Monthly Archives: August 2010

I AM A GRAECO-LATIN NEGRO


Frantz Fanon
Image via Wikipedia

Eureka!

Yes, Eureka, and this Greek word, at this moment, is the best to define what I have to say.

Eureka! Looking in my small library stashed in a large wooden chest in my living room I can finally define what I am.

It happened while browsing “The wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon. The only other book I read from this author is “Black skin, White mask”.   

I am not a fan of Frantz Fanon but the contents of these two books are very interesting and still relevant today.
I find them hard to read and very clinical.  Well, I can understand, he was after all a psychiatrist.

The two books I read, and will read again to refresh my memory, are about the place of the colored person, not always black, vis-à-vis its society of origin or not, colonization, slavery and etc.  In other words he explained the challenges of the oppressed under dogs against the European élite.

Frantz Fanon (1925- 1961) was born in Martinique, studied medicine in France, practiced in Algeria and died, at the age of 36, of Leukemia in the US.
Actually, it sounds like my father who was born in Martinique, did University in France and practice his knowledge all over the world.

So, what Frantz Fanon and his book “The Wretch of the Earth” have to do with me?  Simple, that book has a very long preface, 20 pages of small prints, from Jean-Paul Sartre.  Jean-Paul Sartre was a writer and philosopher who refused both the French Legion d’honneur in 1945 and the Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to him in 1964.

Jean-Paul Sartre, in the fist page of his preface, describes the new breed which the European élite created in the colonies. The new breed, descendants of slaves, educated and fashioned by and at the image of the Europeans is the Graeco-Latin Negro.

Eureka! I am a Graeco-Latin Negro.

My Graeco-Latin Negro roots are the culture which shaped my brain and the Negro is for the “négritude” which I wear on the outside.

No other words best define what I am.

I have no idea how the outside world perceives me.  I know that my inside does not match my outside.

I am of mixed race but, I consider myself black since it is my predominant colour.  I was born and raised in France, I spent my late teen age years and early adulthood  in the US and now live in Africa.

Consequently, in Africa I am black on the outside but my thinking, which is in the inside, has nothing to do with theirs. To Africans I am a paradox and a cognitive dissonance.

It is difficult for Africans to consider me as French, since my outside does not match their idea of what a French man is.
It is difficult for Africans to consider me as black since our “négritude” has different reasoning.

I am a Graeco-Latin Negro.

Patrick-Bernard

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I DO NOT WANT TO GO BACK TO SOUTHERN SUDAN


Rumbek Airport (HSMK), Southern Sudan.

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

I recently met someone, now living in Juba, Southern Sudan.  I spent 3 ½ years working and doing business there. She asks me to return to Southern Sudan
To refresh my memory I went to my diary while living there. 
I don’t think I want to go back! 

Thursday 28 August 2008

I sleep well in Rumbek but, again, tossed and turned due to my smokers’ cough.
This morning I dress proper for the bush, a light tan pants full of pockets on the sides, old work boots nicely polished and a white T-shirt as a touch of elegance.

I have a light breakfast then do my usual round as Palmtree Managing Director.  Palmtree Hotel is a “hotel” consisting of about 80 air-conditioned prefabricated building, a large dining gall, 2 bars and various size conference facilities.  It is truly pure luxury in the bush.   

I meet Beatrice, our logistic girl, preparing a small food cargo for airlifting to Mapel.  We have a contract to provide, weekly, food to some twelve expat building a military facility there. Mapel, situated in the Bar el-Ghazal state is about five hours drive or 30 minutes helicopter flight from Rumbek. 

Inside the kitchen’s dining hall the Kenyan staffs is having breakfast. Kenyans staffs eat inside and Sudanese staffs outside. It’s an unspoken rule, de-facto segregation.

I meet my assistant Felix and hurriedly ask him about Hawa.
Hawa is a Sudanese cook who learned her trade in Kenya and we have to let her go for not coming to work, without notice, for well over 2 weeks.

“Did she come for her final payment?” I ask.
“She looked at the amount we are paying and said that she will come back tomorrow.  I am sure that she went to seek some advice before taking the money.”
“I think so too”
“If the matter is not promptly settled she may cause problems.  Let’s see!”

In Southern Sudan a foreigner, being right or wrong has about no chance of having a fair judgment. We have to sway according to the will of the locals.
Foreigners are harassed for driving with sun glasses, jailed or killed for being involved in accident and often belittled, insulted or threatened at gun point. 

It is a country with high risk but high monetary returns when one succeed.  Unfortunately there are more sad stories than good one. Corruption is rampant and at priory difficult to eradicate since a large numbers of people in the Sudanese Government are related and traditionally always protect their members. Family or same tribe members are never wrong.

I remember tax collectors distributing, among themselves, cash money received by Palmtree Hotel. No qualm, no hurry and all done openly in front of our eyes. They even use the collected tax to settle their personal bill at the restaurant.

At 2pm, I have to attend the Meeting of the Kenyan Association at the office of the Lakes State Governor. Southern Sudan is divided in ten states, each with a governor and all have some form of autonomy in running their affairs.
I am not Kenyan but I have no problem listening to their concerns addressed to the Governor.

I reach the Lake States Governors office at 1:15pm and no one is there.  I am early and decide to take a ride inside Rumbek town. 
At each visit I notice that Rumbek is getting more populated.  I pass the main round-about where a set of policemen dress in white are watching.
They look out for the smallest traffic infraction which can be solved with a bit of money stuff in their hand.
A few tuk-tuks, a three wheels covered motorcycle, are doing taxi service.
The small kiosk and shops are full with a variety of sodas in crates, multicolored material, cookies, and pasta, cooking oil, bar soap, flour, large aluminum cooking pots, motorbikes and much more. The restaurants and bars are quite busy.
Emaciated dogs are resting in the middle of the dusty road, too sick to care about the traffic. The goats are eating what they find on their path even the black plastic bags. 
Passing City Hall I think about the former Mayor, a jolly burly man, with a missing pinky on his right hand, who uses to tell me that “war is fun”.

I make a turn then pass in front of the Nile Commercial Bank then go ahead to Freedom square. I pass a group of young men wearing a single dark blue, V neck, djellabah stopping above their knees.  They have striking tribal marks on their foreheadS.  Their hair is bright dark blond and shaped like a bowl on top of their head.

I am back at the Governor’s office.  The Governor’s house is a long and large structure with a porch running along the façade like an arcade. It was probably built during the British colonial era.
I park the car facing the building; it is an offence to park any other way.

I walk toward the back of the structure and, under the shade of a large tree, I see a desk covered with a white table-cloth and seven comfortable arm chairs lined up behind it.
The chairs for the members of the Kenyan Association are facing the desk.  I sit in the first row next to Mohammed, a large affable Kenyan of Somali origin trading in all type of goods.

One goat is entertains me by rubbing its chin and belly on the steps leading to the building, some large horned cows are in the background and even a mature pig.

Now all seats are occupied by at least forty Kenyans and about ten more are standing up.
The meeting is an opportunity for Kenyan to vent their problems. It was a promise made by the Governor during the visit of the Kenyan ambassador to Rumbek and he kept it.

Mohamed gets up and talk to a group of four to five persons behind the large tree trunk. He regains his seat then ,to my ear, says that all grievances shall be done by groups and that I have been elected to represent the Hoteliers group.

The Governor, busy in Juba, is replaced by its Deputy which I recognized immediately upon his joining the meeting.

He looks half cast Somali and is a well spoken and educated person who holds Canadian citizenship, his name is Awal or Awan and he holds several other positions within the Lake States Government. Also, I recognize the Acting Secretary of Police, an old man who was quite eager to personally keep as evidence, money once stolen by a one of Palmtree’s staff.
The Deputy Governor is with the Advisor on Gender, the Minister of information, the Brigadier of Police and the Advisor on Political affairs.

I am the first one to do my speech; I stand up and greet the Deputy Governors who acknowledges me in French.
Nice touch, he recognizes me!
I don’t have much to say, since I am not Kenyan but think of three concerns which do bother me; the multiple collecting of visa fee at each point of entry into Southern Sudan, when will the government issue labor laws (I use Kenya’s labor laws at Palmtree) and most important what was the Governor’s office doing to attract more business and investors in the Lakes State.

The Deputy Governor takes notes and without answering gives the floor to the next speaker.
Within a few minutes of listening to other speakers, I am opened to the massive problems faced by the Kenyan Community in Southern Sudan.
From speaker to speaker the fears and stresses are alarming. Each group enumerates with details the harassment, beating and whipping by the civil or military police, the over taxing of goods at every road blocks, the non respect of contracts signed by members of the Southern Sudanese local community and the non-payment of goods delivered.
Kenyans on any issues are threatened with expulsions if they refuse to go with any program shoved down their throat. Their testimonials shake me from my comfort zone.  I know and experienced some of these issues.  But I was not aware that it was so widespread.

Each group portrayed Southern Sudan as a xenophobic no man’s land.
I could agree, but I see it more as a people becoming nationalistic for a newly acquired identity.

The Deputy Governor took note of all the concerns, and in a political fashion does not offer remedy to the Kenyan’s concerns.  He mentions that many exiled Southern Sudanese, while in Kenya, received help from the Kenyan communities and he wants Kenyan to consider Southern Sudan as their country.
He stresses the point that Southern Sudan is in a transition period and that he is aware of the outlined concerns which will soon be rectified.

He gives the floor to the Police Commissioner who makes no apology about the brutality of his force.  He arrogantly harangues that all persons in Southern Sudan should respect the law and that people, like himself, should stay home in the evening to avoid conflict.
The other members from the Governor’s office have not much to say and totally sideline the grievances. They talk as if it is a different meeting.

A few people were dozing off toward the end of the meeting.  I wake up Mohammed who gives me a “what’s wrong” look, then give my respects by shaking hand with all the members of the Lake States Government.

Driving back to Palmtree I give a lift to one of our resident.  On the way we meet a Chinese group, shovels in hand, laboring on the road.
“They are Chinese prisoners” says my passenger.
“What do you mean prisoners?”
” I hear the Chinese Government has brought them here to work instead of spending time in Jail.  They don’t paid them, just give them food and shelter.”
“Who told you so?”
“But, we all know that here.”

All is possible in this world; the Chinese workers with shovels in their hands do wear strange-looking uniform.
However, if it is true it would be the first time of me hearing of a country exporting forced labor.  

Patrick-Bernard

CONSTITUTION CELEBRATION, KENYA STYLE


   

President Emilio Mwai Kibaki / Image Wikipedia

The birth of Kenya’s new constitution, voted upon by an overwhelming majority, was crowned with a lavish party in Nairobi.  

They event was first class with dances, marching bands, parades, aerial display and many speeches of hope.
The newspapers had articles about the past, present and the future of Kenya. Radios vented the expectations and hope of the mass at large.   

The second republic is here with all its euphoria. The new constitution limits the power of the president, provides check and balance, recognizes women’s rights, allows dual citizenship, expects fair land distribution and does not give place for tribalism so forth and so on.  

The new constitution, which was 20 years in the making, honors the buoyancy of a people acquiring democratic rights against hyenas, sorry, a political élite who only purpose is to debone, sorry again, fleece the government’s coffer.
Not one politician has ever been indicted for corruption under Kenya’s “first republic”.  Assuming I am wrong, then forgive me, and let’s not generalize on exception.  

Of course, a constitution is not a document putting the country on auto-pilot. Now the politicians and judiciary, under the watchdog of the citizenry, must ensure its ethical implementation.
Politicians must now show transparency, good faith and the want to vote on real issues beside their salary rise.  

Did you know that Kenyan politicians are among the best paid in the world?
Did you know that Kenya’s economy is not the best in the world?  

The ceremony of the birth of Kenya’s second republic was fantastic; all onlookers watch the revamped image of the government.
The baby is now clean and everyone wants to witness its new steps.
The helpers to rejoice and to support the new baby were the crème de la crème of dignitaries.  

 A memorable picture is a happy President Emilio Mwai Kibaki surrounded by glowing President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi of the Comoros, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Omar Hassan Al Bashir of Sudan.  

Rewind a bit, so the picture shows;
Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi from the Comoros educated in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Iran and whose nickname is Al Ayatollah and ….  

Yoweri Museveni, ruler of Uganda since 1968 and who announced his candidacy for a fourth term, thanks to a change in its constitution, so he can complete 30 years in power.  and ….  

Paul Kamage, from darling country Rwanda, the one who won a landslide election against a non-existent opposition and, the same one, now awaiting a report from the UN for alleged crime against humanity perpetrated against Hutus in Congo in 1996 and ….  

Omar Al-|Bashir / image wikipedia

Al Bashir, president of Sudan, the well-known international fugitive wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.  

That’s a nice rejuvenated reputation for Emilio Mwai Kibaki  who was swiftly sworn as president for this second term amid chaos which eventually saw the killing of more than one thousand of its citizens and the internal displacement of more than half a million.  

Is this a prediction of how ethical the new baby of the second republic will be?  

Luis Moreno-Ocampo / Image by jurisnovus

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Court of Justice, may as well put all the documents he has against the alleged perpetrator of the killing during the 2007 Kenyan elections back in his drawers.
Maybe, he should forego his reception in memory of all Kenyan killed, maimed, raped and displaced during the last election.

2007-2008 violence in Kenya / Image Wikipedia


Ocampo’s party will never be as glamorous as the one held by the Kenyan Government welcoming the baby of the second republic.  

Can someone break my crystal ball and say “it didn’t happen”?
Please!  

Patrick-Bernard  

 

MY SON’S POEM


 

My son wrote a poem almost a month after his 9th birthday.
The short poem, actually for homework, was about the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Hamelin town did not pay the Pied Piper for cleaning the town of its rats. In revenge, the Pied Piper takes the towns’ children away.

I very well remember this homework; he walked back and forth from his desk to my ears, paper in hand, asking me if “these” words rhymed.If the answer was “no”, he would go back to his desk and look in his mind for another pair of matching words.  A “yes” made him run back with joy with “I know what to write now”.

My son is very talkative and imaginative. He always has something to say about any topic.  His three pastimes are watching cartoons, playing with friends or creating imaginary machines and monsters out of anything.

Like me, he does not stay idle and his attention time is very short on any matter which he finds boring but passionate on things catching his interest.

Now, our relationship is more mental than real. His mother and myself have been divorced for a long time and, due to the exigency of my life, I relinquished him to her.
The after divorce life, for his sake, was unsustainable for both parents and her culture world apart from mine.
Consequently, I do not communicate or see him much.
Our relationship is dysfunctional and I visualize, now, his life in my head.
I depress thinking about my son, he is a carbon copy of my childhood and that’s something which I never wanted.
I love the poem for the warm thoughts it brings about my son.

 The Angry Piper

When the mayor refused to pay the Piper,
The Piper got really mad and hipper.
Out the houses the children came running,
And a few were even walking,

When the children were under the Piper’s spell of his pipe wave
He took them to a secret cave
The parents went to the town hall to complain about the Piper,
He had stolen the children and it was not proper

Peter a disabled boy lost on the march to the Piper’s den
Found a girl’s ribbon which led him to the children
He gathered all of them shaking
And took them back to the town of Hamelin

The parents of Hamelin town were clapping
The mayor was smiling
And Peter was awarded a medal
For the children survival

By my son / Grade:5b 

TRYING TO BE AN EX-NICOTINE ADDICT


Cigarette Butt

It is 5am and I am going through some serious nicotine withdrawal.
I am going out of my mind. I have sporadic communication between all the layers of my brain, my nerves feel overloaded and can short-circuit anytime. I have running thoughts and I am unable to focus on one thing only. My limbs coördination switch, with intermittency, from sluggish slow to robotic high-speed.

Yesterday, I smoked the last two cigarettes and during the day I bummed three, four at the most.
Believe me! That’s a heroic act for me. I am a smoker, the real Mc Coy. My relationship with cigarettes is the same as a geek with a computer. 

Now, I am trying to go semi-cold turkey.  I am like a bone chewing dog looking for a bone.  Stay away and leave me alone.  I have a mission.
All of you are useless to me unless you cure my addiction in a nice and painless fashion.  Right now I am hurting so, again, stay away and as far as you can from me. 
I do not need crystal smiles with the “I am happy for you” and “be strong, I must be difficult”.
You understand crap.  It’s me going cold turkey, noooot YOU!

I hate all non-smokers, especially the one giving me advice.  What have these goody two shoes done for smokers?  Nothing!  All they do is complain, complain, whine and whine about our bad habits.

Yes, it’s a bad legal habit, just like drinking and I am over 18.  Well, I am much older than 18 so leave me alone. Creep!

Non-smokers are the backbone of the economy; we pay more taxes, we give jobs to the tobacco farmers and the cigarettes factories, on advertising a cowboy is not a cowboy without a Marlboro.  Smokers give patients to doctors.

Which devotions have non smokers….zilch!

They are cowards, big mouth pain in the ass cowards. They believe in UFOs while I dream of riding bare back on a bronco

I remember when I smoked my first cigarettes, I got sick but it was fun.  Fun because in these days, society told me that it was cool and fun to do.  It was cool for a very long time and now I am old-fashion, I am an outcast. Thank you, society.

I tolerate ex-smokers, they understand what I go through but for the ones who never smoke in their lives, I stretch my arm, fingers wide apart and let them talk to my hand.

Non-smokers do not have any imagination.  They read pamphlets while I read books. They watch sitcoms while I go to movies. They read motivational book and when they hit the first page my brain is already in third gear. They drink mineral water and eat raw vegetables from gardens, while I sip wine and order food from “a la carte” menu in restaurants.  Non-smokers recite poems which I write.

I got up at 5 am and must pick my friend at 10am.  I am late.  Can’t help it, with lack of nicotine 5 hours is not enough to get ready.
Nothing is easy when you going cold turkey and time moves at odd speed.

I know where I can get cigarette butts. I don’t want them, they are old, they are embedded in the ground and I am not sure if the cats pissed on them. I smoke some of these butts a long time ago and they were horrific.
Don’t laugh, I am a smoker transiting into the ex-smoker zone but I have dignity.

Only ex-nicotine addicts know what I am going through.  Not you!

Patrick-Bernard

BARACK OBAMA AND VERA


President Barack Obama and the First Lady Mich...

Image via Wikipedia

  

Browsing blogs I stumbled on gossips about Barrack Obama and a certain attractive woman, with a cute angel’s ass on her chin, called Vera Baker.  

Let’s call the stories gossips as they are too unspecific to call them anything else but gossips. Also, I like the word “potins”, gossips in French, because of the “je ne sais quoi” French twist attach to it.   

I never heard of Vera until today, I mean, the “potins” appeared six years ago, I am very bad with time, and still cannot fathom what I was doing during that time.
The National Enquire, Los Angeles time, ABC and the Swiss newspaper “le Matin” all heard about the story. The UK Daily Mail even had a round about it on 11 October 2008.   Not me”!  

I don’t remember getting off from the planet so my brain must have been inflicted with selective censorship.  

The rumor is that Vera Baker was Barack Obama’s girl friend during his 2004 Senate Campaign for Illinois’ Senator while she was his campaign Finance Director.  

The plot is very thick and confusing since it seems that another woman officially held that post during that time. But public source states that Vera was getting the same salary under the same title.
If you are lost, you are not alone, me too!  

The juice is that Michelle Obama, hearing about the affair and using her marital influence, angrily banished Vera to Martinique, a beautiful and expensive island in the French West Indies.
That’s the French twist.  Vera went to Martinique, the birth place of Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, known as Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon’s first wife.  Vera did better than Napoleon, he was exiled to Saint-Helena instead.

The banishment to Martinique is strange; Vera seems to have a company there called “Cape Caribbean”.  I want to think of it as self-imposed exile, since I do not know what came first the banishment or the company.  

I never heard about Vera in Kenya either.
Why Kenya?
Vera, a very prolific business woman, co-founded with a Muthoni Wambu a training and consultant company in Washington DC called “Wambu-Baker Associates”.
Reading the name Muthoni and Wambu made me go “hmmmmmm!”.
Obama’s dad is from Kenya and Muthoni… well I don’t know, but the name is quite African.  

Vera vehemently denies all allegations and innuendos about her and Obama.
However, can someone tell me why Michelle Obama was so angry about Vera?
Women have great intuitions so what was she intuited about?  

For sure, politic is a dirty game. President Obama is attracting a long list of smears about his birth place, religion and did you hear about Vera.  

 Patrick-Bernard     

 

A DAY IN RUMBEK, SOUTHERN SUDAN


people in a cattle camp outside of Rumbek (Rum...

Image via Wikipedia

Going through my notes I stumbled on my diary written when I worked in Rumbek, Southern Sudan.

 Except from 3 September 2008

 It is 9am, I am on my way to a meeting for all private company investing in Rumbek, Southern Sudan, organized by Rumbek’s officials about the new garbage dump site and the rules to use it.

The meeting is in front of City Hall, next to Freedom Square.

City Hall is an L shape long narrow cottage like building painted bright yellow with a deep blue corrugated roof.
On the porch, seated idle men dressed in djellaba (long Arab garment) sip a strong and sweet tea from small glasses.
Others, standing up at the edge of the porch, blow their noses, heavy mucus which they accurately throw at a distance by pinching their nostrils.

On the dusty ground in front of City Hall, three rows each of ten white plastic seats are under a large shade tree.
Two tall men are placing three large cushioned chairs and a desk to face the row of seats.

Mr. Ambrose, the director of Rumbek County, sit in one of them and the rest of us are slowly filling the plastic seats. We are about twenty in attendance.

Mr. Ambrose, while we are sitting, talks on his mobile making sure that all of us can hear;
– “Oh so you are having an interview with the BBC, carry on”.  By the way, I never heard his phone ring.
 He looks at us and is quick to mention that he has just returned from an official visit in South Africa.

A slender woman, covered with a bright red cloth from head to toe, like an Arab woman, serves us bottles of water and sodas. She has three parallels tribal scars on each temples and one on the forehead.

The Mayor has not arrived but Mr. Ambrose calls the meeting to order and for some reasons starts about the collection of river sand and stones which we use for constructions.
He informs us of the new procedure to follow and shows the proper receipts which we must receive after payments of the goods.  The UN and the NGO are exempt of payment since they are providing services for the region.
Furthermore, he says that “too many kawaja are getting around the procedure as they know how to make money.”
I raise my index finger then ask for the meaning of “kawaja”
– “A kawaja is a white man like you”
He laughs, everyone laugh including me.  All for different reasons, I am black, maybe a different shade, but in many African languages the word for foreigner translates to “white”.

I have another question;
– “Are you going to give more security at the river?  It is far and dangerous.  Locals always threaten and attack our drivers with pangas.”

Before he could answer the Mayor arrives.  A tall dark heavy-set man with eight fine horizontal tribal scars on his forehead and four bottom teeth removed in accordance with the Dinka culture.
His eyes shaded by dark sun glasses. He looks like a dictator from yesteryear.

Before even taking a seat, to assert his authority, he cuts Mr. Ambrose in mid-sentence . Then, explains that he uses a motorcycle but his driver came late.

He does have a driver for his motorcycle; I can see the driver leaning on it now.

Suddenly, again, he excuses himself to have a meeting with two gentlemen waiting inside their four-wheel drive parked meters from the meeting ground.

Mr. Ambrose takes the floor and now tackles the issue of the new city dump.

Our monthly fee is US $300. It is cheap, our business is a large hotel and does produce lots of refuses.  The smaller enterprise will pay US $100.

Then in my head, I think!  Hold on! Actually, it is a rip off.  In Nairobi a private house pays around US $3 per month and you get  garbage bags!  In Rumbek, a small enterprise has to pay US $3 per day and transport their garbage to the dump site.

 Worst, sitting next to me, a representative of another company tells me that private companies built and donated the new Dump Site.

Donated by one of us!

 Patrick-Bernard