Sunday, 29 December 2013

90th birthday of Cheikh Anta Diop

(Born 29 December 1923, Caytou, Sénégal)
Mathematician, physicist, linguist, anthropologist, philosopher, historian and Egyptologist, demonstrates, most copiously in his near-40 years of research (beginning in the 1940s) and publication of papers and books, especially Nations Nègres et Culture, 1955 (English translation: African Origin of Civilization, 1974), L’unité culturelle de l’Afrique noire, 1959 (English: The Cultural Unity of Black Africa: The Domains of Matriarchy & Patriarchy in Classical Antiquity, 1989)  and Civilisation ou barbarie, 1981 (English: Civilization or Barbarism, 1991), that Kemet, “ancient Egypt”, is an African civilisation and that African peoples are the indisputable heirs to its heritage

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Saturday, 28 December 2013

66th birthday of Mamphela Ramphele

(Born 28 December 1947, Kranspoort, South Africa)
Medical doctor, active participant in the resistance for South African restoration-of-independence, co-founder, with Steve Biko, of the Black Consciousness Movement which, by the mid-1970s, strategically transforms the resistance to that irreversible ascendency that triumphs 15 years later, academic and first African vice-chancellor (president) of University of Cape Town, entrepreneur, founder, recently, of the Agang political party

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Friday, 27 December 2013

Year 47 – Igbo genocide and its comeuppance?

(Tony Williams Quintet, “From before” [personnel: Williams, drums; Sam Rivers, tenor saxophone; Wayne Shorter, tenor saxophone; Herbie Hancock, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; recorded Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 12 August 1965])

Besides all the lead-countries involved in the Igbo genocide which have apparently had or still appear to have their comeuppance as a result, as perceptive criminologist Biko Agozino pointedly reminds us (“Why Obasanjo May Be Heading To Hell”,  - accessed 27 December 2013), each lead-personage involved in perpetuating this heinous crime against humanity has had their life/life’s vital interests spectacularly collapse around them: Olusegun Obasanjo (genocidist commander, south Biafra who ordered the shooting down of an international Red Cross relief-carrying aircraft to the encircled Igbo over south Biafra on 5 June 1969; for an update on this fellow, see, for instance, daughter Iyabo Obasanjo’s December 2013 open letter to her father, - accessed 27 December 2013), Murtala Muhammed (genocidist commander, northwestcentral Biafra and commander of brigade that carried out the 7 October 1967 mass execution of 700 Igbo boys and men at Asaba, west Oshimili River) Harold Wilson, Ibrahim Taiwo (parallel commander of brigade that carried out the 7 October 1967 mass execution of 700 Igbo boys and men at Asaba, west Oshimili River), Leonid Brezhnev, Abdel Gamal Nasser, Benjamin Adekunle (genocidist commander, south Biafra), Yakubu Gowon (head of the genocidist-prosecuting  regime), Hosni Mubarak (former commander, Egyptian air force [and later head of regime until swept away by the mass Egypt’s uprising, February 2011] whose pilots, recruited by the genocidists, engaged in the cowardly carpet bombings of Igbo markets, hospitals, city centres, churches, shrines, children’s playgrounds, villages, farms throughout the duration of the genocide), Tony Enaharo (genocidist roving envoy), U Thant, Ahmadou Ahidjo, Mashood Abiola (expansive weapons-contractor during the genocide who was on the verge of becoming head of Nigeria’s regime, 1998), Obafemi Awolowo (chief genocidist “theorist” who desperately craved to be post-genocide head of Nigeria’s regime), Gbadamosi King (genocidist air force pilot who shot down the international Red Cross relief-bearing aircraft over the skies of south Biafra, 5 June 1969), Muhammadu Shuwa (genocidist commander, north Biafra), Hafez al-Assad (head of regime, Syria), Illiya Bisalla (genocidist commander, northcentral Biafra), Sekou Toure (head of regime, Guinea-Conakry), Houari Boumedienne (head of regime, Algeria), Diallo Telli (OAU first secretary-general)... 

Quite a few, as these lines are written, are so ill that anguished family and friends continue to link their state of deteriorating health to the alu they committed in Igboland, Biafra, during those dreadful 44 months of 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 ... Boko Haram insurgency incrementally ravages north Nigeria, epicentre of the planning and execution of the genocide, without letup ... 

If ever there is any doubt, the evidence, so far, demonstrates the contrary – namely, that no one, no agency, murders 3.1 million Igbo children, women and men in this foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa and walks away free ... Apart from the Igbo survivors, the 3.1 million are individually and collectively involved in the current Igbo historic quest for justice ...  

And the Igbo will get this justice. Undoubtedly.

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

82nd birthday of Uzo Egonu

(Born 25 December 1931, Onicha, Igboland)
One of the African World’s multifaceted and most distinguished painters, his evocative, landmark Exodus (1970) captures the devastating aftermath of phase-I of the Igbo genocide, perpetrated by Nigeria, 29 May 1966-4 January 1967, as nearly 2 million Igbo who survive this initial slaughter in the north region and elsewhere in the country stream home before the subsequent  phases (II & III: 5 January 1967-5 July 1967, 6 July 1967-12 January 1970) when the genocidists blockade and invade Igboland itself, Biafra, murdering a total of 3.1 million Igbo by 12 January 1970

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

93rd birthday of Michael Okpara

(Born 25 December 1920, Umuahia, Igboland)
Physician and irrepressible advocate of harnessing Africa’s vast agricultural resource potential as launch base to embark on far-reaching societal transformation, head of pre-military junta 15 January 1966 east region Nigeria government, then home to Africa’s most resourceful and dynamic economy en route to emerging as a major manufacturing and industrial power, in its own right, but for the catastrophe of the Igbo genocide, 29 May 1966-12 January, when Nigeria and its allies, principally Britain, murder 3.1 million Igbo people in this foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Saturday, 21 December 2013

64th birthday of Thomas Sankara

(Born 21 December 1949, Yako, Burkina Faso)
Military commander, historian, and head of state of Burkina Faso, 4 August 1983-15 October 1987, when he leads an unprecedentedly transformative government in post-(European)conquest Africa which demonstrates, overwhelmingly with indelible successes, that the engine of societal development is located internally, in the people, themselves, not the prevailing and pervasive fraudulent developmentalism whose mission has the etched signature of some external agency

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Thursday, 19 December 2013

138th birthday of Carter G Woodson

(Born 19 December 1875, New Canton, Va, United States)
Historian, journalist, versatile educator and inaugurator of the “African World History Month”, now a very important fixture in the annual calendar in several regions of the African World, outside Africa, and who, whilst researching the nature of the education of African Americans in the 1930s, concludes on the following consequences on someone being controlled and defined by an agency outside their own centre of being, an observation as salient as ever, 80 years on (Woodson, 2010: 48):
If you can control a [person’s] thinking, you don’t have to worry about [their] actions. If you can determine what a [person] thinks you do not have to worry about what [they] will do. If you can make a [person] believe that [they are] inferior, you don’t have to compel [them] to seek an inferior status, [they] will do so without being told and if you can make a [person] believe that [they are] justly an outcast, you don’t have to order [them] to the back door, [they] will go to the back door on [their] own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the [person] will demand that you build one.
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

113th birthday of Ras T Makonnen

(Born [?]1900, Buxton, Guyana; dies 18 Dec 1983, Nairobi, Kenya)

Geologist, historian and influential Africa World intellectual, co-organiser, with Kwame Nkrumah and others, of the landmark 1945 Manchester (England) conference of leading African-descent intellectuals, and contributes to the work on the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, 1963 

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

67th birthday of Steve Biko

(Born 18 December 1946, King William’s Town, SA)
One of the leading figures of the African resistance to the 340 years of  pan-European conquest and occupation of South Africa, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement with that definitive, liberatory call, “[people!], you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being”, the spark that culminates in the mass African mobilisation of the historic 1976 Soweto Uprising, whose outcome radically transforms the balance of forces in the struggle in favour of the resistance which the occupation never overturns

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, review essay, Wangari Maathai, Unbowed: One Woman’s Story (London: Arrow Books, 2008), 314pp.
It is unmistakeably evident in the early chapters of this remarkable autobiography by Wangari Maathai, especially those that cover her childhood to adolescence growing up in rural Kenya of the 1940s, how very little appears to exist on the ground to prepare her for the enormous challenges she confronts and overcomes, spectacularly, just a few years subsequently. Right from the outset, Maathai is indeed the daughter-of-the-soil and she retains this prestigious accolade throughout her most fulfilling life. As she works full time with her mother on the farm, having been allocated a 15-sq.ft. plot to tend herself at the age of 7 cultivating “sweet potatoes, beans maize, and millet” (Wangari Maathai, 2008: 38), there is no certitude to Maathai’s formal education in a school eventually. But the following year, aged 8, an unexpected conversation between her mother and Maathai’s older brother on one late evening after another hardworking day on the farm, would change the direction of young Wangari’s life! Maathai learns, with staggering incredulity, of her parents and brother’s decision to send her to school:
[A]lthough [my mother] had almost no formal education, she agreed with my brother. How grateful I am that she made the decision she did because I could not have made it for myself, and it changed my life… To this day I do not know where the money for my education came from, but my mother probably raised it by working for people in the village, cultivating their land. At that time you could earn up to sixty cents doing such work. (Maathai: 40)
 Contours of conquest and occupation
But the deal for Maathai to go to school is not done, yet! Someone else’s approval must be sought, someone who is not even a member of her family! Just as the hundreds of thousands of Gĩkũyũ people’s families whose legendary fertile lands in the central and western Kenyan highlands have been seized by the British occupation regime and handed over to 40,000 European-descent immigrant-“settlers” (predominantly from Britain, Germany, South Africa, Australia and Canada) by the beginning of the 1950s (10), Maathai’s “displaced” family now lives on one such “settler” farm owned by a recent British arrival, D.N. Neylan. Maathai’s family’s official designation in their new abode, as the rest of these nascent landless Africans, is “tenant-at-will”, as distinguished writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Maathai’s compatriot and contemporary recalls his own family’s experience (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 46), or “squatter-on-the-farm” as Maathai prefers instead: “My father had no title to the land where he had established his household – he was effectively a squatter on the farm … [H]e could build housing for his family and cultivate crops on land Mr Neylan apportioned to him … [In return] the man, his wife, and children were all required to provide labor. They were really glorified slaves…” (Maathai: 14-15). So, given this evident use-of-labour status in the “squatters-on-the-farm” provision, Neylan pointedly asks Maathai’s father who would “pick his pyrethrum” on the farm (plant used as insecticide and picking it is a specialism reserved for African children!) if the young Wangari goes to school, to which her father replies: “Don’t worry, [Mr Neylan], there are still many children in my homestead” (Maathai: 29). Educating African children, Maathai recalls, gravely, “was not a priority for the settlers” (29).
Just as Ngũgĩ (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 46-48), Maathai is a keen witness to the momentous clash of two fiercely contradictory streams of consciousness and movement in the Kenya of her childhood whose outcome would impact on her and others of her generation most profoundly subsequently. On the one hand, there is the juggernaut of an insistent, if not desperate occupation regime which wants to consolidate its stranglehold on strategic and wealthy Kenya, 50 years after the beginning of its conquest and despite the lessons of the recently concluded Second World War and the 1947 liberation of India, and the other hand is the challenge of the land and freedom-bound army of the Mau Mau resistance. The significance of this clash dawns on Maathai perhaps most acutely in her new school, a catholic school run by Italian nuns. She readily excels in all her lessons but is shocked to be confronted with a very important school rule, arguably the most important school rule, which bans the speaking or any other forms of communication in Gĩkũyũ as well as in other African languages throughout the school premises. The only language allowed in school is English. Any student who contravenes this law wears a button of shame known as the “monitor”:
 It was sometimes inscribed with phrases in English such as ‘I am stupid. I was caught speaking my mother tongue’. At the end of the day, whoever ended up with the button received a [physical] punishment, such as cutting grass, sweeping, or doing work in the garden. But the greater punishment was the embarrassment you felt because you had talked in your mother tongue. In retrospect, I can see that this introduced us to the world of undermining our self-confidence … trivialization of anything African and lays the foundation for a deeper sense of self-doubt… (59-60)
Maathai soon realises that that much-cherished anchor of family and Gĩkũyũ national life which has sustained her for ten years, this daughter-of-the-soil, is at best tenuous… It is now evident to her that for her family, living on Neylan’s farm in the wake of being thrown out of their land by the occupation, it is not only a material loss, important as this is, but, more tragically, the loss of culture or a people’s identity. Neylan’s question of who would “pick his pyrethrum” is not just the seemingly casual remark uttered by a British head of a “settler”-farm on whether or not an 8-year-old African child in Kenya should go to school but a metaphor that captures, quite graphically, the aftermath of the subjugation of a people. The impact of this history on Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, for instance,  is that 50 years hence, he writes only in Gĩkũyũ as he makes his contribution to the literary, political and philosophical discourses of the peoples of the world (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 49-50). As for Maathai, the impact of this history is that 50 years later, she takes an unbowed stand to defend Kenya’s environmental heritage.
In the mean time, the broader canvass of certain features of Maathai’s own family history begins to acquire some intelligibility, on further reflection by her, in the wake of her school’s encounter with the constrictive edict on African expressivity and being. A clear example is the story of uncle Thumbi, his father’s older brother who had been conscripted by the occupation regime to fight against the Italians and Germans in neighbouring Somalia and Tanganyika, respectively, during the 1914-1918 World War I. Thumbi never returns from the campaign (later confirmed dead by a fellow Gĩkũyũ comrade who survived and had seen Thumbi “fall” at the battlefield) and his name and memory never mentioned again within the family so as not to upset Maathai’s grandmother who still grieves for her son despite the passage of time. Most tellingly, though, the occupation regime never informs Maathai’s family of what happened to Thumbi. As would be the case of the 100,000 Gĩkũyũ conscripts who died during this campaign (27), the perverse, double-jeopardy fate of an already occupied African national forced by the occupier to fight in the latter’s subsequent wars of intra-imperialist rivalries and expropriations (Ekwe-Ekwe, 2011: 56-57), Maathai describes the death of Thumbi as “still an open wound [in my family]… I want to say to the British government, ‘My uncle went to war and never came back, and nobody ever bothered to come and tell my grandparents what had happened to their son’” (28).
Name, naming, names, presence
Yet if there is ever the singular site of a clearly discernible de-Africanisation programme that projects the searing, triumphal outcome of the pan-European conquest and occupation of Africa, the focus must be on that crucial subject of name and naming – precisely the reference to the individual an how he or she is identified by the rest of society: What is your name? In occupied Kenya, the African “loses” their surname or family name. They are “officially” identified by their forename(s). In Maathai’s example, before going to school, she is known, interchangeably, as Wangari Miriam or Mariam Wangari, both being her forenames! On arrival at school, following baptism as a catholic, Maathai becomes Mary Josephine Wangari or Mary Jo Wangari – again, all forenames and no surname. In a few years, in 1960, after wining a scholarship to study at university in the United States, she is called “Miss Wangari” by her professors and fellow students on campus because everyone assumes, of course, that “Wangari” is her second name/surname! Reacting to this development, with her infectious sense of humour, Maathai writes:
This began to seem absurd, since I knew the term ‘Miss’ meant the ‘unmarried daughter of …’ and I knew I was not the unmarried daughter of myself.  I decided to put this right and began writing my name as Mary Josephine Wangari Muta [father’s name!], so I’d be called Miss Muta. I then reversed my primary and personal names, becoming Wangari Mary Josephine Muta, and later dropped Mary Josephine because the name had become too long. When I returned to Kenya [1966], I was Wangari Muta. That was what I should always have been. (96)
Maathai is 20 when she finally reconnects with her family name – not within her country but in a foreign land! The legacy of the encompassing African World historical experience of the previous 400 years is not lost on Maathai as she sees a link between her, from east Africa, and African Americans in this country where she is studying for a bachelor’s degree: “The way surnames were forgotten in Kenya struck me as similar to how many African Americans in the times of [enslavement] and segregation were known only by their first names, yet had to address white people as Mr. or Miss, followed by their surnames” (96). On this overriding question of names and naming across the African World, Chinua Achebe has aptly observed and it is important to quote him at length:
[The European conquest of Africa] may indeed be a complex affair, but one thing is certain: You do not walk in, seize the land, the person, the history of another, and then sit back and compose hymns of praise in his honour. To do that would amount to calling yourself a bandit; and you won’t to do that. So what do you do? You construct very elaborate excuses for your action. You say, for instance, that the man in question is worthless and quite unfit to manage himself or his affairs. If there are valuable things like gold and diamonds which you are carting away from his territory, you proceed to prove that he doesn’t own them in the right sense of the word – that he and they had just happened to be lying around the same place when you arrived. Finally if the worse comes to the worse, you may even be prepared to question whether such as he can be, like you, fully human. From denying the presence of a man standing there before you, you end up questioning his very humanity …[I]n the [European conquest] situation presence was the critical question, the crucial word. Its denial was the keynote of [this conquest’s] ideology. (Chinua Achebe, 1990: 4; emphasis added)
The lift!
The scholarship on which Maathai goes to the US to study at Mount St Scholastica College, Atchison, Kansas (now Benedictine College) is from the Joseph Kennedy Foundation. Three hundred Kenyans benefitted from this scholarship. The then young Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts was very interested and personally involved in the programme which included covering transport costs for these students to their various colleges of admission in the US and back home after completion of studies. One beneficiary from this scholarship that particularly needs noting is a certain Barack Obama, Snr, from the Luo nation of west Kenya and the father of the future 44th president of the US. Obama, Snr, goes to the University of Hawaii and later on to Harvard, and returns home to work as an economist. Following Maathai’s successful bachelor’s degree at Atchison, she studies and earns an MA in biology at the University of Pittsburgh before returning home. Besides enabling her resolve the legacy of historical identity denial, Maathai has fond memories of her six years living in the US: “…America transformed me. It made me into the person I am today. It taught me not to waste any opportunity to do what can be done – and there is a lot to do. The spirit of freedom and possibility that America nurtured in me made me want to foster the same in Kenya, and it was in this spirit that I returned home” (97).
She continues her study in Kenya, registering for a phd in the biological sciences at the University of Nairobi where she also teaches. She is awarded her doctorate degree in 1971 on completion of her research, making her the first woman in east and central Africa with such a qualification. Her main work subsequently is not focused on just teaching and researching in the academy but working outside – the daughter-of-the-soil returns, once again, to her roots, to protect the environment from the degradation of soil erosion and gullying, logging and unbridled deforestation, land-grab commercialisation to grow “cash-crops” tea and coffee, for instance, and ever-expanding desertification. The fate of that enduring fig tree that she had known, whilst growing up, appears to register the definitive spur for Maathai’s founding of the movement that would transform debates on the environment in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa: “I learned that someone had acquired the piece of land where the fig tree I was in awe as a child stood. The new owner perceived the tree to be a nuisance because it took up too much space and he felled it to make room to grow tea …[I]t did not surprise me that when  the fig tree was cut down, the stream where I played with tadpoles dried up. My children would never be able to play with the frogs’ eggs as I had … or … enjoy the cool, clear water of that stream. I mourned the loss of that tree” (122).
In 1977, Maathai begins to organise women to plant trees and her influential Green Belt Movement is born and soon spreads across the country, urban and rural, involving family and neighbourhood organisations, schools, churches, trades’ bodies and the like. Under the slogan, “One person, one tree”, the goal is to plant a tree in the country for every person in Kenya’s population of 15 million at the time. Soon, the country’s forestry commission is running short of seedlings, such is the demand to plant trees everywhere! After a decade’s work, an assessment of progress so far is hugely impressive: “several million trees” have been planted with the projection that by the year 2000, the movement would be able to plant 30 million trees, twice the target at initiation (175); about 200 women-groups are now working full time in the project – from nurturing nurseries to tending planted trees; more than a 1000 green belts are being overseen by schools and students; the movement is now spreading to other parts of Africa especially Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Rwanda with study groups from these countries visiting Kenya  regularly for exchange of  ideas and  solidarity (177); consequently, the Pan-African Green Belt Network emerges after workshops in Kenya involving 45 representatives from 15 African countries (177).
But these successes have had huge costs on Maathai. She is subjected to a series of harassments, intimidations, arbitrary arrests and detentions by the police and other state armed agencies and even imprisonment, on a number of occasions, by the increasingly authoritarian state led by Daniel arap Moi which views her work on the environment as essentially “political”! Maathai has undoubtedly expanded the parameters of her work to incorporate organised protests against unlawful detentions and gaoling of citizens, support for freedom of speech and association, students’ and workers’ rights, and anti-corruption campaigns against public officials including those in such sensitive sectors that affect people’s everyday life such as the judiciary and law enforcement bureaus. The Maathai-led October 1989-January 1990 mass opposition to the Moi regime’s attempt to build a 60-storey tower office and a shopping complex fronted by an imposing stature of the tyrant in Uhuru Park, Nairobi’s equivalent of London’s Hyde Park or New York’s Central Park, is unquestionably the landmark, epic struggle of her illustrious career and her success in forcing the regime to abandon this project, utterly humiliated, marks the beginning of the end of that dictatorship.
To be
On a personal level, though, the strain of such high-profile and very busy work schedule begins to affect family life, and, in Maathai’s case, results in the breakdown of her marriage to an influential Kenyan politician and entrepreneur. The divorce proceedings are very bitter and play out in public with the husband, Mwangi Mathai, insisting that Maathai drop her married name (i.e., the man’s surname, “Mathai”!) as part of the “final settlement” of the marriage’s dissolution. Ironically, Maathai had felt even before marriage in 1969, three years after returning from the US, that she would rather retain her name, Wangari Muta, in keeping to her historic resolution of the name-question earlier on in the decade. She didn’t want to be a Mrs Wangari Mathai! Besides, the “Mrs” is a title introduced to the country by the British as women in pre-conquest Gĩkũyũ and other African nations kept their names after marriage. Maathai only relented then on taking on the “Mrs” and becoming Wangari Mathai because the subject was creating some strain early on her marriage. Now, eight years later, she is challenged in court by her estranged husband to drop the name that she had not sought for in the first place. So nearly 20 years since Mount St Scholastica College, Atchison, Maathai faces yet another crisis on name and naming. True to type, she responds intelligently and resolutely:   
I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m not an object the name of which can change with every new owner!’ And I had resisted adopting his name in the first place! As a way to deal with my terrible feelings of rejection, I got the idea of adding another ‘a’ to ‘Mathai’ and to write it as it is pronounced in [Gĩkũyũ]. And so I became ‘Maathai’. The extra syllable also signified that although a part of me would always be connected to Mwangi and his surname, I had a new identity. Henceforth, only I would define who I was: Wangari Muta Maathai. (147)
 On 8 October 2004, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announces that the 2004 Nobel Prize has been awarded to Wangari Muta Maathai for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace”.  As Maathai receives this news of her outstanding accomplishment, the daughter-of-the-soil turns and faces Mt Kenya: “the source of inspiration for me throughout my life, as well as for generations of people before me” (293).
Sadly, on 25 September 2011, the news is flashed across the world that Wangari Muta Maathai has died unexpectedly in Nairobi after a brief illness. She was 71. She receives a heroine’s funeral by both the Kenyan state and society. According to the latest, 2013 figures from the Green Belt Movement, 51 million trees have been planted in Kenya since the 1977 founding of the organisation. This is well over three times the number of trees envisaged by Maathai’s original conception.
Achebe, Chinua. “African Literature as Restoration of Celebration”, Kunapipi, 1990, 12, 2, 1-10.
Ekwe Ekwe, Herbert. Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature. Dakar and Reading: African Renaissance, 2011.
Maathai, Wangari, Unbowed: One Woman’s Story. London: Arrow Books, 2008.

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

96th birthday of Kenneth Onwuka Dike

(Born 17 December 1917, Oka, Igboland)
Historian, doyen of the Reconstructionary School of African Historical Studies in the aftermath of 400 years of the pan-European enslavement, conquest and occupation of the African world, lays the foundation of this restoration of the African as subject and agency in history in the 1956 publication of his classic, Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885, inaugurates a stretch of an encompassing African heritage archive and becomes the first African vice-chancellor (president) of the University of Ibadan, and later, 1967-1969, travels the world as one of the envoys of eminent Biafran intellectuals who campaigns against the Igbo genocide waged by Nigeria and its allies, particularly Britain, in which 3.1 million Igbo people (one-quarter of this nation’s population) are murdered between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Sunday, 15 December 2013

82nd birthday of Dannie Richmond

(Born 15 December 1931, New York, United States)
Multifaceted drummer who, in 1957, joins the jazz workshop (often varying from a quintet, sextet, octet and dectet) of the brilliant bassist, cellist and composer, Charles Mingus, and both embark on one of the most enduring and resourceful artistic collaborations of recent times, recording over 30 albums in 22 years involving several influential instrumentalists in the repertoire 

 Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

75th birthday of McCoy Tyner

(Born 11 December 1938, Philadelphia, United States)
One of the most influential pianists since the 1960s, occupies the piano chair of the classic John Coltrane Quartet (full personnel: Coltrane, tenor and soprano saxophones; Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums), 1960-1965, and subsequently records own key signature albums (Real McCoy, Time for Tyner, Extensions, Tender Moments, Sahara, Blues for Coltrane, plays John Coltrane at The Village Vanguard, Remembering John, Revelations, Infinity, 44th Street Suite, Illuminations, Expansions, Live in Warsaw, Round Midnight, Soliloquy, plays Duke Ellington, Today and Tomorrow, Nights of Ballads and Blues, Love and Peace, Land of the Giants) in varying group contexts such as trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, nonets, big band, solo

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

FWD: John Coltrane Quintet, “To be”

– personnel: Coltrane, flute; Pharaoh Sanders, flute, piccolo, tambourine; Alice Coltrane, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Rashied Ali, drums (recorded: Van Geldar Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 15 February 1967 and 7 March 1967)

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Monday, 9 December 2013

Who will be French president in 2023?

Last weekend Frances François Hollande summoned 40 African “leaders” to Paris for a so-called Franco-African summit. Ten years ago, almost to the day, Jacques Chirac did the same thing! Who will be French president in 2023? Is he/she already preparing the agenda for their own signed summons? O di egwu!

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Saturday, 7 December 2013

France and Africa – the impunity goes on…

France does in Central African Republic, its 52nd invasion of “francophonie” Africa since 1960, what it has always done here (last invaded CAR in 2003!) and in others of its “Berlin-states” in Africa with staggering impunity. For France, CAR and the rest are France’s in perpetuity – since German chancellor von Bismarck-chaired 1884-1885 pan-European Berlin conference on the conquest and occupation of Africa. Keeping a stranglehold on these countries enables France, with a struggling economy, to scoop gargantuan levels of capital, mineralogical and agricultural resources that it couldn’t ever generate in its own homeland.* Furthermore, so brutally a double-jeopardy, Africans, themselves, pay for these invasions of Africa by France.**  Prime questions of the age: When will Africans stop this charade? Isn’t it now obvious that the “Berlin-states” of CAR, Niger, Congo Democratic Republic, Congo Republic, Burundi, Mali, Nigeria, the Sudan, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, whatever, “cannot hold”? Enough!
Such as it was in Côte d’Ivoire, France’s invasion no. 49 of Africa (since 1960), so it is in CAR, no. 52, and so it will be for the future targets of Paris’s choosing until Africans say, “No!” “No more!” And that day will surely come:

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

Father of the successful African struggle for the restoration-of-independence in South Africa after centuries of the European conquest and occupation. This resistance is surely one of the momentous liberation upheavals of recent human history. At its apogee, we mustn’t forget, quite a few seemingly influential global public figures and intellectuals had variously dismissed eventual African victory as “impossible”, “couldn’t achieve such a feat”, “[European rule] here to stay”… What a year, this 2013 – Africa and the world have bidden farewell to the dual-colossi of 20th/21st centuries African renaissance: Nelson Mandela and Chinua Achebe, Father of African Literature.

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Chinua Achebe’s twin-portals of engaging historic witness

Portal-I: Aftermath of pan-European conquest and occupation of the African World
[The European conquest of Africa] may indeed be a complex affair, but one thing is certain: You do not walk in, seize the land, the person, the history of another, and then sit back and compose hymns of praise in his honour. To do that would amount to calling yourself a bandit; and you won’t to do that. So what do you do? You construct very elaborate excuses for your action. You say, for instance, that the man in question is worthless and quite unfit to manage himself or his affairs. If there are valuable things like gold and diamonds which you are carting away from his territory, you proceed to prove that he doesn’t own them in the right sense of the word – that he and they had just happened to be lying around the same place when you arrived. Finally if the worse comes to the worse, you may even be prepared to question whether such as he can be, like you, fully human. From denying the presence of a man standing there before you, you end up questioning his very humanity …[I]n the [European conquest] situation presence was the critical question, the crucial word. Its denial was the keynote of [this conquest’s] ideology. (Chinua Achebe, “African Literature as Restoration of Celebration”, Kunapipi, 12, 2, 1990: 4; emphasis added) 
Portal-II: Aftermath of Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, 29 May 1966-12 January 1970 
[Nigeria’s] wartime cabinet, it should also be remembered, was full of intellectuals like Obafemi Awolowo and Anthony Enaharo and super-permanent secretaries such as Allison Akene Ayida among others who came up with a boatload of infamous and regrettable policies. A statement credited to … Obafemi Awolowo and echoed by his cohorts is the most callous and unfortunate: All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don’t see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder’. It is my impression that … Obafemi Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition of power, for himself in particular and for the advancement of his Yoruba people in general. And let it be said that there is, on the surface, at least, nothing wrong with those aspirations. However, Awolowo saw the dominant Igbo … at the time as the obstacles to that goal, and when the opportunity arose – the Nigeria-Biafra War – his ambition drove him into a frenzy to go to any length to achieve his dreams. In the Biafran case it meant hatching up a diabolical policy to reduce the numbers of his enemies significantly through starvation – eliminating over two million people, mainly members of future generations. (Chinua Achebe, There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra [New York: The Penguin, 2012], p. 233; emphasis added)
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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Now published! Journal of Asian and African Studies, Special Issue on Chinua Achebe: The Igbo, Pogrom, Biafra War and Genocide in Nigeria

Journal of Asian and African Studies, Vol 48, 6, December 2013

Guest editor: EC Ejiogu

Contributors: EC Ejiogu, VY Mudimbe, Biodun Jeyifo, Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Carol Ijeoma Njoku, Chima J Korieh, Douglas B Chambers, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Friday, 29 November 2013

107th birthday of Akanu Ibiam

(Born 29 November 1906, Unwana, Igboland)
Affable medical doctor, theologian, and principled statesperson who works for 30 years in the Church of Scotland/Presbyterian Church rural medical programme in central Igboland and west of the Ibibio country and who, in 1967, returns to Queen Elizabeth II of England the three insignias of knighthood (OBE, KBE, KCMG) conferred on him by both her and her father (King George VI) in protest to the central role being played by Britain in the perpetration of the Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, when Nigeria murders 3.1 million Igbo people, one-quarter of this nation’s population, between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Content page of Journal of Asian and African Studies’s special edition on Chinua Achebe

Volume 48 Number 6 December 2013


Special Issue on Chinua Achebe: The Igbo, Pogrom, Biafra War
and Genocide in Nigeria

Guest Editor: EC Ejiogu


Chinua Achebe on Biafra: An Elaborate Deconstruction  653
EC Ejiogu

Reading There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra  671
VY Mudimbe

First, There Was A Country; Then There Wasn’t: Reflections on
Achebe’s New Book  683
Biodun Jeyifo

The Achebean Restoration  698
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

A Paradox of International Criminal Justice: The Biafra Genocide  710
Carol Ijeoma Njoku

Biafra and the discourse on the Igbo Genocide  727
Chima J Korieh

On Biafra: Subverting Imposed Code of Silence  741
EC Ejiogu

There Was A Country: Achebe’s Final Work  752
Douglas B Chambers

My Encounters With Chinua Achebe  760
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

216th birthday of Sojourner Truth

(Born ?1797, Rifton, NY, US; dies 26 Nov 1883, Battle Creek, Mich, US)

Leading abolitionist of African American enslavement and campaigner for gender rights and equality whose historic address at the December 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, entitled “Ain’t I a Woman?”, has been copiously anthologised ever since

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Monday, 25 November 2013

44th anniversary of John Lennon’s decision to return MBE knighthood medal to Queen Elizabeth II over British role in Igbo genocide

(Medal is sent back to Buckingham Palace, 25 November 1969)

Iconic Beetle’s John Lennon sends back the 1965 MBE knighthood medal bestowed on him by Queen Elizabeth II of England over Britain’s role in the Igbo genocide by Nigeria in which 3.1 million Igbo people, one-quarter of this nation’s population, are murdered between 29 May 1966 and 12 January 1970

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Sunday, 24 November 2013

79th birthday of Zeal Onyia

(Born 24 November 1934, Asaba, Igboland)
Masterly trumpeter, composer and public intellectual whose 1958 composition, the effervescent “Egwu Jazz bu Egwu Igbo” (“Jazz is Igbo music”), leads him to research Igbo contribution to the development of jazz, African American classical music, and who receives the highest accolade of his career when none other than Satchmo himself, Louis Armstrong, visiting Lagos, Nigeria, in 1961 and listening to Onyia play at Surulere stadium, inquires in that unmistakeably Popsian voice, “Who is that hip cat?”

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Saturday, 23 November 2013

84th anniversary of Ogu umu nwanyi Igbo or Igbo Women’s War

(Resistance begins 23 November 1929, Aba, Igboland)

With the initial mobilisation of 10,000 women which soon expands to 25,000 and joined by women from the neighbouring Ibibio country, Igbo women in Aba (east Igboland) embark on a 2-month historic resistance against the oppressively expansive stretch of 50 years of the British conquest, paralysing the occupation regime and its institutions in much of the east, central and southern regions of Igboland consequently and losing 50 members of the freedom movement during the campaign, shot by the occupation police

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Friday, 22 November 2013

76th birthday of Adiele Afigbo

(Born 22 November 1937, Ihube, Igboland)
Dean of Igbo Historical Studies whose seminal books and papers, particularly Warrant Chiefs (1972), Ropes of Sand (1981)Ikenga (1986), The Igbo and their Neighbours (1987), and Groundwork of Igbo History (1991) are foundational texts and references for the study of Igbo history and civilisation

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Great news from the Anambra region!

The All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) has set an unassailable lead in the first batch of results on the Saturday 16 November 2013 poll for governor of the Anambra administrative region released by the organising electoral commission (The Guardian, Lagos, 18 November 2013). APGA candidate Willie Obiano scores 174,740 in 16 of the 21 electoral districts declared whilst Tony Nwoye of the People’s Democratic party has 94,956 votes from 2 of 21 districts and Chris Ngige of the All Progressive Congress (APC) receives just 92,300 votes from 2 out of16 districts. Concluding elections for a total of 113,113 “indemnified” votes cast during this round of the exercise are being planned by the commission soon.

Anti-deportation platform

For APGA, which campaigned, correctly, on an anti-APC Igbo deportation-from-Lagos platform, its last Saturday’s performance represents a comprehensive defeat of the reprehensible APC programme of deporting Igbo nationals from Lagos to Igboland which is part and parcel of the ongoing Igbo genocide ( In the wider compass of Igboland contemporary politics, undoubtedly, Anambra voters have indeed scored an historic defeat of the genocidist and fascist project of the APC in the Igbo country. The voters surely have to go out and consolidate this victory for the incoming Obiano administration whenever the electoral commission convenes the second ballot.

As in 2010 (, voters in Anambra have achieved this extraordinary feat in an atmosphere of relative peace and goodwill, despite the serial provocation of the APC candidacy and operatives – millions of US dollars worth in local currency imported from abroad in west Nigeria to Anambra during the period, importation of agent provocateurs from abroad in west Nigeria to Anambra during the period, wake-keeping-like mourners from abroad in west Nigeria enmeshed in dubious acts of self-flagellation in Anambra during the period, aggressive, pro-APC media campaign from abroad in west Nigeria beamed to Anambra during the period... Besides the very tragic deaths of 25 worshippers at the Uke church revival service earlier on in the campaign, these elections have been remarkably peaceful: men and women from varying political parties openly campaigning actively, boisterously even, without intimidation; no person nor crowd nor vehicle nor building nor anywhere is firebombed, for instance; no suicide bombing, or such inanity – definitely not, not in Igboland, please!


If one requires yet another piece of evidence on the ground,  the prevailing peace in this Anambra election season is a reminder to the world that the violence and instability that often headline everyday life in Igboland are encoded in the matrix of the operationalisation of the Nigerian occupation of the Igbo country ( On the contrary, the politics of Igbo public affairs has historically been conducted in peaceful milieus. The classics indeed attest to this. A reading of that grand debate in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God between ogbuefi Nwaka and Ezeulu on the crucial subject of the future direction of Umuaro exemplifies the trend. The debate rages and rages with its dogged and at times agonising twists and turns but at no time does either of the protagonists try to raise some army or employ any extra-juridical agency to subvert the discourse or impose their will. It remains to the very end an expansive engagement of intellect, a mutual bombardment of ideas!

The electorate in Anambra are surely living up to their pedigree.

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