AID WILL NEVER SAVE AFRICA

A long time ago when I was still an impressionable 20-year-old,I wanted to work for the United Nations .

somewhere remote,wild where people were in dire straits was my preferred option.

Aid organisations in Africa are a dime a dozen and their fleets of four-wheel drives are always zooming past you on a mission to save some hapless individuals somewhere.

While we cannot dismiss the good work some of the international aid organizations do,we have to admit that “compassion” can only be stretched so far.

I am reading a very interesting book by Andrew Buckoke titled  Fishing in Africa:A Guide to War and Corruption and  got a new phrase there…compassion fatigue.

What happens when the endless streams of dollars ,and Euros are no longer there .

Will Africa watch its children dying because donors have pulled out and the money bags are no longer bottomless.

With so many years that have been invested in the aid business,how many of he projects started can we say have been sustainable over the long-term and have completely obliterated suffering,poverty,malnutrition and  other health issues

I am yet to hear f an aid organisation that has closed shop because it eradicated all of the problems it had set out to alleviate in the first place.

What am I getting at?

Governments in Africa and its citizens need to work harder to ensure that we are not always hang out to dry when western countries can no longer afford to fund our projects.

It is a fact that most countries on the continent are run on donor aid.

We should feel slighted that almost half a century after most of the countries on the continent gained independence we still can’t run our countries independently.

How we are going to do this ?

By ensuring we have better leaders ,people running government and countries need to be committed individuals who put public service before personal interest.

We need to elect leaders who put integrity,hard work and selfless duty before  clan,tribe,color or political interest.

We need to change the way we look at ourselves so that the world stops seeing us as that sorry continent where people cannot put their act together..

We need change.

Please share your thoughts on how else we can inspire change on our beautiful continent…

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AFRICA’S FATHER FIGURES ……..

Being a Bantu from Eastern Africa I have been struck recently by how words which color both my language and our national language Swahili have in common with Shona that is spoken in parts of Southern Africa especially Zimbabwe.

Swahili for anyone not familiar with the language is the most colorful language in the world.It is spattered with Bantu,Arab,Portuguese even Indian influence and originated along the Kenyan coast before it became the national language .

Words like nyoka(Swahili for snake),muti(Bantu reference to charms),while the Shona call a witch doctor nganga the Swahili word for it is mganga.

All these  learnt while reading a number of books on Zimbabwe.A country which has become famous for all the wrong things in the last two decades.It fell from being a bread basket to a country whose inflation rate hit the stratosphere and it started receiving food aid.

I did a review of a book about Robert Mugabe called  Dinner with Mugabe  here and why his story could be that of any other African liberation leader.

What struck me however and sent chills down my spine was the book The Fear :The Last days of Robert Mugabe by Peter Godwin.

Godwin whose parents left England for Zimbabwe has written many other books but The Fear is a book that is raw,unedited and tells about what happened in Zimbabwe after the disputed 2008 elections.

The accounts of victims whom Peter visited in hospitals in Harare,in villages outside the capital tell of blood curdling human violence.

It did not matter if you were black or white but  if you voted for Morgan Tsvangirai’s(the  only other contender in this election) MDC or movement for democratic change,you got your ass whipped black and blue literally.

These handy men of the state reigning error on their brothers and sisters did not discriminate on sex,age or color,everyone had to be taught a lesson,how could they shame the country’s liberator from white rule(read Mugabe) by voting against him.

They had to be taught a lesson.

African leaders watched silently while these was going on….but here is why they should not have kept quiet…

Reading this excerpt from the book it is easy to understand why African leaders are sometimes all lumped together.It was an observation made by one of Mugabe’s former students who had travelled widely in the 1960’s and had met a lot of the new crop of leaders who would take over leadership in their countries after independence….

“I knew Kaunda  and Banda and Kenyatta before independence,when they were still on bicycles,when we were still elarning.I know the leadership of Africa:a father is a figure head.It’s about masculinity.All radical fathers want to dominate their wives and kids,so in a political party,that domination is carried out too-you don’t want people to answer back-you select “yes” men.People have to listen and obey,or else.”

That short paragraph summed up all of Africa’s struggle with democracy for me.

Years after many countries were set free by their colonial masters,many more countries ar now shackled with new slave masters who bear the same color as a majority of citizens in these countries only difference being that they  wield bigger whips.

When will things change…?

Change will come when we stop thinking political leaders will save the continent.

Change will come when the millions living on this continent collectively pull themselves up by their sandal straps and start the move towards change….. themselves not at the behest of so called father figures.

Change will come when we as a continent understand that so long as one country in Africa is at war,then we are all at war.

Change will come when we challenge the so-called father figures to stop dragging us backwards in the past where terror,submission and blind obeyance earned you brownie points but left you less of a human being.

Change will come when we dare tell these father figures that they are wrong to think submission is a sign of respect.

Change will come when demand that our leaders stop living in a past full of the ghosts of colonialism.

Change will come when we are all working to ensure the sins of the past are not visited on any other future generation of Africa’s children.

 

 

 

 

A REASON TO END WARS IN AFRICA…….?

“War is Africa’s perpetual ripe fruit.There is so much injustice to resolve,such desire for revenge in the blood of the people,such crippling corruption of power,such unseemly scramble for natural resources.The wind of power shifts and there go the fruit again ,tumbling toward the ground ,each war more inventively terrible than the last.”-

Cocktail hour under the tree of forgetfulness -Alexandra Fuller

 

Perfect.

This was my first thought after reading this analogy by Ms Fuller.

Reading through the wars that have plagued the continent,we seem to have developed a knack for coming up with more terrible ways to revenge perceived wrongs.

If it’s not tribes trying to correct historical injustices,its victims of Africa’s colonial past who want the wrongs that were committed then corrected now.

But can we really rewrite history?

We can only seek to understand it,learn from its lessons and hopefully never make the same mistakes again.

For Africa to ever move forward all ethnic and religious  groups living here must acknowledge that this is home .

We can never claim to own a part of this continent or a part of any corner of the globe because soon we will be dust.

As Shakespeare says…as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.

One moment we are here,the next we are gone.

Of what use will be theesources we fought over,the acreageso land we fought over and the power we mindlessly hang on be?

Recently these wars have taken a new dimension because now we are fighting under the guise of our beliefs.Think of the sectarian violence in Nigeria, where Chrisitans and the war in Somalia that has been driven by fundamentalists…it never seems to end.

Yet the underlying reasons for the wars remain the same power and resources.

Why do we find even more ingenious reasons to kill and maim each other?

The wheels of history grind on and todays wars will be history tomorrow but we never learn.

As soon as one fire is put out in one corner of Africa another erupts in another corner of the continent.

We cannot keep insisting in righting historical injustices half a century later or else we will always be looking backwards instead of forwards.

We need to learn to live with the scars past wars have wrought on us and swear that it shall never happen again.

We need to forget the prejudices we hold against other tribes,ethnic and religious groups and realize Africa belongs to none of us,it belongs to all of us.

We need to make sure the next generation of Africans be they black ,white,green or purple are not scarred by the mistakes of the past.

We need to find a reason to end the wars……

AFRICA NEEDS ITS WOMEN…..FREE.

“…… all countries (especially developing ones) are better served when women are encouraged to play a full and mature role in the running of their communities.”

 

These are not my own words but those of a former head of the Canadian International Development Agency Margaret Catley – Carlson.They are from the book In My Own Name ,a memoir by another Canadian,  Maureen McTeer.

Women in Africa,and the world over have faced the same prejudices and challenges for years and until each and every woman is free from the prejudices society places on her,then no woman can claim to be truly free,no matter what corner of the globe she lives in.

When African women lack access to equal opportunities in education,employment and the political sectors,none of us can claim to be free.

When women are dying as they bring forth life into the world, because their countries lack hospitals that should have  basic life saving facilities or trained medical personnel,then none of us is free.

When women are denied jobs or face discriminative  policies at work because their employers are afraid they will get pregnant in the future and disrupt corporate/business functions then no woman is free.

When women are denied the chance and opportunity to make informed choices in regards to their reproductive rights then no woman is free

When an electorate looks down on a female candidate not because her experience is lacking or her educational capabilities are lacking but just because of her gender,then no woman is free.

When women have to turn to prostitution,degrading working conditions in foreign countries because their lack of education leaves them little choice,then no woman is free

And until we are all free,none of us can lay claim that we live in a free and democratic society.

Most African governments are just beginning to acknowledge the role of women in development.

When men are  running for elective posts they see these posts as  challenges and ask them selves one questin ,”why not ?” and then run.

For women it is a whole set of different rules ,as Maureen says in her book, women will first list all the reasons  and setbacks (real and imagined)  of why they should not run then either give up or if they do decide to run have to work ten times a s hard as men to prove themselves.

It is time African society sets women free from the chains it has bound them  in.

Let us allow women the chance to embrace the  opportunities their  lives gift them  to lead their  communities and countries.

Let us not to be afraid to let them stand tall and be counted when the opportunity arises to make better the institutions and bodies that serve their fellow citizens..

Let us change the way politics is played,let’s make politics relevant again to the millions of people who call Africa home and especially for its women .

 

DINNER WITH MUGABE…..AN AFRICAN STORY.

Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland could  be the story of any post independence African President and most of its political leaders.

A war hero whose dreams for his country went up in  smoke and here is why…

The best thing that can explain this, an excerpt from the book where the author interviews a former Cabinet Minister who has this to say about  Mugabe’s rise in the  independence movement….

….he comes home on holiday;a man bringing his future wife to meet his family and intending to return to Ghana as a teacher to teach.He wants to settle in Ghana,where he has a well paid job,which he hasn’t resigned from .And then the Rhodesian nationalist movement ,which is going through turbulence including leadership deficiency ,hears of him,this articulate man called Robert Mugabe.Word goes around that he trains teachers so he is more articulate than the teachers ,who are the most respected people in the country at that time.And of all exciting places,he lives and works in Ghana,where Nkrumah is leading the way to African Liberation.He has Fort Hare qualifications.His wife is impressive.So he is approached ,persuaded to join the liberation movement ,and he agrees to give it a try.

Nowhere in his record prior to becoming the leader of Zanu do you see Robert Mugabe driven by political passion or a vision of a better future for Zimbabweans.He has not left his well paid job in Ghana to join the nationalist movement at home.No,not at all.He has simply taken leave on a visit to Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe).Nowhere is there any logical progression ….

Mugabe just happened to be well read,at the right place at the perfect time and with the help of fate and overzealous,hopeful Zimbabweans he got the plum job he holds today.

Does it not read like a script picked from any of the countries on the continent?

Countires which today are going through periods of upheaval be they  political or economic?

Bright,well read minds carrying the hopes,dreams and aspirations of their people until something went  horribly wrong.

They got comfortable,they lost focus of why they waged war against their colonisers,they became drunk with power.

Right now.more than half a century after most of the African countries gained independence, all bar South Africa and Rwanda are being led by leaders who share a story similar to Mugabe’s.

They came to power riding on the high expectations and hopes their people had of them ,that they could change the way things were.

But sadly this hopes were dashed when these same leaders surrounded themselves with selfish cronies and advisers.

The elected leaders became beholden to the people who had put them in power.They turned a blind eye to the shenanigans of their friends and cronies,after all they owed the power they enjoyed to these same people.

These cronies and advisers turned into neo colonialist who wanted to amass wealth for themselves while neglecting the suffering and needs of their people.

As another writer Michela Wrong put it in her book…it was now their turn to eat.

But one thing the book does very well is show Mugabe the man who is not infallible,with his weaknesses,his shortcomings and not the enigmatic persona he is so frequently potrayed as.

Reading the book you almost feel sorry for the man ,growing up without a father  and with a mother who thought her son was nothing less than Gods chosen,Mugabe had to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Candidly the book tells the story of a man who is grossly misunderstood but whose life offers  useful insight into the many problems  most of the countries on the continent are struggling with  today.

THE AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY AT A PRICE

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.
As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

Source :www.paulocoelhoblog.com

Image:www.freepik.com

There are many reasons i love reading Paulo Coelho,and not becuase for me his finest work was not the Alchemist but “By the River Piedra  I sat down and wept.

It is also becuase he is a rich store of short stores from many cultures that brng some home truths with them like the baove story.

Have you ever asked yourself why the mental health industry is worth billions in the US?

It is because everyone there thrives on stress,;iving life on the fast lane seems to be the operative in this country.You cannot thrive or grow unless you are stressed.

After talking to a friend who told me she is entitled to 15 days of annual leave in a year, I now understand why shrinks,alcohol and drug addiction and other lifestyle related conditions and diseases are very prevalent in the United States.

It even made me understand why Americans are serial entrepreneurs.

Americans or at least those who are employed work the hardest in very high pressure environments.

It is why going on holiday is such a big deal.

In a 2007 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research it was found that the US was the only developed country that did not gaurantee it workers paid holidays or leave.

Starting a business is a way for them to get out of the rat race that is formal employment  and have some down time.

For those who don’t run businesses then well there are pills,shrinks,alcohol,drugs or mega churches to help you deal with stress.

Kenyans dream,live and yearn to live like Americans, we have our TV screens,50 bob dvd’s and foreign magazines holding up the US as the standard unit of measuring success .

But the success comes with a price, are we willing to pay it?

WHY KENYANS NEED TO START WALKING OUT OF POLITICAL RALLIES

Apparently i am not suffering from arthritis as i previously thought i have wrist tendonitis.Le me explain…
I have been having some excruciating  pain shoot through my wrist every time someone shakes my right hand or i do any work that involves movement to my right wrist,texting,writing,sometimes even when typing my fingers have to be on the keyboard inclined at a certain angle.

Now i have been telling myself i can live with it till i get it attended to but it seems to be getting worse,so i need to see a doctor soon.

This discomfort if i may call it so has reminded me of the way Kenyans have been putting up with politicians                                          and their tribal rhetoric for as long as i can remember..which is like dog years .

We have been ululating,dancing to the drum beats of our politicians.Women have been gyrating their hips to the tunes of the piper who has paid them the highest to sing his praises and even our artistes sometimes grace this political platforms claiming to be doing it on neutral grounds but we should know better.

I was having a conversation with some very nice gentlemen on twitter and it started with someone asking whether Kenyans would ever move away from tribal based politics.Someone joined our conversation should and said that for you to succeed in politics you need tribal numbers.

Of course i had a rejoinder and  quickly tweeted back and told him that,its because we have made our politics that way,we think tribal numbers are all that matters when it comes to politics.

Then i sat back and thought,of course he is right in Kenya numbers matter,the bigger your tribal bloc the better.

Our leaders have made us believe that numbers and especially tribal number matter.It an excerpt fro the book Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan he says

 “……humans have a sad tendency to make the same mistakes again and again.We’re afraid of strangers or anybody who’s a little different from us.We we get scared ,we start pushing people around.We have readily accessible buttons that release powerful emotions when pressed.We can be manipulated into utter senselessness by clever politicians.Give us the right kind of leader and,like most suggestible subjects of hypnotherapists,we’ll gladly do just about anything he wants-even things we know to be wrong.”

Don’t you think this passage aptly describes us Kenyans..?

Look at the way we idolize our tribal chieftains,how there is so much hot air when someone is made an elder of such and such a tribe in Kenya.

Kenyans are very bright people and it is not like they do not know these readily “accessible buttons” as  politicians use.We know them.

Back to our tweeter discussion…I tweeted that Kenyans need to start walking out of rallies that are nothing but tribal rallying around.I was glad when it was re tweeted by a few Kenyans.Too few i thought.

But just think of what mass walk out would do  in one or two rallies,that is what should happen  and  (some of)  our  politicians would get it.We want issue based politics and not tribal war cries.