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{UAH} Those whom our land will not kill, it will make very strong - Daily Monitor

Those whom our land will not kill, it will make very strong - Daily Monitor

They say better late than never. Last week we celebrated Africa Day, but some of us never got to pay proper homage to it. We will do that today. My exploration of some of the off-beat things in Africa history continues, and gets more exciting by the week. We publish some of the findings on Facebook, on a page we baptised the 'Wall of Great Africans'.
It has been barely eight months, and clearly Mother Africa is an amazing place. I think the generations to come will have a lot of fun with it. In terms of the knowledge about it, we have not even scratched the surface. To illustrate the point, some surprising insights that I gleaned about two months into the project, and have written about them elsewhere.
We all know that women in Africa, and generally all over the world, have been written out of history. Among the things that are unnerving - is the price that those who succeeded have had to pay, and just how much they had to go to rebel against the establishment.
Almost 90 per cent of the leading women in African history - the arts, politics – name that I have researched had to divorce, some as many as 13 times. Today you are still told that "divorce is African", but as early as the 16th Century, women who succeeded as traders, warriors, had to rebel against or confront patriarchy to move on, and divorce was one of their weapons.
Some took it to extremes. Aminatu, the great Hausa warrior Queen of Zazzau (north west Nigeria), decided not to marry.
She was said to have taken a lover from among the conquered people after each battle, and to have killed or castrated him in the morning following their night together. This was in the late 1500s and early 1600s.
The contradictory side of this is that "traditional" Africa wasn't as conservative as it is made out to be. Many kings and chieftains took a view about gender equality 220 years ago that would be considered extreme feminism today. Usman dan Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, who reigned between 1803-1815, had a line on the education and worldliness of his daughters and women that would shock moderate clerics today.
But these battles take their toll. In African societies, suicide is a very difficult and taboo subject. It is one of those "unAfrican" things.
However, of the more than 300 African breakthrough African women I have researched, nearly 20 per cent committed suicide. This goes back centuries. I didn't imagine that suicide would have been common so far back. And there are regional patterns. Pioneering women writers, actors, and activists from Arab North Africa tended mostly to jump to their deaths from tall buildings. And in southern Africa, they invariably took an overdose of something. The men, especially in recent decades, tend to shoot themselves in the head.
The kings and generals were notoriously polygamous, not surprisingly. Guezo, king of Dahomey, took the biscuit. He had an army of 3,000 women, to each of whom he was married, having sold all the menfolk as slaves.

Those days they had progressive things you no longer see in these modern times. There were all-female armies, some numbering more than 10,000. There were many times more women generals in Africa between 1600 and 1900 leading armies into battle, than there are in 2017!
Some of Africa's villains were also quite complex. Take Liberia's murderous military dictator Samuel Kanyon Doe, who was leader from 1980 to 1990. He died badly. He was seized by rebels, tortured, his ears and genitals cut off (and eaten by superstitious militia).
In 1985, Doe sought to legitimise himself through an election. But, before the election, he murdered more than 50 opposition politicians (Kizza Besigye should consider himself lucky). Then he gathered all the votes, and took them to a secret location, where several personally handpicked officials counted them.
Now you would think having killed rivals, and got his people to count the vote secretly, Doe would give himself 99.9 per cent of the vote. No, he didn't. He went to that extent only to give himself a victory of 51 per cent – just enough to avoid a run-off!
I may not be a very clever man, but neither am I stupid. So explain to me: Why would a military dictator, who had marched members of the regime he overthrew naked along the streets before having them executed by firing, not steal all of the vote but contend himself with only 51 per cent?
To get the right answer to that, it means you have unlearn everything you know about Africa. Just wonderful. Happy belated Africa Day!

Mr Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of Africa visualiser and explainer site

Sent from Gook's iPatch!

"What you are we once were, what we are   you shall be!"
An inscription on the walls of a Roman catacomb.

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