And the dictators Ngugi talks about are men. Some of these ingredients of dictatorship, for example, are  murder; rape; corruption; greed of the dictator who struggles to centralize, own and control all the resources of his country; decadent masculinity; staunch heterosexuality; male chauvinism; homophobia; religious confusion; political and real illnesses of the dictator; patronage and reliance on foreign military and foreign economic, social, cultural and political support; poverty; unemployment; disease; environmental degradation; and low quality and unpatriotic education. Though fictionalized, one can identify the Ruler in the novel as Kenyatta, Bokassa, Mobutu, Banda, Mugabe, Moi and other African dictators all rolled up in one.

The Igbo and the east had already made a quasi-strategic withdrawal from the all-Nigeria mission they embarked upon in the 1940s/early 1950s as a result of the series of British counter-measures of the subsequent years, including especially London’s decision to hand over supreme political power to its anti-Nigerian liberation-client north region. The Igbo had spearheaded the liberation of Nigeria from formal British rule. The east was a booming economy, enjoying Africa’s highest growth rate. It was educationally and economically much more advanced than any other part of Nigeria. The east was on course to developing into a leading economic and industrial power in another decade, fulfilling a comprehensive socioecconomic transformation goal it had launched in 1954.

In 1966, soon after the world commemorated the 21st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and made the customary solemn declaration of “Never, Never Again”, Hausa-Fulani emirs, muslim clerics and intellectuals, military officers, politicians and other public figures in Nigeria defiled that season of reflection, commiseration and hope. They planned and executed the first phase of the Igbo genocide, the foundational genocide in post-conquest Africa.(5) This genocide established the precedent for the killing fields that would snake across the African landscape in the subsequent 40 years. A total of 100,000 Igbo were massacred across northern Nigeria and elsewhere in the country, with the total connivance of the central government in Lagos headed by Colonel Yakubu Gowon during the months of May-October 1966. Most were killed in their houses, offices, businesses, schools, colleges and hospitals, as well as those who were attacked at railway stations and on trains, bus stations and buses, airports and in cars, lorries and on foot as they sought to escape the pogrom for their homeland in eastern Nigeria. Thousands of others sustained horrific injuries; many were maimed for life.

Tony Blair is back in Africa, somewhere he is committed to "healing". But what is it about the continent that troubles the consciences of politicians, pop stars and privileged school children? The prime minister is revisiting Africa three years after describing it as "a scar on the conscience of the world". His determination to help is mirrored by thousands of Britons who go there to try and make a difference.

It is only Africans themselves who can terminate the horror of the wanton, systemic expropriation and exportation of their wealth. They are already doing so: the noisy publicity about western aid to the continent ignores the fact that the amount of money now despatched by African émigrés in the west far exceeds such aid. In 2004, the sum was $15 billion – three times western “aid” in real terms (i.e. minus the latter’s pervasive overheads) and already 60% of the $25 billion “aid” that the Blair initiative is attempting to raise “for Africa” over the next decade!

Africans are already transforming their societies on the ground. The World Bank, which in alliance with the IMF and African leaderships of the past thirty years contributed to the virtual destruction of the African economy in its so-called “structural adjustment programme”, now acknowledges that Africans are the principal source of investment in Africa. In 2003, African émigrés transferred the gargantuan sum of $200 billion to Africa – investing directly in their communities. Africans will achieve the task that they have set for themselves. This, surely, is what the world should be celebrating.

The DRC has been plagued by a disastrous civil war for nearly five years. It has been a bloody, brutal conflict that has cost more lives in such a short period than any other on the globe in recent history. The weapons of mass destruction employed have been mutilations, rape, and starvation. Terrorists in military uniforms from various lands have carried out strikes daily on innocent civilians, murdering, torturing, plundering and destroying. Children, some as young as seven, are given a mix of Kalashnikovs, machetes and drugs to make them effective killers for rival armies. Yet somehow, unlike regions in Western and Central Asia with key oil reserves or Eastern European atrocities of ethnic cleansings that threaten region stability, the DRC's War and the snuffing out of 2.5 million citizens of the global community has gone remarkably unreported over the years. In the US, neither Democratic nor Republican administrations seem to have given it much attention. The news media has only become interested when sensationalist stories of ritualistic cannibalism appear that help the notions of "Darkest Africa" to flourish. And with everyone's focus on taking stances for or against Operation Iraqi Liberation (catch the acronym), the horrors in the DR Congo have gone unnoticed. Either the world has turned a blind eye to the region, or its victims have merely been emitting silent screams.

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