping to get one's way by all means necessary, selling the country and the people wholesale if need be as Meles and others have done without qualms. It does not also mean power or authority but rather on how one obtains power and how he or she uses it. The West back then in the mid forties considered Mussolini civilized and mocked at Ethiopians trying to defend their country. The fascist was intelligent as was Hitler with whom many American companies such as General Motors, DuPont, Standard Oil of New Jersey, Davis Oil co., Ford, ITT, Chase National Bank, etc did brisk business, forget Nazism please, be intelligent. "Henry Ford was a good friend of Hitler and his book The International Jew inspired Hitler's Mein Kampf and the Fuehrer kept Ford's picture in his office and Ford was one of the four foreigners to receive the German's highest civilian award", wrote one fact finder. Intelligent people all around--they pay the piper and even the song is theirs. The intelligent West also did business with and backed the intelligent regime of apartheid in South Africa.

Of course, we may be crying foul because we have failed to understand the very meaning of being intelligent. If being intelligent means being a tyrant, a cruel murderer. a corrupt embezzler, a liar, an election rigger, a Western puppet, a traitor to one's own people and nation, a complete idiot with the right buzz words, then Meles and other tyrants and their thieving wives are indeed intelligent. If we take intelligence as cleverly disguised stupidity then intelligent people are ruling us and making our lives so miserable that we want to intelligently but definitively remove them from power and the face of the earth. In the end all this can be taken just as an important trivia.



From the son of Zenawi to Zuma, the follies of Africa are indeed the presidents and prime ministers, the power mongers and corrupt officials staining the face of our beloved continent. Some are funny, most are not but they all add up to spell folly and destruction for Africa, It is evident I prefer Zuma to Meles Zenawi, the goat faced tyrant who runs an ethnic discriminatory politics making some 80 million Ethiopians suffer.

Jacob Zuma is a character, perhaps from some ancient Zulu folklore but it is clear that many South Africans consider him harmless and benign only when compared to his predecessor Mbeki. We have to admit he is a caricature who warms the prejudiced heart of any white racist. This is a man of power who is accused of raping an HIV positive woman and then counters he had consensual unprotected sex with her but had taken a shower to reduce the possibility of Aids coming his way. Zuma was accused of corruption and survived the rough power struggle to become South Africa's president, to rule disgruntled citizens who have seen no positive change in their lives but are allowed to vent their anger now and then on refugees from Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, etc...Already with three wives and a fiancée, Zuma has fathered a "love child" from another woman bringing the total number of his children to 20. A field day for the haters of Africa for sure but then again Zuma is an honest and honourable man who has done his share to increase the number of Africans and who has lived up to his words and admitted his peccadilloes (compare with Bill Clinton and John Edwards!). He does preach safe sex and one partner relationship to the people in order to combat Aids but who said he had to follow his own advice? Isn't he the president? As for having 20 children (Big Daddy Amin had 33 and the Sheikhs in the Middle East can count more), he has at least helped school children avoid tough questions: a primary school student was asked "where do children come from?" and he was able to answer "from Jacob Zuma" outright. But, let me say definitively that the report of Zuma never again making any move to greet children for fear that they may call him daddy is a fabrication by anti-Zuma forces. Zuma's personal song is titled "My Machinegun" and many South Africans are blaming him for not keeping this weapon of his zipped up or covered up

(How can I shoot? a reckless Zuma is said to have asked). Zuma is a tough man at 67 years of age who shoots no blanks as he would like to say had he not feared the outcry. As for polygamy, let the Americans talk to their harem happy Middle East sheikhs and to the followers of the ancestors of Mitt Romney (Mormons) who had more than a dozen wives.

If Zuma is funny son of Zenawi aka Meles is dull and boring. This is the man who invaded Somalia and claimed it was not an invasion; "we just crossed the border". This is the man who blamed the West for the famine in Ethiopia: "they did not send food aid in time". This is the very man who indefatigably claims the economy is growing by 10% per year while the people are starving (14 million need food aid) and the country is in ruins in general. And this is the man who spent millions on monuments and to add insult to injury erected a monument for a donkey called Desalegne that transported arms, ammunition and goods for the guerrillas. Countless Ethiopian heroes have no monument in their name while an "ethnic "donkey has deserved one instead. This is the same Meles whose ultra corrupt wife claims she does not afford to pay school fees for her elder daughter, the same Meles who justifies a massacre (200 shot dead in Addis Ababa in 2005) by claiming that his police were not well trained in riot control. Damn the British who were supposed to train the police and intelligence services!

And Gadafi, the self declared King of Kings of all African tribes (sic), who tried to be second time president of the comatose AU and was angry he could not. This is the same Gadafi who has allied himself with Silvio Berlusconi much to the detriment of African refugees. Salva Kirr, the cowboy manqué, who presides over a corrupted South Sudan government that is seemingly obsessed on whether women should wear trousers or not while the whole region is aflame with violence. Up north, the dour faced Beshir does his massacre routine with gusto, preparing to be re elected as President even when the accusations against him for genocide kick up. In a few months, both Beshir and son of Zenawi will go through the motion of an election that has been rigged already. Swazi King Msawti III has 13 wives and takes up a bare breasted virgin as a new wife at the annual Reed Dance-- a show to make many white colonials chuckle with satisfaction. The young Swazi king is corrupt, he has, for example, spent US$ 500,000 on a new Daimler Chrysler Maybach 62 with all possible luxury extras, including a fridge and DVD player while two thirds of Swazis live on less than one dollar a day. Mention Kabila jr, the Bongos past and present, the Nguema fellow in oil rich Equatorial Guinea, the Congolese Ninja president Sassou Ngueso, the Chadian Deby and royal level corruption rears its head. Abundant folly.

As they say "ze oil" speaks volumes. Corrupt African leaders are backed by predators like the USA, Britain and France. Chinese presence and greed for Africa's wealth and resources has also aggravated the complication--Peking has allied itself with malleable African dictators like Beshir, Meles, Mugabe and more. The rich African countries are the main victims but the poor ones are not spared too--Djibouti sells its land as a military base to Washington and Paris and Ethiopia is being mortgaged to the highest bidder. Corrupt leaders are given more aid so long as they toe the line of the metropolis and persist with their folly that ridicules and damages Africa. Chinese ministers openly admit that they routinely pay bribes to win contracts and the recent collapse of the tunnel of the much touted Gilgel Gibe II dam in Ethiopia (the Italian construction firm reportedly paid bribes both in Rome and Addis Abeba) just ten days after its inauguration is a case in point. The white elephant projects of the seventies are alive and well.

The Ziegfeld Follies were quite a show in their time. "Ze follies" of Africa may stage shows but at the end of the day they are not funny at all. The cost is too much, the destruction too great. From the son of Zenawi to Zuma, to Sassou and Kabila, from Mugabe to Gelleh, the "follies" of Africa are on a rampage to destroy the continent. Time to end their disastrous show,


Some of my Anglo -Saxon friends have for long suspected that the distance between an African and Satan is not that long at all. To begin with, it is common knowledge that Satan is black as are Africans. There are. of course, some Africans who imagine that they are not really black and belong to that category the French boldly call the "couleur sauvee" or the saved colors, that is saved from being black (God Forbid!), Métis, light skinned, brown, what have you. In any case this African affinity with Satan has been mentioned often to explain the African's alleged propensity to cause calamities and problems of all kinds.

The catastrophic earthquake in Haiti has been duly attributed to the devil worship of the voodoo practicing Haitians. The right wing Christian Minister Pat Robertson has openly declared this and revealed to the uninformed that the Haitians made a pact with the Devil in order to throw away French colonial rule-- Quote:"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it," the televangelist said. "And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story. And so the Devil said, 'Okay, it's a deal.' . . . But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another". By the way this is the same Robertson who signed a gold mining contract with Charles Taylor and lobbied the Bush administration in Taylor's behalf. It is safe to say that many in the West have not forgotten that the Haitians started the very first slave revolt back in 1791 and fought to success in 1804 setting up their independent republic. How dare they! It is like Sekou Toure's NO to continued French tutelage or domination, a rejection that Paris never forgot and tried to make Sekou Toure pay for-- ( not a savory individual our Sekou, but a courageous one at the time when he opted for independence). The afflicted Haitians have become the center of approbations for causing an earthquake upon themselves, for being sinners, poverty stricken and even lazy. Some expected the usual "black" violence with looting and mayhem in Port au Prince and could not explain why it did not really happen even though some TV stations were gloating over footage of two alleged thieves shot by the police and desperate people struggling to get food handouts. The CNN, true to form, came with a titled series called Saving Haiti (from what? from whom?). American Marines, who took the opportunity and came in thousands, were seen distributing food and doing camera--attracting charity work in an effort to improve their tarnished images in Iraq and Afghanistan. We give out not bombs but flour and rice---our eyes are destined to see wonders, no? The militarization of aid in Haiti will evidently have many grave consequences in the future.

It is obvious that Haitians brought the "biblical tragedy" upon themselves. They believed in the tenets of the French and American Revolutions and staged their own only to find rejected both by the then vicious colonial power, France, and the US, a slave holding country that recognized Haiti only in 1862. Actually, an angry France demanded huge reparation payment from Haiti in exchange for recognition and the chance to take part in international trade. Haiti should have done a Barbados (which became independent only in 1966 and is still a Commonwealth member), no revolt, no Revolution, accepting colonial rule with docility. Haitians have been blamed by one Washington Post columnist for bringing this man made disaster upon themselves-- what "with their weak public institutions leading to the collapse of buildings" (no matter if the collapsed presidential palace was built by Marines during the US occupation from 1915 to 1934). Haitians should have long abandoned this obdurate desire of theirs to be a free nation and welcomed instead with open arms, as quite a few African countries do, the very many interventions and plots of Washington to impose its diktat over them. And why did they burn the hundreds of corpses on the streets instead of suffering the consequences such as a devastating cholera epidemic? Cruel people who, like those Africans from Kenya to South Africa, are prone to torch thieves and rapists and corpses!

I really think the Haitians should actually be commended for their contribution to the West by giving it a chance to pose and improve its image. One can say Haiti has learnt from Ethiopia on all levels as it has now received its own "We are the World" song and has become the primary concern of celebrities. Larry King and Anderson Cooper are dwelling on it and Darfur can eat its heart out this time! The local boy Wyclef has also learnt the bitter lesson that Western NGOs brook no patience when they come with full force to occupy the terrain all for themselves. Jean Wyclef's foundation was accused of misuse of funds, the singer driven to tears and of course brought into the fold by being invited to the Grammy awards ceremony. Haiti gave the West, especially America, the chance to strut big time as a savior force. So much so that bizarre creature called Rush Limbaugh had to complain on Obama's alleged affinity to his black or light skinned kin ("slackers kept up by American tax money") and his "using the tragedy to burnish his image". Idle NGOs (who wants to go to Eastern Congo?) were given jobs and the opportunity to gather millions of dollars to "save" Haiti. While many pundits waxed bitterly lyrical against Haitians without ever setting foot there some correspondents and reporters did make it to Haiti and report drama from there making it appear as if they were in the heart of a war zone. Haiti also gave the child traffickers great opportunity to smuggle children (or be caught doing it) thereby brining into focus the child adoption racket that has been going on in Haiti and is taking place in Ethiopia, Cambodia, Malawi, Russia where children with living parents have been sold and bought in a thriving market. Remember Jolie and Madonna.

If Haiti's poverty is to be exclusively blamed on the slackers who call themselves Haitians and if earthquakes come due to a pact with the devil then a number of questions rear their heads to ask for an n answer. How about the earthquakes in California in the past? What about the decades long suffering of Haiti under foreign invaders and interventionists? Who overthrew Aristide? If most of the buildings in the Haitians capital collapsed is it a bad thing or a good thing? Does it indicate that American engineers and Marines are bad architects or should we blame the Haitians in exclusivity? How come Benin, the Motherland of Voodoo, has not suffered from earthquakes yet? How come many talk of corruption after the earthquake and in connection with many NGOs? Some cynics argue that America is mobilized for Haiti to keep the Haitians in place, not to trek en masse to the USA. Preventive charity has been seen in the past and it is not sure it works but it helps keep the natives in their own hell hole as THEY would say. The tragedy has also given us uninformed souls the chance to hear sofa bound experts expound on the alleged weaknesses and peculiarities of the Haitian culture. Benefiting from a tragedy is how we can term this. Thank you again Haiti.

As Toussaint Louverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution (whom some called the Black Napoleon) said when he was captured by the French: "In overthrowing me you have cut down in Saint Domingue only the trunk of the tree of liberty, it will spring up again from the roots, for they are many and they are deep". Earthquake or not the tree of liberty in Haiti will still bear many branches, leaves and fruits.

My sympathies and solidarity to the people of Haiti.


Will Castrating Tyrants Help?

The rest of the world has not got it yet. Many still think that Africa's major problems concern famine, AIDS, conflicts and wars, poverty, rigged elections, nepotism and corruption, fevers of all types that are said to originate from the continent and more. How wrong. No one knows Africa like its cruel tyrants and they have time and again told the world that Africa 's problems are elsewhere.

Tyrants in Africa are often considered as lazybones but this is also very wrong. Our tyrants are very busy souls, often burning the midnight oil to find ways and means of making our life more miserable. They are hardworking busy bees. Bringing famine to a country with fertile land and a hardworking peasantry requires not only talent but diligence. Organizing rigged elections is not child's play even if it has been done before and experience gained. Getting money out of the tight fisted World Bank requires finesse and persistence. Even if the West wants to go along, convincing it that a one party regime is basking in a multi party system requires not only shamelessness but also hard work. Siphoning off the revenues from oil and minerals to one's private bank accounts demands not only perfidy and greed but vigilance and diligent activity as it is a 24 hours undertaking, seven days a week and tolerates no slackening. Contrary to photos of overfed dictators dozing or napping at international meets, our tyrants are addicted workaholics as dictatorship and laziness do not go together. Oppression is no joke and exploitation demands indefatigable energy.  

Robert Mugabe is a man of many problems, some made by himself and others by the good offices of London and Washington, ranging from the economic to the political and you name it. Naive observers would of course conclude that with all this on his old lap he would have no time to focus on gays or chemical castration of rapists. Wrong! He continues to rile against gays and his ministers want to imitate the Czech Republic and decree castration laws in Zimbabwe . Up north in Uganda where Museveni has sadly turned into the usual African corrupt power monger, the government wants to decree homosexuality a crime and to punish gays by severe imprisonment (not less than 7 years) as if Uganda does not have several insurgencies to contend with along with economic and political problems of all sorts. In Somalia , where carnage and chaos have built castles, the hardliners are busy destroying graves and cutting hands and feet of petty thieves while the country remains without a State and a trace of peace. In power or aspiring to take it, Africa has so many busybodies watching over its misery and continued suffering.

The call for castration ( taking away the gun of the rapist as one Zimbabwean minister put it) brings to mind the possibility that this measure could have relieved Africa by making its tyrants non (re) productive. Off hand, such a measure would have deprived us (and what a pleasure!) of an Ali Bongo, a Kabila or Eyadema junior, a Seif Al Islam and a Gamal Mubarek, sons that have taken or are in line to take over power. Castration is an ancient practice that should be revived for political ends while the so called chemical castration now being advocated in Harare , aimed at reducing the libido, is a waste of resources and expectations. Someone has said correctly that behind every phallic hero there lurks an "unsocialized" monster. The cock that spares no chicken otherwise known as Mobutu Sese Seko, the big dictator Idi Amin, and all the other polygamous tyrants were/are macho monsters par excellence that could have been or are perfect candidates for castration. But then again, a castrated and sexually frustrated Idi Amin may have brought more havoc on our Ugandan brothers and sisters. After all, according to some articles in the Pet Friendly sites, castration changes the personality of dogs. The same could be true in humans though eunuchs are revered in some countries and oppressed in many others. This means that there is the dangerous possibility that a castrated tyrant may be worshipped and allowed to wreak havoc. Eunuchs had also a purpose, some use ( Eunuch goes back to the Greek word eunoukhos, "a castrated person employed to take charge of the women of a harem and act as chamberlain") while we say castrate tyrants to make them useless. Men said to be "emasculated and castrated" by "dominating women" reportedly have serious psychological problems and we do not need tyrants with more mental handicaps. The ancients ranging from Theophilus of Antioch to Augustine condemned the pagan gods demanding castration and called the action villainy and foul. Will castrating tyrants make them more vicious though such a state may be hard to envisage given the fact they have all reached the highest level of viciousness already. Hence, we must really make sure that castration leads to a change to the better in the temperament and personality of the tyrant.

The African tyrant minus his personal private gun may be impeded from producing off springs that replace him and perpetuate our misery. This by itself is a good thing and we can only hope that Mugabe for one will opt for the full Monty castration instead of imitating Western wimps and their chemical castration option. Why send gays to prison and deplete the money of the State (money that can be stolen by the tyrants) while they can be castrated and rendered unarmed for their "criminal" activity. A black friend of mine claiming to be an expert on the make up of the African tyrants ( a field of expertise monopolized by Whites) asserts that a castrated African tyrant will wilt and shrivel as what defines the tyrant is his macho phallic hero posturing. Will castration put an end to the "unsocialized monster"? It is not sure but it sure is worth trying as Africa would benefit from ending the rule of the tyrants and the sons that continue to rise. And it would be a costless procedure as volunteer castrators would line up in their millions. Count me in.


I am sure there are a lot of people who think that begging needs no training, all you have to do is look miserly (which you will look if reduced to that state of starvation and stress or anxiety anyway), roll your eyes, and beg. How wrong they are! Begging is an art like all other such callings, it needs training and expertise and the recent report that in one Indian village such a beggars' school exists has highlighted the necessity of stopping the amateur beggars in Africa, a continent known for its ultra professional beggars.

In the good old days you could just beg (have pity on me oh passer by, I am starving!) and tug at he hearts of otherwise disinterested citizens. Modern times have hardened the ordinary human being; pity is a scarce commodity, giving help turned into a business unto itself. Consider the number of charity organizations and NGOs around the world (more than seventy in Addis Ababa dealing with the thriving business of child adoption) and the point becomes clear. Begging has become a competitive business, cut throat all the way, very capitalist. You can't have the millionaire without the beggar. One begs the other, the contrast is all. Beggars have to be professional, modern, savvy-- the times require this. In Egypt, India, Ethiopia and other places professionalism has reached the level where a beggar can rent a child for a day; organize an open bleeding wound to expose to appear pitiable and very wretched. The hard hearts need shocks, in the Indian school of begging children are taught how to sound and appear miserable while in places like Ethiopia there is really no need of training for this--we are very miserable.

Professional begging has now become as African as cassava, foufou. matoke, ugali and Injera. Any African tyrant worthy of this name is first of all a beggar par excellence, the only difference he has with the beggar on the street is that he lives in the palace or State House. Those who refused to beg from the Mau Mau, to the "NO" man Sekou Toure, the Amilcar Cabrals, Netos and Machels--where are they now? Those who opted beg had a better end---some ruled for long like Houphet or Bongo senior, Mobutu or Kamuzu. They had the art of begging down to a capital B. One of the main tenets of professional begging is for the beggar not to exhibit inferiority. The assertive beggar is the successful one. The begging tyrant hoards millions, drives posh cars, lives in palaces and yet treks to the West to beg. But, before such pilgrimages and hajjes are made there is a dangerous animal to kill and it is called humiliation. The beggar should never feel this thing called humiliation. The people may be starving, the capital city may be stinking to the seven plus heavens, the oil millions may have disappeared down into the tyrant's secret bank accounts abroad and hundreds of thousands of starving children may be sleeping on the streets but, as we say in Ethiopia, he must wash his eye with salt and beg. The beggar artist called Meles Zenawi for example begged the West for food aid for the famine stricken millions by boldly accusing the West of not delivering food aid in time. If the young African girl called Dambisa Mayo riles against foreign aid, the fruit of begging, it is because she knew not poverty and the need to beg as she came from a well to do family. The artist beggar must be adept at spinning captivating stories--extending the palm and wailing for help is of no use. Have a story line, drama and suspense, falling down the ladder, endurance and suffering and spin it with good presentation skills. Make the donor part of the operation--give and you shall receive. That is why donors give our tyrants money after money and take back quite a big part of it back while the tyrant gets a considerable sum to add to his coffers. Why should the World Bank give Meles Zenawi and other dictator millions? Surely, it is not because they tell the Bank grim tales of human rights violations, broad daylight massacres, concentration camps and war mongering. The World Bank and the IMF, or the donors in general, do like cruel dictators but they do not like to be told of this in public. They want lying beggars. I once saw in one American city a homeless person with a begging bowl in front of him and a written sign which stated "No need to lie: it's for the drinks". Many a kind elderly person passed him by, angry. Few donors want the truth. Likewise, the tyrant beggar cannot openly claim I am begging for money to steal or to buy arms with. He must spin a convincing story of worth, combining arrogance (make them feel guilty with neo colonial and imperialism references if need be) with a we are going to perish like flies if you do not fork some millions over and he must convince the donors who instinctively wonder "what is in it for us." The beggar must learn to share.

No country is FOB (Free of Beggars) and one of the countries teeming with beggars, India, is trying to use repressive measures to clean Delhi from its thousands of beggars before the October 2010 Commonwealth games. This country touted as a democracy and still practicing the caste system that has rendered millions untouchable and without rights is using courts in vans and trucks to send beggars to detention centers and prisons. Such a round up was also tried by Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia, Arap Moi in Kenya and their attempt to monopolize begging by eliminating the street beggars has failed miserably. If the top man begs the white man the ordinary folk can beg from the black man or woman. It is a desperate situation and in downtown Nairobi enterprising street kids cover themselves with human excrement and threaten office going women to throw some at them unless they give them a few shillings. This aggressive begging has proved effective. Meles Zenawi at the G20 meetings tried to look as one of the donors or the big countries giving us a good example of the professional beggar without any notion of humility. Profitable as it is, begging has branched out and become a nation wide profession. Some expose their wounds and deformities as in the past while others perform, sing or stand as stone statues to beg. The latter do get more money but begging 101 also comes along with teaching stealing expertise as our tyrants have taught us over the years. Beg and steal go together--show me an African tyrant who begs for help from the West but does not steal from it or the people. The tyrants are so in it that they steal elections and innocent lives too.

The beggar is a pauper who has no money and begs for it. And the beggar is also the one who takes the money that is not his and in this definition we can bring in the tyrants and the corrupt ministers like the British MPs who were actors of the recent scandal of appropriating public money fraudulently and illegally. They really do not need money but they cannot kick the begging monkey off their back. Mobutu, Bongo, Meles, Moi, the list is long of those who have become rich by begging and stealing but still continue to beg. They have so crowded the field that the paupers and poor people in need of help are edged out, rounded up, harassed and jailed. It is a tough world out there. The beggar's school in India teaches how to overcome this and survive in the face of big and voracious beggars called ministers and leaders. The millions of beggars in Africa do need such a school. Can India help instead of taking over our lands and riches just like China and the West?


Africans may be miserable and subjected to poverty but they are on the whole nice people forever thinking of the welfare of others even in crazy times when they may be forced to indulge in a genocide or cut arms and legs with machetes. It is a dour and grim world we live in and so the Africans' untiring attempt to make us laugh now and then should be appreciated.

From the land of the Sudan , where once idle chiefs ordered a man to marry a female goat and warmed the heart of may a racist, came the indecent trousers show. A Sudanese woman, Loubna Hussein, working as a journalist wit the UN was arrested because she was wearing a trouser in public and it was deemed indecent. The world which did not know that the stiff necked fundamentalist regime has been flogging women on the basis of their clothes was surprised at first and then amused. What makes a trouser indecent? Tightness? Colour? What? We all know the Sudan has grave problems in its hands. The regime has to make sure its killing spree continues in Darfur and that does require effort (not every lazy regime can handle a genocide!), that the impending secession of the South does not materialize, that the starving millions get enough food--huge tasks, big priorities. But, the generals took time out to give us the trousers show, dragging a brave woman to court and sentencing her to prison or fine (flogging left out this time--too much world attention). The dynasty or succession show presented to the world by Syria and North Korea was justifiably taken away by Africa for the enjoyment of all. Eyadema of Togo left power to his son, Kabila senior to Kabila junior in what was Zaire and now Ali Bongo of Gabon is succeeding his corrupt father. "Monarchy-- republics" are in vogue and up North Mubarek is coordinating his own similar show and Gadafi may very well leave his place to Seif Al Islam, his son. Funny shows.  

Talk of Gadafi and the showman in Tripoli held a big bash to which African "kings and chiefs" in their colourful dresses were invited over to declare once again Brother Moamar Gadafi the King of Kings of Africa. He was given a throne as a gift (among other offerings) and he wore huge gold rings and a necklace. After a heavy meal quite a few of the tribal chiefs and so called kings napped as Gadafi spoke, but no the show still went on and tried to surpass Bokassa's coronation as a central African Napoleon some decades back. The funny show aside, Gadafi is no fool. He has used his oil to buy the old British Empire and to make it bend to his wills, to release the alleged Lockerbie bomber and then to ridicule itself by claiming it did that on humanitarian grounds only. From Somalia , we got the funny event of terrorists of Al Shabab buying arms from the alleged enemy, the Transitional government led by Sheikh Ahmed. The arms come from Uganda bought and paid for by America . Once again our wily neighbours are being supplied with arms by their own enemy, Washington, and the naivety of the often arrogant American officials makes us laugh. In Ethiopia, the often unfunny despotic regime of Meles Zenawi came up with its own Orwellian joke banning the word cholera and baptizing it instead (very many thousands even in the capital are afflicted and hundreds are dying even in the capital Addis Abeba) as "Atet" or dangerous or fast watery diarrhoea. No doctor can use the C word or would face jail and the routine beating. This has given ideas to other tyrants to re baptize killer diseases and make them appear benign or innocuous. Ugandans used to call AIDS "slim" but some are now considering calling it "severe diet syndrome (SDS), giving the idea that the loss of weight is linked to fanatical dieting "like the ones engaged in by some models. Malaria can be renamed Saturday Night Fever and so on.

Cameroon 's Biya spent 400,000 US dollars per night for hotel rooms and services fee

(the average Cameroonian earns a dollar a day) but his spokesmen retaliated with a

"he has been allocated the money and he can spend it as he pleases" thereby making everyone--including Cameroonians--laugh. Don't be jealous! Who gave him all this money to spend? Bad question, just laugh and enjoy the noble gesture of our tyrants who spend so much money to maintain our prestige in foreign lands (where God knows why they still think we are poor and begging for help!) and give us the chance to enjoy by proxy. The latest joke on the streets of Addis Abeba is that the tyrant Meles will win the 2010 general election hands down ( he lost the last one but stayed in power killing and jailing those who cried foul) because of millions of hens and chicken will vote for him as he raised the price of a hen to 80 Birr (they used to cost less than ten Birr in the past) and millions were not able to afford them for the kill come the Ethiopian new year (September 11) and the chicken and hen folk are elated. A South African boy, who did not know of Idi Amin who had at least 33 children, answered the question "where do babies come from?" with: "they come from Jacob Zuma" (who has 18 children by the latest count). The problem with Africans, if you want to call it that, is that they are an open book, not hiding details of their personal lives. Many a European and American have concubines and very may children out of wedlock but silence is the edict on the fact. Not Africans who flaunt their peccadilloes. Idi Amin paraded his wives and very many children, the old Mzee Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya dragged his wife, Mama Ngina, to a public forum so that she can testify he may be old but was as active as cock It was all before the blue pill). In all cases, we supplied the fun; we let those who think we are savages and bizarre have the laugh at our expense. We told the world we married goats, believed in traditional witch doctors (who consulted bones instead of the computer), declared an arrogant Arab colonel king of kings, denied diseases their existence by giving them benign names, ignored the existence of famine, elected again and again pour own tormentors, like to slaughter one another for nothing, and that our riches are there for the taking. The world laughed at us. We were useful, we are useful.  

An acquaintance of mine I shall call Professor Mendal (a combination of the names of there educated Ethiopian fools) suggests that Africans can get back at their tyrants by laughing at them. The run of the mill African dictator takes himself very seriously and has very many laws dealing severely with any lese majeste. You cannot laugh at he tyrants who can only laugh at the Nation at will. The practice of laughing at the tyrants, of not taking them seriously at all, of ignoring their edicts, of roaring with laughter at their endless antics will surely drive them crazy. Idi Amin stole the people's laughter and enjoyed his own fun and aggravated the misery of the people. Take our constipated looking tyrants ranging from Kagame and Meles to Ngueso and Dos Santos and imagine what being laughed at or being ridiculed will do them. We can also laugh at the opposition and give them a taste of reality. Back in the early and mid seventies Algeria 's Boumedienne (he hardly ever smiled out of choice and not because he had crooked teeth) played at being revolutionary and invited dozens of self declared liberation fronts to Algiers . One of these was a self declared Ashanti prince who brought over a political program which had an introduction, his photo, other books written by the author and a long article on the personality of the "prince revolutionary" with a final call foe the then president of Ghana, Busia, to resign (because "you are a sophist") and concludes by stating if Busia does not resign the Ghanaian army should overthrow him via a coup d'etat. A curious political program in which the self declared prince states that he met Busia and the [president suspected he was a roving agent of Nkrumah ("which I was not") or a "big personality disguised as a common man"("which I was"). Such funny "rebels "and "Marxist- Leninist- Lumumbist " con men from the Congo are no longer around. Politics has become boring and the politicians humourless. That is why the African should laugh at those oppressing them and at those who declare themselves their liberators but are caricatures of those in power. Laughter is indeed the best medicine.


“An obliging fool is more dangerous than an enemy” says a Russian proverb. In Amharic we say “kemogn dejaf mofer yikoretal” or “mogn indenegerut, beklo indasegerut”. Those Ethiopians who hailed the Obama speech in Accra and rejoiced at the possibility of a new deal for Ethiopia and Africa thanks to Obama remind us of such obliging and dangerous fools.

Ours is a continent that had endured so many speeches of eloquence and style. African leaders have been mostly demagogic, we have heard it all. Nkrumah, Ben Bella, Nasser, Nyrere, Banda, Sekou Toure and more were moving speakers and yet we found out, much to our dismay, that words and realities are two different things. Well crafted words and flowery phrases do not a good policy make.  Hence, it is inexcusable for Africans to be swayed by public speakers who shroud the real issues with self evident truths (”the future of Africa is up to Africans”–isn’t it precisely to affirm this that Africans have been struggling?) and cover their dearth of knowledge with paternalist “you must do this” advice and veiled threats.  At the end of the day, the Obama speech was a rehash of the old American policy towards Africa, all bones and no meat, and an expression of the continuing incapability of Washington to come to grips with the real problems of Africa. One wonders why some Africans beat the festive drums over the Obama Accra speech even though such drummers as Raila Odinga of Kenya do prove the point that “it is business as usual” for Africa’s corrupt leaders. Obama did say once that his knowledge of African realities is equal to the knowledge of those who had occupied the White House seat before him–just imagine Reagan and Bush and even the Clinton fellow who hailed Meles, Kagame, Museveni,etc.. as democrats. Not very encouraging at all. Doing the ritual visit to the slave prisons is just a photo op that even Bush had done in Senegal and it is by now an empty symbolism from a country that has refused to pay due reparation for the slave trade.

Is Obama ending the misguided policies of Bush or extending them wrapped in demagogy? As Americans are wont to say: where is the beef? Is he showing us the money? That Obama’s father was a Kenyan is neither here nor there as Condoleezza Rice, Susan Rice and Johnnie Carson are African Americans/blacks/ and they did not hear the heartbeat of Africa at all.  Colour and birth considerations aside, Obama is an American, elected to safeguard the interest of America in Africa and the whole world. Obama’s vision of Africa is American and that of the ruling power holders of the big country. His refusal to acknowledge that Africa’s woes are mostly the results of neo colonial plunder and machination is at the center of his failure to understand the woes of Africa. He said accusingly that the West did not cause the economic problems of Zimbabwe and the West has little to do with wars in which children become soldiers. What? Zimbabwe’s economy was wrecked by embargoes, sanctions and sabotage by the West ever since Britain raged against Mugabe for taking action against white landowners. No one n the west cried foul when Mugabe was torching Matabele land to crush an insurgency. The child soldiers of Sierra Leone for one were involved in a diamond war in which Britain and even South Africa played a major part. Who were the allies of Charles Taylor? Who financed Renamo? UNITA? And the ongoing war in the Congo? Western mining companies like the AngloGold Ashanti corporation finance the militias wreaking havoc, recruiting children as soldiers and raping women in thousands. Obama harped on corruption and good governance in his attempt to attribute the blame on Africa itself but the reality shows us different. “No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20% off the top,” said Obama.  Is this true? Absolutely not. The foreign companies actually want those scoundrels who can be bribed. From Lumumba to Nkrumah and more, nationalist African leaders have been victims of coups mostly engineered by the CIA and the West. Leaders that rig elections and repress voters enjoy American aid and backing. The butcher in Equatorial Guinea is sustained in power by American oil companies. President Nguema’s stolen millions were stashed in Washington’s Riggs Bank and Condoleezza Rice feted the tyrant. Western oil companies who ran after Africa’s oil have been allies of the despots be it in the Congo, Gabon, Nigeria or Angola (for a good exposure of how these giant companies practically manipulate the tyrants and the governments do read Nicholas Shaxson’s: Poisoned Wells–The Dirty Politics of African Oil ). And this affirmation by Obama that “we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments” or “no good governance no aid” is an old song crooned by Western leaders from Mitterrand to Blair to Clinton. Actually, American and Western aid had actually gone to despots, to apartheid South Africa, to Egypt’s Mubarek, to Meles Zenawi, to corrupt Dos Santos in Angola, etc. Britain and France have also backed despots in their particular enclaves and as the competition from China (ruthlessly nationalist and arrogantly racist too) heats up the West is grovelling before the dictators in countries with oil and minerals. Foreign investment has thus been mainly in countries where scoundrel and thieves are in power. The issue of corruption is not also just an African internal affair as Obama wanted to imply but something that has been fanned and extended all over Africa by Western embassies and companies working intimately with African officials. Governments cannot skim 20% off the top if the Western companies were not in accord with them. Western investors hate honest and nationalist leaders (who overthrew and had Lumumba murdered? Allende? Mossadegh? Arbenz?) and are comfortable with

corrupt rogues.

That is why Meles Zenawi is one of the usual guests of the G8 meetings and the very person picked by Tony Blair to head an African committee. Nigerian dictator’s Abacha’s stolen billions are still in British and other western banks. Meles Zenawi and his corrupt wife have hidden millions in Citibank. The eight African leaders recently invited to the G8 meeting are all corrupt and seven of the eight are leading countries considered not free by Freedom House itself. Ghana may fare better now than others but it is also rife with corruption. In the UN Development Index report, Ghana is not that glorious (among the 20 poorest–142nd while Kenya is 144th). Corruption flourishes in Africa with Western collaboration. Africa is wrecked by wars in most cases financed and fanned by the West as it chases its greed for oil and minerals to the detriment of Africans ( more than 4 million have died in the  mineral war of the Congo). Obama talked of the need for a strong parliament, honest police force, independent judges, independent press, a vibrant private sector, and a civil society. Fine requirements. However, if development depends on good governance and if America will not help those who have not instituted good governance then one is at odds to explain the actual and real policies of America in support of despots all over the continent. This is why Obama’s glossing over the damages of colonialism and neo colonialism grates and sprinkles salt on our wounds. Diseases and conflicts have ravaged the African continent but who is to really blame for that? Poverty is linked to the system; Ethiopia is suffering from famine not because its land is infertile. But who supports these regimes that impoverish the African people while opening up the country to the greedy western oil and mineral companies? Who is impoverishing African farmers by subsidizing its own farmers and making the African products cheap in the world market? Questions that Obama, like Bush, did not want to address at all.

There is the possibility that some hardened fools may still argue that all this was in the past and that things have changed now with Obama. Where and when? Besides repeating the usual (and mistaken) official diatribe against “genocide” in Darfur and terrorists in Somalia, has Obama really broken with the past? Let us take the Horn of Africa, a region we know much better than the American president. Somalia’s intractable clan war was complicated by Washington when it decided to arm the hated warlords against those it called terrorists linked to Al Qaeda. Like the WMD, it was said there were three or four top Al Qaeda operatives hiding in Somalia (they were never found) and the support to the venal warlords made the fanatics of the ICU appear better in the eyes of most Somalis. And then, Washington prompted Meles Zenawi to send in soldiers and actively supported the disastrous invasion which any Ethiopian would have told them was doomed to failure. The troops of Meles helped the Al Shabab gain more support, were forced to withdraw and Somalia is now in the pits with the fanatics in ascendance.  And what is new American policy as concerns Somalia? Arming the so called moderates of the Transitional Government, paying Uganda and Djibouti (!!) for arms and training, fuming against terrorists, accusing Eritrea of arming the “terrorists”. More of the same. The misguided notion of considering the Somali mess as part and parcel of the so called war against terror is very flawed. Let us take Ethiopia where a ruthless dictatorship is in place. Taking Obama’s measures, it fails miserably to qualify as good governance: the parliament is rubber stamp and even the rubber is threadbare, the police force is brutal, corrupt and repressive, the judiciary is controlled by the State, civic society has been denied independent and vibrant existence, the free press is muzzled (Meles is named one of the worst predators of the free press), the private sector is stifled by the monopolistic economic firms of the ruling Tigrean front (TPLF). In 2005, the ruling front lost the general election but used violence to massacre more than 200 protestors, to jail thousands and to stay in power with the help of America and Britain. This repressive regime and its cold blooded head called Meles have remained to be the West’s darlings and Mr Obama was sitting together with this murderer in the last G8 meeting. W cannot talk of change because the new Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, who recently visited Ethiopia, praised the anti people regime as an ally and as the one that has brought democracy to Ethiopia. There is no new policy, no new deal, no firm American stand against dictators and tyrants.

So, if we judge the Obama speech in Accra from the real and bitter realities of poverty, war, AIDS, corruption and sovereignty. that is if we ask did he say something new or has he heralded any change, the answer is no. The “future of Africa is up to Africans” is an refrain we have heard before so many times from Western leaders that do not waste time to forcefully take our sovereignty away. It is empty talk. To rile against poverty, corruption, the lack of good governance without mentioning the lion’s share of the guilt and responsibility of the West is to bray at the moon and to hoodwink the victims. Talk of neo-colonial plunder, talk of oil companies robbing countries blind and backing tyrants and murderous militias, talk of subsidies that impoverish and debilitate African farmers, talk of taking real and concrete actions against tyrants and then we can listen.  The West needs corrupt and repressive regimes in Africa for it to rob best the continent. President Obama should say no to this addiction, to this greed and craving of a junkie. Up to now, he has not done so. He is continuing the Bush policy incensing it with confusing speeches. Those Africans who imagine that “the end of tyranny is now” and that “with Obama in charge our sufferings will end” only prove the truth in the saying that a fool will laugh when he is drowning.


There is a time to die and a time to live (in Africa there is always more time to die) but there is also a time to brand. Cattle owners and slave drivers did it. The Nazis did it on Jews. Meles Zenawi's guerrillas used the scythe to singe and brand their innocent victims. Branding was in for long and may be due for a comeback if we are to heed the advice of a Swazi member of parliament. He demanded that people with AIDS be branded so that their potential victims get a forewarning as they are being prepared for a dangerous foreplay. An interesting idea, to say the least.

But the Swazi MP could not withstand the hue and cry by Swazi men and had to withdraw the suggestion. Swazi Member of Parliament and gospel singer, Pastor Timothy Myeni, has now blamed the devil for suggesting at an MPs' workshop, that there should be a law making it "compulsory to test for HIV" and that people testing positive should be "branded on the buttocks". Here is a news report on his retraction:

"The devil has trapped me so that he celebrates that, from a Christian, such an uncalled for statement has come out. I am very sincere. I am very sorry. I understand very well that this was a blunder", said Pastor Myeni at a media conference, in Johannesburg .

"There are infants who get infected in the womb or during birth. Does he want HIV-positive infants to be branded also? What does he say about rape survivors?", asked one angry official without explaining if he was talking of women or men rape victims and why the branding should not involve babies with Aids. Myeni has retracted but his was an interesting suggestion if anything. Swaziland is a country where a young king marries young maidens and carelessly spends the country's meagre resources over cars and palaces for himself and his women. His 13 wives shop in Dubai most of the time and his birthday parties cost millions while the Aids afflicted people suffer for lack of drugs. He ordered the Swazi girls and women not to have sex for five years, not to wear miniskirts and long pants and then goes on to hold the so called Reed Dance ceremony during which more than 50,000 bare breasted and scantily clothed young girls vie to be the absolute monarch's next wife--for the money and prestige of course. The king, Mswati III, uses this ceremony to acquire young maidens as his wives. Shouldn't such a person be branded on both his buttocks as a profligate, polygamist and tyrant? MP Myeni's branding idea could very well have been an idea whose time has come but he was cowardly and threw it on and to the Devil.

To begin with, there is no reason why the branding should be for Aids carriers alone and why it should only be done on the behinds. If branding as a warning and as ID catches on, it can be used for tyrants, embezzlers, official thieves, decadent politicians, "genociders", mass killers and more. Imagine the corrupt tyrants with a big THIEF brand on their foreheads. They will never show their ugly faces in public. The brutal military regime in Ethiopia did try its own sort of branding when it unleashed the Red Terror against its opponents (mainly the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party) and nailed an "I am a counterrevolutionary" placard on the foreheads of the murdered EPRP followers. It did not catch on because the brander was the one that had to be branded and exposed while, on the other hand, popular branding by people on the tyrants can catch on. There is branding and there is branding and the Nazi numbers branding is out of date unless we insist on branding Sassou Ngueso and his likes No 1 Thief. African tyrants who like to be called No 1 Patriot and No 1 Genius could deserve to be called number one Despots and Robbers. Branding the forehead may not also be very effective given that fact that with fundamentalism spreading not only women but also bearded fanatical men cover their foreheads. The hands can also be covered with Michael Jackson gloves. Thus, where to brand becomes a problem.

Lest some ill intentioned people think that the Swazi pastor is one more African savage advocating a cruel act let me say that branding people is an old practice of the Western civilizations. Romans branded even thieves with the letter F and burning people with iron was also considered punishment. The Greeks did burn and brand. Res servus est, the slave was a thing, a biological entity somewhere there with any ordinary livestock who had to be dehumanized to make it know its place. Following the Romans and Greeks, Americans and Europeans branded their slaves/in most cases black/ just as they branded their cattle. The practice of branding did spread to affect deserters, adulterers, blasphemers and prisoners. Branding was legal in ancient laws of England . "The British Mutiny Act of 1858 provided that the court martial may, in addition to any other penalty, order deserters to be marked on the left side, 2 inch below the armpit, with the letter "D", such letter to be not less than an inch long. In 1879 this was abolished". The

Dutch, the Spaniards and the Peruvians were cruel slave holders often joining branding to neutering of the slaves. Yet, there are those who argued that branding gave the slave a sense of pride, it was proof he belonged to someone, had an identity and was not a "nobody" Nowadays, the border police take our photos and finger prints so that no rejected modern slave flees to another country and becomes an accepted immigrant (or slave). It must be said that not all branding, or facial marking, was done involuntarily. Many Africans cut their faces with knives to carve "railways lines" or designs to show their ethnic identity and/ or even social status. You brand yourself and you differ and, as one Nigerian put it, based on that difference you slaughter or get slaughtered.

The problematic of where to brand lingers. Below the armpits is a hidden place where many eyes do not get the chance or the will to go. The Swazi pastor suggested the buttocks but that is only visible if one takes of trousers and pants-- and even poorly clad Africans manage to cover that part somehow. In other parts, the Burka--type covers frustrate any branding on any part of the face. The shame is thus hidden, the ID not seen. The Swazi pastor also made the mistake of assuming the males in his place will be nude when they spread the virus with diligence and cruelty. Given the fact that people tattoo themselves anywhere and everywhere with meaningless designs and indecipherable characters the place for the ideal place for the revealing and exposing branding may not be found that easily. Can the Devil help? Maybe, hopefully. But branding is an idea whose time has come. Imagine our joy if we could see the despots that have made our life miserable carved up with a big DD on their foreheads: Decadent Despots. Time to carve them up, time to brand them all. R for racists, B for those disciples of Bush and his butcheries, T for tyrants, MM for mass murderers, G for those who commit genocide, E for embezzlers, S for stooges, C for the corrupts, and a big MO for monsters, scoundrels, Talibans, ruffians, marauding militias, sick fanatics, mad mullahs, the Joseph Konys and other such disasters who have made the world a terrible place to live in.


Michael Jackson (MJ) was world famous --in other words conspicuously miserable for the entire world to see. It is not the lack of a better thing to do or write that has pushed me to pen this brief and different adieu to the legend (Ethiopians say an idle mother would engineer her own son's divorce) but the need to thank this 50 years old child for the very many good gestures and good things that he did especially for ordinary Africans. He may not have known it but MJ did help us in many ways.

There is in the beginning the "We Are the World" song that mobilized millions to help Ethiopians during the 1984 Famine. For us, who have had the 1973 famine and still get the privilege of being starved by a regime that claims 11% economic progress figure per year, the noble gesture of Michael Jackson (as opposed to that other common man calling himself Prince who did not take part in the song) and others was not to be forgotten. That famine passed, other famines came but it was not the fault of MJ though the present regime in Addis Ababa has accused foreigners of being responsible since they did not come with food aid in time this time around. Be that as it may, MJ is to be praised for not taking himself as the Messiah and trying to impose himself on Ethiopians and Africans as God sent just because he helped. Thanks to MJ for not doing a Geldof or a Bono on us is what we are saying. These two and others like them have appointed themselves our patron saints. Dambisa Mayo who wrote the Dead Aid book concurs by being opposed to rich celebrities becoming the de facto face of Africa and, as expected, Bono’s Advocacy One organization has campaigned to discredit Moyo’s book. I do not know of any African who has voted these Bono and Geldof and others like them as his or her representative but they, with the haughtiness they are not even aware though it is instinctive, have stolen our shouts.

MJ did not do that. He did come to Africa though ans was made a king in one region in Ivory Coast . At Dar es Salam airport. he was seen holding his nose and some African newspapers did attack him for suggesting that Africa stunk. For me, the biggest surprise was the fact that MJ's nose, after all the surgeries, was still functional while the noses of our otherwise self declared healthy nosed Mayors are dead to the stench of the cities they run to ruins. I do not know about Dar es Salam airport but many African cities stink to the skies as do, of course, European cities like Naples . In Africa, we are expected to wallow in filth, sleep outdoors (our leaders claim the real African is an outdoor man, a being of the wild who hates being cooped up, though they still cram us into tiny prison cells whenever they get the chance), and to never complain against the Mayors. Thus, MJ acted as a Knight in a shining armor when he held his nose and the Mayors cried foul. He was actually holding his nose not to suggest filth but as we Ethiopians say, pardon the expression, he who is about to fart cannot tolerate jumping. The Mayors and the State owned newspapers shouted against MJ because they knew of the filth they had made the people endure. MJ said sorry but most of us Africans said thanks for telling them that even for a nose that had passed under the knife so many times the stench was just too much. A short visit to Addis Ababa for one can prove the point of the prevailing stink on all levels.

MJ did a lot more for Africa . Poverty stricken as we are, we wear second hand clothes, hand me downs and cheap clothes that shrink when washed (if ever you get water evidently). Wearing trousers that do not reach the ankle had been a long time embarrassment to most of us and there came MJ with a shrunk trouser making our day. We could now boldly and confidently strut and walk around the cities in our unfitting /shrunk/ trousers , no more ashamed, and proclaiming to the world I am wearing hand me downs and second hand clothes. We could, if we want to be chic, wear just one glove (it could be torn no matter) and no one can snicker if we do not have another one. That MJ has the habit of grabbing his crotch in public has also meant deliverance to many beleaguered African males who have had the need to do just that not to dance but for a variety of reasons. For one, Africa has too many rivers and lakes but almost every city is suffering shortage of water and the chance of having a decent wash is becoming more slender than the waist of a diet conscious Western girl. Thus, grab can carefully and subtly be turned to scratch (like when we were small children or big rebels in the forest with lice in our heads) --what a relief. The other main reason for doing the grab thing has been to check, given that African tyrants have emasculated most African men and stolen their manhood. We are to be excused if we do take things literally and have the need to check from time to time if it is still there in place. With MJ doing the grabbing in public the shame and discomfort associated with the action vanished and many a proud African could indulge in the grabbing action (check and recheck) as many time as possible to his heart's delight. I am sure these are the kind actions of MJ that many white folks did not know about.

There are some people who think that MJ was not socially conscious, what with this entire alleged attempt to turn into a whit woman. Yet, MJ was conscious enough, he started out to look like Diana Ross ( who did not look at all like Amy Winehouse for example), explained his whiteness is linked to a skin condition called vitiligo and no more. One wonders why the surgery thing has become such an issue when he did it and not when others did it going as far as even removing some ribs to look thinner. Bear with me for another Ethiopian proverb which laments "I do not know if it is my predicament or that of my karma but when I hold a lemon it smells to the seven heavens". The hue and cry over MJ's face could be because of his karma (poor soul) but he was a troubled person, exploited, used and abused by many sycophants and parasites. Yet, he was a conscious man who accused SONY of racism. In my books, the Japanese emerge as the most racist lot in this blighted world and Japanese companies hold their noses at Africans and blacks in general while grinning till tomorrow when they take the money. That MJ attacked SONY as racist showed clearly that he was conscious of color and did not appreciate white or yellow just like that. An attitude that gave courage to many Africans who did call whites racist over and over again but were afraid to do the same with Asians though the Indians have proved notoriously racist in East Africa and the Chinese have taken their place and prejudices all over Africa. We Africans can now follow MJ and call the Japanese and Chinese, who call us black devils, racists. Thanks again MJ.

As we say, pain is another word for the good fortune of another being. Many had pain because MJ was successful, an icon, world famous. So what if he gave money to AIDS afflicted children in Romania and not to AIDS orphans in Africa ? What matters is that he gave. Madonna goes to Zambia finances a school and makes sure that the children adopt her Kabala religion. Is this selfless charity? The African tradition is that you do your giving and helping discreetly, let God only know about it. Is Oprah Winfrey even listening? But these celebrities trumpet loud the amount of money they give or the so called good deed that they have done. Did we ask Bono to be the spokesperson of Africa ? Who are the Darfurians who entrusted their cause to George Clooney? Who is that stupid American who went to the Burmese peace activist's home and gave the dour generals the opportunity to haul her to court? They want fame for it and in this way they expose themselves as charlatans. MJ may have spent millions during one shopping spree and not given much for poor students who yearn for a scholarship (not in Africa but right there in America ) but he has escaped from being a charlatan. Can we have non patronizing help please? MJ did not patronize Africans-- he had more important things to do. As most people allege if he had to turn white that was no easy undertaking at all. The music world is poorer without his presence and for this fact alone we say goodbye to MJ with sorrow in our hearts just as we said adieu to our own Ethiopian great and departed singers like Tilahun and Menelik.


Like Uganda , Italy has had its political clowns. If Uganda had Idi Amin Dada, witch doctor Alice Lakwenya and even the present death man Joseph Kony, Italy had Mussolini. The image of the Italian fascist, IL Duce, strutting atop a piazza Venetia balcony and shouting "l'etiopia e italiana!" ( Ethiopia is Italian), when his invading troops entered Addis Ababa . is unforgettable. The bald fascist had his own show much like the ideal western buffoon called Idi Amin. Mussolini was hanged upside down by his victims and Idi Amin died in comfortable exile in Saudi Arabia (whoever said these Arab monarchs and Sheikhs had good feelings towards Africans anytime?).  

Italy has a new buffoon. He undergoes plastic surgery, has a hair transplant, sleeps with minors, dilly dallies with professional prostitutes, makes politically incorrect declarations , talks of a tanned leader called Obama, declares Italian colonialism was a blessing and more but few people are laughing. Berlusconi tries at being a political clown but he is not funny. Consider his actions against immigrants. Last February 20, 2009, Berlusconi issued an emergency decree that allows volunteers in organised groups to patrol and identify suspicious individuals to report to the police. Currently, such militias are supposed to be unarmed and equipped with special mobile phones to make contact with the police. In future, the decree envisages a budget increase of €100 million from the interior ministry to fund 2,500 police reinforcements by April at the latest. Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, from the neo-fascist National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale, AN), announced that the emergency decree permitting civilian vigilante groups had been unanimously agreed upon by the council of ministers. Roberto Maroni , home affairs minister and member of the racist Northern League, declared that the patrols would be organised by mayors and police chiefs, and equipped with special walkie-talkies. Recently anti immigrant violence, targeting Romas (commonly referred to as Gipsies) and Africans, has taken place all over Italy . A rape attributed to a group of Roma youths was publicized to raise public anger while a similar rape by a son of a Mafia chief in Naples was played down. Government authorities are systematically fanning xenophobia especially against Moslems, Roma and Africans as a whole. When hundreds of Muslims held a prayer protest in front of the cathedral in Milan and the Coliseum in Rome during the war on Gaza , politicians and the media presented their actions as an "Islamic threat" and an attack on "Western values". In Nettuno, a town near Rome , a 35-year-old Indian man was attacked by three drunken Italians who set him alight. Berlusconi came to power playing anti immigrant racist politics and his government, allied to neo fascists and racists of the Lega Nord, promises to deport more than half a million refugees. France has deported close to 30,000 in 2008 alone. European countries consider Italy the weak underbelly used by refugees supposedly “flooding” Europe . Italy is thus turning on the screw with a fierce right wing government unconcerned by human rights vowing deportation en masse. Already, Berlusconi has deported hundreds back to Libya which recognises no refugee rights. Thousands of Ethiopians, Somalis and Eritreans are held in containers in the Libyan desert at thr mercy of unscrupulous police thugs.

Berlusconi enjoys attacking Africans and the continent at every opportunity. Rome gets dirty and he compares it with an African city as if Naples is not there next to him with its uncollected garbage. Much as he may show racist prejudice towards Africans and the continent, Berlusconi has many characteristics that can make him a run of the mill African dictator. A racist he surely is but he is as good a buffoon as an Idi Amin or a Bokassa. Italian sources claim he is one of the loyal consumers of Viagra much like the late Sani Abacha of Nigeria who (like Berlusconi) frequented escort girls and high priced prostitutes. Consider the various women making part of the Berlusconi scandal:

"Noemi Letizia, an aspiring model and actress at the centre of scandal. Berlusconi attended her 18th birthday party on April 26 and gave her a gold and diamond necklace; she is said to have attended a new year's party at Berlusconi's villa. He has not explained how he came to know her. His wife alleges he has slept with her.

Patrizia D'Addario, a former model and escort, 42, who says that she was paid to attend Berlusconi's parties and has secretly filmed herself and Berlusconi in his bedroom.

Elisa Alloro, a slim, blonde former television presenter, 33, and author of We, Silvio’s Girls, who says that she has been invited repeatedly to Villa Certosa. “Every time is a privilege,” she says

Sabina Began, a former nude model who was named by the Italian press as the “queen bee” at Berlusconi's villa parties. Reported to have sat on his knee at a party celebrating his 2008 election victory while he sang the Napoletan song Mala Femmena (Bad Woman).

The enraged Veronica Lario, Mr Berlusconi's wife, 53, who announced on May 3 that she was seeking a divorce because she "could not stay with a man who frequents minors". Berlusconi is officially 72 years old.

Berlusconi could have learnt much from his African twins but his flimsy attempt to steal compromising tapes surely makes Omar Bongo turn in his grave. If Patrizia D' Addario had ever set foot in Gabon and dealt with the short Mullah Omar in Libreville she would have been disappeared a long time ago before anyone could hear of any compromising film or tape. Berlusconi has yet to meet the fate of Abacha who died on top of an international sex worker due to Vigara pills acting bad with his cardiac medication. Yet, the Italian clown has been humiliated in the face of the whole world as a man who takes advantage of minors and pays anything from 2000 to 10,000 Euros to have a good time with escort girls. No wonder he deports refugees, this unfunny clown. Italian colonialism is guilty of horrendous crimes in Ethiopia and Libya . That Mr. Berlusconi claims colonialism has done well instead of bad is to be expected from him given his political right wing and fascist position and his overall irresponsibility.

The man who said he never paid for sex has high priced prostitutes brought to his decadent parties by army helicopters. He is anything but a clown--Berlusconi is a calculating bully, said one political observer. He has apologized publicly to his wife for his public sexist comments but has yet to say sorry for his predecessor's colonial carnage or for the misery he has brought on asylum seekers and immigrants. His crude comment on the victims of the cruel repression by Argentina 's generals passed without much approbation. In other countries, the gaffes of Berlusconi may have led to a resignation but he survived not because Italians love buffoons but because he controls the media. This is how one observer put it:

".... the reaction of the Italian media to his comments was almost a test case of the extent of his unhealthy domination of that industry. Il Foglio is owned by his wife. Il Giornale is owned by his brother. The main state television channels are not directly controlled by Mr Berlusconi but are part of a web of political patronage. The prime minister also owns the three main private television channels. "

Berlusconi himself has admitted that he only had three laws passed and all of them were in his own favor. He does enjoy adulation in Italy and that has inflated his ego and given him what one reporter called a "god complex". This same reporter went on to explain the problem: "His 147-room country house at Arcore, north of Milan , is complete with an underground mausoleum, like a pre-Roman burial site'. You pass through a narrow corridor and enter an imposing square chamber with a pink marble sarcophagus in the centre'. Mr. Berlusconi's family and friends, meanwhile, will be buried in niches around the walls, facing his tomb"

The billionaire and so called "il cavaliere" is the prince of gaffe but he is in reality a bully, a prince of darkness. He is not funny at all. Mr. Berlusconi, leave immigrants and asylum seekers alone please.


The diminutive tyrant called Meles Zenawi has a slick tongue which some people imagine expresses intelligently though out ideas. It is a busy forked tongue that can spew out a lie in at least three languages in at least four directions. Most Ethiopians, Eritreans and Somalis have learnt this belatedly much to their chagrin.

As much as Meles tries to be smart (street smart say many of his detractors) he also tries to be funny but, much to his chagrin, unknowingly. The thin lie between a lie and the truth had long ago been blurred by him and his attempt at humour usually ends up being grotesque lies trying to pass of as truth. When he sent his troops to invade Somalia for the first time he declared very seriously "we did cross the border but it was not an invasion" and was surprised that many did not believe him or laugh at his joke. For a man whose tyrannical regime holds more than 35,000 political prisoners in official and secret prisons and camps, he wants to be believed when he declares "we do not hold even one political prisoner". Back in 1993, he officially promised the Westerners that opposition parties leaders wanting to come to Addis Ababa for a Peace and Reconciliation conference will not face any repression ("it is their country," was what he said) and when they came he whisked most of them right from the airport to prison (one is still imprisoned on trumped up charges). He vowed to have a multi party system and immediately banned all independent groups and parties and flooded the country with his satellite groups, hastily made up the African way, with bribes and benefits laced with threats and blackmail. Yet, Meles appeared as an intelligent if not humorous leader to many Westerners, ranging from IMF and World Bank officials to Bush and his poodle dog Tony Blair.

When the Meles ruling front lost the 2005 general election one of his henchmen blamed " the wind"(nefas) for blowing the ballot papers in favour of the opposition. The goon was not joking at all. Meles handled his defeat the usual tyrant way-- he let his special police and security forces loose on the people, massacred more than 200 in Addis Ababa alone, jailed more than 100 political leaders and independent journalists, rounded dup 50,000 opposition parties' sympathisers and members and accused the opposition of fomenting violence. Again being funny unintentionally but actually doing his thing as usual he forced the opposition leaders to write to him a letter asking "pardon" for the crimes that he himself had committed against them and their followers. When one of these jailed and "pardoned "leaders explained the charade he had her rearrested and sent for life imprisonment while blatantly declaring she will not be released and he boldly expects the whole world to applaud this as due process and proper legal action. Is this funny? Funny in African politics is often hilarious, Bokassa funny, Idi Amin funny, Nguema type macabre funny. Meles fails by comparison. He was trying to be funny when he said he will make sure that the majority of Ethiopians ate three decent meals per day and when millions starved instead he did not even try claim that he never said when but went on to shout that it is the fault of the Western countries for not giving food aid in time. Just like he is presently blaming the World Bank for the grave power shortage and the closing of factories which has rendered thousands of workers jobless. Starving Ethiopia , dark and lightless Addis Ababa and many other towns-- it is all the fault of foreigners. Who is in charge of the hapless country in the first place? An unasked question but, if we take Meles at his words, it is not Meles who is in charge. When he had thousands of Eritreans expelled from Ethiopia , roughly and brutally, he declared "if we do not like the colour of your eyes we can send you packing". Recently he said I do not care if the main man is in the Asmara ( Eritrea ) Palace is human or ape. We remember when he said that talking to the main man in the Asmara palace was worth reading ten books. Consistency is obviously not the forte of Meles,

Meles is definitely not funny. This is not because he does not try at all, no. he tried hard and is still trying. While millions starve he states that Ethiopia is having a surplus of crops and will export to Kenya . When millions are faced by increasing poverty he unashamedly asserts that the economy of the country is growing at 11% annually. He claims he is proud of his record, of the economic progress, of establishing peace, while millions wallow in poverty, eating one decent meal has become as difficult as getting clean drinking water and ethnic strife has spread like prairie fire all over the country. He claims democracy reigns when the judiciary is controlled by the ruling front, when due process is denied, the rule of law trampled upon, prisoners tortured routinely and draconian repressive laws decreed one after another. All this is supposed to be funny. Ethiopians are not laughing but Meles who said there is something wrong on their dietary practice could very well suggest that the Ethiopians not only lack food but also a sense of humour. The ruling front has almost monopolistic control over the country's economy using a conglomeration of firms under a collective name of EFFORT. Meles says it is an Endowment, it belongs to the people of Tigrai, his old mentor on ethnic hatred goes further and states that EFFORT is the biggest and richest company in Ethiopia . How did this happen? How could this be let to happen, this use of State power control to dominate the economy and drive other (ethnically "Others" above all) businessmen out of action? Our organization had the money while were fighting in the forest, has said Meles. When the Tigrean front was a guerrilla group and it gave medical treatment and medicine to the people under its control it registered this and when it took over power it forced the Ministry of Health (under its control of course) to pay it back millions of dollars. A bad joke? We wish! His wife, the Queen of corruption, has learnt from him and claims she has difficulty paying her daughter's school fees.

The Ethiopian State is basically a Tigrean dominated State, with most of the officials coming from the Meles ethnic group. Yet, Meles claims all people are equal and if some claim that this is no true and some are more equal than others he would say they are only ill intentioned, in love with the fallen regime or just plain jealous of his ethnic group that he calls "the golden people". When we were young and being fed (brainwashed actually) with Ladder edition books of "What is Communism?", "What is Democracy?" and the Reader's Digest catholic right wing sanitized values, I remember a column in the Digest which was titled Laughter: The Best Medicine. A similar quote was also at the entrance of the Haile Sellasie (later National) Theatre in Addis Ababa . Having tried my hand at satire I have always wondered if laughter could assuage our pain. The jury is out on the matter but taking the cruel joke on Ethiopia that is called Meles Zenawi not many of my compatriots are amused. They consider the regime a damnation and not funny at all. Actually, Bokassa and Idi Amin, Nguema and Kamuzu Banda, for all their antics and shows and preposterous declarations, were not that funny in that they were tyrants down to their big toes but compared to Meles they did make us chuckle. Beady eyed Meles Zenawi, on the other hand, does not have the clown's face or "atmosphere". There is something in his gait and movement that cries here comes the cheat, the cruel monster. Too bad for him but only those who do not know the sadistic fellow feel sorry for him.

As if his crude fake jokes were not enough Meles has recently tried to make us laugh with his original declaration about democratic elections, a subject he knows little about unless you mean rigging and killing and jailing the winners and shooting those who protest against the fraud. Talking smart on the subject he told the whole world that "the process is all" and the outcome not so important. What is this miraculous process? Is it knowledge he got from the correspondence course of the British Open University? It cannot be the process of free and fair elections as he and his regime killed such an exercise in 2005. If the process is fair and the outcome not so nice for Meles and his regime then the outcome is changed and the voice and decision of the people stolen, denied. In other words, you can win the election but so long as the election process was ok you do not need to complain you have been cheated out of the outcome. Original, no? But, not funny at all. As the dictator said, if you get zero it is just tough luck as the process is "All". The electoral law and the electoral commission are all in favour of the regime but no need to complain, as come the deluge or the Sahara heat, the ones controlling the gun often emerge supreme in Africa . Alas, the process is a poor man's soup, plain water, no meat, no substance. Famine. Now, there is one sure thing we know we have under the Meles regime. No joke. An empty stomach and an aching heart do not help one to appreciate lame jokes and that is why Meles Zenawi is not funny at all but a small pathetic man presiding over a vicious tyranny. He is so pathetic that his nauseating talk of I am going to resign has not even interested the millions of flies of Addis Ababa which, under his reign, has become one of the dirties cities of the world.

Of Modern Slavery and Same Old Slaves

We all hear countless accusations and denunciations being hurled at what has come to be known as modern slavery. Talk of slavery and it is only on June 18/2009 that the US Senate issue a formal apology. One news report put it as follows:

"The Senate adopted a resolution Thursday (June 18) offering a formal apology for slavery and the era of "separate but equal" Jim Crow laws that followed. After the clerk finished reading the resolution (S Con Res 26) in full, Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, the measure's sponsor, noted that Congress has never before issued a formal apology for slavery".

Americans sort of enjoy being surprised, a "we did not know that at all (whatever did we do to "Eye-ran"?)" type of denial. Ignorance is no excuse of course. The ongoing shock at Americans torturing prisoners is another self serving Ostrich politics. The world knows that America was torturing prisoners all the time. Forget Native Americans and scalping and using dried human skin/breasts/ for tobacco pouch--check out the Los Angeles Times article of June 18/2009 on torture:

" Torture, after all, is a venerable American tradition. We were water boarding captives in one of our earliest wars of occupation , the Philippine-American War, which cost as many as 1 million civilian lives. In 1902, Teddy Roosevelt himself wrote with laconic praise of "the old Filipino method."

The slave trade was as American as apple pie and as British as fish and chips. Belated apology does not a reparation make but how do you calculate money wise the damages that the slave trade made to a whole continent? The slave trade laid waste to Africa and damaged its future for long. Africa's call for reparation has been ignored royally. That African chiefs and Arab merchants took part in this nefarious trade must also be mentioned--after all Africans have always been at the centre of their own misery. Slavery was evil and enough commentary has been made on it thereby relieving me from the need to belabor the point. But what is this animal called modern slavery? Is it an animal, a vegetable or a mineral? Let us just say damn the slave trade because one of its bad consequences is that our tyrants are using it even now to excuse the pitiful state of poverty in which they have put us in. Take away the slave trade and colonialism and the African despots would not have had any external excuse for their drastic failure in assuring good governance.

Officially, slavery is dead and gone but as many things deemed dead it still exists and is in fact flourishing in new forms. Debt bondage and forced labor are realities in many countries from the Congo to Peru. In Niger, Mail and Mauritania for example, ethnic difference has led to a master and slave situation with people being considered as slaves at birth. Dalits or bonded laborers are in their millions in India and Pakistan. Many child slaves wear leg irons. In Mauritania, slavery was formally proclaimed dead on August 8/2007 and a fifth of the country's population, dark skinned Mauritanians known as Haratines, were supposed to be free from bondage but not many of them had radios and TV to even hear the news and slavery still thrives there. As one news report puts it: "Dark-skinned men, women and children known as Haratine carry out orders under the threat of being beaten. They work as laborers and shepherds, as servants and cooks, as nursemaids and security guards. They are penniless and uneducated. Their masters are pale-skinned, Arab-speaking Moors". Thousands of people from Africa and Asia are trafficked (this is the new word, mind you. that could make you imagine a paved congested highway leading to Eldorado) to the West and the Middle East to work as modern slaves. Some 200,000 people, mostly young women from Ethiopia, the Philippines, etc, are modern slaves in Lebanon, working as domestic maids and servants, unpaid, raped and beaten, with no rights and subjected to the crude racism that is very Lebanese. Modern-day slaves can be found labouring as "servants or concubines in Sudan , as child 'carpet slaves' in India , or as cane-cutters in Haiti and southern Pakistan , to name but a few instances". There are currently over 27 million people in bondage and slavery. UNICEF estimates that 200,000 children from West and Central Africa are sold as slaves every year.

This time around the slavery is modern not only because we live in modern times but also because the slaves go to their bondage sometimes willingly in search of work as it were. The slavery in Mauritania and other such places is as antique as 800 years ago but the modern slaves found in the West and the Middle East are different. No one abducted them, though they are indeed still trafficked. They themselves face up to danger (and many die in the Red Sea or the Mediterranean) to make their way to the lands of modern slavery. "Domestic workers" really means or refers to modern slaves in private houses and brothels. It is a multi million dollar business and as we all know our unelected leaders go where the money is to be found and they are the ones facilitating this traffic. Few modern slaves pick cotton, very few are lynched. Instead, they slave for 16 hours in rich people's houses and sweat factories and they are thrown into shark infested waters, beaten to death, pushed to suicide, drowned and shot by callous border guards. There are no galleys though the slave ships are still there crammed with hopeless souls. Modern day traffickers, ruthless employers and old time slave drivers share the same cruel streak.

All this said, we African must be the first to admit that modern slavery has its benefits. To begin with, it is modern even if this remains a mystery to us as many other things of this modern unfair world. Due to progress, modern slaves come cheap, they do not cost much. Modern slavery is not so much about color or race--it is about poverty and economic deprivation. It is not even about religion either as Moslem Saudis, Lebanese, Libyans, and even Sudanese and Yemenis hold as slaves Moslems from their own and from many other "Third World" countries. For once, we Africans, or blacks as we are called, can sigh with relief as others not so black are also subjected to modern slavery. What is so good about others suffering just as our ancestors did and as our kin in many places are still suffering? 27 million modern slaves and the number on the increase--maybe one day Africa's demand for reparation may be heard or is that a desperate hope? The more Disposable People abound in this modern world--meaning modern slaves-- there is more probability that the whole evil may end as more people suffer and if this modern slavery thing which has started to involve Eastern European women continues to trap more Europeans and then there may be some concern and protest. It is not forbidden to have big expectations. Slave labor is at the core of the destruction of the Amazon rain forest which means all these environmental and Green and ecology people may rise up against slavery. Of course, it could just be another Waiting for Godot. The role of Arabs in the old and modern slavery, the involvement of Europe and America in the old and modern slavery is continuous. We have no surprises, the culprits are known and that is one better thing. Know the culprit-- no sweat, we know them already. Modern slavery does not have many secrets and surprises. It is modern. And those who may be nostalgic of old style slavery can still travel to Mauritania, Nepal, India, Sudan and Pakistan.



Ethiopians, who have had to endure brutal deaths over decades, have a common wish which asks God “to make my death decent” (amamuaten asamirew). I am one of those who wonder why Ethiopians pray since He hardly ever listens to them but then again Ethiopians are a hopeful lot who will die hoping and praying for better days that never seem to come.

We have to admit we have had decent murders over the years. I was a boy of six when I first saw a man being hanged by the State. It was outside a nearby church and there was a big crowd and the hanged man was accused of being a mugger. It left an indelible impression on me, the image of the hanged man with his tongue sticking out somewhat stayed in my mind for long. There was nothing decent in this hanging at all. The next hanging I saw when I was in my preteens involved a woman and a man who were hanged near the Weizero Kelemework School in Addis Ababa. The man was the woman’s lawyer (and as rumours had it maybe her lover too) and he was arguing her case against her husband involving a land and property dispute. The husband and the lawyer got in a tej bet (shebeen or local bar room) brawl and the lawyer stabbed the husband to death. The wife came to the scene and threw a rock at the corpse, it was alleged. A court sentenced the lawyer to death and the woman to ten years imprisonment. The case was appealed and reached the Emperor’s Chilot, an illegal feudal proceeding in which cases were brought before the Emperor and he dispensed pardon or not. Though Ethiopian law, which I tried to study in the University, stipulates that the sentence cannot be aggravated in the appellate court, the Emperor (who, perhaps, woke up angry that morning—if one had good connections and a case pending in the Chilot those who present the cases to the Emperor would not present one’s case if they see that the autocrat was in a bad mood) ordered the hanging of the woman too. And the woman was hanged next to her lawyer.

The decent thing about her hanging was that she was dressed in traditional white shamma netela and skirt but with cotton trousers underneath lest the wind blows her skirt high and makes her appear indecent. This concern about her being decent was touching. The system was murderous but still concerned about indecent exposure. Those were indeed the good old days. And then came the military regime of murderous thugs who massacred more than 250,000 people in a terror campaign they dubbed Red Terror courtesy of the Soviet experience.  Even these thugs were at times concerned to do decent murders. Though they buried thousands in mass graves in the dead of the night they still gave respect to corpses by selling them back to their kin after the payment of the bullet price. Corpses were not just useless but valuable—if the person took four bullets to die then the kin paid the price of four bullets to the government that killed him or her. And when the dead were not buried in mass graves the corpses were either thrown outside their houses and the kin forbidden to weep but ordered to sing (an original therapy some argued) or thrown at garbage dumps with  slogans nailed or pinned to their body ( thus passing educational messages to the living). Corpses had their uses. They just did not die but by dying also became useful and as deaths go in Ethiopia
it was decent of the regime to think of making them useful.

Nowadays, we have no decent murders. The sadists just enjoy it and that is it.  The killer regime in Addis Ababa kills and buries people in total darkness. Or it massacres people from the Ogaden to Gambella, to Sidamo and Gondar and denies it. It even travels abroad to Somalia to cut the throats of people or rain cannon shells on houses and then denies any crime. So indecent, the denial kills the victims again as it were. Compare with the previous military regime whose Chairman broke bottles filled with red ink or blood in public and vowed to kill thousands of his opponents. That was respect, it was decent. The murder was acknowledged and defended and, in reverse, it gave respect to the victims as enemies worthy of slaughter. The murderers now in power have no sense of respect or decency. They shoot to death an unarmed human rights activist and teacher coming out of his house to go to work and then claim he was resisting arrest and running away from the police. They stab to death another human rights activist and deny they had anything to do with it. They station sharp shooters on top of buildings and randomly shoot to death peaceful demonstrators and deny that they did such a thing. They have secret prisons and do disappearances routinely. No one
even knows you are dead– how indecent can a murder get!

I was in the Sudan when the over drunk president Jaffar Nimeri have had enough (the Sudanese joked that whiskey was pouring out of his ears) and decreed Sharia over our heads and just made all liquor expensive. According to this law, thieves were amputated (right arm and left leg or left arm and right leg) after the doctor gave them anaesthetic. How decent of the Sudanese authorities you would say, no?  However, it was not a decent act in that the anaesthetic in the Sudan took days to take effect and the victims suffered their pain anyways. The rebels of Sierra Leone gave victims the choice on amputation but were not decent enough to ask their victims whether they preferred to die by the bullet or the machete. Times have indeed changed and have become brutal. No one asks Ethiopians if they want to die of famine but the regimes just bring the famine year in and year out. The concept of decent murder is sometimes known as Forrester’s paradox. “It proves that if you murder someone, then you only did what you ought to do. For if you murder someone then you ought to murder them gently. If you ought to murder them gently, then you ought to murder them. So, if you murder someone, then you ought to murder them”. But it should be done decently. Is this too much to ask?  The Emperor ordered the hanging of the unfortunate woman but she was dressed decently for the occasion. It was not costly at all. I have seen in 1960 my politically unconscious compatriots sticking sticks into the bullet shredded legs of a hanged coup leader to turn the corpse towards this or that direction as they joked and snickered and hurled insults.
So indecent!

It could very well be that the tyrants have become exhausted by the murders and have forgotten to be decent about it. If you have to murder people just massacre them, period. Yet, it does not hurt to be nostalgic for some respect and decency in murder so long as we are
doomed to do the dying.



Thank you swine flu and Mexico ! For once Africa has not been blamed for being the source of a deadly virus. From Ebola to Lassa Fever, Rift Valley Fever, White Nile virus, the Marbrug Virus, the “Jealousy” malady and even AIDS and all so called haemorrhagic fevers have been attributed to poor old Africa . Africa is good for some blame at least.

The ongoing swine flu has been first detected in Mexico and the reports indicate that a small five year old Mexican boy was the first victim. Imagine just if his father or any other Sanchez or Mexican had been on safari in the Serengeti plains and the swine fever would have been called the African swine flu and Mother Africa would have been blamed for a mild yet deadly flu that you can avoid by wearing a face mask and washing your hands! Shame of shames, an African virus that does not kill millions would have been bad for Africa ’s reputation. This time around the Mexicans are to blame even though it could very well be gringo/American tourists who took the virus there and brought it back to their homes. Back in 1981, the first AIDS victim was an American but somehow the scientists argued that the deadly virus must have originated from the “dark” continent. By the way, the Israelis have reportedly protested against the present flu being called the swine flu. Not kosher at all. The virus is said to be a combination of swine, bird and human flu, a combination that poor Africa cannot really afford come to think of it. Now that this deadly flu is beginning to ravage the Western world a vaccine may be found for it fast as it is no malaria killing millions in over populated underdeveloped countries.

I still would like to argue that the swine flu may very well have originated in Africa itself. We have a swine fever attacking pigs in many parts of Africa . We have had flu of various types and too many birds to count. And we claim we are the origin of human kind. Why can’t we be the origin of all its fevers, maladies and viruses? George Bush called the whole continent a disease ridden country and one similar racist American blogger also referred to Africa as a collection of filthy disease ridden lands. Insults aside, if our continent, which has at least 53 distinct countries, is the origin of human beings, then it should consequently be the centre and origin of all the viruses and diseases. Logical, no? On another level, we are often told we do not have proper attitudes towards hygiene though our detractors do not bother to query how come we have so many rivers and no clean drinking water, how come we are destitute while our lands have riches and how come we cannot afford modern medicines. Recently, there was a big hue and cry by so called Western twitters (mostly actors and entertainment personalities) to buy and send us mosquito nets aplenty. I read a message from Dead Aid author Dambissa Mayo that in some places the thankful African ladies have turned the mosquito nets into wedding dresses, to hell with the mosquitoes. It reminds me of Emperor Menelik of Ethiopia, the victor of Adwa over Italian colonialists, who was fascinated by the electric chair and imported one and, alas, since there was no electricity, used the chair as an ordinary chair for himself. Misplaced importing move on his part. When it comes to our self appointed aid givers they often give us Dead Aid or irrelevant material. Like refrigerators where there is no electricity, vaccines that require a fridge where there is no electricity, blankets to desert people, fish soup powder to people who detest fish, fishing nets to highlanders, dates to those who do not eat dates but would brew it into a potent arak and cause deadly brawls in refugee camps, etc. The charity business is often profit oriented or many times a balm for the guilty conscience of the West and decadently rich people. Colgate where tooth brushes have never been seen.

The contention that all evil viruses originate in Africa is part of the old and persisting prejudiced and selective perception propagated by the Western media on and about Africa . The news agencies often quoted by African newspapers themselves (AP, UP, AFP, Reuters and AFP) are not African at all and even the Russian news agency and Xinhua are more or less in the same can. Then Western agencies often circulate the negative image of Africa, focusing on “savagery and wars, tribal unrest and carnage, shocking corruption, flogging and rape, a South Sudanese marrying a goat or a Nigerian raping a child to cleanse himself from Aids,” and so and on . The war in Bosnia or Croatia is ethnic but “tribal “in Africa . Bestiality, child rape and cannibalism are features of decadent Western societies but highlighted when it touches on Africa . It is part of the “dark continent” syndrome, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness rhetoric of Empire (to quote the title of David Spurr’s book). Primitive and savage, raw meat eaters, all of them “The White Man’s Burden” awaiting salvation and enlightenment from the West—the image sticks. The Africanization of the viruses falls in place. Saudi Arabia is an ally of the West but an obscurantist medieval regime that hangs women and beheads people every Friday and oppresses women to no end but one hardly reads a continuing denunciation of this. The presentation of Africa in the western media, the harping on the viruses, on the “tribal” wars (by the way why are the Sans people called Hottentots and the Ewes Pygmies?), the famine, the viruses, Aids, the diseases—all are part of the rhetoric that the Empire has maintained throughout the long decades to demonize Mother Africa. Of course, we cannot deny that considerate Africans despots have chipped in to help!

So, if the Swine Flu had been attributed to Africa we could have welcomed it gladly. Bring it on kind of attitude. Africans are resilient and tough—didn’t they survive the slave trade and brutal colonialism? If one more virus is attributed to them what can it do to them? Nada, as the Mexicans would say. If Africa is the origin of the creature called human, Africa deserves to be the mother of all its maladies and viruses. Mother Africa, accused of originating so many devastating viruses, makes no apologies as it lets the Mexicans and others enjoy for once their pathetic swine flu.



“…the African man has never really entered history”
Nicholas Sarkozy, the French President, in a speech on Africa made in Dakar, Senegal on July 26 th, 2007

To be fair, Nicolas Sarkozy did say Africa deserves to be happy just like other continents. But in the above quoted speech in Senegal he did say also: “The (Africans) have never really launched themselves into the future,” and Mr. Sarkozy did add “the African peasant, who for thousands of years has lived according to the seasons, whose life ideal was to be in harmony with nature, only knew the eternal renewal of time … In this imaginary world, where everything starts over and over again, there is room neither for human endeavor, nor for the idea of progress. The problem of Africa … is to be found here. Africa’s challenge is to enter to a greater extent into history … It is to realize that the golden age that Africa is forever recalling will not return, because it has never existed.”

The Sarkozy speech caused a lot of stir in Africa though many “France Afrique” members (or if you want to put it crudely many French neocolonial puppets) did not utter any strong protest. From far away South Africa, Mbeki, the faux pas man par excellence, wrote to Sarkozy and praised him as a citizen of Africa. “What you have said in Dakar, Mr. President, has indicated to me that we are fortunate to count on you as a citizen of Africa, as a partner in the protracted struggle to achieve the renaissance of Africa within the context of a European renaissance and the rest of the world,” Mr. Mbeki wrote. And Mr. Sarkozy was reported to have written back: “You have been kind enough to highlight the ‘courage and truthfulness’ of this speech. As you very well know, Africa needs truthful friends in order for her to meet the challenges she is facing.” Sarkozy did also say colonialism did not exploit anybody echoing a revision of history that is becoming fashionable in France and some other European former colonial countries. The speech of Sarkozy is now headline news because his rival, the Socialist Segolene Royal, who happened to be born in Senegal, went back to her birthplace and offered an apology for Sarkozy’s slight on Africa. Apologies, apologies for those humiliating words that should have never been uttered in the first place said Madam Royal and the whole French right wing establishment has gone ballistics against her accompanied by that Bush loving, nominal Socialist, shameless Bernard Kouchner who is the current foreign minister of the right wing French government. The Royal apology has engendered a royal bashing while ordinary Senegalese and many Africans are delighted.

France has definitely a lot to apologize and atone for. As one of the notorious colonial powers, it is responsible for heinous massacres in the Malagasy Republic, Indochina and North Africa. French colonialism was a curse for Africa and did not have much to envy from Belgian, Dutch or British colonialism when it came to barbarism or exploitation. The French war against Algerians and Indochinese has gone down in history for its atrocities. After the colonial Empire collapsed, France maintained its neocolonial grip on its former colonies (stationing Foreign Legion troops in Djibouti, Chad and other places), staging coups, brazenly exploiting resources (the oil of Gabon, etc..) and acting as an arrogant overlord. Yes, France does have a lot to apologize for but then again asking the colonized victims pardon is not in vogue. Instead, blaming the victims themselves, calling them terrorist when they try to resist is what is fashionable. This is why the French establishment riled against Segolene Royal. This said, one can also go the politically incorrect path and join the Mbeki fellow who praised Sarkozy and perhaps wonder if the African has indeed entered history. Did the African only know the eternal renewal of time? Was the African even aware that time changed given that his agricultural activities have been dismal? Maybe he planted in summer and stayed in his hut during winter? Africa had no golden age said Sarkozy but did it have a bronze one even? No wonder the henchmen of Sarkozy felt humiliated and shamed by the apology of Royal in Senegal. How can “golden- aged” France apologize to an Africa that had no golden age at all?

Forgetful of the world by which they were forgotten the Ethiopians slept for three thousand years, wrote one European historian. This was worse than Senghor’s “the great sleep of the Negro”. Sarkozy has upped the ante—the African has never entered history in the first place. Where on earth was this black giant wandering? From Songhai to Axum to Zimbabwe to Kingdoms of Mali and Ghana, to Kilwa Kiswani and the Gambia and Timbuktu, etc, we are invited to forget Africa and her civilizations and asked to wonder where Africa was roaming in the wild unable to find the door to History. It is not only rabid racists who claim that colonialism did wonders for Africa and that Africa’s main problem is not anybody else but the African himself. Many raise the question that resource starved Japan is advanced while resource rich Africa is not and that the main difference is that Japan has the Japanese people. No one has explained in detail whether this refers to the shape of eyes or the color of skin but the general take is that Africans are lazy, no good, song and fun loving “darkies”. We Africans know otherwise of course. The ordinary African toils from dawn to dusk and more but the fruit of his labor has always been taken away from him by robbers from afar and near. After all, the African was brutally taken away from his land as a slave and has built Europe and the Americas and even Middle Eastern countries and therefore all talk of sloth is nonsense. Sarkozy’s paternalist and veiled racist comment denies this basic fact and casts negative light on the speaker himself.

Yet, one can still say the African has not entered history if by history one means the history of Monsieur Sarkozy. Otherwise, Africa had its history and as any Ethiopian would proudly assert Africa was the birthplace of humanity itself. How history–imbued can one be in the light of that? Sarkozy’s claim that the imaginary world the African lives in has no room for human endeavor is hard to grasp given the fact that the African people have been endeavoring and sweating to their bones to make progress and change their lives if only they had not been hindered by France and other colonial and neo colonial powers. Africa has also an ailment called her own leaders. But if we take Gabon, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Djibouti, Cameroon where France crushed the nationalist struggle of Ruben um Nyobe of the UPC (1955), etc and ask the toiling peoples who is behind their unending misery we will find out that the black calloused fingers would be pointing to the direction of Paris whose dirty streets still get cleaned by African workers who are treated less humanely that the littering dogs. And did Africa lack “an idea of progress”? Little Nicolas was not even born when Africa had bright ideas of progress. Actually, the struggle for independence waged by Africans, the resounding NO of Sekou Toure, the Pan African and “Africa should be free” vision of Nkrumah and Lumumba, of Felix Moumie killed by France, and more were all loud and clear visions and ideas of progress stifled by France and other neo colonial powers. So, how can the Sarkozy fellow sanctimoniously blame Africa of having no idea of progress and of living in an idealist naive babies land?

Still, if we want to be the devil’s advocate and feel sympathy for both Sarkozy and Mbeki we can ask where the African was all these years shut outside the doors of history. Imagine if there was no Sarkozy to tell him there was never ever an African golden age and the African should wake from his thousands years long “sleep of the Negro” and try to enter history! Disaster! But where is the key to the door of history? Who holds it? America or France? Will they give the African the key since they are already taking his resources for free? The Sarkozy fellow did not elaborate on this but we must ask and wonder about this. As we do this, the Royal plea of pardon does warm our heart. After all, as lazy Africans we want to blame others, we still fail to understand that colonialism was good for us, that no one rally did exploit us, that we are actually our own worst enemies and we just dream of a non existent golden age that will never really come in the future. And so, when Segolene Royal came back to her birth place and said sorry for the humiliating speech of Sarkozy we say thank you lady for the kind words even if we still have no idea of how to enter into the history the Frenchman talked about. Is it as Mbeki suggested through a European renaissance? Will they allow us to tag along or will they continue to chase us out of their continent and their so called renaissance? Mbeki is no longer in power and cannot answer us and Sarkozy has no ears for us Africans with absolutely no idea of progress. All this said, I would still be happy if Sarkozy or any other person would enlighten me on where the African was roaming all these centuries when he was said unable to enter the door of history



Of DJs and Coups: Africa’s Unending Originality

The “dark” continent is in reality the most vibrant and original continent. Tam tams are still there, the drums of passion and of an undying spirit of hope rising against the reality of despair and death. Westerners have this annoying tendency of taking poverty as exotic ( take the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire as an example) while disliking the poor, of loving Africa’s wild and Serengeti type plains while detesting the Africans as a whole. Yet, our continent is vibrant, original and alive and those who talk of a disappearing Africa are themselves coming from drab, old and failing empires and continents.

B grade actors have indeed become presidents in some other places like America and the Philippines but where on earth can a DJ suddenly enter the palace (the cherished “ Eating Place ”) except in Africa ? The buffoonery of Idi Amin and Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa, orchestrated by Britain and France respectively, is a thing of the past. Those two were not original, they were ordinary colonial soldiers raised to high ranks and the palace. At De Gaulle’s funeral Bokassa cried “Papa! Papa!” without shame. The coups were not also something new and startling. Since then, we had the creeping coup, the accidental coup, the corrective coup, the mistaken coup, the revolutionary coup, the coup against the coup and now in Madagascar a DJ’s coup. The laughing stock of a union in Addis Ababa (the AU) has declared the Madagascar coup illegal even though many of the AU leaders are themselves products of a coup (including the current chairman Gadafi of Libya who may hope we have forgotten September 1969) and the Madagascar coup is original in that it is DJ orchestrated and denies it is a coup. Which coup in the word has even denied it is a coup? Where on earth has a DJ come to power in such a way? Only in Africa ! Even those who think that Madagascar and Sri Lanka share the penchant for long names must admit that the African island has redeemed Africa ’s unique place once again. The Madagascar opposition leader, DJ Andry Rajoeleina, who is referred to as TGV (the French high speed train), is expected to use his own Injet company to paste advertising billboards all over the country and to benefit as his predecessor did from such an action. We would have been surprised if he had not benefited from the opportunity. Of course cynics would say: Ravalomanana is gone (but Rajoeleina appears like his clone. Poor Madagascar is in for more turmoil for sure.

The coup has come back with revenge. Mauritania and Guinea have had their authentic coups. Hardline military men playing havoc on the countries. Madagascar has the shy coup that denies it was ever one. But Africa has coups made against the people in various ways. Unwanted power holders have arbitrarily changed constitutions to assure their rigged re election for additional terms. Museveni is one example. Over in Egypt (does Mubarek consider himself an African I wonder?), the Rais is trying to pass power to his son. In Ethiopia , a tyrant killed hundreds, jailed opposition leaders, stole the people’s voice and illegally continued in power with America applauding this coup. Mwai Kibaki did an election coup on Kenyans and following deadly riots pulled in his rival as prime minister and as they ate together Kenya is starving to no end. Another coup on the people. The revered coup does not have to be military. The coup is an illegal sudden action against the will of the people. The tyrants of Africa have staged several coups against the people in this respect.

The conceited West imagines that it is the source of all knowledge. Russian racists attacking Africans in Moscow and other cities openly claim that Africans are around (and not created mind you as how can they imagine a lily white God of theirs creating blacks?) to serve as slaves for whites but the reality is that Africa is way ahead of the self proclaimed not dark continents. For more than a decade, Africans have been without electricity while a Western NGO is calling on the world in March 2009 to switch off electricity for an hour to protest against environmental degradation. Even in the realm of voicing a protest the self inflated and Western centred so called environmentalists ignore us. Switch off your lights for an hour is a call that leaves out millions who have had their lights switched off for decades and more than three days per week anyway. Yet, Africans did pave the way. No electricity for days. No drinking water for long. We did protest but few listened for years and they now belatedly understand why we stayed without electric lights for so long. We were protesting but did anyone listen? Not at all! George Clooney goes to Chad refugee camps and shows a bucket of water for flushing a toilet. What toilet? We are shocked by different things and levels and sadly our self proclaimed benefactors will not understand Africa anytime soon unless it concerns taking away its riches from the Congo to Niger and beyond.

To come to the main point, Africa is pioneering new fields. A DJ can be president. We can all have coups that deny their identity. Self inflicted coup. The justified coup, the non coup, the invisible coup, the forced coup, the coup against electors, etc have all been seen in Africa . From buffoons and morons to DJs they have all taken power. Original! Can any other continent compete? Doubtful! Africa is forging ahead for sure.



The controversial International Criminal Court has finally come out with an arrest warrant for President Omar Beshir of the Sudan . The warrant is out for war crimes and/ or crimes against humanity but not for genocide—a point that would surely not matter that much for the accused.

Let me say from the outset that I have little or no sympathy for the tyrant in the Sudan who, aside from causing the slaughter of so many in South Sudan and Darfur , has deported many Ethiopians to their deaths or disappearance and has sent his troops to occupy Ethiopian land. That said, the decision by the ICC and the clamour it has engendered from quarters that have proven contempt for Africa calls for some reflection. As I tried to point out in my previous article, “Of Courts and Hypocrisies”, the ICC seems to be in reality the ACC, the African Criminal Court, as it seems hell bent to deal ONLY with alleged African war criminals (up to now) from the Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic and Uganda. From Milosevic to Charles Taylor and the Congolese war lord, that court in The Hague has yet to deal with notorious war criminals from the West.

The ICC arrest warrant for Omar Beshir thus leaves a bitter taste in our mouths not because the accused is innocent or does not deserve to be tried (which should be done by the people of Sudan and not by others for that matter) but because it is one more clear contemptuous action directed against Africa and signifies the nauseating double standard and hypocrisy that has been so damaging to the oppressed peoples of the world. War criminals abound all over the world and the top ones are the very ones manipulating the ICC prosecutor and making all this hue and cry. Just a look around shows that while in Cambodia one trial for genocide is in progress the butchers of Indochina from Henry Kissinger to so many American generals and CIA officials are not only free but honoured. In Iraq, where war crime of huge proportions has been committed by Bush and Cheney we hear no whisper of a court action against them or any other suspects other than the speeded trial and execution of Sadam and his officials. Even in Africa , pro-West butchers are hardly bothered. The war criminal in Ethiopia , Meles Zenawi, is untouched and even rewarded with aid and praise for his crimes against the Ethiopian and Somali peoples. The tyrant in Equatorial Guinea is enjoying Western protection by those greedily taking that country’s oil. Omar Beshir’s political and ideological position brought on him this wrath and not his bloody actions against his own people. Had he been pro-Washington or pro London , the ICC would have ignored him no matter how many he may have killed. Did London and Washington criticize Mugabe when he ran rampage in Matabeleland to “deal with an insurgency”? There is presently a cry out for the arrest of former Chadian dictator Hissen Habre but his replacement Idris Deby also deserves to be tried but the oil factor comes in to grease the ICC silent. How many war criminals are enjoying comfortable exile in the USA , France and England ? Wasn’t Sadam the dear friend of the West for so many years as he killed so many Iraqis and gassed Kurds and waged war against Iranians?

The shame of the past seems to be carried by the ICC now. Real crimes and criminals ignored. Has Germany paid for the brutal massacre of the Hereros? Italy for the death of one million Ethiopians? Belgium for the butchery of 15 million Congolese? Britain for all its crimes of Empire all over the world? Britain , France and America for the slave trade? France , Spain and Portugal for their colonial crimes? Can we say Lebanon ? Sabra and Shattila? Chechniya? Dare we even mention other recent crimes perpetrated by the powerful on hapless and defenceless people? Africa is shamed again and again and that dead body called the AU has yet to be buried with indignity. A frustrated Revered Desmond Tutu once said young South Africans ‘should not listen to Desmond Tutu”—I find his recent comments on Zimbabwe and Sudan not worthy of an African ear, young or old. Anyway, the ICC warrant against Beshir will mainly serve to complicate the problems of the troubled region and may even gain him some support from angry Sudanese. Other victims of Beshir may rejoice but it would only be a pyrrhic victory. The real victory is when the people bring the tyrants to their own court of law and when all war criminals, white or black, rich or poor, are brought before a proper court of law. The parody and political machinations by those who should be tried themselves is only a continuation of the injustice, a cruel and crude joke, against oppressed peoples.


A loud hue and cry is being heard just because a Sierra Leonean Court found three former rebel leaders (of the Revolutionary United Front--RUF) guilty of war crimes. The accused were found guilty of what a CNN reporter termed creative torture (what is so creative about chopping hands and arms?). The foreign media cried joy in its usual paternalism, congratulating Africans for conducting a trial (that the UN was involved is a footnote) and delivering a verdict of guilty. For those of us Africans who know African judges and courts and their insatiable appetite for finding all and sundry guilty, there is of course no surprise at all.

 Years ago, I argued that the rebels of Fode Sankoh (dead and in heaven probably), otherwise known s the RUF—are worthy of interest and perhaps of even admiration as they introduced a new concept in to the field of atrocities and carnage in Africa . No more indiscriminate killings, no more forced slitting of throats, no more stoning people to death, no more run of the mill massacres or bombing dozens to death. The RUF involved the victim in the choice of his or her own punishment. Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Congo, Uganda —so many amputees and none of them chose to be relieved off their hands or arms. In Sierra Leone, where the real cause of the war was Diamond, Bauxite, Tantalum and the British and Western greed for these minerals (even South Africa of Mandela sent mercenaries), the RUF involved the victims in the choice of their amputation, that action being main choice of terrorizing the population and even foreigners. Talk of RUF and you hide your hands deep in your pockets even in downtown London . Yet, behind the fear engendered and the apparent cruelty of the rebels they were notable in their introduction of choice in the whole system of terror and killing. The RUF rebels made sure they used sharp axes to chop of arms and hands thus showing an admirable concern (consider in contrast the anti- Sadam Iraqi executioners and the Somalis agonizingly stoning a victim girl to death) for the well being of the would be amputee. More importantly, they diligently asked the victim whether he wanted to wear a short sleeve or a long sleeve in the future (they are excused if they assume the victim will have a shirt in the first place). And, according to the CHOICE of the victim they choped off the hands or the arms (from the elbow down). Choice—the one thing that African tyrants have been denying us for so long.


I am sure some foreigners will smirk and belittle the importance of the choice as to where exactly you get amputated. As we say in Ethiopia , when you have no bread the crumb becomes more than significant. Denied rights and choice, we appreciate those who give us the chance to choose even the way we die or suffer. This was why I admired the RUF and suggested that they will for sure engender the wrath of African dictators who believe on crushing the people under their feet, no choice or breathing space and time ever given. This being the reality, I braved the storm and gave recognition to the RUF for bringing in the C word (choice) into the suffering of ordinary Africans. The ululation being heard today concerning the trial of the three RUF leaders brings to light the nauseating hypocrisy that is associated with these courts trying war crimes. To begin with, real criminals are not being apprehended or brought before a court of law. Talk of genocide and war crimes, Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia comes to mind but the ugly devil enjoys western protection and is thus immune. Criminal tyrants in both Congos , Equatorial Guinea , Gabon , the Horn of Africa are left unperturbed. Hypocrisy reigns, double standard is supreme.

 Let us refer to the so called International Criminal Court. Of 139 cases presented to the ICC it has only dealt with four and the fact that all four concern only African countries (DRC, Uganda, Central Africa Republic and the Sudan) have led to accusations of prejudice on the part of the court and its controversial prosecutor, the Argentinean Luis Moreno Ocampo. He was unanimously elected to the job in 2003 by the 70-plus signatories to the Rome Treaty, which set up the court in the face of fierce opposition from the Bush administration. In fact a coalition of human rights lawyers, academics and leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has begun openly to criticize his competence and conduct. The prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo has dismissed his media adviser, who made a complaint against him of sexual misconduct with a South African female journalist. That complaint, denied by Moreno-Ocampo and the woman involved, was dismissed by the court as "manifestly unfounded". But last month the adviser, Christian Palme, was awarded two years' salary as compensation for wrongful dismissal and €25,000 (£19,700) in moral damages by a tribunal of the International Labor Organization. It found that the prosecutor had not followed due process and had "seriously infringed" Palme's rights. Ocampo’s persecution of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga is also criticized for alleged lack of fairness and due process. “Ocampo sounds as if he is calling and working for a regime change in the Sudan,” said one human rights expert working on the Darfur issue. More importantly, those who should be brought before the ICC are not even threatened.

 War crimes have been committed by America since time immemorial but America had made sure no American will be tried for it. The massacres in Indochina are presently being repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan . Many Kissingers have flourished. While a Cambodian official is paraded for genocide, Henry Kissinger and the butchers of Indochina are feted and treated with respect. Pro –West dictators are left untouched and are enjoying comfortable exile in America and Europe . In Ethiopia , leading members of the ruling party took part in the Red Terror but they are trying others for the same crime and America has given asylum to many other such criminals with many deaths on their hands. Real politics plays its hand too. The criminals of Renamo in Mozambique are sharing power. Somali warlords and hard line criminals are also holding power. Given time, Joseph Kony of Uganda may also share power. Crime pays. And none of these untried thugs can compare with RUF which tried to give its victims a choice before the axe came down. The day real war criminals all over the world are brought before a competent court of law will be the day we may start hypocrisy and double standard dead.



Africa's Woes and Jokes


The time has come, » the Walrus said,

“To talk of many things;

Of shoes and ships—and sealing wax—

Of cabbages—and kings—

And why the sea is boiling hot—

And whether pigs have wings.”

Lewis Carroll ( Alice ’s Adventure Through the Looking Glass)

Somalia has done it again. For 18 years it showed the world that a country can exist without a State (which makes the Somali fundamentalists the first real Marxists) and still accomplish all the functions of a proud African State —kill, maim, destroy the country, displace millions, bring in famine, commit atrocities and more. And now, as the whole or at least half the world watches, Somalia has elected its latest president (no fake claim like Meles or other dictators who allege that 99.9% elected them)--, meaning some 500 MPs from various clans—themselves unelected-- elected Sheikh Ahmed as president and did the election not inside Somalia but in a neighboring country, Djibouti.

 Imagine the lesson of this novel experience. Instead of having often dangerous elections inside the country (and being forced to rig or cancel ) our tyrants can just take a few hundred of their support ers and party loyalists abroad and have them vote His Excellency as president. Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Angola who have had forays into the D.R. of the Congo can benefit from this—an election in Kivu by their battalions of soldiers. It would be legal. The MDC in Harare would be forced to eat its heart out for one. Sheikh Ahmed is being lauded by his former enemies in Washington and Addis Ababa and he may eventually make it back to Mogadishu or Baidoa and claim the palace if it still stands. Who says elections must be held in one’s own country? It can now be held abroad or in one’s own restricted ethnic enclave and then imposed on the whole country. Who says the whole people have to take part? They never did anyway and even if and when they did their votes have been thrown away and the fraud perpetrated. Why waste energy and money for a charade that has been exposed all over the world?

 Another country has tried to steal the thunder of Somalia and to hog the limelight and it is that “off shore” island called Madagascar . In that usually quiet place, civil protests and killings are being registered these days. A 34 years old former DJ who complained that the president of the country ordered the closure of his TV station has taken in charge an opposition movement and as I write this he is claiming he is charge of the country until a transitional government is established. A first in Africa in that everyone is wondering how the military can allow a simple DJ (actually protesting against an impending unemployment) to cause this much havoc. In Guinea, where the military made its coup just after the dictator Conte died the coup makers are aflame with fury. In Mauritania , where another coup maker general has taken over, the officers are also fuming. Madagascar has no army? The president cannot order them out to crush the protesters as has happened in Ethiopia in 2005 when the ruling front lost the election? How can all self respecting and coup addicted African officers let a DJ wreak havoc and claim “I am in control” as if the general and colonels do not exist? The Madagascar experience is another first in its own way. The latest AU meeting in Addis Ababa , attended by tyrants and coup makers and no DJ, could be discussing it in secret as it augurs not good things.

 The situation in Eastern Congo is also weird in its own way. Take the Tutsi rebel pastor, Laurent Nkunda, whose jungle wardrobe could make many in cities jealous. Film footages of Pastor- General Nkunda showed him in different attires, holding different canes like a serious Mzee, jovial and dancing to sweet Tutsi tunes. The whole world knew that he was backed and guided by Rwanda which, like Uganda, has had its own predator interest over Eastern Congo hidden behind an official claim of going after Hutu rebels hiding there. All of a sudden Presidents Kabila (DRC) and Kagame (Rwanda) seemed to have found a ground of common accord and action and Rwanda has detained Nkunda (what was he doing in Rwanda while he claims he controls much “liberated” territory in eastern Congo?) and the armies of the two countries are operating in the Congo against the Hutu guerrillas. In this same Congo , Sudanese, Congolese and Ugandan troops are on a joint hunt for Joseph Kony, the commander of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army which survived all these years thanks to Sudanese full scale backing. As I had written some years back, the notion of Armies Without Frontiers (AWF) has led to Rebels Without Frontiers (RWF) too and the LRA operates in the Sudan , the Congo and in Uganda . This is a development to watch because, in a short while, we may completely fail to understand who is fighting who and where.

 Add to the who and where the basic question of why and for what too. Two years after Meles Zenawi sent his troops to invade Somalia and to oust the Islamic Court Militia the very man that the troops chased out has become the new Somali president and the Islamic hardliners have come back strong and with a vengeance. The troops of Meles have left of course. Why then the bloodshed and the deaths of so many Ethiopians and Somalis? Meles and his patrons achieved nothing at all. Thus, the lesson that we are expected to get is the old fact that, in Africa we fight for nothing and we destroy people and countries for no apparent gain. This is not a first by the way. To suffer defeat and trumpet victory is not original either, Mission Accomplished and all that “Bushism. The other argument, that Sheikh Ahmed is a moderate (as opposed to who else? His friend Aweys? The Taliban?) , is also a lame one after all the cry we had heard about moderate Ayatollahs and how the regime of Meles (which is murderous but “not as brutal”) is moderate compared to the military regime of Mengistu. A comparison that splits hairs and has little or no meaning to crushed skulls and lost lives in the hands of so called moderates. The Islamic Court Union being Sheikh Ahmed’s baby and the brutalities of Al Shabab in accord with his teachings and exhortation, the change or the difference is illusory. In other words, the invasion of Somalia was an orgy of bloodletting that changed little in Somalia . It also does not require a prophet to state that the woes of Somalia re not over yet. Bad as this may be we can take solace from the possibility that Somalia may give us another first and make the Horn, if not the whole, of Africa an interesting place to watch for pioneer developments.



The statement by Rama Yade, a young Senegal born woman who serves under the French president as a junior minister for human rights, provoked my foray into this mined field that often triggers wrath from the "we love America" camp. Yade was euphoric that Barack Obama got elected US president and said: "This is the fall of the Berlin Wall times ten. America is becoming the new World. On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes".

 Rama Yade is biting a piece of a right wing French dream as Sarkozy's human rights minister and, judging from her record up to now, no tin pot Francophone African dictator is trembling at the possibility of being pricked by her probes or disapprovals. This is how things are expected to be and should be, France riding her puppets in Africa from Cote d'Ivoire in the West to Djibouti in the Horn, no mention of human rights. What makes Yade provocative is her open affirmation that "we all want to be American" and want to have a "bite of the dream". For official America that has great fears that everyone wants a bite of her and everyone in this world wants to be an American, this is a dangerous confirmation coming from a black woman no matter the significance of the Obama victory. "Rogue foreigners" refusing to change have always angered self indulgent America which has been interventionist and consequently missionary and now talks a lot about rogue states even. The contention that the world is flat, to quote Tom Friedman, and that the world is flowing into or can be made to flow into one American dug reservoir of American values and ethos is believed in by America but is dubious at best. Globalization has not erased the differences and levelled everyone into one dreary lot. On the contrary, every assault by the multinational has led to the search for roots, the ethnic is bedevilling us in the so called developing world where nation building has been wobbling for decades. The American dream, itself fuzzed by the materialistic and individualist insistence that accompanies it, is not the envy of all notwithstanding Hollywood and the cultural invasion. The contradictory nature of the American position--on the one hand wanting the whole world to be like America, to dream the so called American dream and on the other falling into the siege mentality of "the hordes are coming to bite pieces of us" (the schizoid mentality of the isolationist as it were) has made this world a tough place to live in as confused American foreign policy metamorphoses friends into enemies overnight (check Bin Laden, Noriega, Sadam) and makes foes into friends (Pakistan and Libya to mention a few) with a jarring double speed and double standard. American altruism or generosity, a credit to its people, is officially accompanied by the desire to control and humiliate. Aid has not been the panacea and America has used and abused its position in the world and caused the hatred against it that we see today in many parts of the world. The praise seeking do- gooder is often a blatant bully.

 What has been called the capricious inconsistency of America is at the core of the problem. On the one hand the belief that other peoples and countries have no culture and value, no vision and future of their own worth keeping and that they should be dragged or bombed if need be to the American way. This zeal of a cult leader imbued with his self- worth and eternal correctness then clashes with the notion of "they are jealous of us the chosen people". Ethiopians, and up the Red sea the Israeli and the Chinese afar, are familiar with the notion of the chosen people that considers all others envious (and disadvantaged) and leads to a syndrome that, to say the least, is not healthy throughout. The chosen people syndrome assumes that God or some power is behind "us only" as opposed to the others and it meets a cement wall when it is confronted by a rival "chosen" (Allah is with us and hates the others). As they say, the masquerading saint, often the religious zealot, is more dangerous than the open bully. The consideration of oneself as unique leads to the desire for a special treatment, we are special and you should bend to our will kind of logic. For example, the conclusion that Iraqis wanted an Iraq as seen and composed by America was shattered when " Mission Accomplished" turned out to be a sham and the war continued. Hypocritical from the outset, this has led to the obdurate refusal to accept the cartoon character Pogo's famous saying "we have seen the enemy and it is us". We came to liberate them and to make them have a taste of the American dream but how come they are resisting us? Unable to question the very basic premise that led to the primary act or mistake itself, resort is made to anger at and contempt for the one refusing to be so liberated. The recipe for disaster, for massacres--from Hiroshima to Vietnam , Yugoslavia and Iraq the road is littered with the victims of this fundamental misconception.  

Obama aside, the Civil Rights Movement aside, America was, and still is to an extent, a white supremacist society. Change is coming for sure and Obama's victory is an example of it so long as we refrain from taking the symbolic for the real and done deal. The drafters of America 's Declaration of Independence owned slaves ( Jefferson had 300) and the first American president George Washington had 316 slaves on his plantation in Virginia . Nowadays, the lynching is done differently but the prisons of America hold a big number of African Americans and even the outgoing president Bush had signed and approved the execution of many black men prisoners. The injustices abound and barring the euphoria, to my mind, the road ahead is bound to be tortuous. That is why I will like to assure all Americans that I for one and many others like me do not want to be American just because a half African has made it to the White House and we do not dream of biting a slice off your American dream, no. We know Hitler refused to shake the hand of African American high jumper Cornelius Johnson but it was Roosevelt who did not shake the hand of Jesse Owen when he returned victorious from the Berlin Olympics. Maybe, all this is neither here nor there just now but the praise heaped upon Obama's election (echoes of "Berlin Wall fall times ten" by Yade ) by African dictators makes us worry. The claim by Obama that America will lead and change the world is bothersome. Are we to be dragged and bombed into accepting the American way whatever that may be even if (we may dare not say it along with some others) it represents the "cesspool of morality and religious decay"? A Sudanese official found the election of Obama "inspiring" without clarifying what are the Darfurians to expect from this. Somalia's warlord par excellence colonel Abdullahi stated it was a great moment for Africa (is he hankering for an invasion?), Mwai Kibaki gave Kenyans a day off to celebrate, Luos claimed Obama's father as their own and Sudan said Obama has Sudanese roots given the "fact" that Luos were.......and so and on. The Nigerian president said "we have a lesson to draw from this historic event" without specifying if it has anything to do with fair election or not or treating the Nile Delta people and all Nigerians fairly. President Amadou Toure of Mali said America has given lesson in maturity and democracy without adding that he will try to learn from that if ever. And a Chadian official bluntly stated: it is an example to follow especially in Africa. What? The election? Electing a president who had/has an African father? The same official added that democracy knows no colour, religion or origin? Is this really a Chadian official in a country ruled by an ethnic chauvinist dictator called Idris Deby? And from Congo Brazzaville, the man who rules by the force of his horrible Ninja troops, Sassou Nguesso, said that Martin Luther King's dream "has come true". I do not know what the tyrant in Ethiopia said but I am sure it would be another useless hypocritical statement. The crux of the matter is that if an event makes both tyrants, their victims and democrats euphoric then there must be something wrong somewhere.

 Without attempting to steal the thunder and lightning of the Obama victory, reality demands from us to be wary. The appointment of "Madams disaster for Africa", that is to say Hilary Clinton and Susan Rice, by Obama jolts us awake. We want a tamer, gentler and more humane America. Hence, we do not want to spread fear by openly claiming we want to be Americans (to a paranoid country that says every visa seeker is a potential immigrant) or that we want a slice of the apple pie, the American Dream. We want to stay put in our own places to nurture our own dreams and values, to follow our own visions and roads. Americans are as wonderful a people as others are but it is not true that everyone on earth wants to be an American. After all, it may be a historic event for America to elect a half African (half white person) to the presidency. For us, we have had full blooded Africans ruling over us for centuries and it has not meant much in terms of our freedom because, colour aside, they were not really Africans, and more importantly, not gentle human beings at all. Our scepticism on real change in America being around the corner must be excused, perennial victims have the bait of exaggerating their pain--didn't some one say even the American declaration of Independence was a "maudlin list of grievances"? Even the Bible asks rhetorically: Can the Ethiopian/African/ change his skin or the leopard his spots? Will Obama's America ever understand us when we say we do not want to be Americans?


 Or, it can be called a timely call to end the hypocrisy over child soldiers. I know my position would draw some fire even from close quarters who had been dealing with the issue of child soldiers. But, let the abscess be pricked and opened-- young boys and girls should take part in wars especially in those wars that can possibly render their lives better. In other words, if they are old enough to die they should be considered old enough to kill.  

The hue and cry over the use of children in wars, that is to generally refer to those who are under 15, is currently made against those in the so called developing countries while some have even gone as far as arguing (mostly without basis ) that African traditional society called for the use of children as warriors . Imagine a child carrying (let alone throwing) a spear! Actually, the use of children in wars was very much practiced in the West. Tsar Nicholas I recruited by force Jewish children (called "cantonists") as young as eight years old. In the battle of Waterloo , children were used and many died--they were called "powder monkeys" and carried gun powder and other military items. In the First World War Baden Powell used minors as scouts and later modelled the Boy Scout movement after them. Many 13 year olds enlisted in the British Army to escape the numbing life as chimney sweepers, workers in the coal mines or in the dreary British industry. In the American Civil War, many children were used by both sides and bugler John Cook, who was 15, was among those decorated by the Army. The same happened in the Second World War--- Hitler had his Hitler Youths and young Jewish boys fought in the Warsaw Ghetto and in the resistance against Nazism. Children were incarcerated and sometimes even killed by orders of courts. In 1642 Thomas Graunger of Plymouth was executed for a crime he committed when he was 16. In present day Iran , minors are hanged by the ayatollahs and the Mollahs of Afghanistan were also ruthless. Nowadays, many in America rile against the "lunacy of lenience" and want minors severely punished and many (it must be said mostly blacks and Latinos) are actually executed for crimes they allegedly committed as juveniles. In the face of vindictive States, the child is always a victim.

 Children die, children get killed. If you are old enough to be killed why are you young enough not to kill? There is no logic to it. Modern society commits crimes against children. The sanctimonious reference to children losing their innocence in war is empty talk. Victimized at an early age, many of the world's children are old enough before they reach puberty. They are victims of abuse of all sorts before they even reach puberty as the Vatican can adequately inform us. Early marriages are common in many countries. Children are labourers starting from an early age. Thousands of them are street children exposed to all kinds of suffering and abuses, the pain of which the constant sniffling of petrol and glue cannot sufficiently cover up. Of the 2 million deaths every year from dehydration and diarrhoea 95% of the victims are children under 5. Thousands of children die daily from preventable diseases and poverty. All over the world, at least 750 million people are malnourished and the majority are children as is the case now in the famine stricken Ethiopia where a heartless tyrant does take good care of his own three children. We can continue with the grim statistics of Europe and America spending 17 billion dollars on pets while the spending of 9 billion dollars for safe water and 13 billion for basic health and nutrition could save millions of lives, and effective investment in education and fair trade practices could lift 300 million people out of poverty by 2015. After all, life expectancy in most parts of the world is at 40 while it is 80 years in the West. So, what life are we really talking about?

 The argument in favour of letting children take part in wars is not only derived from the need to have them fight for their own well being like the Jewish children of the Warsaw Ghetto or like the children of Soweto who fought against Apartheid (how many school children were killed by the racists!) There are other arguments too. Children who become soldiers can be far away from their parents. Many a Western expert has told us that parents in the Third World are uneducated and resort to beatings and mistreatment of children. This is not entirely false by the way and thus children can escape early marriages, brutal beatings and onerous work (especially in rural families) by going off to war. For once, they will be at the other end of the gun or the ones dealing the punishment like the child soldiers of Sierra Leone chopping off hands and arms. The other basic argument is that children have no life, no future to speak of. If they survive to reach puberty, they would still face horrible conditions and odds, starvation, abuse, sleeping on the streets, and can also be shot by trigger happy policemen from Rio to Addis Ababa . So why not go to war and have a fair chance of survival or die trying? Not all children can be adopted by a Madonna or a Jolie. Mercenary as they are, our rulers cannot sell all the children to foreigners. Their blood thirsty, vampire nature demands that they keep the majority for their own savage oppression. On another level, if children do not go war what will all these Save the Children and Protect Children from Violence groups do? Thousands of employed Western youths would be out of work. Do imagine this in the present times of recession. Are African children expected to compound the economic problems facing Barack Obama, a kin, just because he has become American? If no children do the dying in different war fronts where will the charity business be?

 Victor Hugo wrote: "the deepest misery, an opportunity for obscenity". The system is obscene; it is responsible for the existence of the child soldiers. All the Bill Gates' and Sarkhozy talk about creative or responsible capitalism is, as they say, hogwash. It is a world where the pets matter more than the child. It is a system that needs "powder monkeys", children to exploit, children to be blown up. Soweto and Intifada showed the result of the injustice. In Ethiopia , thousands of minors were killed by the previous regime and the present one came to power by using child soldiers, both male and female. The road to power and riches is built over young and frail corpses. The obscenity of the system is such that innocent children are exposed to death every second (2000 children are infected by AIDS every day) and millions are already AIDS orphans. Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is 15 but considered old enough to suffer Guantanamo . Old enough for the pain? Old enough to inflict it too. That is how we see the hypocrisy over child soldiers. In Sierra Leone , the government also used child soldiers and chopped off hands and heads of its enemies. Children were not spared this way or that. The movements using children, from Renamo of Mozambique to the Lord's Resistance Army of Joseph Kony have found out that it pays--Renamo shares power and Kony is being prepared for that. Who cares for children when children killers come to power?

 Not that stories recounted by "we were child soldiers"("as told to someone" from the West in most cases) sound true. One Eritrean woman whose tale has been made into a film wrote of carrying an AK-47 at the age of six in rebel ranks and those who have little inking of the size of a six year old female child's hands and arms and the weight of a full fledged Russian or Bulgarian Kalashnikov did believe her. Sierra Leone and Southern Sudanese "child soldiers" have also come out with tales that made them stare down ferocious lions where no lion roamed. No matter, the story, as Blair would have said, has to be "sexed up". The Western media and the NGOs need that. This said, the tragedy of the situation is not to be taken lightly. Ethiopians who do know much about dying say: "may God make my death nice and beautiful"; rather than (to) die in cold streets hungry and diseased it may be better to die with guns blazing and the staccato of machine gun fire accompanying their last breaths. I will not pretend to know the feelings of child soldiers in the face of death--I am no Bernard Henry Levy, the French media man, who wrote in detail about Daniel Pearl's last thoughts before being killed by fanatics. Yet, I do know that the life our children live under the brutal systems is no life at all. Who am I to tell them not to be soldiers? After all, the civilized West worships its armed forces and soldiers. The obscene part of it all is that children are exposed to suffering and death in the first place and not that they die lying under stinking bridges or shot by criminal policemen in a dilapidated City or in a fire fight. Death is death and the child soldier is but a victim of the obscene system imposed on us by greedy child killers who will never admit to their crime.

   The Problem of Modernity

“Give a dog a bad name and hang it,” says the proverb. In AmariNa, too, there is a saying that comes to mind “ Libeluat yefeleguatn qoq jigra yiluatal.” The saying assumes that qoq is not edible or kosher. Be that as it may, when the Seleda Editors asked me to try my hand at writing something on modernism in the Ethiopian context, I was perplexed at various levels. Were they indirectly having a private laugh at my previous attempts to go modern by writing short stories and poems in English? yalTereTere temeneTere. And as a self-respecting Ethiopian, I had to look for evil (and hidden) motives first before coming to the easier conclusion. In any case, in the end I had to grapple with modernism itself.

 Defining subjects gives you a handle on them. Mind you, this does not mean that the gratuitous labeling of people and their views helps a discussion go along smoothly or productively. Experience advises us to be wary of such tendencies, and yet we have to define modernism. SOS to Foucault? Derrida? “Missionizing” -- that dubious campaign to make us wear clothes, adopt the white man’s religion and customs, etc. -- suggested, albeit implicitly sometimes, that our culture and customs, language and even religions were not modern at all. We had to adapt. The more alienated and hyphenated we became, the more modern we were supposed to be. Years ago, Gedamu Abrha and Solomon Deressa wrote on the Hyphenated Ethiopian. Even the big hen was a “ ferenj doro”. In this respect, modernism required a certain degree of self-denial and alienation. Yet, "washing the Bible" is not a sign of knowledge or siliTanE.

 To begin with, the real “ awaqi” and “ zemenawi” spoke English – which came with an assumption of class and, by consequence, sophistication. Snobbism for sure, but there it was. You claimed to enjoy and, better still, understand the abstract paintings of a Gebre Kirstos Desta; while “ tzta” or “ zerafEwwa” left you ambivalent, Beethoven or Verdi moved you to your core.

 Modernism, you could say.

 Modernism and being civilized have at times seemed to be one and the same, at least to Ethiopians. yalseleTene, fara, balager and the all-encompassing hualaqer have all encapsulated the notion that one is not modern if one sticks to one’s own customs and feels proud of one's identity. In West Africa they define an intellectual as modern by saying he got his education “at the foot of the white man” and can tell the number of berries on trees just by looking at them. We have a continent of Tenquayotch, marabout and much gri-gri, but we still are awed by the trappings of what the West says symbolizes civilization or modernity. In this case then, the modern Ethiopian is inevitably a caricature of the original, someone in limbo between his own identity and that of the “modern,” an aspiration to change colour and even one’s maninnet, though few Ethiopians would be caught admitting that they want to do that.

 There is an apparent contradiction in the declared desire of the Ethiopian to rest himself, proud of his identity, and the ongoing and relentless search for a different identity in the realm of the quasi- ferenji. The world changes as do people, or as Heraclitus observed, it is impossible to step into the same river twice. Yet every motion and change does not automatically engender something or some situation that is better than the previous. Thus, one’s heritage is not necessarily backward, and what is deemed modern is not invariably “better.”

 Silver candelabras and coloured candles, uniformed waiters graciously serving Beluga caviar and paté, well-to-do Ethiopians dining out at the Sheraton. Is this being modern? That more people go for “steak tartar” ( Kitfo on the Seine , or Kitfoà la française) than for shrimp suggests something, but I leave it for all of you to venture your own analysis. Five mobile phones on the table, a ring and all five owners pick up their respective phone. Five hellos. Is this a sign of modernism?

 Haimanot Alemu presenting a cultural program on TV (tailored much along the line of Bernard Pivot’s famous series “Bouillon de Culture”) discussing books with their authors and critics on primetime television (unheard of in America where primetime TV is reserved for sitcoms, violence or sex) could very well be unimaginable, and thus modern in a country where the literacy rate is still very low. Someone in the region said once that those who eat spaghetti are more modern than those who eat Injera which, if true, makes millions of Ethiopians automatically non-modern. Yet the “monotonous” food most of us eat has captivated at least the French, who crowd the Ethiopian restaurants in Paris .

 Someone told me that nowadays it is not modern to drive one’s own children to school in Addis Abeba. The modern ones send the kids along with chauffeurs and do their utmost to avoid knowing mundane details pertaining to their day-to-day existence. It is so boooring! Of course, I am talking of the wealthy elite, Sandford School and all that. There is somehow the assumption that being modern and being poor are as compatible as the proverbial amat ina mrat. The modern Ethiopian is defined by purging the Ethiopian out of himself or herself.

 There are a few anomalies who have resorted to a sort of “back to the roots” kind of modernity. They project an Ethio-centrist kind of attitude by claiming to shun everything modern (the TV is out - ETV is boring so there is not much sacrifice there anyway) though they use automobiles, the fridge and what have you. I have read somewhere of some afro-centrists who use antibiotics claiming it was discovered in Ethiopia in the 14th century.

 These Ethio-centrists claim modern is traditional (they show this by the expensive Ethiopian furniture in their posh living rooms, for example) but they also beg the question coming from a bizarre land that does not define itself properly. Those who equate modern with ferenj and, therefore, reject it in toto with the questionable attempt to resort to “our own” and to “our tradition” (the claim to prefer their own “ qrs enna weg”), find themselves in a quandary about how to defend various “ kifu limadoch” (child beating, early marriages, genital mutilation, etc.). Those who drink areqE will always find an occasion/an excuse for it. They consume TirE siga like a carnivorous un-modernized Ethiopian, but you will not find them swallowing irEt in the place of the Stanoxyl imported from abroad. There is hypocrisy hanging in the air.

 The modern Ethiopian drives the modern car and does not ride the mule. She may not have her lips done like the Surmi, but she will have it pierced. The traditional Ethiopian male wore earrings if he killed a lion while the modern one, who would get the shakes at the sound of a bullet, wears not one but two or more rings in his ear without even killing as much as a fly, as Mengistu Haile-Mariam told us not to. The modern Ethiopian will still cling to his “ mann yawqal” and consult the horoscopes even if he does not wear the ktab. The witch doctors have also changed with the times and have gone modern. They use computers to gaze at and decipher the stars, they can deal with modern problems of stress, AIDS and alienation, and some of the more enterprising ones even give you a dose of the shiguT kinin (tetracycline) ground together with dried leaves.

 Times have changed, and yet some still claim that the Ethiopian has found it difficult to be modern (can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?). Why? They are still late for appointments. “The early bird catches the worm,” it is said. Ethiopians sympathize with the worm and conclude that the early bird does not eat the worm that is not early. We are a people that has been forced over the years to endure the unbearable, so what is wrong if we want to avoid being the early worm? The modern man as a whole is a jumble of stress and confusion, and if the Ethiopian fails to follow him along, I for one say he is being really modern, rising up to the challenge of the times.

 Modernism can also be another name for Traz neTeq cosmopolitanism. Take this article itself, which aspires to be deep and chatty by clashing English and Amharic phrases and sayings, and trying to rise above the pedestrian by eulogizing the school of “how to say nothing in a 100 words”. We have yet to pay a word tax; thus we are loose, free and even irresponsible with what we say and write. “ moN’na wereqet yeyazewn ayleqim,” said our more wary and cautious ancestors.

 Nowadays, memories are shorter than the attention span of an Alzheimer victim. The claim to sophistication without the necessary cultural foundation and enlightened outlook makes the attempt to project oneself as modern quite fake. And in the end the picture comes back full circle: not much has changed. The modern Ethiopian is the same old Ethiopian minus the neTela enna tenefanef. The doubts, prejudices, habits and outlooks of the past still prevail. The modern Ethiopian will be at the front seat of a serious witch-hunt or inquisition against the different. The modern clothes and posturing do not reflect “modern” views. The café and piazza “modern” is the home and bedroom reactionary. The modern Ethiopian, I daresay, will burn heretics given the chance, but will do so using modern petrol or kerosene instead of firewood. Protect the trees please, be modern.

 So what else is new? Every generation was and is modern for its time. It does not mean much. Look at how some modern Ethiopians use the computer and Internet - to resurrect alubalta and mystification. Like the Kalashnikov for the age-old vendetta, not the spear, not even the dimotfor or the Mauser. The main feature has not changed; the apparatus, however, has. We have the same heart and brains but wear Armani suits instead of the ije Tebab. Maybe we should look for modernity in valorizing our identity, self-respect and the cherished and positive heritage of all humanity. A tall order for sure but ke ahiya bal yeferes wishima yishalal. Yet another old proverb for a modern situation - it is vague enough to be of use. yallewn yewerewere feri ayibalim.


 Imamu Amiri Baraka called hope a delicate suffering while someone else called it tomorrow's veneer over today's disappointment. No question that Ethiopia 's suffering millions need hope, but then the same Ethiopians say he who lives on hope dies with desire. Very realistic you would say but it won't be correct all the way. Ethiopians, or at least her so called intellectuals, are complicated.

 I hear that Ethio-Americans are alive with expectations of an Obama victory. One intellectual who has yet to fathom the evil mind of Meles Zenawi and the complicated situation in Ethiopia has vowed to address all Ethiopians on the spirit and message of Barack Obama. Another promised an Obama victory will give Ethiopians the tools and moral equipment to defeat their enemy-- the same regime of Meles that is being backed by America because it is a foot soldier in Washington 's so called war on terror in the Horn of Africa . Hope springs eternal said someone else, hope the poor man's bread. I am the first one to admit that years of close contact with Ethiopian and African politics has made my cynicism strong. To be fair, of course, I would prefer defining cynicism as sentimentalism on guard, guarded optimism. This requires no prophetic ability but just observing experience and facts. Decades of US foreign policy towards Ethiopia and the region has been cynical, cruel and often mistaken and against the interests of the people. US and Ethiopian interests have hardly ever been synonymous.

 I remember many Ethio-Americans hoping for a better understanding from America when the Clinton fellow got elected. It was not long before his wife Hilary flew to Asmara , the capital of Eritrea , to praise Isaias Afewerki as a democrat. Clinton himself went on to lable Meles, Isaias, Yoweri Museveni and Isaias as new breed of democratic leaders for Africa . The Clinton administration backed the repressive Meles regime and aggravated the plight of millions of Ethiopians. Let me say right here that this has not much to do with the American people who are as generous as any other and have helped Ethiopians in their time of need but official America is another thing altogether. True believers of Obama would argue that he is different from Clinton and would chart a better deal for people suffering under dictatorships. Aside from being a song we have hears so many times before and taking into account that our fate should not be handed over to any foreign power or leader it is obvious that Obama is first and foremost an American. He may have had a Kenyan father but as the Kenyans themselves say in Swahili Mweri mwega umenyaagwo na ngetho ( the good millet is known at harvest time). Come January, President Obama will first and foremost fulfil the plans and priorities of the US of America . Clinton or Bush these priorities have not changed much in terms of Africa and are unlikely to change under Obama. The ethnic chauvinist Tigrean regime has served America well and will continue to be a pliant stooge in the coming years. Obama may be black but this would have no weight at all in determining his policy towards Ethiopia and Africa . The rogues and barracudas like Cheney and Rice may be out of power--a good sight to behold-- though the replacements may not warm our hearts in Africa . To let the cynicism ride its dark horse, for those who want more problems and chaos for America it is true that McCain is the right choice. One can hope his adventures into Iran , Syria , more obdurate policies in the Middle East and elsewhere. But we cannot wish the American people that much pain while wanting our own to disappear.

 A realistic appraisal of the weight of Africa in American politics is called for. Take the Congo where more than 4 million people died and American and British companies after minerals are behind the bloody militias. Who has cared enough to raise a voice in defence of the Congolese people? Ask Kofi Anan for one. Ethiopians suffer under one of the most repressive regimes in Africa --does Washington care? Are they not more interested in the mercenary role of the regime? Obama may be black but American foreign policy is, so to speak, white. White in the sense that it has no heart for the suffering peoples of Africa . Those who are experts at discerning the internal political and economic situation in the USA may adequately explain how Obama would be an improvement on Bush or McCain but I will bet all the dollars that I do not have that for Africa Obama will be more of the same, demagogy to the contrary notwithstanding. The American comedian Woody Allen said reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it. Yet, stress or not, we have to be realistic (without quotations) and much as it is historic and pleasant to see Obama in the White House his presence there would not change much for Ethiopia and Africa. No choice but to fight for our own liberation relying on ourselves and knowing full well that this may pit us against you know.




 Contrary to the image many westerners have of Ethiopia , the land of Ethiopia is fertile, the people very industrious and, alas, the system always rotten. The recurrent famine is not mainly because the land is infertile or the peasants lazy. That said I am the first to admit that Ethiopians are too polite and even bend backwards and suffer a lot just to please others.

 Back in 1973, Ethiopians found out that a famine hidden by the old Emperor solicited the interest of foreigners who flocked to the land to give help and succour as they said. Ten years and one later, Ethiopians again staged a big famine to give employment of hundreds of foreign youngsters. Can you imagine the fame of Bob Geldof without the famine in Ethiopia ? Live Aid, We Are the World, Doctors without Borders, Oxfam, and many others cut their tooth in the Ethiopian famine. Millions of dollars, pounds and yen flowed. Foreign intelligence agencies got good cover to fund rebels against the pro- Soviet regime. Actors and actresses got the limelight and front page cover as they looked sad and shed tears holding famine stricken children. There were too many Jonathan Dimblebys this time around and everyone was happy except the one million plus Ethiopians who perished. Some ignorant people actually thought Ethiopians starved because Ethiopia is a drought stricken land or a desert and we had to explain to them that Ethiopians were just trying to help by giving the chance to others to gain money and employment because of them. To die for others is noble, no?

 Actually, the praise should go to the various regimes that Ethiopians had to endure. They were the ones who made the famine, hid it to make it popular and opened the gates for the foreigners to play the sympathy and aid role. The first one, the retrograde regime of Emperor Haile Sellasie, tried to hide the famine in Tigrai and Wello, tried to keep the starved out of the capital city, spent millions of dollars on an imperial bash to celebrate the Emperor's 80th birthday. The protest led to his downfall. His regime was replaced by dour and cruel military officers who lovingly called their Red Terror carnage /more than 200,000 killed/ as the Red Performance and went on to ruin the economy and to spend millions as they celebrated the birth of their "vanguard party" as millions starved all over the country. The regime had a quota system that appropriated most of the peasants' produce, thousands of peasants were forcefully inducted into the government militia, agriculture was messed up through and through in a failed attempt to imitate a failed Soviet cooperative experience and famine was quickly there for the calling. Foreign NGOs, singers, actors, charlatans descended on Ethiopia , the pro Soviet regime was exposed, his replacements funded and the stage set for the new puppets to take over. As obliging regimes go, the military dictatorship was a good example of a regime that produces famine to give employment to foreign youngsters and old self-declared do- gooders. The new regime, new only because it is different but just as bad, was not expected to cede the credit to the fallen regime. The need for a famine was pressing. Any decent repressive Ethiopian regime cannot forego a famine. It is part of the deal, a dose of terror and one or two huge famines. With the World Bank in the background this time telling us the economy is booming, congratulations to the tin pot dictator. What famine?

 Emperor Haile Sellasie was not funny unless his attempt to look imperial was taken as such. Mengistu killed funny. Meles Zenawi is not a comedian but a street smart con man with the chutzpah/ we call it dirkina in Addis Ababa / of someone who has drained out all drop of "yilugnta" in his vein. Yet, he is unwittingly a comedian of sorts. He started out with a surplus of promises and told the people that they will all eat three times a day. One can argue in his favor by saying that he never did specify what the people will eat three times a day. Bread or their dreams? Anyway, right after this promise and his unabashed claim that Ethiopia would be exporting maize to Kenya ; the shaming report came out revealing that millions were threatened by food shortage and famine. Meles Zenawi did not try to hide or procrastinate but came out boldly to condemn the West for ignoring his "earlier pleas" for help. It was as if he was saying: who can blame me if I had already told the West and they did nothing? Those who assumed that a government of a country had the primary responsibility to care for its people were thus smitten speechless. Guilt-ridden, the foreigners rushed to help and also to help themselves. This time around we are in the second phase of war and famine, a combination that gave the chance to Washington and London to bring Meles to power. But, Meles is now a Bush stooge, invading Somalia to fulfil the war plans of Washington ; and he will not face a West sponsored insurgency using the famine as a cover. Still, the NGOs cried foul and revealed that six million Ethiopians are facing famine. The regime turned true to form and denied that it is committing atrocities and human rights violations and that that many people are starving. Just four million and half are starving said Meles putting to shame the liars who wanted to shame him. And Meles has put out new laws against the unchecked activities of foreign NGOs as he wants only his own NGOs to reap the profits from the disaster.

 Meles Zenawi also said the eating habits of Ethiopians should change. To learn not eat at all as it is becoming a reality these days? Maybe Meles wants to tell the Ethiopians not to eat meat though a kilo of meat costs 70 Birr and most Ethiopians earn 30 Birr a month. An unelected Prime Minister is turning into an untrained dietitician or consumer advisor? Meles says Ethiopians eat too much injera. Very funny. A quintal of teff (needed to make injera) costs 1250 Birr and a quintal of maize costs 850 Birr. Is Meles suggesting Ethiopians should diversify and eat pasta, rice, wheat? Where are these to be found? Those in the know are aware that the rulers of Ethiopia have changed their eating habits. Aside from Khat, they consume imported Beluga caviar, escargot, smoked sturgeon, lobster, smoked salmon and porcini mushrooms. And, of course, raw meat. Who but the ruling class in Ethiopia can afford meat at 70 Birr a kilo? In any case, the Meles regime has come out on top, organizing not only carnage and war but two famines in a short period interval to go along with it. It has, alas, copied the practice of the fallen regime and is blocking some agencies from going to famine stricken and terror beaten areas like the Ogaden. Will this deprive foreign youngsters of employment? Will it deny Angelina Jolie and others from having their pictures taken with starved children and maimed adults? As the World Bank hails Meles Zenawi and admires the economic progress of the famine stricken country the "Derek", cruel and heartless, regime is waiting for congratulations for only having 4 million people starving and not six million as is alleged by some ill intentioned quarters. Given Meles Zenawi's concern for proper eating habits and the fear of obesity coming into Ethiopia along with the US Marines and American bad buffet, the famine is perhaps God sent. It will of course require an explanation as to why the majority thin Ethiopians need to lose extra weight but most Ethiopians are sure that Meles will come up with the right answer. After all, didn't he send troops to invade Somalia and then claim no invasion took place--"our soldiers just crossed the border"? Is that an invasion! Museveni and Kagame were on safari in Eastern Congo , go learn.  Meles Zenawi is street smart and deceitful. He did not proclaim the colour of his terror against the people unlike the colonel who dubbed his Red and broke bottles filled with red ink vowing to wipe off his opponents. This has given the chance for the apologists of Meles to claim that he does kill people but not as many as Mengistu did. Who is counting? Six million? No, only 4 million. The debate now turns not on why the famine came in the first place (in a country of economic boom) but on the numbers. Isn't that clever? No doubt, Meles will try to benefit from the famine whatever the numbers. The question is will he try to eat alone (as is his wish) or will he share with foreigners? As for the majority of thin, badly fed and unfed poor Ethiopians, they are once again glad to be the victims and to help so many hyenas feast over their sorrow and suffering. Aren't we Ethiopians to be envied?


 It is perhaps proper to start out with a quotation from Thomas Jefferson from his "Notes on the State of Virginia" (1874) in which he wrote: "Never yet could I find that a black man had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration, never saw even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture." He was echoing the prevailing conception of the black people as ignorant, as people with nothing worthwhile to say or contribute. Ali Mazrui did reply to such false assertions in the 8 th volume of the General History of Africa (pp 579-580) by stating that "....black Ethiopians were writing poetry before Jefferson 's ancestors in the British Isles were taught the Latin alphabet by Romans." Sadly enough, in our own century, a black American called Keith Richburg, a correspondent in Africa for the Washington Post from 1991-1994, wrote a book called "Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa", a book hailed by the Establishment as a "great work of reportage", in which he despairs of Africa through adjective filled pages and concludes "thank God my nameless ancestors brought across the oceans in chains and leg irons made it out alive. Thank God I am an American." George Bush, who would appreciate such feelings, has also pitched in or rather butted in by reducing Africa to a "nation with a lot of diseases."

 Thank God I am an African. This disparaged continent of ours may have shared a similar past (subjugation under colonialism with just two exceptions, Ethiopia and Liberia ) but it is not homogeneous in culture, language or psychological make up. We are witnessing at present the failure of the so- called modern African nation state as inherited from colonialism and the emergence of ethnicity as opposed to any notion of nationality. It is proper then to primarily deal with the literature we are going to talk about. The African writer is a varied lot with different influences and historical reference points. Much as we cherish the pan African concept, the writings of the Nigerians Chinua Achebe and Ben Okri is different from that of Ngugi in Kenya, Tsegaye Gebre Medhin in Ethiopia or Dambudzo Marechera in Zimbabwe. It may not be possible, in other words, to talk of African literature in the singular and we are inevitably compelled to refer to African literatures in the context of different languages, cultures, history, within the reality of an Africa that is not yet a nation but a "bazaar" as Ali Mazrui described it.

 Hence, our reference to the African Writer is more functional, an attempt to indulge in a generality to address the common concern with liberation and the role of the writer, the African. It is not a deliberate choice to gloss over the particularities and differences. The shared colonial experience for one was not the same in each and every country, French and British colonialism had their differences as were their impact on their subjects. That said I shall proceed to deal with the main theme, as is, that is The African Writer and the Politics of Liberation.

 Some writers and historians refer to an African pre colonial Golden Age but I am amongst those inclined to conclude that pre- colonial Africa was no idyllic utopia. Yet, it is not possible to deny that colonialism wrecked Africa and was/is mainly responsible for the pitiful state it finds itself in at the present time. In the colonial period, the aim of liberation confronted the colonial reality, that someone described as "the vilest scramble for loot, and as South African writer Lewis Nkosi put it during this phase, that is to say during the struggle against colonialism, the writers "attempted to capture in their pamphlets, poems, novels and plays, the revolutionary impulse of which they are inalienably a part." The evils of colonialism have been documented by a number of writers including Walter Rodney (who wrote How Europe Underdeveloped Africa and described colonialism as "a one armed bandit") and Amadou Hampat E B', who was older than Senghor and Birago Diop, and who wrote the classic L'Etrange Destin de Wangrin" and the autobiographical "Amkoullel". On the evils of the slave trade that preceded this period we can cite also the earliest account by Ottobah Cuogano who wrote "thoughts and sentiments on the evil and wicked traffic of the slavery and commerce of the human species, humbly submitted to the inhabitants of Great Britain, (London, Hall &Mr. Philips,1787).

 The colonial period and the struggle that was waged for liberation were reflected in the works of the writers of that period. They were themselves products of the system, an elite battered by the colonial education system or as the Ugandan poet Okot P'Bitek put it (in Song of Lawino, Song of Ocol), they were men " whose manhood was finished in the classrooms, their testicles were smashed with big books". The alienation of the elite by colonial education has been captured by Charles Mungoshi's Waiting for the Rain, by Mongo Beti's Mission to Kala, by Ferdinand Oyono's The Old Man and the Medal, by Marechera's House of Hunger,by Achebe,Ngugi and many others. In the political field, the late Amilcar cabral has written National Liberation and Struggle.

 For Cabral, culture was based on the socio-economic realities of the given country, on the level of development of what he termed "productive forces". This class conscious view of the question has been echoed by Ngugi wa Thiongo (in Homecoming, Heinemann, 1972) when he defined literature as something that does not develop in a vacuum but "..is given impetus, shape, direction and even an area of concern by the social, political and economic forces in a a particular society." Ngugi goes on to assert "that the relationship between creative literature and these other forces cannot be ignored, especially in Africa, where modern literature has grown against the gory background of European imperialism and its changing manifestations: slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism." Achebe. Cabral, Ngugi and the others were of course part of the elite and products of the education labeled "modern", actually western, even missionary and colonial. Colonialism did destroy indigenous cultures but at the same time it needed, to practice what Mahmoud Mamdani called (in Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism,Princeton Univ. Press,1996,p.49) "decentralized despotism", a "mode of incorporation "of the colonized into "the arena of colonial power". That is to say rule through "the native authority" and the local chiefs, a rule from a distance falsely presented by colonialism as "respect for customary law or native institutions".

 Achebe and others had a field time ridiculing the native authority and the local chief working under and for colonialism. The writers of the time took it upon themselves to denounce the colonial system-- the emphasis was more on race and identity, the African pre colonial reality seen in exclusive bright and positive light. The writers' task was to recover the lost identity and sovereignty and this necessitated a strike at the colonial system and its supports (religion and the missionaries, the educational system, etc..). The classic book of the time, Achebe's Things Fall Apart, had little to say about the class nature of the problems as opposed to the essays of Cabral and Semebene Ousmane (in Man Is Culture) in which national liberation and even the very act of culture is equated with armed struggle. It is perhaps symptomatic of the times that were, to my knowledge no female writers.

 The writers who took to task the evils of colonialism through their novels, plays and poems ( Senghor, Camara Laye, Achebe, Peter Abraham, Eskia Mphahlele etc..) resorted to the heritage of African "Orature" or oral literature to give form and style to their books. They did write for the elite like them, the ones who could read and understand the language (be it French or English) but they did try to ''do many unexpected things to the language" and to make it serve their purpose. The earliest English novel at that time, in 1952, was Amos Tutola's internationally acclaimed The Palm Wine Drinkard that relied on oral literature and folk tales even though Nigerian critics denounce it as a work that panders to the prejudiced and exotic vision of the Europeans and as one written in semi literate English. There were very few works in the African languages at least to my knowledge. The writer's audience was restricted- it was European or the local modern and educated elite, the same class like the writers themselves. The millions referred to as the masses were away from it all and reached later on only through the armed anti colonial struggle, via the political pamphlet and the agit-prop activities of the struggling nationalist organizations.

 With formal independence and the replacement of the foreign chief by the local one, the role and focus of the African writer also changed. The writer became more a critique than a teacher. There was disillusionment that affected the writers who had hope that with independence Africa would enter a new era. This, as we know, was not to be. Even nationalist leaders like Nkrumah and Sekou Toure were authoritarian, Ben Bella was replaced by the dour and sour Boumedienne, Lumumba was murdered as were many nationalist leaders ranging from Moumie to Cabral to Mondlane and so forth. The post- colonial period (which continued colonialism in a new form) put to test the earliest idealized conception of Africa and its past. Achebe's A Man of the People and Armah's The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born are the typical novels of this period of disillusion in the new African "bourgeoisie" denounced by Frantz Fanon (in Black Skin, White Masks) as "brothel keepers for Europe" who are not "engaged in production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labor; it is completely canalized into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and be part of the racket". The struggle for liberation, that is to say for full emancipation, had failed.

 This was time for the writers, in the words of Lewis Nkosi, "to register not only the pains and joys of national rebirth, but (to) begin to constitute an important source of critical consciousness for the nation." If Achebe and Armah failed to grasp the importance of class contradictions and if many writers preferred to plead with the rulers and to espouse what many had called a "liberal humanist" world view, the reality of neo colonialism was bound to and did push many authors to view the question of liberation in class terms. The African writer started to understand the class basis of the material conflict. The Native President and ruling elite was now denounced as an "imperialist puppet", "brothel keeper", "comprador" and, in general, as part of the problem. The writer of the post independence period is best characterized by Ngugi's Petals of Blood and Devil on the Cross, Sembene Ousmane's God's Bits of Wood, Xala, The Last of the Empire, Ethiopia's Shale Sellasie' s Firebrands, and to an extent by Malian writer Yambo Oulologuem's Le Devoir de Violence or Bound to Violence, and also by Mungoshi's Waiting for the Rain. These and other writers not only castigated the ruling elite but also tried to have a class struggle view of the existing problems, they tried to address the "masses" or the peasantry, they pointed to a direction of revolutionary or radical change. They called for Revolution.

 The period also saw the portrayal of women as exploited in the various novels (Houseboy, Devil on the Cross, etc..). Perhaps one of the very few male writers who write about women is Somalia 's Nureddin Farah who also denounced the Siad Barre dictatorship in his many novels. Women writers also emerged and one good example is Buchi Emecheta, who has not only written on themes of Women Liberation but is reportedly one of the rare breeds of African writers who support themselves through writing books. As one reviewer put it Emecheta wrote of women's life stories "to draw attention to the inegalitarian gender and class relations that cut across racial and geographical boundaries". There were also Bessie Head and Flora Nwapa.

 It was also during this period that the neo- colonial State showed its repressive fangs. Censorship and repression went hand in hand. The writers were thrown into prisons, tortured even and also forced into exile with all its travails and difficulties. Expectedly, the fundamental question of language and audience also reared its head. If liberation meant the emancipation of the vast majority, how can the writer continue to write in a language the majority of people failed to understand? The oral part of course, songs and the like, directly addressed itself and was accessible to the vast majority. Can the same be said of books written in English or French? Senghor insists that he wrote for the Senegalese people primarily though he wrote in a sophisticated French that made him a member of the snobbish and elitist Academie Francaise. He said my people "know that a Kora is not a harp, just as a balafon is not a piano. Moreover, it is by appealing to French-speaking Africans that we will best appeal to the French and, beyond the seas and frontiers, to other people". Ngugi and others certainly disagreed and forcefully called for writing in one's own mother tongue on the basis of a conviction that language and Empire are fused and that the use by African writers of the English language to write books, for example, should be categorized as Euro- African literature and not as African literature. The jury is still out on the controversial debate but the focus on the "people or the masses" is justified since the aim of the writer to reach as many people as possible and the role of the writer should be viewed within the exigencies of socialist realism (not Zhdanov –type Stalinist "socialist realism"), not only to denounce but to question the system and life as a whole beyond the slogans and rhetoric. In Ethiopia , where most books are written in the Amharic language and other local languages, the issue of a few writers like me also writing in English has not been controversial though major Ethiopian writers like Laureate Tsegaye Gebre Medhin (who has written in English) and the late Mengistu Lemma support the views of Ngugi. My own latest book in English, African Absurdities, will not be read by the millions of Ethiopian s who do not speak English but then again my Amharic book Kedada Chereka has not been read by all those who do not read Amharic. Yet, it seems proper to me to cite Ngugi who wrote:

 "African writer of the 80s has no choice but to join the people's struggle for survival. In that situation, he will have to confront the languages spoken by the people in whose service he has put his pen. Such a writer will have to rediscover the real language of the struggle in the actions and speeches of his people, learn from their great optimism and faith in the capacity of human beings to remake their world and renew themselves. He must be part of the song of the people."

 The writer should of course be part of the song of the people, should be the songwriter even and should sing along with the people. The writer should be aligned with people no matter the cost. Yet, the problems confronting the African writer should not be ignored as we strive to emphasize his or her contribution to liberation. Language problem raises the problem of audience. Translation from one African language into another is almost non existent (no one has translated Ngugi's Petals of Blood into Amharic while the novels of Jeffrey Archer and Daniel Steele, fro example, have been translated), there are few publishing houses (in Ethiopia, for example, the State owns the main publishing house), Africans cannot afford to buy books, many of them are illiterate anyway. The radio is the better medium to pass the message across but in most countries too there is censorship and the radio or the media is under State control. African writer Jean Roger Essomba (in his "Of Recognition article) takes the bull by the horn and poses the question as follows:

 "The African writer's recognition by Africans and the rest of the world is still to often solely related to his/her overseas reputation. Which, in other words, means that to be recognized in Africa , you first of all need to be plebiscited by Paris , London or New York . This approbation will come all the more easily if the writer chooses to live in the West and/or is published by a major Western publishing house. One is thus, in most cases, forced to leave."

 Essomba is trying here to give one more reasons to why African writers are in exile aside from political repression. Many African writers, including myself, have not been able to find a publisher other than our own "ghettos"—say Heinemann books in London / New York and L'Harmattan in Paris/France. I am not trying to minimize or denigrate the role of these publishing houses, no, but the fact remains that they are already categorized and tagged as "Third world" or "African" and have limited space, sales or capacity. At present Heinemann's African Writer's Series has been stopped as the company has been taken over by Harcourt books which has told us authors that it has no interest in our works. Some honest editors of mainstream publishing houses continue to tell us bluntly that African stories with strange names do not sell well and advice us to inject a foreign (of course white) hero into the stories. There African writers who have made it, to sue a common saying, but many are marginalzed and in the wilderness.

 Essombo clearly indicates the problems and dilemma posed by the situation. He wrote:

 " This situation is not free from the risks of perversion as the writer ultimately finds him/herself in a situation where the publishers, critics, prize-givers, media and the target readership, all the people who are determinant in the launching of a work, are foreigners. In this context, isn't the African writer, to a certain extent, forced to adapt his/her discourse to smooth of the rough edges, to avoid shocking those likely to publish his/her work and who are afraid of mirrors, to reassure those who want to read but who tremble at the thought of meeting their bad consciences at the turn of the page?"

 The price to pay to get published and recognition is indeed very high. Many writers in exile cannot be published in their own countries, their books, when published abroad, are often banned back home. The regime in Addis for example is about to decree a press law that is aimed at banning Ethiopian newspapers and magazines published abroad so long as they carry critical articles. The African writer is bound to confront many more obstacles and impediments as he/she seeks to get published. The so- called New World order and globalization do not augur well. The post colonial- period has come to an end, the world is presently under the domination of one super power and the African renaissance that was prophesized has turned an illusion. Evidently, Africa cannot ignore the implications of globalization and all of us must realize that, nostalgia aside, we cannot go , even if we wished to, back to the imagined idyllic pre colonial times. As Africa enters the new century, more fragmented, fragile, and more vulnerable, the African writer must confront the complexities persevering as writers in touch with the common people, in touch with the present without losing sight of the fact that the seeds of tomorrow are in today.

 the failure of the nation-state and the assault of ethnicity on the unity aspirations of Africa force us to re-question facile theories and conclusions. Colonialism itself laid the mines against successful democratization. The politics of liberation should reject the imported paradigms and seek beyond the errors of the ruling elites the structural problems. Democracy and the aspiration for it must be put on African pedestals and in this context the writer must dig deep into Africa 's oral and written literature and culture in order to play the prominent role in informing, criticizing and mobilizing the people for change. It is necessary to put in a word of caution at this juncture. The writer can and should play a role in Africa's quest for liberation and in ending the crisis that grips the continent but this role should neither be minimized (by severing the writer from his/her social role) or exaggerated (by imagining the African writer as the one to change the reality). A Swahili proverb says: "words are silver, answers are gold". The African writer should strive to provide some gold to the people who are yearning to be citizens with full rights and opportunities in their own countries, in their own continent.


New York

February 15/2003



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