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Appendix 2. Survey Results

Bruce Whitehouse Indiana University Press ePub

Appendix 2. Survey Results

1.Responses to Multiple-choice Questions

In your opinion, should Islam be among the religions officially recognized by the Congolese state?

Which nationality is most common among West Africans in Brazzaville?

For how long has the West African community been present in Congo?

How many West African friends do you have in Brazzaville or elsewhere in Congo?

In your opinion, which would be the best state policy with respect to immigration by West Africans?

In your opinion, Congo would benefit if a policy of expulsion were applied to:

II. Responses to statements

1. Congolese, in general, are not good at commerce.

2. Congolese, in general, prefer being civil servants to being entrepreneurs.

3. Congolese are benevolent toward foreigners in Congo.

4. The Congolese government respects the rights of foreigners as much or more than it respects the rights of Congolese.

5. Islam is concordant with mores in Congo.

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3. Among the Unbelievers

Bruce Whitehouse Indiana University Press ePub

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AMONG THE UNBELIEVERS

“Hold fast to prayer,” Vieux Diallo counseled me as we walked back into the market from the nearby zawiya, the modest Sufi mosque, after the midday prayer. “All the other things, family, wealth, will abandon you at the grave,” he said, “but the rewards from prayer, and fasting, and zakat [sacrifice] are the only things you can take with you after you die.”

Diallo was more than devout in his Muslim faith. Not only did he perform all five daily prayers, but he did so in mosques near his work or home. Despite being in his seventies, he had recently made the decision to begin studying Arabic, the language of the holy Qur'an. Among West African men in Brazzaville, Diallo was by no means unusual in his devotion to Islam.

Mali's population is overwhelmingly Muslim, and signs of Islamic influence are omnipresent there: most Malians bear Muslim names, and many Bamanan nouns—from the names of the days of the week to the words for book, luck, obligation, and blessing—are derived from Arabic. I recognized all this during my initial years in Mali, and yet I was influenced by those who, following the lead of French colonial administrators, characterized West African societies as superficially Islamized. Islam, according to their logic, was only a veneer covering a more substantial African identity based on local “traditional beliefs.” I held to the notion sometimes expressed by Western expatriates that “Mali is 90 percent Muslim and 100 percent animist.”

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1. The Avenue of Sergeant Malamine

Bruce Whitehouse Indiana University Press ePub

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THE AVENUE OF SERGEANT MALAMINE

Quite little is known about the life of Malamine Camara. He was born in Senegal around the mid-nineteenth century, served as a soldier for France, and died young, probably in his thirties. His brief career in colonial service, however, made a tremendous mark on what became France's Congo colony. Like his white commanding officer who orchestrated France's claim to the region in the 1880s, Malamine Camara was present at the creation of the Congo colony and was instrumental in safeguarding it against encroachments by rival powers. And, like his commanding officer, he was esteemed by his fellow explorers, celebrated by the French press, and decorated by the French government. Unlike his commanding officer, however, within a few decades of his death he was virtually forgotten: all that bears his name in the Congolese capital today is a narrow, unpaved street running through the Poto-Poto market. During my Brazzaville fieldwork in 2005, no sign indicated its official designation known by a few of my informants: l’Avenue du Sergent Malamine. The story of this street's namesake reveals the extent to which, over more than seven decades of European colonial rule, the origins of France's Congo colony were intertwined with West African migration to the region.

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Epilogue: Displaced Dreams

Bruce Whitehouse Indiana University Press ePub

EPILOGUE

DISPLACED DREAMS

In the second decade of the twenty-first century Brazzaville faces uncertain prospects. The city cannot offer the economic opportunities it once did, as Kinshasa has largely supplanted it as a regional commercial hub. In an ironic reversal of its former situation, by the time of my fieldwork Brazzaville was dependent on imports from Kinshasa, even for essential commodities like gasoline and aviation fuel. Moreover, countries such as the Central African Republic and Chad, which once exported their raw materials down the Congo River through the Congolese capital, today use alternative outlets. Deforestation and climate change have made the river un-navigable throughout much of the year, and Brazzaville’s port facilities have suffered years of neglect. Even most of the timber harvested in Congo’s northern forests no longer passes through the capital city on its way to the coast but transits overland via Cameroon. As regional commercial flows have progressively bypassed Brazzaville, the city has lost its primary economic raison d’être, and Congo’s national economy has grown ever more reliant on exports of offshore oil, accounting for 90 percent of government revenues.1 Congo’s role in the twenty-first-century global economy is essentially what it was during the colonial era—a source of raw materials, with little value added and few jobs generated at home. Despite double-digit economic growth and an expanding state budget, most Congolese still lived in poverty in 2011, and rates of malnutrition remained high.2 Living conditions continued to stagnate, and even in Brazzaville electricity had become a scarce commodity: “It seems like the more years go by, the more the number of Congolese with access to electricity diminishes,” wrote one Congolese journalist (La Semaine Africaine 2010a). To underscore the country’s state of abjection, in late 2010 a polio outbreak killed two hundred Congolese (IRIN 2010b). Immigrants in Congo increasingly looked elsewhere to pursue their dreams.

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5. Transnational Kinship

Bruce Whitehouse Indiana University Press ePub

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TRANSNATIONAL KINSHIP

“Any West African who marries a Congolese is not one of us,” Vieux Diallo declared to me bluntly one day during a conversation at his tailor shop. Congolese women, he went on to say, were interested only in money and would abandon their foreign husbands and their children without warning. You could not trust them.

The supposed shortcomings of Congolese constituted a recurring theme in the old man's statements to me, and the question of intermarriage was a particularly sensitive subject. His wife Hawa was Malian and hailed from the same town as he did. One of their sons, however, had married a Congolese woman. Without knowing many details, I could clearly see that Diallo's relations with his son were troubled, and he did not care for his daughter-in-law. Diallo's children were mostly in their teens and twenties by then, and he was concerned about their future. They had never been to Mali, and the best way for them to maintain some connection to their ancestral homeland was through marriage to Malians who had some exposure to it. At least two of his daughters had married Malians, but that his son had chosen differently was a source of concern for the old man.

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