George Bush and Nicholas Kristof’s Hunger Games

We hope the “women of Africa,” who are being discovered yet again, appreciate all the good work being done for them.

President George W. Bush in Botswana, 2017. Image credit Paul Morse via George W. Bush Center Flickr CC.

They’re ba-a-a-ack! Those wonderful white men in their (f)lying machines, the Good White Men who brought us the most recent instantiation of “Africa is a country” have returned. As you know, Africa Is a Country is “the blog that’s not about famine, Bono, or Barack Obama.” But we’re all over George W. Bush and Nicholas D. Kristof when they are about famine, disease, Bono, and Africa. And this month, both are on the continent at the same time and both are deeply interested in “African women.” Bonus!

When Obama fled the #NObama demonstrations in South Africa for the more tranquil throngs of Tanzania, he met with George W. Bush. According to news reports, Bush was in Dar es Salaam for a conference on African women. What? Actually, there was a conference in Dar es Salaam, and it was titled “Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa”. It was hosted by the George W. Bush Institute and ExxonMobil. With Bush and ExxonMobile empowering African women, what could possibly be wrong?

The Conference brought together Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Cherie Blair and a host of African First Ladies: Christine Kaseba, Roman Tesfaye, Maria Guebuza, Sia Nyama Karoma, Janet Museveni, Nompumelelo Zuma, and Salma Kikwete. And that’s why George W. Bush was in town.

At the same time, Nicholas Kristof arrived in Mali, and is positively giddy about it: “It’s time for my annual win-a-trip journey, in which I take a university student with me on a reporting trip to Africa.” You know what “a reporting trip to Africa means”: road blocks and jittery soldiers, militants, Islamists, fear, thank god for the French, killing, and, best of all, hunger: “While Erin and I found the killing over, the dying continues on a vast scale — from hunger.”

Erin and Nicholas go off on a hunt, a safari of sorts, to find the best story, a 7-month-old girl child on death’s door, due to hunger. Kristof goes into his routine account: ‘we’ only care about “Islamists”, and not about hunger; we give money and attention to immediate catastrophe and not to the structural, systemic kind, the kind that isn’t catastrophe but rather business as usual. Actually, he doesn’t say that last part. Instead, he opts for the destabilization, extreme poverty narrative: “The poverty and insecurity feed into each other. Because the region is poor and suffers widespread illiteracy, it is ripe for manipulation by Islamic extremists who claim to speak for religion. The lack of government services also creates openings for smuggling and corruption.”

Nothing about discussions and actions concerning sustainable agriculture, in Mali or elsewhere on the continent. Nothing about how small hold farmers, mostly women, used to keep whole regions alive and relatively healthy until they were run out of field and farmhouse by mega-agro-corporations, encouraged and sponsored by the policies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Tony Blair. Nothing about the widespread devastation of public services thanks to policies emerging from Washington, DC, New York, London, and beyond. Basically, nothing about “Africa”, but a whole lot about, you guessed it, Barack Obama, Bono, and famine. I hope the “women of Africa” who are being discovered yet again appreciate all the good work being done for them.

Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.

Writing while black

The film adaptation of Percival Everett’s novel ‘Erasure’ leaves little room to explore Black middle-class complicity in commodifying the traumas of Black working-class lives.

The Mogadishu analogy

In Gaza and Haiti, the specter of another Mogadishu is being raised to alert on-lookers and policymakers of unfolding tragedies. But we have to be careful when making comparisons.

Kwame Nkrumah today

New documents looking at British and American involvement in overthrowing Kwame Nkrumah give us pause to reflect on his legacy, and its resonances today.