AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

The #BullshitFiles: Christina Aguilera feeds war-torn Rwanda
Natacha Nsabimana | October 13th, 2013

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Christina Aguilera, ambassador for World Food Program (WFP), recently went to “war-torn Rwanda” People Magazine tells us. Well thankfully she made it back home safe. War is not an easy thing. Although, I’m not sure exactly which war People Magazine is referring to – last I checked, the civil war and genocide in Rwanda ended twenty years ago. Well, Rwanda has other problems and its government is implicated in violence in neighboring DRC, but it is not war-torn. Also, Rwanda is an entire country. Where in Rwanda was Aguilera?

The song the children are singing in the video is of course inaudible but Aguilera’s is crystal clear. Her Light Up The Sky forms the background to the video. We hear her sing “When skies are grey, I’ll light your way, I’ll be your shoulder, You can lean on me” while seeing her feed “starved African children.”

Interestingly, one word from the kids’ song in Kinyarwanda is clear: Tuzarwubaka: We will build it (i.e. the country); clearly indicating that meaningless charity is not what they have in mind but rather that they are actively engaged. This is of course lost to all the non-Kinyarwanda speakers.

“The people of Rwanda touched me in a way I cannot express or put into words. They are in a place that needs our help and I am so proud of the work that we are doing there,” Aguilera insists. “This trip came at a time when I needed to step away and connect with bigger issues in the world,” she continues.

Africa: helping white people who’re a wee bit down-in-the-dumps feel better about themselves since 1884.

Even if we were to accept this blatant lie that Rwanda is a “war-torn” place where “refugee camps” abound, what kinds of superpower do Aguilera and the WFP have to make them think they alone could change such situation? War and poverty are the result of larger structural inequalities, part of larger historical, political circumstances that no individual can resolve. And certainly not Hollywood style celebrities: Aguilera, Invisible Children’s Jason Russell or even Bono. Enough of these white celebrities scrolling out of nowhere wanting to save African lives. Keep to your various professions thank you very much.

Also, the participating ‘restaurants’ to help world hunger, partners with the WFP are: KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Really? Junk food providers helping end ‘world hunger.’ Given all the information available to indicate the disastrous effects (heart diseases, diabetes) of eating junk food this partnership couldn’t be more ironic.

The video ends with Aguilera singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to a group of children. One among them is singing along and she seems a bit surprised by this. Too unfathomable that children of ‘war-torn poor Rwanda’ might know an English/American nursery rhyme? Welcome to the 21st century Ms. Aguilera!

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Natacha Nsabimana

Natacha Nsabimana is a Phd Candidate in anthropology at Columbia.

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73 thoughts on “The #BullshitFiles: Christina Aguilera feeds war-torn Rwanda

  1. I am, as well, bothered by the over simplification and sometimes ‘dumbing down’ of world conditions. The messages these organizations communicate need to be addressed and confronted and I admire you for doing that. I wonder though, what is the solution? Forget those “feel good white people”. What does Africa need?

  2. With regards to your last question, one of the things “Africa needs” is not to be regarded as a monolith with all the same needs, or as “in need.”

  3. You know I live here. You idiots need to stop be so dramatic. I swear if the support is not ironic, it’s crucified.

  4. The KFC comment is hysterical. Fast food to end world hunger. Irony indeed. Wonder why they still charge Black folks in “the hood.” Perhaps “the hood” needs a war…..slapping forehead – there is a war going on in the hood – us against us. So we got war, poverty, accented English (you don’t sound like a black person)……where is the free KFC?

  5. Ok. Let’s talk about Rwanda and Christina Aguilera. What could Christina Aguilera do to contribute positively to Rwanda instead of what she did. Or, are you suggesting that it’s better for Africa if all outside support is pulled out? If you don’t like what people are doing, provide them with an alternative.

  6. The problem is in the question, “What is the solution?” There is this assumption among many of us westerners that there will be some sort of panacea or potentially a few different factors that will solve Africa’s (see Elle’s comment above about generalizing the continent) problems.

    We must realize that we don’t have the solutions and that the “problems” are not only different on a country to country basis, but, because of the way these countries were divided up, on a community to community basis. While we will never admit it, we assume that Africans don’t have their own solutions, so we never ask them about their ideas. Then, when they do bring their own ideas, we dismiss them. This is why Jeffrey Sach’s Millenium Villages have failed so horrifically.

    Ask communities what issues they face and help them facilitate their goals. It’s not simple, it’s not easy, and it’s not sexy, but it’s much better than what we have done and continue to do.

  7. Yea, foreigners should stay out of Africa. Because most Arfican countries are doing such a great job on their own.

  8. I don’t quite understand these ambassador campaigns to begin with. The majority of its funding is underwritten by the governments of the UN themselves. It just seems like a horrible waste of resources to fly these ambassadors aka celebrities to “war-torn” places for photo ops and tours and finally a video production. And do they pay these ambassadors? I hope not but even still, that is lots of time, energy and money that could be better invested in the actual goal, which is feeding children.

  9. I appreciate the fact that at least there are people wishing to reach out to others through the respective means they have.But I think the problem of Africa and to be more precised, the war stricken countries can be solved only by them. Having an influx of these so called stars invading these premises in the name of charity isn’t something that should be medialised and shown to the whole world how they are trying to reach out to the “needy and poor Afica”. That’s hypocrasy to me because the gifts the claim to bring along to these needy people are often attached with strings.
    Beside, Africa for the past years has always been depicted as a barren land void of anything good??? Why is it that Africa is only seen as doomsday territory where nothing good can come from?
    Am tired of all these pretentious organisation who claim they want to help, thats bullshit!!

  10. Fair enough. I am not a westerner by the way. I’m Eritrean. I’ve never been there. I grew up in the Middle East, like half of the Eritrean people who live outside of Eritrea.

  11. This is just pure negativity. Regardless of her being white or celebrity. She is doing something whether small to you and big to her. She is doing something and yes it’s okay to do things to help other people and make yourself feel good at the same time. I think you are a big part of the problem. Why nothing, even small things are not done in Africa. Perhaps spend less time being so negative and writing articles like this and become more of an active voice than a critical one. And just to be clear I say this as an African born non-white person who is in Africa probably more than you are. I applaud my friends who are white. Who go to different countries and do something. Something is better than nothing. Lets face it. What do black people do for their own. Let alone Africa? I know, I have seen it first hand…. Nothing.

  12. It’s sad to me that we are so quick to jump on people for trying to help. Whether or not the end result is change, for a brief while those kids were happy, and smiling, and those memories will last far longer than anything we can provide. I myself have been to Africa (Kenya) for two months twice. I don’t go there expecting to change anything but hoping to show love to those who don’t hear it everyday. I think it is great that Christina went and though her word choice may not have had factual basis behind it, her heart seems pure. We don’t have the right to say what is “good” and what is “bad”. I agree that there is a false stigma attached to Africa being a cause and not a country and us as ‘White people” SOMETIMES viewing Africans as projects rather than people… that is not okay. However by going to love on people who are struggling and bring a temporary distraction from sadness, how can we fault someone for that? If we constantly tear people down from trying to do ‘good’ who would want to? I’d hate to see our world in a few years if we constantly hate on people trying to show love.

  13. As a PHd candidate maybe you should inform yourself about the issue of which you speak. IF you researched it, you would know that Christina visited Kigali, Rwanda. If a celebrity such as Christina Augilera, Jason Russell, Bono or anyone else wants to represent the WFP or any other program to help bring awareness to an issue or to help raise money for a cause, what is it to you? Celebrities bring in much needed cash for the programs they represent. If the children of Kigali, Rwanda did not need the WFP it would send its resources to area in which they were needed. Does it matter that Yum foods is the parent company to 3 fast food chains?? Not to anyone but you. Its important to address world hunger and it has to begin with someone. I am certain Christina’s trip to Rwanda and lending her Voice to help end world hunger comes from a pure heart. Every dollar raised helps someone somewhere, whether in Rwanda, Haiti, or elsewhere. If foreigners stay out of Rwanda or the entire continent of Africa, millions of people would starve, most of them women and children. Its people like you, Natacha Nsabimana, that create apathy which spawns a world full of people that could care less about anyone or anything except themselves. Christina Aguilera and other celebrities who work for an important cause should be commended not chastised.

  14. marketing – everyone can buy into christina aguilera (or whatever celebrity) and feel they are doing their bit by association to ‘save the world’. Celebrity is a construct to sell stuff. If anyone in the ‘west’ wants to ‘save Africa’ stop your governments from screwing African countries out of their rescourses – isn’t this the point of the ‘democracy’ so violently enforced upon everyone else – why not try using it?…when’s there going to be an American or European ‘Spring’? It’s said African countries are screwed up by corruption and everyone blames corrupt African government officials, but corruption is a 2 way process – where’s the money coming from to pay people off? It’s your companies, your governments…are you guys seriously ok with this? You’re being sold the concept of being ‘saviours’ while you watch netflix and eat KFC all powered by exploitation. Yeah, feel good about it and yeah, fuck us. thanks a lot.

  15. The only narrative that the media feeds on is the poverty and desolation of Africa. I almost screamed watching this video then laughed when I saw the KFC publicity, apparently Africa now makes for good marketing strategy. Pathetic really.

    As to the comments above, African children don’t sit around waiting for celebrities (or westerners) so they can be happy (or dance) and have those moments preserved. And having celebrities constantly use Africa to up their rankings isn’t really helping anyone but themselves. Development is a complicated process that mostly involves people at the grassroots living their everyday lives, doing business (no matter how small), saving, investing and gradually growing their communities and countries – no celebrity is going to do that for them.

  16. To call Rwanda “war-torn” is unfathomable considering any traces of a war go back well over 20 years. That being said, I think we need to move away from labelling the efforts of anyone fairer-skinned person who comes to Africa to help as the “white saviour complex”. Because not all the efforts of white people in Africa fit that narrative. I am by no means an “Uncle Tom” or “lover of anything foreign” – if anything I have a profound disdain for the west (even though I’m communicating in one of their languages at the moment) and the esoteric and redundant perception of Africa that is perpetuated by its media outlets. And I happen to think Ms Aguilera is past her sell-by date. However, as Africans, we must learn how to differentiate between a person who comes to our continent with the supercilious, patronising, and somewhat racist attitude that their contribution is very much needed and someone who is comes with the desire to boost their own PR and serve their own interests à la Chrisitina Aguilera who without a doubt used her “good deed” to serve her vain, selfish and narcissistic ends as demonstrated by the fact that her make-up had been flawlessly applied for the planned photo opportunity. Because there is a difference. While each is equally deplorable, I doubt X-Tina came with the “Messiah complex” that some white people have typically come to Africa with. Her celebrity status is in dire straits and she pretty much needed the attention to get the very little left of her music career going.

    As demonstrated by the opinions on this post and other like them, I don’t think white people can ever win given that their so-called contributions to Africa are always met with contempt and suspicion. That has a lot to do with their history on our continent but we need to find a way to move away from that because constantly applying, moaning and getting enraged about the “white burden” narrative is not helping anyone. It isn’t improving the lives of the children in that picture nor is it going to sit heavy on the conscience of the many white people who are eagerly awaiting to come to that general diaspora called Africa with the intention of their Facebook profiles being inundated with pictures of starving but happy African children. Though I hate that she had to sing and dance with the children because hey, that’s what Africans do best, let’s beware of adopting a “one narrative fits all” method when faced with issues of this nature.

  17. One thing Africa needs is to be left alone by western governments that think we still are in colonial times. Even the problem of dictators, as long as they open the market to European investors and abide by their wishes, they can stay in charge…
    Kadhafi had become a great friend of the French government. Mubarak was a buddy to US presidents… I guess the negative result to European countries will be that they will have to accommodate refugees running away from wars they have fueled.
    In the case of Aguilera, they are many westerners doing amazing things in Africa without making it look like they are messiahs. A little bit of humility would do. She so seems like someone advertising herself that whatever she may do might not pass unsuspected of unclean intentions.
    … All that said, I still love ‘Lady Marmalade’ and ‘Genie in a Bottle’… they remind me of my ex :'(
    Gustave Ineza, Oxford-UK

  18. I clicked on this story because the pitcher she’s holding is the exact same design as the ones we used in Zambia. It reminded me of the great times I spent there. I visited many friends who were doing peace corps all over Africa. Zambia was my favorite country.

    This article seems to be written by haters. So what if she wants to go over there and try to do some good? More power to her.

    When I traveled to Africa I wanted to help people, but when I was there I realized that my calling to help people was in the United States. There are people in need all over the world. I believe this is due to us as a people becoming reliant on technology, businesses, and governments and forgetting the sustainable lifestyles once lived.

    What the world needs now is sustainability. Without that, we’re going to continue to trash the place and make it uninhabitable for our children. In Zambia, there’s a huge government program where farmers join together to form co-ops, and they get hybrid, non GMO maize seed at a reduced rate. The catch is that they must sell it back to the government at a reduced rate. Where is the benefit? This program is being de-funded over the years and it is very top-down/unsustainable. One farmer had began to reduce the amount of land devoted to maize and diversify into other crops. I suggested that he start saving his seeds and creating his own heirloom varieties that were conditioned to his locale. He was already doing this, he did not need any help from me.

    What did most of the people in Africa need? Rain and large reservoirs with check dams to slowly percolate the stored rain water. Marketplace did a story on Rajendra Singh, and he did just this. Find his story and become inspired. What we all need most is clean water. This involves global freshwater management, and a global reduction of water pollution. Politics aside, without water there is no life.

    As an American, I feel my responsibility to the developing world is to warn them of the negative aspects of development, and to offer newly discovered, sustainable solutions that they can implement as they develop, bypassing the mistakes we made. It seems that here in United States, many sustainable alternatives to current processes aren’t used, because the current technology is already in place, and is guarded by those who own it.

    So to end my rant. Let’s not hate on “white people” (why does she need to be labeled as white anyway, it is more significant that she is a wealthy person from a developed country) who travel to “developing” countries to try to help out. Whatever their motives, at least they are doing something more than writing a hate filled article that has no benefit for anyone on this planet. My reply echo’s what Charlie said. I have been there, it seems apparent that whoever wrote this article has not. I felt at home in Africa. Before I left, people would say: “Aren’t you scared?” “Haven’t you seen locked up abroad” No… I’m more afraid in the United States, where there is little community in many places.

    OK, so Johannesburg was scary, but hey, cities aren’t sustainable so there is an inherent “evil” in them. The people in the villages were the best. One day I hope to live in a place as wonderful as the villages that I stayed in across Africa. Sustenance farming is sustainable, and if you’re good at it you can sell your extra food to the suckers living in the cities!

  19. Why come so far to help if there is help needed in your backyard? People need happiness everywhere.. Not just Kenya.. #sigh!

  20. I think what Natacha is implying is that, Rwanda hasn’t been in war since 1994 and still being referred to as a war-torn Rwanda. And that shows how these pretentious celebrities are actualy out of touch with the reality of what’s going on in many countries in africa. Rwandans have rebuilt their country and they will continue to do so. Those students are singing about building their country, not please feed us! And secondly I dont think christina pouring some porridge for kids in a class room really helps with anything in Rwanda and anywhere in this world but ruin our dignity and represent us as some hopeless people who are fighting senseless wars and can’t feed our children. The unjust cruelties that the west has poured down on africa ever since day one have always started as an act of love for humanity and an effort to be envolved but never ended well for us. They brought the bible, the chains, the guns, the loans from world bank and IMF and now they want to feed us! They are destroying our dignity and reputation. For example, a few coments above, someone seems to think that only white people are the ones who care about hungry africans. Well, in some perspective its true because only white folks are doing that, and africans are not because we know its a wrong approach. (See Pres Kagame, for clues on the right approach.) Better yet ask those children, they are singing out the clues. If you are willing to help, then man up and do a survey in Rwanda and see what they need the most. And it won’t be pitty from the west.

    Christina would have been a great guest if she came on tour and performed in Kigali, than interrupting with the class schedule.

  21. I have carefully read all the comments aforementioned and it apparent to me that there is a hug fight going on between all the commentators which i feel the center themes are racism,injustice,hypocrasy just to name a few.
    .Common guys this is the 21st century, we live but once and trying to justify who is better or not and talking about celebrities and their malicious or good-intended deeds wouldn’t solve the issue. Rather, we should work hand in gloves to make our world a better place to be. I am neither for “blacks” nor for “whites” because at the end of it all, we are all the same, HUMANS. But i greatly appeal to all of you my brothers and sisters to set aside our grievances and rather show love to each other and work together. Rather than pointing accusing fingers at each other, lets seek solutions to our problems.Though historically, Africa has suffered and has been treated unfairly in the eyes of the world, let us have a sense of forgiveness and move forward because keeping hold of the grievances we may have against the perpetrators wouldn’t bring any positive result to the development of Africa and making the world a better place to be.
    I appreciate the efforts of some benevolent people trying to reach out to others. As for Ms Christina, it would have been more significant as one person said if she has rather made a live performance to these people to some how let the entire village have a taste of what others feel when encountering a star on stage.
    To conclude, i however appreciate her efforts by bringing herself to meet other people and i its pointless to trying to know if her visit had some background motive as to boost her public image or not because whether you do good with good intentions or not, people will still criticise you positively and negatively. Thats the world and that’s its people. But guys love conquers all and if we learn to love each other, we would have by passed our differences. I love you all irrespective of who you are or where u come from.

  22. I have never felt so proud to be Rwandese in this past few years as an Engineering student living in America. Like many other international Rwandese students here in the US, we can literally see a shit in the economic, social and overall development of our nation. So, when a certain western celebrity sheds light on the issues of our country and so happens to give wrong uninformed information, you can just imagine what goes through our minds. Rwanda needs our help, but not to the extent of undermining the progress we have accomplished thus far – that’s after the 1994 genocide-. Honestly, WE NEED YOUR MONEY, WESTERNERS! but we are so not bowing down to be ridiculed for it, which is not expected, I assume? In this case, respect us and we shall see to it that your willingness to make us a more prosperous nation is met. African issues are too general to discuss for now. I also come to think that Christina shouldn’t be bashed for this, she’s just doing what she does best:promoting YUM. YUM and WFP should know better not to give Christina false information.

  23. PEOPLE PLEASE STOP SAYING WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW!!!
    (1) There is still hunger in Rwanda, let me explain you how? AFRICA STILLS HAVE A BIG CHUNK OF THEIR PEOPLE GO TO BED HUNGRY!! I AM MYSELF FROM RWANDA AND I KNOW THAT WE HAVE TWO GROUPS (ONE OF FEW PEOPLE THAT IS DOING WELL – THE ONE THAT MOST PEOPLE NORMALLY WANT TO BE PORTRAYED) AND ANOTHER WITH PEOPLE WHO GO TO BED EXTREMELY HUNGRY) I DO AGREE THAT THERE IS NO WAR IN RWANDA FOR THE MOMENT, BUT
    (2) There are refugee camps in Rwanda IF YOU WERE INFORMED A BIT YOU WILL KNOW THAT THERE ARE PLENTY OF REFUGEE CAMPS IN RWANDA MAINLY FOR CONGOLESE PEOPLE FLEEING THEIR COUNTRY
    (3) Your comments show that your are ignorant of the Rwandan economy LIKE MANY AFRICAN COUNTRIES IN AFRICA, IF YOU WERE BORN IN TOWN, YOUR PARENTS WORK FOR NGO, HAVE LARGE SCALE BUSINESS OR ARE HIGH RANKING GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL, YOU NEVER TAKE TIME TO GO DOWN, INHALE ALL LOCAL MEDIA REPORTS THAT USUALLY TRIES TO PORTRAY ONLY THE POSITIVE TO ATTRACT BOTH VISITORS AND MORE AID MONEY, YOU WILL NEVER KNOW THE HUSTLE AND STRUGGLE THAT YOUR FELLOW AFRICAN GO THROUGH TO PUT SOMETHING ON THE TABLE!!!I advise you to read, make trip to the country, get to know more about your fellow countryman

  24. this is very very very sad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Rwanda is not war torn!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    wats d use of google????

  25. You ple get serious. We donot have war in Rwanda. Actually Rwanda is one of the most peaceful country in the world with good security. Whoever wrote this should apologise for misinforming the world.

  26. Funnily enough, Rwandan farmers probably feed Aguilara by growing most of the food she eats – or perhaps that is an equally sweeping generalization. Christina, don’t you think its ironic that most of the world’s food comes from the hungriest people? Perhaps the solution is not so simple as…let’s feed people. Perhaps its not about charity, or giving things away…perhaps its about shifting the rules of the game so that those who are more powerful do not keep others from food entitlements.

  27. Perhaps the solution is not so simple as…let’s feed people. Perhaps its not about charity, or giving things away…perhaps its about shifting the rules of the game, changing the system so that those who are more powerful do not keep others from food entitlements. It is ironic that the food Christina eats probably comes from a place like Rwanda, yet somehow she is feeding it back to them? Our food industry is dominated by very powerful actors and institutions. Africa (whatever that place might be) is not inadequate or incapable. Redistribution is needed but not in handouts -in economic restructuring. For example: how is it that a country like Ghana’s major export is cocoa – something that many in the country do not consume (why because colonialism instilled this institution for its own pursuit of getting cheap cocoa). The chocolate industry also does not make sense to me in that cocoa is shipped to Europe, processed, packaged and then shipped back to Ghana…where it melts in the heat…Something is very wrong here indeed.

  28. I have read this article and watched the attached video and this is what I have to say about the article…. Dear Natacha Nsabimana…and by extension, all that agree with this article, get your heads out of your ‘we-dont-need-food-aid’ arses! I must admit, Africa as a continent is trying to break out of the ‘war-torn’ and ‘poverty ridden’ character that the world has labelled us but the fact is, we still have those communities who are desperate for aid. What you should be doing is not criticizing such efforts but rather seeking to COMPLIMENT them with ideas of how organizations such as WFP and even the governments can not only bring much needed aid to those that deserve it, but opportunities for those communities to be self reliant. The reason why celebrities come over to act as ambassadors and film themselves providing aid to communities, whether or not it is to feel good about themselves etc, is not an issue that we should even two minutes of our valuable time to and waste space discussing, I even feel wasted by the mere fact that I need to respond to this. If that is what drives them, so be it, it is for people such as yourselves to come out and say, that was good, but how do you plan on encouraging sustainability? Concern yourself with the REAL issue and do not just rant to be seen to rant. Finally, unless you live in that community and have faced what they face, who are you to say no to aid when it comes. Concern yourselves with constructive ventures and not nonsense, which I tag this article as being….NONSENSE!

  29. Now take this from an African who has lived in Africa ll his life.If you Westeners are really so concerned with us past the point of making yourself feel better about yourself,you will learn Africa isnt a bunch of starving kids and people with Aids shooting at each other.Ask any current generation African and they will tell you the same.This video made me want to vomit.Thank you Natacha Nsabimana,you ACTUALLy understand that these photo shoots and videos wont ever really help anyone.You want to help Africa Christina?Petiotion your government to stop screwing Africans over for resources.THAT will help a great deal.

  30. This type of nonesense gets me mad! I am from DR Congo and currently aid to Rwanda has been suspended by the US due to their contribution in funding the war in the Great Lakes Region via the M23 rebel group. Kagame of Rwanda is a terror, supported by the US and other European allies as they continue to loot Congo. These stoopid celebrities need to get real- PR scandal! And the Rwandan genocide? Boohoo, 20yrs ago when recent deaths in Congo continue to exceed the death toll yet nobody’s talking about it. Abeg! Mtshiuuuuummm!

  31. I understand the angst towards Westerners, and I often feel this way.

    I just want to encourage you to contribute to spreading a more positive narrative about Africa. Talk about the fact that real life exists here, with people eating, driving, visiting friends, giving birth, going to school, and laughing. Share it. But don’t just focus on tearing apart people that have misconceptions. Show them that they are misguided, and then show them reality…with the positives and the negatives. There are problems everywhere, and this continent is not excluded from that. The problem is that people in the West are getting a very small picture, and derive their reality from that.

    I grew up in North America, and I am living in Burkina Faso, and have been for a while, and I hate the way western media portrays the continent (as if it is a country) and how nothing but war, poverty and disease makes it on TV. My boss here often says that it ticks her off that “Africa is the continent that people know the least about, but yet, people always have something to say about it” (she was speaking in regards to Westerners).

    A lot of people are good-intentioned, but ignorant. Some people want to feel good about themselves…some people just genuinely are upset by what they are hearing, and don’t know how to go about finding information. Hating on all Westerners isn’t any better than thinking all Africans are poor, and it’s not until we start encouraging dialogue that we can change perspectives. I think that we need to liaison between communities. I support the fact that you want to combat ignorance, and you want people to stop meddling who have no clue about the issues. But I think a nice follow up to this article, would be explaining what the reality is in Rwanda. Tearing down a lie is only part of the work. It needs to be replaced with positive, life-giving narrative.

  32. Oh dear! Really Kate? There comes a point in one’s existence when ignorance becomes unforgivable. “COMPLIMENT them with ideas of how organizations …” These ideas of theirs have been tried and tested for decades – shouldn’t they carry out their research properly first? These organisations are not concerned about sustainability. The “misery business” as we refer to it, is a lucrative business. Without them, they do not exist. And 70% of aid does not reach grassroots, it is part of the administration and cost of running. We are so used to these types of campaigns that we have become desensitized. Being grateful for the crumbs? These rhetorics really drain me. Bottom line is that, it is people like you and I who will bring change to Africa and not Ms Aguillera nor her posse. Not a freaking campaign video of the 90’s (which I will not even honor by watching).

    I agree with the article, in that, the instability in SOME of the regions of the Great Lakes is massively due in part to external forces wanting to keep control of the mineral wealth. How much do you know about the history of the region? Sometimes, it is important to contextualise rather than throwing random emotive sentences together. The REAL issue is that 1. the US (primarily) and European multinationals need to stop supporting the Kagame Regime. 2. the same institutions need to stop funding rebel groups in the region . 3. transparency, end of impunity (to name but a few) from both Rwandan and Congolese governments need to cemented. 4. economic stability will occur once security in both countries are cemented – which rely on all the latter points. 5. This will lead to job creation, sustainability. Unless miss Aguillera and her crew are going to address the US parliement with some real topics?..

    Anyways; this is too close to home for me not to sound too biased. The senseless make no sense to me.

    If you care to know the facts,

    1. here is a great video to get you started: >> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLV9szEu9Ag

    2. here is a recent article written by a friend for The Guardian newspaper, UK >> http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/10/dr-congo-gynaecologist-nobel-peace-prize

  33. I absolutely agree with Kate. This article is rubbish, and I won’t expend more than two sentences and two seconds of my time to respond to it.

  34. Such a shame….. A lot of the comments made have their merit… Of course, many of the likes of Aguilera, Oprah, Bono and similar do their stunts to improve their image and make more money and /or in an inadvertent or even deliberate move to consolidate an exiting balance of power. What however disgusts me with this discussion is the simplistic stereotyping of whites in Africa. Whenever Europeans dare talk about blacks the way some black Africans allow themselves to talk about whites, including in these comments….what an outcry… And rightly so. So how is it still possible the other way round?

  35. You can give aid for 1000 years, it will never cause development. No country developed, or achieved better health or survived because of aid. Second, Rwanda is not war tone! it would be better and cheaper for WFP to fund raise and build some irrigation infrastructure there than buy people oil and floor day in day out. Thirdly, for every 10 penny the american/european donor gives, only 2 reach that poor child whose sad photo convicted them to donate,,the remaining 8 pennies paid NGO worker big salary, bought the NGO worker comfortable car and paid the NGO worker extraneous allowances. Africa has very poor people, thats for fact, but let those rich people not use them!

  36. I agree with you that aid doesn’t necessarily mean development. We need to shift from giving relief, to seeking development.

    But not all of that money goes to NGO workers.
    Some of it goes to admin and transport in the field, as well as supplies (that don’t go directly to beneficiaries, but are necessary to do the work. Also, a lot of the time in Africa, ministers will take some money off the top of the project as well. On top of that, there are often corrupt accountants that siphon off money.

    t’s not wrong for NGO workers to be paid to do their jobs…their expertise is needed, and to pay someone to do it consistently is more sustainable than asking people to do it for free – then you create a problem where organisations are paying for foreigners to come and donate their time for 3 to 18 months, where they don’t have enough time to learn the context where they are intervening. I’m not saying they should be paid huge amounts, but there is going to be some admin costs…NGO’s do create jobs for Africans…and quite a few of them….which is positive and negative. Positive, because jobs need to be created. NEgative, because people don’t want to do their jobs too well…because if there is no need for NGO’s anymore, those people will lose their work.

  37. I respect and consider your sentiment about celebrities using poverty as a means to their own end – but it is more than that. It actually takes the dignity away from people; stereotypes and reinforces images of ‘African’s that hurts the continent in the long run – there has been an attempt to rebrand the continent and I think that it is no coincidence that there has been a race to invest in now across a range of sectors even beyond natural resources.

    About race, we have to remember our history. This stereotyping of whites dates back a long time and it is celebrities like Aguleira who is perpetuating images of white people to Africa, particularly white, rich, women. We can talk about whites in this way and not blacks (and by blacks I assume you mean Africans) because of the history of colonialism (black and white mean different things in this context than in the USA for example) which bears a strong resemblance to the saviour images that Aguleira is reinforcing. Until we can past that, these images and the legacy of our history will remain – politically some still benefit from the images (those working for charities etc) so will history remain?

  38. I really appreciated this article, as this was the first I had heard about this particular mission. Murakoze, Natacha for your thoughtful assessments! I was inspired and wrote a piece referencing this (and decrying the hack job that People Magazine did. If anyone wants to read it and offer comments, here is the link: tinyurl.com/mshtrav

  39. As a black African I think the comments here are really, really, really depressing. I come from Kenya a country where thousands of people got displaced and maimed and raped in 2008 during post-election violence. What did Kenyans do in response? We elected the chief suspects indicted at the International Criminal Court for the post-election violence to become President and Deputy President.

    Christina Aguilera takes time off her schedule voluntarily and while some of us engage in comfort food or retail therapy to feel better, she comes to Rwanda and provides much needed assistance to those children. What do Africans do in response? Spew forth bile and vitriol inexplicably at the well-meaning lady.

    Maybe Christina needs to engage in violence on a grand scale to earn the accolades of Africans and our organisations like the AU. Then again she probably doesn’t need those accolades and I applaud her and every single other well-meaning Westerner who is doing something to help, sustainable or not, because Africans certainly aren’t doing a lot to help themselves.

    I apologise for the generalisations in my comment but not for my sentiments. We need as Africans to engage our minds in ‘how to help ourselves move forward’ instead of petty discussions like this on ‘how other people are not helping us sufficiently or sustainably’. It’s not the job of other people to help us sufficiently or through sustainable means or to commit their lives to our causes. That’s our job Ms. Nsabimana and the assortment of commenters in here.

  40. As painful as it is, aid agencies need “stars” like Aguilera to draw attention to their cause, who cares if it’s self serving for the “star”, only a Westerner can be cynical about this, the truth is that her profile will raise awareness and ultimately help the people who need it.

  41. As a keen student of the English language, I’d have to retort that “war-torn” refers to the effects of war, rather than the act of being at war. As it is currently in many other countries in Africa, Rwandan society, infrastructure and daily life were dramatically changed by war. I would say war-torn is a fair description of these cultures working their way back to normality. In southern Africa, where I live, Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique are all still putting themselves back together and ‘war-torn” would be a fair description.

    I can’t speak to the efficacy of the charity work CA has undertaken in Rwanda, but I’d say that the phrase is not completely out of line with reality.

  42. Nsabimana writes: “Interestingly, one word from the kids’ song in Kinyarwanda is clear: Tuzarwubaka: We will build it (i.e. the country); clearly indicating that meaningless charity is not what they have in mind but rather that they are actively engaged. This is of course lost to all the non-Kinyarwanda speakers.”

    Nsabimana is identified as an anthropologist and yet seems to be making the incredibly simplistic argument that these Rwandan school children are self-consciously making a critique of Western charity and aid and are engaged political subjects. She may understand the language but she clearly does not understand the political context of her own (? Nsabimana is a Rwandan/Burundian name) country. “Tuzarwubaka” is a song that the dictatorial Rwandan Patriotic Front forces Rwandans to sing at all public occasions, whether at public holidays celebrating the state’s rulers or Ingando political indoctrination camps. The children are singing it not out of choice. All Rwandans who sing such songs do so in an effort to stay “safe” from their political rulers, to avoid negative repercussions from slavish representatives of the state who watch over them. These kids are not actively engaged but subjects of political oppression.This is indicative of this entire article which is entirely lacking in political and intellectual acuity. How this gets published here as a corrective to anything is utterly perplexing. My guess is this blog feels that publishing an article by a Rwandan on Rwanda is authentic, when it is such essentialism that it should be fighting.

  43. wait wait, she’s bad because she’s offering to help people? Excuse me??? When someone TRIES to do something good, this is the reaction they get???? aree u guys on crack??? gimme a break, she’s trying, give her credit instead of being douches about this!

  44. I really hope that everyone who commented on this article is actually involved directly with some community project around where they live. If not, you’re no better than what celebrities do. You guys are just selling your brain power to each other and they’re selling their brands……If you are however personally involved with a community project, because there is a need somewhere right now, then by all means state your case and then get going with your project…..

  45. u know, its not about who goes over there, its about that at least SOMEONE went over there. And in places in Africa the war is really bad. Children are starving over there, and wether she did it for the kids or herself, at least she DID something. Which is a lot more then any of u, bashing her, have ever done. Its about the kids over there. Its about the people that are hurting, that dont even have the luxury in going to concerts! So Christina came to them. what the hell is wrong with that? did it kill u? did it hurt ur feelings? no! no harm was done. Infact by me seeing this video, im going to donate more money today to charities, so yes this video actually did something good. Maybe start thinking of people less fortunate then u, and maybe u guys will become better people.

  46. “Africa: helping white people who’re a wee bit down-in-the-dumps feel better about themselves since 1884.” I want a t-shirt that says this.

  47. I believe, what we have here (as in most cases), is an example of a well-intentioned , but misguided action.

    Why is aid problematic?

    – For starters, it takes away the agency of a people to write their own history. Most materially developed societies attained their position through competition. Why is Africa not allowed the same opportunity?

    – There is the issue of reciprocity: Would Europeans allow the same in their backyards? It seems to me, that there is a tendency to take liberties with people in certain parts of the world, as far as imagery is concerned. We have the historical precedence of the colonial gaze, so one cannot blame Africans for being suspicious.

    – What about distortions in the local markets? What`s the incentive for investing time, money and energy in agriculture, if there is the expectation of freebies from strangers?

    There are Africans assisting with solutions to local problems. However, they don`t move about with a barrage of cameramen. So people need to stop asking, what Africans are doing about their plight.

  48. It may seem like small (irrelevant?) things to point out but they are there and they affect the credibility of the person making the argument. Like saying ‘Also, Rwanda is an entire country. Where in Rwanda was Aguilera?’ right underneath a link to the article that says in the second line that she was in Kigali. And then to labour the point on Rwanda not being ‘war torn’ with the line ‘…and its government is implicated in violence in neighbouring DRC’ – isn’t the word ‘implicated’ a massive understatement here.!! Isn’t all that has been happening in those past ’20 years’ not quite so easy to defend in this way. Is it just me? Your contributors are incredible and impeccable so much of the time. I was shocked at the shakiness of this piece of writing. You already have a battle on your hands trying to convince many people about where you are coming from. This felt like an ill informed rant.

  49. If knowledge is power, wouldn’t education be a better investment than food aid? Those kids don’t look too hungry, but if they realized the injustice of their politics perhaps they could become agents of change some day…

  50. The comments here are interesting and diverse. When I first read the article I didn’t think it would be so and yet I’ve educated myself a little by reading each contribution and now feel a bit different to my initial impressions.
    My remaining feelings are, however, that the problem with this is the promotion and misinformation. I don’t see why it needs advertising in a trashy magazine for mass consumption. I get that it’s a means of raising awareness but I still find it tacky. What’s with all the make-up too?! She is obviously separating herself from what is happening in front of her. If she was serious about what she was doing she herself should make sure that the article is factual and useful to the target population, especially as it serves a dual purpose: to promote food security issues, as well as herself.
    So long as people are honest about their self promotion I don’t care but if that is put aside in the midst of them ‘wanting to create change’ then I think writing a letter to Obama would be just as useful.

  51. Never ever call Rwanda a war torn country, neither do 1 in 8 people go to bed hungry as the video says! Stop degrading the progress of a nation for your own good. I am a Rwandan who lives in Rwanda. I live and play with those kids every day who Christina Aguilera met for just one day, I am pretty sure Christina Aguilera did not bring the food they were eating in that video, they already had it. What happened to Rwanda in the past was terrible, but that is now history, stop making us feel like crap and identifying us as helpless instead of recognizing how far we have come. If you have no other ways to earn money through donations, there are hungry people on the streets of New York city, go get donations for them and feed them!!! That being said, I am not saying Rwanda is perfectly fine.. there is still poverty, and just like Rwandans have worked to come this far, they are not crying for help, but working as hard as ever. Are you not even ashamed to call those kids poor and hungry? look at them, they are singing and dancing and they go to school. do you not know how poor and hungry kids look like? See, if you really want to help Africa, or Rwanda, you better change your approach to the problem. do not call a country that has come so far, poor and war torn. there are better ways to address the needs of the people. Natacha Nsabimana, you need to come back to Rwanda and see where your country is today.. Its a shame that you write about your country in such a way. Ihe agaciro wokabyara we.. Rwanda is has come from a long way.. She still has a long way to go, but remember no one is carrying Her on their back!

  52. Raise awareness about what?
    War, famine, hunger (and every stereotypical problem that Africa is “supposed” to have) is not happening!

    So, she ain’t raising awareness for anything…. but, stereotypes.

  53. I am not saying that Rwanda’s development is not aided by international funds, of course it is. But so are most other African countries who are not making the same progress Rwanda is making. What I am saying is that Rwandans are not crying helplessly for help as the article implies. By the way, if there was no foreign aid, Rwanda as a country would not fail. Again, the most annoying thing about the article is that it does not give Rwandans the diginity that they have fought for and deserve. It calls them poor, hungry, and war torn, that is not what we are. We are not a very wealthy nation, in fact many of us are still poor, but we are not desperate, we are an organized country that is making progress.

  54. Even if I often doubt about sincerity with the donations( charity is marketing for companies and celebrities) I am also tired of people spitting constantly on the western world and depend from their donations at the same time.

  55. Those people spitting on the western world here are not the ones directly depending on the donations. Seems to me many people who are opposed to this article and what it represents are people who are commenting on the deceptive information and perception the article implies. This is people from all walks of life and of all sorts of persuasions but who prefer information that is at all times factual and accountable, meaning if something is implied it is based on detailed and direct sources from the place being discussed.
    It’s great to have good intentions, it all falls apart when it’s from a place of altruism that is juxtaposed with the focus of the altruism itself.

  56. Dishing up bowls of rice does not help Rwanda when People magazine is portraying Rwanda as a war-torn country full of starving children. Doctors Without Borders is no longer in Rwanda because their healtcare system is now more than adequate..the NYTimes recently had an extensive story on that. Also the entire country is now learning English rather than the French they have been using, in order to better conduct business with the rest of the world. Rwanda needs teachers of the English language, which the Peace Corps is helping with right now.

    Carnegie-Mellon University recently opened a campus in the capital of Kigali, to educate Rwandans, especially women, in computer and information technology…..this will be an asset Rwanda can sell to the rest of the world.

    No country stepped in during the genocide in 1994 because Rwanda didn’t have any resourses the rest of the world wants, like oil, diamonds, or a strategic defense location. Rwanda is doing a great job in making themselves into something the business world wants.

    They don’t need bags of rice. That only perpetuates the myth that they are not helping themselves and that they are not worth investing time and money.

  57. OK I think Christina Aguilera “feeding starving children” is ridiculous, but contrary to some of the snarky comments in this article there actually *are* several refugee camps in Rwanda (e.g. Kiziba, Nyabiheke, Byumba as well as some transit camps near to Gisenyi) for Congolese refugees who have been fleeing since 1996. Late last year violence in the DRC flared up again and many more people fled into Rwanda. And yes, some of them don’t have enough food…

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