Tag Archives: angola

The Real World: African Autocrats edition.

I tweeted the other day about Libyan crackpot Muammar Qaddafi, whose general zaniness, I thought, made him a worthy candidate for his own reality TV show. And then I thought to myself: what if we took not just Qaddafi, but all of our favorite African tyrants-in-chief, put them up in some posh beach villa on the outskirts of Mombasa, and waited for wacky hijinx and madcap hilarity to ensue? You mean this wouldn’t be the biggest ratings bonanza in African reality TV history? Really?

You think these strongmen couldn’t outmuscle even the toughest Jersey Shore juicehead?

Mugabe: 28 years and counting.

Dos Santos: 30 years and still going strong

Wade: only 10 years...but already tinkering with plans to change Senegal's constitution to allow for a third term

Kagame: bitch-slapping the opposition since 2000

Qaddafi: 40-plus years as Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, which I couldn't even make up if I tried

Museveni: 23 years and still spry as a spring despot

Kibaki: stuffing ballot boxes since 2002

Zuma: play on, playa

Yar'Adua: ...

Wouldn’t the assembled egos be more combustible and fraught with tension than election night in Harare? Can’t you just picture Kibaki and Museveni getting into a shoving match over some underage whore at Forty Thieves?

So I got to thinking…

*************

[Cue opening credits. Papa Wemba music blares. Sun rising on African savannah, old women baring breasts, etc.]

VOICEOVER: This is the true story.

[Slow, tracking shot. Exotic wildlife prancing, loping, migrating across screen. Baobabs. ]

VO: Of eight democratically elected African strongmen.

[Ultra-extreme close-up of grinning African man, democratic foot-soldier, etc., casting his ballot in a free and fair election.]

VO: No, seriously. Democratically elected.

[Pan out. Ruling party youth league goons swinging sticks and truncheons at voters’ backs.]

VO: Who decide to take a break from governing.

VO: And move into an IMF-subsidized time-share.

[Fussy white men in suits making nervous faces as they hand over a rent check.]

VO: After evicting local tenant farmers.

[Slow, solemn procession of African peasantry heading toward bleak, distant horizon.]

VO: And receiving a generous UN per diem.

[Fussy white men w/ checks, etc.]

VO: To get real.

[Extreme close-up of baby with bloated stomach, blinking distantly at camera.]

VO: Real crooked.

[African leaders gleefully throwing piles of World Bank cash at each other.]

VO: On The Real World: African Autocrats.

****************

Enter Rwandan President Paul KAGAME, Ugandan President Yoweri MUSEVENI, and Libyan President Muammar QADDAFI. A corpulent Kenyan President Mwai KIBAKI sits on the sofa, stuffing his face with sausage rolls and scanning hot celebrity pics in The Star. Angolan President Jose Eduardo DOS SANTOS sits under a pile of cobwebs in the corner, an oil drip connected to his arm. Nigerian President Umaru Musa YAR’ADUA is nowhere to be seen.

MUSEVENI: You fat Kikuyu, always hungry!

KIBAKI: It is my turn to eat, bwana.

MUSEVENI: If you only eat a little – slowly, slowly – no one will notice. I fleeced the West for years before they realized I was no better than all the other tyrants. Some still think I am an example of the New African Leader. Haha.

KAGAME: Haha.

MUSEVENI: Haha.

YAR’ADUA: …

KIBAKI: Ndiyo, you are right. If I am not careful, Ban Ki-Moon will tell me that I should be tried at a special tribunal in the Hague. Hahaha.

MUSEVENI: Hahaha.

KAGAME: Hahaha.

ALL: Hahaha.

[Cut to Ban KI-MOON, wearing a pink tutu and blushing in the corner.]

KIBAKI: We Kikuyu have a saying: grmphluggerblursplatughrump [words drowned out by digestive noises].

KAGAME: In the bush we survived on canniness and wiles. For three years I ate nothing but Human Rights Watch reports. [lifting shirt to reveal washboard abs] Yoweri, feel my stomach.

MUSEVENI: You fat Kenyans cannot even agree on how to misrule a country.

KIBAKI: Yes, now you are handing out leadership advice. Mr. I Can’t Even Control an Unruly Kingdom Within My Own Borders.

MUSEVENI: [makes a flummoxed face]

KIBAKI: Mr. Let Me Bend Over So the Western Oil Companies Can Stick It In.

MUSEVENI: [cartoon teapot steam spouting from ears] Oh, so says the great leader of the Grand Coalition Government. So says him who can’t even manage to steal an election without maybe half the Western world noticing.

[Enter Zimbabwean President Robert MUGABE in combat fatigues.]

MUGABE: Who, me?

KIBAKI: Comrade Bob, Museveni thinks it is easy to manipulate an election against the democratic will of the people. He thinks the opposition will come and just, what, hand you the keys to State House. “Here, Mr. President. Karibu tena.” Oh, it is soOOOoooo easy to win an election when you have already crushed the opposition.

MUSEVENI: Hahaha. It really is. Hahaha.

KAGAME: Hahahaha.

MUSEVENI and KAGAME: Hahahahaha.

QADDAFI: Opposition? What’s an opposition? Hahaha.

KIBAKI: He thinks Kofi Annan just comes to Kenya to, I don’t know, go swimming in Mombasa.

MUGABE: The West will send its stooges whenever the business interests of the American and European imperialists are threatened by the revolutionary will of the black African majority.

KAGAME: [rolls his eyes and makes a little here-comes-another-rant-about-Western-imperialism face]

MUGABE: We have a favorite saying in Harare: If you can’t beat them…beat them.

ALL: Hahahahaha.

[Cut to KI-MOON, hastily writing a UN resolution.]

DOS SANTOS: [mumbles something in Portuguese]

MUGABE: Are you still here, Jose?

DOS SANTOS: [pointing to IV drip pumping petroleum into his veins]

KAGAME: I think he is saying that today’s despot will always find a complicit Western government to turn its back on electoral irregularities if there is a business interest at stake.

QADDAFI: And how! Hahaha.

KAGAME: Hahaha.

DOS SANTOS: [oil bubbles up in throat, making throttled laugh noises]

YAR’ADUA: …

QADDAFI: I used to be a pariah; now I free terrorists and receive lucrative oil contracts from multinationals. I can do whatever I want! Watch!

[QADDAFI drops pants and poops on original copy of the UN charter.]

ALL: Hahahaha.

YAR’ADUA: …

KAGAME: I used to worry how my strong-handed tactics would play in Western capitals. And then I realized that the West wants leaders like me. Maybe 95.1 percent of the vote in 2003 was being modest. Haha.

MUSEVENI: Haha. I am on thin ice. I only secured 59 percent. 2011 will be too close to call. Hahaha.

KAGAME: Hahaha.

QADDAFI: Election? What’s an election? Hahaha.

ALL: Hahaha.

KAGAME: Winning a free and fair election by a landslide majority with the tacit approval of the West is easy. Do you want to know the real trick?

KIBAKI: ?

MUSEVENI: ?

ALL: ?

YAR’ADUA: …

[KAGAME leaves and returns with a pint-sized marionette of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph KABILA.]

KABILA: [in high, squeaky voice] Look at me, I’m the leader of a sovereign nation!

MUSEVENI: I can see your lips moving, Kagame!

KABILA: I control a nation as vast as Western Europe, with abundant mineral resources that would never, ever, EVER get smuggled out on my watch.

ALL: Hahahaha.

MUSEVENI: [flashing Congolese diamond-crusted wristwatch] Yes, this watch was made with diamonds from Uganda’s vast hidden, super-secret mines. Hahaha.

ALL: Hahahaha.

KABILA: What has two thumbs and calls the shots in Kinshasa? [jerks thumbs toward KAGAME, who is poorly disguising his lackluster ventriloquist’s skills in the rear] This guy!

MUSEVENI: Hahaha.

KAGAME: [dropping KABILA puppet, now that he’s finished with him] Hahaha.

ALL: Hahahaha.

[Enter Senegalese President Abdoulaye WADE, followed by 10,000 Haitian refugees.]

KAGAME: Look at Wade – generous to a fault!

WADE: That’s what the IMF said! Hahaha.

ALL: Hahaha.

WADE: What’s a bag of money between friends? Hahaha.

ALL: Hahaha.

HAITIANS: …

KAGAME: We Africans must embrace our brothers and sisters in the diaspora. Who else can be counted on to come back and run our countries? Haha.

WADE: Haha. I’ve already offered them voter registration cards. Haha.

ALL: Haha.

QADDAFI: You are so generous to invite our African brothers back to their homeland.

MUGABE: Speak for yourself, Asian.

QADDAFI: [chortles something in Arabic]

MUGABE: [brandishes fist]

[Cut to KI-MOON, effete and panicking in the corner.]

KAGAME: Quick, someone call Zuma.

MUSEVENI: Where is Zuma?

ALL: Zuma!

Cut to South African President Jacob ZUMA in a hot tub, surrounded by buxom South African women.

ZUMA: [whispering in the ear of a giggling young girl] Really, I’m the President. I can do it. We can just say you are a Zulu secessionist queen, and just like that [snaps fingers], I give you half of KwaZulu-Natal.

[Cut to DOS SANTOS, oil burbling.]

[Cut to YAR’ADUA, missing.]

[Cut to KIBAKI, gorging.]

[Cut to KAGAME and MUSEVENI, squabbling over profits.]

[Cut to WADE, grandstanding.]

[Cut to millions of Africans, waiting.]

[Fade to black.]

****************

VO: Next week, on The Real World: African Autocrats.

[Exterior shot: Crouching Dragon nightclub, somewhere in Mombasa.]

[Close-up of ZUMA, standing at the bar.]

ZUMA: [whispering in the ear of a pretty young Kenyan] No, really. You take a shower when you are finished and you are safe.

[Cut to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles ZENAWI, outside, surrounded by 1,000 sycophants and tussling with bouncer.]

ZENAWI: What does this mean, I am not on the list? I have friends in Washington.

[Close-up of gruff, Eritrean bouncer, head shaking.]

ZENAWI: Twenty years ago in my country, we would have fed you to a lion. I am serious. We would have buried you under the prison.

[Cut to Sudanese President Omar AL-BASHIR, sequestered by ICC warrants, pulling on an argilah pipe, alone at his home in Khartoum. AL-BASHIR sighs, belches, drums his fingers on the tabletop. A wallclock ticks loudly in the background.]

[Cut to Hu JINTAO, thrusting his hips on the catwalk and showering 1,000-yuan notes onto the hungry, huddled African masses below.]

JINTAO: I make it rain, bitches! I make it rain!

[Cut to Coca Cola-sponsored commercial break.]

The Mali model.

CNN, retreating from the imperiled-World-Cup hysteria I blogged about a few days ago, asks a more reasonable question in the wake of last week’s Cabinda attack: Was Angola ready to host the African Cup of Nations? The short answer: sort of. The long answer: I guess.

The tournament, says the report, traditionally acts as a catalyst for a developing nation’s growth.

“The African Cup of Nations does do a lot for its host country,” said journalist Ian Hawkey, an African football expert and author of “Feet of the Chameleon: The Story of African Football.”

“In the last 15 years both Mali and Burkina Faso have hosted it, and now Angola. You would have said at one point, no way can these places organise a tournament. But they got stadiums out of it and Mali’s football has grown since 2002, Burkina Faso’s too.”

This affords one of those rare instances when you can say, “Look at Mali!” and mean it as a good thing.

In Angola, development ahead of the Cup of Nations had spurred an already frantic construction boom. According to CNN, “more than $1billion of the country’s vast oil wealth, according to the government, had been invested in stadiums, roads, hotels and hospitals.”

The construction boom in Luanda

A view of the port

As The Observer reported last month, Angola was looking at the tournament as “a vote of confidence in its stability and economic capabilities.”

It’s safe to say last week’s attack on the Togo bus won’t scare off the IMF or chase out any of the multi-nationals investing billions off Angola’s shores. (Except, maybe, the Chinese.) But what about the country’s image?

Angola has enjoyed a remarkable bit of rebranding since the end of the civil war. Gone was the image of Angola as a proxy battlefield for global superpowers during the Cold War. Instead of UNITA rebels using CIA-funded mortars to shell MPLA and Cuban troops in Soviet tanks (!), we have American oil execs, Russian telecom giants, Chinese manufacturers, and just about everyone else – even the French! – scrambling for a piece of the pie.

Angola then...

...and now. (Courtesy of Vanessa Vick, NYT.)

What a difference a few years can make.

With millions of barrels of oil pumping out of the country and billions of dollars pumping into it, Angola has begun to throw its weight around as a regional heavyweight.

“Angola sees itself as a regional superpower,” Alex Vines, of London-based Chatham House, told the AFP. “The expanding number of embassies opening in Luanda attest to its growing influence.”

Still, there are few illusions about just what sort of country Angola is becoming. Thanks to the growing strength of its ties with China – always a friend of human rights – Luanda hasn’t had to jump through the usual moral hoops to secure strings-attached financing from the international community.

Fear of China’s entry into Africa played directly into Angola’s hands after years of half-hearted reception from reform-pushing international lenders, said Nomfundo Ngwenya of the South African Institute of International Affairs.

“China’s stepping into the scene was undoubtedly a game-changer. Angola suddenly found a seemingly infinite source of finance, without the stringency of externally-imposed political, social and economic reform,” she told AFP.

An offshore gas flare, courtesy of Vanessa Vick at The New York Times

So long as the oil is pumping and Chinese demand is skyrocketing, there’s a willing client happy to sign those checks, no questions asked. As a result, dos Santos and his cabal aren’t fretting over the concerns of the global community on corruption and human rights. Muito obrigado, Beijing!

Workers on an offshore oil rig, courtesy of Vanessa Vick at The New York Times

So despite the added prestige of hosting the Cup of Nations, the view from Luanda was already looking just fine, thank you very much. Even if last week’s attack put a dint in Angola’s coming-out party – “an opportunity to showcase Angola to the rest of the world,” according to Antonio Mangueira, executive director of the tournament’s local organizing committee – the country has already secured itself a place at the grown-ups’ table.

The shots heard ’round the world?

Yesterday, the African Cup of Nations kicked off in Angola – the dress rehearsal for the 2010 World Cup, if by “dress rehearsal” we mean “another tournament that just happens to be held on the same continent, in a country which bears almost exactly no cultural, economic, political or social resemblance to South Africa.” Never mind all that. After last week’s attack on the Togo team bus forced that country to prematurely pull out of the tournament, pundits were quickly weighing in on how this uniquely Angolan attack – caused by gun-wielding Cabinda separatists – was somehow a broader, African tragedy.

Togolese players after the attack

Rob Crilly over at South of West wondered out loud how long it would take the Western media to began foreseeing doom and gloom for SA 2010. (Answer: Not very.) Of the hysterical pack, the Mirror seemed to bray the loudest:

Bad for the Nations Cup and a disaster for the forthcoming first-ever World Cup in Africa.

The machine-gun attack on the Togo players may have taken place in northern Angola last night but the shots would have been heard around the world.

Never mind the fact that Greatest Show on Earth will be taking place in a different country. Never mind the fact that South Africa have already proven that they can host most sporting tournaments.

Shock waves from the brutal terrorist attack that left one dead and several others injured last night reverberated around planet football.

Reverberated, too, around the empty heads of the world’s pundits. Never mind the fact that Angola is only just emerging from a disastrous civil war that left most of the country in ruins; that its oil-fueled economy has created one of the largest income disparities on the planet; that its power-hungry president, after 30 years in charge, just can’t get around to calling for elections. Never mind that Angola is a strange and atypical basket case of a country, even by African standards.

Cabinda rebels

By extension, I’m not sure how the hosting of the World Cup by sub-Saharan Africa’s most developed nation is a referendum on the continent as a whole, as opposed to a comment on the very particular problems, fears and follies of a very particular place.

South Africa's grand folly?

Fortunately, not everyone has fallen prey to the Imperiled World Cup Theory. At Soccer Lens, a more sober assessment of what the attack means for the World Cup.

Many football writers, pundits and managers, such as Phil Brown, have suggested the Togo shooting raises questions for the World Cup. It doesn’t. It’s like suggesting Serie A, or even the Premier League, should have been suspended while the Balkans conflict was ongoing.

Goal.com, too, refused to get carried away. And the Montreal Gazette reminded sports lovers that, for most of the footballing world, there were other reasons to hate the biannual tournament.

European soccer authorities have long disdained the African Cup. After all, what’s to like from their point of view? It takes place every two years, not every four as in the case of the other major continental championships, and is held in the middle of the European season, meaning players miss a month of games.

Canadian Press, meanwhile, commenting on “three deaths that should and perhaps, with better security, could have been avoided,” added a new wrinkle to the story today.

Speaking from the safety of exile in Europe, one of the [Cabinda rebel] leaders told anyone who would listen that while they hadn’t meant to shoot the Togolese players, and were instead targeting their Angolan escorts, “all blows are permitted during war.”

Rodrigues Mingas claimed that his group had sent registered mail months ago to Issa Hayatou, African football’s most senior administrator, warning him of the risks of staging some African cup events in Cabinda.

“He didn’t want to take us seriously,” Mingas charged, speaking on French radio.

While threat-by-registered-mail is itself worthy of analysis, you do have to wonder just who it was that dropped the ball in Cabinda.