It was many seasons ago since the African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, visited our village. And so, naturally, when word went round that she had been spotted walking into Old Nyati’s compound, all of us who were concerned about the deteriorating socio-political and economic conditions in various parts of Africa, were eager to hear of the AU chairperson’s assessment of these conditions and possible solutions.
But when we got to Old Nyati’s compound, we were amazed to see Mrs Dlamini-Zuma – decked out in elegant flowing African robes, and with a guitar - singing the blues.
She sang wistfully:
The seasons come and go/It seems like yesterday when I came to Addis /And now, the season to travel back to the South is neigh at hand.../Oh mother Africa, I weep for you...
The AU chairperson sang of famine in Africa. She remembered those killed by terrorists in Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya and other places. She crooned about the strife in the Central African Republic and poverty that only seemed to increase.
After she was done with her performance, she told us that she was in our village to think about the impending 26th AU Summit, as well as reflect on her time at the AU.
In the following days, we would see Dlamini-Zuma, reclined in the hammock, strumming more sad songs about Africa. We wondered why she was not singing about what she had done to solve these problems during her tenure; she should have been singing songs of hope, telling us about the great ideas she had initiated while at the AU, and how they had contributed to positive change on the continent.
“You see,” Old Nyati confided to us when we raised this issue with him one day,” The AU is not much different from its predecessor.” He told us how OAU secretaries-general went around the world defending dictators from accusations of human rights violations, including mass murder. Old Nyati shook his head and said, “ The OAU had nothing to do with the welfare of the African people; it was a heads of state organisation.” He shook his head dejectedly. “The AU is the old OAU in disguise...”
For proof, he compared OAU Chairmen such as Idi Amin and Eyadema to the AU’s such as Theodore Obiang and Robert Mugabe....
At this point, One Eye, who had lived a long and colourful life, and was disdainful of African leadership, spat out, “The difference between the OAU and AU is like the difference between Satan and the devil...”
We would often pass by Dlamini-Zuma’s compound at the edge of the village, hoping to have a conversation with her, but she would either be singing her blues or taking a nap. But one day, we were in luck.
“Hey, villagers,” she called out to us from where she sat on the bench on her veranda, “come on in ...”
For a brief moment, we thought she was going to sing another of her songs, but she did not have her guitar with her.
“You know,” she told us, “I have done much during my term to improve the lot of the African people...” She told us how she had worked hard to reform the UN Security Council. “It is key that we have an African country as a permanent member of this important organ.”
Someone asked her how this would improve Africa’s material conditions.
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“Look,” she replied, “ representation will give us great dignity...”
Next she told us about her endevour to have the ICC give immunity to African presidents suspected of gross human rights violations.
“Trying an African president in a foreign court,” she pronounced haughtily, “robs Africans of their dignity...”
Someone suggested to her that impoverishing Africa or committing gross human rights abuses as African leaders had done was really what robbed Africans of their dignity as human beings.
“No, no,” shot back the blues impresario, “the leaders are our own people, unlike the foreign courts...”
The questioner elaborated her stance by pointing to the hundreds of Africans risking their lives at sea to escape misery and indignity in their own countries.
Dlamini-Zuma looked pensively into the space in front of her.
“These Africans trying to escape from their dear continent,” she said eventually, “embarrass us all... they rob Africa of her dignity.”