Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s Last Interview

Here is Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s last interview. She goes over parts of her life, the apartheid era, the transition, and the difference between political vs economical power. She also talks about the current leadership, and the need for a re-evaluation of the ANC, and the need for a new vision. A note: the leadership of Ghana had a delegation there with EFF leader Julius Malema to send their last goodbyes to Mama Winnie. Also the light has been shed on the truth about the fact that Winnie never killed Stompi! Enjoy!

A few words on Joyce Banda’s Exit

President Joyce Banda
President Joyce Banda

I have to say a few things about the latest presidential elections in Malawi.  Mrs. Joyce Banda lost the presidential elections in Malawi, coming out a distant third in the elections.  She had become interim president of Malawi after her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika died in office in 2012Peter Mutharika, a former foreign minister and brother of the predecessor, won with 36.4% of the vote, Lazarus Chakwera came 2nd with 27.8%, while Mrs Banda came third with 20.2%.  Peter Mutharika was sworn into office on Saturday.  Mrs. Banda had denounced serious irregularities, and wanted the whole election to be annulled; the high court rejected her request to block the release of results.  Mrs. Banda then issued a statement congratulating Mr. Mutharika on his “victory in a closely contested election” and said she was “leaving office a happy person.”  We are all happy that Mrs. Banda is conceading victory, even though we are not quite sure how 36.4% vs. 20.2% can be called a “closely contested election.”  She leaving office “peacefully” is to be saluted.

President Banda of Malawi kneeling to President Kikwete of Tanzania?
President Banda of Malawi kneeling to President Kikwete of Tanzania?

However, Mrs Banda lost my respect the day I saw a picture of her kneeling in front of President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania: she claimed that she was a custodian of Malawian culture which made Malawian women kneel down when greeting men as sign of respect.  That was the day, she went down in history for me: how can the president of a country kneel in front of other presidents? Are they not equal? Is she saying her country is kneeling to all the others? Did she forget that Malawi’s population also comprises men, who, following her logic, should not be made to kneel to greet other men?  Mrs Banda was named 71st most powerful woman on earth by Forbes magazine in 2012, and 47th in 2013!  Even Mr. Kikwete could not boast such a ranking.  Just because Malawi is small does not mean that its head-of-state should bow to neighboring countries’ presidents.  Did she see Angela Merkel of Germany or Cristina Fernandez of Argentina kneel down to anybody?  If not, men should be kneeling down at Angela’s feet as she is the strongest leader in the euro-zone.

Mrs Banda on the floor
Mrs Banda on the floor

I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt, and listen to those who said the picture had been ‘photoshopped’.  That was until I saw other images of Mrs. Banda carrying buckets of water on her head, trying to “help” village women with their tasks of fetching water.  Why not provide free water so that these women will never have to carry buckets of water on their heads again? Another image was of Mrs Banda seating on a floor mat in the dust at a village gathering, while her security guards (all men) were seating in chairs around her in three-piece suits.  What in the world was that? Was that the position of the African woman? Was that “humility”?  Somehow, I never heard of Queen Nzingha, or Ranavalona I, or Queen Amina, or Amanishakheto kneeling down to anybody.  In fact, Queen Nzingha had one of her servant form a human bench so that she could sit in a position of equality with the Portuguese governor of Luanda (who had refused her a chair).  So who was Mrs. Banda mimicking then?

President Banda carrying a bucket of water
President Banda carrying a bucket of water

As head-of-state, one should represent the nation, not seat in the dust and claim “humility”, or “closeness” to the people.  The job requirement for president is not gender-specific: the job is not for a woman or a man, but for a leader.  Once a leader, nobody cares how “humble” you are, but people care about you providing good healthcare, electricity, water, the minimum to lead a decent life, and negotiating at the table of nations in their best interest.  Whoever is head-of-state, male or female, represents the sovereignty of the people of the country.  I heard people saying “she is a quality African woman, well-trained by her culture.” Goodness gracious: she can stay a quality African woman in her house, but not as head-of-state, as she represents ALL the people of Malawi, not just women.

In all fairness, higher pressures are put on women when they become presidents.  They are singled out, and their mistakes overblown… but as presidents, they should represent their ENTIRE constituency, and serve ALL fairly… not fetch water on their heads, or kneel down to greet men, or sit in the dust.  This was (and still is) her time to teach, educate, and elevate women in the Malawian society.  The time is for thinkers, and leaders, not paraders!

Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer, the Embodiment of Algerian Resistance against French Colonization

Lalla Fadhma N'Soumer (19th century)
Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer (19th century)

Today’s post will be dedicated to a great resistant and leader of Africa, the great Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer (also known as Lalla Fatma N’Soumer), an important figure of resistance against French invasion in Algeria.  Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer has been seen as the embodiment of the Algerian struggle.  The war of colonization in Algeria was one of the most brutal and repressive in Africa; it is said that Algeria lost 1/3 of its population between 1830 and 1872.  The war was quite atrocious, and very often we are told of the courage and charisma of leaders such as the emir Abdel Kader, but often in history books, the names of heroines like Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer are forgotten or simply erased.

Fadhma N'Soumer
Fadhma N’Soumer

Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer was born in Werja, a village near Ain El Hammam in 1830, the year French occupation started in Algeria.  She was from KabylieLalla, the female equivalent of sidi, is an honorific reserved for women of high rank, or who are venerated as saints.  Her real name was Fadhma Nat Si Hmed.  The title, N’Soumer, was given to her because of her piety and strength and because she lived in the village of Soumer.  Fadhma was the daughter of cheikh Ali Ben Aissi, who headed a Qur’anic school, which was linked with the Zawyia Rahmaniya of Sidi Mohamed Ibn Abderrahmane Abu Qabrein.  Young Fadhma was extremely gifted, and memorized the Qur’an simply by listening to her father’s disciples when they chanted the various surats.  After her father’s death, Fadhma directed the Qur’anic school with her brother Si Mohand Tayeb.  She took special care of the children and the poor.  She was known for her great piety, notable wisdom, piercing intelligence, and had an excellent reputation throughout the Kabylie region.

Battle of Somah in 1836 (by Horace Vernet)
Battle of Somah in 1836 (by Horace Vernet)

Fadhma was only 16 when the French occupied Kabylie.  In 1847, she joined the resistance leaders of the region: Si Mohamed El-Hachemi and Mohamed El Amdjed Ibn Abdelmalek (nicknamed Bou-Baghla).  Bou-Baghla was probably an ex-lieutenant in the army of Emir Abdelkader, defeated for the last time by the French in 1847.  Refusing to surrender, Bou Baghla retreated to Kabylie.  From there, he began a war against the French armies and their allies, often employing guerilla tactics.  He was a relentless fighter, very eloquent, and very religious.  Fadhma and Bou-Baghla were kindred spirits fighting for the freedom of their people.  After Bou-Baghla’s death in 1854, Fadhma was given command of combat by the great council of combatants and important figures of the Kabylie’s tribes.

She led a strong resistance against Marshal Jacques Louis Randon’s 13,000-strong French army.  She gave them a lesson of courage, and determination.  Armed with an unshakable faith, Fadhma threw herself in bloody battles to push back the enemy.  During the battle of Tachekkirt, led by Bou-Baghla at the time, Randon was captured, but managed to escape later.  During the famous battle of Oued Sebaou, Fadhma was only 24 years old, and headed an army of men and women; she took control, and led her people to victory, a victory heralded throughouth Kabylie. The mosques, zawiyas, and Qur’anic schools sang praises in honor of the heroine of the Djurdjura.

Lalla Fadhma N'Soumer during battle
Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer during battle (in reality, it is said that she never used weapons)

Not willing to accept defeat, Randon asked for reinforcements, with his forces reaching 35,000 men.  He asked the people of Azazga to help him reach Fadhma N’Soumer’s quarters, to end “her legend, and misdeeds.”  The response to his emissary was “Go to the one who sent you, and tell him our ears cannot hear the language of him who asks us to betray.”  Such was the loyalty and respect of the people for Fadhma.  In response, Randon promised the people of Azazga constant exposure to his cannons.  One can only imagine the brutality of the French against the Azazga people, which were later defeated.  Fadhma did not give up, and mobilized her people to “fight for Islam, the land, and liberty. They are our constant, and they are sacred. They can neither be the object of concessions nor haggling.”  Her strong personality and inspirational speeches had a strong influence in all of Kabylie, as shown by the sacrifice and determination of the people during all the battles, especially those of Icherridene and Tachkrit,where the enemy troops were greatly defeated.  The latter took place on July 18 – 19, 1854, and resulted in a heavy death toll (over 800 dead) for the French troops.

Monument celebrating Lalla Fadhma N'Soumer, in Algiers
Monument celebrating Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer, in Algiers

Defeated, Randon finally asked for a ceasefire, which Fadhma N’Soumer agreed to.  She was planning to use the ceasefire period to improve her organization and reinforce her troops.  Fields were plowed and sowed, and arms factories were installed in all corners of the region.  However, just like with Samori Toure, or Behanzin, the French did not respect the ceasefire.  In 1857, after only three years, they broke their word (as always) and launched offensives in all large cities which had been hard to overtake until then.  History will record that the French were always people of no word during the colonization (and even today); they used every sneaky technique they could find to eliminate others… and even with all their ‘superior’ gunpower, and manpower, they could not have won against our great African leaders without using treachery, and treason.

Poem dedicated to Lalla Fadhma N'Soumer (from Poésies populaires de la Kabylie du Jurjura, Paris 1867)
Poem dedicated to Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer (from Poésies populaires de la Kabylie du Jurjura, Paris 1867)

Fadhma N’Soumer, whose influence motivated the freedom fighters, appealed to the people for a last and supreme effort. Surrounded by women of the region, Lalla Fadhma directed the fight and encouraged remaining volunteers.  However, they lost the battle, and Fadhma was arrested on 27 July 1857, in the village of Takhlijt Ath Atsou, near Tirourda.  The French soldiers destroyed her rich library, which contained a rich source of scientific and religious works from the region.  They also spent her fortune, which had been used toward caring for the disciples of her father’s zawiya.  Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer died in 1863, from the hardship of incarceration in Béni Slimane, from the news of her brother’s passing, and the frustration from her inability to act against French aggression on her people.  She was only 33 years old.  The enemy (the French) nicknamed her, the Joan of Ark of the Djurdjura, a comparison that the religious Fadhma never accepted.

To read more about French invasion of Algeria, check out Mediapart.  Watch the video below to learn more about Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer (It has 5 parts, and is very instructive).  Whenever you think of resistance in Africa, please do remember Lalla Fadhma N’Soumer who by her courage, piety, strength, and charisma was able to defeat the mighty French army, and capture a French marshal/general.  Remember that there was a woman who held a rich library of scientific and religious works which was destroyed by the French army (it must have been full of treasures for them to destroy).  Remember that this woman served the people, and love them dearly to sacrifice her life for their freedom.  Remember, yes, that a woman led men and women to battles, and actually won!

Africa’s Second Female Head of State: Meet Joyce Banda of Malawi

Malawi
Malawi
President Joyce Banda
President Joyce Banda

Malawi has a new president: it is her excellency Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda. The passing of president Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi was announced last Saturday. As written in the constitution, the vice president stepped in as head of state. On Saturday, April 7th 2012, Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president, and Africa’s second female head of state after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. Immediately after being invested, Banda called on the nation to mourn Mutharika with dignity and she thanked Malawians for staying calm during the power transition period. She said she was accepting the presidency with total humility and that she would strive to serve the nation earnestly.

President Bingu wa Mutharika
President Bingu wa Mutharika

Joyce Banda is stepping into the shoes of Bingu wa Mutharika who had recently been disavowed by the ‘international community’, and Malawi was put under embargo from UK, US, and EU. I wonder which way she will go: restore and do the good will of the international community, or try to restore Malawians’s rights to happiness (could the two be linked?)… Tough choice isn’t it? Only time will tell which way the balance will tip!

Madam President wins the Nobel Peace Prize

Nobel Peace Prize winners (L to R): Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman
Nobel Peace Prize winners (L to R): Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman (source: BBC)

Wow… such was my surprise and joy when I woke up this morning to find out that Madam President, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had won the Nobel peace prize this year with another fellow Liberian lady Leymah Gbowee, and a lady from Yemen Tawakkul Karman.  I just thought that you would want to re-read the post I wrote almost two years ago on this proud African Iron Lady, and watch the video on her first 52 weeks in power.  Enjoy!!! (Just a spin: why is it that for women they had to put all three of them together? couldn’t the Nobel committee have acknowledged Madam president this year, and then the other two next year? or Madam president and the fellow Liberian lady this year, and the other one next year? So sad that when it comes to women, the world, even the Nobel committee is still sexist!)

Madam President: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Iron Lady
Iron Lady: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

There is a say which often goes as such: “When things are so bad that they are irreparable, men leave the power to women or minorities!” (Just look at the USA!) Well… that’s what they will definitely say about Liberia, a country which had been in war for so many years and decades, that the system was so broken down, the country was a mess, no government, no law, no nothing!

Mme President
President of Liberia: Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

And then was elected Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf! The first African female head of state! We even beat the USA, we got our woman in power! Yes… here comes the Iron lady of Africa. Few words will express what the inauguration of Mrs Sirleaf meant to me, and thousands of other girls and women across the continent. Truth be told, very few of us ever thought possible the day a woman would be president on our continent. Very few of us thought possible an actual country ruled by a woman, in Africa….! When I was young, I had read about Nzingha the queen of Angola, Hatshepsut the She-pharaoh of Egypt, Beatrice of Congo, Empress Zewditu of Ethiopia… to name just a few; but these emblematic African female leaders seemed so far removed from me, buried in the sands of the past, that as a young African woman my dreams to see a charismatic woman leader in the modern era seemed to be just that… a dream (I still wanted my dream to become a reality)!

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Don't mess with my president!

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is an achieved economist who served as minister of finance of Liberia in the late 70’s. She once supported Charles Taylor against the bloody government of Samuel Doe… but later on criticized him once she realized he was perpetrating bloody crimes in Liberia as well. After Samuel Doe’s coup in 1980, she went into exile in Kenya where she worked for Citibank as director. She returned to Liberia to run against Doe, but was sentenced to 10 years in jail, and was again forced into exile. She later repeated the scenario in 1997 when she ran against Charles Taylor, but lost. She finally won the elections in 2005 to be the first elected female head of state of Liberia, and Africa. Hers is a story of perseverance, endurance, determination, courage, hard work, and above all love for her country. What brought her back so many times to Liberia? Lord only knows! What made her want to challenge Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, etc…? The good Lord only knows! One thing is sure, this is definitely an Iron Lady!

Liberia
Liberia

The video you will see below is a documentary on her first year in power entitled Madam President! It highlights her struggles and victories. How do you re-build a country where there are no institutions? where there are children soldiers? where there is no law? and where a claim to land means nothing after years of war! How do you do that? Well… watch Madam president! surround yourself with the best minds, and some strong women as well! I tell you… Watch and raise your hat to Mrs. President! Yeah… that’s right! Our very first woman president!

To find out more, check out Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Wikipedia, read her book “This Child Will Be Great“. Laura Bush wrote a piece on her in Time Magazine after she and Condoleezza Rice attended Sirleaf’s inauguration. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 by president Bush. Check out Follow the Leader to learn more about the people who made the documentary, and this article by BBC.


Madame La Présidente

Check out the rest: Madam president Part 2 and Madam president Part 3