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Kenya’s Freedom of Press: An Oxymoron?

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press

Kenya is a country very close to my heart, particularly its up and coming city, Nairobi. I have always said, if I had to pick a city to live in anywhere in Africa, it would be Nairobi. I love the weather, the vibes, the multitude of choices, and I especially love the people. However, had someone asked me about Nairobi 5 – 6 years ago, I would have advised them to avoid that place like the plague. This country has been through so much economically, politically and socially and its coming up stronger and faster because of its troubled past. It’s this troubled past that I would like to visit and this came about after seeing a very revealing expose that was done on the Kenyan government that aired on one of its local channels KTN:

I was shocked at how open and blatant the revealing exposé was holding nothing back and how the reporter left it all on the table in talking about the conspiracy surrounding the drug world in Kenya and the questions behind George Saitoti’s supposed accident. I was telling my friends, one of them a Kenyan, while we were watching this documentary that if a journalist even thought of doing something like that here in Tanzania, I doubt any of our local channels would air it, not to mention if they were even alive up to that point (however this could change since the switch of analog to digital). Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, but lets call black black and not beat around the bush and say a color that’s not there. I am journalist and have worked in the local media houses in Tanzania and that was when I was rudely awakened and my eyes were opened to the realities of the paradox of the concept of “free press”.

Corruption...

Corruption…

So in light of this, I was curious why Kenyan media is more hard-hitting, critical, and open than Tanzanian’s as well as being one of the most vibrant media outlets on this continent.  Granted their history is more volatile than ours, though we are both East African member states and have a lot of cultural, economic, and political exchange between the two countries, but still when it comes to media, I got to call it, Kenya is on a whole other level.  I came to find out that modern Kenyan media was started by the missionaries and British settlers, with the main objective being to keep connected with whats going on in their home country as well as to legitimize their colonial rule. Later on, Asians wanted a piece of the pie mainly for the business side of it, but to also legitimize their place under the whites in terms of succession. The Africans in Kenya ventured into media as a means to convey their demands for freedom, equality, and justice. Now this is where it all made sense in terms of one of the reasons why the Kenyan media is aggressive and hard-hitting as it is. (Source: http://www.msu.ac.zw/elearning/material/1331631971Press%20Freedom%20and%20the%20role%20of%20media%20in%20Kenya.pdf)

Not to say that Kenyan’s press has absolute freedom, heavy emphasis on the word absolute, because the reality of the situation is there is no absolute freedom of press anywhere! We can discuss conspiracy theories all day, but the truth of the matter is that those with money have the influence and the power to control events to suit their interests. However I appreciate the efforts that journalists such as Mohammed Ali (the one who did the exposé above) in exposing the truth to anyone who will listen and networks such as KTN giving them a platform to do this. We have to understand that by doing this, they not only endanger their lives, but also anyone closely associated with them because as I said before, powerful people = influence and a lot of times I should add, corruption. As a fellow journalist I appreciate the art, sacrifice, and commitment to ones trade and the lengths that they will go to produce a good, fact based story for the public at large,

I came across a very interesting article about Kenya’s “Freedom of Press” and they take a look it from a different angle than mine. This article talks about how manipulated the media was under Moi’s regime, touches on the Nyayo House torture chambers, as well as the current situation of media as seen at the time of the writing of the article. I encourage everyone to read this:

Kenya: Long, lonely road to press freedom

By ZACHARY OCHIENG.

Even as Kenya celebrated 47 years of independence last December, total press freedom has long been a pipe dream, despite the fact the country maintains one of the most vibrant media outlets on the continent. The country’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, who ruled Kenya from independence in 1963 to 1978 when he died in office, did not gag the media. However, a cabal of ministers around him frequently made telephone calls to newsrooms, ostensibly to have some sensitive stories killed.

In Kenyatta’s own words, the media was supposed to be free, as long as it exercised responsibility. At independence, the media in Kenya was foreign-owned, but supported the government a great deal. This could explain why the government saw no need to own it, save for state TV and radio. But all this changed in 1978 when Daniel Arap Moi came to power. The ruling party, the Kenya African National Union, immediately bought the Nairobi Times and renamed it the Kenya Times. The daily newspaper became a government mouthpiece, with subjective and biased reporting being the order of the day. However, the paper could not survive after Moi’s exit in 2002 and has since folded.

As the Kenyan media struggles to become vibrant, there is little to celebrate. The same gagging judges are still on the bench, although they will soon be vetted, as required by the new constitution. These judges have taken the place of torturers through misapplication of libel laws and dubiously misinterpreted sub judice and contempt rules. In Kenya, the principle of the notorious sub judice law is to create caveats to demarcate what the media can report on, to ensure press reports do not influence a court ruling. But in principle, the practice has served only to gag the press.

Although journalists are no longer taken to the infamous Nyayo House torture chambers, as was the case during the Moi regime, the infrastructure of repression has not been completely dismantled. “The enemies of press freedom have not changed. They remain the ruling party thugs who threaten and beat up journalists, hostile courts which award crippling damages against the media and poverty which leaves papers financially weak and most journalists poorly paid and prone to being bought off,” wrote Charles Onyango Obbo, the Nation Media Group’s executive editor, in one of his columns.

But over the years, the media has gained some degree of freedom. The greatest achievement in the fight for press freedom came in 1997 with the repeal of the sedition laws. The repeal, negotiated under the inter-parties outfit (the inter-parties parliamentary group) saw an end to the criminalising of press freedom and freedom of expression. Prior to the deal, the dreaded Special Branch, derisively referred to as the “political police”, would deem any article critical of the government as seditious. The authors of such articles, once taken to court, would be handed down lengthy prison terms. With the writers of such articles already in jail, editors of such publications would then be left with libel and treason charges to worry about.

Over the years, courts have awarded hefty damages against the media. However, it was in 2001 and 2002 that the highest awards were registered. In those two years, Kenyan courts awarded a total of $1,375,000 in libel cases to four litigants. The People Daily was ordered to pay former cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott $250,000 for a 1999 story on the Turkwell Hydro-Electric Power project, which his lawyers argued depicted him as a corrupt man.

In December 2000, Biwott was awarded $375,000 in damages payable by British authors Ian West and Chester Stern for implicating him in the murder of former foreign affairs minister Robert Ouko. The alleged libel was contained in a book called West’s case book. A leading book store in Nairobi, Bookpoint, was ordered to pay $125,000 for selling the book. In total, Biwott was awarded $750,000 in damages, the highest amount granted to any Kenyan. Justice Alnashir Visram, the judge who made the award, was recently nominated by President Mwai Kibaki as the new chief justice, but civil society organisations have rejected him on the basis that he will not uphold freedom of expression as enshrined in the new constitution.

At the height of the Moi dictatorship throughout 1980s and 1990s, the press was under constant government attack, with journalists and editors being arrested and detained. Even under the Kibaki administration, media harassment didn’t cease. On the eve of World Press Freedom Day in 2005, first lady Lucy Kibaki stormed the Nation Media Group newsroom and held journalists and editors hostage for five hours, allegedly to protest against bad publicity the first family was receiving. She also slapped a KTN TV cameraman who was filming the protest, and destroyed his camera. When the cameraman, Derrick Otieno, went to court, attorney-general Amos Wako moved to terminate the case against the first lady. Fearing for his life, the cameraman fled to South Africa.

But what surprised observers most was that Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) government, elected on a reform platform and riding on the back of a free press, eventually turned against the fourth estate, harassing and intimidating journalists in a manner reminiscent of the dark days of single-party dictatorship. In what could be described as a case of a revolution eating its own children, press freedom suffered a major blow in March 2006 when the internal security minister John Michuki ordered a police raid on the Standard Group of companies, resulting in costly damages.

In an unprecedented draconian assault on the media, about 30 heavily armed and hooded police from the elite Kanga squad, ostensibly formed a year earlier to fight armed and dangerous criminals, descended on the Standard Group’s offices at midnight, beating up employees, breaking doors, stealing employees’ cellphones, yanking off CCTV cameras and carting away 20 computers. They later disabled KTN TV, keeping the channel off air for about 13 hours. The commando squad then proceeded to the Standard printing press, shot the gates open, disabled the plant and set on fire thousands of copies of the day’s edition that were just rolling off the press. The Standard is the oldest newspaper in the country, while its sister company, Kenya Television Network, is the premier private television channel.

To add insult to injury, the gang that raided the printing press comprised Caucasian men who hurled racist remarks at the employees found on duty. “I’m gonna smoke you. I’ll waste you niggers. Where are your mobile phones? We don’t have a problem with you. We have a problem with the administration,” screamed the gang leader. The foreigners were later identified as the two Armenian brothers, Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargsyan, who were enjoying state protection under the guise of being investors.

In justifying the raid, Michuki claimed that the Standard group was planning to publish articles that could instigate ethnic animosity, a claim that was dismissed by both the Standard Group and the opposition. “If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it,” Michuki repeatedly shouted at journalists, who challenged him on the legality of the raid.  A chorus of condemnation followed the raid. More than 27 envoys, including British, American and EU ambassadors, said the raid was in contradiction of positive gains made by the government on freedom of expression since coming to power in 2002. For its part, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demanded an apology from the government. “What we have seen is a brutal and violent assault on press freedom,” said IFJ secretary-general Aidan White. “It is an unspeakable affront to democracy when a government turns to violence to stifle the voice of its media critics,” he said.

But that was not the first time the Narc administration targeted the media. In 2004, Standard editors David Makali and Kwamchetsi Makokha and writer Kamau Ngotho were taken to court for “stealing” a video tape that contained confessions of suspects in the murder of Odhiambo Mbai, then chairman of the devolution committee at the National Constitutional Conference. In the same year, Kiss FM Breakfast show presenters Caroline Mutoko and Walter Mongare were sued for defamation by water minister Martha Karua, after the station announced she was carjacked in the middle of the night on a lonely road, in the company of a Catholic priest, without her bodyguards.

The raid on the Standard Group mirrored a similar scenario in the early 1990s at the height of the clamour for political pluralism, when security agents raided printing presses of publications deemed to be anti-establishment. A number of journalists were detained on trumped-up charges and various publications proscribed. In 1992, CID officers hid at the entrance of Society magazine offices and pounced on journalists as they reported for work. Earlier, Society offices had been petrol-bombed by balaclava-wearing goons after another group had invaded the magazine’s printers and disabled the printing press.

The latest battle pitting the media against the government came early last year when the ministry of information and communications sneaked back contentious sections that had been deleted from the Kenya Communications Act 2008, following an outcry from the media owners. The offending sections were brought back in the form of regulations, the Kenya Communications (Broadcasting Regulations) 2009. The regulations were meant to restrict cross-media ownership, and reduce foreign content on radio and television, as well as giving the government powers to raid media houses and seize broadcasting equipment. The information and communications minister also sought to control content, as well as crafting apologies and shareholding patterns. The regulations also introduced punitive licensing procedures, as well as rules on such internal matters as advert placement and running time. It took the intervention of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and protests from the Media Owners Association, the Kenya Editors’ Guild and the Kenya Union of Journalists to have the regulations suspended. But equally important is the fact that the new constitution got rid of all the draconian laws.

Despite attempts to gag the media, the print media has remained relatively candid and independent. The mainstream media now boasts six dailies – The Daily Nation, The Standard, Taifa Leo, The Star, Business Daily and The People Daily. Save for Business Daily, all these dailies have Sunday sister publications. In addition, the Nation Media Group, the leading media house in East and Central Africa, also publishes The EastAfrican, a regional weekly newspaper. A number of monthly, bi-monthly and quarterly magazines, both local and foreign, also dot the newsstands.

The degree of media freedom currently being enjoyed has led to the mushrooming of the gutter press or the pink sheets, as they are popularly known. Their addresses or editors are not known and whatever they publish is mainly based on wild speculation. Ironically, people still buy them.

The liberalisation of the airwaves in early 2000 has given birth to several television and radio stations. Currently, there are eight free-to-air television channels and more than 40 radio stations. Though most of the stations are privately owned, the government owns the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, the state broadcaster that runs both radio and TV stations. Other notable TV stations include NTV, run by the Nation Media Group, KTN run by the Standard Group and Citizen TV run by the Royal Media Services.

It is noteworthy that politicians have a high stake in these stations. Former president Daniel Arap Moi, for instance, has substantial shares in the Standard Group. Deputy prime minister and finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the founding president, owns K24, a local TV station where former CNN anchor Jeff Koinange now works. The Kenyatta family also owns The People Daily, previously owned by politician Kenneth Matiba, as well as Kameme, a vernacular FM station that broadcasts in Kenyatta’s Kikuyu language.  An emerging trend in the Kenyan media scene is cross-media ownership, where those running TV stations also have radio stations and publish newspapers. The Nation Media Group, for instance, as well as running the television station NTV in both Kenya and Uganda, also publishes three daily newspapers, two Sunday publications and a regional weekly newspaper. It also owns two FM radio stations, namely Easy FM and QFM.

Local as well as foreign investors own media in Kenya. The Aga Khan, for instance, has a majority stake in the Nation Media Group, while Ghanaian Patrick Quarcoo has interests in the Radio Africa group, which runs four FM stations, two TV stations, and a daily newspaper, The Star.

With the promulgation of the new constitution in August 2010, the media is poised to enjoy greater freedom. Article 33 of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Unlike the previous constitution, the current one also guarantees every citizen the right to access information held by both the state and private persons. The Official Secrets Act that previously hindered investigative journalism is now a thing of the past. The new constitution also gives state-owned media the freedom to determine their editorial content independently without interference from the government. FAM

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The Relativity of Truth!

Destination Truth

 

“Relativity must replace absolutism in the realm of morals as well as in the spheres of physics and biology.” – Thomas Cochrane

That quote made me pause and think about relativity versus absolutism! I believe these 2 spheres of thinking are shaped and molded by our beliefs, our morals, what we hold to be true. But you see there it is, what is truth? Is truth relative? Is there absolute truth? A basis upon which we can say this is black or white, but definitely not grey?

I am always saying I am on a journey of truth, a journey of discovery, trying to figure out this thing called life, and trying to remain sane in the meantime. Now this is what I think when it comes to truth: truth can be both relative and absolute. Let me expound.  If I grow up believing that black is white, and have been told that my entire life, that becomes my truth as I know it. So when someone comes and tells me that black is not white, it is in fact just that, black, it will rock my world. My entire life, what I knew to be true turned out to be in fact a lie. However the fact of the matter is that was the truth and in that case, that truth was relative! But bear in mind that just because you believed something to be true, doesn’t make it an absolute.  That is why we need to be so careful what we hold to be true, or I should say think to be true.

So having said all that, where does absolutism fit in? Well in my opinion, for something to be considered an absolute means that it stands on its own in its entirety,  it is a non-negotiable. For example, an absolute truth is that there is a God. Some of you read this and I know that you are asking me to prove something that you think can not be proved to the point of absolutism. To be honest, the proof of a living God is one of the easiest things to prove. It is evident in our very beings, in creation, and in our DNA. Everything around you screams the existence of a God. If I am to take it further, I would say you just have to look in a mirror and the confirmation in the way your nose uniquely curves, the way your eyes crease, the texture of your mouth, the color of your skin, all this quietly whispers down in your very soul that there is no one like you. Your uniqueness is all the confirmation you need in the absolutism of God.

So this brings me back to the quote above. That quote in itself was shaped from ones world view and what they deemed to be true and in this case, Thomas Cochrane, believed that when it comes to morals and morality, there are no wrongs and there are no rights. It is all relative. You see, there is one major problem with that: it’s called a conscience.  One can say that a conscience is relative in itself, however I believe just as I believe that there is a God, he placed in all of us the ability to know what is wrong and what is right. However as we grew older, it becomes corrupt if not cultivated correctly. Let me put it this way, would you invent something completely new and not provide a user instructions on how to use it? A tutorial if you will, some sort of guidance so you can figure out how it works. Meditate on that for a minute, and let it that truth sink in: “It is reasonable to love the Absolute absolutely for the same reason it is reasonable to love the relative relatively.” ― Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock

truth

Africa’s Campaign: “Nyerere is Back in the AU”

If you had read one of my last posts titled, ” Nyerere disgraced at the AU,” you would have seen how they had shamefully removed Nyerere’s portrait from the AU, and replaced it with Emperor Haile Selassie citing really weak reasons as to why they did this. Now, after a hard-fought campaign by the Tanzanian Foreign minister who joined forces with the Tanzanian Ambassador to Ethiopia, in which many African countries supported this campaign, Nyerere’s portrait has been reinstated in its rightful and true place at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

What bothers me in the first place is why we should even be debating whether or not Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s portrait should be featured in the Headquarters of the AU! Anyone who knows their history will understand the absurdity that I am talking about. However, let me be thankful that order has been restored and not get into the nitty-gritty of things (you can refer to my previous post where I did). Below is the article detailing what took place in order to right the wrong. A big thank you to everyone who campaigned for this!

Mwalimu’s portrait back at AU ‘Big Five’ line-up

By  GABBY MGAYA, Tanzania Daily News

At last, the portrait of Tanzania’s founding president and one of the pioneers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – later renamed African Union (AU) – Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is back at the reception gallery of the Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere

Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere

Tanzania – and most of Africa – had ‘taken to arms’ during the Union’s 19th Ordinary Session over what was described as ‘’notable absence of Mwalimu’s portrait in the lineup of OAU pioneers in the new AU headquarters and demanded an immediate reinstatement.

Foreign Minister Bernard Membe and Ambassador to Ethiopia Joram Biswaro had led the campaign last July that was supported by most African countries. Rising on a point of information during an AU ambassadors’ meeting on the sidelines of the summit, Tanzania’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr Joram Biswalo, had expressed concern over the omission of Mwalimu’s portrait in the lineup.

He had called for an immediate reinstatement. An explanation that the portrait lineup represented African zones – and that Emperor Haile Selassie, represented others in ‘their’ zone, including Tanzania, had failed to convince the Tanzanian delegation, compelling it to press hard on the matter.

The rest of Africa supported Tanzania. Dr Biswaro’s concern was shared by several speakers from other African countries who felt that it was not right to exclude Mwalimu Nyerere from the portrait lineup of pioneers of the continental body, geographical representation or not, judging from the Tanzanian leader’s key role in the liberation of the continent.

AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had on December 28, last year written to one of the campaigners in the portrait’s reinstatement crusade, Tanzanian scholar and author who resides in London, UK, Mr Harid Mkali, saying that Mwalimu’s portrait is ‘’now among the other five leaders who were initially selected on the basis of regional representation.

The letter, with reference number BC/Z/1881/12.12, signed by the commission’s Chief of Staff, Bureau of the Chairperson, Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Natama, on behalf of Dr Dlamini Zuma, informed Mr Mkali that the ‘situation has been accordingly rectified.’’

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa, with 32 signatory governments, including Tanganyika (later renamed Tanzania). It was disbanded on July 9, 2002 by its last chairperson, South African President Thabo Mbeki and replaced by the African Union (AU).

An African Legend: Thomas Sankara

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 (b&w)

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 Are Woman

This post is from a fellow 2012 Milead Fellow, from The Gambia, who is an aspiring journalist. I had to share this because not only was it so well written but the power behind each word and the story that is being told needs to be spread to the ends of the earth.

Linguere

You are born, the only one crying in a room filled with laughter and smiling faces…your cry either natural or induced by a large palm on the small of your back. Sometimes, there is no laughter… the smiles replaced by grim looks on the faces of those around you… disappointment and fear lining their eyes as they take a quick glance at your sex. It doesn’t bulge out… it is flat… tame… as you would be expected to be… all the days of your life.

On your eighth day, you are given a name… carried onto the basang by your bajen. You hear it first from the Imam… and then it sticks on… to be used by all around you…. uttered on the lips of many who meet you… in varying tones as per the varying situations. Your mother will use it…as she sings to you each day… telling…

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Embracing me in 2013

I am me!

I am me!

“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

Just Smile!

Just Smile!

The Secret

Hello World!

My blog has been stagnant for a month now and I have done so on purpose. Not because there is a lack of things to write about when it seems like every time I blink my eyes there is some newsworthy event capturing the world’s attention. Also not because I am lazy, which would be easy to conclude because if there is a lot to write about, why am I not doing so?

I have not written anything for a while mainly for 2 reasons. One because I was not feeling inspired and secondly because I have started a new chapter in my life and I wanted to settle into it before I started writing. This new chapter in my life is not so much physical, but more of a mental change, a shift in my consciousness of thinking and a new pair of “life” glasses to go with it.

Glasses

Of late, I have really taken to reflecting on my life, on my choices, my priorities, asking myself what is important to me. I have noticed as my thinking is undergoing a turn around, the things that use to matter a whole lot to me and would consume me no longer hold as much importance over me. Some would call it getting perspective, I call it a spiritual awakening.

I started 2012 optimistic, full of hope and expectations of how this year will turn out to be. As the year progressed, reality settled in and I slowly saw those expectations and hopes slowly take a backseat as I scrambled to make sense of everything. On the outside no one could tell how entirely lost I felt in my soul, wondering where was God in all this mess? Why was there so much death around me? Why was I being reminded of how short life is, that anything can happen and life can be gone in a blink of an eye? I should say though with all the darkness, there were moments of light. Moments that will forever leave me with a smile in my heart of gratitude for the people who have touched me for the better.

So end of Nov and most of December have been my chance to take an analytical look at Gloria and what she wants and where she is going. I have come to a final conclusion that has been ingrained in me, but I have tried to run away from.  That without God, it is like chasing the wind- useless. I can climb to the top of the corporate ladder, can be making it rain, live in the crib of all cribs, but without Him it would be like having a beautiful and expensive fruit bowl with plastic fruits. Beautiful to stare at but that’s all it’s good for.

So there it is friends, my revelation. My secret key to life, except now that you know, it is no longer a secret, but a truth I am growing in and embracing. As I am growing and changing, so will this blog to reflect and capture the essence of who and what I am about it. A big thank you to all my supporters, fans, friends, and families for allowing me take this journey and share it with you as I continue to show you: “The World Through My Eyes”

 

Word Camp Kenya 2012: Reflections

I have a song in my head and I blame it on being in Kenya. Its an old school song I remember when I was around 14 or 15 and the one line I can sing confidently without shame goes, ” It’s a Friday night and everything is alright!” Ok, maybe not a line, so let me end there before I butcher the rest of the words! But yes, everything is alright cause I am at Word camp Kenya 2012.

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One of the speakers from the conference

My brain has been taken on a mental marathon as it’s being fed everything from tech information on wordpress mobile applications, to leadership and service, to responsible blogging, down to Kenya’s ICT industry, and somehow I was able to fit my talk on Pan Africanism somewhere there. Phew! That is just the surface and it’s only been one day.

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Input from the audience

I am so thoroughly impressed to see where Kenya’s ICT industry stands and believe Tanzania can pick a leaf from our neighbor’s in progressing our IT industry and I say this with the best intentions for my country and in the spirit of Pan Africanism. I am by no means a techie, though I love the sector, so if I am learning this much from this conference in a span of one day then how much more can our techies in Tanzania garner from this conference?

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A part of the beautiful lodge where we are staying

I have to say though, that one of my favourite segments during the conference, apart from the networking of course, was the reflections of the post election violence that happened In Kenya in 2008. I sat there blown away by the stories I heard from people who saw atrocities first hand. People who had lost close personal friends, others seeing dead bodies laying on the streets scaring their souls and forever changing the way they view life, politics and politicians. The session was moderated by a trained psychologist and pastor who carefully directed the conversation so people were not left with a bitter taste in their mouth, but were left with a sense of hope for the upcoming elections happening in March 14.

The theme for this year’s second Wordcamp Kenya is, “Responsible Blogging and Positive Social Media Influence” and I applaud David Mugo and the other partners, organizers and sponsors for making this a central part of the conference, ensuring that the room full of influential personalities, writers and bloggers were left with a sense of urgency so that in whatever platform they used they would be a voice of hope for their fellow brothers and sister’s in making sure that what happened in 2008 won’t repeat in the upcoming elections happening in March. I am now ingesting day 2 of the conference. More to come my good people, more to come……

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Disgracing Nyerere at the AU

Julius Nyerere on Times

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.

African Union

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.

Walking on the Wild Side!

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.

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