That's "Campana-stan" or ''Land of Campana." It reflects the Weltanschauung of Michael E. Campana, President-for-Life of the Republic of Campanastan. Welcome to Campanastan - no passports or visas required!
Texas Agriculture Law Blog Don't let the name fool you - there are lots of water issues in agriculture and Tiffany Dowell of Texas A&M University does a fabulous job with this important Internet resource. Give it a read - I do every day!
The Way of Water Oregon State University Geography PhD Student, Jennifer Veilleux, records her fieldwork, research, and thoughts about transboundary water resources development in the Nile River and Mekong River basins. Particular attention is given to Ethiopia's Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Laos' Xayaburi Dam projects.
Thirsty in Suburbia Gayle Leonard documents things from the world of water that make us smile: particularly funny, amusing and weird items on bottled water, water towers, water marketing, recycling, the art-water nexus and working.
This Day in Water History Michael J. 'Mike' McGuire, engineer extraordinaire, NAE member, and author of 'The Chlorine Revolution', blogs about historical happenings in the fields of drinking water and wastewater keyed to calendar dates.
WaSH Resources New publications, web sites and multi-media on water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH).
Water 50/50 From Jay Famiglietti at UC-Irvine. Fifty lectures in fifty weeks: The 2012 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lectureship. A global lecture tour delivering the message about our changing water cycle, groundwater depletion, and the future of freshwater availability.
Watering the Desert Aptly-titled blog by CJ Brooks, a lawyer-hydrologist-geologist from Tucson, AZ.
Watershed Moments: Thoughts from the Hydrosphere From Sarah Boon - rediscovering her writing and editing roots after 13 years, primarily as an environmental scientist. Her writing centres around creative non-fiction, specifically memoir and nature writing. The landscapes of western Canada are her main inspiration.
WaterWired All things fresh water: news, comment, and analysis from hydrogeologist Michael E. Campana, Professor at Oregon State University.
Watery Foundation Tom Swihart, formerly of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, tells all about water management in the Sunshine State.
Western Water Blog The 'mystery blog' about Western USA water issues. What more can I say?
Wisdom in Water, Please... Kate Wilkins-Wells , who manages the Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 4, provides her wisdom on water issues.
xAnalytical Doug Walker's xAnalytical blog:Turning Data and Information into Knowledge
I recall when news of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa first hit the media outlets here. We in the USA were treated to a number of USA officials essentially saying, 'Don't worry folks. The health-care system in the USA is far more advanced than that in West Africa. It's unlikely that the Ebola virus will find its way here, but if it does, we will be able to contain it.'
That made me feel much better, especially since my favorite TV shows have become The Last Ship, The Strain, and Helix, all of which deal with viruses or other pathogens that are extremely virulent and threaten humanity.
But the recent episode in Dallas has put me at unease. A Liberian fellow, Thomas Duncan, walked into the ER at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital with fever and other symptoms of Ebola (fever, stomach cramps) and told the ER nurse that he had just flown in from Liberia, one of the hotspots of the epidemic. The nurse failed to transmit this information to the diagnostic team, so the man was treated and released. Fortunately, he came back when he became sicker.
Wait a second. Ebola? Liberia? Fever? Duhhh....Where has the aforementioned nurse been for the past few weeks? Good Lord, if those three words in juxtaposition don't raise a red flag to a health care worker, I don't know what would. THPH has blamed the omission on the software glitch (Ah, blame the computer). Had I been the nurse I think I would have picked up the phone (after I stopped shaking) or communicated to the diagnostic team somewhat more directly than using software. [Note added on 4 October 2014: THPH now saysthat the problem was not with the computer; the diagnostic team got the information on its screen but didn't see it. Stay tuned: the story could mutate faster than a virus.]
The folks in Dallas are now tracking down the people who have been in contact with the Duncan, who is now very ill. Let's hope the public health workers are more adept than the THPH folks.
And how did Duncan get here? When he left Liberia, he lied when asked if he had been in contact with Ebola-infected persons (he had, and all have died). So I guess it's not too hard to fly here from West Africa. Liberia is considering criminal charges against him, should he survive.
I write about this because the health-care communications breakdown in Dallas is all too familiar to Mary Frances and me. Her mother (99 years old) is in a nursing home in Kentucky that is reputed to be one of the best in the area. We have found that the various shifts do not communicate with each other very well and that 'the ball is dropped' quite often. We know this because we have had to hire a minder for my mother-in-law, a young woman who does a great job keeping tabs on the 'professionals' and calling them out when they screw up.
The Last Ship and Helix are on hiatus now. I think I might skip the last few episodes of The Strain.
'Bureaucratic time and virus time are different.' - Unknown
In between the fireworks, auto and furniture sales, and barbecues, take a few minutes today to read the Declaration of Independence and the remarkable Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which came along 11 years later:
If you are an American citizen, thank your lucky stars for those 56 guys who signed the Declaration in Philadelphia in 1776 and started this thing rolling.
While you are at it, give extra thanks for the First Amendment, which guarantees five fundamental rights, which you can remember with the mnemonic RAPPS: religion, assembly, press, petition, and speech.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two giants in American history - friends, then opponents, and finally friends again - both died on this day in 1826. As I get older, I think less of Jefferson and more of Adams. Both were great men, but the former 'talked the talk' and didn't always 'walk the walk' (e.g., slavery) whereas the latter tried to do both.
Enjoy the day, and enjoy RAPPS!
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." -- Declaration of Independence
"...a Republic, if you can keep it." -- Benjamin Franklin, at the end of the Constitutional Convention, when asked, "What have you wrought?"
When I saw this post on Daniel Collins' Facebook page I thought it was a joke; apparently not. Here is the original story from io9.com:
Chibuihem Amalaha, an award winning student at the University of Lagos,
is claiming that he's "disproved" gay marriage through science — and he used the power of magnets to do so. His "groundbreaking" work is backed by the university.
His mathematics of gay marriage is particularly illuminating. In aninterview with This Day Live he says (Note: read here if you dare).
And I thought Nigeria was known just for email scams and widows, barristers, and princes waiting to share their fortunes with others!
But wait - Amalaha is working on showing that the Second Law of Thermodynamics allows for email scams! That's sure to win him tenure from the University of Lagos and the Medal of Achievement from the Nigeria government.
Just what Nigeria needs these days to burnish its image.
“Nigerian sector does not encourage scientific research so much but what God has given me I am using it effectively to touch Nigerian nation. All the scientific researches I have been doing have not yielded any encouragement to do more." - Chibuihem Amalaha
Just found this in a 2010 issue ofThe Economist. It is based upon a survey of drug-harm experts. Be sure to read the brief article, which contains the usual caveats.
In a related vein, I heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, promoting his upcoming special 'Weed' (11 August 8 PM EDT), explain that he has done an about-face when it comes to medical marijuana:
Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called "Weed." The title "Weed" may sound cavalier, but the content is not.
I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.
Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled "Why I would Vote No on Pot."
Well, I am here to apologize.
I apologize because I didn't look hard enough, until now. I didn't look far enough. I didn't review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.
In a late entry for most absurd human rights story of 2011, the Arab League has appointed Sudanese General Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi to head their observer mission to Syria. As David Kenner points out in an article titled "The World's Worst Human Rights Observer," Dabi is implicated in the Bashir regime's organization of atrocity-committing janjaweed militias in Darfur, making him rather an unconventional choice for a human rights observer mission.
An anonymous reader suggests that Dabi's background as an (alleged) participant in genocide mean he's overqualified to monitor mere crimes against humanity. But I'm kind of thinking the Arab League might be onto something. I mean, it's like home alarm system companies using ex-burglars as "security consultants," right? Who better to catch a war criminal?
Hmmm....What goes around, comes around? Nope - better still:
"As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities." -Voltaire
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - attributed to Edmund Burke
You can go here to find links to my early posts about the project, including some of the scientific aspects.
Intending to do an update, I went to the project's WWW site and Dr. Farouk El-Baz's blog, only to find both defunct. So I emailed El-Baz and received his prompt reply on 31 December 2011:
There is still fighting in Darfur, but hopefully that will end soon after the death of the rebel leader Ibrahim.
In the meantime there are several efforts continuing, including student volunteers who are collecting funds for a well in the name of their institution. Boston Univ. students collected $7,300 of the $10,000 needed for one.
The effort will be initiated as soon as the Doha peace agreement is fully accepted.
I appreciate Dr. El-Baz's reply and encourage him to reactivate the project WWW site/blog to keep people apprised of the project's progress.
We'll see what happens. Let's hope for good things in 2012. I am afraid I am not very optimistic.
"The Darfur initiative will bring hope to the people of northwestern Sudan; it will allow the migration of the labour force to locations where economic development is suitable and environmentally sustainable. This initiative can be a starting point for ameliorating the human suffering in the region and raising the quality of life and capacity of its people." -- Dr. Farouk El-Baz, 25 June 2007
"There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment." - Paul Theroux, referring to Bono (Paul Hewson), "The Rock Star's Burden", The New York Times, 15 December 2005
"There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star, but I can't think of one at the moment." - Paul Theroux, referring to Paul Hewson (aka Bono), New York Times, "The Rock Star's Burden", 15 December 2005
Remember when this was a big deal - about three or four years ago? Looks like the project has been shelved.Read my post over at WaterWired.
Maybe the wells have been shifted to South Sudan.
"The Darfur initiative will bring hope to the people of northwestern Sudan; it will allow the migration of the labour force to locations where economic development is suitable and environmentally sustainable. This initiative can be a starting point for ameliorating the human suffering in the region and raising the quality of life and capacity of its people." -- Dr. Farouk El-Baz, 25 June 2007
"How fitting that Lara Logan was 'liberated' by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the 'liberation.' Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Alhamdilllullah [praise allah]."
"Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson [Cooper of CNN]. Where was her buddy [General Stanley] McChrystal."
Yes, yes it was wrong what happened to her.Of course, I don't support that. But it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too."
"Jesus Christ, at the moment she is becoming a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger."
"Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if was worse than [sic[ I'm sorry."
And some comments from assorted blogs:
"A pretty one, with lots of untamed, uncovered wild blonde hair."
"To devout muslims, she's legit rape-bait. What was CBS thinking?"
"Welcome to Islam. It's immoral to eat pork but rape is acceptable."
"It's INEXCUSABLE for a blonde female to be there in the midst of these savages! Maybe now she knows the true face of Mooselimbs."
"She's lucky she wasn't beheaded for infidelity afterwards by the islamic savages."
For the record, spouse Mary Frances was groped when she visited me in Egypt in 1995, despite her best efforts to 'cover up.'
I'll close with this beauty from Michelle Malkin:
"I fail to see why we would expend any energy -- beyond that which is released by the detonation of a thermonuclear weapon -- to defend these people and their country. Islam is the opiate of the uneducated -- and unwilling to be educated -- masses in the Third World." -- Michelle Malkin
When I lived in Cairo I noted that there seemed to be a plethora of streets named after dates. When I would finally ascertain the significance of a particular date, it was usually some lame reason like "That was the day we didn't get our butts kicked by the Israelis as badly as we thought we would" or somesuch nonsense. Didn't seem that modern Egypt had much to celebrate.
Now there is a real reason to name a street after a date. Let's hope that today becomes the namesake of a major boulvevard or a renamed Tahrir Square and that the reason will be "It was the day we deposed a tyrant and started on the road to democracy."
But there is a ways to go yet.
Okay, who's next?
"We won't leave until Mubarak steps down and God willing, today's protest will be peaceful. Everything will turn out good and he will step down for sure." -- Yasmine Mohamed, Egyptian university student, 11 February 2011
“There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can’t think of one at the moment.” – Paul Theroux, referring to Paul Hewson (aka Bono), The Honolulu Advertiser, 8 January 2006
AP sports columnist John Leicester wrote this piece about that infernal droning you hear at the World Cup games.
No, it's not the ubiquitous African honeybee, but the vuvuzela, a type of horn, that for some reason, appeals to South Africans.
Leicester obviously got up on the wrong side of the bed:
The constant drone of cheap and tuneless plastic horns is killing the atmosphere at the World Cup.
Where are the loud choruses of "Oooohhsss" from enthralled crowds when a shot scorches just wide of the goalpost? And the sharp communal intake of breath, the shrill "Aaahhhhss," when a goalkeeper makes an acrobatic, match-winning save? Or the humorous/moving/offensive football chants and songs?
Mostly, they're being drowned out by the unrelenting water-torture beehive hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm of South African vuvuzela trumpets. Damn them. They are stripping World Cup 2010 of football's aural artistry.
Vuvuzela apologists - a few more weeks of this brainless white noise will perhaps change, or melt, their minds - defend the din as simply part of the South African experience. Each country to its own, they say. When in Rome, blah, blah, blah
I'm wondering if Leicester is a Brit who's obviously miserable because England gave away the game to the Americans when their goaltender, Robert 'Hands of Stone' Greene, let one slip by him. Greene was no doubt distracted by the incessant droning in the stands and lost concentration.
If I were at a match, they'd probably drive me crazy, too. But when watching on TV I just turn the sound down. You really need sportscasters to tell you what's going on?
"If God had wanted man to play soccer, he wouldn't have given us arms." -- Mike Ditka, former American football player and coach
I'm not a big fan of Shell Oil, but neither am I a fan of the corrupt Nigerian government. It shares in the blame for the plight of those in the Niger delta. “Nigeria is what it is because its leaders are not what they should be.” – Chinua Achebe
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's [shown in the photo] government will formally sign next week a framework agreement for a cease-fire with rebels in Sudan's volatile Darfur region, a rebel representative and state media said Saturday.
Dr. Tahir al-Fati, chairman of the rebel group Justice and Equality Movement's legislative assembly, told CNN that a preliminary document for the framework agreement was signed Saturday in Chad between representatives of the two sides.
He said the framework agreement will be formally signed Tuesday in Doha, Qatar.
Al-Bashir said Saturday that it will be signed within two days, Sudan's state news agency, SUNA, reported. The president also called off death sentences against members of the rebel group who were convicted after clashes in the Khartoum suburb of Omdurman.
Mahamat Hisseine, spokesman for the government of Chad, told CNN that the document to be signed on Tuesday will "be an agreement as a cease-fire between the government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement [JEM]."
He added, "All these details would be part of a general cease-fire agreement that is still being finalized."
A permanent cease-fire will be a final step, al-Fati said.
Last year, Sudan's government and the JEM rebels signed a confidence-building agreement in Qatar, a step toward ending a six-year conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands.
Qatar has been mediating talks between the two sides in the Darfur conflict, which erupted in 2003 after rebels began an uprising against the Khartoum government.
The government launched a brutal counter-insurgency campaign, aided by government-backed Arab militias that went from village to village in Darfur, killing, torturing and raping residents, according to the United Nations, Western governments and human rights organizations.
Al-Bashir is under pressure to end the fighting, particularly because he was charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court last year for the government's campaign of violence in Darfur.
In the past seven years, more than 300,000 people have been killed through direct combat, disease or malnutrition, the United Nations says. An additional 2.7 million people fled their homes because of fighting among rebels, government forces and allied militias.
"Yes, there have been villages burned, but not to the extent you are talking about. People have been killed because there is war. It is not in the Sudanese culture or people of Darfur to rape. It doesn't exist. We don't have it." -- Omar al-Bashir
With the world's attention rightly focused on the Haitian earthquake aftermath, the events in eastern Congo don't get much play these days. But even before the world rushed aid to Haiti, eastern Congo might as well have been on another planet. No one paid much attention to the human misery being visited upon the residents of that region: rape, murder, mutilation.
Sometimes I wish eastern Congo could suffer an earthquake or a tsunami, so that it might finally get the attention it needs. The barbaric civil war being waged here is the most lethal conflict since World War II and has claimed at least 30 times as many lives as the Haiti earthquake. [emphasis mine]
Yet no humanitarian crisis generates so little attention per million corpses, or such a pathetic international response.
That’s why I’m here in the lovely, lush and threatening hills west of Lake Kivu, where militias rape, mutilate and kill civilians with a savagery that is almost incomprehensible. I’m talking to a 9-year-old girl, Chance Tombola, an orphan whose eyes are luminous with fear.
More from his column:
A peer-reviewed study found that 5.4 million people had already died in this war as of April 2007, and hundreds of thousands more have died as the situation has deteriorated since then. A catastrophically planned military offensive last year, backed by the governments of Congo and Rwanda as well as the United Nations force here, made some headway against Hutu militias but also led to increased predation on civilians from all sides.
Human Rights Watch estimates that for every Hutu fighter sent back to Rwanda last year, at least seven women were raped and 900 people forced to flee for their lives. “From a human rights perspective, the operation has been catastrophic,” concluded Philip Alston, a senior United Nations investigator.
This is a pointless war — now a dozen years old — driven by warlords, greed for minerals, ethnic tensions and complete impunity. While there is plenty of fault to go around, Rwanda has long played a particularly troubling role in many ways, including support for one of the militias. Rwanda’s government is dazzlingly successful at home, but next door in Congo, it appears complicit in war crimes.
Yes, let's not forget that Rwanda, the darling of Western development agencies, is complicit in this havoc.
Counselors say that most raped women are rejected by their husbands, and raped girls like Chance have difficulty marrying. In an area west of Lake Kivu where attacks are continuing, I met Saleh Bulondo, a newly homeless young man who was educated and spoke a little English. I asked him if he would still marry his girlfriend if she were raped.
“Never,” he said. “I will abandon her.”
A girl here normally fetches a bride price (a reverse dowry, paid by the husband’s family) when she marries. A village chief told me that a typical price would be 20 goats — but if the girl has been raped, two goats. At most.
The film tells the story of Nelson Mandela's first years as South Africa's post-apartheid president and his delicate walk between his rapid supporters, many of whom sought 'R 'n R' - Revenge and Retribution - quite different from Mandela's vision of 'R 'n R' - Reconciliation and Rebuilding - and the white South Africans, whose support he desperately needed.
He decides to use the Springboks, the national rugby team and a symbol of the Afrikaans culture, and their quest to win the World Cup of rugby in 1995 as a mechanism to unite the country. Despite skepticism from his advisers and the rugby team itself, the scheme works, due in large part to Francois Pienaar, the rugby team's captain, who soon realizes that he and his teammates are not just a sports team.
How I love the holiday season! Despite the garish display of conspicuous consumption here in the USA, there are invariably numerous examples of people reaching out to help those less fortunate than themselves. Revives my faith in humanity.
So it was with great joy that I read a story in this morning's The Oregonian. Seems that Uganda is considering a very harsh anti-gay ordinance, one that would go beyond merely declaring homosexuality a crime, which it already is.
Even more interesting is the morsel that a former Oregonian, Scott Lively, had a hand in this legislative debacle. Lively addressed the Uganda parliament last March:
And remember that homosexuality is literally illegal in this country [Uganda]. Imagine how bad things would be if the criminal law were abandoned. By the way, the false accusation against me, now circulating in the US, is that I called on the Ugandan government to force homosexuals into therapy. What I actually said is that the law against homosexuality should be liberalized to give arrestees the choice of therapy instead of imprisonment, similar to the therapy option I chose after being arrested for drunk driving in 1985 (during which time I accepted the Lord and was healed and transformed into a Christian activist).
Sure love those Christians!
Here are the bill's major provisions:
Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment
Active homosexual living with HIV and same-sex rapists would be executed
Anyone who "aids, abets, counsels, or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality" faces seven years in prison if convicted.
Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals face seven years in prison
Anyone with 'religious, political, economic or social authority" who fails to report anyone violating the act faces three years.
New York Times columnist Nick Kristof's recent column deals with the 3 or 4 million iwomen n the world who suffer from obstetric fistulas. This is an injury sustained during childbirth, often in women whose pelvises are not fully grown. It leaves the women incontinent pariahs rejected by their husbands and communities.
This is a childbirth injury, often suffered by a teenager in Africa or Asia whose pelvis is not fully grown. She suffers obstructed labor, has no access to a C-section, and endures internal injuries that leave her incontinent — steadily trickling urine and sometimes feces through her vagina.
She stinks. She becomes a pariah. She is typically abandoned by her husband and forced to live by herself on the edge of her village. She is scorned, bewildered, humiliated and desolate, often feeling cursed by God.
Wall is also proposing a 12-year, $1.5B aid plan to be part of the USA's foreign aid operation. It would build 40 such fistula repair hospitals throughout the world.
I'd say this is something worth funding.
“In Liberia, I saw a woman who had developed a fistula 35 years earlier. It turned out to be a tiny injury; it took 20 minutes to repair it. For want of a 20-minute operation, this woman had lived in a pool of urine for 35 years.” -- Dr. Lewis Wall
Winston the pigeon, shown here with his girlfriend Paloma after the two were arrested for indecent exposure, beat South Africa's leading internet provider Telkom in a test to see whether data downloaded on a Telkom connection could beat Winston's 50 mile (80 km) flight from Pietermaritzburg to the coastal city of Durban with a data card strapped to his leg.
Turns out that by the time Winston reached Durban (a little over 2 hours), delivered his data card to a human who downloaded the data, only 4% of the data had been downloaded on a line provided by Telkom.
The contest was arranged by Unlimited IT after the company became frustrated with slow data transmission. Seems that's a big problem throughout Africa. If it's like this in South Africa, I can imagine what it's like in a place like Angola.
Here is the complete story from Reuters, who also provided the picture.
Hard to believe that I've finally found a company that makes Qwest look good. But Winston has Qwest beat.
“I called one of them 900 sex-talk numbers. Got a gal who stuttered. Cost me $1700.” – Larry the Cable Guy
Kristof, who grew up in Yamhill County, OR, on a sheep/cherry farm, has done thistwice before.
Here are some impressions from the first (2006) winner, Casey Parks.
Leana Wen, a medical student at Washington University in St. Louis, and Will Okun, a teacher at Westside Alternative High School in Chicago, were the winners of the 2007 competition.
Great opportunity to see how much of the world lives, with a man who's trying to make the world a safer, healthier place.
"But the trip changed me in ways that aren’t so comfortable, too. After staying up, exhausted but exhilarated by anger when a nurse in Cameroon told us if a woman died, well so what, that was God’s will, it was really hard to go home to television and amenities and not feel unsettled or greedy." -- Casey Parks, 2006 winner
THIAROYE-SUR-MER, Senegal: First, it took the animals. Goats fell silent and refused to stand up. Chickens died in handfuls, then en masse. Street dogs disappeared.
Then it took the children. Toddlers stopped talking and their legs gave out. Women birthed stillborns. Infants withered and died. Some said the houses were cursed. Others said the families were cursed.
The mysterious illness killed 18 children in this town on the fringes of Dakar, Senegal's capital, before anyone in the outside world noticed. When they did - when the TV news aired parents' angry pleas for an investigation, when the doctors ordered more tests, when the West sent health experts - they did not find malaria, or polio or AIDS, or any of the diseases that kill the poor of Africa.
They found lead.
So where did the lead come from? From old car batteries. The people had been extracting lead from old car batteries and started accumulating in the soil. With the price of lead rising, the people started sifting through the soil to get the lead.
Colleague Robert Adamski sent me this. I thought it a great way to end 2008.
As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God by Matthew Parris
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland.
Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.
At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.
We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.
Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.
It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.
There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.
I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.
Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.
How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.
To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
"When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land." -- Desmond Tutu
My favorite tyrant, Robert Mugabe, and his minions have really outdone themselves. They have blamed the West for the cholera epidemic now sweeping their decimated country.
Zimbabwe's information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, was quoted as blaming cholera on "serious biological chemical war ... a genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British."
Ndlovu continued: "Cholera is a calculated racist terrorist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former colonial power which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies so that they invade the country."
Thabo Mbeki's "misguided" (gees, what a euphemism - 'murderous' might be more suitable) policy that HIV was not responsible for AIDS has resulted in an unprecedented public-health disaster: 330,000 South African people died prematurely during 2000-2005 because of the unavailability of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.
Read the reportby Harvard researchers for yourself. They also estimated that over 3.8 million person-years were lost during this period.
And don't forget the 35,000 infants who were born with HIV because their pregnant mothers could not get ARV drugs.
Mbeki's likely sucessor as President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, is the guy who thought taking a shower after unprotected sex would protect him from contracting AIDS.
But at least Mbeki's leadership has been evident during the "troubles" in Zimbabwe.
Where are you, Nelson Mandela?
"There is no crisis in Zimbabwe." -- President Thabo Mbeki, April 2008, after the 2008 election in Zimbabwe
Just so we don't lull ourselves into thinking that doing water work in emerging regions is not without danger, here is a piece from the Boston Globe about the release of missionary Steven Godbold, 49, who was working with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) based in Wheaton, IL.
Godbold has served in Chad since 1991. He was captured on 10 October 2007 in Zoumri in the Tibesti region of northern Chad by the rebel group Movement for Democracy and Justice in Tchad (MDJT). Godbold was assisitng a Chadian NGO transport water well-drilling equipment into the Tibesti region to provide potable water to the residents. The project was being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
TEAM issued a statementon 24 July 2008. No ransom was paid, nor were any concessions made to secure his unconditional release.
Godbold, the married father of four, said:
"But I was never physically mistreated. Nobody ever said a threatening word to me. I was treated almost as a guest of honor. We ate together, we drank tea together, we played cards together and we chatted together."
Thanks to Kevin McCray, Executive Director of NGWA, who sent me this information.
"For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries." -- 1 Corinthians 16:9 (New American Standard Bible)
Hard to believe that there could be an African dictator worse than Robert Mugabe.
Scumbag extraordinaire Charles Taylor fortunately has been removed from consideration.
Let me see....How about Idriss Deby (shown to the right) of Chad? Nahhh - he hasn't been in office long enough (1990).
Well, let's try Omar Bongo of Gabon, who is now the world's longest-serving ruler (1967). Nope. MaybeJosé Eduardo dos Santos of Angola? A reasonable choice. Okay....here we go for sure - Omar al-Bashir of Sudan! Think Darfur and Southern Sudan. How can you beat that record?
Well, Peter Maass of Slate humbly proffers the name of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang, shown above left, who has ruled his tiny (fewer than one million residents) oil-rich dominion for almost 30 years.
This should whet your appetite:
But Mugabe may not be Africa's worst. That prize arguably goes to Teodoro Obiang, the ruler of Equatorial Guinea whose life seems a parody of the dictator genre. Years of violent apprenticeship in a genocidal regime led by a crazy uncle? Check. Power grab in a coup against the murderous uncle? Check. Execution of now-deposed uncle by firing squad? Check. Proclamation of self as "the liberator" of the nation? Check. Govern for decades in a way that prompts human rights groups to accuse your regime of murder, torture, and corruption? Check, check, and check.
Read the story, then you'll wonder why Condolezza Rice called him a "good friend" in 2006.
I still like Mugabe.
"The reason some people are alive is because it's illegal to kill them." -- Unknown
John Fleck posted this item by Roger Pielke, Jr., and labeled it a "provocative post".Pielke posits that eradicating malaria may lead to increased GHG emissions from African nations, where over 3 million people die from the disease each year, and one billion contract it. Sick people are a drag on the economy. It's difficult for them to be productive.
So let's treat people, rid the continent of malaria, and help people escape from poverty. What happens as people start working? The economy grows, and guess what? More GHGs!
Sounds like a recipe for more global warming.
Read Pielke's article. He's not advocating (nor am I) that we refrain from eradicating malaria, but it's a provocative (Draconian?) premise.
As John says:
This is not, of course, to argue against treating malaria. It’s merely another illustration of the tangled relationship between disease, poverty, economics and climate change on a global scale. It’s a really hard problem.
"Never underestimate how poorly people can treat one another." -- Unknown
"MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" -- sign aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, during President George W. Bush's address, 1 May 2003
What with turmoil in Zimbabwe (more so than normal) because of the uncertainty surrounding the 29 March 2008 elections, it's apropos to post this item about Heidi Holland's new book, Dinner With Mugabe.
Two interviews, 30 years apart.
From the book's WWW site:
At a time when the world waits anxiously to see what will happen next in Zimbabwe - when there is little food in the country's shops, life expectancy is plunging and Zimbabweans are fleeing repression and unemployment - this book gets to grips with the man at the helm of a corrupt regime; the man behind the monster.
Holland's tireless investigation begins with her having dinner with Mugabe the freedom fighter and ends in a searching interview with Zimbabwe's president in December 2007, more than 30 years later.
Here is her Op-Ed piecefrom the 1 April 2008New York Times, "Make Peace With Mugabe". In it, she details his megalomaniacal determination to seek retribution for the UK's short-changing him on the land redistribution issue. If his country gets destroyed, so be it. But isolating him is not the path for the West to take; he won't back down.
And the people of Zimbabwe endure unthinkable suffering.
Here is anarticle by Scott Baldauf from today's Christian Science Monitor asking what the West can do and a pieceby Alan Cowell from the 6 April 2008 New York Times, in which he imagines a future for Zimbabwe.
"Every revolution evaporates, leaving behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy." -- Franz Kafka
When we think of Sudan today,Darfur is conjured. But Sudan endured a 22-year civil war between the Arabic north and the African south. Two million people were killed. At stake were several issues, but oil headed the list. A peace accord was signed in 2005, granting Southern Sudan a large degree of autonomy.
A number of people believe that peace may be in the process of unraveling, over the issues of land and, yes, oil. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof discusses this unfortunate process in his 28 February 2008 column and his 2 March 2008 column.
Here's what Kristof said in his 28 February column:
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is backing away from the peace agreement, and prodding Arab militias to revive the war with the South Sudan military forces. Small-scale armed clashes have broken out since late last year, and it looks increasingly likely that Darfur will become simply the prologue to a far bloodier conflict that engulfs all Sudan.
Even my presence here is a sign of the rising tensions and mistrust. The Sudanese government refuses me visas, but the authorities in the south let me enter from Kenya without a visa because they want the word to get out that war is again looming.
Those who focused on Sudan’s atrocities in Darfur, myself included, may have inadvertently removed the spotlight from South Sudan. Without easing the outrage over Darfur — where the bloodshed has been particularly appalling lately — we must broaden the focus to include the threat to the south.
One of the lessons of Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia is that it is much easier to avert a genocide ahead of time than to put the pieces together afterward. So let’s not wait until gunshots are ringing out again all over the south.
There are steps that the U.S. can take to diminish the risk of a new war. We can work with the international community to raise the costs to President Bashir of defying his treaty obligations.
We can warn Sudan that if it starts a new war, we will supply anti-aircraft weapons to the south to make it harder for the north to resume bombing hospitals, churches and schools. We can also raise the possibility of protecting the south with a no-fly zone, which might be enough to deter Mr. Bashir from starting yet another genocide.
One of the flash points is the enclave of Abyei near the border of South Sudan and southern Darfur. The Christian Science Monitor's Scott Baldauf reported on this in 27 February 2008 issue (see above map from the article).
Khartoum, Sudan - Darfur is the more recognizable conflict, but another, arguably more explosive, battle is brewing in Sudan.
This potential flash point is Abyei, a small, ethnically diverse enclave on the border between the Arab north and the African south. Now, a dispute is under way over who should control the district – a power struggle infused with ethnic rivalry, marginalization, politics, and greed.
Split between Arabic-speaking nomads and non-Arabic-speaking farmers, Abyei is a territory where cultures once blended, but where a sharp dividing line has been drawn between two political forces that fought a civil war to a draw.
After a failed US-led mediation effort, Abyei has become a rallying cry for war. What's at stake? Pastureland, oil wells, and the continuation of a three-year-old peace deal that ended the 20-year civil war that killed more than 2 million Sudanese.
Before the civil war between north and south Sudan, from 1983 to 2005, conflicts in Abyei were dealt with by traditional means among its two main communities, the Dinka and the Messeriya Arabs. If a Dinka farmer was killed on Messeriya Arab land, the Arabs would pay compensation to the Dinkas, regardless of who killed him; the same rule applied to the Arabs.
Abdul Rasool Al-Nour, a Messeriya Arab elder who helped to negotiate previous peace agreements between Dinka and Messeriya Arabs, says that the civil war has destroyed the trust between the two communities.
He concludes the article:
Abyei is just one of many points of contention between the two sides. Now politics is affecting relations between Dinkas and the Messeriya Arabs.
"There was an intermingling of traditions, of food, of forms of dress, of language," says Mr. Khaled. "Then, when you add the element of war, and the realignment of communities, the conflict took a different dimension, an ethnic dimension, a religious dimension, and of course, this is a very lethal thing."
According to the original plan, says parliament speaker Ghazi Salahuddin, the Abyei Boundary Commission was supposed to set the border according to a line demarcated by British colonial powers in 1905, which many Messeriya Arabs believe is the seasonal Bahr al-Arab river. Instead, the boundary commission experts couldn't find that boundary in the archival records, and unilaterally decided to locate it in a forested no man's land, which put the oil-rich town of Heglieg within Dinka hands.
"This was a good agreement, but the political reality is that the north regards Abyei as a Kuwait, and the south regards it as a Jerusalem, so we have a problem," says a senior Western diplomat, speaking on background. "So we should go back to arbitration. But right now, there is no progress on Abyei. This isn't a question of a glass half full or a glass half empty. There's no glass."
A bad situation is getting much worse, and when the war comes, it will be more like Darfur, and less like the previous civil war.
"If there is just one bullet in Abyei, that will be the end of peace." -- Col. Valentino Tocmac, South Sudan commander, Abyei
Here is anOp-Ed piece from today's Christian Science Monitor by Kodi Barth, a Kenyan journalism professor at the University of Connecticut. Here is astory from the 8 February 2008 CSM by Scott Baldauf and Rob Crilly.
It appears that both sides are softening their positions, so let's hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.
"Love, friendship, and respect do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something." -- Anton Chekhov
While we agonize over $3 per gallon gasoline, the subprime loan crisis, and President Bush's last (356 days to go!) State of the Union address, Kenya, long the economic engine and tourist Mecca of East Africa, is starting to come undone. It's sad.
Several weeks ago I posted a first-hand report of the chaos in Mombassa I received from a friend.
Opposition supporters being routed by Kenyan paramilitary police, in the Kibera slum of Nairobi (courtesy New York Times)
The New York Times, from where the above picture was taken, reported that an opposition politician, Mugabe Were, was murdered today - shot dead in his driveway. He was believed to be a key to the restoration of peace, as he resisted his party's call for violence and had married a woman from a different ethnic group.
In today'sChristian Science Monitor, the source of the accompanying picture of now-homeless Kikuyu Margaret Mumbi, reporter Scott Baldauf discusses "How Kenya Came Undone". You can also access video reports from the article.
The contested presidential election of 27 December 2007 was the flame that ignited long-simmering tensions involving ethnicity, land, and ultimately, wealth and power. The Kikuyu, the group to which President Mwai Kibaki belongs, is viewed as having stolen the election. The supporters of the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga of the Luo group, who also claims he won the election, then started going after the Kikuyu. Kibaki did not help matters when he went ahead with a new government. Retaliation then came into play, often led by the notorious Mungiki sect, a quasi-religious militia recruited to support the interests of the Kikuyu.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Kenya trying to mediate to dispute between Kibaki and Odinga and get the country back on track. It's a tall order, but he has succeeded in getting Kibaki and Odinga to meet.
A USA friend sent me this message and pictures from one of his Kenyan friends in Mombassa describing the chaos over there. I've deleted names in the message.
Here is anarticlefrom the Christian Science Monitor. ****************
Saturday, 5 January 2008
What do you do when the lines reach 300 people in front you and you don’t know if you are going to get into the grocery store? My friend XXXX and I had been to several stores and we could not find milk, bread, and many other basic things in any store. The petrol stations where closed for 3 days because there was no fuel. Thieves came to the house next door a few days ago but the guard happen to see them before they broke in and sounded the alarm. Riot police are surrounding the police station a block from our house to protect some of the people inside.
The Bible speaks that there is going to come a day when a man will work all day for a loaf of bread. What do you do when you have money and there is no bread to buy? We have heard of these kind of things happening in othercountries of Africa but never before like this in Kenya.
On Wednesday I was able to buy a few hundred dollars' worth of maizeand flour after begging and pleading that this is for people who do not have anything. Yesterday, we moved early before the demonstration rally to some areas that people are really hurting. We only had problems on the Malindi Roadnear Kisanuni when the people started motioning for us to turn around so we did. We found out later that the people were rioting and police shot and killed one person. We were able to go around the problem through Nyali and on out to Bamburi where we found the pastor on his knees praying in the church. The presbyters were able to get the food to other pastors and friends. They were so thankful for the little we could bring. I have received several SMS's of thanks from Maritini, Bakoli, Likoni. Some do not have anything in the house. Shops have been closed and no bread, milk, cooking oil, kerosene, available. We were able to beg at one petrol station to get enough diesel to keep going.
Today the planned demonstrations failed in Nairobi and Mombassa after the police moved in with tear gas. Again I went to buy what we could this morning and took supplies to the church in Kisauni. Next I went by the house of a Muslim friend and give him some maize. We also took charcoal that had cost three times the normal price.
One Muslim friend who lives across and near the Likoni ferry told me he was up all night protecting his property. There is a bar (owned by a Kikuyu man) next door to his house and the people came to burn it three separate times. They had to be alert because the fire would spread even to their house.
The Campanastan Ministry of Information just stumbled across some good news from Rwanda. Robert Adamski sent me this item from Nick Kristof's blog, a post by Josh Ruxin, a Columbia University public health expert who has spent the past few years in Rwanda.
What a great way to end the old year and begin the new one.
The photo of the Rwandan children is by Josh.
The Word Is Getting Out
by Josh Ruxin
It was much to the dismay of family and friends that my wife and I moved to Rwanda. Having seen little more than “Hotel Rwanda” to educate them about the country, they believed it to be a hostile and unstable place. We had a different take: it’s safe, clean, friendly and relatively uncorrupted. Our perception is clearly shared by others and, now, the country’s resurgence is being recognized.
Tuesday, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation released the results of its “Ibrahim Index” — a holistic ranking of how African countries are doing across the dimension of governance. Ibrahim, one of Africa’s most successful and philanthropic entrepreneurs, set up the index to inform the Mo Ibrahim Prize — an annual award of $5 million for a former head of state who has demonstrated excellence in leadership. The surprise to all but Rwandan insiders was that Rwanda made the greatest progress of any country during the course of the last five years.
As the always insightful Steve Radelet pointed out in an earlier post, governance and democracy in Africa mean everything. Having worked in nearly a dozen countries in Africa, I decided to place my bets on Rwanda because it was the first place I’d never been asked to pay a bribe. I’m not alone: donors are lining up to invest in Rwanda, reassured that the money will reach the people who need it most.
None of this is to say that Rwanda is utopia: major challenges remain for improvements in the press and in democracy. Nevertheless, at a time when many nations are spiraling downward, it’s heartening to see little Rwanda making progress against all odds.
"When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land." -- Desmond Tutu
Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's thuggish president, received another "free pass" from his African peers the other day. Unforunately, it was not a "free pass" to the retirement community for unemployed despots. African leaders nominated Zimbabwe - a country with an annual inflation rate of 2,200%, 80% unemployment, political turmoil, looming famine, a negative annual GDP growth rate, etc. - as chair of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development. This would be worth a good laugh were it not so pathetic.
Essentially, Mugabe's buddies are "sticking it to the West" for its relentless pressure on Mugabe to stop ruining his country and killing his own people. It's Africa saying to the UK, USA, Australia, the EU, the G-8, and others: "Go f**k yourself. You mess with Mugabe, you mess with all of us." It doesn't matter that Mugabe is no longer trying to free his country from white supremacists and the likes of an oppressive Ian Smith - he's simply beating, imprisoning, and killing his political opponents, be they black or white, and enriching his cronies.
Here's what South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki (the guy whose belief that HIV and AIDS were unrelated hampered his country's fight against that disease) said at a recent meeting of the South African Development Community:
"The fight against Zimbabwe is a fight against us all. Today it is Zimbabwe; tomorrow it will be South Africa, it will be Mozambique, it will be Angola, it will be any other African country. And any government that is perceived to be strong and to be resistant to imperialists would be made a target and would be undermined. So let us not allow any point of weakness in thesolidarity of SADC because that weakness will also be transferred to the rest of Africa."
You go, Thabo!
See "Why Africa won't rein in Mugabe" in the 16 May 2007 issue of the Christian Science Monitor:
On this day, the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade by the British Parliament, I thought I'd reflect a bit on Africa. This will be real stream-of-consciousness stuff.
Amazing Grace andThe Amazing Change
The film Amazing Grace (www.amazinggracemovie.com) tells the story of William Wilberforce, the MP who was instrumental in getting Parliament to outlaw the slave trade. The movie has given rise to a campaign The Amazing Change (www.theamazingchange.com), a which seeks to outlaw modern-day slavery (yes, there are still an estimated 27 million people enslaved throughout the world).
The Slave Trade
Yesterday on NPR's Weekend Edition, Scott Simon interviewed Charles Onyango-Obbo, a columnist for Uganda's largest newspaper, The Monitor. You can hear it at:
Onyango-Obbo made a point I have heard few people make: the African slave trade could not have succeeded without the active participation of Africans themselves, particularly the tribal chiefs and their minions. They went to the interior to bring people to the coastal areas to be loaded onto the slave ships. He said that Africans have not yet examined the role of their ancestors in this heinous practice, but tend to focus on the evils of colonialism.
Talking about African complicity in the slave trade neither diminishes the role of the white slave traders nor absolves them of their guilt - not at all. It just serves as a reminder that others must also share the blame.
Onyango-Obbo also briefly touched on current slavery issues in Africa, and noted that the anniversary of the British Parliament's act is hardly commemorated in Africa.
What a guy! Yes, he once was a freedom fighter who threw off the yoke of colonial oppression. That was then, this is now. Mugabe is nothing more than a thug who brutalizes his own people and lines the pockets of his cronies. He's brought Zimbabwe down so far people wonder if it'll ever come back. He is the archetypical "Big Man". Finally - some members of his own party, ZANU-PF, are threatening to form a third party if Mugabe insists upon seeking another term next year. The party's central committee meets later this week. [Postscript: the committee met, and will support his bid for another 6-year term.]
What I find especially disturbing (disgusting, actually) is that the African Union and African leaders, especially South African President Mbeki, keep cutting him slack. Let me repeat: that was then, this is now.
The Fate of Africa
Last year I read a fascinating book by Martin Meredith, Nelson Mandela's biographer, The Fate of Africa. It's a chronicle of 50 years of independence. Highly recommended, as is his biography of Mandela. Interesting tidbit: in Africa and Europe, the book's title is The State of Africa. Meredith has also written Our Votes, Our Guns: Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe.
What can I say? There is debate over establishing a no-fly zone over Darfur so the Sudanese government cannot bomb the locals or provide supplies to the janjaweed militias and other bad guys. Problem: the government has taken to using planes with the same markings as the relief agencies' planes, so shooting down the bad guys might pose a problem.
Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, riding high on oil money and foreign investment, is now on its way to becoming the place in that part of the world, what with all the construction. The Sudanese do not want to kill the goose that is laying all those golden eggs, and their foreign investor buddies want to tread lightly. We don't want to hassle the Sudanese too much because they are cooperating with us in the The War On Terror. Uh-huh. Translation: it's the SOS - "Same Old Stuff", or perhaps "Same Old Sudan", as far as Darfur is concerned.
Yeah, we thought all that bad stuff had disappeared. Heck, we can even buy coffee from Rwanda now. And besides, it was just black Africans slaughtering other black Africans - BFD! But a new film, Beyond the Gates, brings it all back. It's about a European struggling with the decision to flee Rwanda or stay behind with Tutsi refugees. The Christian Science Monitor's reviewer gave it a grade of A-, and noted its R rating for "strong violence, disturbing images, and language". Really?
I have read a number of books about Rwanda. My recommendations:
We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, by Philip Gourevitch. The title is taken from a letter sent by Tutsi pastors to their church president, a Hutu, asking for help. Gourevitch is an excellent writer and keen observer. It's a disturbing book, but I could not put it down. By the way, the church president declined to help. The pastors and their families were slaughtered.
A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, by Gil Courtemanche. Pretty innocuous title, right? It's a novel, but there is far too much truth in it. An indictment of the carnage that was the genocide. Riveting - what more can I say?
When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, by Mahmood Mamdani. An academic tome that delves into the history of the Tutsi-Hutu division. Not always easy to fathom, but essential to understand what happened and why.
Shake Hands With the Devil, by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the French-Canadian general who served as the force commander of the UN mission in Rwanda. This really is a sad tale, recounting the criminal idiocy of the UN, its recalcitrant bureaucrats, the French, the Belgians, and just about everyone else. I could not read much of this book at one sitting. Dallaire was broken by his experience there. An angry, accusatory book.
And what has the Rwandan genocide taught us? The same thing all genocides have taught us - nothing (see Darfur above).
Read Long Walk to Freedom, his autobiography, and Martin Meredith's biography. After almost 30 years' incarceration, you'd have thought he'd be gunning for revenge. That's what made him a remarkable man.
Last Thoughts on Slavery
The one big blot on the USA's history is the institution of slavery. I am still dumbfounded by our founding fathers, who got most everything else right with a brilliant document called the Constitution, but dropped the ball on slavery.
Which brings me to today's quote, so apropos:
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke
Nicholas D. Kristof (www.myspace.com/kristofontheground) the intrepid, compassionate New York Times reporter who has reported from Darfur, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, and other places where there is great human suffering, recently announced his second annual "Win a Trip" contest (www.nytimes.com/winatrip). Kristof, who believes, as I do, that "American universities do an execrable job preparing students for global citizenship", wants to take a US college student and, for the first time, a middle- or high-school teacher with him on his next foray to Africa. It won't be the usual "eco-tourism". The winners will see first-hand some of the daily horrors that many people in the devloping world face. Last year's winner, Casey Parks, has a blog of her trip at parks.blogs.nytimes.com/.
The deadline is April 6. Good luck, and kudos to Nick Christof.
"Statistics are people with the tears wiped away." -- Anonymous
One of the most moving books I've read is Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. Along with Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (An aside - you want to be moved? Read Taylor Branch's civil rights trilogy, Pillar of Fire; Parting the Waters; and At Canaan's Edge; or Arnold Rampersad's Jackie Robinson: A Biography ), Mandela is one of my all-time heroes. When he was released from a South African prison after almost 30 years of incarceration, he refused to seek vengeance because he "didn't have time to hate"; there was work to be done in rebuilding South Africa. He even invited one of his former prison guards to his inauguration!
So what's my point? While perusing The New Republic (December 18, 2006), the article "Half Nelson" by Isaac Chotiner caught my eye. In it, he alleges that Mandela has been a shill for the diamond industry, which of course, is dominated by South Africa's De Beers. Why broach this now? Because of the movie Blood Diamond, which highlights the plight of a father and son during the 1990s Sierra Leone civil war. The title refers to the fact that illicit diamonds were used to finance that and other civil wars. The diamonds were mined by enslaved people who had been kidnapped; the diamonds were then smuggled out of the country and sold. Of course, the role of the diamond industry in looking the other way when confronted with "blood diamonds" or "conflict diamonds" has caused consternation among those in the industry, and now the PR machine is in high gear. Edward Zwick, the director of Blood Diamond, thought Mandela would be supportive of his film. That turned out not to be the case, as Mandela wrote to Zwick that "it would be deeply regrettable if the making of the film inadvertently obscured the truth, and as a result, led the world to believe that an appropriate response might be to cease buying mined diamonds from Africa...We hope that the desire to tell a gripping and important real life historical story will not result in the destabilization of African diamond producing countries, and ultimately, their peoples." Chotiner then goes on to describe Mandela long-time close relationship to the diamond industry, particularly his friend the late Harry Oppenheimer, chair of De Beers, who was not a supporter of apartheid and worked to change it. But the article alleges De Beers looked the other way till the late 1990s, when pressure mounted on it to stem the flow of "conflict diamonds". Even then, Mandela spoke up for the diamond merchants.
Chotiner does cut Mandela some slack - after all, he was president of South Africa and was interested in supporting the country's economy. But Chotiner does take him to task, holding him to a higher standard; by supporting his country's narrow interests, Mandela helped an industry that was providing funds for devastating civil wars in Sierra Leone, Angola, and elsewhere. After all, he owes his stature to his unswerving commitment to human rights and freedom, ideals cast aside during the turbulent, bloody 1990s in West Africa and elsewhere.
My take: I'm disappointed, but it doesn't alter my view of Mandela as one of the great men of recent history. All heroes have warts; after all, Rev. King was a philanderer. Does that diminish what he did as a civil rights leader?
By the way, the Christian Science Monitor had a pro-con article about a week ago on the "conflict diamond" issue and the complicity of the diamond industry. The industry spokesman admitted the diamond industry's culpability early on, but said that they rapidly adjusted and avoided conflict diamonds.
Speaking of South Africa - kudos to Oprah Winfrey for establishing (for $40,000,000) her Leadership Academy for Girls which opened January 2 in a town south of Johannesburg. It will ultimately educate 450 underprivileged girls (some of them AIDS orphans) at a time, in grades 7-12 and prepare them for university attendance and leadership positions. Winfrey said she promised to Mandela six years ago that she would build the school. She will send the school's graduates to universities anywhere in the world at her expense. She also plans to open a similar school for boys and girls in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. Bless you, Oprah!
One last thing - I've got to work water in here somehow. Oprah's school for girls reminds me of a serious problem in much of the developing world: girls sometimes have trouble attending school because, along with their mothers and sisters, they are responsible for collecting the household water. This is yet another reason why we need to promote better access to potable water in developing countries - keep those girls in school!
"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce
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