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Since 1997 webAfriqa has offered free access to accurate information and invaluable knowledge about Guinea and Africa on its dozen of websites. However, the production is not free. It costs time, expenses and know-how on daily basis. To keep providing its service, webAfriqa needs urgently your contribution. Support webAfriqa today by becoming a patron of its Patreon channel.

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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.

The first three sessions of the webAfriqa Podcast are online for patrons to access. Dozens more will be recorded and posted.

Thank you!

Tierno S. Bah


Abonnez-vous au webAfriqa Podcast !

Aidez webAfriqa en vous abonnant au webAfriqa Podcast sur Patreon.

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.

Mai la production de ces sites n’est pas gratuite. Elle est onéreuse et  coûte, au quotidien, du temps, des frais et du savoir-faire. Pour poursuivre et améliorer son service public, webAfriqa a besoin, de façon urgente, de votre contribution.

Supportez webAfriqa, aujourd’hui même, en devenant un parrain de son canal sur Patreon channel. Echelonnés de $5 à $50 par mois, les taux d’abonnement incluent tous les niveaux de revenu. Prière donc de s’abonner sans tarder.

Les recettes serviront à maintenir et à améliorer les sites. Sans quoi, la prestation de ces services serait incertaine, non viable. En clair, la publication continue de webAfriqa dépend de votre prompt engagement  et de votre généreux support.

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.

Merci d’avance.

Tierno S. Bah

Why Is Africa Lagging?

The central question

There is a widespread awareness of Africa’s ranking as the least developed continent. Therein persists a nagging, perplexing, often frustrating and vexing question. People ask and would like to know Why? How? When? Who? Where? It is highly relevant to earnestly seek answers to Africa’s status as a perennial economic, technical and technological laggard.
These are not merely academic or rhetorical interrogations. They are real-life and, more often than not, life-threatening issues. Thus, every year thousands of young African undertake risky journeys in quest for better living conditions in Europe, Asia, and America.
The recent and steady exodus of inexperienced and unskilled youths  compounds an older, long-standing brain-drain. Both phenomena deprive Africa of its main resource: people. Trained technicians and experienced professionals, teenagers and young adults —the seeds of the future— flee abroad to “greener pastures.”

1999. Death of Yaguine Koita and Fodé Tounkara

One of the root causes of Africa’s stalling consists in what ​Leopold S. Senghor decried as the “ deterioration of the terms of exchange.” Actually, that euphemism harkens back to the Colonial Pact of 1898. Still alive—and worsening—, it dealt Africa a crippling hand. For it sealed the role of the continent as (a) a coerced supplier of raw material and (b) an induced consumer of imported goods.

Approach

The central question will be broken down into dozens of sub-topics that range from the tool-making gap, to slavery, colonization, “independence”, globalization, the Cultural Heritage (language, religion, arts, crafts, literature, ethnicity, nationhood, civilization, tradition, modernity, politics…), racism, alienation, affirmation, collaboration and resistance to foreign hegemony, war, peace, the past and the present.

The webAfriqa channel creator

Elaborating on the Africa, Between the Anvil and the Hammer byline as a linguist, an anthropologist, a technologist, a semanticist, and a web publisher, Tierno S. Bah shares four decades of research, teaching, debating, writing and pondering on the main issue and its many corollaries.
Again, the question Why is Africa Lagging is neither fortuitous nor frivolous. To the contrary, it is a permanent, controversial, highly charged, all-around (history, economy, culture, politics, social), major, legitimate, and utterly challenging theme. A mega-quandary, it has no binary choices, clear-cut answers, or simple solutions!
The webAfriqa channel is backed by the webAfriqa Portal, published since 1997. Espousing the Open Web philosophy, the Portal offers tens of thousands of text, images, audio and video documents, carefully selected from authoritative sources, reliable data, relevant information and genuine knowledge bases. The Portal includes webFuutawebPulaakuwebMandewebGuinéeCamp Boiro MemorialBlogGuinéeSemantic AfricaSemanticVocabAfricawebAmeriqa, etc.
Last, steeped in history and blending social sciences with digital tools and technologies, the channel will focus on the prerequisites that Africa must meet in order to break the chains that keep it down and out.

Tierno S. Bah

Afrique. Pire que la tromperie !

Lauréat du Grand Prix 2017 de la Francophonie, Tierno Monénembo était l’un des invités de marque à la cérémonie des discours, le jeudi 30 novembre, sous la coupole de l’Académie française. Après l’attribution de l’honneur en juin dernier, Tierno a cette fois-ci reçu le prix, qui s’élève à 30 000 €.

Tierno Monenembo, écrivain franco-guineen. Lauréat du Grand Prix 2017 de la Francophonie.
Tierno Monenembo, écrivain franco-guineen. Lauréat du Grand Prix 2017 de la Francophonie.

Espérons qu’avec cette somme les Diallo vont désormais épargner les troupeaux des gens. Et qu’ils ne rôderont plus la nuit autour des parcs (dingiraa) de nous autres Bah, leurs maîtres, en quête d’un boeuf ou d’un mouton pour leurs ripailles de grands gourmands !

Après la cérémonie de l’Académie Tierno Monemembo s’est entretenu avec le journal Le Point. Lire le texte de l’interview dans la section Documents.

Je partage l’essentiel des positions et opinions de Monenembo, articulées au cours des décennies, en littérature et dans la presse. Lui et moi, nous avons confimé ce front commun durant la conférence de George Washington University, Washington, DC, organisée en 2011 par les soins de Mme. Barry Binta Terrier.
Toutefois, je constante des divergences tactiques mineures. Ce qui est, bien sûr, logique et naturel. Ainsi, j’ai relevé trois de ces écarts dans l’interview du Point.

  • Le premier porte sur la tromperie de dirigeants post-coloniaux, notamment ceux de l’Algérie et la Guinée.
  • Le second a trait à la généralisation sur les jeunes.
  • Le troisième découle du rôle de la complémentarité entre expression (littéraire et artistique) et communication ( scientifique et technique) dans l’analyse de l’expérience humaine, sociale et historique.

Pire que la tromperie : la trahison

 « Je suis parti, je suis revenu, et puis j’ai traversé tellement de mémoires, de pays, différents, et douloureux, au moins aussi douloureux que la Guinée, comme l’Algérie. L’Algérie est douloureuse. J’adore ce pays, j’adore les Algériens, mais ils ont été trompés comme en Guinée. » (Tierno Monenembo)

La tromperie est l’une des armes de la dictature postcoloniale africaine, certes. Mais il y a pire. Il y a que, à l’image de la plupart des pays africains, l’Algérie et la Guinée n’ont pas été simplement trompées après l’indépendance acquise en 1962 et en 1958, respectivement. Elles ont été trahies par leurs dirigeants et leurs alliés, du dedans et dehors. En conséquence, la pauvreté s’est enracinée, avec ses causes, consésquences et corollaires : l’oppression, la corruption, le népotisme, la médiocrité, l’impunité, l’exil, etc. Ces tares et malédictions résultent de la trahison, qui est un acte plus grave que la tromperie.
Par exemple, l’Algérie —sous le régime d’Abdelaziz Bouteflika —et la Guinée, depuis Sékou Touré, sont minées par le népotisme. La famille du président algérien, notamment ses frères et fils, tiennent le haut du pavé à Alger.
En Guinée, il est devenu traditionnel d’installer et de financer la femme, la famille et les parents du chef de l’Etat aux postes juteux.  Et pourtant, Frantz Fanon, compagnon de lutte de Bouteflika au sein du Front de Libération National (FLN) durant la guerre d’indépendance, fustige et condamne sans appel le népostisme. Dans les Damnés de la terre (1961), chapitre “Mésaventures de la conscience nationale”, Fanon écrit :

« Nous assistons non plus à une dictature bourgeoise mais à une dictature tribale. Les ministres, les chefs de cabinets, les ambassadeurs, les préfets sont choisis dans l’ethnie du leader, quelquefois même directement dans sa famille. Ces régimes de type familial semblent reprendre les vieilles lois de l’endogamie et on éprouve non de la colère mais de la honte en face de cette bêtise, de cette imposture, de cette misère intellectuelle et spirituelle. Ces chefs de gouvernement sont les véritables traîtres à l’Afrique car ils la vendent au plus terrible de ses ennemis : la bêtise. »

On a ainsi enregistré l’intention et la prétention — de pères et de fils — de transformer des états républicains en dynasties familiales : Mubarak en Egypte, Gadhafi en Libye, Mugabe au Zimbabwe, et bientôt en Afrique du Sud entre les ex-époux Zuma (Jacob et Dlamini), en Ouganda (Museveni), etc. Sans oublier  le transfert effectif du pouvoir de père en fils au Togo (Nyassingbé ) et en RD Congo (Kabila). Ou la succession décalée dans le temps entre Jomo et Uhuru Kenyatta au Kenya.

Plans dynastiques avortés (ou en cours) en Guinée

PrésidentSuccesseur putatif 
Sékou TouréMohamed Touré
Lansana ContéOusmane Conté
Alpha CondéMohamed Condé

Jeunes-adultes-vieux : une trichotomie floue

« Et puis les jeunes ont des idées tout à fait nouvelles. Je ressens une forme de connivence avec eux dans ce pays. Ils se posent des questions.» (Tierno Monenembo)

On présente fréquemment la jeunesse comme porteuse de changement et d’avenir. Cet espoir doublé d’un voeu est légitime. Et l’évolution et les boulevesements historiques le confirment souvent. Toutefois, la jeunesse n’existe pas en dehors de la société. Elle ne vit pas en vase clos. Elle n’est pas non plus monolithique. Au contraire, elle est le produit des structures familiales et socioéconomiques en place, qui l’accueillent et l’accompagnent, du berceau au tombeau. Et dès le jeune âge, les jeunes subissent l’influence et la pression de l’environnement (aînés, éducateurs, institutions, moeurs et des traditions). Dès lors, ils  intériorisent, reflètent et reproduisent les mêmes contradictions, divisions, stratifications, et antagonismes, qui caractérisent les composantes adultes et âgées de la population. Ainsi, il existe aujourd’hui des jeunes, des adultes et des vieux qui se  rangent soit dans le camp des supporters, soit dans celui des opposants de la dictature en Guinée : de Sékou Touré à Alpha Condé, en passant par Lansana Conté, Moussa Dadis Camara et Sékouba Konaté. Le même constat est valable pour le nazisme en Allemagne, le fascisme en Italie, les racistes aux USA, etc.
Il faudrait alors éviter les “généralisations abusives” concernant les jeunes. Car ils appartiennent effectivement à des catégories et couches sociales différentes. Voici certaines des barrières ou compartiments qui distinguent et/ou séparent les jeunes en Guinée :

  • alphabètes ou analphabètes
  • ruraux ou urbains
  • pauvres ou aisés
  • francophones ou non-francophones
  • musulmans ou chrétiens
  • fonctionnaires ou entrepreneurs,
  • technocrates ou militants, etc.

Expression et communication

« La Guinée est très intéressante actuellement sur le plan littéraire. Après tant de décompositions sociales, de tragédies politiques, de mémoire enfouie, il est temps d’en parler. Non pas avec des slogans, mais avec des romans, de la poésie, du théâtre. C’est ce qui exprime le mieux les peuples. Les discours politiques peuvent être mobilisateurs, mais ce n’est pas très riche. » (Tierno Monenembo)

Tierno Monenembo a raison. Il n’y a pas d’art plus expressif que la littérature dans la peinture des crises et des succès humains. Ainsi, par exemple, la plume naturaliste Emile Zola en France, la critique sociale de Charles Dickens en Grande Bretagne, ont produit des chefs-d’oeuvre universels. Et l’oeuvre de Monenembo lui-même, celle de Maryse Condé (son aînée en âge et son prédécesseur dans l’obtention du Prix de l’Académie) jettent une lumière enrichissante sur les sujets de leurs romans.

Lire Crapauds-brousse, Peuls et Une saison à Rihata, Ségou

Mais le langage articulé a deux fonctions fondamentales : la communication (pratique, technique, scientifique) et l’expression (prose, poésie, théâtre). Ce sont-là les faces de la même médaille. L’une, la communication, est le canal de des échanges dans l’administration, les professions, la recherche en sciences (fondamentales, expériementales, et sociales). L’autre, l’expression, transmet les sentiments, l’intuition, l’opinion, la subjectivité. Les deux activités sont également nécessaires et indispensables à la créativité, à la culture et à la civilisation humaines. Cette dualité est familère à Tierno Monenembo. Elle participe de son expérience personnelle en tant que professeur de bio-chimie et écrivain de renommée mondiale.

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