Reports from the African Diaspora

In the spirit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration of 2011 as the Year of the African Diaspora, we at the Brazil Travel Center seek to highlight other areas within the world, besides Brazil, where African cultural influences are witnessed.  Alvester Miller III, filmaker and UNC graduate,  is on the ground in West Africa surveying the situation there.  His posts are presented here:

I arrived in Accra, Ghana on Sunday February 13th for my 2nd visit to West Africa. I was scheduled to land on Saturday morning but the connecting flight from RDU to JFK New York never took off due to mechanical problems. The airline sent me to Atlanta that night, placed me in a hotel, and the next evening I caught a direct flight from Atlanta to Accra instead of from New York to Accra. The spontaneous happens no matter what our plans are at times. All is well though.

I’m still getting settled in. I’ll soon have a local mobile number and will post it once it is registered.

The reason for this trip – FESPACO – takes place on February 26th thru March 5th. FESPACO is one of the largest cultural events in West Africa, and one of the largest on the entire continent for that matter. It is a film, television, media, and creative arts industry event that takes place every two years. It’s the Oscars, Cannes, and Sundance of Africa rolled into a week of festivities, film screenings, seminars, and other events. It happens in the capital city of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso is the northern neighbor of Ghana.

If you have heard any media reports concerning the civil unrest in Ivory Coast or Cote D’Ivoire concerning the presidential elections, they were actually falsified so there is no concern. Ivory Coast borders Ghana and there is no civil unrest there. Talking with a group of locals connected to the University of Ghana at Legon, they informed me that “outside mainstream” media created the false stories. The “outside mainstream” media is influenced by European and American powers. Interesting.

—Alvester Miller III


More on the  2011 African film festival:



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4 responses to “Reports from the African Diaspora

  1. kdj

    How is your stay in West Africa so far?

  2. Alvester Miller III

    Some Comments on the Political Scene of West Africa, FESPACO 2011

    In an earlier blog I wrote concerning the civil unrest around the presidential elections of Ivory Coast or Cote d’Ivoire I reported that the media reports being released were being falsified. Well, obviously if you have been in tune with many of the latter reports about the situation, the conflict is now a real one. As best as I understand, this was a case of “wagging the dog”. Indeed, there was a real dispute concerning the rightful president of Ivory Coast, yet, during the initial reports of fighting in the city of Abidjan there was no actual fighting. The media reports of violence and civil unrest were released well before any type of conflict actually arose. Again, a first-hand report was given by at least one credible reporter from Ghana who was on the ground in Ivory Coast. One has to understand the history of Ivory Coast and the deep relationship the nation of France holds with it to fully know the situation. It appears the current conflict and instability that now exists in Ivory Coast has again been orchestrated by French officials and outside Western influences who seek to maintain a behind-the-scenes control of the people, resources, land, and wealth of the Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast is one of the most economically-influential countries of West Africa due to its natural resources, production of cocoa, and other raw material goods.

    In turn, Burkina Faso has now suffered a similar plight as Ivory Coast. The French government who all but controlled the political office of Blaise Compaore, Burkina Faso’s president since the 1987 assasination of then-president Thomas Sankara, has had its way with the resources and land of this country. This was even apparent by the manner in which FESPACO 2011 was conducted. In Burkina Faso’s case, President Compaore was overthrown and forced out of office in April of this year due to an uprising of soldiers that was largely supported by many civilians. Compaore has been viewed as a leader, unlike his predecessor Sankara, who joined forces with the French policies to the detriment of the people of Burkina Faso. Even though certain soldiers backed by the people have decided enough is enough in the case of Blaise Compaore, conflict, war, and civil unrest is nonetheless a difficult situation to live through.

    In the case of the Ivory Coast, France’s government backed one particular presidential candidate over another. France’s interference then caused conflict amongst the Ivory Coast citizens by blocking the way for sincere elections by the people. In the end the citizens of both Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso suffer and France continues to maintain a certain level of control even in the midst of these conflicts. This brings to mind a passage by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah the first president of the political state of Ghana:

    “We believe in the rights of all peoples to govern themselves. We affirm the rights of all colonial peoples to control their own destiny. All colonies must be free from foreign imperialist control, whether political or economic. The peoples of the colonies must have the right to elect their own government; a government without restrictions from a foreign power. We say to the peoples of the colonies that they must strive for these goals by all means at their disposal.”

    The latest reports I received from Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso was that there was still conflict in both countries. Ghana, being one of the most stable West African countries, has established refugee camps for citizens of both Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso who have decided to flee the situations. Ghana has a long-standing tradition of doing such a thing, as they also opened their door to many citizens of Liberia who have fled its political unrest that has been grounded mainly in the struggle between Liberians and outside Western powers over of its natural rubber resources.

  3. Alvester Miller III

    After Thoughts on FESPACO 2011

    During my 12-day stay in Ouagadougou I was fortunate to live with a host family which afforded me the opportunity to see the city and festival from a local’s perspective. I met Davy O. at opening ceremonies. He was a 26 year-old young man who was genuinely warm and spoke enough broken English for he and I to communicate effectively. We arranged for me to stay on his family’s compound in a vacant chateau or tiny apartment that they rented out to visitors and locals alike. His family’s compound consisted of the main house and 5 tiny apartments. Davy’s uncle, who had one wife and three children, was head of the household and ran the main day-to-day affairs.

    Davy personally took me under his wing during my visit and actually never left my side. He attended all of the FESPACO events and functions with me. He also introduced me to his personal circle of friends and to many of the people in his neighborhood of Paspanga. Several of Davy’s personal friends and a few of the people in his community also had a working knowledge of English. One of the most interesting people that I met through Davy was President Thomas Sankara’s nephew. The young Sankara orally recounted a great deal of his family’s history which centered around the life of his uncle who was president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987 until his assassination. At the end of his verbal recollections the young Sankara was in tears. It was a moving experience.

    Then there was Momar, another friend of Davy. Momar was from a muslim family and held a very open perspective on life. His father was a successful business man in the area and Momar’s goals were to travel abroad to study then return home, marry, and lead an upstanding life. Momar spoke excellent English and he and I became very close friends.

    As for Davy, he practiced his family’s traditional religion. He held a sincere love for his culture and was always dressed in traditional garb. In large cities such as Ouagadougou and Accra, although still on the African continent, it is very noticeable that many people have lost their connection to their traditional past. After FESPACO officially ended Davy led me on a visit to the town of Dori located in northeastern Burkina Faso and to an even smaller desert village that was nearby whose name slips my recollection. In Dori I was introduced to a community leader who was Rastafarian and spoke excellent English. The Rasta man shared with me the realities concerning Dori and its surrounding areas. He spoke about the hardships that many people suffered there due to a lack of basic education, food, clothing and shelter. He shared his views on how the governmental structure of Burkina Faso had all but turned its back on certain portions of Dori and the Sahel Region. It was eye-opening.

    These were experiences that I would have been unable to have had I stayed in hotel or motel during FESPACO 2011. Living amongst a local community of Ouagadougou and having had the friendship of Davy helped to create life-long memories and provided me a real-life education.

  4. Alvester Miller III

    Mr. Campaore eventually re-established his leadership position within the political state of Burkina Faso and is currently its president. According to the Burkina Faso’s constitution President Campaore is allowed to serve 5 terms. His 5th and final term is scheduled to end in 2015.

    Focus has recently shifted onto the situation that has developed within the borders of the political state of Mali (which also borders Burkina Faso). As most current political borders in West Africa are remnants of the horrors of colonization and only loosely based upon the actual empires that preceeded them, it can be easily seen how the constraints of borders such as the one in Mali often cause conflict amongst groups of people who might would otherwise work towards alternative solutions that help promote harmonious living.

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