Domiano Ndege’s “All African Republic”, as he proclaimed it, was short lived. A man named Mobutu Sese Seko took over Africana and renamed it Kinshasa several months after the revolution which removed the Belgian imperialists. Mobuto turned Domiano’s fledgling Central African fiefdom into the country of Zaire. Domiano Ndege and three of his closest cabinet ministers (three men he barely knew, since he’d had all of his closest companions executed by that stage) had to flee the country immediately.
How exactly they managed to flee the country remains open to debate. Ndege himself never made any sort of account of what happened and the three cabinet ministers all died within three years of the escape (assumed by most historians to have been killed at the hands of Domiano Ndege himself). What is known is that Ndege ended up in London at the beginning of 1966. Having failed in his life’s work up until that point, his bid to unite Africa under one government having imploded within mere weeks, he turned now to his other passion: music. Domiano Ndege was a talented multi-instrumentalist, and with London in the full swing of the swinging 60’s, Ndege found himself in the right place at the right time. The peace and love generation took to his stylings, citing his credentials as someone who had successfully fought against “white male oppression”.
Domiano Ndege reportedly joined the Jimi Hendrix Experience as a second guitar player for a few months (although many refute this claim and there is only circumstantial evidence to back it up). His time in the group is supposedly chronicled on numerous bootlegs, including “Africana’s Soul Brother Number 1”, which is purported to be a recording of the group featuring Ndege at Camden’s Roundhouse in March 1966 (the counterclaim is that the Experience’s second guitarist at the show was George Harrison in disguise).
What is known for certain is that Ndege recorded the now infamous triple album, over two hours in length, simply entitled “Domiano” in the summer of 1966, in London. The music contained within the record was a mixture of jazz, rock and traditional African influences. Although it bombed commercially, it set up Ndege as a cult item and he spent the next two years touring Europe and recording albums. His follow up LPs, however, attracted less and less attention as each successive album was released until finally by the early 70’s (and following the hyper-unsuccessful “Funk Your Way Up the Congo, Bee-atch!” single), he was unable to secure a record deal of any kind.
Now sixty years of age, he decided to give up on music and re-enter politics. Ndege’s re-emergence into this sphere came about mostly due to a lucky break: Liberia, the West African nation founded by former American slaves in the 19th century, was searching for a new leader in the wake of a recent revolution. The revolution had involved the indigenous African population overthrowing the Americo-Liberians, the descendents of the original African-Americans who had established the country. They needed a new leader to stabilise Liberia, someone African and yet not directly associated any longer with a particular African state. On January 21, 1970, Domiano Ndege was sworn in as the president of the Liberian nation following a series of machinations I will detail at length in chapter twenty-seven (“Liberia: the state of despair”).
Reports on Ndege’s time as the president of Liberia are mixed. Some, like Richard Wallis, noted African historian, state that:
“Domiano Ndege’s time as president of Liberia either coincided with or directly caused the greatest period of affluence in Liberia’s history. Domiano is the very definition of the “benevolent dictator”. A man who could be trusted to act in the interests of the nation at large” (“Africa and the West: the Dark Continent’s Rising Waters”, Richard Wallis, Pendant Publishing, 1984).
Meanwhile, other European historians such as Benjamin Stock feel that:
“Ndege was amongst the most incompetent of leaders modern day Africa has ever witnessed. First in his failed utopia in the Congo, and then five years later in Liberia, where was he to preside over that country’s long and terminal decline into years of civil war” (“Africa’s Despots”, Benjamin Stock, Elephant Books, 1993).
What is concrete fact is that Ndege was ousted from power via a military coup in the winter of 1976. The coup was orchestrated by the same Americo-Liberians who had been deposed in the revolution seven years previous. Ndege was lucky to escape Liberia in one piece: after taking the reins of power in 1970, he enacted a massive reign of terror in which thousands of Americo-Liberians were executed. It seems likely that when they returned to power, they would have wanted Ndege’s head. However, just as he had done in the Congo all those years previous, he had successfully escaped, the means by which remain unknown. Liberia was then run by President Tolbert until he himself was deposed in a military coup in 1980 (again, more information on this appears in chapter twenty-seven).
Domiano Ndege then moved to Afghanistan. His intention was to drop out of society altogether at this stage, at least according to those who encountered him during this phase of his life; this despite his advancing age (he was in his late 60’s by this point). He reportedly missed the hedonistic lifestyle of his 1960’s days as a touring musician. He lived in a hippie commune, a place he described as “the most peaceful place I’ve ever been” (Lawrence Taylor, “Domiano and The USSR”, Torrence Books, 2002). Unfortunately, his hippie lifestyle came to an end on April 27, 1978 when Mohammed Daoud, the ruler of Afghanistan, was deposed by an organisation calling themselves the PDFA. This Marxist organisation had a worship of Domiano Ndege that bordered on seeing him in a divine light, mostly fuelled by a love of his music, strangely enough (“Funk Your Way Up the Congo, Bee-atch!” had actually been a minor hit in Afghanistan, the only country on Earth where the single managed to chart). They asked him to help their cause by becoming the Afghan Secretary of State. Although Ndege was virulently anti-Marxist, he accepted the offer, possibly out of a feeling that resisting could land him in trouble with the Pashtuns. As Secretary of State, Ndege would be Afghanistan’s voice to the world at large. It was his ticket back into the big time. He was installed as Afghan Secretary of State on February 2, 1979.
The exact details of Ndege’s death are unknown, but he is thought to have been killed sometime in the early stages of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, possibly by the PDFA, possibly by the Soviets (either deliberately or by accident). He remains a curious footnote in both the history of the immediate fallout from the post-imperialist era in Africa, late 60’s cult music, and despotism in West Africa and all that entailed.
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