Monday, June 29, 2009

So near, yet quiet far!

I want to talk about Bafana Bafana, the South African national football team. They played four games in the just ended Confederations Cup, won one, drew one and lost two. They faced Spain twice and lost twice to them. And they are very happy! Oh God, you lose twice to the same team and beat your chest?

What is wrong with us? Celebrating mediocrity! If we have improved, as the pundits want us to believe, why didnt we beat Spain, at least once? It wont matter how sexy the football you play is, we need to count a series of victories, period!

This got me thinking. We tend to want to console ourselves as Africans so much. When we achieve 45% of the target we celebrate, because at least it is not 20%. We never seek to get 75%. We are happy with being "nearly there, so near yet so far!" Why dont we grab the bull by the horns? Why are we happy with half jobs, half truths, half satisfaction, half completion, half of everything?

Food for thought!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Of Thriller, Of Black and Off White!

Umbilical cord cut black
Yet white became and could not go back
Dizzying dazzling dangling child
Life was lived on the wild

Thrilling spectacular sounds
For which many gave a pound
Glitter from tender five
Many died to watch live

The world sits and mourn
For a man who was a cultural yawn
With a destitution to become white
And such values as light as kite

The path of life is the same
You choose to walk it in shame
Or manipulate talent in fame
Such is the fate of fame

Small boys shrieking in bed
All for a moment to get fed
Grand juries failed to nail
But God in eternity will not fail

Rest in peace Michael!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Zenawi Zooms on light!

I finally got it. Good news. The Ethiopian strong leader Meles Zenawe has said he now wants to retire. This is after 19 years at the helm of Ethiopia. Under Meles Zenawi's leadership, Ethiopia has undergone dramatic change since 1991. A political system, based on ethnic federalism, has replaced the centralised rule that existed during the years of the feared Mengistu dictatorship.

Mr Zenawi has also said, he wishes to see a new breed of political leadership taking over, a breed that did not fight the so called wars of independence. This is very significant in African politics for a number of reasons. Congo`s Mobutu was a liberation hero, so was Kamuzu Hastings Banda of Malawi, and Zimbabwes Robert Mugabe. These men have one thread in common, they clung or still cling to power at all costs. And their reason is that, if they give up power, they cannot trust anyone else who was not part of the liberation struggle to take the reigns. What Mr. Zenawi`s move demostrates is that, leaders must realise that there is indeed so much more life after they go, whether voluntarily or by the push of democracy. Such leaders as Zenawi who quickly take the cue must be regarded highly.

There are some positive things in Africa, indeed! In case we lose focus, whoever that comes into power in Ethiopia must be a person who is not only clean of the liberation war mantra, but of corruption and all the other viles that bedeville our beloved continent.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Butchering Bloggers Biggest Blunder!

I have never blogged about any issue outside beautiful mother Africa. I had a reason. I am an African first. I let other minds dissect their own political scenarios. But I was shocked over the week end at the news coming out of Iran. I am concerned about their allegedly stolen elections and all the protests and resultant arrests. But, having more such problems of our own in Africa, I was yet to lose sleep over Iran. But the government went on to perform one of the most despicable acts of stiffling democracy. They arrested about a dozen bloggers for writting out their minds on the fiasco.

Bloggers have become the most effective and efficient journalists of our time. Bloggers have no bias, they speak their minds. If ever any political leader has any wit, they would rather listen to what bloggers say rather than any commercial and best selling newspaper. Bloggers speak for the people. Bloggers represent the street level mentality. It is folly to stiffle them.

For the un-initiated, there is a test for democracy called "The Town Square Test". It is simple, if you cannot go to the middle of your own city and shout your views, then there is no democracy in that country. Despots and tyrants do not want to hear this. But it is going too far if you crack down on bloggers. Jeez! How low can these despots get.

Let us all support these fellow bloggers, and do whatever we can in our own small ways to ensure we preserve the bloggosphere that is the nerve centre of ideas and information. I want to get this message out clear and loud to all the tyrants and dictators. We will not stop until you do the right thing. If you arrest the Iranian bloggers and think you have shut them up, we will blog about Iran. The information will still disseminate to the people. Jeez!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bloggers Meet.

We have a small group of bloggers, where we meet and share experiences and ideas once a month. Yesterday was only my second time attending, yet I woke up a changed person today. I am a very talkative person, I love to share ideas, and whenever I can, I love to be on top of the situation.

But I found myself listening, thinking. I found myself having to reflect on what my peers were saying. They were speaking about slavery. They were not speaking, from the confines of a history text book, crafted neatly by some proffessorial historian, trying to hem out a point whilst hiding another. They spoke from within, from what they had seen, heard, smelt, and even touched. It was a heavy discussion.

The big question was, would our destiny have been any different, if we had not been enslaved. The net effect of slavery, is that, like in a hundred meter race for development, Africa is a competitor that has one leg shackled. And that is not all, Africa is a competitor that has been pulled back from the starting line up. I warned you, it was a heavy discussion.

I was of the opinion that, we need not spend our energies, weeping over the transigencies of the past. I tried pracariously to interject, to say we need to rise up, and catch up with everybody else. But in the end, I concluded that slavery is one topic I had not given enough time and thought. Apart from what my history teacher taught me, I have never opened my eyes to it.

I am promising you, and myself, that I shall look into this topic more closely. I want to have a deeper understanding. They say if you need to know where you are going, you must first establish where you are coming from.

So much for having promised that my next 10 blogs would be about the positive things about Africa. But who knows, there could be some silver lining to it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

10 positive things about Africa.

I had secretely vowed to contribute my next 10 blogs on the positive things about Africa and its politics. I was motivated by the fact that, most of the time, we dwell so much on the negatives to an extent where we blight the positives. In any case, most of the so called international media relentlessly spew acres of filth and dung about us on a daily basis. I wanted to be the change, to highlight that after all is said and done, we are just like everybody else.

But when I sat down to think hard about it, I realised I had embarked on one of the toughest assignments I have ever given myself. Where would I get 10 positives things to write about Africa and its politics. I poured through newspapers, went over the internet, spoke with friends and searched all possible avenues I thought had answers, but to no avail.

I still havent found the first positive thing worth blogging about. Maybe you can help.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Investing in metal snakes.

I woke up to the most pleasant news to ever come out of Africa in decades. You may think it has to do with the coming of Beyonce to Africa, or our preparedness to host the 2010 soccer showpice, or even any wanky news that is supposed to brighten up a gloomy day. But no. It is far from that. It has to do with steel and locomotives. It is news of an investment in rail road infrastructure.

After getting independence from our colonial buddies (I refuse to call them colonial masters), each African country has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to do meaningful things. Some countries inherited robust infrastructure which had all the necessary ingredients to propell the countries to economic dominance. But as the years went by, we specialised in rendering such infractructure derelict. We undertook destructive policies and destroyed the foundations that had been laid for us.

So you can imagine how humbled I was when I learnt that the Ethiopian government has embarked on a major construction, not rehabilitation, of 5,000 kilometers of new rail infrastructure. Presently, the only stretch of rail in Ethiopia is from the Capital Addis Ababa to Djibouti. However, over the past few years, the trains could not even reach Adis Ababa. The chief engineer admitted that over the years they have been experienceing about one derailment per week.

Africa must do more to embark on such projects. I met a friend who had never seen a train before she went to London. But the west has embraced trains to an extent that they are the veins that pump blood all over the body economic of such countries. Countries like Japan have revolutionised trains to an extent that it is now better to take a train than fly between places. Whilst we persecute political opponents, stiffle media freedoms, rape basic rights, steal elections and pull down our own development we should stop and reconsider.

This is one hell of a good story which I will not hesitate to write about over and over again. Well done Ethiopia.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Who do the Bongos think they are?

Any death, in Africa, is a cause for great sorrow and pain. Even criminals, deliquents, prostitues and murderers receive respectable comments when being "sent off". It is our culture, we never speak ill of the dead. However, this week we had a sharp critique of this culture which was caused by the death of Africas longest serving president, Omar Bongo of Gabon. Having assumed power in 1967, there is a whole generation of the population of 1,4 million plus Gabonese which has never known any other leader.

As a young official under President Leon M'ba in the 1960s, he rapidly rose to prominence and was given key responsibilities and in 1966, he became Vice-President. He succeeded M'ba as President upon the latter's death in 1967. Bongo headed the single-party regime of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) until 1990, when multi-party politics was introduced. He was re-elected in multiparty presidential elections held in 1993, 1998, and 2005. Although he faced intense opposition to his rule in the early 1990s, he was eventually successful in consolidating power again; most of the major opposition leaders of the 1990s came to support him and were given high-ranking posts in the government (This is begining to sound like an African curse-Does Kenya, Zimbabwe ring a bell?).

During Bongo's long rule, ethnic tensions were subdued and Gabon was generally stable and peaceful. The country benefited from its oil wealth, although most of the population remained impoverished and Bongo and his associates were routinely accused of serious corruption. After Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down in February 2008, Bongo became the world's longest-serving ruler, excluding monarchies.

So what is wrong with all this? I will not be shaken in my assertion that when it comes to democracy and politics, there is no meaningful contribution that anybody can give after 10 years at the helm. What new ideas will one come up with after having been so used to the system. The same goes in some circumstances to some CEOs and even some very regular jobs. You are no longer of any meaningful value for any change if you stay at a place for more than 10 years.

Now we are told that the late Bongos son who is the Minister of Defence has sealed off the whole country, deployed soldiers, cut off internet access and ordered state radio to play sorrowful music to mourn the president.

Honestly, who do these Bongos think they are?

Monday, June 8, 2009

COMESA`s rotating chairmanship a disgrace.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, is a preferential trading area with nineteen member states stretching from Libya to Zimbabwe. COMESA was formed in December 1994, replacing a Preferential Trade Area which had existed since 1981. Nine of the member states formed a free trade area in 2000, with Rwanda and Burundi joining the FTA in 2004 and the Comoros and Libya in 2006. COMESA is one of the pillars of the African Economic Community.

In 2008, COMESA agreed to an expanded free-trade zone including members of two other African trade blocs, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). COMESA has also mooted the idea of a single currency, a move which will make the trading bloc a pacesetter on financial and economic consolidation on the African Continent. Undeniably, COMESA is very important to the development of member states as well as the African continent as a whole when it comes to issues of trade and investment.

However, over the week end, the body handed over the chairmanship of the bloc to Zimbabwean long time president, Robert Mugabe. Given the ambitions of COMESA, Zimbabwe is a sour thorn in the flesh of the bloc at the moment. A decade of economic mismanagement and a disgraceful human rights record have been the cornerstone of the nation that has taken over the cahirmanship of the bloc. Presently Zimbabwe has disbanded the use of its own currency, and although once touted as the model African economy, the country is teethering on the verge of collapse. The education system has broken down whilst health and health care systems are basically in the intensive care unit. Critics have put the blame squarely on the man who has taken over the chairmanship.

Given the seemingly noble intentions of the bloc, it boggles the mind as to whether this rotational chairmanship expresses the ambitions of the body or not. The Zimbabwean leader is known for telling anyone who opposes his view to "go to hell" and his economic management is highly questionable. It must be noted that COMESA delayed handing over this chairmanship to him for over a year because of the legitimacy crises over his controversial election last year.

My humble suggestion is that, these regional trading blocs must show their unity of purpose by making it a condition that the chairmanship is assumed by a leader who furthers the cause of the bloc. I would boldly suggest that rather than make the chairmanship rotate through some nations that are a drag on the body, the chairmanship should be assumed by a leader whose nation tops the GDP of all other member states during the tenure of any incumbent. It is time we take bold steps in making sure some of these well meaning bodies act as they preach.