Pray the Devil Back to Hell*

I am coming late to this, but I have been reading some things that I feel merit some response in this space.

On Friday, the World Health Organization finally declared an international public health emergency in response to the world’s most recent Ebola virus outbreak that started in Guinea and has spread, at an unprecedented rate, to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria .

Ghen ghen

With about a thousand deaths recorded thus far, the current outbreak is the most severe ever. As of today, the reported fatalities are as follows: Guinea: 300+ deaths, Sierra Leone: 298 deaths, Liberia: 294 deaths and Nigeria: 2 deaths. Things look dire right now but they look to get even worse before we see an end to this epidemic.

In between, I feel like there is a standard of conduct that we should all adhere to. For example, do isolate yourself if you have been in close contact with an ebola patient and you start to get a headache, do refrain from eating wild animals at this time, don’t try to personally care for sick relatives, do what you can to help the situation. Depending on where you are, giving money or directly educating people are both ways to help the situation.

What definitely doesn’t help, no matter your location, and in fact will hurt is the promotion of sensationalist discourse around the ebola virus.

To that point, I feel like we have all been subjected to some marginally disingenuous reporting from the NY times and other news outlets. If you don’t have time to click on the link, I am talking about the way some of the reports have dwelt on the point that people in Guinea, or otherwise, would rather go to witch doctors than seek out proper medical care.

Sure meme

Hmmmm. Yes certainly, that can be our focus. We can speak ad nauseum of the naiveté of villagers and the like who probably never had access to a hospital before this epidemic and have never been examined by a doctor. We could do that and fit it well into narrative tropes about Africans.

Alternatively, we could take a step back for a more holistic view of what Guineans, Sierra Leoneans, Liberians and to a smaller extent Nigerians are currently going through. If we make the inquiry about why those countries are failing at battling ebola (or any public health epidemic), I am afraid the answer will not rest on individual citizens who are in their villages trying to get on with their lives the best way they know how. The answer and solution would sound like something those countries can do to succeed in the face of ebola et autre. That is, it would expose the gaps and provide solutions to build and reinforce public healthcare systems.

Healthcare (especially in Guinea) has been broken for decades and citizens have a deep mistrust of the level of care given by doctors and oversight exercised by the government. I hate to generalize but doctors and nurses (the few that are there) routinely misdiagnose and mistreat patients for financial gain among other things. All Guineans have horror stories of doctors prescribing the wrong medication because it was more expensive in lieu of the cheaper option that could have saved a life. I have lost at least two cousins and an aunt that way.

In essence, going to a witch doctor and going to the hospital are both toss ups. Fifty Fifty, dood. In their book, Poor Economics, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee make a similar point about people in distress. When people (even in the west) feel there is little else they can do to improve their situation, hope becomes very essential. Hope can be manifested in many ways; in those communities, it is manifest through a witch doctor.

The privilege to report on other people’s lives comes with the responsibility to do so in a truthful, thoughtful and responsible way. Honor it. You cannot rely solely on local anecdotes to report on the failing efforts to eradicate ebola, do some more work, learn the context. Thanks.

*”Pray the Devil back to Hell” is the title of Leymah Gbowee’s bestseller where she talks about the Liberian women’s efforts to bring peace during the civil war.


  • Ebola first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

  • It is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals ( for e.g. monkeys, bats).
  • Ebola then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids.
  • A chronology (and additional facts) of the Ebola virus can be found here but before the current outbreak, the last known cases were recorded in Uganda and the DRC in 2012.
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Adventures From the African Bedroom

This is a repost from my Tumblr from January 2013. At the start of every year, I like to make a list of my favorite things from the past year. Count you blessings, right? Adventures was one of such discoveries from 2012. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Forget everything you thought you knew about African women and sexuality! Adventures from the bedrooms of African women will take your breath away. I know I forgot to breathe for at least five minutes when I came across it.

Here is a step by step story of how that happened.

1) Retired from facebook.

2) A year or so after coworkers convinced me to join twitter.

3) I acquiese.

4) Once there I naturally begin to follow all and everything African.

5) AWDF naturally topped this list.

6) AWDF FOLLOWS ME BACK!! GASP! I HAVE ARRIVED.

7) I am happy, I am happy, and I want to see who to thank for this amazing follow back.

8) I check out the AWDF website and look up their communications person.

9) She is a fine fine girl.

10) I decide to follow her and silently stalk her.

11) She links her followers to a website she co-authors.

12) BAM! I click on it and got introduced to another new and naughty world.

13) I like. Santa please please stay away!!

Adventures is a blog that provides a safe space where African Women (and occasionally some progressive men..lol) can discuss a variety of sex and sexuality related issues with the intention of learning from each other, having pleasurable and safer sex and encouraging continuous sex education in adults. The blog is managed by Nana Darkoa and Malaka (both of whom are Ghanaian I believe) but they also welcome Guest contributors (from around the world). So if you have a story to tell please share with them! I am working on mine :-).

My personal favorite story on there is titled “Fucking Ghana into me”. Chale. But don’t take my word for it. Check the site out yourself.

Video

Sitya Loss- Eddy Kenzo

Enjoy. Relax. Take a moment to yourself. It’s Friday. Big tune from Uganda. I hear the Congolese influence and rhythm. Do you? Takes me back to the Papa Wemba (Yolele), Kanda Bongo Man (Kwasa Kwasa!*) and Pepe Kalle (Roger Milla*) days.

*Correct Song Title: “Sai”

*My Nigerian and Ghanaian friends would love this. haha. Those days when their teams couldn’t see top.

Pacesetters + X = PanAfricanism?

pacesetters-2Guys, do you remember these?! Did you get the pleasure of losing yourself in one of them? If you did not grow up in English-speaking Africa, or have parents who did, then the answer is likely negative. So allow me to open your eyes to a good thing. The Pacesetters African Series. They are a collection of 130 fiction books written by authors from at least ten African countries. Each one is set in the authors’ home country, except for “Meet me in Conakry” where the protagonists journey across west-West Africa.  Arguably, one of the greatest Pan-African collaborations ever!! Right up there with ECOWAS. Yes, I said ECOWAS. I will explain in a later post.

I first discovered them when I was 9 or 10 and had just moved to Sierra Leone. Maybe I got my first copy from one of my cousins, I am no longer sure, but I clearly remember street vendors used to hawk them around PZ in the middle of Freetown.  I remember because ANY pocket change I ever had at the time? ALL of it ended up in the accounts of those vendors. I was determined to read every copy that I could lay my hands on!

Don’t get me wrong, these books were certainly not Ama Ataa Aidoo literary quality. They were more of the mass produced, Nollywood variety. In fact, with the exception of Buchi Emecheta, I don’t think I have come across any of the other authors outside of the Pacesetter world. However, I enjoyed them, they fascinated me, I got lost in them and simply couldn’t get enough. A hundred Leones I thought, was more than a fair price to pay for first class, immigration hassle-free trips to Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, Uganda, Kenya etc..

At a very young age, those journeys nurtured in me an awareness, curiosity and respect for other African people, cultures and nationalities that has endured. I lost my collection in the Sierra Leonean war but as a young adult whenever I would travel to a new African country I would try to recall if I had gone there on Air Pacesetter previously. Nostalgic.

Pacesetters stopped publishing the African series a long long time ago, but it appears you can purchase copies here for a cool 5 Pounds if you are so inclined. I would like to eventually collect all of them for my library but my pockets remind me gently that they are not currently so inclined.  So I wait. A couple of my favorites were Symphony of Destruction by Sunday Adebomi and Bittersweet by Yema Hunter.

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are fundamentally important to our collective esteem and how we regard each other. The “Africa Rising” narrative, the resurgence of the African middle class in some countries,  the active interest of Africans in the Diaspora in the continent are a few factors that  contribute to the renewed entitlement struggle for who should write the African story. Of course, for many of us, the answer to this question is quite obvious!

Chimamanda Adiche and others like her are at the forefront of this resurgence.  However, sometimes I wonder what the reach is back home?  With a robust and ever increasing African youth population, it is becoming more and more important to know what stories that demographic are sharing? What are they collectively telling themselves? How do they negotiate identity? Where and how do they situate their identity within the larger African context? Do they see a larger context?

Literature contains magic that can build that context.  It has the power to give the reader a wider and richer perspective outside the readers’ immediate surroundings. As we all work to own the African narrative it’d be a very good thing to have a similar platform where young literary stars rising up from different African countries can create and share.