Sunday, 31 July 2011

Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast at Tiffany's", one song that won't go away..

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Maroon Cultures, what do you know about them?

Its interesting how much of Black history we have not been taught and have to find out for ourselves. I've recently been reading about the Maroon cultures in the Americas and I'm surprised to learn of the extent of the sustained and meaningful black resistance to the indignity and cruelty of African slavery.

These histories are by far more culturally relevant to me than the history of the Habsburgs of Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Kaisers and other such European lore that I was made to write exams about, or the Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare and Keats that I was force-fed as a schoolboy in West-Africa all those years ago. It is shocking how much of our true history is unknown to many of us.

The resistance put up by these heroic peoples is much too important to our sense of self-worth and to our pride and dignity as a people and I think it is almost criminal that it has been allowed to remain suppressed for so long.

I expect to be doing a more detailed piece on this soon, detailing the achievements of these brave African peoples, who resisted oppression and fought back, successfully in many cases. Please seek out information concerning this important part of the history of our people, if you can. Peace..

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Lagos, a crisis of overpopulation, poverty and slums..

The startling issues reported in this video do not seem to feature on the agenda of the authorities in Nigeria. The Nigerian government, like most of its other African counterparts, continues to demonstrate obliviousness of its responsibility towards the nation's citizens. As things stand, the future of the ordinary Nigerian citizen living in his own country is bleak, given that the country's population is expected to double within 30 years. The situation in Lagos is replicated albeit on a smaller scale, in towns and cities all over the country.

No, you never hear anyone talk about overpopulation in Nigeria. What you hear of instead is how everyone is expected to have children of their own, with little consideration given to the living conditions into which these children are to be born, or the quality of life that they will be expected to have after they are brought into the world. It is unsurprising that Nigeria, a comparatively wealthy African country, continues to hold firmly to her position in the Low Human Development countries (145 out of 172 in 2011, but 142 out of 172 in 2010, so Nigeria is actually sliding down the table) in the Human Development Index (HDI).

Rather than tackling the really difficult issues that confront the nation, what I hear from Nigeria (and many Nigerians), is a whole lot of high-sounding nonsense, narrative and rhetoric which to my mind smacks of collective self-deception; a seeming pretence that ours is a "normal" country, as if these difficult issues will simply go away when we ignore them, when we do not discuss them, or when we pretend that they don't exist.

Seeking to improve the quality of life for the ordinary Nigerian is not a matter that has been taken sufficiently seriously, unfortunately, despite the increasing urgency for this in a world with a fast expanding population, one in which competition for resources (and markets) will intensify significantly in the coming decades. It is trite that a more developed society is better placed to compete successfully than a less developed one is and unless we begin to do something about this now, going by the current predictions, our society's place in a future post-oil world will be very different from that which any of us, as Nigerians, would wish for it to be.

Published also on the website Nigerians Talk

Sunday, 24 July 2011

You Know I'm No Good..

I cheated myself,
Like I knew I would
I told you, I was trouble
You know that I'm no good..

Here also..

Rest In Peace, Amy..

Saturday, 23 July 2011

How sad is this..

Someone for whom I always had a soft spot died today. It came on the news this evening that Amy Winehouse was found dead in her north London flat earlier this afternoon. This is how the BBC reports it and the Manchester Evening News.

Aged 27, Amy was too young to die, depriving the world of a huge musical talent. She was much vilified and was even booed recently at a concert in Serbia, where she is said to have been so drunk while on stage, that she could only mumble the lyrics of her songs. Yes, she was troubled and had a problem with drugs and drink, but there is one school of thought that refers to addiction as an illness.

And doped as she apparently always seemed to be, she still belted out her songs on stage to much acclaim until recently. I am particularly affected by her loss because she endeared herself to me with her rebellious, unconventional character, since I am one who will admire anyone who is bold enough to fly in the face of convention. This is a very sad evening for me..

Amy Winehouse performing 'Valerie' at Hyde Park in London at a concert organised as part of the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday celebrations. The 'enfant terrible' of her generation, she will be sadly missed. R. I. P.

Take a look at this one too.. How sad..

Thursday, 21 July 2011

West Africa - The case for more regional integration

The Oakland Institute in collaboration with Action Against Hunger (ACF) have published a new Report, titled ACHIEVING REGIONAL INTEGRATION: The key to success for the fight against hunger in West Africa

You may download the Report Here (pdf).

In the report, the argument is made that if West African nations do not move decisively towards regional integration, no amount of money, development, or agricultural technology, will be sufficient or effective at ending hunger.

Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director at the Oakland Institute and author of the report asserts that
"many issues, such as price volatility, are regional by essence and cannot be tackled effectively by individual countries. Without integration most West African states will remain subject to the agenda and goodwill of international donors, institutions and richer countries.

Resource-poor African governments need to implement regional policies for sustainable food production, smoother regional trade and regulated agricultural markets.."

The report elaborates on the potential for ECOWAP (the Regional Agricultural Policy for West Africa), which is a "comprehensive and ground-breaking food and agriculture common policy in West Africa," to bring durable solutions to hunger and poverty.

My own take on this is that African governments cannot begin soon enough to take extremely seriously the question of lifting out of poverty more people from among their populations. The need for this is urgent, in a world in which populations worldwide are growing and competition for resources is intensifying. A nation, a large percentage of whose population is kept poor, is a nation that will remain underdeveloped in perpetuity. Nigeria is a case in point, this baffling paradox that is a wealthy, leading petroleum and natural-gas producing and exporting nation, which has an overwhelmingly large proportion of her people living in poverty.

China has the world's largest population, but has succeeded in lifting out of poverty 400 million of her citizens over the last 30 years, a number that is perhaps as large as the population of the entire West African region.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

What are we doing about the crisis in the Horn of Africa?

Talking up Africa is positive, it is a good thing. However, in doing so we must prevent ourselves from forgetting that as at this minute, millions of our fellow Africans are faced with the threat of starvation in a situation of drought and now famine. And the sad situation in the Horn of Africa is only the latest example of several similar instances on the continent about which we have not shown sufficient concern.

It seems to me that we have become accustomed to the idea that in times of crisis, relief should always come from outside of Africa, whereas we Africans just sit back and wring our hands helplessly.

To my mind, it is the actuality that responsibility for the well-being and welfare of our fellow Africans falls on us primarily, and starting with our governments, our response to this current crisis has been lacklustre to say the least. Its almost as if we are not even aware of the duty that we owe to our own continent. Just saying..

Note: For completeness, you may want to take a look at this African Union (AU) press release informing of the approval by the AU Special Emergency Assistance Fund for Drought and Famine in Africa, of emergency relief assistance to Somalia. The press release goes on to state that relief funds are depleted due to failure by member states to make their voluntary contributions.

Hereunder is the link to a post on this blog concerning this issue from 12 October 2009. The warning was not heeded.

Postscript: In updating myself on this matter I found this blog. Clearly, the sensible actions of the Ethiopian government in preparation for the crisis, has meant that the effects of the drought on Ethiopia have been substantially less severe than they have been in Kenya, whose government can fairly be accused of gross negligence. Somalia is a different story, since there is no government to speak of in that country, capable of organising anything as complex as would be necessary in these circumstances..

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

East African drought, the 'worst in 60 years'

A drought developing across the Horn of Africa is now the worst in 60 years - affecting 10 million people, according to the United Nations.

I don't know if the governments of the people in the affected countries are as interested in this serious issue, as are the foreign aid agencies. There is the suggestion in some quarters, that the drought is a direct consequence of the world's changing climate, a situation for which the Africans who now are suffering the most, bear the least responsibility.

See here for more

Monday, 4 July 2011

Africa's imaginary gay crisis..

A spectre is haunting Africa – the spectre of homosexuality. Over the past decade, a curious and totally unlikely coalition of religious leaders, the ruling class and sections of the mainstream media has launched a vigorous campaign against homosexuality and perceived homosexuals. Trading in the most spiteful rhetoric and symbols imaginable, members of this alliance have sung from the same hymnal, affirming, implausibly, that homosexuality is a recent import into Africa and that homosexuals are responsible for the continent’s postcolonial throes. Not unpredictably, the alliance’s investment in hate has yielded bountiful dividends of violence and murder. In January, the Ugandan teacher and gay rights activist David Kato was murdered by yet unidentified assailants after a national news magazine in the country “outed” (Kato never attempted to hide sexual orientation) him as gay and openly urged his execution. Ugandan police were suspiciously quick to blame his death on a botched robbery operation.

African countries, to be sure, are not unique in this assault on perceived sexual deviance. Western countries may have instituted a raft of legal measures to protect sexual minorities, but such legal protection often has to contend with deeply rooted cultural antipathy. The truth is that even in the West, the struggle for sexual parity is unfinished, a fact the ongoing battle over same-sex marriage in the United States amply illustrates.

Even so, the situation in the West hardly compares with the atmosphere of competitive denigration found across most of Africa today. I advance two preliminary explanations. The first is economic. It is hardly a coincidence that the two countries where anti-gay rhetoric has been most strident in Africa – Zimbabwe and Nigeria – are also two of the most economically destitute. In both countries, the percentage of the population “living” on less than a dollar a day has risen steadily over the past two decades. Average life expectancy, according to the 2011 Failed States Index (where both are ranked 6th and 14th respectively) is 33.5 for Zimbabwe and 48.3 for Nigeria. In both countries, a frustrated quest for a rational explanation for economic crisis has produced an implausible demonology in which gays, lesbians and sexual “deviants” of all sorts apparently team up with sundry “demonic forces” to ambush not just those countries’, but Africa’s economic progress (incidentally, South Africa, with the most liberal sexual laws in Africa, is also the continent’s most economically advanced country).
The situation in both Zimbabwe and Nigeria seems to validate the link between material privation and political suggestibility. Where people are poor and poorly educated (or not at all), they are more susceptible to political manipulation by demagogues who parrot easy explanations for complex and fundamentally rational economic problems. In most of Africa today, the insidious fiction that the “gay next door” bars the way to economic progress has been the cue for a massive pink-hunt. The parliament in Uganda is currently mulling over legislation to impose the death penalty on homosexuals. In Nigeria, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2006 expressly criminalises homosexuality and same sex marriage. In Zimbabwe, Dr Martin Ssempa, surely Africa’s most virulently homophobic preacher, bludgeons the poor with graphic images of the “sickening” things that gays get up to, ironically enough, in the privacy of their bedrooms.
None of this politico-economic explanation can be meaningful without a connection to the expanding influence of religion in Africa. This is my second explanation. Over the past three decades, much of the continent has fallen under the scourge of Pentecostal Christianity. As a social phenomenon, one with key transnational connections, Pentecostal Christianity in Africa has carried a moralist and doggedly anti-intellectual banner. On the one hand, Pentecostalism manifests as a moralising force that narrates Africa’s economic and political crises as an inevitable outcome of public immorality (and what can be more immoral than two men or two women going at it in their bedroom?), a situation, it would seem, that can only be rectified by a collective return to the straight and narrow. As an anti-intellectual force, Pentecostalism in Africa is profoundly ahistorical in that it eschews human, especially political, agency in favour of pseudo-spiritual “explanations”.
This is the overall anti-intellectual, anti-rationalist climate in which gays have become, quite literally, African societies’ whipping boys. I emphasise this climate in order to drive home an important point: given the atmosphere of pervasive irrationality, gays are only one among many other “enemies”. In Nigeria for instance, an ever growing list of “demonic forces” has recently expanded to include so-called child “witches” who are blamed for even economic problems that pre-date their conception. In the most tragic examples, brainwashed parents have colluded in the killing of their own children.
With many evangelical upstarts naively promising salvation in exchange for gays’ renunciation of “sodomy”, the continent is once again chasing shadows at the expense of real solutions to its serious problems. Such problems may vary in manifestation and degree, but they are unified by their being traceable to a common set of factors, foremost among which are elite myopia and failure to invest in human capital and physical infrastructure. These problems require urgent and, suffice to add, rational attention, and as it is, African governments’ capacity to deal with them is hobbled by their failure to keep their highly-skilled young men and women at home. These are the things we should be obsessing about, not what the dude next door is up to when the lights are out.
Blog Author's Note: I came across this marvellous write up here and thought to reproduce it in full on this blog..

Sunday, 3 July 2011

That Facebook bug..

I can hardly believe that I haven't posted on this blog for nearly a month. Well, there is reason for this and the reason is this - I discovered Facebook!

Okay, I know that a while ago on this blog I dismissed Facebook as being a complete waste of time. Talk about naivete. Back then, in frustration and in trying to justify my own failure to grasp what Facebook was about, I whined and moaned about how nonsensical I thought it was to have more than a hundred virtual 'friends' who one had never met, or was ever likely to meet; about how I thought all those on Facebook were twits who had nothing better to do than to look at others' photos on their computer screens. I didn't get it then, but folks, I have got it now. I've been smitten and well and truly bitten by the Facebook bug.

People, I am truly hooked and I find the whole experience actually quite fascinating. I've formed friendships (in differing degrees of closeness and intimacy) with individuals in locations as disparate as Senegal and Malawi; I've been able to lend my support to causes that I care about; I've made meaningful contact with some of my sports heroes; I've received help in the preparation of my plans for my upcoming tour of the African continent; the list of pluses is long..

So please do accept my apologies if in my excitement I have somewhat neglected this blog, but I'm still here and haven't gone anywhere.

Here, is a peace tribute from me by Steel Pulse one of my all time favourite reggae bands..