GoodBye to Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) -Former President of Mali

Amadou Toumani Toure (Source: NY Times)

It is sadness that I learned of the passing of Amadou Toumani Touré, one of the former presidents of Mali. Affectionately known by his initials, A.T.T. has been deemed the “soldier of democracy” when after taking power, he handed over the power to the elected president Alpha Oumar Konaré.

ATT was born in 1948 in Mopti, a city which lies west of the Dogon Plateau and northwest of the famous Bandiagara region and north-northeast of the legendary Djenné. He later went to Bamako, and joined the Parachute Corps in the army, where he rose to be the commander of the parachute commandos in 1984. ATT was head of President Moussa Traoré‘s personal guard (and parachute regiment). In March 1991, after the violent suppression of anti-government demonstrations, Conférence Nationale Souveraine movements that shook multiple countries in Africa, turned into a popular revolution, the armed forces refused to fire any longer on the Malian people and Touré arrested President Moussa Traoré. He presided over a year-long military-civilian transition process that led to a new Constitution and multiparty elections, and then handed the power over to Mali’s first democratically-elected president, Alpha Oumar Konaré, on 6 June 1992. Konaré promoted Touré to the rank of General. It is after this that people started affectionately calling him the “soldier of the democracy.”

Map of Mali with its capital Bamako

Ten years later, after an early retirement from the army, Touré entered politics as a civilian and won the 2002 presidential election with a broad coalition of support. He was easily re-elected in 2007 to a second and final term. His presidency was non-conventional as he belonged to no political party, and his government always included people from all parties. On 22 March 2012, shortly before the end of his mandate, disgruntled soldiers initiated a coup d’état that forced him into hiding. These soldiers were mad about the government’s inability to stop the fighting in the north of the country by jihadists (2012 insurgency in northern Mali). As part of the agreement to restore constitutional order to Mali, Touré resigned from the presidency on 8 April 2012 and eleven days later he went into exile.

Amadou Toumani Toure – ATT (Souce: Blackfacts.com)

As you can see, this was a man of integrity! When then president Traoré asked the army to keep firing at the Malian people, he stood up and said ‘NO’. He took power, and steered the country towards its first democratic elections. Then he stepped down. Later, he won the presidential election with a coalition, and served 2 mandates. When in 2012 there was a coup against him, he resigned, and left the office. It will be good if the leaders in some of our banana republics (PB, SN, FG, ID, ADO, AC, AB, …) could do this; and more importantly if France could just leave these places!!! But like Thomas Sankara said, «… l’esclave qui n’est pas capable d’assumer sa révolte ne mérite pas que l’on s’apitoie sur son sort. Cet esclave répondra seul de son malheur s’il se fait des illusions sur la condescendance suspecte d’un maître qui prétend l’affranchir. Seule la lutte libère… » [“… the slave who is not capable of assuming his rebellion does not deserve that we feel sorry for himself. This slave will respond only to his misfortune if he is deluding himself about the suspect condescension of a master who claims to free him. Only struggle liberates … “]

J.J. Rawlings : A Tribute

President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana (Source: citizen.co.za)

I found this tribute to J.J. Rawlings, and there are many out there, but I particularly liked this one. Excerpts below are from GNN Liberia. For the full article, please visit GNN Liberia. I also added below the short video made by Al-Jazeera.

=====

Not even his harshest critics would begrudge Flt. Lt. John Jerry Rawlings – the late Ghanaian President his place in history as an influential, courageous, tough-talking, bold, impactful leader and charismatic Statesman who left deep impressions on the political landscapes of his country and, indeed, Africa.

J.J. or ‘Junior Jesus” as his admirers fondly called him, exuded great energy and revolutionary ideas. He and his colleagues were unhappy with the inequalities, corruption, and mismanagement that characterised the government of post-independent Ghana and decided to ‘remedy’ the situation in their own way.

… After the May 1979 failed coup, Rawlings was again in the limelight on 4 June 1979, when junior officers broke jail to set him free. But he never allowed the government of his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to overstay its welcome. By September 1979, Rawlings had handed over power to the elected government of President Hilla Limann. …

Map and Flag of Ghana
Map and Flag of Ghana

Notorious for his very short fuse, J.J. quickly lost patience with Limann’s government, sacking it in another military coup in December 1981 military, thus, returning to power as head of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). The Council tried to transform Ghana into a Marxist State and so turned to the Soviet Union for support. But the Communist system was abandoned two years later, with J.J. reluctantly embracing the Western free-market system followed by the devaluation of Cedi – the local currency.

J.J. gained popularity with the free-market reforms, turning economic austerity into a stable economy in the early 1990s, which coincided with the advent of pluralistic democracy in Africa. Moving with the global tide, he won the first democratic presidential election in 1992 and boosted Ghana’s international profile by contributing troops to the regional ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) and the U.N. peacekeeping operations in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, and Iraq, among others.

Rawlings will be remembered for speaking his mind on issues, especially on governance in Africa.

… But like every human or any coin, there are at least two sides to Rawlings’ legacy. After all, one man’s terrorist, they say, is another’s freedom fighter!

So Long to J.J. Rawlings: Former President of Ghana

President J.J. Rawlings of Ghana (Source: thecable.ng)

Today, we will talk about the former president of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings, affectionately called J.J. Rawlings, who passed away last week. Jerry Rawlings is known as the president of Ghana who ushered in a new era of change and economic prosperity in Ghana. Just like the Ghana of today owes a lot to Kwame Nkrumah the father of its independence, the Ghana of today owes a lot to J.J. Rawlings, the father of its economic stability and face-lift.

J.J. Rawlings (source: citizen.co.za)

Born on 22 June 1947 in Accra, Ghana, to a Ghanaian mother and a Scottish father who refused to recognize him, Rawlings grew up in Ghana and was a proud son of the land. He attended the notorious Achimota School, and later on enlisted as a Flight Cadet in the Ghana Air Force in 1967. He was later selected for officer cadet training at the Ghana Military Academy and Training school. In 1969, he became commissioned Pilot officer, and then won the coveted “Speed Bird Trophy” as the best cadet in flying and airmanship.

He said that it was during his military service in the Ghana Air Force, that he witnessed the deterioration of discipline and morale, and the high level of corruption that had engulfed the army and Ghana as a whole. He also became aware of the immense social injustices prevalent in the country. He then vowed to change that.

Jerry Rawlings during his time in the Ghana air force (Source: ab-tc.com)

On 15 May 1979, five weeks prior to civilian elections, Rawlings and six other soldiers staged a coup against the government of General Fred Akuffo, but failed and were arrested by the military. He was arrested and sentenced to death in a general court martial, but his statements on the social injustices that motivated his action won him popular support. While awaiting execution, he was freed by a group of soldiers. Claiming that the government was corrupt beyond recognition, he led a group in a successful coup against president Akuffo. What has remained engraved in many Ghanaians’ psyche, and has been seen as the real turning point in the history of the country, is when Rawlings with the 15-member Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), primarily composed of junior officers, ruled for 112 days and arranged the execution by firing squad of 8 senior military officers, and 3 former presidents. This was seen as an unconditional message against corruption, injustices at the hand of a few, and a vindication of the people. Elections were then held, and the AFRC peacefully handed the power to the civilian President Hilla Limann, whose People’s National Party (PNP) had the support of Kwame Nkrumah’s followers. Two years later, Rawlings led another coup which ousted Limann. To those in the west who complained and called him on human abuses, he said that he “was representing the conscience of the armed forces, … and the conscience of the nation.” The nation was suffering from so much corruption, and injustices, at the hand of a few who chose to serve the colonial forces at the detriment of their own people, and Rawlings heard their cry. What do you do when you are faced with gangrene? Do you try to clean and patch it or do you amputate it? I do not condone this, and he himself acknowledged that there were regrettable events, but we need to recognize his great work for his country.

Rawlings ruled Ghana longer than any other president, almost 2 decades, winning 2 elections as a civilian. His rule has been hailed as the start of a new beginning, or rather the rebirth of Ghana, and he should be recognized for his impact on Ghana, and also on Africa.

Thomas Sankara, president of the Faso

The charismatic J.J. Rawlings was a great friend of Thomas Sankara, and worked to perpetuate his legacy and revolutionary ideas. When Sankara was assassinated in 1987, Sankara’s wife first found refuge in the Ghana of J.J.. Decades later, when the neighboring country of Cote d’Ivoire and its president Gbagbo were being bombed by foreign forces, Rawlings spoke against it [President J.J. Rawlings denounces the Transfer of President Gbagbo to the Hague tribunal]. He was one of the few African leaders who spoke against the FCFA [The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa] and more recently against the ECO [Is France Trying to (re) Colonize Africa?]. His legacy is his pan-Africanism and passion for the continent. This was a man of the people, and it is with great sadness that Ghana mourns the passing of one its great sons, who is celebrated for Ghana’s economic stability.

President J. J. Rawlings of Ghana
President J. J. Rawlings of Ghana

On 12 November 2020, J.J. Rawlings passed away at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, just nearly two months after his mother, Victoria Agbotui, in September. The current president, Nana Akufo-Addo has declared a seven-day period of mourning in his honor and flags flown at half-mast. So long comrade… you will be remembered for your hard work and love for your country, and above all for ushering in a new era in Ghana’s history.

Proverbe sur les grandes choses apportant de grands obstacles / Proverb on Great Things bringing in Great Hurdles

Le fleuve Wouri / Wouri River

Dans le grand fleuve, il y a aussi des grenouilles (Proverbe Ehwe – Ghana, Togo). – Tout ce qui est grand amène aussi ses ennuis et ses difficultés.

In the great river, there are also frogs (Ewe proverb – Ghana, Togo). – All that is great also brings in its troubles and difficulties.

Grenouille / Frog

Chameleon last seen a Century Ago in Madagascar found again

Madagascar
Madagascar

I thought this was a good news to share with all: a rare species of chameleon last seen 100 years ago (last seen in 1913) in Madagascar has been spotted again. Like I have said before, I do not agree with people using words like “re-discovered,” as if the chameleon did not exist before then, even though it was probably just roaming far from human’s eyes, or rather from foreign eyes; like Columbus discovering a continent which already existed. Excerpts are from an article on the Guardian.

=====

Scientists have found an elusive chameleon species that was last spotted in Madagascar 100 years ago.

Researchers from Madagascar and Germany said on Friday they had discovered several living specimens of Voeltzkow’s chameleon during an expedition to the north-west of the African island nation.

One of the Voeltzkow’s chameleons spotted in Madagascar. Photograph: Frank Glaw/AP (Source: The Guardian)

In a report published in the journal Salamandra, the team, led by scientists from the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology (ZSM), said genetic analysis determined that the species was closely related to Labord’s chameleon.

Researchers believe that both reptiles only live during the rainy season – hatching from eggs, growing rapidly, sparring with rivals, mating and then dying during a few short months.

Researchers said the female of the species, which had never previously been documented, displayed particularly colourful patterns during pregnancy, when encountering males and when stressed.

The Alok Ikom Stone Monoliths of Nigeria and Cameroon

Monolith in Western Cameroon: notice the designs around the eyes and the body, and the ring on the head, could it be a crown or hat?

Today we will talk about the Alok Ikom stone monoliths of Nigeria and Cameroon. I told you on Monday that the US customs recently seized a few of these coming from Cameroon. Many years ago, I was quite fortunate to stumble upon these treasures which date as far back as 200 AD. At the time, even though I knew I was looking at something special, I did not realize (insouciance of youth?) that I was in front of relics of some ancient civilization of Central Africa. Fast forward many years, and I now just learn that they are on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

The Ikom or Alok Ikom monoliths are about 300 upright carved stones, arranged in perfect circles usually facing each other and standing erect, except in cases where they have been tampered with by weather, time, erosion, or man. These carved stones are found in the Ikom area of Eastern Nigeria in the Cross River state, and in some areas of Western Cameroon. They are thought to be at least 1500 years old.

Monolith in Western Cameroon

Often found in the center of villages or central meeting place of elders, or in sacred areas, researchers initially counted about 450 in Eastern Nigeria, but now because of diverse issues, only about 300 can be found. They vary in height, from 1 to 2 meters. Given that parts of Eastern Nigeria and Western Cameroon’s soils are volcanic, it is not surprising that the monoliths are mostly carved out of basaltic stone and in some cases out of sandstone or shelly limestone. On these stones are carved images and texts which to this day have not been deciphered. For many, these prehistoric carvings are a form of writing and visual communication.

Monolith in Western Cameroon: notice the motifs

Some of the carvings form complex geometric motifs. The carvings have anthropomorphic features and depict a human being from the torso up, with a big emphasis placed on the face; in some of the stones, one can pick out the navel. At the time I saw these, I was told that the monoliths represented the ancestors, and they were 12 of them arranged in a circle. If I could travel back in time, there is so much I would ask about these monoliths: who made these? what was the purpose? Why the circular arrangement? what is the meaning of the intricate motifs? and more importantly which civilization is this? One thing is for sure, from the features, it was definitely a Black civilization! Enjoy!

Monolith in Western Cameroon: notice the intricacies of the design. This one almost looks feminine?

Please check out the British Museum website which provides extensive work on the Ikom monoliths of Cross River state (the B.M. of course holds one of these in house), the World Monument Fund, the Factum Foundation, and the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. Please also visit the article I wrote on the Senegal/Gambian Ancient Civilization: the Senegambian Stone Circles.

1800 years old Ancient Monoliths from Cameroon Seized by US Customs

Two weeks ago, the US customs seized 1000 to 1800 years old monoliths from Cameroon. These were the Ikom monoliths which are found in Nigeria and Western parts of Cameroon. It is important to note the age of these artifacts, 200 – 1000 AD !!! We will write a piece on the Ikom monoliths which are on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. Enjoy! Excerpts below are an article on the Barron’s website.

Monolith from Agba. 2013,2034.24215© David Coulson/TARA (Source: The British Museum)

====

US customs officials in Miami on Tuesday said they seized ancient carved stones from Cameroon known as Ikom monoliths that had been exported to the United States using fake documents.

Experts believe the stone sculptures were made sometime between 200 and 1,000 AD, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement.

According to UNESCO the carvings “bear a form of writing and a complex system of codified information .. each stone, like the human finger print, is unique from every other stone in its design and execution.

The Ikom monoliths come from the area round the town of Ikom, in the state of Cross River in southern Nigeria bordering with Cameroon.

Description of Clothing in the Ghana Empire

Below is a description of clothing in the ancient Ghana Empire: Great and Magnificent Ancient Kingdom of Africa, in the 10th century in the West Africa. This clearly shows that the narrative of naked Africans is quite recent and wrong!!!

Map of the Ghana Empire, ca 300 – 1200

====

Of the people who follow the king’s religion, only he and his heir presumptive, who is the son of his sister, may wear sewn clothes. All the other people wear clothes of cotton, silk, or
brocade
, according to their means. All men shave their beards and women shave their heads
.”

The Ghana Empire: A Short Video

I found this very short video about the Ghana Empire which I am sharing below. This is just to wet your appetite. There are quite a few really good documentaries out there on the Ghana Empire. Two of them stand out to me, Lost Kingdoms of Africa, Episode 4: Western Africa by Gus Casely-Hayford, and The History of Africa, Episode 10: Desert Empires by Zeinab Badawi based on UNESCO‘s General History of Africa, which I cited earlier.