Monday, November 28, 2016

Allah is Not Obliged (Ivory Coast--Cote d'Ivoire): Loved it Because It's Brutal, Funny and It Mentions...

Allah is Not Obliged

Loved it Because: Well it's hard to say that you 'love' a book about child soldiers but Kourouma has crafted a first person narrative that is brutal, funny, and which mentions your 'father's cock' (i.e., faforo) about a hundred times.  Allah is Not Obliged is the tale of a young Ivorian boy named Birahima who becomes a child soldier of misfortune--killing and pontificating his way across West Africa.  

The author is from Cote d'Ivoire but the narrative skips across the porous borders of its neighbors.  This is a decidedly West African novel...less about a country and more about a phenomenon--the rise of the child soldier.  The best portions of the novel are the quasi histories of the different countries--Kourouma boils down the essential tenets of the political and warfield battles in an easy to read and digestible manner.  Take his summary of Sierra Leone:


While all this corruption was going on and all these coup d’états were happening one after another, on the sly, people were plotting a bite-that-has-no-teeth (among Black Africans a nasty surprise is known as ‘that which bites but has no teeth’) against the corrupt scheming regime of Sierra Leone. Walahé! Completely on the sly, completely in secret. Foday Sankoh, Corporal Foday Sankoh was about to bite Sierra Leone using no teeth. Corporal Foday Sankoh introduced a third partner to Sierra Leone’s dance. Up till then, everything had been simple, very simple: there were only two dancers, only two underhand partners, the government and the army. If the dictator in power got too corrupt and too rich, there was a coup d’état and he was replaced by a general. If he hadn’t already been assassinated, the dictator took the money and fled without further ado. When the guy who replaced him got too corrupt, too rich, there was another different coup and someone else replaced him and, if he hadn’t already been assassinated, he did a runner with the liriki, the cash. And so on. Foday Sankoh fucked up this private dance when he introduced another whore to the dance: the people, the poor people, the Black Nigger Native savage Sierra Leonean bushmen. First off, who is Foday Sankoh, Corporal Foday Sankoh? Gnamokodé!  Foday Sankoh had to do was cut off the arms of as many people, as many of the citizens of Sierra Leone, as possible. Every Sierra Leone prisoner had his hands cut off before being sent back into the territory occupied by government forces. Foday gave the orders and methods and the orders and the methods were enforced. The ‘long sleeve, short sleeve’ policy was put into action. ‘Short sleeve’ was when you cut off the whole forearm; ‘long sleeve’ was when you cut off both hands at the wrist.

Were I teaching African history, these little snippets would be the perfect way to break up a dry lecture.  
Links for Further Reading:
NPR: A Chatty, Pensive, 'Rude As A Goat's Beard' Child Soldier
Words Without Borders Book Review
The Guardian's Book Review: Welcome to the Jungle

My Highlights:
Allah is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma
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Last annotated on November 26, 2016
First off, Number one … My name is Birahima and I’m a little nigger. Not ’cos I’m black and I’m a kid. I’m a little nigger because I can’t talk French for shit. That’s how things are. You might be a grown-up, or old, you might be Arab, or Chinese, or white, or Russian—or even American—if you talk bad French, it’s called parler petit nègre—little nigger talking—so that makes you a little nigger too. That’s the rules of French for you. Number two … I didn’t get very far
Number three … I’m disrespectful, I’m rude as a goat’s beard and I swear like a bastard. I don’t swear like the civilised Black Nigger African Natives in their nice suits, I don’t say fuck! shit! bitch! I use Malinké swear words like faforo! (my father’s cock—or your father’s or somebody’s father’s), gnamokodé! (bastard), walahé! (I swear by Allah). Malinké is the name of the tribe I belong to. They’re Black Nigger African Savages and there’s a lot of us in the north of Côte d’Ivoire and in Guinea, and there’s even Malinkés in other corrupt fucked-up banana republics like Gambia, Sierra Leone and up in Senegal. Number four … I suppose I should
‘This is simply another ordeal which Allah has sent you (an ‘ordeal’ is ‘a severe or trying experience intended to judge someone’s worth’). If Allah has ordained that you be miserable here on earth, it is because he has reserved some greater happiness for you in paradise.’
You don’t have to have been to the place of excision to know they cut something out of the girls. They cut something out of my mother, but unfortunately maman’s blood didn’t stop, it kept gushing like a river swollen by a storm. All her friends had stopped bleeding. That meant that maman was the one who was to die at the place of excision. That’s the way of the world, the price that has to be paid. Every year at the ceremony of excision, the djinn of the forest takes one of the girls who has come to be initiated and kills her and keeps her for a sacrifice. The girl is buried there in the forest. The djinn never chooses an ugly girl, it always picks one of the most beautiful, one of the prettiest of the girls to be initiated. Maman was the prettiest girl of her age, that was why the djinn chose her to die in the forest. The sorceress who was the excisor was
Bambaras are called different things like Lobis or Sénoufos or Kabiès. Before people came to colonise them, they didn’t wear any clothes. They were called the naked peoples. Bambaras are true indigenes, the true ancient owners of the land. The
Even if the man and woman getting married are black, and they both wear black clothes, if they never do sex together then it’s a white marriage—a mariage en blanc in French. It
The woman is always wrong. That’s what they call women’s rights.
Yacouba was badly hurt and put in hospital, but Allah made him better because Yacouba performs the five daily prayers every day and was always slitting the throats of sacrifices. Allah made him better because his sacrifices were fitting. (Among Black Nigger African Natives, if you say ‘the sacrifices were fitting’, it means you got lucky.)
Refugees had it easier than everyone else in the country because everyone was always giving them food, the UNHCR, NGOs, everyone. But they only allowed women, kids younger than five and old people. In other words I wasn’t allowed in.
But he never smoked hash. The hash was reserved for the child-soldiers, on account of it made them as strong as real soldiers. Walahé!
According to my Larousse, a funeral oration is a speech in honour of a famous celebrity who’s dead. Child-soldiers are the most famous celebrities of the late twentieth century, so whenever a child-soldier dies, we have to say a funeral oration. That means we have to recount how in this great big fucked-up world they came to be a child-soldier. I do it when I feel like it, but I don’t have to. I’m doing it for Sarah because I want to, I’ve got the time, and anyway it’s interesting.
Allah is not obliged to be fair about everything, about all his creations, about all his actions here on earth. The same goes for me. I don’t have to talk, I’m not obliged to tell my dog’s-life-story, wading through dictionary after dictionary. I’m fed up talking, so I’m going to stop for today. You can all fuck off!
The dictator Samuel Doe started off as a sergeant in the Liberian army. He—Sergeant Doe—and some of his friends were fed up with the arrogance and the contempt that the Black Nigger Afro-Americans, or Congos, showed for the indigenous people of Liberia. ‘Indigenous people’ are the Black Nigger African Natives ‘originating and living or occurring naturally in an area’. They’re different from Black Nigger Afro-Americans who are ‘descendants of freed slaves’. The descendants of the slaves, also known as Congos, acted just like the colonists in Liberia. That’s how my Harrap’s defines ‘indigenous people’ and ‘Afro-Americans’. Samuel Doe and some of his friends were fed up of all the injustice that rained down on the indigenous people of Liberia in independent Liberia. That was why the indigenous people revolted and it was why two indigenous people plotted an indigenous conspiracy against the arrogant colonials and the Afro-American colonialists.
They were very inconspicuous right up to the fateful day (‘fateful’ means ‘destined to happen’) 24 December 1989, Christmas Eve 1989. On Christmas Eve 1989, they waited until all the border guards at Boutoro (a border town) were dead drunk, a hundred percent drunk, then attacked them. They quickly overran the Boutoro border post, massacred the border guards and took all their guns. Now that the border guards were dead, the officers pretended to be the border guards and got on the phone and called army headquarters in Monrovia. They told headquarters that the border guards had fought off an attack and requested reinforcements. The army dispatched reinforcements. The reinforcements walked straight into an ambush, they were all massacred, all killed, all emasculated, and all their weapons were seized.
When you haven’t got no father, no mother, no brothers, no sisters, no aunts, no uncles, when you haven’t got nothing at all, the best thing to do is become a child-soldier. Being a child-soldier is for kids who’ve got fuck all left on earth or Allah’s heaven.
the UN asked the CDEAO to intervene. The CDEAO asked Nigeria to do humanitarian peacekeeping. (‘Humanitarian peacekeeping’ is when one country is allowed to send soldiers into another country to kill innocent victims in their own country, in their own villages, in their own huts, sitting on their own mats.) Nigeria
Prince Johnson was the third big important rebel warlord. He had exclusive rights over large parts of Liberia. But he was a prince, meaning he was a nice warlord because he had principles.
And for what? To make sure the new arrival isn’t a devourer of souls. Prince Johnson didn’t need any soul-eaters, he already had too many of them in his district. It was a haven for soul-eaters. (Black Nigger African Natives claim that at night Black Africans turn into owls and take the souls of their nearest and dearest and go off and devour them in the branches
And, even though Allah never leaves empty a mouth he has created, things were tough. Really tough! Faforo! He started out by attacking
Among the dead were three child-soldiers. Three of the Good Lord’s children, according to the saint. They weren’t friends of mine. Their names were Mamadou the Mad, John the Proud and Boukary the Damned. They died because that’s how Allah wanted things. And Allah is not obliged to be fair about everything he does. And I’m not obliged to say a funeral oration for these three child-soldiers.
battle lasted several days. The attack lasted so many days that there was even time to alert the ECOMOG peacekeeping forces, there was even time for them to get there. The peacekeeping forces didn’t keep the peace, they didn’t take any unnecessary risks. They weren’t bothered about details, they just fired shells at random, they fired shells at the people doing the
attacking and at the people being attacked. They bombed every part of the town, the natives’ quarter, full of Black Nigger African Natives, and the miners’ quarter. When everything was demolished, when no one was moving any more, not the attackers or the attacked, the peacekeeping forces stopped massacring. They picked up the wounded. The wounded were evacuated to their field hospitals. They drew up a report about the status of forces on the ground. That was their role, their mission, their duty. They ascertained that it was Johnson’s territory. Therefore Johnson was awarded control of the town and took over running the mines. The dead
Sierra Leone is a small fucked-up African state between Guinea and Liberia. For a century and a half, from the start of the English colonisation in 1808 right up to independence on 27 April 1961, the country was a haven of peace, stability and security. Everything was simple back then. From an administrative point of view, there were two only types of people: first, British subjects including colonial English toubab colonists and the creos, or creoles; and, second, there was the ‘protected subjects’, Black Nigger Native savages out in the bush. The creoles were descended from freed slaves who came over from America. Walahé! The Black Nigger Natives worked as hard as wild beasts. The creoles got all the jobs as civil servants in the government and managers of the commercial businesses.
And the colonial English colonists and the thieving double-crossing Lebanese pocketed all the money. The Lebanese didn’t show up until much later, between the two big wars. The creoles were rich intelligent Black Niggers who were a lot better than the Black Nigger Native Savages. A lot of them had law degrees and different kinds of diplomas like doctors. When independence came on 27 April 1961, the Black Nigger Native savages got the right to vote and ever since then Sierra Leone is nothing but coup d’états and assassinations and lynchings and executions and all sorts of trouble, a big-time fucked-up mess on account of Sierra Leone is rich in diamonds and gold and all sorts of corruption. Faforo!
While all this corruption was going on and all these coup d’états were happening one after another, on the sly, people were plotting a bite-that-has-no-teeth (among Black Africans a nasty surprise is known as ‘that which bites but has no teeth’) against the corrupt scheming regime of Sierra Leone. Walahé! Completely on the sly, completely in secret. Foday Sankoh, Corporal Foday Sankoh was about to bite Sierra Leone using no teeth. Corporal Foday Sankoh introduced a third partner to Sierra Leone’s dance. Up till then, everything had been simple, very simple: there were only two dancers, only two underhand partners, the government and the army. If the dictator in power got too corrupt and too rich, there was a coup d’état and he was replaced by a general. If he hadn’t already been assassinated, the dictator took the money and fled without further ado. When the guy who replaced him got too corrupt, too rich, there was another different coup and someone else replaced him and, if he hadn’t already been assassinated, he did a runner with the liriki, the cash. And so on. Foday Sankoh fucked up this private dance when he introduced another whore to the dance: the people, the poor people, the Black Nigger Native savage Sierra Leonean bushmen. First off, who is Foday Sankoh, Corporal Foday Sankoh? Gnamokodé!

Foday Sankoh had to do was cut off the arms of as many people, as many of the citizens of Sierra Leone, as possible. Every Sierra Leone prisoner had his hands cut off before being sent back into the territory occupied by government forces. Foday gave the orders and methods and the orders and the methods were enforced. The ‘long sleeve, short sleeve’ policy was put into action. ‘Short sleeve’ was when you cut off the whole forearm; ‘long sleeve’ was when you cut off both hands at the wrist.

The seven people were: the doctor, the generalissimo’s aide-de-camp, Yacouba, Sekou, Saydou, Sekou’s coadjutor, and me, Birahima, the blameless, fearless street