The Black Axe – How a pan-African freedom movement lost its way

Fantastic article from Harpers Magazine produced by a superb journalist. Great work. 


LETTER FROM NIGERIA — From the September 2019 issue

The Black Axe

How a pan-African freedom movement lost its way

Eleven years ago, on a bitter January night, dozens of young men, dressed in a uniform of black berets, white T-­shirts, and black pants, gathered on a hill overlooking the Nigerian city of Jos, shouting, dancing, and shooting guns into the black sky. A drummer pounded a rhythmic beat. Amid the roiling crowd, five men crawled toward a candlelit dais, where a white-robed priest stood holding an axe. Leading them was John,1 a sophomore at the local college, powerfully built and baby-faced. Over the past six hours, he had been beaten and burned, trampled and taunted. He was exhausted. John looked out at the landscape beyond the priest. It was the harmattan season, when Saharan sand blots out the sky, and the city lights in the distance blurred in John’s eyes as if he were underwater.

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