August 4, a hot and humid day in Boulder, Colorado. I got back from being dragged around the lake and hills by my dogs. As is my habit I clicked on bdnews24.com. What should I see; a picture of a fat man in a moustache, skullcap, and Nehru Coat saying Africans are uncivilised savages!
More accurately what he said was, “Our Army has gone [to Africa] to civilise those black people.” This is coming from a high school dropout (HSC is closer to 10th grade than say 12th grade). Unfortunately for us, he is an MP (Member of Parliament). He belongs to the ruling Awami League. He is (drum roll please) Elias Uddin Mollah.
We are used to seeing the dredges rise from ponds nurtured by political parties but this is truly unhinged filth. I am surprised that the ruling Party has not censured him yet. In this case, I am hoping it is just a matter of time and this “Boitol” (could not resist a Sylheti term) will be drummed out of the party and sent back to the cave he comes from. OK, enough of the venom on my part — we should look at facts and see how uneducated and unhinged this miserable character is.
Africa as a continent is the fastest growing region in the world, period. There is a large entrepreneur class, a growing self-awareness among everyone in the continent that better days are ahead of them, and finally there is optimism about all things African.
Congo, one of the countries that Mollah visited has posted a 2013 GDP growth rate of 5.1. The Democratic Republic of Congo has posted a growth rate of 8.2. Both of these places are under mismanaged and totalitarian (in practice at least) governments, but the people continue to find ways to make things happen and life prospers. Ivory Coast is bouncing back. The whole continent is rising up. Lo and behold, the Boitol only sees savages.
Mollah AKA Boitol, complains that “people are yet to become civilised. They take bath every 15 days. After soaps (sic) before baths, they do not even use water to retain the aroma”.
Of course, no one is asking, what about the French or most of Eastern Europe? French are known for taking baths as an absolute last measure. I will give you that things are changing, even in France. The French invented the perfume to do some aroma blending. Napoleon sent an urgent missive to his wife Josephine, “Home in three days. Don’t wash.”
So, there are cultural reasons for not bathing frequently. When I was in England in the seventies my Landlady showed me a bathtub where you could not drown a mouse and said proudly, “I let my tenants bathe once a week.”
This Grand old lady was so proud of the fact that she treated her tenants so well. I am thinking, um, I normally jump in Surma or the pond about six times a day. To me this was ultimate proof of the badness of the Brits. My solution was to go to the gym everyday (twice a day if possible) and shower. It worked out great because I started to work out, get saunas, steam, and became a pretty decent squash player. There are cultural norms for bathing or not bathing. Mollah being a junior high school dropout would not know culture if it stood up and slapped him in his face.
Unlike say Bangladesh where a bath can consist of jumping in the pond or river, it takes a bit of doing while bathing in other places. When I was young I used to jump in the Surma River and come out and soap up which polluted the water pretty badly.
What Mollah does not know, because he is an ignorant dingbat, is that water is a precious commodity throughout Africa. People use as little as possible. Soaping yourself one time with very little and/or no water (think of the liquid soap) is environmentally sound practice and is encouraged everywhere.
In California, the drought is forcing people to take shorter showers (under 5 minutes) and practice of soaping carefully just one time is all the rage. You see water costs five times the amount it cost about 2 years ago. Mollah simply does not know these things, because he has not travelled well and he is a Boitol.
But what a shame that we send an ignorant like him to represent Bangladesh, the land of my father.
As we are talking about Africa, let us understand that Africa is beginning to throw away the resource curse. For centuries, African growth was commodity based. The continent is home to a third of the planet’s mineral resources, 10% of the oil and gas, and a good 70% of the Diamonds.
So, historically these resources attracted predatory multinationals, outright colonialists, and adventurers. They exploited the resources but left the social development, the tribal warfare, and systematic subjugation of certain people, minorities, and women intact. That simply suited the predators whose interests were mainly under the ground. In the instances their interests lay above ground, it was about murdering the magnificent animals that the continent had to offer.
Things are changing and changing fast. Governance across Africa has improved (OK, Zimbabwe is a glaring exception) dramatically, China has invested tens of billions of dollars across the continent, and sent close to a million migrant workers from the mainland. All in all the continent is the “it” place right now, and the future is tending to much better days.
Here is what The Economist says: “There is reason to think the “resource curse” is losing its power. Despite turmoil in commodity markets, Africa is still one of the world’s fastest-growing regions. With better education systems, investment in infrastructure and sensible regulatory reforms, the continent could completely break the spell that has held it back so often in the past.”
In this sunshine, the government of Bangladesh sends in the Mollah to represent the country. Mollah does not know that UN Peacekeepers are under complete and total mandate not to get involved in any dispute, any nation-building, or for that matter any particular relationship.
Things like that happen, and the offending Peacekeeper is promptly sent back to his country. This guy Mollah has done damage to the very good reputation of Bangladeshi Peacekeepers. I hope the Awami League tar and feather the Boitol and apologises to the Governments of Congo, Ivory Coast, and all other African countries. It is time that we acknowledge the errors of sending a junior high dropout to represent Bangladesh anywhere.
Kayes Ahmed is a businessman running multi-national operations from Colorado, USA.