Help Us, Josh Groban, You’re Our Only Hope!

We’d like to congratulate Mother Jones Senior Editor Dave Gilson on the in-depth investigative work that went into producing this magical map* of the “celebrity recolonization of Africa”:

Gilson may see an Africa half-full, well on its way to the full celebrity recolonization that the Dark Continent has always dreamed of, but (eternal pessimists that we are) we can’t help but see an Africa half-empty of desperately needed celebrity resources. And we know from the work of Nicholas Kristof, the Enough Campaign, Save Darfur, Invisible Children, and others that Africans unattended by celebrities will all die slow and painful deaths, often while being raped by lions.

Obviously, this is an incipient crisis of epic proportions, so we need to work fast. While nearly overwhelmed by the scale of this tragedy, Team Wronging Rights has sprung into action. Using our crack “looking at the map and counting things” methodology, we have identified the following countries in desperate need of a celebrity spokesperson: Western Sahara, Mauritania, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Plain Vanilla Guinea, Gabon, Other Congo, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Zambia, Benin, Togo, Eritrea, Lesotho, and Swaziland.

In order to achieve Full Celebrification In Our Time, we recommend celebrities be allocated as follows:

Somalia: Johnny Depp, because the pirates will respect him. (As several alert readers pointed out, it’s actually Eritrea, not Somalia, that lacks a celebrity. However, we think Depp is the right man for the job, so we recommend Clay Aiken be bumped over to Eritrea.)

The Gambia: Game (formerly “The Game”) in the hopes that he can convince the country to drop the definite article as well.

Guineas 1 through 3: Josh Groban, on the theory that nothing papers over the memory of a gruesome massacre of political opponents in your capital city’s football stadium like an arena concert by America’s favorite singer-songwriter. (Sorry Guinea-Bissau, we know you have no particular history of slaughtering your opposition on the sites of major sporting events, but if you want to avoid confusion, you should probably go ahead and get a new name.)

Chad: Julianna Margulies, the currently-second-most-prominent-former-castmember-of-ER. Because if there’s any force on earth more powerful than the fractious regional politics of Chad/Sudan, it’s ER fans’ eternal-springing hope that Margulies’s Nurse Carol Hathaway will reunite with Clooney’s Dr. Doug Ross. Seriously, would it be possible for the fighting to continue if peace could give those two lovebirds the chance to meet cute over a treaty-signing, realize that Doug should never have abandoned the lovely nurse and her twins, and ride off into a spinoff together? The answer is clearly no, not possible.

The Other Congo: To be shared evenly among all the least prominent members of famous Hollywood families (we’re looking at you, Emilio Estevez and Lesser Baldwins). Because, let’s face it, sometimes it sucks being The Other Congo.

Lesotho and Swaziland: Oprah, because she’s already got South Africa covered, and is so wealthy that chances are good that she already owns those two tiny landlocked nations without even realizing it.

That leaves Western Sahara, Mauritania, Cameroon, Gabon, Niger, Zambia, Benin, and Togo still in desperate need of celebrities. We know you won’t let them down: post your recommendations in the comments. (As usual, Lucky Charms-based awards will be available for feats of commenting awesomeness.)

*Note that the actual map is interactive and therefore infinitely more awesome and informative than the screengrab we’ve included here.

Amanda and Kate


  1. How did they miss Ryan Gosling and Uganda? IT'S THE ONLY REASON I CARE ABOUT UGANDA AND THE LARS OR WHATEVER.

  2. I have to object to the assignment of Josh Groban to the Guineas. The real answer is Dennis Rodman, former NBA player, former Madonna lover, former C-list action movie star. Most importantly though, his nickname is…wait for it…"The Worm". Guinea…Worm get it? Get it?

  3. Fun idea. I am a bit disappointed that you guys would forget Madagascar(Molly contributes here from time to time after all), Comoros, Cape-Verde countries in need of a celebrity pep talk. Madagascar already had the pleasure of hosting Ashley Judd and Jim Carrey ( I guess I should take my slight grip with Mother Jones for omitting that 🙂 ). If at all possible, we could use a celebrity with a green hand as selling the rain forest seems to be our last resort for cash these days.

  4. poor western sahara is always left grey on the maps and that includes mother jones' as well.

    but what a great article they did and that you supplemented here with commentary!

  5. I say Hilary Duff for Zambia. Like Zambia gets overlooked because nearby and sounds similar Zimbabwe is such a trainwreck, Hil's also overshadowed by Lindsay Lohan.

  6. Gabon is obvious, it has to be Michael Gambon. In a country "rich in folklore and mythology" (as wiki tells me), imagine having Dumbledore himself regale the masses with stories of witchcraft and wizardry. And then there's the whole name being similar thing too…

  7. Here’s my pitch for sourpuss of the day:

    I find this very snooty. I’m all for throwing rocks at a bad thing to make it change or go away but I don’t agree with your target this time. The non-profit development industry exists because the public supports it and votes or doesn’t for the politicians that decide how that industry is run and funded. Much of the material produced for public consumption by NGOs is brain numbingly patronising. It tells us things like for a few pounds a month you can buy people health, education and a livelihood. The impression given is that ‘we work in this country so send money to us and the people here will be okay’, yet when news breaks of a catastrophe in that country, the news reports never say ‘but its okay because these NGOs are here so everyone’s fine.’ There’s a huge gap between the wall of how NGOs present what they do and the reality of what they actually do. The massively impressive board members wielded by NGOs to imply credibility don’t seem influential enough to get the country managers and programme directors on TV to talk about what they do and fill in that reality gap. Some celebrities returning from ‘fact-finding missions’ get on TV and say ‘it’s really complicated, there’s no easy answer’ and at least that makes a bit more sense than the junk mail saying ‘twenty pounds a month is the answer’. I’d rather pay attention to someone who says ‘I’ve been there, this is what I saw’ than the organisations that seem to say ‘Leave it to us, you wouldn’t understand’. NGOs have been positioning themselves as the big, mostly white, saviours for decades – a lot of the problematic celebrity activity is just following this model. The NGOs that let their communications and marketing teams use any which way to gain funds or coverage and don’t ensure that all their activities are aligned with their development objectives and values are at fault here. Their accomplices are the NGOs who don’t realise that to mobilise public support, you can’t keep lying to people and treating them like children. Having celebrities copy these organisations (often while working with them) is among the least of the problems these organisations create.

    One glimmer of hope is that some philanthropists and some celebrity-led initiatives are trying to do things differently; it’s disappointing that the big NGOS couldn’t do this kind of thing. My usual examples: letting people tell their own stories – Louverture Films, Film Aid International, Real World Records. Also, NOOW gives more detailed news on their areas of interest than most NGO websites; gives supporters and beneficiaries of non-profits an equal stage on which to do their own fundraising; the about to be launched looks promising.

  8. You should tick-off Lesotho. Prince Harry has an organization there called Senthebale and I don't think he'd like sharing such a small space with the likes of Oprah!!!

  9. From 1884 to 1920 Togo was a German colony… therefor I'm thinking of Modern Talking. It's a perfect place for a reunification: "Give Me Peace on Earth" and "You're My Heart, You're My Soul" round the clock – Bob Geldof will get really jealous!

  10. Do not forget Ashley Judd's OUTSTANDING advocacy for Africa, which could give her a grab bag of countries. Through Judd's blog of trips taken to Africa for her role as Celebrity AIDS Ambassador Extraordinaire, we get gems like, "My last time to this continent, the original home of us all, I was so overwhelmed with emotion as to be nearly distraught. Everything, but everything, made me cry! My first African tree! My first African bird! My first African friend!"

    Birds and trees and friends; oh my!

    And don't miss her cutting-edge commentary from the DRC after she witnesses some local folks drinking water, "We began serving glasses. They drained them greedily, they were so thirsty, and it hurt to see their guard lowered that much, their deep vulnerability and thirst revealed."

    Check it all out here:

  11. Y'all forgot Burundi. Since it's always in Rwanda's slightly bloodier shadow anyway (sad because Bujumbura is so fun to say fast), it should be given to Don Cheadle, who can make a slightly less heart-wrenchingly gory movie about it. Besides, surely this whole transnational Hutu-Tutsi thing can be resolved by one celebrity whose only real claim to fame for years was having been on Picket Fences.

  12. Clive Cussler needs to have Western Sahara. Or Matthew McConahey (depends if you're a book or movie adaptation sort of person).

    Put Michael Gambon in Gabon just cause their last names are so similar. Or Michel Chabon.

    On this same line of thinking I nominate Benin for Benin-icio Del Toro.

    And finally, Cameroon Diaz? Anyone?

  13. I'd like to second texas in africa on your outstanding commentary. There have been days when your posts have actually made me cry with laughter – snarky, intelligent and hilarious all at the same time is quite a feat! (meanwhile, I'm happy if any comments I make nowadays have correct spelling and grammar – although, in my defense I usually have two small kids trying to dismantle the room, each other and the computer at the same time so I try to press 'send' as fast as possible! 😉

    Btw, who the hell is Joel Madden? (re map link) anyway? (apart from "Nicole Richie's baby Daddy") and now "trips" to africa (his contribution) also constitute being an expert? Dear god.

    In any case, why bother to even have one celebrity per country? Clearly, Africa is such a simple kind of place with one homogenous people, religion, language, history, socio-cultural background etc etc – hell, why not have One "celebrity-actor-activist" (or for short, a "celactorist"!) just fly in and out every now and then and be done with it?

    ps – anyone seen 'Bruno'? There is a fab/frightengly worrying bit where Bruno sees two (apparently real) PR consultants who actually advise celebrities on getting 'involved' in humanitarian causes….you could actually see Sacha Baron Cohen trying not to laugh they were That mind blowingly stupid.

    Anyway – my nomination is for Paris Hilton, since she said she 'so wanted to help out Rwanda' a few years back…!! (aghhhh!)

    [see the following link – yes, it's from "the dark-side"….(a.k.a "People" magazine) – no I don't read it! Did a google search just now…,,20058640,00.html

    "It's not the typical sort of hot spot she's used to, but Paris Hilton says that she's planning to hit the road to Rwanda.

    Apparently making good on her post-jail promise to help others, the socialite, 26, tells E! Online about her African ambitions, "I'll be going in November, after I get back from filming my movie. There's so much need in that area, and I feel like if I go, it will bring more attention to what people can do to help."

    Though a trouble spot of notorious proportions – an infamous 1994 genocide in Rwanda claimed about a million lives (in a nation of 9 million) – the country's multitude of problems doesn't seem to worry Hilton, who vows to pay calls upon a variety of beleaguered regions.

    "I want to visit more countries where poverty and children's issues are a big concern," she says. "I know there's a lot of good I can do just by getting involved and bringing attention to these issues."

    Hilton reportedly will visit Rwanda at the invitation of Scott Lazerson, whose year-old Playing for Good charity assists celebrities and high-profile business personalities in getting involved with organizations that benefit those in need."

  14. Mauritania – Kiefer Sutherland. These guys have coups every few years like clockwork. Jack Bauer, erm, I mean, Kiefer Sutherland could easily iron that out in 24 hours or less without taking a nap.

    Western Sahara: Whoever said Clint Eastwood was spot on. Not just because of the "western" factor but because people hear the name and go "It's still there? Wow.."

    Benin – Lady Gaga. Think about it, if Benin walked into a room right now, how would she be dressed? My point exactly.

  15. ps – re Paris Hilton link – that was from 2007 and as far as has been reported she has never been to Rwanda or any other African country since making those remarks.

    Btw – any brits here? If anyone saw "Live 8" (another geldof 'spectacular' *sigh*) you might have caught Madonna saying to Jo Whiley (british DJ) that "unless she was able to be involved in policy issues" she had no interest in visiting Africa.

    Seriously. a pop star, who at the time had, no less, Never even been to Africa said that unless she (??) could actually be involved with POLICY (of an entire continent – she didn't even talk of a country in Africa but of the CONTINENT) -at a govt level she had no interest in visting any country in Africa. Words truly fail. At the time I just about threw the tv out the I was so angry. And now, she has somehow managed to squeeze herself in – take a child out of Malawi (oops I mean two! a whole set, boy & girl) and push kabbalism on the area at the same time. You could cry.

    Ok, scratch my earlier nomination – my new vote is this….we fly ALL these celebrity-activist-ignoramouses-egotists on a plane to a small uninhabited island in the middle of the pacific and TELL them it's africa. Let them swim back.

  16. last post…!

    re: booksquirm "The non-profit development industry exists because the public supports it"

    …to a degree, not always – many individual NGOs exist through financial support from business (e.g. vodaphone).

    "The NGOs that let their communications and marketing teams use any which way to gain funds or coverage and don’t ensure that all their activities are aligned with their development objectives and values are at fault here." – I agree! But still, I think that while, in some respects, celebrity involvement is the "least of the problems these organisations create" that's also just from our (western) perspective. E.g., I might not have agreed with all of Dambisa Moyo's (often very simplistic) points – but she did call out this idea that who the hell are these white, western actors to seak for anyone…let alone people from a different continent. Sure, ok, use celebrities – but what about african celebrities (sportspeople actors and musicians)?

  17. I'm disappointed that Dikembe Mutombo, Luol Deng, and Tracy McGrady haven't been mentioned.

    Zinedine Zidane – Algeria. He's of Algerian descent and if someone insults him, he'll plant his head firmly in their solar plexus.

    Carson Kressley (of Queer Eye fame) – Libya. Qaddafi needs to be more like Liberace and less like a jackass. Libya could probably stand to have its collective mood lightened as well.

  18. Re: "anacheka said…

    land of rape, lions and CHILD SACRIFICE"

    There's a fine line between commenting on rape etc (as many of these posts do) as a way of underlining how manipulative much of the reporting from and about africa can be, in the hopes of emphasising the need, from those reporting, that these women are not there solely to sell a story or as faceless/voiceless members of a vast underclass – and to link some stats on child sacrifice, as what?

    I read the link, had a quick read about DTJ, and could not see the point you were trying to make. I think you're really missing the underlying point of earlier rape/lion posts. I work with the issue of child abuse (witchcraft/labour/trafficking) and I can tell you the role of child sacrfice is a horrific and very real issue in – mainly – southern Nigeria, DRC and parts of Uganda. I fail to see how making a joke of it has any point whatsoever. The rape/lions points are generally in reference to mainstream news articles that use the idea of rape as a sell-all idea to contextualise much more complex issues – but child sacrfice (like child trafficking) ,if anything, does not have Enough awareness attached to it (the awful Lindsay Lohan documentary notwithsatnding).

    Many children are trafficked to the west, and indeed there have been two Known cases of child sacrifice (the vast majority of children trafficked to the UK are never found and the numbers are not clear) in the UK in the past few years – one child was found floating in the Thames missing theit arms and legs.

    I fail to see the humour in all this myself. Perhaps you could enlighten me on your view of abused children?

  19. Wow. It was a stupid and ignorant comment on my part. I'm so sorry. I'd delete it if I could.

  20. Anacheka,
    We can delete your comment if you'd like us to, but we don't think that's necessary. Avam clearly has a substantial background with that issue, but a lot of people don't, and we don't think the way you presented it was offensive.
    You didn't say that child sacrifice was a made up issue – after all, neither are rape or lions. And we hadn't come across that link before, so your comment was a useful one.

  21. re: Anacheka

    yes, don't delete it. I think I came across too harsh. Having kids myself – while working on child trafficking/slavery/abuse (which, as you can imagine is pretty damn horrific) has left me with a thin skin on this issue. But, regardless, I think on My part, my last sentence was off the mark, and after posting it would have deleted it if I could. I've been involved with development for a relatively long-ish time (15 yrs) but it's work regarding child abuse/trafficking that can, at times, be particularly hard to take. Many issues in dev are pretty harsh, as you probably know, and you need to be able to have some sort of barrier up to be able to see it all clearly, but when it's about kids I sometimes (usually after a day working on some especially awful stuff) just look at mine and think – jesus….. – hence my anger.

    anyway, the more people that know about it the better – so your link was useful.

  22. Okay, thanks.
    I work with abused kids too, which is why I was so horrified that what I said was interpreted like that.

    Your reaction was totally understandable. Anyway, I'm more aware of the issue now so some good has come from it.

  23. I'm nominating Sting for Niger, in memory of Tandja. Sting is another one who just won't recognise when his time is up, even though there has not (yet) been a military intervention to prevent him continuing his musical career in the face of public opposition.

    For Gambia, how about Jane Seymour in character as Dr Quinn Medicine Woman? In recognition of Jammeh's self-appointed role as national healer of AIDS.

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