Friday, 20 December 2013


 The passing of Nelson Mandela has made us reflect on forgiveness and humanity.  African history has been on my mind- a way of finding where we were and whither our road goes.  It is 200 years since Dr David Livingstone – the famous British explorer was born in 1813.
Dr David Livingstone with one of his various African porters, shown here from The Philosophy of Science Portal Blog.

 Before the Afro centric approach was introduced into our education system, white explorers were perceived as heroes.  Actually when I was in primary school (during the 1960s) the Euro centric approach used books called new and old lands. From Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Vasco Da Gama, Mungo Park to Dr David Livingstone, these determined chaps supposedly came to explore our dark world and open up global geography.  Mount Kilimanjaro was “discovered” by Johannes Rebman (and Krapf), in the 1840s. Disbelief of the German’s findings lingered; they called him myopic, for twelve years.  I can imagine it is like some of today’s older generation who are not so keen with the internet.  Geography was dark.

And of Dr Livingstone we must speak.
The Scotsman’s lost diaries written in his last moments (as he trekked sick and tired) were the subject of a TV program recently. His great, great grand daughter, 84 year old Elspeth Murdoch Livingstone was born in Chitambo, Zambia, near where the acclaimed missionary, scientist and doctor died in 1873. There is an internet photo of her looking at the Nyangwe Diaries- which Livingstone scribbled on old newspapers using fruit, seeds and plants ink.  The exciting writings also recorded the 1871 massacre of 400 villagers by Congolese slave traders which Dr Livingstone witnessed at Nyangwe. Report of this genocide is highlighted by the scientific analysis of those diaries.
Without sinking into too much detail, let us agree Dr Livingstone’s contribution to the abolition of the disgusting slave trade also paved the way for the future “scramble for Africa.” Named one of the greatest 100 Britons by BBC in 2002, it has been claimed that Dr Livingstone’s personal vision was not exploitation. His modus operandi was humanistic and professional, i.e. hoping to see dedicated Christian missionaries working and helping African settlements. This is akin to present NGOs. Or how Google wants information to be freely shared without exploiting internet use. That is another long discussion.
Man of destiny. Mandela's palm with a natural map of Africa in the middle...

Nelson Mandela belonged to the generation of African nationalists born immediately after the first European war. Such bloodshed was a continuation of the “Scramble for Africa and other riches” - the loser was Germany. The British, French, Portuguese and Belgians grabbed Africa by the horns.  It was Nyama Choma time. Secondary colonisers were the Spanish (in Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara) and Boers in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela was born 1918, Julius Nyerere 1922 and Kenneth Kaunda, 1924. At Nelson Mandela’s funeral- these three gentlemen were somewhat connected again. Actually it was Kenneth Kaunda, Cyril Ramaphosa (The ANC Deputy) and President Jakaya Kikwete who reminded us of their historical mathematics.
Cyril Ramaphosa introduced President Kikwete and highlighted Tanzania’s role in the anti-apartheid movement. Before Kikwete’s outstanding address, no-one had spoken much of Tanzania. If there is a moment that Tanzanians will remember their leader – it was this instance. The story of Madiba coming to Dar es Salaam- his first secret port- before heading to Ghana and Algeria in 1962 and leaving his boots in the late Minister Nsilo Swai’s house, then returning to pick them up, three decades later –after 27 years in prison - in 1995, made every Tanzanian feel  proud of having been part of South African history.
 Up sprinted Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.
 Towards the end of his speech - the 89 years old – mentioned Mwalimu Nyerere. Speaking of  Mandela and Mwalimu-  tears,  gently, trickled down legendary Kaunda’s face. This is the same man who  said others deserved to die- not Mwalimu-  at the 1999 funeral.
Nyerere on the cover of TIME magazine in 1964...

At least Tanzania’s  sacrifice for the continent was highlighted - in front of Mandela’s coffin. This sacrifice has not just begun in today’s Congo DRC or Sudan- where our young soldiers keep dying heroically. To those singing the Mandela tune without looking at the bigger picture- this was the time to be reminded who has been in the shadows- over five decades- Tanzania, Zambia, Algeria, Ghana - leaders of the liberation struggle. Real freedom fighters in Mandela’s back yard would know.  With Madiba’s long walk to freedom  many have fallen.
Two of the greatest African leaders. Nyerere with Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who was toppled in 1966 and died in 1972

From Mangaliso Sobukwe (Pan Africanist Congress- founder, died 1978), Steve Biko (murdered, 1977), Solomon Mahlangu (hanged, 1979), Benjamin Moloise (hanged, 1985), Patrice Lumumba (executed, 1961), Samora Machel (died, 1986), Kwame Nkrumah (toppled, 1966), Thomas Sankara (assassinated, 1987), Ben Barka (vanished, 1965). Cross the seas to Marcus Garvey, W.E. Du Bois, Martin L King, Malcolm X, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. The list is long.
Meanwhile, we have to ask. Are we going to let the continent keep on bleeding while diggers come shoot elephants, take the tusks and oil; as religious extremists murder kids because we lack leaders of a similar ilk and courage? This is what to reflect.


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