Friday, 14 June 2013

Africa today – reflections on resilience* (updated with an additional key reference)

(John Coltrane Quartet here plays  “Wise one” – personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums [recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 27 April/I June 1964].)

Africa has uninterruptedly been a net-exporter of capital to the Western World since 1981. The thundering sum of US$400 billion is the total figure that Africa has transferred to the West in this manner to date (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature, 2011: 41-42, 176-177). These are legitimate, accountable transfers, largely covering the ever-increasing interest payments for the “debts” the West claims African regimes owe it, beginning from the 1970s. A 2010 study by Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based research organisation, shows that Africa may have also transferred the additional sum of US$854 billion since the 1970s (“this figure might be more than double, at [US]$1.8 trillion”, the study cautions “Illicit financial flows from Africa: Hidden resource for development”, [accessed 25 April 2013]) through illegitimate exports by the “leaderships” of corrupt African regimes – with Nigeria topping this league at US$240.7 billion. In effect, the state, in Africa, no longer pretends that it exists to serve its peoples.
Additionally, and this might appear paradoxical,  trade figures and associated data readily obtainable indicate that these African states of seeming dysfunction have performed their utmost, year in, year out, in that key variable for which their European World creators established them in the first place: redoubts for export services of designated mineralogical/agricultural products to the European World/overseas. There are no indications, whatsoever, that any of these countries has found it difficult to fulfil its principal obligations on this accord. This is the context that that seemingly contradictory aphorism, “Africa works”, becomes hugely intelligible. Appositely, the raison d’être of the “state” in Africa is not really to serve its people(s), African peoples; it is, on the contrary, to respond, unfailingly, to the objective needs of its creators overseas.
For instance, thanks to the continuing inordinate leverage that Britain and France, the two foremost conqueror-states of Africa, exercise in these essentially anti-African principalities tagged “the state” in Africa, both European countries have a greater secured access to Africa’s critical resources today than at any time during decades of their formal occupation of the continent. France, right from the post-World War II leadership of Charles de Gaulle to the current François Hollande, has such glaring contempt for the notion of “sovereignty” in the so-called francophonie Africa, ensuring that France has invaded most of these 22 African countries 51 times since 1960 (for an excellent study on French hegemonic control of the finances/economies of these countries, see Gary Busch, “Africans pay for the bullets the French use to kill them”, [accessed 15 May 2013]). As for Britain, sheer greed and opportunism appear to be the guiding principle to attaining its unenviable position as the leading arms-exporter to Africa, including Africa’s leading genocide-states (See, for instance, journalist Charles Onyango-Obbo’s candid insight on the subject in a BBC interview, “UK arming African countries”, [accessed 12 May 2013]). Indeed, France and Britain have never had it so good in Africa. This is the background to which the brazenly racist epithet “sub-Sahara Africa” is operationalised currently (see Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe,“‘Do you still read or hear of “sub-Sahara Africa”?’ … ‘What is it anyway?’ ... ” , [accessed 14 June 2013]).

Those crucial African capital exports referred to earlier, legitimate or/and illegitimate, are funds of gargantuan proportions produced by the same humanity that many a commentator or campaign project would be quick to categorise as “poor” and “needy” for “foreign aid”. In the past 30 years, these funds could and should easily have provided a comprehensive healthcare programme across Africa, the establishment of schools, colleges and skills’ training, the construction of an integrative communication network, the transformation of agriculture to abolish the scourge of malnutrition, hunger and starvation, and, finally, it would have stemmed the emigration of 25 million Africans, including crucial sectors of the continent’s middle classes and intellectuals to the Americas, Europe, Asia and elsewhere in the world since the 1980s.
Yet, despite these grim times of pulverised economies and failed and collapsing states in Africa, we shouldn’t ever forget that those who still ensure that the situation on the ground is not much worse for the peoples than it is, are Africans – individuals, working alone, conscientiously, or working in concert with others or within a larger group to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide healthcare and some leisure to immediate and extended families, communities, neighbourhoods, villages and the like. For example, the surgeon who not only works tirelessly in a city hospital, with very limited resources, but uses his scarce savings to build a health centre and an access road in his village with subsidised treatment and prescription costs; the nurse who travels around her expansive health district, unfailingly, bringing care to the doorsteps of the people who neither can afford nor access it physically; the retired diplomat who has mobilised her community to set up a robust environmental care service that has involved the construction of public parks, regular refuse collection and some recycling, after-school free tuition for children with a planned community newspaper in the pipeline; the coach transport operator who lays out scores of his coaches to ferry survivors of a recently organised pogrom 350 miles away to safety; the civil rights activist and intellectual who rallies members of his internet discussion groups within the course of a month’s intense campaign to successfully apprehend a contractor who was about to abscond with millions of (US) dollars’ worth of public funds meant for a crucial upgrade of an international airport initially built by the community; a stretch of individuals’ programmes of scholarships for students at varying levels of school life, provision of staff salaries in schools and colleges, maintenance of libraries and laboratories in schools and colleges, construction and maintenance of vital infrastructure in villages and counties, etc., etc. These are the authors busily scripting the path of the renaissance Africa.
To cap these phenomenal strides of Africans, the 25 million African émigrés mentioned earlier presently constitute the primary exporters of capital to Africa itself. Africans now dispatch more money to Africa than “Western aid” to the continent, year in, year out. In 2003, according to the World Bank, these African overseas residents sent to Africa the impressive sum of US$200 billion – invested directly in their communities (World Bank, “Migrant Labor Remittances in Africa”, Africa Regional Paper Series, No. 64, Washington, November 2003: 12). This is 40 times the sum of “Western aid” in real terms in the same year – i.e. when the pervasive “overheads” attendant to the latter are accounted for (cf. Fairouz El Tom’s recently concluded informed research, “Do NGOs practise what they preach?”, [accessed 15 May 2013]). In a sentence:  The African humanity currently generates, overwhelmingly, the capital resource that at once sustains its very existence and is intriguingly exported to the Western World. It is precisely the same humanity that those who benefit immeasurably from this conundrum (over several decades and are guaranteed to benefit indefinitely from it, except this is stopped by Africans) have consistently portrayed, quite perversely, as a “charity case”. The notion that Africans are in any way dependent on a European World/Western World or any other overseas’s “handout” is at best a myth or at worst an all-out lie – perpetuated by a circle of academics and in the media who in fact in the not-too-distant-past would have been in the vanguard “justifying”/“rationalising” African enslavement or/and the conquest and occupation of Africa.
Surely, this historic big lie of characterisation can no longer be sustained. Africa is endowed with the human resource and capital resource (in all its calibration and manifestation) to build advanced civilisations provided Africans abandon the prevailing “Berlin-states” of dysfunction that they have been forced into by the latter’s creators as we shall be elaborating soon. Thus, Africa’s pressing problem in the past 57 years of presumed restoration of independence has been how to husband incredible range of abundance of human and non-human resources for the express benefits of the peoples rather than it being fritted away so criminally.
Population, food, future
There has often been a “politically correct” rhetoric bandied about incessantly by some in academia, media and elsewhere who discuss this grave crisis of contemporary Africa in the context of population (as a useful background to this rhetoric, see, particularly, Roland Oliver, “The condition of Africa”, Times Literary Supplement, London, 20 September 1991: 8). Africa, it is concluded in these assertions, requires some “decrease” in its population and/or population-growth as an important measure towards achieving a “solution”. On the contrary, as we now demonstrate, Africa is, indeed, in no way overpopulated. The population argument is usually advanced on a number of fronts. First, there is a “theory” that the given landmass which presently defines Africa and its various so-called 54 nation-states cannot sustain the existing populations, but, more critically, the “projected populations” in years to come. We shall examine the degree to which this “theory” is able to stand up to serious scientific scrutiny first by comparing Africa’s landmass vis-à-vis its population and those of some of the countries of the world.
Africa’s population is currently one billion covering an incredible vast landmass  of 30,221,533 sq km or about four times the landmass of Brazil (all the statistics here on countries’ population, landmass and the like are derived from The World Bank, World Development Report 2012 and United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2012). Ethiopia’s landmass is 1,221,892 sq km, five times the size of Britain’s at 244,044 sq km. Yet Britain’s population of 62 million is three-quarters that of Ethiopia’s 83 million. As for Somalia, it is 2.6 times the size of Britain but has a population of only 9 million. Sudan and South Sudan provide an even more fascinating comparison. Whilst both countries are 10 times the size of Britain, they support a population of 45 million – about 70 per cent the size of Britain. In fact the Sudans have a landmass equal to that of India which is populated by 1.22 billion people – i.e., more than the population of all of Africa! Britain is one-tenth the size of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) which has a landmass of 2,345,395 sq km, similar to the Sudans and India. In other words, the DRC is about ten times the size of Britain but with a population of 71 million, nine million more than the population of the latter. Even though the DRC landmass is about twice that of all of Britain, France and Germany (1,275,986 sq km), it has just about one-third of these three west European countries’ total population of 208 million. Inevitably, the evidence does beg the question as to where this population really is!
Second, let us examine similarly sized countries. France has a landmass of 547,021 sq km close to Somalia’s. However, France’s population of 65 million is about seven times the population of Somalia. Similarly, Botswana is slightly larger than France at 660,364 sq km but with a population of 2 million, a minuscule proportion of France’s. Uganda’s landmass at 236,039 sq km is about the size of Britain’s 244,044 sq km. Yet with a population of only 33 million, Uganda is about half that of Britain’s. Similarly, Ghana’s landmass of 238,535 sq km makes it approximately equal to the size of Britain. Ghana is however populated by only 25 million people, far less than one-half Britain’s population.
Southern World to Southern World comparisons can also prove useful in exposing the fallacy of either Africa’s “large population” or “potential explosive population”.  Iran’s size of 1,647,989 sq km is about two-thirds that of Sudan and South Sudan combined. Yet its population, unlike the Sudans’ 45 million, is at least one and one-half times as large at 75 million. Mexico’s landmass is 1,943,950 sq km. This is approximately the same size as the Sudans but with a population of 115 million, Mexico is two and one-half times the former. Pakistan’s landmass of 803,937 sq km is just about Namibia’s 864,284 sq km but Pakistan’s population is 174 million while Namibia’s is 2 million! Even though Bangladesh’s 143,998 sq km-landmass makes it roughly one-eight the size of Angola (1,246,691 sq km) as well as that of South Africa’s (1,221,029 sq km), Bangladeshi population at 159 million outstrips Angola’s 13 million and South Africa’s 50 million. If we were to return to our earlier comparisons, Angola and South Africa are about 4-5 times the size of Britain but with one-fifth and four-fifths respectively of the latter’s population.

Crucial reminders, genocide, post-Berlin states
Finally, we should turn to the question of resource, its availability or lack of it, and therefore its ability or inability to support the African population – another component of Africa’s “over-population” fallacy. Well over 50 per cent of Uganda’s arable land, some of the richest in Africa, remains uncultivated. Were Uganda to expand its current food production significantly, not only would it be completely self-sufficient, but it would be able to feed all the countries contiguous to its territory without difficulty, and GM free too! The overall statistics of the African situation are even more revealing as with regards to the continent’s long-term possibilities. Just about a quarter of the potential arable land of Africa is being cultivated presently (FAO and IIED, “What effect will biofuels have on forest land and poor people’s access to it?”, 2008). Even here, an increasingly high proportion of the cultivated area is assigned to so-called cash-crops (cocoa, coffee, tea, groundnut, sisal, floral cultivation, etc.) for exports at a time when there has been a virtual collapse, across the board, of the price of these crops in international commodity markets. In the past 30 years, the average real price of these African products abroad has been about 20 per cent less than their worth during the 1960s-70s period which was soon after the “restoration of independence”. As for the remaining 75 per cent of Africa’s uncultivated land, this represents 60 per cent of the entire world’s potential (John Endres, “Ready, set, sow”, The Journal of Good Governance Africa, Issue 6, November 2012: 1). The world is aware of the array of strategic minerals such as coltan,** cobalt, copper, diamonds, gold, industrial diamonds, iron ore, manganese, phosphates, titanium, uranium, and of course petroleum oil found in virtually all regions across the continent.

Africa remains one of the world’s most wealthy and potentially one of the world’s wealthiest continents. What is not always associated with the profiles of Africa is its vast acreage of rich farmlands with capacity to optimally support the food needs of generations of African peoples indefinitely. In addition, the famous fish industry in Sénégal, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana for instance, Botswana’s rich cattle farms, west Africa’s yam and plantain belts extending from southern Cameroon to southern Sénégal, the continent’s rich rice production fields, etc., etc., all highlight the potential Africa has for fully providing for all its food needs. Thus, what the current African socioeconomic situation shows is extraordinarily reassuring, provided the acreage devoted to cultivation is expanded and expressly targeted to address Africa’s own internal consumption needs. Land-use directed at agriculture for food output must become the focus of agricultural policy in the new Africa, as opposed to the calamitous waste of “cash-crop” production for export and/or the more recently observed “land-grab” – parcelling away of land to foreign governments and organisations – occurring across the continent (on this, see the excellent work of Emeka Akaezuwa’s “Stop Africa Land Grab” movement – [accessed 14 May 2013]).

It is an inexplicable and inexcusable tragedy that any African child, woman, or man could go without food in the light of the staggering endowment of resources in Africa. Africa constitutes a spacious, rich and arable landmass that can support its population, which is still one of the world’s least densely populated and distributed, into the indefinite future. There is only one condition, though, for the realisation of this goal – Africa must utilise these immense resources for the benefit of its own peoples within newly negotiated, radically decentralised sociopolitical dispensations which must abandon the current murderous “states” or “Berlin-states” as they should be more appropriately categorised (Ekwe-Ekwe, Readings from Reading: 27, 41, 44, 69, 200). These principalities that dutifully go by the very fanged names of their creators (Nigeria, Niger, Chad, the Sudan, Central Africa Republic… whatever!) are an agglomeration of inchoate, inorganic and alienating  emplacements that have been an asphyxiating trap for swathes of African constituent nations with evidently distinct histories, cultures and aspirations. 
We now no longer require any reminders that the primary existence of these principalities is to destroy or disable as many enterprisingly resourceful and resource-based constituent peoples, nations and publics within the polity that are placed in their genocide march and sights.  Here, the example of the Igbo people of west Africa cannot be overstressed. This is one of the most peaceful and industrious of peoples subjected to the longest-running genocide of the contemporary epoch by the Nigeria state. The Igbo genocide is the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. It inaugurated Africa’s current age of pestilence. During the course of 44 months (29 May 1966-12 January 1970) of indescribable barbarity and carnage not seen in Africa since the German-perpetration of the genocide against the Herero people of Namibia in the early 1900s, the composite institutions of the Nigeria state, civilian and military, murdered 3.1 million Igbo people or one-quarter of this nation’s population. To understand the politics of the Igbo genocide and the politics of the “post”-Igbo genocide is to have an invaluable insight into the salient features and constitutive indices of politics across Africa in the past 50 years. Africans elsewhere remained largely silent on the gruesome events in Nigeria but did not foresee the grave consequences of such indifference as subsequent genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan (all three in the Sudan) and Zaïre/Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in other wars in every geographical region of Africa during the period have demonstrated catastrophically. Just as the Nigerian operatives of mass murder appeared to have got away without censure from the rest of Africa, other genocidal and brutal African regimes soon followed in Nigeria’s footpath, murdering a horrifically additional tally of 12 million people in their countries considered “undesirables” or “opponents”. These 12 million murdered in the latter bloodbaths would probably have been saved if Africans had intervened robustly to stop the initial genocide against the Igbo people.
It is abundantly clear that the factors which have contributed to determining the very poor quality of life of Africa’s population presently have to do with the nonuse, partial use, or the gross misuse of the continent’s resources year in, year out. This is thanks to an asphyxiating “Berlin-state” whose strategic resources are used largely to support the Western World and others and an overseer-grouping of local forces which exists solely to police the dire straits of existence that is the lot of the average African. As a result, the broad sectors of African peoples are yet to lead, centrally, the entire process of societal reconstruction and transformation by themselves. Surely, an urgently restructured, culturally-supportive political framework that enhances the quality of life of Africans is really the pressing subject of focus for Africa.
One immediate move that states across the world, especially Britain, the leading arms exporter to Africa, and the rest of the West, Russia and China and others can make to support the ongoing efforts by peoples across Africa to rid themselves of such frighteningly genocidal and dysfunctional states is to ban all arms sales to Africa. This ban must be total and comprehensive. A total and comprehensive arms ban on Africa will radically advance the current quest on the ground by Africans, across the continent, to construct democratic and extensively decentralised new state forms that guarantee and safeguard human rights, equality and freedom for individuals and peoples. Africans have both the vision and the capacity to create alternative states – for them it is an imperative upon which their survival is based.
Forty-seven years and 15 million murders on, Africans finally realise that there cannot be any meaningful advancement without abandoning the post-conquest state, essentially a genocide-state. This state is the bane of African existence and progress. It is in the longer-term interest of the rest of the world, especially in the West, to support African transformations initiated by the peoples rather than the “helmspersons”/“helmsconstituent nations” ostensibly entrenched in the hierarchical architecture that maps the typical continent’s genocide-state.

*Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe is visiting professor in graduate programme of constitutional law at the Universidade de Fortaleza, Brazil, and specialist on the state and genocide and wars in Africa. This is a keynote paper he gave to a one-day conference on Africa on Monday 20 May 2013 at the Universidade Estadual do Ceará, Fortaleza. He wishes to thank Professor Mônica Dias Martins and her team for a very successful conference which featured a very engaging and rewarding stretch of discourses among scholars and students from an array of disciplines well into late evening. Obrigado!

**Refined columbite-tantalite, coltan, is critical in the manufacture of a range of small electronic equipment including, particularly, laptop computers and mobile phones; 80 per cent of the world’s reserves of this mineral is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is being currently subjected to a genocidal conflict where 5 million people have been murdered since the 1990s.

Works cited

Akaezuwa, Emeka,  “Stop Africa Land Grab”. (accessed 14 May 2013).

Busch,  Gary,  “Africans pay for the bullets the French use to kill them”. (accessed 15 May 2013)

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert, “‘Do you still read or hear of “sub-Sahara Africa”?’ … ‘What is it anyway?’ ... ”. (accessed 14 June 2013).

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert, Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature. Dakar & Reading: African Renaissance, 2011.

El Tom, Fairouz,  “Do NGOs practise what they preach?”. (accessed 15 May 2013).

Endres,  John,  “Ready, set, sow”, The Journal of Good Governance Africa. Issue 6, November 2012.

FAO and IIED, “What effect will biofuels have on forest land and poor people’s access to it?”.  2008.

Global Financial Integrity,  “Illicit financial flows from Africa: Hidden resource for development”.              (accessed 25 April 2013).

John Coltrane Quartet,  “Wise one”. Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 27 April/I June 1964.

Oliver, Roland, “The condition of Africa”, Times Literary Supplement. London, 20 September 1991

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2012.

World Bank, World Development Report 2012. 

World Bank, “Migrant Labor Remittances in Africa”.  Africa Regional Paper Series. No. 64, Washington, November 2003.

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Walter Rodney’s presence

Thirty-three years ago today, 13 June 2013, Walter Rodney was assassinated in Georgetown, Guyana. Rodney is one of Africa’s leading historians – in the same league as Cheikh Anta Diop, Onwuka Dike, Bethwell Alan Ogot, Albert Adu Boahen, Joseph Ki-Zerbo and Adiele Afigbo. Rodney was professor of history at the University of Dar es Salaam during six momentous years (1968-1974) and two of his publications, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972) and A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800 (1970), are compulsory references to the study of Africa of the past 500 years.

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

“‘Do you still read or hear of “sub-Sahara Africa”?’ … ‘What is it anyway?’ ... ”

The essay “‘Sub-Sahara Africa’ is racist”, previously published on 28 August 2012, is reissued here with  no changes in the original, preceded by Charles Mingus Sextet, featuring multiinstrumentalist Eric Dolphy,  playing Mingus’s composition,  “Fables of Faubus”, one of the most insistent essays on freedom ever full personnel: Mingus, bass; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Dolphy, bass clarinet; Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone; Jaki Byard, piano; Danny Richmond, drums (recorded, live, Cornell University,  18 March 1964).

“Sub-Sahara Africa” is racist*

It appears increasingly fashionable for a number of broadcasters, websites, news agencies, newspapers and magazines, the United Nations/allied agencies and some governments, writers and academics to use the term “sub-Sahara Africa” to refer to all of Africa (54 countries) except the 5 predominantly Arab states of north Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt) and the Sudan, a northcentral African country. Even though its territory is mostly located south of the Sahara Desert, the Sudan is excluded from the “sub-Sahara Africa” tagging by those who promote the use of the epithet because the regime in power in Khartoum describes the country as “Arab” despite its majority African population. 

Which science?

As we now demonstrate, the concept “sub-Sahara Africa” is absurd, misleading, if not a meaningless classificatory schema. Its use defies the science of the fundamentals of geography but prioritises hackneyed, stereotypical, racist labelling. It is not obvious, on the face of it, which of the four possible meanings of the prefix, “sub”, its users attach to the “sub-Sahara Africa” labelling. Is it “under” the Sahara Desert or “part of”/“partly” the Sahara Desert? Or, presumably, “partially”/“nearly” the Sahara Desert or even the very unlikely (hopefully!) application of “in the style of, but inferior to” the Sahara Desert, especially considering that there is an Arab people sandwiched between Morocco and Mauritania (northwest Africa) called Saharan? 

The example of South Africa is appropriate here. Crucially, this is a reference underlined in the relevant literature of the era especially those emanating from the West, the United Nations (principally UNDP, FAO, WHO, UNCTAD), the World Bank and IMF, the so-called NGOs/“aid” groups, and some in academia who all are variously responsible for initiating and sustaining the operationalisation of this “sub-Sahara Africa” dogma. The point is that prior to the formal restoration of African majority government in 1994, South Africa was never designated “sub-Sahara Africa” by anyone in this portrait, unlike the rest of the 13 African-led states in southern Africa, which were also often referred to, at the time, as the “frontline states”. South Africa then was either termed “white South Africa” or the “South Africa sub-continent” (as in the “India sub-continent” usage, for instance), meaning “almost”/“partially” a continent – quite clearly a usage of “admiration” or “compliment” employed by its subscribers to essentially project and valorise the perceived geostrategic potentials or capabilities of the erstwhile European minority occupation regime-led country. 

But soon after the triumph of the African freedom movement there, South Africa became “sub-Sahara Africa” in the quickly adjusted schema of this representation! What happened suddenly to South Africa’s geography to be so differently classified?! Is it African liberation/rule that renders an African state “sub-Sahara”?[1] Does this post-1994 West-inflected South Africa-changed classification make “sub-Sahara Africa” any more intelligible? Interestingly, just as in the South Africa “sub-continent” example, the application of the “almost”/“partially” or indeed “part of”/“partly” meaning of prefix “sub-” to “Sahara Africa” focuses unambiguously on the following countries of Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, each of which has 25-75 per cent of its territory (especially to the south) covered by the Sahara Desert. It also focuses on Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and the Sudan, which variously have 25-75 per cent of their territories (to the north) covered by the same desert. In effect, these ten states would make up sub-Sahara Africa. 

Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, the five Arab north Africa countries, do not, correctly, describe themselves as Africans even though they unquestionably habituate African geography, the African continent, since the Arab conquest and occupation of this north one-third of African territory in the 7th century CE. The West governments, press and the transnational bodies we referred to earlier (which are led predominantly by West personnel and interests) have consistently “conceded” to this Arab cultural insistence on racial identity. Presumably, this accounts for the West’s non-designation of its “sub-Sahara Africa” dogma to these countries as well as the Sudan, whose successive Arab-minority regimes since January 1956 have claimed, but incorrectly, that the Sudan “belongs” to the Arab World. On this subject, the West does no doubt know that what it has been engaged in, all along, is blatant sophistry and not science. This, however, conveniently suits its current propaganda packaging on Africa, which we shall be elaborating on shortly. 

It would appear that we still don’t seem to be any closer at establishing, conclusively, what its users mean by “sub-Sahara Africa”. Could it, perhaps, just be a benign reference to all the countries “under” the Sahara, whatever their distances from this desert, to interrogate our final, fourth probability? Presently, there are 54 so-called sovereign states in Africa. If the 5 north Africa Arab states are said to be located “above” the Sahara, then 49 are positioned “under”. The latter would therefore include all the 5 countries mentioned above whose north frontiers incorporate the southern stretches of the desert (namely, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and the Sudan), countries in central Africa (the Congos, Rwanda, Burundi, etc., etc), for instance, despite being 2000-2500 miles away, and even the southern African states situated 3000-3500 miles away! In fact, all these 49 countries, except the Sudan (alas, not included for the plausible reason already cited!), which is clearly “under” the Sahara and situated within the same latitudes as Mali, Niger and Chad (i.e., between 10 and 20 degrees north of the equator), are all categorised by the “sub-Sahara Africa” users as “sub-Sahara Africa”. 

“Sub-”s of the world?

To replicate this obvious farce of a classification elsewhere in the world, the following random exercise is not such an indistinct scenario for universal, everyday, referencing: 

1. Australia hence becomes “sub-Great Sandy Australia” after the hot deserts that cover much of west and central Australia 

2. East Russia, east of the Urals, becomes “sub-Siberia Asia” 

3. China, Japan and Indonesia are reclassified “sub-Gobi Asia” 

4. Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam become “sub-Himalaya Asia” 

5. All of Europe is “sub-Arctic Europe” 

6. Most of England, central and southern counties, is renamed “sub-Pennines Europe” 

7. East/southeast France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia are “sub-Alps Europe” 

8. The Americas become “sub-Arctic Americas” 

9. All of South America south of the Amazon is proclaimed “sub-Amazon South America”; Chile could be “sub-Atacama South America” 

10. Most of New Zealand’s South Island is renamed “sub-Southern Alps New Zealand” 

11. Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama become “sub-Rocky North America” 

12. The entire Caribbean becomes “sub-Appalachian Americas”

African-centred scholarship

So, rather than some benign construct, “sub-Sahara Africa” is, in the end, an outlandish nomenclatural code that its users employ to depict an African-led “sovereign” state – anywhere in Africa, as distinct from an Arab-led one. It is the users’ non-inclusion of the Sudan in this grouping (despite its majority African population and geographical location) but its inclusion of South Africa only after the latter’s 1994 liberation that gives the game away! More seriously to the point, “sub-Sahara Africa” is employed to create the stunning effect of a supposedly shrinking African geographical landmass in the popular imagination, coupled with the continent’s supposedly attendant geostrategic global “irrelevance”. 

“Sub-Sahara Africa” is undoubtedly a racist geopolitical signature in which its users aim repeatedly to present the imagery of the desolation, aridity, and hopelessness of a desert environment. This is despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of 1 billion Africans do not live anywhere close to the Sahara, nor are their lives so affected by the implied impact of the very loaded meaning that this dogma intends to convey. Except this steadily pervasive use of “sub-Sahara Africa” is robustly challenged by rigorous African-centred scholarship and publicity work, its proponents will succeed, eventually, in substituting the name of the continent “Africa” with “sub Sahara Africa” and the name of its peoples, “Africans”, with “sub-Sahara Africans” or, worse still, “sub-Saharans” in the realm of public memory and reckoning.

*This essay is a slightly updated version of a paper entitled “What is ‘sub-Sahara Africa’”?, read at the IDeoGRAMS Conference: Contemporary Media, University of Leicester, 14 September 2007.

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

[1]Roger Tangri, Politics in Sub-Sahara Africa (London and Portsmouth, N. H.:  James Currey, 1985), p. ix, passim.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Nigeria perpetuates violence and insecurity in Igboland

[Following the all-day “sit-at-home” declaration held across Igboland and by some in the diaspora in Nigeria earlier on today (Saturday 8 June 2013) to mourn the hundreds of Igbo people murdered in recent months by the Boko Haram islamic insurgents in north Nigeria, and the murder, in January 2013, of an additional group of 30-50 Igbo in Igboland itself by the Nigerian occupying military and police (bodies of the latter murders were subsequently gagged and dumped in the River Ezu, northwestcentral Igboland), I reissue, here, an essay (“Nigeria perpetuates violence and insecurity in Igboland”) on the broader tenor of  this day of remembrance which was first published on 16 July 2010. The essay, with no changes made in the original, is aptly preceded by the John Coltrane Quartet playing “Lonnie’s lament” – personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums (recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 27 April/I June 1964).]

In these very turbulent times, the recent high profile summit of leading Igbo human rights scholars (including respected literary critic Ben Obumselu) and activists (including influential lawyer Olisa Agbakoba) at the Ofuobi African Centre, Enuugwu, may well be the turning point on the ground in Igboland to decisively chart the final phase of the course to the restoration of Igbo sovereignty.

Away from the usual heart-rending equivocations and staggering untruths that emanate from occupation-appointed officials and acolytes and by uncritical commentators (some of who are, amazingly, Igbo!) on the source of the current violence and insecurity in Igboland, the summit’s communiqué lays the case squarely on the Nigeria state – its “siege and occupation” of Igboland, as the text appositely states. It elaborates, most profoundly:
[Igboland] has become militarized with a vast deployment of expeditionary and predatory police and army personnel who are from outside the region. For instance, there are 61 Police check-points between Abakal[e]k[e] … to Nsukka … (a distance of about 130km). In [contrast] between Obolo-Afo [Igboland] and Lokoja [Nigeria] (a distance of nearly 400 km) no checkpoints exist. This state of siege is exemplified by the current [situation] of … [Igbo] cities [including] Aba, [Enuugwu, Abakaleke, Onicha, Owere] and Nnewi – hitherto the fastest growing and thriving industrial cum commercial cities in the African continent now being turned into refuse dumps and ghettos. Businesses that would have provided jobs to engage our youths have been strangulated by incompetent and criminal leadership.

The summiteers conclude with a 10-point resolution and demand made on the occupation state, three of which are particularly pertinent:
1. Immediate demilitarisation of Igboland by dismantling all checkpoints and security barricades that it has set up across the country

2. Immediate rescinding of the deployment of Nigeria military forces to Igboland on the spurious mission of fighting kidnapping, instead reorienting policing from expeditionary operations to intelligence-based operations in cooperation with communities

3. Immediate and unconditional release and withdrawal of illegal criminal charges of members of the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafran (MASSOB) including Ralph Uwazurike, Uche Okwukwu, and other prisoners of conscience

What is clearly evident is that the accent, presently, on Nigeria’s unrelenting genocide on the Igbo, since the 1966-1970 foundational stretch when it murdered 3.1 million of the people, focuses on demolishing the crucial socioeconomic architecture of their collective being. Pointedly, this preoccupation constitutes one of the five acts of genocide explicitly defined in article 2 of the December 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “deliberately inflicting upon the group conditions of life designed to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (the Sudan’s head of regime Omar al-Bashir’s recent indictment for genocide, by the International Criminal Court, was effected partly because of his regime’s perpetration of this particular act of genocide in Darfur – see previous blog posting).

If one refers, for example, to the innumerable public statements on the Igbo genocide made over the years by Olusegun Obasanjo, a fiendish operative of this heinous crime and ex-head of regime in Nigeria, Nigeria has since been deeply troubled by its failure to accomplish its dreadful objective of annihilating the Igbo population 44 years ago. It therefore considers its current project of destroying the socioeconomic heritage and viability of the Igbo nation a sufficiently lethal tactical plank to accomplish its much vaunted, gruesome mission. Since 1970, the primary ambition of a typical Nigerian police officer graduating from police colleges in Nigeria is to be deployed to Igboland; he/she readily bribes their commandants to receive the coveted Igboland posting where they make an incredible fortune in just a few years of their placements at the myriad checkpoints, detaining/kidnapping/extorting money or a range of choice consumer products from road users. Even Igbo school children going to and from school, are not exempt from this officially-sponsored, openly-organised brigandage. Igbo homes and businesses (particularly shops and markets), as can be expected, are also regular targets of this institutionalised thieving spree. We mustn’t forget that, just over seven years to the day (10 July 2003), it was a Raphael Ige, a Nigerian assistant inspector general of police, who spectacularly carried out the kidnapping of then governor Chris Ngige of the Anambra region, northwest Igboland. Ige was a key executioner in the Ngige abduction plot, which was planned and authorised by the Obasanjo regime to divert Anambra public funds to Obasanjo-recruited hirelings opposed to the ongoing reconstruction of Igboland.

Abduction, detention and extortion constitute the 3-headed monster that the Nigerian occupation employs to savage the Igbo economy – most ruthlessly and most remorselessly. In essence, and perhaps most perversely cast, the Igbo nation subsidises its very own occupation – an indirect taxation thereof, amounting to millions and millions of US dollars of savings annually for the near-bankrupt Nigeria treasury. Given the paltry state of its finances, Nigeria cannot afford its continuing occupation of Igboland without its simultaneous ravaging of the legendary wealth of Igboland. The Igbo therefore carry the burden of this occupation with all its tragic ramifications. There are no comparable occupations elsewhere in the contemporary world with the same viciousness and severity.

What happens next in Igboland? When will the Nigeria military and police forces depart – as duly demanded by the Igbo human rights practitioners? How do the Igbo shut down this occupation? The Igbo demands are for immediate implementation. Nigeria must comply with these demands. The Igbo should now ensure that Nigeria evacuates its occupying military and police forces from their country forthwith. The Igbo are not Nigerian. The Igbo are from Biafra. The Igbo are Biafran. Whilst the Igbo worked extraordinarily hard by playing the vanguard role in the liberation of Nigeria from the British conquest (beginning from the 1930s), the Igbo ceased to be Nigerian on 29 May 1966. This was the day Nigeria launched the Igbo genocide. The Igbo renouncement of their Nigerian citizenship is the irrevocable Igbo indictment on a state that embarked on the destruction of 3.1 million Igbo people, one-quarter of the nation’s population at the time. The only future a genocide-state has is its dismantling – nothing else.

The Igbo should now stop paying the millions and millions of US dollars worth of expropriation tax that sustains the occupation and their subjugation. One must never, ever, be a participant in their incarceration, their deindividuation. A general, indefinite strike across the Igbo country should be called forthwith, demanding the unconditional dismantling of Nigeria’s barriers of extortion and expropriation, and the evacuation of its military/police bases from their land. An extensive and continuing-evolving organisation is required as this march of freedom develops. All strata of the 50 million Igbo population, at home and abroad, must be mobilised – particularly women organisations, farmers, youth/students’ bodies, the redoubtable umuada and umunna circuits, market/allied trade guilds, custodians and overseers of Igbo traditional religious places of worship, the clergy and the rest of the intellectuals. The Igbo clergy, for instance, has its work cut out. The role of the church in national freedom movements has been invaluable as the world has seen in places like Poland, the United States (the African American church, for example), several countries in Latin America and, of course, back home in Biafra as occurred 44 years ago – surely in the next sermon in the churches and cathedrals of the land, the congregation will be interested to learn of the legacies of the venerables Akanu Ibiam, Godfery Okoye, Benjamin Nwankiti… The Igbo expect their intellectuals, many of who are part of the world’s best and brightest, to play a critical role in responding to this existential threat to their nation. Already, there exists a rich legacy of the outstandingly selfless role played by Igbo intellectuals to Igboland at the onset of the genocide to build upon.

Finally, the rest of the world must know of the historic Enuugwu human rights community declaration and the measures being taken by the Igbo to free their homeland. The text of the communiqué should be distributed worldwide, particularly to institutions and agencies working on genocide, human rights, peace and freedom. The use of all the creative avenues of new technology is paramount. Igbo website networks will indeed be very busy in the coming days and weeks. The millions of Igbo émigrés, especially those in Europe and North America, should begin, right away, to lobby their elected representatives(members of parliament/deputies/congresspeople/senators) on these breathtaking developments and also seek support and solidarity from civil and human rights bodies in their community, region or country of domicile. Students should take up this campaign in their unions, clubs and societies on resumption after the summer vacation. The office of Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, The Hague, should be contacted at once with the astonishingly vast documentation that the current and previous phases of the Igbo genocide attest to. Last year’s British Broadcasting Corporation’s investigation of the Nigeria police murdering-escapades in Enuugwu as well as that of Amnesty International’s wider canvass of investigation on the same police barbarities in other parts of occupied Igboland and Nigeria (see links below) are indispensible additions to the existing dossier on the genocide:

Additional information (posted 1103 Hours, Pacific Daylight Time, Sunday 9 June 2013) – According to press reports, the Nigerian occupation military and police shot dead 3-6 Igbo mourning-organisers in the important market town of Onicha in the Niger Delta, Igboland, during yesterday’s “sit-at-home” observance. The Lagos Guardian (Sunday 8 June 2013),  quoting an official of the organising team, names Sunday Idum, Emeka Ibe and Okechukwu Okolo as having been “shot dead by soldiers at Bida Road ... while five others were critically injured and are receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital ... [T]hree [others] unconfirmed ... were also shot dead at the [city’s Niger River] bridgehead ... 

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Friday, 7 June 2013

Commanding the genocide against Igbo people...

The Nigerian state murdered 3.1 million Igbo children, women and men, a quarter of this nation’s population, during the genocide of 29 May 1966-12 January 1970. This genocide is still ongoing (phase-IV). Yakubu Gowon headed the junta that executed the genocide and Obafemi Awolowo, a lawyer, was his deputy, prime minister, the genocidist “chief theorist” for the campaign and head of the all-powerful finance ministry. Awolowo also programmed and inaugurated phase-IV of the genocide, in full speed currently, aimed to dismantle/degrade Igbo economy, pre-genocide Africa’s most dynamic and resourceful economy, in perpetuity. The ghoulish anthem of the genocide, broadcast uninterruptedly in Hausa on Kaduna state-run radio (short wave band) and television throughout its 44 months’ duration, has the following blatantly-expressed gruesome lyrics for this crime’s tactical and strategic goals (and would have undoubtedly influenced similarly virulent genocidist broadcasters in Rwanda 30 years later): 

Mu je mu kashe nyamiri
Mu kashe maza su da yan maza su
Mu chi mata su da yan mata su
Mu kwashe kaya su
(English translation: Let’s go kill the damned Igbo/Kill off their men and boys/Rape their wives and daughters/Cart off their property)

Those responsible for the death of 3.1 million Igbo people must face trial for this crime against humanity. Thankfully, there is no statute of limitations in the prosecution of genocide in international law. If the Nigerian genocidists had been tried after 12 January 1970, Africa would probably have been spared the additional 12 million who have been murdered in subsequent genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan (all three in the Sudan) and Zaïre/Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in other wars in Africa. 

Finally, a genocide-state, such as Nigeria, has indeed no future as its raison d’être is nothing else but murder and murder and murder...

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Pressing question on Igbo genocide

We mustn’t forget to note that the stretch of phases-I, II and III of the Igbo genocide encapsulates the timeframe 29 May 1966-12 January 1970. The conduct of each and every operative – civilian, military – involved in organising/abetting/prosecuting this crime against humanity is consequently evaluated across this entire stretch. When one adds phase-IV, beginning 13 January 1970 to the present, the composite parameter, and therefore the overall picture, appropriately becomes fully encompassing. The pressing question of this age of pestilence is thus posed as follows: What is the role of operative A or operative B or operative C, for instance, in the Igbo genocide, 29 May 1966 to the Present Day?

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Remembering 5 June 1969

There was hardly any day during the entire 44-month duration of the Igbo genocide that the Nigerian assault did not register some dreadful mark of infamy, such was the sheer savagery of this murder mission. 5 June 1969, exactly 44 years ago today, was not different. Genocidist commander Olusegun Obasanjo had, on this day, clearly, unambiguously, ordered his air force to shoot down an international Red Cross aircraft, carrying relief supplies to the encircled, blockaded and bombarded Igbo. 

Olusegun Obasanjo clearly, unambiguously, records this horrendous crime in his memoirs, appropriately entitled My Command, published in 1981 by the reputable Heinemann publishers. Obasanjo had “challenged”, to quote his words, Captain Gbadomosi King (genocidist air force pilot), who he had known since 1966, to “produce results” in stopping further international relief flight deliveries to the Igbo. Within a week of his infamous challenge, 5 June 1969, Olusegun Obasanjo recalls, most nostalgically, Gbadomosi King “redeemed his promise”. Gbadomosi King had shot down a clearly marked, in coming relief-bearing International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) DC-7 plane near Eket, south Biafra, with the loss of its 3-person crew. 

Olusegun Obasanjo’s perverse satisfaction over the aftermath of this horrendous crime is fiendish, chillingly revolting. He writes: “The effect of [this] singular achievement of the Air Force especially on 3 Marine Commando Division [the notorious unit Obasanjo, who later becomes Nigeria’s head of regime for 11 years, commanded] was profound. It raised morale of all service personnel, especially of the Air Force detachment concerned and the troops they supported in [my] 3 Marine Commando Division” (Obasanjo, My Command: 79). 

Yet despite the huffing and puffing, the raving commanding brute is essentially a coward who lacks the courage to face up to a world totally outraged by his gruesome crime. Instead, Obasanjo, the quintessential Caliban, cringes into a stupor and beacons to his Prospero, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson (as he, Obansanjo, indeed unashamedly acknowledges in his My Command) to “sort out” the raging international outcry generated by the destruction of the ICRC plane...

Olusegun Obasanjo must now make the most honourable move over this crime and surrender himself, voluntarily, with his memoirs, at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and explain to the world what happened over the skies of south Biafra on that Thursday 5 June 1969. Failing to do this, it is incumbent on the ICC to declare this man “wanted” – to urgently tell the world why he had ordered the destruction of the ICRC DC-7 aircraft with the death of its 3-person crew.

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe