Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  


Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  


Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 10:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Laughing at Africa

 By Hama Tuma


Laughing at Africa has been a favorite pastime of many people in the West since time immemorial. The “dark continent” as some chose to call it was the target of derision by self declared experts who had little credentials other than their mountain high prejudice against black people. Aristotle defined wit as an educated insult but Africa often got coarse buffoonery, cruel, cutting, demeaning, exclusive and more than often racist.


No wonder then that the two master buffoons, Idi Amin and Emperor Bokassa, became the darlings of the West. Amin was the subject of several documentaries as he proudly showed his plan to conquer the Golan Heights, to help the famished in England, to greet crocodiles “who know him personally” and more. By ridiculing Amin who was brought to power by the British authorities themselves a whole continent was made fun of and ridiculed to the delight of the West. For the antics of one Amin,  a whole continent was lambasted and the accusations of cannibalism directed against him and Bokassa shed a suspicious light on all black skinned fellows with white or yellow but strong teeth. Grotesque stories of the West, including incidents of cannibalism, did not get that much coverage at all. The latest and quite horrible jab at Africa involved a goat called Rose and a Southern Sudanese, hornier than brainy, assisted by careless elders taking grain to the mill of the West that loves laughing at Africa. The story goes as follows: a certain Mr. Charles Tombe was quite drunk somewhere in Juba, Southern Sudan, a war torn place where you could be expected to do much more worse things than just getting drunk, and mistook a goat called Rose for a lady. He was caught by the goat’s owner while having an improper relation with Rose. The owner sought justice from the elders and they, thereby pushing you to conclude that with elders like these no wonder the people had so many social problems, decided that Tombe should pay a $50 dowry and “marry” the goat.


The BBC picked up this story and the news was sent all over the world. Send the BBC vivid stories of the carnage in the Congo in which Britain is involved or on atrocities of the Meles Zenawi army and the stories will die on their desks but anything on Mugabe and what will ridicule Africa is their cup of favorite tea. And, hence, this story of an African and a goat (as if such acts are unheard of in Europe and America) and the verdict of the improperly funny elders hit the world at large. In the words of the BBC itself   (Focus on Africa): “the short amusing story we wrote about on the BBC News website soon turned into the most emailed story we have done and it quickly spread around the world…Over time, it has received several million hits–making it  historically one of the biggest hitting stories the BBC has ever published…Every few weeks, it would reappear as the BBC’s top emailed story of the day….A Google search on the Sudan and goat now uncovers more than 1 million different web pages, based on the same story”.  Subsequently Rose gave birth to a male kid and died and the BBC did report that too. What made the story such a hit was not that a man tried to bed with a goat ( bestiality being no strange thing in the West), nor was it because some elders with, evidently, time in their idle hands wanted to have a laugh at the expense of poor Mr. Tombe, but only because it happened in Africa. There go those “darkies” getting into bed with goats and marrying them no less! Anything to laugh at Africa.


We are also to blame if truth be told as we Africans position ourselves to be the butt of crude and cruel jokes. We all know the Western media enjoys having a roaring laugh at our misery–that is why they always report the disasters of Africa and very rarely the good and positive side of this great continent. The self portrait of Africans is not what is found in major Western newspapers and magazines that revel in our so called malaise which is often caused by the West itself. The carnage in most places like the Congo/Zaire/ has its root in the Western companies’ voracious greed to rob that country’s mineral wealth. It is grim and the likes of Mr.Tombe and his irresponsible elders are only light interludes. Chadian rebels may say they called off their offensive against President Idris Deby because they suddenly realized that they had not agreed on who may replace him (ho ho ho!) but the real story is that French armed interference saved the skin of the tyrant in Ndjamena. Chad’s first dictator Tombalbaye used to claim that dead ancestors talked to him over national radio but he was a stooge of “civilized” France. There may be more elephants than whites in Zimbabwe as one correspondent of The Economist noted in an attempt to attack Mugabe but the Zimbabwean leader has become Satan in the eyes of the West not for his dictatorship but for infringing on minority white farmers who owned the bigger share of the country’s land. This same correspondent argued that those African leaders who blame “Whitey” are not actually good at balancing the budget while glossing over the fact that “Whitey” likes and supports those who do not balance the budget but steal from it. Mobutu, Bongo, Meles, Arap Moi, clowns but thieving clowns nonetheless and the West laughed and still laughs at Africa with them. As recently as April 20, Reuters reported that the “killing of some 200 people (in Addis Ababa) tarnished Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s democratic credentials”.  Meles is a reliable puppet who is getting sympathy because his democratic (non existent) credentials have been tarnished (poor soul) by those who fell victim (foolish fellows) to his sharpshooters and federal police thugs.


The West laughs at Africa and some blacks applaud or join the laughter. An African American (he may not like being called that for that matter) I cited before in another article has joined those who laugh at Africa by praising his ancestors for being slaves and for having left Africa. The Western media likes such fellows.

He is, Keith Richburg, a former Nairobi based correspondent for The Washington Post, and in a book he published in 1997 and that was hailed by TIME and other magazines he stated: “I am an American, but a black man, a descendent of slaves brought from Africa…If things had been different, I might have been one of them (The Africans) – or might have met some… anonymous fate in one of the countless ongoing civil wars or tribal clashes on this brutal continent. And so I thank God my ancestor survived that voyage (to slavery)… Talk to me about Africa and my black roots and my kinship with my African brothers and I’ll throw it back into your face, and then I’ll rub your nose in the images of the rotting flesh (of the victims of the genocide of the Tutsis of Rwanda)… Sorry, but I’ve been there. I’ve had an AK-47 rammed up my nose; I’ve talked to machete-wielding Hutu militiamen with the blood of their latest victims splattered across their T-shirts. I’ve seen a cholera epidemic in Zaire, a famine in Somalia, a civil war in Liberia. I’ve seen cities reduced to rubble, because their leaders let them rot and decay while they spirited away billions of dollars – yes, billions – into overseas bank accounts… Thank God my ancestor got out, because, now, I am not one of them.” For once, I am tempted to blame the machete- wielding Hutu militia for being magnanimous! Self hate is a by product of the colonial oppression or of the brain washing by the establishment so much so that the pathetic journalist, who will be consistent if he votes for McCain come November, praises the slavery of his ancestors. He should go and check the carnage in Iraq for one. No wonder they laugh at us poor and confused black dupes.


So called democracies in Africa are caricatures and there you have a serious laughing matter. The new Nigerian President, Umaru Yar’Adua, almost kneeling before George Bush in the White House (“This is a moment I will never forget in my life” said  Umaru) is a real joke.  And as Mukoma Wa Ngugi noted “to travel from Kenya to Mali one has to apply for a visa at the French consulate in Kenya and (conversely) to travel from Senegal to Kenya the visa has to be issued through the British embassy in Senegal”. Now this is another good laughing matter. The whole notion of the Commonwealth should make us roar with laughter as should the idea of a “France-Afrique”.  Djibouti’s President Gelleh makes people pay to be part of his official entourage to the USA (where many of them ask for asylum consequently) so much so that Washington has forced him to reduce his delegation to less than twenty–and we can surely laugh on this. The goons that make Africa a laughing stock are “Made in the West” most of the time. All this is to say that there is much to laugh at in and on Africa but it has little to do with a goat called Rose and a man called Tombe or with provocateur civilians who stand in the way of bullets to tarnish the democratic credentials of prime ministers but much to do with neocolonialism, bad governance, plunder and the suffering of Africans under tin pot dictators backed by the West.

Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 6:05 pm  Comments (5)