To The Young of Our Day

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Picture via Ancestral Essence’s Facebook Page

by Wobusobozi Amooti Kangere & Chris Nkwatsibwe

Saw the story below this picture on the Facebook group ancestral essence, and got moved to share a few words from our journey in this time. These I send to the young of our day.

The story behind the picture is a first person account of a captured slave. It recounts his experience of first contact with ‘the new world.’ and his thoughts and sentiments of the dehumanizing ordeal his captors put him through.

The story itself is likely fiction. But sometimes we need fiction to rearrange the facts so that we can see TRUTH in its context.

Many of we who remained here on the continent are often disconnected from the experience of those who were taken. We must never forget though that we are of one blood; we are of one root.

Today the same snake that came to steal our men, women and earth 500 years ago, stealthily makes its way to finish the job it started. The fires in our shrines have gone cold from neglect. The mountains where our journeymen made pilgrimage to carry our children prayers to the gods are abandoned.

Our homes, which once never needed doors, are as sterile as prison garrisons and boarding houses for travelling strangers. We have forgotten how to have conversation with each other. We have forgotten how to remember the names and works of those who came before us. And so we carry their names like lifeless limbs we can’t wait to replace with alien sounds like Laquinta.

When their voices reach out to us from beyond to help us correct the error of our ways, we call them demons and bind them; yet the real demon is this strange culture that plants inhuman instincts in our young. And then we wonder why everything in Afrika is a mess.

Remember who you are Afrika. You are the children of the SUN. You are the body in which its living essence dwells. That is the secret behind your skin. Your blood is the Holy Grail. Humanity begins with you. Your ancestors were once called gods because of their power. But what they had was wisdom and knowledge of the stars, the wind, the earth, and of how life came to be.

Fool yourself not, you are not mortal. You are the immortal essence of the sun; clothed in flesh for a time. A time defined by a purpose measured in your talents and mental fields of prowess.

As for you slavers of our kind; in the different shades of skin in which you come…Enjoy the comfort of the living tombs you have turned our land into. A time shall come, in this lifetime or the next, when the tables will turn. The fires that burn in our shrines shall warm our spirits again. Those taken and those lost will return. The children will find their way back home.

This is not prophesy: It is only statement of the inevitable. The ancestral power wakes from its long sleep. And when the Afrikan wakes, you who laugh at our passing fate will remember that your Jesus and Muhammad learnt at the feet of our ancestors. And that Krishna and Budha were spawned from this soil.

Remember who you are children of the sun. Memory is the beginning of knowing, and knowing is the spring of life.

They will do everything to make you forget. They will keep your eyes in TVs, and teach you that their history of war is greater than your history of peace. And you will believe them for that is all you will know.

They will tell you that the conflicts engineered by their agents and puppets are tribal clashes. And that your ancestors- those beings who made your parents and spent their lives building the heritage you have squandered- hate you and wish to destroy you, just as you hate and wish to destroy the lives of the descendants you toil for every day in a job you hate.

You will celebrate the conquest of your backward past filled with spears, superstition and treacherous spirits. And seek haven in their cities where justice is for sell and truth is whatever you want it to be.

Your men will sleep with men and call it nature. And when the temperature of debauchery is just right, the tourists will make way for settlers, and then for colonies. And what started as kidnapping of our folk 500 years ago, and the partitioning of our lands into mega ranches controlled from cities in Europe; will be completed in your annihilation.

And when there is completely no trace left of you, and your beloved cities have turned into the ghetto concentration camps they already are degenerating into; may be then, someone will remember that prophets of old warned of such times.

But we are fools- we who speak of such things. We are foul evil creatures- we who speak of ancestral voices. We are lunatics, we who read the signs of the times and share what we see. And so our words shall remain lofty and befuddled to you.

For those whose minds still yearn for better times, the future is bright when the past is resolved. You don’t have to look far. The future and the past are all in the present. You, young African, are the meeting point between your ancestry and your progeny. So choose your path wisely. You are the hope of this nation.

You do not have to live in huts to be in touch with your past. We are the parents of civilization. We built the first cities. The ancestors ask only that we remember them kindly, as we ourselves would wish to be remembered by those we leave behind.

Build families. Make communities. This is the message that reverberates daily from beyond.

We should like to think that even the Jesus and Muhammad of whom our slavers and exploiters preach would not be offended by this simple counsel.

Blessings and Peace

Chris Nkwatsibwe is a Human Rights activist from Uganda

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Review: Foresight Africa Report by Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative

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Foresight Africa Cover | Brookings

The Foresight Africa report by Brookings Institution under their Africa Growth Initiative offers a snapshot of things to look out for in Africa this year. Out of the nine items which are featured in the report, seven have a bearing with the East Africa region or YLTP collective member’s countries.  These are;

An overview of the sixth Forum for Africa-China Cooperation or FOCAC expected to happen sometime later this year in South Africa, an analysis of how the west can do more militarily in Africa, a Pan-African view to Post-2015 Development Agenda, Financial Development in Africa – a crucial year, Reforming the African Union to increase effectiveness, a look at Obama administrations legacy in Africa – 2015 being a pivotal year and lastly a snapshot of presidential and legislative elections in Africa (with 5 countries from this region holding elections namely; Sudan – April, South Sudan – July, Ethiopia – May, Burundi – Mid 2015 and Tanzania – October with a referendum scheduled in April).

Perhaps to zero in on some of the above; I am particularly looking out to follow the FOCAC deliberations in South Africa this year. This meeting will come head over heels of the inaugural US-Africa Presidential Summit which was hosted by President Barack Obama last year. Some commentators cheekily observed the Chinese were closely observing that too and looking to overturn the gains US made last year! However, back to this report Yun Sun gives an excellent analysis, looking at previous FOCAC forums and inferring a pattern and extrapolating that to what one can look out for in this year’s Gig in South Africa.

As pointed out by Sun, this will be the first meeting on the new leadership in China. Also looking at my country, this will be President Kenyatta’s first FOCAC meeting. For any critical observer, one will notice Kenya has been more or less setting out the ground for the pet areas addressed by China – revival of key infrastructural projects both in the country and in the EAC region. It will be worthwhile to see how the new leaders in China will gel with the new crop of African leaders.

Most interesting is the realization by the west that they cannot compete with China in Africa and are thus we might see the rise of partnerships  between Western conglomerates and Chinese State entities doing business in Africa – this is highlighted under the chapter on Obama administrations legacy in Africa.

Mind you, if you are a Chinese watcher here is a speech by both President Zuma at Tsinghua University delivered in December 2014. Link: http://www.thepresidency.gov.za/pebble.asp?relid=18596

Michael O’Hanlon and Amy Copley address what the West can do more militarily in Africa. They visit some of the incidents that have taken place in Africa zeroing in Boko Haram in West Africa, terrorist attack in Westgate in Nairobi and security situation in the Horn of Africa. From their assessment the Africa Union has other regional bodies have a number of security apparatus that are not quite engaged when situations arise because of bureaucracy among other things.

Though the military ‘intervention’ by the West does pose some long term strategic questions especially with other actors also intervening militarily in the continent but this is not addressed by the authors of this chapter.

Mwangi S. Kaimenyi advocates for increased reforms at the African Union and gives tangible evidence why this is the path to take. Increasingly, the Africa Union is acting as the focal point of engagement with the continent but the organization is still staked in the old ways of doing things. The author goes ahead to give practical ways in which the Union should undertake in 2015.

The quintessential segment of this report is the one on African Election 2015. Two of the countries analyzed are from this region i.e. Tanzania and Sudan.

This report is highly recommended – that is if you have not had a chance of reading it.

Link to the full report [pdf]

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES.

A Brief Review of ‘The State of Africa’ – Martin Meredith

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A BRIEF REVIEW OF ‘THE STATE OF AFRICA’ – Martin Meredith by Chris Nkwatsibwe

Africa stands at cross roads in the quest for good governance and social economic development. the increased deterioration of the standards of living in majority of the countries coupled with devastating social economic status of the people affirm that while Africa may have succeeded in acquiring political independence from her former colonial masters, it has not translated this independence to tangible benefits to its inhabitants.

The ‘state of Africa’ – a book by Martin Meredith, explores the multitude of problems that Africa has faced in the past half-century, focusing on key figures and events that have defined its independence and post- independence era. The book notes that despite the fact that in many cases African independence was a bloody and a lengthy process, the withdrawal of colonial powers from Africa was met with jubilation and hope. African leaders stepped into their new positions with much enthusiasm and visions of development and nation-building. Africa looked set to flourish since this era also coincided with a global economic boom. It is further noted however that this was not the case, the question therefore is what went wrong and why did hopes and ambitions fade? This is the question that Meredith tries to answer in this book.

The book poses the vampire like politicians as being the answer to these rather intriguing questions. It leaves little doubt as to the fact that the primary cause of Africa’s pain is its corrupt, tyrannical, incompetent, thieving, “vampire-like” leaders. The book charts the history of African states in the half-century since the colonial powers either left or were kicked out of their former colonies. It documents, country by country, decade by decade, a depressing litany of wars, revolutions, dictatorships, famines, genocide, coups and economic collapse to justify the assertion.

This narrative begins on Feb. 9, 1951, a pivotal date in the history of what was then Britain’s Gold Coast and now Ghana. On that day the political prisoner Kwame Nkrumah was elected to political office as Britain began fulfilling its promises for the country’s self-determination. Four days later, Nkrumah was designated the new prime minister. And the cycle is described from the shadow of colonialism to the bloom of self-government, onward to tyranny that ensued thereafter.
For example, In the Central African Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa acquired an impressive portfolio of French property from fortunes he made in private diamond and ivory deals, and also housed a host of wives and mistresses, including “the German, the Swede, the Cameroonian, the Chinese, the Gabonese, the Tunisienne, and the Ivorienne”.

While Uganda’s Idi Amin, so insecure in his new-found power, authorized mass killing sprees of suspected opposition, whose bodies were dumped in rivers to be eaten by crocodiles. In a similar fashion, Francisco Macías Nguema of Equatorial Guinea gave his security forces unlimited powers to arrest, torture, rape and murder.

Mr. Meredith points out that not a single African head of state in three decades had allowed himself to be voted out of office, instead, these dictators strutted the stage, tolerating neither opposition nor dissent, rigging elections, emasculating the courts, cowing the press, stifling the universities, demanding abject servility and making themselves exceedingly rich.
It is highly imperative to note however that even though the ‘State of Africa’ presents “governments and vampire-like politicians” as being the major and primary cause of Africa’s problems, , it does not ignore the other factors that have contributed to the poor outcome of most of these African countries, insightfully, the artificial borders imposed by colonial powers, indebtedness, civil war and conflict, Western protectionism, the frequency of droughts, the high levels of diseases such as malaria and river blindness and the dreadful scourge of Aids plus rapid population growth are some of the other factors Meredith highlights.

It is however argued that these factors could have been overcome, or at least alleviated, had it not been for the greed and incompetence of the independence-era leaders, whose regimes deteriorated relatively quickly into systems of dysfunctional, corrupt and authoritarian rule.

Interestingly, Even though Meredith does attribute many of Africa’s problems to poor leadership, he also points out the fact that most of these leaders enjoyed considerable Western support. Mobutu, for example, adopted a pro-Western, anti-Soviet stance that gained him considerable support from the West, particularly in Washington. When George Bush became president in 1989, he stated that Zaire was among America’s oldest friends, and its president – President Mobutu – one of their most valued friends. In the Central African Republic, the French provided Bokassa’s regime with both financial and military support in order to suppress prospects of Anglophone influence. This in my opinion can be translated as a contribution the west could have made to Africa’s present day challenges.

The book also captures the key events such as the Ethiopian famine and the Rwandan genocide, and exhaustively discusses the key leaders such as Charles Taylor, one of the continent’s most prominent warlords, and Zimbabwe’s infamous Robert Mugabe.
While exploring the Tanzanian example which was referred to as a “beacon of hope” amidst rapidly fading hopes for the rest of Africa, Meredith also indicates that although most post-independence leaders opted for “African socialism” as a basis of economic and political governance, their strategies and ideologies tended to be a haphazard mixture of vague and incoherent ideas, and thus often involved implementing grandiose development projects, the majority of which failed due to the lack of necessary infrastructural and institutional frameworks.

On a rather lighter note, In the last chapters of the book Meredith offers a little hope: the political and economic successes of Botswana, South Africa’s Mandela years, noble characters -the poet-president Léopold Senghor in Senegal and worthwhile leadership of Vice President John Garang and the emergence of a “new generation” of African leaders committed to democracy, economic development and civil rights are also comprehensively discussed.

Lastly, this book is epic. Meredith works with the colossal spatial and temporal span of this subject with ease, weaving chapters together in a loose chronological order to present the narrative as a patchwork quilt of Africa, rather than as a rigid country-by-country timeline. The early chapters see the rise of African independence and post-independence leaders and the later chapters indicate an account of their actions while in their tenure in their respective offices.

Just like Meredith writes, “African governments and the vampire like politicians who run them are regarded by the populations they rule as yet another burden they have to bear in the struggle for survival.” It is saddening to note that Africans have taken a more passive that active role in resolving the democratic deficiencies encountered by their countries. There’s an increasing state of apathy amongst Africans which has delayed and frustrated the efforts towards dismantling of these deficiencies and consolidating the gains already made.

CHRIS NKWATSIBWE – Uganda
Human Rights activist

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES