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Friday, March 31, 2006

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Africa"s leading lady

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Africa"s leading ladyAfrica’s leading lady

When Charles Taylor, the ex-Liberian thug president, was arrested in Nigeria trying to escape the clutches of international law, he was in a car with 110-pound bags of embezzled money. Well, he was not traveling light.

Taylor had risen to power after seven years of civil war, had won an election with 75% of the vote and had casually reduced his country to a pauper state. He is accused of starting conflicts in four other African states and encouraging the chopping off of hands, feet, lips and noses in Sierra Leone so that the terrified population would not hinder the sale of stolen diamonds.

Taylor is one of those African butchers who could have modeled himself on King Leopold II, the 19th-century Belgian king. Leopold's colonial policies in the Congo resulted in countless slaughters and many mutilations in the interest of producing a profitable rubber crop.

Leopold became a pariah among European courts, but naturally black-faced variations in Africa have wielded iron-fisted power without compunction, worrying only about being overthrown by some ambitious fellow monster in the military. If given the time, these monsters have fled to another African country, or to the Arab states, or even to the French Riviera, where they have been able to cool out and impress everyone with their pilfered riches.

As the Taylor case has proven, that trend in African politics may be coming to a screeching halt. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first elected female president in all of Africa, had requested that Nigeria hand over Taylor to the authorities in Sierra Leone, where he would have to face charges of individual butchery, mutilation and crimes against humanity.

African women are coming to the fore, trying to right all of the wrongs put and held in place by a succession of brutal and corrupt African men. African justice has been as porous as Swiss cheese for more than 40 years and the African people have suffered enormously while black Americans in or out of elected office, in or out of the civil rights establishment, have either ignored the horrors wrought upon the people or have figured out ways to blame it all on others.

The women of Africa are more interested in dealing with the facts than maintaining a cosmetic front of innocence. In a number of places across Africa, we see women rooting out corruption and conceiving laws that will bring them closer to a standard of human equality.

Interestingly, Oprah Winfrey, who keeps turning up, has been a model. Winfrey has inspired African women to rebel against rape and kidnap, to defy misogynistic laws and to face up to the ravages of AIDS.

It is both sobering and exciting to realize that American women, having been taught much by the civil rights movement, can inspire African women by example, and that elected or appointed African officials can lead the way through the ingrained ignorance, poverty and disease that block human fulfillment. Such human force explains the mystery of African optimism.

Originally published on March 29, 2006

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