Tecumseh Roberts: Gay Murder and Nation-making in Liberia

I have this theory–nationalism is bad for queers. Why? It seems to me that many nationalist movements are framed around an idea of nationhood that equates resistance with (hetero) masculinity. The idea of building a nation then means that the heterosexual family becomes the initial “seed” of the nation. All other people who fall outside of those terms of “reproducing” the nation, vis-a-vis the family, are expendable, and are often written off as socially dead, murdered, or suffer the brunt of infectious diseases or chronic illnesses (AIDS or breast cancer, to name a few specifics) Queer and non-normative sex, gender expression and identity become seen as counterrevolutionary in the nationalist politic.

I am not taking sides about “revolutionary”–I mean any organized group trying to overthrow a political/ideological government or regime. In the most recent case, Liberia. That West African nation “founded” by the U.S., using former U.S. slaves as the “colonizers,” is recovering from the throes of a very brutal period of violence and political instability which lasted, in various forms, for more than 20 years.To address the most recent conflict (1999-2003), the country has established a “Truth & Reconciliation” Commission to, according to the website, create “an independent and accurate record of the rights violations and abuses as a result of the conflict.”

Last week, Prince Johnson, a state senator and former guerilla leader was testifying about the death of Tecumseh Roberts, a Liberian popular musician. He testified that another member of his former militia killed Roberts because he was gay. Apparently Roberts was in charge of delivering rice to people in the territory that Johnson controlled, but read this synopsis from the Liberian Journal of Johnson’s discovery that Roberts was gay:

Mr. Johnson said following the discovery of musician Roberts, a stream of blood flowed down his pants leading to the confirmation of suspicion by Gen. Varnii that the musician was a “homosexual.”
“Gen. Varnii ordered Tecumseh Roberts to take off his trouser and when he (latter) took off his trouser, it was discovered that his butt [anal] was rotten. The man whole anus was rotten,” the senator told commissioners.
Following the discovery that he was a homosexual, Johnson said, Gen. Varnii shot and killed Mr. Roberts.
The suggestion by Prince Johnson in his testimony is that Roberts had been fucked so much and so hard that his anus was “rotten”–in a state of decomposing, no longer alive or viable. It was in fact, dying,and therefore Roberts’ whole body, and the idea of a gay Liberian, also had to die, and therefore he was shot (Nevermind the thought that if the man was in fact bleeding he may have been raped). One need not look to West Africa to find similar examples of non-heteronormative sex/sexuality is tantamount to social, political and cultural death. It is the reason why, I continue to blog about all the murders of Black queer folks here in the U.S.

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.