Ethiopians where are you? Rwandans are you here? Please tell your stories!
Oh yes! Thank you Jina Moore for inspiring me this morning with your wonderful article "The White Correspondent’s Burden:We Need to Tell the Africa Story Differently" by Jina Moore. You can read it here http://www.bostonreview.net/BR37.4/jina_moore_africa_journalism_colonial.... Well, I really can't tell who is responsible for the story twist about Africa and other countries. What I know is that even within Africa, we also sometimes have the wrong notions about some other African countries.
To tell you the truth, I grew up to know that the worse country in Africa and in the world was Ethiopia. And maybe Rwanda too. As kids, we [with other peers] will throw insults to our friends sometimes "you are looking pale and hungry like an Ethiopian..eish." Yes, we said this all the time. The picture i had about Ethiopia was a terrible one. I knew that there is no enough food for any Ethiopian. I believed that there isn't water to drink, cloths to wear, houses to shelter Ethiopians. I grew up to know that Ethiopia is the true picture of what the media paints about them.
Beliefs don't come from the blues. We observe and learn about things for us to believe in them. My beliefs were just what I learned/heard about this wonderful nation. The media played a wonderful role in making me feel this way. In my mind, I really did not think anything good can come out from Ethiopia. Rwanda, the same thoughts. I knew these nations were lost, with nothing positive coming out of them. Today, I feel ashamed of myself for harboring such senseless thoughts. I thank God for giving me the opportunity of seeing just a little, say less than 1% of Ethiopia.
When I left Cameroon in 2007 en route China, I transited in Ethiopia. I was embarrassed....I mean really embarrassed at what my eyes saw at the level of the Addis Ababa International Airport. It was a wonderful sight. It was so beautiful compared to what my country had. First of all the flight experience was good, the flight attendants perfect...they were also very beautiful and handsome too. I got to see that their elevators were working, the ACs were in order, the environment was clean, young Ethiopian girls and boys were moving strong and healthy up and down the airport. There were beautiful restaurants and bars scattered in the 'port, all selling sumptuous meals and varieties of drinks. I became speechless. I spent about 3 hours at the airport just looking at the whole thing. I started cursing and reversing the devilish and stupid thoughts i had about that wonderful nation.
The reality is, the Adis Ababa (Ethiopia) International Airport was a direct contrast to the Douala (Cameroon) International Airport. Douala Airport was just a little space, no working elevators and so on. Lets cut a long story short, Addis Ababa Airport made me to change my views about Ethiopia. I couldn't imagine that I will see what I saw when i transited there. I imagined that if they could have such a beautiful airport, then at least there are many other beautiful things about this country.
About Rwanda, I want to thank Daniel Makokera, a presenter with Africa Magic Television. In his regular TV programme "Eye of Africa," I was able to learn a lot about Rwanda. As a plus, I learned that Rwanda has the highest female representation in Parliament in the Whole of Africa (53% women). Wao! I saw a Rwanda which is not only strong in rebuilding its country, but also strong in women's empowerment and gender equality. I saw how Rwanda is making strong use of its youthful population; the youths are holding a significant percentage of decision making positions. Yes, this is truth about these nations that I thought the reverse was true.
I also thank the African Realilty Show "Big Brother Africa' which not only show us housemates who are eating and drinking all day, but also in a faint but realistic way tells us so much about the countries of the individual housemates, through the housemates themselves. I think about Yakob and Hanni, Ethiopian Big Brother Africa housemates, I learned a lot about Ethiopia from them.
I think we should learn to adopt a reading and researching culture at our individual levels. We should not judge by popular opinion. Even though there is a call for Africans to tell their stories, I believe good stories comes from good research and an open mind. We can all tell stories depending on how well we understand the subject, with an open mind. Imagine if I were called upon at the time to tell the story of Ethiopia as an African, it would have been a flop. Research is a good thing.
I thank the media for showing us all the sides of our story these days.