Stories about Sub-Saharan Africa from July, 2005
Accra Update #2
My latest podcast from Ghana explaining why I've been offline since Friday afternoon. Music by Ghanaian drummer Obo Addy, from his album Afieye Okropong, used with permission from Alula Records. -andy
D.R. Congo: Too much time on my hands
Congo Girl reflects on the cultural adjustments she had to make when she came to Kinshasa.
Niger: Smile and the World Starves with You
On Safari with El Jorgito is frustrated with the lack of coverage the food crisis in southern Niger is getting in the western press.
Uganda: Ugandan government attacks Lesbian activists
Black Looks points out that the Ugandan government passed an anti-gay law and promptly raided the home of Victor Julie Mukassa, a well-known lesbian activist.
Sudan: Books for universities
Humanitarian Hijinks, a blog written by a relief worker in Sudan, has a great suggestion for donating books to the area.
Here's an extended podcast updating my whereabouts in Ghana. Special thanks to Alula Records for allowing me to use music from Ghanaian musician Obo Addy. I'll be featuring Obo's work in future podcasts and videos as well. -andy
Ghana: Identifying a Murdered Liberian
A photographer circulates photos of a murdered Liberian man found outside the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana. The actual photos are not shown in the video.
Ghana: Life in a Liberian Refugee Camp
Buduburam Refugee Camp
Jeremiah, one of my hosts at the refugee camp
Liberian Kung Fu Masters
We reached an open field in the middle of the camp that served as the main soccer field; to the right, one of the high schools was teaming with students. "How many students go to school here in the camp?" "More than 11,000," Hisenburg said. "11,000," I repeated. "That's like some U.S. school districts." "Yes, there are many students here," Hisenburg continued. "And you're involved with computer training?" I asked. "Yes," he replied. "What we are doing now - you see, computers in Liberia, about 95% of the country isn't literate in terms of the computer. So what we're doing is training a group of volunteers who will go back to Liberia, and train others how to use them." "So it sounds like you're focusing not only on training people here, but making sure that people back home will have these skills as well," I replied. "Yes, so they'll be able to get a job in the market," he said. "Today, if you don't have computer skills, it's difficult for you to get a job. So that's why our focus is to train Liberian refugees before returning back."
A student completes a Powerpoint Course at the refugee camp's computer center
We continued through the camp, but the images plagued me with each block, each turn. I have a high tolerance for Hollywood violence, as it were, but don't handle depictions of real violence quite well, particularly when exposure to it is unexpected. Just the night before, because of an ongoing bout of jetlag, I found myself re-reading Ryszard Kapuscinski's brilliant war journal, The Soccer War, which documents his perilous war correspondent adventures covering two dozen conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. On the final pages I read last night, Kapuscinski presented a brief interlude in which he pondered the idea of writing "a dictionary of various phrases that take on different meanings according to the degree of geographical latitude." He offered examples of several words that might be suitable for such a dictionary, one of which was the word Spirits.
[The] act of destroying the corpse results from the conviction that a human being consists of not only a body but also the spirits that fill it. Many white people believe in a body and a soul, but their faith in one soul is merely a primitive simplification of a complicated feature of human existence: in reality a person's body is filled by many spirits proper to the various parts of the human organism. It would be naïve to believe that this complicated world of spirits, alive in the recesses of the human body, can be liquidated by a single bullet. [Or machete, apparently.] The body is only one element of a person's death: full death occurs only after the spirits have been destroyed or expelled.... Hence the necessity of destroying the corpse, particularly if the corpse belonged to an enemy whose spirits can later avenge him. There is no cruelty in this -- for someone who is forced to fight against the dangerous and omnipresent world of spirits, which may be invisible but are hot on the heels of the living, it is simple self-defense.Upon reading that passage last night, I recalled that he was writing much of this 40 years ago, and thought it was obvious Kapuscinski was obsessing over his experiences in the Belgian Congo and elsewhere. Back then, of course. Not today. Not now. Perhaps I was wrong.
I was rescued from my spiritual torpor by a beautiful little girl with braided hair. We were walking through a residential neighborhood, with lots of children and adults milling about. Suddenly I looked ahead and saw this little girl, jumping up and down as if she were on a magical pogo stick, chanting an adorable mantra of "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!" Before I knew it, she jumped off the invisible pogo and darted towards me, locked my shins in an enormous bear hug, then scurried away. The tortured spirits of that corpse, plaguing me for Lord knows how long -- time passes strangely when haunted by spirits -- vanished without a trace. Other children, none more than seven or eight years old, began to follow her lead. They approached me one at a time to shake my hand and say hello. I could barely keep up with them. "Hello, how are you?" I asked them, adding, "I must be very popular!" I asked if I could take their pictures; before I could complete the question, eight or 10 of them jammed into a Napoleonic formation, row after row. They lacked true military discipline, though; rather than maintaining their lines, the children would dart ahead each other to appear at the front of the photograph, breaking all commonly accepted codes of conduct regarding picture-taking formations arranged according to height. Fortunately, they were in no rush for me to complete my assignment, so I let them weave among themselves while I snapped away, happy as can be. My hosts, meanwhile, had wandered to the next neighborhood, so it was time for me to say goodbye. Many of the children followed me for an entire block, running and waving and shouting "bye bye!" to me. I was filled with warmth.
On the far side of the football pitch, we meandered down an uneven path, dammed with sandbags labeled UNHCR in black lettering. While chatting with Hisenburg, I was approached by a pretty teenage girl in a long white t-shirt and large hoop earrings. "Hello, how are you?" she asked confidently. "Fine, thank you," I replied. "And how are you?" "I am well, thank you. What are you doing here?" "I'm visiting from the United States, and I was invited to come to the camp," I said. "We've just been walking around for a while, meeting people, getting to know the camp a bit. How long have you lived in the camp?" "Two weeks," she replied, to my surprise. "So you just came from Liberia, then?" "Yeah, I am just visiting." "Do you have many family here?" "Yeah, lots of people here." "How long do you plan to stay?" "Maybe two weeks. We'll see. Bye...." "Bye," I replied, the conversation ending as suddenly as it began. ----------- I now realized we were far from the center of the camp, in a rural area with small farm plots. Further ahead there appeared to be another complex of buildings. "We have actually left the camp boundaries," Jeremiah explained. "But there are so many refugees they have to rent the surrounding land from Ghanaian families."
A teacher leads a group of Liberian women in an adult literacy class
Ghana: The Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence in ICT
University students taking a course at the Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence in ICT
Zimbabwe: Riot Police hit Churches
This is Zimbabwe is reporting that riot police have forcibily removed homeless who had found housing in churches–most, if not all, of whom were made homeless by “Operation Cleanup”–from their temporary shelter.
Ghana: Life in a Liberian Refugee Camp
Andy Carvin visits a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. It's an amazing story.
South Africa: $1 Billion is a lot of money
Commentary.co.za is flabbergasted that South Africa is even thinking about extending a $1 billion loan to Zimbabwe.
Kenya: Kenyans protests and massacre
Black Looks covers protests in Kenya. The main sticking point seems to be that the current President was elected on a platform to reduce presidential powers within 100 days of the election; unfortunately, that was back in 2002.
Africa: Condi In Africa
Githush wonders why it took Condi so long to go to Africa. In the same post, he points out that First Lady Laura Bush and daughters have been in Africa the whole past week, but that hasn't exactly been well-covered in the United States.
A unique view from Darfur: Sleepless in Sudan
The news stories go by – the London bombings, the G-8/Live8 focus on Africa, the six month anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami – and Darfur remains. As it's become abundantly clear that the US won't have major involvement with the Darfur situation, it's less commmon to see news stories...
Africa: Africans and the European Soul
African Bullets & Honey, noting that African churchs are starting to do missionary work in Europe, wonders if the once-colonized will become the colonizers.
Kenya: Poor Governance
Bankelele has a brief rundown of the mismangement charges levied against the Central Bank.
The WSIS Youth Caucus in Ghana
I've just completed an interview with Leopold Armah and Regina Banini of Ghana's WSIS Youth Caucus, chatting about the role of African youth in the UN's World Summit on the Information Society. Have a listen to the podcast. -andy
Smartphone+Bluetooth: Ghanaian Video Blogging Paradise
A few moments after I posted my blog entry about the potential use of smart phones and Bluetooth wireless as a workaround for Ghanaian video bloggers, lo and behold I was approached by Lebanese blogger Mustapha, who introduced himself and sat down to chat, one Mac owner to another. He then pointed out he had the new Handspring Treo 650 smart phone, which just so happens has both video and Bluetooth capabilities. Lightbulbs went off, and in a matter of a few minutes we were able to post the following video clip. I wonder if it's the first smart phone video blog entry from Ghana?
Andy and Mustapha try video blogging from Ghana with a smart phone:
Video Blog Test from Accra
It's my second day at the BusyInternet cyber cafe in Accra, Ghana, and I'm expermenting with video compression to see if I can work out the ideal size for uploading and downloading video clips. The bandwidth here is slower than in the US, so I have to be careful about how large a file I post. Here are two versions of some footage from BusyInternet, one low bandwidth and the other medium bandwidth. The low version is around 600k, while the medium version is 1.3 megs. (For those of you keeping score, the uncompressed version of this 40-second clip is over 30 megabytes - pretty useless here in West Africa. Anyway, here are the results. Click on the appropriate link to try each version.
Sudan: Rainy Season
Humanitarian Hijinks, the anonymous blog of a relief worker in Darfur, notes that it's only a few weeks into the rainy season but it's already starting to flood–not to mention the increased mosquitoes and the attendant malaria risk.