Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I'm Back

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Finally, M has returned to Nairobi.

I must confess that when I actually set foot on these hallowed soils for a second there I thought I had boarded the wrong transport and was alighting at the North Pole. After the sunny warmth of Kampala I discovered that it was possible for your goosebumps to get their own goosebumps.

The transition of having my laundry, sheets and other odds and ends done by Shirley to rolling up my own sleeves to do them myself takes some getting used to. Living off your boss's pocket does little to encourage restraint OR initiative :)

A month out of the scene is lots of time for things to have changed. Off the top of my head
  • Metro Shuttle is definitely history
  • KCB have completed painting one side of their HQ
  • Yaya Center have completed renovating their entrance and have done such a good job it was 5 minutes before I found the dang door
  • There are about 1 million City Hoppas on the road
  • Bank balance. I have not spent any of my last salary ;)
Some things, inevitably, do not change. Politicians for instance are nothing remotely like fine wine and do not grow finer with age. They are in fact a lot more like dingy brews that fester and rot with age. They are that much more asinine and halfwitted than they were when I left them.

I have some 450 office emails awaiting me, including pressing and urgent correspondence from the widows of
  • Sani Abacha
  • Daniel Moi (Despite the fact that she's passed away. Afterlife?)
  • Joseph Estrada
  • Frederick Chiluba
  • Jerry Rawlings
  • Jacob Zuma
  • Mobuto Seseseko
These good ladies are in desperate need of my help in accessing certain monies that their husbands spirited away and have reached out to me for some help, offering me a handsome cut of the same. I am flattered and humbled.

Spent the weekend at the theatre cashing in movie offers. (For something my memory is almost elephantine). I'm watching movies everyone and their uncle has already watched, but its all good. Granted I'm watching these movies so late they are practically in the same age group as TCM Movies but hey -- in Kampala there are tons of other things to do than go for a movie! So I watched the 3 of them in a concentrated burst.

Fantastic 4
I'm still making up my mind whether I liked it or no. But I liked the exchanges between The Thing and the Human Torch. I especially liked this:

It can only boost revenue by orders of magnitude.

Mr And Mrs Smith

The final shoot-out was impossibly fake but I liked it. Again the exchanges between the two carried the movie. And it is clear why Jennifer Anniston think they do a lot more than pat each other down.

Batman Begins
Being a die-hard fan of the genre, I ate it up like MPs eat up free samosas. Tres cool! And I have GOTS to get me one of these:

Q: How does green grass greet brown grass?
A: Hey!

All those people who owe me lunch/ice cream/money etc be on notice!

Mashifta - Pesa Pombe Siasa Na Wanawake

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Hotel Embarasse

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Been shockingly busy -- my sojourn at Uganda is coming to an unwelcome end, so any silences are entirely inadvertent. However it has not stopped me from having interesting experiences.

The other day I was at the hotel restaurant making short work of a fish that not half an hour ago had been merrily swimming in Lake Victoria. That I was concentrating all my faculties on this noble effort was apparent. Rolled up sleeves, discarded fork and knife and wide berth given to me by other guests. I don't see why I should have to wrestle with a fork and knife to eat a fish. It ranks in the same category as eating soup with chopsticks and eating chocolate with a straw.

Anyway, halfway into the fish I hear this:

"M, you don't eat well!"

It was touch and go there between bursting into laughter and swallowing first before prudence prevailed. This is because this concern was not coming from my dear mother, who still doesn't think I eat well. Nor was it coming from an applicant for the post of Mrs M. It was in fact from Shirley, the hotel housekeeper.

It was then that any doubts that I had about being at the hotel for too long were laid to rest. I quickly run through a check list
  • I'm on first name terms with the housekeeper and some of her staff
  • I have actually had a meal with some of the hotel staff
  • They prepare my breakfast in the ridiculously quirky way I like it (fried eggs with no yolk, ensemble of fruit, etc)
  • I no longer bother to leave the room when it is being cleaned
  • I'm on first name terms with the alternate barmen, Alex and Patrick, firm allies in the war on thirst
In fact on that room cleaning note I remember the last hotel I was in had a particularly fierce looking housekeeper, and I happened to meet her at the door as I rushed out. She took one look at the room and actually wiggled her nose, leaving me in little doubt what she thought of its state. Those matronly eyes and that forbidding look forced me to subsequently clean the room before she came by later to do it!

Anyway, Shirley, the current housekeeper is a whole different kettle of fish. For starters, unlike her predecessors, she is taller than she is broad. She is also not 7 feet tall, and is closer to 5'7. Nor does she grind her teeth as she talks. Her arms are not thicker than most people's waists. In fact, the truth be told, Shirley is what the discerning types would say is worth looking at a second time. And a third.

Another long staying guest at the hotel is a gent from Mauritius. He is shorter than he'd like to be, and his habitual expression is a look of puzzlement. Another is en extremely well constructed Ugandan engineer. This good lady prefers V cut tops with a good deal of V.

Shirley tells me the three of us are referred to as the African Union, the AU.

About two weeks back there was a knock on the door at about 7 in the evening. Shirley has the type of smile that makes you not actually start listening to what she is saying until about 5 seconds later. She had mislaid a room key and would she mind if I looked around?

Not at all, I told her.

She came in, looked, found nothing and departed. However as I let her out my Mauritian friend was just leaving his room.

I have it from reliable sources that the gears in his head were heard clearly across the corridor as they spun wildly and he drew a single conclusion -- Shirley was smoothing a lot more than my sheets and interpreting personal attention and hospitality a bit too liberally.

I can now sympathize still more with people who find themselves saying this sentence

"It's not what it looks like!"


It's pretty hard to top Ms K or Superflyshi, but reading those reminded me of an incident where if there was an option to disappear off the face of the earth I'd have taken it with energy.

Some time ago I was attending a conference, and a shuttle bus was kindly availed to transport us to the conference centre. So I enter the coach and make my way to the back of the almost filled bus. Sit down at the seat precisely in the middle. A second later a daughter of her father, remarkably easy on the eye also made an entry. Years of discipline and the unwritten male code dictate that you are allowed 3 seconds to look before you cross the border into staring. Anything after 6 seconds is ogling. So I didn't ogle and I didn't stare and after 3 seconds lowered my eyes to my newspaper. She continued to make her way to the seat directly in front of me to my right (I was in the exact middle of the back bench)

Now a habit of mine is crossing my legs when reading. And as fate would have it, with me unwisely looking down at the paper, I subconsciously swung my right leg over my left and in the process smartly kicked her in the bottom as she was lowering herself into the seat.

I looked up sharply, two and two were added and turned out to be four. She looked back unsure of what to think and I looked forward unsure of what to think.

I like to think that I generally land on my feet in terms of crises but at that time the part of the brain dedicated to that job was on a go slow to protest overwork. So I find myself wondering whether to be:
  1. Mortified
  2. Embarrassed
  3. Jocular
  4. Suicidal
  5. Horrified
  6. Amused
  7. Any combination thereof
She in turn had a totally blank look on her face. Matters were not helped by the fact that the entire thing has been witnessed by people who were having no problems in deciding how to react.

On that day I believe I performed enough to register that trademark Profuse Apology™. Anyone willing to describe their apologies as profuse must see me first.

It was only a half hour ride but it was certainly the longest I have ever taken.

New Kids On The Blog

Am falling a tad behind but here we go!

Never have I ever been so ashamed to be a Kenyan. 90 people are massacred as MPs are stuffing their greedy bellies with chicken and samosas in coast as they completely change the constitution draft to suit themselves. The President could not even be bothered to go and console the families of the victims. And now we are being tear gassed for expressing our views?

And as for this guy James Muiruri who thinks MPs (including his MP parent) are the salt of the earth, my friend I will not change a single word of what I wrote about Kenyan MPs. Despite clever shadow boxing around the issue he completely failed to exonerate Kenyan MPs from the morass they have placed themselves. There is nothing abstract or vague about what I said.

As a matter of fact, expect another one real soon.

Between powdered water, a chocolate teapot and a Kenyan MP the latter is head and shoulders above the rest.

Sting - Roxanne

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Odds And Ends

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#1 - Strange World This!

I'd never have thought it possible but my Anatomy Of A Kenyan MP touched a raw nerve with someone! I kid you not! He defends them, and he says "criticisms levelled against most Kenyan MPs fly across the face of sheer logic and common sense." Of course the first line of his defence, "I happen to be a son of a sitting Member of Parliament" knocks much of the wind out of his sails ...

I'm dying to see how many Kenyans agree with him. Please, let me know.

#2 - More On Uganda

The more of this repast that I consume the more convinced I am that I get a raw deal back in Kenya. For example the streets are festooned with gentlemen and ladies operating enormous charcoal grills that are busy roasting assorted foods, chiefly chicken and skewers of assorted meats. The streets smell delicious, enough to derail a son of the soil and future captain of industry into saying things like
M: Er, Hamis
Hamis: Yes sir?
M: Is that chicken those fellows are roasting?
Hamis: Yes sir.
M: (Thoughtfully) Chicken, you say?
Hamis: Yes sir. It is a delicacy.
M: I'm hungry. (Encouragingly) Are you hungry Hamis? You are? Excellent. Then I suggest we have a short stop here. The car is tired. Besides, we won't be missed for 15 minutes

When it comes to naming their towns, sons and daughters, Ugandans are at the top of the game. Multiple syllables and repetition are the name of the game. Thus we have sections of town called Bugolobi and Kitintale. We also have sons and daughters of Uganda called Sserwadda, Ssentongo and Tumukunde. This is a change for a chap like myself used to Kamaus, Otienos and Mwendes. Pronounciation is not as simple as you'd think, as I discovered quickly

"Ah, Mr Sentongo. Pleased to meet you." I say, rising and offering my hand.
"Ssentongo," says the gentleman with a smile, his sensitive ear effortlessly detecting my omission. "Pleased to meet you sir."

It's a matter of good manners to get these names right, especially when writing them down. Misspelling Ssali and Ssimwogerere is ssomething that you sshould sstrive to avvoid. Plain good manners.

Unlike their counterparts across the border, Ugandan mosquitoes are the very picture of drive and industry. They punch in at six thirty in the evening and spend half an hour of chatting with the lads over the previous night's day's adventures. At seven sharp they set to work. It is irrelevant whether you are in a noisy public place like a restaurant -- they are not shy about their work and will commence operations with gusto, biting for all they are worth. Waving your hands does not distract them. In fact they will welcome the draught that will cool them from their industry.
Sleeping without a mosquito net crosses the border between bravado and foolishness. The mosquitoes will pick your locks, jimmy the windows and get into your room and will have their way with you, and you will invariably spend the next couple of days acquainting with yourself with the ceramic of your loo as you suffer the throes of chronic malaria.

"Hi, this is Bob from Kampala. I want to send a shoutout to my father, and I want you to play for me a song as a special dedication to him - Sexual Healing"

Boy George - Karma Chameleon

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Terror Era

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[EDIT #2]

The so called "war on terror" is not only not working, it is falling flat on its face and taking us down with it.

I must confess that I was quite taken aback to read about the London bombings on the CNN and BBC websites. Where oh where would we be without technology? A personal twist was brought into it because I know people who are there, and hearing it from them was indeed sobering.

It brought back unwelcome memories of the day a bomb went off in Nairobi, in 1998.

I recall at the time I was nowhere near the central business district, that hosted the former US embassy. I was in fact a couple of odd dozen miles away but despite the distance was still able to hear the explosion. A colleague dismissed it as "damn kids and their fireworks!" and the matter dropped.

An hour or so later as we were boarding the bus to take us into town the conductor informed us that we were not, as a matter of fact, going into town, but bypassing it altogether. Our resulting reaction left that gent in no doubt he was deeply unpopular. When he was able to get a word in edgewise, something to the effect as there having been a bomb blast in the CBD, we assured him that we questioned not only his intelligence, but his senses of sight and hearing.

Some ten minutes later we were passing outside the hospital in Hurlingham it became apparent that something was very wrong. There were dozens of people standing outside the hospital, bandaged with suits and dresses covered with dust and blood.

Someone thought to turn on the radio and it was a grim statement indeed that we heard:

"The Ministry Of Health calls on all medical staff, whether on training, on leave or in retirement to report to the nearest hospital to help."

By the time I got home all the bits and pieces had come in.

There had been an explosion at the US embassy. As curious Kenyans gathered to find out what was happening an even bigger explosion had occurred. An indeterminate number of people had died.

Of course I wasted no time in making my way to the CBD.

I can still remember the feeling of acute shock as I walked towards the site. The explosion had shattered the glass of countless buildings and the pavement was littered with broken glass. I remember the crunching of the glass under my shoes. From the looks of things I was not alone in my shock.

By and large we are a lucky country. We have not had civil wars, so when it comes to violence at such scale we were, and I dare say still are, clueless. Losing a life in an accident is a big deal, but losing dozens of lives to deliberate acts by unknown people?

The site itself .. words cannot express. It had been cordoned off but we could see it from a short distance away. The combined efforts of the army, police, fire services and ambulance were completely unable to cope with the carnage and the wounded. There were dead bodes lying in the rubble. There were wounded people lying on the pavements and the roads.

And Kenyans, as they are wont to do, rose to the occasion and volunteered their private cars and vans and pick-ups and buses to help out.

What I remember most was a man sitting on the pavement with his head in his hands, asking again and again about his wife. I sat down next to him for over fifteen minutes and could not think of a single word to say.

The toll stood at around 200.


No matter how low you set the bar, the human being always manages to find a way to slither under. 3 years later I listened in real time to news of the planes flying into the World Trade Center and I watched in shock as a 747 banked and flew into the side of a building.

The toll? Thousands, including a deeply personal loss I still feel today.

And then there was the Spain bombings. And Bali. And now the London explosions.

I can just imagine the people, still a bit jubilant at getting the Olympics going about their business to find themselves real victims of terrorism. As I am writing this - 37 dead, 700 injured.

I have wondered for a long time just what can drive people to do some of these things to each other. I recall unwittingly watching the video of the unfortunate Nick Berg as he knelt there in bewilderment as someone read a statement in a language he could not understand behind him and the next thing the poor man knew his head was being taken off with a knife. He could not understand what was happening until it was too late.

Needless to say it was weeks before I got a good night's sleep.

Among us are people who have no qualms about shooting us, blowing us up and beheading us. Beheading us! With a knife!

Among us are people who will go into a Beslan school with hundreds of children and shoot them. Grown men and women ready to shoot innocent little children.

All these incidents beggar the question:

Just what is it that would drive a human being to do this to his fellow human being?

But the more you think about it the more you realize it is not as simple as that.

Now you ask yourself:

Just what is it that would drive a human being to do this to innocent people?

But the more you think about it the question changes yet more subtly:

Just what is it that would drive a human being to feel passionately enough about something to do this to innocent people?

In the papers and in the news we keep reading and hearing about suicide bombers. Think deeply about the concept.

A suicide bomber.

A suicide bomber is going to blow himself up. A suicide bomber is fully aware that he is going to die. He has no doubts about it. There is no 'if'. There is no 'perhaps'. There is no getting away, no escape. If he succeeds he will die. If he is intercepted as he tries to perform his act he will die. There are no two ways about it.

But he will wrap explosives around his middle and go into the midst of his fellows and blow himself up.

And he is so convinced, so driven by his beliefs that he does not hesitate.

Now ask yourself -- what can make you feel so passionately, so deeply, so totally in something that you'd give your life, that you'd blow yourself up?

It's very easy to say that you will die for your faith, or for your loved ones. Or die for your beliefs. It is quite easy to say indeed. It is quite another to walk your talk.

It's not that there are one or two suicide bombers. They have been dozens and dozens, in Israel and in Iraq. As recently as a couple of days ago one donned a police uniform, walked into a mess and blew himself up in Iraq.

There is no short supply of these people who feel this passionately about whatever it is their misguided cause is. They are lining up to blow themselves up. They have been there for years.

It is naive in the extreme to introduce religious connotations into this, and this is the slant that the world seems to have gripped with both hands, inadvertently or otherwise.

The unfortunate thing is that human beings have this tendency to fear things they do not understand, and fear is a very powerful force. Fearful people in large enough numbers are a recipe for disaster.

Sad fact: people do not understand Islam at all, and this has contributed immensely to the problem.

Consider this for instance: Osama Bin Laden and his comrades in arms have declared themselves openly as being staunch Muslims on TV. Now, what would have been the effect had they turned out to be Bible thumping, cross carrying Christians? What if he appeared and after a couple of Our Fathers got to his latest declaration?

I don't know about you but personally I am convinced the world would have no problem with dismissing him and his associates as a deranged and isolated bunch of crazies.

But since they claim to be Muslims, for some reason the world has a problem divorcing them from Islam at large.

Of course we don't like to acknowledge this, which is why after we condemn the terrorists we always add that ubiquitous trailer "... we realize that Islam is a religion of peace, and that these are isolated militants."

Without a doubt that last addendum would not be there had they been Christians.

Even if they are Islam, I find that perpetually referring to them as 'Islamic Extremists' is doing little to help, besides subtly drawing an association between the two.

And what is the result? Muslims who have nothing remotely to do with Osama Bin Laden are increasingly finding themselves on the defensive. I have lost count of the number of frustrated Muslims I have run into who always find themselves having to explain their faith is one of peace to an increasingly sceptical audience.

Shortly after the 911 events a number of Muslims were assaulted. People who "look like" Muslims inexplicably have a rough time at airports.

It is just a matter of time before this misguided impression causes a real problem -- where the Muslims are living in fear, and like I have said before fear in a large enough number of people is a disaster waiting to happen.

I am not a Muslim by the way. I am a Catholic, and extremely unlikely to defect. I say Hail Mary's when I'm scared out of my pants. I always carry some sort of cross or the other on me. Every two weeks or so I spend a couple of minutes raising the eyebrows of my priest with my antics of the past fortnight.

I grew up as a wee schoolboy knowing that they were funny people who went to Church on Fridays and their girls could not decide between wearing dresses or trousers and therefore decided to enjoy the best of both worlds and indulge in both. That was as far as my prepubescent knowledge went.

Of course age, experience and knowledge make you wiser. I made some good friends in high school and university who are Muslims. We have had lengthy (and spirited) discussions of religion past and present. I have read the Koran. I know a lot more about the faith than I used to.

I won't pretend to know Islam, or even half of it but I know for a fact that the gulf between what the Osamas are doing and what I know of the faith is unbreachable.

Just like the Muslims, Christians have their own rotten apples. The things Christians have done to each other in the name of religion are a study of terrorism, from witch hunts to inquisitions and right down to the latest bit of bother between Christians in Northern Ireland. Christians have been clubbing, crucifying, beheading, drawing, quartering and burning each other at stakes for thousands of years.

Protestants and Catholics have been merrily beating, shooting and bombing each other for years in Northern Ireland. It was a rare fortnight indeed that a news announcement as to the latest explosion in Belfast did not make the news.

And I remember after each of these announcements Protestants and Catholics outside Northern Ireland have had no problem concluding that those are a bunch of crazy misguided yahoos and go on to meet at the tee for a rousing game of golf or at the club for a stiff drink and some roasted meat. Can you think of anywhere where Protestants and Catholics did not get along?

It has never been necessary to add a qualifying statement at the end. This is undoubtedly creating another problem.

Just yesterday some Hindu Militants engaged the police in a shoot-out for hours before being silenced.

It has never been necessary to add a qualifying statement at the end.

It is creepy how terrorism and Islam always seem to end up in the same sentence.

My point? Organized religion is a convenient scapegoat for the many atrocities man commits. Man has spent millennia looking for scapegoats for antics, right from blaming snakes for appropriated apples right down to religion to killing others. Osama Bin Laden and his ilk have no problem appropriating Islam for their own use, violating almost all its basic tenets in the process. With all our experience and all the information at our disposal we should be wise enough to divorce the two.

There is something deeper driving these terrorists and we need to find out.

Diseases & Symptoms

"War on Terror" will be an utterly meaningless statement until we find the root of this problem.

Yes, we can speak passionately against terrorists on TV. We can create commissions and committees, declare war, send in Navy SEALs, commandos and special forces to fight terror. We can condemn the terrorists at every opportunity until we are blue in the face. We can form Departments Of Homeland security and unite the workings of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and the police. We can increase threat levels. We can install cameras and issue ID cards.

The grim reality is that at the end of the day we cannot watch every inch of every border, We cannot read the minds of those flying into airports every day. You cannot watch all those suspicious looking people in the bus with us. unfortunate truth is that at the end of the day we are extremely vulnerable. The terrorists only have to succeed once whereas the security forces must have a 100% record of success, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The odds cannot be more stacked against them.

Don't get me wrong -- I am not saying we should not be on the lookout and we should not actively seek these people out from wherever they are. We should. We have no choice but to. But despite our best efforts, and even if we succeed 100%, I fear we will remain precisely where we are now. Here's why.

I watched Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice and Vladimir Putin all grimly saying that they are going to "fight terror".

I found myself asking, just what does this mean? What is it to 'fight terror'?

To find all the terrorists that we can and shoot them?

I'm afraid this will achieve little, if anything: it will be a stop gap measure and a short lived solution at best. If anything, it will exacerbate things. If you intercept a bomber, suicide or otherwise, and shoot him in the head, and go on to parade on TV about your latest victory, in a house somewhere a young man will see his father has been shot dead by "them" and steel himself to complete his father's work.

Ask the Israelis. They've been shooting and arresting suicide bombers for years and years. Things are slowly starting to turn around when someone realized

"Hey, getting rid of these guys is just not working. We need to address why they are willing to kill us, and themselves in the process."

Those suicide bombers and terrorists who succeed gain a larger than life status to their fellow believers. They gain respect. They become heroes. And somebody somewhere becomes inspired. Those who don't still drive yet others to take their place.

A scary and obscene corruption Tertullian's words: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians".

Finding them and bringing them to justice is not fighting terror. It is fighting terrorists. It is not treating a disease -- it is treating symptoms.

We need to delve deep into these people and find out just what it is that is driving them and then maybe we might have an idea of how to if not solve the problem outright, at least ideas on how to approach the undoubtedly long journey that curing the root causes is. Once we do that the symptoms have no choice but to die out as well.

What I do know is that the CIA, the FBI, MI-6, MI-5, special forces, commandos, police and Navy SEALs are not going to deliver this world for the looming threat of terrorism. They've been trying for 40 years now, from Baader Meinhoff Gangs to Red Army Factions right down to Al Qaedas.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is just not working. All we are doing is marking time at best, and slipping backwards at worst.

We have to find out what the disease is and treat that, and not the symptoms. We need to actively ignore the smoke and mist and hone in on the real issues. Then can we have a hope of removing this looming threat from our sights.

The time we have to do this, I fear, is not much.

It takes seconds, maybe minutes, maybe hours, maybe days to change minds. But it takes a lifetime to change mentalities.

We may be too late to stop the Osama Bin Laden and his ilk but we had better start right away nipping his successors in the bud.

Right away.

Our prayers are with the victims and their families. God will comfort you.

More discussions: , , ,

Simon & Garfunkel - Scarborough Fair

Monday, July 04, 2005

Get Real: Global Politics 101 & Live 8

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[Edit #2]

I fully expected my last post, Live Aid? Please! to stir some interest, and it didn't disappoint. Responses in terms of posts and actual emails have been coming in thick and fast. The post has been linked to by several websites and blogs, both personal and institutional, and those have sprouted their own discussions.

Which is good.

It is impossible to respond to everyone in person and so I shall first post a monster post and you can pick out your responses. If you were thinking of just reading this before taking a trip to the men's room to get rid of those 5 cups of coffee, I suggest you go first.

Now, the responses can be broadly categorized as follows:
- The School Of Like Minds agreed entirely with me
- The Band Of Hope thought I was too cynical and should give Bob, Live 8 and Tony Blair a chance
- Dissenting Disciples who disagreed with me in entirety
- The Sanctimonious Schmuck Squad who could not believe my black behind could dare question the good work that was being done in my benefit
- The Cretin Clique who were sure I was a lazy, good for nothing buffoon, wholly ignorant of world affairs and the way things work, content to sit on said black behind and point fingers, wondering what I was doing instead of clicking my fingers every 3 seconds to fight poverty. These are the people who claim to be authorities in Africa by watching CNN, BBC and listening to Akon. They wanted Bob Geldof canonized at the first opportunity and I had jolly well better be grateful for all that was being done for my poor backward self. Well gentlemen, if you are waiting for my gratitude get yourselves a good long book. I suggest War And Peace.
- The Keyboard Kommandos who did not even bother to read the entire post but jumped on their keyboards intent on proving they have opposable thumbs. To these I can say this:
(1) Kindly read the ENTIRE post. My solutions (by no means exhaustive) are peppered throughout. It's not a Puss In Boots type story with the moral neatly at the end.
(2) Even if I had not suggested any (which is not the case), howling self righteously about problems without solutions is a half baked notion that speaks volumes of life experience amassed purely by a regular diet of television talk shows. Consider you are in the garage and the gardener runs in shouting "Your baby has fallen in the pool". Does a sane mind retort: "Don't me the baby fell in the pool! Offer solutions!"?
- The Arrogant Abels who equate my statement "Who can spell Geldof" with a chronic case of Worldly Ignorance. Apparently, knowledge of world affairs is tied to which (in)famous people you know. To these sterling intellects let me just say the point I was trying to make missed you in its entirety.

And oh, one more thing. I am not European or American. I am not writing these thoughts from a comfortable chair in London or New York or Dublin. I am writing these thoughts from a comfortable chair in Africa. I am a full blooded African. I was born in Africa, I studied in Africa, I work in Africa and I live in Africa, Kenya to be precise.

That said and done, I deeply believe in free expression which covers everything from saying what's on your mind. As for the latter four gaggle of individuals you are also fully entitled to making an ass of yourself. Watching CNN occasionally and listening to Akon does not make you an authority on African affairs.

Now, to answer to the copious feedback I shall do it in the form of a narrative that is partially true and partially fictitious that will illustrate the grim reality of this world.

The Way The World Works

Preamble #1

Smack in Central Africa there exists a country called Kundu. (An episode of West Wing had something to the effect that Military planes got permission to fly over Kenyan Airspace to get to Angola, a geographic inaccuracy which was so laughable the name stuck).

Kundu is composed of three major tribes, the Kuku, the Unu and the Dudu, numbering 30 million. An amalgamation of the three tribes' names led to the naming of the country. This was done by the British, who colonized the country briefly. The national bird is the Chicken. The Kundu are peculiar in that they get by with using only one name in lieu of the traditional forename and surname. The chief spoken language is English.

Kundu has a warm wet tropical climate that is excellent for agriculture. Among the things it grows are foodstuffs, flowers, pyrethrum, cocoa and cotton

The Kundu are blessed with diamond deposits and oil wells

The bastion of Kundu's economy is the export of the following
- Oil
- Diamonds
- Flowers
- Cotton
- Beef
- Pyrethrum
- Cocoa

Recent History
In the cold war era, some 10 years after their independence, General Felya, a deeply communist leader toppled the popular government in a bloody coup, and to ensure they didn't return the favour, toppled their heads from their necks, installing himself as President, Fountain Of Honour and Imperial Good Guy™. He immediately declared Kundu a Communist nation and ordered the removal of the words 'my' and 'him' from the local Dictionaries and Thesauri. Chairman Mao and Josef Stalin called him personally to congratulate him them on their new political dispensation.

Preamble #2

Great States
Shorty after America declared independence, three leading officers of the British army, Major Minor, Major Major and Major Stake unanimously came to the conclusion that it would be unwise for them to return to Britain. Their hesitation was understandable after a letter from the King, requesting the specifics as to the circumferences of their necks and asking conversationally if they had any next of kin. By the same token, George Washington was very keen to meet with them and remove their heads with a blunt blade. And so midway between Britain and America they formed a new country the Great States.

The population of the Great States is approximately 500 million. 200 million in the State of Stake, 50 million in the state of Minor and 250 million in the state of Major. The people speak English, but have taken liberties in pronunciation and spelling. Those who have heard a Greatan say "Nuclear" will know what I mean.

Due to its size (it is an entire continent) , Great States enjoys the spectrum of weather.

Great States, hereafter called GS enjoys deposits of gold and oil. The gold deposits have been all but exhausted. With the oil, wells have been dug and plants have been built but the oil is not actively extracted.

GS has one of the biggest economies in the world, remarkably similar to those of other leading economies. Listed in order of contribution these are
- Bullshit
- Electronics
- Pharmaceuticals
- Motor vehicles
- Services
- Assorted farm produce

Recent History
As one of the participants in the cold war, and the warm war before it, GS's capitalist disposition put it at loggerheads with China and USSR. The communists' activity deeply concerned the GS leaders and so they fought tooth and nail, hammer and thong, peaches and cream to counter the effects of the communists.

Of late attacks on it by terrorists, militants and assorted yahoos has left GS in no doubt that though it was big and powerful, it was about as popular as the guy who does quality control for electric chairs in death row.

Are we together? Excellent

Chapter One: The Way The World Worked - 1950-1980

Shortly after General Felya took over Kundu and made it communist, concern grew in GS. "How dare they!" the president at the time, Raygun, said indignantly. "We cannot cannot cannot stand by and let this happen!"

And so the 103.45 infantry battalion was told by its Commander In Chief to avail its best men to train freedom fighters to liberate the country.

"What freedom fighters?" A bewildered Major asked as he cleaned his rifle.

"Dunno!" His commanding officer replied, equally bewildered.

Two months later a certain Sergeant Attarms, Harvard educated, came to the light as a freedom fighter passionately opposed to General Felya and his communist government. The battalion parachuted in its men, in the still of the night, while shepherds watched, rendezvoused with Sergeant Attarms and within 6 months had trained Attarm's army.

For a long time after that, and even now, some people still believe that there is a certain animal in Kundu that sounds precisely like a machine gun. In a few years General Felya realized that fate has a sadistic sense of humour and succumbed to a fatal case of chronic bayonet. Elections were held and invariably the people voted in their beloved liberator sergeant.

The ink had not yet dried on the election tally when a delegation of magnates from the GS bearing gifts of Gold, Frankfurters and Cuban Cigars landed and sought an audience with President Attarms. The President was happy to meet friends of his good friend Raygun.

"Any friend of my friend .. Ha ha! .. is my friend!" Attarms said clapping them in a comradely fashion on the back. Two days later Special Oil sunk its first oil wells, Croak A Cola opened its first bottling plants, Softy (No relation to Wimpy) opened its first fast food store, McAvelli's opened its own first food store. Henrietta opened a diamond mine and a whole bevy of GS industries set up shop.

A year later a thought struck Raygun and after an exhausting evening of chewing tobacco he asked his Minister for Defence: "By the way, do we still send military hardware to Kundu?", to which he was informed "Well, Felya may have failed -- ha ha! -- but his followers are still there. The new government needs arms to protect its people."

Two years later increasing reports of torture chambers and members of the opposition shooting themselves in the head before setting themselves on fire, making use of elevators to get to the roofs of tall buildings and jumping from their rooftops caused some concern in the leadership of GS.

"Well," Raygun observed philosophically, unaware that his copyright material was to be later infringed by F D Roosevelt, "He may be a sonofabitch, but he's OUR sonofabitch."

Back in Kundu, it became extremely unwise to pass a photo of the President For Life and Imperial Majesty without bowing at least 45 degrees and not more than 90 degrees. Speaking of the president in any way other than devoted fervour was tantamount to treason and was punishable by spot execution. His birthday was a national holiday. He was a passionate believer in Nike's logo and he Just Did It, objections of husbands and boyfriends notwithstanding.

"But why don't we just remove him?" The unwary would ask.

The wiser would mince no words.

"What part of 'I am henceforth president for life' didn't you understand? 90% of the budget goes to the army, nitwit. You try and remove him!"

And so for 25 years the Kundunese made as much progress on the path of development as a glacier going uphill. There's something about AK-47s, AR-14 Carbines and men in jungle green all over the place that just kill the spirit of initiative and development. It was thought, and understandably so, a brain was best without a bullet in it. Those who think nothing can stop a brilliant mind have clearly never beheld the effects of a sharp machete on the same.

"But don't these guns rust or something? How do they replace them?"

"Which part of '90% of the budget goes to the army' didn't you understand, nitwit?"

"Surely the Western world can help us! We can't vote him out and we can't remove him because he has all the guns."

"And just who, pray tell, do you think supplied the guns?"

And so life went on. Dissent was silenced not by debate but by bullet. And Special Oil, Croak A Cola, Softy, McAvelli and others happily wired billions and billions back home.

But God is a merciful God. Five years later either a lightning strike or a cruise missile (opinion is still divided) struck the President's barracks and ignited the fuel depot. The former was speculated by the presence of a large number of Soviet Gentlemen spotted drinking comradely Vodka in the presidential dining hall.

President Attarm's well known horse hair wig was found some 30 kilometers from the barracks. President Attarm was not found immediately below his charred headpiece. Kundu was free.

Chapter Two: The Way The World Works - 1980-2000

The new President of Kundu, Dude, got to work with zest. Painfully aware of how bad leadership cost the country, he set to work laying out institutions and procedures. The only people to carry guns were the police. All soldiers were to remain at their barracks until further notice. Looking at the statements of accounts he discovered that they were so deeply in the red they were able to see the other side of the spectrum.

"Crikey!" He observed to his finance minister. "I've never seen so many zeroes after a negative sign!"

His consternation deepened after he observed the contracts being enjoyed by companies owned by the late Felya's good friends.

"5 dollars for a 100 year lease? Zero taxes? Zero duties? Zero mining fees? Over my dead body!"

Within the hour panicked calls rung at the Pink House, the residence of the GS president and a day later a powerful delegation landed at Kundu's capital, Cluck.

President Dude quickly discovered precisely what being between a rock and a hard place meant.

"Look, if you want to have your zillion dollar debt waived, and money to build schools and hospitals, just leave these contracts as they are, capische?" The Greatan Minister for Trade was a keen follower of the Godfather trilogy and was willing to demonstrate it.

"We'll give you a hundred thousand bucks to build roads. However please find in this slip of paper the contractors, engineers, surveyors etc you should use ... what's that? They all seem to be GS firms? Why what a coincidence! Anyway, just sign here and we'll be on our way.

Unable to enjoy the benefits of his country's diamonds and oil, the president and his advisors brainstormed.

"Well, it looks like we are somewhat at the loose end," the president observed to his cabinet.

The cabinet, and to be precise the Minister For Education, expressed itself at length and in great detail. That they had a lot to say, and a firm grasp of the language became quickly apparent. The air turned blue for miles around the state house. The secretary taking minutes resigned her commission five minutes into the meeting, on grounds that her duties were incompatible with her Christian upbringing.

"But there's not much we can do about it."

His sentiments were unwittingly to be echoed some years later at a series of cabinet meetings in Iraq when the sensitive subject of Iraqi oil wells arose.

"All right," the president said philosophically, "We can concentrate on agriculture. As Ice Cube says, 'you can do it, put your back into it'."

So Kundunese flowers and pyrethrum, of a singularly good quality began to arrive at Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

A Briton farmer took one look at a Kundunese rose and ran howling for his MP.

A week later a new requirement was placed for all flower exports from Africa:
a) Inspection fee (none refundable) to be paid to EU appointed inspector. Criteria of what Inspector is looking for are not mentioned.
b) All African flowers should be sprayed with InsecticideX, which has, among its ingredients, gold fillings.
c) All African flowers must have an odd number of petals

A cabinet meeting was hurriedly called.

The Education Minister has been polishing up his vocabulary. His tirade rattled windows and cracked the large plate glass window overlooking the lawn.

"Well, looks like we're headed for the high jump. This new flower requirement will nip us in the bud, of you'll pardon the expression." President Dude said.

The finance minister raised a harassed and unhappy countenance to his fellows.

"This new regulation just screws us completely. Our annual income will drop to ... let's see -- borrow one, carry one -- five bucks."

"If I can summarize or predicament. We have oil and diamonds that we are quite frankly giving away, so we can't make money out of that. We can't sell our flowers or pyrethrum either. Basically we have a large debt and no income."

"But what about cocoa?" The health minister asked plaintively.

The agriculture minister shook his grey head sadly.

"Since we have lousy infrastructure, it costs us 97 cents to get a unit of cocoa to the market, which is sold for 1 dollar. This would not be a problem were it not for the fact that it costs GS framers 40 cents, AND their government subsidizes them 50 cents per unit."

"Well, as I heard my son tell one of his friends yesterday, 'whichever way the die falls we're screwed'."

Enter Live 8
Now, if you have read that narrative you are in a position to digest the following

Africa is not something that was discovered the other day. Africa has been around for millions of years. People have known about it ever since the first ship was built. Africa's problems have been covered from time immemorial, even more during the colonization of the continent by the British, German and French in the infamous "Scramble For Africa". There exist reams and reams of footage, books, newspapers and articles of the continent and its problems from the 30s onwards. Anyone claims not to know Africa's problems, especially after factoring in the ludicrously skewed coverage of Africa is either living in his own world or lying through his teeth.

The very African General Felyas and the very foreign Rayguns of this world must take credit for contributing to the state of affairs of Africa in the period of the 60s to the 90s. This is a truth, but at present it is a meaningless truth. So what? The blame game solves precisely no solutions. However the events in the past directly precipitate the events of today and we have to deal with them today.

Politicians are the same the world over -- your opinion only counts in the run up to the elections, and only to guide them to say the right things. After that you are just an ignorant irritant to them and they'd be very happy if they never heard from you.

President Raygun did not consult his constituents before effecting the actions that he did. In fact he was quite unmoved by the protests.

The concert was ostensibly to force the G8 leaders to act. My friends, the fact that our opposition to the war in Iraq was disregarded in its entirety should speak volumes of the power you have over your politicians and what they think of Democracy!

Africa is a gloriously cheap source of minerals, oil, agricultural produce, ore, etc.. That coffee and tea you drink, that chocolate you enjoy shortly before rushing to the gym probably came from a farmer who was paid a couple of cents to Cadbury's who probably make a 10000% markup on it.

Make no mistake about it - in a world where resources are running scarce it is in G8's best interests to retain this state of affairs, no matter how well meaning their populace is. After all, the people snapping their fingers are not the ones balancing budgets.

If you expect President Raygun to give up free oil and free diamonds, and to suddenly let his countrymen's companies be taxed out of their back teeth my friend you have got to be kidding! If he does this it will mean increased prices for his people, and who, pray tell, would want that?

There are deeply vested interests in keeping Africa precisely where it is. However the demands of the populace have caused some rumination to happen among the G8. It will be political suicide to do nothing. However it would be suicide to do what they are told. The result? Compromise
- Waive Debt? [x]
- Double Aid? [x]
- Donate material support (nets, HIV medicine, etc.) [x]
- Open the markets and enable Africa to stand on its own [HECK NO!]
- Stop plundering, raping and pillaging the continent of its resources [HECK NO!]
- Stop shipping mines, guns and ammunitions to Congos and Sudans and Somalias [HECK NO!]

That's three apiece.

Another example. Some time back, the United States made a lot of furore as they objected to generic Antiretroviral drugs, copies of copyrighted drugs made by their manufacturers. Then there was the little bother of some people sending others poisoned mail. The drug to counter this little bit of additive was copyrighted elsewhere but good old US said quite blatantly that they were going to make their own generic version, copyright or copyleft notwithstanding.

Moral - countries will always act in their own interests first, second and third.

Utterly pointless to waive Kundu's debt and they are unable to sell their oil, diamonds and flowers to raise the money they need to build schools, hospitals and so forth. They will be back in debt within SIX MONTHS. Waiving debts is completely meaningless on its own!

Granted, a good chunk of African countries have the most mediocre leadership ever to sully the face of this planet. We have fellows who buy themselves 400,000$ colossal cars and a week later are at the IMF gates with hats in hand. I dare say if these schmucks had strong grips attached to their trouser seats and they were bounced down the front steps they'd be forced to live within their means. Aid paid to most countries goes straight into numbered Swiss Accounts.

Civic education is the most glaring omission in most political dispensations in Africa that masquerade as democracy. This we must address both systematically and in public fora like these.

Shovelling aid at these wastrels is just filling their Swiss bank accounts and allowing them to get a 8 door Mercedes instead of 6 door ! It is ludicrous for the West to rant and rave at Museveni at his lack of democracy and yet 60% of the Ugandan budget, most of which is used by the military comes from the very same West!

The attendants of the concerts no doubt were well intentioned. In fact I was impressed at the turnout. Most of the attendants I believe were genuine, but I fear largely ignorant of the unbelievably murky world of global politics that they live in. But ask yourself -- how many farmers in G8 countries were at that concert snapping their fingers, championing the waiving of subsidies that line their pockets?

So now after P Diddy and Destiny's Child and U2 and Dido have performed people know the G8 agenda. Big wow! So what?

The democracy we have today is nothing like what Plato envisaged. You cannot make Tony Blair or George Bush or Chirac do anything. If you couldn't stop them from going to war, I wonder what you could stop them from doing.

But I can wager that subsidies and other uncompetitive tactics are here to stay. I don't see them sacrificing their farmers and their pocket friendly golden goose on the altar of an African Renaissance.

I can hardly wait for the outcome of the G8 meeting, but I can wager good money that the check-list will be as I have outlined above.

So for those who attended the Live 8 - thanks for the concern and the passion.

The G8 is not going to shoot itself in the foot to help out the Congolese or the Sudanese or the Somali. Bush and Blair went to war to smoke out alleged weapons. People are being raped, bombed and shot in plain open in Darfur but the pressing urgency that Bush and Blair had seems to have dissipated. In case Bush and Blair missed the Seven O'Clock news, the Darfur crisis has been on for well over two years.

The difference? There is nothing in Darfur that anyone wants, just as there was nothing in Rwanda.

You have a long wait if you thing Tony Blair, George Bush, Jacques Chirac etc are going to dump their farmers and industries in the noble cause of freeing Africa from its shackles.

We will be left to our own devices, problems or not until we have something that they want urgently enough to justify their discomfort. Just ask Iraq.

It's good to be optimistic, but then again you should also always have your feet on the ground.


Here's to Luther. One of the greatest singers of all time.

Ciara - 1,2 Step