Vol. XVIII, Issue 1 (Winter 2011):Cote d'Ivoire; Reflections on Laurent Kabila
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Critics of Dr. Alassane Ouattara, the man who won the November 2010 elections in Ivory Coast, point to his past affiliations with the IMF and the World Bank, and see him as a conservative neo-liberal who may sell out the country to the West. Their support of his electoral rival, Dr. Laurent Gbagbo, is sometimes couched in claims that Dr. Gbagbo is a Pan-Africanist, progressive, democrat and a socialist committed to the well-being of the continent. But Dr. Gbagbo is neither progressive, democratic nor socialist. His only claim to fame is that he helped to introduce multipartyism in Ivory Coast. Ironically, he seems to be fighting, tooth and nail, to destroy whatever is left of it.
Dr. Gbagbo is no Lumumba, no Nyerere, no Sankara, no Steve Biko, nor is he an Aristide. These are men of substance and genuine commitment - heroes to many around the continent and elsewhere. No pan African worth his salt will launch an orgy of xenophobic hysteria against Malians, Burkinabes - and just about every one outside his ethnic group, including his political rival.
Gbagbo’s claims to being a socialist are also false. He has
spirited away millions to Angola, and places unknown, at the
expense of the national budget, not to mention his
regime's reluctance to fully compensate the victims of toxic
would never know how many Ivorians died from the hydrogen
sulfide that Trafigura dumped in Abidjan, the country’s
capital, but some estimate that 100,000 persons were affected.
Many went blind.No
progressive pan - Africanist will introduce toxic waste into his
Simone and Laurent Gbagbo also remind me of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. The two political couples seem to have some similarities in tactics. Simone Gbagbo created a Duvalier-style ‘toton macoute’ and unleashed it on political opponents and countless civilians in the country.
Nor should it be assumed that there was a monolithic southern constituency supporting Dr. Gbagbo's agenda in the November 2010 election. Gbagbo alienated a large percentage of the so-called south. He was associated with the assassination of about two dozen persons, including the former President Guei and his entourage in a rather treacherous orgy, when he came to power. Guei still has some supporters. Mr. Gbagbo’s electoral manipulation of the votes of Mr. Bedie’s Baule supporters infuriated that segment of the population as well and explains whyMr. Bedie asked them to give full support to presidential candidate Ouattara. Most of all, though, Dr. Gbagbo recklessly endangered the lives of countless 'southerners' by the toxic waste, many of whom are yet to be compensated. It is no surprise, therefore, that the votes in the south were hugely split. So far, the Obama regime is dealing with the Ivorian crisis rather well. The regime knows the implications of another Rwanda.
In this issue of AfricaUpdate, Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura discusses the activities of the United Nations, in the region thus far, providing us with major insights on the disputed elections and the role of an important international actor. We conclude with an interview of Dr. Lievin Engbanda Lingonge (LEL), Dean of Studies , University Center of Lisala, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on the former President of the DRC, Laurent Kabila, who was assassinated ten years ago in January 2001. The issue concludes with a report of a conference held at Kwara State University, Malete, Nigeria, on ‘Nollywood,’ now the second largest film industry in the world.
We thank the contributors to this issue for their useful insights and analyses.
Dr. Gloria Emeagwali
‘United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire:
In combing through the available literature on Côte d’Ivoire and based on evidence I gathered during my fieldwork in the country from 2006 to the present, the following international actors have been and continue to be quite active there: the African Union, Burkina Faso, the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), France, the United Nations, the United States, and major transnational cocoa companies. This essay focuses on the role of the United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) or l’Operations des Nations Unies en Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI), which encompasses both military operations and development initiatives.
After seven years of a range of deep investments in the provision of security, as well as diplomatic, financial, logistical and technical assistance, presidential candidates and their supporters, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), and Ivorian civil society organizations, the United Nations oversaw Côte d’Ivoire’s presidential election during which 80 percent of the country’s 5.7 million registered voters cast ballots after a ten-year hiatus. On October 31, 2010, the final results announced by the electoral commission showed the three major candidates, President Laurent Gbagbo winning 38 percent of the vote, Alassane Ouattara having 32 percent, and Henri Konan Bedié having 25 percent. With none of the candidates winning an outright majority in the first round, the top two vote getters, Gbagbo and Ouattara, contested the run-off election on November 28. The country’s electoral commission declared Ouattara as the winner of the run-off election with 54 percent of the vote and Gbagbo receiving 46 percent. All of the international observers—including former United States President Jimmy Carter, former Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor, head of the European Union observer mission Cristian Preda, and the Economic Commission of West African States Observer Team—affirmed that the election, while not without a few glitches, was free and fair. But as of this writing, Gbagbo has refused to step down from office and instead is laying the ground for another bloody conflict.
Indeed, political problems account for only a part of the work of the United Nations. The imperative of international cooperation to stimulate economic and social development has been increasingly recognized over the years. The United Nations is engaged in many fields of activity which did not even exist when its Charter came into effect on October 24, 1954—such as applications of space technology, peaceful uses of atomic energy, potential resources of the sea-bed, and protection of the human environment. Consequently, the United Nations has faced a number of challenges mainly because it is not a world government or supra-state. All Member States are sovereign and relatively equal, and the Charter provides that the United Nations shall not intervene in the internal affairs of any country, except when it is acting (through the Security Council) to maintain or restore international peace.
The United Nations has been there to be used and not infrequently abused; to be an instrument of national interest when it is appropriate; and to be ignored when it could not be employed to serve that interest. During the Cold War, it was rarely used as an instrument of collective enforcement action. The newly independent nations tried to place the United Nations center-stage of their aspirations, but the majorities they mustered in the General Assembly could only recommend, not determine policy outcomes. Frequently, the ‘new majority’ mistook its voting power for decision-making power, with inevitable dismay. It simply could not prevail over the ‘minority’ that controls power in the Security Council or in the global economy. As a result, the United Nations is perceived in many capitals of the world as ‘them,’ not ‘us,’ and that is how it is often treated especially during international crises.
Nations Military Operations in Côte d’Ivoire
In April of 2005, the mandate of UNOCI and French peacekeepers was extended for a period of one month. The mandate was extended for a further month on May 4 and for an interim period of 21 days on June 3, pending a reassessment of the mandate of UNOCI. In late June, the United Nations Security Council agreed to extend the mandate of UNOCI and the French peacekeeping forces for a further seven months, until January of 2006, broadening the mandate granted to UNOCI to include an active role in disarmament, support for the organization of elections, and the establishment of the rule of law. The Security Council also authorized an increase to 1,225 troops, enlarging UNOCI to 7,200 men, in addition to the 4,000 French troops. On September 8, then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that the presidential election would not take place in October but would be delayed indefinitely, due to the failure of the country’s political parties to implement the peace accords.5 In October, the Security Council, through its Resolution (UNCR) 1633, endorsed an African Union decision to extend the LMA peace process for an additional 12 months. As stipulated in the resolution, a new Prime Minister, Charles Konan Banny, was selected by the international community and given broad powers designed to reunify the country. Banny selected a new cabinet in December in collaboration with the opposition, Gbagbo, and the New Forces.6
In late January of 2006, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of UNOCI to December 15 and approved the transfer of an additional 200 peacekeeping troops from Liberia to Côte d’Ivoire. It also extended the arms embargo for one more year. Following five days of talks among the United Nations, the Ivorian government army, and the New Forces, the “buffer zone” was officially abolished on April 16. On July 6, the United Nations Security Council extended the mandate of UNOCI and the French peacekeeping troops to January 15, 2008 and endorsed the Ouagadougou Accord as the primary instrument of the peace process. On October 29, the Security Council extended sanctions, including arms and diamonds embargos, against Côte d’Ivoire until October 31, 2008, with the condition that sanctions would be lifted once free and fair elections had been held.7 In November, the United Nations Security Council issued a new resolution, UNCR 1721, which extended Banny’s mandate for an additional 12 months. Banny, however, was effectively blocked from exercising control over the government as the international community had envisioned.8
On October 18, 2006, citing what he calls the “manifest lack of political will” among main political leaders in Côte d’Ivoire, in particular their inability to transcend narrow personal and political interests and put national interest first in addressing the core issue of identification of the population, that is undermining United Nations efforts to restore stability and to organize elections in the country, Annan issued a report that put Ivorian leaders on notice to make progress towards elections. The report recommended that UNOCI be extended for a “last” effort and that if it is fails again, the United Nations—together with the African Union and ECOWAS—should establish a transitional government of eminent local personalities to oversee the process for elections. It also called for those who resort to calculated obstruction of the peace process, exploit loopholes in the peace agreements, use legal technicalities or incite violent acts by their followers to be subject to “targeted sanctions” or prosecution by the International Criminal Court. The report added that two task forces should be established to oversee the critical tasks of restructuring the defense and security forces and for issuing national identity cards. The task forces should be comprised of “representatives of the Ivorian parties, of the Prime Minister’s office and the imperial forces, as well as other relevant partners.” The report further stated that UNOCI needed strengthening with more funding and by ensuring that its mandate conveys on its resident High Representative for the elections that authority for making “binding in determination on all issues pertaining to the electoral process.”9 Following the Ouagadougou Agreement of March 4, 2007, UNOCI withdrew from within the Zone of Confidence, but remained positioned on both sides.10
In July of 2007, the United Nations was hit with a series of sexual misconduct charges against a group of its peacekeepers in the northern city of Bouaké. The world body immediately suspended the contingent’s activities and confined the accused soldiers to their barracks. Soldiers from Morocco, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Ghana make up the United Nations peacekeeping force in Bouaké of about 9,000 United Nations troops in Côte d’Ivoire, but the organization did not identify the nationality of the peacekeepers involved in the allegations at first. Before this particular incident, the organization had imposed a zero-tolerance policy against sexual abuse and exploitation in response to numerous allegations of misconduct by its peacekeeping forces around the world. On July 21, the organization suspended a Moroccan peacekeeping unit of at least 732 soldiers following an investigation into the allegations.11
On November 20, 2007, Choi-Jin of the Republic of Korea was appointed United Nations Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire. On December 22, 2007, Choi was joined by Gbagbo and Soro at the demobilization of 300 fighters from the New Forces assembled at the barracks in Tiébissou and Djébonoua.12
The French Licorne troops’ primary mission as of 2008 was as a rapid reaction force for UNOCI. Operation Licorne and UNOCI coordinate their activities closely in order to fulfill the terms of UNCR 1528 and subsequent resolutions. The United Nations Security Council passed UNCR 1739 to extend the UNOCI and Licorne mandate until June of 2007, UNCR 1765 extended the mandate until January of 2008, UNCR 1795 extended the mandate until July 2008, and UNCR 1798 extended the mandate until January 31, 2009. On January 27, 2009, UNCR 1865 extended the mandate of UNOCI and Licorne until July 31, 2009. UNOCI troops, however, would be drawn down by 10 percent and Licorne by a significantly larger margin. UNCR 1865 mandated the reduction of authorized military personnel from 8,115 to 7,450.13
In April of 2008, the CPC formally adopted the United Nations’ five conditions for elections to proceed: (1) the return of peace across the country, (2) an inclusive political process, (3) equal access to the state media, (4) the completion of accurate voter lists, and (5) the transparent publication of poll results. Later that month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon arrived in Côte d’Ivoire while on a four-nation tour of West Africa, during which he held talks with Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré in Ouagadougou. The following day, Ban presided over the signing of a pre-election pact by Gbagbo, Ouattara, Bédié, and New Forces leader Gillaume Kigbafori Soro, which bound all parties (a) to respect the freedom of the press, (b) to refrain from campaigning on racial or ethnic grounds, (c) to reject violence, and (d) to respect the election results. Ban also pledged ongoing United Nations support for the peace process and promised further 27 million Euros in funding. Meanwhile, in support of the demobilization and voter registration process, the United Nations deployed further UNOCI personnel to various areas around the country. Earlier in late March, UNOCI had reported that it had restored 90 percent of the country’s 10,500 polling stations in preparation for the 2010 election.14
Nations Development Initiatives in Côte d’Ivoire
As vital as Lumière Action is for offering education, counseling and advice about living with HIV and AIDS, it has also set out to launch sustainable projects to ensure the economic wellbeing of its members. It recognizes that living with HIV/AIDS and having access to ARVs is important, but without a fixed income and having a good diet, it is not possible to sustain life. Through the Project d’Elevage (Animal Husbandry Project), 500 laying hens at the organization’s farm in the center of Korhogo are expected to bring between 100,000 and 175,000 CFA per week. A part of this money is reinvested, but there is still a decent income for the organization, in addition to work for at least three of its members. The Project d’Elevage is one of hundreds of small projects undertaken by UNOCI through its Quick Impact Project (QIP) program. “This is a good example of a long-term Quick Impact Project,” says Brigitte Karekezi who oversaw UNOCI’s QIP program for the Sector East in Bouaké. “It will provide sustainable development. By investing this capital up front, we help to create something that will assist the members of the association for the years to come,” she adds.16
On October 18, 2006, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that more than one million children have been denied an education in Côte d’Ivoire since 2003 due to the political crisis and the attendant economic crisis. UNICEF is trying to improve enrollment with a back-to-school campaign in collaboration with the Ivorian government and other United Nations agencies. The campaign, launched in 2005, has enabled schools to be reestablished in places where parents were unable to invest in their children’s education, particularly in the northern areas of Bouna, Korhogo, and Odienne. UNICEF reported that nearly 2,000 schools were in operation by 2006 compared to just over 800 before the campaign started. It also stated that the number of girls enrolled in school had doubled.17
As I observed during my fieldwork in Côte d’Ivoire, UNOCI has been instrumental in providing security and development initiatives to the country. The acceptance of the UNOCI troops by the citizens is due to the friendly dispositions of the troops and their desire to get to know the average Ivorian. Also, UNOCI’s development initiative reaches the average Ivorian in all parts of the country and empowers women through its bypassing ofgovernment red tape and the attendant corruption that usually accompanies such bureaucratic machinations. It also ensures very high accountability, as UNOCI field representatives constantly share their expertise and monitor the projects. An excellent example of a very successful micro-finance initiative is the one run by NGO Notre Enfance and managed by Madame Diomande Nossamba in Bouaké that used to be supervised by UNOCI’s Brigitte Karekezi. This initiative has allowed many citizens, especially women, to develop their own businesses, employ others, and provide micro loans. My discussion of the dedication, skills and success of Madame Diomande Nossamba on Voice of America worldwide television in Washington, DC precipitated many requests by organizations throughout Africa that wantto invite her to teach their members how to implement similar initiatives.18
Conclusions and Recommendation
In September of 2002, a military mutiny escalated into a full-scale rebellion, voicing the ongoing discontent of northern Muslims who felt that they were being discriminated against in Ivorian politics. Thousands were killed in the conflict. Although the fighting has stopped, Côte d’Ivoire remains divided. French and United Nations peacekeepers still patrol areas within both sides of the Zone of Confidence which separates the north, held by the New Forces, and the government-controlled south. Peace talks brokered by other African nations and France have, so far, failed to reunite the country.
The political outlook for Côte d’Ivoire is uncertain. The efforts of the international community initially seemed to have been making progress, notably with the creation of a new government of national unity. The new government, however, experienced its first crisis over the issue of the extension of parliament’s mandate. This was a reminder that major disagreements are possible on a wide range of institutional, legal and political issues and that the actual holding of elections would be problematic. Considerable international commitment is still needed. Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire will remain split into two into the near future, particularly since there are interests on both sides that are benefiting from the partition, although the ongoing presence of international peacekeepers makes it likely that full-scale military conflict will be held at bay. Given the political impasse, any economic recovery will remain distant and real gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to stagnate, with donors unwilling to make substantive commitments until a durable peace has been established.
Despite the bleak assessment, I saw signs for hope during my fieldwork in Côte d’Ivoire. First, the military personnel in the south of Côte d’Ivoire seemed to be relatively tenser than those in the north. While there were considerably more check points in the south than in the north, the civilian populations in both regions appear to have put the war behind them and are living their lives in relative normalcy.
Second, the relatively younger cabinet ministers such as Amadou Kone seemed to have had a positive effect on their fellow Ivorians. They had been able to facilitate communication between the various conflicting parties, and the younger Ivorians saw them as affable role models.
Finally, the ethnic composition and excellent performance of the Ivorian soccer team in the pre- and World Cup tournaments were a boost to the morale of the country. It made most Ivorians realize that when they transcend ethnic differences, they can achieve greatness. It also brought a calm and joy to the country, as everyone rooted for the Ivorian, not northern or southern, team.
1. Abdul Karim Bangura. “Overstating the Connection between Ethnicity and Military Coups d’état in Africa: A Meta-analysis.” In S. C. Saha (ed.). Ethnicity and Sociopolitical Change in African and Other Developing Countries. (Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield, 2008); Abdul Karim Bangura. “Explaining and Predicting the Causes of Military Coups d’état in Africa: A Meta-analysis.” In A. K. Bangura (ed.). Research Methodology and African Studies. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994); Thomas H. Johnson, Robert O. Slater and Patrick J. McGowan. Explaining African military coups d’état, 1960-1982. American Political Science Review (1984, vol.78); Patrick J. McGowan. “Predicting Political Instability in Tropical Africa.” In M. K. O’Leary and W. D. Coplin (eds.). Quantitative Techniques in Foreign Policy Analysis and Forecasting. (New York, NY: Praeger, 1975); Patrick J. McGowan and Thomas H. Johnson. “Forecasting African Coups d’état.” The South African Journal of Political Science (1985, vol. 12, no. 2); Orkand Corporation. Analysis of the Cause of Coups d’état in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1960-1982. (Silver Spring, MD: Orkand Corporation, 1983); William R. Thompson. “Explanations of the Military Coup.” (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Washington, 1972); William R. Thompson. “Regime Vulnerability and the Military Coup. Comparative Politics. (1975, vol. 7); Alan Wells. “The Coups d’état in theory and Practice: Independent Black Africa in the 1960s.” American Journal of Sociology (1974, vol. 79, no. 4).
2. David E. Apter. “Nkrumah, Charisma and the Coup.” Daedelus. (Summer, 1969); A. B. Assensoh and Yvette Alex-Assensoh. African Military History and Politics: Ideological Coups and Incursions, 1900-Present. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Simon Baynham “Equatorial Guinea: The Terror and the Coup!” The World Today (February, 1980); Anton Bebler. Military Rule in Africa: Dahomey, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Mali. (New York: Praeger, 1972); S. R. David Defending Third World Regimes from Coups d’État. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985); Ruth First. Power in Africa. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1970); H. J. Fisher. “Elections and Coups in Sierra Leone, 1967.” The Journal of Modern African Studies. (December, 1969); Richard A. Higgott and Finn Fuglestad. “The 1964 Coup d’état in Niger: Towards an Explanation.” The Journal of Modern African Studies (1975, vol.13); Gus J. Liebenow. “The Liberian Coup in Perspective. Current History. (March, 1981); Michael F. Lofchie. “The Uganda Coup—Class Action by the Military.” The Journal of Modern African Studies. (May, 1972); Issaka K. Souaré. Civil wars and Coups d’État in West Africa: An Attempt to Understand the Roots and Prescribe Possible Solutions. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2006); Emmanuel Terray. “Les revolutions Congolese et Dahomeens de 1963: Essai d’interpretations.” Revue Française de Science Politique (1974, vo.14); T. Y. Wang. “Arms Transfers and Coups d’état: A Study on Sub-Saharan Africa.” Journal of Peace Research (1998, vol. 35, no. 6); Claude E. Welch, Jr. (ed.). Soldier and State in Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Military Intervention and Political Change. (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970); Claude E. Welch, Jr. “Soldier and State in Africa.” The Journal of Modern African Studies (1967, vol.5); Miles D. Wolpin “Legitimizing State Capitalization: Malian Militarism in Third-World Perspective.” The Journal of Modern African Studies (1980, vol.18); Tatiana Yannopoulos and Denis Martin. “Regimes militaires et classes sociales en Afrique noire.” Revue Française de Science Politique (1972, vol. 79); Ekkart Zimmerman. “Toward a Causal Model of Military Coups d’état.” Armed Forces and Society (1979, vol. 5); Ekkart Zimmerman. “Explaining Military Doups d’état: Towards the development of a complex causal model. Quality and Quantity (1979, vol.13).
3. United States Department of State. “Background Note: Cote d’Ivoire.” (Washington, DC: Bureau of African Affairs May 2009.” Retrieved on June 26, 2009 from http://www.state.gov
4. Edward George. “Côte d’Ivoire: Recent History.” Africa South of the Sahara 38th ed. (London, UK and New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2009).
6. United States Department of State.
8. United States Department of State.
9. United Nations News Service. “Côte d’Ivoire: UN Report Puts Leaders on Notice to Make Progress towards Elections. (October 18, 2006). Retrieved on October 19, 2006 from http://allafrica.com/stories/200610180730.html
10. United States Department of State.
11. Voice of American News. “UN Investigates Sexual Misconduct Charges against Ivory Coast Peacekeepers.” (July 26, 2007a). Retrieved on July 26, 2007 from http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-07-26-voa11.cfm; Voice of American News. “UN Suspends Moroccan Peacekeepers after Sexual Misconduct Allegations in Ivory Coast.” (July 21, 2007). Retrieved on July 26, 2007 from http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-07-21-voa30.cfm; Voice of American News. “UN Probes Sexual Misconduct Charges of Ivory Coast Peacekeepers.” (July 21, 2007). Retrieved on July 21, 2007 from http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-07-21-voa9.cfm
13. United States Department of State.
15. ONUCI Feature. “Le soutien concret et de long terme de l’ONUCI aux Ivoiriens vivant avec le VIH/SIDA.” Históire de la Mission. (2005, 040).
17. United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks. “Côte d’Ivoire: Schools Reopen in North and South. (October 18, 2006). Retrieved on October 19, 2006 from http://allafrica.com/stories/200610180627.html
18. Abdul Karim Bangura. Côte d’Ivoire: A Report (a field report presented to the United Nations Operations in Côte d’Ivoire office in Abidjan). (Washington, DC: Center for Global Peace, School of International Service, American University, 2006).
Interview with Dr. Lievin Engbanda Lingonge (LEL)
GE: Dean Lingonge, can you please introduce
GE: We have been intrigued by Laurent Kabila, the Congolese patriot assassinated in 2005. What are your views on him? Was he a dictator?
LEL: As a matter of fact Laurent Kabila got into power as a rebel, but I would not say he was a dictator. His speeches, after he got into power, did not show that he was a dictator. He was concerned with the well-being of his people and wanted them to decide their future.
GE: What about his actions?
LEL: We have to make a distinction between his initial two years and the later phase. Later there was much improvement, compared to when he came first. Initially he was fighting all the supporters of the former president Mobutu. He then tried to build a new identity in the Congo by constructing new values. He fought against corruption, fraud and so on. He severely punished the fraudsters and started paying salaries to workers in the civil service. He built the culture of democracy and free speech. He was ready to negotiate and build a culture of dialogue.
GE: Do you recall any important policies by Laurent Kabila with respect to the economy, Sir?
LEL: He changed the currency and introduced the franc congolais, the currency used to date. Food became cheap and popular artistes celebrated this in song. In mining he made a few mistakes in the beginning. He rushed to sign contracts and became aware of how dangerous these contracts could be. So he changed completely, later, and decided not to recognize some of the contracts signed.
GE: So what about his foreign policy?
LEL: First of all, he withdrew the country from the francophonic platform. He called on the Congolese to build on their own resources without accepting aid from outside.
GE: What about relations with Rwanda?
LEL: He had good relations with Rwanda, in the beginning, but the relationship deteriorated.
GE: Who Killed President Laurent Kabila?
LEL: I don’t know. The suspects are still in prison.
GE Is Kinshasa still the musical capital of Africa?
LEL: Yes I would say so because in South Africa, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire and numerous African countries, Congolese music is still popular.
GE: Who are some of the leading Congolese musicians today?
LEL: Papa Wemba, Kofi Olumide, Werrason and so on. There is Congolese Jazz. Christian evangelical music is also popular.
GE: Do you have an Alpha Blondy?
LEL: Yes. In reggae we have Lokua Kanza and others.
The interview took place in Addis Ababa in December 2010 and was conducted by Gloria Emeagwali (GE).
Dr. R.A Olaoye, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
The conference began on 7th July, 2010 with the registration of conference participants. Registration commenced at about 4:00 pm at the Kwara hotel venue of the conference. After about two hours of the exercise, the conference was declared open. At this point, invited dignitaries were called to the high table.They included the wife of the Kwara State Governor, Her Excellency, Barrister Toyin Saraki who declared the conference open on behalf of the State Government; three Honourable Commissioners i.e. those of Information and Communications; Education and Social Welfare; the Vice-Chancellor of Kwara State University Malete; (the host) and the Vice-Chancellor of University of Ilorin, and three other dignitaries. The audience for the opening ceremony was large and cut across academic , social and political strata of the society. There were also participants from Canada, the Caribbean, U. S. A., South Africa, Britain and Ghana. The opening was also graced by the students of Kwara State University, Malete; University of Ilorin and other tertiary institutions. The session came to an end with dinner for the participants.
Some other presenters/discussants and the titles of their works included, Prof. H. Garuba of Universityof Cape Coast, South Africa: “Outside Western Eyes: Nollywood, Modernity and the Nation”; Prof. F. Shaka, University of Portharcourt, Nigeria, “Interrogating the Dictatorial gaze in Nollywood”; Dr. O. Okuyade, College of Education, Warri, Nigeria. “The Representation of the Aqua-Matriarch in Nollywood”; W. Raji, Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, Nigeria. “Urban Routes: Affinity, Affiliation and the Expression of Local Cosmopolitanism in a Post-Colonial Video Film.”; Prof. Onokome Okome, University of Alberta, Canada: “Do Nollywood Films Matter?” and M. H. Brown, University of Wisconsin, U.S.A, “The Crippled Film Industry of a Crippled Nation” viewed Nollywood from the perspective of an entertainment industry. They showed how Nollywood has been portraying African indigenous culture and were particularly critical of Nollywood`s negative portrayal of indigenous culture. Specifically, they referred to the Nollywood version of “African Magic” which was usually dominated by scenes like murder, wars, maimings, rapes, kidnappings etc. While no society was noted to be completely insulated from all these, the feeling was that such anti-social values should be mellowed down so as not to blur the core positives qualities of indigenous values. Apart from this, the presenters invariably frowned at the odd ways in which women were sometimes portrayed in roles played.
9th July, 2010
Taken together, the dominant views of the above presenters was the need to do more on Nigeria’s film culture in order to strengthen, preserve, publicize, investigate and evaluate it. It was argued that the study of Nigeria’s film culture would progress more rapidly if there were more integration and specialisation of efforts. While accepting the challenges, the core practitioners in the industry maintained that the quality of Nollywood thematically, culturally stylistically has improved substantially.
10th July, 2010
It was the recognition of the need for local/global status of the University that had, ab initio, informed the recruitment pattern in the University which gave equal opportunities to both foreign and local scholars. Kwara State University took off with fascinating courses in film production; musicology, theatre arts; environmental education etc. It is within this context, that the workshop on Nollywood could better be appreciated.
The perspectives of the foreign participants on Nollywood added great understanding to what the industry should stand for. By juxtaposing Nollywood with similar industries like America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood, the foreign participants brought into a bold relief, some missing gaps in the Nigerian Nollywood Films/Documentaries.
The workshop had both its thrills and frills. In the first place, it brought together cultural practitioners and those with strong passion for culture. This set aglow the venue of the workshop with cultural `fever` of some sort. Indeed, the workshop was given pep by the Kwara State Cultural Troupe and the students’ cultural organisation. The involvement of the Kwara State government also meant much to the workshop. This was manifest in the bank-rolling of the expenses of the workshop and attraction of high-ranking government functionaries to the event.
Apart from drawing attention to the University, Ilorin, Kwara State and Nigeria in general, the workshop was a melting-pot for motley of fresh ideas and intellectual exchanges. The panel discussions were based on cognate themes, well organised and thoroughly discussed. In addition, there was time for post-session discussions which allowed for more latitude in arguments and counter-arguments of points, both fresh and old, as related to the objectives of the conference.
A workshop on Nollywood would make better appeal to the audience, if the practitioners were actively engaged. This was not the case with the Ilorin workshop. About two Nollywood artistes were present. Even at that, they left on the second day of the conference without any active role in the workshop. Apart from this, the deployment of video/film in the course of the workshop in order to support or debunk the point being raised would have been very ideal. A film was shown only on the last day of the workshop, to bring the programme to an end.
One area that the workshop could have further addressed was the ethnic composition of the artistes in Nollywood. As at now, the industry is largely dominated by Ibos and artistes of Igbo extraction. This gives the impression that Nollywood is an Eastern Nigerian affair. Even when and where others are involved, they usually play less important roles. It is this lopsidedness that has given rise to Yoruba home videos and Kano’s Kanywood.