I want a Continent of Upright People by Binyavanga Wainaina

I was about to release this on social media, and somebody whose opinion I value very much said she wouldn’t endorse it. I am quite charming, and cuddly, so I manage to get my way a lot of the time. I want a continent of upright people. By this I mean, people who love the continent, and those who have its best interests at heart. I would like a social media movement for all these people to come together for a common purpose. I do not want it to be political, but what is a movement without politics. Which common purpose is POWER. We want to harness the power of everybody to make sure Africa has power this century, we can be listened to. Everybody is welcome. Up to yesterday, I thought I was right to want this. I am right you all are wrong. I am sorry. I was cleaning house today, when I became the problem for 2 people I love dearly. Somebody who I love very much hated something I was about to do. I wanted to broadcast my righteousness from the highest place. This can work. From the poorest of the poor, to the richest of the rich. Social conservatives who love the continent you are welcome to join. If I am going to Kano, I would like to be safe. I do not want anywhere in this continent of ours to be exempt from me to visit. I am putting this essay up on EXPOUND Magazine. Mostly because Saddiq M Dzukogi is generous, a feminist, who is dedicated to the highest of ideas. He is from Northern Nigeria, is generous to Southerners. I decided to release this essay in the magazine because he is generous. I have been watching him on Facebook for while. He carries a lot of the spirit that founded Kwani, and Chimurenga and Farafina. To translate this essay into Yoruba, `Igbo, Hausa and Pidgin, Tiv, and Ijaw. The translators will be paid a dollar fifty a word. It is a difficult job, and people should be paid well. I have been involved in situations before where money is being spent. I will not be paid for any part of this. The translations will be videoed, so those who do not want to read, can enjoy with, with their ears and eyes, read by an actor. Mudi Yahaya will form a Trust in Nigeria that will protect your money. `We encourage people to translate the essay into their own languages. We will be coming to you for money. But this is just a taster. We need dollars to make a social media friendly documentary on the future of the black world. We will start with Haiti, which is the first country to be free, and they have had a hurricane which has destroyed so much, we will go to Cuba, Jamaica, the `US with Black Lives Matter, Nigeria, the biggest black nation on earth, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Ouagadougou, Congo `Kinshasa, Senegal, Gambia.



I will write two books about my travels, which I already carry an advance for:

The UK and North American rights to Binyavanga Wainaina’s next two books, How to Write About Africa and It Is Only a Matter of Acceleration Now, have been snapped up, The Bookseller reports.

Simon Prosser, publishing director of Penguin Books imprint Hamish Hamilton, which acquired the British and Commonwealth rights, took to Twitter to say he is “thrilled” by the development, and told The Bookseller that he “couldn’t be more excited and proud” to bring Wainaina to the widest possible readership, calling the Kenyan author “both a brilliant, highly original writer and a fearlessly engaged thinker on Africa today”.

North American rights have been acquired by Chris Jackson at Random House/Spiegel &Grau.

How to Write About Africa grew out of Wainaina’s 2005 essay of the same name, published in Granta, which received worldwide attention. The book is due to be published in 2017.

In a 2010 follow-up essay for Bidoun entitled “How to Write About Africa II” (no longer available online but quoted in The New Yorker) Wainaina explained the genesis of the essay, which he said grew out of an email written “in a fit of anger, maybe even low blood sugar – it runs in the family”. A third installment, “How not to write about Africa in 2012 – a beginner’s guide”, was published in The Guardian in 2012. The essay was published in book form, on a limited run, by Kwani? in 2006.

It Is Only a Matter of Acceleration Now, which the author gave Books LIVE a heads-up about in May, calling it his “big Africa book”, is set for publication in 2019.

We will carry with us Neo Musangi, Msingi Sasis and Isaac Amuke. I will cut my hair and put on a good suit. A lot of whom we are going to interview is traditional leaders, starting with Lamido Sanusi, to the king of the Zulus, to the king of the Ashanti,to the different kings of the Ga, in Ghana, to the chairman of the Luo council of elders, to elders among the Gikuyu. We will interview the political youth of the next generation. Not the NGO funded youth, political young people who live and survive the way the other citizens of their countries do. We will stay during these times with Upright people who choose to host us. I am a homosexual. A public one. It could be the person I am to stay with is a homophobe, that is ok. Because he signed up as an `upright person in Soweto, or in `Kano, or in Juba, he is responsible for our security, because upright people, do not allow their guests to stay where it is not safe. I know what I am saying. I have stayed in many cities in South African townships… where they hate black people from the rest of Africa. I was safe, even if I look most definitely foreign in South Africa. I was safe because the people I was staying with are known to the community. I am impatient, I nearly died last year. I have been given a reprieve. I do not know whether I will live till am 90, or if I will fall due to a stroke next year. I take lots of medication. I will do so for the rest of my life. I stopped smoking. I like beer to much to stop drinking. But everything in moderation. Last year around this time, I had my stroke. People from around the continent, including a strong contingent from `Nigeria came to my rescue. This is what your money did. You bought me around 30,000 dollars. I am deeply touched by that. That is what upright people do.

Let me tell you something, Ngugiwa Thiongo is a kind kind man. Like any genius, and he is a genius. I, too am a genius. But, not like him. I think people evolved a kind of genius in Africa in our own languages. A significant reason why the Post colonial state remains fucked in Africa is our your and me’s refusal to decolonise. People cannot give much of a damn for nation states that speak their colonisers language. Korea, Norway, Germany have evolved compassionate nation states, where state institutions care about people. A state which speaks the language of its coloniser is fucked from the beginning, whatever you do about corruption, it will remain corrupted by people in a village, who speak a language and send not the brightest boy to school, they send the most docile, biddable boy to school because he will get to speak English or French and join the government, where he will give jobs to people from his village. Because he speaks English, or French, or Spanish, or Portuguese, he ends up stealing money from the government to eat in England, France, Spain, or Portugal. Even when google says they will translate all the worlds’ languages. The essay, which I am trying to finish will make my position clear. You of course, can readily disagree and I welcome criticism. Which makes it very easy to govern in those languages. The south African constitution is one that recognises 11 official languages. Because, the ANC spent many years in exile in Africa, and knew the problems. Truth is they remain with English and Afrikaans as the most visible languages from outside, and this is one of the reasons the campus students are fighting to decolonise language. I want a hundred million people in five years to follow the upright people. In ten years I want a billion people to follow us. In all the languages of Africa.

If you are a die-hard Raila supporter, we want you to join us because you are an upright person. If you feel, very passionately about Uhuru Kenyatta, you are welcome to join us because you are an upright person. If you are an Igbo trader who left school in standard five and wishes you lived in Biafra not `Nigeria, you are welcome. If you are a Buharist, a `Yoruba who believes in `Tinubu, you are welcome. If you are a die-hard EFF supporter join us. `if you are a Zulu who believes and follows his king, you are free to join us, if you are a Coloured Person who is very suspicious of black power politics join us, if you are an Afrikaner who is willing to belong to an Africa that has power POWER in this world join us. Do not join our movement if you have any doubts that this century is Africa’s century. If YOU have any doubts that with `POWER, We can behave responsibly to our citizenry. If you belong to the Caribbean, and you believe in the possibility of our rising in this world, if u arein Britain, who colonized us and took our people into concentration camps, you are free to join our movement, if you are from the US, and black, we want you among us you are an upright person. If you are white, and ready to belong to a black driven movement, you are welcome. Brazilians, Colombians, even Iceland.

Now, the upright people who join this movement, anybody. People who hate me personally like Nanjala on twitter. If I didn’t apologise I do now. am sorry. I was drunk. If you are Abenea Ndago, used to talking shit about me, I hope you still want to be an upright person so I can stay at your place sometime in the future. There are I am sure typos in this essay. I would like to thank Khadija, I am sure you would prefer to remain anonymous. I would like to thank Mudi Yahaya for giving his time and many hours to discussing this essay with me. Mudi Yahaya loves this continent too, without reservation. I would like to thank `Kamau John and his wife, Fiona – a teacher in Africa’s leading school, sostema school. He is the first upright person and shot a lot of video of me, with his producer, wife, Fiona. Parents of talented kids from all over Africa, this school send many of their kids to Harvard and `Yale on full scholarships. If you are sure your child is exceptional, it doesn’t matter whom you know, and if you can afford a plane ticket to Ghana, if your child, passes the entrance exam. John Kamau is a friend of mine, with his wife Fiona. I am trying to be an upright person. At first they insisted on treating me like an invalid. Fiona noticed it first. They are a couple very attuned to each other. They stayed with me for a week, doing social media for the launch of this essay. This is the first and most important part of the essay. Feel free to translate it into your language. Any language, Greek, French, Zulu, Somali. I must end with this. Egypt’s attempt to change its society went very wrong. Upright people learn fast, Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag by 3 women, one queer. The Lesson, there was openness. Let people choose how they engage. We want no leaders, we are all upright people. I want no special treatment because of this. EXPOUND magazine will kickstart the campaign. If you agree that you are an upright person, have the profile pic, for the next year. I know my life is different from now on. I would like to thank Brian Ihirwe Kamanzi and WanjiruNjehiaand MaishaAuma here in Berlin, have to not burst out, the impulsive Binyavanga must disappear. The bad tempered Binyavanga must disappear. I like my food, very much, but I must eat food friendly to a diabetic, which I am. To be honest, the fact of me nearly dying brought this about. I wanted to witness Africa coming together before I died. The truth is, I am not done with life yet. I want to fight for my life too. Will you help me?


-Binyavanga Wainaina



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