Sylvanus Olympio: Togo’s first president

Sylvanus Olympio
Sylvanus Olympio

Today I will be talking about Sylvanus Olympio, the first president of Togo, a small country in West Africa, which was once a German colony, and later became a French and British protectorate.  The story of Togo is a little bit like that of my country Cameroon which was once a German colony but was later divided between France and Great Britain as protectorates (this will be a story for another day).

Sylvanus Olympio really embodies what the singer Tiken Jah Fakoly said in one of his songs “They [Europeans] divided the world among themselves, nothing amazes me anymore: part of the Mandinka empire found its way in the Wolof empire, part of the Mossi empire found its way in the Ghana empire, part of the Soussou empire found its way into the Mandinka empire and part of the Mandinka empire found its way into the Mossi’s empire …” what do I mean by this? Sylvanus Olympio was from Dahomey (current day Benin) of Afro-Brazilian ancestry, born in Kpando in actual Ghana, and became president of Togo!  How was this possible? well because of the balkanization of Africa or rather the scramble for Africa which took place at the Berlin Conference in 1884 where Europeans split Africa among themselves dividing entire empires, people, villages, nations.  One of these people were the Ewe people in West Africa who found themselves split among three countries: Gold Coast (Ghana), Togoland (Togo), and Dahomey (Benin).

Map of Togo
Map of Togo

Sylvanus Olympio believed that the Ewe people should be reunited under one flag…. unfortunately he could never come to agreement with Kwame Nkrumah, his Ghanaian counterpart, and other powers at play.  Olympio tried to unite and educate the people about their new nation, and the needs for development.  From what a Togolese friend of mine once said, he used to ride a bike from villages to villages talking to people in their languages and educating them about politics, development, and patriotism, at a time when there was no radio (1950s) in most places.

Togo -- A History
Togo — A History

Sylvanus Olympio barely had a chance to execute anything politically.  He was assassinated in a military coup in the US embassy compound in Lomé in 1963, two years after Togo’s independence and his investiture as president.  The presidential palace was just next to the US embassy in Lomé.  When Olympio heard gunshots, he sent his family to safety, and climbed the wall that separated him to the American embassy.  Once there, he knocked at the door of the embassy to seek refuge… Unfortunately, the embassy was closed.  Sylvanus hid in one of the cars in the American compound.  The American Ambassador comes back to the compound and finds Olympio in the car who explains everything; the ambassador claimed not to have the keys to open the door… and asked him to wait while he would go find the keys.  Rumors says that the American ambassador probably called his French counterpart who then contacted the gunmen and sent them to the American compound.  Sylvanus was found in the car, and gunned by Eyadéma, one of Africa’s worst dictators backed by the West.  The Time magazine wrote an article on that day entitled Togo: Death at the Gate; JFK also had a statement about his death.  The journalist, Alain Foka, of RFI did a piece on Olympio.

Many wonder what Togo would have become under someone with such love, brilliance, and vision for his country.  No one will ever know.  Please enjoy this rare footage of an interview of Sylvanus Olympio to NBC in the US.

Don’t forget to watch the second part.

Palm wine: White Wine Made in Africa/ Le Vin de Palme: Vin Blanc Made in Africa

Palm Wine/ Le vin blanc
Palm Wine/ Le vin blanc

Today, I would like to talk about palm wine. Have you ever tasted palm wine? hummmmmh so sweet! So good! so delicious! or rather palmilicious! Palm wine or white wine made in Africa or raffia wine is wine from the sap of the palm or coconut tree. It is actually white in color, not transparent like its European counterpart.

Tapper harvesting palm wine
Tapper harvesting palm wine

Palm wine sap is gathered in two ways. The first: A tapper extracts and collects the sap from the tree by making a triangular cut onto the raffia tree just like during the harvest of hevea: a receptacle is attached to the tree where the cut was made, and the sap can thus be collected. The second way involves cutting down the tree and allowing it to lie for two weeks. After, a rectangular well is cut in it. At this stage, a bamboo tube is inserted into the well to drain the sap as it collects. The quantity of sap that is extracted from one palm tree depends on the mode of extraction, the palm species, season and the fertility of the soil. The white liquid that comes out is at first very sweet and non-alcoholic: this is what we as kids would love to drink. Fermentation begins naturally and immediately after collection. After fermentation, the liquid becomes alcoholic and has some sourness and acidity to it. It could sometime happen that we would drink it two – three hours after collection, and it would still be good, but would have a sour after-taste to it. After one day, it is fully alcoholic, and more than one kid has certainly fallen to it!

The Palm Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola
The Palm Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola

In the old days, and at night in the village, children and adults will sit around the fire to hear storytelling from a village elder while enjoying some palm wine, grilled corn or grilled safou! It is drank at celebrations, weddings, etc… Chinua Achebe mentions palm wine in his novel “Things Fall Apart“, and it is the title of the novel by Amos TutuolaThe Palm Wine Drinkard“.  In Cameroon, it is harvested from raffia palm tree, and collected into a container communally called ‘dame-jeanne’. The traditional version of this container is also made from raffia or African bamboo wood! Palm wine is often called ‘matango‘ in the Cameroonian slang.  What is it called in your country?

Please enjoy this great video about the harvesting of palm wine from Cameroon!

I also liked this lady’s description of her first taste of palm wine: Palm wine drinkards.

Une Traîtrise de Tortue

Eklo, la tortue
Eklo, la tortue

Il était une fois une tortue nommée Eklo, qui avait lié grande amitié avec son voisin Adidi le chat.

Un beau jour, Eklo vient rendre visite à Adidi. A son arrivée, elle s’écrie :

Comme ta maison est vieille et mal entretenue, mon compère ! Ce n’est pas du tout convenable ! Regarde ! Il Ya des fentes dans tous les murs; la porte ne ferme plus; le bois est rongé de partout et plein de gros trous. J’en suis bien peinée car je comptais venir te voir avec quelques amis que tu aurais été très heureux de recevoir. Mais il faut accueillir les visiteurs convenablement.

Afi, la souris
Afi, la souris

Adidi entend les reproches de son amie. Il a honte et assure Eklo qu’il va se mettre immédiatement au travail pour réparer sa maison. Dans une quinzaine de jours, tout sera prêt pour qu’elle puisse lui amener les visiteurs annoncés. Mais la tortue avait une idée derrière la tête. Un peu avant la date fixée par Adidi, elle va rendre visite à Afi, la souris.

Chère amie, lui dit-elle, je viens te rendre visite, car tu es le chef de la communauté, afin de te transmettre une invitation. Adidi, mon compère, vient de remettre à neuf sa maison. Pour célébrer cet événement, il va donner une grande fête et il m’a chargée de te dire de venir y assister en compagnie de tous les tiens.

Souris pousse un cri de surprise et d’indignation voyons ! Est-ce que tu te moques de moi ? Crois-tu que je vais aller chez un individu qui a déjà tué mon grand-père et ma grand-mère, sans parler d’un bon nombre de membre de ma famille ?

Adidi, le chat, courant apres la souris
Adidi, le chat, courant apres la souris

Tortue prend sa voix la plus doucereuse et la plus persuasive pour affirmer :

Mais tu n’as rien à craindre. Il n’arrivera rien de mal ni à toi ni aux tiens. Tout cela, c’est du passé ! Maintenant, il faut oublier. D’ailleurs, je te d’amitié qui existent entre Adidi et moi ?

Afi fut convaincue. Au jour dit, accompagnée de toute sa famille, elle suit tortue au domicile de Adidi, Eklo les fait tous entrer dans la maison, puis se précipite à l’extérieur et ferme la porte. Adidi, qui n’attendait que cela, s’élance toutes griffes dehors au milieu des infortunées souris qui, affolées, cherchent vainement une issue pour s’enfuir. En quelques instants, il les a toutes tuées. Ensuite, Adidi appelle la trompeuse Eklo et tous deux fêtent l’événement.

Croire que ceux qui vous ont fait toujours du mal vont devenir brusquement vos amis, c’est être bien sot !

Conte tiré de “Contes des Lagunes et Savanes,” Collection ‘Fleuve et Flamme,’ édition Edicef, 1975.

Carthago Delenda Est! Sinister plots against Cote d’Ivoire…

Map of Cote d'Ivoire
Map of Cote d'Ivoire

I saw this great article by Guy Kouame Gustave on the crisis in Ivory Coast. Such Truth!

“Carthago Delenda Est!” Carthage Must be Destroyed!

This terrible statement was made by Caton the Elder, a Roman citizen who, in his last days in 153 B.C., led a diplomatic mission to Carthage.  Impressed by the economic revival of Carthage, he adopted a systematic anti-Carthaginian attitude that led him to end all his speeches at the Senate by the phrase “Carthago delenda est!”, “Carthage must be destroyed!”. Caton the Elder advocated that Carthage, the competitive city to Rome during the Punic Wars had to be destroyed. Reading the biography of this multi-facet and hatred-filled individual, I couldn’t help but think of Cote d’Ivoire, our country. In fact, revisiting our history since Mr. Alassane Dramane Ouattara’s irruption in the Ivorian political life, one can paraphrase Caton the Elder saying: “Cote d’Ivoire delenda est!”.

The reason is that the successive events that the country has gone through since the election of President Laurent Gbagbo as Head-of-State in October 2000, demonstrate that there is a ferocious relentlessness to destroy the person chosen by the people to lead the country. But more tragically, the country itself, its choices, its soul, and all the institutions and laws on which the nation stands. There is an animalistic conspiracy to make Côte d’Ivoire a failed country.

“Cote d’Ivoire delenda est!”

Declarations such as “I will make this country ungovernable, we are going to gnagami it all!” by ADO, the media, military, political, social, cultural, diplomatic, financial and economic relentlessness (boy! To say the least!), multiple coups and other mistreatments the country is subjected to are all part of the sinister project of the destruction Côte d’Ivoire. Despite multiple sacrifices made by President Gbagbo and the people of Cote d’Ivoire for the sake of peace and democracy, the country continues on suffering since 2002. And the so-called post electoral crisis has just brought to light the sinister plot of destruction and submission against our country.  

For recall: December 1999, first coup d’Etat consecutive to the war for power between the heirs of Houphouët Boigny, the first President of Côte d’Ivoire. The coup went well: Bédié is exiled, but Ouattara did not succeed seizing power. General Guéi who led the military transition escaped two assassination attempts. He lost the October 2000 presidential elections and took refuge in his native village. Laurent Gbagbo, the people’s beloved, won the elections and came into office. From that day on a terrible and obnoxious lynching campaign against the country, its founding pillars, and its officials started. The nightmare of the Ivorian people was thus into motion.

Flag of Cote D'Ivoire
Flag of Cote D'Ivoire

“Cote d’Ivoire delenda est!”, “Cote d’Ivoire must be destroyed ! »

The personality, the choices, and the relation and interactions that President Gbagbo has with his people for decades make many uncomfortable. His aspirations to diversify the economic partners of the country and to depart from the ongoing classic infantilizing paternalism from the former colonial power disturb and particularly worry.

ADO, the man of the outside world, has not given up his plans to seize power by all means necessary. He and his allies then decided to make Gbagbo undergo the same fate as Bédié. They set up, prepared, organized, financed, and implemented a coup d’Etat from and with the complicity of some countries of the sub-region and mainly with the help of a part of the international community. In the night of September 19th, 2002, assailants attacked the State. They failed to take over, fled from the economic capital Abidjan, and made up a cyst in Bouaké where they organized a rebellion.

“Cote d’Ivoire delenda est!”, “Cote d’Ivoire must be destroyed ! » … Click here to read more …