Bibliothèque en herbe

Prof. Djibril Tamsir Niane (cravate), ministre Siaka Barry, à sa droite Ms. Fifi Niane, Conakry, 14 mars 2017 (Source: Guinée7)
Prof. Djibril Tamsir Niane (cravate), ministre Siaka Barry, à sa droite Ms. Fifi Niane, Conakry, 14 mars 2017 (Source: Guinée7)

Guinée7 publie un reportage sur “la remise provisoire de la Bibliothèque Djibril Tamsir Niane”. Il n’est guère surprenant que ce site étale un projet financé par l’Etat. Après tout, son activité éditoriale est favorable au pouvoir en place.  Mais Le journaliste reste vague à ce sujet. Et les informations sur l’état d’avancement  du projet sont absentes. Dommage ! Par contre, il s’empresse d’aligner les noms grandiloquents des organisations bureaucratiques et budgétivores liées à l’initiative. On croit cependant rêver un instant d’un pays à l’économie ronflante.… Tenez :

  • Autorité de contrôle des Grands projets (ACGP)
  • Direction nationale des investissements publics (DNIP)
  • Direction nationale des Marchés publics

Et la liste est bouclée, bien sûr, par le ministère de la Culture, des Sports et du Patrimoine historique.

Alliant l’imprécision à la flatterie, l’article consacre le plus long paragraphe à l’engagement du président Pr. Alpha Condé “de réhabiliter (la bibliothèque) et même de l’agrandir et de la moderniser avec les dernières technologies”.
Le journaliste s’empresse ensuite d’indiquer que “les travaux de construction sont aujourd’hui achevés à près de 80%”.  Que reste-il-il donc à faire ? C’est malheureusement là où le bât blesse. Car il s’agit de :

  • La finition :  électrification, eau, peinture, etc.
  • L’aménagement : mobilier, équipement divers, décoration, sécurité, etc.
  • Le budget de fonctionnement et d’entretien
  • Le formation et le salaire du personnel
  • L’acquisition onéreuse de collections livres, périodiques, ebooks, etc.
  • La connexion en réseau
  • La création et l’administration du site web de la bibliothèque, etc.
Bibliothèque Djibril Tamsir Niane en construction à Conakry
Bibliothèque Djibril Tamsir Niane en construction à Conakry

On lit également que “la mission a fait quelques remarques sur le bâtiment”. Quelles remarques exactement ? Mystère !

L’article continue en révélant  la raison réélle pour laquelle cette cérémonie a eu lieu : le fameux “événement culturel très important Conakry Capitale mondiale du livre”.

Depuis le début du mois le rouleau publicitaire s’est mis en marche, notamment dans Jeune Afrique, pour annoncer la mascarade suivie de “mamaya” que constitue cette charade de l’UNESCO et du gouvernement guinéen. Les deux partenaires collaborent dans cet effort de propagande. Il risque de leur retomber sur le nez. Car, privée de l’économie, du tissu industriel, et du pouvoir d’achat, Conakry ne saurait, au 21e siècle, être une capitale —même sous-régionale— du Livre. J’y reviendrai.

Gageure et/ou duperie ?

En attendant, Pr. Djibril Tamsir Niane doit continuer à compter sur la bienveillance de l’Etat pour rebâtir sa bibliothèque. Le ministre de la Culture, Siaka Barry, “a promis que les commandes pour l’équipement seront lancées dans les jours qui suivent pour que la BDTN et la Bibliothèque nationale soient fonctionnelles avant la fin avril”.
Est-ce une gageure ou une duperie ? Comment compte-t-on équiper une bibliothèque en moins de 45 jours. Quelle est la part du récipiendaire de l’ouvrage dans la sélection des produits et servir à financer et à acquérir ? Il en sait mieux que les jeunes bureaucrates venus lui rendre visite. (Il fut mon doyen à Faculté des sciences sociales de l’Institut Polytechnique dans les années 1960-70). Les autorités se rendent-elles compte que la concrétisation d’un tel projet exige un intense travail d’équipe, d’envergure nationale et internationale ? Une bibliothèque sans livre n’en est pas une. A-t-on lancé des appels d’offre et quels sont les fournisseurs soumissionnaires pour la livraison des ouvrages et du matériel de lecture ? Le building sera-t-il doté d’autonomie en courant électrique ? Pourquoi limiter  ses services à l’usage des seuls chercheurs et étudiants ? Et le grand public alors ?

Souffrance et patience sans illusions

L’article se termine par les remerciements du Pr. D. Tamsir Diane aux représentants du “Pr.” Alpha Condé, président de la république. Doyen Niane souligne que “c’est une première que l’Etat finance un privé à cette hauteur”. Cette phrase est lourde de sens. En filigrane, on décèle la souffrance, la patience mais non les illusions de ce grand intellectuel.
Ancien bagnard du Camp Boiro dans le faux Complot des Enseignants (1961), Pr. Niane sait, mieux que quiconque, que l’Etat guinéen étouffe tout ce qu’il étreint, et pourrit tout ce qu’il touche.
Dans l’interview intitulée “De Baro à Boiro” avec Lilyan Kesteloot — sa cadette et émintent professeure à l’Université C.A. Diop—, il révèle comment les résultats de ses précieuses recherches sur la culture baga en 1968-69 furent ruinés par la négligence de l’Etat. Idem pour ses pièces de théâtre, ou ses démarches vaines de  repèrage et de conservation des ports de la Traite des Noirs, du Rio Nunez (Boké) à la Méllacorée (Forécariah), en passant par le Konkouré à Dubréka.

Maryse Condé vivait avec sa famille à Conakry en 1960-61. Dans La vie sans fard, elle évoque la répression — violente et meurtrière — contre les élèves et la purge de l’élite enseignante par de lourdes peines de prison. Maryse s’acquite du devoir de mémoire avec la véracité d’un témoin oculaire et, en l’occurrence, avec la plume d’un génie littéraire.

Le drame et la menace sont présents, palpables. Ils sont agrravés par l’absence des acteurs du secteur privé. Eux qui sont toujours prêts à financer la construction de stades sportifs et l’organisation de soirées dansantes. Mais qui ne prêtent pas leur concours à la construction de ce maillon de l’infrastructure de l’éducation et de la formation de Guinée. Je veux parler des sociétés minières, des entreprises commerciales, des opérateurs économiques, des ONG, etc.
Inexorablement, le temps fait son oeuvre. Les dictateurs se sont succédés et ont sévi sur la Guinée. Les populations  ont en pris de terribles coups. Le pays  relèvera-t-il ? Peut-être. Mais il faudra, entre autres, qu’elle mette mieux à profit l’expérience du Pr. Niane et de sa génération d’éducateurs encore en vie :

  • Ibrahima Kaba
  • Mountagha Baldé
  • Yansané Sékou Moukké
  • Mamadou Kolon Diallo
  • Thierno Diallo
  • Bahi Seck ……………………

Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps !… Ni l’inauguration éventuelle de la bibliothèque Djibril Tamsir Niane, ni “Conakry, capitale mondiale du Livre”, n’effaceront les ruines causée, durant le demi-siècle écoulé, par l’Etat guinéen, prédateur de la Culture et de l’Education, et archennemi du Savoir.

Tierno S. Bah

Slavery: Carson, Trump, and the Misuse of American History

Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary, Housing and Urban Development
Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary, Housing and Urban Development

I am re-posting here Jelani Cobb’s article (The New Yorker) written around the blunder of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, whereby he compared African slaves to immigrants. This is the same person who, out of the blue, claimed in 2013 that: “Obamacare is really … the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” The +20 million people who got insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) would beg to differ.
Anyhow, Dr. Carson will, most likely, not become president of the United States. The world will thus be probably a better place. Because despite his  acknowledged skills as a neurosurgeon, Carson is a mediocre student of history. Should he want to remedy that self-inflicted intellectual handicap, he would have to rethink slavery. And first of all, he must admit that the Slave Trade is “America’s Original Sin.” Consequently, it was not some migratory itch or urge that uprooted millions of Africans and dumped them on the shores of the “New World.” On the contrary, they were taken out and across the Atlantic Ocean in chains. Upon landing, and as Edward E. Baptist put it best, they toiled, from dawn to dusk and in sweat, tears and blood, for the “Making of American Capitalism.”

Tierno S. Bah


In referring to slaves as “immigrants,” Ben Carson followed a long-standing American tradition of eliding the ugliness that is part of the country’s history.

Earlier this week, Ben Carson, the somnolent surgeon dispatched to oversee the Department of Housing and Urban Development on behalf of the Trump Administration, created a stir when he referred to enslaved black people—stolen, trafficked, and sold into that status—as “immigrants” and spoke of their dreams for their children and grandchildren. In the ensuing hail of criticism, Carson doubled down, saying that it was possible for someone to be an involuntary immigrant. Carson’s defenses centered upon strict adherence to the definition of the word “immigrant” as a person who leaves one country to take up residence in another. This is roughly akin to arguing that it is technically possible to refer to a kidnapping victim as a “house guest,” presuming the latter term refers to a temporary visitor to one’s home. Carson had already displayed a propensity for gaffes during his maladroit Presidential candidacy, and it might be easy to dismiss his latest one as the least concerning element of having a neurosurgeon with no relevant experience in charge of housing policy were it not a stand-in for a broader set of concerns about the Trump Administration.

A week earlier, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, had described historically black colleges and universities as pioneers in school choice—a view that can only co-exist with reality if we airbrush segregation into a kind of level playing field in which ex-slaves opted to attend all-black institutions rather than being driven to them as a result of efforts to preserve the supposed sanctity of white ones. The Trump Administration is not alone in proffering this rosy view of American racial history. Last week, in a story about changes being made at Thomas Jefferson‘s estate, Monticello, the Washington Post referred to Sally Hemings, the enslaved black woman who bore several of Jefferson’s children, as his “mistress”—a term that implies far more autonomy and consent than is possible when a woman is a man’s legal property. Last fall, the textbook publisher McGraw-Hill faced criticism for a section of a history book that stated, “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” The word “worker” typically carries the connotation of remuneration rather than lifelong forced labor and chattel slavery.

One part of the issue here is the eliding of the ugliness of the slave past in this country. This phenomenon is neither novel nor particularly surprising. The unwillingness to confront this narrative is tied not simply to the miasma of race but to something more subtle and, in the current atmosphere, more potentially treacherous: the reluctance to countenance anything that runs contrary to the habitual optimism and self-anointed sense of the exceptionalism of American life. It is this state-sanctioned sunniness from which the view of the present as a middle ground between an admirable past and a halcyon future springs. But the only way to sustain that sort of optimism is by not looking too closely at the past. And thus the past can serve only as an imperfect guide to the troubles of the present.

In his 1948 essay “The Gangster as Tragic Hero,” Robert Warshow wrote about the mid-century efforts to pressure studios to stop producing their profitable gangster movies. The concerns focussed partly upon the violence of the films but more directly upon the fear that these films offered a fundamentally pessimistic view of life and were therefore un-American. There is a neat through-line from those critics to Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” idealism to the shopworn rhetoric of nearly every aspirant to even local public office that the nation’s “best days are ahead of us.” We are largely adherents of the state religion of optimism—and not of a particularly mature version of it, either. This was part of the reason Donald Trump’s sermons of doom were seen as so discordant throughout last year’s campaign. He offered followers a diet of catastrophe, all of it looming immediately if not already under way. He told an entire nation, in the most transparently demagogic of his statements, that he was the only one who could save it from imminent peril. And he was nonetheless elected President of the United States.

Strangely enough, many of us opted to respond to Trump’s weapons-grade pessimism in the most optimistic way possible, conjuring best-case scenarios in which he would simply be a modern version of Richard Nixon, or perhaps of Andrew Jackson. But he is neither of these. Last summer, as his rallies tipped toward violence and the rhetoric seemed increasingly jarring, it was common to hear alarmed commentators speak of us all being in “uncharted waters.” This was naïve, and, often enough, self-serving. For many of us, particularly those who reckon with the history of race, the true fear was not that we were on some unmapped terrain but that we were passing landmarks that were disconcertingly familiar. In response to the increasingly authoritarian tones of the executive branch, we plumbed the history of Europe in the twentieth century for clues and turned to the writings of Czeslaw Milosz and George Orwell. We might well have turned to the writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and James Baldwin for the more direct, domestic version of this question but looked abroad, at least in part, as a result of our tacit consensus that tragedy is a foreign locale. It has been selectively forgotten that traits of authoritarianism neatly overlap with traits of racism visible in the recent American past.

The habitual tendency to excise the most tragic elements of history creates a void in our collective understanding of what has happened in the past and, therefore, our understanding of the potential for tragedy in the present. In 1935, when Sinclair Lewis wrote “It Can’t Happen Here,” it already was happening here, and had been since the end of Reconstruction. In 1942, the N.A.A.C.P. declared a “Double V” campaign—an attempt to defeat Fascism abroad and its domestic corollary of American racism.

Similarly, it was common in the days immediately following September 11th to hear it referred to as the nation’s first large-scale experience with terrorism—or at least the worst since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, staged by Timothy McVeigh. But the nation’s first anti-terrorism law was the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, designed to stall the attempts to terrorize emancipated slaves out of political participation. McVeigh’s bombing, which claimed the lives of a hundred and sixty-eight people, was not the worst act of terrorism in the United States at that point—it was not even the worst act of terrorism in the history of Oklahoma. Seventy-four years earlier, in what became known as the Tulsa Race Riot, the city’s black population was attacked and aerially bombed; at least three hundred people were killed. Such myopia thrives in the present and confounds the reasoning of the director of the FBI, James Comey, who refused to declare Dylann Roof’s murder of nine black congregants in a South Carolina church, done in hopes of sparking a race war, as an act of terrorism—a designation he did not withhold from Omar Mateen’s murderous actions in the Pulse night club, in Orlando.

The American capacity for tragedy is much broader and far more robust than Americans—most of us, anyway—recognize. Our sense of ourselves as exceptional, of our country as a place where we habitually avert the worst-case scenario, is therefore a profound liability in times like the present. The result is a failure to recognize the parameters of human behavior and, consequently, the signs of danger as they become apparent to others who are not crippled by such optimism. A belief that we are exempt from the true horrors of human behavior and the accompanying false sense of security have led to nearly risible responses to Trumpism.

It has become a cliché of each February to present the argument that “black history is American history,” yet that shopworn ideal has new relevance. A society with a fuller sense of history and its own capacity for tragedy would have spotted Trump’s zero-sum hustle from many miles in the distance. Without it, though, it’s easy to mistake the overblown tribulations he sold his followers for candor, not a con. The sense of history as a chart of increasing bounties enabled tremendous progress but has left Americans—most of us, anyway—uniquely unsuited to look at ourselves as we truly are and at history for what it is. Our failure to reckon with this past and the centrality of race within it has led us to broadly mistake the clichés of history for novelties of current events.

Jelani Cobb
The New Yorker

White Nationalism: Conversation, No Dialog

John Hope Franklin & Alfred A. Moss Jr. From Slavery to Freedom A History of African Americans
John Hope Franklin & Alfred A. Moss Jr. From Slavery to Freedom A History of African Americans. McGraw-Hill; 9th edition, 2010. 736 pages
President Barack Obama and Pr. John Hope Franklin
President Barack Obama and Pr. John Hope Franklin

From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans stands as the magisterial study of the American black experience by the late Pr. John Hope Franklin (1915-2009) and Pr. Alfred A. Moss Jr. It was a revelation when it appeared in 1947. He followed up with several and many articles on Reconstruction, the martial culture of the antebellum South, runaway slaves and other subjects. Each one is a model of graceful prose, meticulously documented and free of bias or cant. The quality of Mr. Franklin’s writings made him the first black chairman of a history department at a predominantly white institution, Brooklyn College, in 1956. Later came appointments at the University of Chicago and Duke, and teaching assignments at Howard and Cambridge universities and elsewhere. Along the way he assisted Thurgood Marshall’s legal team in Brown v. Board of Education, served in government and accumulated more academic honors than we have space to mention. In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 I am reacting here briefly to the transcript of the interview called “A Frank Conversation with a White Nationalist.” Although not not an empty talk the exchange reads like a polite but vague conversation. It fails to turn into an articulate and meaningful dialog. Its flaw lays in its weakness and even lack of historical perspective.

It is true that the journalist, Al Letson, and his interlocutor, Richard Spencer, met the day after the Republican candidate’s shocking Electoral College victory that made Donald Trump president-elect of the USA.
However, the atmosphere of the electoral upset, it was incumbent on them to acknowledge and explore better the complexities of such loaded topics as identity, race, ethnicity, nationalism, etc. Instead, they went for clichés, wrong assumptions, and somewhat shallow personal stories.

For instance, the two interlocutors agree —not surprisingly— on the contribution of Blacks in the making of American culture. Unfortunately, and due to its entertainment undertones —not to forget the association with sports—, this recognition is nothing but a stereotype. Because we know that real power is not in music and athletic achievement; it is in economics, finances, banking, science, and technology.
So what do I see as hits and misses by Al Letson and Richard Spencer respectively?

Capturing Fugitive Slaves in California, ca. 1856
Capturing Fugitive Slaves in California, ca. 1856

Al Letson

As an investigative journalist, Mr. Letson did not bring up the stronger arguments. Instead, he limited himself in reminding Richard Spencer of the Ku Klux-Klan and its terrorist lynching raids. Oddly, a word search of the interview show that Al fails to mention Slavery altogether. Yet, African bondage has been often and appropriately called America’s original sin, by President Obama. Is it merely coincidental that it was during his stewardship that such movies as 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Selma, etc., were produced and realized? Probably not. And it was obviously not serendipity but rather a fitting reunion when former President G.W. Bush joined Obama in the inauguration of the African-American Museum of History and Culture back in September The latter finished the project that the former had started.
Therefore, African-American media professionals like Al Letson ought to study as hard as they can African-American history, sociology, economy, political science, linguistics, etc. Such an activity nurtures the mind and helps—among other things—to debunk the myths of white supremacy. They  prepare and empower African-American scholars, journalists and artists as they seek to engage and refute the views of the likes of Richard Spencer.

The other Achille’s heel  in Al Letson argumentation is that he does not draw Richard Spencer’s attention that oppression engenders  resistance and rebellion. And that African-Americans stood up against slavery. They fought heroically to end it during the Civil War. They challenged Jim Crow. Under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and others, they defeated legal segregation in 1964 (Civil Rights Act) and in 1965 (Voting Rights Act). Incidentally, Richard Spencer refers to the 1964 legislation as Immigration. That’s a mistake.
The bottom line is that, through and through, Blacks were neither submissive nor passive. Strong personalities and fearless leaders emerged and blazed the trail of no-surrender, insurrection and entrepreneurship right in Antebellum America. Among them Toussaint-Louverture (Haiti), Abdul-Rahman (from my native Fuuta-Jalon), Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, and so many others.Their successors fought for the end of the abomination of slavery and to assert their humanity. And Whites and Jews showed solidarity all along. Quakers, intellectuals, politicians joined the anti-slavery movement, which peaked with John Brown, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.…

Richard Spencer

 Mr. Spencer’s intellectual handicap and judgemental predicaments are many. I list here some of them.

First, he suffers from the delusion that Whites, Blacks, Asians, etc. constitute separate races. Never mind that such a prejudice is deep-seated. Genomics has dispelled it  thoroughly. There is only one species, and that’s Humans, aka Homo sapiens? Even it still applies in culture, politics and in administration, it does not hold water in nature and in biological sciences.

Second, Richard has the illusion that Whites are homogeneous. But history belies that wrong premise. The elites, rulers and states of Germanic, Latin and Slavs peoples and countries have fought many a battle for political and   economic power, as well as for cultural dominance. Three examples:

  • Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812
  • His battle against Wellington in Waterloo (1815)
  • Hiter’s occupation of Poland, France, and Nazi partition of the latter in two territories during World War II
  • …………………………………………………

Richard Spencer does not seem to know that without African —slave and colonial—labor, neither Europe nor America would have gained such prosperity. He ought to read Edward Baptiste’s The Half Has Never Been Told. Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. And  Thomas Piketty. Capital in the 21st Century.

Third, Richard Spencer idealizes and idolizes the history of Europe. He is entitled to his opinion, but not to the facts. Before it spread its tentacles on the Southern Hemisphere of the Globe, capitalism began to wreak havoc at home. Again Richard should read the masterpieces of Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, and other works that depict the miseries brought upon Europe by the rise of capitalism. Writing in the 20th century, historian Eric Hobsbawn has laid bare the lows and highs of the Industrial Revolution.

Fourth, for all its scientific and cultural achievements Europe was the matrix of the first (1914-1918) and the second (1939-1945) World Wars. The horrors of WWI led European artists, writers and poets to express their rejection of Western civilization and to seek inspiration elsewhere. Their quest was fulfilled by the so-called primitive arts of Africa and Oceania. Thus was born surrealism, dadaism. Then the Harlem Renaissance flourished. It carried on and elevated centuries of blacks’ struggled against racism and exclusion in the United States of America. Young African and Caribbean scholars in Paris followed suit with the Négritude movement, a trailblazer of the emancipation of Africa from colonial rule.… In essence, the Surrealism—Harlem Renaissance—Négritude chain underscores how  societies and people  are interrelated and interdependent, irrespective of skin color or “racial” background… And, in particular, it illustrates the ties that bind the intelligentsia, as well as literary, artistic and scientific trends and currents, in time and space.
That said, on January 20, 2017 Mr. Trump will have executive control of the world’s largest and most sophisticated nuclear arsenal. Should that lethal armory be—accidentally or willfully—unleashed and retaliated against, it will wipe human life off the planet, sparing no one, including the advocates of racial supremacy or ethnic superiority.

In the end, Al Letson does not introduce Richard Spencer adequately to the audience of his podcast. We are only told that he was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Texas, and that he likes mountain biking! That’s not enough to profile the carrier of a hostile ideology. The interview could have disclosed further information about the white nationalist’s education, profession, intellectual background and political connections.

But since Al Leston and Richard Spencer remain in touch, let’s hope to learn more about this supporter of president-elect Donald Trump .

Tierno S. Bah

Obama’s speech in Mandela Hall, Addis Ababa

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 28, 2015. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 28, 2015. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

July 28, 2015 — U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a keynote speech Tuesday at African Union headquarters in Mandela Hall in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. It was the first time a sitting American president addressed the 54-member continental bloc, and the historic speech marked the end of Obama’s five-day, two-nation tour of East Africa.
The full text of Tuesday’s remarks, provided by the U.S. Embassy, follows below:

Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Madam Chairwoman, thank you so much for your kind words and your leadership. To Prime Minister Hailemariam, and the people of Ethiopia — once again, thank you for your wonderful hospitality and for hosting this pan-African institution. (Applause.) To members of the African Union, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen — thank you for welcoming me here today. It is a great honor to be the first President of the United States to address the African Union. (Applause.)

I’m grateful for this opportunity to speak to the representatives of more than one billion people of the great African continent. (Applause.) We’re joined today by citizens, by leaders of civil society, by faith communities, and I’m especially pleased to see so many young people who embody the energy and optimism of today’s Africa. Hello! Thank you for being here. (Applause.)

The son of an African

I stand before you as a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of an African. (Applause.) Africa and its people helped to shape America and allowed it to become the great nation that it is. And Africa and its people have helped shape who I am and how I see the world. In the villages in Kenya where my father was born, I learned of my ancestors, and the life of my grandfather, the dreams of my father, the bonds of family that connect us all as Africans and Americans.

As parents, Michelle and I want to make sure that our two daughters know their heritage — European and African, in all of its strengths and all of its struggle. So we’ve taken our daughters and stood with them on the shores of West Africa, in those doors of no return, mindful that their ancestors were both slaves and slave owners. We’ve stood with them in that small cell on Robben Island where Madiba showed the world that, no matter the nature of his physical confinement, he alone was the master of his fate. (Applause.) For us, for our children, Africa and its people teach us a powerful lesson — that we must uphold the inherent dignity of every human being.

Dignity — that basic idea that by virtue of our common humanity, no matter where we come from, or what we look like, we are all born equal, touched by the grace of God. (Applause.) Every person has worth. Every person matters. Every person deserves to be treated with decency and respect. Throughout much of history, mankind did not see this. Dignity was seen as a virtue reserved to those of rank and privilege, kings and elders. It took a revolution of the spirit, over many centuries, to open our eyes to the dignity of every person. And around the world, generations have struggled to put this idea into practice in laws and in institutions.

Colonialism, self-determination, independence

So, too, here in Africa. This is the cradle of humanity, and ancient African kingdoms were home to great libraries and universities. But the evil of slavery took root not only abroad, but here on the continent. Colonialism skewed Africa’s economy and robbed people of their capacity to shape their own destiny. Eventually, liberation movements grew. And 50 years ago, in a great burst of self-determination, Africans rejoiced as foreign flags came down and your national flags went up. (Applause.) As South Africa’s Albert Luthuli said at the time, “the basis for peace and brotherhood in Africa is being restored by the resurrection of national sovereignty and independence, of equality and the dignity of man.

A half-century into this independence era, it is long past time to put aside old stereotypes of an Africa forever mired in poverty and conflict. The world must recognize Africa’s extraordinary progress. Today, Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Africa’s middle class is projected to grow to more than one billion consumers. (Applause.) With hundreds of millions of mobile phones, surging access to the Internet, Africans are beginning to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity. Africa is on the move, a new Africa is emerging.

Propelled by this progress, and in partnership with the world, Africa has achieved historic gains in health. The rate of new HIV/AIDS infections has plummeted. African mothers are more likely to survive childbirth and have healthy babies. Deaths from malaria have been slashed, saving the lives of millions of African children. Millions have been lifted from extreme poverty. Africa has led the world in sending more children to school. In other words, more and more African men, women and children are living with dignity and with hope. (Applause.)

Strongmen vs. strong institutions

And Africa’s progress can also be seen in the institutions that bring us together today. When I first came to Sub-Saharan Africa as a President, I said that Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions. (Applause.) And one of those institutions can be the African Union. Here, you can come together, with a shared commitment to human dignity and development. Here, your 54 nations pursue a common vision of an ‘integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.’

As Africa changes, I’ve called on the world to change its approach to Africa. (Applause.) So many Africans have told me, we don’t want just aid, we want trade that fuels progress. We don’t want patrons, we want partners who help us build our own capacity to grow. (Applause.) We don’t want the indignity of dependence, we want to make our own choices and determine our own future.

As President, I’ve worked to transform America’s relationship with Africa — so that we’re truly listening to our African friends and working together, as equal partners. And I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made. We’ve boosted American exports to this region, part of trade that supports jobs for Africans and Americans. To sustain our momentum — and with the bipartisan support of some of the outstanding members of Congress who are here today — 20 of them who are here today — I recently signed the 10-year renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. (Applause.) And I want to thank them all. Why don’t they stand very briefly so you can see them, because they’ve done outstanding work. (Applause.)

We’ve launched major initiatives to promote food security, and public health and access to electricity, and to prepare the next generation of African leaders and entrepreneurs — investments that will help fuel Africa’s rise for decades to come. Last year, as the Chairwoman noted, I welcomed nearly 50 African presidents and prime ministers to Washington so we could begin a new chapter of cooperation. And by coming to the African Union today, I’m looking to build on that commitment.

I believe Africa’s rise is not just important for Africa, it’s important to the entire world. We will not be able to meet the challenges of our time — from ensuring a strong global economy to facing down violent extremism, to combating climate change, to ending hunger and extreme poverty — without the voices and contributions of one billion Africans. (Applause.)

African progress : a fragile foundation

Now, even with Africa’s impressive progress, we must acknowledge that many of these gains rest on a fragile foundation. Alongside new wealth, hundreds of millions of Africans still endure extreme poverty. Alongside high-tech hubs of innovation, many Africans are crowded into shantytowns without power or running water — a level of poverty that’s an assault on human dignity.

Moreover, as the youngest and fastest-growing continent, Africa’s population in the coming decades will double to some two billion people, and many of them will be young, under 18. Now, on the one hand, this could bring tremendous opportunities as these young Africans harness new technologies and ignite new growth and reforms. Economists will tell you that countries, regions, continents grow faster with younger populations. It’s a demographic edge and advantage — but only if those young people are being trained. We need only to look at the Middle East and North Africa to see that large numbers of young people with no jobs and stifled voices can fuel instability and disorder.

I suggest to you that the most urgent task facing Africa today and for decades ahead is to create opportunity for this next generation. (Applause.) And this will be an enormous undertaking. Africa will need to generate millions more jobs than it’s doing right now. And time is of the essence. The choices made today will shape the trajectory of Africa, and therefore, the world for decades to come. And as your partner and your friend, allow me to suggest several ways that we can meet this challenge together.

Africa’s progress will depend on unleashing economic growth — not just for the few at the top, but for the many, because an essential element of dignity is being able to live a decent life. (Applause.) That begins with a job. And that requires trade and investment.

Investment, business, trade

Many of your nations have made important reforms to attract investment — it’s been a spark for growth. But in many places across Africa, it’s still too hard to start a venture, still too hard to build a business. Governments that take additional reforms to make doing business easier will have an eager partner in the United States. (Applause.)

And that includes reforms to help Africa trade more with itself — as the Chairwoman and I discussed before we came out here today — because the biggest markets for your goods are often right next door. You don’t have to just look overseas for growth, you can look internally. And our work to help Africa modernize customs and border crossings started with the East African Community — now we’re expanding our efforts across the continent, because it shouldn’t be harder for African countries to trade with each other than it is for you to trade with Europe and America. (Applause.)

Now, most U.S. trade with the region is with just three countries — South Africa, Nigeria and Angola — and much of that is in the form of energy. I want Africans and Americans doing more business together in more sectors, in more countries. So we’re increasing trade missions to places like Tanzania, Ethiopia Mozambique. We’re working to help more Africans get their goods to market. Next year, we’ll host another U.S.-Africa Business Forum to mobilize billions of dollars in new trade and investment — so we’re buying more of each other’s products and all growing together.

Now, the United States isn’t the only country that sees your growth as an opportunity. And that is a good thing. When more countries invest responsibly in Africa, it creates more jobs and prosperity for us all. So I want to encourage everybody to do business with Africa, and African countries should want to do business with every country. But economic relationships can’t simply be about building countries’ infrastructure with foreign labor or extracting Africa’s natural resources. Real economic partnerships have to be a good deal for Africa — they have to create jobs and capacity for Africans. (Applause.)

And that includes the point that Chairwoman Zuma made about illicit flows with multinationals — which is one of the reasons that we’ve been a leading advocate, working with the G7, to assist in making sure that there’s honest accounting when businesses are investing here in Africa, and making sure that capital flows are properly accounted for. That’s the kind of partnership America offers.

The cancer of corruption

Nothing will unlock Africa’s economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption. (Applause.) And you are right that it is not just a problem of Africa, it is a problem of those who do business with Africa. It is not unique to Africa — corruption exists all over the world, including in the United States. But here in Africa, corruption drains billions of dollars from economies that can’t afford to lose billions of dollars — that’s money that could be used to create jobs and build hospitals and schools. And when someone has to pay a bribe just to start a business or go to school, or get an official to do the job they’re supposed to be doing anyway — that’s not ‘the African way.’ (Applause.) It undermines the dignity of the people you represent.

Only Africans can end corruption in their countries. As African governments commit to taking action, the United States will work with you to combat illicit financing, and promote good governance and transparency and rule of law. And we already have strong laws in place that say to U.S. companies, you can’t engage in bribery to try to get business — which not all countries have. And we actually enforce it and police it.

And let me add that criminal networks are both fueling corruption and threatening Africa’s precious wildlife — and with it, the tourism that many African economies count on. So America also stands with you in the fight against wildlife trafficking. That’s something that has to be addressed. (Applause.)

But, ultimately, the most powerful antidote to the old ways of doing things is this new generation of African youth. History shows that the nations that do best are the ones that invest in the education of their people. (Applause.) You see, in this information age, jobs can flow anywhere, and they typically will flow to where workers are literate and highly skilled and online. And Africa’s young people are ready to compete. I’ve met them — they are hungry, they are eager. They’re willing to work hard. So we’ve got to invest in them. As Africa invests in education, our entrepreneurship programs are helping innovators start new businesses and create jobs right here in Africa. And the men and women in our Young African Leaders Initiative today will be the leaders who can transform business and civil society and governments tomorrow.

Development

Africa’s progress will depend on development that truly lifts countries from poverty to prosperity — because people everywhere deserve the dignity of a life free from want. A child born in Africa today is just as equal and just as worthy as a child born in Asia or Europe or America. At the recent development conference here in Addis, African leadership helped forge a new global compact for financing that fuels development. And under the AU’s leadership, the voice of a united Africa will help shape the world’s next set of development goals, and you’re pursuing a vision of the future that you want for Africa.

And America’s approach to development — the central focus of our engagement with Africa — is focused on helping you build your own capacity to realize that vision. Instead of just shipping food aid to Africa, we’ve helped more than two million farmers use new techniques to boost their yields, feed more people, reduce hunger. With our new alliance of government and the private sector investing billions of dollars in African agriculture, I believe we can achieve our goal and lift 50 million Africans from poverty.

Instead of just sending aid to build power plants, our Power Africa initiative is mobilizing billions of dollars in investments from governments and businesses to reduce the number of Africans living without electricity. Now, an undertaking of this magnitude will not be quick. It will take many years. But working together, I believe we can bring electricity to more than 60 million African homes and businesses and connect more Africans to the global economy. (Applause.)

Instead of just telling Africa, you’re on your own, in dealing with climate change, we’re delivering new tools and financing to more than 40 African nations to help them prepare and adapt. By harnessing the wind and sun, your vast geothermal energy and rivers for hydropower, you can turn this climate threat into an economic opportunity. And I urge Africa to join us in rejecting old divides between North and South so we can forge a strong global climate agreement this year in Paris. Because sparing some of the world’s poorest people from rising seas, more intense droughts, shortages of water and food is a matter of survival and a matter of human dignity.

Instead of just sending medicine, we’re investing in better treatments and helping Africa prevent and treat diseases. As the United States continues to provide billions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and as your countries take greater ownership of health programs, we’re moving toward a historic accomplishment — the first AIDS-free generation. (Applause.) And if the world learned anything from Ebola, it’s that the best way to prevent epidemics is to build strong public health systems that stop diseases from spreading in the first place. So America is proud to partner with the AU and African countries in this mission. Today, I can announce that of the $1 billion that the United States is devoting to this work globally, half will support efforts here in Africa. (Applause.)

Democracy

I believe Africa’s progress will also depend on democracy, because Africans, like people everywhere, deserve the dignity of being in control of their own lives. (Applause.) We all know what the ingredients of real democracy are. They include free and fair elections, but also freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly. These rights are universal. They’re written into African constitutions. (Applause.) The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights declares that “every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being.” From Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin, to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, democracy has taken root. In Nigeria, more than 28 million voters bravely cast their ballots and power transferred as it should — peacefully. (Applause.)

Yet at this very moment, these same freedoms are denied to many Africans. And I have to proclaim, democracy is not just formal elections. (Applause.) When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs, or activists are threatened as governments crack down on civil society — (applause) — then you may have democracy in name, but not in substance. (Applause.) And I’m convinced that nations cannot realize the full promise of independence until they fully protect the rights of their people.

And this is true even for countries that have made important democratic progress. As I indicated during my visit to Kenya, the remarkable gains that country has made with a new constitution, with its election, cannot be jeopardized by restrictions on civil society. Likewise, our host, Ethiopians have much to be proud of — I’ve been amazed at all the wonderful work that’s being done here — and it’s true that the elections that took place here occurred without violence. But as I discussed with Prime Minister Hailemariam, that’s just the start of democracy. I believe Ethiopia will not fully unleash the potential of its people if journalists are restricted or legitimate opposition groups can’t participate in the campaign process. And, to his credit, the Prime Minister acknowledged that more work will need to be done for Ethiopia to be a full-fledged, sustainable democracy. (Applause.)

So these are conversations we have to have as friends. Our American democracy is not perfect. We’ve worked for many years — (applause) — but one thing we do is we continually reexamine to figure out how can we make our democracy better. And that’s a force of strength for us, being willing to look and see honestly what we need to be doing to fulfill the promise of our founding documents.

And every country has to go through that process. No country is perfect, but we have to be honest, and strive to expand freedoms, to broaden democracy. The bottom line is that when citizens cannot exercise their rights, the world has a responsibility to speak out. And America will, even if it’s sometimes uncomfortable — (applause) — even when it’s sometimes directed toward our friends.

And I know that there’s some countries that don’t say anything — (laughter) — and maybe that’s easier for leaders to deal with. (Laughter.) But you’re kind of stuck with us — this is how we are. (Applause.) We believe in these things and we’re going to keep on talking about them.

And I want to repeat, we do this not because we think our democracy is perfect, or we think that every country has to follow precisely our path. For more than two centuries since our independence, we’re still working on perfecting our union. We’re not immune from criticism. When we fall short of our ideals, we strive to do better. (Applause.) But when we speak out for our principles, at home and abroad, we stay true to our values and we help lift up the lives of people beyond our borders. And we think that’s important. And it’s especially important, I believe, for those of us of African descent, because we’ve known what it feels like to be on the receiving end of injustice. We know what it means to be discriminated against. (Applause.) We know what it means to be jailed. So how can we stand by when it’s happening to somebody else?

I’ll be frank with you, it can’t just be America that’s talking about these things. Fellow African countries have to talk about these things. (Applause.) Just as other countries championed your break from colonialism, our nations must all raise our voices when universal rights are being denied. For if we truly believe that Africans are equal in dignity, then Africans have an equal right to freedoms that are universal — that’s a principle we all have to defend. (Applause.) And it’s not just a Western idea; it’s a human idea.

Presidential term limits

I have to also say that Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end. (Applause.) Now, let me be honest with you — I do not understand this. (Laughter.) I am in my second term. It has been an extraordinary privilege for me to serve as President of the United States. I cannot imagine a greater honor or a more interesting job. I love my work. But under our Constitution, I cannot run again. (Laughter and applause.) I can’t run again. I actually think I’m a pretty good President — I think if I ran I could win. (Laughter and applause.) But I can’t.

So there’s a lot that I’d like to do to keep America moving, but the law is the law. (Applause.) And no one person is above the law. Not even the President. (Applause.) And I’ll be honest with you — I’m looking forward to life after being President. (Laughter.) I won’t have such a big security detail all the time. (Laughter.) It means I can go take a walk. I can spend time with my family. I can find other ways to serve. I can visit Africa more often. (Applause.) The point is, I don’t understand why people want to stay so long. (Laughter.) Especially when they’ve got a lot of money. (Laughter and applause.)

When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife — as we’ve seen in Burundi. (Applause.) And this is often just a first step down a perilous path. And sometimes you’ll hear leaders say, well, I’m the only person who can hold this nation together. (Laughter.) If that’s true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation. (Applause.)

You look at Nelson Mandela — Madiba, like George Washington, forged a lasting legacy not only because of what they did in office, but because they were willing to leave office and transfer power peacefully. (Applause.) And just as the African Union has condemned coups and illegitimate transfers of power, the AU’s authority and strong voice can also help the people of Africa ensure that their leaders abide by term limits and their constitutions. (Applause.) Nobody should be president for life.

And your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas. (Applause.) I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country. (Applause.) It will be good for yours, too, in some cases.

Security and peace

Africa’s progress will also depend on security and peace — because an essential part of human dignity is being safe and free from fear. In Angola, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, we’ve seen conflicts end and countries work to rebuild. But from Somalia and Nigeria to Mali and Tunisia, terrorists continue to target innocent civilians. Many of these groups claim the banner of religion, but hundreds of millions of African Muslims know that Islam means peace. (Applause.) And we must call groups like al Qaeda, ISIL, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram — we must call them what they are — murderers. (Applause.)

In the face of threats, Africa — and the African Union –has shown leadership. Because of the AU force in Somalia, al-Shabaab controls less territory and the Somali government is growing stronger. In central Africa, the AU-led mission continues to degrade the Lord’s Resistance Army. In the Lake Chad Basin, forces from several nations — with the backing of the AU — are fighting to end Boko Haram’s senseless brutality. And today, we salute all those who serve to protect the innocent, including so many brave African peacekeepers.

Now, as Africa stands against terror and conflict, I want you to know that the United States stands with you. With training and support, we’re helping African forces grow stronger. The United States is supporting the AU’s efforts to strengthen peacekeeping, and we’re working with countries in the region to deal with emerging crises with the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership.

The world must do more to help as well. This fall at the United Nations, I will host a summit to secure new commitments to strengthen international support for peacekeeping, including here in Africa. And building on commitments that originated here in the AU, we’ll work to develop a new partnership between the U.N. and the AU that can provide reliable support for AU peace operations. If African governments and international partners step up with strong support, we can transform how we work together to promote security and peace in Africa.

Our efforts to ensure our shared security must be matched by a commitment to improve governance. Those things are connected. Good governance is one of the best weapons against terrorism and instability. Our fight against terrorist groups, for example, will never be won if we fail to address legitimate grievances that terrorists may try to exploit, if we don’t build trust with all communities, if we don’t uphold the rule of law. There’s a saying, and I believe it is true — if we sacrifice liberty in the name of security, we risk losing both. (Applause.)

Need to end conflicts

This same seriousness of purpose is needed to end conflicts. In the Central African Republic, the spirit of dialogue recently shown by ordinary citizens must be matched by leaders committed to inclusive elections and a peaceful transition. In Mali, the comprehensive peace agreement must be fulfilled. And leaders in Sudan must know their nation will never truly thrive so long as they wage war against their own people — the world will not forget about Darfur.

In South Sudan, the joy of independence has descended into the despair of violence. I was there at the United Nations when we held up South Sudan as the promise of a new beginning. And neither Mr. Kiir, nor Mr. Machar have shown, so far, any interest in sparing their people from this suffering, or reaching a political solution.

Yesterday, I met with leaders from this region. We agree that, given the current situation, Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar must reach an agreement by August 17th — because if they do not, I believe the international community must raise the costs of intransigence. And the world awaits the report of the AU Commission of Inquiry, because accountability for atrocities must be part of any lasting peace in Africa’s youngest nation. (Applause.)

Upholding human rights

And finally, Africa’s progress will depend on upholding the human rights of all people — for if each of us is to be treated with dignity, each of us must be sure to also extend that same dignity to others. As President, I make it a point to meet with many of our Young African Leaders. And one was a young man from Senegal. He said something wonderful about being together with so many of his African brothers and sisters. He said, ‘Here, I have met Africa, the [Africa] I’ve always believed in. She’s beautiful. She’s young. She’s full of talent and motivation and ambition.’ I agree.

Africa is the beautiful, talented daughters who are just as capable as Africa’s sons. (Applause.) And as a father, I believe that my two daughters have to have the same chance to pursue their dreams as anybody’s son — and that same thing holds true for girls here in Africa. (Applause.) Our girls have to be treated the same.

We can’t let old traditions stand in the way. The march of history shows that we have the capacity to broaden our moral imaginations. We come to see that some traditions are good for us, they keep us grounded, but that, in our modern world, other traditions set us back. When African girls are subjected to the mutilation of their bodies, or forced into marriage at the ages of 9 or 10 or 11 — that sets us back. That’s not a good tradition. It needs to end. (Applause.)

When more than 80 percent of new HIV cases in the hardest-hit countries are teenage girls, that’s a tragedy; that sets us back. So America is beginning a partnership with 10 African countries — Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe — to keep teenage girls safe and AIDS-free. (Applause.) And when girls cannot go to school and grow up not knowing how to read or write — that denies the world future women engineers, future women doctors, future women business owners, future women presidents — that sets us all back. (Applause.) That’s a bad tradition — not providing our girls the same education as our sons.

I was saying in Kenya, nobody would put out a football team and then just play half the team. You’d lose. (Applause.) The same is true when it comes to getting everybody and education. You can’t leave half the team off — our young women. So as part of America’s support for the education and the health of our daughters, my wife, Michelle, is helping to lead a global campaign, including a new effort in Tanzania and Malawi, with a simple message — Let Girls Learn — let girls learn so they grow up healthy and they grow up strong. (Applause.) And that will be good for families. And they will raise smart, healthy children, and that will be good for every one of your nations.

Africa is the beautiful, strong women that these girls grow up to become. The single best indicator of whether a nation will succeed is how it treats its women. (Applause.) When women have health care and women have education, families are stronger, communities are more prosperous, children do better in school, nations are more prosperous. Look at the amazing African women here in this hall. (Applause.) If you want your country to grow and succeed, you have to empower your women. And if you want to empower more women, America will be your partner. (Applause.)

Let’s work together to stop sexual assault and domestic violence. Let’s make clear that we will not tolerate rape as a weapon of war — it’s a crime. (Applause.) And those who commit it must be punished. Let’s lift up the next generation of women leaders who can help fight injustice and forge peace and start new businesses and create jobs — and some might hire some men, too. (Laughter.) We’ll all be better off when women have equal futures.

And Africa is the beautiful tapestry of your cultures and ethnicities and races and religions. Last night, we saw this amazing dance troupe made up of street children who had formed a dance troupe and they performed for the Prime Minister and myself. And there were 80 different languages and I don’t know how many ethnic groups. And there were like 30 different dances that were being done. And the Prime Minister was trying to keep up with — okay, I think that one is — (laughter) — and they were moving fast. And that diversity here in Ethiopia is representative of diversity all throughout Africa. (Applause.) And that’s a strength.

Now, yesterday, I had the privilege to view Lucy — you may know Lucy — she’s our ancestor, more than 3 million years old. (Applause.) In this tree of humanity, with all of our branches and diversity, we all go back to the same root. We’re all one family — we’re all one tribe. And yet so much of the suffering in our world stems from our failure to remember that — to not recognize ourselves in each other. (Applause.)

We think because somebody’s skin is slightly different, or their hair is slightly different, or their religious faith is differently expressed, or they speak a different language that it justifies somehow us treating them with less dignity. And that becomes the source of so many of our problems. And we think somehow that we make ourselves better by putting other people down. And that becomes the source of so many of our problems. When we begin to see other as somehow less than ourselves — when we succumb to these artificial divisions of faith or sect or tribe or ethnicity — then even the most awful abuses are justified in the minds of those who are thinking in those ways. And in the end, abusers lose their own humanity, as well. (Applause.)

Nelson Mandela taught us, ‘to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’

Every one of us is equal. Every one of us has worth. Every one of us matters. And when we respect the freedom of others — no matter the color of their skin, or how they pray or who they are or who they love — we are all more free. (Applause.) Your dignity depends on my dignity, and my dignity depends on yours. Imagine if everyone had that spirit in their hearts. Imagine if governments operated that way. (Applause.) Just imagine what the world could look like — the future that we could bequeath these young people.

Yes, in our world, old thinking can be a stubborn thing. That’s one of the reasons why we need term limits — old people think old ways. And you can see my grey hair, I’m getting old. (Laughter.) The old ways can be stubborn. But I believe the human heart is stronger. I believe hearts can change. I believe minds can open. That’s how change happens. That’s how societies move forward. It’s not always a straight line — step by halting step — sometimes you go forward, you move back a little bit. But I believe we are marching, we are pointing towards ideals of justice and equality.

That’s how your nations won independence — not just with rifles, but with principles and ideals. (Applause.) That’s how African Americans won our civil rights. That’s how South Africans — black and white — tore down apartheid. That’s why I can stand before you today as the first African American President of the United States. (Applause.)

New thinking. Unleashing growth that creates opportunity. Promoting development that lifts all people out of poverty. Supporting democracy that gives citizens their say. Advancing the security and justice that delivers peace. Respecting the human rights of all people. These are the keys to progress — not just in Africa, but around the world. And this is the work that we can do together.

And I am hopeful. As I prepare to return home, my thoughts are with that same young man from Senegal, who said: Here, I have met Africa, the [Africa] I’ve always believed in. She’s beautiful and young, full of talent and motivation and ambition. To which I would simply add, as you build the Africa you believe in, you will have no better partner, no better friend than the United States of America. (Applause.)

God bless Africa.
God bless the United States of America.
Thank you very much, everybody.
Thank you. (Applause.)

Généralisations abusives et clichés anti-Fulɓe

Avant d’entrer dans le vif du sujet, je tiens à relever deux  erreurs lamentables dans l’article Y a-t-il un problème Peul en Guinée ? de Cheikh Yérim Seck. Ces bourdes portent sur le nom des leaders politiques Fulɓe assassinés par Sékou Touré. De telles bévues sont inadmissibles, même de la part de “l’étranger” qu’il est, et “avec qui tout le monde parle sans tabou…”

Errata

  • Erratum #1. L’auteur défigure le nom du fondateur du Bloc Africain de Guinée (B.A.G.) Au lieu de transcrire correctement Diawadou Barry, fusillé en 1969. Yerim Seck insère une consonne nasale dans le prénom. Résultat :  il écrit erronément Diawandou.
  • Erratum #2. L’article parle d’un certain Ibrahima Bah dit Barry III. Il donne deux noms de famille, Bah et Barry, au noble Seriyanke Ibrahima Barry III, leader de l’Union socialiste de Guinée, pendu en 1971. Sachez, M. Seck, qu’on ne peut pas être à la fois Uruuro (Bah) et Dayeejo (Barry).

Au Fuuta-Jalon, le nouveau-né reçoit au septième jour (fembugal), le patronyme de son père. Les options ici sont réduites à quatre  : Bah, Barry, Diallo, Sow. Bien qu’autonome chacune de ces appellations est solidaire des trois autres, d’un bout à l’autre du cycle de la vie.
Le grand-maître du Pulaaku, Amadou Hampâté Bâ, rappelle les fondements de cette organisation quaternaire. Elle correspond, écrit-il, aux quatre directions cardinales (nord, sud, est, ouest), aux quatre éléments naturels (terre, eau, air, feu), et aux quatre couleurs principales de la robe de la vache.
Cette  limitation numérique des noms paternels n’a pas manqué de frapper l’imagination des griots Mande. Puisant dans leur art  oratoire,  ils donnent aux Fulbe le nom imagé, la métaphore compacte et dense Sî náni, qui signifie le-peuple-aux-quatre-noms.
On retrouve l’expression par exemple dans Kedo, qui est la version Maninka du conflit entre le Fuuta-Jalon et le Ngabu à la fin du 19e siècle. Il fut remporté par le leadership conjoint d’Almami Umaru (père d’Almami Bokar Biro) et Alfa Ibrahima, lanɗo (chef) du diiwal (province) du Labé et père d’Alfa Yaya.
Sori Kandia Kouyaté, le grand-maître Jeli, et Fuutanke bi-culturel Mande/Fulbe de Dalaba, chante ici Kedo.
Lire The Cultural Policy of the PDG


J’ai transcrit sur webFuuta la narration Pular esthétique et musicalisée de cet évènement historique par Farba Ibrahima Njaala et  Farba Abbasi, en l’honneur du preux Alfa Abdurahmani, prince du diiwal (province) de Koyin et général de corps d’armée .

Soulignons aussi la solidarité entre les quatre branches. Elle s’exprime de la naissance à la mort. En effet la cérémonie d’enterrement requirt, au moment de la mise en terre, la participation des quatres composantes ethno-sociale au dépôt du corps dans la tombe.  Par exemple, si le/la défunt(e) appartient au clan ou lignage Bah, tour à tour, les trois autres noms sont invités à désigner un participant, qui devient ainsi — même s’il est étranger à la communauté locale— un officiant de l’enterrement.  Vice versa.

Après les erreurs ci-dessous, j’en viens aux généralisations abusives et pauvres clichés  contre les Fulbe.

Généralisations abusives et des clichés anti-Fulɓe

Cheikh Yerim Seck n’hésite pas à reproduire les généralisations abusives sur les Fulɓe, de même qu’il reproduit des clichés dénués de fondement. Au bout du compte, on reste sur sa soif de lecture, tant certains passages de l’article sont banals et légers.

Lisons plutôt :

« Les Soussous, les Malinkés et les Forestiers, écrit Cheikh Yerim, vivent mal cette situation qu’ils ressentent à la limite comme une forme de colonisation. »

M. Seck projette exaggère en projettant sa conversation avec quelques individus Soussou, Malinke et Forestiers à tout le pays. Cela n’est ni déontologique ni appréciable. A l’avenir, il ferait mieux d’être prudent et modeste. Et d’éviter l’anonymat facile et mystificateur. C’est un bouclier illusoire que citer des sources d’information inavouées et/ou inavouables.

Cela dit, les Fulɓe vivent dans la région actuelle du Fuuta-Jalon depuis le 12e siècle. Ce château d’eau de l’Afrique occidentale — auquel le pays de Yerim Seck doit (a) sa principale voie fluviale, (b) son nom éponyme de Sénégal—  ne fut intégré à la colonie française de Guinée qu’en 1896, bien après la Basse-Côte et le Haut-Niger/Soudan (l’actuel Mali).
Entre le lancement du Jihad (1725) et la bataille de Porédaka (1896), le Fuuta-Jalon devint un Etat théocratique et une puissance régionale, certes. Mais aussi et surtout il se developpa en tant que société supra-ethnique. Les Almami coopéraient avec les chefferies côtières et celles de la Savane, sur la base du respect et des avantages réciproques.
Parler de colonisation “à la limite” est donc sans fondement.

Du fait de leur teint généralement clair qui tranche d’avec la noirceur ambiante, de leur dialecte unique en son genre, de leur dispersion à travers la Guinée, le Sénégal, le Mali, la Mauritanie, le Niger, le Nigeria, le Cameroun… c’est à peine si les Peuls ne sont pas perçus comme des étrangers dans leur propre pays.

Les ancêtres des Fulɓe sont les co-fondateurs et, en tant que dompteurs du bovidé, ils mirent l’Afrique en valeur. Cela se passa des milliers d’années de cela, bien avant que le continent soit appelé Ifriqiya par les Arabes, et depuis lors Afrique, Africa, etc.
Si M. Seck lit et/ou parle l’Anglais, qu’il veuille bien consulter mon essai anthropologique Fulɓe and Africa.

Quoique fort critiquable, le propos du président Alpha Condé, selon lequel « la Guinée appartient aux Malinkés, aux Soussous et aux Forestiers », traduit l’opinion dominante dans ces trois ethnies.

L’actuel président guinéen avoué à François Soudan, l’ancien patron de Cheikh Yérim à Jeune Afrique, que l’impulsivité constitute l’une ses faiblesses. A mon avis, c’est le plus grand défaut d’un chef d’Etat. Car dans l’exercice des fonctions de la magistrature suprême, un dirigeant doit faire preuve de pondération, de réflexion et de modération. L’action impulsive, le réflexe brut, la spontanéité incontrôlée, produisent gaffes et errors. Ils conduisent à l’échec…
Dans sa tournée de propagande électorale à Kankan, Alpha Condé a été victime de son impulsivité. En proférant ces mots, il se croyait peut-être à l’abri de l’opinion publique nationale et internationale. Le “professeur” a oublié qu’on vit au 21e siècle, à l’ère du village planétaire et de la mondialisation. Mal lui en prit, car Peter Pham, observateur avisé de la vie politique guinéenne, a aussitôt condamné et mis en garde contre l’exclusivisme et l’ethnocentrisme de M. Condé. Lire Dangerous Game: Guinea’s President, Alpha Condé, Plays the Ethnic Card

Mieux ou pire, les Peuls sont dépeints par les autres composantes de leur pays comme des êtres prompts à trahir, foncièrement communautaristes et portés sur le népotisme. « Partout où le Peul est chef, tout le monde est peul jusqu’au planton », a-t-on coutume d’entendre en Guinée.

Où sont les faits ? Quelles sont vos statistiques, M. Seck ? Vous êtes journaliste, n’est-ce pas ? Alors, de grâce, méfiez-vous des on-dit.
Qui est-ce qui se profile derrière ce “on”, pronom imbécile mis pour personne, comme le dit si bien la boutade.
Une fois de plus, l’auteur, M. Seck, met les pieds dans le plat. Et il tombe dans l’hyperbole. Mais il n’avance aucune donnée pour étayer les citations qu’il reprend aisément, sans les passer au peigne de la critique.

S’ils sont faux parce que globalisants, ces clichés sont ancrés dans les esprits. Ils poussent les autres ethnies à se coaliser contre tout Peul qui brigue la magistrature suprême. Et expliquent la victoire d’Alpha Condé au second tour de la présidentielle de 2010, malgré l’écart qu’avait creusé son adversaire Cellou Dalein Diallo au premier.

Il n’y eut pas de victoire. On assista plutôt à la violence post-électorale sous le régime de la Transition piloté par Général Sékouba Konaté. En collusion avec Général Toumany Sangaré,  président de la Ceni, et la Cour suprême, Sékouba organisa la fraude massive en faveur du candidat du RPG. De sa fondation à nos jours, ce parti est, ethniquement, le plus monolithique des formations politiques du pays.
Lire Sidya : Sékouba frauda pour Alpha

Après avoir mis du temps et de l’énergie à réparer les dégâts, le leader de l’Union des forces républicaines (UFR) a annoncé, le 1er juin, que si Alpha et Cellou se retrouvaient à nouveau au second tour de la présidentielle d’octobre 2015, il n’appellerait plus à voter pour le second.

Cette interprétation n’est pas plausible. Pour s’en convaincre, il suffit de lire l’accusation de Sidya contre Alpha Condé, qu’il accuse de bafouer les lois.  S’il est conséquent, je ne vois pas comment M. Touré pourrait favoriser la réélection de M. Condé. Lui dont l’idée fixe à l’heure actuelle est “de tout faire pou battre Alpha Condé.”

L’isolement des Peuls sur l’échiquier politique tient à un obstacle psychologique chez les autres qui se décline ainsi : « les Peuls tiennent les pouvoirs économique, intellectuel et religieux. S’ils prennent le pouvoir politique, ils auront tout en main et le garderont ad vitam aeternam. »

M. Seck emprunte une expression latine pour parler de l’éternisation hypothétique au pouvoir par les Fulɓe. Il oublie que seul l’Eternel est Eternel. Tout le reste, ici-bas, est passager, y compris le Soleil et la Terre.
Les Fulɓe ne sont pas isolés. Mails l’Etat guinéen, lui, l’est. Et il enserre les habitants du pays — toutes ethnies confondues — dans ses griffes, qui ont pour noms : misère, médiocrité, corruption, injustice, impunité, intolérance, incompétence, obscurantisme,  division, oppression et répression. Dès lors, il n’est pas surprenant que le système guinéen figure parmi les Etats fragiles du continent.
Lire Le rapport 2015 de Fund For Peace.
J’ai déjà dénoncé le mirage de l’hégémonie — économique, intellectuelle et religieuse— des Fulɓe.
Je voudrais insister ici sur le caractère non seulement fallacieux de cet argument, mais surtout sur sa nature criminelle. En effet, invoquant leur appartenance ethnique, il vise à exclure délibérément les Fulɓe de l’exercice de la fonction présidentielle. Comme si les cadres de cette nation ne furent pas les pionniers de la lutte anti-coloniale en Guinée.
Il s’agit ici d’une violation flagrante des droits constitutionnels des citoyens Fulɓe. J’y vois non pas seulement de la discrimination, mais la ségrégation pure et simple. Or celle-ci est un crime contre l’humanité. Condamnable, horrible, elle constitue, de droit et de fait, une cause de guerre (casus belli).
Par exemple, elle provoqua la guerre civile  américaine  (1861—1865) à cause de l’esclavage, qui excluait les Noirs de la vie politique et les réduisait au rang de bêtes de somme.
De même, les Africains Noirs d’Afrique du Sud combattirent la ségrégation, au début par la politique et la diplomatie.  L’Histoire retient l’héroique déclaration de Nelson Mandela durant son procès en 1964. « I am prepared to die » (Je suis prêt à mourir) dit-t-il dans son réquisitoire contre l’Apartheid. Ses compagnons montrèrent la même détermination en s’organisant militairement au sein de Umkhonto we Sizwe (en Zulu, le fer de lance de la nation), c’est-à-dire l’aile armée de l’African National Congress.
C’est également pour la même raison que les nationalistes Jola de Casamance (Sénégal) mènent depuis des décennies une guérilla —tantôt latente, tantôt active — contre le centralisme étouffant des régimes successifs de Dakar.
Les mêmes causes produisent souvent les mêmes effets. En d’autres termes, s’il est avéré que les Fulɓe font l’objet de segrégration politique en Guinée, les trois exemples historiques ci-dessus, parmi tant d’autres, enseignent qu’ils ne peuvent pas rester les bras croisés.

La liberté et la l”égalité ne s’octroient pas. Elles se conquièrent. Cette loi s’applique à l’humanité, en général, et à l’Afrique, en particuler. Elle vaut singulièrement pour les composantes ethniques de la Guinée, qui depuis 1958 vivent dans la pauvreté et l’esclavage — de la dictature. Il est évident aujourd’hui que les populations n’ont subi que les termes négatifs de la formule “Nous préférons la liberté dans la pauvreté à l’opulence dans l’esclavage.”  En vérité, la Guinée n’a connu ni la liberté, ni l’opulence.
Aujourd’hui comme hier, les habitants du pays ploient sous le joug d’un ennemi commun : l’Etat post-colonial guinéen. Ils ont à tout à perdre en étant divisés face à lui. Ils ont tout à gagner en s’unissant contre lui. Qu’ils n’oublient pas le conseil proverbial  qui dit que les insectes en train de griller dans la même casserole ne devraient pas se donner des coups de pattes.
Collectifs et/ou individuels, le ciblage et l’exclusion des Fulɓe n’avancent ni n’honorent la Guinée.  Au contraire, ils l’affaiblissent, la dégradent, et la maintiennent au ban des nations et au dernier rangs des pays. Cela, depuis 1976, l’année du Complot Peul de Sékou Touré.  En ces temps-là, si Sékou Touré était le tourmenteur d’Alpha Condé, qu’il fit condamner à mort par contumace. Si le premier avait pu mettre la main sur le second, il l’aurait fait fusiller ou pendre sans hésiter. Peu importe, toutefois. Depuis 2010, le Responsable suprême Touré est devenu le modèle politique du “Professeur”-président Condé.
Ce qui se ressemble s’assemble. Et opportunisme politique et obsession présidentielle obligent !

Tierno S. Bah