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Category Archives: History in the making

24 January 2063: Dear Kwame from Nkosazana


They are dreamers my friends, just as I am one too and, as I always say, I shall continue to dream for  dreams turn into visions, visions become plans, plans can be turned into designs and designs can be implemented and spring forth the change I want to see. In my optimism I find hope, for it is my hope that the Africa you shall read about in the letter below shall BE. It is the vision of that Africa that fuels my anger, energy and passion in doing the work that I do; for I know, Africa is better than what many say she is-Africa is capable of doing better than she is doing today.  So may the pessimists close this page before you throw up from the high dosage of optimism it contains. But may the optimists and hopefuls be encouraged in the knowledge that Africa INDEED shall rise!

*Beautiful note, written by Chika Onyeani of the Africa Sun Times; first published on the African Diaspora Network mailing list by Melvin Foote.

Date: 24 January 2063*

To: Kwame@iamafrican.com
From: Nkosazana@confedafrica.gov
Subject: African Unity

My dear friend Kwame,

Greetings to the family and friends, and good health and best wishes for 2063.

I write to you from the beautiful Ethiopian city of Bahir Dar, located on Lake Tana, as we finalize preparations for the Centenary celebrations of the Organisation of African Unity, which evolved to the African Union in 2002 and laid the foundations for what is now our Confederation of African States (CAS).

Yes, who would have thought that the dream of Kwame Nkrumah and his generations, when they called in 1963 on Africans to unite or perish, would one day become a reality. And what a grand reality.

At the beginning of the twenty first century, we used to get irritated with foreigners when they treated Africa as one country: as if we were not a continent of over a billion people and 55 sovereign states! But, the advancing global trend towards regional blocks, reminded us that integration and unity is the only way for Africa to leverage its competitive advantage.

In fact, if Africa was one country in 2006, we would have been the 10th largest economy in the world! However, instead of acting as one, with virtually every resource in the world (land, oceans, minerals, energy, forests) and over a billion people, we acted as fifty-five small and fragmented individual countries.

The bigger countries that should have been the locomotives of African integration, failed to play their role at that time, and that is part of the reasons it took us so long. We did not realize our power, but instead relied on donors, that we euphemistically called partners.

That was the case in 2013, but reality finally dawned and we had long debates about the form that our unity should take: confederation, a united states, a federation or a union.As you can see, my friend, those debates are over and the Confederation of African States is now twelve years old, launched in 2051.

The role played by successive generations of African youth contributed to our success. Already in 2013 during the Golden Jubilee celebrations, it was the youth that loudly questioned the slow progress towards integration.
They formed African Union Clubs in schools and universities across the continent, and linked with each other on social media. Thus we saw the grand push for integration, for the free movement of people, for harmonization of education and professional qualifications, with the Pan African University and indeed the university sector and intelligentsia playing an instrumental role.

We were a youthful continent at the start of the 21st century, but as our youth bulge grew, young men and women became even more active, creative, impatient and assertive, often telling us oldies that they are the future, and that they (together with women) form the largest part of the electorates in all our countries!

Of course this was but one of the drivers towards unity. The accelerated implementation of the Abuja Treaty and the creation of the African Economic Community by 2034 saw economic integration moved to unexpected levels. Economic integration, coupled with infrastructure development, saw intra-Africa trade mushrooming, from less than 12% in 2013 to approaching 50% by 2045. This integration was further consolidated with the growth of commodity exchanges and continental commercial giants.

Starting with the African pharmaceutical company, Pan African companies now not only dominate our domestic market of over two billion people, but they have overtaken multi-nationals from the rest of the world in their own markets.

Even more significant than this, was the growth of regional manufacturing hubs, around the beneficiation of our minerals and natural resources, such as in the Eastern Congo, north-eastern Angola and Zambia’s copper belt and at major Silicon valleys in Kigali, Alexandria, Brazzaville, Maseru, Lagos and Mombasa, to mention but a few such hubs.

My friend, Africa has indeed transformed herself from an exporter of raw materials with a declining manufacturing sector in 2013, to become a major food exporter, a global manufacturing hub, a knowledge centre, beneficiating our natural resources and agricultural products as drivers to industrialization.

Pan African companies, from mining to finance, food and beverages, hospitality and tourism, pharmaceuticals, fashion, fisheries and ICT are driving integration, and are amongst the global leaders in their sectors. Africa is now the third largest economy in the world. As the Foreign Minister’s retreat in Bahir Dar in January 2014 emphasized, we did this by finding the balance between market forces and strong and accountable developmental states and RECS to drive infrastructure, the provision of social services, industrialization and economic integration.

Let me recall what our mutual friend recently wrote:
“The (African) agrarian revolution had small beginnings. Successful business persons (and local governments) with roots in the rural areas started massive irrigation schemes to harness the waters of the continent’s huge river systems.

The pan-African river projects – on the Congo, the Nile, Niger, Gambia, Zambezi, Kunene, Limpopo and many others – financed by PPPs that involved African and BRIC investors, as well as the African Diaspora, released the continent’s untapped agricultural potential.

By the intelligent application of centuries-old indigenous knowledge, acquired and conserved by African women who have tended crops in all seasons, within the first few years bumper harvests were being reported. Agronomists consulted women about the qualities of various grains – which ones survived low rainfalls and which thrived in wet weather; what pests threatened crops and how could they be combated without undermining delicate ecological systems.

The social impact of the agrarian revolution was perhaps the most enduring change it brought about. The status of women, the tillers of the soil by tradition, rose exponentially. The girl child, condemned to a future in the kitchen or the fields in our not too distant past, now has an equal chance of acquiring a modern education (and owning a farm or an agribusiness). African mothers today have access to tractors and irrigation systems that can be easily assembled.

The producers’ cooperatives, (agribusinesses) and marketing boards these women established help move their produce and became the giant food companies we see today.’

We refused to bear the brunt of climate change and aggressively moved to promote the Green economy and to claim the Blue economy as ours. We lit up Africa, the formerly dark continent, using hydro, solar, wind, geo-thermal energy, in addition to fossil fuels.

And, whilst I’m on the Blue economy, the decision to form Africa-wide shipping companies, and encourage mining houses to ship their goods in vessels flying under African flags, meant a major growth spurt. Of course the decision taken in Dakar to form an African Naval Command to provide for the collective security of our long coastlines, certainly also helped.

Let me quote from our mutual friend again:
‘Africa’s river system, lakes and coast-lines abound with tons of fish. With funding from the different states and the Diaspora, young entrepreneurs discovered… that the mouths of virtually all the rivers along the east coast are rich in a species of eel considered a delicacy across the continent and the world.

Clever marketing also created a growing market for Nile perch, a species whose uncontrolled proliferation had at one time threatened the survival of others in Lake Victoria and the Nile.

Today Namibia and Angola exploit the Benguela current, teaming with marine life, through the joint ventures funded by sovereign funds and the African Development Bank.”

On the east coast, former island states of Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and Mauritius are leading lights of the Blue economy and their universities and research institutes attract marine scientists and students from all over the world.

My dear friend, you reminded me in your last e-mail how some magazine once called us ‘the hopeless continent’, citing conflicts, hunger and malnutrition, disease and poverty as if it was a permanent African condition. Few believed that our pledge in the 50th Anniversary Declaration to silence the guns by 2020 was possible. Because of our first-hand experience of the devastation of conflicts, we tackled the root causes, including diversity, inclusion and the management of our resources.

If I have to single out one issue that made peace happened, it was our commitment to invest in our people, especially the empowerment of young people and women. By 2013 we said Africa needed a skills revolution and that we must change our education systems to produce young people that are innovative and entrepreneurial and with strong Pan African values.

From early childhood education, to primary, secondary, technical, vocational and higher education – we experienced a true renaissance, through the investments we made, as governments and the private sector in education and in technology, science, research and innovation.

Coupled with our concerted campaigns to eradicate the major diseases, to provide access to health services, good nutrition, water and sanitation, energy and shelter, our people indeed became and are our most important resource. Can you believe it my friend, even the dreaded malaria is a thing of the past.

Of course this shift could not happen without Africa taking charge of its transformation, including the financing of our development. As one esteemed Foreign minister said in 2014: Africa is rich, but Africans are poor.

With concerted political determination and solidarity, and sometimes one step back and two steps forward, we made financing our development and taking charge of our resources a priority, starting with financing the African Union, our democratic elections and our peacekeeping missions.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations were the start of a major paradigm shift, about taking charge of our narrative.
Agenda 2063, its implementation and the milestones it set, was part of what brought about this shift. We developed Agenda 2063 to galvanize and unite in action all Africans and the Diaspora around the common vision of a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa. As an overarching framework, Agenda 2063 provided internal coherence to our various sectorial frameworks and plans adopted under the OAU and AU.

It linked and coordinated our many national and regional frameworks into a common continental transformation drive.

Planning fifty years ahead, allowed us to dream, think creatively, and sometimes crazy, to see us leapfrog beyond the immediate challenges.

Anchored in Pan Africanism and the African renaissance, Agenda 2063 promoted the values of solidarity, self-belief, non-sexism, self-reliance and celebration of our diversity.

As our societies developed, as our working and middle classes grew, as women took their rightful place in our societies, our recreational, heritage and leisure industries grew: arts and culture, literature, media, languages, music and film. WEB du Bois grand project of Encyclopaedia Africana finally saw the light and Kinshasa is now the fashion capital of the world.

From the onset, the Diaspora in the traditions of Pan Africanism, played its part, through investments, returning to the continent with their skills and contributing not only to their place of origin, but where the opportunities and needs were found.

Let me conclude this e-mail, with some family news. The twins, after completing their space studies at Bahir Dar University, decided to take the month off before they start work at the African Space Agency, to travel the continent. My old friend, in our days, trying to do that in one month would have been impossible!

But, the African Express Rail now connects all the capitals of our former states, and indeed they will be able to crisscross and see the beauty, culture and diversity of this cradle of humankind.

The marvel of the African Express Rail is that it is not only a high speed-train, with adjacent highways, but also contains pipelines for gas, oil and water, as well as ICT broadband cables: African ownership, integrated planning and execution at its best!

The continental rail and road network that now crisscross Africa, along with our vibrant airlines, our spectacular landscapes and seductive sunsets, the cultural vibes of our cities, makes tourism one of our largest economic sectors.

Our eldest daughter, the linguist, still lectures in Kiswahili in Cabo Verde, at the headquarters of the Pan African Virtual University. Kiswahili is now a major African working language, and a global language taught at most faculties across the world.

Our grandchildren find it very funny how we used to struggle at AU meetings with English, French and Portuguese interpretations, how we used to fight that the English version is not in line with the French or Arabic text!
Now we have a lingua franca, and multi-lingualism is the order of the day.

Remember how we used to complain about our voice not being heard in trade negotiations and the Security Council, how disorganized, sometimes divided and nationalistic we used to be in those forums, how we used to be summoned by various countries to their capitals to discuss their policies on Africa?

How things have changed. The Confederation last year celebrated twenty years since we took our seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and we are a major force for global stability, peace, human rights, progress, tolerance and justice.

My dear friend, I hope to see you next month in Haiti, for the second round of unity talks between the Confederation of African States and the Caribbean states.

This is a logical step, since Pan Africanism had its roots amongst those early generations, as a movement of Africans from the mother continent and the Diaspora for liberation, self-determination and our common progress.

I end this e-mail, and look forward to seeing you in February. I will bring along some of the chocolates from Accra that you so love, which our children can now afford.

Till we meet again, Nkosazana

 

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Dendere reshiri: The bird’s nest


The bird’s nest

There is a proverb amongst the Shona people in my country-Zimbabwe-which says

“Ziva kwaunobva, mudzimu weshiri uri mudendere” “Know where you are from, a bird’s ancestors are found in its nest”

This proverb speaks to the value of cultural heritage and roots. Once the bird’s nest is destroyed, its history and cultural heritage are gone. Destroying the nest kills the link between the bird’s current existence and its past. It’s in that old nest that memories of the past were made. Even though the bird may build another nest to create a new home for itself, that home carries no memories of the past nor does it have any value beyond the fact that it is just another nest. Preserving one’s cultural heritage is critical, not only for historical purposes but also for cultural value- linking past, future and present generations.

Montpelier, Monticello and  Ashlawn Highland 

Homes

The homes of 3 US presidents, James Madison’s Montpelier (top), Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (centre) declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and James Monroe’s Ashlawn Highland (bottom).

In the past 3 weeks, I spent time in and at three of America’s 44 presidents’ homes. These homes and plantations belong to three of America’s founding fathers: Monticello, home of the third President Thomas Jefferson, Ashlawn Highland- home of the fourth president James Monroe and – Montpelier,   home of the fifth President James Madison. Roaming around on these estates, I have come to know how these three bookworms designed the foundations of the American democracy as it is known today.

The three musketeers

The three leaders had certain values in common that leaders should emulate:

  1. They were revolutionary. They believed that a nation—their nation—could be built on the idea that people can govern themselves.  Jefferson—the visionary imagined an independent united American nation and so wrote the Declaration of Independence spelling out the aspirations of its people. Madison-the intellectual, realised that the aspirations contained in the Declaration could only find true practical meaning in another document that clearly spelled out how they could be achieved- the Constitution. Monroe-the operationalist, excelled in enlarging the American territory through his negotiations with the French and his diplomatic skills gained America the space and support it needed in the international world order.
  2. They were well read and multi-lingual. All had libraries in their homes and between them owned thousands of books in as many as seven languages: English, French, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew and German. It is from reading these books that they formed the ideas they pronounced so eloquently, which ideas shaped their nation’s history.
  3. Except for one thing, they believed in learning from other contexts. Because they spoke and understood many languages, they developed knowledge and connections to other countries’ histories, politics, cultures and traditions. The lessons that they gleaned from the French influenced the decor in their homes. Jefferson’s groomed estate consists of plants flaunted from Africa, Asia and his many travels to Europe. Their common fault, and exception to the listening trait, was their refusal to consider advice from their great friend and ally, Gilbert Du Motier- The Marquis de Lafayette, to give up and free the slaves they owned as the French had done in 1794. How such visionary men failed to see or refused to act on the injustice of slavery is something that will always diminish their greatness in my mind, as with any leader who blatantly ignores or commits human atrocities.
  4. They were patriotic. In all they did, these three men came together to plan and strategise on how to build a stronger and united America. Jefferson was about rights and revolution, Madison about structure and governance, while Monroe focused on international relations and diplomacy.

Through tours with capable guides, and observing the cultural heritage that the Americans have preserved of the men who designed their political system, I reaffirmed the value of doing the same in Zimbabwe.

Our language

Language connects us to our history and traditions. It is our heritage. Denigrating our own language and attempting to mould ourselves into a monolingual community gives us a false sense of security that we fit in with those we emulate. What it really does is to create a sense of deficiency in us, especially when we realise that our command of the foreign language is incomparable to that of native speakers. We may write in foreign languages to be understood by many. We can also learn other languages to learn about other cultures. We must never think our own languages are valueless. We need to develop pride in and value our own local languages.

Our history, our heritage

Monuments

Above are 3 of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful cultural heritage sites, the Chinhoyi Caves(top), Khami Ruins(middle) and Great Zimbabwe Ruins (bottom)-declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and the biggest man-made stone ruins on the continent

We need to know our history; who we are, where we are and where we are going including the stories of the men and women who have made our country what it is today. We may not have memoirs, letters or written documents narrating history but we do have the oral tradition of storytelling, which has passed folk-tales across generations. Story-telling can be used to pass down our history, recognising the limitations that come with it. We need to tell our own stories and give our own account of our history. We must preserve our monuments of national pride. We have done well in Zimbabwe to preserve cultural heritage sites such as the Great Zimbabwe, the Chinhoyi Caves and the Khami Ruins but we must do more to recall and record our history.

Another African proverb aptly put, “Until lions have their own historian, accounts of the hunt will always celebrate the hunter.” African history is predominantly told from the perspective of our former colonisers; books and maps are in colonial languages, mostly written by missionaries and mercenaries. As long as this persists, the account we have remains incomplete. We must tell our own history! We need to preserve our nests, as they will forever serve as reference points for future generations. As Malcom X said, “History is a people’s memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.”

 

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An ode to a great man: Celebrating Mandela


A bright light has been dimmed in Africa, our motherland. No it hasn’t been switched off, for the legacy of this great nation-builder remains with us. We mourn, we remember but above all we celebrate a life well lived, fighting for peace, dignity and freedom for the down-trodden.  Individuals like Nelson Mandela are not mourned, they are celebrated for he inspired change wherever he went and the millions of condolence messages pouring in are a testimony of the depth of character of this great leader.

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

Picture Credit-Everett (fineartamerica.com)

He led a selfless life, sacrificed his youth to the advancement of human dignity and the freedom of his nation and people. His courage of conviction led him through the 27 years of incarceration, as he envisioned a free South Africa in which black and white co-existed peacefully. His release signified the beginning of freedom and unity as he sought progress for his country through reconciliation. He inspired many with his integrity and compassion, including myself, and we shall continue to pursue the ideals that he preached and lived.

 

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When it happens in Africa


When it happens in Africa, tyranny and poverty is newsworthy; democracy and development isn’t. Is that the Western media’s interpretation of Africa and African-ness?

On 24 July 2012, the President of the Republic of Ghana, John Atta Mills passed away. He was 68. It is suspected that he died of cardiac arrest. He came into power through a democratic election which, albeit marred by some challenges, left the majority of Ghanaian citizens relatively satisfied with the meaning and significance of elections as a means of putting in place their leadership. Indeed Ghana’s political stability made it the country of choice for Barack Obama’s first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2008. President Atta Mills will be remembered for his role in consolidating democracy in Ghana, strengthening institutional integrity and entrenching constitutional rule of law. That success could not have been more aptly expressed than in the success and swiftness of the transition that followed his death, reflective of the resilience of Ghana’s democracy.

A few hours after President Atta Mills was officially announced dead, Mr John Dramani Mahama, who was the vice president, took the oath of office as the new President of Ghana- in line with the principles of Article 60 (6) of the Ghanaian Constitution. A new President is set to be elected in December in line with the terms of the current Ghanaian Constitution.

The transition was one of the most significant achievements in the historic development of African democracies. Indeed many African states should draw the following lessons from the Ghanaian example:

  • Constitutional guarantees of transfer of power in the event of the death of the President are an effective way of preventing power vacuums which could lead to political instability;
  • The ability of a country to live by its constitution is one of the best guarantees for peaceful transitions; and
  • The respect of constitutional sanctity and rule of law is one of the best ways of ensuring peace and development in any country

Given the significance of this transition, I would have thought the international media would grow hoarse shouting about this very positive and amazing development on the African continent. One Gillian Parker of Time Magazine went to great lengths to relay this message, celebrating the fact that “although Mills’ passing was sudden, the encouraging sign was the smoothness with which Ghana’s democratic processes kicked into gear.” But for the rest of the BIG news agencies; news that a dead rat had been discovered on the doorstep of President Obama’s bedchamber would have made headlines above this amazing piece of news. For a whole day the news was mentioned as an aside with Atta Mills’ achievements for Ghana mentioned in passing and the swift transition, hardly celebrated for the achievement that it was.  In some reportage the smooth transition was even forgotten.

Those who remembered it chose to refer to it as an ‘unusual experiment,’ in my view a very cynical analysis of the uniqueness of Ghana’s stability despite the fact that it is located in a very tumultuous region. That clearly, at least to me, also reflected a selective memorialisation of the development of the world’s democracies. Here is why I say so, centuries of bloody civil wars, despotism and tyranny characterised Europe’s history before it became the so called ‘ideal democracy’ that it is today-varying of course from country to country. Indeed Africa can not emerge as a strong democracy overnight when it took Europe and America centuries to do the same. Hence as Africa goes through the transition of democratising its institutions, such efforts must be criticised constructively but not denigrated and belittled to the levels of ‘experiments.’

I am still asking myself why the international media was not as excited about this development as they are when there is a coup, an uprising, a rigging of an election or such other negativity on the African continent. Is it the role of the international media to relay only the negative developments on the African continent as the hallmark of African-ness and hence anything positive is not theirs to make noise about?  If that is the case then the Western Media should stop preaching the gospel of ‘independent’ and ‘objective’ media when they themselves are neither independent nor objective. Yes I may sound like a brainwashed Zimbabwean feeding into the Mugabe propaganda right now, but anyone who religiously followed the reportage on the crisis in Mali, the crisis in Madagascar and then the scenario in Ghana, with the same intensity as I did would agree with me that it seems the approach of the international media in reporting situations in Africa is to sing like a chorus from a song book every negative thing but mumble under their breath positive developments such as the  Ghana transition. What a farce!

I can agree with the solution proposed by a colleague of mine that African media (including us as bloggers) have the responsibility to champion positive African developments in the news and depicting to the world Africa as we know it and not as others tell us it is. And hence I am making my pronunciation with this blog that the Ghanaian transition was a groundbreaking event and deserved proper coverage from any self respecting, media house interested in fair reporting and an accurate portrayal of Africa.

 

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28 Years Old


28 years old, that’s how old I am turning today. Gees I am really getting old and I must admit, this time I feel old-really old. This is the time when I should be spending my nights cuddled up to someone- and of course not just anyone but that one person who makes me feel like I am the axis on which his world revolves. Many a people tell me that sort of euphoria doesn’t exist but in my foolishness- which I would rather think of as indestructible optimism- I do believe somehow, somewhat, that sort of euphoria is possibly achievable for me.

But that was a digression. The point of my blog today is that on my 28th birthday, I find myself in the middle of a rather interesting situation that I could not be more privileged to be part of.  I am a participant at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Study of Non Violent Conflict. Oh well, it could be jut another Summer Course- but not this one. This one is unique!

I, a Zimbabwean and a fanatic human rights defender,  am among energetic community organisers, nerdy techs, daring journalists, enthusiastic human rights defenders, and renowned scholars from the US, Bahrain, UK, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Maldives, The Bahamas, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, India, Afghanistan, Peru, Nepal, Jordan, Hong Kong, Sudan, Spain, Ethiopia, Togo, Dominican Republic,  Austria, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa,  Iran, Canada, Columbia, Chile and Kyrgyzstan.

I find myself conversing with Reverend James (Jim) Lawson, recognized as the architect and one of the godfathers of the civil rights movement in America. Meeting this man, talking to him and sharing meals with him-this man who was advisor and confidante to Dr Martin Luther King overwhelms me and no words can express how I feel.

With the Godfather of the American civil rights movement, Reverend James Lawson

I find myself sharing jokes with Mary Elizabeth King, one of the bravest female actors in the civil rights movement in America-also a renowned scholar and a well spoken woman of amazing stature-intellectually.

With Mary Elizabeth King an icon in the American civil rights movement

I read about these icons in books, I studied the implications of the civil resistance movement in American history and now I come face to face with the faces of the movement themselves. What more can I ask for? In meeting them I also feel like I just met Martin Luther King. Together they shared the vision for black emancipation and equal rights for all in America.

I sip tea with Ivan Marovic, one of the leaders of Otpor- the students’ movement that was responsible for the mobilisation of communities and the whole nation in Serbia- leading to the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic. He calls himself a ‘Retired Revolutionary’ but Wow! This guy brought down a dictator! Maybe I can learn a thing or two for Zimbabwe!

Talking to Ivan Marovic, one of the key figures behind the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic

I sit across the table from Czeslaw Bielecki, the Polish war veteran with an amazingly ‘obtuse’ sense of humor -and obtuse here coined to mean “outrageously funny” and the kind that keeps everyone in stitches as every 5 seconds of his speech is punctuated by one joke or the other. He says he is not a politician but a political animal. Who knows the difference?

Who says things like this besides Czeslaw;

“Forgiving someone who has not accepted that they are guilty is an over-spilling of humanism and super-morality”-talking of the reconciliation process in Poland.

“People love talking about ethics- I prefer aesthetics”

“Be careful; Hitler was a vegetarian-he loved animals more than he loved people”

Of course I was in stitches, it’s Czeslaw Bielecki-The Polish War Veteran-lol

 “All dictatorships are extremely ugly and extremely boring. Non violent movements should not be all doom and gloom, about risk and difficulty. They must be fun as well.”

 I find myself drawn to Czeslaw’s publication: Freedom, A Do It Yourself Manual in which he begins with a preface which he calls the Operating Instructions. Among the variety of instructions he says, “This manual will tell you how to fight for freedom effectively and then how to construct it…But this little book which you are presently holding in your hand, if used incorrectly, may bring a different kind of danger” The books ends with a question, “So you want to remain silent according to these instructions for spies?” Great sense of humor and I am witnessing it first hand.

So in my overzealousness, I volunteered to make a presentation on civil resistance in Zimbabwe to this gathering of intellectuals, academics, creative minds and thinkers. That feeling of one wanting to pee in their pants out of acute nervousness wants to overwhelm me. I ask myself, what I am going to say to them. Then again I think none of them are from Zimbabwe so what would they know about my context that I do not already know and that sort of calms my nerves.

It’s going to be a sweaty, swelter birthday filled with swagger!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 28, 2012 in History in the making

 

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“Beautiful” African men: Julius Nyerere


He has been criticised for leaving the presidency of Tanzania and leaving the nation as one of the poorest, least developed, and most foreign aid-dependent countries in the world. His reign records a communist era in which he suppressed his own people. And yes, some have called his leadership of Tanzania a complete ploughing under of civil liberties and political freedoms.

But it remains true and steadfast that by far this man was one of the greatest leaders to grace and lead the African continent.

Julius Nyerere

He made some extraordinary strides in charting the history of this continent and in some instances the destination of his own country.

He achieved the independence of Tanzania without war or bloodshed but just through his excellent negotiation skills and charismatic oratory skills.

He was instrumental in forging the union between the island of Zanzibar and mainland Tanganyika into Tanzania, which feat prevented Zanzibar from becoming Kenyan territory.

He preached racial and religious tolerance.

He was instrumental in supporting liberation movements in Africa to fight colonial rule and they all sought sanctuary at some point in Tanzania. He supported the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of South Africa, The Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) fighting British colonial rule in Zimbabwe, the FRELIMO when it fighting Portuguese rule in Mozambique. His support towards the people of Uganda ensured their liberation from the terrible leadership and reign of terror of Idi Amin.

He pushed for the coordination of the frontline states in securing majority balck rule in South Africa. The fronline states consisted of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

He was one of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)

And here a few quotes from one of the greatest minds of Africa:

“No nation has the right to make decisions for another nation; no people for another people.”

“In Tanganyika we believe that only evil, Godless men would make the color of a man’s skin the criteria for granting him civil rights.”

“To measure a country’s wealth by its gross national product is to measure things, not satisfactions.”

“Capitalism means that the masses will work, and a few people — who may not labor at all — will benefit from that work. The few will sit down to a banquet, and the masses will eat whatever is left over.”

“Freedom to many means immediate betterment, as if by magic. Unless I can meet at least some of these aspirations, my support will wane and my head will roll just as surely as the tick-bird follows the rhino.”

“Having come into contact with a civilization which has over-emphasized the freedom of the individual, we are in fact faced with one of the big problems of Africa in the modern world. Our problem is just this: how to get the benefits of European society — benefits that have been brought about by an organization based upon the individual — and yet retain African’s own structure of society in which the individual is a member of a kind of fellowship.”

 

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“Beautiful” African men: Emperor Haille Selassie


As human beings, we have the tendency of judging other people too harshly.  I remember when I was growing up, in my house,, my mother had a wall painting with the inscription ”When I do good, nobody remembers but when I do bad no one forgets.”

I believe that might be the case with this man.

Emperor Haille Selassie

In his last days, in which he was known as ‘His Imperial Majesty the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Haile Selassie I, Elect of God, Emperor of Ethiopia’, he ruled his kingdom as a medieval autocrat and so he left behind the reputation of a tyrant. This reputation seems to have overshadowed his contributions to Africa and so many people forget or simply do not know the role he played in building African Unity and fostering the development of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union.

 Here are a few remarkable things that this man did, that I want the world to know about:

  • He abolished slavery- which is why to date Ethiopia is one of the countries with a population of different skin tones but the least record of racism among the different colours

  •  He defended his country against Ethiopian occupation under Mussolini and today Ethiopia remains the only country in Africa whose history does not record a period of colonial rule

  • His address to the League of Nations in June 1936 after Italy attacked Ethiopia became the first challenge to the principle of the “Equality of Nations” in the United nations and today we all are bitter about the UN having some nations which are more equal than others.

  • He initiated the very first meeting of the Organization of African Unity in 1963

  • He united the two factions of African Unity that had emerged in the form of the Casablanca group calling for immediate unity of Africa(Ghana, Guinea, Mali , Egypt, the Transitional Government of Algeria, and Morocco) and the Monrovia  group calling for gradual unity (Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Togo and others)

  • He led the process of devising the charter for the 38- nation bloc no wonder the AU headquarters are in Addis Ababa.

  • He pushed for the setting up of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and  no wonder its headquarters are in Addis Ababa

  • He advocated civil disobedience when it was necessary to remedy fundamental social injustice or restore freedom to the oppressed

  • He was the first elected President of the OAU

Here are a few wise words that came out of the wise mind of this wise man.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.”

“To win the War, to overcome the enemy upon the fields cannot alone ensure the Victory in Peace. The cause of War must be removed. Each Nation’s rights must be secure from violation. Above all, from the human mind must be erased all thoughts of War as a solution. Then and then only will War cease.”

“Leadership does not mean domination. The world is always well supplied with people who wish to rule and dominate others.”

“The true leader is a different sort; he seeks effective activity which has a truly beneficent purpose. He inspires others to follow in his wake, and holding aloft the torch of wisdom, leads the way for society to realize its genuinely great aspirations”

“What we seek is a new and a different way of life. We search for a way of life in which all men will be treated as responsible human beings, able to participate fully in the political affairs of their government; a way of life in which ignorance and poverty, if not abolished, are at least the exception and are actively combated; a way of life in which the blessings and benefits of the modern world can be enjoyed by all without the total sacrifice of all that was good”

I am one of the people who is perplexed by the absence of the Emperor at the AU headquarters and as much as I admire the contributions that Kwame Nkrumah made to the formation of the AU, I do believe this man right here deserves equal honour.

I have often wondered where he got his good looks, and why Ethiopians are so beautiful but now that I know they are the descendants of the union between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, I know why!

 

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