Why the Name: Abidjan?

Abidjan
Abidjan

After walking on the sandy beaches of Abidjan, I have often romanticized the name of such a beautiful place, and no matter how much intellectual gymnastics I did, I could never decipher its meaning.  After all, I do not speak the local language, but I somehow thought that it could have been a French name with some local texture to it; but which one?

Map of Côte d'Ivoire
Map of Côte d’Ivoire

Well, according to oral tradition of the Ébrié people as reported in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Côte d’Ivoire, the name “Abidjan” results from a misunderstanding.  Legend states that an old man carrying branches to repair the roof of his house met a European explorer who asked him the name of the nearest village.  The old man who did not speak the language of the explorer, thought that he was being asked to justify his presence in that place.  Terrified by this unexpected meeting, he fled shouting “min-chan m’bidjan“, which means in the Ébrié language: “I return from cutting leaves.”  The explorer, thinking that his question had been answered, recorded the name of the locale as Abidjan.

La ville d'Abidjan
La ville d’Abidjan (source RFI)

A slightly different and less elaborate version of the legend is as such: When the first colonists asked native women the name of the place, the women misunderstood and replied “T’chan m’bi djan“: “I’ve just been cutting leaves“. Thus the name Abidjan.

Originally a fishing village, Abidjan was made the capital city of the French colony after a deadly epidemic of yellow fever decimated the French colonists in 1896 in Bassam.  In 1934, Abidjan became the third capital of Côte d’Ivoire after Grand-Bassam and Bingerville.  It offered more opportunities for trade expansion, particularly with its greater wharf.  In 1983, the capital was moved to Yamoussoukro, the village of then-president Félix Houphouët-Boigny.  However, Abidjan has remained the political and economic heart of the country.

Aerial view of Abidjan (Source: raymondadrienne.blogspot.com)
Aerial view of Abidjan (Source: raymondadrienne.blogspot.com)

Today, Abidjan is Côte d’Ivoire’s largest city, and the third largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris and Kinshasa.  The city is located in the Ébrié Lagoon on several converging peninsulas and islands connected by bridges.  Abidjan is considered a cultural hub for most of West Africa, and Francophone Africa in particular.  It has the biggest port in West Africa, and second largest port of Africa after the Lagos port in Nigeria.  With the political unrest of the past decade which reached its paroxysm in 2011 with the French army bombing strategic places in Abidjan in order to impeach President Laurent Gbagbo (including the presidential palace), the city has been destroyed, and is today going through a rebuilding phase.

Affectionately nicknamed the “Manhattan of the tropics“, “Small Manhattan“, or “Pearl of Lagoons“, because of its impressiveness, Abidjan is a unique city perfect for business tourism.  The place is so beautiful, that the French once considered making Côte d’Ivoire an overseas department of France; it is not so far from it today, but that will be the subject for another day.  The video below is on Côte d’Ivoire as a whole.  Enjoy!

2014 FIFA World Cup: All the African Teams

2014 FIFA World Cup
2014 FIFA World Cup

Tomorrow, the world will vibrate to the rhythm of samba, carnivals, and Copacabana… Yes tomorrow, the 2014 FIFA World Cup will start in Brazil, and 32 of the best soccer nations will compete at this great planetary event.  This will one month of soccer, pure joy, fun, and above all talent;  Talent expressed by players from around the globe.  Legends will be made, new faces discovered, and dreams will take off.

Five African teams will grace the tournament: Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria.

We do hope that at least one African team will advance into the round of 16, and beyond.  Here are some of the African stars to watch out for.

2014 FIFA World Cup groups
2014 FIFA World Cup groups

The Desert Foxes of Algeria are a good team to contend with, in another relatively easy group with Russia, South Korea, and Belgium.  This should hopefully be an easy one.  Maradona predicts Algeria “will cause a surprise”, while Rivaldo says “the possibilities of reaching the second round are abundant”.

Samuel Eto’o Fils, captain of Cameroon’s Indomitaple Lions, is incontestably one of the best forwards on the planet, and one of the greatest strikers of his generation. This might be his last world cup, and Cameroon’s first in 8 years.  The Pichichi, and winner of several honors including African Ballon d’Or, will have to be ready to affront Brazil, the host country, Mexico, and Croatia in group A.

Didier Drogba, captain of Cote d’Ivoire’s Elephants, like Eto’o is also one of the best on the planet.  After playing for Chelsea and winning countless trophies, he is now in Turkey with Galatasaray FC.  This will probably be his last world cup.  We wish him, and the Ivorian team the very best.  They qualified with gusto to this competition.  They have a relatively easy group with Colombia, Japan, and Greece.  I will put my money on them moving to the next round in the tournament.

Armadillo, the 2014 FIFA World Cup mascot
Armadillo, the 2014 FIFA World Cup mascot

Relying on their strength at the back, with captain and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria will have to face Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Iran.  The Super Eagles have undergone a radical transformation under Stephen Keshi, which has made them win last year African Cup of Nations‘ tournament. With good discipline, they should be able to advance in the competition as well.

The Black Stars of Ghana were fancied to repeat, or even improve on, their run to the quarter-finals in 2010 in South Africa.  That was until the draw was made and they were pitted with the world’s second and third-ranked sides.  Asamoah Gyan and his teammates will play against Germany, Portugal, and the United States. This is the “group of death”.  Ghana is a very good team; if they manage to make it to the round of 16, then they will quite far at the World Cup.  We wish them the very best in the competition.

Brazil 2014 World Cup
Brazil 2014 World Cup

Throughout the years, I have placed high hopes on African teams and have always been disappointed.  I might once again be disappointed.  However, this is planetary tournament, and the fun of it makes one root for any good team.  For the world cup winner, I believe Brazil, the host country has home court advantage, as well as a pool of great talents.  Let us hope that will be enough to make them winners.  I also think Argentina of Lionel Messi will be a really great contender, as well as Spain, the last world cup winners.  Overall, let the world cup start, with all the fun, and may the best team win!!!

April 2011: A moment of silence for the victims of Cote d’Ivoire

La Cote d'Ivoire
La Cote d’Ivoire

In memory of the victims of the post-electoral crisis of 2011 in Côte d’Ivoire, I selected this movie titled “A minute of silence from Côte d’Ivoire” for you.  Everyone remembers those days in early April 2011, and in particular 11 April, when the planes of the ONUCI and the French army bombed all strategic sites in Abidjan including the military camps, the TV station, and the presidential palace, killing thousands, and dragging the president out like a mere bandit.  Now, to have just one side of the post-electoral crisis present at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is simply a farce!  To have Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé at the Hague is a farce, when we all know that the violence grew out of a contentious presidential election between two parties.  Where are Alassane Ouattara and Guillaume Soro?  It is also sad to note that only Africans are being judged at The Hague, when crimes were also committed in Irak, Afghanistan, Syria, etc.  This video is to all the victims of the post-electoral crisis of Côte d’Ivoire, to all those who stood for their convictions, to all those who believed in casting a peaceful vote, and to all those who believed in their beautiful country, peace to all.

 

Freedom at last? 12 high political figures freed in Côte d’Ivoire

Affi N'Guessan (Source: Le Nouveau Courrier)
Affi N’Guessan (Source: Le Nouveau Courrier)

Freedom at last for 12 high political figures in Côte d’Ivoire.  These were members of the FPI, Laurent Gbagbo‘s who had been detained without any hearing for the past 2 years.  This is a sign that truth and justice always wins.  I have translated here a speech by Pascal Affi N’Guessan, one of the detainees and once prime minister of Côte d’Ivoire.  This was published on the website of Le Nouveau Courrier. For the audio and integral text, go to Le Nouveau Courrier. Thank goodness for this… and let us keep fighting for freedom and true democracy (not the one manufactured by the IMF, in Europe or the US, but what will work for us).

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Président Laurent GBAGBO
Président Laurent GBAGBO

I would like to, before giving any speech, first greet you and thank you wholeheartedly.  If we can stand here today in front of you, don’t be fooled. There are no three explanations. There are no two explanations. There is only one explanation. It’s your engagement, it is your determination, your strength, it is your rejection of an unfair situation that was made in Côte d’Ivoire which explains why we can stand before you today. This explains why yesterday other comrades were released. This explains why yesterday Bê Diabaté and other comrades […] have been released. And it is this mobilization which will explain tomorrow’s  normalization in Côte d’Ivoire, the release of all our comrades who are still detained, the return from exile of all our comrades who were forced to flee their own country, and the return to us of President Laurent Gbagbo.

… The original project [Ouattara regime] is not to let the FPI exists as a political party. The ambition nurtured by those who came to power under the conditions that we know is not to reinstate democracy. It is not to let a party as powerful as the Ivorian Popular Front party exist. (…)

Cote d'Ivoire
Cote d’Ivoire

Dear Comrades, you defeated the odds. You have proven that the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) was intractable. You have proven that the Ivorian Popular Front was a spirit. You have proven that the people of Côte d’Ivoire did not want to backtrack. And its course is determined to be democracy, to be progress, to be freedom. And it is because our opponents have realized this fact, because we have imposed this reality, that we stand here today in front of you.

Today is a day of rejoicing. A day to celebrate this milestone in our struggle. That is why it may be too risky to go further. But know that we do not have three programs, we do not have two programs, we have one program. And this program is the program of the people of Côte d’Ivoire. And this program are the aspirations of the people of Côte d’Ivoire. And this program is to resolve all the problems that prevent this country from becoming a modern and prosperous country. This is our program!

We’re here to straighten out. As the old of Ménékré says it, “twisted politics”, we are here to rectify. Continue reading “Freedom at last? 12 high political figures freed in Côte d’Ivoire”

Commemoration: 11 April 2011, the day Côte d’Ivoire was defaced!

Cote d'Ivoire
Cote d’Ivoire

It was on 11 April 2011, exactly 2 years ago, that Côte d’Ivoire, the land of the elephants, was defaced!  Yes…  I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks as I watched an African country being bombed by a foreign country (France) for … frauds during elections.  Before then, I had heard the term ‘francafrique‘, but always thought that it belonged to the past, and never for once thought that in this day and age, after African nations had just celebrated “50 years of independence”, we could be bombed.   See the irony of everything?  How could our people celebrate 50 years of independence in 2010, and then be bombed in 2011, because of internal affairs?  Whether anybody likes it or not, what happened in Côte d’Ivoire was an internal affair: fraud during elections, and international observers sent in to monitor elections all said that there were frauds in the northern part perpetrated by the armed rebels of Alassane Dramane Ouattara (ADO).  Since Gbagbo was the man to take down, we then heard that the ‘international community’ was summoning Gbagbo to step down.  Who remembers this nice ‘international community’ summoning Bush to let Al Gore take power after election fraud in the US in 2000?

And ever since, France and the ‘developed’ nations have not stopped bombing us: they even ganged up to bomb Libya, now Mali, Central African Republic, … it’s like “who is going to be next?”  Yes… centuries and years before, Africa was raped… but it never just stared you in the face like this… or rather they did not openly bomb us?  Is it true?  the Napalm bombs dropped in Cameroon during the independence war, or the bombs used in Algeria during the Algerian war, or in Madagascar claim otherwise. …  I guess in 50 years of independence, our history books had always been written by others, and we willingly let ourselves be brainwashed.

Laurent Gbagbo
Laurent Gbagbo

Some may ask “why are you writing this now? what good will it do? ADO is in power, Gbagbo is in prison, so there is nothing else to do.” Well…  my friends, you sound like losers.  We owe it to future generations to write “our” story ourselves, tell “our” side of history.  Everybody, or at least … nobody should spend 50 years thinking that they were independent like we did for the past 50.  We all need to know that Gbagbo stood for a higher fight, and bravely stood for his country.  Because of him we all openly saw what happened in Côte d’Ivoire: how the head of the electoral commission was ‘bribed’ by the French and American ambassadors in Côte d’Ivoire, how Africa was bribed with stupid temporary seats on the UN security council (South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon), how the Nigerian president was called 11 times in a day by the French one (Sarkozy) to force the CEDEAO and ECOMOG to military intervene in Côte d’Ivoire, how Jacob Zuma (the president of South Africa) abandoned Gbagbo (like he later did with Kadhafi, in a 360-degree turn), how the African Union was full of stupid cowards who all sided with the European union, how the international community declared an embargo on medicine (drugs), and refused to deliver any drugs as the country was being bombed, how they blocked cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire (the number one producer of Cocoa in the world) until after ADO took over, how the African intelligentsia just crucified Gbagbo and 50% of Ivorians in a go (without ever voicing a word of reason), how Gbagbo was betrayed by his main generals (Mangou and Kassaraté), and finally how France bombed the presidency of Côte d’Ivoire, murdering thousands on its way.  The list is so long… and Yes… we all saw it… and today some are silent… we have to write… it is our duty to our children.

Our celebrated writer, Chinua Achebe said:  “There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” …  “It’s not one man’s job.  It’s not one person’s job.  But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail — the bravery, even, of the lions.”

‘No More’ by Kelvin Karani

Children begging
Children begging

I was talking to a friend the other day about the suffering in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya, and my friend said “hush, we should be grateful that this is not happening in our country.”  I was dumbfounded, as I was thinking, how could somebody just rejoice for their lot, instead of helping the others? instead of doing something?  the least we can do is talk about it, cry, do something, not just watch and rejoice about our silly existence which could go down in flames in a day as in Cote d’Ivoire or Libya which were under fire from France and NATO (the mighty armies of the world) for their oil, cocoa, and gold. Then I found this really good poem by Kelvin Karani, talking about the things we all see in Africa, the things that hurt, and the things that tire. Enjoy “No More.”

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No more
Taking of silly slogans
Of change from the corrupt politicians
We need statesmen and stateswomen
People who see beyond elections

No more
Sitting back as others suffer
Saying that we are blessed
Happy that we are not in pain
In common bond united
We’ll rise or fall as a people

No more
Taking the aid of Aids
Which makes sick and
In perpetual need.

No more
Class divisions in Africa
Imperialism of whatever nature
White evils or black ones either
For time has come
For Africa, my Africa-our Africa
To dust herself and move on
Undeterred, unhindered
To show the rest of the world
What humanity truly is.

 Kelvin Karani

Francafrique: Raison d’Etat

After the joke of elections held in Egypt this past month, and with all the turmoil in Libya, Mali, and Côte d’Ivoire, I thought it will be best to watch this great documentary by Patrick Benquet which stirred thoughts across French Africa since December 16, 2010, date of its official diffusion.  It tells you all about the tricks, and machiavelism of France (Africa’s policeman) in Africa, and of course the effect of the cold war on African leaders and countries. Enjoy the first part titled the Francafrique Reason of State (Raison d’Etat) and share with others! It is important to know!

11 April 2011 – The Day the Re-colonization of Africa started!

Flag of Côte d'Ivoire
Flag of Côte d'Ivoire

Today, I would like to remind everybody that April 11th, 2011 is the day the re-colonization and balkanization of Africa started anewOn 11 April 2011, Africa was raped in broad daylight… the presidential palace of Côte d’Ivoire, the national television, the siege of parliament, were bombed, and the president of the country, Laurent Gbagbo, and his entourage, were captured like vulgar thieves by the French army, ONUCI forces, and rebel forces (Laurent Gbagbo – No to a Complicit Silence, Côte d’Ivoire- 20 ans de destabilisation mis a nu).   Many Ivorians had to seek refuge in neighboring countries, Ghana and Liberia, while the genocide of the Guéré and Wê people occurred.  All this was done in broad daylight, as other African heads of state clapped and saluted France and the ‘international community’ for restoring democracy (see Africans and the Trap of Democracy)… or rather tyranny in Côte d’Ivoire.   One year on, Côte d’Ivoire, the beautiful, looks like a ghost of herself.  I remember crying, praying, marching against the inferno that descended upon Côte d’Ivoire the beautiful.  Yes… fire descended upon Côte d’Ivoire.  Here is the video which Gregory Protche, of Gri-Gri International, published and which I particularly enjoyed, making a retrospect on what really happened during the post-electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire: how an entire country was put under siege, embargoed, no banks, no medicine… just bombs, and how Alassane Ouattara never won the elections.  A few weeks later, this was also done to another country just north of Côte d’Ivoire, Libya. I still cannot believe that many Africans saw the bombing of a country by external forces as good, and still see it as such… How could anyone applaud when their neighbor’s house is on fire? Today Mali is in turmoil… who will be next (Failure of African Leadership)?

Enjoy “5 reasons not to march for the victory of Ouattara” by Gregory Protche.

Blood in Valentine’s Day Chocolate: Why celebrate?

Chocolate
Chocolate

I was not planning on writing anything, but then I remembered the blood of Ivorians, and all the big cocoa’s sellers scheme in that country, and their influence in the current bloody atmosphere in Côte d’Ivoire, the world number one producer of cocoa… then I cringed… I had to write.  As Hallmark and the media try to make us celebrate a day when Cupidon supposedly hit us with his arrow of love, and we all then run to the store to buy chocolates, and everything lovey-dovey… I remembered that over 3000 miles away some children were dying in some cocoa plantations for people in the developed world to show love to their loved ones.

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

Is it really necessary?  do people need all that chocolate to feel loved?  do they need the heart-shaped box full of heart-shaped chocolates to feel loved?  and why not any other day?  could people not renew their love for each other any other day of the year?  or fall in love any other day?  does it have to happen at the expense of some kid and poor family in another hemisphere?  Well… after the event of April 11, 2011 in Côte d’Ivoire, I have decided to refrain myself from my love of chocolate… and we all should.  We can all refrain from it… there will be less wars!… and less caries!

Zambia wins the African Cup of Nations

Zambia's national team celebrate their win of the African Cup of Nations (Source: AFP)
Zambia’s national team celebrate their win of the African Cup of Nations (Source: Issouf Sanogo/AFP)

Wow, I started watching the finals yesterday rooting for Zambia to win against Côte d’Ivoire… I had watched them throughout the cup, and the last one as well, and knew that they were a young strong team to reckon with.  Throughout the game, I prayed that the memory of those Zambian players who died in a plane crash in 1993 in Gabon be honored.  At the time when the crash occurred, the Zambian team was on its way to Senegal from Libreville (Gabon) to play a world-cup qualifier.  We, Africans, were all stunned, and cried as an entire country had lost their heroes.  One of the only survivors was Kalusha Bwalya who would have been on the plane during the crash, but had found his own way to Senegal (he was playing for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and had to make separate arrangements to meet the team in Dakar).  We watched and cried with Kalusha who had lost all his teammates.

Zambia's national team, the Chipolopolo
Zambia’s national team, the Chipolopolo

Imagine rebuilding an entire mature team who had just crashed? It will take a lot of years to foster the same talent and train them.  The country had just lost a generation of extremely talented football players.  Kalusha went on to become coach of Zambia (at the 2006 CAN), and is currently the president of the football association of his country. It is extremely symbolic that Zambia won last night in Libreville (Gabon) against Côte d’Ivoire (who played outstandingly well), only a few hundred metres inland from the crash site.  The Chipolopolo (the Copper Bullets) dedicated their victory to the ones who lost their lives in the 1993 tragedy.