Who/What did we Celebrate in Africa in 2020 ?

Even though 2020 was quite a “different” year for a lot of people, there were still a lot of things to celebrate in Africa. Let’s do a review of some of the things we celebrated this year in 2020! There are many more, of course, but I selected 10. Enjoy!

Flag of Namibia
  1. As you remember, Germany committed the First Genocide of the 20th Century in Namibia. It took them over a century to even acknowledge it. Over the past few years, they have been returning skulls of the Herero they killed, and memorabilia from Herero freedom fighters [Germany Returns Skulls of Namibians Genocide Victims, Germany Returns Artifacts Stolen From a Namibian Freedom Fighter, Have Germans finally acknowledged the Namibian Genocide?]. This year, Namibia rejected a German offer of compensation of 10 million Euros for the genocide. I applaud the strength of the Namibian government for refusing this offer which is a spat from the German:  Such an insult! Germany have almost eradicated an entire race, and to this day, Namibia is struggling because of this. And they give 10 million Euros10 millions Euros for torturing, killing, raping, destroying, displacing for years? [Namibia Rightfully Rejects 10 million Euros Compensation for Genocide]
  2. King Leopold II
    At the end of June, the King of Belgium “expressed his deepest regrets;”  it took over 100 years for a Belgian King to finally “express his deepest regrets” for Belgium’s colonial past in Congo. As we recall, King Leopold II of Belgium perpetrated a genocide in Congo.  Leopold II took Congo, a country at least 10 times the size of Belgium, as his private property and killed millions of Congolese. It is said that he must have executed and maimed over 15 million people! Not sure what this king wants… deepest regrets is not equal to apology or recognition… so although this is a first in over 100 years, it will not cut it! [Belgian King Expresses ‘Deepest Regrets’ for Colonial Past in Congo, Lumumba’s Children Ask Belgian King for their Father’s Remains]
  3. Metche Waterfalls in Cameroon was the site of French genocide there
    France returned skulls of Algerian fighters in August, as a first step towards recognition of their wrongdoings (genocide) in Algeria. What is it with these people and skulls is beyond me! As a flashback, Algeria obtained its independence from France after 7 years of a bloody war with France. During that time, France perpetrated a genocide in Algeria… For the first time, a French president, Emmanuel Macron, acknowledged that the colonization of Algeria was a “crime against humanity.” We are now awaiting for recognition of France’s crimes against humanity in Cameroon, and Madagascar, and countless others [French President Acknowledges French Genocide in Cameroon, Fossi Jacob: A Cameroonian Hero and France’s Genocide in Cameroon].
  4. In Tanzania, Saniniu Laizer, a small-scale miner, became an overnight millionaire in June when he found and sold two rough Tanzanite stones valued at $3.4 millions, and then sold another gem in August for $2 millions. This was the biggest ever found in Tanzania, not sure for the world. These are major records!
  5. Flag of South Africa
    Black South Africans who fought in World War II were finally recognized! This is great… but at the same time sad… why did it take 80 years for their recognition? We all know that African soldiers were key to the liberation of France during World War II, and yet when it came time for the parade on the Bastille, their uniforms were given to their white counterparts for the parade… after all, it should not be read in the annals of history that Africans liberated France! [Thiaroye: A French Massacre in Senegal, ‘Thiaroye Massacre’ by Ousmane Sembene]
  6. There is strong excitement to the countdown to the African trade. The trading phase under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by 54 of the 55 countries in Africa, and initially set to begin in July 2020, but now will start on January 1, 2021 [Nigeria signs African Free Trade Area Agreement]. This is a big news for the African continent as it will now allow for free trade across the continent, increasing trade among countries which should have always traded between themselves. This is what was envisioned by Kwame Nkrumah, all the independence fathers, and more recently by Muammar Kadhafi (Africans and the Trap of Democracy) at the AU.
  7. Angelique Kidjo (Source: World Music Central)
    The world-renowned singer singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo from Benin kicked off the year 2020 with a monumental performance at the 62nd Grammy Awards in January. She snatched her 4th Grammy award for Best World Album, and rocked the Los Angeles Staples Center. As always (I have had the honor of attending one of her concerts), she brought the true spirit of Africa to the stage as she told all that African music is the bedrock of all music.
  8. Amid the strong racial justice movements that rocked the world this year, the country of Benin has decided to renovate the fort of Ouidah, in Ouidah which was a key city in the slave trade for many centuries; this is a bid to promote tourism in the country, and to honour the suffering and celebrate the overcoming Africans who were captured and inhumanely shipped abroad from the main port of this coastal town [Benin restores the Fort of Ouidah]. Similarly, Somalia has also made a move to culturally reinforce its lands as it signed in February an education and heritage support deal with UNESCO aimed at strengthening efforts to preserve the country’s culture, education, and history.
  9. Djaili Amadou Amal (Source: Wikipedia)
    This year, there was a good news for African writers. Cameroon’s Djaïli Amadou Amal won this year’s prestigious French Literary Award Goncourt des Lycéens for her novel ‘Les Impatientes‘ — inspired by her personal experiences in a South Sahel patriarchal society; later that week in December she won the Choix Goncourt de l’Orient. Two African authors were shortlisted for the Booker Prize of fiction: Ethiopian Maaza Mengiste, and Zimbabwean Tsitsi Dangarembga. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie whose novel ‘Half of a Yellow Sun‘ — set during her the Biafra civil war, was voted the best book to have won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in its 25-year history.
  10. Master KG and Nomcebo Kizode in Jerusalema (Africanews.com)
    Jerusalema”, the South African song by DJ Master KG featuring Nomcebo Kizode has taken over the world and has gone viral on social media…  Jerusalema has become a global phenomenon, even inspiring its own dance challenge. What is even more amazing, is the hit took over the world, and is a Gospel song which talks about God always being close, saving us, and never letting go of us.. The Gospel hit has undoubtedly marked Africa as the soundtrack of the year [South Africa National Heritage Day, The story behind Master KG’s ‘Jerusalema,’ one of the most …].

African Love Anthem: ‘Malaika’

A box of Valentine's day chocolate
A box of Valentine’s day chocolate

Who has not heard of the famous African love song ‘Malaika?’ The best known version of this song is the one sung by Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba. It is a Swahili song written by Tanzanian Adam Salim in 1945, who composed “Malaika” for his very beautiful girlfriend Halima Ramadhani Maruwa. Their parents disapproved of their relationship, and Halima was forced by her parents to marry an Asian tajir (wealthy man). The song is sung by a poor young man who wishes to marry his beloved ″Angel″ or ″Little bird″ but is defeated by the bride price.

A true African beauty: Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba
A true African beauty: Mama Africa, Miriam Makeba

This song is the most famous of all Swahili love songs in Tanzania, Kenya and the entire East Africa, as well as being one of the most widely known of all Swahili songs in the world; again, it was made popular around the globe by Miriam Makeba. Malaika means “angel” in Swahili, and this word has always been used by the Swahili speakers to refer to a beautiful girl. So this is to all the angels out there for this Valentine day.

 

 

 

Malaika

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika

Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,

Ningekuoa Malaika

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Ningekuoa Malaika

Kidege, hukuwaza kidege

Kidege, hukuwaza kidege

Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,

Ningekuoa Malaika

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Ningekuoa Malaika

Pesa zasumbua roho yangu

Pesa zasumbua roho yangu

Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio

Ningekuoa Malaika

Nashindwa na mali sina, we,
Ningekuoa Malaika

Angel

Angel, I love you angel

Angel, I love you angel

and I, what should I do, your young friend

I am defeated by the bride price that I don’t have

I would marry you, angel

I am defeated by the bride price that I don’t have
I would marry you, angel

Little bird, I think of you little bird

Little bird, I think of you little bird

and I, what should I do, your young friend

I am defeated by the bride price that I don’t have

I would marry you, angel
I am defeated by the bride price that I don’t have
I would marry you, angel

The money (which I do not have) depresses my soul
The money (which I do not have) depresses my soul
and I, what should I do, your young friend

I would marry you, angel

I am defeated by the bride price that I don’t have
I would marry you, angel

Africa’s Love Anthem: ‘AMI O’ by Ebanda Manfred

'Ami Oh' and its many interpretations
‘Ami O’ and its many interpretations

Coeur
Coeur

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I would like to talk about one of Africa’s great love songs, ‘AMI O‘. Many songs have made the entire continent shake, but few have had the dimensions of ‘AMI O‘ of Ebanda Manfred. ‘AMI O‘ is to Cameroonian and African music what ‘Guantanamera‘ is to Cuban and Latin music: a world classic. But ‘AMI O‘, ‘AMIO‘, ‘AMIE OH’, or ‘AMI OH’, or ‘AMIYO‘ is first and foremost a love song. It is a declaration of love, a love anthem. It has been reprised by over 20 world class artists among which, Bébé Manga, Papa Wemba, Francis Bebey, Angelique Kidjo, Manu Dibango, Monique Séka, Bisso Na Bisso, Nayanka Bell, Jacky Biho, NaimaHenri Salvador, André Astasié, and so many more.

Ebanda Manfred
Ebanda Manfred

Where did it all start? In 1960, 24-years old Ebanda Manfred fell head over heels in love with a teenage single mother from Yaoundé, Cameroon. The girl, Amié Essomba Brigitte, had to quit school to take care of her child. Madly in love, Ebanda Manfred told her of his feelings, but she told him that she could not start a love relationship until her child was weaned. Finding the wait too long, especially since he had to return to Douala the following year, Ebanda Manfred sang his despair and asked: “Amié, njika bunya so mo, oa mo o ma dubè no, na mba na tondi oa?”. Translation: “Amié, when will you finally believe in my love?” Thus the song “Amié ” was born. It became an instant hit when it came out in 1962. A year later, it was reprised by Francis Bebey. In 1980, the great Bébé Manga made an adaptation which brought her to the international stage, as she won the “Golden Maracas.” The song will be reprised by artists around the world, from the Carribbean to Latin America, and Europe.

Bebe Manga
Bebe Manga

In celebration of Valentine’s day, I live you with this great African love song. In Bébé Manga’s English version, the song clearly states “Amie (friend) oh, you are all I ever hoped for, everything I ever dreamt of, …” So tomorrow, don’t forget to sing AMI O to that special one, that one you longed for, and dreamt of, that special one in your life.

 

 

 

11 Feb 2014 : Cameroon’s National Youth Day

Flag of Cameroon
Flag of Cameroon

Today happens to be the Cameroonian National Youth Day.  I have been thinking about the true meaning of a youth day.  For as long as I can remember, it has always been a speech from the President, and marches/parades from children across the nation.  But is that really what the National Youth Day is all about?  Well, for starters, I must admit that growing up, I was always really proud of marching on that day.  It was as if somehow, I suddenly mattered to the country… as if, from my child’s world, I could somehow influence changes in my country: bring clean water, stop the electricity cuts, build bridges, make better roads, build airports, etc.  It was as if, by marching, I had a say in the direction of my country, I was important; I mattered!  11 February was not just a day off to watch the parade on TV, it was a special day, a day dedicated to me, to my needs as a youth, to my well-being, to my inner desires, and to my potentials.

Youths during the parade celebrating Cameroon's National Youth Day
Youths during the parade celebrating Cameroon’s National Youth Day

As a teenager, the thought started to thaw a little bit, was 11 February only about the President’s speech?  was it just a time to cajole me as a youngster into thinking that I was important? that there was light at the end of the tunnel? that I was the future of the country, when around me, adults were feeling like the future had been beaten out of them? How was I supposed to make changes, when looking at big brothers ahead, I could only see unemployment looming in the horizon?  How was I supposed to concentrate into doing well in school or achieving all these great things I was asked to, when the future looked so grim?  What was the future going to look like with me in the picture?

Today, I see that it was actually necessary to acquire all this education, to read, and to focus, because in reality, even if the president’s speeches were empty words… I have the obligation, no the duty, to think of my elders: Ruben Um Nyobe, Felix Moumié, Abel KinguéOsendé Afana (who was Cameroon’s first PhD in economics), Ernest Ouandié, and countless others who sacrificed themselves so that I could be better.  Yes… it sounds so easy, but to think about it should bring fire, no, rage into our hearts.  Just thinking about all the great minds we have, all this great potentials, talented musicians who influence the world (like Ekambi Brillant who produced Angélique Kidjo who is now a world star), footballers, writers (Mongo Beti), comedians, doctors, scientists, journalists (Pius Njawe), who live and die like paupers, should give extra, ten times, 100 times more fire into our hearts, and really make us realize that we are the indeed the future of our country, and nobody else will build it for us, not even 80 years-old ministers.  I live you here with K’naan hymn to the youth which was sung during the 2010 FIFA World Cup: “Out of the darkness, I came the farthest, … Learn from these streets, it can be bleak.  Accept no defeat, surrender, retreat.  So we struggling, fighting to eat, And we wondering when we’ll be free ... we patiently wait for that fateful day… it is not far away… when I get older, I will be stronger, they’ll call me freedom just like a waving flag“.