Many postcolonial regimes are still mired in protracted civil wars and violence, struggling economies, corruption, bad leadership, broken social and economic infrastructure and famine. It is rather dishonest for a country whose main university could be closed for months by presidential decree, whose professors strike year in year out over emoluments, to complain about an overwhelming European or American presence in their studies.
Obama’s Legacy to Africa: Electricity
January 21, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Salem Solomon*
Recent U.S. presidents have tried to leave a legacy in Africa in the form of a signature policy achievement.
For Bill Clinton it was the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that opened U.S. markets to certain African exports. For George W. Bush it was the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that poured billions of dollars into AIDS research and treatment.
Barack Obama decided the thing most holding back African development was access to electricity.
“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” he said in a speech in Cape Town in 2013. “It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”
Fueled by a $7 billion U.S. investment, the Power Africa initiative aims to add more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity and 60 million new electric connections for the continent’s homes and businesses.
The project, which relies heavily on the private sector, is one of several reasons observers believe Obama has helped change the narrative on Africa.
From aid to trade
“His biggest single legacy has been, I think, to move the debate and focus on Africa away from aid to more about trade. That has been particularly his focus during the second term,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at London-based Chatham House. “Looking at the continent of Africa more as a continent of opportunities rather than of humanitarianism, terrorism and disaster.”
The Obama administration also sought to build relationships with the next generation of African leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative and with current heads of state by holding the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, a first of its kind event that drew 50 African leaders to Washington.
The United States continues to far outpace the rest of the world in terms of traditional aid to Africa. It pays nearly $9 billion per year in development aid to the continent. Britain, the next biggest donor, pays just more than $3 billion per year.
But even in the arena of traditional aid, Obama took an approach that offered a hand up instead of a hand out. For example, the Feed the Future initiative launched in 2010 veers away from traditional food aid by assisting farmers with locally adapted technologies and helping to avoid price shocks.
“This is a really important dynamic and finally it takes the U.S. away from the more traditional donor-recipient relationship that really defined the post-Cold War era to one where the U.S. is seeking mutual benefit with African governments and others on the continent,” said Witney Schneidman, senior international adviser for Africa at Covington & Burling LLP and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Future under Trump
As with many things, President-elect Donald Trump’s views on aid to Africa are complicated. As a candidate in the Republican primaries, one of Trump’s applause lines was a pledge to “stop sending aid money to countries that hate us.”
But during an April 2016 speech on foreign policy he appeared to embrace the U.S. role as a donor saying, “We are a humanitarian nation.”
Observers have speculated that, because of the isolationist thrust of his worldview, Trump is likely to be less interested in aiding Africa than his predecessors.
But others feel that there will not be a major break with Obama’s policies there.
“Some [programs] will fall away, I suppose, under the new incoming Trump administration when it’s in place, others will continue,” Vines said. “My own reading is I don’t think there would be a massive difference between an Obama administration in how it looks at particularly sub-Saharan Africa and the Trump administration and how it looks at sub-Saharan Africa.”
Finally, don’t rule out a major shift in Trump’s perception of Africa. Schneidman pointed out that presidents Clinton and Bush came to the Oval Office with virtually no experience in Africa, but left positive legacies.
“We just don’t know what a president Trump will do on the continent,” Schneidman said. “I think we have to approach it with an open mind, and I think we have to put forward a number of ideas where he could carve out his own legacy.”
The Gambia crisis: Yahya Jammeh says he will step down
January 21, 2017 | 0 Comments
The Gambia’s long-term leader Yahya Jammeh says he will step down, after refusing to accept defeat in elections.
In an announcement on state TV, he said it was “not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed”.
The statement followed hours of talks between Mr Jammeh and West African mediators. He gave no details of what deal might have been struck.
Mr Jammeh has led the country for 22 years but was defeated in December’s election by Adama Barrow.
Mr Barrow has been in neighbouring Senegal for days and was inaugurated as president in the Gambian embassy there on Thursday.
Troops from several West African nations, including Senegal, have been deployed in The Gambia, threatening to drive Mr Jammeh out of office if he did not agree to go.
Mr Jammeh’s decision to quit came after talks with the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania.
“I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians,” he said.
“I promise before Allah and the entire nation that all the issues we currently face will be resolved peacefully.”
Shortly before the TV address, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said that a deal had been struck and that Mr Jammeh would leave the country. He gave no further details.
Discours d'adieu de Yahya Jammeh.
Posted by Mohamadou Houmfa on Friday, January 20, 2017
Mr Jammeh was given an ultimatum to leave office or be forced out by UN-backed troops, which expired at 16:00 GMT on Friday.
The deadline was set by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a regional grouping backed by the United Nations.
The first signs of a breakthrough came on Friday when a senior aide to the new president told the BBC’s Umaru Fofana that Mr Jammeh had agreed to step down.
Mr Jammeh had at first accepted defeat in the election but then reversed his position and said he would not step down.
He declared a 90-day state of emergency, blaming irregularities in the electoral process.
The electoral commission accepted that some of its early results had contained errors but said they would not have affected Mr Barrow’s win.
Mr Jammeh had vowed to stay in office until new elections were held.
The Gambia’s president declares state of emergency
January 18, 2017 | 0 Comments
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has declared a 90-day state of emergency a day before his official mandate ends.
He decried “extraordinary” foreign interference in his country’s affairs and December’s election.
Regional leaders have been unsuccessfully trying to persuade Mr Jammeh to hand over power to Adama Barrow, who won the polls.
The move comes after Nigeria deployed a warship to put further pressure on Mr Jammeh to step down.
Regional bloc Ecowas, the Economic Community of West African States, has prepared a Senegal-led force but maintains that military intervention would be a last resort.
In his televised announcement, Mr Jammeh said “any acts of disobedience to the laws The Gambia, incitement of violence and acts intended to disturb public order and peace” are banned under the state of emergency.
He said security forces were instructed to “maintain absolute peace, law and order”.
Earlier, the National Assembly passed a motion condemning what it called the “unlawful and malicious interference” of the African Union and the country’s neighbour, Senegal, in The Gambia’s affairs.
Mr Barrow, a property developer, is meant to be inaugurated as the new president on Thursday. His spokesperson expressed shock and sadness at the declaration, says the BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Banjul, the capital.
It is remains unclear if a curfew is being imposed, our correspondent says.
Mr Jammeh initially accepted the election results but then decided he wanted them annulled after the electoral commission admitted some errors, although it insists this did not affect the final outcome.
The Supreme Court is unable to hear the challenge until May because of a shortage of judges, and Mr Jammeh has said he will not step down until then.
At least three Gambian ministers, including the foreign minister, have resigned in recent days. Thousands of Gambians have also fled to Senegal, and further afield to Guinea-Bissau, amid fears of violence.
BBC Africa security correspondent Tomi Oladipo says the Nigerian warship is being deployed to put on a show of strength rather than to launch an attack.
A military source says that the vessel – the NNS Unity – is currently sailing off the coast of Ghana.
Senegal is leading Ecowas’ standby regional force and is also preparing its ground troops ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
The Gambia’s small army is not expected to put up a fight in the event of an intervention, but even if it did, its forces would be quickly overrun, our security correspondent says.
In the December polls, Mr Barrow won 43.3% of the vote compared with Mr Jammeh’s 39.6%. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, got 17.1%.
Yahya Jammeh seized power in the tiny West African country in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.
The African Union has said it will no longer recognise Mr Jammeh’s authority after his term ends. Mr Barrow is currently in Senegal.
Mourning president-elect’s son after dog attack
There has been an outpouring of grief over the death of Mr Barrow’s eight-year-old son – and many Gambians on social media have been changing their profile photos to his image to show their sympathy.
Habibu Barrow died in hospital after being bitten by a dog on Sunday at his aunt’s house in Fajara, a coastal resort near Banjul. He was mauled by the dog and sustained a head injury.
Many residences in Fajara, an upmarket area, have security dogs to ward off intruders.
Mr Barrow was unable to attend Monday’s funeral as he intends to remain in neighbouring Senegal until his return on Thursday for his swearing-in. But his second wife Sarjo, Habibu’s mother, was there along with her two other children.
Since Mr Jammeh announced he was contesting the vote on 9 December, Mr Barrow, a devout Muslim with two wives, moved his children to stay with relatives for safety.
West African states prepare to invade Gambia to force Yahya Jammeh to hand power to president-elect Adama Barrow
January 16, 2017 | 0 Comments
Thousands of people have begun fleeing Gambia amid growing signs that West African states could invade the former British colony within days.
Regional leaders have signalled their determination to mount a rare African defence of democratic principle by using force to ensure that Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s president of 22 years, gives up power following his defeat in an election last month.
Nigeria has reportedly asked British military advisers to assist in planning a “rapid reaction” military incursion into Gambia in order to install Adama Barrow, the election’s surprise winner, as the country’s new president.
Mr Barrow, a former real estate agent who briefly worked as a security guard at an Argos catalogue store while studying in London, was supposed to have been sworn in on Thursday — but Mr Jammeh, having initially conceded defeat, later reversed course and is refusing to stand down.
Mr Barrow left Gambia for neighbouring Senegal at the weekend at the advice of regional leaders, and will not return home until his inauguration until Thursday – perhaps under the escort of West African troops.
The president-elect’s inauguration plans were struck by tragedy after his son Habibu, who was eight, died on the way to hospital on Sunday after being bitten by a dog the previous evening near the capital Banjul, according to the BBC and postings by Gambians on Twitter.
Mr Barrow was unable to return for his son’s funeral, which took place almost immediately, as required by Islamic rite. Pictures posted on Twitter showed what appeared to be Habibu’s casket, covered in a black cotton shroud, being carried through a grove by mourners.
Habibu Barrow is survived by four siblings.
With time for a diplomatic solution rapidly running out leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-state regional bloc, have authorised a military response that has the unofficial blessing of the United Nations Security Council.
Although the proposed mission is likely to be headed by Senegal, Nigerian troops are likely to make up the bulk of the force. The Nigerian government last week authorised generals to mobilise an 800-strong battalion to spearhead the mission.
In a sign of its dwindling diplomatic clout among its former African colonies, Britain has played little role so far in the crisis. Instead, Francois Hollande, the French president, took advantage of Britain’s diminished ambitions to meet with Mr Barrow over the weekend.
However, British officers training the Nigerian army in counter-terrorism operations against the Islamist Boko Haram group have been asked to give logistical and planning support to the mission, regional officials say. It is unclear if the request has been granted.
It is hoped that a military operation could be fairly swift. Mr Jammeh’s army has just 900 soldiers, some of whom were seen partying in the streets after he lost the election.
“I dare to hope that African wisdom will convince our brother [to] understand the greater good for the Gambia, which does not need a bloodbath,” said Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the president of Mali.
But Mr Jammeh, seen by critics as a serial human-rights abuser who once vowed to “rule for a billion years with the help of Allah”, has shrugged off the calls. He has instead shut independent radio stations, arrested activists and sent soldiers to storm the electoral commission.
Fearing just such a bloodbath, hundreds of people have begun thronging ferry terminals on the River Gambia every day hoping for safe passage into Senegal. The United Nations refugee agency says it is assessing the situation.
Gambia President-elect Barrow ‘to stay in Senegal until inauguration’
January 16, 2017 | 0 Comments
The Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow is to remain in Senegal until his planned inauguration on Thursday, state media in Senegal say.
The move was requested by West African leaders after a summit in Mali, Senegalese news agency APS said.
President Yahya Jammeh is currently refusing to step down until the supreme court can hear his challenge in May.
Regional bloc Ecowas wants the UN to approve military action if Mr Barrow’s inauguration is blocked.
On Saturday leaders repeated their calls for Mr Jammeh – who initially accepted the result – to go voluntarily at an Africa-France summit in Bamako.
Mali’s president Ibrahim Keita called for “proverbial African wisdom” to prevail to avert a bloodbath and there are growing fears that the uncertainty could cause a refugee exodus.
Thousands of Gambians, mostly women and children, have already crossed the border into neighbouring Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau, where they do not require a visa, officials say.
Mr Barrow, who beat Mr Jammeh in last month’s election, was at the Bamako summit and was referred to as the president.
Last week Nigeria’s president flew to the Gambian capital Banjul to try to broker a deal but Mr Jammeh would not relinquish power.
Mr Jammeh’s attempt to overturn the election result has been delayed because of a shortage of judges but his legal team has asked for an injunction to block Mr Barrow’s inauguration.
The African Union has said it will no longer recognise Mr Jammeh’s rule after his term ends.
The 51-year-old leader seized power in the country in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.
Gambia: Exclusive – Nigeria Raises Troops for Gambia, Ready to Remove Yahya Jammeh
January 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Musikilu Mojeed*
The Nigerian Army has raised an army battalion that would be deployed in troubled Gambia to forcefully remove President Yahya Jammeh from power if he fails to step down on January 19, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.
The battalion, christened ECOMOG NIBATT 1, was drawn from the Army’s 19th Battalion based in Okitipupa, Ondo State, military insiders have told PREMIUM TIMES.
Personnel were also drawn from other formations and units across the country due to shortage of men at 19 Battalion which has a significant chunk of its troops deployed for internal security task force, Operation Delta Safe.
This newspaper learnt that the Army Headquarters has instructed the nominated officers and men, put at over 800, to immediately report at the Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji, for a crashed course on counter terrorism and counter insurgency.
Our sources said Army Headquarters has also instructed the Army directorates of policy and plans; finance; and logistics to ready funds, arms, ammunition and other logistics for the operation.
The Armoured Corps is also working hard to ready armoured vehicles needed for the task, officials said.
There were suggestions by some of our sources that the Nigerian Air Force and the Navy might deploy men and equipment for the operation as well.
Top military officers said the Nigerian Battalion would be deployed in The Gambia anytime after January 19 if President Jammeh makes real his threat not to step down after the expiration of his tenure.
“This is an emergency operation, but we are ready,” one officer said. “The Nigerian Army is a strong, professional fighting force battle ready at anytime. We are so well structured that we can deploy at the touch of a button.
“We did it in Liberian, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. And Jammeh should know that we are not a joking force. Once we get the all clear from ECOWAS, the AU and the UN to move in, we can pick him up.”
The regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had on December 23 put standby military forces on alert.
On Thursday, Mr. Jammeh said he would not step down before a Supreme Court decision on the disputed election, the BBC reported.
The President, the report said, insisted his cabinet and the National Assembly would remain in place until the Supreme Court rules on his party’s petition.
There is currently shortage of judges in the country to sit on the matter.
The case can only be heard in May if Nigeria agrees to supply judges to the Supreme Court.
West African leaders, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, the chief mediator, are travelling to Gambia on Friday to persuade Mr. Jammeh to accept an “honourable exit plan”.
Other West African countries will be mandated to provide troops as well, Mr. De Souza reportedly said.
Mr. Jammeh lost the December 1 2016 Gambia presidential election to opposition candidate, Adama Barrow.
He initially accepted defeat and congratulated Mr. Barrow but changed his mind and decided to challenge the outcome of the election.
He also vowed not to hand over to the winner as expected on January 19.
US Boosts ECOWAS Early Warning Mechanism with ITC Equipment
January 13, 2017 | 0 Comments
IN line with the ECOWAS and United States Government’s partnership to promote peace and security within the region, the U.S government has handed over a consignment of Information Technology and Communication, ITC, equipment which will bolster the Commission’s Early Warning mechanism.
In a brief handover ceremony on 11th January 2017, Abuja, Nigeria, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Halima Ahmed stated that this gesture will enable the Early Warning Directorate achieve its objectives and mandate.
‘This equipment will enhance the capacity and coordination of National Early Warning and Response Centres in Member States, as well as the collation of relevant data within the Community’, She said.
The Commissioner, used the opportunity to express the gratitude of ECOWAS to the United States government and emphasized the need for the U.S to continue its support for the Commission in this regard.
Derell Kennedo, political officer (Embassy of the U.S-Nigeria) representing the United States Government during the handing over ceremony, expressed the U.S interest in peace and security within the region. He stated that, the peace and stability in West Africa would not only benefit ECOWAS citizens but also the U.S.
Two vehicles were also presented to the ECOWAS Early Warning Directorate during the handover ceremony.
In attendance of the ceremony were the ECOWAS Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Allieu Sesay, Director for Early Warning, Dr. Abdou Lat Gueye, the Director for Political Affairs, Dr.Remi Ajibewa and the Director for Peace-Keeping and Regional Security, Dr. Cyriaque Agnekethom.
Can Trump Save Africa and the African Diaspora After the Mixed Legacy of Obama?
January 9, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Dr. Roland Holou*
It is hard to address the perspectives on Africa at the beginning of 2017 without mentioning the Chinese influence in Africa and the impact of the election of President Donald Trump on the legacy of President Barack Obama, the first African American to be elected as President of the USA. When President Obama was elected in 2008, several people thought he would be the savior of Africa and its Diaspora. However, the feelings towards his legacy are diverse.
President Obama might have done what he could to strengthen democracy and boost economic growth in Africa for instance by extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) while investing in the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). By organizing the very first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, he helped the US to revisit its strategy for Africa. Soon after Obama leaves office, some of his legacies in the USA (e.g. Obamacare, “immigration reform”, Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increase, overtime benefits, paid pregnancy and sick leave, civil rights enforcement, criminal justice reforms, progressive tax reforms, tax credits for low-income people, etc.), may be brought down or replaced by something else.
Although several people of African descent including some top civil rights movement leaders are disappointed by the legacy of Mr. Obama, it is worth noticing that he was sandwiched not only between some spiritual and racial strongholds, but also between the strategic forces that brought him to power and the tactical opposition he had to deal with once he managed to enter the White House, which was built by enslaved Africans whose descendants are still struggling in the Americas.
The Africans and their stakeholders must reflect on Mr. Obama’s “inability” to do the things that they once thought he could. Unfortunately, many people cannot or do not want to understand that, to some extent, the power of an American President like Mr. Obama is not as strong as that of some Presidents who can even choose to stay in power even if the result of the presidential vote says otherwise. The timing of the presidency of Obama might have also affected his performance as he inherited the worst economic crisis in the USA since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Yet, as he was preparing to leave office, the statistics showed that the US economy is stronger than when he took office. We need to acknowledge Obama for his efforts regardless of his weaknesses, and also thank God for having allowed an African descent to lead the “world’s #1 nation” for 8 years.
Many Africans would have loved that Mrs. Hillary Clinton be elected as the President of the USA in 2016. However, although she won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots, the Electoral College favored Mr. Trump. Several people of African descent did not come out to vote for Hillary as they did for Obama, therefore playing a role in the election of Trump who, during his “thank you tour”, acknowledged the African Americans for staying home during the election! The election of Mr. Trump could also be a divine set up that fits the end time as it was prophesied by the renowned Malawian Prophet Shepherd Bushiri (Major1), one of the most successful businessmen and ministers in the world.
Unlike Mr. Obama whose election brought hope to Africa and its Diaspora before they realized 8 years later that, one man at the White House cannot save them, the election of Mr. Trump seems to bring fear on some people as if Trump can sink Africa while trying to “Make America Great Again” as emphasized during his revolutionary campaign. Analyzing Mr. Trump’s campaign and the people he is choosing to fill his cabinet positions, it may sound at first glimpse that his policies may not favor the people of African descent. For instance, some people think that Mr. Trump may reduce or redesign US aid towards Africa. However, this should not scare anyone. For example, although not a descendant of Africa, President George W. Bush did a lot of great things for Africa and some well-known African leaders still believe that he helped Africa more than Mr. Obama whose father was from Kenya.
Moreover, although foreign aid benefits some Africans, Africa is not supposed to be living on certain foreign “aid” which usually are strategic loans with high interest that are typically undetectable by the profane. Instead of counting on these “aids”, Africa should be seeking better opportunities that can allow it to put its own people to work and better manage its priceless human and natural resources that some people are still poaching for free. Therefore, let’s hope that, as a businessman who can negotiate deals, Mr. Trump ends up crafting some great agreements that can contribute to the ongoing efforts to advance Africa and its Diaspora.
Despite these controversial realities, there is hope for Africa and the African Diaspora if they can understand that their “salvation” will not come from any government in the East or West, but from themselves with the help of God Almighty, who did not predestinate Africa to be the headquarter of poverty despite its rich lands and smart intellectuals. That is why I still believe that the Africans must better partner with each other without forgetting the huge untapped potential of the African Diaspora that some leaders unfortunately refuse to realistically incorporate into their strategic agendas. Instead of putting their hope on people who usually disillusion them, the Africans need to keep up all good fights while counting on God to develop themselves and the motherland. As for the unspoken racial discrimination and the other forms of injustice, let’s not forget that, there is a God who will judge very soon!
*Dr. Roland Holou is a scientist, a businessman, an international consultant and expert in agribusiness, agriculture, agronomy, biotechnology, Diaspora engagement, Africa’s development, international trade and development. To learn more about his work or contact him, please visit www.DiasporaEngager.com, www.AfricanDiasporaLeaders.com and www.RolandHolou.com
ECOWAS holds off on troop deployment to The Gambia
January 8, 2017 | 0 Comments
West Africa leaders not ready to send soldiers as they negotiate with outgoing President Jammeh to relinquish power.West African leaders are still pursuing mediation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia where President Yahya Jammeh refused to accept defeat in an election last month.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told reporters on Saturday after a meeting among regional leaders in Ghana’s capital Accra that regional bloc ECOWAS did not yet intend to deploy its standby military force in the country.
“We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia. We will continue to pursue that for now,” said Sirleaf who chairs the 15-member body.
Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said “no”, adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in The Gambia’s Supreme Court where Jammeh is challenging the poll result.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said ECOWAS would hold a meeting on Monday in Abuja to discuss further steps.
“There are some disturbing information the [Nigerian] president [Muhammadu Buhari] is hearing which he needs to verify and the Abuja meeting will take a final decision,” he said, without elaborating.
Buhari has been appointed by ECOWAS as a mediator.
Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled the country for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the December 1 election. But a week later he reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.
Diplomats are concerned the impasse over the poll could escalate quickly into violence.
Africa: International Media and Human Rights Organisations Stole the Gambia Election
January 2, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Lonzen Rugira*
President Yahya Jammeh, in his New Year’s message to the Gambian people, persisted in his rejection of last month’s election outcome, which he says was tampered with.
On this basis, he quickly rescinded his concession to Adama Barrow, the coalition candidate. He has petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the election null and to demand for a fresh vote; meanwhile, he has declared that he will stay in office in order to ‘defend the constitution.’
But was it the election that was tampered with or was it Jammeh himself? Jammeh’s mistake thus far is to pretend that the reason for his rescission is the former.
He ought to have come clean that it was the latter that had forced his change of heart.
It was all perplexing. For some reason, folks in the leadership of the political opposition thought it was wise to bloviate to the international media about their plans for the president, a man who had just conceded defeat: there would be no immunity; they’d return to the ICC; they’d seize Jammeh’s assets and prevent him from traveling abroad; and they’d prosecute him in less than a year and possibly within the next three months because they wanted to “move fast,” a senior official was quoted saying.
They’d even go as far as bragging that Jammeh had tried to reach out to Barrow but the latter had denied him access. They feared that Jammeh was too cunning that if given an audience he would manage to win himself a deal that would exchange immunity for leaving power: “The President-Elect has refused because his predecessor is so unpredictable,” a senior member of the opposition coalition is quoted telling the Guardian news organisation, before boasting, “There’s no question of immunity.”
Similar stories were published in the aftermath of the election. There were all kinds of “inside reporting” that painted a picture of a besieged Jammeh. In one of the stories, the reporter was certain about the events that transpired on election night.
She wrote how the chiefs of police and army had gone to meet with Jammeh and that they had urged him to ‘prepare for defeat.’ They told him, she said, that he was on his own because ‘the people had spoken.’
He could not count on their support henceforth. Whether such reporting intends to convince that one, Jammeh in this case, is at once a brutal dictator as well as someone who welcomes threats from his subordinates is left hanging.
In her reportage, she even managed to solicit quotes from senior opposition politicians – the government in waiting – who were eager to play along. They are caricatured and they caricature themselves along the way.
I, like most people observing the train-wreck, waited for the voice of reason from the opposition to deny any association with such ‘inside reporting’ and to provide the requisite reassurance.
Where are African scholars in African studies?
December 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
By Yusuf Serunkuma*
A white European friend tells a story of a panel on ‘African sexuality’ he attended in London sometime in 2005. Among other things, the panel discussed intimacy, sexual pleasure, anal sex, marital rape and genital beautification or mutilation—all from what was considered the vantage point of the African. Not only was the panel exclusively white, a large section of the audience was also white. With whiteness symbolically read as being European or North American, it translated not only into foreignness to the topics being discussed, but also privileged grandchildren of colonial masters gazing at Africans. Where were the African academics, at least, marked by their shiny dark or brown skins? Were they invited but failed to get transport? Did these European and North Americans really understand, and accurately and objectively bring out the intricate and many secret details of ‘African sexuality’? These questions sparked off a long-winded conversation, which, despite its liveliness, left one key question unanswered: Where were the African scholars?
With the exception of a few celebrity names—who actually make quite a list—African studies remain dominated, discursively and institutionally, by non-African scholars: African studies associations are not only headquartered in European and North American universities, but also hold their annual conferences in Europe and North America. During these conferences, it is very common to find specific country caucuses (Ugandan, Kenyan, Nigerian or Somali) with majority scholars of European and North American descent. Part of the explanation for this is that African scholars cannot afford to travel to Europe and North America for these sessions. Location may not necessarily be the issue, but the numerical superiority of whiteness in these plenaries (and in publications) has been concern for many non-white academics and their students as they grumble under their breath bemoaning the continued colonization, marginalization and scholarly misrepresentation.
It is also true that ‘leading journals’ in African studies are not only headquartered in Europe and North America, but many are mostly edited by European and American academics. Many times, the contributions to these journals reproduce similar patterns. On the other hand, there are only a few African studies associations or journals on Africa, based on the African continent, managed, contributed to and edited by African hands. The problem is then framed with whiteness being not just a timeless symbolism of continued colonial domination and marginalization of Africans, but also of biased, unrepresentative, inaccurate, and epistemologically flawed scholarship.
Our conversation unfolded against the above backdrop, with the bells of decolonization and the rise of the “African intellectual” ringing nearby. As a self-reflective white male, he was visibly guilty of their continued ‘crimes’ to African studies but did not see a clear exit. Should he back off and let African studies to Africans, or start co-authoring all his pieces with ‘African’ co-authors? Exactly, in the age of decolonization and the rise of the African university, why do white people, these grandchildren of colonial masters, continue to speak for, write about formerly colonized peoples to the point of dominating disciplines? This often translates into defining the terms of the discipline, which are often, the charge goes, Eurocentric. Why don’t they let the Africans write, represent and speak for and about themselves especially on ‘inner’ subjects such as sexuality? Why don’t white folks sit back and listen and learn? How accurate is this knowledge produced by foreigners about people they barely know? In other words, why don’t they heed Spivak?
There are three assumptions behind these charges: First, there exists a world stage of ‘competitive scholarship’ where continents, countries, nationalities, special groups such as women and ‘minorities’ seek not only accurate representation, but also equal participation. Accurate representation and active participation are taken as not only signifying but also granting access to power (respect, resources, pride etc.), which is the envy of the world. It then follows that inaccurate representation, and the absence of participation translates into, symbolically and practically, denial of power and substantive existence, as colonialism defined.
Secondly, presence and participation guarantees not just a leveled playing field, but also objective scholarship, that is, neutral, representative or even accurate. The ‘native’ has to be listened to, since nobody understands them like themselves. Without seeming to essentialize nativity or indigeneity, it is agreeable that there is a certain sensibility, an awareness that comes with belonging, and inhabiting the particular space under study.
The third assumption is that white scholars have actively sidelined African scholars just the way their grandparents who colonized the continent did. In other words, just like their grandparents, white scholars still patronize the native to speak about themselves. An equal presence of Africans in intellectual spaces, with perhaps equal power and learning, will not only point in the direction of complete liberation but also acknowledgement of the African as a free and thinking subject.
Although we should be sympathetic to this tone of conversation, it is my contention that it is improperly framed in ways that are not only ahistorical and essentialist, but also dishonest to current social-political conditions of the African peoples. The invisibility of the ‘African academic’ in African studies is undeniable. However, to demand grandchildren of former colonial masters to leave African studies to African academics—as a way of decolonizing African studies, or ensuring accurate and objective representation is misleading.
Secondly, even to demand equal participation, say through ‘affirmative inclusion’ does not sound like decolonizing the academy. It is actually one way of re-affirming an insubordinate position. The one with the power to invite and recruit does have power to define the terrain of the debate. Instead of asking how to decolonize the academy through more ‘African participation,’ my argument seeks to point to the challenges of representation, and the problem with seeking presence of ‘African scholars in African studies.’ This is not to argue that the concern over the absence is completely misplaced, rather my intention is to reframe the ways in which we approach and think about scholars, and their subjects in our so-called ‘African studies.’ My overall aim is to draw our attention to the history of the present, and how our intellectual history cannot be divorced from the political and economic histories of the present.
Let’s start from the beginning: The category, ‘African’ often remains problematic. Despite the attractiveness of claiming and theorizing the ‘African worldview,’ and ‘African identity,’ (Soyinka 1975, Mbembe 2002) African, as an analytical category (besides its political—as used in international relations—and geographical reference), is vague and difficult. I have never understood ‘African’ in African studies, African literature, African philosophy or African culture. It is not just that African cannot be homogenous, but also ‘African’ cannot be exclusive of other traditions—new and old. Indeed, one of the most eloquent critiques against Mazrui’s (2005) notion of Africa having triple heritage is that he reduced the African heritage to just three (perhaps painfully closing out Chinese and Indian influences whose presence remains most visible in our times). By being open to other traditions and changing in time and space, often in individually stylized forms (Mbembe 2002) sufficiently denies it conceptual and analytical crust. In the age of capitalist expansion, Ahmed Aijaz (1992) argues, the world has become more connected through production and consumption and the opposition of the 99% to the excesses of capital. What then constitutes ‘African’ both as an identity and an analytical category? What are these identities outside geography and the politics of international relations? What is the ‘first intelligibility’ of Africanness? Even in its smaller denominations—Ugandan, Nigerian or Kenyan—it does not make conceptual sense.
Secondly, indigeneity never translates into ‘authentic’ scholarship. Although it is true that inhabiting and belonging accords a certain awareness and sensitivity, it does not follow that to be is to know. Neither does it follow that the outsider is infinitely locked out of these locational and membership acquired knowledge systems and experiences. Claims that Ugandans, Kenyans or women are the best suited to write about their realities have only gained currency with the rise of “bad scholarship,” especially with the decline of philological engagement (Said, 2003). Said’s critique in Orientalism was meant to question bad scholarship, unmasking both the eyes with which (especially European) scholars read the Other, and the politico-economic projects that, sometimes inadvertently, informed their scholarship. Re-introducing his project in 2003, Said advocated a robust process of academic inquiry, which required ‘a profound humanistic spirit deployed with generosity and…hospitality’ where ‘the interpreter’s mind actively makes a place in it for a foreign Other’ (Said, 2003: xix). Said stressed the idea of making space for the foreign other as the most important process of good scholarship. This process, he argued, entailed ‘knowledge of other peoples and other times that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study, and analysis for their own sakes’ (ibid). Here, scholarship becomes an entire body and soul immersion of the scholar. The scholar seeks to become like the community they study. They “deeply” live with, and learn the language and “cultures” of the people under study. Put differently, they become “naturalized” members. The scholar tries as they possibly could to understand the community on its internal logics. Following this schema, knowledge, with all its trappings of power, remains an active process of cultivation and learning, not just experience and belonging. Even language, which is believed to come more naturally to man, comes with conscious learning, not simply birth or location.
Third, the notion of ‘objectivity’ often pitched in this context to mean truthful, accurate, neutral, representative scholarship is one claim that is good for absolutely nothing. Without mixing this up with demands for rigor, all scholarship is biased depending on the questions and vantage point of the author (Foucault 1975, Usman 2006; Khaldun 1967). This is not to argue that the search for facts is a meaningless exercise. Instead, this suggests that facts do not interpret themselves. Indeed, there is neither a singular interpretation nor a singular internal logic. The exercise of interpretation is nothing but a subjective engagement—wound around questions, politics, and different forms of violence. It is the moment. Indeed, all sources, disciplines and the conclusions reached are often political in the sense that they are intended to respond to the present.
If the above grounds are agreeable, that is, abundance or demand for philological scholarship on African subjects by non-African scholars, and the absolute unimportance of any quests for objectivity, why then does the question of ‘African scholars in the African studies’ persist? Without seeking to dismiss the question entirely, we need to establish the intellectual project behind it. Is it objective scholarship? Total liberation? Equality? Despite being widely articulated as a concern for total liberation and breaking with the yoke of domination and marginalization, my contention is that neither of the above explains the persistence of this question, except the “catharsis of visibility:” A symbolism of access to power (resources, pride and respect) on the global academic stage, Africans long numerical presence to be seen as owning their scholarship. However, we can define “African” only in geographic and diplomatic terms (citizenship), which also do not allow us analytical and conceptual depth in the context of the present. If defined as men and women born, raised and educated on the African continent or with African ancestry and with visible identifiable features especially black or brown skin, this will be good but for absolutely nothing. Firstly, it is half analysis since it does not contextualize the general absence of Africans (scholars, power centers, footballers, technicians, inventors, medicine) in all “competitive” global spaces. Secondly, it is not interested in assessing the quality of production focusing entirely on who produces what. Third, it seeks to treat scholarship as an exclusive terrain operating outside politics and economics.
Besides any racist undertones it mobilizes on the part of the African, whiteness remains a symbolically powerful synecdoche for colonial marginalization and domination in all things African. My point is that we need to frame our reflex to this history differently, in ways that seek to appreciate and embrace it rather than angrily bash it to the point of asking present European and American scholars to apologize for it. The critique against the absence of African scholars is often pitched in the language of complete decolonization of the academy, as a search for African knowledge traditions, and full (sometimes, exclusive) participation of African peoples. This is a vanity endeavor. This approach actually dissociates scholarship from the politics of the present—the present inherited from different moments in history. To put it differently, claims for ‘total liberation’ of formerly colonized places remain only but essentialist. David Scott insightfully reminds us that the language of total liberation problematically suggests a story of romantic overcoming where ‘our pasts can be left behind and new futures leapt into (Scott, 2004: 135).’ Scott urges that formerly colonized peoples ought to see their history as a story of tragedy which demands ‘a more respectful attitude to the past, to the often-cruel permanence of its impress (ibid).’ Rather than angry resentment, this history ought to be respected acknowledging that the terrain in which scholarship (and many other fields) is engaged on the world stage was radically reordered by history (colonialism, structural adjustment etc.) both epistemologically and numerically.
At the same time, it is helpful to be mindful of the present challenges of the postcolonial state and how these do not only affect scholarship in formerly colonized places, but other aspects of life. Many postcolonial regimes are still mired in protracted civil wars and violence, struggling economies, corruption, bad leadership, broken social and economic infrastructure and famine. It is rather dishonest for a country whose main university could be closed for months by presidential decree, whose professors strike year in year out over emoluments, to complain of an overwhelming European or American presence in their studies. Such countries produce more raw materials for scholarship (for foreign scholars) than scholars. It does not matter whether these conditions are a legacy of colonialism (Mamdani 1996; Rodney 1972, dependency theorists) or the present political elite is responsible for them (Cooper 2007). As long as this remains the condition on the continent, in addition to an irredeemably reordered scholarly terrain, ‘African’ scholars, at the level of numbers, will remain invisible in African studies.
* Pambazuka.Yusuf Serunkuma Kajura is a PhD Fellow, Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), Makerere University.
West African States Threaten Military Action in Gambia
December 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
West Africa’s regional bloc has threatened to use force in Gambia if the country’s longtime leader does not step down in January as scheduled, following his loss in presidential elections.
The chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Marcel de Souza, told reporters Friday that the bloc has a standby force.
“The deadline is January 19, when the mandate of [President Yahya] Jammeh expires,” de Souza said. “If he doesn’t go, we have a standby force, which is already on alert.” He said the force should be able to intervene “to restore the will of the people.”
De Souza said ECOWAS had chosen Senegal to lead any military operation. Senegal, which geographically surrounds Gambia on three sides, had previously said that military action would be a last resort.
The regional group has been leading diplomatic efforts to try to persuade Jammeh to step down.
Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia for 22 years, initially accepted defeat after December’s presidential election, but a week later he changed his mind. He said voting irregularities made him question the win by opposition candidate Adama Barrow.
The president has said ECOWAS has no authority to meddle in Gambia’s internal affairs.
Took power in coup
Jammeh, 51, has ruled the tiny West African nation since taking power in a military coup in 1994. He won four subsequent elections that critics said were neither free nor fair and supported a 2002 constitutional amendment that removed presidential term limits. He once said he could rule Gambia for “a billion years.”
Rights groups have often accused Jammeh of having political opponents and journalists either arrested or killed.
Barrow, also 51, represented a coalition of seven opposition parties that challenged Jammeh in December’s election. Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission said that Barrow won 263,000 votes, or 45 percent of the total, while Jammeh took 212,000 votes, about 36 percent. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 17 percent.
Gambia’s Supreme Court will hear a case next month, brought by Jammeh, that seeks to cancel results of the December election.
Gambia, a former British colony, occupies a narrow sliver of land surrounded by French-speaking Senegal. About 880,000 Gambians were eligible to vote in the December 1 poll, which took place under a complete communications blackout, including social media platforms.