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. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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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