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.

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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.

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.

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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 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.

Description of the King of the Ghana Empire

Below are accounts from Al-Bakri, the 11th century geographer, who described the court of the Ghana Empire: Great and Magnificent Ancient Kingdom of Africa. As you read, notice that this was a very wealthy state, and also very well organized with great hierarchy. Enjoy! This is from the Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West Africa, Levtzion, N., Cambridge Press (1981).

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Chinguetti, a town which was part of the Ghana Empire (Wikipedia)

The king has a palace and a number of domed dwellings all surrounded with an enclosure like a city wall. Around the king’s town are domed buildings and groves …

The King adorns himself like a woman wearing necklaces round his neck and bracelets on his forearms and he puts on a high cap decorated with gold and wrapped in a turban of fine cotton. He holds an audience in a domed pavilion around which stand ten horses covered with gold-embroidered materials…and on his right, are the sons of the vassal kings of his country, wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited with gold.

Map of the Ghana Empire ca 300 -1200

He sits in audience or to hear grievances against officials in a domed pavilion around which stand ten horses covered with gold-embroidered materials. Behind the king stand ten pages holding shields and swords decorated with gold, and on his right are the sons of the kings of his country wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited with gold. The governor of the city sits on the ground before the king and around him are ministers seated likewise. At the door of the pavilion are dogs of excellent pedigree that hardly ever leave the place where the king is, guarding him. Around their necks they wear collars of gold and silver studded with a number of balls of the same metals.

Thomas Sankara’s Speech at the United Nations / Discours de Thomas Sankara aux Nations Unies

As it is our tradition on Afrolegends.com, every year on October 15th, we celebrate the life of the great president of Burkina FasoThomas Sankara. Today, I live you with a jewel, his Speech at the United Nations on October 4, 1984. Enjoy!

African Heritage

Thomas Sankara Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

On October 4th, 1984, Thomas Sankara addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. It was a historical speech, as only he, the great orator, could speak. It was moving, it was strong, and it was good. Below is an extract of his speech. For the whole speech, go to thomassankara.net. Enjoy!!!

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“I speak on behalf of the millions of human beings … thrown out of work by a system that is structurally unjust and periodically unhinged, who are reduced to only glimpsing in life a reflection of the lives of the affluent. I speak on behalf of women the world over, who suffer from a male-imposed system of exploitation. … Women who struggle and who proclaim with us that the slave who is not able to take charge of his own revolt deserves no pity for his lot. This harbors…

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“Afrique 50” The First French Anti-Colonization Documentary

Afrique 50 by Rene Vautier

I recently watched a documentary made by René Vautier, Afrique 50. This documentary is the first French anti-colonization movie ever made.  Vautier was assigned to French West Africa to make an educational film, but upon arrival he witnessed the appalling conditions of the Africans and the crimes committed against them by the French troops. The result was Afrique 50. For making this documentary, he was thrown in jail, and the documentary was banned for 40 years.

I loved Afrique 50 because it showed West Africa in 1950, a different side of it, and the African society with some of its strong culture and identity. It was a society of togetherness. Vautier tried to show different aspects of a normal day: artisans, farmers, weavers, women cooking, a hairdressing for both boys and girls, men called for prayers, fishermen, boat makers, herders, just normal life under the African sun.

He also showed colonization and its nefarious effects on African cultures and the fact that colonization did not help, but rather empoverished the Africans. He says, “a school is opened when the big companies need an accountant” (On ouvre une école quand les grosses companies ont besoin de comptables), or “a doctor is sent, when the big colonial companies risk running out of manpower” (on envoie un médécin quand les grosses compagnies coloniales risquent de manquer de main d’oeuvre).

Afrique 50 by Rene Vautier – The Empire Awaits you, Join the colonial

In his documentary, Vautier shows how the French destroyed entire villages, killed people, women, kids, pregnant women, etc, because the people were not able to bring in a quota of bananas, or cocoa, or rubber, i.e. to pay the tax which was the penny sum of 3700F.

Vautier says, “colonization is the reign of the vultures,” and these vultures are the big multinationals. He cites, Société Commerciale de l’Ouest Africain (650 millions F of profit in 1949), Compagnie française de l’Afrique occidentale (actuelle CFAO) (365 millions of profit in 1949), Dabom (180 millions of profit), L’Africaine Française, le Niger Français, La Compagnie Française de la Côte d’Ivoire, Unilever who made 11 billions 500 millions of profit in a year / 40 millions a day. Not much has changed today!

It also shows why Africa always looks underdeveloped. Isn’t it surprising to notice that today, lots of large-scale agriculture is not industrialized in sub-saharan Africa? Well because it costs less to these multinationals to have Africans labor fields with hoes, machetes, and more, than buying and maintaining turbines, or tractors. This is cheap labor!

Vautier says “A machine will do the job of 20 Blacks of course, but 20 blacks for 50F a day cost less to the company than the machine, so let’s use the Black” (Une machine ferait le travail de 20 noirs bien sûr, mais 20 noirs à 50F par jour reviennent moins cher qu’une machine, alors usons le noir).

Banana plantation in Cameroon

To this day, 70 years later, not much has changed in the rubber plantations of Liberia, or the cocoa plantations of Côte d’Ivoire, or the banana plantations of Cameroon, or in the forests of Gabon.

Africans are still asking for their lands which were taken by the multinationals (Did You Know about the 999-year Lease granted to Europeans in Kenya ?), and to this day the reply is always brutal and violent; when in the past they had the French administrator and police burn down villages, today they have their puppet governments installed everywhere on the continent crushing the people.

La grande mosquee de Djenne (Mali - heritage du grand empire du Mali)
La grande mosquee de Djenne (Mali – heritage du grand empire du Mali)

What I also liked in Afrique 50, was that in 1950, the architecture in Africa was still that of our ancestors. One can see Séguéla, Dimbokro, Kétékre, Daloa, Bouaflé, Palaka, etc… it still looks like the great architecture of Timbuktu and Djenné, sublime, and upstanding. The French came, destroyed, and burnt down those villages, and kingdoms. In the Bamiléké highlands of Cameroon, some kingdoms have no real palaces anymore, or the king’s house is made of zinc roofing, because the colonizers had them burnt down (such as the Bazou royal palace) in the 1950s during the maquis years (French President Acknowledges French Genocide in Cameroon) and before. The mud huts seen today across Africa are a result of years of being crushed and under constant attack by foreigners. When you are constantly attacked, you barely have time to rebuild the old ways, and also with time those with the architectural know-how pass away without passing on their knowledge, and more, we are told that building like the Europeans is sign of modernism even if it not adapted to our environment!

Please enjoy this documentary… It is a real eye-opener! Very little has changed in 70 years, the name has morphed from colonization to neo-colonization, to globalization, to cheap labor, and more!

Mugabe and Nkrumah: the Tale of Two Red Cockrells

A cockerel

Below are excerpts from an article posted on Pambazuka by Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, where the author compares the obstables faced by the regimes of presidents Kwame Nkrumah and Robert Mugabe almost 40 years later. As you read on, you can see that the British used the same tactics to destroy both economies, when they could not destabilize both men. Such similitudes! Enjoy! For the full article, go to Pambazuka.

Robert Mugabe (History.com)

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Despite some shortcomings in his policies, Mugabe could not be pushed to betray the people of Zimbabwe and Africa in general.  

Tony Blair’s New Labour purposefully undermined and sabotaged the political economy of Zimbabwe from late 1997. The double-face and double-crossing British politicians therefore crippled the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) Red Cockrell in the same manner as Harold Wilson undermined and sabotaged the Nkrumah regime and the Convention People’s Party (CPP) Red Cockrell from 1964.

Kwame Nkrumah
Kwame Nkrumah

Harold Wilson was the Labour Party prime minister then. Rhodesia was then at the heart of the conflict between Ghana and Britain. Harold Wilson fought President Kwame Nkrumah to maintain and sustain white supremacist stranglehold as Tony Blair fought Mugabe to maintain and sustain white supremacist stranglehold on Zimbabwean land and finance capital, itself created by the land and the labour of the people.

It must be stated clearly that there can be no capital without land and labour. Capital has no existence of its own. Apartheid and settler colonialism are a politico-military act of land appropriation and enslavement of labour for the crafted purpose of capital accumulation.

Tony Blair’s New Labour party funded and created the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai, a trade union leader. Harold Wilson’s Labour Party aided Kofi Busia, Komla Gbedemah and JWK Harlley to overthrow Nkrumah.

Red cockerel, “Forward Ever, Backward Never”: Convention People’s Party logo and slogan

Whereas Tony Blair and subsequent British prime ministers could not overthrow Mugabe, they destroyed the Zimbabwean economy and created a quicksand underneath the ZANU-PF regime…as did the Wilson government to the CPP regime.

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Blombos Cave: Earliest Known Drawing by a Human found in Africa old of 73,000 years

Rock Art from Blombos Cave (Source: C. Henshilwood, Wikipedia)

We take drawing for granted, and we know that our ancestors, ancient humans thought of drawings as a very good communication tool, as depicted in petroglyphs found in a thousand places on the African continent, in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

This may be old news to some, but the earliest evidence of a drawing made by humans has been found in the Blombos Cave in the southern Cape province of South Africa. Blombos Cave contains material dating from 100,000—70,000 years ago.

The drawing, which consists of three red lines cross-hatched with six separate lines, was intentionally drawn on a smooth silcrete flake about 73,000 years ago. This predates previous drawing from Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.

Oldest Drawing by Homo Sapiens, dated to be 73,000 years old, found in the Blombos Cave (Source: Wikipedia)

Excavations at the world-famous archeological Blombos Cave site, have yielded many important riches. These include delicately crafted stones and bone implements preceding comparable European artifacts by more than 80,000 years, and at least 8,000 pieces of ochre, used as colour pigment by early humans. This indicates that our ancestors already had an acute sense of colors, and the different properties of these oxidizing colors (ferrous oxide), suggesting a strong understanding of the chemistry behind the colors’ composition.

… the drawings were made with an ochre crayon, with a tip of between 1 and 3 millimetres thick. Further, the abrupt termination of the lines at the edge of the flake also suggested that the pattern originally extended over a larger surface, and may have been more complex in its entirety.

Before this discovery, Palaeolithic archaeologists have for a long time been convinced that unambiguous symbols first appeared when Homo sapiens entered Europe, about 40,000 years ago, and later replaced local Neanderthals,” says Pr. Christopher Henshilwood from the University of Witswatersrand. “Recent archaeological discoveries in Africa, Europe and Asia, in which members of our team have often participated, support a much earlier emergence for the production and use of symbols.”

The archaeological layer in which the Blombos drawing was found also yielded other indicators of symbolic thinking, such as shell beads covered with ochre, and, more importantly, pieces of ochres engraved with abstract patterns. Some of these engravings closely resemble the one drawn on the silcrete flake.

Bifacial silcrete point from M1 phase (71,000 BCE) layer of Blombos Cave, South Africa (Source: Wikipedia)

This demonstrates that early Homo sapiens in the southern Cape used different techniques to produce similar signs on different media,” says Henshilwood. “This observation supports the hypothesis that these signs were symbolic in nature and represented an inherent aspect of the behaviorally modern world of these African Homo sapiens, the ancestors of all of us today.

To find out more, please read this article written by Christopher Henshilwood and his team in Nature, as well as this article in the National Geographic.

Re-Discovery of the Elephant Shrew in Djibouti

Elephant shrew (sengi) in Djibouti (source: Steven Heritage – BBC)

When I heard about the re-discovery of the elephant shrew, I wondered how could the elephant go missing and I didn’t hear about it? Since when? … then I realized that the elephant shrew was a sort of tiny rodent which is common on the horn of Africa; in the case at hand, it used to be common in Djibouti, but disappeared about 50 years ago. Not sure why it is called ‘elephant’ shrew. They say that it is related to the elephant, but how? Maybe the original scientist who said that had a little too much to drink? Or just looked at its pointed trunk-like nose and decided? Excerpts below are from an article on the BBC. As a side note, we really need to preserve our fauna (and flora), because we do not need a day when the elephant, the real one, will go missing

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A little-known mammal related to an elephant but as small as a mouse has been rediscovered in Africa after 50 years of obscurity.

Flag of Djibouti

The last scientific record of the “lost species” of elephant shrew was in the 1970s, despite local sightings.

The creature was found alive and well in Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, during a scientific expedition.

Elephant shrews, or sengis [the name is of Somali origin], are neither elephants nor shrews, but related to aardvarks, elephants and manatees.

They have distinctive trunk-like noses, which they use to feast on insects.

There are 20 species of sengis in the world, and the Somali sengi (Elephantulus revoilii) is one of the most mysterious, known to science only from 39 individuals collected decades ago and stored in museums. The species was previously known only from Somalia, hence its name.

Steven Heritage, a research scientist at the Duke University Lemur Center in Durham, US, and a member of the expedition to the Horn of Africa in 2019, said he was thrilled to put the species “back on the radar”.

He told the BBC: …”We did not know which species occurred in Djibouti and when we saw the diagnostic feature of a little tufted tail, we looked at each other and we knew that it was something special.”

The scientists had heard reports of sightings in Djibouti, and Houssein Rayaleh, a Djiboutian research ecologist and conservationist who joined the trip, believed he had seen the animal before.

He said while people living in Djibouti never considered the sengis to be “lost” [seems like a case of ‘only Europeans discover things’ like Columbus and the Americas], the new research brings the Somali sengi back into the scientific community, which is valued.

For Djibouti this is an important story that highlights the great biodiversity of the country and the region and shows that there are opportunities for new science and research here,” he said.