Governments, institutions, and parents in Africa and other developing countries, all have a role to play in fighting human trafficking says Juliet Mbonu
The fight against human trafficking will get a serious boast when “Break Out”, a movie produced by Juliet Mbonu premieres on Nov 17 at Bowie Performance Arts Center, in MD, USA.With a cast from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Togo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the movie paints a gory picture of human trafficking especially with young women who are lured from developing countries into prostitution.Shot in several locations across Nigeria and the USA,the movie sends a strong message of deterrence to young women who may become unwitting victims of human trafficking ,says Juliet Mbonu.
Your latest movie Break Out is set to premiere on Nov 17, what is the movie about?
Juliet Mbonu: The movie is about Human Trafficking on the international stage, particularly as it affects women in many developing countries, who are lured into prostitution in developed countries
What message do you seek to send to the public with the movie?
Juliet Mbonu: The movie conveys the many complicated and horrific aspects of being lured into prostitution, outside one’s home country, and delivers a powerful message to deter young women from being victims of human & sex trafficking
Where was the movie shot and how long did it take you get it to this level?
Juliet Mbonu: The movie was shot in multiple locations in Nigeria/Africa and the United States. It took about one year to complete the research, shooting, and editing of the movie. Technical crews were flown from the US to Nigeria to capture authentic rarely seen footages in Nigeria. High-end technology was used in the US to capture the latest cinematography.
As you Break Out gets set for its big release, could you introduce the cast for us?
Juliet Mbonu: Certainly, the most exciting aspect of the movie is that the cast was recruited from the US and at least ten different African countries, in order to capture the diversity of international sex & human trafficking. The cast countries of origin include: Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and others..
In Break Out ,Juliet Mbonu delivers a powerful message to deter young women from being victims of human & sex trafficking
What are some of the challenges that you faced in the production of Break Out?
Juliet Mbonu. The Budget: Raising money for such a huge project was a big challenge, however, where there is a will, there is a way. My faith in God propelled the movie from a dream to a reality. 2. Moving a technical production team around the world from the US to Nigeria, and back to the US, represented serious logistical challenges, but it turned out to be a great and exotic adventure.
Any plans for distribution especially in Africa with its huge market and the relevance of the movie’s theme?
Juliet Mbonu: Absolutely, there are Theater Premieres coming up in DC (November 17th), then NY, LA, and other US Cities, after which the Movie moves to South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and others
With regards the issue of child trafficking, how serious is this in Africa and what more could be done to get it under control?
Juliet Mbonu: Governments, institutions, and parents in Africa and other developing countries, all have a role to play. Parents must be restrained in their expectations from their children, and in becoming tacit enablers for child sexual trafficking. Even though we’ve seen reports of very poor people who give tacit approval to their daughters traveling abroad, with unclear perceptions of various employment opportunities; however a cursory look should alert people to dangers lurking in the horizon. Finally, young women should be extremely careful in their personal expectations…… there is no glamorous life waiting out there, for people who have not paid their dues in education, training, and other tutelage.
To those who do not know Juliet Mbonu, Producer of Break Out, who is she and how did she find herself in the movie industry?
Juliet Mbonu: Great question, I actually started out as a computer major in college, I then veered out into the Health Sciences & Nursing Informatics, ultimately getting a doctorate in Nursing Practice. I was consulting in the area of Healthcare Informatics before diverting my passion and zeal to Movie Productions. I have a great passion for women and children’s issues. I also run “Arise” a non-profit that focuses on women and girls issues.
What is your take on the African Movie Industry as it stands today?
Juliet: Africa has unbelievable talent in the Arts. The quality is gradually catching up with universal standards. Those of us who have recent roots in Africa, and are out here in the West, have a duty to move the industry to a world-class level
Break Out premieres on Nov 17 at Bowie Performance Arts Center, in MD, USA
What next for you after Break Out, any other projects movie related or otherwise that Juliet Mbonu will be working on?
Juliet Mbonu: Absolutely, my Talk-Show, “Let’s Talk It Out with Juliet Mbonu” will debut in first quarter of 2018. Our Production Company (RFP) is also developing other relevant stories for a world-wide audience.
We end with more information on the movie premiere, venue, cost, and any special guests that people may run into, what will the premiere of Break Out reserve for its audience?
Juliet Mbonu: The DC area (DMV) Premiere, coming up on November 17th, 2017 at 7pm, will be at the full-size Theater “Bowie Performance Arts Center” just outside DC. The program starts at 7pm, a robust pre-show entertainment, featuring popular artists, and various entertainments. A guest list of dignitaries and the public are expected.
Tickets for the premiere of Break Out are available at the following link:
One of the Chibok girls freed in May has been telling journalist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani how a diary was kept of some of her three years in captivity with Boko Haram Islamist militants.
One of the oldest in her class, Naomi Adamu was 24 when she and more than 200 mainly Christian students were taken off into Boko Haram’s Sambisa forest hideout in north-eastern Nigeria in 2014, sparking global outrage.
While in captivity, the girls were given exercise books for the Koranic classes they were made to attend.
But some of the girls used these to keep secret diaries. When the militants found out, they were forced to burn the books.
Ms Adamu managed to hide hers. She and her close friend, Sarah Samuel, now 20, and three other girls used the books to chronicle some of their experiences.
The diary entries, written in passable English and poor Hausa, are undated and appear to be from their early months in captivity.
Here are 10 of the many disclosures. Some spelling and punctuation have been altered for clarity:
1) Kidnap was not the plan
The militants who attacked the Chibok school on 14 April 2014 had come with the intention of stealing an “engine block”, the diary notes. It is not clear what piece of machinery they wanted – there had been some construction work at the school a few weeks earlier, so it may have been the machine used for moulding cement blocks, which can also be used for constructing crude weapons, or they may have been after an engine block from a vehicle.
But when it could not be found, they argued over what to do with the students they had gathered in groups. After considering a number of gory options, they decided to take the girls with them.
“They started argument in their midst. So one small boy said that they should burn us all and they said, ‘No let us take them with us to Sambisa.’ Another person said, ‘No let’s not do that. Let’s lead them… to their parent homes.’ As they were in argument, then one of them said, ‘No, I can’t come with empty car and go back with empty car… If we take them to [Abubakar] Shekau [Boko Haram’s leader], he will know what to do.'”
2) A telltale prevented escape
Some girls were loaded into the militants’ vehicle at the school while the majority were made to walk at gunpoint for miles, until several trucks arrived to ferry them away.
Who wrote the diaries?
Main diarists: Naomi Adamu and Sarah Samuel
Rhoda Peter, Saratu Ayuba and Margaret Yama made smaller contributions
Four of them were freed in May 2017, after negotiations
Sarah Samuel agreed to marry a militant last year and remains in captivity
On their way to Boko Haram’s forest hideout, when some students began escaping by jumping off the trucks, one of the kidnapped girls alerted their abductors – perhaps out of fear of being left alone, or a propensity to obey whoever is in authority, or the desire to have company in misery.
“Then one girl in the car said, ‘Driver, some girls are jumping to escape.’ Then the driver opened the door of the car then searched for them with the torch but didn’t find anyone. So they said to them that they should stay [in] one place, that if they jump down again, if they saw her or any they will shoot her.”
3) Cruel tricks
The militants played a number of cruel tricks on the kidnapped girls, including pretending that their parents had been captured by Boko Haram. On one occasion, they separated the Christian girls from those who were Muslim and threatened to burn those who would not convert to Islam with petrol.
“Then they came to us and said, ‘Those who are Muslim, it is time for prayer.’ After they had prayed, [they said], ‘Those who are Muslim, let them be on one side and those who are Christian let them too be on one side.’
“Then we saw jerrycan in the car so we thought it was petrol. Then they said, ‘Who and how many of you will turn to Muslim.’ So many of us, because of fear, some of us stand up and went inside… So [they said], ‘The rest that remain you want to die, is that why you don’t want to be Muslim? We are going to burn you…’ Then they give us that jerrycan which we thought it was petrol. It is not petrol, it is water.”
4) Militant anger over rape claims
Some of the Chibok girls have stated in previous interviews that they were not sexually abused or forced into marriage – although they were sometimes whipped to persuade them to marry. Some girls were also taken as official concubines.
The diaries show that the militants were livid about insinuations in the media that they were raping the girls. The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, ranted about this a number of times, first in a recorded message that was played to the girls.
“Then in the night, they gathered us and preached to us and put [on] a cassette. They said that cassette is from their master Mr Abubakar Shekau…. So he said that just because of they kidnapped us to come and teach us the way of God, then your parents and the government and your principal are crying to us and saying that we are raping you and are doing bad, bad things to you… We brought you to teach you the way of Allah.”
5) Hijabs against temptation
The militants pleaded with the girls to not lead them into temptation, encouraging them to always keep their bodies covered in a hijab.
“He opened the Koran and started reading it, then he read one place that said anybody which they kidnap on the fight of jihad, it is your own, whatever you like, you will do with that person… But we that they give us hijab is that they don’t want to see our body, which will make them to sin and do what is very bad.”
6) Marriage proposals
The marriage proposals from militants were frequent and forceful.
“One girl wanted to go inside the room and pick something, then Malam Ahmed [one of the militants] went and met her and asked her about marriage. Then she said, ‘No.’ He asked her, ‘And so what is your own decision about this marriage?’
“Then she said that no, they kidnapped her from GGSS [Government Girls Secondary School] Chibok and brought her to Sambisa and now they are talking to her about marriage. How will she get married – after all her mother and her father and her aunties and the rest of her colleagues, they don’t even know… Then she asked him, if she says no – that she will not get married, she will only stay and follow her God alone, is it not good? Then he said, ‘No, it is bad.'”
Some were pressured to change their mind.
“We saw the people come in two Hilux [vans]. Then they came asking for those who want to get married. They asked us and said anybody who accepts Muslim religion… must get married if truly she holds the religion with two hands. They gave us 30 minutes to give them their answer but we kept quiet. Then we stayed for an hour but nobody answered them.”
Naomi Adamu told me that those who refused to get married were treated as slaves: “Every day, they beat us. They tell us to marry and if you refuse, they will beat you. We will wash cloth, fetch water, do everything for their wives. We were slaves.”
7) Escapees returned by villagers
Despite the global Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which saw the involvement of celebrities like former US First Lady Michelle Obama, some people in surrounding communities wanted no part in bringing back the girls, and returned some of the girls when they managed to escape.
“There is another day that some girls ran. They tried to escape but they couldn’t. So those people arrested them. The way they arrested them was they entered into a shop and asked them to help them and give them water and biscuit. So, the people asked them, ‘Who are you and where did you come from?’ The girls said, ‘We are those that the BH kidnapped from GGSS [Government Girls Secondary School], Chibok.’ So, one of the people said, ‘Are these not Shekau’s children?’
“So they gave them good food to eat and a place to sleep and the next day, they returned them to our place… As they brought them to Sambisa at night, they whipped them and said that they are going to cut off their necks.”
8) Conversion blame game
The girls were told that they would be allowed to go home to their families if they all, with no exception, agreed to convert to Islam. Those who agreed to convert then blamed the girls who refused for their continued captivity.
“They said that those that do not accept Muslim religion are [like] sheep and cows and goat… they will kill them… Then Malam Abba [one of the militants] said those that who did not accept Muslim religion, they should be on one side, let them not enter into those who have become Muslim. So he told us to stay aside – that they are going to arrange another place for them. Another person said no, that let us stay together. As they left, one week later, the rest of us said that we that did not become Muslim, we are those who are stopping ourselves from going home.”
9) How videos were filmed
Boko Haram released several videos about the Chibok girls. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of them.
“Then there is a day before this, they came and… [filmed] about 10 girls under the Tamarind tree. They called them one by one and asked them about their name and the name of their parents and then they [film us] and said, ‘Did we hurt you in any way.’ We said, ‘No.’ They told us to tell our parents and the government what they are doing to us. The government and our parents are saying that they are raping us and disturbing us.
“So they called out one of us and asked her, ‘Since we kidnapped you and brought you to this place, have we ever slept with or raped you?’ She answered, ‘No.’ He asked her again… ‘I will like you to let you show to your parents and the government what we have offered you and how we are taking good care of you.'”
10) Militants followed the news closely
The videos were sometimes filmed straight after the militants listened to the news.
“They stayed a little while and listened to the BBC [Hausa service]. As they finished listening to the radio, they called us one by one. They told some to stand and some to kneel and some to sit so they [filmed] us and told us to read. Then we read from [Islamic text].”
What’s happened to the diarists?
Naomi Adamu and three other diarists – Rhoda Peter, Saratu Ayuba and Margaret Yama – were released in May.
In September, the government sent them to study at the American University of Nigeria in the north-eastern town of Yola.
Ms Adamu, the second of seven children, said she kept the diaries with only her family in mind, and seems baffled by my interest.
“I wrote it because of remembrance,” she said.
“For my brothers to see it, my sisters to see it, my parents to see it.”
But her friend Sarah Samuel, who wrote many of the entries, is yet to return, which is a source of sadness for her.
“I feel pained. I feel so pained. Up till now, I’m still thinking about her.”
About two years into their captivity, at a time when a military crackdown led to Boko Haram’s supplies being cut off, she succumbed to pressure and married, a decision that entitled her to leave the camp with her Boko Haram husband, hopefully for a better life elsewhere with access to food. None of those who got married have been released so far.
Her father, Samuel Yaga, told me that he was not surprised to learn that his oldest child wrote while in captivity.
“She was always reading. Sometimes, she fell asleep with a book in her lap,” he said.
On the last page of one notebook, she had listed the names of her five siblings, ending with: “My father’s name is Samuel and my mother’s name is Rebecca.”
Moise Katumbi speaks to the press in Geneva, on June 2, 2017. Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images
Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader and presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi said he will return to his homeland in December after more than a year abroad to participate in the country’s delayed elections.
The 52-year-old former governor of Congo’s copper-rich Katanga province plans to challenge President Joseph Kabila’s rule of the Central African country on his return, he said at a conference Monday in London. Katumbi has previously pledged to return to the country and then failed to make the trip, while one attempt to travel was thwarted when the Congolese authorities refused to clear a plane carrying him.
“The only man Kabila is scared about in the country is me,” Katumbi said. “Congo is losing every day, every minute, every second Mr. Kabila is in office. His mandate is finished.”
Kabila, who’s ruled since 2001, was supposed to step down at the end of his constitutionally limited second term in December 2016, but the vote for his replacement has been delayed, sparking protests in which dozens of people have died. Under a political agreement struck Dec. 31, opposition parties accepted that he could remain in office if the vote was held this year. Congo, Africa’s largest copper producer, has never had a peaceful transfer of power.
“If I win the election, I need to change that country, to invite all of the investors to come and help us to build our country,” Katumbi said. “It is the private sector that is going to make Congo strong.”
Several Kenyan papers have referred to Justice Maraga as a person of integrity, which they attribute to his being a devout Seventh-day Adventist.
He reportedly told an interview panel that if appointed Chief Justice, he would never preside over a case on a Saturday, a day of rest and worship for members of the Adventist faith.
Some have speculated that this may have been the reason the first sitting of the presidential election petition was held on a Saturday night, after the Sabbath had ended.
It is reported that while being vetted for his job, he was confronted with allegations that he had taken bribes.
He surprised the public by standing before TV cameras and swearing on a Bible that he had never taken a bribe in his life.
‘Not a government project’
Justice Maraga, 66, graduated as a lawyer 40 years ago from the University of Nairobi, before going into private practice.
He was appointed a judge in 2003 and rose to join the Court of Appeal in 2012.
He is married and has three children.
Last year, following the early retirement of former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, he beat off stiff competition from 10 other prominent judges, legal practitioners and academics to be nominated by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to become chief justice.
However, earlier this year he is reported to have rebuked the man who appointed him – President Kenyatta.
Mr Kenyatta, while campaigning for re-election in Justice Maraga’s home area, had told people that they should vote for him because his government had given “their son” a job.
The chief justice, through the JSC, stated that he was not a government project.
The president initially said he would accept the Supreme Court’s ruling, although he did question why “six people [the judges] have decided that they will go against the will of the people”.
However, he later said that the judges had been “paid by foreigners and other fools”.
“[Chief Justice] Maraga and his thugs have decided to cancel the election. Now I am no longer the president-elect. I am the serving president… Maraga should know that he is now dealing with the serving president.”
Despite the implied threat, the president does not have the power to sack the chief justice, whose single term expires when he turns 70.
The 60-year-old Nigerian cement tycoon aims to move into these territories for the first time in 2020 after completing almost $5 billion of agricultural projects and an $11 billion oil refinery in his home country, he said in an interview with Bloomberg Markets Magazine this month.
“Beginning in 2020, 60 percent of our future investments will be outside Africa, so we can have a balance,” said Dangote, who’s worth $11.1 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Dangote Group will consider investments in Asia and Mexico, but will focus mainly on the U.S. and Europe, he said. “I think renewables is the way to go forward, and the future. We are looking at petrochemicals but can also invest in other companies.”
Dangote has diversified rapidly in the last five years, both geographically and into new industries. He’s expanded Dangote Cement Plc, which accounts for almost 80 percent of his wealth, into nine African countries aside from Nigeria. In 2015, he began building a 650,000 barrel-a-day refinery near Lagos, Nigeria’s main commercial hub, and he’s constructing gas pipelines to the city from Nigeria’s oil region with U.S. private equity firms Carlyle Group LP and Blackstone Group LP. He said in July he’d invest $4.6 billion in the next three years in sugar, rice and dairy production.
Shares in Dangote Cement rose 2.7 percent to 219.80 naira in Lagos Thursday, extending their advance this year to 26 percent.
“When you look at it — not just in Nigeria but in the rest of Africa — the majority of countries here depend on imported food,” he said. “There is no way you can have a population of 320 million in West Africa and no self-sufficiency. So the first thing to do is food security. I believe Dangote Group is in the right position to drive this trajectory.”
Dangote, who mostly lives in Lagos and counts Bill Gates among his friends, said he was a passionate industrialist and ruled out moving into newer sectors such as telecommunications or technology.
“When I look at telecoms, for instance, I think that would be very tough for us,” he said. “Some players have been in this market for 17 years already. There’s no way you can go and jump over somebody after 17 years of their hard work. So I think we would pass when it comes to telecoms today. There are other businesses that we understand better.”
Dangote also said he has no plans to enter Nigerian politics.
Rigobert Song takes charge of the local Cameroon team in a competitive match for the first time this weekend.
Former Cameroon captain, Rigobert Song, who suffered a brain aneurysm ten months ago, is preparing for his first coaching mission with the home-based national Cameroon side.
The local Indomitable Lions are away to Sao Tome and Principe on Saturday in the first leg of the latest round of qualifiers for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) – a tournament which is contested by footballers playing in their own domestic league.
Song has called up 20 players for the two-legged tie.
“Initially I had no idea about Sao Tome and Principe, but I have done my homework to know their playing style,” Song told BBC Sport.
“I have prepared my team to help them give their best performance and put our opponents in difficulty”.
Song resumed his coaching job just months after suffering the brain aneurysm which almost claimed his life.
PHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 26: Host Trevor Noah, “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Presents The 2016 Democratic National Convention; Let’s Not Get Crazy” speaks from the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for Comedy Central)
When South African stand up comedian Trevor took over John Stewart’s gig on American television’s the Daily Show, it was really the beginning of an improbable journey for the young Mzansi creative. But the odds were highly staked against an African outsider to succeed as anchor on a popular television property such as the Daily Show
To begin with, Noah started out at age 18 with a cameo role in Isidingo in 2002. Other roles were as a presenter on SABC Sports (Siyadlala), hosting The Real Goboza in 2007 and his own radio show Noah’s Ark on Gauteng’s leading youth radio station, YFM. Other television credits are hosting the South African Music and Film and Television Awards.Noah’s career is now in the same coveted league with Jay Leno and The David Letterman Show in America.
When Noah assumed the host position on the Daily Show the ratings took a knock which, of course, translated into a dip in advertising support for the television networks with the most compelling programming. When John Stewart left the show, 1.7million viewers were watching the show nightly. Trevor has recently hit a high of 1.045million. His 2015 debut was viewed by 1.019 million viewers. Ratings are all that matter in this business. According to Pew Research Center, 74 % of the viewership belongs in the well educated 18-49 age demographic.
The Daily Show is a news satire and late night talk which tackles the most trending socio- political topics in America and is produced by Comedy Central. Since February 2017, the show is now simulcasts on Black Entertainment Television and industry watchers attribute the development to Trevor Noah’s race as a man of colour.
More recently, Noah, riding a wave of popularity as the host of The Daily Show in the US, earned $3 million (R49m) for the deal with publishers, Spiegel & Grau in 2016. The book is “a collection of personal stories about growing up in South Africa during the last gasps of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that came with its demise”.
It gives insight into his life living on ‘madora’ caterpillars during times of extreme poverty, to being thrown out of moving cars by gangsters and spending time in jail. It also chronicles his family life in apartheid South Africa. The book is published in South Africa by Pan Macmillan. Entitled Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood’. When explaining his reason for writing the book which is more or less a memoir of eighteen personal essays, Noah said: “I couldn’t find a good book about myself so I decided to write one. And just like me, this book doesn’t have an appendix.”
The book has been New York Times bestseller! The book’s audio version has garnered the number two position on Audible which is part of Amazon the online selling platform. Trevor Noah has also won the favourite African Star trophy at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles. He was named one of Time Magazine’s top ten Next Generation Leaders with the magazine calling him “the master of the eloquent Trump-takedown”.
Amongst his many accolades, the now A-list Trevor Noah has won the Outstanding Literary Work (Debut Author) and Outstanding Literary Work – (Biography/ Autobiography) to cap a meteoric rise in showbiz. ” (It is)Such an honour to receive two NAACP Image Awards for my book “Born a Crime”. Thank you to every single person who has shared in my story,”
Trevor commented upon receiving the award in the aftermath of the awards. Trevor Noah may well be Africa’s biggest entertainment export.
It was a very classy wedding for Ben Bangura and Fatmata Koroma
The marriage of Ben Bangoura and Fatmata Koroma was one for the ages, as the union of two talented and accomplished professionals also became a rich encounter between two West African diaspora communities, Guinea and Sierra Leone. There was blazing sunshine and pouring rain, sacred song and jubilant dancing, fine words and fine food, and overall, a tremendous feeling of community and celebration.
I first met Ben in Conakry in 1993 when I was doing music research for public radio’s Afropop Worldwide. As we made our way around town from interviews to rehearsals and concerts, Ben told me over and over that he had one objective in life: to come to America and be a journalist. And damn if he didn’t do it! Ben came to Boston the next year and stayed with me there for some time while he got his bearings, learning English, making connections, picking up on every aspect of American urban life he could. When I left Boston to live in Mali in 1995, Ben went to Washington, D.C. where he steadily worked himself into the city’s exhilarating milieu of politics and journalism. Ultimately, Ben created the popular website AlloConakry.com, where he reports on global affairs, as he always said he would.
In 2015, at the annual picnic of ECOWAS Ambassadors at Liberian Chancery, Ben spotted an attractive young woman photographing the event for Koshe’ Magazine. Assuming that she too might be a journalist, he struck up conversation. As it turned out, Fatmata was actually a public health professional, in fact Executive Director of Therapeutic Interventions Inc.. Ben invited Fatmata for coffee, and the rest is history. He told me, “She has everything I like in woman: beauty, charisma and intellect.”
The wedding took place in Hollywood, MD, at the Victorian Candle Bed & Breakfast, a spacious, whimsical house with 15 bedrooms and a sweeping view of hills and meadow. Fatmata’s Sierra Leonean parents—Susan Dexter and James Koroma—left their homeland in the early 1970s. Susan has since remarried Jim Dexter, and Susan and Jim build the magnificent Victorian Candle from scratch some twenty years ago. But Susan, James and Jim were all present for this wedding, and clearly proud of Fatmata, a sentiment shared by some 200 guests who came early and stayed late. Ben’s family was represented by his aunt, Aunt M’mah Bangoura, who lives in the Washington,DC, area.
People gathered in glorious afternoon sunshine, taking time to chat, survey the property and take photographs of the picturesque setting and distinguished crowd. Around 5PM, everyone made their way down to a tent in the meadow for the ceremony. It was a moving affair, graced by the gravitas one expects when two people commit their lives to one another. There was one fascinating moment during the vows. The Koroma family, present in number, are ardently Christian. Ben, as I knew well from my long experience with him, is a fairly devout Muslim. Even before Pastor Raymond Mani conducted the vows, he gently scolded Ben for not keeping to “protocol.” Perhaps Ben was just a tad too eager to kiss his bride! Perhaps the Pastor knew what was coming.
During the vows, Pastor Mani invited Ben to repeat after him the familiar set of vows heard at most weddings. But then came an unusual phrase. Ben was asked to say that theirs would be an “exclusively Christian marriage.” Ben paused, clearly not quite willing to use such a definitive phrase. Thinking fast, he said instead a “globally acceptable marriage by God.” The pastor let it pass!
With that, Ben established himself as a man of principle, lovingly embracing his new family’s faith, without abandoning his own.
The wedding took place in Hollywood, MD, at the Victorian Candle Bed & Breakfast, a spacious, whimsical house with 20 bedrooms and a sweeping view of hills and meadow
As the married couple returned to the house on the hill, the sky was darkening. Earlier we had all sung a hymn called “Showers of Blessing.” Now they came, the first of two drenching downpours. (The other came late at night, when the toasts and tributes had turned to pure joyous dancing!) Luckily, the tent held, the crowd stayed and reassembled themselves as the sky cleared, producing a big, brilliant rainbow over the house. Then the reception rolled on, with grand dancing entrances from all the key relatives, and guests of honor. Susan Dexter, mother of the bride, most perfectly captured the spirit of the occasion, clearly overflowing with pride and joy, and winning the enthusiastic gratefulness of everyone present for anchoring such a marvelous wedding.
Pastor Mani officiated the wedding
Other distinguished guests included Ambassador Francois Balumuene (Democratic Republic of Congo), Jan Du Plain ( President/CEO Du Plain Global Enterprises, Inc..), VOA journalist David Vandi, Cooki Collinet, Georges Collinet (host of Afropop Worldwide) and emcee for this event, Jeannine B. Scott, matron of honor Sheri Sesay-Tuffour, and best men Salif Justice and Mohamed Sako, Doris Car, aunt of the bride who traveled from London (UK) to attend the ceremony, as well as Ibrahim Gba-Kamara who came from Italy.
Amid the toasting, reference was made to the deeper history between Guinea and Sierra Leone. During Sierra Leone’s civil war, Guinea took in and protected many war refugees. “So this is not the first time our two countries have come together to do something important,” noted one toast master. It was food for thought. Not only was this unusual wedding a heartening display of Africa solidarity, across lines of language, nationality and faith; it was also an affirmation of the American dream, which has always been a story of the ambition and achievement of immigrants from far away lands.
To Ben and Fatmata, a long and loving life, wherever it may take you!
*Banning Eyre is Senior Producer, Afropop Worldwide .
Bushra al-Fadil has won the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, translated by Max Shmookkler, published in The Book of Khartoum – A City in Short Fiction(Comma Press, UK. 2016). The Chair of Judges, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, announced Bushra al-Fadil as the winner of the £10,000 prize at an award dinner this evening (Monday, 3 July) held for the first time in Senate House, London, in partnership with SOAS as part of their centenary celebrations. As a translated story, the prize money will be split – with £7,000 going to Bushra and £3,000 to the translator, Max Shmookler.
“The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away” vividly describes life in a bustling market through the eyes of the narrator, who becomes entranced by a beautiful woman he sees there one day. After a series of brief encounters, tragedy unexpectedly befalls the woman and her young female companion.
Nii Ayikwei Parkes praised the story, saying, “the winning story is one that explores through metaphor and an altered, inventive mode of perception – including, for the first time in the Caine Prize, illustration – the allure of, and relentless threats to freedom. Rooted in a mix of classical traditions as well as the vernacular contexts of its location, Bushra al-Fadil’s “The Story of the Girl Whose Birds Flew Away”, is at once a very modern exploration of how assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those we would turn to for solace we can became mentally exiled in our own lands, edging in to a fantasy existence where we seek to cling to a sort of freedom until ultimately we slip into physical exile.”
Bushra al-Fadil is a Sudanese writer living in Saudi Arabia. His most recent collection Above a City’s Sky was published in 2012, the same year Bushra won the al-Tayeb Salih Short Story Award. Bushra holds a PhD in Russian language and literature.
Bushra was joined on the 2017 shortlist by:
Lesley Nneka Arimah (Nigeria) for ‘Who Will Greet You At Home’ published in The New Yorker (USA. 2015)
The panel of judges was chaired by Nii Ayikwei Parkes – member of the Caine Prize Council and Director of the Ama Ata Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing at the African University College of Communications in Accra, the first of its kind in West Africa. He is the author of the novel Tail of the Blue Bird (Jonathan Cape, UK. 2009) which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2010.
Alongside Nii on the panel of judges are: Chair of the English Department at Georgetown University, Professor Ricardo Ortiz; Libyan author and human rights campaigner, Ghazi Gheblawi; distinguished African literary scholar, Dr Ranka Primorac; and 2007 Caine Prize winner, Monica Arac de Nyeko.
As in previous years, the winner of the Caine Prize will be given an opportunity to take up residence at Georgetown University at the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice. The winner will also be invited to speak at the Library of Congress. Each shortlisted writer receives £500, and Max Shmookler, translator of Bushra al-Fadil’s shortlisted story (originally written in Arabic) receives £250. The winner is invited to take part in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town, Storymoja in Nairobi and Ake Festival in Abeokuta, Nigeria.
Last year the Caine Prize was won by South African writer Lidudumalingani for his story “Memories We Lost” from Incredible Journey: Stories That Move You (Burnet Media, South Africa. 2015). Lidudumalingani has since gone on to win a Miles Morland Scholarship and is currently writing his debut novel, Let Your Children Name Themselves.
The New Internationalist 2017 anthology, The Goddess of Mtwara and other stories, is now published and it includes all of the shortlisted stories along with 11 other short stories written at the Caine Prize 2017 workshop in Tanzania. You can buy the anthology at https://newint.org/books/fiction/caine-prize-2017/. The anthology is also available from 11 African co-publishers who receive the print ready PDF free of charge.
The Caine Prize, awarded annually for African creative writing, is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years.
The Prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (indicative length 3,000 to 10,000 words). An African writer is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality.
The African winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka and J M Coetzee, are Patrons of The Caine Prize. Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne is President of the Council, Ben Okri OBE is Vice President, Dr Delia Jarrett-Macauley is the Chair, Adam Freudenheim is the Deputy Chairperson and Dr Lizzy Attree is the Director.
This year 148 short stories from writers representing 22 African countries were received and entered into the 2017 Caine Prize before they were whittled down to the final 5. The judges made their final decision on the winner today.
Previous winners are Sudan’s Leila Aboulela (2000), Nigerian Helon Habila (2001), Kenyan Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Kenyan Yvonne Owuor (2003), Zimbabwean Brian Chikwava (2004), Nigerian Segun Afolabi (2005), South African Mary Watson (2006), Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), South African Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), Nigerian EC Osondu (2009), Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Nigerian Tope Folarin (2013), Kenyan Okwiri Oduor (2014), Zambian Namwali Serpell (2015), and South African Lidudumalingani (2016).
The five shortlisted stories, alongside stories written at Caine Prize workshop held in Tanzania in March 2017, are published annually by New Internationalist (UK), Interlink Publishing (USA), Jacana Media (South Africa), LanternBooks (United States), Kwani? (Kenya), Sub-Saharan Publishers (Ghana), FEMRITE (Uganda), ‘amaBooks (Zimbabwe), Mkuki na Nyota (Tanzania), Redsea Cultural Foundation (Somalia and Somaliland), Gadsen Publishers (Zambia), Huza Press (Rwanda), Books are available from the publishers or from the Africa Book Centre, African Books Collective or Amazon.
The Caine Prize is principally supported by The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, The Miles Morland Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation, the Booker Prize Foundation, Sigrid Rausing & Eric Abraham, The Wyfold Charitable Trust, the Royal Over-Seas League and John and Judy Niepold. Other funders and partners include, The British Council, Georgetown University (USA), The Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice, The van Agtmael Family Charitable Fund, Rupert and Clare McCammon, Adam and Victoria Freudenheim, Arindam Bhattacherjee, Phillip Ihenacho and other generous donors.
Special thanks also go to the Centre of African Studies and SOAS, University of London, for supporting this year’s award dinner, held for the first time in London.
The son of a Nigerian farm laborer who rose out of poverty to earn graduate degrees in agricultural economics and spent his career improving the availability of seed, fertilizer and financing for African farmers is the winner of this year’s World Food Prize announced Monday.
Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank, says the future of global food security relies on making farming in Africa a profitable business and developing local food processing that adds value to agricultural products to help move farmers out of poverty.
“I believe that what Africa does with agriculture and how it does it is not only important for Africa but it’s important for how we’re going to feed the world by 2050 because 65 percent of all the uncultivated arable land left in the world is in Africa,” he said. “To help Africa get it right in agriculture is also going to be a key part of securing food for the world.”
World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, said those goals are one reason the organization’s board chose Adesina this year for the $250,000 prize.
An official announcement for the World Food Prize came in a ceremony Monday at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue hosting the event. Adesina, 57, works in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where the African Development Bank is based. He will receive the prize in a ceremony Oct. 19 at the Iowa Capitol.
“Dr. Adesina knows that our work is not done. The challenge of feeding 9 billion people in just a short time will continue as we address the hunger issue,” Perdue said. “At USDA we keep that in mind as the world population grows and we want to be a huge contributor in providing the food needed to resolve and to supply the global demand for that vital noble resource.”
The World Food Prize was created by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug in 1986 to recognize scientists and others who have improved the quality and availability of food. The foundation that awards the prize is based in Des Moines, Iowa.
The award recognizes several of Adesina’s accomplishments including:
—Negotiating a partnership between commercial banks and development organizations to provide loans to tens of thousands of farmers and agribusinesses in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Mozambique.
— Creating programs to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production and to help cassava become a major cash crop while serving as Nigeria’s minister of agriculture from 2011 to 2015.
—Helping to end more than 40 years of corruption in the fertilizer and seed sectors in Nigeria by launching an electronic wallet system that directly provides farmers with vouchers redeemable for inputs using mobile phones. The resulting increased farm yields have led to the improvement of food security for 40 million people in rural farm households.
Adesina said it’s vitally important to show young people in rural regions of Africa that farming can be profitable and can improve their lives as a way to stem terrorist recruitment efforts. He said high unemployment among young people, high or extreme poverty, and climate and environmental degradation all contribute to conditions in which terrorists thrive. He said these factors make up “the disaster triangle.”
“Anywhere you find those you find terrorists operating. It never fails,” he said.
Adesina grew up in poverty in a rural area of Nigeria and said his father and grandfather walked fields as laborers. After his father was chosen for a government job, Adesina was able to go to college. He earned agriculture economics degrees — both a master’s and a doctorate — from Purdue University in Indiana.
As a student, he said he saw that classmates were able to attend school when agriculture afforded them the opportunity, but they dropped out when it didn’t. He said from that experience he learned making agriculture profitable so families can provide their children with an education was a key to breaking the cycle of poverty.
He said he often thinks of the hundreds of millions of young, rural African people whose opportunities are limited because of what is happening with agriculture.
“So in a way for me this is not a job,” Adesina said. “This is a mission. And I believe that in getting agriculture to be a business — turning our rural areas from zones of economic misery to zones of economic opportunity — therein lies the future of Africa’s youth, especially those rural youths.”