Literature

NextGen: Congolese Author Sandra Uwiringiyimana Writes to Keep the African Spirit Alive

The 22-year-old survivor of the Gatumba massacre shares her perspective of Afrofuturism with OkayAfrica in 'NextGen.'

DIASPORAOver the course of July we'll be publishing short profiles, essays and interviews on the theme of "Afrofutures." Together these stories will be a deep dive into the way African and diaspora thinkers, technologists and artists view a future for Africans in the world and outside of it. 


Take a look at our introduction to Afrofuturism here.

Throughout this month, we'll also highlight and celebrate young, leading talents who already put into practice what a future with black people look like through their work in our daily profile series, 'NextGen.'

To close out our series, meet Congolese author Sandra Uwiringiyimana.

Sandra Uwiringiyimana is a 22-year-old author, activist and speaker from the Democratic Republic o f the Congo. As co-founder of the Jimbere Fund, an organization that aims to revitalize distressed communities in the DRC, she helps people in need in vulnerable areas and fights against poverty. Uwiringiyimana's memoir, How Dare The Sun Rise (Harper Collins), sheds light on her experience of being a refugee and battling trauma.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Uwiringiyimana.

Since her family’s resettlement in the United States in 2007, Sandra has used her experience to fight against the social injustice that occurred at the Gatumba massacre and has become a voice for women and girls, refugees and immigrants who have been often overlooked and undervalued. In telling her story, Sandra has shared the world stage with Charlie Rose, Angelina Jolie, and Tina Brown and has spoken at the Women in the World Summit in 2016 while she was still in university. In addition, she has addressed the United Nations Security Council at the request of Ambassador Samantha Power to plead with world leaders to act on the pressing issue of children in armed conflict.

For Uwiringiyimana, Afrofuturism is a vital part of her spreading her message. She believes it means “living in a world that allows black children and youth to see themselves represented in every aspect of society."

Photo by Rick Wenner, courtesy of Sandra Uwiringiyimana.

She continues:

"It means little black girls growing up appreciating their bodies and features. Afrofuturism means not having to tone down my blackness in order to seem more approachable or trustworthy; it means seeing every kind of black person represented, valued and validated," she says.

Sandra is an example of being an African leader and educating those who may not fully understand the African experience. “I want to show young Africans that we are allowed to be multidimensional. I decided to write a memoir at 22 because I was tired of reading stories that didn't reflect my Africa. My greatest hope is that through my activism and work I can demonstrate how to shed light on the problems of many African countries without making it the only narrative that's picked up by the rest of the world. We have many stories to tell and not all of them begin and end with despair. We are artists, adventurers, leaders, and so much more. We are all valid and deserve adequate representation. We do not need western saviors, we need more young Africans to invest in Africa; not just financially but investing our time to learn our history, who we were before all the brainwashing. It is our duty to keep the true African spirit alive and it is ultimately the only way to save ourselves."

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Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.



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