Boris Johnson

The Boris archive: Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism

This article was published in The Spectator on 2 February 2002 by Boris Johnson, the new Foreign Secretary and former editor of the magazine. 

You would need a heart of stone not to have been moved by the little Aids-ridden choristers. We sat under a mango tree, before a dancing-space of packed red earth, and what a preposterous delegation we were. There was Mr Rod Liddle, the big white chief of the Today programme, not looking especially kempt. There was Vicky Scott of Unicef, and there was your correspondent, addressed repeatedly by the pleasing title of ‘Mr Honourable Johnson’. And as we sat in our armchairs, as though at some durbar, the choir formed in a semi-circle before us: dozens of tiny children in lacy, embroidered dresses. Their parents were almost all dead, and on some of the children you could see the twin tendons already standing out at the back of the neck — a symptom that the disease is moving to its close. At a signal from their teacher, they began to chant to the tune of ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’: We are happy to receive you, wel-o-come; we are happy to receive you, wel-o-come; we are happy to receive you, happy to receive you, happy to receive you, wel-o-comer Then they danced, magically, even the ones who were ill.

Theresa May’s new Cabinet Listen to Isabel Hardman, Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth and Colleen Graffy discuss the PM’s new appointments:

Believe me, you blush, you fat, white chiefs, at that kind of reception. You feel embarrassed, and obscurely ashamed, and it is that feeling of shame I wish to confront. If we were erroneously treated like the Duke of Kent. imagine with what rapture Africa will greet Tony Blair when he descends next week in his big white bird.

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