#Imagine Zimbabwe, through the lens of Andrea

Andrea
Her days at Mt. Pleasant Nursery school in a newly independent and de-segregated Zimbabwe – don’t we all look happy for the promise of this new country? I am in the back row on the right.

My name is Andrea and I am a graduate student at the University of Bradford pursuing a Master’s degree in African Peace and Conflict Studies.

I read Aleksandra’s essay on imagining peace in Poland and I wish that I, too, had a glass of wine while writing this one! Instead, I have a hot cup of English Breakfast tea. Generations of my family were born and raised in southern Africa where daily life was imbued with many lingering English colonial traditions – drinking extravagant amounts of tea being one of them. Being a Zimbabwean with naturalized US citizenship, I sometimes jokingly tell people that I am African American. As I bear an obviously white complexion, black Americans especially seem to enjoy this joke, at least they let me believe that they do. Once, a fellow caucasian pondered a reply that would convey a touch of confusion but be delicate enough not to offend: “oh, I thought you looked more Italian,” he said. Occasionally, this conversation serves as a revelation that white people live in Africa. Perhaps the thought is that they all just packed up and left as the dominoes of independence tumbled over the continent, or that they had never been there at all. In fact, of the 275,000 or so white Rhodesians living in the country just before Zimbabwean independence in 1980, about half decided to try life elsewhere rather than take their chances in the new majority-ruled nation. This “Rhodie” exodus gave rise to many bumper stickers bearing the phrase “Rhodesians never die, they just inhabit the world.” My parents and all of my relatives stayed, at least for a short time, trading the moniker “Rhodie” for “Zimbo.”

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I was born just after Zimbabwean independence in a capital city that still bore the name Salisbury and grew up believing that Rhodesia had been a paradise, as that is the literal refrain I heard from my parents over subsequent years. This understanding was reinforced through the “when we” tales at the annual Rhodesians World Wide reunions we attended after immigrating to the United States (see the demographically specific “White People in Zimbabwe” Wikipedia page for elaboration on the “whenwes”). It was only during a summer break in university while reading Nelson Mandela’s book “A Long Walk To Freedom” that I had the revelation that Rhodesia was a paradise for the white people. Zimbabwe, though thirty four years independent, is still one of the youngest countries on the continent and is working through some growing pains. Unfortunately, in fits and spurts these adolescent tantrums have manifested themselves in violence, land seizures, displaced people, economic implosion, and a general uncertainty for the future.

I think that anyone who has visited or lived in Zimbabwe would agree that it has all the makings of a paradise. The land is stunning and compelling, stirring even the most non-sentimental heart. I think of Victoria Falls (its local name, Mosi oa Tunya, is much more evocative, meaning “the smoke that thunders”), the mist over the mountains of Nyanga, the massive ancient stone towers of Great Zimbabwe, the petrified trees rising from Lake Kariba, and the people who inhabit this incredible land. My hope for Zimbabwe is that it is realized as a paradise for all who live there, including the animals, which have also suffered the consequences of political and economic turmoil. My hope is that the past is not forgotten but that people focus more on the possibilities of the future, as they did at independence. An article written in 1975 in National Geographic magazine closes with the sentence, “may black hand clasp white in friendship and give Rhodesia peace to match the beauty of the land.” Substitute Zimbabwe for Rhodesia, and the sentiment still carries today.

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Andrea and I are course mates in African Politics. I had wanted her to write about the US but she chose Zimbabwe, the country of her birth. Her decision definitely spoke a lot to me. In recent times Africa as a continent has been labelled so many names like the dark continent and all. Many Africans are not so proud to be associated with her; I wrote a post on The Americanah but Andrea went against the crowd and popular opinion.

N/B I’m sorry for the delays in the post. This series may just be coming to an end soon. I’m still expecting a few more entries. But i’m sure you’ve been enjoying each post.

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#Imagine Philippines, through the lens of Leo

Leo

‘Peace is possible amidst diversity’

My name is Leo Buccahan, an MA student in Peace, Conflict and Development. I was raised in a remote village in Luzon, one of the three major islands in the Philippines. With 7,107 islands that are inhabited by various groups speaking more than 170 languages, my country is truly amongst the world’s most diverse societies.

The Philippines is situated atop the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire which makes it vulnerable to numerous earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and storms all year round. Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which is considered the strongest typhoon ever in the world, hit the country on 8 November 2013 and affected more than 16 million people, particularly those living in Tacloban and nearby islands.

Despite the many challenges posed by diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and exacerbated by the geographical landscape, Filipinos continue to strive for a safe and peaceful nation where caring for one another is the norm rather than an exception. Like in many developing countries, it remains that millions are still living in dire poverty even with all the efforts of the government and other sectors to drive away this ugly worm that refuses to leave many of our homes. Other problems that are not endemic to our nation also persist but I think that poverty is the most pervasive.

Having this in mind, my dream is for Filipinos to achieve a better quality of life through education that is geared not only towards intellectual pursuit but more importantly emotional stability with strong conviction in promoting and maintaining peace in every household. Strong family ties and hospitality are characteristics of this most basic Filipino institution, but many families succumb to problems associated with not having enough food on the table. They say that love flies out the window when poverty walks through the door. As Nelson Mandela said, education is indeed the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. Easier said than done of course and pessimists might say this is wishful thinking, but it is not a bleak future out there as hope abounds everywhere especially from the youth who our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, called the hope of our motherland. I strongly believe that as we work closely together and help free our countrymen from the bondage of poverty, the positive impact will flow to undermine other forms of structural violence and will eventually alleviate the lives of thousands of families.

In many ways, my dream for a progressive Philippines is echoed by John Lennon in his song Imagine. I envisage that a prosperous Philippines will ‘no [longer] need for greed or hunger’ as I ‘imagine all the people, living life in peace’ and harmony with one another. In the last decade, the Philippines has steadily climbed, albeit slowly, the ladder of prosperity. I wish that Mother Nature will root out corruption and its tentacles in its own peculiar way. It is not a utopian life that I dream for my country, but a life where every child is given the opportunity to see it through no matter what, where every family has enough food on the table, and where everyone can enjoy an overall wellbeing. Only then can I sing that we are a ‘brotherhood of [men and women]…sharing all the world’ peacefully in unity and diversity.

I am now in the Philippines as I finish writing this essay that I have started in Bradford. In all my life, I have missed spending the holidays back home only twice. Cliché as it may sound there is indeed no place like home. As John Denver says,

Hey it’s good to be back home again

Sometimes this old farm

Feels like a long lost friend

Yes, and hey it’s good

To be back home again.

In the middle of longing for home, I would like to imagine that peace is possible and family will always be a wonderful treasure. Finally, I would like to quote a few lines in the flagship song of the Ship for SouthEast Asian Youth Program which I joined as a youth ambassador in 1997 and as a facilitator 15 years later. Nippon Maru:“…If you carry us over and out to the world, there’s a chance we can speak to them all. There’s a chance we can tell them the world’s but a home and all people’s a family…

May these lines also inspire all Peace students in our beloved University of Bradford. Happy Holidays Everyone!

The journey of 2013 – Bayo’s Story

 I met Bayo in N.Y.S.C camp and we became friends even though he was a handful; it didn’t end there we found ourselves as colleagues in our Place of Primary Assignment. I’m pretty excited at his transformation, we used to argue a lot on religion, the church and all but today it’s all changed.

Intro: Samuel Adebayo Ajayi is an Abuja based Legal Practitioner, a believer, a writer who is not ready to write yet. He has great hope for this country-Nigeria. He adores Nelson Mandela so much. His favourite quote is “Do not live in the fear of what you have lost, but live in the joy of what you have found”. He hopes to affect lots of lives positively before he dies at 70.

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I have always been that person that takes life as it comes and this belief over time has defined who I am, my values and the way I view life generally. Some say am a free thinker, and for most times I battled not to prove them right.

 At the beginning of every New Year, I hear people set for themselves goals, and those who are still caught up in the euphoria of the celebrations term it “new year resolution”. I don’t set such goals or “new new resolutions”. I don’t envy them neither am I angry at them, as I know that the dog will go back to its vomits.

 2013 has been an eventful year for me. No!!! I didn’t get married. That picture on my Facebook page was my elder brother’s bride. I was just a bloody best man. I didn’t acquire all those things you have in mind. Sorry to disappoint you. I made new friends, improved more in my career and above all I ENCOUNTERED GOD AGAIN!!! Yes I went back to God.

 In this undulating ocean of human existence, especially the Hell Gate called Nigeria, to wake up and find yourself alive is a testimony. In fact everything is a testimony. My testimony is that I live, despite all odds, despite the ups and downs. A lot went wrong. I became used to the sight of blood, to the sight of dead bodies. My country was turned upside down, but we are still standing.

 2013 is indeed a trying year though, trying in the sense that I was heart broken, whent from engaged to single,met with disappointments from persons closest to me,I abandonded my masters programme( wasn’t just feeling it), got broke financially that I broke down and cried,I forgot my nephew’s 1st birthday. I  lost my mentor, role model and hero – NELSON MANDELA. His death has now given me the courage to set goals. I have decided not to get rich like Dangote, Otedola or Adenuga. I have decided that my wealth should be measured by the number of lives I touched, that at the end of it all, when am gone, the world will stand still in remembrance of me.

 I am enjoying Shiloh, enjoying the exceeding grace. I have lots of expectations from God to help shape my goals for the years to come. I am drawing up my “new year resolutions” currently, and don’t worry I will not go back to my vomits. *whistles away, hands in pocket*

Samuel Adebayo Ajayi.