EYAKUZE: It’s time to claim our place in the world

Friday May 1 2020


A man wears a face mask with a message on that reads "stop coronavirus" written inside a map of Africa, on April 24, 2020 in a street of Abobo, a district of Abidjan. PHOTO | SIA KAMBOU | AFP 

By The EastAfrican

Sometimes, I kind of miss Robert Mugabe because of his rather enjoyable invectives against the British.

Sure, he was a frustrated Anglophile, but from the perspective of this frustrated Africanist at least he gave me the comfort of being a man who refused to put the “developed world” on a pedestal. Without being as dramatically insane about it as Idi Amin Dada.

And if we’re going to go down that suspect road of acknowledging the ‘good’ part of the legacies of our dead dictators, I might as well tip my hat to Mobutu Sese Seko too.

He was a bad man. Also, he was supremely stylish and accomplished at crafting this Congolese aesthetic that we all enjoy so much.

His insistence on banning Western clothing in favour of African styles is a complete contrast. To this day everybody knows the best Kitenge are made in Europe and based on Indonesian textile craft and design.

But the Congolese appropriated this gorgeous material and made it into art. Bine sappe is a thing.


And that art has in turn given other Africans the opportunity to wear our loud bright colours and tailor-made styles with a unique pride. We are gorgeous, and we show it.

You see, my frustration as an Africanist has been our unending obsession with this artificial divide between Africa and the rest of the world. I refuse to bow down to the idea that we are underdeveloped. We have problems, but who doesn’t?

Do you know that America the Great was built on the labour of African slaves? They wouldn’t be where they are without us. Do you know that Africa is actually a net exporter of resources to the world? With this self-empowerment in mind, we can aim to develop Africa for Africans.

The current Covid-19 epidemic is upending the world as we know it. As Africans, we might finally embrace the fact that we are human beings on this earth, no better and no lesser than anyone else.

The new dispensation will demand that we question the development narrative and finally get off our knees. And ask difficult questions, like: Why is the whole world ghoulishly obsessed with the anticipation of mass African deaths from Covid-19? Out of every trial, every tribulation, every evil, good can emerge.

At the end of the epidemic, should it pass, I think Africans should finally take our rightful place as fellow equal humans on this one world we all share. We are magnificent.

Let us take what works for us and spend no time entertaining that which doesn’t. I dedicate this to the formidable (though not infallible) #KoT movement. Reminding the American ambassador to watch his tongue and speak to Kenyans like his mama raised him right was a nice little step in that direction.

Y’all done learned his ignorant self a lesson about disrespect.

It is time for Africans to claim our place —once more again but for real this time, maybe.

Elsies Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report: E-mail: elsieeyakuze@gmail.com