Category Archives: Africa

I miss my sunshine: Lessons from Rwanda

I had an exhausting trip from Harare (Zimbabwe) via Lusaka (Zambia) via Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) via Entebbe (Uganda) to Kigali (Rwanda). It took me 13 hours to fly from Zimbabwe to Rwanda when it takes just 6 hours to fly from Harare to Geneva? I therefore questioned how we as Africans could effectively foster the economic integration we talk of when the lines of communication and transport are so inefficient?  A certain individual, who happens to be Zimbabwean, then declared that there was no need for a direct flight from Zimbabwe to Rwanda because “What’s there to gain from Rwanda (economically) that will render a need for a direct link? And how many people will be on that flight?”

 I then made it my business to show how many things Zimbabwe stands to benefit from Rwanda, short and long term. Well here is the thing; our African leaders are closed-minded about what Africa can benefit them and I think that has been one of the major reasons for the failure of economic integration processes. With a myopic view of the world and clear lack of insight into the trajectory of intra-Africa trade patterns, they would rather seek immediate gratification, trading with parasites such as China and Europe in winners take all arrangements characterised by exploitation of Africans as the market determines the commodity prices, than trade within Africa in what would most likely be win-win situations of tradeoffs.

  But to get back to my story, I picked up a few areas in which Rwanda has done pretty well and from which Zimbabwe can draw lessons that could transform our society significantly.

 First; the transitional mechanisms


The Open Grave- One of the many mass graves at the Kigali Genocide Memorial where more than 250 000 victims of the 1994 Genocide are buried.

Yes Rwanda was the site of one of the worst genocides in the world and in Spring 1994 over just 100 days, more than 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives in ethnic cleansing by the extremist Hutus. However, post genocide, Rwanda has done a wonderful job of keeping that memory alive as a constant reminder that it should never happen again. They have created genocide memorials in almost every city – where the history of the country pre-colonial and post colonial, leading to the genocide is recorded for all Rwandans to see. All the victims of the genocide who have been discovered are buried in mass graves at these memorials.  A children’s room showing how even the most innocent of human beings; children were not spared records the stories of how these children were killed. All the pictures of the victims whose surviving families identified are displayed at the museum.The stories are horrific but they make the point that Rwanda must never go that route again.

The human face  to the genocide:The presence of the thousands of photographs of victims of the genocide at the memorial ensures that the victims will not remain anonymous or unnamed. It is a huge step by the state acknowledging the wrong done and giving a human face to the tragedy.

 In Zimbabwe we have done a good job of recording one period of our history-the pre-colonial period and ignoring all the others. Our Heroes Acre is a wonderful symbol of the struggle for independence and a reminder of how we never want to go back that route. Fair enough! But, should we put the victims of the various post colonial landmarks in our history, namely Gukurahundi (the scourge against the Ndebeles (1980-18988), the victims of the land reform programme (Zimbabwean white farmers and Zimbabwean black farm-workers), the victims of Operation Murambatsvina (a clean up campaign that displaced thousands and resulted in the deaths of many from communicable disease because of terrible living conditions), the victims of the Diamond Rush (those who lost their lives in power struggles for the control of the recently discovered diamond mines in Marange) and the victims of electoral violence (2000, 2002, 2005 and especially 2008 elections); then we may just have had a genocide in Zimbabwe, albeit not in 100 days but which still needs proper memorialisation, as Rwanda has done.

 Justice and Reconciliation

In Rwanda, after the genocide, the people with the highest responsibility for the commission of the crimes were prosecuted. A special Tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was created specifically for that purpose.  A number of them have been convicted and the Court is finalising its work. Locally traditional forms of courts, the Gacaca Courts were used to establish the truth, find perpetrators responsible and mete out a punishment to the satisfaction of the victim in their communities. Yes the system was not perfect but effectively Rwanda did not allow impunity to reign supreme in its communities in the face of such horrific crimes.

 In Zimbabwe we have set up an Organ on National Healing whose self-created agenda is to force victims to accept forgiveness and reconciliation. Victims have not been properly consulted as to what they want or prefer to give them peace and to allow them to set the parameters under which they could possibly reconcile with perpetrators. In fact anyone who dares talk about the injustices and how they should be addressed becomes a victim of state intimidation and violence. Perpetrators walk free and they have become professionals, repeating their acts of plunder, rape, mutilation, torture, grave assault and arson among others because they benefit from the impunity they are granted by the state. Meanwhile victims have not received any remedy and they bear the physical, emotional and psychological wounds alone and in silence.

 Second; developing the economy

Rwanda’s economy is developing rapidly. Even the World Bank has acknowledged that Rwanda is among the fastest growing economies that have recorded sustained and widespread economic growth on the African Continent. Despite the impact of the global financial crisis, Rwanda maintained a positive economic growth at 5.5 percent. Lesson Number 1 they do not depend on the West. The West failed them and failed to stop the genocide and they learnt their lesson, you depend upon yourself as a country and find means to manage your circumstances in a way that benefits your own population. They have reduced their dependence on foreign aid from 100% in 1995 to 40% in 2011 moving towards 0% dependency. Through tourism, ICT’s and policies that allow investment, Rwanda’s economy is growing and pulling many of its people out of poverty.

 Rwanda produces more electrical power than Zimbabwe does (in our Hwange and Kariba stations combined) and there is room for Zimbabwe to invest in that energy sector to boost the scarce energy resources that we currently have. In Zimbabwe we have successfully created a volatile and investor unfriendly environment. We do not take heed of the advice we receive from others and we seem to think we can do it all by ourselves. Well wake up and smell the coffee, we are living in a global world where things happening elsewhere will definitely affect us so it is not only foolish but also suicidal to swim upstream when everyone else is flowing with the tide.

 Rwanda and Zimbabwe are both members of  the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the only reason I was allowed to get a visa upon arrival at Kigali international airport (against the regulations because I was supposed to obtain a visa before travelling) was because Zimbabwe is a member of COMESA.  Surely we should capitalise on these relationships to our mutual advantage.

 Third; keeping Rwanda clean

Rwanda is the cleanest country I have ever visited on the African continent and mind you I have been to quite a few. Yes, even cleaner than South Africa for those of you who may be wondering. The country of a thousand hills, as Rwanda is known has adopted a citizen policing system to ensure cleanliness of the city. So every Rwandese ensures that the next person does not litter, does not burn things that pollute the environment and maintains clean surroundings. There is no litter on Kigali’s streets and in its residential areas. I even went to their poorest areas and the grass was immaculately cut and neat and roofs were clean. Rwanda adopted a no-plastics campaign which has significantly reduced litter on the streets. They have replaced plastics with bio-degradable khaki carriers, which if for some reason find their way onto the street, decompose by themselves but also which the city authorities can dispose of cheaper and more efficiently. Every last Saturday of the month, Rwanda comes to a standstill as they clean their surroundings as a nation. Now that is what I call responsible citizenship!!!

 Harare, once the Sunshine city has become a mass of dumping. Plastic bags, plastic containers litter our streets. And on this one do not rush to just blame the government. Yes city authorities have the responsibility to collect rubbish in residential areas which they have not done, but it is us the citizens who have been responsible for littering our cities. I commend the citizens of Bulawayo, because they have taken up a clean-city campaign and by far Bulawayo is cleaner than Harare. Harare residents need to drop their dirty habits. Stop littering! Throw your rubbish in bins or keep it until you can dispose it responsibly! Separate your paper and food from plastics and glass when disposing. Create composts with degradable products. Burn the stuff that can not decompose.

 On the other hand let us hold our authorities responsible for what they ought to do but are not doing. What are councillors and mayors for if not to ensure that residents live healthy, fulfilled lives? They must collect rubbish, dispose of it responsibly and if we do not force them to take up these responsibilities then they will continue to sit in their offices, selling off land to corrupt business people and politicians and enlarging their already fat behinds!

 Fourth, development of infrastructure

As much as Rwanda is developing its cities and building new infrastructure, they are doing a pretty good job of preserving the natural look of their environment. They are developing yet ensuring minimal degradation to the environment, cutting off trees only where the buildings themselves stand and retaining all the surrounding trees and vegetation intact. As a result, the place is streaming with modern life in a very green space that looks welcoming and warm. Yes I love modernity but I hope most African cities, in particular my Sunshine city do not further develop- the Swiss way- and become neat, modern but barren and cold hubs of activity.

 You may be wondering where I got all this information. Well I was given access into the Parliament of Rwanda. I met some Parliamentarians as well as the vice President of the Senate (a She-very progressive!!!) who gave my friends and I a guided tour with explanations of how a country that was grounded in poverty and conflict 18 years ago has risen to what it is. Trust me, I have never been allowed access into my own parliament despite my efforts to do so and if I were to ask for information from my government, no one would give it to me and if they did most of it would be inaccurate.

 I drew many lessons from Rwanda and I am sure if I had stayed longer, I would have learnt even more. Harare used to be called the Sunshine city. Zimbabwe was the jewel of Africa. I really miss my sunshine-and I want her back!

The cost of International Criminal Justice

50 years he got. Taylor, at 64, is unlikely going to be a free man ever again in his life. 4 years, and approximately US $250 million later, the world can scream VICTORY for yet another ‘successful’ prosecution of a sitting head of state for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. As the Head of State, he bore command responsibility for the actions of the state and a duty of care for its citizens. He thus was responsible for the murder and mutilation of civilians. He was thus responsible when his forces cut off people’s limbs.  He was thus responsible when his forces used women and girls as sex slaves. He was thus responsible when his forces abducted children and forced them to fight as soldiers.

Charles Taylor during his trial-dressed in an expensive suit, looking well fed and well taken care of…

 So the Special Court for Sierra Leone said his crimes include acts of terrorism, murder, violence to life, health and physical or mental well being of people, cruel treatment, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, outrages upon personal dignity, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years into armed forces or groups, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, enslavement and pillage.

 Now he is going to spend 50 years in a British prison.

 Given all that he has done, one would expect that he shall be languishing and rotting in prison, and maybe then the victims could derive some satisfaction from knowing that he is paying for all the wrong he did. But is that the case for Charles Taylor?

 Here is why I ask this question…

 On average a British prison looks like this.

 -Prisoners in the UK have access to television with satellite.  They have access to video game consoles. They receive wages and cash bonuses for good behaviour, while drugs are cheaper in jails than they are on the streets. They have access to free gyms where they can stay fit. They can even get subscriptions to newspapers with a specific newsagent local to each prison.

-All prisoners have the right to food and water. There is a system to protect them from bullying and racial harassment. They have access to a healthcare system which includes access to nurses and doctors, opticians, dentists, pharmacists and mental health practitioners. Prisoners in need of special treatment as a result of drug or alcohol abuse, HIV or AIDS or disability have access to these special needs.

-All prisoners have access to basic education that enables them to read and write, do maths, manage money, use computers and technology. They also take courses in practical skills such as painting and decorating, bricklaying, hairdressing and gardening. They can even study IT.

-They have a right to see lawyers, to call the lawyer when they need him/her, to write him/her letters and their correspondence is very private. Prisoners have access to religious leaders and their freedom to religion is respected to the extent of respecting dates and times for prayer, religious services and festivals and providing vegetarian, Halaal and Kosher food for those with religions requiring special dietary needs.

And in the UK the fact that these rights are guaranteed by law means that they are granted to prisoners. And so shall they be guaranteed to Charles Taylor. As a ‘special prisoner’, his standards are likely going to be even higher than those for ordinary inmates.

 Oh yes, of course I do not dispute that Charles Taylor has human rights despite being a prisoner, and so the British prison will have to take really good care of him in order to respect his human rights. And of course that detention shall result in his isolation from family and lack of personal freedom, but is it punishment enough?

A mother making palm oil to keep hunger at bay for herself and her children in Sierra Leone- Picture Credit

 Has it really served justice for the suffering citizens of Sierra Leone? Youth unemployment and poverty is widespread, particularly in urban centres in Sierra Leone. The unrest caused by Charles Taylor left behind a nation with a poorly performing economy, infrastructure was destroyed, and the nation languishes in poverty. In 2008, Sierra Leone ranked 84 out of 88 countries in the Global Hunger Index and last out of 179 countries in the Human Development Index. Many people do not have decent housing. They do not have easy and free access to reliable sources of information let alone televisions with satellite.

 The trial alone cost 250 million and keeping Charles Taylor in prison shall cost even more guaranteeing him the same rights that his actions are denying thousands of Sierra Leoneans. I wonder- is there real justice in the international criminal justice system? But also, can we guarantee human rights if we don’t grant them to some of the very worst villains in the world?

ETHSA2012: Climate change-Africa’s nightmare

Let me not dwell on the obvious fact that the development of the Western powers through industrialisation and the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies has largely been enabled by gross disregard to the environmental consequences of large scale pollution.

Let me also not dwell on the fact that China, the USA, Russia, India, Japan, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Italy, are currently the top ten polluters in the world in descending order. That is fact. Should any of these countries dispute this assertion then it would be a simple switching of positions in determining which one of them is the worst polluter but not the fact that they are responsible for more than half the pollution that the world is facing.

Let me also not pay a lot of attention to the fact that the pollution that these countries currently are and in the past have been responsible for is one of the main factors that has contributed to the depletion of the Ozone layer, global warming and climate change.

Global warming

They introduced the system we rely on today where we use fossil fuels to drive our cars, heat our homes, and produce all sorts of goods for our sustenance.  Consequently, carbon dioxide concentrations have increased dramatically leading to increases in atmospheric temperatures what is known as global warming. Large scale farming, use of chemical fertilisers that release nitrous oxides in agriculture, aeroplanes that release harazadous fuels straight into the skies-all these have contributed to pollution. Undeniably we have all benefited from this technology but the price that Africa will bear by far outweighs the benefit.

It therefore doesn’t need me to be an African to be outraged when these same countries refuse to take responsibility for their past actions and start exercising higher levels of responsibility in preventing further harm to our world.

I am not perpetuating the rhetoric of blaming the West for everything that goes wrong with the African continent but the reality and undeniable truth is that the West, America, China and India have cumulatively been the biggest culprits in destroying our world. Yes, they are the main causers of climate change.

Melting Antarctic because of climate change

However what I would rather dwell on is the reality of climate change, particularly on the African continent. Africa is underdeveloped; fact. Africa needs to develop to enable its citizens to live decent lives; also fact. That development is enabled by the use of energy sources of which fossil fuels are the cheapest and easiest and also the easily available ones to the African continent.

Yes, alternative methods of development which are safer for the environment, a process popularly known as developing green economies, are there but they are slow to use and more expensive. Given that African economies are strained and already the effects of slow development are evidenced in populations’ disgruntlement as expressed in social justice movements, small to large scale protests and revolutions; Africa can not afford to wait. But Europe, America, China and Russia could try and use these methods.

This then takes me to the point of my blog-my anger and disgust at these countries that have already made it and still want to keep Africa down. Of course China, India and the Western powers will never agree to use the slower and more expensive but environmentally friendlier methods of development and allow Africa to catch up. Of course they will never agree to reduce their green house emissions and will even go as far as saying all this talk on climate change is a conspiracy against their development plans. And, of course they are happy with the status quo where Africa is incapable of taking care of its own, where they can come in from time to time with outstretched hands of almost insignificant aid which they would need not bring if Africa were given a fair chance to develop its own economies.

But that is also fact. My point is that climate change is real. We have seen it on our continent. Seasons are changing. Famines, droughts, floods, storms, extreme weather elements are ravaging our continent.  Christian Aid estimates that 1 billion people will be displaced because of climate change by 2050.

Climate change in Africa looks like this-drought, famine, food insecurity, starvation, drying rivers, conflict over water, food, death, disease, despair, destruction

As Africans, should we ignore the selfish countries and go ahead with development plans using fossil fuels despite the grave effect on the environment? Should we take the more expensive and time consuming but environmentally friendly methods? But even if we do and the other polluters keep polluting-which they undoubtedly will- meaning that climate change will not be averted and also meaning that we will be the most affected, what then will be the way out for Africa?

ETHSA2012: What is human security without women?

What is human security but the totality of all conditions that make a human being feel secure. Philosophers have debated this concept yet the sensible conclusion to be reached is that human security should be about empowering people to realise their full potential.

The concept of human security was first developed by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in its 1994 Human Development Report (HDR) encompassing all the elements that constitute freedom from want and freedom from fear.

What a wonderful world it would be, yes that world that we all aspire to have but which actively remains a figment of our own imaginations. A world in which each individual experiences a totality in security.

A world in which every individual would be free from fear; fear of death, of terror, of hate and hate speech, of violence and all other threats to the physical and mental well being of the individual.

A world where the individual is free of want. Want of employment, of food, shelter, clean water, jobs and all other factors that make human lives more comfortable and enjoyable.

A world where the individual is free from poverty, disasters, injury and disease, pollution, climate change, environmental degradation, natural and man made hazards, famine, food shortages, terrorism, political repression, torture, conflict and warfare and such other vulnerabilities.

Is human security attainable?

Human security is a wonderful aspiration whose main objective is to protect people. It can not be understated however that it is certainly difficult to achieve in its entirety. But the truth is that world does not exist where there is no will for it to exist. It probably never will exist without real commitment for it to exist. We will continue to live in a world of deep insecurity. Hence the subject of human security finds its relevance as we seek to understand the challenges and conceive solutions to these challenges.

One striking note on the concept of human security came with the address by one speaker who, speaking to the concept of human security from a gendered perspective, said that women’s involvement in all discussions on human security is imperative.

As she aptly stated, how more so important could it be in discussions on human security than to involve the very individuals who worry about what their families shall eat, where they shall sleep, where they shall get water to drink, and the same people who care for the sick and the elderly.

Here is what happens when the world ignores women’s voices…

“She saw it when her husband started keeping a machete under the bed. She knew it when he started attending late night meetings on whose agenda, not a word was uttered in their home. She also knew when the machete under the bed became 20, then 30 and then heaps and heaps of them occupied their home. She later understood it all when hundreds of thousands of Tutsis had died in barely a 100 days.”

Above is an account of a Hutu woman who knew in advance the preparations that were being made by her husband and his colleagues to launch the genocide in Rwanda. However, her knowledge failed to save lives because her voice was never given a space in the whole discourse on peace and security in Rwanda. Had she spoken out, maybe some deaths could have been averted. Hence no talk of human security should ignore women, especially women at household level whose everyday experiences are the best informants of sustainable and desirable security strategies.

Maybe we need an ECOWAS in Southern Africa

Military governments found their most marked expression on the African continent recording an unprecedented eighty-five violent coups and rebellions from the time of the Egyptian revolution in 1952 until 1998.Seventy-eight of these took place between 1961 and 1997. Undoubtedly, West Africa was the worst affected region and it continues to experience more coups, rebellions and civil wars. Given this history, it is no wonder then that this region formed a regional bloc, The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to foster regional economic integration but also prioritising the maintenance of peace and security in the mandate of its bloc cognisant of the intimate link between peace, security and stability and economic growth.

 Over the years, ECOWAS has proved itself determined to see an end to unconstitutional changes of government including coups, rebellions and incumbents who refuse to vacate office after losing elections.

 In 2009, ECOWAS suspended Niger from ECOWAS after Mamadou Tandja successfully changed the constitution to permit him to run for office for a third term, and went ahead with elections which were boycotted by the opposition. When the army staged a coup against Tandja claiming to protect the constitution, ECOWAS swiftly negotiated a return to civilian rule and the holding of democratic elections. After 14 months of transition, the military junta in Niger formally handed over power to newly elected President Mamadou Issoufou as promised.

 In 2010, when Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire lost a presidential election to Alassana Quattara but refused to vacate office, ECOWAS threatened to remove him by force and faced opposition from many sections of Africa including SADC heads of state. In the civil war that ensued, they maintained their position insisting on recognising Quattara as the legitimately elected leader. As the then Ghanaian President John Kufour stated “if Gbagbo [had been] allowed to prevail, elections as instruments of peaceful change in Africa [would have] suffer[ed] a serious setback.”

 Earlier this year, when former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade decided to stand for an election against the spirit of the new Constitution limiting presidential terms arguing that the constitutional provisions did not apply retrospectively, Senegalese citizens protested this decision. The violence that erupted could have gone out of hand and led to a civil war but the maturity of the Senegalese people themselves as well as the heavy involvement of ECOWAS through political talks allowed for a relatively peaceful transition of power through an election in Senegal. Today Macky Sall stands the democratically elected leaders of the Senegalese Republic.

 ECOWAS condemned the recent coup of 21 March 2012 in Mali led by Amadou Haya Sanogo and swiftly took action. They suspended Mali from ECOWAS, applied an embargo on Mali, froze access to finance from the regional bank in Dakar and began discussions for a negotiated plan to return to civilian rule. Their intervention resulted in an agreement by the military junta to restore constitutional order by handing over the reigns to the Speaker of the National Assembly today as a first step towards returning to democratic rule. They also considered the possible deployment of the regional Standby Force, should the rebels refuse to observe a ceasefire and engage in dialogue.

 Surely this record speaks volumes to the regional bloc’s seriousness and commitment to see democratic rule where the people’s choices and voices are respected and to restore peace and security. ECOWAS continues to reiterate the regional bloc’s commitment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law, and their opposition to unconstitutional transitions of power.

 The Southern African Development Committee (SADC) on the other hand has increasingly displayed its inadequacy to address similar issues. In 2008 when Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe lost an election to Morgan Tsvangirai and the subsequent runoff was marred by horrendous violence, SADC did not make a firm decision to respect the people’s choice. Instead they negotiated a power-sharing deal which was not only unconstitutional but in violation of the demands of a minimum democracy where the ruler must be instated at the choice of the people, chosen by the people and his term of rule exhibit governance patterns that respect the will of the people. Despite many violations of the negotiated deal that SADC negotiated, the regional body has largely failed to ensure that these terms are respected and that democracy is served.

 In 2009, when Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar was ousted out of power by Andry Rajoelina in a coup staged by the army which then ceded power to Rajoelina as its leader, SADC failed to take decisive measures to ensure a swift return to civilian rule. Since then, the High Transitional Authority, a negotiated deal by the African Union in collaboration with SADC setting up a leadership authority comprising the members of the Ravalomanana and Rajoelina camps has been in power and the people of Madagascar’s right to choose their own leadership continues to be undermined.

 Yes, SADC believes it is being strategic diplomatically when it pursues the non-interventionist policy towards resolving regional governance issues. In the end it is us the citizens who are being done a disservice. Such precedents where the bloc is placating undemocratically elected individuals to enjoy power and continually denying SADC citizens the right to choose who they want to lead them are unsustainable. Maybe we ought to learn a thing or two from ECOWAS or better still, borrow them the next time we have similar crises. Bottom line, SADC needs to act decisively, with consistency and with one voice in the face of such blatant disregard to the will of the people.

“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.”

“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!

“Beautiful” African men: Kwame Nkrumah

One of the founding fathers of the African Union, then called the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) he was also the first African leader to lead an independent African nation-with the exception of Ethiopia which had never been colonised.

From postage stamps with his face in Russia, roads called by his name in Zimbabwe, billboards with his quotes in Zambia, honourary degrees awarded by Universities in Egypt, Poland, Germany, Russia and America among others, statues erected in his honour in Ghana and at the African Union building in Ethiopia-the greatness and good repute of this man is one that can not be overstated.

Kwame Nkrumah

A snippet of the great thoughts that came out of the great mind of this great man.

We are going to see that we create our own African personality and identity. We again rededicate ourselves in the struggle to emancipate other countries in Africa; for our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.’

 “Revolutions are brought about by men, by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought.”

 “Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. Thy claim it as their own and none can keep it from them.”

 “Africa is a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism. Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below the soil continue to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa’s impoverishment.”

 “In the era of neocolonialism, under-development is still attributed not to exploitation but to inferiority, and racial undertones remain closely interwoven with the class struggle.”

 “There is a tide in the affairs of every people when the moment strikes for political action. Such was the moment in the history of the United States of America when the Founding Fathers saw beyond the petty wranglings of the separate states and created a Union. This is our chance. We must act now. Tomorrow may be too late and the opportunity will have passed, and with it the hope of free Africa’s survival.”

 “Capitalism is a development by refinement from feudalism, just as feudalism is development by refinement from slavery. Capitalism is but the gentlemen’s method of slavery.”

A true Pan-Africanist-calling for the unity of Africa  in fighting colonialism and neo-colonialism, in building our countries out of poverty, in utilising our vast mineral wealth for our own development, in taking pride in our great wealth of indigenous knowledge, diverse language and rich cultures-today I salute him.

Indeed Kwame Nkrumah is alive!

Statue of Kwame Nkrumah at the new African Union building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

‘Beautiful’ African Men: Steve Biko

Not  skin deep, no. Their beauty goes way beyond what we see. Yes- theirs is the beauty that is both physical and visible but also spiritual and tangible, edible and audible-to those who take the time to feel, eat and listen to what these men have to say.

In my view he is the ” Father of Black Consciousness.” A proponent of black identity and black pride, his aim in cultivating the ‘Black Consciousness Movement’ in apartheid South Africa was to remove fear in the minds of black people and push them to  resist the racist regime to which they had become accustomed and almost subordinate to.

Steve Biko

These are the beautiful thoughts that came out of the beautiful mind of this beautiful (handsome) man!

“Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

“Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time. Its essence is the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression – the blackness of their skin – and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude.”

“The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity.”

“It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality. The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.”

“Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.”

“So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.”

Athough he died on 12 September, 1977 at 30, never saw the face of the intense struggle against apartheid, his legacy lives on and I salute him.

Remember, some great person once said, it is only when you have been completely forgotten in the minds and memories of the living that you truly die.

Steve Biko is alive!

Who is next?

Is Africa changing? Is the politics changing? Are the people changing and are their demands for democracy and good governance becoming more solid? Are we finally claiming our space as the cradle of mankind and the beginnings of all civilisation?

For years African citizens have suffered grave governance deficits at the hands of octogenarians who held onto power, clawing at the citizenry until it bled.

But recent events seem to indicate that things are changing. Now African peoples are looking for leaders who tackle corruption, facilitate an environment that allows for political debate and opposition. Citizens are demanding transparency and rule of law and when the leaders fail, the people are saying GO!

Of course there are setbacks such as the recent coup in Mali, the acceptance of Kenyan and Zimbabwean citizens of power sharing governments yet the elections had clear losers and winners. Even part of the new crop of leaders continues to be corrupt. I only need to cast my eyes down South to South Africa to see how leaders can be changed effectively but the new leadership itself fails to be effective. But, certainly no one can dispute that the era of passive citizens with no voice is surely moving towards being part of the archive books on our continent.

Here is a short rundown…

Yesterday, March 25th 2012, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal conceded defeat and gracefully stepped down to allow Macky Sall victory. After 12 years in power it was high time Wade did go- a third term would only have served to undermine the spirit of the new constitution limiting presidential terms to only two.

March 20th 2012, former President of Zambia Rupiah Banda stepped down as head of his party indicating his exit from politics and sending a clear message that he is not going to seek reelection in the future.

October 20th , 2011, after being massacred, sprayed with bullets by snipers, bombed left right and centre-and standing, albeit with a little help from opportunists that also had their own not-so-hidden agendas but by the barrel of a gun, Muammar Kaddafi, the King of Kings, Brother Leader of Africa and the President of the Great  Libyan Arab Jamahiriya fell.

February 11th 2011, by the power of the masses who stood for days in protest, determined-the masses that were shot down by the police, sprayed with teargas but stood firm-Mubarak fell after 30 years of rule.

January 14th 2011, Ben Ali, after 23 years of reign fled to Saudi Arabia, having fallen at the hands of the masses who, fed up with continued poverty, corruption and suppression of political freedoms decided enough was enough.

April 11th 2011, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’ Ivoire sought protection from the UN and was arrested by the ICC.  Having lost an election in December 2010, in which the people clearly said enough was enough he refused to vacate office, and then an intense civil war, Laurent Gbagbo fell.

A few decent leaders have been wise enough enough to leave gracefully after the electorate decided they had had enough.  Joacquim Chissaono of Mozambique, Festus Mogae of Botswana and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde won the Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance and for voluntarily and timeously stepping down.

Oh the long serving ones remain ensconced in their seats. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, after 25 years got himself reelected in 2011, despite the high levels of corruption that his government has brought to the nation. Paul Biya of Cameroon also got himself reelected in 2011, 29 years on from the day he stepped into the President’s office. Our very own Robert Mugabe is looking for reelection in 2012, or 2013 or 2014, whoever knows but himself? And it’s only been 31 years, he says. What’s the big fuss all about? Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola still sits at the helm, 32 years in power. And I suppose Teodor Obiang Nguema of Equittorial Guinea is the chief advisor of those who want to die in power as he has been there the longest -32 years, a few months ahead of Dos Santos.

Still, given the tide of the winds, these leaders should ask themselves what we are wondering-who among them is next in line to exit their thrones of dis-grace.


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