Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ivory Coast

Here’s my solution to the electoral and constitutional chaos that has engulfed the Cote D’Ivoire. There are basically four cultural/ethnic groups that are considered to be indigenous to Cote D’Ivoire: The Akans of the South-East and South-Central, of whom the Baoule are the most numerous, and also provided much of the post-independence elite (Konan Bedie, Houphouet-Boigny); The Kru of the South-West (of whom the Bete are the largest sub-group, and who have Laurent Gbagbo as a member); the Voltaic peoples of the North-East (primarily Senoufo and Mossi); and the various Mande-speaking peoples of the North-West (of which the Malinke are the most numerous, and have Alassane Outtara as a member). Also complicating the demographics is the existence of a very large immigrant population, which some commentators say makes up more than half the total population of Cote D’Ivoire.

Rather than having “elections” every five years with predictably tragic results, I suggest instead that the people of Cote D’Ivoire elect an electoral college, which in turn will then go on to select candidates for the positions of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister & speaker of Parliament respectively. These positions shall have term limits of no more than two concurrent terms of five years apiece. Furthermore, there must be an explicit agreement amongst the political elite, of a rotation of power between all four regions of the country. I’ll explain below how the system would work.

Ivoirians invariably vote along ethnic lines (like most Africans) since language/culture/religion are the main markers of identity. Now, instead of having useless “elections” along European lines, I suggest that Ivoirians be allowed to vote for candidates of their own ethnicities in their own regions. Only constituencies in the ethnically-mixed cities would be allowed to be contested by candidates of various ethnicities. So, for example, in the Voltaic North-East only candidates from the Senoufo or Mossi ethnic groups would be fielded, and they will in turn be voted into office by their fellow Senoufos and Mossis to represent the interestst of the region in a Federal govt. This procedure will be repeated throughout the country: in the Akan South-Central, only Akan candidates will be fielded in the elections; and in the South-West only Kru candidates will be fielded.

Now, having selected an electoral college from the various candidates contesting the elections, the Electoral College would then sit down to sort out the sordid business of who would actually occupy the nation’s top four positions. Bearing in mind that there’s an explicit agreement on the rotation of Presidential Powers, it would then be agreed upon, for example, that a candidate from the Mande-Speaking North-west be chosen to occupy the position of President. This candidate would be the most capable and suitable candidate from amongst all the Mande-speaking candidates from the North-West. And he would be the candidate from that region most amenable and agreeable to the other Electoral College members. With an explicit rotation-of-power amongst regions and constitutional term-limits, the other regions will then be assured of having their crack at the Presidency either in five or ten years.

Now, having selected a President from among their members, the Electoral College would then go about selecting the positions of Prime Minister, Vice-President and Speaker of the House, all from different regions of the nation. This would cement ethnic balancing and would allow the “fruits of power” to be tasted by all sections of the political elite, and not just those from one region. So, in the interests of ethnic balancing, Ivory Coast could have a Mande President from the North-West, a Kru Prime Minister from the South-east, an Akan Vice-President from the South-Central, and a Senoufo Speaker of the House (from the North-east)

So there’s my solution. It’s not perfect, nor can it even be thought of as satisfying democratic criteria. And yet it’s an African solution to a rather murky African problem. Ivory Coast has over 65 ethnic groups, with two main religions. It’s important that a workable solution be brought upon the people of Ivory Coast, a solution that spares them the ravages of either civil war or ,even worse, the break-up of their country.

Monday, November 15, 2010

So-Called "War Veterans".

Now these so-called "war veterans" of Zimbabwe are threatening Senator David Coltart, the Education Minister; a bad omen for race-relations in Zimbabwe. I do wish the real war veterans from Zimbabwe's war of liberation would stand up and have their voices heard. People like Wilfred Mhanda (aka Dzinashe Machingura) should make a stand and say that things cannot continue in this way. It's a shame that a psychopath like Jabulani Sibanda -- who never fired a single bullet in the Liberation war -- is leading campaigns of violence against ordinary civilians.

The other lunatic leader of these "war veterans", Joseph Chinotimba, arrived at an assembly point in 1979, only after the war had ended, and he too never fired a single bullet in the Liberation war. I'll leave you with the memory of my uncle, Arthur Magaya (aka Saul Sadza), a true war-hero. He was #4 in the ZANLA hierarchy, and #3 in the joint ZANLA/ZIPRA army of ZIPA. He was tragically killed in the North Eastern front in 1976. May his soul rest in peace.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mugabe's English Retirement Idyll

Writing in the New Statesman, Sholto Barnes has offered an English retirement for President Robert Mugabe as one way of getting him out of Zimbabwe's current political stalemate. This is not as far-fetched an idea as it seems. Economists always use the term "opportunity Cost" to refer to opportunities or incomes foregone when pursuing other activities. So the opportunity cost of not having President Mugabe in an English retirement would be another five years of his rule in Zimbabwe. That would mean another 5 years of political strife and economic stagnation. A frightening prospect indeed.

Setting up a recalcitrant leader in luxurious retirement overseas is not without precedent. When Senegalese President, Abdou Diouf, lost the 2000 Presidential elections to Abdoulaye Wade, the French were quick to nip any potential trouble in the bud. Ex-President Diouf was given a luxury apt in one of Paris' swankiest arrondissements (among other things). Once out of the way, there was no way he could forment any trouble that would harm French interests.

A similar deal to get President Robert Mugabe to retire to England just might be as worthy. And it would do wonders for Zimbabwe's political scene and economy. Mugabe -- ever the anglophile -- just might take up this offer. I can almost see him nibbling at roasted pheasant in some high-end restaurant in London, while his shopaholic wife, Grace, is out breaking the bank at Harrods. Weekends could be spent in the Cottswalds, or at one of those comfy estates in Oxfordshire. When back in London, there'd always be some Test Cricket to take in at Lords. Ever the Anglophile, Mugabe would most certainly get himself invited to tea-and-crumpet with some minor British Royal. So there it is. I've painted an idyllic scenario for an outcome that would be beneficial to all. Why not give it a try.

James Chikonamombe

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Prof. George Ayittey on Zimbabwe

Here's a reply I received from the Ghanaian economist & African reformer, Professor George Ayittey. It's about the ongoing crisis in my native Zimbabwe. I had to post this piece to my blog (with his permission), since Prof. George Ayittey clearly expostulated what most rational Africans think in private, but are sometimes loathe to spout in public. Read below (his words).

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James,

These are dangerous times Zimbabwe faces. One thing I have consistently faulted Zimbabwean politicians for and which I have constantly railed at is their stubborn refusal to learn from the experiences of other African countries. They think theirs is the only country on the continent facing a political crisis. They should continue to ignore the experiences of other African countries – at their own peril.

Post colonial African history shows clearly that if the politicians fail to resolve a political crisis for years, sooner or later, a Charles Taylor, a Foday Sankoh, a Mohammed Farar Aideed, a Laurent Kabila, or some rebel leader will emerge to resolve the crisis by force. And we all know the consequences of taking that route. As I write, I know or rebel training camps in Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa, operated by Zimbabwean exiles. Not something I would support or get involved in.

The problem as I see it revolves around the whites in the MDC. It is the only credible and largest opposition party in Zimbabwe. But its agenda, policies and strategies have been dominated, controlled or “hijacked” by whites and Morgan Tsvangirai is too weak to check this. He has become something like a “puppet.” As a result, the MDC has lost its “African touch” or character. I suspect this was one reason why Arthur Mutambara broke away, although personal ambition could have been a major motivating factor. It is also one reason why the regional leaders find it difficult to embrace the MDC because they don’t see it as “African.”

As you already know, there are two gnawing issues in Zimbabwe: the land issue and political tyranny. On these issues, the MDC waffled and was outfoxed by a wily old despot who insisted on making the land issue the sole, over-arching political issue.. Following the violent and forcible seizures of white commercial farmlands, the whites saw the MDC as a vehicle to stem those seizures and farm invasions. They acted rationally and I don’t blame them for that. But in so doing, they ended up “hijacking” the MDC and its primary message of DEMOCRATIC CHANGE got lost in the shuffle.

Second, the whites wanted to play it safe and I don’t fault them for that. For that reason, they preferred external pressure – in particular, from Britain -- to be brought to bear on Mugabe; hence, the near-exclusive reliance on external solutions, which flies in the face of recent African political history.

The third was a serious misjudgment on the part of the whites in the MDC. They misread southern African history. Southern Africa is not like West Africa, where the wounds from colonialism have nearly healed. They are still raw in southern Africa, which is yet to shed its liberation theology. For this reason, the whites should have played a less prominent, low-key role in the MDC. They should look at the travails of the Democratic Alliance party of South Africa. I could not for the life of understand why the MDC insisted on making Roy Bennett a deputy Agricultural Minister. Didn’t the MDC know that such an appointment played right into the hands of Mugabe and SADC leaders?

Mind you, I have nothing against Roy Bennett. I met him in Aspen, Colorado, and he is such a fine and intelligent person. But as deputy agric minister? Not at this time when memories are still too raw.

Fourth, because it is controlled by whites, the MDC never bothered to look at “African solutions” that have worked in other African countries such as Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Zambia and even South Africa. It preferred the “Westminster” or Western model (free and fair elections).

Nonetheless, there is still an ALTERNATIVE WAY to pull Zimbabwe back from the brink. Call it African diplomacy. Set up a body of eminent Zimbabweans. Not more than 10 people but they must be apolitical. Leave the politicians out of it. Include church leaders and retired military generals, if you will. They must be able to reach stalwarts in both the MDC and ZANU-PF. Call this group a Council of Elders or Eminent Elders, if you will, to give an African ring to it. Its main task will be to break the political impasse and come up with a solution acceptable to both sides. Pretoria or Johannesburg is not the place to do this; nor can SADC be such a “council.”

The destiny of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of its own people, not in the hands of South Africa or SADC.

George Ayittey,

Washington, DC

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

King Yahya Jammeh...and other tragedies.

I just got word that Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, now wants to crown himself King of Gambia. Just when I thought the news about our African Presidents couldn't get any worse, I was hit with this low blow. Earlier this year I saw a photo of French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, and the (now deceased)  Gabonese President Omar Bongo, standing together and both wearing  -- what appeared to be -- platform shoes. I almost fell of my chair with laughter. Are these "Les Affaires D'Etat" that African Presidents are engaged in? Then I heard that ex-President Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria, was actually considering running in the next Presidential elections. Now, I almost had a heart attack! This is a man who looted $8Billion from the Nigerian treasury, and yet still has the temerity, THE AUDACITY, to consider running -- again! -- for President.

And now this: not content with trying to find a cure for AIDS, The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, now wants to crown himself the king of his country. "Emperor" Jean-Bedel Bokassa must be turning in his grave! He must have thought that he was the only African leader who could crown himself as "Le Roi". Sometimes -- like a punch-drunk boxer -- I just want to give up and throw in the towel. These African leaders are just too much. What a bunch of fools, clowns they are!

Monday, October 4, 2010

What If (A BIG IF)

I've always wondered what would happen if Africa managed to develop and become relatively wealthy. What would that mean for the IMF and the World Bank? The legions of NGOs working/vacationing in Africa? And what about the Bonos and Geldof's of this world? Would Sir Bob "Didn't-deserve-the-knighthood" Geldof revive his old group, The Boomtown Rats? Our poverty and hopelessness has opened up legions of opportunities to otherwise unemployable people, who would have struggled to find a job in their home countries.

James Chikonamombe

Friday, September 3, 2010

No! To The IMF

There's a famous economic tale retold by legions of economics professors. It's about one of the intellectuals from the Austrian School of economics, either Ludwig Von Mises or Von Hayek. The intellectual was asked what they'd do if they were appointed Min Of Finance, and the famous answer given was, "I'll resign!"

You see (intellectually) they DIDN'T BELIEVE in the govt running the economy, and hence had NO NEED for a Min Of Finance. In the same vein , I sure do wish that Africa's intellectuals and political class would refrain from having any dealings with the World Bank and The I.M.F. We have no need for the evil twin sisters of the IMF and the World Bank dictating our development needs.

We have all the wealth we need in Africa to rebuild our economies. Congo-DRC is sitting on trillions worth of raw materials; we've just discovered the world's largest diamond mine in Zimbabwe (bigger than Kimberley in the 19th Century), so why do we need the IMF? In the words of President Robert Mugabe, "They can go to hell!".....on a Greyhound Bus (my words), if you asked me.

James Chikonamombe
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Basil Davidson -- R.I.P

I had no idea that the famous Africanist, Basil Davidson, had passed away on the 9th, of July. May he forever rest in eternal peace. I was still carrying a World Cup hangover, and that's probably why I missed his death. They say that "only the good die young", but good-old Basil was a sprightly 95 when he passed away: so much for that much-used saying!

I have three of his books in my collection, and to me, the most poignant, most pertinent, is "The Black Man's Burden". Here Basil Davidson is almost pleading with Africa's post-colonial leaders not to waste any time in proceeding with policies that would aid in Africa's development. In his later writing, one can sense a feeling of sadness -- even bewilderment -- at how independent Africa has failed to get it's act together.

For someone who had spent most of his adult life observing African civilisation, it must have been disheartening to see modern Africa's dire predicament. Basil Davidson represented all that what was noble in the British Empire.

Yes, the British did a lot of bad things to a lot of people -- ask the Irish -- but they also produced wonderfully talented individuals. If you need a British perspective on Africa, written by someone from a certain era and a certain class, then look no further than Basil Davidson.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tribe, Nation, Ethnicity

English is a living language like all other languages and there are no statutory laws regarding it's usage. Nevertheless, we need to be wary of throwing around loaded words like "tribe". Such usage is a holdover from previous eras when openly racist discourse -- tribe, barbarian, pagan, cannibal, heathen, savage -- was used in justifying the enslavement, colonisation, and oppression of Non-European peoples in Africa, The Americas, and the Pacific islands.

It's much more preferable to use use "nation", or "nationality" when referring to the people (or peoples) who inhabit a specific geographic area, and "ethnicity" when referring to the language/cultural groups who make up that nation. Indeed that is how the indigenous peoples of North America define themselves: a member of the Lakota "tribe" will never besmirch his identity in such a way, but rather will say that he belongs to the Lakota nation. That is how the indigenous peoples of Canada are described: as First Nations.

Just because certain African intellectuals frequently use the term "tribe" does not, in any way, remove its negative connotations. My fellow African intellectuals are often prone to intellectual laziness, and tend to regurgitate whatever rigmarole is spewed out from the West. Furthermore, many of them -- despite claiming to speak for Africa -- are weighed down by acute inferiority complexes. They too need to be 're-educated', so to speak, and to be shown the error in their ways.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let Them Keep Their Loot!...and Leave Us Alone!

Tendai Biti -- "Let's tell them (top Zanu officials) that they can leave and not lose their farms or get arrested".

That was Tendai Biti, The MDC's Secretary-General, and also Zimbabwe's Min of Finance. I've been saying, for God-knows how many years now, that the only way to improve Zimbabwe's political climate, is to allow Zanu's top leadership to retire (quietly) to their farms, and give them blanket immunity from any future prosecution.

Those who claim morals as their guiding principle need to carefully consider what options we Zimbabweans have on the table. With 85% unemployment, a collapsed health-care sector and industry in shambles, we can ill-afford to continue having the present Zanu leadership in place. The Govt of (dis)unity stopped the rot, but it is ill-equipped to move things onto a higher level. Plus we might have elections next year, and the nightmare of another 5 years of an underperformng Govt of Nat Unity looms large.

If the 50 or so top Zanu officials in the security establishment, and in the govt were allowed to go, there would immediately be a better climate for the economy to operate in. Let's cut our losses right now, to give a chance to the millions of Zimbabwean children who go to bed hungry each night, and to the millions of workers unable to find work.

Life, in general, gives you two stark choices: bad or worse. The choice that I've highlighted above would be the least painful for Zimbabwe's masses. It's high time we gave it a try.

James Chikonamombe

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Asamoah Gyan

I still haven't recovered from yesterday's cliff-hanger of a game between Ghana and Uruguay; I'm emotionally drained. I now understand how easy it is for ordinarily-sane people to lose their minds. What a a game!

If only Asamoah Gyan had composed himself and steadied himself just before taking the penalty, he might have had the calmness to just tap the ball in. But no! He hurried himself up, and struck the upright. I think that in his head, he was already celebrating the goal. He might also have been tired, after playing 120 minutes of football.

I don't know how long it will take for me to get yesterday's events out of my head, but I suspect that it will be in my head for a very long time. As a rabid Pan-Africanist, I'm proud of what Ghana achieved, and I'm also happy that the whole tournament has gone on without a glitch.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

End Chattel Slavery in Zimbabwe

We seriously need to re-think our whole system of agriculture. Having huge land-holdings of commercial farms that are dependent on cheap, exploitable labour is regressive and counter-productive. An egregious mistake was made by the ruling govt when it allowed the system of commercial farming to continue, albeit under black ownership.

The liberation struggle was over land, and nothing else! The colonial regime of Ian Smith was buttressed and fortified by the white, commercial-farming sector. And these commercial farms could not exist without the masses of (mostly) foreign-origin African labourers working in conditions approaching chattel slavery. The Land reform program was a glorious chance to smash this inglorious system and make sure -- once and for all -- that it NEVER reared its ugly head again. But, alas, that opportunity was wasted.

We now have an agricultural-system where Africans have replaced Europeans as the main beneficiaries of an exploitive commercial-farming system. These new commercial farmers think that "paying workers" is a foreign concept. All the dead bodies of freedom fighters lying unmarked in Chimoio and Nyadzonia must indeed be spinning in their shallow graves. Is this what the Liberation Struggle was fought for?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ghana Must! Go! All the way!

What a cracker of a game today. Assamoah Gyan could have scored three goals, and Andre Ayew could also have netted at least two. Ghana lost, but they were, by far, the better team. Kevin Prince Boateng was outstanding. Sloppy defending at the back allowed the Germans to score the lone goal.

Ghanaian defenders should have charged at Ozil when he took that shot at goal. I aged ten years watching the last five minutes. The mathematical possibilities of who would go ahead in this group (vis-a-vis the other group game) were all too real.

Now for the finals: Sule Muntari must be played from the onset, and Ghana must continue with their attacking football. Maybe they could pair another striker with Assamoah Gyan in the attack. All of Africa will be supporting the Black Stars. We owe it to ourselves to have at least one African team in the Semi-Finals.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mo Ibrahim's Prize

The problem with Mo Ibrahim's prize is that it rewards ex-leaders. But few of Africa's leaders want to be LIVING ex-leaders. Museveni, RGM, Biya, Mubarak etc, all want to be Presidents-for-life, and DIE IN OFFICE. They do not want to be living ex-leaders -- perish the thought! Furthermore, the prize amount (US$5m) is an amount that most African leaders would sniff at. I can almost see Pres Biya asking his secretary if the amount he was reading was not a typo..... "Are you sure that's not $500 million, ma cherie?"

Kudos to Mo Ibrahim for at least trying and putting his heart into it, but our present crop of African leaders, and ex-leaders do not share his righteousness. Thabo Mbeki, John Kuffour, Quett Masire, Albert Rene - don't know if he's still alive - and probably Godfrey Binaisa are the ex-leaders who are worthy of the prize.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ghana V Nigeria: A Tale Of Two Countries

Ghana were well composed, tactically disciplined, and well-drilled.....they played as a team and not as 11 disparate individuals....the coach brought in four of Ghana's players from the Under 20 team....There was never a doubt in my mind that Ghana would emerge victorious versus Serbia.
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On the other hand, Nigeria were tactless, often looked lethargic, and played not as a team, but as 11 different individuals....were it not for keeper Onyeama, the score would have been embarrassing....they let the whole of the Continent down, in their game against Argentina.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Churchill and The White African

There is a documentary called "Mugabe and The White African" that is being reviewed to death right now in the blogosphere and in the press. This documentary omits any background information, and then jumps right into the fray to discuss the travails of Zimbabwe's white farming community. Many people watching the documentary, and unfamiliar with colonial African history, will view the white farmers as victims of barbarism, if not outright savagery. Pity the white farmers! They would say.

Well, let me give you a historical analogy so as to show you that Zimbabwe is not what some documentary-makers make it out to be. What if a documentary-maker was to show a documentary on the (1945) Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, to a group of Native-Americans. What if these Native-Americans had never been exposed to German or European history, and knew nothing of WW1 and WW2. What then would the Native-Americans make of President Truman, and Prime Minister Churchill? And what would they make of the Russian Red Army, fast advancing on Berlin? Well, they'd probably think that Russians were a warmongering race of barbaric brutes out to ruin the harmony of the peace-loving Germans. And they'd probably think that both President Truman & Prime Minister Churchill were cruel savages, intent on bombing the innocent Germans into oblivion.

Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with European/Western history will know that it was the Germans who were the aggressors and not the other way around. The Brits, Americans & Russians were fighting for dear life against a ruthless, German war-machine. A background study of this era would have begun with the Franco-Prussian war of 1870; followed by the horrors of WW1; and then moved onto The Treaty of Versailles and the rise of Hitler & The Nazis. Without this background info, any film, documentary, or book about WW2 is meaningless.

The same is true of the land situation in Zimbabwe. Any movie, documentary, book or magazine article that ignores the events of the previous 150 years, and just focuses on the present is especially meaningless to a public that has never been exposed to colonial African history. Any background info on the land issue in Zimbabwe will start with missionaries like David Livingstone; proceed to adventurers like Speke, Morton & Stanley; and then be followed by the biggest plunderer of them all, Cecil Rhodes. Then it would move to The Pioneer Column of 1890 (that planted the British flag on Zimbabwean soil); and then (most importantly) the hut and poll taxes that sucked the indigenous black Africans of Zimbabwe into the wage economy.

Following these hideous hut and poll taxes, were a series of Land Apportionment Acts that forced black Africans from the fertile highveld area of Zimbabwe. This area was (and still is) the area of greatest population density, and had been settled by a Bantu-speaking population since around 900AD. After the land Apportionment Act (of 1930) Africans were systematically shoved into overcrowded and barren "Native Reserves". It was the cruel land policy of the colonial Rhodesians that sparked the Chimurenga War for Independence from 1966-1979. The background information that I've just supplied is crucial to any understanding of the tumultuous land situation inn Zimbabwe. Any filmmaker, writer or thinker who omits such background information is really just waffling about nothing.

The so-called "land invasions" that are shown in the documentary, "Mugabe & The White African" are really the actions of a wronged people, taking back the land of their ancestors, which they (rightly) believe to be theirs, through historical precedence.