A tale of ‘Ronald Frump’ and the African circus

The Chronicles of Zamunda is a series of conversations between an African journalist and ‘the soul’ of the continent. 

MOTHER AFRICA: That scowl on your face will become a permanent feature if you don’t wipe it off, son of my soil. What’s bothering you this time?

KALI: I’m annoyed with what that accursed Ronald Frump said about the kingdoms of Africa.

MOTHER AFRICA: Ronald Frump?

KALI: Come now you old sage! Stop pretending you don’t know Frump, that successful merchant who is now competing with the former first queen to become the new king of the prosperous kingdom they call Uncle Sam.

MOTHER AFRICA: Ah, you mean Frump the Wealthy One – he of the gold casinos, glittering chariots and nubile women?

KALI: The one and only! Frump, whose exotic wife Valeria was recently caught nicking bits of that famous chant made by the elegant Michello, Uncle Sam’s out-going first queen. Frump, who is accused of ogling and groping women in an inappropriate manner. And to think Valeria used to pose half-naked as a model in a career that parades women like chunks of meat at an African marketplace before she became Mrs Frump!  

MOTHER AFRICA:  Temper, temper, son my soil. Your weakness for being easily riled by the musings of a man who’s all too often caught with his foot in his mouth is at once amusing and alarming. Pray tell, what did Frump say that has you hopping about with such fury? 

KALI: He said most of the kingdoms in your vast lands should be re-colonised for another century because they know nothing about leadership and self-governance! What nonsense! How dare he utter such drivel when we have produced an endless array of progressive kings?

MOTHER AFRICA: But bumbling Frump may just have a point there, son of my soil.

KALI: How can you say that? Frump and his ilk can go and jump in a lake, Mother Africa! Surely, African kings have a right to self-determination without his kind prying into our affairs and looking down their noses at us?

MOTHER AFRICA: Ah, but consider how, despite my constant pleading with tears in my eyes, the kings you flippantly refer to as “progressive” have played an endless game of musical chairs. I’m tired of the ceaseless recycling of kings in my lands. And you call that progress? Take for example Zamunda, your kingdom that shares its borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Angola, Botswana and Namibia. Hasn’t your odd-shaped kingdom recently replaced the Induna who manages the finance portfolio after you conducted, on August 11, very controversial rites for selecting the king who will rule you for the next cycle of governance moons with an induna from another clan? And the Induna you replaced was recycled, having held that portfolio previously as far back as the early 1970s. Where’s the progress in that sort of mindless recycling?

KALI: But Mother Africa, our rites for choosing our new king were not remotely controversial! They were declared free and fair by the wise men and women brought into Zamunda to observe them from many lands away! And you are losing me here… Where are you going with all this?

MOTHER FRICA: Beyond the sensitive goings-on in Zamunda, I’ll speak in broad terms. Surely you as a scribe know how African kings love to be called by fanciful titles. There is that king of Gambia who has decreed that he be referred to as “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa”. The last two words of that ridiculous title apparently refer to him as “chief bridge builder” or “conqueror of rivers”. Why, for the life of me, he would want to conquer rivers, instead of hunger and poverty in his kingdom puzzles me no end. Need I go on?

KALI: I’m all ears, Mother Africa. 

MOTHER AFRICA: This practice of self-immortalisation is nothing new. Remember how the first king of Zamunda revelled in praises of “kumulu ni Lesa, panshi ni Kaka” from those who looked up to him as some sort of diety? Remember, too, Zaire’s Joseph-Desiré Mobutu who, after assuming power through a palace coup, renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga meaning “the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”. My soul is in anguish at how the circus clowns have been on a roll in my vast lands, son of my soil. Don’t you dare forget “His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.”

KALI: But how does all this justify Frump’s rantings?

MOTHER AFRICA: You see son of my soil, if just an iota of the energy these kings put in efforts at self-preservation was put into advancing their kingdoms, my lands would be better off today. Instead, they create dynasties of greed and endless corruption. That, in part explains the coups that have defined many of these kingdoms. And also why buffoons like Amin and Bokassa have become kings in the torrid history of my vast lands. Just the other day, the longtime king of the kingdom of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, swore in his first son, Teodoro “Teodorin” Nguema Obiang Mangue, as assistant king. Nguema is the longest-serving king on the continent, and the world’s longest-serving king for that matter. Appointing his son as vice regent placed the young Nguema in charge of State Security and National Defense – a pre-requisite in the creation of a dynasty.

KALI: But doesn’t the constitution of Guinea justify his actions?

MOTHER AFRICA: Sadly, his nepotism is within the law because the appointment is in accordance with the provisions of his kingdom’s constitution, which gives the king “the prerogative to establish his government as he sees fit following a general election”.

KALI: So what’s your point then, Mother Africa?

MOTHER AFRICA: It’s enough to make one weep for my lands, you dim witted son of my soil. The young Nguema is allegedly wanted by Uncle Sam and in France for, among other crimes, money laundering and embezzlement. On 11 June 2012, Uncle Sam’s Department of Justice filed a complaint against young Nguema, stating that he spent $315 million on properties and luxury goods between 2004 and 2011. The complaint also revealed that young Nguema, “while Induna of Forestry, levied personal ‘taxes’ against local and foreign timber merchants for licenses to operate and export timber, such as a $28.80 tax for every log exported, to fund his lavish lifestyle”. Now young Nguema is the assistant king and set to succeed his father on the throne. 

KALI: And that’s a justification for Frump’s crass comments?

MOTHER AFRICA: Ah, but the tale of woe in my vast lands goes on and on. Azania’s king Jacob Zuma faces a myriad corruption cases and this has thrown his ruling African National Congress into turmoil. Unfazed, Zuma has been trying to manoeuvre a woman from whom he is divorced, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him on Azania’s throne. In Buganda, the 71-year-old king, Yoweri Museveni, appointed his queen, Janet, as the new Induna overseeing the portfolio of Education and Sports. You yourself have seen the news reports from there. Mrs Museveni retired from elective politics this year declining to seek re-election for her Ruhama constituency in Ntungamo district, meaning that her retention as an induna hints at Museveni’s plans for retirement in 2021, the year your odd-shaped kingdom is due to conduct the next rites for choosing your next king.

All this happened just about the same time that Museveni promoted his son, Kainerugaba Muhoozi, to the rank of Major-General in the Buganda army. He is seen as the most powerful warrior in the kingdom’s army as he heads the Special Forces Command, which is considered to be an army within the army because it has all units of the military such as an infantry and Air Force and is in charge of the chief’s protection and key installations including the kingdom’s oil fields. Meanwhile, south of Zamunda, Robert Gabriel Mugabe who your kingdom just the other day invited to give a spirited chant at the re-coronation of your king, is subtly trying to manoeuvre his second wife Grace into a position to succeed him.

KALI: Should it worry me then, Mother Africa, that our king is said in to be an admirer of both Mugabe and Museveni?

MOTHER AFRICA: Tell me, apart from Bechuanaland’s Ian Khama, who continues to defy the prevailing convention among African kings by remaining a bachelor at the ripe old age of 63, which two kings have visited your capital since Zamunda’s king retained to the throne? 

KALI: Well… Mugabe and Museveni.

MOTHER AFRICA: I will leave the answer to your last question to your imagination, son my soil. But, as I said, bumbling Frump may just have a point…

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