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2.25.2004

 
Bumpy Landing
After months of uncertainty, it looks like the Namibian government is going ahead with some land seizures. It says it will fairly compensate the farmers whose property is expropriated. Let's hope it has learned from Mugabe's disastrous example. That it is straying from its "willing buyer, willing seller" policy is not encouraging. But clearly, the desire to redistribute white farms cannot be deferred much longer.


 
Under Our Noses
I confess to being underinformed about what's been going on in Sudan. This forwarded message from Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, has helped dispell some of my ignorance. I haven't seen this piece posted online, so I'll excerpt parts of it. To hear Reeves tell it, another African genocide has started while the world sits on its hands. An all too familiar scenario.
The international community has already waited far too long to plan the humanitarian intervention that is now necessary to halt massive and growing genocidal destruction in Darfur province, far western Sudan. Appallingly, there is still no sign that such an intervention is being planned, or even contemplated. Though we can be morally certain that more than 1,000 people are now dying every week, they will continue to die at such a rate for the foreseeable future. Though the distinguished humanitarian medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has declared that Darfur is the scene of "catastrophic mortality rates" (MSF Press Release [New York], February 17, 2004), there is no response in sight that will change this terrible reality. And the fully devastating effects of displacement, food insecurity, a breakdown in agricultural production, disease, and exposure are still to come.

Khartoum and its Arab militia allies, in refusing to enter into meaningful peace talks that might secure a humanitarian cease-fire, bear overwhelming responsibility for the insecurity that makes humanitarian operations largely impossible outside areas the regime wishes to be served. Large concentration camps are the de facto and deliberate result of highly restricted humanitarian access, which now extends only to the larger towns under Khartoum's control. The vast majority of Darfur's immense population of displaced persons has no access to humanitarian aid, nor is there any real prospect of such access. Many humanitarian organizations continue to report privately on Khartoum's denial of travel permits (and thus access) for reasons related not to security but to military purposes.

Though the UN's World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently declared that war in Darfur "has led to the displacement of about 1.2 million people" (Media Advisory [Rome], February 11, 2004), the scale of the catastrophe has yet to register with too many governments. Though the UN Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan, Tom Eric Vraalsen, declared on February 18, 2004---following a trip to Darfur---that "aid workers are unable to reach the vast majority [of the displaced]," that fighting had not stopped (despite Khartoum's claims), and that the UN and aid organizations "don't have the access, and the corridors, which [the Khartoum regime] has referred to---as of today these are not open" (Reuters, February 18, 2004), there is no imminent response that begins to address these massive and deeply threatening realities. [...]

Khartoum's deliberate and ongoing destruction of these peoples, animated by an indisputable racism, is genocide-- and on a scale that is without parallel in the world today. Darfur is not only very likely the world's greatest humanitarian catastrophe, as the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has declared, but represents the world's greatest moral failure. It is a species of moral failure that was painfully in evidence again and again throughout the terrible 20th-century history of genocide, all too ably chronicled by Samantha Power in her Pulitzer Prize-winning "'A Problem from Hell': America and the Age of Genocide." [...]

What has been the US response to this incident? What has been said about such provocative arrests in the immediate wake of an official US fact-finding trip to Darfur? Nothing. Not a word has been uttered publicly by the State Department about concern for the lives and well-being of these men, whose only "crime" was to meet with a US official. This silence not only puts the lives of these men in greater danger, but sends a perverse signal of irresolution to Khartoum, one the regime has duly noted. [...]

If we await full resolution of the picture from Darfur, we may be sure only that the numbers of dead, and unfathomable human suffering, will be vastly greater than in this hideous twilight.


 
"A Different Breed of Man"
This is real nice:
"Apartheid isn't that cut and dry. All men are not created equal. The preponderance of South Africa is a different breed of man. I mean that with no disrespect. I say that with great respect. I love them because I'm one of them. They are still people of the earth, but they are different. They still put bones in their noses, they still walk around naked, they wipe their butts with their hands…. These are different people. You give 'em toothpaste, they fucking eat it.... I hope they don't become civilized."
That's from guitarist Ted Nugent. He made this statement a few years ago, but it's getting some new play thanks to a gun-control group. Nugent is on the board of the NRA. When he's not slandering Africa, he likes to go there to kill stuff.




2.18.2004

 
Worth Seeing
It looks like the fantastic documentary "The Lost Boys of Sudan" is getting a wider release in the U.S. I saw it last year and thought it was excellent.




2.17.2004

 
Hardship Post
The discerning folks at the Economist have ranked Harare one of the worst cities in the world for expats to live. The reasons are obvious. However, it's ironic that the Economist rates living conditions for expats when the benchmarks it's measuring (security, corruption, transportation, etc.) are the same that affect the ordinary residents. So why just say Harare or Lagos or Nairobi is a bad place for foreigners? Why not say it's a bad place to live, period? Otherwise, the assumption is that expats deserve better, while locals are stuck with their problems.


 
Horror Movies
Raoul Peck, who directed "Lumumba," is now working on a film for HBO about the Rwandan genocide. The actors are Rwandan, many of them survivors themselves:
Already, though, the project is bringing the events of that April back to life for many Rwandans. Survivors fill most of the acting roles in the film and make up much of the crew. Recreating the horror has been a traumatic exercise for many of them, but a therapeutic one as well. The lead actress, Carole Karemera, 29, was born in Brussels to Rwandan parents and followed the killing of her people from afar. In one scene the Hutu militias, known as the Interahamwe, sang songs of hatred as they prepared to kill. It seemed so real to her, too real.

"I felt cold inside," Miss Karemera said. "I was shaking. I kept having to say to myself: `This is cinema. This is cinema. This is cinema.' But I finally just had to leave the set that day."

Another scene required the intervention of Mr. Gasibirege, the psychologist. The special-effects crew had scattered fake cadavers in a swamp outside Kigali that had been a killing ground and hiding place for thousands of Tutsis.

In the re-creation, some of the very Tutsi survivors who had crouched in the muck to save their lives returned to their old hiding spots. They were eager for the jobs, and for the world to know what they went through. They refused the boots that the movie crew offered. They had been barefoot 10 years ago. "They made the film just like it was back then," said Joseline Uwangabe, 25, who survived a month in the swamp in 1994 with her mother and two brothers. Six other siblings were killed.

The swamp scene was too much for one onlooker, a young woman from a nearby village who thought the corpses were real. She began shouting hysterically and sobbing. Then she couldn't move. "It took two hours for her to come out of it," Mr. Gasibirege said.

There are onlookers at every scene. Some hope to be given employment, which is in short supply here. But others are drawn by curiosity. Why is that man wearing the despised uniform of the now-disbanded Forces Armées Rwandaises? What are those loud bangs? Why are those girls screaming?
This isn't the first film in which Rwandans re-create the terror of 1994. Another is "100 Days", which I caught at a film festival a few months ago. At first, it was almost unbearable to watch. You knew what was coming, much like you know what's going to happen in a horror film. Except that there was no pleasure in this anticipation. However, in the end the film faltered due to a unrealistic storyline, amateur acting, and limited production values. I expected to be horrified, but left feeling like I had seen an ambitious and unusually affecting B-movie. I imagine Peck's version will be more satisfying, both dramatically and historically.




2.16.2004

 
Stiffed
The New York Times slams Bush's foot dragging and politicking on AIDS:
The delay of a year is an indictment of the administration's decision to set up a new bureaucracy. It could have started saving lives right away by giving the funds to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international group desperate for money that has received high marks from auditors for its care in spending it. Instead, Mr. Bush has stiffed the Global Fund.

The American program will provide countries with technical help in running their AIDS programs, an advantage over the Global Fund, which simply makes grants. But there are disadvantages with the American approach. [U.S. AIDS coordinator] Mr. [Randall ] Tobias will be giving much of his money not to African groups but to American contractors, who often charge a lot more for the same work. He is allowing the American ambassador in each country to set priorities, which could conflict with what countries want to do.

Also worrisome is that even religious groups with no AIDS work experience will apparently be getting money. Many such groups have excellent projects, but a track record should be a requirement. Mr. Tobias also backs abstinence-only education for youth, which is deadly in Africa. Training in negotiating condom use must be part of AIDS prevention for teenagers, especially because poverty has led girls into sugar-daddy relationships.


 
Miss Livingstone, I Presume?
The recent unfounded rumors about John Kerry's affair with an intern have an African connection. The woman in question turned up in Kenya, where she told reporters that the story was utter B.S. Murray at Southern Cross had this to say about the earlier reports that she had escaped Kerry's clutches (or was it the right-wing media's?) in the terra incognito that is Africa:
Apparently the intern is in 'Africa', that vast undifferentiated land-mass. No particular country is named. For the West, and the US in particular, 'Africa' tends to stand in for the most remote and inaccessible part of the Earth, bar Antarctica. This is just a little too neat and, to me, smacks of a poorly fabricated rumour, designed for a particular market.
No doubt many Americans were shocked when she turned up in Nairobi. I think Matt Drudge was prepared to commission a latter-day Henry Stanley to go find her.


 
Sorry State of Affairs
Desmond Tutu on Bush and Blair's bungle:
How wonderful if politicians could bring themselves to admit they are only fallible human creatures, and not God, and thus by definition can make mistakes [...] Unfortunately, they seem to think that such an admission is a sign of weakness. Weak and insecure people hardly ever say "sorry". It is large-hearted and courageous people who are not diminished by saying, "I made a mistake." President Bush and Prime Minister Blair would recover considerable credibility and respect if they were able to say, "Yes, we made a mistake."




2.12.2004

 
Wild West
There's some bad stuff going down in western Ethiopia, where the government is in conflict with the Anyuak ethnic minority. A couple hundred people were killed in recent events-- not entirely clear what happened, but some observers are calling the killings genocidal:
[E]yewitnesses say uniformed Ethiopian soldiers were aided in the murder of more than 400 members of the Anuak tribe.

The charge is being made by dozens of refugees who live in the United States who spoke by telephone to surviving relatives. During the last decade more than 2,000 Anuak have settled in the United States after fleeing ethnic cleansing—said to be carried out by rival tribes backed by the Ethiopian government.

December’s massacre, by far the worst single-day killing of Anuak, was the first time Ethiopian soldiers were widely witnessed leading such an attack. [...]

According to eyewitnesses, the soldiers were joined by dozens of members of the Amara, Oromo and Tigray tribes who were seen chopping and stabbing Anuak with machetes.




2.11.2004

 
Special Delivery
Axum obelisk update. The Italians are ready to send the 160-ton monument home. But first they need a really big plane. I think this is what they're looking for.




2.10.2004

 
(White) Flights of Fancy
From the MotherJones.com blog:
Over at the National Review's The Corner, John Derbyshire entertains some far-fetched ideas about South Africa:
...the rumor mill in South Africa says that when Mandela dies (he's 85) there will be a general massacre of whites. Mandela seems to be aware of the rumors. South African whites are aware of them too, and all sorts of preparations are being made. Is there such a thing as a self-fulfilling rumor?
His source? A questionable story from the often-questionable right-wing news site WorldNetDaily. Without naming a single source, WND breathlessly relates a hodge-podge of scare stories about how Mandela's death will lead to "70,000 armed black men" going on a rampage and a "Communist plot" to depose Thabo Mbeki.

A quick search of the South African media proves the story to be bunk. A recent article by the South African Press Association shows why: the rumors originated with a white supremacist group called Boeremag. This revelation came out during the trial of 18 Boeremag members accused of murder, treason, terrorism, and sabotage. According to police, the accused obsessed about racial conspiracy theories when they weren't plotting to overthrow South Africa's democratic government. The WND dispatch is suspiciously similar the SAPA story– its references to "70,000 armed black men" and the so-called "communist plot" against Mbeki match the SAPA piece almost verbatim.
Just to show what it's talking about, here are excerpts from the WorldNetDaily story and the SAPA story that apparently inspired it:
WND: "White slaughter in South Africa? Plans made to conduct campaign of genocide after Mandela's death"
"While former South African President Nelson Mandela, 85, scoffs at rumors of ill health, plans are being made by the nation's Communist Party to slaughter all whites in the country upon his death, G2B sources say.

One of the operations planned entails 70,000 armed black men "being transported to the Johannesburg city center within an hour" in taxicabs to attack whites.

The plans are variously dubbed "Operation Vula," "Night of the Long Knives," "Operation White Clean-up," "Operation Iron Eagle" and "Red October campaign."

Operation "Our Rainy Day" was to be carried out after the death of Nelson Mandela and would have entailed blacks being transported to the largest cities in taxis.

The assailants were expected to "take over" fuel points and massacre whites. The attacks would lead to a coup.

Sources say most blacks in the country are aware of the plans. When racial disputes occur, blacks often tell whites, "Wait until Mandela dies.” [...]

The Red October campaign is allegedly a Communist plot to oust President Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki would be replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa.

"I was starting to think I was going nuts!" said another white South Africa resident. "'Operation Uhuru' or 'Operation White Clean-up' is definitely no rumor. I spoke to someone who told me that some blacks in Zimbabwe have also confirmed that this 'event' will take place. My cousin stays on a farm in Mpumalanga, not too far from Johannesburg. A black police officer in that district told his white colleague that they are going to kill us like flies, and there is nothing we can do about it. And that they also don't care if we know."


SAPA: "Massacre of whites key to Boeremag coup plot"
[Boeremag defense lawyer Harry] Prinsloo put it to [police infiltrator Johan] Smit that operations such as Operation White Clean-up, Operation Vula, Night of the Long Knives, Operation Iron Eagle and the Red October campaign had formed the subject of discussions at some of the meetings.

Operation Eagle, he said, would have been carried out by the defence force and entailed 70 000 armed black men being transported in taxis to the Johannesburg city centre to kill whites.

Our Rainy Day would have been carried out after Mandela's death and entailed armed blacks being transported to the big cities, taking over fuel points and killing whites.

The Red October campaign was allegedly a communist plot to oust President Thabo Mbeki and to massacre whites and Vula was aimed at ousting Mbeki and replacing him with Cyril Ramaphosa.
Note to American right-wingers: gotta be more careful before you accept ideas from racist South African nuts at face value...


 
Postcarters from the Edge
Jimmy Carter wrote a blog while he visited West Africa during the past week. He had some interesting observations, especially regarding the impact of American policies there:
It is disturbing to observe the adverse effect of some U.S. policies on the less-developed nations. Despite helpful contributions of USAID and military assistance in Mali, for instance, the grossly exorbitant cotton subsidies for mega-farms in America cost the country far more than all the combined assistance from rich nations. Malians produced more cotton last year than any other African country and it is their number one export, but they had to sell it with no profit in order to compete with the heavily subsidized U.S. crop. Also, there is a heavy-handed effort by Washington to force other countries to violate the basic premises of the newly established International Criminal Court. Our government threatens to withhold military assistance unless they will guarantee that U.S. citizens be immune to possible punishment for war crimes or other atrocities. Another interesting development has been the efforts from Washington to elevate the issue of terrorism, and American diplomatic officials are forced to participate in this over-emphasis. We were warned strenuously about the new terrorist dangers that had arisen when we planned our visit to Timbuktu and Mopti. I decided that we would take a chance, and when we met with representatives of a dozen donor agencies in Bamako, I asked if any of them had any evidence of increased violence in the area or terrorist threats. The unanimous response was laughter.

There are also problems with special targeting definitions that have unintended consequences. Despite an 8.5 percent HIV/AIDS rate and exciting promises from Washington, U.S. embassy personnel in Togo informed us that HIV/AIDS funds would be slashed this year from $1.5 million to $250,000. Paperwork requirements also plague the relationship between almost all donors and recipient countries. In our conversations with them, administrators of humanitarian assistance acknowledge that their requirements for the granting of aid are extremely complex and often contradictory, and the forms for requesting funds and subsequent reporting are daunting even for a highly advanced bureaucracy.
And make sure you check out the great photo of Jimmy in a dashiki...




2.05.2004

 
Outside the Bubble
Former US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill took thousands of pages of documents with him when he left the Bush administration. Many have been posted online, including this schedule of his 2002 trip to Africa. Turns out the White House didn't like the trip, especially O'Neill's hobnobbing with Bono.