Africa Related

Letter to a New Nation

A Repost: As the chaos and violence in South Sudan escalates to depressing levels, I couldn’t help but think about this letter I wrote for the newly independent nation two and half years ago.

Dear South Sudan,

First of all, congratulation to you on this very festive and happy occasion of your birth into the international diplomatic scene. You have always been a nation, you’re just now being recognized on paper. It is an exciting and anxious period for you. You have a litany of unresolved issues with your former countrymen and neighbor to the north. But, that is for another day. Today is about looking to the future, not about the past. There is an enormous expectation placed upon you – by your people and the international community. As one of the least developed nations in the world, these expectations are unfair; nonetheless, you would have to deal with them. If I had the opportunity to give you an advice, I would have told you to wait five more years under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement framework as it would’ve allowed you to create a plan to repatriate and resettle all the people arriving from the North and elsewhere. This period would’ve also allowed you to build schools, medical facilities, roads, airports, etc to be able to absorb the millions of people moving back.

Now that you’re a nation officially, you would just have to deal with these issues as you go along. More importantly, now you have 54 case studies on how to avoid crisis and pitfalls as a new nation. Rest assured, you will have a lot of problems and internal conflicts, which if you have done your homework from these case studies you could avoid or at least minimize the impact to you. Since I can give you an advice for the future, let me do just that. One, avoid any kind of conflict with your neighbor states – especially and importantly, with the Republic of Sudan. Two, be inclusive, fair and equitable to all those people living in your domain – avoid the unity above all approach as this will surely sow a seed of hate and conflict for the future within your borders. Three, avoid starting proxy wars vis-à-vis Republic of Sudan or other neighbors. And finally, welcome any and all criticism from your people as it is a sign of a healthy, vibrant and democratic nation. Indeed, you will be tempted to label any kind of criticism as a planted strife by your neighbor to the north or other nations. Resist this and you will reap the rewards decades and centuries to come.

You have not yet reached the promised land – your hard work is just now beginning. Use your natural resources – oil and minerals – to develop your country. Make agriculture and education your focus for the next twenty to thirty years. And  dont allow, under any circumstances, the cancerous tumor that is corruption to grow. Heed the lessons of history that is all around you because you face an extraordinary level of hardship and temptations to simply fall prey to conflicts, wars, dictatorial rule, and corruption.

Good luck to you and may you be the first independent African nation to succeed as an example of democracy and prosperity.

Yours,

Om

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A Bad Deja Vu

The images coming out of Libya seem very familiar to me. They seem as if I’ve seen them before. Maybe I haven’t and my brain is just over-reacting to them. But I swear I’ve seen them before…or even lived through them. I feel Libya is having a civil war, not a revolution anymore. Maybe that is not true; revolutions can be bloody as well. Why do I feel this is a civil war? The similarity with Somalia’s civil war is too strong to not consider: long time dictator facing armed rebellion, endless amount of tribes whose affiliations are seemingly changing by the minute, and complete collapse of state whose identity revolved around the dictator who’s willing to do anything to stay in power. Yeah, that’s about right.

Nobody knows how it will end but it sure won’t be pretty either way. Unlike Somalia, what compounds Libya’s situation is the presence of oil. The European powers wouldn’t be talking about military intervention if this was some resource-less place like Tunisia.

May they save themselves from the curse of civil war and foreign military intervention!

 

Categories: Africa Related, Middle East | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Blue Dreams

image

I’m laying on top of a fluffy thing that’s on top of the ferry I’m currently riding on my way to the archipelego of Zanzibar. I chose to camp in the open deck, to enjoy the open air and the lovely breeze of the indian ocean. Everything I see is a perfect blue, with the exception of few dhow boats and commercial ships now and then. It’s 4:30pm on a Sunday afternoon of the coast of Tanzania. There is one special person I would love to be here with me, to share this view, this breeze, this tranquil moment. I’m having blue dreams. (And you’re in it…you know who you are).

Isn’t it amazing that I have a decent internet connection in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Gotta love technology. I’ll get back to enjoying my view and breeze as the perfect Swahili is spoken near by…

Categories: Africa Related, East Africa, Photography, Random, tanzania, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Manfred Nowak Throws Tantrum

Manfred Nowak, the United Nations human rights investigator is throwing tantrum in the media following his ejection from Zimbabwe. Nowak alleges that the Mugabe government has intentionally barred him from entering the country because ‘he knows’ he will find evidence of human rights abuses committed by Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF. Nowak states, using undiplomatic language and improper protocols, “I can only interpret that, at this point of time, they didn’t want any kind of independent fact-finding on torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” referring to ZANU-PF. He goes on to add, “This is totally unacceptable conduct of a government – of a member state of the United Nations – vis-a-vis a United Nations independent expert who is mandated by the human rights council to carry out fact-finding missions on the invitation of the government.” Notice the last part, “on the invitation of the government.” Also notice Mr. Nowak is exaggerating his importance by implying that he is ‘mandated’ by the U.N.’s  human rights council, an act that is essentially imposed on a U.N. member state by the council through the Security Council. In fact, the government of Zimbabwe invited him voluntarily with no mandate to carry out, other than to investigate rights abuses in the country and report it to the human rights council – an entity that once included Iran, Cuba, China, Saudi Arabia, etc etc.

While he was in South Africa, the government of Zimbabwe asked Nowak not to come now because the government officials he needs to talk to as part of his investigation are busy with SADC mediations on the unity government between Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party that is currently in jeopardy of dissolving. Thus, the government of Zimbabwe rescinded its invitation and asked Nowak to reschedule it for another time before he arrived in the country. But Mr. Nowak, who was only coming to the country on the invitation of the host government, took matters into his own hands and showed up at Harare International Airport with a stupid look on his face and insisting that he was invited by the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai – who I should add has ceased to participate in the unity government and has no authority on foreign relations. Accordingly, the immigration authority refused him entry into the country and put him back on the returning flight to South Africa. Case closed, right?

Not if you are Manfred Nowak, a supposed neutral diplomat working for the United Nations. He has spent the last couple of days bitching to every media outlet that is willing to listen to his petulant and undiplomatic behavior. Furthermore, Nowak’s self-righteous attitudes and media blitz seems to reflect a disdain for the United Nation’s own Charter that is built on the foundation of respect for member states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. If I invite someone to my house party and I change my mind and tell them not to come, I expect my wishes to be followed. If they choose to ignore my request and show up at my door anyway? Of course I would shut the door on their face. Too bad the mindless western media will not put this simple diplomatic issue into context. Granted, there a lot of human rights abuses that have to be investigated in Zimbabwe (it is long overdue) and more importantly, MDC-Tsvangirai supporters are just as culpable in these abuses as ZANU-PF supporters are – a fact the western media has been sweeping under the rug for far too long. Because of Nowak’s self-righteousness and stupidity, many victims of state and political parties’ abuse will not have their stories heard.

The moral of the story though? Don’t invite Manfred Nowak to your house!

Categories: Africa Related, Zimbabwe | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Picture Montage From My Study Abroad

It took me a while but I have finally finished putting together a video picture montage of my trip to East Africa this past summer where I was studying (near Arusha, Tanzania). I hope you’ll like it; the pictures are mostly in chronological order with my journey. Please enjoy!

Categories: Africa Related, East Africa, School/Students | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Upright Man

It is the 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Capt Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, orchastrated by France and its puppet tools for his stances against neocolonialism, anti-IMF/World Bank, and debts. But the most threatening thing about this 35 years old leader were his ideas that threatened both internal and external parasites. His progressive policies, social and economic, were ahead of their time to say the least.

Sankara

Sankara

He was the first African leader to emphatically promote women’s rights and declare HIV/AIDS public health priority. He also stripped tribal chiefs the “right” to get forced-labor from their “subjects,” among other revolutionary policies during his military rule. He was the first and last African head of state to declare IMF/World Bank “aid loans” illegal and should not be paid by any poor country. They don’t make ’em like that any more. Big up to all those who died for a cause!

If only Africa had leaders like him…

Categories: Africa Related, Honorary Acknowledgement | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Studying Women

As I watched the early NewsHour on Aljazeera this morning, I learned about the Palestinian women who are subjected to the humiliating and degrading internal body search at the hands of Israeli prison guards, suspected to be males. Also I learned about mothers in the Central African Republic who are struggling to save their malnourished children. An illness caused mainly by the loss of income as a result of the disturbed diamond mining operations in the region by the current global economic crisis. Also on previous news headlines, we come to learn of Afghans women’s role on the election. The Sudanese journalist arrested and jailed over wearing trousers. And the list go on about women struggling with diseases, such as breast cancer and HIV. Others who are struggling with domestic abuse, Female Genital multination, and drugs. Also we find great achievements of women holding higher governmental offices, women breaking a world record on sports, or conducting a highly valued scientific research. And fortunately we also find a headline story of a woman over the age of 100 who feels lonely and fearful that her 30 something years old husband would leave her (true story).

So with all of this in mind, I came to the following conclusion:

I found out that nothing would be more fascinating, at least to me, than to devote ones academic career to closely examine WOMEN. These complex, weak yet powerful creatures who shape almost every aspect of humans life. And to be brutally honest from the start, anyone who would argue against this fact is an idiot (just a personal opinion that does not represent the views of this blog owner). If one make the argument that women are not as influential as men, I simply say to you that a child’s character and behavior is fashioned by their mothers as early as the first trimester.

Every aspect of women life could seriously serve as an independent field of study (no joke). For example, their excessive concern with trends, fashion and cosmetics. Their unquestionable devotion to love. Their compassionate views. Their religious, political, economical, and social contributions. Their struggle for survival through wars, poverty, and the historically persisting unjust gender inequalities. Their obsession with soap operas and gossip. Their tender feelings and strong will. Their weakness which is itself a powerful strength. And most importantly is the indescribable mystery of motherhood.

would there be a more interesting earthly science worth pursuing in life than this? It is life itself.

Categories: Africa Related, Education, Health, Life Style, politics, Women | 3 Comments

The Love is Back

Between Bobby Mugabe and the European Union, that is. Seven years it has been since an EU representative met with Uncle Bob. Oh what time does! Or lots of mineral resources that did the trick? After all, the Chinese were perfectly willing to give Uncle Bob all the money and political muscle to keep him in power in exchange for Zimbabwe’s vast mineral resources without all that democracy and rule of law crap that the West keeps blabbering about in public pronouncements.

Yes, Robert Mugabe all along knew that Western corporations would eventually put the pressure on their respective governments to not let the Chinese suckle all that mineral resource honey from Zimbabwe. Do I hear an State Department meeting with Mugabe? Oh yes – it is coming.

Categories: Africa Related, Zimbabwe | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Art of Coups

The story behind the documentary below happened way back in 2004 but somehow seems to be relevant always. I always wondered why there were so many coup d’etats and chronic wars in many parts of the world – Africa and Latin America particularly – that generally have more natural resources yet are underdeveloped. If intelligence agencies used to overthrow governments and heads of state, the 21st century coup de’etats are done by private security firms i.e. seriously messed up folks with lots of time and dangerous skills at their disposal. The mercenaries have officially arrived. Watch out, Evo.

Fascinating story; and frightening prospect for states like Equatorial Guinea, the DR Congo, and Bolivia  that a lot of powerful people/companies have interest in. By the way, has anyone figured out why the Congo war has killed over 3 million people in the last decade? The attempt of the mercenaries, hired by the son of ex UK PM Thatcher to overthrow the not-so-nice-guy president of Equatorial Guinea with the help or at least tacit support of the US, UK and Spanish governments for the control of that country’s newly discovered oil reserves, almost succeeded. Without the authorities in South Africa and Zimbabwe, who knows this may have just succeeded and ushered in an era of private security contracts doing the dirty works of Western intelligence agencies and the likes of George Soros. At the time the media largely ignored the story and at times cheered for it, as was in the case of the UK press.

The link to the full episode online.

Categories: Africa Related, coup | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Zanzibar: Paradise in Peril (Take that CNN!)

After a long day of touring ruins of royal palace, spice farms (in which most of the time I felt so damn touristy despite this being an educational tour as part of my study program) and a local NGO, I was more than happy to just sit and watch a festival movie. But before I could sit and watch a movie, I had to fill my stomach with some spicy food; in this case, a Zanzibari pizza and sugarcane juice sold outside the festival venue. Seafood dominates the long stretch of food vendors in front of Beit El-Ajib (or House of Wonders) and Old Fort (where most of the films in competition are screened). Here, one can find any (I do mean ANY) kind of poor sea creatures on display – ready at your disposal – to be prepared and eaten mercilessly. There are variety of foods to satisfy everyone but I settled for the Zanzibari beef and vegetable (one) and a vegetarian (one) pizza (yes, I did write a post knocking down vegetarianism last year….oh well!). It tastes great, yet it is cheaper than those mind-numbingly expensive restaurants that cater to mzungo (European) tourist, plus the opportunity one gets to have a good conversation with the indigenous population that reveals much more than the guides and tours. In fact, while waiting for my vegetarian pizza I managed to have an interesting conversation with the chef (who, after finding out that I’m Somali, tried to say the only two Somali words he learned while living in Mombasa, Kenya in the early 1990s) about the state of the island.

In particular, the positive and negative effects tourism has had on the island – a question that has been bothering me quite a lot since I have arrived on the island – over the years. Indeed, the answer he gave is exactly what I have observed myself; mainly that tourists come here, “have fun” the week or two weeks they’re here by exploiting young men or women eager to earn some money. Perhaps I should be more explicit about the nature of the exploitation tourists bring here. The disturbing fact is that many tourists (mainly from Europe – I don’t want to generalize but this is a consistent occurrence unfortunately) come here and rent “guides” who are nothing more than sex workers. Most of the sex workers, believe it or not, are young men, who have no good education or job prospect. And it is the women from Europe (mostly) who come here to have fun with these young, hungry men. If pedophile men from Europe and North America go to Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam to have sex with children, women from Europe and North America come here to Zanzibar to do the same (although technically consensual) thing. You know that shy woman (perhaps her name is Cheryl) sitting in the next cubical workstation who seems to avoid humanity is not so shy when she takes her vacation in Zanzibar.

If Zanzibaris don’t find a way to preserve their island’s uniqueness from tourist’s thrash, they are in a deep shit.

Zanzibari pizza being prepared

Zanzibari pizza being prepared

Categories: Africa Related, East Africa, tanzania, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

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