Memorable Quotes from African Women in Power

With a population of over 1 billion, Africa is the second-largest and second most populous continent in the world. Of the total number of people, more than half are female, with an estimated 56% between the age of 15-64.

Below are 5 memorable quotes from influential and powerful women in Africa.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia

African Women_Ellen

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is globally-recognized for her role in stabilizing Liberia as the country’s president shortly after civil war. In an excerpt from her book, This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President, Nobel Peace Prize winning author offers inspiring words to rising leaders.

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”

Catherine Samba-Panza, President of Central African Republic

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When her country spiraled into deadly sectarian violence in 2013, government leaders looked to replace the current president with an interim leader who could provide a unique perspective to peace talks. In January 2014, Catherine Samba-Panza, the Mayor of Central African Republic‘s capital city, was elected to the presidency. In an interview with The Guardian shortly after she was sworn in, the former corporate lawyer talked about her advocacy work for African women.

“The majority of my sisters and daughters in the Central African Republic don’t know their rights so they can’t defend them. But we who know our rights can help them. We must always help them: the battle is always to promote and protect the rights of women.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former Finance Minister of Nigeria

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala may arguably be one of Africa’s most recognized female leaders. Shortly before moving back to Nigeria to join government as the Minister of Finance, Okonjo-Iweala was a Managing Director at the World Bank. In this 2008 TED talk, she speaks to Africa’s shift from encouraging foreign aid to increasing foreign investment.

“Africans…they are tired. They’re tired of being the subject of everybody’s charity and care. We are grateful, but we know that we can take charge of our own destinies if we have the will to reform.”

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission

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As the head of the African Union, the South African political leader has stood as the face of the continent in political platforms around the world.

“It’s in [the West’s] advantage to know what’s happening in Africa because if they don’t come to the party eventually the party will happen without them.”

Dr. Isatou Njie Saidy, Vice President of The Gambia

African Women

Though Dr. Isatou Njie Saidy serves as second-in-command for one of Africa’s smallest countries, there is no ignoring her big voice. In an address delivered during the 2011 UN General Assembly, Saidy reminded world leaders that the continent should be approached as a diverse place and not a country.

“Africa is no longer the colony of any country and must be respected and treated as such.”

Source: http://www.africa.com

Is the African Union needed?

The African Union summit in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, ended on Saturday with delegates from more than 50 member states attending.

The plan was to discuss gender equality and sustainable development across Africa. But the African Union’s overall purpose is much wider.

Its goal is to protect human rights, defend African positions on international issues, and bring the continent together on social and economic topics.

But has the African Union been up to the job? Can it still help Africans?

Presenter: Sami Zeidan

Guests:

Michael Amoah – Research associate with the Centre of African Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Thembisa Fakude – Researcher at the Al Jazeera centre for studies.

Dismas Mokua – Deputy president of Africa Axis, a consultancy focused on doing business in Africa.

Erastus Mwencha – Deputy chairman of the African Union.

Source: Al Jazeera

Governance Ahead: Understanding the African Union’s African Governance Architecture, African Peace and Security Architecture and the linkages between them.

Africa has made considerable strides in striving towards democratic and participatory governance. Today, African leaders are convinced, more than ever before, that democratic governance and durable peace are a fundamental sine qua non for sustainable human development. All major Organization of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU) normative frameworks bear testimony to this firm conviction by African leaders including the 2000 Solemn Declaration on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), the 2000 Constitutive Act of the African Union and the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The AU has undergone a paradigm shift from the old OAU doctrine of non-interference to the new doctrine of non-indifference to human rights abuses, mass atrocity and crimes against humanity within its Member States. However, while we have made tremendous progress, existential threats of democracy persist. This is the context within which the African Governance Architecture (AGA) was established.

The African Governance Architecture in a nutshell

The AGA is a direct by-product of the AU Shared Values Agenda. In February 2010, the 14th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly endorsed a decision taken earlier by the Executive Council (EX.CL/Dec.525(XVI), recommending the theme of the 16th Ordinary Summit to be on Shared Values, while also putting in place a Pan-African Architecture on Governance. Subsequently, in January 2011, the 18th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council endorsed the strengthening of the AGA, through the launch of the African Governance Platform as an informal and non-decision making mechanism to foster exchange of information, facilitate the elaboration of common positions on governance, and strengthen the capacity of Africa to speak with one voice.

The AGA and its Platform became operational in 2012, the very year declared by AU policy organs as the Year of Shared Values. The AGA was established to translate the objectives of the legal and policy pronouncements on AU Shared Values, as the implementation framework for the promotion and sustenance of democracy, human rights and governance in Africa. By AU Shared Values, we mean those values, norms and standards as enshrined in the Union’s various instruments such as freedom, human rights and the rule of law, tolerance, respect, community spirit, gender equality, youth empowerment, unity in diversity, constitutionalism, democratic governance, peace, security stability, development, environmental protection, popular participation, accountability and transparency, strong democratic institutions, anti-corruption, improved service delivery, equality, credible and democratic elections, durable solutions to humanitarian crises and free movement of African citizens across borders of AU member states.

The principal goals of the AGA are to connect, empower and build capacities of AU Organs, Regional Economic Communities and relevant stakeholders, including civil society, in order to enhance good governance and democracy in Africa. Through the AGA, the Union is facilitating the implementation, support and complementing the efforts of AU Member States to achieve the above commitments enshrined in the AU Constitutive Act and other relevant standards and norms. To ensure coordination and synergy amongst all the various organs, institutions and the RECs on governance, democracy and human rights issues, the Africa Governance Platform serves as the dialogue and information-sharing forum for the achievement of the goals of the AGA. It provides an avenue for consultations, coordination, dialogue and collective action among the various AU Organs and Institutions for lesson learning and experience-sharing on how best to deepen democratic and participatory governance on the continent.

How complementary are the AGA and the APSA?

The AGA cannot succeed without a strong complementarity with the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). One of the specific objectives of the AGA indeed is to ‘facilitate joint engagement in preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction and development associated with governance challenges in Africa’.(1) Thus both the AGA and APSA are supposed to address the structural root causes of crisis and conflict in Africa. It is only when democratic and participatory governance is institutionalised and peace and political stability prevail that Africa stands a better chance for sustainable human development and prosperity for its citizens. This is also the vision of the AU elaborated in the Africa Agenda 2063 and the Common African Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda.

We are mindful that while inter-state conflicts have subsided in Africa, intra-state conflicts have persisted even in the post-Cold War situation. These conflicts continue to derail our development goals, postpone democratic gains and generate humanitarian crises in different ways;

(i) weak state institutions are unable to exercise authority over their territorial jurisdictions;

(ii) given weak institutions, provision of development and services to the people suffers thereby generating crisis of legitimacy of the state;

(iii) a militarisation of society and establishment of military formations contest space with the formal security establishment thereby generating disorder and near-anarchy;

(iv) mismanagement of diversity through, inter-alia, politicisation of ethnic identity and ethnicisation of politics which triggers intra-state conflict;

(v) mismanagement of and contestation over natural resources;

(vi) environmental degradation and climate change which in turn exerts pressure on rural communities resulting in violent conflicts between pastoralists and farmers, and

(vii) socio-economic exclusion, inequality, unemployment and marginalisation. These are the structural root causes that propel violent conflicts and instability in Africa with devastating impacts on peace, democracy and development. Failure to address these root causes will confine all our responses to mere symptoms of the problem.

The AGA is designed as the comprehensive, overarching and consolidated framework for addressing issues of governance and governance related challenges aimed at addressing structural causes of political instability and crisis through inter alia, preventive diplomacy, mediation, negotiated settlement of conflicts, humanitarian assistance and durable solutions, reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction and development. The AGA addresses the governance and democracy mandate of the AU, the APSA addresses the peace and security agenda and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) deals with the developmental agenda of the continent.

Strengthening the institutional linkages between the AGA and the APSA

There are various Shared Values instruments that facilitate cooperation between the AGA and the APSA. These include most notably the 2000 AU Constitutive Act, the 2000 Solemn Declaration on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA), the 2003 Protocol Establishing the Peace and Security Council, the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the 2009 Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Policy Framework. More recently, the Africa Agenda 2063, which is to be adopted during the Summit of Heads of State and Government in January 2015, and the Common African Position on Post-2015 Development Agenda are additional policy frameworks which underline the need for cooperation between and among the AGA, APSA and the AU development architecture.

In practice, however, the AGA and APSA do not yet have strong institutional connections. The main arenas that provide glue between the two AU architectures are the technical and political meetings of the AGA and the operations of the Peace and Security Council. APSA institutions, such as the Peace and Security Council, are supposed to take part in the AGA technical and political meetings. The technical meetings are attended by technical staff of the AGA member institutions while the political meetings are attended by the political heads of the institutions. The other arena relates to the workings of the Peace and Security Council. AGA Clusters regularly provide situational analysis to members of the Peace and Security Council on various issues including

(i) elections in Africa,

(ii) human rights situation in Africa, and on the

(iii) humanitarian situation in Africa.

A great opportunity for further strengthening the linkages between the AGA and APSA can be found in the African Union Post-Conflict Recovery and Development (PCRD) policy framework, and the African Solidarity Initiative (ASI). The African Solidarity Initiative was launched by AU Ministers of Foreign Affairs/External Relations on 13th July 2012 with the view to mobilising support from within Africa for post-conflict reconstruction and development in those countries emerging from protracted violent conflict. The main objective of the ASI is to promote African solidarity, mutual assistance and regional integration, and propel the continent to a higher level of development and self-confidence, driven by the motto: ‘Africa helping Africa’.

A more comprehensive approach tested in Central African Republic

(Pic courtesy of aljazeera.com)

One concrete example of collaboration between the AGA and APSA is the initiative in Central African Republic (CAR) where the Department of Political Affairs  and the Department of Peace and Security work together to assist the country in implementing a post-conflict reconstruction and development programme. This intervention is guided by the AU Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Policy Framework.

The initiative focuses, partly, on rebuilding CAR’s governance system. Specifically, the initiative prioritised the following areas of governance reforms in CAR:

  • The drafting of a new Constitution
  • The electoral process
  • The public sector reform
  • Inclusion and management of the diversity

The long-term plan is to replicate PCRD interventions in CAR in other countries. Resources permitting, we aim to do so in the seven other pilot countries of the African Solidarity Initiative, namely Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South sudan, as well as Mali and Madagascar.

Annual High Level Dialogue which focuses on the nexus between governance and conflict

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(Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Director for Political Affairs at the Department of Political Affairs at the 2014 High Level Dialogue in Dakar, Senegal)

Finally, a good opportunity for further strengthening the synergy between the AGA and APSA can be found in the Annual High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, which is one of the key flagship initiatives of the AGA that started in 2012. This forum is one of the knowledge generation and dialogue series which has proved extremely useful in providing a frank, open and inclusive platform for Member States, AU Organs and Institutions, RECs, African citizens, think tanks, civil society, media, private sector, philanthropists, and development actors to engage and share comparable experiences and lessons on how to improve governance, consolidate democracy and foster effective realisation of human and peoples’ rights on the continent.

The 2014 High Level Dialogue had its theme as ‘Silencing the Guns: Improving Governance for Preventing, Managing and Resolving Conflicts in Africa’. This provided a platform for exploration of how democratic and participatory governance could be leveraged to silence Africa’s blazing guns in line with the agenda of the Peace and Security Council. A pre-forum to interrogate issues around the contribution of young Africans to building a culture of democracy and peace in Africa was held in Nairobi on 15-17thSeptember 2014, while the Nairobi Forum focused on the role of youth in this process of ending wars on our continent, on 7-10th October 2014, another forum aimed at exploring the specific role for women in this drive towards inculcating a culture of peace and democracy. The outcomes of these preparatory meetings were fed into the High Level Dialogue on 30-31 October 2014 in Dakar, Senegal. This provided another impetus to further strengthen the synergies between AGA and APSA.

Operational elements of the APSA

The operational elements of the APSA are:

  • The Continental Early Warning System
  • Peace and Security Council
  • Panel of the Wise
  • African Standby Force
  • African Union Commission
  • Regional Economic Communities

In addition, The AU’s work to support post-conflict transition processes is guided by the:

  • Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Policy (PCRD)

Footnote

[1] AGA Framework Document, June 2014.

Interviewee:Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Director for Political Affairs at the Department of Political Affairs, African Union Commission conducted by Faten Aggad, Head of Africa’s Change Dynamics Programme at ECDPM.

This article was published in GREAT insights Volume 4, Issue 1 (December 2014/January 2015)

Somebody please believe me #16days

A woman in Lagos protests against underage marriages in Nigeria.

(Pic courtesy of theguardian.com)

I liked the idea of school, the thought of reading, writing, speaking and learning. Opening my mind and world to a whole new realm.  “I am going to be somebody one day. No longer will my family have to live in poverty wondering about where the next meal will come from.”

Today though, today I hate school, I loathe it.  My teacher Mr. Shabakanga, talks and touches me inappropriately. He said that I shouldn’t tell anyone. That it was the way of life and a heavy part of learning. He continued to do this, hurting me and I finally could not take it anymore. The pain was unbearable; it was time to tell somebody. I decided to tell my mother, then my sister. I tried telling my father but he said that it was my fault that this had happened. That I had tempted my teacher. My own father told me this. Can you believe that? He says it’s okay, society says it’s okay. We go to the courts. I feel ashamed. They keep asking me such dehumanizing questions. Questions such as, ‘how sure are you it is rape?’ What do you mean by how sure am I? How do you expect me to speak up in public again if you will shame me for this and make me relive this? Shouldn’t I feel safe when I decide to speak? Shouldn’t the society protect me? Shouldn’t my teacher who abused me in school pay for this? Why is the law so lenient on him when he has stripped me of my dignity, my innocence, my security, my body, and my rights?  Somebody please believe me.

Dear world,

When I tell you that it is my dress and it is my choice, please believe me. It is not just about this fabric that I wear but about how I feel when I wear it. You have told me that in society I have to listen to what you say. Isn’t listening a two way street? Please listen to me, this discussion is not about the pieces of clothing that I choose to adorn myself with. It’s about you acknowledging that when it comes to my body, it is my dignity. That you should not be violent towards me, harass me because of who I am, a woman.

Dear world,

I was slapped today because I had not worn a scarf to cover my head. My mother tells me that I am lucky because the neighbour’s daughter got her ear cut off. I started to thank my God because today, I was slapped and did not have my ear cut off.

Dear World,

I was studying for my exams when I was kidnapped. I was scared, the community had told us that we were not safe but our fathers and mothers tried to tell the government but they did nothing. There were soldiers, 15 of them, very brave I must admit. Just as brave as us who decided to stay in school despite the increasing insecurity in the area. And then it happened, they came and the government was nowhere to be seen. We waited one day, two days, three days, six months, and now 8 months. Why are you taking my safety and security as a light issue? Isn’t it my right to feel safe? I was trying to build my future, realize my goals. But no they came and took us. And you just stood there watching. Today I am tired, I am scared, I am weary from carrying a child in me. I’m almost due for delivery, I did not plan on this. My crime was being female, seeking an education. You have not in any way shown any interest in trying to save me. What you say that you have done is not enough. I feel like if it were my brothers, you would have responded quicker, with more urgency. Day and night, I still wait for the day that you will come and rescue me. Please believe me; I want to go back to my family, back to school.

Dear world,

I would like to know that it is okay for me to dream big, to envision my role in society. That society sees me as a human with needs and acknowledges my input. That I am not just an asset to make money from. I do not want to be a bride. You sell me for $12 and my family is helpless, they can only agree to this. My aunt tried to oppose this, her friends too, but you decided to put her in harms way. You called them prostitutes. I believe that it is my right to choose who I wish to spend the rest of my life with. Marriage before the age of 18 is a violation. If anything, the international convention on children’s rights says so. You signed this and agreed to it.

Dear world,

Female Genital Mutilation is not a right of passage. Exposing me to death is in no way a right. Exposing me to child bearing inability is not a right. I still remember that day, mother and auntie grabbed my legs trying to pull them apart. I tried to resist but I lost the battle. Then came the first slash, I bled and bled, I was told not to cry that I would shame my family if I did. But the pain was unbearable and so I lost consciousness. I woke up to such excruciating pain; I could not go to the bathroom without wanting to kill myself. My mother told me, “welcome to adulthood.” Is adulthood pain? Because I do not want it. Let me be a child. Please believe me.

Dear world,

I want to tell you so much more, please believe me when I tell you this.

I hear the roar of women’s silence #MydressMychoice

17th November 2014, marked an important day in Nairobi, Kenya. This is a day when both women and men took to the streets to say enough was enough with the increasingly growing disrespect to women.  This event came about due to the unfortunate and unforgivable misdeeds of men who decided to strip a woman of her dignity for having dressed ‘indecently’ at Embassava, a busy street in Nairobi’s Central Business District. This situation further spiraled resulting to another woman being stripped in Mombasa town. The women’s crime you ask? ‘Indecency.’ The travesty of justice.

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To be honest, I arrived at Uhuru Park both anxious and curious about the turn out. Reason for this is that, I was afraid that Kenyans would take the route that they often did, which was being online activists without follow up on physical activism. Nonetheless, proud is what I was; the numbers kept growing with people trickling in from all corners and walks of life. The energy and the vibe were palpable. People had come out in large numbers; enough was enough this time around.

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 (Protesters at Embassava) Pic courtesy of Brian Inganga

A certain man amused me as I got there, as he muttered under his breath in a cynical tone, “So now they think they’ll get their rights.”

Dear stranger, yes we will get our rights, it may not be today, it may not be in a month’s time, but we will eventually.It’s men like you who shed light on the reality and magnitude of this problem; and the patience that requires to be exercised when trying to address deep seated social norms. Thomas Sankara rightly put it when he stated that it took the madmen of yesterday for us to be able to act with extreme clarity today, we will dare to invent the future.

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At about 10.30 a.m a man arrived in style with his loud speaker calling on his fellow men to stop behaving primitively. “Wale watu walifanya hivyo tunataka washikwe” (We want those people who did that to be arrested), he said.

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The march began a few minutes past 11, and it definitely did witness jeers from onlookers. One man arrived there with the sole purpose of hurling insults as we began. “You women are stupid,” he stated. No one seemed to pay attention to his unnecessary rants; this march and solidarity were bigger than any name calling.

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 (Activist Boniface Mwangi) 

Majority of the curious onlookers whipped out their phones to record, others just stood there smiling while others frowned, evidently upset with the peaceful protest.

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Pic courtesy of Brian Inganga

We arrived at the Embassava stage and the anger and disgust from protestors was tangible. We chanted “shame on you” at the Embassava minibuses while others wrote messages on their dirty windows. It’s important to note that by this point, the insults had grown in number and the men had begun to ask ludicrous, crass and disrespectful questions. “Mme vaa chupi? Mnatoa chupi?” (Have you worn any underwear, and are you removing them?)

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The march had been peaceful up until the moment that we were heading back from Embassava when a rowdy crowd of hired goons started running towards us as they chanted “Vaa nguo, vaa nguo!” (Wear clothes, wear clothes!) What’s ironic is that they came holding bibles to support their statements as they spat on us and yelled at us; while others attempted to grope the women. They also snatched one of the banners quite violently as people looked on at the spectacle laughing. Kenyans.

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I am of the opinion that regardless of religious affiliation, no person’s opinion should ever be imposed on another. Tolerance is key. In fact every religious text speaks on love and being a brother’s keeper. If the lady had dressed ‘indecently’ and to your disliking, isn’t it common sense to offer her a leso rather than strip her? If that does not suffice then look away.

For those who claim that this is a matter of indecency and immorality, when did women peacefully marching in the streets ever have to do with the underwear that they wore? Wake up and get off your morality seats! This is not about indecency but perverseness; a society that has allowed barbarian patriarchal norms to take centre stage.

For those who look at this situation from a view point of misguided ownership stating that this could have been your mother, sister, cousin, niece. Stop it! This is a human rights issue! No woman should ever be stripped because of what she wore. In fact from what we witnessed, it’s safe to say that this society is increasingly becoming violent and lawless. The goons marched in front and behind us tearing clothing, I guess to symbolize that they would do this all over again in a heartbeat.

This is not about indecency nor about morals; this is about sexual violence which has slowly sipped and inculcated its way in our society. This is a deep seated issue that may not be solved today but one that requires joint efforts by society. Rape has never been about what a person has worn, we have heard of an 80 year old being raped as well as a 4 year old.

Dear media houses, start being more responsible. It’s such a shame to see the skewed amount of time and attention that you give to misogynists vis-a-vis human rights activists.

I salute all the men and women who came out to say enough was enough with this barbaric behavior.  Thank you to the men who also formed a human chain around us to protect us from the hired goons who occasionally threw stones as we were outside the courts.

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Pic courtesy of Brian Inganga

“The revolution and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or out of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the revolution to triumph….. Inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights, resulting from an upheaval in the means of production and in all social relations. Thus, the status of women will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them….Thomas Sankara

The passion of uncle Ruckus, House of Slaves, the Slave Trade

Uncle Ruckus: If you black of skin and full of sin, come forward so I may lay my hands on you.

[slaps a black man]

Uncle Ruckus: Black be gone!
[slaps black woman]

Uncle Ruckus: Praise White Jesus!
[slaps another black man]

Uncle Ruckus: Now, I want everybody to find the nearest black man and lay hands on him. But first, make sure your hand is balled up in a fist so you can beat the black outta his soul. God smiles when you hate blackness so you beat that darkie in the name of the Almighty! Hallelujah!
[the whole congregation starts beating each other. Granddad pulls Tom away from the melee]

Uncle Ruckus: That’s right! Ronald Regan said ‘Beat a blackie and go to Heaven.’ God is good! Now, let us pray. Lord, I have spent my whole life hating you for making me black. And now I see I must hate myself and all those like me. And cause them misery just like your servant, Ronald Reagan did. And if any of my words don’t come directly from the Almighty God himself, then may I be struck by lightning right this very instant! Halle-

[Ruckus is struck by lightning]

Uncle Ruckus: AAAAHHHHHHH!

(Scene from Boondocks)

Pause and Rewind.

I would like to go back in time, back to a place where being black was indeed a crime and burden, a place that knows pain and anguish, has seen both tears and immense fear, witnessed countless deaths as well as countless atrocities; a place known for the role that it played in the slave trade era; that place being Goree Island.

To be more specific, the place is Maison des esclaves, a slave house that has in fact been preserved well and looks just as it did several hundreds of years ago.

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As I set foot into the building, I couldn’t help but try and fathom what was going through the minds of women, children and men as they stepped into the house back then. Some fighting to avoid getting in despite the heavy shackles on their feet; others silent from the acceptance of their impending doom; others being unable to look their children in the eye, while others breaking down from the sight of them. Honestly, I couldn’t fathom it, and just those thoughts in themselves made my chest tense up.

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Below is a picture showing the manner in which the slaves were ferried across; stacked as if lifeless objects or what you would of marbles in a bowl.

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Below is the children’s room which is about 8 square foot in size and that held 30 in number. Children were separated from their parents and were left to relieve themselves within the same space; this is the same place in which they were fed.

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Below is one of the windows in the room, one can see that the opening narrows outward to avoid the children from escaping.

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Below is where the rogue prisoners were kept. A small space underneath the stairs that led to the colonial master’s quarters above. The prisoners were stacked there whether dead or alive. One can only imagine the trauma and disease.

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A sobering fact to note is that the colonial masters held parties and hosted dinners in the top quarters while the slaves were at the bottom barely a few metres away.

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Quite the sobering and heart wrenching visit.

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The slave trade era dates back hundreds of years yet whose reverberations still ring true today. This is what I wish to write on today. Mental slavery as witnessed through uncle Ruckus above and many of us through our day to day activities.

On various platforms today, be it political, social or economic, Africa is still yet to rid itself of its shackles.

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(Art piece by Goree Island resident)

For starters, when did it become okay for us to export majority of our agricultural produce when our citizens still die from hunger?

The recently convened African Union second high level private sector and agribusiness meeting saw discussions surrounding this topic. A participant rightly put it when he stated that Africa has lagged behind in emancipating itself from slavery giving the example of Nigeria which imports tea from England when it could do so from Kenya. This statement is not only true for the West African state, but one that sheds light on the entire continent. Today intra African trade stands at barely 12%.

Moving on, when was it ever okay to require 33 visas to travel around Africa? In fact to connect between some countries in Africa, one needs to leave the continent only to fly back in.

When did headlines such as these ever become acceptable especially in the year 2014?

“14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax for the Benefits of Slavery and Colonization”

The article continues as follows… “14 African countries are obliged by France, trough a colonial pact, to put 85% of their foreign reserve into France central bank under French minister of Finance control. Until now, 2014, Togo and about 13 other African countries still have to pay colonial debt to France.” To read the full article kindly do so here.

Where did we go wrong?

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds,” Bob Marley stated.

Indeed there is no temptation so insidious as the one of pointing fingers when it comes to slavery today. No one is to blame but us. Uncle Ruckus rants are our own doing.

When will we begin to take pan africanism and the African renaissance seriously?

“Besides, political independence, though worthwhile in itself, is still only a means to the fuller redemption and realization of a people. When independence has been gained, positive action requires a new orientation away from the sheer destruction of colonialism and towards national reconstruction. It is indeed in this address to national reconstruction that positive action faces its gravest dangers. The cajolement, the wheedling, the seductions and the Trojan horses of neocolonialism must be stoutly resisted, for neocolonialism is a latter-day harpy, a monster which entices its victims with sweet music. In order to be able to carry out this resistance to neo-colonialism at every point, positive action requires to be armed with an ideology, an ideology which, vitalizing it, and operating through a mass party with a regenerative concept of the world and life, forge for it a strong continuing link with our past and offer to it an assured bond with our future. Under the searchlight of an ideology, every fact affecting the life of a people can be assessed and judged, and neo-colonialism’s detrimental aspirations and sleights of hand will constantly stand. In order that this ideology should be comprehensive, in order that it should light up every aspect of the life of our people, in order that it should affect the total interest of our society, establishing a continuity with our past, it must be socialist in form and in content and be embraced by a mass party.” Kwame Nkurumah

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(Friends at the door of no return)

Scene-setting: “Silencing the Guns by 2020” What is at stake?

For those who were old enough then, remember the period between 1970 to 1990? When single parties were the talk of day, military coups and attempted military coups the order of the day?

Fast forward to the ‘90s; competitive politics came into play and countries far and wide within the African continent celebrated multiparty elections; thus true democracy was born.

Today however, we still grapple with challenges in democracy, good governance and human rights. A good number of countries are experiencing impunity, violent conflict, corruption,  rigged elections, lack of participatory and inclusive development and violation of human rights especially of women and youth but to name a few.

So how then does the African state intend to silence the guns in 5 years knowing full well the challenges being faced? What really is at stake here?

H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission has consistently emphasized the role of democratic governance in doing so. She has often times spoken on the fact that stable peace and national prosperity can only be achieved when the institutions and systems in place are representative of all groups in a given society. “Efforts must include fostering democratic governance, social cohesion and harmony as encapsulated in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, among other AU normative frameworks. Only through democratic governance and durable solutions can durable peace and sustainable human development be achieved.”

She continues by informing that to surmount the aspirational and inspirational milestone of silencing the guns within the framework of AU Agenda 2063, we would require translating AU resolutions into solutions through concrete policy interventions at member state level. In achieving this, we would need to focus on addressing the structural causes of conflict on our continent which are rooted in both governance deficits and development malaise.

Prof. Gilbert Khadiagala, Head of International Relations Department, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, raised the poignant aspect of silenced the guns being feasible not only in five years, but today. “When heads of state decide to lead from a conscientious point of view, wars in Africa will be nothing but history,” he stated. This is only possible where leaders decide to silence their own guns and not turn them on the societies that they lead. “To end wars we just have to be honest about what we are doing wrong,” the Prof. informed.

“As a continent we need to harness the inspirational element of doing things, we must dissuade ourselves from engaging in pessimistic tenets of life. We have managed to build a culture of competitive politics in 25 years, in that same spirit we can strengthen institutions of participation, accountability and transparency,” he stated.

“Some say it is impossible, but take a look at Costa Rica, they are a well functioning and successful country without having a military. No one ever thought this would be possible, but it has been done.”

The fundamental aspect of all this is that we cannot achieve our goals without including the youth. Today and in the the year 2020, they will be the leaders, in 2063, they will be the ones passing the baton to the next generation. Incorporation of the future in the present cannot be underscored. Youth have to be at the genesis of the problem solving process in the continent.

Dr. Mustapha Mekideche, member of the APR Panel of Eminent Persons informed the group that growth without inclusive development would consistently pose an imminent threat to the progress of Africa. He informed the audience of the need to foresee the objectives of the Africa Peer Review Mechanism being met; that includes fostering the adoption of policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through experience sharing and reinforcement of successful and best practices. This includes addressing deficiencies and assessment of requirements for capacity building. Evidently, the peer review mechanism goes a long way in addressing political, social and economic governance however in respect state sovereignty, membership of the same is on a voluntary basis. This has led to the unfortunate challenge of some states avoiding to commit to the objectives of the institutions or even to adhere to the recommendations given.

“The APRM reflects African values, who is afraid of these values?” Prof. Khadiagala asked.

I urge you to gain a better understanding of it to keep abreast and hold your governments accountable.  Public participation could not be emphasized at a more befitting time. For more information kindly visit here

We cannot afford to wait for external or regional pressure to get the systems in place working. Let us make a conscientious effort to enhance developmental governance; the success of this continent is ours for the taking,

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