A Letter to My Father, and Others

Dear Baba,

This is an odd and public and rhetorical letter, on a subject that recent tradition has asked us to sweep under the carpet. I find myself, at 35, at odds with the tone and nature and political space that is Gikuyu. For the first time in my life, in the Kibaki government, my identity as a Gikuyu has been questioned, I have seen text messages distributed amongst Gikuyus about “beasts from the West” and the like.

You have brought me up to be a skeptical person, a thinking person, a Kenyan first, a Nakuru boy, a person who believes in solid institutions, in building them, and growing them – as you did so well for so many years.

This present wave of “uGikuyu” seems to have sucked up a whole generation of people: who believe that the future of Kenya lies ONLY under a Gikuyu umbrella. To me this seems like crazy and corrupt politics, capitalising on the post- Mau Mau, and post Kenyatta entitlements and paranoias that have been past on from parent to child, often without explanation or analysis – and now what is we have is a vague formless fear of the unknown from the ‘other side’.

Last week, some young man, a university graduate told me that the clashes were about “the KAMATUSA tribes killing the Gikuyus”. Basic information would counter this – but educated people, PARENTS, are passing this bigotry on.

On the other side of our family: from Mum’s side, a genocide happened.

I find I cannot be silent about the politiking and the text messaging xenophobia that has infected, it seems, all sensible Gikuyus. I say this because no prominent people are speaking against this: this insane kitchen cabinet of an insane presidency is using fear to keep Gikuyus on their side, and this is causing serious damage to our place, and the place of our children in a future Kenya. Not even the Moi Kalenjin junta caused so much social and tribal friction, in such a short time. It is now Gikuyu versus Kenya – with yuppies saying Kenya does not know what it talking about because Kibaki has planted flowers in roundabouts.

Like any, many young people, I am at a loss what do or say. We are heading to a very dangerous place, displaying a sense of entitlement and ethnic chauvinism that can only lead to violence – all, its seems, to keep a few people who made money during Kenyatta’s time happy and wealthy.

Some friends of mine have said that we are “owed” because we “suffered” under Moi.

Who did not suffer under Moi?

Many people want to speak of these things and agree there is a problem in bars and huddles and not in public. Few people have this conversation with their parents. In clear and naked transparency. Why?

You did not bring me up to react like this.

I will not react like this. I know how much you have believed and invested in the idea of a functional and forward-looking Kenya. I feel that the Gikuyus who feel this way should make themselves public – it is not an affirmation of anything, no ideology – simply a declaration of one’s loyalty to a good and clean Kenya

Is it not time that right minded people started to speak out?

I am sending this email out to you all trusted friends, with love. Post, and distribute this if you can.

Please forward the question to those you feel want to start a dialogue. What is the challenge of this generation? Why is nobody of your generation making their stand clear? Is this government something to approve of? Are “we” behind this new government?

Am I missing a particular conversation?

Why can’t we name this problem?

How can we stop the hate?

With much love,

Your son,

Binyavanga Wainaina


Staring Death in the Face on the Drive to Jomo Kenyatta Airport

After a week of Digital Indaba polemics, entertaining outraged comments from South Africa, I had my moment of Outrage on the way to the airport yesterday morning. My flight for Addis Ababa from Nairobi was scheduled to leave at such a time as made it necessary for me to be at the airport by 5.30am. As is always the case in Nairobi, this departure was heading toward the ‘one for the road’ till flight-time script. But Sohos where we were downing beers – and which I dislike and yet for some reason keep finding myself patronizing – closed early and I was forced to return home in good time to pack and get some sleep. The plan was for K____, my usual taxi driver, to turn up in good time and so he did. As I got into the battered Toyota, I noticed he was quieter than usual, that the front end had a new largish dent and that he seemed to have forgotten the way out of my place. But then I thought it must be the late hour and that perhaps even the curious slowness of his driving was due to his having woken up earlier than usual. This working theory, plus the mild hangover I was suffering all fled as we were pulling into Mbagathi Way (a highway under construction so that both directions of traffic have to share a single road.) My dear K____ was at the stop sign for a full minute though the road was quite empty of traffic. He only decided to pull out, with excruciating slowness, the moment cars were bearing down on us from both directions. They came screeching to a stop and one of the drivers rolled down his window and let go such a furious – and at such an early hour, impressive – flood of curses. K_____ merely nodded his head slowly from side to side as if in sadness that the other drivers could be so unreasonable and unskilled. It was only when he proceeded to drive in the middle of the road, seeming to weave toward the path of oncoming cars, as if somehow their headlights were what to aim for, that I realized that K____ – he of the frequent lectures on the importance of responsibility and punctuality in the working man – was roaring drunk.

‘K____,’ I asked carefully hoping not to distract him further, ‘have you been drinking?’ Silence. ‘Have you been drinking, please tell me,’ I pleaded knowing by this time that the answer must be in the affirmative. Oncoming cars were hooting and driving half on the road and half off it to avoid the Grim Ripper who was clearly now in control of that Toyota. And K____ was his angel of death. What with his sleepy answers, sunken, darkened cheeks, that now as I looked at him made me realize that for the past year I have been getting rides from a man who has ceded much of the flesh of his body to cheap liquors and late hours. I knew that we were never going to make by the time we got to the roundabout near the Barbados Children’s Home, about two kilometers from my first realization that he was drunk out of his mind.

‘I think I must have eaten something that disagreed with me,’ came the reply after long minutes of waiting. I have myself used this never-to-be-believed phrase and the next one as well. ‘I think I am just really sleepy, I have been having such a tough time sleeping. I even scrapped a gate on my way to you.’ The grave for mmk it was, even before the end of the Digital Indaba talkfest. Perhaps this is what comes of questioning do-gooding. That God, the lover of justice and empowerment, sends a drunk driver to your doorstep who crashes you head-on into an oncoming truck. Maybe K____ too had been rude to White South Africans as he carried them from the airport and so Justice was going to kill two birds with one stone.

‘Pullover K____, now!’ by this time I was hysterical. What a bad way to go.

Long story short: he stopped and I took over and drove to the airport with him fast asleep and even snoring in the back. I parked the car with him still fast asleep in it and took my flight. Once again Nairobi having ushered me into its curious blend of terror and comedy, on the way to Addis Ababa where dangerous driving such as K’s would not even make me twitch an eyelid as common and normal as it seems once I am here.

Is the Digital Indaba the Internet Berlin Conference of 2006?

(This post is a follow-on to a previous one on next week’s Digital Indaba on Blogging and the resulting comments that included accusations of my being racist and illegitimate)

Does the African blog-space – if there is such a thing – need codification, a coming together, a corralling under the auspices of a code of conduct or a common front? I do not think so and yet I have noticed a recent trend toward this end of trying to create a ‘mainstream’ African blog-space that confers ‘legitimacy’ on its members. Implying, if only gently, that those outside its auspices are illegitimate at worst or at best might be irrelevant to goals as varied as civil society ‘empowerment’, the creation of alternate media, etc. We are living in a world that increasingly looks to observed and enforced standards. It is almost as if the more peoples become exposed to one another, by virtue of blogging for example, the greater is the discomfort of those associated with the West (like the White so-called Africans who pissed me off by calling this blog racist and illegitimate.) They want a world where bloggers are ‘responsible citizens’, ‘legitimate’ and ‘empowerment minded.’ As noble as such sentiments sound, they have lurking behind them not an evil conspiracy but rather an instinct to occupy territory – the high ground of individual African blogging ideas and opinions – which has been much talked about in the last couple of years in the international and local media.

What organizers and conveners of events such as the Digital Indaba on Blogging refuse to recognize is the essential magic of blogging which is that every blog is THE CENTER. It is made so by the decision of one person to speak as they will, when they will, about whatever they wish. The blog’s audience, if it exists, is therefore treated to an act of one. Consider how many unique minds or perspectives can come to the fore due to this freedom. It is not that the Indaba will still the blogger. Rather, combined with others like it in the future, it will act like a force of gravity by forming positions, networks and attitudes that by virtue of advertisement and promotion occupy the centre or rather attempt to claim such occupation for themselves so that bloggers who are not ‘inside’ will presumably operate in the margins. As if there is not enough of that already within the traditional forms of media.

A central goal of these kinds of meetings is to move ideas and knowledge out of their tacit forms – where they are owned by individuals and received by individuals – to codified forms. Not for the benefit of the blogger but rather to profit the administrator who enables and ‘owns’ the codifying space. Knowledge when it is codified is made into a standardized message that is precious in the marketplace, far more in many instances that its tacit counterpart. Codification allows easy reproduction and because to do it means knowledge being more exactly described, it becomes easier to mark as intellectual property. This is a good thing since it can now be transmitted cheaper to a wider audience, creating profits and, when of a positive nature, leading to better societies. Unfortunately this is not the process the indaba represents. Let me explain.

The high costs in producing knowledge are start up ones – usually paid in the initial phase when ideas or knowledge are tacit. That is to say the writing of your blog is tougher, more expensive, than holding a conference of bloggers to come up with an organizing principle or organizational character. But since many ideas in blogs are not worth much financially, the value is to be had in the joining. By the one who claims to have created the common ground you stand on with others. The blogger who would join an ‘African Code of Conduct’ might earn some minor monies from a conference per diem or from a donor. But the one who will really clean up, in financial and power terms, will be the convener of the conference: the institution or person who boasts of ‘facilitating’ African voices, helping them ‘make a huge impact by sharing knowledge and enthusiasm and demonstrating to the rest of the world that Africa is more than a passive observer in the global village’ (quote from the website of next week’s first Indaba on Blogging)

Blogging on this continent does not need midwives. Especially not ones who want to demonstrate ‘to the rest of the world that Africa is more than a passive observer in the global village.’ It is this kind of defeatism and obsession with the opinions of others that puts paid to the creation of independent paths of our own. That we should now blog to show the world (read the West and White folks) that we are somehow worthy of their respectful consideration. What nonsense. Perhaps the way to ‘show the world’ is to have a conference of black people in the audience listening to panels basically made up of white people. You know? To hope that the authority of whiteness rubs off on the poor little African blogosphere. I wish I will be proven wrong about such panels but the defensiveness of the white Mandelas tells the tale. Ultimately though, whoever the panelists are, and despite the ‘rush for white,’ the logic of this benignly conducted colonisation of Africa’s blog universe will have plenty of rainbow colored African volunteers.

What really pulls my goat among all the ills of this ‘inclusive’ event is the corralling of bloggers – most of whom are just doing their own thing – into the donor universe. Consider once again the language of the Indaba which views blogging, at least in one aspect, thus:

Blogging, because of its far reach and networking qualities, is an essential tool in ensuring that the UN Millennium Development Goals are achieved in Africa and NEPAD remains a united and benevolent alliance on the continent.

Millennium development goals? NEPAD? Ensuring that it remains a united and benevolent alliance? That, ladies and gentlemen, is called the language of the hustler. Some wise African – and he or she could be white or black – who has identified an angle, a cow to milk. And that cow is you dear blogger. You are going to be positioned, united with others, invited to liberal, black loving Grahamstown. Even before you leave, little hustle proposals on ‘empowering African voices’ will be in the mail, probably on the same flight as you. Not that you will ever get more than a few cents. What you will get though is a big, prominent logo on your site that says something like Proud Member of Indaba Code. Somewhere in the proposal will be the sentence, ‘Indaba and company, a non-profit, civil society initiative, is proud to announce that 5% of known African blogs have signed up to the Code of Conduct we established and will form an important African digital voice in the achievement of the MDGs and the sustenance of NEPAD’s profile. We now require further funding for the Indaba to expand its activities…’

In return for a few bloggers being thrown the bone to listen to ‘20 renowned and respected speakers from across the globe and a confirmed line-up that would make Silicon Valley jealous,’ many others will operate in a blog-space that is marked and demarcated territory by little people who would try and update the Berlin 1885 scramble for Africa to the digital space. My railing against this process will not stop it I know, but I think it is important to be aware that what the Indaba and like conferences represent is a grab for territory. And when the African internet Bismarcks and Leopolds can call me racist for asking a question, then you better be aware that the gloves are going to be off during this scramble. The weapons will be to meet challenges with a deafening silence; refer to them as ‘unacceptably racist and misinformed’ (courtesy of one Vincent ‘Madiba’ Maher); and the calling of even more conferences. But, blogging being what it is and since they have decided to piss off the worst Gikuyu this side of the keyboard, I will only say this: I am watching and will ask questions first and then pull the trigger to my nukes later.

Comments on “(White?) African Blogger Conference in a Week”

Below are some comments on the last post I had on the upcoming African bloggers indaba. It turned out that AB&H is racist and illegitimate. I will be back to talk more about the attempt to codify the African blog space and make it part of a kind of NGO-ish, funded civil society space with established mores. In other words, the attempt to bring it in line. Original Post

Anonymous said…
I guess you’re upset because you didn’t get a free ticket to the conference, sorry for you.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 7:53:16 AM

MMK said…
anonymous – haha. Indeed, the obvious comment comes forth. Thanks for being sorry.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 8:06:58 AM

Binyavanga said…
Hey,I think I read on Ory’s blog that there were scholarships, whic irritates more because why were people not asked. Maybe some would come on their own steam?
Thursday, September 07, 2006 8:44:32 AM

Vincent Maher said…
The scholarship applications have closed, there were more than 200 applications and the final selections have already been made.This event was announced to the media and to several bloggers who linked to it. If you search for it on Google you will find 280 links to the web site. It was also sent out in the Poynter E-Media Tidbits list.Obviously we could not invite each person in Africa individually, and we hope that it will be successful enough for more applications next year.In general I think this blog post is unacceptably racist and misinformed but I have published my perspective on my own blog.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 8:55:03 AM

MMK said…
Scholarships. The assumption as ever is that Africans are broke, always in need of a (white?)helping hand. I am quite sure that the conference was advertised but as someone who spends hours online, I am puzzled that I did not run into it until yesterday. I hope that the sessions will be taped so that we can see who indeed is an African citizen, blogger, moblogger, vlogger, podcaster, hactivist and new media journalist.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 8:55:13 AM

MMK said…
Here is the link to a fuller explanation of why AB&H is now a racist blog that lacks credibility. The very credibility that can be enjoyed by joining the African citizens Code of Conduct.http://nml.ru.ac.za/maher/?p=137To the program of events: http://dci.ru.ac.za/documents/Draft_Programme2.pdf
Thursday, September 07, 2006 9:09:50 AM

Sammie said…
LOL at “The Hustle” that is the African situation. Africa sounds so hopeless a place to live in!I believe it’s a much better place than say Europe!I was reading somewhere that the American Dream is over, and seeing how self-respecting Africans are demeaning themselves in the name of asylum in Europe, i see where all this (mis)information is coming from.The hustle is further propagated by the brain-drain, where our brilliant minds are given scholarships, and attain green cards, citizenship and stuff, only to be dumped back here when wasted. Look at our current political class. Akina Musyoka, raila, Kibs, The whole lot of them; products of the hustle, turned activists.Pole for the long comment.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 9:14:07 AM

bankelele said…
Ory posted it at her site about a month ago with the scholarship mention. Am happy to have been invited.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 9:16:36 AM

Rista said…
Binyavanga and MMK, you are clearly looking in all the wrong places 🙂 [good looking out bankele] The ‘scholarships’ are always a good idea, but they should be renamed to read something innocuous like ‘conference/travel support’.Vincent, laudable work. Thanks for lending a helping hand to blogging in africa. It’s quite clear your efforts are still not reaching a (significant?) portion of your target audience… might want to rethink the strategy. That said, I wonder how many bonafide black south african bloggers will be at this conference. I am of the old school in believing that the word ‘racist’ cannot be used to describe an african, so i’d recommend you take a different tack when blogging in the ‘african’ space.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 10:05:17 AM

Vincent Maher said…
Rista, you may be right regarding our efforts though right now we’re focussing on Southern Africa.I can’t agree with you on your other point about Africans being exempt from racism, I have seen a lot of racism between all different races in my life, including Africans. Obviously you’re entitled to your opinion, as am I, and I respect that.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 10:51:54 AM
Zephyr said…
Ai mmk, even I, who is a relative bloggo-virgo heard about it.Sometimes, it is good to first, swallow the sour grapes. then blog. I’ll provide the whisky to down them :-). Of course assuming that you can do grapes with whisky.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 10:59:55 AM

Alex Maughan said…
After reading your post mmk, I initially got angry. But now, having spoken about it with the people that happen to be in the room with me… wait, before continuing, let’s count the races in this room for your sake, since you are so obsessed with skin colour: 1 “Indian”, 2 “blacks”, and 1 “white” – or is he more of a grey colour due his very dark body hair? – all are Africans by the way)..anyway, like I was saying, after discussing your rationale – if that’s what one can generously call your racism (and yes, rista, black people can be racist too… do the moral maths yourself, cos I don’t feel like wasting my time on your ignorant and short-sighted claim) – I now find it quite humorous, as do the others in the room. Your claims viz. the scholarships are especially funny. So now, having had a good laugh with all in the room, I am purged of my anger and no longer feel the need to break down the logic of your argument (which would have been done easily with the use of your own ideological premises, as I wouldn’t dare impose a “white” form of deduction on your subjectivity).Thank you for reminding me that even if people like you revel in subjecting everything to a white-on-black form of racism, there are many others (such as those in the room with me) that have more sense.So in the end, I have said nothing really, other than expressing my thanks, and, I suppose, that is enough. There is so much wrong with your argument, that I’ll end up wasting my time deconstructing it, and will enivitably waste your time too (since you will never be able to truly consider my overall objection until you remove that anger-filled race card that obscures your critical thought).Other than that, congratulations on a greatly informative blog (oh wait, what did we all learn from this again?… shucks, my red-neck, honke-rambling brain just aint wat’d used to be.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 11:54:05 AM

Binyavanga said…
Oh very juicy! Are fists flying? Some honke-rambling! Anger-filled race-cards! Good lord, must log on later. Nothing like a good ole conference to set thigs alight. Ah!! I have really missed South Africa…oh the rolling minefields!
Thursday, September 07, 2006 12:37:56 PM

Nic said…
I think that the comments above all illustrate the need for what is being argued against in this post: a code of conduct. For if there was a code of cunduct this post would be well without its boundaries and be disregarded as a worth while post/blog. As for the fact that “africans” cannot be labelled racist, that is the most absurd thing i have ever heard. Many years of political studies has proven to me that although my skin colour may not be black I am still an African. Well said Alex. Furthermore, if this is the case and a multitude or colours are labelled “African” by the informed, then why should there not be white/egyptian/coloured/green/purple/yellow speakers at the conference? If they are all African then who are you to predefine what is and is not African?
Thursday, September 07, 2006 2:23:10 PM

coldtusker said…
binyavanga – Same old, same old… as in Changez… I think you are just adding fuel to the fire & having fun!mmk – I wasn’t invited either but then I didn’t look out for it! It is a enormous web out there!Wacha this “racial” angle… Mark Shuttleworth (born in SA, so what if he is white, SA damu) is arguably one of the richest guys in Africa with real (yaani, NOT stolen/embezzled) money! I bet there are thousands of “black” Africans who were just as knowledgable as MS but toiling in the “West” rather than taking the entrepreneurial road!Tafuta na utapata (Seek & ye shall find)…I was blown away by the Indian IT industry. They are willing to hire US employees so they can “learn” from them! No flase pride, the Indian BPO campuses are similar to the USA. No squalor here! Idea exchange pow-wows!Africa (White, Black, Mwarabu) better get their act in order… We are the last on any list of being IT savvy (expect Polynesia & Micronesia) thus let’s keep the African spirit going!Tata Tea bought Tetleys (UK), Infosys & WIPRO have picked up a number of US firms. Hong Kong, Korean & Taiwanese firms are world-class with LG, Samsung, Hyundai becoming household names!The Asians have becoming globetrotters in 50 years while Africa…wapi?I could say the Egyptians but hey they look more “white” than “black”??? That doesn’t fit your “view”, does it?BTW, I really enjoy your takes on your travels!
Thursday, September 07, 2006 3:29:33 PM

MMK said…
Dear Alex Maughan, Vincent Maher and Nic. Welcome to AB&H. Never doubt the old adage that says living long enough allows one to see the impossible become real. For instance, the surreal sense I have of being called racist by white people in South Africa for asking whether a conference that announces itself as African is in fact disproportionately white. Racism used to be King Leopold’s administration killing 10 million Congolese, or 12 million slaves being carted off to the Americas or even apartheid. Now, so benign is it that it has become the act of hurting the feelings of white people by asking whether this conference is basically a bunch of them mouthing off with a few black tokens strewn here and there. The post for your information was actually meant very tongue-in-cheek; an intention that the fury of your response has now changed to an actual desire to probe further into the little talk shop that you are going to hold in a week’s time. Let us not suppose for even an instant that the label African is so problem-free that all one has to do is invoke it to be clothed in the armor of victimhood which Mr. Maughan and Mr. Maher wear so comfortably. Seeing that those to be empowered by the conference can be Nic’s ‘white/egyptian/coloured/green/purple/yellow’ African gladdens the heart. Where was I all those years when being called an African in South Africa and in Kenya was an insult to anyone without a dark brown skin – was actually being legally consigned to poverty and exclusion? Happily though, the troubles are over. Nirvana is here and all you have to do to join this racial paradise of harmony and fairness is pronounce yourself African. Especially when the whip and the fangs of the dog are safely locked away in history’s vault.

Let me ask the question in simpler and even more racialist language: How many black Africans are represented in your panels in percentage terms? You seemed to be quite willing to supply a painstaking enough count of even those participants who are a ‘grey colour due to his very dark body hair.’ Surely then it would not be too difficult for you to just tell me how many black panelists you have compared with the white/gray ones. Your spirited response to a post on my blog suggests that I have touched a raw nerve. And it must be one that is very often fingered in South Africa where racial positions and language are upended so that black folks are demanding access to influence and opportunity on the basis of race and ability to address decades of apartheid racism. I hate racial labeling myself but I do not kid myself that this is a dead and buried matter, that somehow South Africa and Africa have moved on from white privilege clothing itself in the virtue of helping the ‘darkies’ and speaking in their stead. In conference after Africanist conference, the black Africans from the continent are too often consigned to the sidelines. To be spoken for as they give good service as native or local informants to the important (white) thinkers who are made ‘African’ by the sheer love they lavish on the Dark Continent.

Thanks by the way Mr. Maughan for your kind compliment on my blog at the end of your angry comment. I felt sorry that you would so brutally flay yourself by writing of yourself as having a ‘red-neck, honke-rambling brain…’ This kind of masochism is really sad to see especially when it is a transparent attempt to simultaneously make you appear to be a victim and to enable you to hold onto that delicious frisson of racial pain. I doubt that you are a red-neck; at least not in the way you seem to understand this phrase which I hate. I associate nowadays not with the white violence during the reconstruction period in the American South but rather with a contemporary liberal America that has cast poor white people beyond the pale. Heaping on them all the evils of racism both present and past while they bask in the glow of good deeds – especially in Africa – untouched by the very real racism that is alive to this day.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 3:38:37 PM

MMK said…
coldtusker – have one on me please; I am craving a cold Tusker badly. This is not about invitations anywhere but rather about the anger and defensiveness of people who claim to be about opening up spaces on this continent. The power of blogging is precisely about being able to ask questions as an individual. Especially when I notice a concerted attempt to codify the African blogosphere and make it part of a tired, exhausted white liberal civil society with a few ‘native’ voices to spice it up.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 3:51:27 PM

coldtusker said…
mmk – Tusker…History:Initially brewed by a couple of white brodas in Kenya… I think one of them got gored thus “Tusker” the name was born…It was primarily Kenyan owned for many years until KBL ran into financial trouble. Guinness came in as a white knight & bought a huge stake by pumping in some Sterling…Regardless of Guinness’ control, Tusker is as Kenyan as it gets!So I use Tusker as my mascot (Of course, I love the rich taste!)…It represents all in all, the best of Kenya which does not necessarily mean “black” or “african” or “white” or… just great taste & quality.Oh, they beat the crap out of the S.Africans (fronted by njenga karume who made his money off a KBL distributorship)! I’ll take a Tusker over castle or miller or bud any day!
Thursday, September 07, 2006 5:10:58 PM

Binyavanga said…
Let’s get to a juicer subject. Rhodes University…been a while since I sampled that particular brand of nonsense. “We didn’t knoooow..we never kneeeew. If only we kneeeeeeeew what the Afrikaners were doooing. Our heads were in the sand, positioned nobly in with good intentions.”Travelling down the Eastern Cape in the 90s, I ended up having more respect for the redneck towns of the border, where black people were clearly tagged and demarcated – but at least recognised as even a threat a viable possibility, the boycotting people. Those silly “they they” attitudes of that leedle town called Grahamstown – where the township was the flithiest I had ever seen, the poorest and the most invisible. And the town: church-spiring and boater wielding, kind to blacks – a kind of island of civility that can only come from real violence – for it lives as if there is no threat, in a country still gaseous with possibilities and the whole messy angry “really so racist” country called South Africa was not in Rhodes, (RHODES) but out there but Rhodies (shall we call them) bravely read Cryyyyyyyy – The Beloved, Beeeeloved. Country. Then a friend telling me how her wide eyed and liberal friends at Rhodes used to thank the “Aunties” at the end of term by having them stand in a chorus and sing for the Undergrads. Some of these women were grandmothers. When she complained she was told, “Ohhhh they really love doing this!”I have often wondered how that little town which by sheer force of will decided to be Cambridge at Cape for over a hundred head-in-sand years, suddenly discovered over the final minutes of the Rugby World Cup that it was African, and African was a wonderful rainbow with free and easy membership.Oops. Not sure. Have I broken the code of conduct? Is the code of conduct actually going to specify who can use the term African; and demarcate where it is right and where it is wrongly applied?Oh Dear MMK…bad blogger. Bad Bad blogger. You have broken the code!
Thursday, September 07, 2006 5:43:34 PM

Ntwiga said…
Interesting post that has generated a ton of comments. While I agree somewhat witht he content of the post, I cannot subscribe to the way in which it was presented – but again, thats just me. Some thoughts;1. Being white and being African are not mutually exclusive so that part of the argument may be facetious.2. Arguing that this post is racist smacks of “but I have lots of black friends, how can I be racist”ism.There are so many ways of looking at this that it would be insulting to try and pretend to cover them all in a comment.It is however possible to do a quanlitative analysis: I count 6 out of 19 as being black. Does that mean that this counts as another Live 8 type event?Strike1here & here2Ory Okolloh3“Ashraf Patel” nothing here really – but there are lots of Africans named Patel so I make that three4Fackson Banda5 Emaka Okafor, just ignore the basketball player.6 Ramon ThomasStrikeMike StopforthTom Johnson – Nothing definite comes upStrikeRay HartleyJuanita Williams – Nothing definite comes upChris RoperStrikeAlex HoggStrikeIan GilfillanStrikeAndrew RensStrikeVincent Maher or hereStrikeAndrew Heavens ((l to r) Andrew Heavens, Ethan Zuckerman, Rebecca MacKinnon) from here.
Thursday, September 07, 2006 8:05:49 PM

Vincent Maher said…
As I said in the comments here, this conference is the first of it’s kind, it is going to be a lot of fun and it will be a step in the right direction for blogging on this continent.

I was born in Africa, lived here all my life and consider myself an African. I hate the colonial enterprises, the World Bank and whoever else has damaged this continent and I was not old enough to vote during apartheid. If anyone has a problem with that, tough.

Every year people travel down to Highway Africa to learn from people who have a certain type of media production experience and exchange their own experiences. It is a confluence and it works, so maybe you had better experience it before you shout from the sidelines that it’s a white thing. I certainly don’t think of a conference organised by black Africans as a black thing, so maybe that says something.

What I am tired of is being categoried along with the Eurpoean butchers and oppressors, if you met me you would know that I don’t fit into that category.

Friday, September 08, 2006 9:16:15 AM

sokari said…
BH is right in his assessment that this conference is white and not even African white for that matter and is an “attempt to codify the African blog space and make it part of a kind of NGO-ish, funded civil society space with established mores. In other words, the attempt to bring it in line.” – well said and anon- yes not particularly original in your thoughts. well we know two Africans, ory and bankelele who are the rest?
This fits in well with why I left GV last June – too many big white mothers and fathers – same old same old

Saturday, September 09, 2006 1:21:52 PM
sokari said…
BTW – zimpundit isnt attending after all for his/her own personal safety – understandable.

Binyavanga said…
The new thing is now that this whole brouhaha is based on the dea that “some people” (MK and Myself?) are bitter that they were not give scholarships and Mahler is upset at the entitlement of this. I am really loving all this. I am not even a blogger! Oh how anger reveals! So MK – do you want a scholarship to INDABA? At the lovely Rhodes? Will that pacify your bitterness? Man – I had really forgotten SA – that your objection to the premise behind something is an attempt to put your hand out and receive Black Empowerment? Is the shit there so cynical now? So now the voice is sanctimonious – saying that they can’t with all integrity bend to your subversive request for inclusion.

What would happen MK – if you write a hand-wringing private email to them and say you have “unresolved issues” and you “acknowledge them” and “your history and personal poverty and general desparateness for a scholarship” made it difficult to appreciate what “a sensible and earnest” thing it is that they are doing – what would happen?

Because that is the script.

cirdan said…
MMK, this guy is an African, if anybody is.

(White?) African Blogger Conference in a Week

Word on the street, the Khartoum one where I am for the week, is that there is a Digital Citizen Indaba on Blogging conference being held in Grahamstown, South Africa. It is a shock that there should be this kind of meeting without AB&H being told about it. From the list of speakers, listed below, it appears to my untrained and possibly quite mistaken eye that their last names are not very black African; at least they wouldn’t be in East Africa. (Whisper: Will it be a roomful of white folks working for the betterment of the African? Please, I beg you, do not tell massa that I asked cause I know how much he is trying to help me speak and develop into a full, happy human being.)

I feel that I have no choice but to trash it; what is blogging if not a weapon for attacking the virtuous? This admittedly may be difficult because the conference actually seems quite interesting. It appears from the program that the attendees will be treated to dispositions from lawyers versed in internet issues – whatever those are – and that there is even a session to establish ‘an African Citizens Code of Conduct.’ Now that last one I find weird. The power of the internet and blogging is precisely that it is not being planned or coordinated centrally or even subject to a particular point of view. In any case are Africans so misbehaved or even depraved that they are always being subject to codes of behavior? Is the governance agenda and its associated funding buzzwords now to seek us out even in the digital world?

Whenever African is combined with words like empowerment, development, agenda, code, The People, plan, unity, globalization, and a conference is convened, I suspect a hustle. The same kind you would encounter in any brothel bar or illegal drinking den in any city on the continent. You know the guy who sidles next to you, face drawn and haggard with worry, and then says, ‘excuse me please, I came to the city and had all my money stolen. Now I just need help with a little bus fare to return home.’ Or ‘hey, you want good time? I will show you good, clean girls – or boys if you like.’ These hustles precisely match the ones that go something like this: ‘Funding this conference to develop the girlchild’s access to blogging will enable her African voice to be heard in the era of superpower driven globalization.’

As always, the ‘establishment’ in the form of the traditional media and academia, not to mention the political classes, come to the latest advances in expression late and with all manner of grand pronouncements heralding shifting paradigms and revolutionary action. This very worthy meeting to which I would again observe AB&H is not invited seems to fit the scheme exactly. I am sure there will be moans and sighs over the disproportionately low number of bloggers in Africa; and firm declarations to close the ‘digital divide’ and ’empower’ Africans. Out of the conference will come a flood of little proposals to every development agency in the land – ‘help us speak to the world’ will be the theme. There are 20 speakers invited:

Ethan Zuckerman (Global Voices, USA) – Alaa Abd El Fattah (Blogger & Activist, Egypt) – Pieter Verweij (Senior Lecturer, University of Utrecht, Netherlands) – Matthew Buckland (Publisher, Mail & Guardian Online) – Ory Okolloh (Blogger & Activist) – Ashraf Patel (ICT Programme Officer, OSISA) – Zimbabwean Pundit (Political Blogger) – Fackson Banda (SABMiller Chair of Media Democracy, Rhodes) – Emeka Okafor (Blogger & Business Journalist) – Ramon Thomas (Managing Director, NETucation) – Mike Stopforth (Communications Strategist) – Tom Johnson (Institute for Analytic Journalism, USA) – Ray Hartley (Deputy-Editor, Sunday Times) – Juanita Williams (News Editor, IOL) – Chris Roper (Online Editor, 24.com) – Alec Hogg (CEO, Moneyweb) – Ian Gilfillan (IT Author & Blogger) – Andrew Rens (Intellectual Property Legal Expert) – Vincent Maher (Director, New Media Lab, Rhodes) – Andrew Heavens (Photojournalist & Blogger)

You may have noticed that 13 of the 20 do not appear to be bloggers; I hope the speeches are put online so that I can savage or praise them with due consideration.

We can clamp down on antisocial children before birth…

Tony Blair has said it is possible to identify problem children who could grow up to be a potential “menace to society” even before they are born.
Setting out plans for state intervention to prevent babies born into high-risk families becoming problem teenagers of the future, the prime minister said teenage mothers could be forced to accept state help before giving birth, as part of a clampdown on antisocial behaviour.
Mr Blair defended the need for state intervention and said action could even be taken “pre-birth” if necessary as families with drug and alcohol problems were being identified too late. More>>