Nelson Mandela, Madiba, Our Freedom Fighter is no Longer

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

Words cannot quite express my sadness at the loss of Africa’s greatest man, and probably one of the world’s greatest icon: Nelson Rolihlahla MandelaJust to think that this man spent 27 years in jail so that we, Black people, could have rights, could have freedom, could be free to love, live, and work, is beyond amazing!  Yes… almost 3 decades, and more, since he did not really lead a ‘true’ family life because he spent most of his time pursuing his cause for the freedom of Blacks in South Africa.  What tribute could I possibly give for a man who spent most of his life fighting so that I, a Black child, could walk free in South Africa after our land was taken by the Boer invader, and we were beaten under oppressive laws?  What could I possibly say for a man who epitomizes true leadership, statesmanship, democracy, humility, and love… love in the face of so much hateBecause, for Nelson Mandela to make it, there were those like Steve Biko or Chris Hani who were killed by the apartheid system.  I would just like to say farewell Madiba… for you, I am a proud African child… Farewell Father Mandela, for you, I can roam the streets of South Africa free… Farewell Nelson, for you, I am free… because of you, I am a proud Black child, for you I am a proud African!

Nelson Mandela raising the freedom fist
Nelson Mandela raising the freedom fist

I live you with one of his quotes:What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.  It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”  Madiba, you have truly changed my life, and that of millions around the globe!  The world is a better place because you stepped on it!  So long… Madiba!

Queen Nzingha: Great Queen of Angola

Queen Nzingha of Angola
Queen Nzingha of Angola

Today, I will be talking about another great queen of Africa: the Queen Nzingha of Angola, who defended her kingdom against the Portuguese for 40 years and defeated them.  Yes! DEFEATED THE PORTUGUESE IN THE 1600s!  See… another gap in our textbooks: anybody heard of this great queen and of her military and diplomatic genius?

Well, the great Queen Nzingha was born in Angola at the end of the 1500s, just over 100 years after the Portuguese started slavery ports across Africa.  She was born to Ndambi Kiluanji, Ngola (king) of the Mbundu and Ndongo people and his second wife Kangela, in 1582.  At her birth, a wise woman predicted that she will one day become queen, which was unheard of since there were no women rulers in those days.

In her youth, Nzingha was strongly favored by her father, who allowed her to witness as he governed his kingdom, and who carried her with him to war.  She participated in all the intense training for warriors. Nzingha grew up in a world normally suited for males.  She was educated in the fields of hunting and archery, and in diplomay and trade.  Nzingha was a true politician, and showed true military and intellectual genius.  She also had two sisters Kifunji and Mukambu, and a brother Mbandi.

Queen Nzingha sitting on the back of her servant
Queen Nzingha sitting on the back of her servant, during her audience with the Portuguese governor

Nzingha was special in the sense that she was well-educated and spoke and wrote fluent Portuguese.  As the Portuguese were setting a slave port in Luanda (present-day capital of Angola), and capturing the people for slavery, Ngola Kiluanji tried to work diplomatically with the Portuguese to keep the Mbundu people safe, but many were captured and taken into slavery.  At the death of her father in 1617, Nzingha’s brother, Mbandi, took over the throne as required by tradition.  In 1622, Nzingha went to Luanda working for Mbandi as a special emissary to negociate peace treaties with the Portuguese.  When she met with the Portuguese governor of Luanda, João Correia de Sousa, she was refused a seat.  As a mark of power, she sat on the back of one of her male servants and made him a human bench, to show the governor that she would not negociate with him from an inferior footing.  This was a woman ahead of her time, and who would not be made inferior!  There she succeeded in negociating a peace treatment.

After her return to Kabasa (the capital of the Mbundu kingdom), Mbandi committed suicide.  The Portuguese profited from this moment of weakness to attack Kabasa and burnt it to the ground.  Nzingha fleed with her people, and moved her people to the mountains where she formed an army to fight against the Portuguese.  She was named Ngola of the Mbundu people in 1624, with two of her war leaders and closest advisors being her sisters Kifunji and Mukambu.  In 1626, after the Portuguese betrayed yet another treaty, she was led to move her people further west and establish a kingdom in Matamba.  There, she organized several alliances with neighboring people such as the Imbangala people, and developed a new form of military organization known as kilombo, in which youths moved away from their families, and were raised communally in militias.  Nzingha also made alliances with the Dutch to fight the Portuguese, but to realize later that they were all the same as the Portuguese: treacherous, and only there to enslave the Mbundu people.  From 1630 to her death in 1663, Nzingha, Queen General of Matamba, launched a formidable opposition to the Portuguese regime from the rocky slopes of Matamba.  The Portuguese came to respect her for her strength, dignity, pride, shrewdness, and her intransigence.  She was their strongest enemy in Angola.  Nzingha ruled for almost 40 years in both Ndongo and Matamba.

Nzingha's Kingdom
Nzingha’s Kingdom

Nzingha died in 1663, at the age of 82. She was succeeded on the throne by her sister Mukambu (also known as Barbara).  Mukambu gave Nzingha a burial befitting of the greatest Ngolas: Nzingha was laid to rest in her leopard skins and with her bow over her shoulder and arrows in her hand.  This was the first time in history that the Mbundu people had been led by a woman, and everyone remembered Nzingha as an outstanding, impressive, female warrior, ruler and field commander.  For the Mbundu people, she is remembered for her love of her people, her strength, charisma, and her fight for their sovereignty and freedom.  No wonder, her influence was felt centuries later, when African slaves in Brazil organized themselves in Quilombo to fight their white masters and retain their freedom.

Pedras Negras mountains of Pungo Andongo
Pedras Negras mountains of Pungo Andongo (once the capital of Ndongo kingdom)

It took me 3 christmas and new year holidays to finally realize this video of Queen Nzingha de Mbande of Angola.  It took me this long not only because I only worked on it a few days of the year, but also because the time and references had to be right.  I am so glad to be able to present to you this great video which talks about another great queen of Africa, one who defended, and defeated the Portuguese for over 40 years.  See… another thing that is not written in African history books; we tend to think that our leaders were all weaklings, but we had real kings and real leaders like Samori Toure, Behanzin, Ranavalona I, Amanishakheto, Beatrice of Congo, and Nzingha who fought the foreign invaders for the freedom of their people.  Enjoy learning about Queen Nzingha of Angola. You can also read Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola by Patricia McKissack, as well as Black Women of Antiquity by Ivan van Sertima; don’t forget to check out this piece on Metropolitan Museum‘s website.

Did you know about Nzingha? How do you feel, now that you know that there was a great queen like her?

Le Discours d’Adieu du Roi Behanzin

Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin
Statue of Behanzin in Abomey, Benin

Je viens de me rendre compte que le site qui était entièrement dedié au roi Béhanzin, n’est plus actif. J’ai donc decidé de poster ici, la version francaise, l’originale du discours d’adieu du roi Behanzin. J’avais deja traduit dans son intégralité ce discours du roi Behanzin en anglais. The English version here.


« Compagnons d’infortune, derniers amis fidèles, vous savez dans quelles circonstances, lorsque les Français voulurent accaparer la terre de nos aïeux, nous avons décidé de lutter.

Nous avions alors la certitude de conduire notre armée à la victoire. Quand mes guerriers se levèrent par millier pour défendre le Danhomè et son roi, j’ai reconnu avec fierté la même bravoure que manifestaient ceux d’Agadja, de Tegbessou, de Ghézo et de Glélé. Dans toutes les batailles j’étais à leurs côtés.

Malgré la justesse de notre cause, et notre vaillance, nos troupes compactes furent décimées en un instant. Elles n’ont pu défaire les ennemis blancs dont nous louons aussi le courage et la discipline. Et déjà ma voix éplorée n’éveille plus d’écho.

An Amazon warrior ca 1890
An Amazon warrior ca 1890

Où sont maintenant les ardentes amazones qu’enflammait une sainte colère ? Où, leurs chefs indomptables : Goudémè, Yéwê, Kétungan ? Où, leurs robustes capitaines : Godogbé, Chachabloukou, Godjila ? Qui chantera leurs splendides sacrifices ? Qui dira leur générosité ?

Puisqu’ils ont scellé de leur sang le pacte de la suprême fidélité, comment accepterais-je sans eux une quelconque abdication ? Comment oserais-je me présenter devant vous, braves guerriers, si je signais le papier du Général ?

Non ! A mon destin je ne tournerai plus le dos. Je ferai face et je marcherai. Car la plus belle victoire ne se remporte pas sur une armée ennemie ou des adversaires condamnés au silence du cachot. Est vraiment victorieux, l’homme resté seul et qui continue de lutter dans son cœur. Je ne veux pas qu’aux portes du pays des morts le douanier trouve des souillures à mes pieds. Quand je vous reverrai, je veux que mon ventre s’ouvre à la joie. Maintenant advienne de moi ce qui plaira à Dieu ! Qui suis-je pour que ma disparition soit une lacune sur la terre ?

Partez vous aussi, derniers compagnons vivants. Rejoignez Abomey où les nouveaux maîtres promettent une douce alliance, la vie sauve et, paraît-il, la liberté. Là-bas, on dit que déjà renaît la joie. Là-bas, il paraît que les Blancs vous seront aussi favorables que la pluie qui drape les flamboyants de velours rouge ou le soleil qui dore la barbe soyeuse des épis.
Compagnons disparus, héros inconnus d’une tragique épopée, voici l’offrande du souvenir : un peu d’huile, un peu de farine et du sang de taureau. Voici le pacte renouvelé avant le grand départ.
Adieu, soldats, adieu !…

Behanzin, the Last King of independent Dahomey
Behanzin, the Last King of independent Dahomey

Guédébé… reste debout, comme moi, comme un homme libre. Puisque le sang des soldats tués garantit la résurrection du Danhomè, il ne faut plus que coule le sang. Les ancêtres n’ont plus que faire de nos sacrifices. Ils goûteront mieux le pur hommage de ces cœurs fidèles unis pour la grandeur de la patrie. C’est pour quoi j’accepte de m’engager dans la longue nuit de la patience où germent des clartés d’aurore. Guédébé, comme le messager de la paix, va à Ghoho où campe le général Dodds. Va dire au conquérant qu’il n’a pas harponner le requin. Va lui dire que demain, dès la venue du jour, de mon plein gré, je me rends au village de Yégo. Va lui dire que j’accepte, pour la survie de mon peuple, de rencontrer dans son pays, selon sa promesse, le président des Français. »

extrait de – Kondo le requin – Jean PLYA – Ed. CLE

“Ilha” de Amilcar Cabral / “Island” by Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral
Amilcar Cabral

January 20th, 2013 marks 40 years since the murder of the Father of Bissau-Guinean and Cape-Verdean independence: Amilcar Cabral.  Africa today is still mourning the loss of one of his greatest sons.  I thought it would be nice to publish one his poems.  Yes… Amilcar Cabral was not just an agronomic engineer, or an independentist, or a freedom fighter, he was also a nature lover and a great writer.  Enjoy! One can already guess that the following poem is about the island of Cape Verde. (The English translation was taken from, ”AMILCAR CABRAL, Freedom fighter,1924-1973“, by Carlos Pinto Santos)


Tu vives — mãe adormecida —

nua e esquecida,


batida pelos ventos,

ao som de músicas sem música

das águas que nos prendem…


teus montes e teus vales

não sentiram passar os tempos,

e ficaram no mundo dos teus sonhos

— os sonhos dos teus filhos —

a clamar aos ventos que passam,

e às aves que voam, livres

as tuas ânsias!


colinas sem fim de terra vermelha

— terra bruta —

rochas escarpadas tapando os horizontes

mas aos quatro cantos prendendo as nossas ânsias!



Mother, in your perennial sleep,

You live naked and forgotten

and barren,

thrashed by the winds,

at the sound of songs without music

sung by the waters that confine us…


Your hills and valleys

haven’t felt the passage of time.

They remain in your dreams

– your children’s dreams –

crying out your woes

to the passing winds

and to the carefree birds flying by.

Island :

Red earth shaped like a hill that never ends

– rocky earth –

ragged cliffs blocking all horizons

while tying all our troubles to the winds!


Mehdi Ben Barka: Moroccan Light, African Leader, and World Revolutionary

Mehdi Ben Barka
Mehdi Ben Barka

After “Les Immortels” by Franklin Boukaka, it is only normal that I would talk about Mehdi Ben Barka himself, and why he brought so much hope to people in Morocco, Africa, and the entire world.  Yes, his work encompassed all the oppressed people of the globe.

Mehdi Ben Barka was a Moroccan politician born in January of 1920 in Rabat, Morocco.  Although from a middle class background, Ben Barka was among the first to attend the French school (which was mostly for rich people), as he was always the best and brightest in his class.  He was the first Moroccan to receive a degree in mathematics in an official French school in 1950.  He then taught mathematics in a local Lycée (high school), and at the Royal College, where young Hassan II was one of his students.  Working in parallel, Mehdi got involved in politics, and worked to challenge the French “Protectorate” on Morocco.  In 1943, he got involved in the creation of the National Istiqlal Party.  In 1955, Mehdi took part in negociations which culminated with the return of Sultan Mohammed V, who had been exiled by the French authorities to Madagascar.  In 1956, Ben Barka’s other negociations culminated with the end of the French protectorate on Morocco.  From 1956 to 1959, Mehdi Ben Barka was president of the consultative assembly of Morocco.  In 1959, Mehdi broke off from the National Istiqlal Party after clashes with conservative opponents, and found l’Union Nationale des Forces Populaires – National Union of Popular Forces (UNPF).

King Hassan II
King Hassan II

The future King Hassan II, then chief of the army, wanting to inherit his father’s trone as soon as possible, called for repression against subversion, against any opposition in the land.  This forced Ben Barka to go on exile in Paris, as Ben Barka was King Hassan II’s principal opponent.  After King Mohammed V’s death in 1961, Hassan II ascended to the throne, and claimed to want to make peace with his main opponent.  Ben Barka returned from exile in May 1962.  On 16 November 1962, Mehdi escaped an attack on his life (car accident, where his car was forced into a ravine by a police car), which had been fomented by the services of General Mohamed Oufkir and colonel Ahmed Dlimi.  In June of 1963, Ben Barka was accused of plotting against the monarchy, and once again forced into exile; this was plot by King Hassan II, to dissolve the UNFP, the main opposition to his reign.  On 22 November 1963, Ben Barka is sentenced to death in absentia, for conspiracy and attempt to assassinate the king.  Some think that this was also caused by Ben Barka’s calling upon Moroccan soldiers to refuse to fight Algeria in the 1963 Sand War.  Ben Barka first went on exile in Algiers, Algeria, where he met with Che Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, and Malcolm X.  Then he went to Cairo, Rome, Geneva (where he escaped several attacks on his life), and Havana, trying to unite the revolutionary movements of the Third World for the Tricontinental Conference to be held in January 1966 in Havana.  As the leader of the Tricontinental, Ben Barka was seen as a major figure in the Third World movement, and supported revolutionary, and anti-colonial actions in various states, thus provoking the anger of the United States and France.  Just before his death, he was preparing the first Tricontinental Conference scheduled to take place in Havana, Cuba, from 3 -13 January 1966.

Mehdi Ben Barka during an address
Mehdi Ben Barka during an address

On October 29, 1965, Mehdi Ben Barka was abducted (“disappeared”)  in Paris by French police officers.  He was never to be seen again.  On Dec. 29, 1975, Time magazine published an article called “The Murder of Mehdi Ben Barka”, stating that three Moroccan agents were responsible for the death of Ben Barka, one of them former Interior Minister Mohammed Oufkir.  Speculation persists as to CIA involvement.  French intelligence agents and the Israeli Mossad were also involved, according to the article.  Many believe that the abduction and removal of Mehdi Ben Barka on that cold day of October 29, 1965, was to give a blow to the impetus of the Tricontinental Conference,which was going to have effects on liberation movements across the globe, and thus hurt imperialist powers (US, France, UK, Portugal, Spain…).

Indeed Mehdi Ben Barka was a true hero, some refer to him as the Moroccan Che Guevara…  To many, he was hope itself… His charisma, and his work went beyond Morocco’s borders and blessed the entire globe, countries which were oppressed by imperialist powers and which over 50 years later are still suffering from neo-colonialism, and ferocious capitalism/imperialism.  You can read more on how the French government is still stalling on the “Ben Barka affair” at the Guardian, and check out this interview of Bachir Ben Barka, Mehdi’s son, who was aged 15 at the time of his father’s abduction.  Watch this really good documentary below which details the life of Mehdi Ben Barka.  50 years after his disappearance, the “Ben Barka affair” still remains an open dossier.  One can only sing, like Franklin Boukaka, ‘Mehdi nzela na yo na bato nyonso’ … Mehdi your work is that of humanity! So long brother, your work and vision will keep guiding us. ‘Oh O Mehdi Ben Barka, Mehdi nzela na yo na bato nyonso.’

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!

Interview de Thomas Sankara par Mongo Beti

Thomas Sankara
Thomas Sankara a Ouagadougou

Je n’ai pu m’empêcher de partager avec vous ce pur joyau d’un autre temps: une interview du President Thomas Sankara par Mongo Beti.  Cette interview n’avait jamais été publiée auparavant, jusqu’à ce que l’épouse de Mongo Beti, Odile Tobner, la mette sur le site de la Société des Amis de Mongo Beti (SAMBE).  En 1985, Mongo Beti eut une entrevue privée avec notre ‘Che’ africain, Thomas Sankara, à la fin de laquelle, il lui envoya d’autres questions auxquelles Thomas répondit.  Ci-dessous, vous trouverez quelques extraits de cet entretien, où j’ai mis les questions de Mongo Beti sous formes de thèmes, et les réponses de Sankara suivent juste après (en bleu).  Pour l’intégrale, prière de visiter SAMBE.


Sur les attaques ennemies:Il y a partout aujourd’hui, aux quatre coins du continent, des N’Krumah, des Lumumba, des Mondlane, etc. Que Sankara soit éliminé aujourd’hui physiquement, il y aura des milliers de Sankara qui relèveront le défi face à l’impérialisme. …Toutefois, pour mille et une raison, notre peuple et la jeunesse révolutionnaire africaine restent attachées à Sankara et ne souhaitent jamais que le moindre malheur lui arrive.

Sur la corruption: “Sans être un sociologue averti, ni un historien des sociétés précapitalistes africaines, je ne pourrai pas affirmer que la corruption est propre aux sociétés africaines. C’est un phénomène lié avant tout au système capitaliste, système socio-économique qui ne peut véritablement évoluer sans développer la corruption. Elle est donc incontestablement un héritage maudit de la colonisation. Ainsi, logiquement, pour combattre valablement la colonisation, le colonialisme et même le néocolonialisme, il faut aussi s’attaquer à la corruption.

Alexandre Biyidi Awala, a.k.a. Mongo Beti
Alexandre Biyidi Awala, a.k.a. Mongo Beti

Sur les traditions africaines et la place de la femme (polygamie, excision): “On ne fait pas de révolution pour régresser dans le temps. C’est pour aller toujours de l’avant. La Révolution ne peut qu’étouffer tous les aspects négatifs de nos traditions. C’est cela notre combat contre toutes les forces rétrogrades, toutes les formes d’obscurantisme, combat légitime et indispensable pour libérer la société de toutes les emprises décadentes et de tous les préjugés, dont celui qui consiste à marginaliser la femme ou à la chosifier. … Nous luttons pour l’égalité de l’homme et de la femme, pas d’une égalité mécanique, mathématique, mais en rendant la femme l’égale de l’homme devant la loi et surtout devant le travail salarié. L’émancipation de la femme passe par son instruction et l’obtention d’un pouvoir économique. Ainsi le travail au même titre que l’homme, à tous les niveaux, la même responsabilisation et les mêmes droits et devoirs sont des armes contre l’excision et la polygamie, armes que la femme n’hésitera pas à utiliser pour se libérer elle-même et non par quelqu’un d’autre.”

Sur la cooperation, et la conference au sommet des chefs d’Etats francophones: “Lutter pour son indépendance face au colonialisme ne veut pas dire que l’on se prépare, une fois celle-ci obtenue, à quitter la terre pour aller s’isoler
quelque part dans le cosmos.  Quant aux conférences au sommet des chefs d’État francophones, ils servent, chaque fois que nous avons l’occasion d’y prendre part, de tribune, de tremplin pour notre révolution, pour la faire connaître, de dire ouvertement ce qu’elle pense de ces conférences ou instances politiques. Y participer pour dénoncer ce qui ne va pas dans l’intérêt des peuples africains est une stratégie beaucoup plus payante que les sarcasmes envoyés de l’extérieur.

Sur le franc CFA: “le franc CFA, lié au système monétaire français est une arme de la domination française. L’économie française et, partant, la bourgeoisie capitaliste marchande française bâtit sa fortune sur le dos de nos peuples par le biais de cette liaison, de ce monopole monétaire.

Sur le panafricanisme et Nkrumah: “Tout le monde constate aujourd’hui avec amertume, face aux méfaits et autres exactions de l’impérialisme en Afrique, que N’krumah avait très bien raison d’aller de tous ses voeux à l’unité du continent. Néanmoins l’idée demeure et il nous appartient, il appartient aux patriotes africains, de lutter partout et toujours pour sa concrétisation. Il appartient à tous les peuples panafricanistes de reprendre le flambeau de N’Krumah pour donner espoir à l’Afrique.

Sur le parti unique: “Ce qui est discrédité c’est le parti unique bourgeois, parce que obéissant à une idéologie d’injustice, donnant le premier rôle à une minorité au détriment de la majorité. Un parti unique démocratique, c’est-à-dire un parti du peuple, ne peut en aucun cas être discrédité, parce qu’au service d’un peuple, des intérêts de la majorité. C’est sur une telle base qu’il faut voir la question du parti unique, qui est aussi une vision des masses.

Sur la privatisation de certains secteurs: “La révolution burkinabé considère l’initiative privée comme une dynamique qu’elle prend en compte dans l’étape actuelle de la lutte du peuple burkinabé. … L’État ne peut pas s’engager dans une étatisation tous azimuts, même si le contrôle d’un certain nombre de secteurs vitaux de notre économie s’avère indispensable.

Au camarade Mongo Beti, 3/11/85
La patrie ou la mort, nous vaincrons !

Kwame Nkrumah: African Visionary and Ghana’s First President

Kwame Nkrumah
Kwame Nkrumah

Few men on the continent have had the aura of President Kwame Nkrumah, one of the greatest pan-africanist of the continent and the first president of Ghana.   Kwame Nkrumah was born on 21 September 1909 in NkrofulGold Coast (the pre-independence name of Ghana) the world’s largest cocoa producer.  Hailing from a modest traditional family, He trained to be a teacher at the Achimota School in Accra from 1927 to 1930.  For the following five years, he then taught in elementary schools across the Gold Coast.  He later on attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a BA in theology in 1942.  He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Master of Science in education, and a master of arts in philosophy in 1943.   During his time in the US, he preached at black Presbyterian churches in Philadephia, and New York city.  Moving to London after World War II, Nkrumah helped organize Pan-African congresses, linking the emergent educated groups of the African colonies with activists, writers, artists, and well-wishers from the industrial countries.  It was a time of great intellectual ferment, excitement, and optimism.  Gandhi and India‘s achievement of independence in 1947 stirred dreams of freedom for the other colonies.  “If we get self-government,” Nkrumah proclaimed, “we’ll transform the Gold Coast into a paradise in 10 years.

Flag of the Gold Coast
Flag of the Gold Coast

In 1947, Nkrumah was invited to serve as the general secretary of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), exploring paths to independence of the Gold Coast from British rule.  After the riots of February 1948, and arrests of UGCC leaders by British rule, Nkrumah emerged as the party leader upon release.  He proclaimed that the Gold Coast needed “self-government now,” and built a large power base including cocoa farmers, women (at a time when women were not invited in the political process) and trade unions.  On 12 June 1949, he organized a new political party based on these groups: the Convention People’s Party (CPP).  Within two years the CPP had won limited self-rule elections, and Nkrumah became “Leader of Government Business” in 1951 after a landslide CPP win in the first general election– a de facto prime minister, responsible for internal government and policy.  He set his sights firmly on independence.  No amount of autonomy or self-rule, he argued, could match the energy, commitment, and focus of a government and people in a truly independent country.  It was a precondition for growth.  He summarized his philosophy in a slogan that became famous and influential across Africa: “Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else shall be added unto you….

Map and Flag of Ghana
Map and Flag of Ghana

As a leader of this government, Nkrumah faced many challenges: first, to learn to govern; second, to unify the four territories of the Gold Coast; third, to win his nation’s complete independence from the United Kingdom.  Nkrumah was successful at all three goals.  Within six years of his release from prison, he was the leader of an independent nation.  At 12 a.m. on 6 March 1957, Nkrumah declared Ghana independent.  The country became independent as a Commonwealth realm. He was hailed as the Osagyefo – which means “redeemer” in the Twi language.

On 6 March 1960, Nkrumah announced plans for a new constitution, which would make Ghana a republic.  On 19, 23, and 27 April 1960 a presidential election and plebiscite on the constitution were held.  The constitution was ratified and Nkrumah was elected president over J. B. Danquah, the UP candidate, 1,016,076 to 124,623.  In 1961, Nkrumah laid the first stones in the foundation of the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute created to train Ghanaian civil servants as well as promote Pan-Africanism.  In 1964, all students entering college in Ghana were required to attend a two-week “ideological orientation” at the Institute.  In 1963, Nkrumah was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union.  Ghana became a charter member of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

Kwame Nkrumah on Cedi notes
Kwame Nkrumah on Cedi notes

The Gold Coast had been among the wealthiest and most socially advanced areas in Africa, with schools, railways, hospitals, social security and an advanced economy.  Under Nkrumah’s leadership, Ghana adopted some socialist policies and practices.  Nkrumah created a welfare system, started various community programs, and established schools.  Nkrumah’s time in office was successful and ambitious (could you blame him? With a newly independent country, there was so much to build), with forestry, fishing, and cattle-breeding expanded, production of cocoa (Ghana’s main export) doubled, and modest deposits of bauxite and gold exploited more effectively.  The construction of a dam on the Volta River (launched in 1961) provided water for irrigation and hydro-electric power, which produced enough electricity for the towns as well as for a new aluminum plant.  Government funds were also provided for village projects in which local people built schools and roads, while free health care and education were introduced.  Ghana adopted the Ghana Cedi (GHC) as a currency in 1965; the word “cedi” being the Akan word for cowry shells, which were used as currency in the old days.

Billboard in Lusaka, Zambia, with Kwame Nkrumah's famous quote for non-alignment
Billboard in Lusaka, Zambia, with Kwame Nkrumah’s famous quote for non-alignment

He generally took a non-aligned Marxist perspective on economics, and believed capitalism had malignant effects that were going to stay with Africa for a long time (and rightly so, we can all see the effects of IMF, and World Bank policies in Africa today: poverty to the grave).  Nkrumah argued that socialism was the system that would best accommodate the changes that capitalism had brought, while still respecting African values.  At a time when there were East & West blocks from the cold war, and where Africa was stuck in the middle, with no way out but to bend to some of the East-West politics (which could not work for us), Nkrumah believed in non-alignment.  He made a famous quote on non-alignment which said: “We face neither East nor West; We face forward.”  To show that we, as Africans, could not be forced to adhere to politics or economics which had no respect for us as human beings and for our cultures.

Celebrating the birth of the OAU
Celebrating the birth of the OAU

In Africa Must Unite (1963) Nkrumah called for the immediate formation of a pan-African government.  Later he sat on a unification movement that emanates from the base, while anti-imperialist governments and between the Western-backed “puppet regime” could be no common ground.  He was a true visionary to have seen that Africa needed to unite in order to survive, because as it stood divided in 50-something states it was an easy prey to Western imperialists.  Nkrumah’s biggest success in this area was his significant influence in the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Nkrumah's sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra
Nkrumah’s sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum in Accra

Truth be told, Nkrumah was too big for his own good.  He wanted Ghana and Africa to be truly independent: politically, and economically.  He was a strong advocate for pan-Africanism, and the true instigator and founder of the Organization of African Unity (now African Union) whose goals were to raise Africa, and promote unity and strength across the continent.  He also helped several independent movements in Africa, such as those from Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).  He was ousted in February 1966 by a military coup, while on state visit to Vietnam.
After the coup, Nkrumah lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea, as the guest of President Ahmed Sekou Toure who made him honorary co-president.  He read, wrote, corresponded, gardened, entertained guests, and continued to push for his vision of African unity.  50 years later, Kadhafi who was trying to revive, and reinvigorate the African Union, and almost succeeded, was also brought down by Western Imperialism; and his country, the beautiful Libya (one of the few countries in the world without debt) bombed and brought down in flames.

Centenary of Kwame Nkrumah
Centenary of Kwame Nkrumah

Nkrumah died in 27 April 1972 of skin cancer in Romania.  One can tell the greatness of the man by the number of universities who carry his name during his lifetime.  If you are ever in Accra, visit the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum which is a true piece of art, as well as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi.  Check out to learn more about this great African leader, and read some of his speeches.  Check out this great video which talks about Kwame Nkrumah’s fight for Ghana’s independence, as well as his struggle to maintain his vision for an independent Ghana (check out all parts 1-4).  Don’t forget to read some of his books: Africa Must Unite (1963), Neo-colonialism: the Last Stage of Imperialism (1965), African Socialism Revisited (1967), Dark Days in Ghana (1968), Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare (1968), I Speak of Freedom (1973), and many more.

Béhanzin, King of Dahomey, one of the last African Resistant to French Colonization

Behanzin, king of Dahomey
Behanzin, king of Dahomey

Béhanzin (Gbêhanzin) Hossu Bowelle or the ‘King Shark‘ was one the most powerful kings in West Africa at the turn of the 19th century.  He was the eleventh king of Dahomey, and the last independent ruler of Abomey before French colonization.  Who was really Béhanzin?

Born in 1844 in Abomey, Béhanzin was the eleventh king of Dahomey from 1889 to 1894.  His name, Kondo, was changed to Béhanzin after he succeeded to his father GlèlèHis personal symbols were the shark, the egg, and two coconut palm trees, while those of his father were the lion and the ritual knife of Gu.  His name actually meant ‘the egg of the world or the son of the shark‘.  His great love for the freedom of his country, culture, and people led him to courageously and fiercely defend the land of his ancestors.  He led the resistance and fight for the Dahomey’s freedom.

Seh-Dong Hong-Beh, leader of Dahomey Amazons (painted by Frederick Forbes in 1851)
Seh-Dong Hong-Beh, leader of Dahomey Amazons (by Frederick Forbes in 1851)

Dahomey was one of most powerful kingdoms of West Africa, deriving its power from trade and its superior army.  Dahomey’s army was one of the strongest and best-organized armies in West Africa and was comprised of both men and women, including the Amazons, a superior and dreaded fighting force of female warriors.  At the time, Béhanzin masterfully led an army of 15000 men and 5000 amazon women.  One of the Amazon leaders was Seh-Dong Hong-Beh (which means “God speaks true“) who led an army of 6000 amazons against the Egba fortress in Abeokuta in 1851.

In 1882, France declared a protectorate over Porto Novo, a vassal state of Abomey, without consulting with the indigenous people, as was (and still is) the practice with Europeans colons.  By 1885, the French occupied the entire coastal strip West of Porto Novo.  In 1889, King Glèlè and his son Béhanzin, who considered these coastal areas to be part of the kingdom of Dahomey, declared that the Fon people could no longer tolerate France’s actions.

Combat de Dogba au Dahomey le 19 Septembre 1892
Combat de Dogba au Dahomey, 19 September 1892

In February 1890, the French occupied Cotonou; Béhanzin, now king after Glèlè’s sudden death, prepared for war.  Béhanzin’s army, with rifles supplied by the Germans, were getting too strong for neighboring French colonies.  Béhanzin’s forces attacked the French simultaneously on two fronts—militarily at Cotonou and economically by destroying the palm plantations at Porto Novo.  The latter precipitated an early end to the hostilities.  A treaty was signed, with the French continuing to occupy Cotonou, for which Béhanzin exacted an annuity; he made France pay for the use of Cotonou portThe peace lasted for two years.  However, France was determined to annex Dahomey before the British or Germans did.  Béhanzin, knowing that he would have to defend his sovereignty, continued upgrading his army in preparation for renewed war.

le general Alfred-Amedee Dodds
General Alfred-Amedee Dodds on the cover of ‘L’Illustration’ 20 May 1893

He declared a treaty made with France by his father, Glèlè, in 1868 null and void, from this war began.  In 1894, Béhanzin was defeated by Colonel Alfred-Amédée Dodds, a Senegalese mulatto, who was sent to fight against him with powerful French armed forces.  Béhanzin, not wanting his people to be massacred, surrendered his person to Dodds, without signing any instrument of national surrender or treaty.  Béhanzin thought that he will get a chance to talk to the French president and find a way or sign a conciliation agreement for his country, unfortunately, the French tricked him and instead of going to France, Behanzin was exiled to Martinique.  With Béhanzin and his immediate family adamantly refusing to sign a treaty making Dahomey a French protectorate, the French installed their choice, Agoli-Agbo, as king; Agoli Agbo, the puppet, did not last more than 6 years (when he asked for more freedom to rule, he was deported to Gabon).  Dahomey was then placed under France’s protection and it eventually became a French colony.  Béhanzin died in 1906 in Algeria.  In 1928, his son, Ouanilo (who was also France’s first African attorney in 1920) had his body moved to Dahomey. Ouanilo’s remains will be restituted to Benin almost 80 years after his death.

King Behanzin in exile in Algeria
King Behanzin in exile in Algeria

Béhanzin once said: «Vous pouvez arracher l’homme de son pays, mais vous ne pouvez arracher son pays du cœur de l’homme, ni arracher un grand homme de l’histoire.» [You can remove a man from his country, but you can never remove his country from a man’s heart, or erase a great man from history].  Béhanzin truly loved his people, and when he saw that his army was being massacred by the French, he cried for his beautiful and strong amazons, and pronounced the most beautiful ode to them [Où sont maintenant les ardentes amazones qu’enflammait une sainte colère? … Qui chantera leurs splendides sacrifices? Qui dira leur générosité? … comment accepterais-je sans eux une quelconque abdication? Comment oserais-je me présenter devant vous, braves guerriers, si je signais le papier du Général? pour la survie de mon peuple, [j’accepte] de rencontrer dans son pays, selon sa promesse, le président des Français.

Behanzin, the Last King of independent Dahomey
Behanzin, the Last King of independent Dahomey

Where are now the ardent amazons who were inflamed by a mighty anger? … Who will praise their splendid sacrifices? … Who will tell about their generosity? … How could I accept any sort of abdication without them? How could I dare presenting myself to you, brave warriors, if I signed the general’s paper?… for the survival of my people, [I agree] to meet in his country, according to his promise, the president of the French].  Please watch this great documentary about the life of Béhanzin, the last king of the Dahomey (part 1 – 4), and one of the last resistant to French colonization.  Why was he defeated?  He said himself: «malgré la justesse de notre cause, notre vaillance et notre détermination, ils n’ont pu l’emporter et s’accaparer de la terre de nos aïeux que par la force de leur science» [despite the legitimacy of our cause, our courage, and determination, they could only win and take the land of our forefathers because of the force of their science].  Check out the website entirely dedicated to Béhanzin and his heritage.  To learn more about Dahomey’s Amazons, check out the Smithsonian blog.  This facebook page provides details about the organization of the amazons in the army.  Don’t forget to offer your support to the Agongointo Musée du passé vivant dedicated to the kingdom of Dahomey.

Abel Kingué, Short but rising Tall for the Independence of Cameroon

UPC Leaders (L. to R.) front row: Castor Osende Afana, Abel Kingué, Ruben Um Nyobé, Felix Moumié, and Ernest Ouandié
UPC Leaders (L. to R.) front row: Castor Osende Afana, Abel Kingué, Ruben Um Nyobé, Felix Moumié, and Ernest Ouandié

Today, I will be talking about an almost forgotten leader of the UPC (Union des Populations du Cameroun), its vice president, Abel Kingué.  Who was Abel Kingué?

Well, Abel Kingué was born Abel Kegne, in Fokoue near Bamendou (in the Menoua department) in 1924, into a polygamous household.  Soon, he would live his home and move to the city of Dschang where he worked as a tennis ball boy for a while before getting spotted and given a chance to attend school.  After school in Dschang, Bafang, and Nkongsamba, he went on to attend the Nursing school of Ayos.  In 1947, he moved to Douala, and work in a big commercial center.

In April of 1950, Abel entered the direction of the UPC directly after its first congress in Dschang.  He entered the spotlight when, despite his short height, he publicly denounced the political embezzlement of prince Ndoumbe Douala Manga Bell.  Not only was Abel Kingué a great orator, but he also showed great firmness, great organization skills, great work ethics, and kindness.

Flag of the UPC
Flag of the UPC

He was re-elected vice president of the UPC during its 2nd congress in Eséka, in September 1952.  He was also chief editor of the ‘Voix du Kamerun‘ (Voice of Kamerun), UPC’s main organ of expression.  In december 1953, he went to the United Nations, to represent the JDC (Jeunesse Démocratique Camerounaise – Cameroonian Democratic Youth) of which he was a founding member.  On his return, while touring the country to share his report with others, he was attacked in Mbouroukou, near Melong, and was seriously injured and left for dead.

The crackdown on the UPC movement intensified dramatically in 1954 with the arrival of the new French High Commissioner, Roland Pré. Roland Pré said in one of his interviews about his crackdown on the UPC that he implemented techniques he had learnt in nazi concentration camps to crush UPC’s leaders in Cameroon… One just shivers while imagining the brutality and atrocity that our courageous independence fighters had to face.  On April 14th 1954, Kingué ran for elections into the ATCAM (Assemblée territoriale du Cameroun – Territorial Assembly of Cameroon), and despite his huge popularity, will be declared a loser by the colonial administration. Click here to Continue reading “Abel Kingué, Short but rising Tall for the Independence of Cameroon”