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Fatma Addar grew up in a Nubian family, connected to her ethnic minority's rich history through its tales of a bygone life on the Nile, though regaled less and less in their original language. She lives in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan and was schooled mostly in Arabic -- her only occasional brushes with her mother tongue are when she hears it spoken by the family elders.

"I usually get asked how can I be Nubian when I can't speak my own language," the 23-year-old told AFP. "It was always a problem for me."  The language, she says, is "unpractised by many in her generation", born decades after the mass eviction of Egypt's Nubians from their ancestral lands to make way for the construction of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile in the 1960s.

Built under late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, the colossal projectaimed to harness the Nile's annual floods and provide electricity for the burgeoning nation. But tens of thousands of Nubians were uprooted from their homes, according to rights and advocacy groups. Their villages were then inundated by Lake Nasser, the dam's massive reservoir, and today, only a handful of Nubian villages remain close to the Nile banks, attracting tourists. Since then, the ethnic minority has complained of systematic discrimination and cultural marginalisation -- and dreamt of returning to its lands and reviving its traditions and language.

- A need that faded -

Nubians affected by reservoir developments have been offered land rights -- but activists insist that is no replacement for a right to return (AFP Photo/Khaled DESOUKI)

Indigenous to modern day southern Egypt and northern Sudan, Nubians trace their roots to an ancient African civilisation that eventually ruled Egypt during the 25th dynasty, some 3,000 years ago. They built a life of lush verdant expanses, spacious domed mud-brick houses, clusters of palm trees, distinct customs tied to the Nile and spoke their very own language. But after their eviction, they were resettled in arid desert villages far from the Nile, forcing many to abandon agriculture and seek work in other cities across Egypt or abroad.

Traditions closely tied to life along the Nile have waned and younger generations have become less acquainted with their mother tongue that was never taught in local schools. Although there are no official figures for today's Nubian community, advocacy groups estimate its number to be three or four million, out of Egypt's 100-million population.  It is also unclear how many speak Nubian, a language that is not understood by non-Nubian Egyptians. "Our integration into Arabic-speaking communities caused the need to speak Nubian to fade over time," Addar said.

- 'Cultural marginalisation' -

Aswan Egypt February 7 2016 Group Stock Photo (Edit Now) 418277128

In ancient times, Nubian was written using several different alphabets including Coptic, Greek and Meroitic, according to academic studies. But the written language was gradually abandoned and for centuries it was just passed down orally from one generation to the next. Among Nubians, it has lived on in Egypt as two spoken dialects, Kenzi and Fadiji, and those who use one dialect do not necessarily understand the other.

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the language was used as a military code after late president Anwar al-Sadat approved the idea put forward by a Nubian soldier. But Nubians have sought to revive the written form of the language in recent decades. Efforts have culminated in deriving a 24-letter alphabet, whose closest resemblance is the Greek one, according to Hussein Kobbara, a Nubian studies researcher. "It is such a shame that this ancient language is not taught in schools or universities. It's clear cultural marginalisation that undermines our ethnic identity," the 63-year-old said.

- Tales from the past -

Fluent speakers and academics have recently started holding language classes for the Nubian diaspora living in cities like Cairo and Alexandria. Others have applied 21st-century ways to boost the language, using online videos and mobile applications. One Nubian entrepreneur, Hafsa Amberkab, launched the initiative "Koma Waidi" -- meaning tales from the past -- documenting stories told by elders and collecting dying expressions.

Helped by Addar, she has compiled since last year a dictionary of some 230 words in the Kenzi dialect, written using Arabic letters to facilitate pronunciation for readers. It has also been transcribed into English, Arabic and Spanish. "We derive the expressions, as we film old Nubians telling tales of their old villages and the customs they practised," Amberkab said.

Egypt Nubian Music - YouTube

One video shows an elderly woman carrying out an old ritual of baptising a child in the Nile waters seven days after he was born. The woman calls on God to guard the child's footsteps as she wipes his face with the Nile water and sprinkles sweets in the water.

- 'Like returning without our souls' -

In 2017, software developer Momen Taloosh created a mobile language learning application named "Nubi".  "I am not fluent, having lived in Alexandria all my life," said Taloosh. "But I belong to Nubia and I want the language to live on." The application integrates the 24-letter alphabet and includes popular Nubian proverbs and songs in both dialects translated into Arabic, drawing some 3,000 active users and 20,000 downloads.

The songs include those crooned at weddings as well as others reflecting a deep sense of longing for the Nubians' return to their lands.  "My son, as you leave for the old village, remember me when you get there... and do not forget to greet it for me," are the haunting lyrics to one song.

Nubians have long called for a return to their ancestral lands.

In 2017, dozens set out on a singing march but the demonstration was swiftly crushed and at least 24 people were arrested. Even before the eviction in the 1960s, smaller displacements had occurred in 1902, 1912 and again in 1933, to pave the way for the Aswan reservoir. Egypt's 2014 constitution recognised for the first time the Nubians' right to return to their lands, setting a time frame that ends in 2024.

But so far the government has not taken any measures to deliver on its promise. Instead, earlier this year, it announced compensation packages for thousands of Nubians affected by the 1960s dam construction. It included providing social housing in other cities across Egypt, cash, or the option to benefit from the state's future development plans.

Those Nubians affected by the earlier reservoir developments have been offered ownership rights of the land where they currently live, or temporary rights to use and benefit from those lands if located along the Nile.  Activists insist however that such offers are no replacement for a right to return. "This will always be the dream and we have to keep the language alive until we go back to our lands," said Amberkab. "Otherwise it will be like returning without our souls."



Thursday, 23 April 2020 17:44

Africa Must Stop Begging

Africa has become a continent of beggars. Africans have been suffering from social and economic devastation since the arrival of the white man on their soil and there seems to be no end in sight. At the turn of every catastrophe, they run to the white overlords to carry them through.

They have failed to realize that the colonialists did not work for their interest but selfish goals. This baby of unfortunate circumstance has refused to be weaned of its predicament. One starts to think of an individual that encounters life’s struggle. Every successful man at a critical stage of hardship pushes inside of himself to find the resourcefulness that will help him to overcome.

Why can’t Africa do the same? It is understandable that the global economy is more complex than the analogy above. The reality of the African life is that it has not been able to extricate itself from the entanglement of the social and economic weave knotted by the colonial masters to enslave it.

The people should know that it is never in the interest of the developed world to treat Africa as equal. They have successfully learned that they can exploit Africa at their whim. They are confident of their sophistication to tap the raw resources of Africa to boost their standard of living at their home countries.

They see no imperative to suffer themselves by giving Africa a seat at the conference table to discuss issues of mutual benefits at the same level to all parties.

Failed African Leaders Gather For African Union Summit In ...African Leaders

The apparent agenda of the outside world is to take advantage of the natural resources that Africa offers. They see Africa as a weak continent. Maybe they are justified. Africa is yet to give them a strong reason that she matters, especially when she has not shown the tenacity to fight her own battles being it social, economic or otherwise as a superior opponent.

Coronavirus is ravaging the global community, fortunately, Africa is getting a slow share of the impact. In Nigeria, the controversy is about accepting coronavirus vaccine from China.

Instead of the people concerning themselves about the efficacy of the vaccine, they are fighting against it being used to poison the population. Meanwhile, China is flooding the whole country with their goods.

What stops them from putting the poison in one of them? Again, where is the expectation of the indigenous scientists to test the medical components of the vaccine before it is administered to the general public?

Africa must show respect for herself. If she has to suffer, let her put herself through the drill of using indigenous resourcefulness to regain her sustainability. Her people must reassert their identity that was lost through colonization. No one is advocating for isolationism but through mutual collaboration with the outside world in the field of politics, economics, science and technology to gain self-reliance that will distinguish her as an equal participant in global affairs.

Pius Okaneme's profile photo, Image may contain: 1 personPius Okaneme, a Poet and Writer hails from   Umuoji, Anambra State, Nigeria.

US chain McDonald's has apologised after a sign telling black people they were banned from entering a branch in southern China prompted outrage online, following reports of discriminatory treatment towards Africans in the city. Tensions have flared between police and Africans in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou after local officials announced a cluster of COVID-19 cases in a neighbourhood with a large migrant population.

As the row escalated, posts widely shared online showed a sign at fast food chain McDonald's saying black people were not allowed to enter the restaurant. The chain apologised and a spokesman for McDonald's told AFP that the notice was "not representative of our inclusive values". In an emailed statement, Mcdonald's said it removed the sign and temporarily closed the Guangzhou restaurant "immediately upon learning of an unauthorized communication to our guests."

McDonald's apologises after China store bans black people | Free ...

Several Africans have told AFP they had been forcibly evicted by police from their accommodation, refused service at shops and restaurants, and were subject to mass testing and arbitrary quarantines. The row has also prompted a diplomatic flurry, with ambassadors and envoys from more than 20 African countries meeting assistant foreign minister Chen Xiaodong on Monday.

Chen promised at the meeting to "lift the health management (measures) on African people, except the confirmed patients", according to a foreign ministry statement. He said the Guangdong government is "constantly taking measures to improve" and act "according to the principle of non-discrimination".

The statement said Chen asked the envoys to "look at the big picture of China-Africa friendship." Diplomatic sources told AFP a number of African countries had written a joint letter to the foreign ministry, which condemned the "discrimination and stigmatisation of Africans" in China, but had not yet sent it.

Guangzhou's US consulate issued an alert on Saturday advising African-Americans to avoid travel to the city due to the targeted crackdown, and the US accused Chinese authorities of "xenophobia" toward Africans. Beijing has also accused the US of using the row for political purposes to "drive a wedge" between China and Africa.

A total of 111 African nationals in Guangzhou have tested positive for COVID-19, including 19 imported cases, said the city's executive vice mayor on Monday, according to Xinhua. He said that 4,553 Africans had undergone nucleic acid testing in Guangzhou since April 4. But city officials said on Sunday that 4,553 African nationals are currently living in Guangzhou -- suggesting every African registered in the city has been tested.

Third Force Forum (3FF)-The Coalition of Former Presidential Candidates and Aspirants in Nigeria -  have issued a below Press Release that asked  Southerners in Muhammadu Buhari’s Cabinet to Resign.

Adversity Introduces a Nation to Itself

It is with profound sadness that we the undersigned, former Presidential Candidates and Aspirants, under the auspices of the “Third Force Forum”, arose from an emergency meeting, in the week ending April 10, 2020, to address the below matters to all Nigerians:

Pursuant to the federal government’s lopsided distribution of COVID-19 palliative “Cash Transfers” across Nigeria, through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, with a distribution formula of 83% to Northern Nigeria (NE, NW, NC), and 17% to Southern Nigeria (SW, SE, SS), as reported by the “International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)”, we hereby ask that cabinet members from the Southern states, serving in the current Cabinet resign honorably, or immediately disassociate themselves from the incumbent government; or on the contrary clearly admit complicity, with a policy that betrays massive inequity to Southern Nigeria.

We make this statement not because we are against our ordinary Northern brothers and sisters.  We are aware that the North has in the past also produced fair-minded patriots, including General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; rather, we make this statement with a sober, but bold assessment of the inclinations of this current Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN).

Equal Productivity Should Provide for Equal Benefits

It is note-worthy that today, over 80% of both resource and tax-based revenues in Nigeria, are generated from the South, while over 80% of all sensitive political appointments are held by people from the Northwest & Northeast, thereby depriving the entire South the necessary input into critical policy decisions.

This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial arms of government, as well as the entire security apparatus, from the military, to customs, to maritime, and to the management of the State oil company (NNPC), have all been engineered into one corner, and are controlled by only persons from the North, to the detriment of a broad, diverse and inclusive policy framework.

The recent COVID-19 palliative formula response is proof-positive, and it essentially shows that the government has brazenly portrayed, that even under this adversity, that one half of Nigeria essentially works for, or is totally subjugated to the other half of Nigeria, even in the midst of a severe public health adversity.

He Who Holds a Man Down Stays Down 

Many aspiring leaders of Nigeria, including many in this forum of recent presidential hopefuls, have given the current administration a fair-shake, and a benefit of the doubt, since 2015.  Some even supported President Buhari in his initial quest for the presidency.  However, what we will not do is to stay silent in the midst of profound and obvious governmental discrimination.

This current government under President Buhari cannot hold one region down, so that another region may arise, because “he who holds a man down stays down”. Therefore, the net effect of policies like these is that all of us will stay down, because one cannot rob Peter to pay Paul.

Show Us That an Elected President is In Charge
We will not excuse this matter on the grounds that perhaps, President Buhari is not aware of the formula for the distribution of the COVID-19 Cash Transfer scheme.  For some time now, Nigerians have shared innuendoes that the kitchen cabinet of Aso Rock comprises of 3, or 4, or 5 “Unelected Officials”; and these people decide what happens in the entire country.

Therefore, with all due respects to the current government, let the record reflect that the 3, or, 4, or 5 persons that Nigerians believe make and execute policy, were not elected by the Nigerian people.  President Muhammadu Buhari is the elected official that we hold accountable, and the buck stops with the President.
Again, we do not hold grudges against our brothers and sisters that reside in the northern part of this Republic, however, as the great Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King once opined, “it is not where people stand in moments of comfort that matter, rather it is where people stand in times of controversy and strife”.

Therefore, as future leaders of Nigeria, we have chosen to stand with all the people of Nigeria, including the North and the South, to ask that the “Cash Transfer” palliative for COVID-19, a Public Health adversity, be properly distributed to affected states across the entire country, including in the current epicenter of Lagos, and not just as a freebie across Northern Nigeria.  On the contrary, let the cabinet members from the South resign immediately, to show that they are not complicit in this misguided matter.

Transferring all the resources accruing from one region of the country, to another region, will not make the transferee wealthy; rather, it will only make the transferee more dependent.
In conclusion, we hereby call for Southern members of the cabinet to resign, as a protest to the prevailing inequity and injustice.
We wash our hands off any calamity that may befall Nigeria, due to a callous disregard for equity and injustice, in the distribution of the common-wealth of this country, from one region to another region.  The government should also seize this opportunity to address another looming injustice, in the form of the exclusion of Southeastern Nigeria from the proposed World Bank loan, which is being negotiated for parliamentary approval in Nigeria at this time.

Final Notable Points:

There is poverty in every corner of Nigeria, from Sokoto to Anambra; from Akwa Ibom to Bornu; from Lagos to Kano; and from Rivers to Bauchi.  Any pretension that poverty does not exist all across Nigeria is to pander to mischief.  The COVID-19 “Cash Transfer” must be distributed equitably to other regions.

Productivity breeds wealth, it is the responsibility of the 19 Northern Governors to pursue models of society empowerment, whether from Southern Nigeria or elsewhere.  This is not the time to transfer the productive resource of one region to another.  Effecting majority of this cash transfer to Northern Nigeria alone, at the expense of other states, will breed animosity that will be extremely difficult to overcome in the future. The private donors who contributed to the FG COVID-19 Fund did not mean for these funds to be distributed to the North alone, if they did, they would have stated it clearly during their donation.

Hon. Okey Samuel Mbonu
Dr. O. Favour Ayodele
Hon. Clement Jimbo
Hon. Evelyn Okere
On behalf of the Third Force Forum       Contact: Charles Adeyinka Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it







Published in Emeka Chiakwelu

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