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Life Reflections

Africa, claim your future!

By June 8, 2011June 6th, 2023No Comments

I think we Africans have cause to mourn. I got this fatal feeling when I was listening to a ‘home-grown’ friend who seems to have read all the literature in the world, especially that spoken or written in French.

He usually expresses his acquired literature too extensively and sometimes it’s impossible to absorb his delivery. But sometimes he manages to penetrate my foggy brain, maybe because we share roots.

The other day he was telling us the story of a remarkable man who has written a book on Rwanda. The author gave his book an eerie title: ‘Murambi: the Book of Bones’. Those of you who know Rwanda will immediately understand the connection between bones and Murambi, this being the genocide memorial site that displays bones of the 1994 Genocide victims.

As to the connection to ‘Book’, like you I was lost. That author is called Boubacar Boris Diop and he is a Senegalese novelist, journalist and screenwriter. When he visited the genocide site, Boris chose not to give a dry report as a journalist would.

He chose to live the genocide. Thus the book, which is not a book per se. He expresses feelings and emotions. That’s why he wrote fiction. “Contradiction!” you may say. But, when you think about it, there is nothing contradictory about imagining the truth that happened.

When Boris places you in the body of those who were being slaughtered, or those related to the slaughters, he gives you a clarity you’d never otherwise get. You, too, live the genocide. You feel the pain of the innocent people who were waiting to be butchered

Consider this. On visiting Murambi, he listened to the story of an old survivor. When the interahamwe were about to chop this survivor up, she begged them to give her time to say a prayer. Interahamwe’s sarcastic reply: “Mama, so you don’t know? Last night we were in Heaven and killed the God of Batutsi. Now it’s your turn and nobody can save you.”

When you ‘become’ that woman, you understand better what it meant to be hunted. However, you can only imagine it, and so Boris makes you imagine it…….

I beg forgiveness, however, because I’ve not read that novel. And that’s why I opened this “Reflections Rumbling” with a plea to us Africans to mourn. I’ve not read it because my smattering knowledge of French makes me dread the agonising task of trying to understand what I’m reading. Imagine the shame of living on the same continent yet we have no common communication language.

We are the same people yet we are divided into innumerable ‘phones’: Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone and whatever-phone. So, we Anglophones will never pick the brains of our Francophone brethren/‘sistren’.

Yet what wisdom! I’ve read an interview (agonisingly) Boris did with a journalist and I marvel at his insight on the French mentality. Why, for example, do we just laugh at ex-president Laurent Gbagbo when he is extracted from the nook of his bunker by French soldiers? We should instead be ashamed at the implications of that to all the Africans: the colonial power of yesterday still has the last say on giving direction to an African country!

So, are we ever going to be in charge? He recounts another anecdote involving Rwanda. During a tête-à-tête at the margins of a summit in Lisbon, Sarkozy warned Kagame not to ever accuse France of complicity in the 1994 genocide “for the honour of France”. Kagame pointedly considered Sarkozy and, looking him in the eye, shot back: “Mr President, do you know a country that has no honour?”

Sarkozy was taken aback – that was not African. For that, of course, says Boris, Kagame has invited to himself the wrath of the bigoted West. But why should African leaders want to be pampered by the West, gobble up donor dregs or be sheepishly affable to — and prostrate at the feet of – these self-confessed Godfathers?

Our African leaders know what is expected of them, of course. So they burst out laughing at the littlest nonsense uttered and they want to be given jovial bear-pats on the shoulder and be called “Allassan”. Boris observes that this is what France expected of a Rwandan president. That way, France could freely have rewritten the history of the country and exonerated itself of complicity in the genocide.

Otherwise the Western media and rights advocacy groups will always go for the blood of a dissenting African leader. And the fraternity of the West is so immense and complex that even when one leader is professing friendship, they will be directing the media and advocacy hounds on which angle of attack to poise themselves for. And, indeed, in Rwanda we are a living example of victims of that spirited campaign.

Boris’ concluding note. In Rwanda, France has found an interlocutor they can talk word for word and we can’t congratulate ourselves enough. The happy thing about Africa is that a new type of politician is emerging: more rational and courageous but, especially, less naïve.

Alas, Boris, how many other African politicians are ready to stand up against the West?

Twitter:    @butamire

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