Ruben Um Nyobé said it so well, “The colonial peoples can neither do the policy of a party, nor that of a state, nor a fortiori that of a man. Colonial peoples make their own policy which is the policy of liberation from the colonial yoke and in their struggle for this so noble objective, the colonial peoples observe and judge. They observe the government, the parties, the persons, the media, not on their ideology or their program, but only and only on their attitude towards the demands of the people of our countries.
This is the position of the U.P.C. [Union des Populations du Cameroon (Cameroon People’s Union] at the service of the people of Cameroon.”
(« Les peuples coloniaux ne peuvent faire ni la politique d’un parti, ni celle d’un Etat ni à plus forte raison celle d’un homme. Les peuples coloniaux font leur propre politique qui est la politique de libération du joug colonial et dans leur lutte pour cet objectif si noble, les peuples coloniaux observent et jugent. Ils observent les gouvernements, les partis, les personnages, les organes de presse, non sur leur idéologie our leur programme, mais seulement et seulement sur leur attitude à l’égard des revendications des populations de nos pays.
Voilà la position de l’U.P.C. au service du peuple camerounais. »)
As you can see, his answer does not just apply to Cameroon, or Africa, but to the entire world. The real government should be of the people by the people, for the people, and no person should stand against the will of the people or muffle its will, or sit on top of the people.
Every September 12, we like to celebrate the life of Amilcar Cabral, the father of Cape Verdean and Guinea Bissau’s independence. As you all know, Cabral fought for the independence of his land, of his people, from the imperial Portuguese domination. He also talked a lot about understanding the link between national liberation and culture. The extract below is part of a speech originally delivered on February 20, 1970, as part of the Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, under the auspices of The Program of Eastern African Studies. It was translated from the French by Maureen Webster. Enjoy!
A people who free themselves from foreign domination will be free culturally only if, without complexes and without underestimating the importance of positive accretions from the oppressor and other cultures, they return to the upward paths of their own culture, which is nourished by the living reality of its environment, and which negates both harmful influences and any kind of subjection to foreign culture. Thus, it may be seen that if imperialist domination has the vital need to practice cultural oppression, national liberation is necessarily an act of culture.
On the basis of what has just been said, we may consider the national liberation movement as the organized political expression of the culture of the people who are undertaking the struggle. For this reason, those who lead the movement must have a clear idea of the value of the culture in the framework of the struggle and must have a thorough knowledge of the people’s culture, whatever may be their level of economic development.
… The experience of colonial domination shows that, in the effort to perpetuate exploitation, the colonizers not only creates a system to repress the cultural life of the colonized people; he also provokes and develops the cultural alienation of a part of the population, either by so-called assimilation of indigenous people, or by creating a social gap between the indigenous elites and the popular masses. As a result of this process of dividing or of deepening the divisions in the society, it happens that a considerable part of the population, notably the urban or peasant petite bourgeoisie, assimilates the colonizer’s mentality, considers itself culturally superior to its own people and ignores or looks down upon their cultural values. This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated or alienated group with direct implications for the behaviour of individuals in this group in relation to the liberation movement. A reconversion of minds–of mental set–is thus indispensable to the true integration of people into the liberation movement.Such reconversion–re-Africanization, in our case–may take place before the struggle, but it is completed only during the course of the struggle, through daily contact with the popularmasses in the communion of sacrifice required by the struggle.
As we continue to learn more about Lucy, and the origin of mankind, I thought of sharing the video below. It is a short interview of Donald Johanson who found Lucy in 1974 in the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia. It is “In Conversation with Donald Johanson, a film by Pierangelo Pirak” on the BBC Earth. It is just a snippets, but it helps to perceive the change that occurred with the discovery of Lucy in our understanding of the human evolution and origin. There are definitely other documentaries, much longer that will give more information, but this is to wet your appetite. Since the discovery of Lucy, more Australopithecus afarensis have been found, and even older remains like those of the Kenyantropus platyops (3.5 million years) or the Ardipithecus (dated 4.4 million years). Enjoy!
This week more history has been made for Africa at the Olympics. Records have been broken and Africans have responded present with strength.
Tunisia, with Ahmed Hafnaouioffered the African continent its first medal of the games, by winning gold in the 400m freestyle swimming. Then, Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won silver in the Men’s 58kg Taekwondo.
Burkina Faso got its first ever medal since the creation of the Olympic games. Hugues Fabrice Zango won the bronze medal in the Men’s triplejump. It was really good to watch him, and I am proud for this son of the land of Thomas Sankara. Moreover, he won his medal, Burkina Faso’s medal on the 61st anniversary of the country’s independence (as you know most Francophone countries are not really independent from France because of the FCFA, but this is a story for another day).
NamibiaChristine Mboma came back from behind to win silver in the Women’s 200m in front of some of the world’s best. Now remember that Christine Mboma and her compatriot Beatrice Masilingi were barred from running their favorite distance, 400m, just a month ago, and had to all of sudden readjust to run 200m. They were declared ineligible for the longer race because of a genetic condition that raises their testosterone levels. South African Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion in the 800m (2016 and 2012), is the most famous DSD (difference in sexual development) athlete who has been stopped from running in Tokyo. All three 800m medallists at the 2016 Rio Olympics – Semenya, Burundi’s silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba and Kenyan bronze winner Margaret Wambui – were DSD athletes… I am not sure I understand the whole issue, because for me, I wonder how one can be born female and then one day some organization tells them that they are not female. I find it hard to fathom. So let’s see what will happen. Mboma is the first Namibian female to win an olympic medal… she is following in the tracks of the great Namibian athlete Frankie Fredericks (Frankie Fredericks: Sprinting to the Finish for Namibia).
Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria won Silver in the Women’s freestyle 68kg. Ese Brume did not disappoint and won Nigeria’s first medal of the Tokyo Olympic Games, taking bronze in the women’s long jump.
Ethiopia Selemon Barega gave Ethiopia its first Men’s 10,000m gold since Kenenisa Bekele in 2008. Lamecha Girma won silver in the Men’s 3000m steeplechase. Gudaf Tsegay won bronze in the Women’s 5000m race, while Letesenbet Gidey won the bronze medal in Women’s 10000m.
Uganda Joshua Cheptegei, the World champion and world record holder, ran a controlled race to take the men’s 5000m gold; last week, he had also won silver in the Men’s 10,000m. Jacob Kiplimo won the bronze medal in the Men’s 10,000m race. Peruth Chemutai became the first Ugandan woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal on Wednesday – triumphing in the Women’s 3,000m steeplechase.
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, who had been training with legends like marathon world record holderEliud Kipchogethwarted World champion’s Sifan Hassan’s plans of winning a distance treble in Tokyo by retaining the women’s 1500m title by pulling ahead after the bell and winning gold. Her compatriot Peres Jepchirchir won the women’s marathon, defeating world record holder Brigid Kosgei in the closing stages and winning in 2h27min20s, and Kosgei had to settle for silver. Hellen Obiritook home silver in Women’s 5,000m, while Hyvin Kiyeng won bronze in Women’s3000m steeplechase. The men’s 800m gold went to Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir of Kenya, and his teammate Ferguson Rotich took silver. Timothy Cheruiyot took silver in the Men’s 1500m, while Compatriot Benjamin Kiven took bronze in the men’s 3000m steeplechase. Eliud Kipchoge successfully defended his olympic title at the marathon; he is only the 3rd person in the history of the games to win successive marathons.
South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker won gold, and broke the Women’s 200m world record for breaststroke on Friday. This earned her a call from the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, to congratulate her on her victory. Schoenmaker had previously won silver in the Women’s 100m breastrokes, while Bianca Buitendag took silver in surfing,
Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali triumphed in the Olympic Men’s 3,000m steeplechase – ending Kenya’s 41-year unbeaten run on the distance.
Egypt’s Giana Farouk (Lotfy) won bronze in the Women’s kumite karate. Seif Eissa, Hedaya Malak, and Mohammed Elsayed Elsayed all won bronze medals in the Men’s 80kg taekwondo, Women’s 67kg taekwondo and Men’s 67kg Greco-Roman wrestling respectively.
Ruth Gbagbiof Cote d’Ivoire won bronze in the Women’s 67kg Taekwondo. She had won Bronze also in Rio 2016. Ghana also took home bronze in the Men’s Feather (52-57kg) boxing with Samuel Takyi.
Lastly, Team Botswana (Isaac Makwala, Baboloki Thebe, Zibane Ngozi, Bayapo Ndori) surprised everyone by giving a beautiful performance and winning the bronze amidst some of the world’s bests in the Men’s 4x400m relay.
Overall, it was a good game… As we turn the page of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics which took place in 2021, we do hope that the Paris 2024 Olympics will be better for Africa, and that the world will be in a better place.
There has been so much loss this year that I thought to introduce you to the “Bangou Requiem,” a poem written by the Cameroonian poet and author Etienne Noumé. Bangou (pronounce Ban-gu in English) is a town in the Western province of Cameroon, and is part of the Bamiléké grassfields. Noumé’s description of his loss is so profound, and uses typical Bamileke imagery, “My body is numb… the palms have dried under the moonlight“, “My sun went down“, my joy, my everything, “…blown away by the wind.” It is hard to lose someone dear, especially one’s child. In Bamileke culture, the parent is supposed to bury his child and not the contrary, so you can imagine the heart wrenching pain… that numbs you. “The palms have dried under the moonlight“… think about it for a minute: … can a palm dry under the moonlight?… this is Bamileke imagery for you. “My reddened pot burst” my hope blown away in an instant, without any notice, the impossible has happened. This here is a Bangou Requiem, “Chant Funebre Bangou” by Etienne Noumé, first published in Angoisse quotidienne, Le Flambeau, Yaoundé, re-published in Anthologie Africaine: Poésie Vol2, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, 1988, and translated to English by Dr. Y.Afrolegends.com . Enjoy!
Africa is well-represented at the Tokyo olympics this year. Even though it has only been 5 days, Africans have already won quite a few medals, starting with a gold metal from the Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui in 400m freestyle swimming, and silver medals for South Africans Tatjana Schoenmaker and Bianca Buitendag in 100m breastrokes and surfing, and Mohamed Jendoubi of Tunisia in Taekwondo; while Ruth Gbagbi of Ivory Coast, Hedaya Wahba and Seif Eissa both of Egypt all took bronze in Taekwondo.
This year, five new events have been added: surfing (not sure how many countries play this sport to be at the Olympics?), sport climbing (what sort of climbing is this? I have climbed so many trees I should be an olympian), baseball/softball (how many countries actually have teams for these, except those influenced by the US?), skateboarding (Olympics sport?) and Karate (It’s about time – always wondered why this global discipline was not part of the Olympics anyways).
There are quite a lot African athletes participating at the 2021 Tokyo 2020 olympics. Below are a few to keep an eye out on :
Nigeria: the anticipated long jumper and runner Blessing Okagbare, and Ese Brume
Seychelles: Rodney Govinden in sailing (second participation for the Seychelles)
South Africa: the super star swimmer Chad Le Clos (2012 gold, 2 silvers in 2016), Akani Simbane in running, Caitlin Rooskrantz in gymnastics (first participation of South Africa), Tatjana Schoenmaker (swimming) and Bianca Buitendag (surfing), Erin Sterkenburg (surfing), Boipelo Awuah (skateboarding – she is the youngest African athlete at the Olympics this year)
Tunisia: Ons Jabeaur in Tennis, Ines Boubakri (2016 Rio bronze medal) in fencing, this year’s gold winner in 100m freestyle Ahmed Hafnaoui, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics gold medalist Oussama Mellouli (long-distance swimmer), Mohamed Jendoubi
Uganda: Runners Jacob Kiplimo and Joshua Cheptegei
As we have seen previously, during colonization, in Africa, African cities were segregated (European-Only Neighborhoods in African Cities before Independence); Europeans did not see Africans as equals and very often Africans were thrown into forced labor or subject to harsh treatments at the hand of the colonizers. Yet, when World wars I or II came in, suddenly Africans were sought to go fight in Europeans’ wars. As we saw again, upon their return, these men found that the conditions back home with the Europeans had not changed (Thiaroye: A French Massacre in Senegal, ‘Thiaroye Massacre’ by Ousmane Sembene); whereas during the war they were needed and on the battlefield they were seen as equal or rather as worthy of dying alongside Europeans or as cannon fodder, at home they were not even granted simple rights. One man, the great Pastor John Chilembwe of Nyasaland (modern-day Malawi), an early figure to the resistance against colonialism and a Malawian martyr stated at the end of 1914,
“…In times of peace, everything for Europeans only…But in time of war [we] are needed to share hardships and shed blood in equality…”
“We understand that we havebeen invited to shed our innocent blood in this world’s war….[But] will there be any good prospects for the natives after…the war?” …. “We are imposed upon more than any other nationality under the sun.”
As you know, these wars did not only take place in Europe, but even in Africa where British were fighting Germans, etc, and once again Africans were recruited. Pastor Chilembwe opposed the recruitment of the Nyasan people to fight what he considered to be a war totally unconnected to them in neighboring Tanganyika (modern-day Tanzania) and beyond. In November 1914, following reports of large loss of life during fighting at Karonga, Chilembwe wrote a letter to The Nyasaland Times in Blantyre, explicitly appealing to the colonial authorities not to recruit black troops:
“As I hear that, war has broken out between you and other nations, only whitemen, I request, therefore, not to recruit more of my countrymen, my brothers who do not know the cause of your fight, who indeed, have nothing to do with it … It is better to recruit white planters, traders, missionaries and other white settlers in the country, who are, indeed, of much value and who also know the cause of this war and have something to do with it … “
I still don’t understand how a people can hold onto another people’s ancestors’ skulls, refuse to return it, and talk of partnership, friendship, among the people. Isn’t it ludicrous? Many of our ancestors’ skulls are still in museums in Europe, and to this date, Europeans refuse to return them, yet they talk of partnership. The information below shows all the obstacles met to find King Mkwawa’s skull, a skull which was included in the Treaty of Versailles, and return it, … As you read about all the hurdles, you wonder how hard it will be for the regular commoners. The excerpts below are from the article written by Dr. J. Desplat at the National Archives. For the full article, please go to the The National Archives, and see some of the correspondence quoted here, as well as the ones mentioning that the skull was said to have magical powers..
“ARTICLE 246. Within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, … Germany will hand over to His Britannic Majesty’s Government the skull of the Sultan Mkwawa which was removed from the Protectorate of German East Africa and taken to Germany.”
King Mkwawa was the king of the Uhehe tribe in German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania), and was opposed to German rule. In 1895, he declared that ‘rather than submit to German rule he would fight them to the utmost limit, and rather than surrender he would die by his own gun’.
In 1898, a bounty was placed on his head, which led to a manhunt. On 19 July, Sergeant Major Merkl and his party closed in on Mkwawa. Merkl reported that they heard a shot and hurried towards the camp, where they found ‘two natives lying down by the camp fire’. One of them was identified as Mkwawa himself. Merkl wrote: ‘I thought they were asleep, halted at about thirty yards and then fired. The bodies did not move. On reaching the spot, we found both men dead and cold (…). I ordered my askari to cut off Mkwawa’s head to take along to camp.’ (CO 822/770) …
[It took almost 40 years after the Treaty of Versailles to find the skull] … The [British] government of Tanganyika wasn’t too bothered. ‘This government does not now attach much importance to the question of Mkwawa’s skull’, they wrote, … The head mentioned was highly unlikely to be the right one as, by all accounts, it had been skeletonised rather than embalmed, but the German Foreign Ministry was asked to investigate again… The British embassy in Berlin commented: ‘it is of course possible that the German Government have made no very serious effort either to find out what truth there is in the story or to trace the skull.’ (CO 691/124/2)
… In January 1953, however, the German Foreign Ministry suddenly announced the skull might be among the large collection of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Bremen. As several skulls seemed to fit the description, they asked whether the skull had any marks by which it could be identified.
Twining [the Governor of Tanganyika, Sir Edward Twining] reported from Tanganyika that ‘nobody could be found still alive who remembered the Sultan’ (and if people had still been alive, they might have found it difficult to identify Mkwawa by simply looking at his skull anyway!) but Mkwawa’s cephalic index could be compared to that of his grandson Chief Adam Sapi, an apparently unusual 71%.
In June, Twining himself travelled to Bremen to identify the skull. Accompanied by the consul and the vice-consul, he went to the Museum.
‘They went to a storeroom where there was a large cupboard full of skulls, and it was arranged for those which had originated in German East Africa to be put together on a table and for their cephalic indexes to be measured. There were two in the 71 group which were selected, and one of these had a hole where a bullet had entered towards the back of the head and come out in front.’ (CO 822/566)
Twining had this skull examined by a German police surgeon who confirmed the hole was consistent with a 25mm rifle of the typed used by German troops in East Africa. Besides, Twining explained, ‘the skull was bleached, which probably happened when they boiled the meat off it’ – someone at the Colonial Office noted in the margin: ‘Ugh!’
[On the return trip], Twining’s irritation might actually have been due to the skull itself which ‘continued to behave very badly’[it was reportedly said to have magical powers]. He reported: ‘We had a series of mishaps which cannot otherwise be accounted for. Our poor old Bandmaster, Gulab Singh, died on the train. My A.D.C. collected a sinus and had to go to hospital. The head boy had a soda water bottle burst in his face, and the cook was struck in the face by a flying saucer. We all got hay fever and we all got very irritable!’ (CO 822/770)
It is hard to keep up with the news, but this is one that we should celebrate. The Franco-Senegalese author David Diop won the International Booker Prize 2021 for his book, “At Night All Blood is Black“. I know, it is hard to keep up with all the different prizes, Man Booker Prize, International Booker Prize, and countless others. This one is nonetheless important because first of all, David Diop is the first African to win the prestigious prize, but also because his book “At Night All Blood is Black” talks about all those African soldiers who helped to free France, and yet were never recognized, and instead were insulted, laughed at and more. The book, originally published in French in 2018 under the title “Frères d’âme” or Soul Brothers, weaves the history of World War I with the history of colonialism. The novel describes the experiences of Senegalese Tirailleurs fighting for France in the trenches. The main character, Alfa Ndiaye, descends into madness following the death of his childhood friend Mademba Diop who had also been recruited as a tirailleur, and inflicts extreme brutality upon his German enemies. Diop was inspired to write the book by his French great-grandfather’s service during the war. Diop stated “He never said anything to his wife, or to my mother, about his experience. That is why I was always very interested by all the tales and accounts which gave one access to a form of intimacy with that particular war.”
As a side note, “tirailleur” was the name given by the French Army to indigenous infantry recruited in the various French colonies. They were not all Senegalese, even though the name always said “tirailleur senegalais,” but rather came from all over Africa. They served for France in a number of wars, including World War I, World War II, and several others. The name “Tirailleur” is a link of two words “tir ailleurs” to laugh and denigrate the indigenous troops by saying that the soldiers were not capable to shoot on target, more like to mean “shoot off target”; it could be translated as skirmisher.
Last Thursday, the first president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, changed dimensional plane to join his ancestors. At 97 years old, he was one of Africa’s last surviving liberation leaders. To a generation of Africans, and to many of us, Kenneth Kaunda epitomized the African struggle for independence.
Born into a family of 8 children in Lubwa in the north of then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Kaunda was the last born of parents who immigrated from Nyasaland (Malawi). He trained as a teacher, then became involved in politics, first as secretary of the local young men’s farming association and later as a founding member of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress in 1949. In 1955, both him and Harry Nkumbula, party president were imprisoned for 2 months. Later Kaunda broke away from the ANC, to found his own party, the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) in October 1958 which was short-lived. In March 1959, the ZANC was banned and Kaunda was sentenced to 9 months‘ imprisonment, which he spent first in Lusaka, then in Salisbury When he was freed from prison in 1960, he joined the principal nationalist party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), which campaigned and fought against British colonial rule. He was influenced by Martin Luther King Jr. and Kwame Nkrumah, both of whom he met on different occasions. On 24 October 1964 he became the first president of an independent Zambia.
Kaunda started with the great advantage of leading an African state with a stronger economic base than any of its neighbors but there was a shortage of native Zambians who had the skills and training to run the country [similar to so many African colonies… the Europeans were there to pillage and exploit the resources of the countries, and not build their local forces!]. The policy of sanctions imposed by the British government on the breakaway country proved at least as damaging to the Zambian economy (similar to what they did to Zimbabwe under Mugabe– Is Zimbabwe the New Haiti?) over the years, probably as punishment for his support for the liberation of his neighbors.
Affectionately known as KK, or Mzee, Kaunda worked tirelessly towards to the freedom of the whole of Southern Africa from white rule; he supported the fight of other countries against repressive, racist regimes in South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Southern Rhodesia (Why the name: Zimbabwe?). It took several years, but his support never faltered.
As a testimony, President Hage Geingob of Namibia said in a statement “Africa lost“a giant of a man. …Kenneth Kaunda was a generous, affable, and a resolute leader who freed our region from colonialism.”
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa described Kaunda as a “rightfully revered father of African independence and unity… Under his leadership, Zambia provided refuge, care and support to liberation fighters who had been forced to flee the countries of their birth.” “He stood alongside the people of South Africa at the time of our greatest need and was unwavering in his desire for the achievement of our freedom. We will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude,” Ramaphosa added.
“For our founding father, it was not enough for his country Zambia to be liberated when the region and the African continent remained bonded in the shackles of colonialism and apartheid,” current Zambian President Edgar Lungu told mourners at Kaunda’s house in Lusaka … “[Kaunda] soldiered on to seek freedom for humanity.”
Please enjoy articles on the Al-Jazeera and the very good article by the Global Times [With love and respect, Chinese people cherish memory of Zambia’s Kaunda, ‘an old and good friend’]. Please watch the video I posted a few years ago on the great Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president.