Let’s look at Eritrea

eritrea-free2My posts are published now on ‘Africa on the Blog’.

On 20 November 2015, a post was published entitled “Let’s look at Eritrea“.

In the post, I try to understand why Eritrea, more than twenty years after it gained its independence from Ethiopia, is one of the largest exporters of refugees. I examine the history of the country and show how Eritrea was a combination of various lands, conquered by Italy at the end of the 19th Centry. I describe how independence was achieved after the end of the Cold War.

In the post, I point to three factors that may explain in part the miserable state the country is in today:

  • the distrust between the current leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia, who know each other only too well;
  • the bitter history of war and cruelty in the area;
  • the experience of discipline, acquired in the war, but which has now become overly onerous and oppressive;
  • corruption.

I conclude by pointing out that this is one more country whose borders were formed not through any involvement of the people living in the country, but purely through colonial machinations. The national identity, insofar as it exists, was formed not because of any positive experience, but through a shared experience of brutal oppression.

Something radically different and better will be needed, if this cycle of despair is ever going to be broken…

When will the peoples of Africa get the right to self-determination?

self-determinationMy posts are published now on ‘Africa on the Blog’.

On 19 March 2015, a post was published entitled “When will the peoples of Africa get the right to self-determination“?

In the post, I examine the history of this right, which was enshrined in the UN charter in 1945. I argue that the meaning of ‘self-determination’ is fairly clear. However, the meaning of what constitutes a ‘people’ is not so clear. However, it is clear that the borders of the territories in Africa that were under colonial domination (i.e. almost all of Africa) never corresponded to boundaries between peoples. Therefore, I argue that unlike in some other parts of the world, the majority of the peoples of Africa have not yet been able to exercise their right to self-determination.

When will they finally get this right?

Americanah – a book review

americanahMy posts are published now on ‘Africa on the Blog’.

On 5 February, a post was published reviewing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel, ‘Americanah‘. The book gives valuable insights into what young, bright Nigerians can go through, in their own country but when moving to the UK or to the US as well. Because the book illustrates in a literary way many of my own insights (and because it is well-written and a joy to read), I can wholeheartedly recommend this book!

Africa’s curse of 1885

My posts are published now on Africa on the Blog.

On 7 January 2015, a post was published called ‘Africa: the curse of 1885‘. In it, I point out that the current borders within Africa were basically decided by European leaders at a conference in Berlin in 1885, 130 years ago. I call this the curse of 1885.

When African countries started to become independent around 1960, African leaders decided to stay with the colonial borders. This was also accepted by Europeans. In the post, I examine the various reasons why, from a European perspective, this was so. I identify three types of reasons:

– Geopolitical: staying with the status quo gave former colonial powers the best conditions for maintaining their spheres of influence and keeping countries as much as possible outside of the Communist sphere of influence.

– Cultural: there were mistaken beliefs that the African ‘tribes’ were primitive and might disappear, leading to nation states in a similar way to what has happened in Europe.

– Idealist: in progressive/socialist circles, borders were seen as less relevant anyway, because nationalism was seen as a bad thing and it was felt that the future workers paradise would be internationalist anyway. This disregards that protection of ethnic and cultural identity is a basic human need and right, not denied in many African countries.

For some countries, to overcome the curse, it will be necessary to challenge the existing borders. For other countries, it may be possible to work to a situation where there is greater recognition of individual languages and more respect for cultural differences. South Africa, with its 11 official languages, is a step in the right direction towards a situation where also in African countries, debates like the one about independence for Scotland from the UK becomes possible.

The post starts by showing the map below, by Swedish Artist Nikolaj Cyon. It shows what Africa might have looked like if colonization had never happened…


Let’s look at Gambia

My posts are published now on Africa on the Blog.

On 5 December, a post was published called “Lets look at the Gambia“. In the post, I give a brief description of Gambia. I point at the history of the Gambia and its role in the slave trade, as brought to live in the book “Roots” by Alex Haley. The current borders are a heritage from that time and have nothing to do with what would seem logical to the country now living there. But in fact, most of the people in the Gambia are Mandinka and it would not be so difficult to imagine a more logical country, that would encompass Mandinka-speakers in the Gambia, in what is now part of the Casamance region of Senegal and of Guinea Bissau.


This could even be part of a larger country of Mandingo speakers in the region.

I point out that the fiercely anti-homosexual President of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, started off poor when he staged his coup d’etat but is now a very rich man. He is ethnically a Jola, and seems to care only for himself, his family and the Jola people. I point out that this pattern is seen in many more countries in Africa. My thesis is that this pattern is due in large measure to that great design flaw that Europe has imposed on Africa: the problem of its illogical borders. Discussing this is a taboo, one which I argue should be challenged.

Moving between cultures – the fun and the difficulties.

My posts are published now on Africa on the Blog.


On 26 August 2014, a post was published called ‘Moving between cultures – the fun and the difficulties’. The post follows on from my post of a day before on ‘What is culture?’. In the post, I look at what happens when people move to a different culture from their own. I give the example of ‘Beauty’ and the adjustment she has to go through when moving to a culture with a different standard in the area of punctuality.


I continue to argue that similar adjustments are needed in other areas. People have to change their ways in order to stay true to their own identity. This can cause conflicts when moving back and forth between cultures and it is good to be conscious of this.

However, moving to a different culture also has its advantages.To some extent, the problems and advantages are similar to all human beings and not unique for Africans in the diaspora. 

What is culture?


Dutch culture?

My posts are published now on Africa on the Blog.

On 25 August 2014, a post was published called ‘What is culture?’. In the post, I opt for a definition of culture that includes behaviour patterns that are ‘between the ears’, as opposed to focusing only on material things only such as art or music. I point to the Hofstede model of describing cultural differences in six dimensions.

I suggest that this model may offer a better way of looking at cultures and cultural differences, although it needs to be adapted for multicultural societies like those in most African countries. I continue by emphasising the importance of language as an expression of a culture’s unique cultural perspective on life.

What Piketty has to say about Africa

My posts are published now on Africa on the Blog.

On 16 June 2014, a post was published called ‘What Piketty has to say about Africa’.


In the post, I argue that there are four main lessons from Piketty’s book that are relevant for Africa:

0 – Africa is able to catch up with the rest of the world.

1 – Foreign direct investment is not the answer for Africa’s problems

2 – Education is the answer

3 – Credible, democratic institutions are essential.

The post then questions if one can ever expect such institutions to come about in countries like Nigeria – and if it is not better to seek a peaceful transition to more logical borders for some of the countries of Africa.

Read the post…

Africa’s failed states: the Central African Republic

My posts are published now on Africa on the Blog.

On 18 April, a post was published called Africa’s failed states: the Central African Republic.

In the post, I argue that the fact that some states in Africa fail is partly due to the fact that the boundaries of these countries are artificial and not related to what the peoples living in those countries would have chosen themselves. It would be better to redraw the borders of some of these countries in order to make them more homogeneous from the ethnic and linguistic point of view.

The post examines the work of ethnologists, who have tried to identify and classify the differences between languages. It argues that from the point of view of building feasible countries, it would be better to look instead at the similarities.

The example given is that of the Central African Republic. It is demonstrated that it would make much more sense to shift that country’s borders to the South, roughly along the lines shown in the map. This would bring all or most of the peoples who speak one of the Ubangian languages together in one country. The country’s name could be Ubangi and the national language could be Sango, a creole easily learned by all who speak an Ubangian language.

There is more – read the post.Image

Let’s look at Botswana!

My posts are published now on Africaontheblog.com.

On 19 February 2014, a post was published called ‘Let’s take a closer look at Botswana‘.

The post describes Botswana as one of the most successful countries of Africa, although it also points out some problems, such as gender inequality and the problems of the Bushmen. The post asks the question why it is that Botswana has had the success it had. It argues that the reason is not in the natural resources of the country – because other African countries with more natural resources have not necessarily done better than Botswana. The answer, the post states, must have something to to with the fact that Botswana is one of the few countries in Africa that makes some sense from an ethnic point of view, with nearly 80% of the population being Tswana. This, the post argues, is still a taboo subject.