Tag Archives: africa

A Must Read: King Leopold’s Ghost

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror & Heroism in Colonial AfricaKing Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror & Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I fucks with Adam Hochschild.

King Leopold’s Ghost is a brilliant book that traces how what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo became a “possession” of the Kings, the greed and profit made from its natural resources, the grotesque violence that resulted in 10 million deaths in 30 years, and the internal and external resistance movements that led to, in the short run, 50 years of colonization by the state of Belgium and not the King.

The book is a page turner, written in some respects like a novel more than a history text, with it’s detailed attention to the “facts” as much as character and narrative development. I also learned alot that not only deepened by knowledge of Africa during the colonial period, but also helped me understand the way contemporary racial politics are embedded in this history.

Part of the reason I say I fucks with Mr. Hochschild is because his analysis is so comprehensive. I often find with history books that while I learn a lot from the author in terms of historical fact, I often see through their political agenda and/or their political blindspots (willful or benign). And it’s not that Hochschild is without a politics here. What works for me about this book is I don’t think I have read another white male historian who is ambivalent about making white historical actors (and their notions of “progress” and “democracy”) look better than they are. As much as he criticizes King Leopold’s and his Congo “government’s” sadism and greed, he is also critical of the motivations and blindspots of many of the Europeans and American whites who were happy to place all of there energies in critiquing King Leopold, while their governments and corporations were involved in the very same acts of violence with genocidal proportions against Black people in Africa and in the diaspora.

This is a must read.
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Senegal Sentences 9 Gay HIV Activists to Prison. For Being Gay.

Despite my celebrating the recent Uganda high court decision in favor of several lesbians abused by police, we still obviously have a long way to go. This past week, a Senegalese court sentenced 8 gay men who worked for AIDES Senegal (an organization that provides condoms and HIV treatment, in a country that has one of the lowest prevalence rates on the continent) to 8 years in prison for “homosexual acts.” Ironically, the country just played host to a regional gathering of the International AIDS Conference. The BBC reports:

“This is the first time that the Senegalese legal system has handed down such a harsh sentence against gays,” said Issa Diop, one of the men’s four defence lawyers. Mr Diop said he would be appealing against the sentences.

The IGLHRC’s Cary Alan Johnson said he was “deeply disturbed” by the case.

“There have been pretty consistent human rights violations… in Senegal,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme from Cape Town in South Africa.

“But the extremity of this sentence [and] the rapidness of the trial all really shocks us in a country which has been moving so positively towards rule of law and a progressive human rights regime.”

According to the website Behind the Mask (which documents what’s happening to LGBT people on the African continent.), the law governing “homosexual acts” reads (in English) as follows:

“Without prejudice to the more serious penalties provided for in the preceding paragraphs or by articles 320 and 321 of this Code, whoever will have committed an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex will be punished by imprisonment of between one and five years and by a fine of 100,000 to 1,500,000 francs. If the act was committed with a person below the age of 21, the maximum penalty will always be applied”

Human Rights Watch has also issued a statement demanding their release.

Seeing My Relatives in Africa

Yesterday I was watching the History Channel. There was a two-hour documentary called Blood Diamond. It chronicled the history of diamond mining in Africa, and what lead to the conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone/Liberia over the last decade or so. The documentary is very well produced and really informative, but often hard to watch the footage of all kinds of carnage that took place against people caught in between the political/financial gluttony of a few.

As I well know, Liberia and Sierra Leone were established as countries by the US, France and Great Britain to re-patriate (formerly i guess) enslaved blacks in the Diaspora back to the continent in the 19th century. Well I had never thought about the possibility of my own family members possibly being among those who left the US to go to West Africa.

That is, until last night.

As I was watching Blood Diamond, and during one segment when they were interviewing a woman fromSierra Leone, in what appeared to be a small village. She was telling her storyof having been raped and beaten by army and/or militia men. While she was speaking, her name across the bottom of the screen: Musu Farrow.

Farrow is not a common last name in the US (though it is somewhat in the UK). Basically, there are Farrows in NE Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. If they’re black, they’re related to me. There are also a lot of “Farrows” in the Carolinas. One of the major roads in Columbia, SC is Farrow Rd. A paternal great-grandfather was from South Carolina, and had migrated to Western PA where my paternal grandfather and father were born. The first time I went to Columbia, I thought, “The Farrows must have owned a lot of slaves.”

I do not know for sure if this mahogany brown woman (with small almond eyes like my younger sister) is at all a distant blood relative. For years I have wanted to research my genealogy, and both sides of my families feel as though I am the one to do it (because I am a writer, I suppose). But as she may or may not be a relative, it did awaken in me a series of questions, those inaudible voices about who we are and what happened to us, that I think that every African in the diaspora is continuously haunted by.

And will probably never be fully heard.

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=OF4JvpW1v1M]

Africom: A New American Military (Mis)Adventure

Have you heard about Africom? Yeah, me neither, not until a week or so ago when I was listening to Africa Today, a daily BBC podcast about Africa. It’s only 15minutes, and the only descent podcast on Africa I can find reported by Africans and interviewing Africans. They were interviewing Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and asked her about Liberia’s bidding on a contract to be one of the West African Nation’s that gets a new military base.

Anyhow, to learn about Africom, look at the FAQ’s in the website for this new government military program.

What is AFRICOM?
The United States Africa Command, also known as AFRICOM, is a new U.S. military headquarters devoted solely to Africa. AFRICOM is the result of an internal reorganization of the U.S. military command structure, creating one administrative headquarters that is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for U.S. military relations with 53 African countriesWhat is U.S. Africa Command designed to do?
U.S. Africa Command will better enable the Department of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert and with partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place. U.S. Africa Command is consolidating the efforts of three existing headquarters commands into one that is focused solely on Africa and helping to coordinate US government contributions on the continent.

What is Africa Command’s focus?
Unlike traditional Unified Commands, Africa Command will focus on war prevention rather than war-fighting. Africa Command intends to work with African nations and African organizations to build regional security and crisis-response capacity in support of U.S. government efforts in Africa. Through October 2008, Africa Command will gradually assume control over existing U.S. government programs, currently administered by U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command and U.S. Pacific Command.

Why is the Department of Defense creating the command?
Africa is growing in military, strategic and economic importance in global affairs. However, many nations on the African continent continue to rely on the international community for assistance with security concerns. From the U.S. perspective, it makes strategic sense to help build the capability for African partners, and organizations such as the Africa Standby Force, to take the lead in establishing a secure environment. This security will, in turn, set the groundwork for increased political stability and economic growth.

Anyhow, the first press I have seen about it in the US is in The Nation. Danny Glover and Nicole C. Lee write an aricle called Say No To Africom.

With little scrutiny from Democrats in Congress and nary a whimper of protest from the liberal establishment, the United States will soon establish permanent military bases in sub-Saharan Africa. An alarming step forward in the militarization of the African continent, the US Africa Command (Africom) will oversee all US military and security interests throughout the region, excluding Egypt. Africom is set to launch by September 2008 and the Senate recently confirmed Gen. William “Kip” Ward as its first commander. General Ward told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Africom would first seek “African solutions to African problems.” His testimony made Africom sound like a magnanimous effort for the good of the African people. In truth Africom is a dangerous continuation of US military expansion around the globe. Such foreign-policy priorities, as well as the use of weapons of war to combat terrorist threats on the African continent, will not achieve national security. Africom will only inflame threats against the United States, make Africa even more dependent on external powers and delay responsible African solutions to continental security issues.

General Ward told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Africom would first seek “African solutions to African problems.” His testimony made Africom sound like a magnanimous effort for the good of the African people. In truth Africom is a dangerous continuation of US military expansion around the globe. Such foreign-policy priorities, as well as the use of weapons of war to combat terrorist threats on the African continent, will not achieve national security. Africom will only inflame threats against the United States, make Africa even more dependent on external powers and delay responsible African solutions to continental security issues.

KEEP YOUR EYES ON THIS ONE, BLACK PEOPLE.