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Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2007, 17:09 GMT
Identity: Who do you think you are?
Composite of pictures showing a zebra, men drinking from a gourde, a woman carrying oranges, Kwame Nkrumah, Somali passports, an Egyptian football fan and Ethiopian veteran soldiers.

With the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence coming up in March - an event that symbolised the beginning of the end of colonialism in Africa - the BBC's new competition for Africa explores the continent's identity.

Here, BBC News website reader Mehretab Mekonnen Belay describes who he is.

Mehretab Mekonnen Belay
As a 35-year-old man born and bred in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by Eritrean parents, the question of who I am is closely associated with who I should be.

The Eritrean struggle for independence from Ethiopia of course influenced my childhood and world view.

Ethnic or religious identity has never been my trademark. Although having lived here in Sweden since 1989 - my whole adult life - I have developed a strong identity of a black man and an African with all it means.

As both Eritrea and Ethiopia are stuck with the bitter border conflict and have become the two most notorious countries in Africa for the violations of human rights, I have created my own country, "Humania".

The clothes I wear are my national flag; the song I sing in the shower is my national anthem

It lies between the heart and the mind with no territorial claim and I feel the whole planet is my home.

The complexity of being human and our obsessions with fixed identities and categorisations mesmerises me more than anything else.

As a philosophical anthropologist and human geographer, I do believe that African union is the only way out of the quagmire.

'One destiny'

People should be able to move freely and transcend all forms of mental and physical boundaries.

Family and national belongings should not be used to divide us but to better understand each other and bridge our gaps because we have a lot that unites us.

I have become a black man in Europe but I try to move beyond that and not to let others impose their will on me.

I am what I am because of circumstances and choices I make in life.

I believe I am my own country: the clothes I wear are my national flag; the song I sing in the shower is my national anthem and all my body parts are the different departments and ministries of my government.

The social ministry goes to the eyes, mouth and ears.

The home affairs ministry functions through the heart and the brain and my sexual organs have the most important portfolio covering foreign affairs.

To be a human being is to understand oneself by understanding others.

This can only be achieved by creating relationships with other fellow humans on the basis of true humanism: one love; one heart and one destiny.


Let us know whether you identify yourself first and foremost with your family, your ethnic group, your country, your region or your continent. How does that affect the way you behave and the way you see the world?

If you have photos to accompany your contribution send them to newsonline.africa@bbc.co.uk, otherwise use the form at the bottom of the page.

Entries should be no more than 300 words.

The best will be published on the BBC News website, broadcast on the BBC World Service's Network Africa programme and entered into a prize draw to win a week-long visit to London.

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The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.




Girl hanging out cloth to dry in Mali, West Africa [Photo: Barry Perks] Your take
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