DIS NIGGA REBUILT DA VATICAN IN HIS HOMETOWN
Editor’s Note: We’re already half way through Black History Month 2018. We’ve saved the best for last!
It has been a rough decade for Afrocentrism.
African-Americans are reeling from the shocking news that a DNA test and facial reconstruction have confirmed that King Tut and Queen Nefertiti were of European ancestry. We now know that half of European men share King Tut’s DNA and the Kangz of Ancient Egypt were Caucasians. Zambia’s Afronauts lost the Space Race to the United States and Soviet Union. Hitherto, Black Panther and the Wakandan isolationists have remained hidden from the outside world behind their vibranium-based invisibility shield which keeps them disguised as a Third World country.
As we celebrate Black History Month 2018, I have already drawn attention to Kang Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire and His Imperial Majesty Bokassa I’s coronation as the first and last emperor of the Central African Empire in 1977. The loss of Egyptian civilization to Caucasians is a huge psychological blow to Afrocentrism, but fortunately there are modern examples of black greatness like Kwame Nkrumah and Yahya Jammeh who discovered the cure for AIDS which more than compensate for the loss of the ancient black pharoahs and pyramid builders like Tutankhamun.
Few White Americans are aware that modern Africans have surpassed the architectural glories of Ancient Egypt. In the last sixty years of independence, these African leaders have built monuments to black civilization greater than the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Parthenon, or the Roman Colosseum. From 1985 to 1989, President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire, aka “Le Vieux” (The Old Man) as he was known in West Africa, transformed his sparsely populated home village of Yamoussoukro into the national capital and spent $300 million dollars to build the largest church in Christendom.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro is a replica of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Designed by the Lebanese architect Pierre Fakhoury, Our Lady of Peace is constructed entirely out of imported Italian marble and contains 7,000 square meters of hand made stained glass from France and 7,000 Italian-built, air conditioned pews. It can accommodate up to 18,000 worshippers inside the basilica and another 180,000 in the exterior courtyard.
It costs $1.5 million dollars to maintain the building annually in a country where only 37.5 percent of the population is Christian. Around 350 people attend mass every Sunday in Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro. The Catholic basilica is flanked by enormous deserted parking lots as the church was more of an aspiration and romantic fantasy than a practical necessity.
In addition to Our Lady of Peace, Félix Houphouët-Boigny built a presidential palace in Yamoussoukro which like Gbadolite in the Democratic Republic of Congo which we will get to soon was one of two locations in sub-Saharan Africa that could accommodate his personal Concorde jet. He loved his two gold plated rams which were placed at the entrance of the palace. There was also a 12 foot moat for sacred crocodiles and a sacred elephant was kept on hand to wander within the walls.
The Houphouet-Boigny Foundation opened in 1989 with the mission to further peace in the world. The several floors of office space in the cavernous convention center are still almost entirely empty. The marble entrance gives access to an auditorium that can accommodate 2,000 people.
In order to travel to Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, you have to take one of several eight lane highways through town which are deserted of motorists. The jungle is encroaching upon the roads which is already giving it the desired effect of ancient ruined splendor. The streets in Yamoussoukro are reportedly full of potholes and the shopping malls are atrocious.
In spite of this, $3.6 billion dollars was being spent in Yamoussoukro to complete Houphouët-Boigny’s dream and build the National Assembly, 40 government ministry buildings, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, another presidential palace, the national television and radio headquarters and a new national senate there by 2013.
The saddest thing about Le Vieux’s extravagance is that he towers over most of his African contemporaries. Under Félix Houphouët-Boigny’s thirty-three year reign, Côte d’Ivoire held up as the most promising country in sub-Saharan Africa. In the first two decades of independence, the economy grew by over 7 percent a year. The “Ivorian Miracle” was one of the fastest growing countries in the world.
Unlike his black nationalist contemporaries like Kwame Nkrumah, Félix Houphouët-Boigny was pro-Western, pro-White, pro-capitalist, and fiercely anti-communist. His policy of Françafrique embraced French colonialism as a positive good for West Africa. He relied on French foreign aid, French personnel and advisors, French military protection, and French investment to nurture and grow the Côte d’Ivoire economy while maintaining a dismissive attitude toward politics and democracy.
In this neo-colonial role as a pseudo-French colony (Houphouët-Boigny sat in the French parliament for 15 years), the number of French residents in Côte d’Ivoire rose from 10,000 at independence to 50,000. French businessmen were given every incentive to invest in the country. The investment code offered a five-year tax holiday, ten years’ worth of exemptions from import duties on capital goods, and no limit to repatriation of profits on capital. Caribbean countries use similar incentives to function as tax havens.
Côte d’Ivoire soon overtook Ghana as the world’s largest producer of cocoa. It became Africa’s largest exporter of coffee and a major exporter of pineapples, bananas, and other commodities. Agricultural production tripled between 1960 and 1980. Industrial production increased from almost nothing at independence to 700 enterprises with a profit of $3.1 billion by 1980.
The “Ivorian Miracle” came to a crashing end in the 1980s when overinvestment in public infrastructure projects like Yamoussoukro and the explosion of external debt collided with tanking cocoa and coffee prices. The cost of servicing the national debt became impossible to maintain. Côte d’Ivoire finally declared itself insolvent in 1987 and entered a period of long term political turmoil.
In the 25 years that have followed the death of Félix Houphouët-Boigny in 1993, Côte d’Ivoire has been torn apart by a coup d’état and the First Ivorian Civil War and the Second Ivorian Civil War. UN and French intervention have kept a lid on a simmering religious war between natives in the Christian south and immigrants and their descendants from Mali and Burkina Faso in the Muslim north.
In 2018, Côte d’Ivoire has fallen to #171 in the UN Human Development Index, but it least it has its own African Vatican. Ivorians can boast We Wuz Kangz!