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Proverb of the Week: What is in the stomach carries what is in the head.


Proverb of the Week: What is in the stomach carries what is in the head.

Siemunda sisute siekhumurwe. (Bukusu, Kenya)

 Kilicho tumboni ndicho hubeba kilicho kichwani. (Swahili)

 What is in the stomach carries what is in the head. 


The above African proverb, typical of the Bukusu community in Western Kenya, talks about the importance of eating well, which plays a significant role in people's lives. According to the Bukusu people, eating food is inseparable from an individual's physical and mental functionality, productivity, and health. Hence, the Bukusu community encouraged people to eat well and work hard. There is no place this belief is more reinforced than in Bukusu rural areas, where it is a norm to offer one something to eat when they visit or pass by to greet a neighbour because it is believed that one needs to eat well to enable them to perform the task ahead of them effectively. The proverb is not limited to adults; adults equally use it to encourage children, who may otherwise prefer to play, to eat well to be able to handle the work ahead of them. Eating well is, therefore, a necessity amongst the Bukusu community. 

Contemporarily, a well-fed society is healthy and productive because it takes a healthy body and mind to function effectively and make a significant economic contribution to society. Scientifically, adequate nutrition leads to proper brain development and quick learning stimulation, which is essential for educational, cultural, and economic growth. Apart from concentration problems, inadequate eating and unhealthy food, which may lead to low iron consumption, causes fatigue and the inability of individuals to do productive work. What does this lead one to? It shows that what/how much we eat determines the practical functionality of our brains (which is in the head), including the kind of decisions we can make. Hence, what is in the stomach carries what is in the head. The question is: Does one's physical condition affect their mental state, including their decision-making process? It sure does. 

From a political and sociological perspective, a hungry body can be susceptible and most likely succumb to deceit and manipulation. Does this simple analysis explain why poor countries are most likely to be perpetual bedrock of backwardness, subdevelopment, political instability, lawlessness and corruption? Hunger is a persistent threat in most parts of the developing world, forcing people to make irrational decisions that could impact – and, in some cases, destroy – their lives. As much as democracy allows citizens to choose leaders to bring positive changes and political dividends to their lives, in most cases, because of the lack of adequate feeding (economic gains), many citizens quickly sell their vote rights for mere political palliatives. As usual, those palliatives only buy electorate votes rather than help solve the citizens' social-economic and political problems. Generally, most voters who succumb to the seductive gifts of the leaders do so because of their empty stomachs, which they want to fill at the expense of selling out their future and that of their children. So, feeding the masses is the first step towards choosing the right leaders because economic well-being comes with rational thinking and the ability to appreciate the implications of one's decisions, including choosing wrong or unsuitable leaders.

From a religious point of view, as much as one could argue that the political gap or void left by the leaders has created the need for citizens to look for alternative sources of help, it does explain, equally, why less developed countries seem to be more religious than developed counterparts. Religion fills the gap created or left by the political elites, and that helps to explain why religious organisations thrive amongst less developed communities. Religion, they say, is the opium of the masses. And religious leaders have not failed in their efforts to feed the masses with seductive religious opium. And some religious charlatans cash on the vulnerability of the masses. Hence, more than spiritual fulfilment is needed, with little attention paid to the physical, to solve one's social challenges. 

To achieve a progressive society, leaders should ensure their subjects are adequately fed so that they are solid and productive to achieve the transformational changes needed to catapult society to another level. Productivity goes hand in hand with one's physical strength and the brain's functionality, which explains that what is in the stomach carries what is in the head.

Proverb of the Month: If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.


Proverb of the Month: If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.

If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.

Befit’ineti mehedi kefelegu bichawoni yiramedu ruk’I mehedi kefelegachihu abirachihu
hidu. (Agaw, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso)
Kama ukitaka kutembea haraka, tembea peke yako. Kama ukitaka kutembea mbali, tembea
pamoja. (Swahili)
Si tu veux marcher vite, va seul. Si tu veux aller loin, marches ensemble. (French)
If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together. (English)

The above proverb, spoken amongst the Agaw or Agew (Ge'ez አገው Agäw, modern Agew) people in Ethiopia, Eritrea and the people in Burkina Faso, is used to teach the spirit of togetherness.

Life is a journey with a destination; how one prepares for the journey determines how fast or far one reaches the destination. Walking fast does not translate into reaching the end of the tunnel, nor going far and reaching the destination, done quickly and effortlessly. The latter needs much and meticulous planning, focus, endurance, tolerance, dedication and patience. We choose between walking fast or far - alone or as a team. The choice determines the result.

Working in a team requires working with many people with different ideas and opinions, which may hinder the journey or influence its outcome. How does one manage those differences and harness them to greatness? The ability to do that means walking far and achieving much success.

Expectedly, a team of different individuals with different ideas and opinions possess enormous challenges, and the ability of the team to aspire and inspire together overcomes any crack of differences amongst the group.

Our society is a melting point of different cultures, religions, languages, and ethnicities; our ability to turn those differences into positiveness and strength is the beginning of our perseverance and resoluteness and how far we go towards achieving much in our societies. We have a choice: allow our leaders to tap into our differences and use them against us, or resist such an attempt and unite in our diversity's greatness. Ultimately, it is a choice between walking fast and far. Fast without reaching the destination or far towards our destination and goal. Shall we mortgage the future of our children and the unborn generation by accepting temporal peanuts election stipends from corrupt politicians? The fast and easy election fishing hook. Or reject the tempting, juicy, ineffective medicine for a bitter but efficacious remedy to treat our social ailments better.

Friendship is fellowship and concord communion; those attributes overcome human differences and enable society to achieve greatness despite cultural, religious, ethnic, and linguistic differences.

As we enter 2024, we must either walk fast alone and risk stopping on the way without reaching the destination or walk together and far towards our goals, aspirations and destination. Walk fast, walk alone. Walk far, walk together. United we stand, divided we fall.

Photo: https://www.pathtoadventure.co.uk/lake-district-guided-walks

I hear you: Proverb of the Week.


I hear you: Proverb of the Week.

“You cannot use a wild banana leaf to shield yourself from the rains and then tear it to pieces later when the rains come to an end.” – Nandi (Kenya), Sukuma (Tanzania).
• Makiume sasurwet ak kebet. (Nandi)
• Huwezi kutumia majani ya mgomba wa kichakani kujizuzia mvua na baada ya mvua kuiisha uikatakate. (Swahili)
• You cannot use a wild banana leaf to shield yourself from the rains and then tear it to pieces later when the rains come to an end. (English)
• Remember your former (bad) situation and those who helped you when things get better for you (Meaning).

The above proverb, famous amongst the Nandi Ethnic Group in the Rift Valley in Kenya, teaches us not to forget our past when things get better for us. Symbolically speaking, the rain in the proverb means times of adversity or havoc, and the end of the dangerous condition implies a time of peace and calm after a hazardous time.
Often, human beings forget their past and where the journey began whenever they have reached their destination. Life is a journey, a struggle, without which it might not yield any tangible result. In the battle, we need helping hands and support to succeed. We must remember those support when we have reached our destination.
From the religious point of view, it is not uncommon for one to pray without ceasing when facing adversaries or challenges; however, in most cases, one’s spiritual commitment diminishes or even ends once their adversaries are over. Unfortunately, humans forget that life is synonymous with problems and challenges. The end of a hiccup today hardly means its finality.
Politically, we are in a vicious circle due to the ingrates and ungratefulness of some leaders. In contemporary times when our leaders are aiming at leadership positions, the help and support of the masses become vital and inevitable for the leaders’ success. In most cases, the story becomes different immediately after the leaders have gained power or reached their political pinnacle. How about those who helped the leaders attain their new positions of power? Are their help and support generally appreciated? Hardly not. That explains most countries’ present hardship, poverty, crime, negligence, and joblessness.
Once bitten, twice shy. That is what it should be, but is it so? One may shout, “You cannot use a wild banana leaf to shield yourself from the rains and then tear it to pieces later when the rains end.” However, one can tear the wild banana leaf used to shield oneself from the rains to pieces later when the rains end,” - only when the wild banana leaf agrees to be torn.

Photo: https://www.petalrepublic.com

A cow’s horn does not kill its calf. (Nandi, Kenya)


A cow’s horn does not kill its calf. (Nandi, Kenya)

Mabarei kuinetab teta moitanyi. (Nandi)
Pembe ya ng’ombe haiui ndama wake. (Swahili)
La corne d’une vache ne tue pas son veau. (French)
A cow’s horn does not kill its calf. (English)

This proverb from the Nandi community, which is part of the Kalenjin ethnic group in Kenya, emphasizes the importance of discipline, responsibility and punishing of children when they have done something wrong. Such strict measures aim to ensure that children are trained to grow up responsibly, to enable them to become suitable leaders of tomorrow.

To the Nandi community, punishing a child when they err does not necessarily show a sign of hatred, rather, it is a good way to ensure they grow up to become responsible and productive members of the society.

How does this proverb apply to the world in general and African society in particular? A lot. Most often, in many lawless societies, the leaders of such societies are indirectly the cause of social deficiencies. Children look up to the elders to become responsible members of society. In our various societies, we look up to our leaders for direction and corrections.

On the other hand, elders who are supposed to punish or correct children are expected to live by examples. When the rot starts with the heads, it quickly gets into the whole body.

Looking at African society, many governments would have little or no problems to lock up a citizen for 20 years without a trial, for stealing a fowl. Yet in the same societies, leaders who have stolen billions of dollars are hardly touched. Yes, billions, which would have been invested in social services, meant to create employment and other services that would have perhaps prevented the fowl thief from committing a crime. Every crime is a crime, no doubt, but punishments meted out for crimes must be proportional and appropriate for the sake of equity and justice.

It is only when the those who punish or train others to grow up responsibly and become quintessential leaders of tomorrow are themselves responsible, that we can confidently say that a cow’s horn does not kill its calf cow.

Photo: https://www.texaslonghorn.com

Dogs do not actually prefer bones to meat; it is just that no one ever gives them meat.


Dogs do not actually prefer bones to meat; it is just that no one ever gives them meat.

Dogs do not actually prefer bones to meat; it is just that no one ever gives them meat. ~ Akan (Ghana)

Are you meant to be poor? Is your social condition “normal” and permanent? These are perhaps some of the questions you might ask yourself. With the above proverb, the Akan people of Ghana try to create that sense of consciousness amongst themselves and discourage one from accepting their negative social situation without trying hard to change it positively. To be able to achieve much in one’s life, they need to first change themselves.

When leaders asked for your votes and later abandoned their promises and left you in a usual precarious situation, if you did not insist on a change, your situation becomes a “norm.” Likewise, the failures or impunities on the part of the leaders, which you have accepted are indirectly legitimatized. Other leaders follow the same pattern of gross inefficiency and rampant deceit.

Clearly, you are not destined to be poor, but by accepting your miserable situation, you legalize and normalize your situation. Obviously, you do not – and no one does – prefer to remain in your terrible position; in fact, you would have most likely, preferred a better and more humane life condition, but you do not have the opportunity to be in such a good condition. However, not having that opportunity does not mean you cannot be in such a condition. You sure can. You can change your situation. For you to do so, you need to go for a change in order to achieve it.

Of course, like any other proverbs, the above proverb has other meanings. Could you share your own interpretation of the above proverb on Kata Kata?

Read our full humorous cartoon story “Useni and his Dog” and have yourself a laugh: https://katakata.org/useni-and-his-dog/

The old woman looks after the child to grow its teeth and the young one in turn looks after the old woman when she loses her teeth.


The old woman looks after the child to grow its teeth and the young one in turn looks after the old woman when she loses her teeth.

The old woman looks after the child to grow its teeth and the young one in turn looks after the old woman when she loses her teeth. (English)

Aberewa hwe abofra ma ofifir se nna abofra so hwe aberewa ma nese tutu. (Akan)

Bibi ukuza mtoto akiona meno, yanakua, mtoto pia ushudia bibiye meno yakingooka. (Swahili)

La vieille dame veille a l’enfant grandit ses dents, et l’enfant a son tour veille a cette derniere perd les siennes. (French)

The above proverb is typical of the Akan tribe of Ghana, who makes up about 40% of the country’s population. The proverb is more or less similar to the Akan saying: “The mother feeds the baby daughter before she has teeth so that the daughter will feed the mother when she loses her teeth.” It is a proverb that re-emphasizes the importance of communal solidarity, mutuality, help, and togetherness. Traditionally-speaking, the aberewa, which means the older woman, is highly respected and looked up to in the Akan society because she is the symbol of wisdom. She is being consulted when a bit of advice and help are needed.

In the family setting in the Akan culture, the grandmother takes care of as well as giving pieces of advice to the young ones; it is expected that the advice plays an important role in the future development of the younger ones. The grandmother takes care of and remains responsible for the children until they grow teeth, which symbolizes growth in the Akan culture. But the duties and responsibility of the grandmother do not end with the growth of the child’s teeth. Aberewa still advises the older children, especially, the ladies even when they grow older.

Little wonder why it is a curse ( mmusu, in the Akan language), not to obey or respect the grandmother because it is believed that such a negative behaviour towards the wise woman will have catastrophic consequences in the lives and future continuity of the whole society. To maintain continuity and solidarity, it is expected that the youth must reciprocally take care of the grandmother when she has lost her teeth (becomes old and dependent).

So you can say that the berewa is a symbol of responsibility, dedication, and solidarity for the whole society.

Clearly, the proverb demonstrates that no condition is permanent. Back into our everyday lives – especially in various African societies – the proverb “The mother feeds the baby daughter before she has teeth so that the daughter will feed the mother when she loses her teeth” still makes a lot of sense. We elect or choose our leaders so that they can take care of us and our problems after they gained power. The question we all need to ask ourselves is: How are our leaders (aberewa ) taking care of the lives of those entrenched in their hands? Have they carried out the expected tasks expected of them? Or have the leaders let down those who put them in the leadership positions? If the leaders (aberewa ) have let us down, by not carrying out their expected task, why do you and I still entrust our future and destiny in their hands by still accepting their leadership through the election or otherwise? How have we prepared ourselves and those under our care for the future? By still accepting the shortcomings and failures of our leaders? At the end of the day, our destiny is in our hands; if we entrust our destiny in the hands of our aberewa, who fails to take good care of it, that puts our future in jeopardy.

In such a case, why would you and I look after the old woman when she loses her teeth? After all, it is said that when one hand washes another hand, the washed hand reciprocates.

More proverbs of the week: https://katakata.org/?s=proverb+


A funeral offers the opportunity for reconciliation.


A funeral offers the opportunity for reconciliation.

Akavia kakhuanyisivyanga mumasika. (Nyala, Kenya)
Mazishi hutoa nafasi ya Upatanisho. (Kiswahili)
Le deuil est une occasion de réconciliation. (French)
A funeral offers the opportunity for reconciliation. (English)

The proverb, which is used amongst the Abanyala group in Kenya, teaches the importance of peace and reconciliation amongst people, which leads to social progress.

Abanyala is one of the dialects of the Luhya (also called Luyia or Abaluyia) ethnic group, which made up about 16% of Kenya’s total population of 38.5 million. The Abanyala people are the polygamous Bantu ethnic group, predominantly found in East Africa. Culturally, the father is regarded, amongst the Abanyala, as the head of the family. In case of conflicts amongst the wives, children or other family members, it is expected that the father tries to solve the problem amicably and fairly. However, when the conflict cannot be solved by the head of the family, the case is tabled amongst the council of elders, headed by the chief. Hence, a family problem is therefore seen as a problem of the whole community.

Likewise, death is regarded amongst the Abanyala as a community tragedy, rather than a family affair. It is, therefore, not uncommon for the whole community to participate in mourning for the death of a family member. Equally, the community ensures that the affected family, which has lost a member is supported during and after the burial and very important, that the dead person receives a befitting and deserved a burial. To achieve these cultural expectations, all are expected to bury their differences and work towards a common goal. One cannot show anger, even to the death, some would say. Hence, you could say that a funeral offers the opportunity for reconciliation.

How does this proverb help explain the African present situation and offer some pieces of advice to individual groups, as they tackle problems facing them? Human communities face many challenges; some of these problems are human-made. Furthermore, we live in societies where we have our differences. Some of these problems, challenges, and differences can affect the whole community negatively if we allow them to continue. With this in mind, we must come out in solidarity in order to find a lasting solution to the problems facing us. United we stand and achieve much.

In Africa, as well as in many other parts of the world, leaders have let their people down. From empty promises to corruption, inefficiency, and selfishness. The result: social inequality, hardship and blink future. These problems can hardly be solved individually. To help minimize the problems and the impacts, the whole people must forget their differences (religious, cultural, personal, linguistic, etc) and come out in solidarity and face the challenges.

Lack of education, water supply, electricity, good health care, security, are, figuratively speaking, death facing each family in Africa and other places. Are these the problems you can solve yourself? Hardly not. You need to join hands with other members of society and address these social challenges. This could be solved by saying no to bad leadership, rejecting vote buying, refusing to mortgage the future of your unborn children by not accepting gifts from corrupt leaders to persuade you to vote them in again after performing miserably. You can only achieve this noble task by putting aside your various individual differences and disagreement and work together in solidarity. On the other hand, confronting the leaders as a group or engaging them, may offer an opportunity for the leaders to understand their shortcomings, problems facing their socities, ask for forgiveness and work towards making amends.

At the end of the day, putting our differences aside and tackling our problems together in solidarity can only lead to harmony, peace, and progress in society. Thus, a funeral offers the opportunity for reconciliation, indeed.

The word of a friend makes you cry; the word of an enemy makes you laugh


The word of a friend makes you cry; the word of an enemy makes you laugh

This proverb, which might sound ironic and contradictory to many, is typical of the Tuaregs, a nomadic tribe predominantly found in the central and western Sahara and along the middle of Niger, stretching from Tombouctou to Nigeria. This tribe is present in Niger, Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Amongst the Tuaregs, interpersonal and close relationships are very important, hence the importance of this proverb, which teaches the value of friendship and the need to appreciate the advice from friends – no matter how unpleasant and painful it might be.

It is believed amongst the Tuaregs, that someone who is your friend has your best interests at heart, hence one should listen to the advice of a friend, regardless how unpleasant or painful such a piece of advice might be. On the other hand, the proverb discourages one from succumbing to the advice of an enemy, no matter how good such a bit of advice might sound, because one’s enemy generally doesn’t wish one good. Generally, your enemies don’t like your progress, as such, they will try to discourage you to succeed. They would like us to make mistakes. In most cases, the advice of a friend might look unpleasant, but it might help one avoid unseen traps and pit holes in the future. However, your enemy might give you a piece of advice that sounds good, but later, such could lead you to unseen danger and misfortune. Hence the proverb discourages one to follow the deceptive advice or plans of enemies. Thus, you could rightly say the advice or words of your friends could make you cry, although they are well meant, however, the kisses of your enemies could make you laugh, in the end, they might hurt you profusely and probably lead to your destruction.

How does this proverb fit our present situation in Africa and beyond? Very much indeed. You need to look round and first determine who your friends and enemies really are. Think very well. Yes, think without emotions or sentiments. Are your friends those who brainwash you to hate or discriminate against others simply because they have a different skin colour, gender, religion, race or race? Are those your “friends” trying to use you to achieve their sinister aims? Are you proud of your “friends” who encourage you to kill innocent people in the name of religion or race? What of those who send you on a suicide mission, yet they have refused to wear the suicide belt themselves and show you how it works? Are your friends, your so-called leaders and mentors who discourage you from sending your children to school, while theirs have the best quality education in the most prestigious universities? Are those who make you believe you are born to remain poor and serve them, your real friends? What of those who want you to believe that your conditions and perhaps, destiny cannot be altered or changed by you through hard work, education and making the right decisions in life? Have you thought about those who encourage you to believe that education is “evil” and unnecessary?

At the end of the day, the choice (and friends) you have made today could radically change your life – for good or bad – in the future. Definitely, those who really care for your future and have you in their hearts will never intentionally lead you astray. They will give you good advice, take the right steps towards helping you reach your goals. Of course, it could be that the way towards your goal could be full of obstacles. Do not be discouraged; nothing good comes easily. Yes, you could cry on the road to your goal, but the end justifies the struggle and obstacles. On the other hand, following the advice of your enemies leads, in most cases, to annihilation. Of course, the road might look smooth at the beginning, but in the end, the damage to yourself and others might be irreparable. Definitely, the word of a friend makes you cry; the word of an enemy makes you laugh.

More African proverbs:

A small house will hold a hundred friends ((Duruma, Kenya)


A small house will hold a hundred friends ((Duruma, Kenya)

Chumba chidide chinaidima kuphenya atu mirongo kumi. (Duruma)
Chumba kidogo huweza kuwa na marafiki mia moja. (Swahili)
Une seule maison peut avoir cent amis. (French)
A small house will hold a hundred friends. (English)

Although this proverb of the Duruma, the Mijikenda ethnic groups of the Kenyan coastal region along the Nairobi-Mombasa, might sound a bit confusing and contradictory or even ironic, it is definitely true if you think about it deeply.

Traditionally, a typical Duruma homestead is not big; it could be anything from a small single hut for a man and his wife to a hut for a large extended family comprising of many members. In a typical Duruma polygamous setting, the wives live in their separate huts while their younger children live in their mother’s hut. The boys who have passed the puberty age are encouraged to build their own huts, which can hold several of them irrespective of having different mothers. Not only that, the whole family members eat together from a large dish which can contain plenty of food.

What does this living arrangement tell us about the proverb above and life in general? Much indeed. The proverb is commonly used to emphasise the importance of communal bonding and sharing. Having a little space is, according to the Duruma, not a reason not to share, because sharing (food, accommodation, problems, good things etc.) and supporting one another, cement the relationship amongst people and create a sense of unity and harmony. More than that, sharing and unity, encourage progress.

How relevant is this proverb at the national level or to Africa? Like the pawpaw fruit, which may be small, yet it contains many seeds, a nation or Africa as a continent, can be made up of many different people with different cultural, linguistic differences. Yet, despite these obvious differences, if they can learn how to share and live together in peace, there is no limit to what they can achieve together as a group. Despite some progress made in many African countries today, Africa as a continent is still, generally speaking, facing a lot of problems and social challenges. Think of unabashed, conspicuous corruption, naked greed, selfishness, insensitivity, to nepotism and ethnic consciousness, to say just a few. All these have directly or indirectly contributed to a lack of progress in the society, including a shortage of social amenities like housing and accommodation, food, health care system, school, water etc.

One could rightly argue that African social problems are indeed man-made, attributed to moral bankruptcy, deficiencies and decadents amongst individuals. We need to embrace the spirit of sharing and communal bond in order to unite as an entity and forge forward towards achieving progress and greatness.

Therefore, to make any tangible progress in life and society, we must imbibe the common adage that a small house will hold a hundred friends – if we really want.


That which eats at you is within you


That which eats at you is within you

Proverb: That which eats at you is within you.

Swahili: Kikulacho Ki Nguoni Mwako

Meaning: Often, our actions are borne out of our mistakes and flaws in our characters. Therefore, we should not always point an accusing finger at others. We should take the blame for the results of the actions we have taken.

Take a look at the mess Africa is in. Start with South Sudan. Go to the Central African Republic. Follow me to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Are you on your way to Somalia? Tired? Come on, the journey has just started. Yes, the rough, foggy journey created by our elected African leaders. So don’t dare complain you are getting tired. After all, you elected and or allow those leaders to be where they are today. So get your act together and follow me. Immediately! Come on…… What? I should hold on? Ok, you rest a bit before we continue our journey of discovery and reality. While you are resting, let me remind you of something.

As much as we would like to point an accusing finger at others and shift the blame to foreign forces or interference of other countries, for all the woes in Africa, we must not forget that flaws in our leaders’ character have made such an intervention possible. And inevitable. It all started with our elected leaders, from the local to the national level, who would be so fastidious to sacrifice the future of those that elected them. That flaw alone has resulted in the present African political predicament. Take a look at South Sudan. At the time of independence from Sudan, South Sudan the newest nation in the world produced 85% of Sudan’s oil output. Oil accounts for 98% of South Sudan’s budget, fetching more than $10 billion in revenue for the new country since the signing of the peace agreement with Sudan. Apart from oil revenue, before independence, the agricultural sector saw a 10.8 per cent growth. South Sudan is a country with one of the largest populations of pastoralists in the world; it is abundantly blessed with fertile agricultural land. However, like many African countries, where mineral resources were discovered, the government of South Sudan virtually abandoned the agricultural sector and concentrated on oil. The result is clear. Between 2000 and 2008, agricultural productivity drastically declined to 3.6 per cent from the 10.8 per cent growth rate, according to the World Bank. Despite the huge income from oil, South Sudan had to look outwards for basic food to feed its nation. Today, South Sudan relies on its neighbouring countries, such as Uganda, Kenya and Sudan (yes, the same Sudan that South Sudan seceded from) for its food imports.

Although, the government of South Sudan wants the world to believe it is making efforts to encourage Israel, the Netherlands, Gulf Arab states, China and fellow African countries to invest in the agricultural sector of the country, to boost the basic food production, one wonders how the government in Juba would achieve this task without first creating stability, security and eradicate corruption. Not even a die-hard investor would like to invest in a country where the returns of their investments are not guaranteed. Regardless, add the high transportation cost, sending farm products from the neighbouring country of South Sudan, intimidating inflation and corruption amongst the South Sudanese officials, you begin to understand why the prices of food in South Sudan have skyrocketed beyond the reach of an average citizen.

Can the present state of South Sudan explain the rationale behind the long decades of war it had waged against Sudan? Do the political, social, economic realities of South Sudan justify the death of an estimated two million people, who lost their precious lives following a two decade long north-south civil war? Eventually, having gained independence from Sudan, South Sudan descended into anarchy. Ethnicity amongst the same South Sudanese who fought Sudan became a reality. The same discrimination, fragmentation and neglects South Sudan fought against became the everyday reality amongst the newly born South Sudan. Suddenly, South Sudanese started seeing themselves along ethnic lines. Yes, we all know the influence of foreign forces in South Sudan affairs. We can easily point an accusing finger at them. But have we asked ourselves why those foreign powers managed to cause pandemonium in South Sudan? Today, apart from South Sudanese leaders, other countries, warlords and individuals are busy making millions of dollars monthly from the sweat and blood of other innocent South Sudanese. It is only when we do not put our house in order, that an enemy can enter it and cause mischief.

A house that is divided amongst itself shall not stand.

South Sudan has allowed itself to be divided. The coherent fibres that have been holding the unity of the country have been badly destroyed by human weaknesses. Those weaknesses and division effectively invite other foreign forces to South Sudan. Yet, the division could not have occurred, if not because of flaws in the characters of South Sudanese leaders. Ethnic consciousness. The human weaknesses. Greed. Corruption. Selfishness. Nepotism. Are you still counting?

Before you start crying for South Sudan, you may as well reserve some of your costly tears for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, the Central African Republic, amongst others. We all know the atrocities Belgium committed in DRC. Only those who are allergic to history would not mention the dark role the US CIA played in the killing of Patrice Émery Lumumba of Congo. Still counting the foreign forces that created the mess innocent citizens of the DRC are in today? Those who hold only the CIA, Belgium and other foreign interests responsible for the plundering and unspeakable atrocities in the country, should not forget that some Congolese citizens were recruited, paid to do the dirty and evil works for the foreign enemies. Say a big hello to uncle Mobutu Sese Seko, wherever he may be. Yes, we are paid to fight amongst each other. Fight amongst brothers and sisters so that the foreign scavenger vultures can easily settle and prey on the near-dead country without being disturbed or harassed.

Is Nigeria an exception? Hardly not. The British legacy lingers disastrously in Nigeria. That British government is rich today is as a result of its naked greedy colonial and plundering past. Don’t forget the sacred bible the colonial Masters were holding in their right hands while using the left hand to steal with impunity as well as plant the perpetual seed of division amongst the natives. That must have been the White’s interpretation of LOVE their bible preaches. Yes, love, the basic summary of the preaching of the bible. They came preaching love but planted infectious hate.

For those who would argue that the discovery of natural resources comes with conflicts, take a look at Botswana, a tiny African country with one of the largest amount of diamond in the world. Today, it is also one of the world largest producers of meat, with more cows in the country than human beings. Thank goodness, the cow is not a natural resource, but rather an agricultural product. A smart policy choice, you would say. It is on record that the country is one of the very few countries that have successfully managed their natural resources equitably well without any major conflict since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1966. Is Botswana from a different planet? Hardly not. Its success can be attributed to discipline, honesty, integrity, accountability, you name them. These elements hardly exit among African leaders. An average Botswana has benefited from the presence of natural resources in their country. More than that, conflicts from external forces have been kept a bar. That hardly means that Botswana does not have a relationship with other foreign forces. It does. But the difference is that the country has set out an enviable standard, which others must abide by if they want to do business with this tiny African country. What has an average Nigerian benefitted from the huge oil depot in the country? Call me the “giant of Africa”! What of our brothers and sisters from the DRC? Hello, my brethren in Sierra Leone? Greetings to the Angolans? Can you hear me calling? Can you please tell the world what you have benefitted from those natural resources God or nature has bestowed your various countries with? Tell us how your world is today? Your future? And that of your children?

If Botswana can be described as a success story, why not other African countries? A very simple answer: if we don’t first become disciplined and take responsibilities for our actions, we will open our vulnerable door for our enemies to capitalise on our weakness, come into our house and sow the seed of discord. Africa should, therefore, learn not to blame others if our enemies capitalise on our weakness.

Cows are born with ears; later they grow horns.


Cows are born with ears; later they grow horns.

Ngora inlingino nanine; ndobagi nalobehe ngoba. (Nuba-Tira, Sudan)

Cows are born with ears; later they grow horns. (English)

Generally, Children are expected to be taken care of when they are young, while they are, on the other hand, required to listen to their parents and elders from whom the children learn their life experience. Life is a mysterious journey, full of uncharted and fortuitous dangers.

The Nuba-Tira group in Sudan uses this proverb to encourage children not to scorn the advice and wisdom of older ones, simply because the children see themselves as grownups, who do not need the guidance of the elders. In most cases, such negligence leads to gratuitous miseries.

Amongst the Nuba-Tira community, this proverb is very important in the time of danger, for example, during a crisis such as war, sicknesses, famine, drought and other natural disasters.

Consultation of the experienced elders and parents and listening to their advice could a key to better decision making, as it minimizes mistakes in the hands of the inexperienced young ones.

How does this proverb play out in the African political and social situation? In many ways. Most of the tasks facing Africa as a continent arises out of refusal by the leaders to listen to the useful advice of the experienced elders. Rather than seeking genuine advice from the right quarters, African leaders would rather prefer to surround themselves with rapacious sycophants – most of them from their tribes or religions – who do not only believe they know better than the experienced elders, the predatory advisers often see themselves as having grown horns. With the new horns, the leaders, in most cases, believe they do not need the advice or guidance of the wise. The result is very obvious as one looks at the colossal challenges facing Africa today.

That is not all. When desperate African leaders need power, they come obediently and submissively to the masses. These leaders need the support and vote of the masses to catapult them to the position of power and influence. What happens after the leaders have climbed to the apex of power? In most cases, the leaders grow horns. That horns give the leaders the impetus to believe they do not need the help, advice or assistance of the masses anymore. The leaders often forget to put their ears into good use.

We see the result of our leaders growing horns in poverty, lack of social security, good health care, schools and other poor or non-existing basic social services in Africa. No condition is permanent. Cows are born with ears; however, growing horns later in life must not discourage the cow not to make good use of its ears. Otherwise, the horns would end up bringing more miseries to the cow, rather than making life meaningful for the animal.

Are African leaders born with ears and they later grow horns? If yes, what do they do with their ears and horns?

Photo: moon-child-net

Brothers who get along will always defeat the enemy


Brothers who get along will always defeat the enemy

Brothers who get along will always defeat the enemy. (English)

Abaguma bobalwa amatumu. (Mashi, DRC)

Ndugu wakisikizana vizuri wanashinda adui kila mara. (Swahili )

Les frères qui s’entendent bien ils arrivent toujours à vaincre l’ennemi. (French )

This proverb is common amongst the Mashi-speaking tribe (Shi and Nyabungu), found in the Sud-Kivu province of the South, West and North of Bukavu of the Democratic Republic of Congo ( DRC). The proverb is used to emphasize the importance of unity – especially, in the time of challenges.

Unlike in the Western world, where individualism is common, Africa, on the other hand, is an epitome of collectiveness. That explains the idea behind large families and community efforts and love. It is not uncommon in Africa to consider cousins and other members of the community as brothers and sister. However, membership of the family comes with responsibilities, amongst them, genuine efforts and contributions towards the progress of the family/community. For meaningful achievement to materialise, unity amongst the family occupies a central position.

Today, the world is facing a common bullish enemy, the COVID-19. The stubbornly persistent presence of the Coronavirus calls for togetherness as opposed individualism. It is a trying and demanding time when we need each other more than ever if we want to defeat the deadly virus. We cannot come out victorious against the enemy through the tough-demanding lockdown alone. Nor can we win the war with an empty begging hand or scorching stomach. The reality becomes obvious when the lockdown is suddenly turned into a lock-up both in words and deeds. Yes, with hardly any incentives to ease the lockdown pain. There are better ways brothers and sisters can unite to defeat the enemy.

The common foe can only live in the pomposity of jubilation when the community is on fire and brothers and sisters craftily turned themselves into the COVID-19 millionaires – overnight. When a family plunders and squanders mercilessly, the resources and arsenal meant for fighting against the impromptu antagonist, it is left defenceless against intruders and danger.

To win the adversary, unity, love and selflessness must reign amongst the family and community members. That calls for the realization of the common enemy, a well-defined goal and strategy amongst members of the community. But the result of the common efforts can only be visible when everyone contributes their power, expertise and shows commitment towards the goal.

That is the only language the COVID-19 understands in this precarious time. How I wish Africans understood that even the much-feared fearless Coronavirus will easily be conquered if they become their brother’s keepers.

“Hot water does not burn down the house.” (English)


“Hot water does not burn down the house.” (English)

Hot water does not burn down the house (English)

Maji ya moto hayachomi nyumba (Swahili / Eastern and Central Africa)

This African proverb is very common amongst the Sukuma and Ngoreme tribes of Tanzania and the Kuria people in Kenya and Tanzania. Primarily, they use the saying to encourage a husband and wife that peaceful co-existence between them is vital to the success of their marriage – irrespective of arguments and challenges they encounter in their relationship. The couple must work through their problems and difficulties together to achieve a successful marriage.

On the current level, Africa (house) is facing existential threats through corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, tribalism, sexism….and the count goes. The question is, do we allow the hot water (social problems) to burn down the house (Africa)? Despite our apparent differences (culture, language, gender, religion Etc.) in Africa, we are like a married couple; we need each other’s honest cooperation and commitment to make the union work. To build a decent, peaceful and progressive nation, we must throw away our individualism and choose collectivism.

To the wise, problems encourage deep thoughts and better planning. We must embark on collective nation-building to create a progressive society. In today’s COVID-19 pandemic devasted world, facing many other social challenges, we must make good use of our mental house to avoid explosive conflicts and setbacks. Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo need genuine dialogue and honest commitment of every citizen to forge forward. Failure to take the proper steps will only lead to a situation whereby the “hot water” burns down the entire house. For now, let’s hope that the hot water will not burn down the house.