senegalese court bans using children to beg

The Times reports that a court in Senegal has declared a long held practice by Marabouts of using children to beg  illegal.

“The bowls are sometimes no more than old tin tomato cans; the children, some as young as 4, are often barefoot, and they spend perilous hours on the streets and sidewalks, weaving in and out of traffic in their torn, filthy T-shirts. When they return to their rudimentary living quarters in the evening, they must turn their coins over to the marabouts, or face severe punishment. Not infrequently, newspaper headlines on a back page announce the crushing of a little talibé in traffic”

Using children to beg is a habit that is widespread on the Continent. In many towns and cities you will find children – some as young as  a few months old – next to a bowl with a cardboard writing stating one problem or another.

Of course merely banning the act like the Senegalese court has will not solve the problem, a better social safety net for mothers will, but it is a step in the right direction.

the absurd

Here is a story from the BBC website that made me feel sad, angry and embarrassed, all at the same time. How do you build a hospital, equip it, and then keep it shut until the head of state opens it, all this while people whose tax money built the hospital continue to die? What level of madness is this? This is a shame on Yar’Adua and a confirmation of how hard it is for African leaders to get rid of the big man mentality. What makes presidents think that they are obligated to travel around on the tax payer’s tab just to cut ribbons and smile at the cameras?

It is bad enough that a big chunk of Africa’s roads, hospitals, universities, schools, among others, are named after despots – Kenya alone has several Moi High Schools, A Moi internation Airport, Moi stadium/sports complex, Moi Avenue, Moi University…….. This self aggrandizement has to stop. Keeping a hospital shut because of a single individual is the epitome of madness. SHAME SHAME SHAME. This is an embarrassment to Nigeria and to all that care about Nigeria – Africa’s perennial “potential hegemon-leader”.

which gets me thinking……..

Perhaps African leaders do all these things to immortalize themselves. But can’t this quest for immortality be achieved better if they wrote books and came up with revolutionary ways of dealing with the many problems facing the continent than merely naming roads after themselves or putting their faces on currencies – things that can be easily changed? Ideas last forever and the inventors of great ideas forever remain immortal. For instance, when I think of Senghor, I rarely think of his presidency, little of which I know. I think of Senghor the poet and staunch Africanist. Same with Cabral, Nyerere and Kwameh Nkrumah, all of whom were great idealists who bothered to write and let people know what went on between their ears and will forever occupy Africa’s pantheon of great leaders. Incidents like this in Borno State, Nigeria make you wonder whether our leaders have anything at all between their ears.

So a quick message to our leaders, from the cultured intellectuals like Wade, Mbeki, Mogae (among others) to those who seem to be allergic to reason like Obiang’, Deby and al-Bashir (among others) : write, write, write. If you want us to remember you give us new ideas that will help the continent escape the trap of pre-modernity. If you name a school after yourself we will change the name as soon as a rebel leaders comes along, deposes you and probably dispatches you to the Creator only to start from where you left.