Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Africa Writes: a cultural history website

I came across a really fascinating website of cultural history called Africa Writes. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that it was based in Kankan, which is the second city in the Republic of Guinea but hardly a major West African cultural center. But I've actually spent time in Kankan and it's definitely an interesting city in an intriguing area of the country... though I could've done without the dust.

According to its mission statement, Africa Writes' objective is the complete and total redefinition of African history and culture, through proper observation, documentation and representation of African culture from total indigenous African perspective.

I haven't had the chance to fully explore the site but from what I've seen, it's something I'd certainly recommend.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Sékouba Konaté: Guinea's ATT?

A recent inquirer asked me what I thought about the new Guinean head of state Gen. Sékouba Konaté. Gen. Konaté recently took power after previous junta leader Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara, recovering from an assassination attempt, handed it over. The somewhat unstable Dadis and his equally fanatical cabal were widely seen as an obstacle to democracy and stability in Guinea, whereas Konaté is seen as more moderate. Konaté quickly appointed a civilian prime minister (long-time opposition figure Jean-Marie Doré) as well as a key labor leader to head a body that will manage the transition.

As always, it's hard to tell what any leader's real intentions are. I'm not sure whether the general is a democrat per se. But my sense is that Konaté sees which way the wind is blowing and recognizes that the military has lost all credibility, both internally and externally, after the Sept. 28 massacre and cover up. The outraged reaction to the massacre was much broader and more powerful than anyone (including myself... I'm happy to have been wrong) ever expected. I think Konate realizes that the army's time is up and they need to get out of the way.

I think the bigger question is whether Konaté has enough control over the divided army to actually allow this democratic transition to take place and for the civilians to rule without intimidation. It's clear there have been fanatics loyal to Dadis Camara who don't want to give up power but it's not clear whether they will stand aside without causing chaos or worse.

In 1991 in neighboring Mali, military dictator Gen. Moussa Traoré's forces massacred hundreds of pro-democracy protesters in the capital Bamako. Revulsion to the bloodshed was so widespread that Traoré was overthrown and replaced by Gen. Amadou Toumani Touré (known colloquially as ATT). ATT convened a national conference which wrote a new constitution and organized democratic elections, to whose winners he handed over power. ATT was so widely revered for his role in Mali's democratic transition that he was later elected to the chief executive and has been civilian president since 2002. Will Gen. Konaté be Guinea's ATT? Only time will tell.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

20 years after a hero's liberation

"Anyone can handle adversity. If you really want to test a man's character, give him power." -Abraham Lincoln

I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge today as being the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's liberation from prison. Mandela remains arguably (though not arguably in my opinion) the greatest living political figure and certainly one the greatest of the 20th century. Not simply for his role in liberating South Africa from apartheid but for his sage guidance of the country during the early years of the country's real democracy. I maintain that the greatest thing he ever did for South Africa, even greater than leading the apartheid struggle, was to serve only a single term as the country's president. In doing so, he prevented the country from trading one oppressor for another. The decision prevented the development of a cult of personality and sent a loud and clear message that the well-being of the state must never be dependent on the beneficence of a single individual. He thus fulfilled his promise upon being released from prison that he stood "not as a prophet but as [the people's] humble servant." This mentality, the mark of true statesmanship, is likely the biggest single reason South Africa has so far avoided going down the road of other countries with similar liberation struggles like Zimbabwe and Angola.

Note: The South African Broadcasting Corporation has coverage here, here The Johannesburg Daily Mail and Guardian has reports here and here. The BBC has a report here as well as memories here and here as well as pictures.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Periodic Twitter update

Note: This is a series highlighting selected stories from the Twitter feeds for my blogs Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian and Black Star Journal. The Twitter feed contains not only links to original pieces from my blogs but also links ("re-tweets") to diverse stories from other media outlets. Those interested are encouraged to subscribe the Twitter feed to get all stories by going to and clicking 'follow'.

-Nigerians react to new interim president Goodluck Jonathan (BBC World Service)

-Ivory Coast elections could be delayed again (Voice of America)

-Violence kills hundreds in Nigerian city (NPR)

-From ‘Oprah’ to Building a Sisterhood in Congo (New York Times)

-Guinea transition moving forward (BBCWS)

- UN: Human Rights Violations Against LGBTI People (Black Looks)