What is the iphone or the ipod to me if the people that I love cannot find food to eat, clothes to wear, water to drink or when their governments cannot be accountable to them? What is Liberia or Africa if Ivory Coast goes down to another civil war, if another horrific warfare starts up again in the region? What is the Presidency to Gbagbo or to Quattara if the Ivorian people are running all over the bushes, seeking refuge just because these two men cannot put the interest of the citizens above theirs?American Soldier in Iraq (copyright: overgroundonline.com) 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake (wikipedia)
With the decade’s numerous civil wars in West Africa alone, the global warfare for and against Terrorism in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Drug wars in the Americas, the decade’s Tsunamis, numerous earthquakes, flooding, heatwaves, all to immeasurable degrees, it is a wonder we have all survived so far. Millions have however, perished in this decade, not only from the wars with their numerous massacres, but also the brain puzzling numbers of deaths in the Tsunamis in Asia, stretching as far as Africa, the Haitian earthquake alone, taking a quarter of a million down and the terrible wars in the Middle East. What has this decade been to us that we would want repeated in the next? Nothing. Yes, we have seen great successes in technological indulgences of the ipod, the i phone, improvement in electronic communication, including the use of cell phones in the remotest villages of the world, including my mother’s home village of Dolokeh that almost no one on earth has ever heard of, but what are these to the few of us who enjoy them when the entire world is in turmoil?
2001-2010 Has Been A Challenging and A Great Decade
In Liberia: The Liberian Civil War finally ended when Charles Taylor was forced to leave Liberia for Nigeria in 2003. The Interim Transitional government under the leadership of the Chairman of the Council State, Gyude Bryant took over with the departure of Taylor in 2003. In 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the first female President of Liberia and the only female President of an African country, thus ending fourteen years of warfare in Liberia. (Sept. 11 photo: copyright: scrapetv.com)
Bones of Liberians dug up from mass graves in 2009 (above)
Night in Sine
by Léopold Sédar Senghor
Woman, place your soothing hands upon my brow,
Your hands softer than fur.
Above us balance the palm trees, barely rustling
In the night breeze. Not even a lullaby.
Let the rhythmic silence cradle us.
Listen to its song. Hear the beat of our dark blood,
Hear the deep pulse of Africa in the mist of lost villages.
Now sets the weary moon upon its slack seabed
Now the bursts of laughter quiet down, and even the storyteller
Nods his head like a child on his mother’s back
The dancers’ feet grow heavy, and heavy, too,
Come the alternating voices of singers.
Now the stars appear and the Night dreams
Leaning on that hill of clouds, dressed in its long, milky pagne.
The roofs of the huts shine tenderly. What are they saying
So secretly to the stars? Inside, the fire dies out
In the closeness of sour and sweet smells.
Woman, light the clear-oil lamp. Let the Ancestors
Speak around us as parents do when the children are in bed.
Let us listen to the voices of the Elissa Elders. Exiled like us
They did not want to die, or lose the flow of their semen in the sands.
Let me hear, a gleam of friendly souls visits the smoke-filled hut,
My head upon your breast as warm as tasty dang streaming from the fire,
Let me breathe the odor of our Dead, let me gather
And speak with their living voices, let me learn to live
Before plunging deeper than the diver
Into the great depths of sleep.
Translated by Melvin Dixon (Poetry Foundation website)
Léopold Sédar Senghor, “Night in Sine” from The Collected Poems, translated by Melvin Dixon. Copyright © 1998 by The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia on behalf of the University of Virginia Press. Reprinted by permission of The University of Virginia Press.Source: The Collected Poems (The University of Virginia Press, 1998)______________________________________________________________________________
(Sierra Leoneian Civilians caught in the crossfire in the civil war of the 1990s below)
The decade saw the end to many wars in West Africa, the gathering of forgotten bones and stories, the beginning of the rebuilding process and the beginning of new wars with the environment. As the new decade begins, let us not forget the people and the sort of heartless cruelty that plunged us into the most brutal of modern day warfare.
Some the historical events around the world include the election of Africa’s first female President of any country, Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, the election of the first African American (black) President of the United States of America, President Barack Obama, the end of many wars around the world, the coming together of many nations to solve global problems, the closing years of the Iraq war, with the US and its Allies pulling out its troops, the invention of all kinds of technology, making it easier for us to communicate with relatives around the world, the use of blogs and armature photo journalism, thereby capturing stories that otherwise would have been lost and many many more great things. This has been a decade of great things and terrible things. If this decade did not prove to us that human beings can do anything they set their minds on, whether to killor to save, to destroy or to build to gain or to lose, no other decade will. The goodness of our world in this decade seems to equal our cruelty.
As I conclude this blog post, I am cautious of a new, brewing warfare in West Africa: The Ivorian unrest that is fast growing into a new regional problem. We again have on our hands, the Ivorian question. If Africa is shaped like a question mark, this is another time when that question again loams over us. Should the world intervene or should the world not intervene? Should one man step down or should the other disappear?
(Image copyright: interalex1.blogspot.com
In October, the Ivorian people went to the pulls to elect a new president, and after all of the counting and recounting, the incumbent President, Laurent Gbagbo did not win the election. His opponent Alassane Quattara was declared the winner.
Please recall with me that President Gbagbo became President in 2000, and has therefore been the leader of the country for more than ten years. His opponent, Alassane Ouattara, who comes from the North of the country has been declared the President against Mr. Gbagbo’s will. But the difference between the two men is not just in their ethnicity, but also in the support each has received. Gbagbo may be supported by his government which he has led for more than ten years, but Quattara is being supported by the powerful international body, including the US, France, the United Nations, the regional economic community, his neighbors, who will be immediately impacted by any uprising developing from this refusal to step down.
The question therefore is whether Gbagbo, who has already been in power long enough will begin to think of his poeple who are already bleeding and fleeing the country as refugees. Or will he be like one of his predecessors, a man he had despised when he was a younger man, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the first president of the Ivory Coast who ruled the nation from 1960-1993, when his death proved he could no longer remain in power as President of that country?
Does Gbagbo care about his country or not?
Speaking to a couple of friends from Liberia, I was stunned to discover that even they who are Liberians do not recall how our country went down for fourteen years just because some stupid political leaders refused to listen to reason. If a Liberian can support the Gabgbo’s refusal to step down, then no wonder Africa is in trouble.
Gbagbo, who has been in leadership longer than most democratic leaders around the world does not see that it is noble to step down and to allow peace to prevail. If he cannot listen to the UN and to his neighbors and to the ECOWAS nations, who will he listen to? As this new decade takes root, it is our duty as survivors of the various stupid wars around the globe to stand up against the kind of violence that characterized the last decade. We should not allow crazy people to destroy our world. After all, it is our world. I call on the UN and the ECOWAS community, the US and France to prevail upon Russia to join in and drive away Gbagbo before he destroys our people. His army may be strong, but with negotiations and diplomacy, he will listen.
Ivory Coast is one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, a place that was a sanctuary to millions of refugees from Liberia and other African countries as wars ravaged our homelands in the 1990s and 2000s. My siblings took refuge in the Ivory Coast, and many of us used the country to escape or just fly out of when it was impossible to fly out of Liberia. The Ivorian people are very similar to us in culture, and in fact, I hear that Gbagbo is an Ivorian Grebo man. Well, if he is, I’m calling on him to end this crazy deal and step down. If he is a Grebo Ivorian, someone thrown into that part of the country by Colonizers, and therefore a relation of many of the Grebos in Liberia, it is only honorable that he steps down. This is not about tribalism, therefore, he should step down and allow President Quattara to lead the Ivory Coast into a brighter future.
The country is bigger than one man’s ambition, bigger than any one of us. Enough blood has been shed. Let us not make the same errors that turned our people into international refugees. The world cannot always come to our rescue just because we refuse to listen to reason.
One of the forefathers of Africa, himself a long ruling President was a poet whose vision for freedom of the black race and for Africa, influenced his poetics or whose poetry influenced his leadership. Here, below was Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal in another poem.
by Léopold Sédar Senghor
Translated by Melvin Dixon
Léopold Sédar Senghor, “In Memoriam” from The Collected Poems, translated by Melvin Dixon. Copyright © 1998 by The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia on behalf of the University of Virginia Press. Reprinted by permission of The University of Virginia Press.Source: The Collected Poems (The University of Virginia Press, 1998) (This post from Poetry Foundation)
I wish my wonderful readers, friends and supporters, and even my critics a wonderful New Year filled with all sorts of blessings, a wonderful decade of peace and unity, a peaceful spirit to discern the evils of the world from the good.I also challenge you to stand up against any need for warfare.
Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906-2001)