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Editorial

In this issue of Africa Update we discuss President Obama’s speech during his visit to Ghana in July 2009. The Canadian critic,Stephen Gowans, provides incisive details of U.S foreign policy in various African regions, including the Congo,Zimbabwe and Somalia,pointing out that Obama’s suggestions for Africa’s growth, as laid out in his speech, would simply continue the dependency syndrome, rather than break it. He also makes interesting comments on the racial bias of current War Crimes Tribunals in the course of his discussion which focuses on four major misconceptions in the Obama speech. ‘The deformities of the post-colonial system’ and unequal development in a global scale, were issues not touched by the Son of Africa, returning to the land of his forebears.So argues Professor Zeleza in his piece, first published in ‘zeleza.com.’ The Distinguished Professor concludes with an interesting take on the real meaning of President Obama’s visit to Ghana.
But what if President Obama had added the following to his speech?

Today I come to you with greatest humility, from a country which is now emerging from an orgy of corruption. My administration is committed to put an end to this culture of corruption on Wall Street, in the banking sector, in health care and in various corporations. You may be aware that the entire global financial system has been on the verge of collapse since September of 2008 because of us. My administration has successfully intervened. Our stimulus package of about $800 billion dollars has been deployed, and, thanks to Larry Summers, Tim Gaither, Ben Bernanke and others, with my direction and leadership, we stand a fair chance of stabilizing the economy and the global economic system which was spiraling towards economic collapse. We are confident that we can turn things around. Yes we can - and Africans, too, can fight against prevailing systems of corruption .Yes you can.

Kayode Animahaun’s focus on Nigerian actresses and the Nigerian video industry, highlights the dilemma of female actresses taking on certain roles, and the impact of these roles on their private lives. Dr. Animashaun carries out an interesting survey across genders and arrives at some interesting conclusions. We conclude this issue with the first of a two-part series on the Harlem Book Fair of summer 2009. Urban literature is thriving and we have a brief look at some of the emerging writers in this popular genre.

Dr. Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor

Return to Table of Contents

 Obama’s Africa Speech: a Prescription for Continued African Dependence

By Stephen Gowans*
Ottawa

It should come as a surprise to no one but the weakly na´ve and politically untutored that the role of the US president in Africa is to promote and defend the interests of the United States.  This is so, even if the US president shares the skin color of Africa’s majority. What may not be so apparent, but which is true nevertheless, is that Obama represents the interests of his country’s hereditary capitalist families, banks, corporations and wealthy investors whose resources and backing have brought him to power, and in whose interests the logic of imperialism compels him to act. It is Obama’s goal as representative of US capital to open, and keep open, Africa’s vast resources to exploitation by Western, and particularly US, capital without impediments of corruption, war and pan-African, nationalist or socialist projects of independent development getting in the way.
 
Outright fiction
Obama used his speech to sell two fictions: (1) that Africa’s underdevelopment has nothing to do with colonialism and neo-colonialism, but is rooted in corruption, ‘tribalism’ and Africans’ blaming others for their poverty; and (2) that Africa’s development depends on adopting institutions that allow foreign capital unfettered access to African markets and resources. “It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for (Africa’s) problems on others,” said Obama, explaining that, “Countries like Kenya, which had a per capita economy larger than South Korea’s when I was born, have been badly
outpaced. Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent. In many places, the hope of my (Kenyan) father’s generation gave way to cynicism, even despair.”

During the years of its rapid economic growth, south Korea did not follow the development path Obama prescribes for Africa today. Instead, it built five-year 20 industrial plans that singled out industries the government would nurture through tariff protection, subsidies and government support. Foreign currencies necessary for importing machinery and industrial inputs were accumulated through foreign exchange controls, whose violation was punishable by death. [1]

The government completely regulated foreign investment, welcoming it in some areas but banning it in others. Attitudes toward intellectual property were lax, with south Korean businesses encouraged to reverse engineer Western technology and pirate the West’s patented products. This approach to development was the rule, not the exception. Virtually every developed country has followed the same path, using tariffs, subsidies and discrimination against foreign investors, to industrialize. The first countries to adopt free trade, apart from Britain, where weak countries on whom free trade was imposed by colonial masters. The free trade was typically one-way. Countries in Asia and Africa barely grew economically during the period of colonial rule, while Western Europe – the beneficiary of one-way free trade — grew rapidly. Latin America also grew strongly, but at the time, followed an import-substitution model, not the open markets model industrial powerhouses favored because it favored them.

Under the rule of Britain, the United States was treated much as African countries are today. It was denied the use of tariffs to protect its fledgling industry. It was barred from exporting products that competed with British products. And it was encouraged, through subsides, to concentrate on agriculture. Manufacturing industry was to be left to the British. Alexander Hamilton rejected this model, creating an infant industry program that allowed the United States to industrialize rapidly. Hamilton’s program — which remained the basis of US economic policy up to World War II — created the highest tariff barriers in the world. US federal mining laws restricted ownership of mines to US citizens and businesses incorporated in the United States. (When Zimbabwe’s government developed legislation to require majority Zimbabwean ownership of the country’s resources, along the lines of earlier US policy, it was denounced for grossly mismanaging the economy.) Other developed countries also used foreign ownership restrictions to help them industrialize. Prior to 1962, Japan restricted foreign ownership to 49 percent and banned it altogether in certain industries.

In his speech, Obama created the impression that South Korea developed rapidly because it followed policies the World Bank endorses, while at the same time Africa stagnated, because it didn’t. This is doubly false. Not only did South Korea not follow World Bank policies – in fact, it did the very opposite – Africa has been practically run by the IMF and World Bank since the 1980s. Under their guidance, African living standards have worsened, not improved. Over the same period, the Wester n world’s financial elite which exercises enormous influence over the World Bank and IMF – saw its wealth expand greatly.

Corruption, Obama argues, and not the legacy of colonialism, has also held Africa back. There must, he insists, be “concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting, automating services, strengthening hot lines and protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability. "These measures are desirable. But spectacular corruption in Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China did not hold these countries back. The critical issue in development isn’t whether corruption happens, but whether the dirty money stays in the country. Mobutu took stolen money out of Zaire, wrecking the Zairian economy.

But massive corruption and economic growth can co-exist, if the dirty money is invested in the expansion of the country’s productive assets. Moreover, corruption is more a consequence, and less a cause, of underdevelopment. Poor countries, because they’re poor, pay meager salaries to government officials. This increases the likelihood officials will stoop to corruption to pad their paltry incomes. And limited government budgets mean there are few resources to prevent graft. But Obama’s concern about corruption has little to do with its role in hindering development, and everything to do with safeguarding the investments of US banks, corporations and wealthy US citizens. US investors don’t want to invest their capital in countries where the returns can be stolen by corrupt government officials, any more than they want to invest in countries in which there is a high risk of expropriation by nationalist or socialist governments, following paths of independent development. A major foreign policy function of the US president is to create safe and stable overseas environments in which US businesses and investment
can thrive. Corruption is inimical to that goal.
 
On top of corruption, conflict based on religious, ethnic and tribal differences is also keeping Africa poor, according to Obama.“We all have many identities, of tribe and ethnicity, of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st century.” It has long been a practice of imperialist countries to foment ethnic and religious tension as a means of keeping oppressed people fighting each other rather than their oppressor. The ancient Romans called it divide and conquer. The British
elevated it to an art form, and used it to undergird their empire. It has always served to:

(1) disrupt and disorganize a united front of the oppressed against the oppressor; and
(2) to provide a humanitarian justification for imperialist countries to continue their domination of subordinate countries.

 The imperialist country must maintain a guiding hand, it is said, otherwise the ethnic and religious tensions that roil beneath the surface will spill over into open warfare. The massacres in Rwanda have served the useful purpose for the West of reinforcing the imperialist idea that Africans are ready on the flimsiest pretext to go on bloody rampages out of atavistic tribal bloodlust. Exploitation, oppression, unequal access to critical resources, and foreign meddling: none of these causes of conflicts in Africa figure in Western accounts. Instead, the causes of war are to be understood to originate in irrational hatred. And irrational hatred, the narrative goes, is best held in check by Western powers.
 
While Obama attributed Africa’s poverty to corruption and tribalism, he also, indirectly, and unintentionally, pointed to one of the true reasons for Africa’s underdevelopment: one-way free trade. “Wealthy nations,” he said “must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way,” which says the doors of wealthy nations are not open in a meaningful way today. And they’re not, and never have been. Despite African doors being pried open, usually by force, threat or economic coercion by wealthy nations, the doors of Western countries have only ever been open to Africa on terms that benefit the West.

And that’s because there has never really been anything Africa could do about the unfair bargain the West has forced upon it, except to unite and pursue a path of self-reliant development, drawing upon its own20immense resources and seeking out critical machine and industrial inputs from sympathetic countries. It didn’t have the military power to force the doors of
Western Europe and North America open, as the West forced its doors open. Nor could it use the tools of economic coercion to exact concessions from wealthy countries, for African economies, having been adapted to the requirements of their colonial masters in the period of colonial rule, and never having escaped this legacy, have typically been based on agricultural monoculture.

What could African countries do — stop all exports of groundnuts, tobacco or bananas to force the West to open its doors? Doing so would hardly hurt the West, but would deprive Africa of the foreign exchange it uses to import a multitude of goods it depends on the West to provide. To put it succinctly: the West has always had Africa over a barrel.
 
There are two other egregious misconceptions that Obama articulated in his Accra speech: (1) That “the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade…” and (2) that “African-Americans…have thrived in every sector of (US) society.” The decline in Zimbabwe’s economy since 2000 is attributed by US officials to Robert Mugabe’s mismanagement, an explanation amplified by the Western media and treated by both the media and Western publics as indisputable. The year 2000 marked the beginning of Zimbabwe’s fast track land redistribution program.

The goal of the program was to reclaim prized agricultural land stolen by force by European settlers. The land was to be redistributed to indigenous farmers. And it  has been. Zimbabwe has democratized land ownership patterns, distributing land previously owned by 4,000 farmers, mostly
of British origin, to 300,000 previously landless families, of African origin. In more sophisticated analyses, the root cause of Zimbabwe’s economic difficulties is understood to lie in the disruption of agriculture caused by land reform. According to this analysis, had the Mugabe government not pressed ahead with its aggressive  land reform program and settled for the sedate, glacial affair that characterized land redistribution prior to 2000 — and which has marked agrarian reform elsewhere on the continent — Zimbabwe would not be in the straitened circumstances it finds itself today.

Until 2000, land reform moved at a snail’s pace. As part of a negotiated settlement with Britain, the independence movement agreed to a willing buyer-willing seller arrangement, whereby land could only be acquired for redistribution if the owner wanted to sell. This restriction was to remain in effect for the first 10 years of independence. Since most farmers of European
origin were unwilling to sell, little land was available to redistribute. Eventually Harare was free to expropriate land from farmers who didn’t want to sell. Britain had agreed to help compensate expropriated farmers but renounced the agreement, denying it was ever under any obligation to fund land reform. Since Harare didn’t have the funds to pay for the land it needed for redistribution, it had two choices: Carry on as is, with land redistribution proceeding at a glacial pace, or expropriate the land and demand that expropriated farmers seek compensation from London, which after all, was ultimately responsible for the theft of the land and had promised to underwrite the land reform program.

The Mugabe government chose the latter course, setting off alarm bells in Western capitals. Mugabe couldn’t be allowed to get away with uncompensated expropriation of productive property. Analyses that attributed Zimbabwe’s economic disaster to mismanagement overlooked the reaction of Washington to the Mugabe government’s lese majesty against private property.

For not only did the turn of the century mark the beginning  of fast-track land reform, it also marked the passage of the US Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA.)
 
ZDERA is not a regime of targeted sanctions against individuals, as many believe. Sanctions against individuals do exist, but ZDERA is something altogether different. ZDERA has two aspects. First, it authorizes the US president to “support an independent and free press and electronic media in Zimbabwe” and “provide for democracy and governance programs in Zimbabwe.” This is code for doing openly what the CIA used to do covertly: destabilize foreign governments. Second, it instructs the United States executive director to each international financial institution (the World Bank and IMF, for example) to oppose and vote against:

(1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe; or
(2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.

Since ZDERA was passed in 2001, Washington has blocked all lines of credit, development assistance and balance of payment support from international lending institutions to Zimbabwe.

When the act was passed, then US president George W. Bush declared his hope that “the provisions of this important legislation will support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful democratic change, achieve economic growth, and restore the rule of law.” [2]Since effecting peaceful democratic change meant ousting the Zanu-PF government and restoring the rule of law meant forbidding the uncompensated expropriation of white farm land, what Bush was really saying was that he hoped the legislation would help overthrow the government and put an end to fast-track land reform.

ZDERA was co-drafted by one of the opposition MDC’s white parliamentarians, and introduced as a bill in the US Congress in March of 2001 by the Republican senator, William Frist. The legislation was co-sponsored by the Republican right wing senator, Jesse Helms, and the Democratic senators Hilary Clinton (now Secretary of State), Joseph Biden (now Vice-President) and Russell Feingold. Helms died in early July, 2008. He denounced the 1964 Civil Rights Act, was a spokesman for the tobacco industry and was a slum landlord. He opposed school bussing, compensation for Japanese Americans and Communists. He complained that public schools were being used “to teach our children that cannibalism, wife-swapping, and the murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior.” [3] Helms was also fond of sanctions. He co-authored the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which tightened the blockade on Cuba.

The MDC had always been reluctant to admit that sanctions had crippled Zimbabwe’s economy, and more reluctant still to call for their removal. This is to be expected. In opposition, the MDC’s goal was to blame the government for the country’s economic difficulties. If it could do so convincingly, and at the same time persuade voters it could do a better job, it chances of prevailing at the polls would increase accordingly. Likewise, if it refused to add to the pressure on Western governments to lift sanctions, and even encouraged Western governments to maintain or escalate them, the government would remain burdened with the political liability of an ailing economy. But times have changed. The MDC has formed a coalition government with Zanu-PF, and the MDC controls the finance ministry. Sanctions are no longer in the20party’s interest, and the MDC has, as a consequence, changed its tune. Not only does it now acknowledge ZDERA, the finance minister, Tendai Biti, complains about it bitterly.

“The World Bank has right now billions and billions of dollars that we have access to but we can’t access those dollars unless we have dealt with and normalized our relations with the IMF. We cannot normalize our relations with the IMF because of the voting power, it’s a blocking voting power of America and people who represent America on that board cannot vote differently because of ZDERA.” [4]

As bad as ZDERA is, it’s not the only sanctions regime the United States has used to sabotage Zimbabwe’s economy. Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, Jendaya Frazer, who was George W. Bush’s top diplomat in Africa, noted that the United States had imposed financial and travel restrictions on 135 individuals and 30 businesses. US citizens and corporations who violate the sanctions face penalties ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. “We are looking to expand the category of Zimbabweans who are covered. We are also looking at sanctions on government entities as well, not just individuals.” She added that the US Treasury Department was looking into ways to target sectors of Zimbabwe’s critical mining industry. [5]

On July 25, 2008 Bush announced that sanctions on Zimbabwe would be stepped up. He=2 0outlawed US financial transactions with a number of key Zimbabwe companies and froze their US assets. The enterprises included: the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (which controls all mineral exports); the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company; Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe; Osleg, or Operation Sovereign Legitimacy, the commercial arm of Zimbabwe’s army; Industrial Development Corporation; the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe; ZB Financial Holdings; and the Agriculture Development Bank of Zimbabwe. [6]

In early March 2009, Obama extended sanctions for another year, announcing that,
“The crisis constituted by the actions and policies of certain members of the government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions has not been resolved. These actions and policies pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.” [7]

It would be more accurate to say that US sanctions pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the economy of Zimbabwe.
 
 Topping off the falsehoods in Obama’s speech was his assurance to Africans that “African-Americans…have thrived in every sector of (US) society.” This is nonsense. Income, employment, education and opportunity are profoundly unequal in the United States, and inequality is inextricably bound up with race. The per capita income of blacks in the United States is 40 percent % lower than that of whites. One in four blacks lives in poverty, compared to eight percent of whites. The proportion of blacks without health insurance is twice that of whites. [8] And the official seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for blacks in June 2009 was almost twice as high as the jobless rate for whites. [9]. The degree to which blacks haven’t thrived is evident in who languishes in the country’s jails. While the United States has only five percent of the world’s population, it has one-quarter of the world’s prisoner population, and US prisoners are disproportionately black. One-third of black males born in 2001 are expected to be imprisoned at some point in their lifetime, compared to six percent of white males. [10] Poor, unemployed, without health insurance and in prison. That’s hardly thriving.

Jaw dropping hypocrisy
 As leader of a country currently engaged in three wars   (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), and which threatens to escalate its aggressions against Iran and north Korea, one might think Obama would be ashamed to lecture anyone on the importance of resolving conflicts peacefully. Boldly, Obama told Africans that “for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources.” Africans, he continued, must learn the “peaceful resolution of conflict.”

Indeed, there are wars over land and wars over resources, and this, the United States knows well, for over the course of its history it has initiated many of them, and most of the wars over land and resources over the past 60 years have been planned at the Pentagon. The United States’ vast military, which Washington methodically nurtures through the misappropriated tax dollars of ordinary US citizens, allows the country to dominate and plunder much of the world, while at the same time piling up profits for US corporations engaged in “defense” industry work.

Particularly galling is the reality that the United States had a hand in the bloodiest and deadliest war on the continent. In early May 1997, when it became apparent to western observers that the broad coalition of rebel forces in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) headed by veteran freedom fighter, Laurent Kabila, would eventually topple the Mobutu kleptocracy and establish ‘a popular government, linking all sectors of our society,’ the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and others in the corporate media slowly began to criticize the ‘excesses’ of the CIA-installed Mobutu regime, in power since 1965. But at the same time they began a relentless campaign against Kabila and the rebel coalition. The Wall Street Journal spoke of Kabila as an ‘ideological throwback’ to the politics of the 1960s. It decried his relationship with Che Guevara, who had gone to the Congo in the early l960s to work with a progressive coalition (including Kabila) to support the Patrice Lumumba forces and to oust another CIA-installed regime, which had been installed in the diamond-rich region of Katanga. The Journal warned that ‘western interests’ would now be in jeopardy under Kabila. For thirteen months, Kabila sought to consolidate a broad coalition to democratize and develop the Congo. But by August 1998, two neighboring states, Rwanda and Uganda, aligned with ethnic forces inside the Congo, (and backed by Washington) invaded several towns and cities. Both invading countries charged Kabila with ‘corruption’ and human rights violations, and with being ‘undemocratic.’

Rwanda and Uganda are governed by de facto military regimes. Both governments are hosts to U.S. military training facilities and U.S. military personnel. The Congo has been regarded by leading scientists and economists as one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world. It contains roughly 70 percent of the world’s cobalt. More than half of the U.S. military’s cobalt comes from the Congo. It is the second largest producer of diamonds in the world and is known for large deposits of gold, manganese, and copper. The Congo’s peculiar type of high-grade uranium was used by the U.S. to make the atom bombs that were dropped on Japan in WWII. And the U.S. dominates mining in that area even today. [11]An estimated five million died in the war from 1998 to 2003. The conflict continues, with 45,000 people dying each month from war-related causes, primarily hunger and disease. [12] And yet war in the DRCongo is barely mentioned in the Western media. Instead, attention is focused on Darfur, home to vast oil reserves the United States does not control, but would like to lay its hands on. Raising public alarm over Darfur is a way of manufacturing consent for Western intervention in Sudan. The outcome – and unstated goal – of such an intervention would be to bring another oil-rich country under Washington’s domination.

The United Nations has estimated some 300,000 may have died in total as a result of the years of conflict in Darfur; the same number die from the Congo conflict every six and a half months. And yet, in the New York Times, which covers the Congo more than most U.S. outlets, Darfur has consistently received more coverage since it emerged as a media story in 2004. The Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur. [13]

Washington also orchestrated a recent war in Somalia. In 2006, the US-backed, UN-recognized government of Somalia was limited to the inland town of Baidoa. Mogadishu, the capital, had fallen to Islamic militias, who had formed a de facto government in June of that year. The militias’ power wasn’t based on their military strength, which consisted only of a few hundred armed pickup trucks and a few thousand fighters, but in their popular support. In the capital Mogadishu, the Islamists organized neighborhood cleanups, delivered food to the needy and brought dormant national institutions like the Supreme Court back to life.

According to Ted Dagne, the African analyst at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, the de facto government provided “a sense of stability in Somalia, education and other services, while the warlords maimed and killed innocent civilians.” What’s more, “instead of acting like the Taliban and ruthlessly imposing a harsh religious orthodoxy” the Islamists delivered social services and pushed for democratic elections.That’s when General John P. Abizaid of the United States Central Command, or Centcom, flew to neighboring Ethiopia to meet Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who told the US proconsul that he could cripple the Islamist forces in one to two weeks.

Abizaid gave the Ethiopian prime minister the go ahead, and soon Ethiopian soldiers — trained by US military advisors — were flooding over the border into Somalia. [14] The United States supplied battlefield intelligence, the US Fifth Fleet enforced a naval blockade, US Marines deployed along Somalia’s border with Kenya, and US AC-130 gunships, operating out of Djibouti, struck targets within Somalia. [15]The invasion was a brazen affront to the United Nations Charter. Somalia hadn’t threatened Ethiopia, and indeed, couldn’t. With a few hundred armed pickup trucks, Somali forces posed no danger to surrounding countries. And yet there wasn’t a peep a protest from the “international community”. The war created what has been called Africa’s largest and most ignored catastrophe. One million Somalis were displaced.

Some 10,000 were killed. [16] And the United States, whose president counsels Africans to learn to resolve conflicts peacefully, started it. To discourage what Obama views as Africa’s addiction to war, the US president pledged to “stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable.” What he didn’t say was that he meant African war criminals, and only the ones who aren’t puppets of the West. Obama has no intention of holding accountable either Meles Zenawi or Western war criminals (his predecessor, former British prime minister Tony Blair) or CIA operatives who used torture and those who authorized their crimes. Instead, he says, he would rather look forward, not backward. White war criminals are to be forgiven; black war criminals are to be held accountable.

The body through which most African war criminals are to be held accountable is the International Criminal Court (ICC), a court the United States itself refuses to join, on grounds its soldiers and officials would face frivolous prosecutions. If the United States would face frivolous prosecutions, why not other countries? The ICC has received 2,889 communications about alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in at least 139 countries, and yet by March 2009, the prosecutor had opened investigations into just four cases: Uganda, DR Congo, the Central African Republic, and Sudan/Darfur. All of them in Africa. Thirteen public warrants of arrest have been issued, all against Africans. [17]Conspicuously absent from the list of opened investigations are the perpetrators of the world’s most blatant recent war crimes: the US, Britain and Israel. Yes, but “there cannot be an African exception to (the Nuremberg) principles,” argues David Crane, chief prosecutor for the special court on Sierra Leone (which is trying former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, for doing what practically every US president since World War II has done: support rebel troops in another country.) Crane’s “no African exceptions” cry is taken up by the Western media. Referring to Taylor’s trial, Guardian columnist Phil Clark, wrote that “for many, the trial represents another victory for international justice and another signal for the end of impunity for the likes of Taylor, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Alberto Fujimori.” [18] He might have added, but not for George W. Bush, Tony Blair, P.W. Botha, and Ian Smith. The Western media and state officials don’t seem to be concerned about the impunity of these war criminals. The reality that there have been many African exceptions to humanitarian law – where whites are concerned – seems to have escaped the notice of Crane, a white US citizen, prosecuting Taylor, a black African. Martin Kargbo wonders why the West insists that black Africans be held accountable, while celebrating the truth and reconciliation commissions which have granted impunity to white war criminals. Impunity has not been an issue in DR Congo where the wars waged by Rwanda and Uganda between 1996 and 2003 on behalf of America and Western interests have led to an estimated five million deaths in Congo…Impunity, again, was not an issue when South Africa decided in 1994, in the interest of national peace and stability to forgive the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity – people who had terrorized and killed black Africans for 50 long years during the apartheid era. And no human rights group said it was wrong to forgive P.W. Botha & Co. Impunity was also not an issue when Zimbabwe decided in 1980 in the interest of national peace and stability to forgive the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity – people who had terrorized and killed black Africans for decades before independence. And no human rights group said  it was wrong to forgive Ian Smith and others. Impunity was again not an issue when Namibia did the same thing in 1990 — to forgive the atrocities committed against black people during the pre-independence era. And no human rights group spoke against Namibia’s act of forgiveness. [19]

Obama also promised to “support strong and sustainable democratic governments” while supporting the strong, but hardly democratic, Egyptian government, with $1 billion per year in military aid. Washington has also been instrumental in undermining the popularly elected Hamas government. These two examples – and only two of many – show that Washington has no commitment to democracy abroad. It’s all rhetoric. Washington supports governments which enlarge the interests of the US ruling class, whether democratic or not, and opposes foreign governments which don’t, whether democratic or not. US democracy promotion, a multi-million dollar per year industry that does what the CIA used to do covertly, is simply a cover for regime change carried out by non-military means in countries that are open enough to allow US agents and fifth columns sufficient room to maneuver. Obama’s administration will continue to run “democracy promotion” programs, working to ensure that foreign governments that pursue independent paths of development, including those in Africa, are overthrown.

Promoting the profit interests of US capital
Washington wants Africa to be a profitable place in which US corporations, banks and investors can do business. Africans want foreign investment to help Africa develop. It seems like a win-win situation. If Africa does what’s necessary to help foreign investors reap handsome profits, corporate America gets profits and Africans get investment. But the history of Africa’s engagement with the world economy hasn’t been the win-win situation US politicians and the West’s mass media promise. Instead, foreign capital has profited and Africans have remained deeply mired in poverty. That’s because foreign capital can win bigger if it doesn’t have to share the economic surplus it expropriates with the people who produce it. So, it goes for the big prize.

And why wouldn’t it? Foreign capital, like all capital, wants to maximize profits. So it demands a low wage environment, unburdened by corporate taxes or stringent environmental regulations, in which profits can be taken out of the country, and in which governments abjure efforts to meet social goals by making demands on corporations and investors. Those with capital to invest don’t want to pay high taxes (or any taxes at all if they can get away with it), comply with expensive environmental regulations, pay high wages, or be forced to take on local partners. They don’t want to have to invest any of their profits in the host country if a higher return on investment can be obtained elsewhere. Neither do foreign corporations and investors want local governments to give local businesses a hand up by offering subsidies and tariff protections. And they don’t want profitable areas of investment – like energy, telecommunication and banking – placed off limits. In short, all of the measures a local government might implement to satisfy local development needs – mandated re-investment of profits, state-controlled enterprises, foreign investment restrictions, price controls and meaningful minimum wage laws, a heavily graduated tax, and so on — are anathema to foreign capital. In addition, foreign corporations, banks and investors want a business environment that is free from the threat of disruption by war, strikes and insurrections, and in which private productive property is protected from corruption and expropriation. Delivering what businesses want is called good governance.

As Obama explained,  no country is going to create wealth (Obama means: for investors) if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. In Washington’s view, good governance is created when societies are sufficiently open to domination by those who own the most wealth – that is, by those who own and control the world economy. For example, multi-party electoral democracy is lauded because it allows those who assume a leadership role in representing the interests of capital, to have the best chance of being elected. They’re able to attract the funding that allows them to run effective campaigns. And what, as a consequence, ends up being a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, has enormous apparent legitimacy because it is based on an electoral exercise.

Likewise, a “free” society in which “anyone” can open a newspaper can seem to legitimately have independent journalists, even though the only people in a position to open their own newspaper and command a mass audience are members of the class that owns the society’s productive property. An open society with a vibrant civil society which participates in the society’s governance is also one in which the wealthy can pursue their interests by furnishing the funding on which civil society depends. This allows capital to influence the agenda of civil society through its funding decisions. In short, any government trying to achieve authentically democratic goals can be more readily opposed if it provides sufficient space for foreign capital to operate through strong parliaments, independent journalists and a vibrant civil society. Accordingly, Obama speaks glowingly of institutions that open up space for foreign money to operate : “In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success – strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives.

In point of fact, what matters in peoples’ lives — that is, in the lives of ordinary people, and not the bankers, corporate lawyers and CEOs that Obama cares about — is having enough to eat, a job, shelter, clothing, health care, recreation, time with friends and family, dignity and social justice. Strong parliaments, journalists employed by the capitalist press, and a strong private sector, create environments adapted to capital accumulation; they have little to do with restoring stolen land to its rightful owners; investing the economic surplus created at home in local development; and using state-owned enterprises and fiscal and monetary policy to satisfy social welfare goals.

Sound advice, if taken literally
Just as it is important to emerge from the control of another nation,” observed Obama, “it is even more important to build one’s own.” And yet most African countries remain economic colonies of the West, their independence limited to political forms (their own flag, parliaments and political leaders) but whose economies are dominated by Western banks, foreign corporations, and the descendants of European settlers; whose militaries are trained and funded by the United States, Britain and France; and who rely on aid from Western governments, and receive it, in return for political and economic concessions. African countries that have followed Obama’s advice to build their own countries have been harassed, undermined, destabilized, sanctioned and in many cases have seen their governments overthrown by the US and former colonial masters who pay lip service to independent development, but are deeply hostile to it. US presidents don’t want Africans to build their own countries. They want them to turn their countries over to the US business elite, and to continue to do so indefinitely.

Under the leadership of Zanu-PF, Zimbabweans have tried to build their own country according to their own needs, expropriating land confiscated by European settlers when the former colonial master, Britain, reneged on its promise to fund land reform. Zanu-PF has also led efforts to bring Zimbabwe’s resources and economy under the control of indigenous Zimbabweans, following methods reminiscent of the ones south Korea used to industrialize. But while south Korea’s subsidies, tariff protections and foreign ownership restrictions were tolerated by Washington as a necessary evil of the Cold War –- south Korea needed to be given space to develop into a capitalist showpiece on the Cold War’s frontlines – Washington has been unwilling to tolerate Zimbabwe’s efforts to follow the same path.

Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana, the first African country to achieve independence, argued that the less developed world would not become developed through the goodwill and generosity of the developed world. Instead, it would only become developed by struggle against the external forces – foreign corporations, banks and investors — that had a vested interest in keeping it underdeveloped. [20] Nkrumah would have agreed with Obama that “Africa’s future is up to Africans.” He would surely have disagreed with Obama’s prescription for how Africa ought to arrive at its future.

* Stephen Gowans is an Independent Researcher based in Ottawa, Canada. He was educated at McMaster University and the University of Waterloo

1.Discussion of South Korea’s development strategy, free trade, and corruption based on Ha-Joon Chang, “Bad Samaritans:  The Myth of Free Trade   and the Secret History of Capitalism” , Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2008.
2. “President Signs Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, December 21, 2001. www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/12/200111221-15.html
3. The Guardian (UK), July 4, 2008.
4. The Herald (Zimbabwe) May 5, 2009.
5. TalkZimbabwe.com, July 16, 2008.
6. The New York Times, July 26, 2008; The Washington Post, July 26, 2008; The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe), July 27, 2008.
7. “Obama extends Zimbabwe sanctions,” TalkZimbabwe.com, March 8, 2009.
8. US Census Bureau Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007, August 2008.
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.
10. US Bureau of Justice Statistics, cited in Hannah Holle man, Robert W. McChesney, John Bellamy Foster and R. Jamil Jonna, “The Penal State in an Age of Crisis,” Monthly Review, Vol. 61, No. 2, June, 2009.
11. Elombe Brath and Samori Marksman, “Conflict in the Congo: An Interview with President Laurent Kabila,” Covert Action Quarterly, Winter, 1999, Issue 66.
12. Julie Hollar, “Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten,”
Extra, Magazine of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, May 2009.
13. Ibid.
14. Stephen Gowans, “US fomenting war in Somalia,” What’s Left, December 15, 2006,
http://gowans.blogspot.com/2006/12/us-fomenting-war-in-somalia.html
15. Stephen Gowans, “Another US military intervention,” What’s Left, January 11, 2007,
http://gowans.blogspot.com/2007/01/another-us-military-intervention.html
16. Stephanie McCrummen, “With Ethiopian pullout, Islamists rise again in Somalia,” The Washington Post, January 22, 2009; Stephen Gowans, “Spielberg: Chauvinist in humanitarian drag,” What’s Left, February 13, 2008.
http://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/spielberg-chauvinist-in-humanitarian-drag/
17. “Selective Justice,” The New African, No. 484, May 2009.
18. Phil Clark, “Can Africa trust international justice?” The Guardian (UK) July 16, 2009.
19. Martin Kargbo, “The case against the ICC, New African, July, 2009.
20. Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd., London, 1965.

 Return to Table of Contents

'Obama in Ghana: The Return of a Native Son'

Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor
University of Illinois at Chicago

As expected, President Obama delivered a powerful speech in Accra yesterday, which was at once a sermon, a lecture, and a call to arms for Africa to take charge of its destiny, for Africans to assume full responsibility for their future. He presented it with his trademark eloquence and earnestness, combined with the rhetorical intimacy and tough love that he reserves for African American audiences."I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family's own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story," he declared as he discussed Africa in concrete personal terms rather than abstract pathological ones. He boldly outlined Africa's ills and squarely laid their cure in African agency: "We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans." What would have been patronizing and provoked racialized anger coming from a Euroamerican leader was instead largely greeted with glee and cheers of approval.

Every so often he talked about his father and his generation. He was the returning dutiful son who sought to right the wrongs that derailed the dreams of his father's generation for true decolonization, democracy, and development. The audience understood, embracing him with eager affection. This is what allowed President Obama to talk to Ghana's parliamentarians and other dignitaries at the Accra International Conference Center and through it to the larger continent in a way that Africans often talk among themselves. It was as if he was entering a family conversation informed by his perspectives as a son of the diaspora.

Many Africans passionately discuss and heroically struggle daily to create strong and sustainable democratic governments that promote development capable of providing opportunity for more people, strengthening public health, and avoiding conflicts or seeking to end conflicts, the four themes of President Obama's address. The president indeed acknowledged and paid homage to these struggles and the aspirations for African peoples to realize the enduring and unfilled dreams of the liberation struggles of his father's generation. But progressive African activists don't stop there: their trenchant critiques of the failings of postcolonial Africa are often accompanied by equally sharp appraisals of the unequal global system that has made the task of realizing the dreams of independence harder. This is not simply blaming colonialism, as the president said. Colonialism in Africa is no more an irrelevant relic of history as slavery and racial segregation are in the U.S. Those who urge Africans or African Americans to forget their histories of oppression and exploitation often do so because they don't want to face up to the culpability of their communities or countries in the continuing reproduction of inequalities at national and global levels. They are of course not averse to invoking history when it suits their purposes, especially when they seek to celebrate their eternal cultural or national superiority. Africa's contemporary structural and institutional systems reflect complex intersections of the legacies of colonialism, neocolonialism, and the deformities of postcolonial political cultures. It is analytically difficult, even if it is politically tempting, to separate 'internal' and 'external' dynamics behind Africa's challenges and crises, for what often appears as 'internal' already embodies the 'external' and vice-versa.

This is not an argument for absolving Africa and its leaders of responsibility for the democratization and development of their countries. It is simply to call for an equally honest evaluation of the role the West including the United States have played in Africa not only during the slave and colonial pasts but continue to play now. The contemporry dynamics of African-Euroamerican relations continue to be conditioned and informed by the structures and ideologies bequeathed by those very unsavory histories. Nowhere in the president's speech did he refer to the sordid records of the U.S. government and corporations in undermining democracy and development across Africa by supporting dictatorships and corruption. Unfortunately, old habits die hard for the U.S. is still supporting dictators who suit its strategic interests, for example in Ethiopia and Uganda, not to mention Egypt, which was 'honored' with the president's first visit to Africa.
In the Cairo speech 'democracy' was largely avoided as the president was preoccupied with weightier matters concerning the frayed civilizational relations between Islam and the West. But in the Cairo speech he at least acknowledged some of the U.S.'s misguided policies in the Muslim world including Iran. And, no less important, he reminded the world what it owes to Islamic civilization. How many more progressive governments were overthrown in Africa with the connivance of the CIA beginning with Ghana's own first independent government under the indefatigable Pan-Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah, while the U.S. cavorted with dictators like Mobutu Sese Seko, not to mention apartheid South Africa? And there was no reminder in the president's speech of Africa's massive contributions to the world.

Incidentally, the fact that the president himself and the media presented the visit to Ghana as his first to 'sub-Saharan Africa' is a testimony to the enduring power of colonial discourse itself. Indeed, the speech was largely framed in colonialist terms in so far as Africa was presented as the source of its own problems and the U.S. as the unproblematic partner for Africa's advancement. Given Africa's tragic history with Euroamerica, that is the language of patronage, not partnership.

This is not to question the brilliance of the speech or its resonance with Africans who indeed aspire to establishing democratic developmental states which provide greater opportunities for improved material and social and even moral lives. After all, that is what the struggles for the 'first independence' in the 1950s and 1960s and for the 'second independence' since the late 1980s have been all about.

There can be no question, as the President himself said in an interview [1] before the trip, "I'm probably as knowledgeable about African history as anybody who's occupied my office. And I can give you chapter and verse on why the colonial maps that were drawn helped to spur on conflict, and the terms of trade that were uneven emerging out of colonialism." He is also well versed about many other problems including the duplicities of tied aid: "One of the concerns that I have with our aid policy generally is that western consultants and administrative costs end up gobbling huge percentages of our aid overall."

But this is not about President Obama's personal understanding of African realities, which I believe are as good as one can find among the continent's leading intellectuals and politicians. Nor is this about President Obama's sincerety or likeability, both of which he has in abundance. It is about the policies of the U.S. government that he heads, whose record inspires caution, even suspicion, among many informed African.

I was quite moved by the story of President Obama's father whose career was derailed by tribalism in Kenya, and the fact that Kenya "which had a per capita economy larger than South Korea's when I was born, [has] been badly outpaced." But one could also point to millions of Africans who have had successful careers since independence or African countries that have outpaced some countries in Asia. Lest we forget there are still more poor people in Asia than in Africa.

I am sure many ordinary Africans and activists were thrilled to hear an inspiring American president, whose own story personifies the triumph of audacious hope, lend his support to their struggles for sustainable development and democracy notwithstanding the previous policies of his country's successive governments. His attack of venal leaders and autocracies despite the farce of periodic elections was certainly music to my ears.
But more critical observers may have been disappointed by the lack of concrete policy pronouncements signaling noticeable shifts in U.S.-Africa relations. He only made an oblique reference to the elephant in the room: the African Command which is widely opposed by governments and civil society groups across Africa because they know from bitter experience how militarization has undermined democratic governance.

Also, while the president stated categorically that he saw "Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world," which he sought to underscore by coming to Ghana immediately after his visits to Russia and the G8 summit instead of the obligatory end-of-term whistle political safaris of his predecessors seeking some adoration and respite from low approval ratings at home, there was not a peep about transforming the institutions of global economic and political governance from the World Bank and IMF to the United Nations Security Council which would bring Africa into world councils of power for its interests to be more fully articulated and represented.
Nor did the president say anything about debt-servicing to the disappointment of many. As one commentator [2] had written in anticipation of the trip, "Obama should support the UN's call for a debt servicing moratorium using the US bankruptcy legislation as a guide... Secondly, there is a crying need for a structural solution. This should be in the form of an independent debt-arbitration panel operating under the auspices of the UN to mediate between debtors and creditors, rather the current system in which debtors are totally at the mercy of creditors. This is not only fair, but it is also necessary for a stable international system benefitting rich and poor alike."

The same writer also wished Obama would announce an overdue radical review of the eligibility criteria for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennium Challenge, which "discourages and undermines Africa's capacity to produce by imposing US intellectual property, imposing privatization and insisting as a precondition that governments are not directly engaged in economic activities. It also discourages them from using industrial policies to move out of commodity dependence and by using technical assistance as a means to cajole governments to implement trade liberalization policies which directly undermine the goal of diversifying their economies.... If Obama really does mean to promote value-added production in Africa he should indicate that the era of the extremes of economic ideology is over, that Africans are unlikely to ever break out of primary commodity production and joblessness without an active but balanced role of the state in investments, manufacturing and in enhancing their share of the value chain. Such a strategy already exists in Africa."

And for all the railing against corruption, the president was silent on tax-dodging and the practices of US corporations that perpetuate corruption. For example, earlier this year Halliburton [3] was charged $559 million to settle a bribery case involving Nigeria. If the U.S. was serious about stopping tax-dodging and encouraging corporate transparency one estimates suggests this would put US$50 billion or more into the African economy annually. It cannot be overemphasized that corruption in Africa, a bane on development, is often facilitated by western corporations and oiled by western banks. Remember Africa's looted wealth sits in western not African banks and until the recent financial crisis which has forced western governments to tighten banking regulations they were happy hoarding such ill-gotten riches from the continent in the proverbial names of corporate freedom and banking secrecy.
But focusing on the speech itself misses the larger import of President Obama's visit. As one Ghanaian journalist cheekily noted, Egypt may have been Obama's first visit to Africa as president, but he didn't go there with his wife and children, so this was the real thing! Ghana was chosen for more than its democracy and development, for there are many other countries among the continent's 54 nations ahead of Ghana on both scores such as Botswana and South Africa. Some commentators [4] even see the sinister hand of oil behind Obama's visit since Ghana is set to join the club of African oil exporters next year, and the U.S. is expected to get 25% of its oil from the continent by 2015. Strategic interests are always behind any American president's forays into foreign lands, but symbolic veneers are sometimes required.

Ghana combines two poignant symbols of some of the momentous events that the continent has experienced over the last few centuries: the slave trade and decolonization. Coastal Ghana was a major shipping center in the Atlantic slave trade and it became one of the first countries to get independence (Libya was the first in 1951). Added to this is the fact that Ghana is also an English-speaking nation, all of which have given the country a special place in the African American imagination. It is now home to thousands of repatriated African Americans.

Ghana's independence in 1957 electrified the Pan-African world. As President Obama reminded his audience, the power of Ghana's march to freedom inspired none other than the then "young preacher named Martin Luther King [who] traveled here, to Accra, to watch the Union Jack come down and the Ghanaian flag go up. This was before the march on Washington or the success of the civil rights movement in my country. Dr. King was asked how he felt while watching the birth of a nation. And he said: 'It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice.'

The parliamentarians and the multitudes beyond across the continent listened intently and excitedly, overwhelmed not necessarily by his message, which was quite predictable, but at the historical eloquence of his very presence as an African American president whose father went on the Kenyan Airlift program to study in the U.S. during the turbulent and euphoric days of decolonization only some fifty years ago, not as human cargo in the horrific days of the Atlantic slave trade centuries ago.

This partly explains Africa's Obamamania. He is celebrated with unadulterated joy because he is a member of the new diasporas, the millions of Africans who have migrated to the U.S. and around the world in recent decades, while he simultaneously connects them through his wife to the historic diasporas in the Americas .The visit to Cape Coast Castle was the true highlight of the visit, an emotionally wrenching experience that rattled the ever cool President, reminding him and the world of the inhuman cruelties out of which the Atlantic diasporas were born, and the deep and painful bonds and memories that tie him, the son of a Kenyan migrant student, and his wife, Michelle, a descendant of the enslaved Africans, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, children who, he poignantly noted [5], are "descendants of Africans and African Americans."

This was a symbolic return of a native son with his spouse from the historic diaspora and two lovely children who are products of both. It is this story, the marriage of the new and historic diasporas, the connection between Africa and its diasporas, that enthralls, energizes, and empowers Africans on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.

* Dr. Zeleza becomes Dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts at Loyola Marymount University in the fall.

First Written July 12, 2009
Source URL:
http://www.zeleza.com/blogging/u-s-affairs/obama-ghana-return-native-son

Links:
[1] http://allafrica.com/stories/200907021302.html
 [2] http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/57585
 [3] http://www.reuters.com/article/ousivMolt/idUSTRE50P5ZE20090126
 [4] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-kilkenny/why-did-president-obama-c_b_230007.html
 [5] http://www.startribune.com/politics/50534757.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUycaEacyU

Return to Table of Contents

 

“Actresses in Nigerian Video Movies as Curators of Norms”
Dr.  Kayode Animasaun,
Department of Languages and Linguistics,
Osun State University, Nigeria.

Introduction
The video movie is a major tool for representation and propagation of the social, technological, cultural and economic environments of Nigeria. Moral decadence and crime, that often result from unemployment, have been reduced, as the medium provides job for many Nigerians. Nigerian women have made remarkable impact in this field as movie artistes, producers, directors and script writers (Torbrise 1998). While women have contributed in the production of movies, many have gone home with scars, for daring to be agents of social change in Nigeria. For instance, Jolade Ekeinde, for a long time after the movie was released, was branded a prostitute, for her role in the movie Prostitute. Also Empress Njama had to shout out that she was not as bad as the society was  making her out to be, because of the negative roles she had played in some movies (Njama 2004). Corsy Orjiakor was banned completely from acting  in the home video movie industry,  where she had  previously featured (Animasaun, 2007). 
 
Objective of the Study
This study is set to examine how the portrayals in Nigerian video films have not only affected society,  but also the actresses. The study is carried out to determine the extent to which the audiences’ gender has influenced  their perceptions of the roles of  actresses in Nigerian video movies.
 
Basic Assumptions
The study is carried out on the assumption that:
1. Every Nigerian watches Nigerian video movies.
2. The cultural aspiration of every Nigerian woman is to be a home maker,  have a family or have a marital partner.
3. Opinions formed by Nigerians on actresses’ roles can affect these actresses’ feelings about themselves as Nigerians and potential nation builders.
 
Research Questions
Based on the above assumptions, these research questions were formulated:
1. Are there significant differences in the audiences’ interpretations of the roles of Nigerian actresses as cultural ambassadors?
2. To what extent does the gender of the audience affect perceptions about potential marital relations and marriageability of actresses?
 
Instrumentation  
The instrument for this study is a set of questionnaires formulated to determine how Nigerians across genders have viewed their interpretation of the  roles of actresses in Nigerian movies.   The items were worded based on the selected guidelines from the 8-point Normative Self-Regulatory Approach (NoSRA) guides for movie analysts. These are indices formulated on cultural norms that a movie producer or analyst could consider in producing or analyzing cultural sensitive and safe-for-all movies (Animasaun 2007). The items picked for this study from the guidelines are: Item 4-  that inquires on the likely effects of movie imagining on Nigerians; Item 5-  sensitivity to the audience’s cultural and psychosocial feelings in the imagining of Nigerians; and item 6 - on the likely effects of cinematic appearances on the artistes. (Animasaun 2007).
 
Data Gathering Method:
To elicit responses from the respondents, they were given questionnaires with the following  items:
1. Mention your favourite actresses.
2. Why do you like her?
3. List the female video artistes whose roles do not appeal to you.
4. Give reasons for not liking her roles.
5.  I can recommend as a marital partner,  an actress that has appeared nude in Nigerian movies.
 
A total of 1500 questionnaires were produced and distributed to Nigerian movie audiences. This sampling did not consider the geographical location or age of the respondents.  These items were distributed to randomly selected Nigerians.

Out of the 1500 questionnaires distributed, 1290 were used for this study. The remaining consisted of  some that were badly filled and not usable for the study, as well as those not returned. Analyses of data are therefore based on the responses of the 1290 that were properly filled.  The 1290 respondents were grouped according to gender. A break down shows that 750 were male,  while 540 were female.
 
Data Analysis
Research Question One: 1. Are there significant differences in the audiences’ interpretations of the roles of Nigerian actresses as cultural ambassadors?
 
The subjects were asked to list their favourite artistes and to state reasons for their decisions. The responses are presented below according to gender. Results showed that a total of 116 actresses were identified by both genders. Out of these a total of 64 (55.2%) were perceived as liked, item 1; while 52 (44.8%) were considered not liked, item 2. Out of this population, the male respondents perceived the roles of 31 (26.7%) of the actresses as positive while the female respondents perceived 33 (28.5%) of the females as positive. On those not liked, the male respondents identified 23 (19.8%) characters, while the females picked 29 (25%) as disaffective (not liked).  From the data above, one can infer that the female respondents were much more critical of the roles of their fellow females in the Nigerian movies than the males. This could be a reaction against screen acts that deviate from the cultural and moral values of the society (Bonner and Goodman 1995). In essence, female audiences may have felt betrayed.
 
Research Question Two. To what extent does gender determine  views on social issues?
 
The respondents were asked why they liked the roles  of the artistes in some movies, on  the one hand, and why they do not like some roles the actresses played, in another question, items 1 and 4. Their responses were grouped along the four designed NoSRA variables for describing the perception of the artistes, that is, with respect to  cultural and technical affections.
On analysis, it was deduced that both audiences were more concerned about the actresses’ movie roles than that of the actors. For instance, while both audiences stressed psychosocial affection for the actresses,  21 (12.8%)  males, and 19 (11.5%) females,  they were not happy at the number of artistes fallen foul of cultural norms, with 14 (8.5%) for male and 15 (9.1%) for female respondents. To clarify both genders’ positions, they were asked if they could recommend to a relation as a marital spouse, an actress that had appeared in seductive scenes in Nigerian movies, item 5. Though the respondents were required to say if they strongly agreed, disagreed,  were undecided, strongly disagreed or disagreed, the responses taken along these lines were collapsed into three groups of “Yes,” “No”, and “I am not sure.” Analysis of the responses showed that out of the 750 male respondents, 100 said “Yes”; 250 were not sure while 400 said “No.” Also, 199 women said “yes;” 97 were not sure; while 244 said “No.” The result showed that even though some people were fascinated when the actresses appeared in erotic or culturally ‘undignifying’ scenes in Nigerian movies,  a majority of Nigerian males and females perceived this act as cultural aberration. Thus, there is no significant difference in the perception of the movie roles of the actresses in Nigerian movies across audiences. The fact that  both genders said No to recommending as a spouse or marital partner, an actress that had appeared in lewd scenes showed that both did not appreciate nudity or seduction in Nigerian movies.

Using the NoSRA tool of analysis therefore, the fact that 400 men said the movie women were not marriageable; 220 were not sure ; and 244 women said they could not recommend them as spouses, it can be inferred that:
 1. Some women’s roles as movie artistes are having negative effects on them as Nigerians, (item4).
2.  Some of the movie producers are guided by the need to make money and not towards preserving Nigerian’s cultural standards, (item 5);
3.  By appearing in roles that tend to glamorize infidelity, the actresses are perceived as probably replicating for the public what they may have been doing in their private life.  Therefore they are agents of ‘moral pollution’ that can only be enjoyed and then cast away (item 6).
 
Discussion of Findings
From the data above it can be inferred that the audiences see the actresses as members of the society. Therefore, they are expected to be agents of conservation of norms in the society at large.  However, the pictures painted in the case of the seductive actresses is that of a motivated representation. Bell hooks in her study on motivated representation concluded that representation in movies is determined by the dominant society, and that media images deliberately maintain the dominance of existing societal gender or class (hooks 1994). Most of the motivated representations are not that of the dominant society but the needs of a few, determined by the producers (Melanie 1996). Therefore, such motivations should be resisted because judging by the cultural reasons for disliking the actresses, from the perspective of  both genders, the society does not approve of demeaning Nigerian women (Oliver and Kalyanaraman2002). In her analysis of children’s television programmes, Cortes reported that attention is given to programmes promoted by adorable women over the not so adorable, and also that misrepresentation of minorities is strongly prevalent in some children’s TV and films, and that even though such US programmes as Sesame Street are educative, the children are also learning about many other things, including diversity in the character compositions (Floras and Kunz 2001). In essence therefore, the audiences situate their interpretation of the actresses beyond the movie environment.    It is true that some of the actresses are positively perceived, thereby making them role models and conservers of the environment, but where perception is continuously negative, this can cause social phobia or social anxiety disorder (SAD). (Allen 2003).

The actresses can feel threatened by the effect of the negative interpretations and perceptions, extra-cinematically, as is seen in some write-ups that do not attempt to correct but expose the women to ridicule (Musa 2004). Where this happens, they may feel so threatened and withdraw. In this Social Adjustment Disorder [SAD] situation, instead of withdrawing and become public shy, the socially intimidated character may decide to confront it by continuing to do what is being condemned. By this, she would attempt to impose herself on the society and in the process may unwittingly be destroying both herself and the society (Mailin et al 1999). This is the situation with Corsy Orjiakor , and also Jolade Ekeinde, who took up the alias “Omo Sexy” as a way to browbeat the audiences’ reactions against their roles in some movies such as Outkast and The Prostitute (Njamah 2004).

These actresses may have become socially deviant after continuous exposures to slanderous media reports, because of their appearance in roles perceived as bad (Animasaun 2007).   
                                                                
To check disaffective representation therefore, it is necessary for movie production to be participatory so that both genders are made to reflect on societal norms. By not stressing the norm, the movie will capitalise on what some few people like to watch, to inject vices into the society (Yusha’u 2004). And these people through whom the vices creep into the society would probably be the first to complain of harassment (Emejor 2002). This is the situation where nudity is promoted through fashion display in some movies.  Though this trend can generate employment for the unemployed, it is necessary to note that bad dressing is one of the ways of polluting the cultural environment, not only through sexual perversions as some actresses are being accused of. Bartsch, Burnett, Diller and Williams in a study carried out on the trends for gender representation in American  television commercials, conclude that because some women are addicted to fashion, they have fallen victims of media eroticisation. In their study of 757 recorded and analysed commercials for  American TV in the spring of 1998, they discovered that men were under represented in commercials of non-domestic and fashion products (Robert et al 2002). Also Allen, Coltrane and Lovdal in similar studies report that trends in representation reflect  how society views men and women (Allen et al 1996 and Lovdal1989). While the men are perceived patriarchally as lords who are to be satisfied by the women’s appearances, the women are voyeuristic objects for man’s erotic pleasure. They concluded that as a result, gender representation in  the media could affect peoples’ attitude and behaviour.

We should note that several Nigerian actresses were identified for their intelligence and creativity. Actresses like Sola Sobowale, Hauwa Ali Dodo, Joke Jacobs, Liz Benson Fatima, Baraji, and Peju Ogunmola fall within this classification.

Conclusion
The Normative Self-Regulatory Approach (NoSRA) is propounded as a tool to guide movie producers and scholars to mirror Nigeria in a way that the environment will not be polluted. From the data above, the commodification of women is a factor that should be given critical appraisal. While this paper is recommending  the NoSRA tool for other scholars, the paper concludes that there is need for participatory movie production.
 
*College of Humanities and Culture, Ikire Campus,
Osun State University, Nigeria.
 
E-mail: adekay3_ani@yahoo.co.uk, drkayanimasaun@gmail.com     
 
References:
Allen Caruba (2003) Social Anxiety National Centre/ Social_anxiet.htm Retrieved August 10, 2004.
 
Allen K. and Coltrane S. (1996) ‘Gender displaying Television commercials. A Comparison study of TV commercials in the 1950s and 1980s Sex Roles 35 185 – 203.
 
Animasaun Kayode (2007) NoSRA Model: The tool for Normalizing Image Problems in the Nigerian Video Movies. Paper presented at the International conference on African Popular Culture, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, U.S.A. March 29th-1st April, 2007. 

Bonner Frances and Goodman Lizbeth [1995] ‘On imagining women’ in Bonner F; Goodman R.  James L. and King, C. [eds] Imagining Women:  Cultural representations and gender. Polity Press/The Open University. Cambridge 1-12  

Cortes C.E. (2000) The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach about Diversity. New York. Teachers College Press p 43.
 
Emejor Chibuzor (2002) ‘Home videos and Nigerians image’ New Nigerian Weekly November 2.

Fosudo Sola (2002) From the Documentary Film and Video in Nigeria:- Pioneers and Practitioners Nigerian Film Institute Jos.
 
Floras A. and Kunz J.H (2001) Media and Minorities: Representing diversity in a multi-cultural Canada, Toronto: Thompson, p20.

Fomotar  Marcel (2007): Social Misrepresentations in Hollywood War Movies
Peace and Conflict Monitor URL: http://www.monitor.upeace.org/archive.cfm?id_article=422 Retrieved 6th October, 2007.
 
Hooks Bell (1994) The Outlaw Culture p 65
Idegu Emmy U. (2002) ‘Global information technology, identity consciousness and the Nigerian home video Theatre practice’ Nigerian Theatre Journal 7 (1) Nov. 15 – 24.
 
Kadiri Tunji, Movie producer and actor. Interview carried out at Odun ‘fa, Lagos 11 a.m. 27-01-04.
 
Kaplan Ann (1983) Women and Film: Both Sides of the Camera. Methuen. New York p. 5.

Lovdal L.I. (1989): ‘Sex Messages in TV Commercials: An update” Sex Roles 21 715 – 724.
 
Mailin A.R.; Wormian K; and Chrisler J.C. [1999] ‘Women and weight: gendered messages on magazine covers’ Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 40:647-655.
 
Melanie Brown [1996) ‘The portrayal of violence in the media: Impacts and implications for policy’ Trends and Issues in Criminal Justice series No. 55 June.
 
Musa, R.   Abiodun. (2004): ‘Culture and the limit of the directorial power: A reflection on the national question and the Theatre of nudism in Nigeria Nigerian Theatre Journal June.
 
National Film and Video Censors’ Board: Enabling Law. NFVCB, Lagos [1993]
 
Njamah Empress (2004) ‘Theft Saga: Empress Njamah opens up’ Hints 16 (46) November pps. 32-33.
 
Oliver M.B. and Kalyanaraman S. (2002) ‘Appropriate for all viewing audiences: An examination of violent and sexual portrayal in movie previews featured on video rentals’ Journal of Broadcasting and Electronics Media 46 283 – 299.
 
Robert M. Eatnon and Andrew Rojecki (2001) ‘The Black Image in the white mind’ Media and the Race in America.
Robert A. Bartsch, Teresa Bernett, Yommya R. Diller, and Elizabeth R. Williams (2002) ‘Gender representation in Tv commercials’ Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 2 -6.
 
Torbrise Mabel (1998) Nigerian Feminist Theatre: Essays on female axes in contemporary Nigerian drama. Sam Bookman Publishers. Ibadan p.39
 
Yusha’u Muhammed J. (2004) ‘Hausa home videos: The moral questions and political economy of the media’ In Abdalla U. Adamu et al (eds) Hausa Home Video: Technology, Economy and Society Centre for Hausa Cultural Studies Kano Nigeria.

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‘Notes from The Harlem Book Fair of  Summer 2009’
Dr. Gloria Emeagwali, CCSU

The  Eleventh Harlem Book Fair of  July  18, 2009  turned out to be a bright, sunny, cheerful, colorful and informative festival of books. The Festival was located on West 135 Street between Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass Boulevards; The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture;  The Countee Cullen Library and The Thurgood Marshall Academy. Panel discussions, motivational speeches  and  live performances of Jazz performers and  musicians  also helped to make the festival  an unforgettable one. Among the fantastic performers of the event  was Atiba Wilson,  master of the Harmonica and singer of the blues, whose  soulful rendition of Red River Blues  could  hardly be surpassed. His band of four instrumentalists, livened up the  already energized  audience. There is much more information about this spectacular performer and his group at ‘atibaworld.com.’

There were multiple vendors  in 250 exhibit booths, and numerous authors of urban literature exhibiting their work,  happily signing books and interacting with potential and actual readers. I had the pleasure of  briefly interviewing about a dozen of these authors. They spoke  about the broad themes of their work, their  sources of inspiration and on- going literary activities that they were a part of, all quite excited about their work  and their contributions to the fast growing and  increasingly lucrative  urban literary genre.

Among the interviewees were  Shawn Page, China Ball, Charles Ellison, Horace Mungin, Tra Verdejo, Neuma Taylor,  James Alston, Isadore Johnson,  E. Weir, Crystal Brown  and Wahida Clark, the Queen of ‘Thug Love’ - one of  the most celebrated writers attending the Book Fair. Several of the other authors present acknowledged her influence on their work. These were not extended interviews but rather snippets captured on video, with the aim of inspiring others to do more extended interviewing. The energy, commitment, passion and confidence of these authors should inspire us all.
 Books need illustrators for their covers, and Adjoa Burrowes from Illinois Chicago, both  an author and an illustrator, was one of the few at hand to discuss  the craft. Adjoa’s  forte  lies in the use of bright carnival colors for various clients, over the last fifteen years, having brightened up  the covers
 of  numerous books. She has worked for various publishers, including Africa World  Press and Third World Press as well as literary  giants such as Sonia Sanchez.
 
Included in this issue are brief interviews with China Ball,  Horace Mungin, Charles Ellison, Tra Verdejo, and Neuma Taylor. Interviews with Wahida Clark and other luminaries will be included in the Fall issue. Because these
interviews are  rather brief, I would refer to them as snippets. More substantial analysis of their writings will follow in future issues of Africa Update.
 
Snippet 1
Author: China Ball
Website: Elevemonthsofhell.com
 
CB:   My two books are  Eleven months of Hell, my debut novel, and After
         the Hell. I was invited by the NAACP to their image awards for Eleven
         Months of Hell.  I did not get the award but the nomination was a huge 
         honor to me. After the Hell is a follow up. EMH is about  a woman
         who is trying to take control of her life from  distractions, abuse,
         struggles and different challenges. The sequel,  After the Hell,  follows
         her as she  moves to a new city. New challenges and new drama await
         her.
GE:   How long have you been writing?
CB:   I have been writing since I was three years old - since my mother gave
         me a pen and a sheet of  paper to keep me quiet. Little did she know
         that it was love at first sight. I come from Richmond, Virginia but live
         currently  in Wash. DC. This series is going to be a trilogy, the third in
         the series due 2010.
GE:   Are you satisfied with your sales.
CB:   I am doing very well.
GE:   Have you been coming to the Harlem Book Fair annually?
CB:  This is my first year to the Harlem Book Fair.
 
Snippet 2
Author: Horace Mungin (HM)
Website: www.horacemunginbooks.com

GE:   Mr Horace Mungin, Can you tell me about your work?  I notice you
         have a lot of books.
HM:  My first two books, come from  what I call  my Sleepy Willie Series, a
         collection of  social  and racial satire, about a  Black bar stool
         philosopher  in the South Bronx, Sleepy Willie, who sees every thing
         different than every one.  This happens in  a bar in the South Bronx.
         Call him a beer philosopher.  Another book, The Devil Beats His Wife
         is titled after an old  Southern  saying.  When staying with my
         grandmother, sometimes it would rain, and sun would also be shining, at
         the same time I  would ask  her about that.  My grand mother spoke
         Gullah and she would reply:  ‘the devil de beat he wife.’  San Juan Hill 
         is a memoir  about three young  boys growing up in Amsterdam
         projects,62nd and 64th streets, Amsterdam Avenue Manhattan, New
         York, during the 1950s and 60s. My latest book,  Subway after the
         Irish, is an account of the racial transformation that took place in the
         subway system in the late 60s and  early 70s, after the US Congress 
         passed the Equal Opportunities Commission Act. They would no
         longer deny Blacks entry into the civil service.  It took a decade for the
         transformation to take place. The book is about history including the
         lives of the workers too.
GE:   So you have four books, including  historical fiction and sociological
         works….and two satirical books. Am I right in saying that the four
         books you published are self funded. Yes.
GE:   You have been getting  reasonable sales,  I imagine.
HM:  Yes I get online sales and go to churches and schools.
GE:   Well . Which has been the most successful of your books?
HM:  The last one.
GE:   What advice do you have for  up and coming writers?
HM:  Always write about something you know.
 
Snippet 3
Charles Ellison (CE)
Blog: charlesdellison.blogspot .com
 
CE:  My name is Charles D. Ellison. I am the author of Tantrum,  an urban
        political thriller. It is about a rising star with every thing going for him.
        There is an assassination attempt and he tries to figure out who is after
        him. There is  suspense and intrigue. He also has a lot of skeletons in his
       cupboard.
GE:  Any politician in mind?
CE:  A bit of  Marion Barry, Harold Forde in Tennessee and a few others. A
        young man trying to make his way in politics. There is going to be a
        sequel.
GE:  Are you self funded. No I am funded by  a Harlem based publisher.
GE:  What inspired you to get into writing?
CE:  I work in politics. I wanted to have a little fun with it. You pick up
       Tantrum at ‘amazon.com.' It’s a great political thriller.
  
Snippet 4
Author: Tra Verdejo
Website: streetscriptures.com
 
TV:  My name is  Tra Verdejo (TV). My company is Street Scriptures. My
        first book has been out for over a year now. The title is Born in the
        Streets but raised in Prison. Got  real good reviews.  Lots of seminars
        speaking to the kids. Very motivational. Then I came out with my book
        called Corrupt City. If you like  Law and Order you would love this-
        Lots of action and twists.
GE: What inspired you to write your books?
TV:  I always had a gift of writing. My teachers used to tell me that. They said
        that I was real powerful with my pen. I have about six books coming out
        within the next  two and a half  years.
GE:  Funding?
TV:  I took a chance and put my mortgage money aside. Took the risk and
        never turned back.
 
Snippet 5
Author:  Nyema Taylor
Website: neumataylor.com
 
NT:  My name is Nyema Taylor. I am the author of three  novels including  
        my first Love and Consequences,  Deceitful Obsession, and  Back
        Stabbers, my latest. We sold out the first book. All can be obtained
        from my website ‘ nyemataylor.com’
NT:  Do you plan to have a follow up to Back Stabbers? Yes. Back
        Stabbers is about a  young lady trying to do whatever it took,  to make
        something out of her life-doing anything to get to the top and not caring
        about anyone else.
GE:  What inspired you to get into writing?
NT:  I have always loved writing. I have been writing since Middle School.
        My mom was a great help. You had to read at least a book a week or
        you weren’t going outside. That helped a lot.
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