Those who are familiar with Baba Galleh Jallow's famous Story of the Week in the Daily Observer during his time there would no doubt recall his crafty style in creating satire. He used to create characters with funny names that accurately depicted contemporary issues.
Now Baba Galleh has gone even a step further by writing such satire in a book, entitled; Angry Laughter.
In this 61 page book, he has presented in his usual funny style the story of a brutal African military dictatorship that later transformed itself into a civilian government, although still maintaining all the trappings of a military junta.
As it is reminiscent of his style of writing, he gave the characters names well suited to the roles they play in the story. For instance, the undisputed leader of the junta was called General Loony, which is no doubt a corruption of the word lunatic. Some of the characters are given such names as Nopa, the hare, Cheku, the parrot, Buki, the hyena, Samo, the elephant and Mbota, the frog.
The book began with the background history of a country called Smiling Forest which was occupied by a variety of animals. It was ruled by an animal king known as Talk much Dolittle. It went on to tabulate the events that led to the eventual overthrow of King Talkmuch Dolittle by a little known fox called Captain Loony who was a member of the Armed Foxes of Smiling Forest.
Like all other military dictatorships in Africa, the Armed Foxes set up their ruling council which they named the Armed Foxes Potato Thinking Cabinet, with General Loony as the supreme head. However, in order to get some international legitimacy, they also symbolically invited other animals that did not belong to the Armed Foxes to join the cabinet.
As time went on, some cracks began to appear in their ranks. This eventually led to a big rift that ended up with the arrest and imprisonment of some senior members of the Armed Foxes Potato Thinking Cabinet, who were accused of conspiracy to kill General Loony.
While General Loony and his junta were always emphasizing that they only assumed power in order to correct the corrupt system put in place by the administration of Talkmuch Dolittle and hand over to the animals of Smiling Forest to choose their own leaders, but in reality, they were doing the opposite. They were not only further entrenching themselves into power, but they were also using the same tactics used by their predecessors to amass wealth.
The book also went on to document general Loony's penchant for high sounding words and flowery names such as his Mental Surveillance Unit, Vision Weeny Weeny, Loony is Always Right Movement and his Operation No Shadows, among others. All of them were actually meant to help him consolidate his tight grip on power.
The theme of the book is actually quite adequately captured in the synopsis at the back cover which states: "Written in the Orwellian tradition of Animal Farm, Angry Laughter is one of the most biting political satires to come out of Africa. In this tale of dark political intrigue and betrayal, Baba Galleh Jallow ridicules the absurd antics of an inept and corrupt civilian government and its removal and replacement by a group of semi-literate military 'saviours', who turn out to be far more absurd, corrupt and brutal than their predecessors. While exceedingly funny and often lighthearted, Angry Laughter awakens us to the cruel excesses of Africa's power-crazed despots, the sorry plight of her oppressed peoples, the very real dangers of civil war and the continent's nauseating politics of brutality. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the nature and dynamics of contemporary African politics and why, in particular, the continent is riddled with bloody civil wars."
The book is published by Wasteland Press in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
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