Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Boko Haram, Blog, Boycott

Mercenaries Fighting Boko Haram?

Are South African mercenaries helping Nigerian forces battle Boko Haram? I saw a report in The NYTimes, and then found several other media, including the BBC, talking about the presence of South African and former Soviet Union soldiers in Nigeria. You can also read about the mercenaries in the Voice of America report.

The Nigerian government is apparently maintaining that these soldiers are there to train the Nigerians in the use of newly acquired weaponry, but others say these are mercenaries fighting alongside Nigerian soldiers. An unidentified Western diplomat reports having seen evidence of their presence.

Will Ross, BBC News Lagos, says, “It is hard to explain why there had to be six years of carnage in north-east Nigeria before the necessary equipment was bought and aggressive, decisive action was taken against Boko Haram.”

I don’t think it’s hard to explain – corruption at high levels has meant that few funds reached the troops who are demoralized, poorly trained, and poorly led. Funds did not go into training the top command. Some say there is fear that a strong army might rebel against the government.

It’s a disgrace. The Nigerian government now wants to show that they can defeat or neutralize Boko Haram as they promised to do before the postponed election. Since they they haven’t put funds into the Nigerian army over the last few years to make it strong enough to defeat Boko Haram on their own, they now have to bring in outsiders.

According to The NYTimes, “a senior government official in northern Nigeria said the South Africans — camped out in a remote portion of the airport in Maiduguri, the city at the heart of Boko Haram’s uprising — conducted most of their operations at night because “they really don’t want to let people know what is going on.”

Shameful in my opinion. What do you think?

Ainehi Edoro

Ainehi Edoro

Ainehi Edoro, Blogger Extraordinaire

Ainehi Edoro blogs at Brittle Paper. I’ve given you snippets from her writing several times. It was on her blog that I found the piece about Chimamanda in British Vogue.

I love her blog which she describes as a “virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.”

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Ainehi.

First I asked her how to pronounce her name.

If you are like me, you want to be able to hear it in your mind, so here it is – I ne he, with the accent on the first syllable which is a long i, short e in the middle, and long e in the last syllable.

I asked her what she means by reinventing African fiction and literary culture, and how she chose the title Brittle Paper for her blog.

She said, “I was deep in my post-graduate work, reading huge canonical writing – Nietzche, Sartre, heavy works. I was fascinated to see how cold they were. African writing is warm and speaks to me in a different way. It doesn’t have to be intellectual or about some grand idea, it is just mind-blowingly beautiful.”

She loves writing the blog because, “I want to make African writing and literary ideas digestible, to make the writing accessible for everyone. I have to break it into little pieces so people can just love it without having to be experts in literature.”

And that’s what she does. She introduces lots of African writers, writing in many genres, and gives readers enough of a taste to make us want to read more.

Serena Ends Boycott

Serena Williams

Serena Williams announced at a news conference recently that she decided to return to Indian Wells, the tennis club that she boycotted for over a decade. I didn’t know the story, or had forgotten it. Did you?

Apparently in 2001 she was slated for a semi-final match against her sister.

Venus Williams
Venus Williams

Venus withdrew with an injury. When Serena came on the court for the final match, she was met with a chorus of boos. The audience also booed her father and sister who had come to watch.

Opinion on what happened is divided. But her father is sure. His autobiography makes clear that there were racial epithets hurled at him and his daughters. “My daughters were treated without an ounce of dignity or respect,” he wrote. “They were treated like criminals.”

William Rhoden who wrote the article was not in favor of Serena’s returning. He changed his mind when he looked at what she said:“I thought it was really good timing, not just for me but for Americans in general, to step up and say, ‘We as a people, we as Americans, we can do better, we can be better, we are better.’ ”

I believe she played Friday night. I will look for news about the match on Saturday.

Correction: I had included a photo of Venus which I mislabeled Serena. It’s the photo on the right above. I’ve added a photo of Serena on the left. They are both now correctly labeled.

Did anyone else notice besides my husband who pointed out my error?

Fashion Follow Up

Chimamanda’s outfit of March 9 won the poll, but it was close! You can still vote.

Have a great weekend. I will – it’s not snowing in Connecticut!


Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Harvey Flad and I met two Rhodesian mercenaries in the Congo on our lengthy trip home from Nigeria 50 years ago. They were definitely “soldiers of fortune” and not very nice guys. There’s a lengthy description of our encounter in my book, “Africa Remembered.”