The Case for Female Political Empowerment, and Leadership in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

North and south Kivu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 2017

At 4 am in a dismal and dirty pit, seven thousand miles away from the golden lights, the glitz, the glitter, and the black tarred highways of the developed world a ten year old boy is digging dark red earth out of an open pit mine, a massive sore on the once green landscape of this beautiful country. He is hungry, thirsty, tired and terrified yet he keeps on digging out the valuable red earth and shovels it into the waiting wheelbarrows of the other adolescent miners waiting nearby. He knows that if he were to stop working, despite his bone deep exhaustion, the consequences for not only himself but his entire family would be dire. The hard eyes of the foreign soldiers guarding them, full of the promise of pain and degradation, these men who look like him and speak the same language as him and his fellow workers seem to possess a hatred of them which borders on insanity. So he keeps on digging out the valuable red earth, he keeps on digging not for the meager scraps of food that they are provided to keep them energized enough to continue working, nor out of any sense of work ethic or pride that this work inspires. No, he keeps on digging in the hope that as long as the hard eyes of these savage soldiers from a neighboring land are upon him and his fellow workers there is a chance that they will not stray to the village where their mothers, aunts and sisters are held hostage to their good behavior. But these foreign soldiers are like animals and despite all his hard work and all his best efforts he knows that tonight when he returns to his village he will once again have to comfort some female member of his family, who has become another victim of rape perpetrated by these soldiers and perhaps he will have to wipe the tears of someone else’s mother as she laments the abduction of her young son to swell the ranks of these barbaric conquerors. And as he shovels the valuable red earth into the wheelbarrow he cannot help but wonder what his people did to merit such torment? When his shift ends several hours after sunset and he is being escorted home through the forest by the foreign soldiers who salute the blue helmeted U.N. soldiers lounging in their white armored vehicles, he wonders where were the U.N. soldiers and the stalwart nations of the developed world when his nine year old sister was raped last week?

It seems incredulous that in this globally interconnected world, where information is free and easily accessible thanks to the Internet that such atrocities as this, so reminiscent of the rubber slavery of the colonial era still continue to occur every day in a nation that by virtue of its mineral unlimited mineral wealth should be one of the richest on this planet. Yet the developed nations who normally act as global law enforcers have chosen to turn a blind eye to the suffering of an entire nation the size of Western Europe. And these atrocities are not secret; they have been well-documented and exposed and are not hidden by a well-oiled and efficient state machinery such as the Nazi regime, which managed for almost two decades to hide their own hideous atrocities. The world at large is well aware of what is going in the DRC but simply chooses to do nothing about it. U.N. Peacekeepers have been deployed here in order to protect the population from the deprivations of these foreign soldiers yet at the same time they are given conflicting orders which instruct them to under no circumstances engage these soldiers in battle, despite their continued acts of violence against the population. The global hunger for the minerals of DRC and the technological growth that they feed continues unabated and as long as the raw materials for progress keep flowing, it seems that the technocrats of the developed world are willing to ignore the fact that since 1998 over five million civilians have died, most of them women and children, in a conflict that rages on in the name of unparalleled greed and moral turpitude. What difference does it make to them that every day in North and South Kivu over forty women are raped?

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The history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of darkness, despair, brutality, hope and determination. From its inception as a the personal territory of King Leopold of Belgium, a shocking real estate deal brokered by the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley in which the entire contents of this territory became the personal property of the King of the Belgians, including the inhabitants. The king quickly demonstrated his belief in his divine right of ownership over the “savages” of this nation by instituting the now infamous rubber slavery policies, which entire villages were held hostage while their able bodied family members were forced to go into the forest and tap the milky sap from the wild rubber vines growing there. If they did not meet the quota assigned to their village, then villagers would be scourged, burned and the hands and feet of young children were cut off in an effort to “inspire” the villages to greater efforts. But just as now, technology drove these policies as the global need for rubber increased exponentially with the burgeoning automobile industry and it was not until many decades later that enough of an outcry was raised against Leopold’s policies for other developed nations to finally put a stop to it. So where are those outraged voices now in 2017?

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Foreign rule

At present, the government of the DRC is at best a travesty, a bait and switch operation designed to keep the population ignorant of the fact that this huge nation is in reality a proxy for the Rwandan leadership and all decisions regarding its government are being decided in Kigali and not in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC and the seat of Congolese government. The Rwandan leadership in Kigali has implemented a deliberate policy to foment continued conflict in the region in order to bleed the natural resources of the DRC and funnel them toward the development of a Greater Rwandan Nation. The construction boom and robust economy of the tiny neighboring nation are fuel by the rape of the DRC and when one considers the fact Rwanda has no Coltan deposits, how is it that all Congolese Coltan must be transported to Kigali to be certified, the only way that this valuable mineral of which 80% of the world’s deposits reside in the DRC, a mineral which is needed for everything from transistors, chips, cell phones and missile system, can actually be sold? When one looks at the well-financed black-uniformed soldiers of the presidential guard (GSSP), the majority of which are imported Rwanda soldiers, and how they are given broad police and military powers beyond their mandate to protect the president, the fact that they have a carte blanche to do as they please while the Congolese national army remains ill-trained, ill-equipped, and seldom paid. It is a recipe for disaster that the leadership in Kigali and their allies are well aware of.

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Congolese women

When one strolls through the market places of the DRC or if one pays attention to the ratio between the sexes with regards to those trading in the market places which are the lifeblood of the DRC, it becomes evident that the majority of the people who are selling in the marketplace are actually women. They are not selling things for their husbands, or simply acting as shopkeepers for the men who bring in the products for sale, instead it is the women themselves who completely dominate the economics of everyday Congolese life through their strength, intelligence, skill, business acumen, and determination. Congolese families are fed, educated and nurtured through their remarkable work and despite the deplorable conditions that many families find themselves in, somehow Congolese women manage to keep them afloat. It is they who make sure the over-worked and under-paid soldiers of the national army are fed and it is they who pay for the sometimes outrageous school fees for their children and purchase medication for family members when they fall ill. Without the bedrock of their efforts the DRC would have long imploded. So why is it so difficult for the men in Congolese leadership to see the strength of Congolese women and harness it on the national level for the good of the entire nation? Traditionally speaking Congolese society is not paternalistic; that is a Western import a consequence of colonialization, and traditionally speaking Congolese women have been equally responsible as queens and chiefs for guiding and leading the many tribes which make up this nation. Such colonial ideas have no place in Africa and they have damaged the whole continent in ways that will be very difficult to overcome. In Yoruba cosmology the Goddess Nana Buukun introduces the concept of Thought into Ashe, the formless matter that existed before creation and it is this introduction which transforms Ashe into Oludumare, the Creator and One God. Judging from the mythology of the Yoruba people, clearly the feminine has as much potency as the male in African traditional culture.

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There are of course no ready solutions for a problem that has become so ingrained through a century of brutal conquest by colonial powers and their cultural indoctrination of the African continent, but this does not mean there is no hope. There is a generation of Congolese who are crying for change and are reexamining their cultural roots in an effort to find a solution that is in harmony with their traditional culture, without sacrificing the benefits of technological advancement and integrating some of the more positive ideas of the developed world, including the idea that female politicians can and indeed have proven effective elsewhere in Africa and that they can and do make a positive and dramatic change. The first female president of an African nation, President Helen Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia has demonstrated this with great success. She inherited a war-torn nation in its death throes, racked by ethnic divisions, rape, child abductions and corruption all driven much like the DRC by a desire to control its mineral wealth and in her decade of power she has transformed it into a stable, peaceful, nation with a booming economy, a beacon of hope for all of Africa and a chastisement for those of the old guard who say women cannot lead in Africa. Similarly in Malawi President Joyce Banda proved her leadership skills with great success and in the DRC despite what the leadership in Kinshasa would have the world believe, there is a dearth of talented women politicians in the DRC who not only have the talent, the skill and the drive to lead but have already paid their political dues. Female leaders such as Justine Mpoyo Kasavubu, the daughter of the first Congolese president who has negotiated the rough political seas of the DRC for many years, Catherine Nzuzi wa Mbombo, whose political party MPR posted excellent results at the last presidential elections, the politically savvy Madame Landu, and finally the formidable and indomitable Iyombe Botumbe Akerele, president of the Congres Lokole party which was created in 1992 to oppose Mobutu Seseseko in the 1996 elections before the civil war began and who is the granddaughter of the king of the Basengle people from the central of the Congo. And though none of these women hold political office in the DRC at present, they continue to use their considerable skills to aid the people of the nation. Justine Mpoyo Kasavubu provides free clothing for the many orphans and destitute caused by the war, while Catherine Nzuzi wa Mbombo provides free food for families which would otherwise starve. Madame Landu provides a free legal services for those who could not otherwise afford it and Iyombe Botumbe Akerele, by implementing the old adage “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” has used her own personal wealth to finance not only microloans to small local businesses all over the DRC but by also building industries that create sustainable employment using indigenous foods and materials, such as corn and cassava which are ground in locally run mills, fish farming and transportation. None of these women need to take the grave risks they undertake by challenging the status quo; they could live comfortable lives both overseas and in the DRC because of the considerable personal fortunes that they have amassed using their extraordinary business skills and intelligence, but instead have chosen to take those talents and place them at the service of their fellow Congolese in order to do their part in fulfilling a grand vision of what the DRC should be and not what it has unfortunately become. If both Houses of the Congolese Congress were even marginally representative of the power and potential of Congolese women then the DRC would now be an economically and fiscally sound nation and a regional powerhouse.


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The cycle of kleptocracy, pillage and marginalization in the DRC will continue as long as the population continues to allow themselves to be ruled by tin can dictators and their greedy cabinets of old men who do not want the status quo to change, even if it means progress for all Congolese people. If the DRC is to move forward and take its rightful place as one of Africa’s leading nations, the women of the DRC must become empowered and much more politically involved if this nation will ever be able to pull itself out of this fifty year vortex of chaos. In African families, traditionally men women have distinct roles to play but that by no means is indicative of a sexist division of labor. Instead, it involves a deep commitment and understanding of the fact that each sex has a different approach to life’s many challenges and that sometimes the methods of one parent are more effective than the other with respect to these different challenges. It is the duty of the parents to acknowledge this and make the necessary adjustments so that there exists a peace and harmony within the household as all these challenges are met and overcome using the perspective of both parents. In the case of the DRC, which throughout its turbulent history has been ruled by a succession of paternalistic leaders calling themselves “the Fathers of the Nation,” this delicate balance has come apart with the disastrous effects that we continue to see every day there. It is time us males put aside our egos and the colonial mantle of paternalistic views and once again turn to our other parent for a solution, for despite what these foolish leaders would have the world believe it is the women of the DRC who for all these years have managed to keep the nation solvent.


The Black Matriarchy Today

Image result for strong black womanFor the Black woman, the reality is that she has been the subject of mass exploitation, economically, socially and even in the familial sense because she is both female and Black.  The shortage of Black men caused by neo-colonialization in America, the railroading of said males into prisons and the brutal reality of a quick death in the ghettos which sprawl in any area that Blacks have been unwillingly pushed into, has caused, in comparison to other races, Black women to generally act as the heads of a disproportionately large number of households, often acting as not only the primary caregivers to all members, but more than often the sole providers as well.

Yet one would think that because of this, these women would exercise a greater influence on the affairs and indeed the very status of Blacks in America, but sadly that is not the case, because of the very fact that they are Black and female, this means that in American society they are consistently relegated to the bottom of the social heap.

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Knowing this, the plight of Black women in America demonstrates the desperate need for a strong male influence in the Black community. Black men have become disposable, seen as not needed, and less than competent when it comes to relationships and proper parenting, which seems to have led to the Black women of the U.S. feeling that they must be a man and a woman; a mother and a father.

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To look back into matriarchal societies in African culture would make one see that a Black matriarchy was good for the race. However, seeing how distorted Black history is in the minds of Black America, it’s hard to see how Black American women have held on to the tradition of being the matriarchal archetype. In fact, it’s fair to say that Black American women created the mammy archetype, in which it was no longer about supporting their household emotionally, physically or spiritually, but rather taking all those qualities outside of their household…neglecting their own children and home in order to make living to financially support their family.

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All the dysfunction in the Black community in the U.S. starts from within the Black community unfortunately, a topic which very few among Blacks seem to want to discuss, and the root is the home life of African-Americans.  The people raising Black people should be accountable for what goes on with their children and their community. If Black matriarchy is what keeps Black America in dire straits generationally, then their ways of parenting and teaching should be analyzed more closely and the appropriate changes made.

In 1957, Frazier wrote The Black Bourgeoisie in which he criticized the Black middle class’ matriarchal structure. Now, according to Frazier, the middle class is also to blame for Black society’s matriarchal structure – an interesting shift in belief. According to Frazier in ’57, the Black matriarchy could even exist in households where fathers are present. Frazier characterized these Black middle-class women as masculine, irresponsible and seemingly evil. They emasculate their husbands, leaving them unable to perform sexually, spend their money on extravagant luxuries, leaving their children without essentials, and indulge in poker and drinking. In other words, he was saying, the Black middle-class woman is the real problem in Black society: she “ruins” her husband, her children, and the family’s economic status.  Luckily, that idiot’s ideas are just not accurate.

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It may seem irrelevant to blog about the ideology of the mainstream who believe the Black matriarchy is the actual cause of the family dysfunction in Black America, but it is actually very important in understanding the way we view the Black matriarchy today. This ideology has conditioned us to believe that a matriarchal structure is a negative thing, causing issues in today’s Black youth. Analysts use information like the fact that most incarcerated Black youth come from fatherless families, and automatically assume that mother-only households caused their bad behavior. In reality, these young men and women grow up in a society that tells them they cannot achieve greatness or overcome their circumstances unless they are part of the very small exception of Black youth.

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It is a fact that single parent households are not able to accumulate as much wealth as two parent households. That fact is undeniable. However, Black women are subject to institutional racism in the job market and face discrimination in job positions and pay. Thus, she is less likely to make the same money as a White female, White male, or Black male. So, this economic reality is not so much a result of her inability to provide for her family, but the result of a system that keeps her in that position.

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And if Black women in American society continue to be devalued, debased and exploited, then the benefits of a strong matriarchy within the confines of a traditional family structure will never be able to be explored.  The African matriarchy works because of the stress on the high value of African women.  Yes, African society has unfortunately become dominated by patriarchal ideas, but even the most stubborn and die-hard chauvinists in Africa still know the value of their women and for the most part treat them accordingly.  There are, of course always exceptions, so there is no need for me to go into the rise in sexual assaults and other abuses against women in many of the most war-ravaged areas, but the fact is a matriarchy as a parallel and strengthening pillar to a patriarchy can only increase the strength of the race but only if the women who make up that matriarchy are seen as the queens they truly are.


The Power of the Queen Mothers

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Long before the arrival and ascendency of the European in the African continent, most of the West African kingdoms which had reigned once massive empire for centuries, were organized around the authority of Queen Mothers who were believed to be the bearers of not just the royal lineage, but the right to rule.  These women were once considered extremely important political figures of power who commanded respect in the Cape Coast area prior to the colonial era. Akan queen mothers were considered autonomous rulers and within this group there were equal numbers of male and female counterparts in all aspects of the political hierarchy.  Queen Mothers had all jurisdiction over women and any issue that involved both men and women.

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But because of the misogynist society from which they originated, in coming to Africa from Europe, the original colonialists refused to negotiate with women and as a result the foundations for the shattering and dispersal of the power and influence the Queen Mothers was begun.  Under colonial rule, these matriarchs, along with most other women in Africa, lost the social, religious, constitutional and political privileges that was theirs by right. In addition, Queen Mothers in West Africa were not recognized as important to these colonialists and were often referred to in historical documents as sisters of the men in power by missionaries and colonists.  A policy of disenfranchisement of women began and it is these policies which ultimately undermined the traditional authority of these women, culminating in the sorry state of things that we now see in the African political field today continued with policies that undermined women’s traditional authority.

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Even in modern Africa, one of the primary examples of female power which remains is the Queen Mother, of the Ashanti.  The Ashanti Queen Mothers still have an extraordinary amount of power in Africa.  They have sovereign power over their subjects, are independent, have their own courts, and help the kings make decisions regarding the ruling of the kingdom.
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Historically, the tradition and title of Queen Mother originated in ancient Khemet (Egypt), when Black Africans ruled. Traditionally in ancient Khemet, the all-powerful Queen Mother appointed the king, ruled beside him, and had a strong interest youth empowerment and community activism. Succinctly, the African Queen Mother is the Positive Pot Stirrer; the Keeper of the Culture, the Spiritual Warrior; the Nurturing Navigator to the Community’s Future or at least she was until she was marginalized by the creeping rot of colonialism and the resultant perversion of African culture.

Next up:  A comparison and contrast of the African-American Matriarchy and the African Matriarchy


The Amazons of Black Sparta

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Firstly, that name itself is rather insulting because it implies that any female warrior elite  from other cultures will always play second fiddle to the Greek Amazons of legend, of which there is not one single shred of archaeological proof to confirm their existence.  In fact, except for Sparta, where women enjoyed an unprecedented freedom compared to the other Greek city states of that era where they were basically second-class citizens useful only for political marriages and baby-making, the female warrior elite of the Fon of Dahomey (Benin), to which this silly title refers to, were not myths but a very real and potent military force which kept the French from conquering this kingdom for a hundred years until they were finally overwhelmed long after the male elements of the army had been wiped out, or had surrendered.

As we know, the Greeks shamelessly appropriated not only knowledge from ancient Africa and tried to pass it off as their own, but also myths and legends.  Most of the early Greek pantheon are simply the old Egyptian gods with Greek names.  The great philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle studied where?  In Alexandria, Egypt, the seat of the greatest library and collection of scholars this world has ever seen.  So it makes sense that they would appropriate the legend of an elite female fighting force as well, that actually originated in Africa.

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Although the female warriors of the Fon were not from ancient times, the reason why I bring them up is, well, because they are not from ancient times.  Their very existence during the industrialization of the Western world in the 18th and 19th centuries demonstrates this tradition was not at all that unusual in the African continent, where women were highly valued not just for their child-bearing capabilities, but also for their knowledge, leadership and yes, fighting abilities.  And female warriors were not unique to Africa as we know for in even in England, Queen Boudicca of the ancient Britons and her daughters, whupped the Romans for quite some time, burning, pillaging and otherwise terrorizeing the fearsome Roman legionaires until she was finally overwhelmed and defeated after a protracted campaign tto keep her country free from the foreign invaders.  She too, led her troops into battle,  driving her own battle chariot into the midst of the slaughter.  These traditional of powerful female warriors were just that–a tradition–one that had roots deep in the African psyche, indeed the human psyche until the ascendancy of the sun gods and their dominanace over the traditional Mother Cults that were the norm back then.  And they were able to thrive in Africa because in there a higher value is placed on women than men.  Or at least it used to that way, until the creeping rot of Westernalization began to set in and corrupt the very soul of the continent.

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But let me not get side-tracked.

The history of female warriors in Africa is common knowledge to most Africans; but in the West where most information about Black Africa was suppressed to complete the transformation of Blacks all over the globe from a proud and ancient race, to the end products of the global slave trade and the rape and pillaging of the African continent and its people that we see today, this information was inflammatory.  How dare these darkies lay claim to traditions that could possibly give them strength?

For the better part of 200 years, thousands of female soldiers fought and died to expand the borders of their West African kingdom. Even their conquerors, the French, acknowledged their “prodigious bravery.”

Dahomey, in what is now called Benin, in the early 18th and 19th centuries, was renowned as a “Black Sparta,” a fiercely militaristic society bent on conquest, whose soldiers struck fear into their enemies all along what is still known as the Slave Coast. In one of the many accounts of these women warriors which have survived the purge by the French of all things African in their colonies, a priest by the name of Father Borghero describes what he saw as he watchdewd these women drill.

“3,000 heavily armed soldiers march into the square and begin a mock assault on a series of defenses designed to represent an enemy capital. The Dahomean troops are a fearsome sight, barefoot and bristling with clubs and knives. A few, known as Reapers, are armed with gleaming three-foot-long straight razors, each wielded two-handed and capable, the priest was told, of slicing a man clean in two.  The soldiers advance in silence, reconnoitering. Their first obstacle is a wall—huge piles of acacia branches bristling with needle-sharp thorns, forming a barricade that stretches nearly 440 yards. The troops rush it furiously, ignoring the wounds that the two-inch-long thorns inflict. After scrambling to the top, they mime hand-to-hand combat with imaginary defenders, fall back, scale the thorn wall a second time, then storm a group of huts and drag a group of cringing “prisoners” to where Glele stands, assessing their performance. The bravest are presented with belts made from acacia thorns. Proud to show themselves impervious to pain, the warriors strap their trophies around their waists.

The general who led the assault appears and gives a lengthy speech, comparing the valor of Dahomey’s warrior elite to that of European troops and suggesting that such equally brave peoples should never be enemies. Borghero listens, but his mind is wandering. He finds the general captivating: “slender but shapely, proud of bearing, but without affectation.” Not too tall, perhaps, nor excessively muscular. But then, of course, the general is a woman, as are all 3,000 of her troops. Father Borghero had been watching the King of Dahomey’s famed corps of “amazons,” as contemporary writers termed them—the only female soldiers in the world who then routinely served as combat troops.”

Dahomey’s female troops were not the only martial women of their time. There were at least a few contemporary examples of successful warrior queens, the best-known of whom was probably Nzinga of Matamba, who I discussed in my previuos post, one of the most important figures in 17th-century Africa—a ruler who fought the Portuguese, quaffed the blood of sacrificial victims, and kept a harem of 60 male concubines, whom she dressed in women’s clothes.

What made Dahomey’s women warriors unique was that they fought, and frequently died, for king and country. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that, in the course of just four major campaigns in the latter half of the 19th century, they lost at least 6,000 dead, and perhaps as many as 15,000. In their very last battles, against French troops equipped with vastly superior weaponry, about 1,500 women took the field, and only about 50 remained fit for active duty by the end, a staggering number of casualties, yes but considering they fought against a force with the superior firearms that allowed the Europeans to conquer the world, it is a wonder that they lasted that long.  also, the fact that there were at least 15,000 elite, highly trained, and very deadly women in arms, speaks volumes as to their value as soldiers.

The corps still existed 20 years later, when the kingdom at last found itself caught up in the “scramble for Africa,” which saw various European powers competing to absorb slices of the continent into their empires. Dahomey fell within the French sphere of influence, and there was already a small French colony at Porto-Novo when, in about 1889, female troops were involved in an incident that resulted in a full-scale war. According to local oral histories, the spark came when the Dahomeans attacked a village under French suzerainty whose chief tried to avert panic by assuring the inhabitants that the tricolor would protect them. “So you like this flag?” the Dahomean general asked when the settlement had been overrun. “Eh bien, it will serve you,” she then said. At the general’s signal, one of the women warriors beheaded the chief with one blow of her cutlass and carried his head back to her new king, Béhanzin, wrapped in the French standard.

The First Franco-Dahomean War, which ensued in 1890, resulted in two major battles, one of which took place in heavy rain at dawn outside Cotonou, on the Bight of Benin. Béhanzin’s army, which included female units, assaulted a French stockade but was driven back in hand-to-hand fighting. No quarter was given on either side. Only the sheer firepower of their modern rifles won the day for the French.

The Dahomeans were no match for the large French force that was assembled to complete the conquest two years later. That seven-week war was fought even more fiercely than the first. There were 23 separate battles, and once again female troops were in the vanguard of dahomey’s forces, and not as cannon fodder, but as the elite. The women were the last to surrender, and even then—at least according to a rumor common in the French army of occupation—the survivors took their revenge on the French by covertly substituting themselves for Dahomean women who were taken into the enemy stockade. Each allowed herself to be seduced by French officer, waited for him to fall asleep, and then cut his throat with his own bayonet.

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In a society of powerful kings, how can one ever, for even one second believe that the ruler of an empire the size and strength of that of Dahomey, would entrust his own life and the welfare of his kingdom to women if even for one moment he and indeed his entire culture truly believed they  women were the weaker sex?

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Next up:  The Matriarchs of the Ashanti

The Importance of Restoring the Historical Relevance of Female African Rulers

My recent posts have a little dry recently, with mostly unembellished and raw information, like a high school history paper, and lacking my usual brilliant and witty commentary and I do apologize for this.  With the recent hack of my FB page I have been busy doing damage control and so have neglected my duties as the voice in the wilderness screaming, “listen damn you!”  Anyway, I am back and awake again, re-energized with a focus and determination to return to their proper place in both history and in the world today, the African women who have guided, nurtured and ruled both in the past and in the present. I neglected my duties yes; but I did not abandon them.  With this post, expect to find me at my usual level.

I want to get into the reason why I brought up two of the most well-known female African rulers, and their relevance in today’s Africa with respect to the Matriarchy, which although, today throughout most of African does not rule in its own right, it is still responsible for maintaining what little stability that our idiotic, avaricious, and megalomaniac male leaders have not already destroyed.  Most African women are not aware of Hatshepsut or Nzinga; it is not through their inspiration that the African Matriarchy still thrives. It is because there is something inherent in African women that gives a strength and a purpose, which is unfortunately, due to Mr. Willie Lynch, seems to have been ripped from their counterparts here within the United States.

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Across the African continent, from west to east, north to south, women have become the backbone of society and the economies of the post-colonial counties in Africa which due to the devious and insidious practices and influences of the Occidental world, have become models of what nations should not do.  Without the women of Africa keeping it afloat, the continent would have long ago deteriorated into a mess of tribal, ethnic and regional conflicts, with the vast natural resouces being raped and pillaged by greedy Western interests.  Oh, wait that is already happening!  So, imagine just how much worse things would have been if not for these strong and determined women.

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The continent is dominated by small-scale farming and informal traders, 89% of which are women, who are often the sole providers for their families.  Yet despite their central role in shouldering this economic and social burden, they are still struggling to take their rightful place at the decision-making table.

But it must not be forgotten that African women still outstrip the West in terms of political enfranchisement, since they are moving from a position of strength granted them the historical precedent of people like Queen Hatshepsut and Queen Nzinga. It is easy to criticize Africa – as though it was actually one single country – for lacking democracy and for low female participation, but those making such statements should first recognize the progress already made. Although Women occupy only 24% of parliamentary and ministerial seats across sub-Saharan Africa, this still far outstrips the percentage of female representation in developed countries such as the United States, where less than 20% of congressional seats are held by women, or Japan where fewer than 10% of legislators are female.

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The increase in the number of women in African politics is making a real difference to the lives of the people they represent.  Some African countries are in fact trailblazers in the promotion of women’s leadership. Rwanda, for example has the highest female representation in the world: 61% of its MPs are women, most likely as a result of the genocide and civil wars, when the men who were responsible for the numerous deaths at that time, stripped the population of males.

South Africa has well over 40% parliamentary representation by women. A further seven African countries have parliaments where more than 30% of their members are female. Uganda ranks 31st out of 195 countries globally, with 34% of their MPs being women. The UK, with 30% female representation, ranks 46th.

These changes have not happened by accident, but are the result of deliberate policy decisions and grassroots demand. In some cases, they came about through hard-fought constitutional amendments. At least 16 African countries already have parity legislation in place. Uganda and Kenya have led the way in reserving seats in parliament for women and young people’s representatives.

Through the use of these reserved seats, and quotas for female candidates, many African governments have taken legislative action to increase women’s participation, something most western governments have refused to do themselves.

But these changes could not have been implemented without the historical acceptance in Africa of the power of women in every facet of society.  It is now that in the many emerging economies in Africa that because of a paradigm shift, Generations X, Y, Z and Millennials have begun to re-embrace traditional culture and customs and are flocking in droves to return a continent hungry for progress by using the education they obtained in the West for the betterment of the continent.  And it is the women who are trailblazing the path to Africa’s future glory and rebirth.

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Next up:  The Amazons of Black Sparta


Queen Nzinga Mbande of Mbundu

Queen Nzinga (Nzinga Mbande), the monarch of the Mbundu people, is one of the most well-known Afrrican rulers who fought against the Portuguese and their expanding slave trade in Central Africa, and ruled completely in her own right her lands to the astonishment of the European powers who had no idea that women in African society could wield such power openly as the ruling monarch.

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During the late 16th Century, the French and the English threatened the Portuguese near monopoly on the sources of slaves along the West African coast, forcing it to seek new areas for exploitation.  By 1580 they had already established a trading relationship with Afonso I in the nearby Kongo Kingdom. They then turned to Angola, south of the Kongo.  Initially, she was sent by her brother, then King Mbande, to negotiate with the Portuguese where she realized that her people were in a diplomatically awkward situation.

In what has become one of the most famous diplomatic meetings of all time the queen, in the first of a series of meetings with the invaders sought to establish her equality with the representative of the Portugal crown.  Noting that the only chair in the room belonged to Governor Corria, she immediately motioned to one of her assistants who fell on her hands and knees and served as a chair for Queen Nzinga for the rest of the meeting, thus establishing her royal prerogative and puissance to the Portuguese, who as you can imagine, were suitably impressed.

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 Nzinga, who was not yet queen in her own right, knew of events in the Kongo which had led to Portuguese domination of the nominally independent nation.  She also recognized, however, that to refuse to trade with the Portuguese would remove a potential ally and the major source of guns for her own state, which was at war.

In 1626 Nzinga became Queen of the Mbundu when her brother committed suicide in the face of rising Portuguese demands for slave trade concessions.  Nzinga, however, refused to allow them to control her nation.  In 1627, after forming alliances with former rival states, she led her army against the Portuguese, initiating a thirty-year war against them.  She exploited European rivalry by forging an alliance with the Dutch who had conquered Luanda in 1641. With their help, Nzinga defeated a Portuguese army in 1647.  When the Dutch were in turn defeated by the Portuguese the following year and withdrew from Central Africa, Nzinga continued her struggle against the Portuguese.  Now in her 60s she still personally led troops in battle.   She also orchestrated guerilla attacks on the Portuguese which would continue long after her death and inspire the ultimately successful 20th Century armed resistance against the Portuguese that resulted in independent Angola in 1975.

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Despite repeated attempts by the Portuguese and their allies to capture or kill Queen Nzinga, she died peacefully in her eighties on December 17, 1663.

This person is another example of the remarkable women who have greatly affected the destiny of the African continent.  Imagine if she had a daughter who had been raised in the use of power as she had, and her daughter in turn had done the same with own daughter.  Perhaps, through their example the entire African continent would have retained the heart and the will to resist the invaders as Queen Nzinga did so ably.

Next up… The Amazons of Black Sparta