Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
I had a flashback the other day when I was looking at photographs from Haiti of 15-year-old Fabianne Geismar, shot dead in the head after stealing wall hangings from a Port-au-Prince store, crushed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The image of Fabianne sprawled on the ground, blood trailing over the paintings she’d grabbed, took me back to my own childhood in Nairobi and the sight of a 7- or 8-year-old-boy – probably the same age as me at the time – who was caught stealing sweets from a street vendor and was beaten and burnt with rubber tyres. They called it mob justice.
To this day, I’ll never understand why that poor boy had to die such a violent and senseless death for something so trivial. I feel the same way about Fabianne – she survived one of the most catastrophic events in living memory, only to be shot in the head for petty theft. And for stealing wall hangings where there are no walls.
Fabianne’s childhood was brutally stolen from her and it got me thinking about how quickly so many young people in places like Africa, Asia and the Americas have to grow up, forced to fend for themselves through child labour or prostitution, denied an education and exposed to violence, disease and hunger at an age when they should be learning and playing.
Nowhere was Michael Jackson mourned more than in Africa. Young and old, people wept openly when news broke of his death, struck by disbelief and sadness. His funeral was followed across the continent anywhere that a television set could be found.
Jackson’s link with Africa strengthened when he visited the continent at the age of 14 as lead singer of the Jackson Five. Emerging from the plane in Senegal, he responded to a welcome of drummers and dancers by screaming: ”This is where I come from.”
But by the time of his death, it was unclear whether Jackson was so proud of his origins. Surgery had altered his appearance to such an extent that many felt he looked as white as he did African-American.
His comment that he was “neither Black nor White” drew controversy during a visit to Africa in the 90s. Although he was happy to be crowned chief of several African villages and to shake hands with hundreds of people, the trip was a public relations nightmare – with allegations that police had beaten the crowds who went to see him and complaints in the local media that the pop star had been seen holding his nose, as if to keep out a bad smell.
“The new President of the Republic will be a president for all, and he will work to unite the country around a programme of action that will see an improvement in the delivery of services,” Zuma said after the African National Congress won its sweeping victory.