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February 26 2014

8 Dishes From Africa We Dare You To Try

Mopane worm. Photo released to be used freely by  Arne Larsen.

A live Mopane worm. Photo released to be used freely by Arne Larsen.

As we conclude “Food Month” here at Global Voices Online, let's take a look at eight dishes from Sub-Saharan Africa that might take you out of your culinary comfort zone. We dare you to try them”

1. Madora (mopane worms):

Delicious Mopane worms ready to serve. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com

Delicious Mopane worms ready to serve. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com

Madora (Gonimbrasia belina) is a species of moth found in much of Southern Africa, whose large edible caterpillar, the mopani or mopane worm, is an important source of protein for millions of indigenous Southern Africans.

If you want to try mopane worms, follow Zimbo Kitchen instructions here:

Before you run-off, madora are high in protein to the extent that it’s just what the doctor ordered. Here is the power of protein according to WebMD – “protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood“. No wonder why the folks in rural Zimbabwe escape many diseases suffered by us urbanites.

In Zimbabwe, this delicacy is often prepared in a simple and straight forward manner – frying. This is how I intend to do them today with a little variation of my own involving black pepper. You are good to go when you choose this combo: sadza, green veggies and mbuya’s tomato and onion soup to accompany this dish even though it’s still possible to have madora on their own as a crisp snack or with other combinations. Enough said, let’s start frying!

2. Nsenene (grasshoppers):

A male grasshopper. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Bruce Marlin.

A live male grasshopper. Photo released under Creative Commons license by Wikipedia user Bruce Marlin.

Nsenene” is the Luganda name for a long-horned grasshopper (more commonly called bush cricket or katydid) that is a central Ugandan delicacy as well as an important source of income. The insect is also eaten in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Follow these seven steps to make your grasshopper dish.

3. Bullfrog:

African bullfrog. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Stevenj

African bullfrog. Photo released under Creative Commons License by Wikipedia user Stevenj

Science in Africa blog explains how the frog is eaten in Namibia:

In Namibian traditional cuisine the entire frog is eaten, with the exception of the alimentary canal, which may be fed to dogs or poultry.

It continues:

Generally people are advised to wait until the Giant Bullfrogs start croaking or until “after the third rain” before eating them. Despite this caution people in some areas choose to eat frogs prematurely. However when they do so very specific anti-poisoning preventative measures are usually taken.

People from the Oshakati/Ongwediva [northern Namibia] area prevent poisoning by lining their cooking pots with pieces of dry wood from a tree locally known as Omuhongo (not to be confused by Omuoongo, the Marula tree). This wood apparently neutralises the frog poison while also preventing the frog skin from sticking to the pot bottom. “Nobody becomes ill from the disease when this cooking method is followed. In the Okambebe/Oshikango areas, where the Omuhongo tree appears to be unknown, people use the Omuva and Oshipeke trees instead. “Only two small pieces cut from Omuva or Oshipeke, when used to line the bottom of the pot while cooking frogs, will prevent the disease from attacking the culprit.

4. Mazondo (Beef trotters):

Mazondo (beef trotters) ready to be eaten. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com.

Mazondo (beef trotters) ready to be eaten. Photo used with permission from www.zimbokitchen.com.

Mazondo (Beef trotters) are amongst one of the favourite dishes for most Zimbabwean men and some women too. It’s best to slow cook them on your stove if you’re not cooking them pamoto (using firewood). The way to prepare them is pretty straight forward, much like pork trotters, maguru (tripe) or even beef stew which are prepared in more or less the same way here in Zimbabwe.

5. Termites:

Termits (white ants) in Sudan. Public domain photo from the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Termites (white ants) in Sudan. Public domain photo from the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Termites are also known as “white ants”, although they are unrelated to ants. They are a delicacy in many African cultures.

Here are photo instructions on how to fry flying termites.

6. Blood and milk:

Thomson Safaris blog notes:

[...] but much more fascinating [about the Maasai diet] (and possibly a little off-putting to the western palate) is the tradition of drinking raw blood, cooked blood, and blood-milk mixtures.

This is the traditional method of obtaining cow's blood:

they [Maasai] eat milk and blood which is harvested by puncturing the loose flesh on the cow's neck with an arrow. The wound is closed after a gourdfull of blood is obtained. This operation can be repeated every month or so with no harm to the cow. The Masai typically drink blood mixed with milk.

Brave enough to try it? Make a blood and milk concoction as follows:

Cow blood can be cooked with fresh or sour milk as follows: Pour the fresh blood through a sieve to separate it from the clots. Mix three parts liquid blood to one part milk (or equal parts blood and sour milk). Cook over low heat, stirring often, for twenty to thirty minutes. The mixture should thicken like scrambled eggs. If desired, butter, fried chopped onions, or salt can be added during cooking. Serve with Ugali, Fufu, or boiled Plantains, or Rice.

7. Mbewa (mice):

Mice is a well-known delicacy in northern Malawi, where it is known as “mbewa”, as well as in eastern Zambia.

The YouTube video below from Peter Larson shows roasted mice for sale:

Writing about “mbewa”, Peter Larson says:

Malawians are largely divided as to the culinary merit of Mbewa. Most love the Mbewa and consider it a delicious snack food. Others decry them as unfit for eating. Mbewa are caught and roasted over a fire, but clearly not roasted long enough to burn off the copious amounts of visible fur. Malawians then garnish them with salt and cayenne pepper and gnaw on them like jerky, consuming them completely, bones and all.

If you want to know all the social and cultural dynamics involved in mice-eating and, more importantly, how to hunt your own mice for dinner, read this blog post.

8. Palm tree larvae:

Next time you are hungry, try this one! Photo released under Creative Commons by Luigi Barraco.

Next time you are hungry, reach for one of these! Photo released under Creative Commons by Luigi Barraco.

Palm tree larvae is a delicious tropical treat and a great source of protein.

Follow cooking instructions [fr] from Cuisine Au Kamer to make your own delicious plate of palm tree larvae:

Nettoyer les larves: les laver à grande eau les ouvrir avec les doigts et enlever le liquide marron qui se trouve à l'intérieur des larves

Disposer directement chaque larve nettoyée dans la marmite qui sera utilisée pour les cuire. L'enlèvement du liquide marron à l'intérieur des larves colore les doigts en couleur marron, mais cette couleur s'enlève au lavage.

Préparer les condiments nécessaires: ail, basilic africain, oignon, pèbè, feuille de gingembre (odzom). Mélanger avec les larves et mettre au feu doux. Ne pas ajouter de l'eau. laisser cuire 25 à 30 mns à feu doux, le temps que les larves produisent leur huile, puis servir.

Wash really well with water, open the larvae with your fingers and remove the brown liquid that is inside the larvae.

Put each larva directly into the pot (don't worry if the brown liquid stains your fingers, this color can be removed with washing).

Prepare the necessary condiments: garlic, African basil, onion, pébé [a local spice in Cameroon], ginger leaves. Mix with the larvae and cook on a low heat. Do not add water. Cook for 25-30 minutes on a low heat until the larvae start melting, and then serve.

February 18 2014

10 Dishes From Sub-Saharan Africa Everyone Needs to Try

We simply cannot let February, which is Food Month here at Global Voices Online, pass without sharing with you ten delicious dishes from Sub-Saharan Africa. Make sure to add them to your recipe collections!

1. Kamba wa nazi (Prawns in coconut sauce)

Kamba (Prawns/shrimp) is loved in the coastal region [East Africa]. Shrimps taste better if cooked for just a few minutes on high heat. In the past I preferred fried shrimp only, but shrimp cooked with coconut milk is something that I would advise everyone to try. Believe me; you may never want fried shrimp ever again if you try this recipe. This recipe is exotic.

Follow the instructions from the YouTube video below from Miriam Kinunda:

2. Efo riro (Nigerian vegetable soup)

Efo Riro is a Nigerian vegetable soup. Image used with permission from Dobby Signature.

Efo Riro is a Nigerian vegetable soup. Photo used with permission from Dobby Signature.

Efo riro” is a Yoruba word which simply means “Vegetable soup” and it’s enjoyed by many. This is because it’s really versatile and could be eaten with meals such as Rice, Yam and any type of Swallow. When I got to the market to buy the ingredients for cooking this meal, I actually got so confused when it came to choosing which Leaf to use for the soup.

3. Ceebu jenn (Senegalese rice and fish)

Senegalese national dish cebe..... Photo released in the public domain by Wikipedia user KVDP.

Senegalese national dish Ceebu jenn. Photo released in the public domain by Wikipedia user KVDP.

There are about as many variations for spelling ceebu jenn (thieboudienne, thiep bu dinenne, ceebujenn…) as there are to making it. This rice (ceeb) and fish (jenn) recipe is the national dish of Senegal and can also be made with beef (ceebu yapp). If the dish looks familiar, it’s because it’s a descendent of paella.

4. Seswaa (Botswana's slow-cooked shredded beef)

Watch the video below to learn from Freedes Em how to make this scrumptious recipe from Botswana:

5. Matapa

Matapa is a typical Mozambican dish prepared with young cassava leaves piled with garlic and flour extracted from the tubers, cooked with crab or shrimp. Many Matapa dishes add cashew nuts and can be eaten with bread, rice or alone.

Cook Guru Mozambique Cuisine has simple instructions for you to make your own Matapa:

Matapa...ooh, what a delicious dish! Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Are you ready to eat Matapa? Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Ingredients:

- 1 kg of shrimps
- 750 gr of peanuts
- 1 kg of cabbage leaf or cassava leaf
- 1 coconut
- 2 L of water
- salt to taste

6. Ghana's Benne (sesame) soup with guineafowl (or Cornish game hens)

Below are the ingredients needed:

1. Fowl (I'm using 2 Cornish game hens, around 4 lbs, total)
2. 1.5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
3. 1 cup of tahini (or less if you prefer)
4. 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
5. About 2-inch chunk of fresh peeled ginger
6. 1 onion (about 1 cup, red, if available)
7. About 4 habanero, or other milder chile peppers, seeded and membranes removed, if desired. (When ground they should make about 1 Tablespoon of pepper paste). Americans use milder chile peppers, remove seeds, etc.)
8. 6 small-to-medium tomatoes (or about half a large 28 oz can of tomatoes; I imagine this might also be a small can, but I never have them in the house): enough to get 1 1/2- 2 cups when blended.

Read the full cooking instructions from Betumi here.

7. Doro wet (Ethiopian/Eritrean stew made from chicken and hard-boiled eggs)

Watch the YouTube video below made by Makonnen Wolde to learn how to make Doro wet:

8. Injera

Doro wet (above) is traditionally eaten with injera, a spongy flat bread made from the millet-like grain known as teff:

Ingredients

5 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon yeast
enough warm water to make a thin batter

Begin by combining the flour, baking powder and yeast in a large bowl. Add enough water to make a batter the consistency of thin pancake batter. Cover the bowl and set it aside.

Full cooking instructions are here.

Ethiopian/Eritrean injera (flat bread), which can be eaten with dishes such as Doro wet. Photo released under Creative Commons by Wikipedia user Rama.

Ethiopian/Eritrean injera (flat bread), which can be eaten with dishes such as Doro wet. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0 FR) by Wikipedia user Rama.

9. Chapati (flat bread)

Chapati or “chapo” as we fondly refer to them in Kenya, is a very popular flat bread that is a staple in many homes in East Africa. The dish has it's origins in India as do many of our foods in Kenya. This owing to the large Indian population that has lived in Kenya since the 19th century, and whom we consider as our fellow Kenyans. Though this flat bread shares the same name with another flat bread in India, the preparation of the dough and the type of flour used make them different. The Indian chapati is made of a combination of whole wheat flour (atta) and all-purpose flour whereas the East African version of the chapati uses only all-purpose flour. When making the East African chapati, oil is used whereas no oil is used in kneading the dough for the Indian chapati. In that regard, the East African chapati is more similar to the Indian flat bread called “Paratha”. But what's in a name? A chapati by any other name would still be delish :)

Chapati and chapati roll. Photo released under Creative Commons  (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Flickr user Kalyan.

Chapati and chapati roll. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Flickr user Kalyan.

Learn chapati cooking instructions here.

10. Ndole (spinach/bitter leaves and peanut soup):

Writing about Cameroonian dish Ndole on her blog, food blogger Immaculate writes:

At the top of my favorite Cameroonian food is Ndole, which is always present at parties ,and when cooked properly flies off the table. It is an absolutely irresistible combination of peanuts, bitter leaves (substitute spinach), meat (stock fish, shrimp,) crayfish (dried shrimps) and oil. If I could eat this every day I would, It is rich, high in calories and loved by many. It tastes like a stew spinach dip with all the spices and meat.

Follow Immaculate's instructions here to make your own Ndole.

Sub-Saharan Africa has many more yummy dishes to offer the world than those listed above. Make sure that you explore the blogs linked in this post for more!

Reposted bytowsertowser

February 07 2014

5 YouTube Channels African Food Lovers Should Watch

As part of our celebration of February as Food Month here at Global Voices Online, take a look at these five delicious YouTube video channels on how to cook African food.

1. Nigerian Food Channel:

Nigerian soup recipes, Nigerian snack recipes and lots more. Nigerian food recipes are increasingly gaining global recognition and I am proud to be able to use this platform to share tasty Nigerian food recipes in easy steps.

The video below demonstrates how to coook Nigerian dish Efo Elegusi (soup made with ground melon seeds) with Assorted Meat:

2. Afro Food TV:

Subscribe now and watch as chef and hostess, Yeti Ezeanii, takes you on a journey of everything epicuriously African. Learn popular recipes from different African countries and regions and get educated on the proper preparation of African cuisine.

The video below shows how to make pilau:

Pilau, An East African Rice dish and a great example of India's influence on African Cuisine. Tanzania's National Dish.

3. Kadi Recipes:

I cook and Eat African Foods.

In my channel you will find simple, delicious and easy to follow African Food Recipes. You will find the cuisine from almost all African countries. So join me on my channel and find out more about African foods

The video below shows how to cook peanut soup with smoked fish:

4. Taste of Tanzania:

This Channel brings to you healthy and simple recipes from Tanzania and once in a while will have from other countries in East Africa. Tanzanian recipes are the same as Swahili recipes. Here you will learn the Swahili cooking and also I will add more information on each recipe. Your comments and your questions are taken very serious.

The video below teaches viewers how to make chapati, a type of flatbread:


5. African Food Recipes:

My Goal Is That You Learn How To Prepare African And Spanish Food In a Delicious And Healthy Way—

Learn how to make banana fritters, a popular African snack, from the video below:

*Thumbnail source: Nigerian Food Channel Facebook page. Image used with permission.

February 05 2014

8 Irrresistable Food Blogs From Sub-Saharan Africa

A display of foodstuff. Public domain image from  National Institutes of Health (USA).

A display of different types of food. Public domain image from the United States National Institutes of Health.

Food is life. It unites us all. Here at Global Voices, we love food, so we bring you eight yummy food blogs from Sub-Saharan Africa.

1. Scrumptious South Africa

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.


Scrumptious South Africa is a food blog run by Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, who is a cook, food writer, recipe developer and professional freelance journalist:

My site Scrumptious, which pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa almost seven years ago, is an independent food blog all about careful, patient home cooking, and about how to prepare excellent food for family and friends.

The recipes on this blog are, with a few early exceptions, my original work: I have devised, developed and thoroughly tested them myself. Of course, there are very few recipes these days that can be called truly original: every recipe builds on the work and patient testing of many generations of talented cooks, chefs and alchemists. Where I've adapted an existing recipe, or drawn on the work of other cookery writers, or found inspiration in someone else's recipe, I always say so.

2. Dobby's Signature

This is a Nigerian food blog by Nigerian blogger Dobby:

I'm dobby, a culinary enthusiast with a flair for Local Cuisines in Nigeria and around the globe. Welcome to my online recipe diary where I explore and showcase dishes from my Nigerian kitchen to inspire meals in yours. Let me confess, i'm not a professional chef…..Yeah! i'm not. But Cooking is one of my major hobbies and i do it well. Whenever i'm not cooking, i do illustrations/graphic designs too as shown on the blog. So, Stick around and explore Nigerian food from my own point of view.

Dobby's signature is a Nigerian Food Blog focused on Showcasing Nigerian dishes, Exploring Traditional food recipes and Flavors with strong emphasis on Photography, Diversity, Vibrant colors and Health benefits… Just the way Mama makes it ;)

3. Kadi African Recipes

Oumou Bah from Guinea shares her passion for food on her blog. The blog also uses YouTube videos:

I love the fact that in Africa, mealtimes are moments of great gatherings for big families. In most African countries such as Mali, Somalia, through Guinea, Nigeria and Eritrea, people use their fingers instead of a spoon, fork and knife to eat which make the meals more special and taste so unique.

The dishes are mostly made of meat, chicken, fish and vegetables all usually accompanied by the staple such as rice,FouFou, Tô, ugali and many more . Peppers and spices are widely used, which gives the taste especially African cuisine. Also without forgetting the vegetable leaves such as sweet potatoes leaves, Ukazi, bitter leaves and so on . Yams, corn, okra, and tomatoes and many other vegetables are also heavily used varies according to the region.

The YouTube video below from Kadi African Recipes show how to make Attiéké, the main dish of the Ivory Cost:

4. Taste of Tanzania

After sharing recipes online on various sites since 2004, Miriam Rose Kinunda now runs the Taste of Tanzania blog:

Tanzania is located in East Africa (Indian Ocean is on the East). Since Persians visited the coast of East Africa dated as early as 17th century, they introduced many things including spices and some recipes; example, Pilau, Haluwa, samosa, Bagia, etc. Our diet is a mainly African, and a little bit of Indian and Arabic. I hope you will enjoy these simple recipes from Tanzania and a few of my favorate from other countries.

Miriam Rose Kinunda started to post Tanzanian recipes just for fun in June 2004 with the domain name miriammalaquias.com; In 2006 I changed to mirecipe.com and started to blog, In July 2009, I decided to give this site a name that fits, A taste of Tanzania

5. Chef Afrik

Adhis, the owner of Chef Afrik, plans on “cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”:

First started in November 2011, Chef Afrik is my African food and travel lovechild. The site's motto, “Cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”, indicates my pursuit as a Kenyan diasporan to discover the continent of Africa through its food. As well as showcasing food from all over the continent “In the Kitchen”, I also enjoy interviewing people who work with African food, whether as food writers, bloggers or chefs in my “Get to know” series.

6. Foodie in the Desert 

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Wangeci Wandere believes that anyone can cook no matter where they live. She started her food blog in a Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya:

Thanx for stopping by Foodie in the desert, my online home for recipes I try out and my culinary journeys from all around the place. Here, I share recipes that I have tried and loved anything from a simple stew to a complicated dessert, a few kitchen disasters and I will give you a few tips and tricks here and There.

I am a big believer that ANYBODY can cook whether you live in a bedsitter (studio apartment) or a lavish duplex, whether your a bachelor who just moved out of home or a wife with 4 kids. I started this blog in Kakuma refugee Camp, I live in a tiny studio apartment and I barely get any supplies so if I can do it so can you. So join me in discovering how to spice up your meals using supplies that you can find in your local supermarkets.

7. A Hungry African

This is a blog written by Brandi Phiri, a graduate student in Botswana, who despised cooking until recently:

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana,  in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana, in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

I’ve never really been a fan of the kitchen or any chores involving it. Until very recently I despised the Kitchen, I mostly especially despised cooking, anyone in my family will attest to that!

But after finally moving into a campus flat equipped with a kitchen I realised I didn’t want to eat boring food. If I was forced to feed myself everyday it would be with good food!

Traditional African cooking (at least in southern Africa) doesn’t allow for much experimenting or variety. We don’t play fast and loose with spices like the west Africans or Indians, our baking is mostly limited to plain cakes,breads and buns, our staple food is nsima/pap/sadza/ugali/posho/fufu/bugari/phaletshe and we tend to favour meat stews. Of course there is slight variation from country to country. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with traditional African food, nothing at all however I yearn for something different at times, something to surprise my taste buds and that is how my culinary adventures began.

8. Mzanzi Style Cuisine

South African blogger Thuli started Mzansi Style Cuisine in 2011 to encourage young people to cook and provide them with an online platform to access traditional and indigenous dishes:

Indigenous dishes are not widely documented reason being that the knowledge was passed down from generation to generation by training young women. Nowadays things have changed, young women move to the city to get education and jobs before they could have that entire food heritage passed down to them by the older generation. Well, I hope to bridge that gap through this blog. In addition to that, I urge young people, both women and men, to spend more time with the older generation. By that I mean our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Let us embrace them, listen and learn from their experiences. Knowing where one comes from makes for a grounded individual and there is nothing cooler than that.

There are many more African food blogs than those listed above. Do you have a favorite African food blog? Please share it in the comments section below.

December 11 2013

#52ThingsAboutTanzania to Celebrate 52 Years of Independence

Tanzania mainland celebrated 52 years of independence from Britain on December 9, 2013. Formerly known as Tanganyika, the mainland united with the island of Zanzibar on April 26, 1964 to form Tanzania.

In celebrating 52 years of independence, some users on Twitter started the hashtag #52ThingsAboutTanzania to share interesting facts and figures about the country:

Mount Kilimanjaro,  the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, in Moshi, Tanzania. Photo released by Muhammad Mahdi Karim (www.micro2macro.net) under GNU Free Documentation License.

Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, in Moshi, Tanzania. Photo released by Muhammad Mahdi Karim (www.micro2macro.net) under GNU Free Documentation License.

Coconut crab,  the largest land-living terrestrial crab in the world, Photo released under Creative Commons by Flickr user Drew Avery.

Coconut crab, the largest land-living terrestial crab in the world,
Photo released under Creative Commons by Flickr user Drew Avery.

Ngorongoro Crater,  a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, located in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo released by Thomas Huston under  GNU Free Documentation License,.

Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, located in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo released by Thomas Huston under GNU Free Documentation License.

Tree climbing lion in Tanzania. Photo released under Creative Commons by Flickr user Tracey Spencer.

Tree climbing lion in Tanzania. Photo released under Creative Commons by Flickr user Tracey Spencer.

November 26 2013

Collection of Articles on the Sacking of Popular Tanzanian Opposition MP

Ben Taylor shares a collection of articles on the sacking of Zitto Kabwe, a popular young Member of Parliament with the main Tanzanian opposition party, Chadema. Zitto was:

[...] was stripped of his official positions by party leaders in the early hours of Friday morning. He will no longer be the party’s deputy secretary, nor deputy leader of the opposition in parliament.

The reason? Party Chairman, Freeman Mbowe, explained that Zitto had been discovered to be part of a plot to overthrow the party leader and take over the position of party chair (and likely Presidential candidate), along with other related transgressions.

October 23 2013

Only Football Divides Tanzania

The Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo by Omar Mohammed

The Benjamin Mkapa National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo by Omar Mohammed

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — When it comes to football rivalries, few in Africa are more intense than the one between Simba Sports Club and Young Africans (known locally as Yanga). Both from the country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, they are the two biggest and oldest clubs in Tanzania. They have won the the greatest number of titles, boast the biggest fan bases, and in their squads you will find the best collection of talent in the nation.

When these two clubs meet, Dar es Salaam is transformed. A certain electricity courses through the city. It’s subtle, but the energy shift is palpable, with Dar’s famous edginess rising a few notches.

Tanzania has long prided itself on its unassailable unity. We are Tanzanians first, before any ethnic, religious or tribal affiliation. But on the day of the Dar es Salaam Derby, the city cleaves into two distinct clans. People don either Simba SC's famous red and white or Yanga's yellow and green. Street corners sprout flagpoles carrying the teams’ logos, marking a neighbourhood's affiliation. Cars fly banners signaling their drivers’ allegiance. The flag with the majestic lion is Simba; the torch superimposed on a map of Africa is Yanga. On match day, there is no such thing in Dar as a neutral.

I Bleed Red

I am a Simba fan. Always have been and always will be. My connection to the club runs deep. My father, Mohammed Hadi Tamimi, played for the club in the late 60s and early 70s, when it was known as Sunderland. And as a boy, I would wake up on the day of the Derby, don my Simba kit and my uncles would carry me on their shoulders to the game.

“One day, everyone will be Simba SC's supporter.” Photo by Omar Mohammed

My memory of those afternoons is filled with heartache. I remember mostly the defeats, and the sense of despair that followed. One player in particular was a thorn in Simba's side. Said Sued “Scud” played for Yanga in the 90s and his specialty was scoring against Simba. He was slightly overweight and didn't play that much, but when the Derby came around it was almost inevitable that he would score the winner, with a thunderous strike befitting the nickname “Scud”.

As I’ve grown older, my devotion to Simba has waned somewhat. In the last ten years I attended no more than three Dar Derbies. But recently I started monitoring my old team's progress again and last Sunday, after a long hiatus, I decided to go and watch the latest meeting between the old arch-rivals.

A Classic For The Ages 

I arrived, with some friends, at the fantastic, 60,000-capacity Benjamin William Mkapa National Stadium about an hour before the 4pm kick-off. The atmosphere was already electric, with the two sets of fans trying to out-sing each other. A pre-game match between the club's youth teams was underway. As I took my seat, I felt the sense of anxiety start to build.

Simba was coming into the game the more in-form team. Still unbeaten and leading the league, they had won five of their last eight games. Yanga, on the other hand, had already suffered their first defeat of the season, but with four wins and three draws, they were in fourth position, only three points behind the league leaders.

Simba players in a huddle before kick-off. Photo by Omar Mohammed

Simba players in a huddle before kick-off. Photo by Omar Mohammed

But as the game kicked off, it was Yanga who came out of the gate in blistering form. They handled the ball with pace and fluency and controlled the tempo throughout the first half. Simba seemed unsure of themselves, with no clear idea of what their tactics should be. They were lethargic, struggled to keep possession, resorting instead to long balls that inevitably led to them giving the ball away, which put them on the defensive.

The star of the first half was undoubtedly Yanga's number 10, Mrisho Ngasa. A former Simba player, he was causing his former club all sorts of problems. Playing in the pocket, between the midfield and attack, his movements off the ball wreaked havoc on the heart of Simba's defence. When he had the ball his pace simply terrorised Simba's back four. 15 minutes into the game, he was rewarded for his efforts. A ball swung in from the left, eluded Simba's defender and broke into Ngasa's path. Ngasa flicked it into the net to give Yanga a well deserved lead.

Mrisho Ngasa, made life difficult for Simba's defense in the first half, celebrates opening the score for Yanga in the Dar Derby. Photo courtesy of Lenzi ya Michezo

Mrisho Ngasa, who made life difficult for Simba's defense in the first half, celebrates opening the score for Yanga in the Dar Derby. Photo courtesy of Lenzi ya Michezo

Things got even better for Yanga in the 35th minute. After Simba failed to clear a long throw into their six-yard box, Yanga’s Hamid Kiiza pounced, to give his team a 2-0 lead. And just before half-time, Yanga scored again. After an errant pass was intercepted, midfielder Didier Kavumbangu dribbled passed a Simba defender before setting up Kiiza, who slotted in his second goal of the game. 3-0, Yanga. It was shaping up to be a massacre.

Simba had no idea of what hit them. When the referee blew his whistle for half-time, the players seemed relieved. Their fans were shell-shocked. Some decided they had seen enough and left the stadium. Those who did were about to miss one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the Dar Derby.

Soon after the start of the second half Simba made two changes. Midfielders William Lucian and Said Ndemla came in for the underwhelming Haroun Chanongo and Abdulhalim Humuod. The two young substitutes quickly transformed the match. All of a sudden Simba's midfield, out-run, out-hustled and out-played in the first half, grabbed control of the game. Lucian and Ndemla, in particular, injected some pace into Simba's attacks and soon enough they had helped their team pull a goal back.

Then, in the 54th minute, Yanga failed to deal with a speculative punt forward from Simba that found striker Bertram Mombeki in position to blast the ball into the roof of the net, giving his side some hope.

A few minutes later a corner kick swung in by Ramadhan Singano was headed powerfully into the net by the Ugandan centre-back Joseph Owino and all of a sudden it was 3-2, and we had a game on our hands.

Yanga’s fans appeared deflated and anxious while Simba's began believing that a comeback might be in store. The noise in the stadium was deafening, with the cries of “Let's go, Simba!”

But Yanga weren’t done yet. Ngasa, quieter in the second half, went through clean on goal at one point, but his tame shot was parried away by Simba's goalkeeper, Abel Dhaira. Ngasa was to rue that missed chance. Five minutes from the end of the match, Simba got a free-kick on the right wing, near the edge of Yanga's box. The resulting cross was met beautifully by Gilbert Kaze, who headed in the equalizer, sending the red and white half of the stadium into a frenzy. Simba’s comeback was complete.

Final Score in the Dar Derby. Photo by Omar Mohammed

Final Score in the Dar Derby. Photo by Omar Mohammed

It was a stunning turnaround, the first time in the history of the Derby that a team had been able to accomplish such a feat. The match ended 3-3.

A few minutes later, after the referee had blown for full time, some Simba players collapsed to the ground, not quite believing what they had just pulled off. Those who could manage to stand embraced their opponents, taking in the idea that they’d just been part of an unforgettable classic, one that will long live in the memory of their fans.

Omar Mohammed is a Tanzanian journalist based in Dar es Salaam. He tweets at @shurufu.

October 07 2013

Follow AfricaHackTrip Online

A group of developers and designers from Europe who are curious about the emerging African tech hubs are on hack trip of the continent.

Check out their blog or Tumblr and follow discussion about the trip on Twitter.

September 27 2013

GV Face: Retweeting Terrorists? The Westgate Mall Attacks

Social media played a major role in the dissemination of news about the terrorist attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, but unverified information spread with lightning speed, including from government, terrorists, journalists and citizens on Facebook and Twitter.

What does this tell us about the quest for truth in the aftermath of this devastating attack on Kenyan citizens?

Does it even matter what the media report, when anyone who wants the real story seeks out hashtags on Twitter?

GV's Sub-Saharan Africa authors – Omar Mohamad (@shurufu ) and Collins Mbalo (@collinsom92) answered these questions and more in our Google Hangout series GV Face on Friday, September 27, 2013. 

September 13 2013

Tanzania's Parliament Turns Into a Boxing Ring

 Joseph (Sugu) Mbilinyi resisting

Honorable Joseph (Sugu) Mbilinyi resisting attempts by security officers to remove him from Parliament last week. Photo Courtesy of Jamii Forums.

Over the last few years, Tanzania's parliament has become fodder for fantastic theatrics. Random eruptions of arguments followed by mass walkouts, usually by the opposition, has turned parliamentary sessions into must-watch television.

In April 2011, for example, Ezekiel Wenje, a member of parliament (MP) from the leading opposition party Chadema, drew the ire of the Speaker Anna Makinda with his comment that certain government positions are selected via the ‘dark arts'. Ruling party MPs from Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) protested and demanded that Wenje retract his statement. He refused, upon which a shouting match broke out.

As Tanzanian blogger Subi wrote at the time, heard within this exchange was the phrase, “tufunge mlango, tupigane” (“let's close the doors and fight”).

In the end it never came to that, as Wenje took back his statement, and things proceeded with relative calm. But there were a few other close calls. In February 2013, live coverage of a session had to be suspended because things became too heated. And then there was the incident five months ago, when a Chadema MP was thrown out of the chamber for interrupting a colleague of his from CCM, during a debate on the budget.

That same week, Bunge, as Tanzania's parliament is colloquially known, witnessed something that will forever live in infamy. Honorable Peter Serukamba, a CCM MP, cursed out his colleagues after they booed him as he stood up to speak. Via Bongo5.com,

Serukamba's ‘f**k you’ moment prompted one commenter, a voter from his constituency, identifying himself as Dr Mvano Khalidi, to apologize on Facebook for his MP's conduct:

Poleni sana waheshimiwa wabunge kwa kutukanwa ila tunaomba rathi kwa niaba ya wana kigoma wote kwa kosa alilolifanya mbunge wetu kutoka kigoma ulimi ulitereza jumani hayakuwa makusudio yake kusema vile mimi kuma mzalendo wa mkoa wangu.

My apologies honorable members of parliament for the insult thrown at you, we ask your forgiveness on behalf of everyone from Kigoma, for the error committed by our MP from Kigoma his tongue slipped and he did not intended to say what he said, I am a patriot for my region.

On Thursday, 5 September, 2013, matters got even farther out of hand. An opposition MP Joseph Mbilinyi of Chadema found himself embroiled in a physical altercation with parliamentary security officers that surprised and shocked in equal measure.

The whole thing began after Mbilinyi, a pioneer hip hop artist turned politician, and his colleagues from his party refused to abide by an order to leave the House issued by Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai.

Things came to a head after Freeman Mbowe, the leader of the opposition in parliament, refused to sit down after being asked to do so by Ndugai. From newspaper The Citizen:

Mr Ndugai ordered that the Chadema supremo be kicked out for disregarding his orders to sit down. Mr Mbowe was protesting the move by the Deputy Speaker to bar him from moving a motion to block continuation of the debate on the Bill for Amendment of the Constitutional Review Act 2013.

Chaos soon ensued on the floor as other opposition MPs rushed to form a human shield around Mr Mbowe to prevent the security men from throwing him out.

On the popular platform Jamii Forums, photos showing Mbilinyi resisting attempts by officers to remove him from the House floor generated considerable debate about the nature of politics in Tanzania. One commenter by the name of “Stoudemire” posed this question:

Namna hii kweli tuwape vijana nchi kweli? Waacheni wazee wasinzie bungeni tu inatosha!

With this attitude, should we give the country to young people? [Mbilinyi is one of the youngest MP] Our elders are good enough even if they doze off in Parliament!

Another contributor by the name of Tata suggested that the whole incident pointed to the inability by Deputy Speaker Ndugai to control the session. Tata also implied that the behaviour by MP Mbilinyi may have been because he was under the influence:

Amenifurahisha huyu Naibu Spika kwa kudai ni aibu ya kiongozi wa upinzani kuongoza wapinzani kutoka nje wakati kimsingi hii ni aibu yake kwa kushindwa ku-manage kikao…la hii move ya mwisho ya huyu mheshimiwa Sugu imeniacha hoi kwa kicheko. Inaonekana jamaa ama alikuwa amepata “chang'aa” au alikuwa amevuta haya masigara yanayopendwa na vijana.

The Deputy Speaker makes me laugh when he suggests that it is shameful for the leader of the opposition to instruct other opposition members to leave the chamber, when in fact it is a shame for him to be unable to control the session. But this move by Honorable Sugu [Mbilinyi] has left me dead with laughter. It seems like he was drunk on something or may have smoked these cigarettes preferred by the youth.

On Twitter, Sajjad Fazel (@SajjadF) argued that the incident may have undermined Chadema's credibility:

What Hon. Joseph Mbilinyi has done gives a really negative image of Chadema and Tanzanians as a whole.

Over on the blogosphere, a video clip from the television channel ITV made the rounds, immortalizing the incident for eternity. Via GongaMx:

In her 2011 post, Subi had warned:

Huenda…Bunge la Tanzania lingeingia kwenye orodha ya viroja vya Wabunge wa Mabunge (kama haya, bofya hapa utizame vidoe Youtube) ya nchi mbalimbali Duniani  kupandwa jazba kiasi cha kujikuta (pasina kufahamu) wanageuza kumbi za Bunge kuwa viwanja vya ‘ndondi’

If it continues, Tanzania's parliament will reach a stage where it will make it into a list of those parliaments (like these ones in this link on YouTube) in some parts of the world where passions rise so high as to turn Parliament into a boxing ring.

With this latest incident, Subi has proven to be an accurate oracle.

August 21 2013

Demolition for Progress? Tanzania's Historical Buildings and Monuments Could Face Ax

Can a poor nation transform into a middle-class nation while maintaining its identity, history and architectural heritage? Apparently not. This is according to Tanzania's former Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism and current Minister for Water Jumanne Maghembe.

Maghembe made this observation following the Citizen newspaper's revelation of his revocation of the Antiquities Declaration of Conservation Areas Notice No. 2006 on February 20, 2007, paving the way for the demolition of historical buildings and monuments.

He is quoted by the Citizen as saying:

As you are aware, we are transforming from a poor country into a middle income nation, and this cannot be realised by keeping old buildings intact.

The newspaper went on to note that iconic landmarks such as Askari Monument, Old Post office and Karimjee Hall are no longer protected.

The Askari Monument in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo released into the Public Domain by Wikipedia user Moongateclimber.

The Askari Monument in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo released into the Public Domain by Wikipedia user Moongateclimber.

The Askari Monument is a memorial to the soldiers who fought in the British Carrier Corps in World War I., and Karimjee Hall is Tanzanian's former house of parliament.

Others are a building on the popular Samora Avenue that housed the office in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, of Angola’s first president Agostinho Neto during the independence struggle, Tanzania Publishing House, which was formerly a meeting point for southern African liberation leaders such as Agostinho Neto and Mozambique’s Samora Machel.

Historical structures that have already been demolished include MC George Building at the junction of Samora Avenue and Mkwepu Street in 2008.

MC George Building, built in 1901, originally housed a police officers’ mess during German colonial rule. It later served as the Tanzania head office of a German pharmaceutical company before housing the legendary Salamander Restaurant.

Reacting to the Citizen's article on Facebook page comment thread, Khatidja Dhala said she has lost faith in the government of Tanzania:

And the drama of TZ continues … I've lost faith in those who are in “charge”. This is awful. We are going to be living in a concrete / glass / ugly jungle with horrible buildings that will probably fall down cause they're built so quickly and cheap.

Patrick Wachira wondered how a PhD holder like Maghembe can make such an argument:

If that's the reasoning a person with a Phd is using, what hope do we have for the rest of parliament?. We should learn from China. Not all that's shiny and new is good for your country.

An artistic sketch by Sarah Markes of one of 5 buildings on Samora Avenue in Dar Es Salaam that was demolished on August 10, 201. Illustration used with permission from Sarah Markes of http://darsketches.wordpress.com/

An artistic sketch by Sarah Markes of one of five buildings on Samora Avenue in Dar Es Salaam that was demolished on August 10, 2013. Illustration used with permission from Sarah Markes of http://darsketches.wordpress.com/

Over 30 people died in March 2013 after a new 16-story building collapsed in Dar es Salaam. Referring to that tragedy, Ahmed Salim wrote:

But its totally ok for a new building to collapse.

Sarah Markes, the author and artist behind Dar Sketches blog and book, wrote:

RIP light corner and the rest. very very sad indeed

Dar Sketches is a project initiated by artist and illustrator Sarah Markes. It is a celebration of the cultural and architectural heritage of Dar es Salaam as well as an effort to raise awareness of the threats to this heritage posed by rapid and unplanned urban development.

Aristotle Mang'ombo was left speechless:

Am jus[t] speechless and can't believe a minister would come and say what he jus[t] said in this paper. What a pity!

On Street Level Facebook page, referring to recently demolished Light Corner Building in the corner of Mkwepu and Samora Avenue, Sala Lewis wrote on August 18, 2013:

We just drove past this evening. So sad to see that building go.

Jason Rubens complained:

cos Dar [es Salaam] soooooo needs another crappy high-rise … ugh.

Lisa Purvis was sorry to hear about the demolition:

So sorry to hear this. What a beautiful building.

On Crime Alert for Dar Es Salaam Facebook page, users were also shocked and dismayed at the demolition exercise.

Kishan Gohen complained that all the government want is to make money from foreign investors:

No history no tourist no income, all they want is to make money by allowing foreign investor to invest n they receive hefty grant n not forgetting Hela ya chai [money for tea].

Gallus B Masama noted:

Shame… In no time Dar es Salaam will have no story to tell future generations!

However, Pat Pablo disagreed, arguing that history will be taken down in books, so no need to preserve the actual structures:

As time goes, we need to move our steps ahead, no need of old buildings to show in the future, history will be written on books

Mamdali Siwji echoed similar sentiment:

Old buildings have no place now as new developments needed now

The historical buildings are not part of Tanzanian's culture, said Andy Dale:

You don't understand, these buildings were erected by the hated colonial oppressor and have hostile names like McGeorge therefore they are not a part of Tanzania's history and so they must be destroyed for the good of post colonial poetry!

Finally, Ed Gabriél asked:

why does it have to be in the CBD [Commercial Business District]? developed countries always develop the undeveloped areas, they should build these skycrapers out of city center to make other CBDz

August 14 2013

UK Press Coverage of Zanzibar Acid Attack Risks Inflaming Religious Tensions

The UK press coverage of the acid attack on two British teens, Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, both aged 18, is misleading and risks inflaming religious tensions in Tanzania, says Ben Taylor, who blogs about development, politics, the media and Tanzania.

Currently, there are simmering political and religious tensions in Zanzibar. Early this year, a Catholic priest was shot dead and a church set on fire during the Sounds of Wisdom festival, which promotes religious tolerance. Political tensions on the Island mainly revolve around the issues of the Union between Tanganyika (Mainland Tanzania) and Zanzibar. Some people want the Union to be dissolved.

The two teens were attacked in Zanzibar on August 7, 2013, while they were on a volunteering holiday. It is not yet clear if the attack is connected to political and religious tensions on the island.

Ben Taylor's criticism of the UK press centres on reports of the shooting and arrest of radical cleric Sheikh Issa Ponda. Sheikh Ponda, the Secretary of the Council of Islamic Organisation, was injured by a tear gas canister while running away from the police. He is currently at the main hospital in Tanzania, Muhimbili, in Dar Es Salaam.

Almost all leading UK media houses, including The Sun, the Mirror, The Times, Sky News, and The Telegraph, have connected his arrest to the attack on the two teens.

However, a press statement [sw] from the Tanzanian police says that Sheikh Ponda was arrested for inciting violence in his fiery speeches.

A screen shot of Mail Online on Ben Taylor's post.

A screen shot of Mail Online on Ben Taylor's post.

Taylor begins his post by criticising the UK press and giving credit to the Tanzanian press:

The UK media is unsurprisingly following up closely on the story of the two teenage British girls who suffered a horrific attack in Stone Town, Zanzibar. But in their haste to get a good story, and in a situation where the known facts are few, they are making some serious errors.

Yesterday, according to some reports in the Tanzanian media, Sheikh Ponda, a radical Zanzibari cleric, was shot and injured in the town of Morogoro. Some are saying it was the police who shot him, some that unsuccessful attempts were made by the police to arrest him. Other media outlets dispute these “facts”, claiming that he is now in hospital. Overall, and to their credit, the Tanzanian press appears to be responding to uncertainty with caution: being noticeably transparent about facts that are unclear.

What’s more, none (that I have seen) has linked Sheikh Ponda or this reported shooting / attempted arrest to the Zanzibar acid attack.

But look at how the UK media has covered the same story.

He goes on to identify significant errors in the UK press coverage and concludes that:

If I am right, this is pretty disgraceful on the part of the UK press. First, it misleads the families of these two girls by suggesting that progress is being made in tracking down their attackers. Second, and more worryingly, it risks inflaming religious tensions in Tanzania further, on the flimsiest of evidence.

I have seen no evidence that this attack was religiously or politically motivated, and none that it was connected to Sheikh Ponda [an extremist cleric]. It may be that it was, but equally, it may be that it was motivated by something else entirely. Much of the UK press seems to have decided the matter for itself already. They’re not letting the (absence of) facts get in the way of a good story, irrespective of the damage it might do.

He notes that the Director of Public Prosecutions in Tanzania called for Sheikh Ponda's arrest for reasons apparently unrelated to the acid attacks. The DPP said that Ponda disobeyed a lawful court order.

A market stall in Stone Town, Zanzibar, which is one of the most popular sites for tourists. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Wikipedia user Esculapio.

A market stall in Stone Town, Zanzibar, which is one of the most popular sites for tourists. Photo released under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Wikipedia user Esculapio.

Taylor posted an update in the same post the following day August 12, 2013:

The Mirror and Mail have substantially and significantly revised their stories, both posted at the same URL web address as the stories I linked to yesterday. In other words, the previous stories are no longer available.

In the update, he notes that the Mirror withdrew all suggestion that Sheikh Ponda is wanted in connection with the acid attack while the Mail did the same but went as far as to suggest a second possible motive for the attack.

He writes:

Times and Telegraph (twice) have posted new articles that repeat the claim that Ponda is wanted in connection with the attack.

And finally, the Guardian has come in on the story. Their star media commentator, Roy Greenslade, cites this blogpost in questioning whether other UK media may have got it wrong.

A Kenya-based correspondent covering East, West and Central Africa for The Daily Telegraph and East Africa for the Christian Science Monitor, Mike Pflanz (@MikePflanz) spoke to Sheikh Ponda in hospital. He refuted the allegations of inspiring the attack:

One of the two teenagers injured in the attack, Kirstie Trup, has been discharged from hospital. Both will require skin grafts to repair the damage.

Jaf Shah, the executive director of Acid Survivors Trust International is quoted by the New York Times saying that the acid attack appears to be the first such assault on a Western tourist or aid worker in Zanzibar.

According to the Acid Survivors Trust International, there 1,500 cases recorded around the world every year, although the actual figures might be higher. Women and girls are victims in 75-80% of cases. Of the female victims, about 30% are under 18.

This post was proofread in English by Georgi McCarthy.

July 04 2013

Did Obama's African Tour Help or Hurt?

US President Barack Obama finished his six-day tour of three African countries, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, on July 2, 2013. The global public opinion about the importance and impact of his tour is sharply divided.

During his visit, Obama announced a new initiative, “Power Africa”, to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through this initiative, the US is committing seven billion US dollars while private sector companies have committed more than nine billion.

According to the White House blog, nearly 70 percent of Africans lack access to electricity.

Image of President Barack Obama on a billboard in Dar Es Salaam. Photo courtesy of Sandy Temu.

Image of President Barack Obama on a billboard welcoming him in Dar Es Salaam. Photo courtesy of Instagrammer Sandy Temu.

Commenting about the initiative, Bright Simmons at African Argument commended this new idea for strategic engagement with Africa:

As one of the people who have in the past complained about the seeming lack of new ideas for a “strategic engagement with Africa” from the Obama White House, I welcome renewed energy towards that direction.

The issue selected – Africa’s electricity challenge – is clearly a vital one. The World Bank for instance says that all sub-Saharan African countries, minus South Africa, combined do not generate more electricity than Argentina. Including South Africa, they produce only as much as Spain.

It is commendable that the White House is pledging up to $7 billion in additional funding from two of its overseas-focussed agencies – EXIM and OPIC – for this cause.

I am sure that the White House is already aware that even if this whole amount was provided in a single year, and it is more likely that it will be provided over a 3 to 5 year timeframe, it will not be able to dent the $23 billion YEARLY deficit in energy investment on the continent.

Daniel McLaughling reacted to his post arguing that abolishing national monopolies on electrical utilities is the only solution capable of producing results:

If people are serious about solving Africa’s electricity problem, they should be promoting the only solution capable of producing real results: abolish national monopolies on electric utilities. It amazes me that, with all of the talk about increasing electricity production, nobody wants to admit into the discussion the possibility that government monopolies and corruption are the problem, and that billions more in money transferred to governments will only entrench the corruption further, with little benefit for the people. Open up the markets to competition and profits and you will see large-scale investments and significantly improved access.

Joel B. Pollak was of the view that “Power Africa” will likely not produce as much energy as promised:

[...] “Power Africa” will likely not produce as much energy as promised, while lining the pockets of politically-connected individuals in both the U.S. and Africa. Meanwhile, China, which does not mind if Africans are driving cars and living in large houses with air conditioning, will continue to invest in Africa in ways that generate actual economic growth, relegating the U.S. to the sidelines in Africa's economic future.

Siddhartha Mitter noted that “all infrastructure investment should be considered a good thing unless proven otherwise—especially in Africa”:

At present, continent-wide installed capacity and power generation are roughly equivalent to those of Germany or Canada. Remove South Africa and Egypt, and you are left with about 63 GW supplying 260 billion kWh, scarcely more than Australia or Iran. In this context, if the first phase of Power Africa succeeds in its stated goal of adding 10 GW of generation capacity and connecting 20 million new residential and commercial customers, it will represent a major expansion—albeit not near the doubling of access that, according to the White House fact sheet on Power Africa, is the program’s ultimate aim. Indeed, the same fact sheet soberly estimates that it would cost $300bn to secure universal access to power on the continent by 2030.

Despite the excitement shown by citizens of the three countries, Shadow Government showed that there was a low point to the trip:

But there has been a low point to the trip: namely, his comments in South Africa during the press conference with President Jacob Zuma. The president made what I consider ill-thought-out comments, probably meant to be humorous, regarding the press. He referred to the American press corps as “my press,” and he chided them for asking too many questions. Normally, perhaps, this wouldn't be a big deal. But in that he was visiting three African countries whose press is judged by Freedom House to be “partially free,” I think it is not just bad form but harmful for his administration's support for democracy. Of course I would not expect the president to use his trip as an occasion to criticize his hosts directly. But I would expect that while he, himself, is under scrutiny for his administration's treatment of the press (the AP phone records and Fox News's James Rosen), he would not make light of such matters.

Kumekucha called Obama “snubbish Obama” for not visiting Kenya, the land of his father:

Now that Obama has finally landed in Dar es Salaam dancing to Bongo ‘Ohangla’ Flava [Bongo Flava is the name for Tanzanian Hip Hop and R&B music], we can finally bid him bye from without and mend our punctued national pride.

What a snubbish man to have him camp at next door neighbour with no regard to the hurt he is causing his own people who adore him so much. SHAME.

Forget all the bitterness spewed that we do not need Obama's visit. True, the economic side of such a visit would be realisedmuch later but boy, isn't Nairobi missing the buzz!

Obama's ICC-laced whip smacks of utmost contempt after Kibaki declared a holiday in his honour after winning the elections in 2008. What is more, the Tanzanians could afford to shame him with a street name for recognition.

The YouTube video below posted by the White House shows a young South African showing Obama his rap skills at the Desmond Tutu HIV Center:

Looking at Obama's overall contribution to Africa's development, Tolu considered Obama “positively neglectful” when comparing him to the Bush administration. He explained:

The Bush government left footprints across the continent beyond the aid arena. It played a role in the signing of the peace agreement that brought an end to decades of civil war in Sudan, showed a lot of interest in bringing an end to the wars in the Congo region, and helped bring about an end to the civil war in Liberia, helping ensure Charles Taylor’s resignation, and eventual arrest and prosecution. (Taylor has of course since wondered aloud why Bush is himself not facing prosecution for his own “crimes”).

Against this background of US, Obama comes across as positively neglectful. His only activity of note has been to ramp up US military activity in Africa, adding drone bases and deploying significant numbers of troops. When he was first elected there were celebrations across the continent, and perhaps unrealistic expectations that he would champion African interests on the world stage. Indeed on his first visit to Ghana, he declared that he had “the blood of Africa within me”. Since then his absence has been keenly felt, sparking accusations that he has betrayed his roots.

But is this fair? Does Obama have a special responsibility to the continent, because of his ancestry? Perhaps not. Perhaps the emphasis on Obama as a black president is missing the point. Because it’s not just for reasons of solidarity that the US president should attend to Africa. There are more selfish reasons, both , economic and political, as well.

Being a feminist South African, Jennifer Thorpe noted that the environment she lives in affects women’s lives most tangibly. She therefore looks at Obama's environmental protection track record:

We know the US has a poor track record environmentally — a perfect example of how legislation protecting the environment is not nearly as good as not polluting it in the first place. Recently Obama has changed his tune, saying he’d stop dangerous and environmentally disastrous projects like the Keystone pipeline if they showed the environmental impact would be negative.

In South Africa, the Constitution provides the right for all of us to live in an environment that is not bad for our health. Yet we see so often that environmental impact assessments just make sure that companies meet the bare minimum rather than actively going out of their way to protect the land and environment that belongs to all of us. I hope that when President Obama evaluates the impact of Keystone on the environment, he does so in broad strokes, not in a narrowly defined minimum norms and standards type of way. I think the question should be simple — will the innately valuable biodiversity, beauty, and sanctity of the land be improved by Keystone? As someone who grew up in Hawaai, I know he knows the answer to this question in his heart.

On Twitter, BBC's Andrew Harding (@BBCAndrewH) observed:

@BBCAndrewH: #obama – Africa cannot just be a source of raw materials for somebody else.

Mr. Mabotja (@MelosoDrop_Line) responded to @BBCAndrewH's tweet by saying:

@MelosoDrop_Line: @BBCAndrewH #Obama never indicated that Africa is a raw materials shop… His indicating the shift away from that mentality

Dayo Olopade (@madayo) wrote:

@madayo: The #ObamaInAfrica trip is as notable for what he's doing as for what he's not. Rule of law fixation leaves out the most relevant countries.

Haru Mutasa (@harumutasa) pointed out what some Africans are asking:

@harumutasa: #obamainafrica. Some Africans are asking, “what has the US president done for Africa that's different from previous US leaders?”

Ashley Koen (@a_koen) was concerned about innocent civilians who were rounded up to “clean up the city” – it is a commons practice in most African countries when a foreign head of state, especially from Europe and USA visits, for street vendors to be removed:

@a_koen: Will all those displaced businesses and innocent civilians who were thrown in jail to clean up the city get their lives back? #ObamainAfrica

Obama in Africa: Catching Up with China

President Obama is currently touring Africa on a visit scheduled from June 26 to July 3, 2013. He was recently in South Africa after having visited Senegal and Tanzania. Many commentators see this trip as a catch-up mission, as an attempt by the United States to respond to the Chinese economic breakthrough [fr] in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Since 2010, China has been the leading commercial partner in Africa [fr], although four years ago, at the time of Obama’s visit to Ghana, the US were in this position. Obama’s speech in Ghana four years ago left many Africans sceptical and there seemed to be little common ground.

In the video below, Global Voices contributor Abel Asrat for Global Voices in Ahmaric gave his point of view on Obama's policy in Africa as of today:

On Twitter, doubts over the reasons for Obama’s visit to Africa were reflected by use of hashtag Wolof  #ObamaTakh which translates just well as “Because of Obama” as “Thanks to Obama” – appeared several days before his arrival in Dakar.

Until his arrival on Senegalese soil this was the first acceptance of the word which took over the social networks. Then the mood changed, as @LebouPrincess, a Senegalese based in DC,  underlined on Twitter:

Plus impressionnant que l'arrivée du Air Force One c'est le revirement des #kebetu (Twittos en Wolof] lol guemoulene dara [vous êtes versatiles] #ObamaTakh

What was more striking than the arrival of Air Force One was the return of hashtags #kebtu, (Tweets in the Wolof language) lol guemoulene dara [you are versatile] #ObamaTakh.

The following day Obama managed to get the Senegalese somewhat on his side by mentioning the Senegalese Fight during his discussions with President Macky Sall and saying some words in the Wolof language: Nio Far (We are partners),Teranga (hospitality) and Jerejef (Thank you).

Central to discussions between the two presidents were the conflict in Mali, drug trafficking and economic issues [fr]:

Le président américain Barack Obama a annoncé, jeudi à Dakar, que son administration était en train de « chercher des modalités de reconduction » de l’AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act], la Loi américaine sur la croissance et les opportunités en Afrique.
S'exprimant au cours d'une conférence de presse conjointe avec son homologue sénégalais Macky Sall, au lendemain de son arrivée au Sénégal pour une visite officielle de trois jours, le chef de l'Etat américain a indiqué avoir demandé à son administration de travailler pour arriver à une reconduction de l'AGOA.
L'AGOA est un programme unilatéral de préférence commerciale signé par le Congrès des États-Unis et permettant l'exemption de taxes et l'accès à un quota libre pour plus de 6 400 produits provenant des pays éligibles de l'Afrique sub-saharienne.
Le président Obama a par ailleurs réaffirmé la volonté de son administration de travailler à développer les relations commerciales entre son pays et le Sénégal.

The American President, Barack Obama, announced on Thursday in Dakar that his administration was currently “researching ways to renew” from the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), the American law covering growth and opportunities in Africa.
During a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart, Macky Sall, the day after his arrival for a three day visit to Senegal, the American head of state indicated that he had asked his administration to work on renewal of the AGOA. The AGOA is a unilateral programme covering commercial preference signed by the United States congress, allowing tax exemption and access to a free quota for more than 6,400 products coming from eligible countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. What is more, President Obama restated the desire of his administration to work on developing commercial relations between his country and Senegal.

In Senegal and elsewhere, the most commented upon moment of the press conference given by the two presidents, was when Barack Obama, freely and almost certainly with the backing of his Senegalese counterpart, broached the topic of gay rights in Africa. Sabine Cessou on Rue89 explains how questions were selected [fr] during the press conference :

Les questions des quelques 300 journalistes présents ne pouvaient pas être posées librement, mais avaient été sélectionnées à l’avance. Ce processus a permis à seulement deux journalistes sénégalais et deux journalistes américains de poser quelques salves de questions chacun.

The questions from the 300 journalists were screened beforehand. The process allowed for two Senegalese journalists and two american ones to ask the tough questions.

Macky Sall’s response did not disappoint Senegalese traditionalists [fr]:

Fondamentalement, c’est une question de société. Il ne saurait y avoir un modèle fixe dans tous les pays. Les cultures sont différentes, tout comme les religions et les traditions.
Même dans les pays où il y a dépénalisation de l’homosexualité, les avis ne sont pas partagés. Le Sénégal est un pays tolérant : on ne dit pas à quelqu’un qu’il n’aura pas de travail parce qu’il est homosexuel. Mais on n’est pas prêt à dépénaliser l’homosexualité. C’est l’option pour le moment, tout en respectant les droits des homosexuels.
Nous ne sommes pas homophobes au Sénégal. La société doit prendre le temps de traiter ces questions sans pression.

At heart, this is a question of society. It would not be possible to have a fixed model in every country. Cultures are different, just as religions and traditions are.
Even in countries which have decriminalised homosexualisity, opinions are not shared. Senegal is a tolerant country: nobody is ever told that they will not work because they are homosexual. However, we are not ready to decriminalise homosexuality. That is our choice for the present, while at the same time we respect the rights of homosexuals.
We are not homophobes in Senegal. Society must take time to deal with these issues without pressure.

In the US, Kimberly McCarthy had been executed the previous day in Texas, and her cutting remarks about the death penalty had created the same unanimity: the Senegalese president remarked to his interviewer that certain countries still applied the death penalty – without naming the United States – although it is abolished in Senegal (the last capital punishment was in 1967) which, on the other hand, is careful not to preach to others.

As @hpenot_lequipe, a journalist for the french newspaper l'Equipe, remarked on Twitter:

Très intéressant échange entre Obama et Macky Sall. Pour une fois, un président africain ne s'est pas écrasé devant E-U. Respect.

Very interesting exchange between Obama and Macky Sall. For once, an African president who doesn’t fall before the US. Respect.

And from @Toutankhaton, member of the african diaspora in Paris :

Bravo à @macky_sall pour sa réponse cash à @barackobama ! Peine de mort vs mariage gay! #obamatakh

Bravo @macky_sall for his kosher response to @barackobama! Death penalty vs gay marriage! #obamatakh

Below is the video of the press conference by Xalimasn from Senegal:

Photos from Obama’s visit can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Dakar Echo.

In South Africa, his welcome seemed a little less cordial, as the Washington Post's foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher points out:

For much of the 1980s, the United Kingdom and United States were perceived by some South Africans, not wholly without reason, as tolerating the apartheid government. That may help explain why some of Obama’s critics in South Africa criticize him for supporting the “apartheid state” of Israel. The groups also cite U.S. drone strikes and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

 

July 03 2013

Tanzanians Review Highly Anticipated Obama Visit

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's commercial capital, is getting back to normal after two days in which the city found itself playing host to arguably the most powerful man on earth: President Barack Obama of the United States. The city's streets were inundated with posters of the man.

Image of President Barack Obama on a billboard in Dar Es Salaam. Photo courtesy of Sandy Temu.

Image of President Barack Obama on a billboard in Dar Es Salaam. Photo courtesy of Sandy Temu.


This instagrammer captured an image on one of the billboards and seemed quite pleased about the prospect of Obama's visit:

Obama in Tanzania

Folks lined up the streets to welcome the first African-American president to their shores, as the image posted with the tweet below demonstrates:

@shurufu: Tanzanians along Sokoine Drive waiting to welcome @barackobama to #Tanzania. #ObamainTanzania #ObamainAfrica pic.twitter.com/yXMtpDE9KO

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 2.00.23 PM

Obama was visiting Tanzania, as part of a week long, three-nation tour of Africa, his first comprehensive visit to the continent of his ancestral roots since he was first elected President in 2008. On the back of his arrival to Tanzania, Obama announced a $7 billion plan to invest in electricity initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. This, it was said, was at the core of the relationship the US President was trying to cultivate, one that is built on investment and partnership:

@whitehouse: “Ultimately, the goal here is for Africa to build Africa for Africans.” —Obama in Tanzania: http://at.wh.gov/mz2hT , pic.twitter.com/pnBCU7bSCQ

And upon landing, Obama received an especially warm reception, as photo-blogger Issa Michuzi was able to capture in this photograph the mood at Julius Nyerere International Airport:

President Obama arriving at Julius Nyerere International Airport. Photo courtesy of Issa Michuzi.

President Obama arriving at Julius Nyerere International Airport. Photo courtesy of Issa Michuzi.

Such images prompted one tweep to say this:

@bkyeyune: By the looks of the online images/photos, Obama had more fun in Tanzania than he had in South Africa.

The interest in Obama's visit extended farther than the streets of Dar es Salaam. Gaure Mdee (@Profesy) tweeted this image from Stone Town, Zanzibar showing people watching his visit on local television:

Zanzibaris watching Obama's visit on local television station. Photo courtesy of

Zanzibaris watching Obama's visit on local television station. Photo courtesy of @Profesy.


Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 3.07.49 PM

However, not everyone in the country was as enthused about Mr. Obama's visit. The gentleman in the YouTube video below, who was working just a street away from where the presidential motorcade eventually passed through, suggested that Obama was in Tanzania purely for self-interested motives and that his time in Tanzania had nothing to do with helping the country or its people.

This view seemed to be shared by blogger Elsie Eyakuze of The Mikocheni Report who, a week ago, conjured up the word ‘neocolonialism’ in describing the relevance of Mr. Obama's visit:

Now there's going to be a delegation of hundreds of businessmen in the Obama entourage looking to explore opportunities in Tanzania. There is something disconcerting about being considered a sweet little morsel by America on the planet…Gas, Africom, the Millenium Challenge Corporation, businessmen – what are these in the face of our current situation? Yes, Barack Obama is coming to Tanzania. If he could bring along plane-load of respect for civil rights and inject it directly into my government's veins I would be happier. But I understand POTUS has a few problems of his own respecting the freedoms of Americans- like, say, freedom from state surveillance? *shrug.*

Over at Vijana.FM, they were complaints about why there was more brouhaha for this Head of State than usually afforded to other visiting Presidents:

I can understand the vast security preparations for him, but should we only clean up when we have a high profile guest? I understand that he comes to visit our country and maybe he has good things in store, but our reaction to his visit is absurd. What message are we sending to our fellow African states, and most importantly, to the world? What message are we passing along to the young generation, the leaders in the making?

Elsewhere, January Makamba, who also happens to be the Deputy Minister for Science and Technology, blogging at Taifa Letu, argued that it is not Tanzania, and in extension Africa, that needs the US. Rather, it was America that needed Africa more:

America’s global leadership remains robust – at least for now. One way to retain and strengthen it in the face of insecure world and a deepening economic and cultural competition is to project it for the good of humanity. And this is the expectation of most Africans – that America shouldn’t befriend a country just for security or strategic concerns but because of advancement of shared values – of freedom, equality, tolerance and human progress.

Some Tanzanians seemed just glad to have Obama visit their country, a view encapsulated by the gentleman in the video below, speaking after seeing the US President's motorcade pass through on its way to State House:

As Obama departed, Ahmed Salim (@asalim86) captured what the country felt yesterday evening:

@asalim86: …and POTUS [President of the United States] is gone, back to our regularly scheduled program in #Tanzania

And while the significance of his visit continues to be a point of contention, it seems like Mr. Obama is already entrenching the legacy of his visit into Dar es Salaam's identity:

@shurufu: #ObamainTanzania: The newly christened Barabara ya Barack Obama. Cc: @barackobama pic.twitter.com/IuSXycqsL7

The newly christened Barabara [Road] ya Barack Obama. Image courtesy of @shurufu.

The newly christened Barabara [Road] ya Barack Obama. Image courtesy of @shurufu.

June 19 2013

Song, Video Shed Light on Congo War

‘In the Congo’ is a song and video that shed light 20 year conflict over minerals used in mobile phones and electronics:

The video is produced and directed by Zavara Mponjika, the respected hip hop pioneer and filmmaker from Tanzania and features New York based female hip hop group Rhyme Like A Girl and Los Angeles based Kenyan Afro-Soul artist Nasambu.

May 07 2013

The Team Tanzania TV Drama Series

The Team Tanzania is a TV drama series about:

[...] Ms. Wito, a dynamic civics teacher, who turns the world of 3 teenagers upside down when she challenges them with controversial questions like “Who are you”? The three 16-year olds, who have known each other all their lives. On the edge of adulthood, they are searching for their own identities while facing family and cultural pressures.

Dar Sketches: Art for Sustainable Development

Dar Sketches is part of the Street Level project in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania initiated by artist and illustrator Sarah Markes:

It is a celebration of the cultural and architectural heritage of Dar es Salaam as well as an effort to raise awareness of the threats to this heritage posed by rapid and unplanned urban development.

April 04 2013

In Global Downturn, Sustainable Development Begins at Home

Global Voices bloggers have been commissioned to liveblog the OECD Global Forum on Development in Paris on April 4-5, 2013. Leading up to the meeting, our team is submitting posts about development issues that help serve as weekly online discussion topics on their website (#OECDgfd)

Thatched roof Mali

Preparing a new thatched roof in Mali. Photo by Jean-Marc Desfilhes on flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

As Western economies struggle with rising debt and unemployment, their approach to development and cooperation with low-income countries and emerging markets has taken a twist. It is becoming more clear that sustainable development should not be based on external wealth or redistribution, but must instead be generated at home.

Foreign investment and remittances have long been identified as a crucial source of revenue for poor populations in countries like Mali or Cape Verde. Entire villages have been built out of remittances in Mali, for instance, mainly from immigrants to France. However, this does not mean that these countries are being helped to develop sustainably.

For most African countries, the positive ability to attract capital is often negated by lenient fiscal policies towards foreign investors that strip countries of public revenues to build up their economies. This trend seems was still on the rise worldwide in 2007 according to an OECD report “Tax Effects on Foreign Direct Investments”.

A report by Matthew Martin and Nils Bhinda from Development Finance International shows that in Tanzania, for instance, the influx of private capital from global mining companies increased the volume of gold and diamonds sales. However, this failed to produce the expected social benefits, such as increased government revenues or public investment in social infrastructure. In fact, various tax exemptions and fiscal incentives ended up costing Tanzania $140 million USD from 2005-2008.

Remittances: Money at what cost?

A  growing number of poor households worldwide are subsisting on remittances, according to the World Bank. Still the question remains: can these seemingly successful flows of migrants and money secure sustainable development and reduce poverty in the most affected countries?

Remittances from abroad to Mali amounted %3.7 of the countries GDP for the year 2005-2006, and according to some estimates remittances significantly decreased the number of poor in Mali and also reduced inequality. Cape Verde is another nation that has seemingly benefited from emigration as the country with the highest per capita remittances of any African country. With remittances amounting to 8% of the country's GDP, it has even overcome the challenge of establishing banking institutions for the poor on its many islands thanks to financial capital from migrants in Portugal, Brazil and the USA.

Because of such statistics, many international development institutions have attempted to design development policies based on remittance flows, by trying to convert this “subsistence” money into capital for infrastructure. There are some caveats to consider though.

Despite the growth of remittance flows, one should keep in mind that the very concept of remittances originates from a major outcome of global poverty: economic migration. Those who choose to leave their country are often exposed to risks and dangers during the transition (illegal border transfer, human traffickers, social and cultural isolation).

Moreover, remittances from migrants are highly dependent on the economic growth of the host countries. When unemployment in host countries rises, it frequently affects the type of labor available to most immigrants, putting both them and families back home at further risk of precariousness.

Finally, the peer-to-peer nature of remittances is both a blessing and a curse. As Hein de Haas writes in an article for Third World Quarterly in 2005:

The much-celebrated micro-level at which remittances are transferred is not only their strength, but also their main weakness, since this also implies that individual migrants are generally not able to remove general development constraints.

Because of the lack of incentives for locally-produced added value, it appears that remittances based on value created abroad can never be the sole base of a sustainable development strategy for low income countries.

Good measures for sustainable development

There are some measures that can be implemented to support foreign direct investment and remittances towards a more sustainable world.

First, transparency and accountability. With respect to foreign investments, governments should offer proper projections of the benefits for public finance, or projects should not be allowed to take place. Financial policies should encourage a permanent check and balance system for both private and public flows with an obligation of transparency for the source of the revenues and their further use. Transparency, in the form of regular and mandatory publications to civil society should be mandatory.

Low income countries often resort to the setting up Industrial Free Zones (IZF) to spur industrialization and create jobs in strategic locations with mineral resources. The creation of these zones have often led to economic and social instability through a constant race to lower costs, geographical mobility and low-quality production. Therefore if a government chooses to implement an IZF, it should also plan for a rapid conversion of labor and production capacity to evolve with markets.

This concept is all the more important because so far there has been no concerted effort to integrate local products of low income countries and services in global trade. Inter-regional trade should remain the main goal because it provides geographical proximity and reduces vulnerability to the whims of highly mobile multinational companies.

With respect to migration and remittances, a drawback of global inequality is the tendency of qualified students from low income countries to remain in richer countries to pursue careers, a phenomenon also known as the “brain drain“. As the recession takes its toll on employment in Western countries, a “reverse brain drain” effect has emerged for Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco and other countries where there are competitive salaries and working conditions.

It would make sense for policymakers worldwide to start to embrace a simple idiom to ensure sustainable development: the creation of wealth through added value and redistribution must start at home. Policies based on short term incentives, social inequities or external wealth injection might spur growth temporarily, but it is doubtful that they will sustain poverty reduction in the long run.

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.

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