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Boris Johnson is Bad News For Africa: Here's Why

5 examples of Britain's new Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson's disdain for Africa and black people.

Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson will be Britain’s next Foreign Secretary. That’s terrible news.


Johnson’s buffoonish media persona has often insulated his beliefs from serious scrutiny. But after his role in the campaign to leave the EU, which became associated with xenophobia and racism, people are beginning to dig a little deeper. And it’s not pretty. The times of dismissing ‘Bo Jo’ as a joke are officially over.

Tipped as a favourite to take over from referendum-loser David Cameron as Prime Minister (they were members of the same super-elite school, university and men-only dining club, yay for social mobility), many breathed a sigh of relief when Johnson dropped out of the race. But new PM Theresa May is not much better, with a track record on immigration and refugees which Voldemort would be proud of.

As Foreign Secretary, Johnson’s views on British colonialism and race should be of concern to the African continent in particular. We don’t know how these positions will play out in his new job—but from trade to terrorism, Africa will soon find out.

While Britain does not hold the power it once did on the international stage, it is not irrelevant either, particularly in Commonwealth countries—of which there are 18 in Africa.

We’ve compiled some of Johnson’s worst Africa-related statements in one easy list.

2000: He edited a magazine which said black people have lower IQs

When Johnson was editor of The Spectator, an article was written which stated that “Orientals...have larger brains and higher IQ scores. Blacks are at the other pole”. When this was brought up by his rival during the London Mayoral race of 2008, Johnson did apologise. But it feels like apologies or not, Johnson has made too many of these ‘blunders’ for them to be brushed aside. Particularly now that he is FOREIGN SECRETARY.

2002: He’s proud of colonialism and uses racist terminology

Yesterday, the same magazine re-published a piece written by Johnson himself in 2002 in which he wrote “The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience. The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more.”

Johnson also uses a quote from a British colonial official to support his stance on “tribal conflict” in Uganda: ‘‘I’ve been in Africa for ages and there’s one thing I just don’t get. Why are they so brutal to each other? We may treat them like children, but it’s not because of us that they behave like the children in Lord of the Flies.”

The same year Johnson was quoted saying that “the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies" (racist caricatures of dark-skinned children of African descent). “No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down”, Johnson continued.

2013: Johnson doesn’t have a very high IQ himself

Just thought we’d throw this in there. When delivering the annual Margaret Thatcher Lecture (God help us all), Johnson implied that lower IQ is the reason poorer people struggle to get ahead - and called for more to be done to help the 2% of Brits who have an IQ above 130. On a radio show following this, Johnson incorrectly answered two IQ quiz questions and refused to answer a third. Damn.

2014: Winston Churchill and the benefit of British rule

Boris Johnson is the biographer of British wartime Prime Minister and colonialist Winston Churchill, who is still hailed a hero in the UK. Before publishing the biography, Johnson spoke of Churchill’s legacy and described countries which “haven’t had the benefit of British rule” as “less fortunate”.

2016: Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage

On the day Obama visited the UK to make the case for Britain remaining in the EU, Johnson didn’t like it. He responded by alluding to the “part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire”.

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Listen to 10 Great Songs From Johnny Clegg

Here are some of the best songs to remember South Africa's son of the soil.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that South African musician, Johnny Clegg, passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Understandably, heartfelt tributes have been pouring in ever since. Long before it was cool (or even legal) to be in close proximity to blackness and anything attached to it in South Africa, Clegg, a white man, was doing just that. That is exactly why he was given the endearing title of South Africa's "son of the soil."

Growing up during Apartheid, Clegg was taught how to speak the Zulu language by a domestic worker named Charlie Mzila. In his teenage years, his appreciation for the Zulu culture continued and he soon learnt the traditional dance styles known as isishameni and also learnt how to play the Maskandi guitar. Clegg's music was a beacon of light during a very dark time in South Africa's history and his songs about Nelson Mandela (at a time where songs were banned for merely mentioning the name of the late statesman and other key struggle activists) brought the country together.

It is irrefutable that a music giant has fallen. However, Clegg leaves behind a wealth of music featuring other great South African artists and groups such as Zakwe, Brenda Fassie, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Juluka/Suvuka, among several others. His music undeniably brought South Africans and people all around the world together.

We've picked ten of our favorite songs from the late musician's discography in honor of a life that was lived to the fullest.

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The 12 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Stonebwoy, Mahmoud Ahmed, Tiwa Savage x Zlatan, Africa Express, Juls x Mr Eazi and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Beyoncé Wore These 2 African Designers in Her Music Video for 'Spirit'

Queen Bey continues to include and give a nod to African talent in her visuals.

As we draw even closer to Disney's The Lion King opening in theaters this week, Beyoncé continues to lead the way with her new music video for "Spirit"—the first single off of the film's album she produced and curated, The Lion King: The Gift.

Shot in the Havasu Falls in Arizona's Grand Canyon, Beyoncé and her legion of beautiful dancers are one with nature and its various elements as she beckons us to be brave and hear the calling of spirit. As we noted when she announced the album, the track opens with a call and response in Swahili that translates to "Long live the king": Uishi kwa mda mrefu mfalme—uishi kwa.

Keeping our eyes peeled for African influences in the music video, it's evident that is seen in the choreography. We even spotted our extended fam with the afrobeats moves—the AVO Boys: Stephen Ojo and Caleb Bonney—as two of her dancers in the video.

Beyoncé continues to also give a nod to African talent through the looks she donned in "Spirit" styled by her mainstay, Zerina Akers.

Take a look at the two African designers she wore in the video below.

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