By Hama Tuma



The authorities in South Sudan have rounded up girls and women wearing trousers in what they call a vigorous campaign to “preserve our culture”. What is the dress culture of Southern Sudanese? The “jellabiya” of the Arab North? The Dinka tribal wear if it at all exists?  The main question actually is: in war torn and devastated South Sudan, is this really the most important and relevant campaign that the local government should launch? Sometime ago, in this same South Sudan idle elders ordered a man to marry a goat and gave the BBC and the West one more chance to laugh at Africa. How come African politicians and power holders get so busy on irrelevancies?


The moral aspect of the issue brings to mind one Algerian official of the sixties who ordered all men to grow a moustache or else. In this same country, grown up men who called themselves policemen drove black Peugeot cars and kidnapped young girls from the streets, shaved their hair, manhandled them and brought them back to their districts. These were the “brigade des moeurs”, the Moral Brigade, and the girls were punished for being “improperly dressed”, “having boy friends” and the like. The zealous policemen did not have much else to do.  Macias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea woke up one bright morning and banned Christmas and any use of the word “intellectual”. Mobutu of Zaire, the most corrupt and merciless of thieves, came up with “authenticite”, name changes and nation-wide Mao-type attire. Joseph Desiree Mobutu became Mobutu Sese Seko wa Zabanga and remained a neo colonial stooge till his death. In Iran, fanatic clerics ordered women and men to ride different mini buses and the minister in charge of transport explained it thus: “everyday 370,000 women ride minibuses and if ten males brushed against them it would mean 3.7 million accountable sins”.


One wonders where the politicians get the time to be so ridiculously busy. They must have turned into expert thieves of the national treasury as it seems to take not much of their time. The man who called Nigeria a continent and Africa a nation with incredible diseases, that is to say George W. Bush,  has two wars going on, a failing economy and yet finds time to make us laugh with his antics. I still prefer Vietnam’s busybody foreign Minister Nguyen co Thatch who said “we are not without accomplishments. We have managed to distribute poverty equally”.  African leaders are experts at this but this also is not taking much of their time. Take Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa who has invaded Somalia, is denying the existence of the famine, robbing the country blind and yet has the time to give a speech on Gandhism, non violence and the rule of law. Lying takes not much time?


The rampage of the moral brigade is ruining the continent. The very ones who preach the respect of “our” culture are the very ones sold out to foreign powers or foreign habits. The moral high ground they seek is illusory and at best repressive. Bush would have called it the “fallacy of humans” meaning their fallibility of course. But then, this is the fellow who said of his dog Barney “he is a good man”. The Iranian president denies there are gays in his country while Mugabe vows to stamp them out and the Malawi police set up a special anti gay squad. Sexual preferences, the length of skirts, types of dresses, hairdos, and personal sins preoccupy those who are leading whole countries to the pits. The LRA rebels in Northern Uganda cut the lips and ears of those who ride bicycles: their leader Jospeh Kony hates bicycles it seems. This is why this South Sudanese preoccupation with trousers appears grotesque; a bad joke by the authorities who should have been concerned on saving that place from the stifling poverty and suffering it finds itself in. The dictator in Ethiopia invades a country and says we “were invited”, then goes to deny there is famine and turns around to argue “the numbers are wrong, only 4 million are starving”. Four million is like four people around the corner for this fellow!


As Bob Dole said life is very important for Americans. He may not know this, but life is very important for all peoples of the world. Yet, this is not a fair world we live in. Take the Saudi Sheik Abdul Aziz who said “the earth is flat and anyone who disputes this is an atheist who deserves to be punished”. Give him the chance and the Saudi Sheikh who has his orgy in the Riviera and Las Vegas will chop off our heads any Friday in Jeddah. As Sarah Palin said, this is “nucular”. Psychologically, the inability to focus on the relevant and the crucial is a malady. Attention Deficiency Syndrome does not cover it. African despots pay attention to all and sundry especially to non serious issues. They never forget their enemies, the dissidents. They never forget to harass us citizens by telling us how to dress, what to eat, with whom to sleep, whom to elect, etc. Actually they elect themselves come what may and they do not need the people at all. Morgan Tsavangari, the darling of the West, took a two- week course in Harvard to study good governance– he will surely be an improvement on Mugabe, no? We are now talking of creative capitalism, regulated capitalism and maybe we shall hear of humane capitalism. Wild times indeed!


Moral police are often suspect. The hankering to the past usually indicates a present that is troublesome. African despots hanker to the past that is at most less than idyllic. We are hungry today and they tell us we were the beginning of humanity and we introduced farming to the world. Does it really matter? The suit that Southern Sudanese men wear and the big hat that the Southern region president wears are not “native” but then again who cares? Our busy politicians are machos as are the moral brigades called Taliban, Islamic Court, mullahs, etc…They are all forces of regression, nostalgic of the dark times of ignorance and savagery. We should be glad that Southern Sudanese girls have trousers to put on unlike millions other destitute Africans who have no decent clothes at all. Alas, those in power have lost all perspective just as they have no notion of decency and democracy. They are busy chasing after irrelevancies and shaming Africa to no end.

Published in: on October 12, 2008 at 11:27 am  Comments (5)