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When you subscribe you get access to my webAfriqa Podcast titled Why Is Africa Lagging? Building on the rich content of the websites and on four decades of research, teaching, writing and pondering, it explores and seeks answers to why Africa is a perennial economic and technological laggard, compared to the other continents. And based on accurate facts and authoritative sources, it strives to demonstrate that Africa is —and has been for six centuries— between the Hammer of foreign hegemonies and the Anvil of indigenous elites and rulers.
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Tierno S. Bah
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Depuis 1997, et à travers ses onze sites, webAfriqa offre l’accès gratuit à des informations de qualité et à des connaissances inestimables sur la Guinée et l’Afrique.
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L’abonnement vous donne accès au webAfriqa Podcast, mon nouveau programme intitulé Pourquoi l’Afrique est-elle en retard ? Mon traitement de cette interrogation majeure s’appuie sur le riche contenu des sites web, d’une part, et sur mes quatre décennies de recherche, d’enseignement, de publication, et de réflexion, d’autre part. J’explore et cherche des réponses à la question de savoir pourquoi l’Afrique est, de façon pérenne, en retard économique et technologique sur les autres continents. Me basant sur des faits incontestables, des preuves matérielles et sur des ressources faisant autorité, je m’efforce de démontrer que l’Afrique est placée, depuis plus de six siècles, entre le Marteau d’hégémonies extérieures et l’Enclume d’élites et de dirigeants autochtones.
Les trois premières sessions sont déjà disponibles pour les parrains sur Patreon. Des dizaines d’autres y seront enregistrées et publiées.
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.
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 :
Yansané Sékou Moukké
Mamadou Kolon 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.
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.
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?
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.…
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, akaHomo 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:
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 .