Monday, August 17, 2009

Negrology - Why Africa is in a state of decay

Negrology (Négrologie) is a term created by Stephen Smith in the original French edition of his boek, “Négrologie – pourquoi l’ Afrique meurt”. Negrology denotes what Smith calls "the cult of black identity and black consciousness”, which compels Africans to search for the source of their problems in colonialism or apartheid, rather than in their own shortcomings. The book was first published in October 2003 by Editions Calmann-Lévy in Paris. It immediately stirred considerable debate in France and in French-speaking regions of Africa.

The book was awarded with the French television prize for the best non-fiction book of the year in 2004. Stephen Smith has reported on events on the African continent for more than twenty years, and is considered in Europe as one of the leading experts on Africa and journalism.

Afrikaans was the first language this controversial book was translated into, and was completed in 2005 in a combined effort by Dan Roodt, Karin Roodt and Lydia van Eeden. Praag (Pro-Afrikaans Action Group), of which Dan Roodt is a co-founder, took care of the typographic aspects of the Afrikaans version.

The English version does not seem to exist or is not available yet, but I had no problem finding the Afrikaans version on the shelves in my local library.

I’ve taken the liberty of rendering a few words from this book into English. Most of the text I’ve published here appear on the rear cover of the book as well as in chapter 10 - “Cape of Storms”.

The few brief extracts I’ve published here (translated from the Afrikaans version), can never convey the intended message of the author, --- but nevertheless, I hope these extracts give my English-speaking readers some insight into the problems this continent is facing. I’ve highlighted my translated text in a bold blue colour. If you’re reading this in black and white then the text has obviously been copied to another location, which I don’t mind at all, --- as long as the url to my blog is mentioned, namely

Négrologie – pourquoi l’ Afrique meurt

Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the world has been rendered speechless by the continual conflict, famine and decline in Africa, - south of the Sahara. Even a model country like the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) has fallen into a state of decay and followed the same path as Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, --- and other African war zones.

Besides civil war, Africa has also been haunted by AIDS, tropical diseases, and corrupt and incompetent administrations. The author blames both Africans, who are addicted to foreign aid, and Europeans, who eagerly provide aid to assuage their guilt.
In describing how Africa is committing suicide the authors states, “It’s almost as if the passengers find themselves in a row boat caught up in the stormy sea of globalisation. However, instead of rowing to the safety of land they are trying their best to stab holes in the hull of their fragile shell……” (Introduction – pg 1)

The author illustrates the fact that since independence Africa has been working on re-colonialism but that the continent has failed miserably in its efforts. Readers are reminded how large scale black-on-black violence has resulted in the deaths of millions of Africans. 3.3 million dead in the DRC followed shortly on the heels of 800,000 killed with pangas during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the 200,000 Hutu’s that died in the jungles of Zaire between October 1996 and May 1997; the full-scale genocide that has been raging in Burundi since 1993; the famine and violence in Somalia, …. The death toll is far from complete. How many deaths occurred in Sudan, where the second civil war has been raging for twenty years? How many deaths occurred in Angola since independence in 1975? What about Casamance in Brazzaville-Congo, -- and the deaths in the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) since September 2002?

What is the present situation?

The book, “Négrologie – pourquoi l’ Afrique meurt”, was written almost 6 years ago, and has prompted me to find out, whether or not, the African countries mentioned have managed to stabilize during this short time. I used the CIA’s online World Factbook, which appears to be one of the most up-to-date online sources for reliable facts.

In brief, the facts remain gloomy. Death, disease, and destruction remain the primary keywords in the descriptions of these various countries. The introductory passages read like war novels and usually start off with something like this: “This country is recovering from a long civil war, --or this country is in the process of reform, rebuilding, transformation, etc… This country (Botswana) has one of the world's highest known rates of HIV/AIDS infection….” Land reform remains unresolved, --- UN peacekeeping troops are struggling to stabilize the situation… and so forth. There simply doesn’t seem to be one single country where peace and prosperity are reigning!

African countries stand in such sharp contrast to European countries such as Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark, that it would be almost irrational to make any direct comparisons, but still ---- one cannot help but wonder when will Africa finally grow up and start understanding why these countries have prospered and how they have maintained stability and peace over the centuries. A noticeable phenomenon among these prosperous countries is their refusal to take part in wars. Switserland, for example, was not involved in either of the two World Wars. Sweden, a military power during the 17th century, has not participated in any war in almost two centuries.

A few extracts from the CIA World Factbook:

Burundi's first democratically elected president was assassinated in October 1993 after only 100 days in office, triggering widespread ethnic violence between Hutu and Tutsi factions. More than 200,000 Burundians perished during the conflict that spanned almost a dozen years. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians were internally displaced or became refugees in neighboring countries. An internationally brokered power-sharing agreement between the Tutsi-dominated government and the Hutu rebels in 2003 paved the way for a transition process that led to an integrated defense force, established a new constitution in 2005, and elected a majority Hutu government in 2005. The new government, led by President Pierre NKURUNZIZA, signed a South African brokered ceasefire with the country's last rebel group in September of 2006 but still faces many challenges.

The second war and famine-related effects resulted in more than four million people displaced and, according to rebel estimates, more than two million deaths over a period of two decades. Peace talks gained momentum in 2002-04 with the signing of several accords. The final North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005, granted the southern rebels autonomy for six years. After which, a referendum for independence is scheduled to be held. A separate conflict, which broke out in the western region of Darfur in 2003, has displaced nearly two million people and caused an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths. The UN took command of the Darfur peacekeeping operation from the African Union on 31 December 2007. As of early 2009, peacekeeping troops were struggling to stabilize the situation, which has become increasingly regional in scope, and has brought instability to eastern Chad, and Sudanese incursions into the Central African Republic.

The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) maintains a strong presence throughout the country, but the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country will take many years.

Democracy is slowly being reestablished after the civil war from 1991 to 2002 that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about one-third of the population). The military, which took over full responsibility for security following the departure of UN peacekeepers at the end of 2005, is increasingly developing as a guarantor of the country's stability. The armed forces remained on the sideline during the 2007 presidential election, but still look to the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) - a civilian UN mission - to support efforts to consolidate peace. The new government's priorities include furthering development, creating jobs, and stamping out endemic corruption.

Ivorian dissidents and disaffected members of the military launched a failed coup attempt in September 2002. Rebel forces claimed the northern half of the country, and in January 2003 were granted ministerial positions in a unity government under the auspices of the Linas-Marcoussis Peace Accord. President GBAGBO and rebel forces resumed implementation of the peace accord in December 2003 after a three-month stalemate, but issues that sparked the civil war, such as land reform and grounds for citizenship, remained unresolved. In March 2007 President GBAGBO and former New Force rebel leader Guillaume SORO signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement. As a result of the agreement, SORO joined GBAGBO's government as Prime Minister and the two agreed to reunite the country by dismantling the zone of confidence separating North from South, integrate rebel forces into the national armed forces, and hold elections. Several thousand French and UN troops remain in Cote d'Ivoire to help the parties implement their commitments and to support the peace process.

What does Stephen Smith’s book, “Négrologie – pourquoi l’ Afrique meurt” say about South Africa?

Under the chapter heading, “The Cape of Storms” the author has devoted 36 pages to the phenomenon of “Negrology” in South Africa.

The author asks the question, “Is it not so that the rainbow nation is being torn apart by a civil war although it is not known as such? Starting on page 256 the author provides the reader with relevant facts and statistics that illustrate why the country had become the most violent place on earth. He mentions that since 1994, --- 20,000 people have been murdered in the country every year. A private army --- more than 200,000 employees of 4000 security firms, of which 2900 security firms and 700 armed reaction companies equipped with electronic alarm-systems and approximately 500 firms who specialise in the transport of cash – takes care of the safety of citizens who can afford these services…..

More than 1400 policemen were murdered between 1994 and 1999, --- a world record which placed South Africa in a league of its own in comparison with other countries on the planet……..

In South African cities, class and race-conflict clashed in a rage of crime that affected all elements of the community, but in an uneven way. The author quotes Nelson Mandela in the following words: “Through the decades the youth in the black townships had a visible enemy in the State. Due to the changes we are experiencing now this enemy is not visible anymore. You and I, people who drive a car and who own a house, are the new enemy now……..

This is even more so in the rural areas where the old and the new order mix and where the fertile land is still in the possession of white farmers. The civil war is being camouflaged as crime, but in actual fact it is race hatred.” …… (Then there’s that well-known cry of the black consciousness movement, namely “one settler, one bullet”).

Nelson Mandela is also aware of the fact that 600 people lost their lives in 4000 armed attacks on white farmers between 1997 and 2001 because of the (so-called) social injustice on the rural plains of South Africa, which takes the form of “terrible paternalism” in the one group and the “hunger for land” for the other. The number of attacks are increasing every year: 433 attacks in 1977 where 84 victims lost their lives, to 1011 attacks in 2001 when the number of m
urders increased to 147. That was the last statistics published in the media, because the police statistics have become a state secret…..

In a community where the people have been subjected to so much stress, it does not surprise one when people refer to their respective groups as “we” and “them” in an apparent attempt not to openly use names such as “Boers”, “koelies”, or “kaffers”… Twenty years after the “mixed marriage” laws were abolished, and ten years after the official dismantling of apartheid, mixed marriages are still the exception. In total only 4% of marriages have crossed the colour line. This figure includes the meagre 0.1% of marriages between white and black.

People of all races who are sitting together good-natured and relaxed in a cosy pub drinking beer, only happens on advertisement boards. In reality, self-segregation is the rule. People mingle but do not blend, notwithstanding the few cosmopolitan enclaves that have emerged in Johannesburg…..

Stephen Smith ends chapter 10 with the following thoughts:

Dias returned to Portugal in 1488 after he sailed past the ill-fated Cape, this time in the opposite direction. He called it the “Cape of Storms”, but Joao the Second, who did not want to compromise the attraction of the discovery, chose to rename it “Cape of Good Hope”. History will eventually determine which of the two were correct, -- the navigator or the king!

ISBN 0-9584635-9-X

Online Retailers: (International) (South Africa)


Front cover - Picture Credit:
A Liberian militia-leader on the government side gives expression to his joy after launching a rocket grenade in the direction of the rebel forces on 20 July 2003. Copyright 2003, Getty Images/Chris Hondros.


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