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Coining a phrase for an African phenomenon...

Andrew Harding | 15:36 UK time, Thursday, 16 December 2010

Zimbabwe did it once. And could well do it again next year. Kenya did it too, and is still paying the price. Now Ivory Coast seems to be following the same cynical, wretched, familiar path.

We're talking, of course, about a very specific - and right now, very African - type of election. One where the incumbent party or president uses violence, or the threat of violence, as a convenient device enabling it/him to ignore the actual election results and cling to office thanks to some expensively, externally mediated "power-sharing" arrangement.

It may not be an African phenomenon. But it certainly feels like one right now. And at its heart, of course, lies that awkward gap between the rulers and the ruled - a gap that seemed to be narrowing in some parts of the continent, but which remains an unbridgeable chasm in so many other places.

I'm not sure if this type of "election" is a blip, a trend, the last gasp of a particular generation of leaders, or something else altogether. But it does seem like an event in need of a proper title.

I've been scratching my head and badgering my colleagues and have so far only come up with "a Klingon election" - a feeble nod towards Star Trek and the foot-dragging instincts of the Gbagbos and Mugabes of this world. Surely you can coin a better phrase...


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  • 1. At 4:59pm on 16 Dec 2010, samuel wrote:

    As long as the national resources and services only benefit the people of the president no one will readily leave power unless it's being handed to another guy of the same club of the president.

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  • 2. At 5:57pm on 16 Dec 2010, irocke wrote:

    I think "a Klingon Election" is an apt term. Sure its a bit nerdy, but so what; nerdity is a sign of intelligence. Also, it would establish precedent to use other Star Trek races as a reference in politics. For instance one could use "Ferengi Politics" to describe current American Legislation habits. International business policy still pillaging African nations economies and natural resources as if colonialism had never ended could also be described as "Ferengi Economics". Besides, have you seen some of the ears on people at the United Nations! One could even start calling the head of the IMF the "Grand Negus". Live long and prosper.

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  • 3. At 6:25pm on 16 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    Most people from the western world do not really understand Africa.The only white man that really understand Africa and the problems of African nations is Basil Davidson. Maybe this is because he is African having been born in Zimbabwe. Mr Harding, what happened in Kenya and Zimbabwe and now also in Ivory Coast may look like an African phenomenon but the roots can be traced to Europe and colonialism. I imagine you are English. Just imagine the Germans and the English having to live together as one country. This is what colonialism did, forcing many different people who have nothing in common and who have always distrusted each other to stay together in artificial 'nations' and boundaries. People like Mugabe may look like monsters but you must know that they always have almost 100% support in their home region. Mugabe Kibaki and now Gbagbo can hang on to power simply because they have support from their own people. Now if you check carefully, 99% of the 'opposition' in all these countries are from different and rival tribes/ethnicity from whoever is in power. Every political problem in Africa can be traced to ethnicity and tribal problems, a fact which the African elites tend to deny. The politicians in Africa will always cooperate when they need to steal money together but underneath, there is always a fierce 'war' going on along tribal lines(eg Nigeria).

    Now Mr Harding, I am not proud of the situation in Africa but i think that Europeans will not fare any better under the same situation; The recent history of the Balkans attests to this. The old czechoslovakia is also another example. If you want further proof, you can just craete a "nation" with the Germans, the English, French and the Austrians for good measure and lets see what happens.

    Infact the African people have always managed the situation well unlike in Europe where it always results in full scale war and total disintegration of the country.

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  • 4. At 9:26pm on 16 Dec 2010, bwana wrote:

    Shouldn't it be simply called the "one man rule regime"?

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  • 5. At 02:39am on 17 Dec 2010, The Dana wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 6. At 03:08am on 17 Dec 2010, The Dana wrote:

    I agree with some of Papa Grande responses.Indeed, the fact that the Berlin conference in 1884 created artificial borders without respect to ethnic affiliation, natural resources is part of the reasons why some of these conflicts persist.That said, we can still look within the continent and find examples of countries that have made genuine attempts at nation-building.Ivory Coast's ethnic, religious and natural resource composition is akin to Ghana's in so many ways.The question is, how is it possible for Ghana to pull it off and the Ivory coast cannot? You need to look at the nature of the countries founding.Who were the founding fathers of post colonial Ivory Coast? To what extent were they concerned with building a genuine country? There is a theory in Political Development called ''path dependence''. To really build a new strong nation state, you need a complete break from intrinsinc colonial behavior that sowed seeds of disunity.For example, in Ghana Kwame Nkrumah realised that the Northern part was deprived under British Rule and so to gain their trust he instituted education policies that benefitted people from the North.Julius Nyerere of Tanzania is another who genuinely wanted to build a strong, nation state.West Africans have lived under the Ghana empire, Songhai, Mali Empire's and thrived.We are used to diverse ethnicity.The problem with the Ivory Coast is whether the foundation is like that of Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia.''Amilcar Cabral calls it ''return to the source''.Allassane Outarra's Philadelphia experience, just like Nkrumah of Ghana and Azikiwe of Nigeria should inspire him to make genuine attemps at building a stron, nation state!!

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  • 7. At 10:06am on 17 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    The Dana's comments are interestine but i have to say that he has to look deeper. Ghana's progress can only be measured by IMF's graphs and and notions of a 'stable democracy'. But how does all those translate to the well being of the common man in Ghana?

    West Africans lived together and thrived under ancient empires because the only thing really required of them was to pay tributes to the ruler and supply manpower for armies. Apart from these,the different people were left alone to their own devices.

    I am not saying that different ethnicities can never live together in Africa. The problem is the manner in which they are required to do so. The system of strong central government in most African countries must be reviewed if we are serious about 'nation building'.

    A system whereby different people are left to govern themselves and manage their resources by themselves while maintaing essentials for a country like foreign policy, defence etc at the federal level is the only way for african countries to move forward.

    There shall always be people who do not want to leave political offices (with strong support from the home base) in africa because all the resources and power are controlled from the central government. If some aspects of people lives are removed from the centre and left for the people to manage by themselves, many people will have less reasons to cling to power at the centre. I am from eastern Nigeria and everything about our lives are managed from Abuja. The gentleman who is in charge of primary school education in the fedral civil service has never do not know and care how the people feel about his policies afterall he is very far away from them. He is only seriously accountable to his own people who can always reach him.

    So putting it simply, african leaders cling to power with strong support from their ethnic relatives simply because polical power ensures TOTAL control of all the country's resources in a system where the federal administrators do not make serious efforts at seeing to the needs of people apart from their own people.

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  • 8. At 10:09am on 17 Dec 2010, abduljabar wrote:

    i pretty much agree with papa grande but i would like to make a comment
    on be have of an example you have set, you have said that: (imagine the Germans and the English having to live together as one country), which i agree with you, but why would one nation with same culture and one common language wouldn't trust each other in terms of leadership?

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  • 9. At 10:13am on 17 Dec 2010, Bobhead wrote:

    @3 and @6

    Interesting take on things. But how long are you going to blame colonialism?
    And are you really going to blame a conference in 1884 for the behaviour of people like Mugabe?
    There are a lot of ex-colonial countries who are now close to becoming world super powers (India is a good example), and whats stranger is that countries like India do not have anywhere near the natural resources of Africa.
    @3 you state "The only white man that really understand Africa and the problems of African nations is Basil Davidson"

    Perhaps it is not the inability of the white man to understand Africa that is the source of Africa's issues, perhaps it is the innability to understand the benefits of of a fair and civilised society?

    And as for "I am not proud of the situation in Africa but i think that Europeans will not fare any better under the same situation" funnily enough we recently had an election here in the UK, a coalition was formed as there was no outright winner. The party I voted for did not get in :-(
    However, at no point did I consider burning down my neighbours house, killing him or raping his daughters.
    Maybe you're right, maybe the western world doesn't understand Africa.

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  • 10. At 10:43am on 17 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    Yes in the UK but what about Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croats etc

    India is no where close to becoming a super power and the pre colonial history of India is totally different from that of African people.

    I dont know if i implied that the inability of the white man to understand Africa is the source of Africans problems. I was really refering to Andrew Harding's and BBC's perception of Afica's problem. (:)

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  • 11. At 11:12am on 17 Dec 2010, Bobhead wrote:

    Nuclear weapons, a succesful space programme, the worlds largest democracy, I would say India is well on the way to becoming a major world player.
    That said, they still have issues with disease and poverty and 'tribal' behaviour.

    So how long will you blame colonialism for Africa's troubles? One generation? Two, three, one hundred?

    At the end of the day, the people of Africa do not seem able to accept that the society in which they live has been created by the behaviour of their own people. And the decisions they have made. Same as anywhere.

    If you vote a power hungry general or an illiterate buffoon in to power what do you expect?

    Oh, and the UK is a good example, we are comprised of more than one country, and group of people, the Scottish, Welsh, English, etc all have distinct cultures (and in some cases can be fiercely patriotic).

    And, as in the example you gave earlier, the borders of these countries have been imposed on the people of these countries (my home town has changed hands between the Scots and the English on more than one occasion, mainly by force, in the last 4 centuries or so), I still don't want to go accross the border and kill members of the SNP if an election doesn't go how I would like.

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  • 12. At 11:56am on 17 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    The Uk, yes. Why dont you want to talk about Bosnia and Sebia? Chechnya...the basque in Spain and maybe nothern Ireland?

    The system of government in the Uk also allows the different people to make some descisions about their own lives......and come to think of it, the English have had centuries to get the other people to 'behave' (:)(consider the various wars between england and the scots..Irish which have always needed a 'strong' english king to win)

    Please read my second post. I am not blaming colonialism for the problem though it has a part of the blame.

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  • 13. At 12:01pm on 17 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    Please read the book 'The Black Man's Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State' by Basil Davidson.

    You might understand better. (:)

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  • 14. At 12:11pm on 17 Dec 2010, Dzvinyangoma wrote:

    @Bobhead. If the UK are as united and harmonious as you claim why are the Scots talking about a referendum to leave the union? Talk about Northern Ireland? papa_grande has hit the nail on the head here because as we have seen since the fall of the USSR we now have all these small countries based on ethnicity. Infact the UK itself has seen the devolution of power to the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Assembly which clearly shows that your claims of harmony are over rated as the ultimate aim is for these countries to split.

    Colonialism had a lot to do with Africa's problems as papa_grande has highlighted.

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  • 15. At 12:24pm on 17 Dec 2010, Bobhead wrote:

    Northern Ireland is part of the UK.

    And as for getting people to 'behave' Scotland wasn't forced by war to sign the Act of Union or 'a strong English king', ironically it was a failed 'colonial endevour' to the South of America which bankrupt the country and brought them into the Union.

    Believe it or not the War in Bosnia was not triggered by an incumbant refusing to give up his post, nor by a disputed election result.

    However, it was similar to the topic at hand in some respects, the war involved genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape and psychological oppression.
    Much like we have seen under corrupt African regimes against opposition movements, candidates, people of different skin colour/religion etc.

    If you don't believe it is Colonialism that is the cause of Africa's issues that's fair enough. I must of got confused by your earlier statement

    "This is what colonialism did, forcing many different people who have nothing in common and who have always distrusted each other to stay together in artificial 'nations' and boundaries"

    So if not colonialism, do you think perhaps the way people behave could be the cause of the issue?

    As long as people stay divided in Africa (for what ever reason) there will always be people who will take advantage of that.

    Also, as long as the educated individuals desert Africa things will not get better. There reasons are sometimes due to racial oppression (as in South Africa) or sometimes more selfish (more money, better life), but either way the loss of talent and experience will not help the continent\country.

    We have never met Papa_Grande, but seem to be a smart chap, however, I'm willing to bet that you yourself are sending your posts from outside Africa.

    Am I right?

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  • 16. At 12:46pm on 17 Dec 2010, Bobhead wrote:


    Thanks for backing up my point (though I'm not sure you meant to). The Scottish have democracy as do the welsh and English, they can even VOTE in a REFERENDOM to leave!
    Never once has this result in the person who has lost the vote rigging the election\killing those who don't agree!

    Now, lets talk about Northern Ireland. The war (if you want to call it that) was between the Northern Irish and the Irish (between Catholic and protestant. IT WAS NOT CAUSED BY THE IRISH RIGGING AN ELECTION\STAYING IN POWER HAVING LOST (you know the topic of the thread!)

    As for colonialism being the cause\linked to this kind of violence, can you explain to me how colonialism caused the mass murder\beatings in Kenya? I'm struggling to find the link?!

    Funny how the USA, Canada, Brazil etc ( all ex colonies Dzvinyangoma
    ) don't seem to see the same issues.

    Do you think this could be more to with the way the people behave\think than their ex-colony status?

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  • 17. At 1:10pm on 17 Dec 2010, Barry66 wrote:

    The Africa phenomena, a rich continent, but poor leaders. I wouldn't be surprised seeing streets paved in gold with beggars around every corner because of greedy selfish leaders.

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  • 18. At 1:36pm on 17 Dec 2010, Bobhead wrote:

    Being greedy and selfish is not just the reserve of Africans (I'm guilty of the same two sins myself on occasion!).

    What is frustrating about the African phenomenom is that the people seem to chose the MOST greedy and MOST selfish people to rule!

    It's of great benefit to us in the UK and Europe(as I said before all the talent leaves the continent\country), that's why our Cricket team is doing so well! ;-)

    But in all seriousness I work beside two South Africans who are about as talented/smart as it gets, I'm certain they would be of great help to South Africa, but they can't get work there!

    Meanwhile, the 'best' man to lead the country is Jacob Zuma!!

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  • 19. At 2:13pm on 17 Dec 2010, Mukwa Malanji wrote:

    The African phenomenon...? Perhaps it would be appropriate to focus on each African country, in order to pinpointing possible struggles (if any) for regime change or (and) what kind of constructive support is available from the outside world. I must say, it took me a day to come to term with Andrew Harding question. Indeed it bears resemblance with what a host of africanist scholars have attempted to define – mainly, the most suitable theoretical framework to assessing the “African phenomenon.” To this, I am tempted to acquiesce with Patrick Chabal’s view, which posits that ‘reality on the continent defies classification’ (in Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling, 2009: p. 17). As always, Chabal and Daloz scholarship (above the Africa’s Works: Disorder as Political Instrument, 1999) seems to point to core reasons of our continent demise – neo-patrimonial practices have overwhelmingly overridden the formal-institutional arrangements. For example, in my country, Angola, the President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has already completed 30 years in the office, and even so, his MPLA party (in power since Angola became independent from Portugal in 1975), managed to pass a constitution that suits the interests of the Luanda ruling elite, rather than vast majority of Angolan suffers from abject poverty. Thus, instead of searching in the dark a suitable concept for so-called African phenomenon, it would be fruitful indeed to learn about the work of social and political entities in each African country, and above all what kind of support are these entities getting from so-called Western Democratic States (if they really care about change or whether are merely concerned with doing business with those who exploit their own people). That’s, I think, it is the way forward – to focus on each African country, to identify the struggle for change as, for example, in Angola.

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  • 20. At 2:23pm on 17 Dec 2010, WolfmanC wrote:

    "...this type of "election" is a blip, a trend..." Hardly, Harding! This has been the "trend" since declaring supposed political independence from the colonial powers. I like to call them “Democratic Dictators”. Fortunately for “the ruled”, they are occasionally good for their country. I echo the comment of “samuelimc”: As long as the national resources and services only benefit the people of the president no one will readily leave power unless it's being handed to another guy of the same club of the president.

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  • 21. At 2:25pm on 17 Dec 2010, Wicked_Witch_of_the_West_Coast wrote:

    @ Bobhead - Now, lets talk about Northern Ireland. The war (if you want to call it that) was between the Northern Irish and the Irish (between Catholic and protestant. IT WAS NOT CAUSED BY THE IRISH RIGGING AN ELECTION\STAYING IN POWER HAVING LOST (you know the topic of the thread!)

    The war was between Republicans and successive British Governemnts. And there was a ton of 'rigging' of elections and electoral areas, all done to ensure the Catholics didn't get above their station. One could argue that the hardline Protestants have indeed stayed in power by hook or by crook. I can quite easily see Peter Robinson refusing to walk away from a lost election, can't you?

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  • 22. At 2:44pm on 17 Dec 2010, Bobhead wrote:

    I feel a bit sorry for Peter Robinson! I think there may be knives on all sides for that man!
    I think the protestants remain in power in Northern Ireland, absolutely. I think the Catholics have Ireland sown up well and truely!

    Personally, I think the UN has it about right, if you have a disputed territory it's down to the individuals living there to decide which 'party' they belong to (if any). As long as this is done in a fair and democratic way and not by force, no one should argue. Much better than the alternative (which although well intentioned, often results 'freedom fighters' becoming organised criminals, or the swapping of one form of oppression for another).
    The problems arise when it comes to the splitting of assets\debt.

    Wouldn't surprise me if there's more than one case of vote rigging, as much as we think society is transparent, we only need to look at recent incidence to see how common this can be (George Bush and his brother?).

    With a bit of luck there's more to come from wikileaks!

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  • 23. At 3:19pm on 17 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    Bobhead the problem in Kenya can be traced to Colonialism because the Kikiyu and their neighbours has never in the best of terms before colonialism forced them into the entity called Kenya. the beatins and killings was on tribal lines.

    The problem in Bosnia was not caused by an incumbent refusing to leavee power but a strong individual backed by a majority of his people embarked on ethnic cleansing, murder and rape.

    Now Brazil, Canada and the US..all excolonies dont have the same problems simply because many people migrated willingly to live in the US and Canada. Willingly mind you, not forced. Brazil and Australia are being accused of killing off the indigenous people and so the remnants are not in any position to make any impact politically.

    I agree with you that the most greedy and wicked people emerge as rulers in Africa but pls you have to realise that this happens in the confusion and complex situation existing when people dont trust each other.

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  • 24. At 3:24pm on 17 Dec 2010, wikispeaks wrote:


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  • 25. At 3:30pm on 17 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    Bobhead the way people behave may be the cause of Africa's problem. I agree with you. But Andrew Harding, the BBC and people like you should try to understand the complex situations which enable African leaders to continue behaving that way .

    I recommended Bsil Davidson's Book for you to read.

    I am not sending my post from outside my country.

    I am in Lagos Nigeria

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  • 26. At 4:17pm on 17 Dec 2010, wikispeaks wrote:

    Having followed all the above arguments, I'd like to bring in an example of a country that defies the so-called African phenomenon. Botswana. No wars since independence, no power struggles, and all this despite being a diamond producing state like Sierra Leone. They also happen to have a very low incidence of poverty, and in may ways are doing much better for their citizens on average than India (not to mention the caste system).

    The Tswana (Bo Tswana) are one people who were colonised within the boundaries of their original Kingdom. Is it possible that this is why they are at peace with each other, and look after each other like they were a family?

    A trip to Botswana made me immediately feel like I were an outsider but who was welcome if I could behave myself, unlike Zambia for example, which is of such diverse ethnicity that even someone from as far as Senegal does not necessairly feel like an outsider, or feel any pressure to behave themselves or else... Luckily for Zambia, though, the first president, Kenneth Kaunda, worked hard on a unifying theme, One Zambia One Nation which was carried out in many ways including shifting civil servants around, not just in their ethnic regions, so that people got used to having neighbours of differing ethnicities and so on. Of course, he tried to cling on as well even after 27 years, but that's another point, within this same discussion albeit.

    You do, however, still see these weak links along the lines of indegenous ethnicity or immigration where particular groups have no real interest in other groups' interests, and the question of Barotseland and seccession still looms over the Western part of Zambia despite its peaceful corporate image.

    The design of the nation state as inherited from the colonial legacy definitely has some role in this. Besides grouping of differing ethnicities into states, education was denied most Africans, a trait which was continued by the "animal farm" African leaders, corrupt to the bone (still being given huge loans from who? The same West that criticises them).

    I do not mean to be rude to my people when I say that the majority of the African electorate in general is under-educated and votes more in the lines of slogans than policy. Indeed if you said policy in some areas one might look over their shoulder expecting to see men in uniform. The inellectual Africans are too few to out-vote the slogan chanters, I believe, and this is what keeps despots in power, this and the fact that so-called international community may call these people names but still fund their operations and provide them with arms directly or oherwise.

    Do we as Africans vote for greedy people? I dont know. Kibaki was not voted in but he forced his way into power-sharing. Same with Mugabe and now Gbagbo is in this situation. Are these people greedy when they are first voted in, or is it something they become when they have tasted the power? Or is it so that the system itself makes otherwise genuine people join the game?

    This is a rather complex issue, and I hope as we can continue discussing we can each learn and teach something new for the collective good. I am learning from the above posts myself.

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  • 27. At 4:45pm on 17 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    Than you Wikispeaks. Let them see the example of the Tswana in Botswana.

    Apart from a homogenous ethicity, a system of self governance and autonomy for different nationalities with a weak central government shall solve the problem in Africa.

    Taking Nigeria for an example, presidential elections shall be contested less vigourously if the different people are allowed to rule themselves and manage their own resources. Only very few people will have any real interest in the federal politics or government.

    Corruption will also become more difficult to perpetuate as the victims shall be more or less one's kinsmen. The police shall also become more efficient as they shall be policing their own communities instead of some stranger's land etc etc

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  • 28. At 4:45pm on 17 Dec 2010, Brian848 wrote:

    Snow White elections -- The president asks Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who is the fairest of us all?
    And if the answer is wrong, the opposition is put to sleep....

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  • 29. At 5:23pm on 17 Dec 2010, richard wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 30. At 9:30pm on 17 Dec 2010, M of the Southn wrote:

    This is quoted from one of your disrespectful comments.

    "What is frustrating about the African phenomenom is that the people seem to chose the MOST greedy and MOST selfish people to rule!"

    What frustrates me is that you comment without knowing anything about Africa, you just assume. No one chooses a greedy selfish person! The leaders never start out as greedy selfish people. You dont have to be educated to figure that out, it happens in every country on every continent.
    The violence happens because there is no one to do anything about it. No one wants to help Africa, they all think like you that the Africans want leaders like this and that its their own fault. It is not.
    You say that Africans, generation after generation blame colonialism. Do you know anything about African History? Most African countries gained their independence around the 1960's. Keep in mind that colonialists were not nice people. Rasism, murder, plundering and keeping the local population un/under educated was their strategy to keep Africans from knowing anything about what was happening to them. Most of the African leaders today were alive in those times. They rule the way they were ruled by the British, the French or the Portuguese.
    Laurant Gbagbo needs to be forced out just like the colonialists were forced out of Africa. The colonial generation are teaching the upcoming generation how not to rule a country.

    It has everything to do with colonialism.

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  • 31. At 10:52am on 18 Dec 2010, Kingsley O wrote:

    I like to commend papa-grande for his insightful and well-thought out response to Mr. Harding's usual stereotyping of Africa. Western media are not only quick to report negative news about Africa, they often over-generalize and stereotype an entire continent. African countries and their leaders are often reported as corrupt - which is true. But,similar activities in the West are considered lobbying, especially in the U.S. Receiving stolen property or goods is a crime, but the West gladly provide safe haven for stolen money by African leaders. Many of the problems/issues faced by Africa are not unique to Africa but common to human anywhere on this planet. In short, things are not as bleak in Africa and everything is not rosey in the West as often painted. Media bias is the biggest problem.

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  • 32. At 11:44am on 18 Dec 2010, grey shoes wrote:

    'The only white man that really understand Africa and the problems of African nations is Basil Davidson. Maybe this is because he is African having been born in Zimbabwe.'

    did you mean to write, 'the only white man whose book i have read that lays the blame outside Africa and matches my own view is Basil Davidson'

    The causes of self destructive leadership in Africa are too numerous to mention and people should be cautious not put too much faith into a view that panders to their own viewpoint.

    Also, when you write, 'white man' did you mean, 'a person of any colour who has not resided in Africa'?

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  • 33. At 4:43pm on 18 Dec 2010, Andrew Harding BBC wrote:

    thanks for your suggestions and comments, and star trek expertise. yes i've read that one papa_grande - it'll be interesting to see what happens with that burden next month in south sudan.

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  • 34. At 4:54pm on 18 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    When i say 'white man' i mean Europeans, Americans. Okay? And Basil Davidson was not born in Zimbabwe.My mistake.

    His views on the issue do not only match mine, they are very correct and accurate. I know because i am involved.

    You cannot possibly know anything concrete about Africa except what the BBC tells you.

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  • 35. At 5:33pm on 18 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    Well Andrew, we shall see but keep in mind that we have the same problems in Sudan,Black christians and animists in the south and Dafour region against Arab muslims in the north.

    These people should never have been together in one country and make the country work unless the British and the Germans could have banded together to form one country immediately after the 2nd world war.

    The government in Khartoum might not be willing to let go of the oil revenue from South Sudan. Lets see what happens.

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  • 36. At 8:40pm on 18 Dec 2010, Mukwa Malanji wrote:

    I am greatful to Davidson, but Shall we try to move a bit beyond Davidson’s views? In Angola, Davidson’s book In The Eye of the Storm: Angola's People, has often been interpreted as a coronation of the MPLA’s achievement against the Portuguese rule. I must spell out that even after his death Davidson still seen by the UNITA cadres as very opportunistic historian, who, primarily, sought to garner the sympathy and friendship of the victorious MPLA movement, than to report on the objectivity of historical facts. Anyway, surely, my view on Davidson endeavors goes beyond political bitterness, as this Bristol Englishman did play a great deal of influence to persuade the British Parliament in 1960s to table a Conference about the Pro-independence cause in former Portuguese Colonies. For example, Lusophone leaders such Viriato da Cruz (MPLA), Marcelino dos Santos (FRELIMO) and Amilcar Cabral (PAIGC) all had found on Davidson a great advocator for the cause they fought for. Nonetheless, despite all the merit and credit to Davidson, truly, it is time to move on. I must say Africa must move on too. But move on how and where? This is the caveat...! As a young African in pursuit of High Education in the Western Universities, this question is deeply close to heart. Perhaps, Basil Davidson would be posing the same question now. In addition, the curse of nationhood or statehood, surely does not concern the Africans (I would even say to my Angolan countrymen/women). What concerns the people is how they should go about providing the bear needs of daily viz. education, health, clean water and electricity (just for your information, the city of Luanda, the capital of Angola, is surrounded by two rivers and yet for decade the government of MPLA has been unable to supply the basic goods of water and electricity). Is it really due to curse of nationhood or statehood? I don’t think so. Just to finish my contribution, I truly believe that the African Union should be a fit for purpose institution. And maybe the purpose and direction of the continent are urgently needed. Frankly, the last month Summit in Tripoli, between the EU and the African Union proved to be missed opportunity since the inception of the Summits in Lisbon 2000. Equally, the current literature (yesterday I pointed out just few resources) on Africa is ever so rich and diverse that could help to challenge or even reframing the Basil Davidson’s views.

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  • 37. At 10:39pm on 18 Dec 2010, papa_grande wrote:

    Mukwa Malanji,The curse of nationhood is what is keeping the govt. from providing basic amenities. That same curse will ensure that MPLA remain in power for as long as they want.

    The same curse of nationhood also makes it possible for very few people to think the way you do; objectively,seeing how lousy your govt is.

    It is the same curse that ensures that lousy politicians remain in office and corrupt politicians(looting govt funds) can always count on the support of their ethnic kinsmen not counting the common good of all.

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  • 38. At 11:32pm on 18 Dec 2010, Mukwa Malanji wrote:

    I would rather prefer a theoretically dynamic approach, by this I simply mean an approach that is ‘ontologically bold and epistemically conscious’ (quoting here Prof. William Outhwaite when referring to the work of the British social scientist, viz. R. Bhaskar, Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation, 1986). I must confess, the literature on Angola (this is just to avoid unnecessary generalisations of kind – African phenomenon...! – with all respect for Andrew Harding creative thinking) has thus far been a permanent struggle between analysing the core facts/reality and the theoretical framework that suits the particular reality. The result is surely very disturbing, indeed. However, much of credit lays on the late Ch. Messiant scholarship, which helped to comprehend the complexity the Angolan politics and society, beyond the mantra of nationhood. Perhaps the book by Chabal and Vidal (Angola: The Weight of History, 2007) makes a rather insightful reading, if one is serious about overcoming or even less challenging the conventional axioms. Please do not take wrong. I am not steering clear of the thinking of Davidson; not at all. What I am attempting to do is pointing out that there might be splendorous light beyond the grave of those who thought before us. Furthermore, as for my case study Angola, the last nationalist, Jonas Malheiro Savimbi has long gone with the wind. By all means, it does not mean that we Angolans are ‘curse free’; not at all, for the Angolans are still cursed with other maladies.

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  • 39. At 01:53am on 19 Dec 2010, NgilaMoto wrote:

    We are all pretentious. We pretend that we want democracy. We pretend that democracy is universal. We pretend that we are going to follow the dictates of a form of governance that we do not master. We pretend that the problems we face are not of our making. We pretend, we pretend... Then we sit behind our keyboards, microphones, etc and complain.
    Close to a century of leaving under the control of "strangers" means, the re-organisation they may have caused in the social set-up of the subjugated people will be deep. But it cannot explain everything about the failings of the "independent" people, half a century later.
    As Africans, we know deep inside that our power structure is anthropologically based on chiefs. Chiefs don't leave power and they are not voted out. Powerful secret societies may control/check their rule but things end only with their death (naturally, by a curse, by a palace coup, etc). We know this, reason why we secretly accept leaders who cling to power even when we supposedly voted them out.
    Why can't we come clean and profess what we believe to be our way. Instead, we pretend. We speak of democracy and claim things like communism, socialism, capitalism,etc that we cannot live up to, once in power. Wasn't Gbagbo supposed to be the democrat fighting against Houphouet Boigny and his undemocratic lot? How democratic is he today? Wasn't Abdoulaye Wade seen as the new democrate 10 years ago, today doesn't he want to ensure his son succeeds him as president of Senegal?
    At independence we should have fashioned systems that match our way of life... The English, Danes, Spanish,...don't they have monarchs who are neither voted nor imposed limits to their term in office? But they have adapted that aspect with their current views of governance.
    One-party, officially "communist" China is emerging as the greatest power in the 21st century. It has adapted to the market system (in its way) but politically stays the way it wants. The idea is to take what you believe is good and drop what does not match your needs at a specific stage in your development.
    It is not about the lack of intellectuals. Gbabgo is a history professor, the head of Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council is a University Professor, Ouattara is western trained economist, Paul Biya (of Cameroon)read law and political science in France, Robert Mugabe (of Zimbabwe) is not an intellectual idiot... They are just a bunch of pretentious fellows who won't tell us directly that they think themselves to be today's chiefs on whose breath the survival of a people resides. They revel in Shaka Zulu parralels.
    The difference is that Shaka was the King of an ethnic group that he sought to protect and not the head of state of a country of 50,100,200 ethnic groups, that share nothing in common. (Shaka's fall was not unconnected to overstretching his kningdom...)
    The key is to accept that democracy as preached is not universal and our way of governance is different while accomodating the baggage we have picked-up from centuries of trade, slavery, colonialism, etc with teh rest of the World. Come out clean...instead of pretending to want democracy, then fail to bear its consequences and start blaming the world, history and colonialism.
    End of rant. Sorry for being long.

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  • 40. At 04:57am on 19 Dec 2010, kbuhazi wrote:

    Thanks everyone for this learning experience and I do agree it’s time for us Africans to chart our own destiny and see the world through our own eyes/indigenous mental filters. Cultivate a love of our self and our race. Everything that we have learnt to date which includes our education and religion is not evolving our conscious. I like the quote from Einstein that goes “To keep doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result is insanity". We are spiritually in the wilderness and the pure Africans in spirit will chart a new way and strive to improve the foundation that our Ancestors left for us. Peace to everyone.

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  • 41. At 05:46am on 19 Dec 2010, Chimaoge Okezue wrote:

    Just wanted to say that I agree 100% with papa_grande's commentary. Given the large numbers of dissimilar ethno-linguistic groups forced to cohabit within the same national borders, I would say African nations has done well enough not to fight the kind of extreme cataclysmic wars that Europeans fought with each other before they were finally able to fix their borders and the ethnic make-up of their individual nations. Even then, there are still hang-over issues in the Spanish Basque and Catalonia regions. In Northern Ireland, despite the 1998 good friday agreement there are still outstanding issues between the aboriginal Irish Catholic minority and the majority "Ulster Loyalist" community whose Scottish and English protestant ancestors were planted there by King James I in the 17th century.

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  • 42. At 08:10am on 19 Dec 2010, miqmiq wrote:

    I think just calling it the Human Election is enough. There is nothing about this that is specific to any one part of the world other than the bluntness of it reflecting the simplicity and lack of education of those perpetrating it.

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  • 43. At 6:03pm on 19 Dec 2010, kbuhazi wrote:

    I do agree with papa _grande’s commentary and others’ - it’s very insightful on a macrocosmic level. However it takes two hands to clap. So what are the individual’s contributions to this mess? We cannot only blame our leaders, colonialism, tribes..etc. without looking at the individual too. In most African countries from age7 all the way to an 80 year old – all know about corruption, and take part in it one way or another if given the opportunity. According to sociology all of us are a product of our society therefore those corrupt leaders also grew up and are part of the sociological programming so we cannot just blame others without looking within. So where does the sociological structure break down? Where are the rules and the safety valves in it? The human family is the basic unit of all humankind and if there is any break down in it that will be reflected in the society all the way to the top (country/region/continent). Here is an example- when a man has many kids from different women, it’s natural that the mothers are going to look out for their own offspring and make sure that they succeed. Naturally there is going to be suspicion and mistrust of the other mothers and their children. Naturally this psychological impact is going to be reflected in our leaders toward other tribes. When you look at the history of Europe, India, China and Brazil (the sleeping giant) the transformation was not only accomplished by pure intellect; they had to develop their spiritual sociological glue in their image that held their system together. It does not matter whether it was stolen or adapted - they had to transform it and make it their own. We also have to look and the sociological issues that are reflected in our leaders.

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  • 44. At 7:51pm on 19 Dec 2010, Mukwa Malanji wrote:

    Kbuhazi, I must say that was truly a food for thought. However, Africa (sorry I do not intend to generalise) has also been referred as sleeping giant. Question one would want to pose is just how to awaken the sleeping giant in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe (just to narrow down a little bid the focuses onto the Lusophone Africa, and Cape Verde seems to be the sole case of successful story among the countries I enunciated before). Maybe, actions (from within and outside)are much needed to awaken in our continent. To this view, still find timely Marx’s answer to the problem of philosophy or theoretical strand of sociology, namely, that: “The philosophers (sociologist/political scientists, my emphasis) have only interpreted the world (Africa, my emphasis), in various ways; the point is to change it.” In addition, actions are as much important as the understanding of the existing-contextual structures of each African country. Just to partake with you, this has been the key concern of my own challenges to investigate about Angola.

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  • 45. At 6:10pm on 20 Dec 2010, Mukwa Malanji wrote:

    Just to share this piece of good news. This illustrates the idea of constructive and responsible actions I mentioned yesterday. Now, I hope UK, German, Spain, Portugal will follow the initiative:

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  • 46. At 6:29pm on 20 Dec 2010, Mukwa Malanji wrote:

    Here goes another piece, thanks.

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  • 47. At 10:58pm on 20 Dec 2010, Ghost rider wrote:

    It's a good debate and I would advice papa-grand and others to visit to get more about Africa

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  • 48. At 2:08pm on 21 Dec 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    I can't think of a better name than "Klingons", but I think it's important to understand the Klingons are mostly stuck to, unable to free themselves from American glue; so, they little choice but to "Klingon".
    The United States of America has imperialistic designs on Africa - from its north to its southern tip.
    This is why I have supported Gaddafi for years in calling for a United States of Africa so that all African countries can draw from the overall wisdom, expertise, and culture in making decisions that affect any and all parts of Africa.
    At the moment, all African countries are vulnerable to the US, vulnerable to its insatiable greed for oil, minerals, copper - anything that the west wants.
    Dec. 9, 2010, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson: “The United States government is very much focused and engaged in a wide array of issues across the African continent and nothing will distract US officials in any way from their overall goal of building a strong US-Africa partnership.” (If that word "partnership" has you joking, it has me joking too.)
    US imperialism has given special focus to the Horn of Africa. Its efforts intensified during the 1990s as the US intervened militarily and imposed an Interim Government that has been interim for 10 years (?), but was never wanted by the Somalians.
    According to the Sudan Tribune, the US-backed government in Ethiopia was told to intervene in Somalia in 2006 to carry out Washington’s foreign policy wishes. The intervention resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis on the continent, leaving thousands dead & @ 2M displaced. There was never a bounce-back from this tragedy.
    It became evident that there existed a US-Ethiopian (Meles Zenawi)agreement. The Ethiopian army to cross into Somalia.
    To stop the Islamic Courts Union from forming a Government, and that's exactly what Ethiopia did.
    The ICU was an independent alliance of grassroots organizations that sought to reconstruct the Somalian Government based on the needs of the people (vs. Western imperialist forces).
    Dec. 6, Sudan Tribune: Washington is already tied up in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has no capacity to launch large-scale operations against Somalia; so, it called on Meles Zenawi.
    The report named African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer as the spear-head for this proxy war along with support coming from the State Department & the Pentagon.
    Also the US is growing more & more concerned about the People’s Republic of China in Africa. Relations have been strong between the PRC and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. While Washington treats Zimbabwe like a garbage country, has has since 2000, calling President Robert Mugabe’s government a non-government after Mugabe took steps to redistribute land & thereby give his people the means of self-support.
    The West has tried various strategies, including a desperate attempt to ask China to influence the reform of Zimbabwe’s security sector. After the possibility of a coup and sanctions failed, the United States and Germany resolved to work towards a reform of the security services.”
    Let's have a word or two about Nigeria. Do you remember the criminal case against the Pfizer pharmaceutical company. Pfizer had come under fire for the 1996 “test” of tainted antibiotics used to treat meningitis in children. The test resulted in the deaths of patients and the sickening of others who suffered brain damage, paralysis, deafness and blindness. The New York Times reported: “The cable indicated that the information alleging corruption on the part of the attorney general was spread through the media to publicly pressure him to drop the lawsuits.” Nigerian Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa dismissed the $6B lawsuit and eventually settled the case for $75M. The so-called clinical trials in 1996 were said to have involved 200 patients who were given the drug Trovan. Trovan had been approved for usage in adults only in 1997 in Europe and the United States. In the aftermath of reports of liver failure and deaths resulting from Trovan usage, however, it was then banned in Europe, restricted in the US, and who gave a damn about Nigeria?
    The US and the International Criminal Court have subjected Sudan to allegations of war crimes and genocide. The Khartoum central government headed by the National Congress Party of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir signed several years ago a Comprehensive Political Agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which is based in the south of Africa’s largest geographic nation-state. The CPA resulted in the cessation of hostilities.
    The southern region has set a referendum in 2011 on its future. This could result in breaking up Sudan and a resumption of the civil war involving the SPLM and Khartoum. The US is pushing to hold the referendum on schedule and has sent a delegation to the south of Sudan headed by the US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
    Egypt has warned Washington about the effects of division of Sudan. Egypt asked the US government to help postpone next month’s referendum by four to six years.
    The biggest obstacle to disrupting Klingons, promoting peace and democracy on the African Continent is the United States of America:
    US imperialist policy toward the African continent.
    We don't need to coin a word for the American-biased activity; the word exists already, and it is spelled IMPERIALISM.
    So, again I ask African countries: When will you unite?
    There is power in union.

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  • 49. At 3:20pm on 21 Dec 2010, Mze-djimba wrote:

    I used to be one of fans of this blog of African bashing by Andrew Harding but I was forced to quit due to the injustice and unfairness dismissals of many of my comments which said nothing than just the painful truth.

    Today i am just talking on only one comment though i follow everything here. My friends it's real confusing to keep nagging on the 1884 European meeting to consider how to mug Africa but also it's idiocy & meaningless to not look at the real facts.

    Africa is not for the Africans since that 1884 meeting. and those eunuch-bouncers who were and still fronted on the Africans are nothing than just supervisors.

    To understand this well, please look at the example of the money in your pocket right now; it can be coin or paper money from any currency in the world. The money is in your hand or pocket and you might feel that it’s yours BUT in reality is not.

    Yes its yours for such points and such very limited level, You can’t burn that paper note in your pocket, you can’t cut it pieces or use it as toilet paper and most impotently the value of the money is in the reserve bank which produced that note. and if you do any of these prohibited things on front of the law informants of your country they will lock you up. WHY? Because your ownership limit doesn’t go to that stage you went.

    And here on the African issue since Europeans divided African for themselves in 1884 the entire continent belong to those European owners until now and I don’t think will end soon.

    And if we agree on that then let’s go to the subject opened this thread. I am sure that everyone will agree that For security reason & guarantee purposes of the new owners of the rich land of Africa, to keep milking the land without any challenge they had & still need to do what whites did in South Africa and what the superclass or business people did in the west for hundreds of years and that is to divide the public on various groups from ethnicity, tribes differents of religious, colours etc, etc and etc.

    This was technical and very smartly done for purpose, and that is to not give the victims a chance to even think on how to fight their really exploiter(Look at the Palestinian position & read the latest wikileaks cables) They have to spend most of the time on thinking on what i will eat today and then on what for my tribe my church, etc.

    But to the first comments of papa-grande and those who sing like him; i think we have to start learning how to live together, how to overcome these enormous uphills sited up by our European owners for nearly two centuries.

    We don’t have to let the medicine work for our enemy’s aims and benefit, we must be on the course of trying to prove them wrong.

    But if Hutu & Tutsi agreed and approve that in deed yes they can’t talk to each other on African language but must use French or English and the Germans must be there to play as mediator & referee, Gbagbo & Ouattara agreed and approve that yes they can’t talk to each other on African language but must use French Charles de Gaulle must be there to be the mediator & referee, the Zulu & Xhosa agreed and approve that yes they can’t talk to each other on African language but must be in Afrikaans and the Europeans must be there to mediate them then we don’t have to guess what the SarkozySSSSSSS thinks and say about us behind close doors which now they don’t even bother to hid.

    Now if you agree on all of what i said then you don’t have be surprise on the mysterious ends of some brave people like Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, kouame kourouma and many we don’t know and lucky few who reminds like Mugabe and Mandela, you are here to witness how the European media tarnishing their names & rewriting their history and forcing them to only say and do what the Europeans wants.

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  • 50. At 4:28pm on 21 Dec 2010, Ghost rider wrote:

    Agreed with some of comments of Mze-djimba that it's time to learn to live together as African for better of the continent. Also values our cultures and luangages to be able to communicated in our languages than we don't need French, English, Portuguese to able to communicate with among us African. If we(African) can learn English, French, Portuguese even Afrikaan why we can learn our own african languages then may be then we won't need a french man or English man to be a referee. Let Stop the blame game specially the tribes and coliniasation time to move for better for African people. We can make change of Africa not white man. About Mukwa Malanji checked there'are lot of debates and positive thing about Africa and Portuguese colonias

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  • 51. At 6:28pm on 21 Dec 2010, rhayat10 wrote:

    Papa Grande wrote:

    "This is what colonialism did, forcing many different people who have nothing in common and who have always distrusted each other to stay together in artificial 'nations' and boundaries."

    As a matter of fact, this is exactly what the British government is doing to its own people in Britain through massive immigration programs from Africa and Asia - forcing native Brits to live together with people they have nothing in common with. But it is illegal for them to complain. Would you also call this "colonialism"? In essense, what you are describing in Africa (which, I admit, was wrong) is forced diversity. The same kind of forced diversity that we have in the U.S. and the British endure on their island. In all cases, it is wrong.

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  • 52. At 7:25pm on 21 Dec 2010, Mze-djimba wrote:

    @rhayat10: You need to correct your understanding. history told us that you never be any friendly person and In our days we are witnessing the raising of extreme xenophobic culture in all over the western world particularly in your UK and countries like France, countries which you are sallying diamonds, gold, uranium etc value of trillions a year while your countries have no even one kg of these valuable minerals. you take from us and if we are getting these trillions we won't come to your country.

    What I would like you to make no mistake keep in mind is that, your country was built by our African fathers and our Africans minerals and up to now your economy is running because of African’s hardship. If you don’t know that then better you go learn that before you come here.

    Because whose the hell you think you are to deny us the right to live in the UK & FR? Actually you should open your boarders for us, we don’t ask you visa when you are coming into our countries, so why you don’t do the same?

    You feel to open the doors for the polish & Romas etc whom you only share the skin colour but not we who makes you rich and treat you like kings & queens while you still do the opposite, you treat us like criminals and useless things.

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