An Exploration of West African History Through Ghanaian Afro-funk

Highlife Legend Ebo Taylor in 2010 with his band Bonze Konkoma at Club W71.

Highlife Legend Ebo Taylor in 2010 with his band Bonze Konkoma at Club W71.

Check out this episode of Afropop Worldwide from Public Radio International about Ghanaian and other West African funk, hip-hop, and highlife music, their connections with U.S. artists, and their development through and after the colonial and missionary periods. It’s great listening, and it’s also important for  demonstrating the richness of Ghanaian cultural exports as well as how those with open ears can learn a lot from West Africa about the connections among music, politics, and religion.

 

Experiences of a Former General of the Civil Defense Forces: Humanitarian Issues in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Then and Now

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dear Readers, the below is the second post of a three-part series on the moral economy of resource extraction, with its attendant violent commodification of people’s lives.  In order to probe some of the issues raised in part-one, our interview with Danny Hoffman, CIHA Blog editorial assistant Ben Cox interviews Mohamed Tarawalley about his experiences during the recent conflict in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the state of humanitarian aid, and his collaboration with Hoffman. Mohamed Tarawalley is former General of the Civil Defense Forces in Sierra Leone and founder of Action for Poverty Mitigation in the Third World (APM3) and West African Youth Agenda Against Corrupt Practices (WAYAACP). We are grateful that he could join us from Monrovia, Liberia.

Ben Cox (BC): Could you speak a little about yourself and your experience in the conflict in Sierra Leone and Liberia?

Mohamed Tarawalley (MT): I am Sierra Leonean and hail from Kailahun District in the eastern part of the country from a town called Jojoima in the Malema Chiefdom. I am the first male born child of my parents. I am 40 years now, born in 1972 on 19 January. I was schooled in Sierra Leone up through the Sixth Form, but my university education was disrupted by the rebellion.

With respect to the conflict in Liberia and Sierra Leone, in which I participated from the beginning to the end, I look at most of the humanitarian ventures, especially the DDR Program [Demobilization and Reintegration Program], as a partial failure. The DDR Program was designed from outside, was exported from outside, and got into this area and was just forced down the throats of people. The people were forced to pick it up because there were no other alternatives. And the real people – the real actors – were not given the chance to contribute ideas on how the program should work or what we might need. The conditions that led to the war during that time are still very much visible and alive here now — we are on a time bomb in these areas. If you come here one day, you will understand what I mean. Continue reading

Youth, Labor, and Violence: The Production of Humanitarian Crises in Sierra Leone and Liberia

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dear Readers, the below is the first post of a three-part series on the moral economy of resource extraction, with its attendant violent commodification of people’s lives. In this post, Ben Cox, an editorial assistant for The CIHA Blog, sits down with Danny Hoffman to discuss his latest book. Topics addressed include the politics of photographic representation; mobility, labor, youth and violence; and future projects in West Africa. All images have been graciously provided by Danny Hoffman.

Ben Cox (BC): The title of your first book is War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia. What are the stakes of doing an ethnography in a warzone? What is the book about?

Danny Hoffman (DH): The phrase the “war machines,” and the theoretical underpinnings of the book is from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, but what I have really been interested in is thinking about young men and their participation in the conflict on both sides of the Mano River, which forms the border between Sierra Leone and Liberia. I am thinking of these guys as essentially a labor force, which I think is an unusual way to think about African violence, at least in a lot of the popular literature, but also in anthropology and political science as well. I was interested in the movement of young men across the region, and the forces that allow for them to be assembled and deployed as laborers in a certain kind of violent economy. What I found during the time of this research was that for a lot of the fighters on both sides of the border, the work of going to war was one form of labor that they didn’t necessarily think of as being qualitatively distinct from any other form of labor, such as taking diamonds, tapping rubber, etc. The thing that interested me was: how are these guys moving around the region, what are the forces that allow them to be assembled and deployed, and how does that change for them over time, if it does? For one of the groups that I worked with, the Civil Defense Forces in Sierra Leone, they followed an interesting trajectory. They began as a village-based community defense body and then, over time, became essentially a mercenary pool of reserve labor to be deployed around the region. The book follows that trajectory. It looks at these factors within the history of the region and the history of the conflict, and then doing a closer ethnographic reading of the different facets of those processes in various regions over time. Continue reading

Understanding Anti-Trafficking Programs in Africa (Posts 3-4)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dear Readers, the below includes the third and fourth posts in a series we are featuring on trafficking, human smuggling, and forced labor. Along with earlier posts from Ruby P. Andrew, Benjamin N. Lawrance, and Richard L. Roberts, upcoming posts will include commentaries from Margaret Akullo, Kevin Bales, and Jody Sarich.

Part 3: “Slavery and Human Bondage in Africa”
Joel Quirk and Darshan Vigneswaran

In early 2010, journalists from all over the world descended upon South Africa to report on preparations for the FIFA World Cup. Since this was the first time that an African nation had hosted this major event, much of the media commentary focused on potential complications, such as concerns about public safety and the challenges of stadium construction. Continue reading

Understanding Anti-Trafficking Programs in Africa

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dear Readers, the below includes the introduction and the first two posts in a series we are featuring over the coming weeks on trafficking, human smuggling, and forced labor. Along with pieces from Ruby P. Andrew, Benjamin N. Lawrance, and Richard L. Roberts, upcoming posts will include commentaries from Margaret Akullo, Joel Quirk, Jody Sarich and Kevin Bales, and Oludayo Tade.

Introduction: “Trafficking, Smuggling and Child Adoption in Africa”
Benjamin N. Lawrance

During a recent research trip to Sierra Leone to attend a conference on Sierra Leonean history, participants, including myself, could not but help notice that the local new stations were captivated by new claims that the Help A Needy Child International Center, known as HANCI, had fraudulently removed children from their parents during the country’s recent civil war. Parents of over twenty children have now come forward to claim that their children were removed from their control under false pretenses in the context of conflict. They want their children back and they want to know where they are.

The Associated Press reported on May 8, 2012, that, “in a statement read by coordinator Abu Bakarr Kargbo, the parents of the 29 children also called on the police and government to look into whether more children were adopted without proper consent. Sierra Leone’s government on April 13 mandated police to reopen an investigation into the 1997 adoptions of children placed at the Help A Needy Child International center, known as HANCI, during the country’s brutal civil war.”

Since the complaints surfaced, HANCI contacted the Maine-based adoption agency, Maine Adoption Placement Service (MAPS), which sponsored the child placements. The agency reported that U.S. families had adopted 29 of 33 children. Both HANCI and MAPS continue to insist that “informed consent” was attained from all parents of adopted children. Continue reading