Archive for January, 2014

French alleged comedian Dieudonné messes with PC heads

January 30, 2014

The BBC, the world’s largest PC (politically correct) echo chamber, has a problem. It has to cover a phenomenon it clearly does not understand: someone from an “ethnic minority’ who makes rather ghastly anti-Semitic jokes. Name’s Dieudonné, he’s from France. The jokes are mediocre at best. Regretting that a Jewish journalist had missed the gas chambers? Oh dear. It’s like Feyenoord fans from Rotterdam, The Netherlands, imitating the sound of gas when playing against Ajax, a team from Amsterdam that has since forever been nicknamed “The Jews”. In poor taste? Absolutely. Dumb? Hey, we’re talking about football fans. Ban it? The height of stupidity. But that is what France’s embattled government of embattled president François Hollande has just done with Dieudonné’s routines.

So the BBC sent a reporter to France to make politically correct sense of it all. The reporter sounded like someone who has spent life mostly in England’s progressive middle class bubble where there exists an unwritten hierarchy of victims. Women first, of course – but they were never discussed as a group during the broadcast. That would have made things dead easy, most especially with a female reporter. Broadcasting House would have spent half an hour going bad bad bad misogyny bad bad bad and that would have been it. Now she just said that the broadcast would contain uncomfortable language. Translation: she was leaving a well-established ideological comfort zone.

And so we share her amazement to find black people – Number Two in the progressive victim hierarchy – who like Dieudonné and are planing to vote for the party he supports, the National Front. She manages to slip in the word “detoxify” when mentioning Front leader Marine Le Pen’s efforts to sanitize the party but she clearly is struggling here. Had it been local whites, Broadcasting House would have spent half an our going bad bad bad racists bad bad bad and that would have been it.

Instead we heard the sound of exploding heads. Blacks voting Le Pen? How the hell was that possible? Blacks calling the Socialist Party a bunch of hypocrites? How the hell could they, we have always been such nice progressive people! Here’s a hint: Labour Parties in much of Europe have squandered a century of social democratic achievement and ditched it in favour of a rancid combination of unfettered free market politics with a political patronage system based on identity politics. They left a massive hole where they should have been, defending their ideological legacy when fascism resurfaced – which happened not, as our BBC reporter dutifully parrots, as a result of the economic crisis. Fascism started gaining ground when the economy was ticking along very nicely and most of Europe was spoiled rotten, a decade ago.

Of course, our reporter made her job a little easier by omission, a classic BBC hallmark. For Dieudonné’s anti-Semitism does not stand in a vacuum; it has a long proud tradition among two of the world’s largest PC echo chamber’s favorite victim groups: black minorities with icons like US community leaders Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan; and North Africans who have been misguided into believing that Islam propels them towards hating Jews. The reporter solved these issues…by not mentioning them, nor indeed the selfsame groups’ highly problematic attitudes towards gays and lesbians; way too frightening. So it was with palpable relief that she found herself back on familiar territory by homing in on anti-Semitism. You see, taken in isolation, anti-Semitism is of course a classic no-no and you don’t even have to mention Israel, a state with which the world’s largest PC echo chamber has a very troubled co-existence.

Further, Dieudonné’s anti-Semitism does not stand in a vacuum but in yet another tradition, equally proud and older than the ones I just mentioned: French. Together with the Netherlands, France was among the most diligent European nations in handing Jews to the Nazis and their gas chambers. It is one of the demons the country has never addressed, like its own bloody colonial past in places like Cameroon (where Dieudonné’s father is from) or its vicious war in Algeria, where Marine Le Pen’s father tortured anti-colonial fighters (who then went on to terrorize their own people in similar fashion). These are among the things that have made Dieudonné possible – but how can you explain all that when you are working with such pitiful, pathetic tools: identity politics instead of history and political correctness instead of a political education?

Finally, and as a matter of course, nowhere in the report was quoted that famous line (French, was it not?): ‘I disagree with everything you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ In that sense, the BBC was dead on-message.

Heretical question

January 25, 2014

Last year, in case you missed it, the world was made aware of the existence of Mindy Budgor. Indeed: an earth-shattering event, made even more so by the hagiographic BBC coverage of her life achievement. Which was: taking a short-cut to becoming a warrior in an utterly unspoilt Maasai community somewhere in Kenya, the First Female!!!! I suggest the thinking among said Maasai was probably: ‘If we just give her what she wants, maybe she will then just go away and leave us in peace.’ Oh yes, she wrote a book. Warrior Princess. For those with strong nerves, here’s the interview.

Over the last two decades or so, we have been subjected to an endless parade of individuals using a fairly randomly chosen bit of Africa (preferably unspoilt but with mod cons), as a décor for the all-engulfing drama of their own extraordinary and massively important lives. So we had Angelina Jolie shutting down Namibia because she needed the nation as a backdrop for the singularly important event of her giving birth. We also had Madonna, although she skipped the entire birth giving thingy and just went to Malawi to get herself an orphan or two. She then decided to raise the entire country in the best way possible (her own, of course) but omitted to inform the government of her plans, which, bizarrely enough, failed to amuse president Joyce Banda. Oh and we had Christina Aguilera, last September, making ‘an emotional trip’ to…Rwanda; that’s a bit like visiting Auschwitz for a very private cleansing ceremony. The website Africaisacountry took that little ego-stroking gem apart here:

I came across one bona fide example last year. She was using the tourist-infested seaside resort of Abene, in the Casamance, as her very own African backdrop. She runs, among many things, a music festival that must unfold itself in exact accordance with her wishes, musicians be damned. One day she was upset because she had received lip from a few local women she was leading in development (naturally). They apparently did not agree with her methods. The village queen in question was of European extraction but unlike Budgor, the locals won’t be shod of her any time soon, it seems.

From the exhibition in Imagine, Ouagadougou, March 2013. To my eternal shame, I admit not knowing who the artist is. Help is welcome.

Image from a large exhibition in Imagine, Ouagadougou, March 2013. One of my readers wrote in and said the work could possibly be by or have taken inspiration from the great Beninois artist Georges Adeagbo. Thanks, Judith! 

I am moved to relate all these tales because I have recently been trimming my archives. Among the papers I consigned to the dustbin were a few reviews of a book by a Dutch journalist, applauding the demise of the White Man in Africa. One review mentioned that the book related how in some parts of Africa (certainly not here in Dakar), lighter-skinned people were used in advertising because it sold the product better. Odd, that.

In another review of the Dutch journalist’s book, the celebration of ‘the White Man slipping from his pedestal’ in Africa also got a mention. Oddly enough, the reviewer went on to count the blessings of development cooperation, which historically has been rather intimately connected with the presence of said White Man. A while ago I wrote a little miniseries about the many problems associated with development.’s-talk-about-aid-final

You see, I do not consider the disappearance of the White Man from Africa a bad thing. Quite the contrary. But I find the barely concealed glee with which said disappearance is described by the (inevitably female) author a little disingenuous. In her own article, that went along with the promotion of her book “Goodbye Africa”, Marcia Luyten (the Dutch journalist in question) notes with relish that the white man ‘no longer plays a significant role,’ must ‘abandon his superiority’ and ‘arrogant paternalism’.

My guess is that journalists like her cannot help it. They have grown up in the wake of a movement that has spent the last fifty years smashing this perceived superiority of the (white) man over the head, having its remains hung drawn and quartered and burnt to cinders for good measure. Cheering at man’s individual or collective misfortune has, unfortunately, become one of its unbecoming hallmarks. Equally unfortunately, the same movement has come to dominate the discourse that has blighted the African landscape of ideas for the past half century: the discourse of development. The result? A depressing parade of cut-and-paste “Women and Development” projects, equally applied in the arch-conservative Christian-dominated regions of Southern Africa and in the stagnant matriarchies that are liberally sprinkled all over West Africa. No wonder our development friend in Abene had arguments; West African women as a rule do not take kindly to being told what to do.

Many moons ago I reviewed a book by the writer Lisa St Aubin de Teran, who was, in her own words, leading the village of Cabaceiros in Mozambique from poverty to a safer existence. Cool. She was extremely busy with a new tourism resort, schools and all the rest of what constitutes, according to Westerners, “development”. All this happened against the backdrop of – here we go again – an utterly unspoilt Africa where people play drums in the moonlight. A lot. The book came out at roughly the same time that former French president Nicholas Sarkozy made that imbecilic speech here in Dakar, declaring that Africans ‘had not entered history’. I concluded my review of the book by saying that Sarkozy got a volley of richly deserved flak for his stupidity. When, on the other hand, a rich white woman writes roughly the same, she shoots to the top of the bestsellers list. Superiority? Paternalism? I think Luyten was looking at the wrong sex. Or gender, if one is ideologically so inclined. But all this does prompt this extremely heretical question: what is it with (some) white women and their colonial fantasies?


Still, it was quite a relief to read that there was some room left for The White Man in Africa, minus arrogance, paternalism, superiority and I guess he’d better leave his testosterone at home too. On second thought, he’d better bring it along because because the first issue Luyten brings up is geopolitics, to be exact: the very real threat of jihadist fundamentalism. And lo and behold, Dutch white people (even men!) have heeded the call and taken the plunge…after the French who got there first. They will gallantly gather intelligence and do all manner of good and useful military things, in order to save the career of Bert Koenders, the former Dutch development minister (Labour), currently heading the UN Mission to Mali. He needs his succession of UN posts like a fish needs water; a goodly portion of the Dutch Labour Party views him in the same way as I imagined the Maasai considered Ms Budgor.

Another area where the White Man (minus arrogance etc, you get the picture…) can be useful is Business – although he must take a leaf out of the book of his Chinese competitors and become rather ruthless and imbued with realpolitik. Bit strange, that.

But the third reason for white people to bother with Africa is the best: humanitarianism. Yes!!!! There is still space and scope for White Saviours! Provided, I assume, they are female. It’s a bit like sex tourism in The Gambia, Casamance and Kenya, I suppose. It’s all OK, as long as (white) women do it.


January 1, 2014

Two hands (mine) unsteadily holding a camera yield a picture of a scene that holds various movements, slow, fast, very fast. There are several layers in the mix, all containing light and people. Nearby, there is a concert going on: one of the country’s superstars dishing out a series of extremely loud, badly played and overly bombastic tunes, all of which lack musicality, story, point and purpose.

The green lighted tents stand on the floor, full of people trying to get some food and away from the noise produced by DJ Arafat, whose show it is, on a stage by the side of the lagoon that divides this city into several islands. Above the tents, traffic rushes along a badly tarred road, lit up for the season by a light display, courtesy of the local authorities. The bridge nearby connects the centre to one of the islands.


The French use a rather nice word for an eventful time. Mouvementé. Last year certainly had plenty of movement. I (very nearly) finished my book on Guinea (close to 90,000 words written in hotel rooms, rural lodges and various apartments) while Guinea itself completed its lengthy – and turbulent – transition to what some describe as “democracy”. This is the idea that having more or less distinguishable legislative (the National Assembly) and executive (the Presidency) bodies composed through elections constitutes “democracy” (we’ll leave the judiciary out of this for now). It is ironic to say the least that the man who has done more than most to erode that concept of “democracy”, a certain Tony Blair, is now an advisor on “good governance” to the Guinean president, Alpha Condé. Yes, sick buckets are available.

Writing books are very helpful for developing a condition known as RSI, symptoms being numb fingers and electricity currents running through arms. It is also sublimely helpful in courting bankruptcy. Happy to report that I remain firmly in the red – but most assuredly alive.

Far less alive was this blog, a problem I hope to address in 2014. Yoff Tales has provided me with an outlet for worthwhile stories that were a struggle to publish or just ideas that I knew would never get a platform unless I created my own. It is very much a reflection of one journalist covering a corner of Africa that merits a much better press and an attempt to change deeply-ingrained misconceptions about this continent. These are especially (but not exclusively) virulent in “The West”, the result of its obsession to shape the rest of the planet in its image. Your responses have been thoughtful and I appreciate them a lot.


There was more movement. Just I was adapting to the end of my relationship with Radio Netherlands Worldwide and acquiring a new rhythm of producing stories and scripts and production for other broadcasters, my radio equipment was taken away in a burglary. I have re-bought the equipment and reporting will resume shortly.

This year will see another move – from Dakar…to Abidjan, where I took this bad pic. I rather like the name of this blog but I may have to add something…Yoff Tales from Deux Plateaux? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, here’s hoping YOUR 2014 will have plenty of movement too. In a good way, of course.