January 2007

This photo shows one of the solar-powered lamp-posts that are springing up
around Burkina Faso, especially in small towns which otherwise have no
electricity. This one is at the colourful market in Markoye, about 40km
north-east of Gorom-Gorom.
Solar power of course has considerable potential in places like Burkina, where
there is more than enough sun. But the purchase and replacement costs for the
equipment are still prohibitive for people’s personal use.

We’ve been having a number of “lights out” at my home due to power shortages. Ghana has just made an agreement with Nigeria to help supply electrical power.

Nigeria has agreed to supply 80 megawatts of electricity to Ghana as part of a deal to help the country to address its current energy crisis.

Additionally, it has accepted to take over the supply of power to Benin and Togo, to take off the burden on Ghana and bring some relief to the country.
. . .
President Kufuor said Ghana again was exploring other alternative sources including solar and bio-diesel.

All Ghana’s power comes from the Volta dam. If water is low, we have both water and electricity shortages. It would provide Ghana with a great deal more security, as well as flexibility, if we establish other sources of power. I would love to see Ghana develop its use of solar power. That is the only power source we can count on for sure, and we have plenty of it. Ghana needs to develop both electrical resources, and water conservation and resources. Taxes and tax breaks could be used to encourage the use of solar power. Ghana should apply the following principles:

non-damage to economic growth, non-damage to the level of energy services provided to the energy consumers, and also reduce the damage to the environment. The order of priority should be:

1. Becoming more efficient and preventing waste;

2. Exploitation of residual energy;

3. Production and exploitation of renewable and alternative energies (exploitation of non-fossil sources). For Ghana, the obvious area to look at is solar power.

Solar power installation

Our Government may need to pass a legislation that all new houses built need to consider the inclusion of solar power provision. This could be encouraged by a small tax on new buildings, which is waived if adequate solar power facilities are installed. The tax incentive offsets the considerable cost of solar power, making it more attractive. This is a way to fund solar power at no cost to government. Would it not be wonderful if Ghana became the leading developer of solar power in Africa? It must surely have a future, and those countries who embrace it will get the opportunity to have the industry based in their country.

With appreciation to Dr. Doom for the graphic

Dan Froomkin pulls the pieces of the story together.

While Dick Cheney undoubtedly remains the most powerful vice president this nation has ever seen, it’s becoming increasingly unclear whether anyone outside the White House believes a word he says.
. . .
Cheney is increasingly out of touch with reality. He seems to think that by asserting things that are simply untrue, he can make others believe they are so.
. . .
Meanwhile, the trial of Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby is exposing to public view the vice president’s role as master-manipulator of misinformation and vindictive retaliator-in-chief — once again, indifferent to the truth.
. . .
And Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles nails it.

The dancer here is terrific. Also notice the drummer, particularly in the transition to the sebené, just before the dancer comes on. As the person who posted the video on YouTube puts it:

WOW! It is such a pleasure to watch drummer Isaac “Machine” Katalayi lead the transition into the sebené (you’ll want to replay it just to watch him), while Shiko makes EXACTLY the right sounds come out of that Ibañez Guitar!

Malage is a much respected vocalist. Always in demand, he is frequently called upon to lend his voice to the production of albums by big name artists from his country. Has had his own solo career, and has sung with some of the best Congolese musicians, including 1985-89 he sang with Franco and TPOK Jazz.

Kanda Bongo Man

Permanence, stability and continuity are very rare commodities in the political and social life of central west Africa. Congo, Zaire, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Mobutu, Kabila, this faction, that faction – it all leaves people very little to cling onto, let alone dance about. That’s why it’s all the more reassuring and heartening to see that Kanda Bongo Man is still strutting his stuff with his hi-octane unleaded soukous after a career spanning more than a quarter of a century. Soukous, is THE pop sound of Africa. It was originally blended from Cuban rhumba, Congolese rhythms and stripped down disco production values in the clubs and funhouses of mid 1970s Kinshasa, capital of what was then Zaire. The name comes from the French ‘secouer’, ‘to shake’, which is just about all you can do when you’re under its spell, unless you’re deaf or dead that is. Its hallmarks are a tub-thumping all-consuming groove, mesmerizing guitar work and gorgeous close harmony vocals. Kanda Bong Man, who earned his ‘Bongo Man’ nickname from his drummer grandfather, fronted the seminal early Soukous combo Bella Bella before moving to Paris from Kinshasa in 1979 to pursue a solo career. His 1981 album ‘Iloye’ topped charts all over Africa and he went to release a string of classics on the Hannibal label, including ‘Amour Fou’ and ‘Kwassa Kwassa’, the later named after a hip-grinding dance that Kanda Bongo Man invented.

Wikipedia tells us:

He is most famous for the structural changes he implemented to soukous music. The previous approach was to sing several verses and have one guitar solo at the end of the song. Kanda Bongo Man revolutionized soukous by encouraging guitar solos after every verse and even sometimes at the beginning of the song. His form of soukous gave birth to the kwassa kwassa dance rhythm where the hips move back and forth while the hands move to follow the hips.

You can find music from Kanda Bongo Man at Amazon.

More news here than on the TV.

Annan delivered the first lecture in the Golden Jubilee lecture series in Accra. He said that building for the future must be based on these three pillars: security which requires peace, development, and human rights which requires the rule of law.

Busumuru Annan said the high percentage of the youth in Africa, urbanization and technological change were changing realities that demanded faster thinking and quicker action to serve the needs of the African people.

“They demand more inclusive, more accountable and more responsive Governments, and leaders who are in tune with this new Africa and myriad complexities”

He also said he plans to go into farming and agriculture. That would be a huge boon to Ghana. A man of his stature, with all his international connections could do wonders for Ghanaian agricultural development. He could increase Ghanaian prosperity, and become an even greater inspiration at home and abroad. If a nation cannot feed itself, it cannot do much else. Ghanaian agriculture has much potential, but is still struggling.

Better than almost any European, Ryszard Kapuscinski knew and loved Africa. He knew that Africa was not one place, or one people, as many westerners tend to view it. As he writes in the introduction to Shadow of the Sun:

This is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there – about encounters with them, and time spent together. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa.” In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.

The Guardian has an excellent article about Kapuscinski’s life and work, that includes this:

In 1957 he went to Africa, and returned there as often as possible over the next 40 years. He covered the whole continent, including 27 revolutions and coups, and was exhilarated by the feeling he was in at history in the making. He and his employers had no money, but he was a deal maker who often had the contacts to help other journalists who did have the money to hire planes, and thus both arrived at the scene of the latest drama. “Africa was my youth,” he said later, describing how much the continent had meant to him.

He was present in Ghana for independence, and the first chapters of Shadow of the Sun are essays he wrote about being in Ghana at that time. Although his eye as a journalist missed nothing, and his descriptions have deadly accuracy, he also had the voice of a poet, and saw people and events in their historical and spiritual context. With his gift for language he was also blessed with one of the worlds most brilliant translators for his works in English, Klara Glowczewska. There are many things I would like to say about Kapuscinski, or quote from his works, but I think I will conclude this post with a very lovely observation of women getting off the bus, from a bus ride he took in 1957 from Accra to Kumasi. Many travellers to Ghana have remarked on the style and grace of Ghanaian women. Kapuscinski captures a bit of the essence from that time.

Every now and then our bus stops along the side of the road. Someone wants to get off. If it’s a young woman with a child or two (a young woman without a child is a rare sight), there unfolds a scene of extraordinary agility and grace. First, the woman will secure the child to her body with a calico scarf (her small charge sleeping the entire time, not reacting). Next, she will squat down and place the bowl from which she is never separated, full of food and goods of all kinds, on her head. Then, straightening up, she will execute that maneuver of a tightrope walker taking his first step above the abyss: carefully, she finds her equilibrium. With her left hand she now clutches a woven sleeping mat, and with her right the hand of a second child. And this way – stepping at once with a very smooth, even gait – they enter a forest path leading to a world I do not know and perhaps will never understand.

Steve Gilliard describes the dreadful effect of American warlords and mercenaries in Iraq. The use of mercenaries in Iraq, and the role they play, cries out for investigation. This is a lasting source of shame that very few here in the US have even begun to understand.

Any effort to bring order to Baghdad is undermined by our use of mercenaries. Now, while Bush is blathering on about JAM and the other militias, the largest militia in Iraq is Blackwater and friends. Lawless, loyal to their employer, the use of mercenaries has turned any idea of respecting law into a joke.

The great mistake of the KMT in uniting China was to tolerate warlords. Well, Triple Canopy and Blackwater are certainly warlords. How can JAM demobilize when private soldiers roam the streets of their cities? The Army and police are merely adjuncts to the militias at this point.

You cannot have private armies and then expect the other warlords to disarm. Isn’t going to happen.

On Fox News last Sunday we finally heard a definitive bit of push back from Joe Biden. This is particularly welcome, since the Bush administration has been doing the terrorists jobs for them, more effectively than the terrorists ever could. As it says at Crooks and Liars:

All you Democrats, pay attention, this is what you should be saying EVERY time you’re on the air.

WALLACE: “Sen. Biden, I know this is not your intent, but in fact, wouldn’t your resolution send a message that would embolden our enemies and discourage our troops in the field?”

BIDEN: “Absolutely not. And not only does Carl Levin and Joe Biden and Senator Hagel and Senator Snowe but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Iraqi Study Group, every single person out there that is of any consequence thinks, knows the Vice President doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I can’t be more blunt than that. He is yet to be right one single time on Iraq. Name me one single time he’s been correct. It’s about time we stop listening to that ideological rhetoric and Bin Laden and the rest. Bin Laden isn’t the issue here, but Bin Laden will become the issue. The issue is there’s a civil war, Chris…”

Jane Hamsher and Christy Hardin Smith have built a fabulous and increasingly powerful political community through their blog FireDogLake. Jane just underwent surgery for breast cancer. CrossedCrocodiles joins all those wishing her well and a speedy recovery. It is wonderful to read all the information and opinion collected at FireDogLake. I urge anyone who reads this to go there and read, and donate something to share their support for Jane and the blog. We need both her and the FireDogLake community to help restore a liberal and progressive political culture in the USA.

I Go Chop Your Dollar came out in the fall of 2005, and seems to be an anthem for the Lads from Lagos, the Nigerian 419ers. As Dibussi Tande says:

Nigerian artist, Nkem Owoh (aka Osuofia) released a song titled “I go chop your dollar” which ridicules Europeans and Americans who fall for these scams. Although the song is a satirical happy-go-lucky number, it immediately became the unofficial 419 anthem.

Watch the video.

Although the song may seem to be praising criminal behavior, criminal behavior has always been a source of entertainment, look at the popularity of the Godfather movies or the Sopranos TV show. This song captures a major social phenomenon with a very catchy and danceable song. I think everyone who gets email has received some of these 419 messages at some time or another. It is even possible to view them as a rather entertaining effort in creative writing.

The singer, Osuofia, Nkem Owoh, is a comic actor who has starred in a number of Nollywood movies, such as Osuofia in London. You can find more at iNollywood by searching for him by name. Naija Jams provides us some more information:

Prior to seeing the video, I was confused and didn’t know exactly what to think. I asked myself, “Have the 419ers taken over Lagos? Are they so popular that their praises were being sung on the radio?” Thankfully the video is out and after viewing it, everything became immediately clear to me. I’d like to share a few points:

  1. The artist on the track is Nigeria’s most popular comedic actor, Nkem Owoh
  2. Nkem is known throughout West Africa for his comedic wit & flawless delivery in films such as, such as: My In Law, Atinga, Ukwa, Osuofia in London, etc.
  3. He is often interchangeably referred to as the characters in his films – most commonly Osuofia.
  4. The song, “Oyinbo, I Go Chop Your Dollar,” is the title track from the comedy, The Master, starring Nkem Owoh as a scheming 419er.
  5. The song is intended to be a comedic accompaniment and title track to the film, The Master.
  6. If there was any doubt, lyrics like, “National Airport na me get am / National Stadium na me build am” (I own the National Airport / I built the Nigerian National Stadium (Surulere – Lagos, Nigeria)) clearly communicate this.

Hopefully this clarifies things for some viwers.

You can read brief descriptions of some of the common 419 scams and find the lyrics to the song here:

I Go Chop Your Dollar

I don suffer no be small
Upon say I get sense
Poverty no good at all, no
Na im make I join this business
419 no be thief, its just a game
Everybody dey play am
if anybody fall mugu, ha! my brother I go chop am

National Airport na me get am
National Stadium na me build am
President na my sister brother
You be the mugu, I be the master
Oyinbo I go chop your dollar, I go take your money dissapear
419 is just a game, you are the loser I am the winner
The refinery na me get am,
The contract, na you I go give am
But you go pay me small money make I bring am
you be the mugu, I be the master… na me be the master ooo!!!!

When Oyinbo play wayo, them go say na new style
When country man do im own, them go de shout bring am, kill am, die!
Oyinbo people greedy, I say them greedy
I don see them tire thats why when them fall enter my trap o!
I dey show them fire

Your source for the real news here.

A boat on the Afram river

Is the present government of Ghana assisting the US to recolonize Ghana? Will it allow the US to build a military base in the most fertile part of Ghana, the Afram plains, Ghana’s bread basket? It is no secret that the US wants a military presence in West Africa.

Please make no mistake, a US base would mean recolonization. The present US government are contemptuous of their European allies, even their own people. The Republicans who run the government have for the most part been brought up to be contemptuous of people with darker skin, and are not likely to give up these attitudes. They may deny that, but race baiting is still one of their core campaign tactics. The Bush government destroys just about everything it touches, and we don’t want its heavy hand on Ghana. In so far as a base might bring jobs, those opportunities would be opportunities to be servants to colonial masters, with no upward mobility.

In recent decades the US has a habit of encouraging anti-democratic forces within countries, because the representatives of those forces are often much more willing to sell out their countries and countrymen to short term US interests. A US base in Ghana would mean even more attempts by the US to meddle in Ghanaian politics. And it would not be in order to help Ghanaian democracy flourish.

Ghana has an enormous amount to be proud of, maintaining an independent democracy in the midst of often very undemocratic surrounding countries. Certainly there are problems in Ghana, but the stable government encourages businesses and economic opportunities. The peaceful transfer of power is critical to economic development and opportunity. The story from the Afram plains is particularly worrisome.

From the Headlines at the GhanaHomePage:

The agenda of building US military base(s) in Ghana has now been exposed.

Months gone by a number of our Ghanaians drowned on the Volta Lake when they were forcibly removed from a forest reserve they called home. The reasons that the State gave to the Ghanaian public, at the time of tragedy was that, the victims were cutting down trees in the forest reserve. Not much was done for the survivors by our Government.
. . .

Contrary to the official version of the event, certain citizens leaked disturbing information, which alleged that the Ghanaian government was planning to use the area to build forward bases for the US military. Equally troublingly is the fact that, the Afram Plains is the nation’s breadbasket. It stretches along some of the most fertile lands needed for food production.

Why Afram plains many might ask? The reason is simply. It will be ideal for military bases. The bases will easily have access to fresh water, via the Volta Lake. The Afram Plains is a flat land, which makes it a suitable environment for the construction of airstrips. There are no hills or forests to hide enemies, whether real or imaginary. The lake serves as an easy and reliable route to transport heavy munitions, personnel and vital supplies such as food to the bases. From what this writer has read and seen the US military plans to open up an entrance, via Volta Region and Ada, for their frigates and other small to medium naval vessels.

The government of Ghana did deny and still denies that, there are any such plans for the US forces in Ghana. . . Unfortunately for our government, its attempt to shield the truth from the Ghanaian public was exposed by recent interviews granted by US military officials and strategist who are now openly talking about building bases in Senegal, Uganda, Ghana, Djibouti, Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. In one such interviews, which was reported by the Insight newspaper, one official stated that, “The United States of America is seriously considering the establishment of a military base in Ghana for the sole purpose of protecting its access to West African oil.” Marine General James L. Jones, Head of the US European Command, who made the disclosure said the Pentagon was seeking to acquire access to two kinds of bases in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Kenya and other African Countries (Source: The Centre for Research on Globalization. (CRG)

When you consider the expressed purpose of a base is US oil interests, one has to think of the devastation western oil interests have created in the nearby Niger delta. Are they likely to be any more responsible, democratic, and inclusive in Ghana?

The Afram plains are north of the Afram river, which is a major tributary of the Volta, and also forms part of the Volta lake. You can see the Afram plains marked on the map here.

Ghana has a wealth of knowledge and talent, but too much of that talent has travelled away from Ghana. German President Dr. Horst Kohler has been visiting Ghana, and among the things he discussed was the brain drain, of educated professionals out of Ghana. Dr. Kohler said essentially the same thing as Dr. Ali Mazrui in a lecture about the brain drain from all of Africa:

. . . as much as there existed ‘pull-in’ factors that attracted the continent’s professionals to, especially, the western world there was the need to look at the ‘push-out’ factors and address them.

Ghana’s successes are beginning to attract back some of her professionals. At least there are a number of people I know who are talking about returning to Ghana, and a number have already gone home. But in Ghana there is one big “push-out” factor that I see. Not only are salaries too low in terms of cost of living, workers are not paid on time, or regularly, or sometimes even at all, and this includes government workers, especially outside the capitol. There are many highly skilled and dedicated people in Ghana. But if they cannot earn a living, even when they have a job, leaving Ghana becomes more tempting. If the government just paid its workers regularly and on time, it could keep many more dedicated professionals who love Ghana. The same is true for businesses and individual employers.

As The Chronicle says:

The Ghanaian worker, has, since Independence been called upon to sacrifice for brighter days, which never seem to come and going by the figures on what is paid expatriates, The Chronicle believes we can do better for our professionals to minimize the ‘push-out’ factors.

It is worth remembering, we are still a democracy.

The reason local police should not be involved with immigration enforcement is that it makes our communities more dangerous for all of us.

If someone is afraid to report crime, the criminals have free run of the community. Many of the people stirring up fear of illegal aliens have much to gain by creating a climate of fear. One example is a member of the Virginia General Assembly, right in Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode‘s backyard. Delegate to the Virginia General Assembly Allen Dudley maintains a trailer slum exploiting illegal immigrants, overcharging for unsanitary conditions.

GOTV explains quite clearly the danger to the community that occurs if we mix immigration law with local policing. It makes our communities much more dangerous:

I just want to point out the obvious, these politicians who rant about illegal aliens are just jerking our chain. What they really want is illegal aliens who are so fearful that they will endure any insult, any exploitation, any crime, rather than bring it to the attention of the authorities for fear of deportation. This is exactly why mixing immigration law with local police work is such rotten policy.

Virginia has certain laws governing landlords, including housing codes. Before you can rent, your property must meet minimum standards. By renting to illegal aliens, and then stirring up a political hysteria against immigrants, you reduce the possibility of immigrants reporting any crime you might be committing. So you can rent slum property, pay workers with rubber checks, and run a hundred other scams, secure in the knowledge that your victims will never bring you to justice.

And it is not just illegal immigrants, or even legal immigrants, even naturalized citizens, years after they have been naturalized, are reluctant to report crimes for fear of the authorities. The current hysteria about immigration is making our society much more dangerous.

Martin Luther King was in Ghana on March 6, 1957 on the day Ghana became independent. Above is a picture of Dr. King and Nkrumah, taken on that visit. One month later Dr. King preached a sermon about that visit and that day.

There seems to be a throbbing desire, there seems to be an internal desire for freedom within the soul of every man. . . To take from him his freedom is to rob him of something of God’s image.
. . .
Freedom is never given to anybody, for the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there, and he never voluntarily gives it up. And that is where the strong resistance comes. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.
. . .
Ghana teaches us that. It says to us another thing. It reminds us of the fact that a nation or a people can break loose from oppression without violence. Nkrumah says in the first two pages of his autobiography, which was published on the sixth of March – a great book which you ought to read – he said that he had studied the social systems of social philosophers and he started studying the life of Gandhi and his techniques. And he said that in the beginning he could not see how they could ever get loose from colonialism without armed revolt, without armies and ammunition, rising up. Then he says after he continued to study Gandhi and continued to study this technique, he came to see that the only way was through non-violent positive action. And he called his program “positive action.” And it’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it? That here is a nation that is now free, and it is free without rising up with arms and with ammunition. It is free through non-violent means.

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