When Benin City was Compared to Amsterdam, and much Bigger …

Benin City in 1897
Benin City in 1897

In the 15th century, a Dutch traveler visited the great Benin City, in West Africa, located in modern-day Nigeria, in Edo State. This man was visibly stunned by the beauty and the discipline of the people he met. The city he talks about, Benin City, was so much bigger than Amsterdam, the Dutch capital… and so much cleaner… As you read, please note the wealth of the Benin Kingdom, the well-ordered hierarchy, and lastly note the pride and discipline of the people of Benin City. Also note the mention of the great renowned Benin bronzed sculpting on the pillars. No wonder the British could not help but loot the city [Benin City: the Majestic City the British burnt to the ground] because greed and jealousy had the better of them. Below is his account:

=====

The town seems to be very great. When you enter into it, you go into a great broad street, not paved, which seems to be seven or eight times broader than the Warmoes street in Amsterdam….

Benin City around 1600
Benin City around 1600

The king’s palace is a collection of buildings which occupy as much space as the town of Harlem, and which is enclosed with walls. There are numerous apartments for the Prince’s ministers and fine galleries, most of which are as big as those on the Exchange at Amsterdam. They are supported by wooden pillars encased with copper, where their victories are depicted, and which are carefully kept very clean.

The town is composed of thirty main streets, very straight and 120 feet wide, apart from an infinity of small intersecting streets. The houses are close to one another, arranged in good order. These people are in no way inferior to the Dutch as regards cleanliness; they wash and scrub their houses so well that they are polished and shining like a looking-glass.”

Source: “How Europe under-developed Africa,” by Walter Rodney, Howard Univ. Press, 1981, p. 69

 

Proverbe sur la fausse amitié / Proverb on Fake Friendship

Mixing oil and water

L’amitié de l’huile et de l’eau; l’eau en bas, l’huile en haut (proverbe Ekonda – République Démocratique du Congo (RDC)). – Vivre unis apparemment, mais au fond on ne s’aime pas.

The Friendship between oil and water: water at the bottom, oil at the top (Ekonda proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)). – Living together apparently, but deep down we do not like each other.

“Jébalè / Jebale” by Elolongue Epanya Yondo

Douala_Wouri River_2_Djebale
Wouri river and the Djebale island seen on the other side

I share here a poem by the Cameroonian poet Elolongue Epanya Yondo about his beautiful native island of Jebale, Cameroon. Note that Elolongue Epanya is the uncle of another great Senegalese-Cameroonian poet David M. Diop known for his amazing poem “Afrique / Africa“. Jebale (Jébalè or Djebale) is an island on the Wouri River, in Douala, Cameroon. It is also one of the places whose kings signed on 15 July 1884, a treaty of protectorate with German merchants from the firm Jantzen & Thormählen, thereby agreeing to the infamous Germano – Duala Treaty signed 3 days earlier on 12 July 1884 by King Bell and others. In 1884, Jebale was then known as Jibarret.

Douala_Wouri River
View of Jebale and the Wouri river, Douala, Cameroon

As you read Yondo’s words, you can imagine the beauty of his homeland, this island, Jebale, on the Wouri river. Jebale is known as the “emerald island, flamboyant jewel” on the Wouri estuary, on the coast of Cameroon. The author cites well-known coastal rivers of Cameroon, the Bimbia creek, the Sanaga River, the  Dibamba river, the Kwa-Kwa river, and also notes other islands of the Littoral, Malimba and Suellaba. In this poem, the author anchors his words in the rich tradition of the coastal Sawa people as he cites the Miengu and the Mbeatoe, those big shrimps known as Camarões which led to the name of the country Cameroun via the Wouri RiverRio dos Camarões. For those who have visited Jebale, it is indeed an emerald island, mostly known as a small fishing village; however in the eye of Elolongue Epanya Yondo, it is his love, the one he cannot wait to come back to, from exile. Enjoy!

This poem was published in Paris on February 25th 1972, in revue Présence Africaine, numéro 84 (4e trimestre 1972), re-published in Anthologie Africaine: Poésie Vol2, Jacques Chevrier, Collection Monde Noir Poche, 1988, and translated to English by Dr. Y. Afrolegends.com .

====

Jebale by Elolongue Epanya Yondo

Jébalè’

A mon neveu David Morsamba Diop.

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Joyau flamboyant au confluent

De la gorge altière du Wouri

Je me souviens

De tes nattes verdoyantes

Fouettant en cascade

L’haleine salée du littoral

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Terre dont le souffle

Des Miengu et des Mamy-Wata

Féconde le cycle des Mbéatoè

Enigmatiques hommes d’eau

Qui sèment l’abondance

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Je cherche dans les fissures du temps

Dans la gueule écumante

de la baie du Biafra

tous les replis d’eau

qui mangèrent goutte à goutte

un chapelet d’îles

jaillies des entrailles de l’océan

comme des gerbes de nénuphars

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Je cherche dans l’écume poreuse

Les cônes bleu-gris

Dont la beauté effervescente

Arrachait des soupirs

          De lame de fond a l’océan

          Tombé en pâmoison

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Je cherche le chemin du retour

Du maquis de mon long exil

A travers l’île des buffles

Que fixait hier

La pointe multicolore de Suellaba

Je cherche sur tes flancs

Le point de repère de l’estuaire subjugué

Lançant à l’assaut de l’esprit gardien

De la crique du Bimbia

A l’île Malimba

Du Wouri coiffé de palétuviers

A la Dibamba des grandes profondeurs

De la Sanaga hydre immense

A la bouche silencieuse de la Kwa-Kwa…

Des gueules d’eau déchaînées

Et des bras de mers insaisissables

Pour pénétrer ton mystère

Consacrant ta légende des légendes

Jébalè mon île d’émeraude

Terre première de mon enfance

Dont le sel fermente ma mémoire

Je grave ton image impérissable

Sur la grève qui se moire

Au miroir d’un ballet lumineux

Du flux et du reflux

Qui propagent ton nom

Par la voix claire des clapotis.

Jebale’ 

To my nephew David Morsamba Diop.

Jebale my emerald island

Flamboyant jewel at the confluence

Of the haughty Wouri gorge

I remember

Your green braids

Whipping in cascade

The salted breath of the coast

Jebale my emerald island

Land whose breath

Of the Miengu and the Mamy-Wata

Fertilizes the cycle of the Mbeatoe

Enigmatic men of water

Who sow abundance

Jebale my emerald island

I search through the cracks of time

In the foaming mouth

Of the Biafra bay

All the folds of water

Which ate drop by drop

A rosary of islands

Sprung from the bowels of the ocean

Like sheaves of water lilies

Jebale my emerald island

I search in the porous foam

The gray-blue cones

Whose effervescent beauty

Drew out sighs

          Of groundswell from the ocean

          Fallen into a swoon

Jebale my emerald island

I am looking for the way back

From the maquis of my long exile

Through the buffalo island

That set yesterday

The multicolored tip of Suellaba point

I am looking on your sides

For the landmark of the subjugated estuary

Launching the assault of the guardian spirit

From the Bimbia creek

To the Malimba island

Of the Wouri dressed with mangroves

To the great depths of the Dibamba

To the Sanaga immense hydra

To the silent mouth of the Kwa-Kwa…

Ramps of water

And the elusive arms of the sea

To penetrate your mystery

Consecrating your legend of legends

Jebale my emerald island

First land of my childhood

Whose salt ferments my memory

I engrave your imperishable image

On the shore which shines

In the mirror of a luminous ballet

Of ebb and flow

Which spread your name

By the clear voice of the ripples.

Innovation in the Face of Adversity: Using Tech to Prevent Car Theft… with no Internet

Flag of Cameroon

Have you ever had your car stolen? Have you had to file a police report about it? or just spent days looking everywhere for it, scanning every car in the streets in hope of finding your car? Talk of sleepless nights, and endless talks with the insurance company? Now, imagine having the opportunity to track your car, and immobilize it while the thief is driving it away? Wouldn’t that be great? No more need to deal with busy police, or endless talk with insurance… Hooray to peace of mind!

Well, Zuo Bruno, a Cameroonian entrepreneur has created a car security solution just for you: his mobile application, Zoomed, enables people to track their vehicles and immobilize them if they are stolen, with or without internet. Remember that in many places in Africa, internet is a luxury, or is sketchy, … or like in the case of Zuo, the government had shutdown the internet to his province for over 90 days. His application also enables to track the car’s fuel consumption, which is very helpful if you are the owner of a fleet of vehicles, such as taxis. Enjoy this quick video, and salute the ingenuity of a brother!

Diego Maradona, The Golden One, and Africa

Diego Armando Maradona with the World Cup in 1986

As a kid growing up on the African continent, football is everything… For many it is almost a religion! Which kid has not felt or touched a football? Which one has not been in awe of a football game? My two best football players of all times are Pelé and Maradona. Now Maradona has changed dimensions. I loved Maradona because he was just pure genius, and he had insane dribbling skills. He entered the annals of history for his impressive talent and charisma, for the famous “La Mano de Dios” in 1986, and more importantly for his dribbling from the 60 m line past 5 players to score the goal which was voted “Goal of the Century” by FIFA.com voters in 2002. He possessed an amazing ability, dexterity, and passion for the game on the field. I have viewed countless footings of him as he raised the cup in 1986, just as I watched as he cried for the second place in 1990. Learning to play football meant that you had to watch the maestro, the great Maradona. I have loved every play of this man. The man was a pure genius, an explosion of talent, a force of nature… no wonder that he was nicknamed “El Pibe de Oro” (the golden boy) as a young boy. Maradona was truly a golden boyHe has inspired so many. We all loved to wear the number 10 of Maradona, but very few have been found worthy of it. Just the other day, I found a small statue effigy of Maradona on my colleague’s table… yes So long El Pibe, you have touched all our hearts forever.

Below I share the words of a few famous African players; I have added words by my other all-time player, Pelé, at the end. Cameroon played against Argentina in 1990 and defeated Maradona’s Albiceleste in the opening game, and then went on to be the first African team to advance all the way to the quaterfinals in FIFA World Cup history, so this is special.

Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast said, “RIP Diego Armando Maradona, my first ever football shirt, the man behind my love for football.”

Roger Milla, the great Cameroonian player, a contemporary of Maradona, said, “My great friend Diego Maradona … Rest In Peace LEGEND.

Diego Maradona lifting the World Cup for Argentina, 1986

We have lost a legend and an icon,” former Liberia international and 1995 Ballon d’Or winner and now president of Liberia, George Weah tweeted. He added, “… His extraordinary story as a kid who unshackled himself from the yoke of poverty and used his mastery of football to bring joy, inspired millions. May his soul rest in perpetual peace.”

Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, who like Maradona starred for Barcelona, also reserved special praise for the football icon. “Maradona will always be with us. He was the idol for a whole generation, and for future generations, for what he did in football. He was from another planet. Diego, you’re god, you’ll always be alive in our hearts,” the former Cameroon international said as quoted by AS.

The other legend, the Brazilian Pelé, had this to say, “I’ve lost a great friend and the world has lost a legend. One day, I hope we can play ball together in the sky.

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