Tag Archives: Africa

Somalia has a role model for success on its doorstep

Somalia is one of the nightmares of the start of the 21st century – the epitome of so many of the bad things – a failed stated, a country torn by the old (post)colonial and tribal violence that torments so much of Africa, and by the new jihadist and fundamentalist violence as well. One of my professors and I once had a discussion about “social infrastructure” – the structures in society, values, beliefs and so on that allow a society to function, the social and psychological equivalents of roads, bridges, water supplies, utilities – with Somalia as the prime example of a country in which the social infrastructure seemed so devastated that it was hard to imagine any path to recovery – and the boy soldiers there as perhaps the best instance of this.

Here’s an article that offers a lot of insights into the current situation in Somalia, and also some ideas on ways out of the nightmare…

Somalia has a role model for success on its doorstep | Ioan Lewis: Torn between violent extremists and a puppet government, Somalia could look to Somaliland for a lesson in nation building… (via guardian.co.uk.)

Mandela Day

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.

In honour of his contributions to world freedom and justice, in 2009 the United Nations recognized Nelson Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, as Mandela Day.

There is now an official “Mandela Day” celebration and organisation created by one of the non-profits associated with Mandela that has this vision for the day:

  • Mandela Day is an annual celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life and a global call to action for people to recognize their individual ability to make an imprint and change the world around them.
  • Mandela Day has been created to inspire people from every corner of the world to embrace the values that have embodied Nelson Mandela’s life – democracy; equality; reconciliation; diversity; responsibility; respect and freedom – for these are the values of Nelson Mandela and they are his legacy to the world.
  • Mandela Day aims to showcase the work of the Nelson Mandela charitable organisations (Nelson Mandela Foundation; Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund; Mandela Rhodes Foundation) and raise monies to support their continuing work.
  • By connecting people with ways to act on Nelson Mandela’s values, we aim to empower every individual to make an imprint on the world.
  • The Mandela Day campaign message is simple: Nelson Mandela has given 67 years of his life fighting for the rights of humanity. All we are asking is that everyone gives 67 minutes of their time, whether it’s supporting your chosen charity or serving your local community.
  • Mandela Day is a global social movement – an umbrella idea – that does not discriminate, it’s open and lets in and embraces every organization that does good, whilst enabling people to serve their community and improve their lives…. (via Mandela Day 2010 – About.)

As they go on to say, this “is not a holiday – it is a day for all of us to opt in and show that we can all make an impact.”

One obvious way to do that, to opt in to the struggles and hopes that Nelson Mandela – Madiba – represents for the world, is to challenge, on this day and on every day, racial and economic injustice in your own society. Another way to celebrate Mandela Day and the legacy of Nelson Mandela it to opt in to one of the causes in which Madiba has taken a particular interest, perhaps most importantly the struggle against HIV/AIDS, which is devastating Southern Africa.

46664 was Nelson Mandela’s prisoner number during the 27 years he spent in prison for his part in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. In 2002, the Nelson Mandela Foundation created an international organisation with that number as its name to lead Madiba’s global HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign:

The 46664 campaign is an initiative to inspire individual and collective action towards an AIDS-free world. At its core, the campaign is about bringing hope and inspiration to all affected by HIV/AIDS. Thus 46664 raises awareness about the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the underlying issues that influence it, such as poverty, lack of education, gender inequality, lack of access to health facilities and the denial of economic opportunities. 46664 achieves its objectives through outreach campaigns in Africa and beyond, as well as through the staging of multi-artist concerts, sports and entertainment events and fundraisers. The campaign uses the universal connecting power of music, sport, entertainment and celebrity to educate, engage and empower those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, and draws upon an extensive global network of ambassadors and celebrities. International ambassadors have the power to raise awareness and educate the younger generation in particular. By gaining global backing for the cause, 46664 looks to raise funds to directly assist the many HIV/AIDS projects it supports. (via About – 46664.)

And here’s a video that comes out of the work on the inaugural 46664 Concert at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town that was broadcast globally and on the internet to 2 Billion people. The music video incorporates samples from Mandela’s speech launching the organisation with “an infectious re-mix of pop, ska and reggae classics” and includes images from the live concert in 2003.

Another non-profit associated with Madiba is the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, established in South Africa in 1995 to promote a humanitarian response to the plight of South Africa ‘s children and youth. The organisation now has a number of branches around the world – getting involved and/or making a donation would be an excellent way to honour Madiba and celebrate his life on Mandela Day:

And of course you should check out the work of the main non-profit organisation associated with Madiba, the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Nelson Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was a terrorist, anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). The South African courts convicted him on charges of sabotage, as well as other crimes committed while he led the movement against apartheid. In accordance with his conviction’s sentence, Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela supported reconciliation and negotiation, and helped lead the transition towards multi-racial democracy in South Africa.

Since the end of apartheid, many have frequently praised Mandela, including former opponents. In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela’s clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela.

Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, most notably the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly announced that Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, is to be known as ‘Mandela Day’ to mark his contribution to world freedom…. (via Wikipedia.)

Tarzan Swings Again, or Africa, The Dark Continent

It’s curious to see the ways in which the notion and images of Africa as Eve, as the birthplace of the human species, and as “the dark continent” intersect, specifically in and through ideas of the feminine – the female as dark and dangerous, the black widow and femme fatale, as blood and the body, as the emotional, with men as the rational.

This isn’t at all an original observation, but I have no intention of going back and refreshing myself on the literature on the subject, and then rehearsing it with you. I was thinking about the subject in relation to what I wrote earlier, about the way in which all of the diverse peoples, nations and cultures of Africa are so often compressed down into one thing, Africa – and also in relation to a series of conversations I had with one of my more politically conservative friends (yes, you, George, but don’t take what follows too personally) about the future prospects of Africa – a subject we got onto, I seem to recall, from discussing the all-South African final in Super 14 rugby.

Like many people, one of my friend’s key points, touchstones, in any discussion of Africa is tribalism. Outbreak of violence? Tribalism. Political corruption? Tribalism. Starvation and disease? Tribalism. Rigged elections? Tribalism. Failure to develop adequate infrastructure? Tribalism. Uneven economic development? Capitalism – no wait, that’s tribalism, too. For my friend and others, (Sub-Saharan) Africa’s prospects for peace and justice are more or less fatally compromised by the persistence of tribalism everywhere on the continent.

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Hey Public Radio – Africa is a Big Continent

I love that the World Cup is bringing attention not only to football (soccer), but also to Africa in general and to South Africa in particular – attention that is not just on some massacre or famine, which seem to be the dominant tropes of news coverage, showing just how much Africa is still “the dark continent” when it comes to awareness and attention in the United States.

But I was dismayed to hear a news report on the World Cup in South Africa on public radio this afternoon illustrated with some music from Mali. Sure it’s on the same continent, but actually it would be almost impossible for it to be further away and still be in sub-Saharan Africa. And, sure, Malian music is terrific, really terrific, but South Africa has terrific music of its own. Remember all that excitement over Paul Simon’s Graceland?

You can see how this would happen – some intern grabs a CD from the “Africa” section and queues up a nice, upbeat instrumental track. But, you know, the fact that it’s plausible to assume there is an “Africa” section speaks to the problem. We are never going to get to grips with the situation there if we keep collapsing the whole continent into one undifferentiated mass.

Death of Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua

Nigeria swears in new president: “Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s acting president, has been sworn in as the country’s new leader following the death of Umaru Yar’Adua.

Jonathan took the oath of office at a ceremony in the capital, Abuja, on Thursday, just hours after officials announced the death of Yar’Adua following a long illness.

(via Al Jazeera English – Africa – Nigeria swears in new president.)

Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan sworn in as president: “Tens of thousands of men shoved and pushed their way into the stadium in Katsina to pay their respects to Nigeria’s later President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) began as his body – on a bamboo stretcher and wrapped in a Nigerian white and green flag – was carried in by military men.

Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida were among the mourners. Other dignitaries included Niger’s interim prime minister. There was also a government delegation, but Mr Yar’Adua’s deputy, newly sworn-in President Goodluck Jonathan, was not among them.

(via BBC News.)

For another take on Yar’Adua, check out these songs by the great Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti:

For more on Fela, check out the official Fela website or the WikiPedia entry. (And let me give a shout out to my homie, Trevor Schoonmaker, who curated an exhibit on Fela and wrote Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway.)

21st-century African land grab

A new twist on globalization and colonialism in Africa:

“Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations…”

read about it here: How food and water are driving a 21st-century African land grab | Environment | The Observer.

Sweet Crude: A New Documentary on the Niger Delta by Sandy Cioffi

For a crucial aspect of the larger conflicts in Nigeria…


In a small corner of the most populous country in Africa, billions of dollars of crude oil flow under the feet of a desperate people. Immense wealth and abject poverty stand in stark contrast. The environment is decimated. The issues are complex, the answers elusive.

The documentary film Sweet Crude tells the story of Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The region is seething and the global stakes are high. But in this moment, there’s an opportunity to find solutions. What if the world paid attention before it was too late?

via Sweet Crude: A New Documentary on the Niger Delta by Sandy Cioffi.

Sorrow, Tears and Blood: Hundreds killed in Nigeria clashes

“Sorrow, Tears and Blood”

Violence erupted near the city of Jos in central Nigeria over the weekend as groups of machete-wielding men rampaged through villages killing 100s of mostly women and children. The attacks were apparently retaliation for similar violence less than two months ago that left about 300 dead.

The first reports on the violence putting the number of dead at 8 were quickly shown to be sadly optimistic. The government has reported that up to 500 were killed, while sources in the area have provided various figures, generally around 200 or 300 dead. All seem to agree, however, that the majority of the victims were women and children, including pregnant women and infants, many of them beheaded.

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