Sunday, September 28, 2008

Should Africa expect much from Obama?(1)

Africa is cursed! Period.
It's been quite some time now that I've intended to express some opinions of my own about what an Obama Presidency would do for Africa. However, in all fairness, I decided to attend a town hall meeting branded "Africans for Change" sponsored by the Obama Campaign and hosted by Andrew Mwavua, a 31 yr old Kenyan native. The scheduled start time for the meeting was 2:30pm, I got there ten min late as I got lost on my way. Nevertheless it didn't start til exactly 3:20pm which is quite "early" given it was an event organized by Africans. I really can't explain where this laxity with time comes from in regards to Africans whether they are Kenyans, Cameroonians, Liberians, Togoleses or Nigerians. Invite them to a 4:00pm party and they won't start showing up til about 7pm.
Back to the point, instead of writing a very long diatribe about my people in one post, I'll try and do it in two parts or more. In this first post, I'll expose some of the reasons I believe that dear continent (no, Africa is not a country) of mine operates under a malediction.
  • Darfur: Remember Darfur? A region located in Southwest Sudan where since February 2003, the genocide has resulted in 2.5 million deaths as reported by Eren G√∂knar from the Town Crier. This is not a conflict with another nation, nor a fight against terrorism. It's one nation, one people killing each other based on their tribe difference. 2.5 million deaths!! just a million shorter of LA population, and nearly the whole town of Chicago. Imagine for a second the city of Chicago completely annihilated, wiped out of the map. That's what Africans are currently doing to each other.
  • Rwanda: 14 yrs later Rwanda has still not recovered from the genocide that ripped apart its land -- 800,000 and 1,000,000 is the estimated death toll. Skeletons, debris from the war, are now displayed as a genocide museum at Murambi Technical School. Videos of compelling stories about that "endless screaming silence" as described by Fergal keane, a very gruesome era, can be found here.
  • Democratic Congo (ex Zaire) : it's been only 5 years since the conflict has "ceased". The massacre was so deadly that it was baptised African World War III. Today another form of war has taken place: poverty, famine, malnutrition and diseases.
These are just few major examples that have captivated and were reported by the International media. Just a few years ago, it was Nigeria --the Northerners against the Southerners, Muslims vs. Christians. Some have reported to lie to muslim authorities by passing themselves as christans to avoid lapidation. More recently it was Kenya and then Cameroon. There is always something disastrous going on in Africa. I've come to believe that Africans don't like themselves very much, if not at all, let alone their own brothers or sisters.
At the town hall meeting the host/moderator Andrew urged us, Africans, to unite, to form one body, one community in other to effectively make our voice heard by those leaders who take decisions on behalf of Africans without Africans involved. He emphasized the power of unity by citing the Cuban and Jew communities as examples, who have become such powerful entities that no politician can get elected in some areas without "paying them homage". There is no doubt about the power of oneness: when a couple becomes one, babies are born, families are founded and clans are formed. And when people become one, Nations are born and Things happen. Can Africans surmount their hatred for one another to reach that goal?

A special thanks to my friends Yves for the links to the videos, and Paule for inviting me to the townhall.

--Patricia JB--


Patrick Jean-Baptiste said...

"Hatred"? Too broad a stroke for such a vast continent, don't you think? Bill Clinton said the other day that we ought to be more precise and make specific distinctions when we are talking about countries in Africa versus the whole continent--not to confuse the part with the whole.

I agree.

We never hear or see the success stories from the American press, unfortunately. Parts of the continent are doing quite well, relatively speaking. South Africa, for example, even Rwanda which, a decade or so ago had an annual per capita of $300, but now has tripled their standard of living. In relative terms, that's quite a leap.

I take what you say and acknowledge its importance, but please be careful with the language. A discussion of issues in France, for example, is not a reflection of the entire European continent. We don't say it's happening to all of Europe. Why? because we know France is very distinct in terms of its history from that of the rest of Europe.

We ought to do the same with the African continent. Appreciate its complexity and not reduce it to one-dimension. Cameroonian problems are different from that of South Africa's, or Rwanda's, Darfur's, etc.

When you are debugging code, you don't say that the whole program is screwed up. You say/look specific points of failure occured, could be syntax, error in logic, etc. Same saw of Q&A principles should be applied when discussing failed states in Africa.

Tresor De Beaute said...

Thank you Patrick for your contribution. I'll use my next post to elaborate on some of those points that you raised.

Virginia said...

Heh! just like a computer profession to give a programming analogy to the situation :)

I do agree with Patrick, we do need to look at the problems in each country separately.. but at the same thing I think the underlying issue in all these situations seems to be poverty.

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