Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hello world! � Back to the Congo

Hello world! � Back to the Congo

I like the title of this post… it is quite appropriate. So yes, hello world. After several years abroad, I am going back to my native Congo. It has been 6 years since the last time I was there, and in fact, it is the first time in 20 years I am going to be there for this long (a few months, maybe more).

I have endured devastating trials and tribulations in the USA, as well as great moments that I will never forget, and great friendships that will last forever. Now, I am going back home, which is exciting, but also brings with it its own set of trials and challenges. I have grown to be - I must admit - quite a Westernized Liberal, during my time in the US, and I do not know how I will be able to navigate the weight and tediousness of some aspects of my own native culture… just the fact that this is an issue in my head is concerning to me. And then there is the ever present corruption, the constant power outages, the rarity of water at the faucet, the lack of basic services, and the poor transportation system (which is going to be the greatest challenge, after being so used to the MTA in New York). When you add to this the new restrictions on my movements that I am foretold, especially at night, for safety and distance reasons (we live in an outlying suburb), you can understand that I am a bit anxious and apprehensive… which is frustrating to me because I love my country, and I resent having to feel apprehensive to live in it.

But I have prepared myself as best I could, and I am looking forward to going back home, despite the challenges. I will try - as safely as possible - to document my time, the issues I faces, the cool things I encounter, the debates I am suggested, and how life simply is in Kinshasa, especially as I am trying to get employed for the time I am there. In many ways this will be an expat-blog… well, more like a non-expat expat blog. See, in Congo, I have all the assets of an expat:

  • US-educated
  • Multilingual
  • Worldly
  • World citizen
  • Computer and Internet litterate
  • Itunes-addicted
  • Feels your pain
  • Eager to save the world

all the inconvenients of an expat:

  • Mistrusted
  • Outsider
  • Feared
  • conned
  • disoriented
  • Foreign-thinking, sounding, and acting

and none of the expat advantages:

  • a shiny SUV with a shiny logo (UN, Red Cross, CARE, etc) that opens some doors by its mere presence; with a driver
  • an expat-level salary waaaaay beyond what 95% of the Congolese people could dream to make, that allows them to live like kings in Congo
  • a foreign passport guaranteeing them evacuation should things get too dicey
  • and, let us be completely honest, white skin (or at least a “non-African” ethnic look) which - in a country still reeling from the complexes and fears born out of colonialism - is still a mark of wealth and authority, given priority and precedence in many instances, even when junior in rank, station, education and knowledge. (To carricature, think of the educated Congolese man as a black A-student from the University of Idaho, and some expats as the C-student from Yale. Somehow the latter always has more chances to be President than the former…)

So those are the realities I am preparing to face. I will have to learn to be somewhat of a second-class citizen in my own country (actually, third-class, since the expats are already second to the rich Congolese elites), after fighting discrimintaion in the US… a brother can’t catch a break!! But I really shouldn’t complain. I will have a car, and I have a strong family to support me. So, I am better than the average Congolese citizen, who is about sixth or seventh-class… ;)

I digress. So this blog: My life, back in the Congo. I hope you come back and read some of the stuff I write, and that I can bring some insight on this beautiful yet suffering country that I love, through my own experiences there. I will also write and/or post things that just randomly interest me, regardless of whether it linked to the Congo (I think that is what bloggers do, no?) This new blog , at Wordpress, is is a continuation of this blog, African in America.

Happy reading!

Friday, February 06, 2009


(from my other blog on Congo)

I have not been writing on The Salon for a while. That's because I have lost a bit of the grasp I had of the situation back home, in the Congo (DRC). Both the political power-players and the political game itself became blurry. There was a point when I could discern between constructive forces, and the destructive ones in a clearer fashion. Who pulls Kabila's strings? How to uncover the multiple layers of the mystery Kagame? What realistic and pragmatic alternatives exist on the field? Those are all things that I am trying to reacquaint myself with. But one thing I know: Laurent Nkunda may simply be a symptom of a larger problem, but he is definitely a parasite to be dealt with. That is why I was outraged when I saw this on Facebook:

A Fan-page for Nkunda? Are you serious? You have got to be kidding me!! A murderous warlord like him? I mean I wouldn't even tolerate a Fan-page for Kabila (because he is shady too), and he is the President!! I mean, this is not acceptable. I am all for freedom of expression, do not get me wrong, but this deserves some responses. I would appreciate suggestions.

What is appalling here is the proficiency and sophistication of Congo's foes in communication, media manipulation, and staying on message. They are always miles ahead of those of us standing for Congo, and we are always playing catch up. That needs to change. The narrative needs to change.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mfumu Barack Hussein Obama

(English translation coming below. This is in Lingala.)

Ndeko bwa bolingo, Mfumu Barack Hussein Obama,

Olóngí likokí ya kobengama mfumu. Olóngí likokí i yina kaka na esika oyo osili kolonga te, esika oyo ebéngámí na batu mususu, “Mokambi ya mokili ya bonsómí”. Te. Olóngí yango, na mayele nayo, mpe na motoki ya mosala, mpe na móto ya makási mpe bolingo oyo osili kopelisa okati ya mitema ya batu awa na Lisanga lya Amerika (USA), mpe o bikólo nionso ya Mabele bolingo na biso.

Eyébání sika oyo o mokili mobimba ete na kolónga esika oyo olóngí, obalúsí ezaleli ya mokili na biso na ndenge kaka batu minene ya lisapo babalúsá yango. Okoti na molóngó ya ba Mfumu Nelson Mandela, Mfumu Mahatma Gandhi, mpe Nganga-nzambe Mfumu Martin Luther King, Jr., oyo balakísá biso ndenge ya kokolisa mayele ya batu, mpe kolanda banzèlú ya malamu koleka, mpona komeka kotonga mokili moko ya sika, oyo etondí makokí, bonsómí, bokokani, bobángani, mpe bondeko. Okómí moto muindo ya liboso oyo akómí mokambi-ekolo Lisangá lya Amerika, ekolo oyo eyébání mpona lisapo na yango ya bohumbu na bosámbuisi bayindo. Obalusi nde lisapo mpe elili ya batu muindo, mpe ya batu nionso, o mokili mobimba.

Libosó ya mokolo ya maponi ya suka, oyo ememí yo na esika oyo okómí, nakomákí mpo nakobimisa o mokanda, manso oyo elóngi na yo elingákí kobimisa okati motema na ngai, lokola mutu, mpe lokola mutu muindo. Yango wana nakolekisa tangu na yo mingi te. Natómeli yo se longonya, na kombo ya bana nionso ya Afrika, mama-etáká ya bankoko na yo, mpe ya batu nionso ya mokili. Na séngí yo kaka ete obosana te makanisi kitoko oyo òmemelakí biso na bambúla míbalé oyo malekí, mpe bapási ya batu oyo batié elikia na bango o maboko nayo, mpe ya basáleli nayo.

Mpe, na kosúkisa, na sengí yo, na makasi na ngai nionso, na motema na ngai nionso, mpe na elikia na ngai nionso, óbósana ekólo mpe batu ya Congo bolingo na ngai te. Na esika oyo okómí, ozali na makasi ya kopusa bakambi Congo, mpe banguna na Congo o bikolo Rwanda na Uganda, mpo ete bamóna ete kimia esengeli ezónga, mpe ezónga sika oyo. Batu bakufi mpe mingi, na tina oyo átá babundi mapingá yango bayebi te. Ngonga esi ebétákí kala.

Ndeko Barack, bana ya Congo bazalí mpe bana ya batu, na kitoko, maséngi, mpe makokí moko lokola Malía na Sasha. Basi ya Congo bazalí mpe na kitoko, maséngi, makokí, bolingo mpe bobángi moko mpo na bibota na bango, lokola Mama Michelle. Mibáli ya Congo bazalí mpe na makokí, bolingo, mpe bobángi mpo na bibota na bango lokola yo moko, mfumu Barack. Naséngí yo ótálela biso likambo oyo, mpe ósálisa biso na kozongisa bondeko mpe kimia okati ekolo oyo Congo bolingo na ngai, oyo ekoki kosalisa mokili mobimba na ndenge mingi, soki tozóngísélí bana Congo elikiá.

Natóndí yo botondi, natómélí yo lisusu longonya, Nzambe apambola yo, mpe naséngí yo óbósana biso te.

Na bosóló,

Ali Malau Mamina
Mwana Congo, Mwana Afrika, Mwana Molongo


Dear Brother, Your Excellency Barack Hussein Obama,

You have earned the right to be called Excellency. Not just because of the office you have now reached, an office called by some the “Leader of the free world”. No. You won this title with your intelligence, with the sweat of your work, and with the bright and shining fire and the love that you have ignited in the hearts of all people, here in the United States, and in every nation on our beloved earth.

It is now known around the world that this victory you have won, you have changed the essence of our world in the way that only the Greats are able to change it. You join the likes of our elders Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who showed us the path to enlighten the minds of people around us, and taught us to turn to our better angels, in trying to build a new world, where rights, freedom, equality, respect and fraternity abound. You have become the first Black President of the United States of America, a nation with a history of slavery and humiliation of Black people. Amazing!

On the day before your election, I took the time to put in writing all the feelings, emotions, and aspirations that your victory would mean to me as a man, and as a Black man. So I will not waste too much of your time this time around. I just want to express the pride and honor that I feel for you, in the name of all the people of Africa, the mother-continent of your ancestors, and of all of humanity. I ask you not to forget all the ideals and idealism you professed and instilled in us in the past two years, and the pain and suffering of many of those that put their faith and their hope in your hands, and in the hands of your team.

And finally, I ask you, with all my strength, with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my hopes, not to forget the country and the people of my beloved Congo. In your new office, you have the power and the clout to intimate to the leaders of Congo, and to the enemies of Congo at the helm of the nations of Rwanda and Uganda, that peace needs to be restored, and restored now. Too many people have died in a war who reasons and interests are a mystery even to most of the militiamen and soldiers that fight it. It is more than time for peace. It was already time 5 years ago.

Brother Barack, see, the children of the Congo are also human children, with beauty, rights, needs, and aspirations, just like Malia and Sasha. The women of the Congo are also humans, with beauty, rights, needs, aspirations and care and concern for their families, just like Michelle. The menthe men of Congo are also humans, with rights, needs, aspirations and care and concern for their families, just like you, your Excellency. I beg of you to look into this problem for us, to help restore peace, love and good-neighborliness in my beloved Congo, a country that could be such a great, positive contribution to the world, if only we could restore hope and faith in the minds and hearts the Congolese people.

Thank you, Excellency, I am proud of you, I wish you success, may God bless you, and please do not forget us.


Ali Malau Mamina
Congolese citizen, Son of Africa, Citizen of the World