By RANDY KENNEDY
c.1995 N.Y. Times News Service
Marcel Sony Labou Tansi, a novelist considered by many to be Central
Africa's greatest writer, died on Wednesday in Foufoundou, a remote
village in the Congo countryside where he had gone for treatment of
AIDS. He was 48.
The cause of death was complications from AIDS, including pneumonia,
The Associated Press reported, quoting Eugene Banguissa, the former
mayor of Brazzaville, the capital. Tansi's wife, Pierrette, died four
days earlier, also from AIDS complications.
Tansi's novels, written in French, were known for their biting
satirical treatments of colonialist Africa and the dictators who
arrived after independence.
Critics have said that his books are difficult to read because they
employ complicated puns, symbolism and imagery to reinforce his primary
message - that Africa's colonial masters exploited not just the
continent's economic resources but also its spirit. But the novels had
a great impact in French-speaking Africa.
Tansi's best-known novels are ``Life and a Half'' (1979), ``The
Shameful State'' (1981) and ``The People Before'' (1983).
``The Antipeople,'' published in 1988, received positive reviews in the
United States. It is a bleak account of a former soccer idol whose life
is ruined by a young girl who commits suicide after he refuses to sleep
with her, and Tansi used the plot to reveal some of the darker elements
of life in Zaire and neighboring Angola.
Tansi was an opposition party member who won a seat to the National
Assembly in 1993, but refused to attend any sessions out of defiance of
He and his wife returned to Congo in April from Paris, where they had
been seeking treatment for AIDS. They moved to Foufoundou, which can be
reached only by a long hike through a forest, and tried herbal medicine
and ritual ceremonies that mixed African traditional healing and
Christian evangelism in an attempt to heal themselves.
While in Paris, Tansi finished a new work, ``The Beginnings of Pain,''
which he said his publishers had initially refused to publish because
of what they said was an excessively harsh tone toward France, once
Congo's colonial ruler. He said a new nonfiction work, ``La Cosa
Nostra,'' would argue for a Marshall Plan for Africa.
``Africa is the only continent left that has not found its way,'' Tansi
said in a recent interview. ``We have this incredible wealth, of
resources and of spirit, but outsiders like France are just robbing us
while blessing our dictators.
Mrs. Tansi continued to deteriorate while in the village, but Tansi
briefly improved before his death.
Transmitted: 95-06-14 23:57:33 EDT
By HOWARD W. FRENCH
c.1995 N.Y. Times News Service
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - In his most direct attack yet on the power
base of his most nettlesome rival, President Nelson Mandela on
Wednesday proposed changes in the traditional chieftancy system that
would clip patronage strings to local chiefs from provincial
At its simplest level, the proposal would create standardized payments
and benefits for the chiefs to be financed directly by the central
government, giving hundreds of traditional leaders many of the same
perquisites as national legislators.
Political analysts here are nearly unanimous in saying, however, that
beyond the plan's surface simplicity lies a potentially revolutionary
shift in rural political power that would help fulfill Mandela's desire
to bring to heel the Zulu leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Buthelezi, who is minister of the interior in Mandela's national unity
government, is the leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, the most
important rival for support among blacks to Mandela's African National
Congress. Buthelezi, who is the dominant political figure in
KwaZulu/Natal, has long been waging a determined campaign for greater
autonomy for his province that would include a constitutionally
recognized role for the Zulu monarchy.
Buthelezi's support in KwaZulu/Natal in concentrated in rural areas,
where traditional chiefs have retained great sway. By taking over the
payment of the chiefs, a move that Buthelezi opposes, political
analysts say Mandela would weaken the Inkatha leader's hold on the
``This stops the chiefs from being beholden to Buthelezi,'' said Paulus
Zulu, a research professor at the Center for Social and Development
Studies at the University of Natal. ``He who pays the piper calls he
By removing provincial control over local chiefs, thus rewriting the
power equation in the countryside, congress officials believe they can
deliver a body-blow to Buthelezi, a political figure who has sought to
make his home province a special case, or a sort of Quebec, as some
say, within a unitary South Africa.
The African National Congress is already confident of doing well in
urban areas in local elections scheduled for November.
In recent weeks, the political struggle between Mandela and Buthelezi,
a central feature of political life since the end of apartheid, has
grown increasingly tense as the two men have traded bitter criticisms
of each others' visions of the nation's future.
Buthelezi and his supporters have accused the president of wanting to
create an all-powerful central government that they say will stifle
democracy at local and regional levels. Mandela, in turn, has recently
hinted strongly his belief that Buthelezi is largely responsible for a
continuing wave of political violence in KwaZulu/Natal province that
pits supporters of the predominantly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party against
members of Mandela's African National Congress.
Buthelezi has responded to the suggestions that he has incited his
supporters to violence by reviving charges that Mandela had approved
and sought to cover up what he has called the ``massacre'' last year of
eight Inkatha members who were shot by congress security men during an
Inkatha demonstration that converged on congress headquarters.
Appearing before Parliament last week, Mandela said that although he
regretted the deaths, the defense of his party's headquarters had been
justified because Inkatha marchers had themselves killed many people
during the course of a riotous demonstration.
Emerging from a meeting with Mandela in Durban on Tuesday, where the
president presented his plans for the change in administration of the
chieftancy to traditional leaders of KwaZulu/Natal, a grim Buthelezi
called the consultation a ``charade.''
``There is no way we will accept what is foisted upon us,'' Buthelezi
said of the new payment arrangement for chiefs. ``We think it is our
democratic right, and therefore in the situation of this kind I am very
depressed because I see no light at the end of the tunnel.''
For Mandela, the move to reform the chieftancy reflects a change in
strategy from a harder line approach that had drawn widespread
criticism. Growing frustrated with Buthelezi's refusal to participate
in a constitutional conference, and his minister's calls on supporters
to ``rise and resist'' the central government, the president last month
threatened to cut off funds to the KwaZulu/Natal provincial government,
a move that critics said would be unconstitutional.
Shifting tactics, political observers here say that Mandela's changes
in of the traditional chieftancy fit within a two-pronged strategy to
gain the upper hand in KwaZulu/Natal.
Transmitted: 95-06-14 22:45:26 EDT
By STEVEN A. HOLMES
c.1995 N.Y. Times News Service
WASHINGTON - In past years, the government of Nigeria and many
prominent African-American leaders were more likely to be on the same
side of international issues: debt-relief for sub-Saharan countries,
ending white minority rule in southern Africa, or ousting the military
dictatorship in Haiti.
But these days, the two are engaged in a war of words and symbolic
protests in an increasingly bitter dispute over Nigerian human rights.
The latest manifestation of this is the reported pressure exerted by
Nigerian diplomats on the U.N. Children's Fund not to hold a ceremony
in the chamber of the General Assembly honoring Randall Robinson of
Responding to protests from supporters of Nigeria - which has been a
target of Robinson, who is critical of its human rights record - UNICEF
officials said they decided to move it from the General Assembly to
another location, thus downgrading its importance.
Shedding what has been their normal reluctance to rebuke a black
African country for the treatment of its citizens, an increasing number
of prominent African-Americans are calling for the same type of
pressures - diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions - to be used
against the military government of Gen. Sani Abacha that were applied
against South Africa.
``Nigeria is saddled with a military dictatorship that has looted its
treasury and victimized its people,'' said Robinson, executive of
TransAfrica Forum, a research organization concentrating on issues
involving Africa and the Caribbean.
Last month, the board of the cash-starved National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People voted not to accept $20,000 that was
pledged to it by Zubair Mahmud Kazaure, Nigeria's ambassador to the
United States, to protest the country's human rights record.
In March, a group of prominent blacks, including Bryant Gumbel of the
NBC News program ``Today,'' the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the actor Danny
Glover, and A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., a retired judge of the federal
Circuit Court of Appeals, called on the Clinton administration to ban
the import of Nigerian oil. In April, Robinson and 10 other prominent
blacks were arrested outside the Nigerian Embassy in Washington as part
of a protest against Abacha.
The Nigerians have responded by pressing charges against the
demonstrators. The Nigerians have also attacked Robinson in
government-controlled newspapers and, critics of the government say,
have organized pickets of Robinson's office and placed full-page
advertisements denouncing his campaign as merely a ploy to gain
``I personally have a lot of respect for Mr. Randall Robinson because
of the role he played on South Africa,'' Kazaure said on Tuesday in an
interview. ``But what he is doing about Nigeria is not the right way to
go about it.'' Kazaure denied that the Nigerian government had pressed
the U.N. officials to move the Robinson luncheon or orchestrated any
The protests by African-American officials over Nigeria stands in
marked contrast to their relative silence in past years to crimes by
African leaders like Idi Amin of Uganda or Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the
Central African Republic.
``We wanted this spiritual embrace with Africa and sometimes didn't
make the distinctions between the government of a country and its
people,'' said Robinson, explaining the reluctance of black leaders to
criticize black governments. ``We should have been critical of Uganda
early on. But I don't think we were armed sufficiently in the upper
reaches of our community with the right information.''
Transmitted: 95-06-14 22:52:50 EDT
mukiri w githendu
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