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February 23 2014

First Open Heart Surgery in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

Child awaiting heart surgery via La chaine de l'espoir with their permission

The health international network La Chaîne de l’Espoir (The Link of Hope) reports that 7 Congolese children in critical conditions benefited from open heart surgeries [fr] on February 14 in Brazzaville, Congo. With the help of the Congo Assistance Fundation as well, Prince Béni and Maya, both suffering from cardiomyopathy were operated for several hours as told in the following report [fr]:

Elle a dix ans et ne pèse que quinze kilos. Son cœur fonctionne mal. Il l'empêche de s'alimenter et donc de grandir. La petite fille doit être opérée le plus vite possible. L'intervention dure six heures.

(Mayala) is ten years old and weighs fifteen pounds. Her heart is malfunctioning. It prevents her from getting nutrients to all her cells and therefore growing. The girl needed an operation as soon as possible. The procedure took six hours.

February 19 2013

African Reactions to the Pope’s Resignation

The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI of his intention to resign with effect from February 28, 2013 provoked many reactions in Francophone Africa, both in traditional media and on social networks. The predominant feeling was that of admiration for the Pope combined with the wish that certain African leaders would follow his example.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Photo Catholic Church (England and Wales) on Flickr, licence CC by-nc-sa/2.0

Varied opinions, with underlying admiration

In a well-reported article from Togocouleurs blog entitled ‘Must the Pope Die Pope?’, Charles Lebon wrote that [fr]:

La nouvelle est tombée ce 11 février comme un coup de tonnerre dans un ciel serein. Ce coup aurait été moins violent si c’était le décès du pape, qui, dans ce cas et trop souvent prévisible, obligeait les journalistes à attendre sous les fenêtres du saint homme en agonie avec micro, camera et bougie. Mais ce n’était pas le cas. Il s’agit de la démission du souverain pontife au sens de : « renoncer à sa charge ».

The news hit on February 11 like a thunderclap in a quiet sky. The shock would have been less violent if they had announced the death of the Pope who, on this occasion, as on many others, made journalists wait under his windows in agony with a microphone, camera and candle. But this was not the announcement that was made. It was actually the resignation of the reigning pontiff, in the sense of: ‘renouncing his burden’.

Diery Diallo’s blog quoted Father Jacques Seck of Dakar [fr] :

Je dis que je suis heureux que le Saint-Père (Pape Benoît XVI) ait pris cette idée personnellement. Les hommes de Dieu que nous sommes (…) ne sont pas des fonctionnaires qui travaillent. Je suis heureux que le Saint-Père à la tête de l’Eglise nous donne l’exemple. Les évêques, Cardinaux, Pape, ne sont pas des fonctionnaires, quand ils ne peuvent plus ils cèdent la place aux autres », a réagi Abbé Jacques Seck sur les ondes de la Rfm. Rappelons que le Pape Benoit XVI a annoncé sa démission de ses fonctions de Pape pour le 28 février 2013. Il a donné comme raison, son âge avancé qui ne lui permet plus d’exercer le ministère Pétrinien.

I say that I am glad that the Holy Father (Pope Benedict XVI) has taken this step personally. Men of God such as we [...] are not functionaries with a job. I am pleased that the Holy Father as the head of the Church has given us the example. Bishops, Cardinals, the Pope, are not functionaries, when they can no longer go on, they give their place to others.” reacted Father Jacques Seck on the airwaves of RFM. Let us remember that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from his papal duties would take effect on February 28, 2013. As reason, he gave his advanced years which no longer allow him to fulfil the duties of the Holy See.

On the facebook page of Radio France International, a widely-listened to station in Francophone Africa, many reactions were posted [fr] during a programme dedicated to this event:

File:Benoît XVI synode 2008.jpg

Many Africans seem to wish their leaders would be inspired by the courageous act of Pope Benedict XVI. Source photo:
commons.wikimedia.org

From Conakry in Guinea Hilal Sylla [fr] wrote that:

Pour peu que cela ait du sens, cette démission de Benoit XVI me renvoie au Film culte sur l'église et les illuminatis. Une façon de dire que l'église n'a plus de force dans un monde dominé par tant de perversion. Une question : la fin du monde n'est-elle pas proche?

Although it doesn’t make much sense, Pope Benedict’s resignation reminds me of the popular film about the church and the Illuminati. A way of saying that the church no longer has strength in a world dominated by so much perversion. One question: Is the End of the World nigh?

For Samuel Azabho [fr] from Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Cette démission est normale par le fait de l'age. son pontificat est positif dans la mesure où il est le précurseur de la lutte contre la pédophilie. je pense qu'il était un homme de décision. Et celui qui doit venir après lui doit relever le défis de l'avenir de l'église catholique et de toute l'humanité peu importe sa race et ses origines.

This resignation is not unusual because of the matter of his age. His papacy was mainly positive in so far as it was the precursor of the fight against paedophilia. I think that he acted as a decisive man. And whoever follows him must be up to the challenges in the future of the Catholic Church, and of all humanity, no matter his race or origin.

From Yaoundé, Ben Mbele remarked that [fr]:

nous pouvons cependant dire ke le pontificat de benoit xv1 n'a pa été un fleuve trankil, de son discours sur l'islam et la violence en passant par le scandal des prêtres pédophiles et enfin du débat sur le mariage gay,au demeurant notons ke la décision salutaire de benoit xv1 fera un précédent car il lancera le débat sur la modification du droit canon en matière du mandat du pape, personnellement il ne faut pa trop attendre du nouveau pape en matière d’émancipation sur certains sujets car la plus part des cardinaux actuels ont été nommé par benoit xv1 et jean paul 2 eux très conservateurs.

However, we can say that the papacy of Benedict XVI has not been plain sailing, from his speech about Islam, through the scandal of paedophile priests, finishing with the gay marriage question, for all that, we note that the salutatory decision of Benedict XVI will set a precedent because it will launch a debate on whether Canon Law regarding the Pope’s mandate should be modified, personally I don’t think we should expect too much from the new Pope regarding emancipation of certain groups of people because most current cardinals were named by Benedict XVI and John Paul 2, and are very conservative.

Alpha Ulrick Marcellus from Brazzville, in Congo thought that [fr]:

La décision du Pape est courageuse. Il ne démissionne pas mais il renonce, il renonce au ministère pétrinien. Une décision qui n'est pas facile à prendre. Son pontificat a été à mon avis celui des grandes épreuves, des discours aux vérités sans détours et choquant. Benoit XVI à donné le meilleur de lui-même, dans la direction d'une Église en conflit avec un monde de plus en plus excentrique. Pour le futur Pape plaise à Dieu de choisir celui qui est apte, valide à prendre des décisions courageuses contre les déviations que le monde légalise pour préserver l'intégrité de la foi et de l'Église.

The Pope’s decision was courageous. He did not resign, but renounced, he renounced the Holy See. Not an easy decision to take. In my opinion, his papacy was one of great trials, of shocking and hard-hitting speeches about truths. Benedict XVI has given the best of himself, for a Church in conflict with a world becoming more and more eccentric. Let us hope that, for the future Pope, God chooses the one who is best-suited, capable of taking courageous decisions against the deviations that the world legalises, to preserve the integrity of faith and of the Church.

The BBC also broadcast special programmes about Francophone Africa, which were played by local radio stations. The BBC’s facebook page about Africa has more than 17,000 fans [fr]. During the programme about this resignation, Africa Live on February 16, many Africans gave their points of view. Michel Djadji Anigbe from Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, wrote that [fr]:

Relativement à la décision de démission du Pape, son motif me laisse perplexe et pantois. Comment un grand intellectuel tel que lui a pu accepter ce pontificat avec tous les sacrifices que cela demande. Surtout avec ce que son prédécesseur, le vénérable Pape Jean Paul II , a fait du sien. De plus, son argument est trop facile avec le scandale qui nous a été servi par l'affaire de son majordome. Et quand on sait aussi que le Vatican n'est pas ignorant et étranger à tous ce qui passe actuellement dans le monde.

Relative to the Pope’s decision to resign, his motive leaves me perplexed and speechless. How could a great intellectual like him have accepted this papacy with all the sacrifices which that demands? Especially with what his predecessor, the venerable Pope John Paul II, had achieved with his. What is more, his argument is too simplistic regarding the scandal of this business with his majordomo. And when you also realise that the Vatican is not ignorant of or a stranger to what happens in the world today.

Didier Didou Mady posed an interesting question [fr]:

Le rejet de la démission du Pape est-il envisageable au regard du droit canon? Quoi de plus normal que les touristes au Vatican visite à la fois le pape et l'ex-pape. Difficile d'avoir un pape infatigable!

Is the rejection of the Pope’s resignation conceivable with regards to Canon Law? What could be more normal than tourists at the Vatican visiting the Pope and the ex-Pope at the same time? It is difficult to have an indefatigable Pope!

An Example for some African leaders?

Africa has many badly run countries. Is this linked to the fact that on this continent we also find heads of State who have been in power the longest?:

Many Africans have commented on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI by relating it what has happened on their own continent. Josiane Kouaghe from Cameroon wrote [fr] on his blog:

Passés ces moments de disputes, les vraies questions s’imposent. Et les comparaisons ne tardent pas à suivre. «Ah…Il me rappelle Nelson Mandela. Tu te rappelles, en 1999, quand il a démissionné après seulement cinq ans? », demande Éric Ntomb, 64 ans, à son ami. «Tu parles Éric. C’est la même chose avec le pape. Il n’est là que depuis 2005. Si seulement nos dirigeants africains pouvaient faire comme lui», répond l’ami en poussant un long soupir. L’ami dit haut ce que des millions de personnes pensent bas. Et je vous arrête. Ne dites pas que le pape a démissionné parce qu’il est un homme de Dieu. Non!  Il dirigeait le plus petit et puissant État du monde.

After these disputes, the real questions make themselves felt. And the comparisons are quick to follow. “Ah, he reminds me of Nelson Mandela. Do you remember, in 1999, when he resigned after only five years?” Eric Ntomb, 64, asked his friend. “Now you’re talking Eric! It’s the same thing with the Pope. He’s only been there since 2005. If only our leaders in Africa could do the same as him”, answered the friend with a deep sigh. The friend said out loud what millions of people think deep down. And I am stopping you! Don’t tell me that the Pope resigned because he is a man of God. No! He was leading the smallest and most powerful state in the world.

Josiane Kouagheu then reviewed the list of African presidents who resigned their duties voluntarily:

However, by far the most famous of all African leaders to leave power voluntarily was unquestionably Nelson Mandela, in 1999, a fact which has invited these comparisons between Mandela and Pope Benedict XVI.

January 18 2013

Gabon to Mali: History of French Military Interventions in Africa

[All links forward to french articles unless otherwise stated] 

The French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval [en] started on January 11, 2013 following the advance of terrorists groups towards Bamako. Lauded by a substantial part of the Malian population [en] and many outside observers, the military intervention diverts, however, from the non-interventionist line professed by French President Hollande in Africa.


View L'intervention militaire étrangère au Mali in a larger map
Google interactive map of the Malian conflict by Jeune Afrique

Francis d'Alençon wonders why French interventions in Africa do not raise protests around the world:

Bizarre, bizarre… L’intervention française au Mali ne dérange personne alors que des actions américaines similaires soulèveraient des tempêtes de protestation… De l’avantage de ne pas être une super puissance.

This is odd… The french intervention in Mali does not bother anyone whereas similar actions by the USA would have raised a storm of protests.. There are perks to not being the world's top super power.

To illustrate his point, he quotes from the Cech newspaper Lidové noviny :

Les Français sont intervenus plus de 50 fois en Afrique depuis 1960. Ils ont combattu au Tchad, dans la guerre non déclarée avec la Libye, protégé les régimes de Djibouti et de République Centrafricaine des rebelles, empêché un coup d’état aux Comores, sont intervenus en Côte d’Ivoire. Que ce soit pour préserver des intérêts économiques, protéger les ressortissants français ou démontrer le statut de grande puissance du pays, les locataires de l’Élysée, de gauche comme de droite, ont fréquemment manifesté leur penchant pour les actions unilatérales. … Pourtant personne n’a jamais protesté. … Si les États-Unis intervenaient avec une telle véhémence, il y aurait des protestations interminables en Europe. Et les ambassades américaines verraient défiler des diplomates fâchés, à commencer par les Français.

The French have now intervened more than 50 times in Africa since 1960. They fought in Chad, in the war with Libya, protected regimes in  Djibouti and the Central African Republic from rebels, prevented a coup in the Comoros and intervened in Côte d'Ivoire. Whether to preserve economic interests, protect French nationals or showcase the still imposing power of France, the main tenants of the Palais de l'Élysée, either from the left or from the right wings, have frequently expressed their penchant for unilateral action. But … nobody has ever protested. If … the United States intervened in such a manner, there would be an endless sequence of protests in Europe. U.S. embassies would see angry diplomats coming through their doors, starting with the French ones.

Carte de la rébellion touareg au Azawad, au nord de Mali indiquant les attaques des rebelles au 5 avril 2012

Map of the Tuareg rebellion in Azawad, Northern Mali showing rebel attacks as of April 5, 2012 (CC-BY-3.0)

Below is a chronology of these interventions [There are indeed quite a few of them but contrary to what the Cech newspaper stated, there were less than 50 french interventions in Africa ]. It is based on two articles:  one is a review written by  Nestor N’Gampoula  for Oeil d'Afrique and  another one by Jean-Patrick Grumberg for Dreuz Info. Grumberg adds that most of the French interventions in Africa took place on former colonial soil :

In 1964, airborne french troops landed in Libreville, Gabon after an attempted coup against the regime back then.

From 1968 to 1972, French troops took part in the fight against the rebellion in the Tibesti region in northern Chad.

In 1978 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), 600 French legionnaires went into the town of Kolwezi, in the south-east to help thousands of Africans and Europeans threatened by Katangan rebels. The mission was in response to a call for help made by President Mobutu Sese Seko to help his country. The operation cost the lives of five legionnaires, but allowed the evacuation of 2700 Westerners.

In 1979 in CAR, Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa is removed by French paratroopers during the Operation Barracuda.

From 1983-1984 in Chad, France undertook Operation Manta, a 3,000 men strong operation to face armed rebels supported by Libya. Two years later, another French military action, composed of mostly aerial attacks called “Operation Epervier“, was deployed after an anti-government attack.

In Comoros in 1989, after the assassination of President Ahmed Abdallah and the takeover of the country by the French mercenary Bob Denard, about 200 French soldiers arrived in the country to force them to leave the country.

In 1990, Paris sends troops to Gabon in Libreville and Port-Gentil in reinforcement of the French contingent after violent riots erupted. The operation allowed the evacuation of some 1,800 foreigners.

In 1991 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), the Belgian and French troops managed to evacuate foreigners after violent riots and looting occurred in the country.

In 1991 still, French troops based in Djibouti help the Afar rebellion to disarm Ethiopian troops that had crossed the border following the overthrow of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1994, French and Belgian soldiers evacuate Europeans while Rwanda Hutus massacred hundreds thousands of Tutsis. Later in the year, some 2,500 French soldiers, supported by african troops, launched “Operation Turquoise“, described as a humanitarian effort, in Zaire and in eastern Rwanda.

In 1995, a thousand men involved in Operation Azalea ended another attempted coup against Comorian President  Said Mohamed Djohar by Bob Denard.

In 1996 in the Central African Republic (CAR), operation Almandin secured the safety of foreigners and the evacuation of 1,600 people after the army mutinied against President Ange-Félix Patassé. The following year in 1997, specifically after the murder of two French soldiers, a French operation against the mutineers was mandated in Bangui (Central African Republic).

The same year, 1997, some 1,200 French soldiers rescued French and African expatriates during fighting between the Congolese army and supporters of the military leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, now President of the Republic of Congo.

In 2002, French forces undertook Operation Licorne to help Westerners trapped by a military uprising that effectively divided Côte-d’Ivoire in two regions.

In 2003, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Operation Artemis in Ituri  secured the area and put an end to ongoing massacres. This was followed by the deployment of 2,000 peacekeepers,  80% of which were French.

In 2004 in Côte-d’Ivoire, France destroyed the small Ivorian airforce after government forces bombed a French base.

In 2008 a new French intervention strengthens the regime of Chadian President Idriss Deby and evacuated foreigners while rebels from neighboring Sudan attacked.

In March 2011 in Libya had the French airforces were the first to bomb Gaddafi forces after the vote at the United Nations authorized intervention in Libya to protect civilians caught up in the rebellion against Gaddafi. NATO took command of the overall mission on March 31, a mission that helped the Libyan rebels to defeat the forces of the government and take power.

In 2011 in Côte-d’Ivoire,  French forces alongside UN forces tip the balance in favor of Ouattara during the civil war. The war broke out after the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to resign and accept the verdict of the election that pronounced Alassane Ouattara as president.

France had decided to break with his role as “policeman of Africa” by refusing to intervene again in the Central African Republic  where François Bozizé (former army chief who came to power by overthrowing the elected president Ange-Félix Patassé on March 15, 2003) faced a rebellion uprising. Little did he know that the events in Mali would force his hands :

In 2013 in Mali,  French bombarded Islamist rebels after they tried to expand their powerbase  towards the Malian capital, Bamako. France had already warned that control of the north of Mali by the rebels posed a threat to the security of Europe.

At the same time, France has mounted a commando operation to try to save a French hostage held by al Shabaab militants in Somalia, also allied with al-Qaeda. The hostage was  killed by the militants.

Bayaka Fighting to Save the Congo Basin Forests

Trailer of the documentary Ndima by Luis Leitao

The documentary Ndima (forest in Bayaka Language) depicts the struggle of the Bayaka people to protect the Congo Basin forests and preserve their way of life. An similar initiative, Mapping for Rights, strives to help forest communities in the Republic of Congo to gain legal rights to their lands via community-based mapping.

November 07 2012

A New Start for Barack Obama in Africa?

With Barack Obama re-elected to the Presidency of the United States for four years after the election of November 6, 2012, Africa is reviewing his legacy[fr]. This following his four years at the head of an America more concerned with the economic crisis than international relations, especially within the African continent. The expectations of Africans were great, but many think that the second term of President Obama will enable him to have a wider margin of manoeuvre on African issues.

U.S. President Obama walks with Malia, Michelle and Sasha following, during their visit to Cape Coast Castle, Ghana via pd2020@sbcglobal.net on FlickR (CC license-NC-BY)

Adrien Hart wrote on Slate Africa that the African legacy of President Obama is rather mixed. He explained [fr]:

Visiblement peu à l’aise pour endosser l’habit du « gendarme du monde », il a géré les affaires du monde en bon père de famille, sans faire de vague.  Ses détracteurs lui reprochent un manque flagrant de leadership, ses partisans mettent en avant son humanité et rappellent que Ben Laden a été éliminé sous son mandat.

Avec lui, l’Amérique est devenue moins arrogante. Mais a-t-elle gagné en popularité dans le monde musulman et en Afrique? Pas sûr.

Bien sûr, concernant l’Afrique, Obama a essayé de se rattraper. En août 2010, il a reçu à la Maison blanche plus d’une centaine de jeunes Africains pour discuter de leur « vision de l’Afrique pour les 50 ans à venir », critiquant implicitement la génération des indépendances.

Visibly ill at ease to act as the “world’s policeman”, he managed world affairs like a good father, without making waves.  His critics accuse him of a lack of leadership, his supporters highlight his humanity and remind us that Bin Laden was eliminated under his mandate.With him, America has become less arrogant. But has it become more popular in the Muslim world and Africa? This is not so certain.Certainly, as far as Africa is concerned, Obama has tried to catch up. In August 2010, he received more than a hundred young Africans at the White House to discuss their “vision for Africa for the next 50 years”, implicitly criticising the generation of independence [ed. note: African leaders that came right after the colonial period]

However, many found there were extenuating circumstances for him.  RFI reported that Nadine Gordimer, winner of the Nobel Prize of South African Literature, thinks that one term is not enough [fr] to solve the world's problems:

Dans un grand pays avec autant de problèmes, difficile de les régler tous en un mandat. Mais je pense qu'il a eu la bonne approche. Sa philosophie et son énergie vont globalement dans le bon sens. Et bien sûr, les Etats-Unis sont très importants pour le reste du monde. S'ils éternuent, c'est le monde entier, nous autres, qui attrapons une pneumonie. Je pense aussi qu'il a les bonnes idées en matière d'égalité, matérielle et dans les esprits.

In a large country with so many problems, it is difficult to sort them all in one term. But I think he had the right approach. His philosophy and his energy are going in the right direction, globally speaking. And, of course, the United States is very important for the rest of the world. If they sneeze, it's we in the rest of the world who catch pneumonia. I also think that he has the right ideas regarding equality, both practical and of consciousness.

Obama giving a speech in Accra, Ghana, 2009 by L'expressmu

These critics are harsher on Obama’s strategy in Africa. Gene Healy of libertarian thinktank the Cato Institute described the militarised action of the American administration in Africa:

Four years ago, few could have predicted that one of President Obama's legacies would be increased militarization of U.S. foreign policy towards Africa - but that seems to be the case. [..]
Promiscuous war-making leads to unintended consequences. For example, U.S. intervention in Libya stoked the civil war in Mali, as Tuaregs serving in Gadhafi's army joined the fight after the dictator's fall.
It's not clear that our expanded military presence in Africa serves any pressing U.S. national security need.

The Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Henri Lopès, thinks that the expectations placed by Africans on Obama’s policies were unjustified. On RFI, he stated [fr]:

Il ne faut pas se faire d'illusions. Obama est le fils d'un Africain, mais Obama est américain. Son élection est historique dans un pays qui a connu l'esclavage et la ségrégation. Mais sur le plan de la politique, il s'agit de grands calculs d'intérêts.

We must not delude ourselves. Obama is the son of an African, but Obama is American. His election is historic in a country which has known slavery and segregation. But on the field of politics, it’s a question of large-scale calculations of interests.

At Kogelo in Kenya, the woman that Barack Obama considers his grandmother, Mama Sarah, picked out these criticisms. Stéphanie Braquehais told of how she experienced the victory of her ‘grandson’:

Sourire en coin, elle répond aux questions avec vivacité et humour. A chaque déclaration, elle plisse les yeux et donne parfois un coup de coude à son voisin. A aucun moment, elle ne dérive de son propos. “C’est Dieu qui a permis cette victoire”, elle refuse de parler « politique » et compte bien se rendre aux Etats Unis pour l’investiture.

With the hint of a smile, she answers questions with liveliness and humour. After each statement she squints, sometimes nudging the person beside her. At no time does she deviate from her script. “It’s God who has allowed this victory” [she says], she refuses of speak ‘politics’ and intends to go to the United States for the inauguration.

The election of Barack Obama for a second term still appeals as much to young Africans.  In Madagascar, bloggers rose at dawn to follow together the election outcome live onscreen. Here is the video of this meeting by jiviard [fr]:

Even though the disappointment felt at Obama’s legacy in Africa is certainly tangible, the political convictions of Osama seem to converge with those of the majority of Africans. The ‘chemistry’ felt is not due to his family ties with Kenya but rather to a geopolitical pragmatism and common interests to defend, as underlined by [fr] Adrien Hart:

Obama, comme les Bush avant lui, n’a pas vu venir en Afrique l’«ogre chinois». Les Américains, tout comme les Européens, n’ont pas anticipé non plus la menace croissante des «fous de Dieu» en Afrique [..]Obama n’a rien pu faire pour contrer l’avancée des Chinois et des islamistes. Mais l’Afrique votera-t-elle en novembre pour son adversaire Mitt Romney, républicain, mormon et surtout immensément riche, sûrement trop riche? Sûrement pas. Oui, Obama a déçu. Mais l’Afrique ne veut pas qu’il parte. Sans lui, cela serait pire.

Obama, like the Bushes before him, did not see the ‘Chinese Dragon’ coming to Africa. The Americans, just like the Europeans, did not anticipate either the growing threat of ‘God’s fanatics' in Africa. […] Obama could not have done anything to counter the advance of the Chinese and the Islamists. But will Africa vote in November for his opponent, Mitt Romney, Republican, Mormon and above all immensely rich, surely too rich? Surely not. Yes, Obama has disappointed us. But Africa doesn’t want him to leave. Without him, things would be worse.

September 05 2012

Congolese-Belgian Blogger Travels to Curaçao

Congolese-Belgian blogger Sanza traveled to Curaçao to find the African heritage and wrote a post for Afro Europe:

Food was great and actually similar to West and Central African food. We also eat beans and rice, cornmeal (what they call fungi), cassava and plantains as well. I tasted Iguana soup in Jonchies restaurant near Westpunt.

May 02 2012

Africa: Calls for Transparency Over Marked Increase in Land Deals

The UK Guardian newspaper's Global Development blog reports that an international coalition of researchers and NGOs has released the world's largest public database of international land deals. This marks an important milestone in highlighting a developmental issue that has received little attention in the international news cycle.

The report states that almost 5% of Africa's agricultural land has been bought or leased by investors since 2000, and emphasizes the fact that this is not a new issue, yet points out that the number of such land deals has increased tremendously in the past five years.

Many observers are increasingly worried that these land deals usually take place in the world's poorest countries and that they impact its most vulnerable population, the farmers. The benefits seldom go to the general population, partially because of a lack of transparency in the proceedings of the transactions.

An additional report by Global Witness, entitled Dealing with Disclosure, emphasizes the dire need for transparency in the making of land deals.

World's poorest nations targeted 

The Global Witness report lists that 754 land deals have been identified, involving the majority of African countries for about 56.2 million hectares.

Target countries of land deals from the Land Matrix Project

Target countries of land deals from the Land Matrix Project

The nations targeted are usually some of the poorest in the world. The countries with the most deals in place are Mozambique (92 deals), Ethiopia (83), Tanzania (58) and Madagascar (39). Some of those deals have made headlines because they were conducted to ensure control over food imports, when the targeted regions faced major food crises.

The NGO GRAIN has already explained in detail the gist of their concerns in an extensive report released in 2008:

Today’s food and financial crises have, in tandem, triggered a new global land grab. On the one hand, “food insecure” governments that rely on imports to feed their people are snatching up vast areas of farmland abroad for their own offshore food production. On the other hand, food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmland as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural land is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global land grab could spell the end of small-scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world.

In Malawi, land deals have grown increasingly prevalent to the detriment of the local farmers. A report from Bangula explains the challenges faced by Malawian farmers, Dorothy Dyton and her family:

Like most smallholder farmers in Malawi, they did not have a title deed for the land Dyton was born on, and in 2009 she and about 2,000 other subsistence farmers from the area were informed by their local chief that the land had been sold and they could no longer cultivate there. […] Since that time, said Dyton, “life has been very hard on us.” With a game reserve on one side of the community and the Shire river and Mozambique border on the other, there is no other available land for them to farm and the family now ekes out a living selling firewood they gather from the nearby forest.

Land construction in Madagascar. Photo by Foko Madagascar, used with the author's authorization

Land construction in Madagascar. Photo by Foko Madagascar, used with the author's authorization

Farmers in Madagascar share similar concerns because they do not own the rights to the land they farm and an effective land reform is yet to be implemented. The Malagasy association Terres Malgaches has been at the forefront of land protection for the local population. They report that [fr]:

 Les familles malgaches ne possèdent pas de document foncier pour sécuriser leurs terres contre les accaparements de toutes sortes. En effet, depuis la colonisation, l’obtention de titres fonciers auprès de l’un des 33 services des domaines d’un pays de 589 000 km2 nécessite 24 étapes, 6 ans en moyenne et jusqu’à 500 dollars US. (..) .  Face aux convoitises et accaparements dont les terres malgaches font l’objet actuellement, seule la possession d’un titre ou d’un certificat foncier, seuls documents juridiques reconnus, permet d’entreprendre des actions en justice en cas de conflit.

Malagasy families do not usually own an estate property document that enable them to secure their lands against land grab. In fact, since colonial times, one has needed about 24 steps, 6 years and up to 500 US dollars to get such documents. There are merely around 33 agencies in the country that deliver such documents for a country that is 589,000 kilometres square […] In the face of the increasing land grabs that Malagasy land is currently at risk of, this certificate is the only document that can trigger legal action in case of conflict.

The association also reports on the practices of a mining company Sheritt, in Ambatovy, which have created a buzz in the local blogosphere because of environmental concerns for the local population and business malpractices (via MiningWatch Canada):

Sherritt International’s Ambatovy project in eastern Madagascar – costing $5.5 billion to build and scheduled to begin full production this month – will comprise a number of open pit mines (..) it will close in 29 years. There are already many concerns about the mine from the thousands of local people near the facilities. They say that their fields are destroyed ; the water is dirty ; the fish in the river are dead and there have been landslides near their village. During testing of the new plant, there have been at least four separate leaks of sulphur dioxide from the hydro-metallurgical facility which villagers say have killed at least two adults and two babies and sickened at least 50 more people. In January, laid-off construction workers from Ambatovy began a wildcat strike, arguing that the jobs they were promised when construction ended have not materialized. The people in nearby cities like Moramanga say that their daughters are increasingly engaged in prostitution.

Video of a worker's testimony in Ambatovy.

Solutions for the local population? 

The plight of Madagascar's farmers' plight may be slowly changing though. Land reform discussions are in progress, according to this report:

 According to a paper presented at the 2011 International Conference on Global Land Grabbing, about 50 agribusiness projects were announced between 2005 and 2010, about 30 of which are still active, covering a total land area of about 150,000 ha. Projects include plantations to produce sugar cane, cassava and jatropha-based biofuel.
To prevent the negative impacts of land grabbing, (The NGO) EFA has set up social models for investors, with funding from the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The goal is to help investors negotiate with the people in the area where they want to implement projects, as a way to prevent future problems.

Joachim Von Braun, formerly  of the International Food Policy Insitute (IFPRI), wrote the following regarding land deals:

 It is in the long-run interest of investors, host governments, and the local people involved to ensure that these arrangements are properly negotiated, practices are sustainable, and benefits are shared. Because of the transnational nature of such arrangements, no single institutional mechanism will ensure this outcome. Rather, a combination of international law, government policies, and the involvement of civil society, the media, and local communities is needed to minimize the threats and realize the benefits.

The need for transparency in land deals is further emphasized by  Megan MacInnes, Senior Land Campaigner at Global Witness:

Far too many people are being kept in the dark about massive land deals that could destroy their homes and livelihoods. That this needs to change is well understood, but how to change it is not. For the first time, this report (Dealing with Disclosure)  sets out in detail what tools governments, companies and citizens can harness to remove the shroud of secrecy that surrounds land acquisition. It takes lessons from efforts to improve transparency in other sectors and looks at what is likely to work for land. Companies should have to prove they are doing no harm, rather than communities with little information or power having to prove that a land deal is negatively affecting them.

 

March 05 2012

Republic Of Congo: After the Blasts, Anger and Solidarity

[All links forward to French articles unless stated otherwise.]

One day after the March 4 blasts in the ammunition depot in Mpila, near Brazzaville, the time has come to assess the number of victims. Recent assessments vary from 150 to 200 deaths and 1500 injured as a result of the blasts. The daze and confusion from the explosions have now given way to anger and a sense of solidarity.

On Digital Congo, a review of the press coverage of the blasts quotes the daily newspaper Le Phare, which offers a detailed account of the disaster [fr]:

D’après les responsables congolais, les explosions ont été provoquées par un incendie dans le dépôt de munitions de la caserne du régiment blindé du quartier Mpila situé au bord du fleuve Congo. Des habitants sont encore prisonniers dans leurs maisons. Ils disent que tout le quartier Mpila a été détruit, a précisé Betu Bangana [Chef du protocole de la présidence congolaise]. Il y aurait plusieurs centaines de blessés

According to Congolese officials, the explosions were caused by a fire in the ammunition depot of the barracks of the armored regiment of Mpila neighborhood, located on the banks of the river Congo. Some residents are still trapped in their homes. They say that the whole Mpila neighborhood was destroyed, adds Betu Bangana [The Congolese president’s Chief of Protocol]. Several hundred people were likely injured by the blasts.

A video posted on Youtube by Lebeization depicts the great impact of one of the explosions:

The following photo, shared on Congo Futur Espoir's album on Facebook shows the type of ammunition that was stored in Mpila:

A photo of the alleged type of munitions stored in Mpila depot - From Congo Espoir Futur 's Facebook page (posted with the owner's authorization)

The fact that such weaponry was kept in the center of the city has been the cause of the population’s anger.

Ghislain Nardello asks in the Facebook comments:

Pourquoi l'armement de notre force armée peut etre gardée au coeur de la Capitale (Brazaville)? Car ceci allait etre utilisé que pour la defense de notre nation contre les autres, mais aujourdh'hui cela a servi a la bataille contre nos propre frères et soeurs congolais, et aussi à la destruction des biens de l'État et des civils. Le gouvernement doit prendre en charge les morts et blessés et dédommager les familles et recontruire leurs biens.

How could the weaponry of our armed forces be kept in the heart of the capital (Brazzaville)? It was meant to defend our nation against our enemies but today it has only caused casualties among our Congolese brothers and sisters and also the destruction of public and civil property. The government must take care of the dead and the wounded, compensate families and rebuild their homes.


Chancel Moussavou
continues:

voila ce qui arrive quand on ne ne pense qu'aux armes! Tout cet argent dépensé pour l'achat de ces armes aurait servit a la construction d une ecole, d'un hosto ou bien d'une quelquonque entreprise! Comment les gens pouront ils se sentir en securité apres ce genre d accident! Franchement c'est pathétique!

This is what happens when all one thinks about is weapons. All this money spent to buy arms could have been used to build schools, hospitals or to support companies. How can the people feel safe after such accident. Honestly, this is pathetic!

Hospitals are currently overwhelmed as shown in this video taken from the Congolese National Television and shared by Patrick Eric Mampouya:

Congolese are starting to organize rescue and relief missions for the affected families and friends. The Paris-based NGO Synergies and Development of Africa has launched a call to the diaspora:

dans l’urgence, nous voulons renforcer les équipes sur le terrain ; apporter du matériel d’urgence médicale ou de première nécessité. Cela va des petits accessoires, des trousses de secours, des pansements, antiseptiques, petite chirurgie, compresses, médicaments, …

Given the urgency of the situation, we want to boost the rescue teams on the ground; bring emergency and first aid supplies. These range from first aid kits, bandages, antiseptic solutions, minor surgery tools, compress, drugs, …

Congolese citizens are also mobilizing aid efforts through Facebook pages dedicated to Brazzaville.

November 08 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his son face the French justice system

 

The president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, appeared more offended than concerned to find himself among 30 leaders, four of them from  Africa, who stole from their people, assets estimated at several billion dollars.  This is according to a report published in 2009 by the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development (CCFDT - Terre Solidaire)  entitled “ill gotten goods, who does crime profit”?

According to Reporters without Borders, the Equatorial Guinean president, who is presented by the national radio in his country as an “Equatorial Guinean God”, lodged a complaint against the authors of the report.  However, the 17th chamber of the Tribunal de grande instance de Paris, dismissed the case on October 7.

A blog from an association called Survie, reports:

“Teodoro Obiang complained particularly about certain passages in the report, indicating that he established a “real authoritarian regime” and that his clan amassed a fortune estimated between 500 and 700 million dollars, from the diversion of oil revenue.

As far as the tribunal was concerned, the cautionary wording, the abundance in testimony and references in the incriminating report, demonstrated the honesty of the writers of the report.  Moreover, the tribunal ordered the president of Equatorial Guinea, to pay 2,500 euros to each of the four he accused, for the abusive nature of his complaint”.

Further down on the same note, the following remark appears:

“At the outset of the hearing, president Obiang's lawyers, lamented the present day climate in France as being unfavourable towards African leaders”.

Afriquejet.com published the following story from PANA (Panafrican Press Agency):

“Moreover, the report affirms that this wealth was derived from the diversion of oil revenue and that 80% of the national income would have been monopolized by the oligarchy in power in Malabo.  In its document, the association accuses the leader of Equatorial Guinea and 10 members of his family, of having laundered 26.5 million dollars in real estate purchases between 2000 and 2003.  The president would also have acquired a mansion on Avenue Foch in Paris”.

This decision took place within a few days of the Paris police, seizing 11 luxury cars belonging to 43 year old, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, also known as “Teodorin” minister of Agriculture and Forestry, son of the president.  The France-Guineeequatoriale.org site, states the following specifics:

“The eleven vehicles seized at the time of the search, were 2 Bugatti Veyrons, 1 Maserati MC12, 1 Porsche Carrera GT, 1 Ferrari Enzo and 1 Ferrari 59 GTO, 1 Aston Martin V8 V600 LM, 1 Rolls-Royce Phantom, 1 Drophead Coupe, 1 Bentley Azure and 1 Bentley Brooklands Coupe, from 500 to 1001 horsepower and from 200,000 to approximately 2 milion euros an item.

The operation decided upon by the French justice system, took place right in front of residents and passersby at 42 Avenue Foch, in the beautiful districts of Paris, a stone's throw away from the Arc de Triomphe”.

The blog mentions that the opulent-looking building of more than 2000 m could belong to Teodorin, adding that:

“Last September 21st, the two judges Roger Le Loire and Rene Grouman, in charge of the case of “ill gotten goods ” (BMA) had already ordered a search of the mansion”.

The caradisiac.com site published a letter from Patrick Garcia showing a video of the 11 vehicles.

Contrary to what the powers in Malabo might suggest, this action is not deemed a persecution.  It had to do with new developments in the “ill gotten goods” affair and is dificult to disociate from French media revelations, the dubious accumulation of wealth regarding the financing of political parties by African dictators.

According a a letter published on the blog of Afrik.com:

The public prosecutor's office in Paris, proceeded Wednesday with a search of the offices of lawyers and notaries within the context of the investigation of the “ill gotten goods” in France, of African heads of state, Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Congo, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and the late Gabonese president, Omar Bongo Ondimba.

The powers in Malabo, felt compelled to publish a press release to voice their protest.  The site afreekelection.com published a letter citing:

“According to Malabo, the seizure of several vehicles on Wednesday, belonging to the Equatorial Guinean president's family, took place just two days prior to a new meeting that was to be held in Paris to deal with the cost of the creation of Unesco-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo”.

The presentation of this award, created in 2008, was suspended in 2010 following protests from NGO human rights activists and high profile personalities such as Nobel Peace prize winner Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

The denunciation of this initiative, started bearing fruit because after lengthy discussions the case was postponed until the following spring.

With a per capita income estimated in 2010 at $14,540, the 668,225 inhabitants of Equatorial Guinea were classified as being among the wealthiest populations among non-OCDE countries.  This is only according to the statistics.  In reality, the wealth attributed to leaders is quite different from that of the population.  Even though this country is the third largest producer of oil in sub-saharan Africa, its people live in poverty.  Access to drinking water and electricity, is a dream for many.  Life expectancy in 2009 was 62.37 years, classifying it at 180th place in the world, behind other African countries of lesser wealth, that are better managed.

 

October 17 2011

Poetry Slam Activism in Francophone Africa

In the past 10 months social movements have sprung around the world at an impressive pace. It all started with an act of despair in the town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, and has now spread across 87 countries and 951 cities around the world according to the organizers of the United for #GlobalChange (October 15) Movement.

Demonstrating outside institutions is one way of expressing a desire for change in a society.  However, other forms of activism have existed for a while now and are now rekindled all around the world as a show of protest against the status-quo. Poetry slam is a well-known channel of expression for many activists in North America but the rest of the world has now embraced this unique blend of poetry and rhythmic oral story telling.

Many have found it difficult at times to relate to a form of expression that is often wrongly perceived as limited to the urban youth of North America. Poetry slam is however now firmly entrenched in the culture of many countries, especially in Africa because it incorporates the African tradition of oral story telling. Here are a few examples of poetry slam across the African continent and the context in which they were expressed.

The Arab revolution

King Bobo on UniversalSlam wrote a tribute to the youth of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya entitled ‘Liberté chérie j’écris ton nom‘ ( Beloved freedom, I write thy name) [fr]:

Liberté chérie j’écris ton nom
Ecoutez ce vent de liberté qui souffle dans toutes les langues
La jeunesse tunisienne s’exprime sur les murs
Avec des slogans tracés à la peinture
Liberté, liberté, liberté
La jeunesse égyptienne grave sur les sépultures
Des hiéroglyphes modernes inscrits pour le futur
La jeunesse syrienne ne voit que des balles perdues
Qui ricochent un peu partout et qui tracent sur les murs
Les poètes libyens de Benghazi murmurent
Des poèmes satiriques comme des caricatures

Beloved Freedom, I write thy name
Listen to the wind of liberty that blows in all languages
Tunisian youth write on the walls
With slogans drawn as paintings
Freedom, freedom, freedom
Egyptian youth etch on the graves
Modern hieroglyphics inscribed for the future
Syrian youth only see stray bullets
That ricochet around and leave marks on the walls
Libyan poets in Benghazi murmur
Satirical poems as caricatures

Algeria

Fodil Belhadj, an Algerian author, poet and blogger on Regards Africains (African eyes) [fr], slams about the promise of Algeria's independence [fr] and makes an analogy with his own story and his exile from his homeland [fr]

Fodil Belhadj also posts on his blog an open letter to the Algerian army [fr] :

.. Cela s’appelle l’autodétermination Chère Armée Algérienne. L’aurais-tu par je ne sais quel crime oublié ? Ah oui j’avais oublié que les Algériens s’étaient « trompés » en mandatant 188 députés du Front islamique du salut. Oui c’est vrai z’avaient qu’à pas voter pour de méchants islamistes, alors que toi tu es tellement, tellement sympathique. Chère Armée Algérienne. C’est tout ce que tu as trouvé comme argument spécieux, s’il en est, pour écraser ton propre peuple et rassurer « ta » communauté internationale…!
Sache donc grande muette puisque tu feins de ne point le comprendre, et à défaut de l’admettre, que démocratie signifie : Se soumettre au verdict des urnes.

.. it's called self-determination, my dear Algerian army. How could you possibly forget? That's right, I forgot that Algerian “made a mistake” by voting for 188 MPs [Members of Parliament] of the Islamic Front (FIS). It's true that they should not have voted for the bad, mean Islamists and that you are so much more sympathetic. My dear Algerian army. Is that all the argument you have left to keep oppressing your people and reassure “your” international community.. ?
You ought to know, oh great silent one [nickname given to the army in many francophone nations], even if you pretend not to get it, that democracy means accepting the verdict of the voting poll

Republic of Congo

Abd al Malik is a well-known singer and poet who grew up in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Socially and politically engaged, most notably on the perception of Islam in France, he created with other artists the group ‘New African Poets' (NAP) [fr]. In his poem, ‘Soldat de plomb' (Toy soldier), Malik describes the struggle of a disaffected youth trying to fit in:

Soldat de plomb, soldat de plomb
Bien sûr qu'un sourire nous aurait fait plaisir,
Juste un peu d'attention et peut-être ça aurait été autrement.
Nous aurions été des enfants normaux et pas des enfants soldats,

Toy soldier, toy soldier
Of course a smile would have been nice,
A little bit of attention and maybe things have gone differently
We could have been normal children instead of child soldiers

Morocco

In Morocco, the independent news portal Mamfakinch described how the February 20 movement voiced their desire for change a few months ago in a different manner [fr]:

Nous sommes jeunes, nous sommes capables d’innovation ! Pour ne pas tomber dans la banalisation de nos formes de protestation, et au vu de l’essoufflement que peuvent ressentir nos concitoyens et principalement les jeunes par les sit-in répétitifs, la coordination de Rabat des jeunes du 20 févier a décidé de diversifier ses formes des contestations.
C’est dans cet esprit nous avons choisi, après un long débat, de faire un Flash-mob: Plus précisément, un Freeze ( on explique plus bas le principe) et un petit concert de musique et poèmes contestataires.

We are young and we are capable of innovating! For the protests not to grow stale, and since we've seen citizen movement, especially the youngsters grow tired by the repeated sit-ins, the coordination committee decided to diversify its way of protesting.
After a lengthy debate, we chose to do a flash-mob, more precisely a freeze, a small concert and some activist poetry.

Here is a video of part of the protest:

Madagascar

Some may argue that the original seeds of peotry slam were sowed in Madagascar. Malagasy culture has always incorporated Hainteny (Malagasy for “knowledge of words”), a traditional form of Malagasy oral literature and poetry involving heavy use of metaphor.

Kabary is the the spoken public discourse of the Hainteny and the earlier form of Kabary dates back to the 18th century. Kabary are often used during social gathering such as engagement parties or wedding where the speaker for each family would engage in verbal jousting. Usually declined by men, here is a rare instance of a Kabary spoken by Malagasy women [mg]:

Mauritius

Poetry slam has also taken a foothold on the island of Mauritius. Stefan Hart de Keating also known as StefH2K is one of the pioneer of poetry slam in the Indian Ocean. StefH2K explains that the presence during the slam is just as important as the quality of the text.

Fictif discusses the identity crisis that the Asian minority can sometimes feel in Mauritius [fr, kr]:

LE Sino-Mauricien

Aujourd’hui
Je veux slamer
Pour tous ceux
Qui comme moi en ont marre
D’être mis à l’écart
Car je ne suis pas qu’un petit Chinois
Mais un Mauricien
Comme toi… comme toi… comme toi
Oublie mon accent chinois
Ma langue maternelle, c’est le créole
Ki to ti kroir toi ? Mo pa konn koz kréol ?
Même si je regarde Jackie Chan à la télé
Ou pratique le kung-fu
Fou, hein ?
Ma danse préférée reste le séga

The Chinese-Mauritian

I want to slam
For those like me
Who are tired
Of being ostracized
Because I am not only a small Chinese guy
I am also a Mauritian
Like you, like you, like you
Forget my Chinese accent for a minute
My mother tongue is Creole
What did you think? That I cannot speak Creole?
Even if I watch Jackie Chan on TV
Or practice Kung-fu
Fooled you huh?
My favorite dance is still séga

There are many causes for which people protests in the streets or engage in political discourse. What has come to fruition is that the manner in which we do so tend to feed into one another more rapidly. Similarily, poetry slam has moved beyond borders to reach as a unique channel for self-expression and social activism. In fact, the rise of social media probably played a role in the quicker dissemination of poetry slam as a universal voice for the oppressed.

September 18 2011

France, Africa: Suitcases Filled with Cash Expose The Françafrique Connection

Fresh out of the Dominique Strauss Kahn scandal, a new scandal is now rocking France and the upcoming 2012 French presidential campaign.  Robert Bourgi, a shady lawyer and advisor for “African affairs” confessed [fr] to French media he had acted for years as go-between between French politicians and Francophone Africa heads of states, delivering approximatively $20 millions in cash to former President Chirac, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Dominique de Villepin, and  extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, to finance  past election campaigns.

Screen shot of Lawyer R. Bourgi on BFM TV with Ruth Elkrief

Despite the storm of denials and libel suits , Mwona Mboka, in Congo, echoed a widely shared feeling [fr], in France and in Africa:

Ce n’est pas un scoop, tout le monde le sait. Il a tout simplement oublié de nous révéler le montant des commissions qu’il prenait au passage.

This is not exactly breaking news because everyone knew this. He only omitted to reveal the amount of the commissions he siphonned from those deals for himself.

Françafrique, a generic name for French neocolonialism and the plundering of  natural resources in its former colonies, has been investigated  for years, though books, articles and documentaries (video). However, this is the first time that a key player of  the “Françafrique” network, on a first-name basis with African presidents, gave insiders information. His confession reads like a  mafia-film script: wads of cash stuffed in suitcases or even in African drums  delivered to the Elysee Palace, codenames such as “Mamadou” for Minister De villepin, and “Daddy” for late President Bongo.

The cast of alleged funders, all African presidents, include: the late Omar Bongo in Gabon, Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso, Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d'Ivoire, President Wade and his son Karim in Senegal, Denis Sassou Nguesso in the Republic of Congo, and even President of Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, Teodoro Obiang.  A close aide of ex President Gbagbo[fr] in Côte d'Ivoire  confirmed Bourgi's allegations.

“50 years of Françafrique is enough!' - Demonstration poster (2010) from website Survie.org

Thousand of comments and reactions have flooded African blogospheres. In the Republic of Congo, an oil-rich country riled with poverty, 216 Congolese expressed on Mwinda.com[fr] the anger, humiliation and exasperation shared by netizen accross Francophone Africa.

René Mavoungou Pambou [fr]:

Voilà qu’on nous flanque en plein visage les méfaits ou crimes dont est capable la prétendue douce France, berceau des droits de l’homme.

And now, they throw in our faces the misdeeds or crimes that the so-called “Sweet France', the craddle of human rights, is capable of.

Mouk writes [fr]:

tant que la France sera en Afrique, il n y aura ni paix ni développement. la classe politique française étant l'une des plus prostituées au monde, la démocratie et les libertés pour les africains ne la concernent pas.

As long as France will be in Africa, there will be no peace or development. France political clique being one of the most prostituted in the world, they are not concerned with democracy and freedoms for Africans.

Ata Ndele, on the same comment thread, is thinking ahead:

Les spécialistes africains du droit peuvent-ils nous dire si nous pouvons , nous aussi, porter plainte en tant que partie civile ?

Could African law specialists tell us if it is possible for us  to file a civil suit  as well?

A number of commentators, like Yacobi, turn their anger toward their leaders:

Vous hommes politiques africains, commencez à mieux traiter vos peuples, les blancs vont vous regarder différemment.

African politicians, start treating your people better, and white men will look at you differently.

Mame Diop, on his Facebook page [fr], links the money sent to France and the widespread underdevelopment:

Combien de mères vont encore mourir ce soir en donnant la vie, faute de dispensaire, d'ambulances, de routes praticables, de médecins! Combien? […] Débarrassons nous de cette bande de macaques!!!

How many mothers will die tonight while giving birth, for lack of clinics, of ambulances, of tar roads, of doctors? How many?[…] Let's get rid of this bunch of monkeys !!!

 
In Senegal,  Seneweb [fr] site is bursting with reactions to the alleged implication of President Wade and his son, as the 2012 presidential election looms:

Lune :Je crois que laisser une minute de plus Abdoulaye Wade et sa maudite famille à la tete de notre pays releverait de la lacheté

Lune: I think that letting Abdoulaye Wade and his darn family for another minute at the head of our country would be a show of cowardice.

Mooo:

je pense que le temps est venu de limiter nos relations avec ces puissances occidentales voyous qui nous ont maintenu dans la pauvreté,les guerres civiles,les dictatures pendant des siècles.Le moment est venu pour l'Afrique de s'ouvrir aux autres puissances et pays émergents tels:La Chine,Le Japon,le Brésil et certains pays arabes.Nos relations d'avec les puissances occidentales pendant des siècles ne nous valu que tristesse et misère.

I think the time has come to minimize our relationship with those Western rogue states, they maintained us in poverty, civil wars, dictatures, for centuries. The time has come for Africa to open itself to other powers and emerging countries, such as China, Japan, Brazil, and some Arab countries. Our relationships with Western countries, for centuries, have brought us nothing but misery and poverty.

Senegalese Ahmadou Fall thinks it is already the case [fr]on Afrique en ligne:

Le choix des dirigeants (chefs d'États) n'est plus une prérogative de la France au gré de ses intérêts et de sa stratégie géopolitique.La France qui reçoit ces valises de la honte, remplies de billets destinés au financement occulte de partis politiques est cette même France qui perd sa place dans cette Afrique qui s'oriente vers d'autres partenaires…Le Rwanda de Paul Kagame l'illustre assez bien avec la destitution du français comme langue officielle, au profit de l'anglais. La percée des pays asiatiques en lieu et place des anciennes puissances coloniales montre qu'il faut plus que jamais changer d'attitude et de stratégie…

Picking out heads of states according to its interests and its geopolitical strategy is no longer a prerogative of France. France, with these suitcases of shame, filled with banknotes to secretly fund its political parties, is the same France that loses its influence while Africa is moving forward with other partners … In Rwanda, Paul Kagame illustrates this quite well, with the removal of French as an official language, in favor of English. The rise of Asian countries in lieu of former colonial powers shows that more than ever a change of attitude and strategy is needed.

Adopt a French presidential candidate!

In Burkina Faso, a country troubled by violent mutinies in the army, Leyla M. Diallo launches a tongue-in-cheeck appeal to her president, on opposition  Facebook group Blaise Campaoré doit partir [fr](Blaise Campaoré must go):

Toi qui es assuré de gagner ton élection à 80% des suffrages exprimés, partage un peu de ta béatitude avec un candidat perclus de sous-financement aigu sévère. Toi, dont les dépenses courantes sont moins contrôlées que dans les pays du Nord: parraine un présidentiable français!”

You, who are assured to win your election with 80% of the votes, please share a little of your good fortune with a candidate stricken with acute under-financement. You, whose expenditures are less controled than in northern countries: adopt a French presidential candidate!

Faso.net has republished a column from Le Pays, urging civil society to come forward [fr]:

les Africains doivent comprendre qu’ils sont les vrais perdants dans cette histoire. Il est temps qu’ils fassent preuve de maturité et prennent à bras-le-corps leurs responsabilités. L’obligation de rendre compte, inhérente à toute gouvernance démocratique, doit cesser d’être un simple discours. La balle est, pour cet aggiornamento, dans le camp de la société civile africaine. Elle doit sortir de sa torpeur et prendre le relais, pour demander des explications à tous les gouvernants

Africans must understand they are the real losers of this story. It's high time for them to show they are mature and tackle their responsabilities. The obligation of accountability, central to any democratic governance, must go beyond mere words. The ball is, for this awakening call, in the field of African civil society. It must snap out of its slumber and take charge, to demand explanations from all its leaders.

In France, where a judge has scheduled a preliminary hearing of Robert Bourgi, Survie.org, the pioneer organisation who filed a lawsuit against African leaders and their “ill gotten gains” in France, urges French voters to demand a thorough parliamentary investigation, on the eve of their own presidential election:

un tel audit devra poser toutes les questions qui fâchent, qu’il s’agisse du soutien aux dictateurs africains et aux contreparties obtenues, du financement occulte de la vie politique française, du rôle de l’armée française et de ses multiples ingérences, des multinationales, du franc CFA, etc.Au-delà des mallettes et des millions d’euros évoqués dans cette affaire, il est utile de rappeler que l’Afrique est victime d’une prédation économique et financière particulièrement sophistiquée

The investigation will have to raise every difficult questions: the support to African dictators and the price they paid for it, the secret financing of French political life, the role of the French army and its multiple interferences, the role of the corporations, of the Franc CFA currency, etc. Beyond the suitcases and the millions of Euros of this scandal, it is useful to remind readers that Africa is the victim of a particularly sophisticated economical and financial looting.

August 06 2011

Africa : Delicious Peanut

Nadia Khouri-Dagher writes a post on afrik.com [fr] where she praises the peanut, a condiment that has been integrated in most African cuisines: “Senegalese Chicken Mafé, Malian Peanuts Tiguadegue sauce, Ghanean Inkatse-abè sauce, Togolese Azindéssi sauce, Beninese Aziin nusunnu sauce, Congolese moambe chicken, Peanut rougail from Reunion Islands,… : The peanut or goober composes a wide array of dishes and popular and delicious in the majority of Sub-Saharan African countries !”

June 29 2011

Republic of Congo: Local Company To Produce First African Android Tablet

VMK, a Congolese company, announced via its CEO's Twitter account, Verone Mankou, that it will produce the First Android Tablet made in Africa. Tech Central magazine interviewed Verone Mankou and gave the picture of the back of the tablet. More pictures are available on the VMK Blog (fr). An official introduction will be made at the Africa Web Summit (fr) organised in Brazzaville in September 2011.

Republic of Congo: Widows Demand Their Rights

minguabiango [fr] writes on congo-liberty about the cruel treatments and deprivation of their rights suffered by some widows in the Republic of Congo:  “In Congo-Brazzaville, some widows are daring to prosecute their in‑laws and obtain compensation, sometimes with help from NGOs.  They set a good example for all those women who lack information about their rights or who fear reprisals and consequently suffer in silence.”

March 23 2011

Republic of Congo: Plane Crashes in Downtown Pointe-Noire

Written by Lova

The blog Congopage reports that an Antonov airplane crashed in the city of Pointe-Noire in the Republic of Congo [fr]. Congopage also wonders why the media does not mention that the danger of building airports within cities and that the airline, Trans Air Congo, is owned by one of president Nguesso's close ally.

December 26 2010

Tragedy bookends Year 2010 for Francophone Citizen Media

By Lova

It appears that tragedy will bookend yet another year rich in remarkable events in the world of  French-speaking citizen media.

The month of January set the tone for the rest of the year with the traumatic fallout from the earthquake in Haiti, the  attacks against the Togolese football team at the African Cup of nations in Cabinda and the firing of tear gas against protesters in Madagascar.  The end of the year did not provide much respite from violence as the ongoing political crisis in Côte d'Ivoire has already claimed close to 173 lives and social tension sparks riots in Tunisia.

The year 2010 was also marked by the 50th anniversary of the independence of  many African countries, highlighted by a controversial military parade at the Champs-Elysees in Paris and the hosting of Young African Leaders Symposium by US president Obama.  Throughout the year, citizen media in Francophone countries was once more at the forefront of information dissemination and often found itself under duress for exercising their right to free speech.

An Ominous Start


The earthquake took everyone by surprise but despite the frequent interruptions of phone services and generally poor access to internet, Haitian citizen media responded to the challenges and provided frequent updates and a much needed on the ground perspectives regarding the recovery effort.

In the midst of the tragedy, a francophone “show of solidarity” was discussed at length when Senegal's president Wade offered free land to Haitians earthquake survivors. The offer was met with a mix of skepticism and support by Senegalese, Haitian and citizen media worldwide.

On February 18th, a coup took place in Niger in which President Mamadou Tandja was captured after a gun battle in the capital, Niamey, led by led by Col. Abdoulaye Adamou Harouna.  The general sentiment of the Nigerien citizen media seemed to go from “blasé” to “good riddance”.

The financial crisis also affected the African continent; African bloggers reacted to the apparent differential treatment from the IMF when it comes to helping countries like Greece compared to some African nations.

From financial to natural crises, The northern and western African regions were plagued by prolonged period of rains and severe floods. Morocco, Mauritania, Benin, Nigeria and Togo were amongst the most affected by floods with initial reports often provided by citizen media.

The security and stability of the west African region was also on the mind of bloggers when AQIM made headlines repeatedly by taking hostages  in Mali and killing Michel Germaneau in July and again capturing several employees of AREVA hostages in Niger later that year.

AQIM Area via Orthuberra on Wikimedia - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Celebrating Independence in Francophone Africa

Despite the weary start, the year 2010 was also supposed to be a celebration of 50 years of independence and a critical election year for many African nations. Yet given the delayed human development progress, questionable governance and mismanagement of natural resources, many African bloggers wonder whether there is really a cause for celebration in Africa so far.

Yet the celebrations went on, sometimes quite lavishly as seen in Brazzaville, Congo.

None of these celebrations caused quite the stir that the military parade of African soldiers on Bastille Day at the invitation of French president Sarkozy provoked. With the growing exposure of the corrupt nature of “La Françafrique“,  refering to the relationship between some African leaders and French lobbying groups, many observers pointed out that the presence of African armies at the Champ-Elysees was condescending and awkward at best, not unlike Sarkozy's Dakar speech. [Another speech by the French president in Grenoble this summer about delinquents of foreign origins and the forced expulsions  of Roma people also provoked intense reactions in the francophone blogosphere.]

A  different approach was taken by the US administration in marking the multiple independence anniversaries in Africa. In early august 2010,  US President Obama held a three-days symposium for Young African Leaders to exchange ideas on how to foster development, human rights and democracy.  The emphasis on the youth of Africa was in clear contrast with the presence of the old guards of African leaders showcased on Bastille Day.

Hoping for Transparency

Year 2010 was also supposed to be the year when some African nations would make important strides towards free and transparent elections.

That hope quickly faded away.

The electoral process in Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Madagascar and Rwanda were all at some point subject to major question marks, marred with missed deadlines, suspicions of massive fraud and acts of violence.

Yet one has the feeling that citizens in those countries are eager to move forward and prove that mediocre leadership cannot hold countries back forever. The rise of a burgeoning civil society and local citizen media provide hope that progress are being made, often in spite of proper governance.

Théophile Kouamouo and Saint-Clavier Oula

The impact of online citizen media has become evident enough that authoritarian African governments have taken major steps towards increasing censorship of digital media. Ivorian bloggers and journalists were arrested in July for publishing documents on corruption in cocoa and coffee trade.  Since the Ivorian political crisis broke out in December, many bloggers and twitter users have withdrawn from their online activities and are no longer posting updates on the situation because of personal threats.

In Madagascar, a slew of journalists and political opponents were arrested for alleged threats against national security and voicing their dissents online.  Steps towards more control of online  content in Madagascar are also being taken,  highlighted by a proposal that all Malagasy digital content are to be be managed by a single private provider (fr).

It is yet to be seen whether this year's lessons from some African nations' electoral hardships  will be learned by their neighbors. Senegal and Cameroon among others will face important electoral deadlines  in 2011. Cameroonian bloggers do not appear overly optimistic about the upcoming elections. As for Senegal, local citizen media has already been quite vocal  about  perceived nepotism and corruption inside the current administration.

It would be a refreshing sight in 2011  if the streak of dubious electoral results and post-electoral violence were to be halted for a change. African leaders owe that much to their resilient population.

December 20 2010

Africa: The Scandal of the “Ill-gotten Gains”

By Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Lynn Palermo · View original post [fr]

On November 9, 2010, the French Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a decision rendered a year ago by the Paris Court of Appeals, agreeing to hear the case brought by the French section of the NGO Transparency International [fr]  called “the ill-gotten gains” of the heads of state of Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinee  and members of their entourage.

It all begin in March 2007, when the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Economic Development (CCFD) - Terre Solidaire  published a report on the  embezzlement of public funds by politicians of the South [fr].  It's title?  “Ill-gotten gains…too often bring profit: Dictators' fortune and Western complacency.”

Focusing on domestic goods of the countries victimized by their leaders, the study by the CCFD - Terre solidaire [fr] revealed abuses at the national level:

« Par exemple, Mobutu a transformé Gbadolite, son village natal au Zaïre, en un « Versailles de la jungle », avec une cinquantaine d’hôtels, un aéroport international qui pouvait accueillir le Concorde et plus de trois palais. Quant à Denis Sassou Nguesso, président en exercice au Congo Brazzaville, il détiendrait, avec sa famille, la moitié de l’économie du pays»

For example, Mobutu  transformed Gbadolite, his native village in Zaire into a “Versailles of the jungle,” with about 50 hotels, an international airport capable of receiving the Concorde, and more than three palaces.  Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of Congo Brazzaville, and his family controlled half of the country's economy.

A police investigation confirmed most of the allegations and uncovered the existence of many other goods [fr] in the form of both real estate and personal property (including cars and the dictators' bank accounts).

Sassou Nguesso's house. Source: témoignages.re

The report alleged that the clan of Omar Bongo Odimba (OBO) of Gabon had appropriated 39 real estate properties, of which 17 of there were in the name of their leader.  Most of the properties were located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.  It also identified 70 bank accounts, 11 of them in OBO's name; and an automobile fleet of at least 9 vehicles whose total value is estimated at 1,493,443 euros.

survie.org reveals [fr] that, in addition to OBO's ill-gotten gains in France,

« En 1999, le Sénat américain a publié un rapport d’enquête sur l’origine de la fortune du président (gabonais). Ce document établit qu’Omar Bongo est devenu client de la Citibank de New York en 1970 et qu’il a ouvert de multiples comptes auprès de ses différents bureaux, à Bahreïn, à Jersey, à Londres, au Luxembourg, à New York, à Paris et en Suisse. …. Au total, le montant des avoirs du chef d’Etat, qui ont été placés sur ses différents comptes bancaires à la Citibank, à New York, de 1985 à 1997, serait d’environ 130 millions de dollars. La City Bank aurait expliqué « que l’argent provenait d’une allocation budgétaire, 8,5 % du budget gabonais - soit 111 millions de dollars - étant chaque année réservés au président ».

In 1999, the U.S. Senate a published the report of an investigation into the origins of the fortune of the President (of Gabon).  This document established that Omar Bongo had become a client of Citibank of New York in 1970 and that he had opened multiple accounts at different offices in Bahrain, Jersey, London, Luxembourg, New York, Paris, Switzerland.  … All told, from 1985 to 1997 the Head of State had allegedly deposited around 130 million dollars in various accounts with Citibank New York.  Citibank allegedly explained “that the money came from a budgetary allocation: 8.5% of the Gabonese budget, or 111 million dollars, was reserved for the president annually.”

The report goes further.  survie.org adds [fr] that:

« C’est dans son hôtel particulier qu’il a ainsi accueilli pendant la campagne présidentielle française les candidats Nicolas Sarkozy et François Bayrou ainsi que la moitié du gouvernement Fillon lors de sa première visite officielle sous la présidence de N. Sarkozy. »

During the French presidential campaign, he also received candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and François Bayrou at his home, as well as half of Fillon's government during the first official visit under the Sarkozy presidency.

Another site, asso-sherpa.org revealed [fr] more proof of the abuses of the OBO clan:

“Edith Bongo, alors épouse du Président gabonais, aurait ainsi fait l’acquisition d’une Daimler Chrysler au moyen d’un chèque tiré sur un compte ouvert auprès de la Banque de France par le Trésor Public Gabonais.

Edith Bongo, who was the wife of the Gabonese President at the time, allegedly acquired a Daimler Chrysler with a check drawing on an account opened at the Banque de France by the Gabonese Public Treasury.

Copy of the check for Chrysler purchase. Source: Asso-sherpa.org

Police services have also exposed the role played by various intermediaires (bankers, lawyers) in carrying out these various operations.

According to the report [fr] by CCFD-Terre solidaire, the fortune of Congolese President Denis Sassou NGesso and his entourage allegedly consists  of 18 properties; 112 bank accounts; and a fleet of automobiles, including  at least une vehicle worth 172,321 euros.

Nor is that everything.  The Congolese President and his clan's embezzlements

«  auraient commencé dès sa première période au pouvoir, de 1979 à 1992, en négociant la vente du pétrole en dessous du prix du marché en contrepartie de versements à son profit. A ce jour, la fortune de Denis Sassou Nguesso est estimée à plus d’un milliard de dollars. »

allegedly began during his first presidential term between 1979 and 1992, by negotiating the sale of oil below the market price in exchange for bank account deposits that benefited him personally.  At that time, Denis Sassou Nguesso's fortune was estimated at more than a billion dollars.

As for President Teodoro Obiang, who had closer relations with the United States than with France, the article titled “Biens mail acquis à qui profite le crime?” [”Gains ill-gotten: who profits from this crime?”] by Antoine Dulin and Jean Merckaert and found at ccfd-terresolidaire.org explains the extent of their illegal self-enrichment:

80% du revenu national serait monopolisé par l’oligarchie alors que 65% de la population vit toujours dans l’extrême pauvreté. ….. En 2003, ces comptes représentaient la relation la plus importante de la Rigg’s Bank, avec des versements totaux allant de 400 millions à 700 millions de dollars en une fois ! »

80% of national revenue is allegedly monopolized by the oligarchy, while 65% of the population still lives in extreme poverty.  In 2003, these accounts represented the most important relationship held by Rigg's Bank, with total deposits increasing from 400 million dollars to 700 million dollars at a time!

Furthermore, after the November 2009 elections in Equatorial Guinea, President Obiang formed a new government of 69 members, ousting practically all of the preceding ministers.  According to the site [fr] Africatime.com:

« En effet, dans le Gouvernement, il y a trois fils du Général, un frère, trois neveux, deux beaux-frères et trois cousins. »

Indeed, in the government, there are the General's three sons, one brother, three nephews, two brothers-in-law, and three cousins.

In Cameroon, the authors of the CCFD-Terre solidaire investigation write that:

À peine devenu chef d’État (en novembre 1982), Paul Biya faisait parler de lui à propos de son patrimoine. Le 16 mars 1983, Le Canard enchaîné dévoilait deux acquisitions présidentielles en France : l’une avenue Foch à Paris, l’autre sur la Côte d’Azur, à Cagnes-sur-Mer. …. En mai 1997, L’Événement du jeudi estime que la fortune du président camerounais et de sa famille approche les 70 millions d’euros, dont des châteaux en France et en Allemagne, à Baden- Baden.

Shortly after Paul Biya became Head of State (in November 1982), people were already talking about his inheritance.  On March 16, 1983, Le Canard enchainé uncovered two presidential acquisitions in France: one on the Avenue Foch in paris; the other in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean.  In may 1977, L'Evenement du jeudi estimated the fortune of the Cameroonian President and his family at close to 70 million euros, including chateaus in France and in Baden-Baden in Germany.

Despite all the evidence assembled by these investigations, it took until November 9, 2010 for the Supreme Court of Appeals to reach its decision.

In these times of troubling governance in Africa, the Ill-Gotten Gains affair can only reinforce the perception that government leaders are enriching themselves while their people live in misery.

October 08 2010

Republic of Congo: Bass Player from Japan Learns Lingala to Collaborate with Music Stars

By Lova Rakotomalala

Japanese-born bass player Niwa explains in this video interview that his motivation for learning Lingala was to get better acquainted with the music scene in Congo [fr/ln].  Niwa is now also a Congolese citizen and has played with Congolese music superstars Tonton Zao and Bisso Na Bisso.

August 14 2010

Republic of Congo: Anniversary of 50 Years of Independence Under the Shadow of Unemployment

By Lova Rakotomalala

Benjamin Bilombot Bitadys at Congopage writes that it's puzzling that Congo-Brazzaville is spending 27 billions of CFA francs on the celebration of the anniversary of the independence (August 15) when 53% of the population (mostly young people) is still unemployed [fr].

May 30 2010

Francophone Africa : blogging about African literature in French, one book at a time

By Claire Ulrich

Réassi Ouabonzi

The Best of blog Awards 2010 shone light on a sleuth of fascinating blogs in eleven languages. A close runner-up for the Best blog in French award is Chez Guangoueus (fr). Réassi Ouabonzi blogs about  African and diaspora litterature in French from a reader's perspective since 2007, one book at a time.  With time, Chez Guangoueus has built up into a unique online  guide to African and diaspora writers. (Editor's Note:

GV : Why did you open a blog about books in the first place?

I was an avid reader as a teen, I devoured  every book available in the French cultural center in Brazzaville (Congo), where I lived. I was born in France of Congolese parents, I spent 18 years  in each country, and now live in France. Reading is time consuming, I dropped it during my  studies in physics. Then, one day, I saw Beloved, a film by Jonathan Demme based on the book written by Nobel Prize Toni Morrison. It gave me such a jolt  I decided to read all of  one her books. She brought me back to reading.

- Why do you concentrate on black literature in French ?

It was a deliberate process. I'm interested in reading how black people see themselves and are represented. I opened a blog to document my readings, and let's face it, also because it's quite a violent reality, not to find any resources about African or black literature on the Francophone web, save for the online magazine Cultures Sud.

"Les écailles du ciel" by Tierno Monenembo

- What are the current trends in Francophone African literature?

-  I review authors from any African countries, French West Indies or in diasporas, black literature at large. But let me think: in Congo, a new generation of writers is budding, inspired by award-wining writer and intellectual Alain Mabanckou. In Sénégal, I'm struck by the current emergence (empowering) of women writers, in the wake of  best selling author Marie Ndiaye.  I notice writers from Cameroon write with the same “in your face” directness and energy that they are are famous for. I must confess that I am in awe of Nigerian writers,  like the great Chinua Achebe. Among francophone writers, I could mention so many: Abdourahman A.Waberi from Djibouti,  Jimi Yuma from Congo, Patrice Nganang and Leonora Miano from Cameroon… they're all in my blogroll.

"Saisons sauvages" by Kettly Mars (Haiti)

- African authors now regularly win French literary awards, but most of your finds are totally unknown, invisible in French bookstores

- Black literature in French has trouble  finding a publisher, but also a readership. In francophone Africa, books are difficult to publish, expensive and hard to find. But the problem is elsewhere. We  West Africans can write and publish our own perspectives, but we should read them, too. Somehow, Africans have trouble reading books about themselves. They look elsewhere for references. My blog offers authors  some coverage:  I get a thousand visitors per month, 50% come from Metropolitan France, 30% from West Africa..

- You sometimes stray to review Japanese or South American books on your blog, but never French “white” literature.

"Le passé devant soi" by Gilbert Gatore

French literature is too navel-orientated. We're not on this earth for long. Let's get going. And French white writers are still totally blind to the true challenges in France, the plight of black or Arab youths disenfranchised  in poor suburbs.

"Trois femmes puissantes", the award wining book and best-seller in France, by French-Senegalese author Marie Ndiaye

Why did you pick this name for your blog, “Chez Gangoueus”?

Ngangoué is my second Congolese given name.  I consider myself  of African and Western background and culture, I looked for a handle that would reflect this, and added the us suffix, in reference to latin culture, names like Brutus, Octavius or Britannicus. Gangouéus reflects my dual identity.

You alway take a picture of the book you are reading and most of the time, in public transports.

Because that's where I read! Work is work, family is family. Time spent commuting to and from work in Paris became my reading time!

"Les phalènes" by Tchicaya U Tam'Si

Reposted bySigalon02 Sigalon02
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