I had started a project, “African Queens Project“, this year with the intention of impacting a marginalised group in Africa: women and I have now seen it grow beyond my expectations from wining an internationally renowned award to impacting and changing the lives of young girls and Women.
I realised however that the people who would really benefit from this project were not being reached and thus have launched a new campaign called “African Queens Project – Going Rural.”
Everybody has a story and a story has the power to change someone’s life. The award-winning project, African Queens Project, has become the source of all things related and affecting African women. We collect the stories of phenomenal women from around African who are shaping their communities and countries and put it on the website in the form of videos, interviews, and audio bites as well as sharing news stories and articles about African Women. For to long African women have been marginalised and we have taken the initiative of changing women’s mindset to believe that the impossible is possible.
We want to make African Queens Project more accessible to women and girls within the rural areas in Tanzania by creating applications, books and conducting workshops enforcing our message of leadership and working towards your dreams. We would also like to create documentaries about phenomenal women and girls doing amazing things from the grassroots level and instilling change in their communities. We also want to do this at absolutely NO cost to the women and girls who can benefit from our services. This is where we need YOUR help.
Your contribution in any amount will be instrumental in changing the lives of women and young girls living in villages who think that this is as good is as its going to get. Change begins in the mind and mindset transformation is key if we want to see a new generation of women who can be the leaders of tomorrow.
If you would like to support us you can do so by going to this link:
Sitawa advocates on an issue that has been a silent killer on our beautiful continent, an issue that is usually blanketed by age old beliefs and harsh traditional views thus leaving the victims of this silent killer to miss out on much needed medical treatment. The issue I am talking about is Mental health related sicknesses. Sitawa Wafula, after suffering a rape ordeal, rose up from the ashes by giving a voice to the voiceless via promoting awareness on Victims of rape as well as mental Health sicknesses, having developed one after her rape ordeal.
She has recently launched a campaign called #HugSitawa, “that aims to create awareness about mental health and suicide and also raise money for a toll free help line.”
“Currently, 1 in every 4 Kenyans will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. This narrows down to each and every household in this country having a brush with either bipolar, depression, suicide, alcohol and substance abuse disorders, just to mention a few. …All these households will have to compete for the services of 79 psychiatrists serving a population of 40 million Kenyans. …All these households will also compete for space in one referral hospital what is understaffed, underfunded and overcrowded. …And like me, all these households will not have a proper support system.”
I am hoping that by my sharing her story and her campaign that is currently located in Kenya, that it will be an eye opener for other campaigns in other countries like Tanzania, Uganda, and Chad just to name a few. Below is a blog post that Sitawa wrote where she poetically describes what happened to her the day that shook her world and turned it upside down. #HugSitawa
“I will keep telling my story because everyday,
a man, a woman, a child is raped”
In her interview on NTV,Vip Ogola said that she will keep telling her story because everyday, a man, a woman, a child is raped; and they need to know its going to be ok,that they are not alone. Back then I wasn’t sure, I was scared, I had no one to tell me it will be ok,there was no story for me to relate to; pen and paper were all I had, my poetry was the only solace; so I did what I thought best…wrote a piece about it and went on. Right now I am sure of myself and I, too, will tell my story so that someone out there will know they will be alright, that there are people who care, people who have been there…Sunday 15th
Sidenote: It is a long piece, unedited (OK just worked on the paragraphing, period). When I was working on my book I thought of shortening it, but yet again I looked at those pieces and saw how they have made me, and the fact that I didn’t write this or any piece for entertainment or for literature critics to see if it follows the rules. Poetry is my vent and the book is me opening part of my diary to the world and yes it was to be out mid this year, and it is ready but I, too, have to be ready.@Vip, you don’t know how your voice has helped me, right from when I read your story on The Standard to seeing you on national television plus the many things you do for people who have been raped. Makes me kinda wish I met you back in 2003,but all things work at His time so its never too late…May He continually bless he works of your hands.
Oscar Wilde said, ‘There are many things that we would throw away, if we were not afraid that others might pick them.’ I have held on for far too long, now it is time to let go. I wrote this piece on after events that took place on Sunday 15th June 2003 for therapy and it has helped me for the last 6 years. Now I write it in my notes, praying it does the same for someone.
I am ready to move to the next level of healing.
If the sun was there on that day, I don’t know;
And if it shined brighter than ever, I don’t care.
My tears, all view they clouded.
What moved me, to date am yet to know.
An errand to run, you said you had,
Before I fully awoke, you’ll be back,
As the day to spend together you desired.
So over I turned,
And deep into sleep I fell.
If all the anger I feel is at you, I don’t know;
And if you spend your whole life making amends, I don’t care.
Nowhere in sight, so off I go.
Your best friend I meet, wish I never stopped to buy that gum.
A message from you to me, he to keep me company.
Back to the host we agree, a little more time he said.
A little spike in my cup of tea he added.
One sip, two sip;
Cant recall if there was a third.
If the hosts heard me cry out for you, I don’t know;
And if you know I cried for you, I don’t care.
Back from the dead I return, warmth behind me I feel.
My love when did you arrive, stone face meets my eyes,
Shock, worry, their brothers and sisters on me descend.
A leg out the bed, chill over my body.
Naked as a new born
Not a cloth in sight.
Just a rubber on the floor.
If I vomited on the bed and blankets, I don’t know;
And if the vomit remains to date, I don’t care.
Sick all over my body, headache, numbness, anxiety.
I need my clothes, I want to go home
A word out, a threat
One look at his monstrous face, more vomit,
Disgust and fear.
Slowly he dresses,
If my best friend thought my request for a dagger was a joke, I don’t know;
And if I got one and killed him, I wouldn’t care.
He is mocking me,
Enjoying every moment of my anguish
Where are you?
Did he know you wont be back?
Why did I go back?
If I didn’t care about my breath and stop to buy gum
Or drink that tea?
If everyone pointing and laughing, knew my dirt, I don’t know;
And if it became local gossip, I don’t care.
A cloth at a go I get, as against you he talks,
To every comment I agree and thirsty I claim to be.
A glass of water he fetches, out the door I run
Tears streaming like a river
Tripping and almost falling
All this after a pretend siding with him
The only way out I saw.
If one should or should not take a shower,I didn’t know;
And if that was removing evidence, I didn’t care.
I was out
What would you say
Would you want me anymore
My best friend on road I meet
Why the tears
I’m just high, its the weekend so it allowed
If someone had seen me and told the folks, I don’t know;
And if she could have thrown me out, I wouldn’t have cared.
Home I go, effects of whatever spike taking toll
Seeing three roads, all leading to hell
A slap so hard no sense it brings, scissors on my hair
No longer beautiful, just a dirty, slutty piece of shit
If the folks sensed something was amiss, I don’t know;
And if your unbelief was shock, I don’t care.
A week outside I don’t step
Waiting, counting, wondering
Will they come?
Lord I cant be pregnant
Was that a cramp?
Away I go
As there is no one to talk to
If you’ll get to know what really happened, I don’t know;
African Queens Project wins at World Summit Youth Awards
So a post has been long overdue, but I have been busy working on building a project very close to my heart called “African Queens Project“. A lot of people have been asking me who is behind this project and how did it come about. So I have finally decided that with recent events that have taken place (which I will happily share) this will be the best time to let you guys in on the behind the scenes of “African Queens Project”.
First to address the questions of who and/or what is behind ‘African Queens Project’ I must take you to the beginning to where it all began. It was the summer of 2012, in the bustling city of Accra, Ghana. I had just landed and was busy taking in my surroundings and praying that the people who were to pick me up were not operating on African time. I saw a tall lady holding a sign with my name on it and made a beeline for her pushing my luggage on the trolly as I went. I did not know what to expect, all I knew was that I was going to be surrounded by 27 women from different parts of Africa for the next 3 weeks. My prevailing thoughts were: PMS and a whole lot of Estrogen! If someone had told me that I would form life long friends and inspirational connections with my fellow African women, I would have given them an, “In your dreams” look.
So I bet you are now wondering why was I in Ghana with 27 other women? I had been selected to attend a prestigious fellowship whereby they look for 25 young African women leaders each year in Africa, and bring them to Ghana for intensive training and workshops and upon graduation you become a part of a prestigious network of women known as MILEAD Fellows. Part of the fellowship requires each fellow to carry out a project that targets women and children in their home country for at least a year.
So I remember taking my time while I thought about what I could do that I could willingly and happily put all my heart and soul into that would make a sustainable impact. I went through a lot of ideas in my head trying to think of the best way I could go about doing this while still staying true to my passions which is media and journalism. I knew I didn’t want to do just another program or project that would eventually die or be forgotten. I continued to ponder this as I went through the fellowship, listening to the intensive lectures and taking part in some of the workshops. We got to the part where different fellows shared their stories and backgrounds and what they are doing to revolutionize their country and community. As I sat listening to these stories, I was moved to tears several times when I heard stories of hardships, defeats, triumphs, and accomplishments from women who were still relatively “young”. That’s when I knew what my project would be about: providing a uniform platform whereby inspirational women can share their stories thus inspiring other young girls and women to aspire for more. ‘African Queens Project’ was born and the rest is history.
So currently I have seen ‘African Queens Project‘ taking shape and growing and becoming even more than I had imagined. I can happily and officially say that ‘African Queens Project‘ is an award winning project, and we will be honored in Sri Lanka as part of the World Summit Youth Award winners event. So that is it in a nutshell, you can read the press release to fill you in more about the award: http://africanqueensproject.com/awards/. I like what the Professor Peter Bruck, Chairman of the World Summit Youth Awards Board said about ‘African Queens Project’:
“African Queens Project’ is helping many women in Africa to exchange vital experiences and share a new world of possibilities and opportunities. It is important to make visible the struggles, triumphs, and victories of anonymous African women who are making a difference in this continent.”
So I leave you with that and be sure to check out the website as well. Until next time, inspire to aspire!
Imagine a day, ordained and enforced by the government, where men take on the role of women, such as going to the market and taking care of the kids, so they can understand what women go through? Or a president who would rather ride his bicycle to the office than get a Mercedes-Benz? Imagine a country that has nationalized its mineral wealth and oil, where foreign aid is the thing of the past and African unity is no longer just an idealistic dream, but a tangible reality? Well there was such a place for a period of time and that place was Burkina Faso and it was led by the great revolutionary Thomas Sankara.
Thomas Sankara was and is probably one of the most revolutionary and progressive leaders this continent has ever seen. He didn’t just plan for the present, but he looked into the future and would implement provisions to make sure Burkina Faso was well taken care of. Yes, he used controversial methods to make sure that his plans went forth and were implemented, but the results and effects of his plans, such as the increase of women in leadership positions, the doubling of wheat production, and the pulling of Burkina Faso from one of the poorest countries in Africa to a country that one can be proud of, far outweighed the controversial methods. A week before he was assassinated he said something very powerful and I believe to be absolutely true: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”
A friend of mine sent me an article about this charismatic leader knowing how much I love reading about such African greats who have influenced this continent both positively and negatively. I would like to share this article with you guys and hope we can be inspired as a continent and know that such leaders can exist. The article is below, but you can also check it out at the website and you can also read more about this great man on Wikipedia!
“Debt is a cleverly managed reconquest of Africa” – Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara, former leader of Burkina Faso, was the apparent opposite of everything we are often told that success should look like. Mansions? Cars? Who? What? Get out of here. As Prime Minister and later as President, Sankara rode a bicycle to work before he upgraded, at his Cabinet’s insistence, to a Renault 5 – one of the cheapest cars available in Burkina Faso at the time. He lived in a small brick house and wore only cotton that was produced, weaved and sewn in Burkina Faso.
Going by his lifestyle, Sankara was the antithesis of success, but it is this very distinction that enabled him to become the most successful president Africa has ever seen, in terms of what he accomplished for and with his people. Sankara would not have chopped P-Square’s money given twice a chance – in fact, he might have sat him down and taught him a thing or two about the creeping menace of pop culture patriarchy – because Thomas Sankara, “The Upright Man”, was a feminist. In this and many other ways, Sankara was the African dream come true, the only living proof that hopes of African independence are not dead on arrival.
His life ended with a bullet which, according to the testimony of some involved in his assassination, was ordered by former Liberian president Charles Taylor with the support of the French and American governments, and delivered via Blaise Compaoré– Sankara’s long-time friend and colleague, and the current president of Burkina Faso. Four years prior, when Compaoré and Sankara had jointly staged the popular coup of 1983 that made Sankara president, Burkina Faso was one of the poorest countries in the world. Under Compaoré it still is – so much so that the dire circumstances led to a series of violent protestslast year.
During the years of Sankara’s administration, things were turning around, especially in the areas of health, education and the environment. Mass vaccination campaigns were rolled out with a level of rapidity and success that was unprecedented for an African country at that time. Infant mortality rates dropped. School attendance rates doubled. Millions of trees were planted in a far-sighted effort to counter deforestation. Feminism was a core element of political ideology, manifested through improved access to education for girls, and inclusion of women in leadership roles. Sankara introduced a day of solidarity in which men switched traditional gender roles – going to the market, running the household – so as to better empathise with what women handle on a daily basis. It was Africa’s greatest success story.
How was this achieved? In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Sankara reflected on the state of Burkina Faso at the time that he had come to power, stating that “The diagnosis was clearly sombre. The root of the disease was political. The treatment could only be political.” And Sankara did not hold back with the treatment. As soon as he came into power, he set about razing the conventional structures of power and inequality.
Gone were the days of politicians living lavish lives sponsored by taxpayers’ money – Sankara issued salary cuts across the board, including for himself. The fleet of Mercedes Benzes for high-ranking officials was done away with, and the cars replaced by Renault 5s. Land and oil wealth were nationalised. While the masses celebrated, the country’s elite was enraged as decades of class inequality, which had previously favoured them, suddenly came into jeopardy.
The international community, whose interests were vested in the status quo, were also disturbed by Sankara’s radicalism, not least when he started calling for African countries to reject debt repayments. From the 1970s onwards, newly-independent African governments had begun to rapidly accumulate huge amounts of debt from rich countries and the Bretton Woods institutions: the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As the Cold War intensified, such loans were increasingly used as a tool for securing political support from key countries – even governments that were patently corrupt and would inevitably default on repayment, such as Mobutu’s in the DRC, were readily provided with billions of dollars in credit.
In one of his most famous speeches [above], delivered at the summit of the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) in Addis Ababa in 1987, Sankara issued a passionate call for a United Front Against Debt. “We think that debt has to be seen from the standpoint of its origins. Debt’s origins come from colonialism’s origins. Those who lend us money are those who had colonized us before,” he declared. “Under its current form, that is imperialism-controlled, debt is a cleverly managed re-conquest of Africa, aiming at subjugating its growth and development through foreign rules. Thus, each one of us becomes the financial slave, which is to say a true slave…”
At the time of his speech it was clear, just a couple of decades into independence, that African countries were quickly becoming financial slaves. Interest rates rose sharply in the 1980s, but governments continued to borrow more and more. Between 1982 and 1990, African debt doubled from US$140 billion to US$270 billion. Sankara rightly predicted that this would cripple African development for generations to come. Despite debt relief programs, which have resulted in increased spending on health and education in African countries, Jubilee Debt Campaign estimates that in 2008, low income countries paid over US $20 million a day to rich countries.
Their decision-making power is also constrained within the limits of orders given by the institutions and countries to which they are indebted. Strangely enough, while these orders demand decreased public spending for example on health, they don’t seem to have made a dent on the perpetual rise of Africa’s waBenzi clan: politicians rolling in flashy Mercedes Benzes bought with taxpayers’ money. And to make matters worse, with access to new creditors – especially China – many African governments are once again sinking into the vicious cycle of debt dependency that Sankara foresaw.
His Foreign Policy Advisor, Fidèle Kientega, explains how this foresight was shared with ordinary people. “Sankara did not dictate to people or force them to work. He told them about the mechanisms of getting loans…He said that they could relax at home and ask him to borrow money from the neo-colonialists, but that they would have to bear in mind that they and their children would have to pay back the loans with interests. Consequently, his government would find it difficult to provide universal education and health care because he would have to spend a greater chunk of the meagre tax revenues in servicing the debt. They could also beg for aid but then they would remain beggars forever. The people got the message and were motivated into working harder.”
Stories of Sankara tend to focus on his radical policies, but it is this approach that was probably the most radical of all – his efforts to bring discussions and decisions, “the apparatus of democracy” as Kientega puts it, to ordinary people. He was able to do this not only because he had political commitment to the proverbial grassroots – as many leaders claim to do – but because, through the choices he made, he positioned himself as their equal. Sankara made personal sacrifices that no other president has ever made, and did not view them as sacrifices, but as an act of solidarity, of African pride. In his view it was only through collective commitment to such sacrifices, which he hoped would one day be viewed as “normal and simple” actions, that Africans could begin to work their way towards self-reliance.
“He who does not feed you can demand nothing of you,” he said.“We however, are being fed every day and every year. We say, ‘Down with imperialism!’ yet we can’t ignore our bellies… Let us consume only what we ourselves control! Many people ask, “Where is imperialism?” Look at your plates when you eat. These imported grains of rice, corn, and millet—that is imperialism. You need look no further.”
Despite Sankara’s incredible oratorical gift, the message came across even more eloquently through his actions: it is better to live a simple life in freedom, than a fabulous lifestyle in economic chains. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, most African governments did not share his philosophy. In a recent series of debates on democracy organised by TIA, people from Ghana, Kenya and South Africa all expressed a lack of faith in their countries’ democratic systems. Why? Because, they said, existing political systems across the world don’t answer to ordinary people – they answer to money. African governments are first accountable to rich countries, then to their own local elites; and finally, if convenient, to the people.
In a world that only answers to money, everything is for sale – democracy, freedom, dignity, integrity. Thomas Sankara bucked this trend, and in so doing struck at the very core of the international system of control – because for once, the world was faced with an African leader it could neither buy nor co-opt.
And because he was not for sale, Sankara had to be eliminated, buried in an unmarked grave whose whereabouts are still unknown. To this day, Sankara’s family and supporters in Burkina Faso and around the world are still fighting for justice, some in the face of death threats. Meanwhile, despite the fact that some of the fastest growing economies in the world are now African, and the fact that poverty rates are falling, so much of our energy now and for the foreseeable future will have to be devoted to further reducing poverty levels relating to decades of political selling out. And the selling out continues, even as our economies are bouncing back. Why do our leaders keep selling us out? Same reason we all sell out – for nice things. “Where does this debt come from anyway?” Sankara asked. “Did we need to build mansions…or foster the mentality of overpaid men among our officers?” This last question, in particular, has become more relevant as we learn of just how much moneyAfrica’s elite have been salting away in foreign accounts even as their countries’ foreign debts mount: ‘Capgemini and Merrill Lynch estimate in their latest World Wealth Report that Africa has about 100,000 “high net worth individuals” with a total of $1.2 trillion in liquid assets. The debts, on the other hand, are owed by the African people as a whole through their governments.’
Of all the holy cows in the world today, materialism is probably the deepest and most universally entrenched – from home to school to pop culture. This entrenchment is necessary to preserve the current system of inequality, because it opens us all up to compromise, to co-option. How much would you sell your values for? How much do you sell your values for? Sankara demonstrated that the make-or-break of freedom is not so much about heroes and politics as it is about the very personal struggle between principles and cash-money.
A week before he died, Sankara said, “revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, but you cannot kill ideas”. And so, for us today, the final challenge rests not in finding more Sankaras, but in becoming them – in bringing these ideas to life.“You have to dare to look reality in the face and take a whack at some of the long-standing privileges,” Sankara said, “so long-standing in fact that they seem to have become normal, unquestionable.” And that’s the most daunting thing of all, because it requires a struggle with the person in the mirror.
“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future. It took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today. I want to be one of those madmen. We must dare to invent the future.” – Thomas Sankara
“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”― C. JoyBell C.
My God-given theme for this year is Breakthrough, and when I say breakthrough I mean BREAKTHROUGH! Last year showed me that life is too short to spend even a fraction of second worrying about tomorrow and what may happen. Life is meant to be lived in the now, savoring each moment like you would savor a creamy strawberry cheesecake (or insert any of your favorite dessert). Each “mistake”, experience, moment, thought, expression and so forth should become pieces of treasure we can fill in our life treasure chest, so that when we open the chest full of these treasures, we will smile and thank God that each piece is a priceless memory of no regrets. This is not to say that you shouldn’t think about the future in the least, actually quite the contrary. If you embrace today, you are already setting yourself up for tomorrow and all its possibilities.
I honestly don’t think I have been this excited about a new year ever. I can’t tangibly explain it except I know that I know that I know that it is going to b a great year. One that will leave a huge mark for the rest of my life, for it will be a year that will change the direction of my life road. I also know that I know that its going to be an amazing year for those around me. Especially those close to me (you know who you are) but it all starts from the inside out. Hence my little title that rhymes: “Embracing me in 2013”. After reading all this, some will conclude that I am being naive and got my head in the clouds, but then those are the ones who do not know me. For I know we are living in a very real world and have always considered myself a realist. But I am a realist with perspective. I know I am not perfect, that I have flaws, that I will make mistakes, that I will experience pain, that I will cry and that I will hurt. However this year I consciously choose how I am going to adjust my attitude in the midst of adversity. Instead of focusing on the problem, focus on the solution. I think this sums it up best for me: “Legacy is not what’s left tomorrow when you’re gone. It’s what you give, create, impact and contribute today while you’re here that then happens to live on.” ― Rasheed Ogunlaru
Saying I am mad would be an understatement. More like pissed off and upset would be some of the adjectives I would use, first as someone who believes in the Pan Africanist movement and secondly as a Tanzanian. The removal of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s portrait from the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is a disgrace to the legacy and contribution that he did for the consolidation of the African continent. And who do they replace him with? Nope, not Kwame Nkrumah who is one of the paragons of the Pan African movement or even W.E.B Du Bois, who is considered the father of the Pan African movement! They replace him instead with Haile Selassie and cite the reason as Zonal conflict.
Notice anyone missing? Photo By Emmanuel Akyeampong
I just finished reading an article about the whole thing, and would like to share this article which comes from the Daily news in which the writer Harid Mkali did more justice than I could in my rage to analyze the whole situation and compares these 2 leaders: Selaisse and Nyerere. Though I must admit that this may not be the most objective analysis, I do like the points he raises and I leave it to you the reader to decide whether or not this action is justifiable for the reasons stated.
Haile Selassie on Times
Nyerere: Remarkable crusader for African liberation
(Published on the DAILY NEWS on Monday, 22 October 2012 00:00 Written by HARID MKALI)
Since its inception the African Union (AU) has shown a penchant for failing to define and protect Africans’ vital interests, especially land, which in effect is independence itself.
It has also fallen short in establishing the continent’s development priorities and how to achieve them and in leaders’ inability to simply be honest to their own people. This is not all African leaders of course, but the majority certainly. Now the AU cannot even get it right on who are the big players in the history of the struggle for Africa’s liberation, which was the struggle of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union (AU); a failure which deserves to enter the Guiness Book of Records.
I am referring to the removal of the portrait of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania from the pantheon of the AU’s history in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. To characterise this omission as both outrageous and disgraceful is an understatement. It does not matter what one feels or thinks about Nyerere, or Tanzania, but to blatantly distort history in this way is a crime which teaches coming generations a whole load of lies.
No single leader in the African continent has done more for the liberation of Africa and the consolidation of that continent’s freedom and integrity than Julius Nyerere. Like him or hate him, that is the truth. The failure to acknowledge this fact is just evidence of the hypocrisy and self-delusion at present among our leaders in this great continent of ours. Even more distasteful and outrageous is the explanation given – that the portrait lineup has been arranged zonally and Tanzania’s zone is the same as Ethiopia; therefore, Emperor Haile Selassie has been given the slot.
In terms of practical commitment and sacrifice for the cause of Africa, Haile Selassie is nowhere near Julius Nyerere; and Ethiopia is nowhere near Tanzania. Let us make a few pertinent points clear at the outset. Firstly, the African Union (AU) is not the property of Ethiopia; the choice to site the head office in Addis Ababa was out of respect for that country and a recognition of the purely historical coincidence of it having been independent since the 11th century (apart from the FIVE- year interlude, 1936 -1941, when it was occupied by Italy’s Benito Mussolini).
It is not because either the Emperor played an outstanding role in any African liberation struggles or because he was an outstanding role-model of good governance. Nor has it to do with Emperor Haile Sellassie being personally responsible for this historic accident of his country not having been colonised. Far from it.
Secondly, the African Union head office in Addis Ababa is not the National Museum of Ethiopia in which the featuring of Emperor Haile Selassie would be essential. In weighing up which African leader should be honoured by having their portraits displayed in the African Union building, the criteria should purely be on the basis of the proportion of their contribution in advancing the African cause and realistically Nyerere should top any such a list.
There were 30 Heads of State and Representatives at the founding Meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. Even if, for the sake of space, it demanded only three chosen leaders for the Pantheon, one per cent of them, then Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt should surely be the choice, certainly not Haile Selassie; and from what is now in the public domain regarding his person and reign, he should now be clearly an embarrassment to the continent.
It is patently wrong to try to spruce up his reputation by distorting history at the expense of people who really distinguished themselves in the battlefield of African liberation. There is no doubt that as a leader Selassie did some good things for his country and even the continent as a whole; my problem is one of degree, one of extent. And in weighing a leader’s greatness, there is not only his/ her manner of ascending to power but also his or her manner of going out, to be taken into consideration.
Compare and Contrast For the sake of fairness I would like to compare and contrast the leadership records of Haile Selassie and Julius Nyerere and let readers draw their own conclusions. Emperor Haile Selassie ruled his country like a medieval autocrat, controlling all the land and doling out much of it to his cronies – church leaders, so-called nobles, and officers from the army and police force, leaving the majority of his people absolutely landless and in conditions of virtual slavery, which was in fact tolerated in Ethiopia up to as late as 1964.
The reforms put in place through the Constitutions of 1931 and 1958 were both too feeble and too late. This is the pattern that enraged the overwhelming majority of Selassie’s subjects and led to the popular revolution of 1974. The sixty officials from the Imperial Government executed by the putschits on 23rd November, 1974, were some of the biggest land owners in the country.
Aside from that, Haile Selassie was allegedly a closet racist; so how could he have genuinely fought the people he admired, the colonisers, white people? One of Selassie’s Colonels alleged that the Emperor “denounced his black officials’ opinion and trusted the views of white men more.” In addition, writing in 1998, Joseph Cardillo remarked on the line-up of guests at his coronation in 1930: “…although representatives of England, France, Italy and many other countries were invited to the Emperor’s coronation, there were no black representatives invited or present.”
It is important to note that, at the time of his coronation, both Liberia and Egypt were already independent countries, but Selassie never saw fit to extend invitations to leaders of those countries, because of his racist views. How can he possibly be a hero of Africa? In addition, Haile Selassie was also notorious for using double standards. When his country was invaded by the Italian fascists, led by Benito Mussolini, in 1936 he lambasted the League of Nations (precursor of the United Nations) for not coming to the rescue of a League member.
Yet, he annexed Eritrea, making it Ethiopia’s 14th province, and so triggering a war which lasted for 30 years, despite the UN Resolution number 390 (V) of 1950 which provided for Eritrea’s own Parliament and Administration. Let me briefly focus on Selassie’s manner of exit from the political stage in Ethiopia. The famine of 1973, which killed about 250,000 people, was the immediate cause of his overthrow in 1974, but the prolonged neglect of his people really forms the backdrop to his reign’s demise and the civil conflict between the haves and have-nots, dubbed the “Red Terror”, which that demise created claimed the lives of about 500,000 people, according to Amnesty International.
When the Emperor died, while in custody in 1975, it is said that his body was kept under a toilet for a number of years and in 2000 his remains were given what amounted to an imperial-style funeral by his dedicated followers; but the Government of the day refused to give it such recognition; bearing in mind that this was an elected Government that came after the regime that toppled the Emperor, it would imply that the feelings of the military junta were in accord with the Ethiopian electorate who knew the Emperor better than any other leader from the rest of Africa.
How can the African Union claim to know Haile Selassie better than the Ethiopians themselves? This clearly is either political correctness or ingratiation gone mad. Nyerere: the person Right from the start of the African independence struggle, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere launched an all-inclusive, colour- blind organization – the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU); as long as one subscribed to the aims and objectives of the cause, then a person’s skin pigmentation became largely irrelevant. Nyerere once poised a rhetorical question: “We have fought our battle against the injustice of the colonial system which qualified the ‘rights’ of an individual according to the colour of his skin.
Are we now to turn around and deny that principle ourselves by discriminating against those whose skins are not black?” Soon after independence, Mwalimu Nyerere nationalised all land and proceeded to make it free to every citizen at the point of use. Tanzania’s prevailing peace and tranquillity is largely attributable to Nyerere’s policy on land; land inequality cost Haile Selassie his crown and unequal land policies are still causing civil wars all over East Africa and the rest of the continent today. Mwalimu Nyerere and Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume are the only leaders in Africa to have created a union of two sovereign states-Tanganyika and Zanzibar- which is still going strong.
Yes, there are rumblings from time to time, but again there are rumblings in all democratic political unions or federations throughout the world; the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Italy to name but a few. So Nyerere’s achievement on that front is remarkable.And to crown it all, by the mid 1970s, Tanzania dominated the social structure superlatives: Tanzania boasted the best healthcare system in Africa, the best educational system in Africa, the best literacy rate in Africa, the best national unity in Africa, the best military structure in Africa and so on.
In terms of honesty and nonacquisitiveness, one can safely say Nyerere is exceptional, if not unique. Twenty years into his Presidency, Nyerere was still paying a mortgage he took to build a house when he was a teacher, before he became President, when many other African leaders were treating their Central Banks like personal petty-cash boxes. A retirement home, that befits a person who served his country so well, was built for Nyerere by the State after he retired – how different in terms of public respect to Haile Selassie’s ignominious end.
Following his people’s realization that Nyerere did not hoard money in bank accounts overseas, soon after he retired a retirement fund was set up and people from all walks of life, un-coerced, contributed to it. But characteristic of Nyerere, when he felt that the amount collected was getting embarrassingly high he politely but firmly put a stop to it. I remember one night at the Africa Centre in London, a Kenyan telling me very excitedly: “You know what? No Tanzanian can say anything against Nyerere now here is a man who has refused money.”
By contrast, Emperor Haile Selassie was forced by his people to sign a cheque to return some of the monies he had expropriated overseas. Yet our great leaders at the African Union today want to tell Africa and the world that Haile Selassie deserves a place in Africa’s history rather than Nyerere. If this is the level of judgement of our most trusted leaders in the continent, then God help Africa, since the moral here is that because Nyerere was not a thieving leader, then he is not Africa’s best role model.
That is what it all boils down to and I hope the newlyelected Commissioner of African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, is aware of that irony. Nyerere: the liberation crusader Mwalimu Julius Nyerere is, without doubt, one of the greatest leaders Africa has produced, and his practical commitment and dedication to the liberation struggles has no parallel in the continent.
After the formation of the Liberation Committee under the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in the 1960s, President Nyerere committed one per cent of his country’s income to the liberation fund. The head office of the Liberation Committee was placed in his country; and nearly all liberation movements in the continent were either headquartered or had offices in Tanzania and most of them also had training facilities for their forces there. Such a stand invited hostility from neo-colonial elements, and the price in purely economic terms was high for Tanzania.
In 1965, the OAU passed a resolution calling member states to suspend diplomatic relations with Britain by December of that year, if they did not put down Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). President Nyerere objected that the deadline was unrealistic; Britain needed to be given more time to deal with the problem, but he was overruled. However, when the set deadline arrived, only President Nyerere honoured that commitment; in retaliation Britain cancelled £7.5 million of aid to Tanzania. In March of 1974, officers in the Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF) committed five per cent of their salaries to the liberation struggles.
Many Tanzanians died fighting for the liberation of countries throughout Africa. The then Rhodesian rebel leader, Ian Smith once described Nyerere as the “evil genius behind the war in Rhodesia”, which was a reluctant acknowledgement of Tanzania’s role in that country’s war of liberation; while the late President of Mozambique, Samora Moses Machel once remarked: “… to talk of Nyerere is to speak of the liberation of Africa.”
In the 1970s, when the Republic of Guinea was invaded by the Portuguese colonialists, the Cabinet of Tanzania met immediately and voted a massive amount of money in aid to that country, not mentioning military aid which could not be made public. The Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) was Nyerere’s brainchild, designed to isolate South Africa and so to speed up the ending of apartheid rule in that country.
So was TAZARA the (Tanzania Zambia Railway) masterminded by Julius Nyerere and Kenneth Kaunda and calculated to remove Zambia’s dependence on transport facilities of its minority-ruled neighbours to the south. The African Union should not play the colonial games of teaching the world the wrong history. Mwalimu Nyerere has amply earned the right to have his portrait displayed in the pantheon of the African Union in Addis Ababa, and his image should be reinstated there without delay.
This past weekend was a memorable one for me. You see I have written down some things I want to do before I die otherwise known as a bucket list and I got to do some of them this past weekend; YOLO (you only live once) and all that good stuff.
I work at Maanisha which is one of the entities under Professional Approach Group (PAG) and PAG was celebrating 5 years of being in business. So Modesta Mahiga, who is the group managing director, decided to treat all the employes under PAG on a trip to Selous game reserve. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard to the point of literally collapsing and almost losing my voice. We did a lot of things that weekend from the whole safari thing, to group bonding, to boat rides, playing games, and enjoying nature at its best
Now for all of you who have probably never heard of Selous here are some quick facts I learned and pulled of Wikipedia.
The Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest faunal reserves of the world, located in the south of Tanzania.
It was named after Englishman Sir Frederick Selous, a famous big game hunter and early conservationist, who died at Beho Beho in this territory in 1917 while fighting against the Germans during World War I.
The reserve covers a total area of 54,600 km2 (21,100 sq mi) and has additional buffer zones.
Some of the typical animals of the savanna (for example elephants,hippopotami, African Wild Dog, cape buffalo and crocodiles) can be found in this park in larger numbers than in any other African game reserve or national park.
Walking safaris are permitted in the Selous, and boat trips on the Rufiji are a popular activity.
A boundary change to allow the use of uranium deposits has been approved.
OK I can continue describing the experience using words but that wouldn’t do justice so thank God we took lots of pictures. All these pictures are courtesy of different people who I was with on the trip. I have grouped the pictures into different activities. Enjoy!
DAY 1 – BOAT RIDE and TEAM BONDING
This is how the boat looked like that we were on
I wore my life jacket for like for 5 minutes before I took it off. Why you ask? Well how would the life jacket help me when I run into a crocodile or hippo? And I am a pretty good swimmer.
Over here are some of the team making faces at us.
We got to see a family of hippos and even got almost 10 feet from them.
We saw this baby crocodile and wondered where the mother was. I think we saw the mother the next day when we were having dinner in the middle of the island
This is one of the places where we stayed. I stayed on the top floor with Catheryn (bff) and we had an amazing view of the river. The group however nicknamed our place Section 8 or the ghettos because we didn’t have double beds like them. Joke was on them when they had no running water and we did. Ha!
This nasty creature is known as the Monitor Lizard ( I really don’t like lizards)
I was able to capture this beautiful Sunset during our boat ride.
Relaxing on our first night at the lounge area. We played an intense game of village (sort of like mafia) and had some good laughs.
DAY 2 – SAFARI and LAST MEAL:
Getting fueled up in preparation for the safari
This guy caught us completely by surprise. He just came in singing followed by the tourists behind him. I don’t know what his purpose was.
These are some of us girls just before we left for the safari tour
This is me and our Safari tour guard. He was a bit of a grump, but hey he had the gun!
We saw a lot of gazelles during our Safari tour.
I got so excited to see the Zebras, and I nicknamed one of them Marty (from Madagascar). Notice the mow-hawks they are sporting.
We saw a stampede of wilder beast just crossing in front of us and they stopped to graze here.
Another group got stuck in the sand because the driver decided to go off track. So we had to stop and help. Yeah, we are heroes like that!
This is where a lot of the animals come and quench their thirst.
We searched all over for lions and finally spotted Naala (from the Lion King). She was guarding her kill which you can see in the video down below.
Another great shot of Naala
We stopped and had lunch in the middle of our safari right there in the wild. PAG walks on the wild side!
Husband and wife, we caught them on the last leg of our safari tour. SOmething I find fascinating about Giraffes is the way they run. It is like they are running on air, basically gliding. Its beautiful to watch.
This is where we had our last meal on our last night (I was wondering if it would literally be our last meal after we spotted a crocodile not to far off)
Some of the delicious food we had
This is my brother Alpha caught savoring a bit of some of the BBQ goat we had (he didn’t know that the photo was being taken). A true chagga!
Here is a video as an added bonus that I took during our Safari, it’s about Naala the Lion. Please excuse the shaking, I wasn’t nervous or anything like that but was trying to find a good angle.
There is a shifting, a reshuffling if you will, that is happening in Africa that has seen some fundamental changes in the last 10 years. From the election of the first woman president in Africa back in 2006, to the political uprising in Nairobi in 2008, then the revolutionary Arab springs in 2010, and recently the passing away of a pair of great african leaders this past year. We shouldn’t view these significant events as individual occurrences, but instead as collective developments in the progression of this great continent.
I have taken an excerpt from a blog post written by Ahmed Salim, someone I am getting to know and respect, on his take on Meles Zenawi, which gives us a glimpse into the funeral of this controversial African leader that took place earlier this month that Ahmed had the honor of attending. I wanted to share it with you guys, because I really liked the practical approach in Ahmed’s writing of this and I know you guys will also appreciate his writing style as much as I did.
Ahmed had posed the question in the title of his blog, “Can Africans have it all?”. Theoretically speaking, I don’t think anyone can have it all, but I know we can defiantly strive to be all we can be. The fact that Africa alone as a continent accounts for almost 50% of the worlds natural resources, I say give us a pretty good chance to do just that.
The Death of A Prime Minister: Can Africans Have It All?
On Sunday, September 2, 2012 Ethiopians and Africans officially bid farewell to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi during a state funeral in Addis Ababa. Mr. Zenawi died on August 20, 2012 after a battle with an illness that rapidly deteriorated his health in what seemed like a matter of weeks.
I am not sure if there has ever been an African leader who’s immediate death caused such uncertainty more so regionally than nationally. If you asked me a few months ago to imagine a post-Zenawi Ethiopia, it would have been quite hard for me to do so. For one thing, Mr. Zenawi was quite young compared to his African counterparts and due to his significant influence over the country, one would have a hard time thinking about Ethiopia without Mr. Zenawi and Mr. Zenawi without Ethiopia. However, from all the obituaries, narratives and analysis, the most common thread is the uncertainty that East Africa is left with as a result of the significant vacuum left by Mr. Zenawi. Ethiopia has been the regional anchor for security and stability in the region for over a decade.
Ethiopia has the most battle-tested army in the region and is bankrolled significantly by the United States. Mr. Zenawi played the counterterrorism game that started on September 11, 2001 brilliantly. In addition to this, he was able to use the funds given to him by donors efficiently. Like President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, development partners have praised Mr. Zenawi in the way he has used the funds and the relative lack of corruption associated with his government. Of course, this has been at the expense of political freedoms and democracy. I lived in Addis Ababa from 1989-2001 and although I was young, I lived under two distinctly different regimes, the Derg Regime led by Mr. Mengistu Haile Mariam and Mr. Zenawi’s regime. People tend to forget that Mr. Zenawi was a liberator after dethroning the Derg, which was seen as a sincerely brutal government that happened to be in power during one of the worst famine crises in history. You don’t have to be a development specialist or political scientist to notice that Ethiopia was a much better place in 2001 than in 1989. The last time I was in Addis was in 2004 and the differences I noticed between 2001 and 2004 alone were remarkable.
The changes are obvious. You can point to them and see them; everything from new buildings, ring roads, coffee shops, vibrant malls and so forth. Other changes are more quantitative such as the high GDP growth rates. However, political freedoms and freedom of the press was not a norm in Ethiopia and they are not in many countries, but would people be concerned about these freedoms if they have their bread and butter? The answer is always obvious when we do not have bread and butter but it gets complicated when citizens are able to feed their families, have a decent job and see tangible evidence of development in the country. Prime Minister Zenawi was hailed for transforming his country. I can attest that the Addis today is not the Addis of 1989 or 2001 for that matter. Mr. Zenawi ruled Ethiopia for 20 years, a short time in the context of African strongmen. How much longer can Africa rely on the strongman form of government?
Tough Year For African Leaders
The past 18 months have not been kind to African leaders. We have seen an array of forced exits by African strongmen. This was all exacerbated by the ‘Arab Spring,’ which was led by the African countries of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. If we really want to dig deeper, these forced changes in leadership began with the mystery that surrounded the illness and eventual death of Former President Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria who died in May 2010. Since then, six African heads of state have died, five due to illnesses and one who was murdered, Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi (The Colonel). Prior to this, you had the forced exit of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, one of the most commanding African leaders of one of the most powerful African nations, as well as the exit of Tunisian President Ben Ali.
A Presidential Funeral for a Prime Minister
On Saturday, September 1, 2012, wheels were up at about 10:30 am as I made my way to Addis with my father to attend the funeral of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. I was honored to accompany my father and the Tanzanian Presidential Delegation to attend this monumental funeral.
The plane ride was one of reflection and remembrance. My conversations with those on board varied between analyzing the successes of Mr. Zenawi’s economic transformation to the challenges that lie ahead for a now nervous East Africa. There was an understanding that things will never be the same and there truly won’t be another individual like Mr. Zenawi. Hints of Mr. Zenawi’s misgivings and polarizing leadership style were also expressed.
“He’s done a lot for the country but in a twist of fate and irony he has ruled the country with an iron fist just like Mengistu and [Emperor ]Haile Selassie, that type of leadership has been common practice throughout.” Some took this further and expressed their current frustrations with leaders in Africa “they don’t listen, they are part of the struggle but then forget things and never want to leave. This ‘I-I’ mentality and arrogance that the country will not move forward without them can have dire consequences.” I listened intently to the various candid conversations going on around me and could not help but think about the challenge we Africans have in trying to find the critical balance that is necessary between economic development, political stability and democracy. Strong and effective leadership is essential to development, especially in Africa, however there have been many instances of strong leaders undermining human rights, freedom of expression and the press. Can we strike the proper balance?
I posed this question one of the members of the Tanzanian delegation and he said: “There can be a balance between development and democracy, it can work so long as there isn’t too much of the other. Sometimes you can have too much democracy and too little development and you end up talking and being free but with nothing to really show for it. On the other hand, you can have too much strongman leadership with no development. Mr. Zenawi and now Mr. Kagame have admirably tried and to a certain extent succeeded in balancing strong leadership and development but they may have sided too much on the strong side. This is mostly due to fear of exposure and allowing slight freedoms that could potentially destabilize all of the progress made. It is hard to convince leaders to change their leadership style when on the whole it’s worked.”
Why are African leaders all dropping like flies? For one thing, we are finally learning that African presidents are human; they are not immortal, even though President Robert Mugabe serves as a counterfactual. Another thing many of us should come to terms with is that we should stop looking for the next African visionary, for that matter the next President Paul Kagame or even the next Mr. Zenawi. An over reliance on a single individual, no matter how cerebral he or she may be, is always a risky affair. The cult of personality has been ingrained into African leadership style that we sometimes forget that institutions are essential to holding a country together when a crisis hits. By getting so caught up with the cult of personality, many people are left in shock when that personality is removed, something we are currently seeing in Ethiopia.
This whole fiasco behind Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, got me reading into it even further because there is always more to the story. At the moment, what that “more” is, is yet to be revealed, but it doesn’t stop us from looking into the facts, cause no one can argue with cold hard facts, right?
Julian Assange, Wikipedia Founder and Political Refugee
1. Julian Assange fled Sweden to avoid Questioning:This is false. The facts stand that a Swedish court issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of rape made by two Swedish women, who were also former employees of Wikileaks. In fact, the case was dropped because it was too weak and he was given permission to leave Sweden on 15th September 2010. But after an intervention of a Swedish politician close to some American diplomats it was reopened again and a warrant for his arrest was reissued on November 2012.
2. Julian Assange will receive a fair trial in Sweden: This is false. Assange would be tried behind closed doors, which is contrary to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Art. 47 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the UK’s fundamental constitutional principles. Assange would be held incommunicado and placed under solitary confinement and pre-trial detention would last for an indefinite period. If Julian is extradited, it is more than likely that he will be extradited to the United States where he risks being sent to Guantánamo Bay or executed as a traitor.
3. JulianAssange was ordered by the British to turn himself in and he refused.This is true. While still at the Ecuadorean embassy where he was seeking political asylum, he received a letter from the Metropolitan police demanding that he surrender on June 28th, 2012 so that he can face extradition to Sweden. Julian denied the charges made against him saying that they are politically motivated and on June 29th, 2012 officially refused to turn himself in.
4. The British threaten to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy.This is false. They claimed that they would first revoke diplomatic status from the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain, thus no longer making it an embassy, which is allowed under the British Law. So technically if they go ahead with this plan they would not be storming an embassy, it would be a raid on a “building,” However Ricardo Patino, Ecuador’s foreign minister, told reporters, “The move announced in the official British statement, if it happens, would be interpreted by Ecuador as an unfriendly, hostile and intolerable act, as well as an attack on our sovereignty, which would force us to respond in the strongest diplomatic way….We want to be very clear, we’re not a British colony. The colonial times are over.”
4. The UK does not accept Political Asylum seekers.This is false. The UK does, but the asylum seekers are scrutinized very carefully because of a lot of economic migrants claiming to be political asylum seekers. Though Assange was granted political asylum on August 16, 2012 by Ecuador, Foreign secretary William Hague said the UK does not recognize this and will not allow Assange safe passage to Ecuador.
Again these are just some facts and there is a lot more going on than is being revealed to the public. The fact that the British are willing to go to such extremes as to want to revoke an embassy’s diplomatic status to get a man who is vaguely accused of crimes with questionable evidence begs the question, why now? What is going on behind the scenes between Sweden, the UK and the US? What are they so afraid of now that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get Assange? I just want the truth and the truth will eventually come out.
It is said for every dollar that enters Africa in the form of Aid, 7 dollars leave Africa. Why have we become progressively worse instead of better when we are receiving billions of dollars in aid? Dambisa Moyo, who is an international economist and New York Times bestselling author of Dead Aid: Why Aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa and other acclaimed books, speaks about why we do NOT need foreign aid and goes on to explain what she feels through her studies is the future for Africa.