From the Editor’s Keyboard

Stop lying about Africa

By  | 2 October 2011 at 05:15 | 894 views

A couple of days ago, at one of the numerous UN sessions, there was a discussion on Sierra Leone and the presentations by Sierra Leone’s Attorney General, Franklyn Kargbo, and some representatives of non-governmental organizations working in Sierra Leone were quite good. I was particularly impressed by the contribution of the World Vision lady. But the contribution of a young man who said albino kids are being killed in Sierra Leone for ritual purposes shocked me with its level of ignorance and stupidity. (Click on the following link for video: http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/09/consideration-of-sierra-leone-upr-reports-21st-plenary-meeting.html

Whoever that presenter is, I think he is so badly informed about albinos in Sierra Leone that he deserves pity rather than anger. I noted, with pride, that our Attorney General replied in a mature manner by firmly rejecting that abject bit of nonsense from somebody considered important enough to speak at the UN.

Here are the facts: The physical maiming and killing of albinos for ritual or so-called black magic purposes is never a West African thing; we hear about it mostly in East African countries like Tanzania and Burundi and to some extent Zimbabwe. And there are steps being taken in those countries to stop this obnoxious and uncivilized practice.

In West African countries including Sierra Leone, albinos frequently complain of discrimination, rejection and harassment ( persisitent taunting and mocking). In West Africa, albino children in the school yard are often bullied and harassed in many ways by other children. Albino adults are often treated as second class citizens too. And albinos in West Africa are also fighting valiantly for their rights these days. In Sierra Leone they have formed their own association to push their aims and objectives. Yes, albinos in Africa need help but whoever is trying to help them should always stick tyo the facts on the ground; flying into fantasy land to gain favours and recognition will only be counter-productive.

I have observed that many civil society representatives (both African and non-African) tend to vilify and paint a negative image of the countries in which they operate whenever they have a chance to speak at international fora or to local and international media. It looks like the more they paint gory and horrible pictures of poor and destitute countries the more likely they would get funding from the UN and other agencies. But it should not be like that; truth matters, even in a 21st century morally troubled world. What a shame.

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