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Denying education to schoolgirls who get pregnant is barbaric and backward


on  Sunday, June 25   2017 at  13:05

The moralists are back among us, and this time they are, once again, riding the usual high horse of virginity and the imperative for maidens to stay pure and chaste until they are allowed to go out and eat the forbidden fruit.

The girl child is told that to engage in sex before the knot is tied is sinful, and that if she is in school and is lecherous enough to be tempted by the snake, her school career is finished. Mothers cannot be learners, she is told.

But of course mothers can be learners, she could answer; mothers have been learners since forever, as her mother and her grandmother can attest.

What makes a young woman lose her ability to learn simply because she is “in the family way,” to employ a silly old expression?

But that is what Tanzanian legislators and members of civil society are grappling with, some of them taking such emotional positions as will brook no attempt to reason with them.

The terrible act

Such girls as “allow themselves” to engage in sex while still in school are “immoral” and should be sent down immediately they are discovered to have done the terrible act.

Problem is, no one has a litmus test to ascertain whether the young woman has “done it,” till she begins to show the wrong bulges in the wrong places.

Aha! You’ve done it and it shows, so out you go! Thing is, not all who “do it” end up bulging, so they don’t get caught. These are the “smart” ones.

A civil society body dedicated to education rights has launched a five-year campaign to raise awareness among the people of this extremely conservative country, and all I can see is a hard road ahead for them, and us.

To suggest that a pregnant schoolgirl should go back to school after childbirth sounds to some of our people like telling all the schoolgirls that it’s okay to just sleep with whoever comes along.

Hormonal changes

But we know that this is not the case. Some youngsters will be more sexually active than others as they go through a period of extreme hormonal changes, putting them in an endangered cluster of scholars unless they have been tutored in ways of being “smart.”

Those who get “smart” can then go on and entertain a battalion without the slightest worry over pregnancy, and their kin and friends will hold them up as if they were Mother Theresa. It is the innocent ones, the ones who do not know how to cheat the system, who get caught.

To state that the girl child has been disadvantaged in our societies would be a culpable understatement.

Home chores

Our family arrangements are rigged against her, even her mother takes position among her enemies. Societal norms, assigned roles and socialising agents militate against her.

Apart from her schoolwork, she must do home chores while her brothers learn or play; the school environment is unfriendly and often humiliating, especially as her femininity wreaks havoc on her self-esteem without supportive interventions.

She is also the target of all sorts of lecherous advances by the men around her, some of them people in a fiduciary relationship to her, such as her teachers.

Sometimes, as protection from these unwanted attentions, she will accept the seemingly selfless shelter of a “caring cousin,” who turns out be the one that does the ultimate damage after all.

Make it worse

It is unfair to punish the girl alone, as that is tantamount to punishing the victim. The responsible man has proved elusive, one because he does not bulge, two because he has a whole lot of tricks to help him dance out of any such situation, and, three, the girl is always the daughter of Eve, guilty from Creation. She is left alone holding the…tummy.

We should never exacerbate an already bad situation. Enrolment in school has improved considerably, and both sexes are well represented. However, females drop off at higher levels of education. We should not make it worse than it is.

That is why I think President John Pombe Magufuli should mitigate the statement he made this past week in which he castigated the poor girls whose fault it is not that they got into what they got into. Magufuli should listen to his vice-president and health minister, both of them women who should know better about the matter.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: ulimwengu@jenerali.com

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Tribalism is not a conspiracy by evil colonialists, it has always been with us


on  Monday, June 19   2017 at  15:05

A recent gathering held in Nairobi served to once again demonstrate the disconnect between the Kenyan, and, by extension, African intellectual class and the practical reality of Kenya and Africa.

The meeting brought together state and non-state actors and was aimed at getting a range of views on ethnic conflict.

Panellists at the meeting included Kenya's Interior Security Cabinet Secretary Joesph Nkaissery, officials from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), civil society, academicians and the clergy.

So this was not the usual academic forum where intellectuals come to indulge in esoteric obfuscations or, more fashionably, offer a new twist to the good old colonial theory.

The meeting actually sought practical solutions to an urgent problem that if not solved poses an existential threat to the Kenya nation-state.

So the panellists and others attending the meeting were expected to propose policies, laws, systemic reviews, educational programmes, community mobilisation techniques that would help us understand and tackle the existential menace posed by ethnic violence.

Be overstated

The urgency of the meeting could not be overstated given the heightening ethnic tensions in the lead-up to Kenya's election in August.

And yet a professor, with the usual self-righteous histrionics that we have become used to at academic conferences organised to discuss the condition of Africa, blamed ethnic divisions on colonialism.

While it is true that colonial governments emphasised ethnicity in their policy of “divide and rule,” they can hardly be said to have created ethnic divisions.

Pre-colonial ethnic groups operated as independent mini-nations and were quite often hostile to one another. There is nothing uniquely African about this situation. Before unification in Germany and Italy, for instance, the different principalities and regions saw themselves as independent nations that were often hostile to one another.

Over the past couple of decades, Afrocentric and nationalist scholarship has propagated the myth of brotherly relations between different ethnic groups in pre-colonial Africa. According to this falsehood, therefore, ethnic consciousness and ethnic hostility were a creation of colonialism.

Practical solutions

The danger with this falsification of reality is that it denied us opportunities to interrogate tribalism and offer practical solutions. And so over the years, we sang the nationalist lie, even as millions of Africans lost their lives in ferocious ethnic conflicts.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda should have jolted us out of this idyllic stupor.

That African intellectual expression, as shown by the professor at the meeting, has persisted in propagating such falsehoods even after millions of deaths due to ethnic violence, goes to show the crippling and potentially fatal effects of nationalist orthodoxy.

But paradoxically, one leading exponent of cultural nationalism, Julius Nyerere, understood the dangers of ethnic consciousness and more importantly the urgency of finding practical ways of addressing the problem.

Crucially, he understood that a national identity was not an automatic result of a successful anti-colonial struggle but had to be consciously developed by various means: Equitable distribution of resources, promotion of a unifying language, a leadership style that de-emphasised cultural differences among ethnic groups, political mobilisation around class, propagation through radio, education and political rallies, of the idea that society is not cast in the stone of some mythical ideal but that it continually recreates itself to fit new historical conditions.

Crucial success

As a result, Nyerere, who failed in other important ways, achieved crucial success in crafting a Tanzanian national consciousness out of the country’s more than 200 ethnic groups.

In Kenya, we did the opposite. The leadership styles of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi emphasised ethnic differences. Resources and opportunities were used to consolidate ethnic solidarity.

At rallies and other forums, the rhetoric of pre-colonial brotherhood was used to cover festering state-sanctioned tribalism. Thus today in Kenya, we continue to speak of the brotherhood that was disrupted by colonialism and then go on to vote tribal demagogues into parliament.

Both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto speak out against tribalism and yet before the election in 2013, they invoked the tribal formations of Kamatusa (Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana, Samburu) and Gema ( Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association ) formed under the Moi and Jomo Kenyatta regimes respectively.

The professor

Today in Kenya, everyone knows that below the campaign rhetoric of development by the various political players is a vicious and potentially genocidal ethnic rivalry. This is the tragic result of decades of nationalist intellectual orthodoxy working unwittingly with a political class ready and willing to incite ethnic hatred in order to control and retain power.

At the meeting referred to above, Mr Nkaissery disagreed with the professor and went on to give some practical ways of dealing with the problem. The irony of that was profound!

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Kenya’s vs other East African elections: Follow the questions


on  Thursday, June 15   2017 at  19:11

The battle for, especially, Kenya’s State House in August, has truly been joined.

In East Africa, the Kenyan and Tanzanian presidential races are usually watched closely in the region for one main reason.

Because they are the export and import routes for Uganda, Rwanda, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and South Sudan, the outcome is important.

First, if a madman came from left field and won in either of these countries, he could yank up levies at the ports, increasing the price of goods for the hinterland nations.

And, as happened in Kenya in 2007/2008, if there is post-election violence, it could bring the inland economies to their knees.

There is less concern about that, though, when it comes to Tanzania.

Tanzania is interesting for another reason. Because CCM’s rule has been unbroken for over half a century, if it ever loses power it means that Jesus Christ will possibly return one of these days – politically speaking, that is.

To lose power

In other words, that it is possible for a dominant long-ruling party to lose power anywhere in Africa (except perhaps in Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea).

Outside that, the Kenyan elections have become a very unusual five-year spectacle in Africa, in ways many people don’t realise.

First of, on the ruling Jubilee side, at over 90 per cent of their rallies, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have appeared together.

In Kenya’s case, that is necessitated by the fact that there is actually no distinct national constituency.

What goes for national politics is regional interests stitched together.

Monopolise the stage

Daniel arap Moi was probably the last president who could monopolise the stage alone (with his (club) rungu).

Otherwise, imagine Rwanda’s Paul Kagame or Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni sharing the campaign stage with their deputies or a clutch of local politicians to bolster them. It just doesn’t happen.

The same thing is happening on the opposition Nasa.

Not only does the flag-bearer, Raila Odinga, also most times appear with his running mate, Kalonzo Musyoka, but because of that peculiarly Kenyan animal called “principals”, from time to time, they also show up with Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetang’ula, and Isaac Ruto.

It’s the preferred way to convey the idea that you are a big-tent opposition, with all the regions included.

Seems you can’t tell Kenyans stories about inclusion and they believe you.

Other communities

They must touch it, and unless they see you dancing with principals from other communities on the stage, they won’t believe you.

In Uganda, as all who followed events there last year saw, the majority of times the dogged opposition leader Kizza Besigye was alone.

It means that you can carry him in a sofa to his nomination (it would not be practical – and would perhaps look too comical - to carry the five Nasa principals on a single sofa).

And, of course, when he was being beaten and tormented by the state police, he was mostly alone.

But, perhaps, the biggest difference the Kenyan election has from the rest in the region is that it is very vexing predicting who will win.

Fiddled the vote

In 2007 it was very close. In the end, Mwai Kibaki won with 46.2 per cent of the vote against Raila’s 44.07 per cent.

The violence broke out because of the tell-tale signs that Kibaki’s camp had fiddled the vote.

They denied it, but assuming they did, it was striking that the “theft margin” was still so small.

In 2013, Uhuru won with 50.07 per cent of the vote, and Raila came second with 43.3 per cent.

The justices

However, needing just more than 50 per cent, Uhuru was pulled over the finishing line by just about 8,000 votes.

Raila then went to court, alleging fraud, but the justices found in favour of Uhuru.

Considering that the International Crime Court case against Uhuru and Ruto, among others, became so emotional in 2013, and analysts said it rallied their central and Rift Valley bases like never before, it’s remarkable that they took it with just 8,000 – about the number of postgraduate students at the University of Nairobi.

The question

The result is that the language in the region about Kenyan elections is very different.

Right now, most non-Kenyans ask: “Who do you think will win”.

As Ugandans voted last year, the question was different. Everyone asked; “Do you think this Besigye fellow can really beat Museveni?”

In Tanzania in 2015, they asked; “Do you think CCM can be beaten?”

The author is publisher of Africa data visualiser Africapedia.com and explainer site Roguechiefs.com. Twitter@cobbo3

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Climate: What Senegal leader knows that Trump doesn’t


on  Thursday, June 8   2017 at  16:10

Last week, American President Donald Trump surprised even those who thought he wasn’t crazy enough to do it. He announced he would pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement.

The Paris Agreement was signed in December 2015 to much fanfare. Though some regions of Africa, including the eastern parts and the Horn, are only beginning to emerge from the worst drought in over 60 years, many tend to forget about the worst once the good times return, however briefly.

However, for some countries, there has been no respite. Last week I couldn’t help but wonder what is going on in one country in Africa – Senegal. To remind ourselves, countries at the Paris accord agreed to keep the global temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit), and to purse efforts to limit it eventually to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

The pain

Today, 2100 is a good 83 years away. But it really is not that far away. To appreciate that, we need to go a few months back.

There was a National Geographic documentary The Years of Living Dangerously showing on DStv. The award-winning series has mostly American Hollywood stars travelling around the US and other parts of the world, spotlighting the pain climate change is inflicting, and also where some clever things are being done to fight back.

One of the early episodes has American journalist and author Thomas Friedman (yes, he of The Lexus and the Olive Tree, The World Is Flat, and Longitudes and Attitudes fame), travelling to Paris where delegates are haggling over the climate deal.

The documentary then takes an interesting turn. Friedman finds some migrants from West Africa in Paris, young Africans who took that perilous journey to Libya and over the Mediterranean to Europe.

He talks to some of them from Senegal. Friedman then poses the question: Why should young people flee one of the most peaceful, prosperous, and democratic countries in Africa?

He gets details of their relatives, and heads to the Senegalese capital Dakar. He finds the relatives vending Chinese-made bric-a-bac in the market. They tell Friedman climate change had wasted the land, and it was impossible to make a living from it anymore.

They had left the villages, were accumulating a little money in the city, so they could pay for the ride out to Europe.

Friedman decides to go to their villages and see for himself. In a humorous moment, they refuse to go with him. The ride to the countryside is sobering.

Young men

The desert is overwhelming Senegal. At the village, Friedman finds all the young men and women have fled. There is only, who heads a local school remaining. What happens next is unexpected.

Friedman drives back to Dakar and goes to meet the head of Senegal’s climate agency. It is an unassuming building and you don’t expect much. The guy leads him to a computer mapping the climate in Senegal, and shows him what has happened.

People are talking about keeping temperatures below 2 degrees, he says, but average temperatures in Senegal shot past that a while back. Friedman – and I guess most people who have watched that bit - is stunned.

The nightmare reality of the future is already Senegal’s present. It then becomes clear how climate change has changed Senegal’s politics.

In West Africa and the Sahel, climate refugees are being driven into terror groups to find a livelihood.

But it seems Senegal understands that to deal with it, you have to deepen democracy. It might explain why it took a very aggressive lead to eject the Gambian strongman Yahya Jammeh early in the year when he lost the presidential election and refused to hand over power.

But mostly, it reveals a disconnect it is creating in Africa. In November 2015, at one of the worst points in the migrant crisis, there was a European-African leaders’ summit on the problem in Valletta, Malta.

Most foresighted

Senegal’s President Macky Sall was the only significant African leader who attended. Many scorned his attendance, and on social media he was mocked as a French lackey.

Knowing what we know now, Sall seems to have been the most foresighted.

Climate change had taught him a lesson many other African leaders finally understood last year and this year. This is the one that will finally do us in.

We will need all the help we can, and it is utter stupidity to be too proud about where we get it.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of the Africa data visualiser 'Africapedia.com' and explainer site 'Roguechiefs.com'.

Twitter: @cobbo3

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African leaders are village gentlemen secretly despised by rich countries


on  Wednesday, June 7   2017 at  16:06

We have all encountered these characters in the village. They are retired teachers or government clerks, or failed small business people. From their meagre retirement benefits or earnings from the small farms their wives cultivate, they manage to get by – just.

Their attire is a poor imitation of the English gentleman, a weather-beaten chequered jacket worn over an open-necked shirt that is beginning to fray at the collar. On their wrist there is a huge watch, which they will position with an ostentatious flick of the wrist in order to check the time.

In the outside pocket of their jacket, is a folded copy of the day’s newspaper, which they let people borrow with a somewhat scandalised expression on their faces, as if to say: You know, buying a paper is a mark of a civilised gentleman.

The language

They seem to know and be known by everyone. They are talkative, and converse easily on many subjects. Their speech is peppered with English words, even when they are talking to people who don’t know the language.

And they always have a personal anecdote to illustrate a point. They have plenty of time on their hands, and so you will find them at various village functions, but especially at those functions where there is some kind of feast.

Here, you will find them giving instructions on how the goat should be slaughtered or directing other aspects of the occasion.

These village gentlemen think themselves important and respected, indispensable to the smooth running of an occasion.

Diplomatic politesse

But what they do not know is that people, especially the rich, at whose goat-eating functions our village Englishmen appoint themselves chief custodians of process and order, only tolerate, not respect them.

Behind their backs, the rich ridicule them, sometimes making fun of their mannerisms and pretensions.

That is the image that occurred to me when I watched African leaders at the G7 meeting in Italy. They wore self-satisfied grins on their faces as they lined up to shake hands with the mighty.

The rich, with diplomatic politesse, smiled at their African colleagues, so as to make them feel equal and important. The Africans squeezed awkwardly to fit into the picture frame or to be in the front row during group photo-ops.

In one photo with the Africans, Donald Trump shows a thumbs up-sign. Would he be so playful in a photo with other G7 leaders?

The expression on Trump’s face is more of a smirk than a smile. Watching, I was sure that, just as they pride themselves on their countries being “better” than other impoverished neighbours, African leaders who managed an advantageous position in the photo-ops would think themselves better than their poor fellows relegated to the back row.

The African leaders chatted with the mighty about God-knows-what. Maybe about the recent famine, or the latest ethnic war, or the 50 per cent unemployment rates in their countries... I imagined the rich leaders listening with a mixture of concern and contempt, saying perhaps: Oh, very sad, we must do something about it.

And this “commitment” will be the headlines in the papers when the Africans return home, with the self -delusional narrative: We went to the G7 and slew the dragon and brought the benefits back to our people!

Raises the question

The extreme incongruity of Africans at the G7 meeting raises the question: Why do African leaders love to travel so much to America and Europe?

Remember the Zambian president who died while on a trip abroad, having insisted on travelling when he was gravely ill?

At one point, Robert Mugabe had the dubious distinction of being the most travelled president in the world. The official spin is that these travels bring back benefits.

But not a single developed country achieved that status as a result of foreign travel by its president.

Delusions of grandeur

On the contrary, leaders whose countries have made spectacular gains in short periods of time hardly went on foreign trips.

Mao Tse Tung, who founded modern China, hardly ever went abroad. Deng Xiao-Ping, who modernised China, rarely travelled abroad. Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore also preferred to stay at home to work maniacally to overcome the massive problems of underdevelopment.

African presidents attend meetings such as the G7 and, just like our village gentlemen, bask in delusions of grandeur. But, surely, no one can respect leaders whose citizens die of hunger or whose countries remain stuck in poverty because of looting by the same leaders.

The rich at those meetings tolerate them in public, but ridicule them in private.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political and social commentator. E-mail: teengugi@gmail.com

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Africa Day was a fitting occasion to remember Taju


on  Thursday, June 1   2017 at  18:12

May 25 was Africa Day. A day to celebrate our political, if not economic independence. Not that we would have known it was Africa Day from any of our mainstream media. Or from our politicians.

Thank god for ordinary Africans —who do still ascribe meaning to the day.

Africans Rising — a new pan-African platform for citizen organising and action – was launched in no less than 40 countries across the continent, including about five events across Kenya.

Linked to Kumi Naidoo, South African anti-apartheid activist and former head of both Civicus and Greenpeace, Africans Rising is a play on the term Africa Rising.

Surviving drought

Africa may be “rising” in terms of economic growth, selling itself as the new emerging market and trying to draw in higher levels of foreign direct investment. But most ordinary Africans are still a long way from rising.

They’re caught up in conflicts not of their making, surviving drought and famine all the way across the Sahel.

And the next generation are fleeing the continent in whatever way they can. Including treks across the Sahara to jump into overloaded and rickety boats to get to places they know don’t want us.

Africans Rising is saying let’s create spaces to talk about this, to think about what to do about this.

Tried and tested

From the demand side — that is us, the citizens. Not the supply side — as all the bureaucratised, institutionalised and politicised ways we’ve now tried and tested since 2002 are so obviously letting us down.

The Coalition of African Lesbians also organised a cleverly subversive continental, online discussion on Africa Day.

They were obviously pointing to the fact that it is not just class and income or livelihood possibilities that drive us.

A car accident

By laying claim to the day, they were asserting that (contrary to retrogressive assumptions), the African queer community is, in fact, African. And they were also laying claim to their right to liberation themselves.

All of which was completely in line with another set of events to commemorate the late (and indeed great) Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, former secretary-general of the Pan-African Movement, who lost his life in a car accident in Kenya on Africa Liberation Day.

This year, the events were held in Nairobi, Abuja and Harare — organised both by the senior African intellectual and progressive organisations and think-tanks and (more interestingly) the younger generation of intellectuals and activists who were inspired by him, even if they hadn’t known him personally.

Heads of state

And his weekly “postcards,” first circulated by himself and then by Pambazuka News. They were for many people their first exposure to his unique take on goings-on and shenanigans all across the continent.

Taju assumed the best of everyone. Even the most hardened heads of state broke out laughing when they caught sight of him, even knowing some sort of admonition was about to follow.

He was a force of nature and they loved him.

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty International’s regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

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Marking Africa Day with a broken heart


on  Thursday, May 25   2017 at  15:12

Thursday is Africa Day, but the continent might be too busy nursing a broken heart to even think about it.

Today’s Africa is an Africa that has lost its soul - it pushes and shoves towards the global doors of opportunities with the gluttony that depletes the motherland but enlarges only the radius of the shameless few.

Africa’s audacity to amplify its status on the globalised economic stage has awarded it a new camouflaged status of futuristic possibilities, but sadly one that hides the reality of the vandalism within.

Africa is wooed by a flow of over $50 billion worth of Foreign Direct Investment but of which no one speaks of the ultimate loss to the people when the “so-called” investors are done, raping it dry and it resources have been vanquished.

Africa’s masses have learnt to surrender their destiny to fate, choosing instead to blame the gods of poverty and natural calamities rather than the wolves masquerading as sheep in the form of leaders exploiting them with a vengeance that is unmatched.

Exactly 54 years today, Africa’s forefathers resolved that never again would the motherland mourn and gnash its teeth over its liberation and sovereignty.

Blood flowing

They must have purposed that the colonial blood flowing from Cairo to Cape Town in the dark ages would eternally dry up.

Sadly though, they must be turning in their graves as the continent haemorrhages violations, suffering, desperation, discontent and disillusionment amongst its 1.2 billion people.

Where politicians should have led the way to steady and progressive governance, dictatorial and nepotistic tendencies have gained root, ensuring that power remains the preserve of a minority to the detriment of the majority.

From Angola to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea to Zimbabwe, it is seemingly “unbecoming” for an African president to hand over power to the next at the end of his term without much of a fuss.

Today, whenever a president relinquishes power after one or two terms it makes breaking world news and breaks the Internet, never mind that such occurrences are curiously rare.

Africa is marred by the impunity of corruption and illicit financial flows.

Tax evasions

Every year, Africa loses over $52 billion through bribery, money laundering, tax evasions and a myriad of other corrupt practices.

These vices propagated by global and regional bodies have been perfected by our very own fellow African leaders, elites, investors, technocrats and entrepreneurs, most of whom care less about the future of the continent.

In Addis Ababa, where this day was born, Africa’s dignity stands mocked in a towering castle “gifted” to the continent by the Chinese.

One wonders what is worse: The fact that Africa’s liberation headquarters is nestled along a road named Roosevelt Street or the fact that China gave Africa a “gift” specifically to enhance its relations with the continent.

The answer is in the face of Africa’s economic growth that has curiously evolved into being even more Chinese than Beijing itself!

From Marrakech to Maseru, Yamoussoukro to Swakopmund, Nairobi to Porto-Novo, Chinese food and restaurants represent the infrastructural face of Africa with an uncontested certainty.

The real impact of this presumed transformation will only be known in the foreseeable future.

The resolve

When Africa’s children breeze through life ignorant of the significance of Africa Day, let this be the day that Africa starts having conversations of change with itself.

Let it remind its children of the journey it walked to get here, the price paid, the resolve made, and the future it fathomed in 1963 when it declared through the words of the great Kwame Nkrumah that “We must unite now or perish!”

Africa knows what ails it and thus must be its own antidote and device a cure that will see it through the challenges bedevilling its very survival in the 21st century.

Unless we embrace our true historical identity and instil that consciousness, knowledge and pride into our youth, our future will be forever compromised.

Secondly, we must redefine African political leadership and governance, Truth be told, the club of 54 African leaders that converges at least twice a year in Addis Ababa, claiming to chart the path to Africa’s destiny is taking the continent for a sorry ride.

If they were serious about their mandates then South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and the Central African Republic would not be smouldering to ashes as we speak.

We are busy

We know what these conflicts are about, who is fuelling them and what needs to be done to end them.

We just do not care enough because we are busy “benefiting” from them.

If the heads of state were serious, then they would act as one another’s accountability partner on crimes of humanity, human rights violations, corruption, constitutional infringement and social and economic injustices.

Unfortunately, this ambition will remain a pipe dream.

Thirdly, it was un-African to eat before the children eat and to dance on the graves of the dead.

But we have now perfected this art all in the name of corruption. We must return to the centre of communal ownership, selflessness, social and economic accountability crowned by integrity.

There is no short cut to it.

Perpetual struggles

Lastly, Africa will not rise from the abyss of destruction with a single clarion call and neither will it rise by empty rhetoric and endless policies.

Africa will begin to rise through the careful, deliberate and resilient internalisation of the reality of our perpetual struggles and the determination to always remain focused on overcoming them collectively.

Back then in 1954, Kwame Nkrumah and his fellow freedom fighters had this clarity of vision.

His words run true even today. He said: “On this continent, it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence.

Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist control and interference.”

As we mark Africa Day, his words could never have been so apt.

Ms Ngesa is a Pan-African Media & Communications Specialist. ngesamildred@gmail.com

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South Sudan makes us all look bad; we must act now


on  Thursday, May 18   2017 at  19:14

The sacking of an army chief anywhere in the world, particularly Africa, is usually big news.

But the panicked reaction to the news that South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir fired army head General Paul Malong on Tuesday was extraordinary.

Many feared that the situation could get worse in the world’s newest nation, which has been ravaged by war since Kiir fell out with his deputy Riek Machar, resulting in savage fighting that made many ashamed of knowing the South Sudanese.

They had reason to be afraid. Malong was no longer an ordinary army chief. A polygamist with 40 wives and enough children to fill two villages, he was seen as the puppet master in South Sudan, and Kiir the puppet. He was the hard line Dinka iron fist behind the throne.

On Wednesday, Kiir trotted out the SPLA spokesman to say that Malong had withdrawn with his security guards to outside of the capital, Juba, but was not planning a rebellion.

Maybe he won’t, because the new army chief James Ajongo is alleged to have been picked by Malong. He is a kind of Malong lite.

Hopefully, Kiir will now strike a more moderate posture, because he may still have a country, but will soon run out people.

More than 1.8 million South Sudanese have fled the country as refugees, according to the latest UN figures. Most have ended up in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan.

Uganda hosts most of the refugees, nearly 800,000. In Kampala on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said the country would next month seek $2 billion at a UN refugee summit in Kampala to help fund relief operations for the South Sudanese refugees.

With a population of 12.4 million, South Sudan has made nearly 15 per cent of its population refugees in fewer than four years.

In addition, more than 3.5 million people have been internally displaced since the fighting erupted in mid-December 2013.

If the war doesn’t end, and intensifies, in another three or so years, more than 25 per cent of South Sudanese could be refugees. And if the number of IDPs were also to double over the same period, accounting for those who will have been slaughtered in war, fallen to disease, or starved to death in the famine, virtually the whole population of South Sudan would be living outside their homes and off their land.

For a country like Uganda, the prospect of say two million South Sudanese pouring into the country by 2020 is scary, its much-praised refugee policy notwithstanding.

The only place where the South Sudanese are living properly at home could be the street on which Kiir lives in Juba.

That is overdramatised, yes, but it is to make the point that Africa must finally do something bold to stop the madness in South Sudan.

Among other things, it should ensure that Malong leaves South Sudan, either by force, or by being paid off Yahya Jammeh-style. He has a lot of prime real estate in Nairobi and Kampala, and a small country of a family to feed, so he may be susceptible to generous inducements.

And Africa needs to read the riot act to Kiir to piece the country back together, or marshal an invasion force and oust him if he won’t. South Sudan makes us all look bad.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is publisher of data visualiser Africapaedia and Rogue Chiefs. Twitter@cobbo3