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von Hama Tuma

The adoption of a poor boy from Malawi (or from "dirt poor Malawi" as the Western media pointedly tells us) by super star Madonna has once again focused attention on a multi billion dollar business that is now being known as the "Adoption Racket". Private businessmen, some NGOs, unscrupulous government officials (both local and international) are involved in this lucrative trafficking of children under the cover of adoption. The Adoption Racket brings to mind The Charity Business and, once again, we the so called poor are paying the price.

[ Eurocentrism and the dilemma of the "white" racial superiority ]

Nothing new in this actually. Our unelected leaders have already sold us out --not even to the highest bidder at that. The president of Malawi did not have much on his hands (no news here either) and had time to talk with Madonna though Malawian sources cleverly refrained from stating what the discussion was all about. Madonna helps an orphanage in Malawi where children are taught the Kabala faith the superstar believes in-- (potential émigrés to Israel being prepared?). Malawi has laws forbidding adoption of its children by foreigners but laws in Africa are there to get broken by the powerful. In Ethiopia, where there are five million "adoptable'" children and the ruling clique is actively engaged in the traffic, actress Angelina Jolie whisked a young girl away from her young mother without going through the clearly set legal process. "We know her", said an official explaining why the rules were not adhered to. In any case, our assumption that only orphans were put for adoption has been changed. Nowadays, the poor are "adoptable" and there you have my main question: why don't they adopt us all?

The whole adoption process is being presented by the western media as manna from heaven for the babies from the "dirt poor" countries. The way they write it you get the impression that the children have hit the jackpot (as if the Malawian boy would inherit Madonna's $462 million). This makes the likes of me appear jealous, irresponsible. Why object if a baby or thousand babies make it to the West to be raised as children of people who never gave birth to them while their real parents, poor, are back in Africa wondering on the fate of their children. Actually, the Madonna adoption process brought to mind some other past evil action that debilitated Africa. Before Madonna picked the one "lucky" boy, a dozen or so were paraded before her after being scrubbed clean to be presentable before her and her husband. The parading and her scrutiny brought to mind the slave trade when Africans were prodded and examined like cattle before being bought. The adopted child's mother had died and the father reportedly said "I am poor, let them take him". Why didn't Madonna, who earns $28 million yearly, pay for the schooling and upbringing of the child called David, instead of whisking him away from his father? Wouldn't have cost much in a country where $2 is what most people earn per day. Why not indeed? Is this not a sad example of fake and hypocritical bleeding hearts? Is this not a new version of the old evil, this buying of children from Africa?

Africa is for sale and one only has to check everywhere that our rulers are doing brisk business on our lives let alone our resources. In the process, the children are those who suffer most, sold into bondage, hard labour, sexual exploitation or as pets to foreigners. From Malawi to Ethiopia to Siri Lanka and India the sight and practice shames all decent people. The Adoption Racket is a multi million dollar business, parents are poor, and the children are sold, brother and sister in some instances given to different people from different countries. It is more than a simple violation of rights and conventions most African countries had signed. It is a scar on the soul of a whole continent. Actresses have their competitions and fads-- these days it concerns adoption of black children. She got a Zahara, I will have a David. She got Cambodian, I will have a Korean. Reputed psychologists tell us that uprooting children from their environment and culture will damage them. Adopted children who grew up in a foreign (and white) environment have also testified to this. Buying children from their poor parents is also a crime. And then we will have to go to the roots causes of the poverty and our fingers shall inevitably point to the places these adopters came from. In the past, pirates and slave traders raided our shores and villages and took our ancestors away to slavery. Today, times have changed and the rich who come to buy our children are feted by the neo-colonial regimes and presented the wares. Take your pick, Madam. We are cheaper than Cambodia. Fly away with all the children you want.

There is of course another point of view on the whole thing and as someone trying to be objective I will like to entertain it too. That is to see the Adoption Racket as a windfall of deliverance. We hail our athletes who escape poverty by running to be champions. Why not hail the children who are sold into rich households? David and Zahara will never have to go hungry or to be bitten by lice (unless they return to seek their real parents). They are saved. May thousands and thousands get saved like them! Sadly, every foreigner who adopts an African baby is a not a rich Madonna. Some are child beaters, on the precarious edge of the middle class. Some others are paedophiles; others have not come to terms with their latent and suppressed racism. It is a wild gamble for these black children growing up amidst whites. Will Madonna's children consider David as their brother? Angelina Jolie adopted Zahara because her adopted Cambodian son seemed to show a liking for her. Will these two grow up to understand and deal with their identities as brother and sister? Who cares? The main thing is that they have been pulled out of their poverty, no matter if they lost their real parents in the process. If we see the Racket this way, then I feel free to pop the question: why don't they adopt us all?

There is no hard and fixed rule which says only children are to be adopted. Adults can be adopted too. Didn't the colonial powers and anthropologist consider all Africans as babies, noble "savages" in need of white guidance and patronage to make sense of their simple lives? This makes us "adoptable, we are as black and kitsch as our babies. As it seems one does not necessarily have to be an orphan to be eligible for adoption but only has to be poor, we are in our millions, ready, very poor and waiting to be saved. It may be a variation on the old slave trade thing but we do not mind.

One African American has told us he is glad his ancestors left Africa in chains. We hear every day of African immigrants being drowned trying to enter the white man's land. Adoption is a softer shortcut. Africans are anyway being told they are the pests on their continent and if only they could be replaced by Japanese and Israelis the continent would boom. Why not take us out then? Why take David only--add the poor father. Why take Zahara alone--take the poor mother. It would even be fair to take the whole extended family along, to have the family nearby, happy, not poor anymore, communal, stabilizing, no worries or guilt. And our predator presidents and prime ministers can supervise this vast sale, we will be valuable commodities and this way they will not kill us but will take care of us for the sale. It would be a win- win situation all around. And the Madonna type rich can thus spend their money wisely and they can claim with confidence and sincerity that they have saved the continent as a whole by ridding it off its poor. With Africa thus salvaged, Bono and Geldoff will lose their vocation, alas.

I know this will not happen. No one will adopt us even though we qualify as poor. What they want is our babies and small girls. They need the poor to stay put in the continent, they have closed their frontiers and hearts a long time ago. They tell us we are foreigners with different cultures and faith and we cannot integrate--an argument they conveniently forget when they whisk away our children. But then, who said the Adoption Racket had to make sense? It makes money and that should be enough.

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