June 28, 2010
The Black and the White of It
By ROGER COHEN
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa is a country where race is not the subtext of existence. It’s the text.
I was at dinner the other night with my cousins, white South Africans divided as to whether they still have prospects here. The elder men said things like, “I now feel like a visitor,” or “The future is for the blacks.” They see race relations worsening, corruption spreading and inefficiency rampant.
Not the youngest among them, a law student in his mid-20s, proud African, brimming with indignation at his elders’ perceived conceits: “Is it race or is it class?” he asked. “What is freedom to them?” he demanded, voice rising. “They want houses, schools, sewage. They want justice.”
Conversation turned to this tidbit: Under apartheid, blacks could not be bricklayers because the job was classified as whites-only skilled labor. The student’s mother expressed anger, prompting a furious rebuke from him: “Why are you angry now when you weren’t 30 years ago? Your anger’s useless now. Drop it. When it would have been useful you didn’t have it. Now it’s payback time for them.”
“They” are the eternal other, of course, the blacks in this white conversation, the whites in mirror-image black conversations.
There are plenty of iterations of “they” in a land where the 1950 Population Registration Act (evil legislation is always innocuously named) ran a fine comb through types of inferior being, among them Indians and mixed-race “coloreds.” Almost a generation from apartheid’s end, South Africa is struggling to compose these differences into something foreign to nature: a sustainable rainbow.
The world has much at stake in this quest. South Africa — 79 percent black, 9.5 percent white and 11.5 percent Asian or mixed race — is the ground zero chosen by history and geography for the dilemma of otherness, the violent puzzle of race with its reflexive suspicions and repetitive eruptions.
At moments, as during this first African World Cup, the rainbow shimmers. This was supposed to be the competition of smash-and-grab and of machete attacks. Many stayed away.
The fear merchants, always hard at work, have been proved wrong. German grandmas do not lie savaged on the road to Rustenburg.
Unity has unfurled, calm broken out. Smiles crease black and white faces alike. To the point that the most asked question here is: Will this moving honeymoon last beyond the World Cup?
It’s a good question. South Africa, in the run-up, smoldered, crime eating at its heart like a surrogate for the post-apartheid bloodletting that never was.
There was the murder in April of the white supremacist Eugène Terre’Blanche, hacked to death after the leader of the African National Congress (A.N.C.) Youth League, Julius Malema, revived the “kill the Boer” line of black struggle. There were Malema’s endorsements of Zimbabwe’s disaster merchant, Robert Mugabe. There was the unhappy sight of the A.N.C., torn between its liberation mythology and the mundanity of governance, gripped by paralysis as unemployment climbed over 25 percent and its “tenderpreneurs” prospered.
A tenderpreneur is an insider pocketing millions from rigged government tenders for everything from air-conditioners to locomotives. The word denotes failure, that of black economic empowerment, which has come to mean much for the few and little for the many. If the powerful steal with front companies, why should the weak not steal with guns?
Yes, as my young cousin said, blacks want justice, from other blacks as well. If President Jacob Zuma does not use the lessons of this World Cup — that color lines can blur, that things can get done — to build momentum for reform, he will have failed. He must put the tenderpreneurs out of business. He must reverse the crumbling of education. Jobs do not lie in digging more stuff out the ground. The knowledge economy is where opportunity resides.
Is it class or race? South Africa is not going to rainbow race away, but it can bring blacks out of their miserable shacks and educate them — if its leaders are prepared to lead by example. I say it’s more class than race.
I was driving the other day with my colleague, Jere Longman, who mentioned that growing up in a small town in Lousiana in the early 1960s, he would see a “whites only” sign outside the launderette and imagine that meant white clothes alone. Almost a century separated the end of slavery from the end of Jim Crow segregation in the United States. Sixteen years have passed since the first free elections here.
There are no quick fixes. But I take heart from the African patriotism of my young cousin. I take heart from another 20-something white South African, a young woman who told me: “I am so happy for Ghana and so proud to be an African.”
That was after Ghana, lone African World Cup survivor, booted the United States out, a victory dedicated by its players to Africa, Nelson Mandela’s “proud continent.” We all know what Ghana long shipped to America: slaves.
It’s a pity President Obama couldn’t find time to be here in the land where race is text and the way it gets written will affect everyone’s future.
In this year’s World Cup, “The Big Man” model of both soccer and Africa has proved to be outdated.
July 1, 2010
Özil the German
By ROGER COHEN
JOHANNESBURG — No player has fascinated me more at the World Cup than Mesut Özil. He has the languid self-assurance on the ball that comes only to the greatest footballers. Where others are hurried, he has time. He conjures space with a shrug. His left foot can, with equal ease, caress a pass or unleash a shot.
Özil, at 21, oozes class. He’s a German. That’s part of my fascination. Özil’s a Muslim German of Turkish descent who believes he has married traditions: “My technique and feeling for the ball is the Turkish side to my game. The discipline, attitude and always-give-your-all is the German part.”
The technique undid Ghana in the group stage with a fizzing volleyed goal. The attitude left England’s Gareth Barry for dead as Özil burst down the left wing to set up Germany’s fourth goal in its demolition of English illusions. Poor England, consumed by inhibition before Özil’s invention!
Özil’s a German but only just. The years I spent in Berlin in the late 1990s were marked by angry debate as the country moved from a “Volkisch” view of nationality — one based on the bloodlines of the German Volk — to a more liberal law that gave millions of immigrants an avenue to citizenship for the first time. Özil would not have been German until the immigration law of 1999.
It’s this legislation that has birthed the Germany of Özil and his teammates Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng (Tunisian and Ghanaian fathers respectively) and Cacau (naturalized Brazilian) and Dennis Aogo (Nigerian descent). The Volk have spread wings to hoist Germany into the last eight.
There’s a third reason, beyond brilliance and birthright, for my fascination with Özil. He is probably only on the team because “The Big Man” of the German squad, Michael Ballack, was injured a few weeks before the tournament.
Similarly, Ghana has advanced to the last eight — despite that defeat to Germany — even in the absence of its “Big Man,” the injured star Michael Essien. As for Uruguay and Paraguay, two other quarter-finalists, they had no “Big Man” to begin with.
Perhaps it’s not a bad thing that the first African World Cup has seen stars fail where they were not backed by teamwork. Cameroon, with its Big Man Samuel Eto’o of Inter Milan, and Ivory Coast, with Big Man Dider Drogba of Chelsea, are both out. Ghana, meanwhile, has endured through discipline and coordination.
Africa needs more of that kind of spirit. Since decolonization began in the second half of the 20th century, it has too often been the continent of “The Big Man.” That was the sobriquet V.S. Naipaul gave in “A Bend in the River” to the African dictator plundering the city of Kisangani in Congo through mercenaires granted license to run amok.
The colonizer’s plundering merely gave way to the Big Man’s impunity in stripping Africa’s assets bare.
Perhaps the most glaring examples have been in Zimbabwe and Congo, potentially wealthy nations that have hurtled backward. Robert Mugabe has single-handedly dismembered Zimbabwe, a wanton act hauntingly evoked in Peter Godwin’s “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun.”
In Congo, over a 30-year dictatorship that defined kleptocracy (Western-supported kleptocracy at that), Mobutu Sese Seko spread the wreckage that has provided the fissured stage for the recent slaughter of millions. Between games I’ve been reading Tim Butcher’s extraordinary “Blood River,” a riveting chronicle of the unraveling of a nation told through an impossible journey across Congo. Read it to understand African tragedy.
So I’m pleased that in this World Cup, the Big Men have proved dispensable. And I’m pleased it’s being held in a country that shares African problems but has not yielded to Africa’s curse.
South Africa has the mineral wealth — 90 percent of the world’s platinum reserves and 40 percent of its gold — that has proved the “resource curse” of African nations including Nigeria. It has what Moeletsi Mbeki, the brother of former president Thabo Mbeki, described to me as “a very warped society” born in part of big mining, with its single-sex hostels for laborers torn from their families and thrust into those incubators of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It is still a land where poverty is racialized.
But it has resisted the devastating “Big Man” syndrome. Over the past 16 years, South Africa has had four free elections and four presidents. A robust judiciary and free press frustrate attempts to cow them. The interaction, under the law, of various interest groups holds South Africa back from the brink. This is its great lesson for a continent where, by 2025, one in four of every person under 24 will live.
“Ke Nako!” — “It’s Time!” — goes the chorus of the most haunting song of this exuberant World Cup: “Now it’s time to unite as black and white to be the pride of Africa’s might.” Yes, it’s time for an end to the African Big Man who trampled that pride.
When I lived in Germany, a Social Democrat once told me that the country’s ultimate victory over Hitler would lie in the reconstitution of the Jewish community, then being pursued by luring Jews of the former Soviet Union. I always thought that was a vain, slightly kitschy idea. But the Germany of Özil and Aogo is such a victory over the Big Man who destroyed Europe.
The smoking gun of Somalia
July 18, 2010
Last Sunday's suicide bombing in Uganda is a clear sign that the world cannot ignore the failed state of Somalia much longer. While the War on Terror has focused on South Asia and Iraq, jihadist outfits in the Horn of Africa have grown largely unchecked and now look to be expanding.
At least 74 people, including a few foreigners, died last Sunday at a rugby club and a restaurant in Uganda's capital, Kampala, after a pair of explosions devastated crowds watching the World Cup final on TV. Reportedly, the head of a Somali was found at one scene while further investigations turned up an unused suicide vest complete with explosives.
Al-Shabab, a Somalian terror group with links to al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility. Based in the southern part of the dismembered remnants of what used to be Somalia, al-Shabab was formerly a part of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a fundamentalist organization which ruled much of the country's southern and central portions before being defeated in early 2007 by Ethiopia and Somalia's weak internationally backed Transitional Federal Government (TFR).
After the losses and a period underground, al-Shabab emerged as a power in its own right and has been consolidating its grip on Somalia's southern reaches since 2008 through terror attacks and military operations.
There hasn't been much to stand in the group's way. Ethiopian troops withdrew in 2009 while the TFR is so feeble it can barely hang on to the few scraps of the country it maintains with outside help. While the TFR has soldiers
of its own, it relies heavily on Burundian and Ugandan troops serving in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia for support.
The attacks reflect this state of affairs. The restaurant is Ethiopian while the rugby club is allegedly a gathering place for Ugandan officers. Somalia's seemingly endless civil war has metastasized beyond the borders of its ruined birthplace.
This is a problem both because East Africa is so unstable and because the rest of the world cares so little. Ethiopia and al-Shabab loathe each other, but the Ethiopians' attention is divided by their long-standing hatred of Eritrea, which has been accused of supporting the jihadists and by fighting in their own country with Muslim rebels who inhabit an area bordering Somalia.
Somalia is separated from Yemen only by the narrow Gulf of Aden, making cross-border links and resupply easy. Festering hatreds between Muslims and the Christians who comprise majorities in most of Somalia's neighbours could also lead to trouble.
Aside from a few air strikes, the United States has mostly stayed aloof from Somalia, while others have done even less.
East Africa looks doomed to chaos unless outside countries make a concerted effort to stabilize it -- the sooner the better.
August 5, 2010
New Kenya Constitution Passes, Early Results Show
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s new constitution, written to alleviate longstanding problems that have undermined good governance here for decades, received overwhelming approval from voters in a referendum on Wednesday, according to provisional results released by election officials on Thursday morning.
Sixty-seven percent of voters approved the constitution, while 33 percent voted against, with turnout as high as 80 percent in some areas, the results showed.
“YES IT IS” was the giant headline in The Standard, one of Kenya’s leading newspapers.
The new constitution is expected to be a crucial turning point in this country’s postcolonial history by finally addressing many of the political issues that have dogged this East African powerhouse since independence in 1963.
President Mwai Kibaki held a boisterous victory rally in Nairobi on Thursday afternoon and told the crowd of thousands that the new constitution would be “our shield and defender as we strive to conquer poverty, disease and ignorance.”
“I see a great people ready to build a new and prosperous future,” he said.
Voting, which began before dawn on Wednesday, was peaceful across the country. The high turnout had been expected because of the intense campaigning for and against the constitution over the past several months. But the vote was shadowed by memories of the disputed 2007 election, which set off ethnically fueled clashes across the country that left more than 1,000 people dead.
To prevent any sort of repeat, the Kenyan government overhauled the entire election process, and sent thousands of police officers to keep order in rural areas.
The new constitution curtails the powers of an imperial-style presidency, paves the way for much-needed land reform and gives Kenyans a bill of rights. The combination that could spell the beginning of the end of one of the most corrupt, deeply entrenched political systems on the continent.
Earlier in the day, the leaders of the “no” campaign conceded defeat, with just a few grumbles.
William Ruto, the minister of higher education who had been leading the opposition to the new constitution, said that “as democrats, we accept the verdict of the people of Kenya.”
At the same time, he complained about the use of state resources to promote the new constitution and about “outside forces” — a thinly-veiled reference to the American government giving civic education grants to Kenyan groups that campaigned openly for the “yes” vote.
The early referendum results showed that political leaders still held enormous sway over their ethnic communities, an influence that many observers said was exploited during the 2007 election and stoked the violence.
On Wednesday, in some polling places in strongholds of leaders who were supporting the constitution, the “yes” votes were leading by more than 99 percent. The mirror image was true in strongholds of the politicians who had been opposing the constitution. In their areas, upwards of 90 percent of the people had voted “no.”
In late July, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania announced that his government intended to go ahead in 2012 with plans to build a highway running from Arusha in north-central Tanzania to Musoma on Lake Victoria. No one disputes the economic value of developing highways and other public works in Tanzania. But this planned highway includes a potentially tragic pitfall: it cuts straight through the heart of the northern Serengeti, one of the greatest national parks on the planet.
It would bisect the route of the great migration, the annual movement of more than a million wildebeest and other herds. President Kikwete has promised that this would only be a gravel road, and has said that he would never build anything that could harm the ecosystem.
But it would be a commercial highway nonetheless, and it would link two populous regions of Tanzania. Even a gravel road across the northern Serengeti would bring an immediate flood of traffic, instantly fragmenting the ecosystem and causing enormous potential for human-animal conflict in the form of accidents and poaching.
Tanzania’s reputation as a conservation leader in Africa has depended in large part on its protection of Serengeti. And if the government so chose, it could still protect the integrity of the park and safeguard the millions of animals that live in it and migrate through it. There is an alternative southern route for the Arusha-Musoma highway, one that would link more unserved communities than the northern route and still leave Serengeti intact.
Two things are needed. The first is a clear answer to a basic question: Why does President Kikwete support this highway when its potential impact on the ecosystem and on tourism — a major component of the Tanzanian economy — could be so dire? This is not a question the Kikwete government is eager to see pursued, especially by Tanzanians.
What is also needed is international pressure on the governments and nongovernmental organizations that would normally help finance this kind of economic development. That includes China, which plays an enormous role in African development. This is not a choice between economic development and protecting Serengeti. It is a choice between the wrong kind of development and the right kind.
September 1, 2010
In Somali Civil War, Both Sides Embrace Pirates
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
HOBYO, Somalia — Ismail Haji Noor, a local government official, recently arrived in this notorious pirate den with a simple message: we need your help.
With the Shabab militant group sweeping across Somalia and the American-backed central government teetering on life support, Mr. Noor stood on a beach flanked by dozens of pirate gunmen, two hijacked ships over his shoulder, and announced, “From now on we’ll be working together.”
He hugged several well-known pirate bosses and called them “brother” and later explained that while he saw the pirates as criminals and eventually wanted to rehabilitate them, right now the Shabab were a much graver threat.
“Squished between the two, we have to become friends with the pirates,” Mr. Noor said. “Actually, this is a great opportunity.”
For years, Somalia’s heavily armed pirate gangs seemed content to rob and hijack on the high seas and not get sucked into the messy civil war on land. Now, that may be changing, and the pirates are taking sides — both sides.
While local government officials in Hobyo have deputized pirate gangs to ring off coastal villages and block out the Shabab, down the beach in Xarardheere, another pirate lair, elders said that other pirates recently agreed to split their ransoms with the Shabab and Hizbul Islam, another Islamist insurgent group.
The militant Islamists had originally vowed to shut down piracy in Xarardheere, claiming it was unholy, but apparently the money was too good. This seems to be beginning of the West’s worst Somali nightmare, with two of the country’s biggest growth industries — piracy and Islamist radicalism — joining hands.
Somalia’s pirates are famous opportunists — “we just want the money” is their mantra — so it is not clear how long these new alliances of convenience will last. But clan leaders along Somalia’s coast say that something different is in the salty air and that the pirates are getting more ambitious, shrewdly reinvesting their booty in heavy weapons and land-based militias, and now it may be impossible for such a large armed force — the pirates number thousands of men — to stay on the sidelines.
“You can’t ignore the pirates anymore,” said Mohamed Aden, a clan leader in central Somalia. “They’re getting more and more muscle. They used to invest their money in just boats and going out to sea but now they’re building up their military side.”
October 30, 2010
Serengeti Road Plan Lined With Prospect and Fears
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK, Tanzania — Every spring, out here on this endless sheet of yellow grass, two million wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and other grazers march north in search of greener pastures, with lions and hyenas stalking them and vultures circling above.
It is called the Great Migration, and it is widely considered one of the most spectacular assemblies of animal life on the planet.
But how much longer it will stay that way is another matter. Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete, plans to build a national highway straight through the Serengeti park, bisecting the migration route and possibly sending a thick stream of overloaded trucks and speeding buses through the traveling herds.
Scientists and conservation groups paint a grim picture of what could happen next: rare animals like rhinos getting knocked down as roadkill; fences going up; invasive seeds sticking to car tires and being spread throughout the park; the migration getting blocked and the entire ecosystem becoming irreversibly damaged.
“The Serengeti ecosystem is one of the wonders of the planet,” said Anne Pusey, an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University. “It must be preserved.”
But it is election time in Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world, and Mr. Kikwete is embroiled in what political analysts say is the feistiest presidential race this country has seen. Few things symbolize progress better than a road; this road in particular, which will connect marginalized areas of northern Tanzania, has been one of Mr. Kikwete’s campaign promises.
“The decision’s been made,” said Salvator Rweyemamu, the president’s spokesman. “If this government comes back into power — and we will — the road will be built.”
He said Tanzania had done more to protect wildlife than most countries, and he added, with clear frustration at outsiders, that “you guys always talk about animals, but we need to think about people.”
Hundreds of thousands of people here depend on tourism for a living. And the Serengeti is like a giant A.T.M. for Tanzania, attracting more than 100,000 visitors each year, producing millions of dollars in park fees and helping drive Tanzania’s billion-dollar safari business, an economic pillar. “If anything bad happens to the Serengeti,” said Charles Ngereza, a Tanzanian tour operator, “we’re finished.”
Most Tanzanians scrape by on the equivalent of a few dollars a day, so economic development is a pressing issue in the election, scheduled for Sunday. But corruption is a growing — and related — concern.
Mr. Kikwete’s ruling party has been widely accused of siphoning millions of dollars out of the treasury by awarding contracts to ghost companies. Perhaps no one in the campaign has better channeled voters’ frustrations over being poor while the ruling class is getting rich than Willibrod Slaa, a former Roman Catholic priest and legislator who has crusaded against corruption for years and is now running for president, along with five other challengers.
Tanzania’s government is not accustomed to upstarts. The governing party, the Party of the Revolution, was formed in the 1970s as a continuation of the Socialist-leaning political party that brought Tanganyika independence in 1961, and it has dominated Tanzanian politics ever since.
But the government now seems to be worried. It recently threatened to close independent newspapers, and Mr. Kikwete refused to debate Mr. Slaa on television, sending his campaign manager instead. The government is also delaying opening universities until after the election, which means many students will not be able to vote and will be scattered across the country, not concentrated on campuses, should there be any trouble.
Mr. Kikwete’s green guards, the governing party’s youth wing, have attacked journalists and opposition supporters. Tanzania’s police, who rarely confront civil disobedience, have tear-gassed rowdy opposition rallies. This is one of the few African countries that has escaped civil war and ethnic violence, but some Tanzanians now wonder if their tradition of harmony will be tarnished.
“There’s no way this government can win this election in a clean shot,” said Azaveli Lwaitama, a political analyst at the University of Dar es Salaam, who predicted vote-rigging and possibly turmoil. “The masses are discontented. They’re seething for change.”
That may be true in the towns, but in rural areas, where most Tanzanians live, the president still has plenty of support. In Engare Sero, a village of 6,000 people, mostly Maasai herders, just about everyone interviewed said they would vote for him.
Engare Sero lies along the proposed 300-mile highway route, already marked by red paint on rocks. The only roads out here right now are spine-crunching gravel tracks. People here not only want the highway, said chief Loshipa Sadira, “but we’ve been praying for it for years.”
He rattled off the reasons: cheaper goods; getting to the hospital faster; being better connected to towns; and having a higher chance of someday getting electricity and cellphone service.
It is hard to argue with him. Mr. Loshipa and his family eke out a living herding cows in what is essentially a desert. There are fertile grasslands nearby. But they are mostly reserved for the animals. This policy goes back to colonial times, when Maasai were summarily evicted from their lands for the sake of conservation. It has left many Maasai destitute, with young men now converging in the towns to hustle tanzanite, a semiprecious local stone, or to seek poor-paying jobs as night guards.
None of the leading conservation groups pressing Mr. Kikwete to reconsider say they are trying to block the national highway altogether; they just oppose it running through the Serengeti, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. Grass-roots groups are mobilizing around the world, circulating petitions and setting up Web sites, like savetheserengeti.org.
Mr. Kikwete recently promised that the roughly 30-mile stretch through the park would not be tarmac but packed dirt, like the mainly tourist roads already in the park. But conservation groups say any major road would allow poachers to quickly get in, shoot the animals from the highway and get out.
Scientists say the ecological damage is very hard to predict but potentially enormous. During the annual migration, the wildebeest produce more than 800,000 pounds of dung — per day — which nourishes the grasslands. If the highway fragments that migration and makes the wildebeest turn back, “the whole ecosystem could crash,” said Bernard Kissui, a research scientist for the African Wildlife Foundation.
He spoke of a “cascading effect” on the lions, leopards, birds, plants, all interconnected in an ecological web that has been relatively undisturbed for eons.
The World Bank looked into financing such a highway around 20 years ago and rejected it, partly for environmental reasons. Western scientists have recently come up with an alternative route south of the park, which they say will link up more towns and spare the wildlife.
But the Tanzanian government is not biting. Tanzanian officials say that the original route through the park is better, that construction will start soon and that if no donors will pay the approximately half billion dollars for the road, they will build it themselves.
“We are Tanzanians,” Mr. Rweyemamu said. “We know where the people are. The research has been done.”
December 18, 2010
Zimbabwe Health Care, Paid With Peanuts
By CELIA W. DUGGER
CHIDAMOYO, Zimbabwe — People lined up on the veranda of the American mission hospital here from miles around to barter for doctor visits and medicines, clutching scrawny chickens, squirming goats and buckets of maize. But mostly, they arrived with sacks of peanuts on their heads.
The hospital’s cavernous chapel is now filled with what looks like a giant sand dune of unshelled nuts. The hospital makes them into peanut butter that is mixed into patients’ breakfast porridge, spread on teatime snacks and melted into vegetables at dinnertime.
“We literally are providing medical services for peanuts!” exclaimed Kathy McCarty, a nurse from California who has run this rural hospital, 35 miles from the nearest tarred road, since 1981.
The hospital, along with countless Zimbabweans, turned to barter in earnest in 2008 when inflation peaked at what the International Monetary Fund estimates was an astonishing 500 billion percent, wiping out life savings, making even trillion-dollar notes worthless and propelling the health and education systems into a vertiginous collapse.
Since then, a power-sharing government has formed after years of decline under President Robert Mugabe, and the economy has stabilized. Zimbabwe abandoned its currency last year, replacing it with the American dollar, and inflation has fallen to a demure 3.6 percent. Teachers are back in their classrooms and nurses are back on their wards.
But a recent United Nations report suggests how far Zimbabwe has to go. It is still poorer than any of the 183 countries the United Nations has income data for. It is also one of only three countries in the world to be worse off now on combined measures of health, education and income than it was 40 years ago, the United Nations found.
For many rural Zimbabweans, cash remains so scarce that the 85-bed Chidamoyo Christian Hospital has continued to allow its patients to barter. Studies have found that fees are a major barrier to medical care in rural areas, where most Zimbabweans live.
“It’s very difficult to get this famous dollar that people are talking about,” said Esther Chirasasa, 30, who hiked eight miles through the bush to the hospital for treatment of debilitating arthritis. Her son, Cain, 13, walked at her side carrying a sack of peanuts to pay for her care.
Mrs. Chirasasa said her family of seven was nearly out of the food they grew on their small plot, so she needed to get her pain under control to work in other farmers’ fields to feed her children.
Bartering helps plug some of the holes. A May survey of more than 4,000 rural households found that each of them, typically a family of six, spent an average of only $8 for all their needs in April, the cost of a couple of cappuccinos in New York. To help them get by, more than a third of households surveyed in September 2009 had used bartering.
Still, United Nations agencies estimate that 1.7 million of Zimbabwe’s 11 million people will need food aid in the coming months. And Mr. Mugabe’s continued domination of political life, along with persistent violations of the rule of law and human rights, have deterred foreign aid and investment needed to rebuild the nation’s shattered economy, analysts say.
Here in this rustic outpost with no phone service and often no electricity, the Chidamoyo hospital and the people who rely on it have entered an unwritten pact to resist the tide of death that has carried away so many. Life expectancy in Zimbabwe, plagued by AIDS and poverty, has fallen to 47 years from 61 years over the past quarter century.
Patients provide the crops they grow and the animals they raise — food that feeds the thousands of patients who use the hospital — and the hospital tends to their wounds, treats their illnesses and delivers their babies. Its two doctors and 15 nurses see about 6,000 patients a month and have put 2,000 people with AIDS on life-saving antiretroviral medicines.
Even during the hyperinflation of 2008, when government hospitals ceased to function as the salaries of their workers shriveled, the Chidamoyo hospital stayed open by giving its staff members food that patients had bartered.
“People are helped very well and the staff cares about the patients,” said Monica Mbizo, 22, who arrived with stomach pains and traded three skinny, black-feathered chickens for treatment.
The hospital, founded over four decades ago by American missionaries, from the Christian Church and Churches of Christ, receives limited support from a government that is itself hurting for revenue. The hospital also gets up to $10,000 a month from American and British churches, enabling it to charge patients far less in cash or goods than the fees at most government facilities. The hospital charges $1 to see the doctor — or a quarter bucket of peanuts — while a government hospital typically charges $4, in cash only.
Short of cash like the people it serves, the hospital practices a level of thrift unheard of in the United States. Workers and volunteers steam latex gloves to sterilize them for reuse, filling the fingers with water to ensure against leaks. They remove the cotton balls from thousands of pill bottles to swab patients’ arms before injections. And they collect the tissue-thin pages of instructions from the same bottles for use as toilet paper.
But there are limits to what even stringent economies can achieve. For most of the past year, the hospital did not have enough money to stock blood. Ms. McCarty said women who hemorrhaged after giving birth or experiencing ruptured ectopic pregnancies were referred to bigger hospitals, but often they had no blood either. Eight women died, she said. Just recently, the United Nations has begun paying for blood at the hospital to improve women’s odds of surviving.
Standing over an anesthetized woman before a Caesarean section, Dr. Vernon Murenje recalled how frightening it was to operate without blood in stock. “You’re operating,” he said, “but then at the back of your mind, you’ll be thinking, ‘What if we have significant blood loss?’ ”
As he prepared to make the incision, the hospital was in the midst of almost two weeks without power. Its old generator, already used when the hospital bought it 20 years ago, lacked enough juice to run the X-ray machine or to keep the florescent lights from flickering. It was turned on just before the Caesarean section. The air-conditioner coughed weakly to life in the stifling room.
When a boy emerged, Ms. McCarty cried, “Welcome to Zimbabwe!” But the newborn made no sound. She pounded his back and suctioned his nose until he let out a cry like a quavering baby bird.
“Oh, you finally realized you were born in Zimbabwe,” she said. “He thought he was born in South Africa, and he was happy.”
Postscript: The Community Presbyterian Church of Ringwood, N.J., has raised $24,000, and the Rotary Club of Sebastopol, Calif., contributed $7,000 to buy the hospital a generator.
This article is of particular significance in the context of the Imamat's involvement in cultural activities in Northern Mali. Below is an excerpt of a recent interview of MHI where he made his remark about Mali.
Engel: We are meeting in a park you have renovated in Mali. Why Mali?
January 1, 2011
Mali Tackles Al Qaeda and Drug Traffic
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
BAMAKO, Mali — The tourism minister, N’Diaye Bah, visibly bristled when asked about the possibility that Al Qaeda’s North African offshoot might kidnap foreigners in fabled Timbuktu or anywhere across Mali’s northern desert.
France spread such rumors, he insisted. “They want to create this security issue that does not exist,” he said, wagging his finger. “When you come to Mali, there is no aggression against tourists. How can you say there is insecurity in this country?”
Yet the United States and French Embassies, among other foreign missions, explicitly warn against traveling to Timbuktu and indeed the entire desert that sweeps across roughly two-thirds of this landlocked West African nation. A French Embassy map colors the entire north red, a no-go area.
This uneasy, public standoff has existed for some time, reflective of Mali’s insistence that it is not a font of violence like some of its neighbors, notably Algeria. But in a sign that Mali both acknowledges the issue and seeks to address it, the country is rolling out a new development plan, hoping to tackle the problem at its roots.
The dearth of jobs and prospects in the north helps drive the region’s twin ills — narcotics trafficking and Islamic radicalism. By setting up military barracks, infirmaries, schools, shopping areas and animal markets in 11 northern towns, the Malian government hopes to establish a more visible government presence, foster economic activity and form a bulwark against lawlessness.
“The ultimate goal of the project is to eradicate” Al Qaeda’s affiliates in Mali, said Adam Tchiam, a leading Malian columnist.
Mali does not deny that an estimated 200 to 300 fighters from Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (Maghreb being the Arabic term for west) have found a perch in their desert, although most are believed to be Mauritanians and Algerians. But Mali often depicts the terrorists as a problem generated elsewhere.
“We are hostages to a situation that does not concern us,” news reports quoted President Amadou Toumani Touré as saying.
Behind the scenes, however, the president has been more forthcoming. In a meeting with the American ambassador, Gillian A. Milovanovic, and senior American military officers last year, he said the extremists “have had difficulty getting their message across to a generally reluctant population,” according to an embassy cable obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations. Still, Mr. Touré acknowledged, “they have had some success in enlisting disaffected youth to their ranks.”
In recent years, the Qaeda affiliate has left a trail of violence across Mauritania, Niger, Algeria and Mali, taking aim at tourists, expatriate workers, local residents and security forces. Hostages taken in the porous border regions have been executed or ransomed. Five French and two African workers kidnapped in Niger last September are believed to be held in northern Mali.
The Algerians and some Western diplomats accuse the Malians of being too soft on terrorism, an opinion reflected in the cables obtained by WikiLeaks. But Mali’s defenders argue that the regional problem is far larger than any one poor country can address.
To that end, Mauritania recently moved uninvited troops permanently across the border in Mali to eradicate a Qaeda encampment, diplomats said, and Mali did not object.
For his part, President Touré has been trying to forge a regional consensus on the issue, but the leaked cables and diplomats suggest that Algeria has been reluctant to take part. Algerian officials regularly criticize the presence of French and American training forces, saying they constitute another threat.
Mali’s own plan faces two main problems, one domestic and one foreign. Tuareg rebels fought the government in the desert for decades, with the 1992 peace treaty specifying that the government forces completely withdraw from the north. Deploying them there risks reigniting a conflict that still simmers.
Even so, some northerners endorse almost any government action in the harsh environment, where battling sand alone constitutes a daily struggle.
“There are villages that have never seen an administrator, never seen a nurse, never seen a teacher,” said Amboudi Side Ahmed, a businessman in the capital, Bamako, who was raised in the north. “You could stay in a village up there for 10 years and never see a government official.”
Then there is the question of whether these northern hubs are even feasible, given the reluctance of foreign aid workers to venture north and finance projects there. “The president says the poor protect Al Qaeda because they do not have any means,” said Mr. Tchiam, the columnist. “Where are the means?”
While foreign governments recognize that the north needs development, the lack of security hampers it. American Embassy personnel, for example, can travel north only with express permission of the ambassador, which she said she rarely granted.
“Development is critical in dealing with the north,” Ambassador Milovanovic said, but “so long as security is unstable, it is hard to get those projects going.”
“We cannot just throw money up there.”
After her own visits, she has tried to meet local requests by offering training for midwives or supplying four-wheel-drive ambulances. As part of its broader efforts to counter extremism in northern Mali, the United States also underwrote a series of radio soap operas whose plot twists emphasized the dangers of extremism.
Beyond that, Washington provides basic military training, sometimes even more basic than envisioned. An exercise on what to do when the driver of a vehicle is shot dead revealed a startling truth — most Malian soldiers did not know how to drive. Lessons were instituted. But Malian officials want more.
“How many people in the north listen to the radio? That is never going to be strong enough to change their views on A.Q.M.I. or religious fundamentalism,” said Mohamed Baby, a presidential adviser working on fixing the northern problem, using the initials of the French name for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. “We need to deal with development, with the lack of resources.”
Qaeda fighters have sometimes ingratiated themselves by paying inflated prices for food, fuel and other goods. Diplomats believe that the extremists have also informed local smugglers that they will pay a premium for kidnapped Westerners.
Aside from collecting ransoms for hostages, Al Qaeda is believed to be financing its operations by exacting tolls from drug smugglers and traffickers in arms, humans and illicit goods. Since at least the 10th century, Timbuktu has been a crossroads for trade routes across the Sahara, and the modern age is no different.
A series of drug-laden planes make the loop from South America to the Sahel, but numbers are elusive, said Alexandre Schmidt of the United Nations drug office. In one notorious 2009 episode, a Boeing 727 believed to have ferried cocaine from Latin America was set on fire after it got stuck in the sand.
Both the drug smugglers and Al Qaeda offer young men a quick route to money and symbols of prestige like a pickup truck. The government plan has no easy, short-term ways to compete, officials concede.
“They can recruit young people and undermine both the economy and the religion,” Mr. Baby said of the militants. “We have to build up some kind of resistance.”
January 8, 2011
Mali City Rankled by Rules for Life in Spotlight
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
DJENNÉ , Mali — Abba Maiga stood in his dirt courtyard, smoking and seething over the fact that his 150-year-old mud-brick house is so culturally precious he is not allowed to update it — no tile floors, no screen doors, no shower.
“Who wants to live in a house with a mud floor?” groused Mr. Maiga, a retired riverboat captain.
With its cone-shaped crenellations and palm wood drainage spouts, the grand facade seems outside time and helps illustrate why this ancient city in eastern Mali is an official World Heritage site.
But the guidelines established by Unesco, the cultural arm of the United Nations, which compiles the heritage list, demand that any reconstruction not substantially alter the original.
“When a town is put on the heritage list, it means nothing should change,” Mr. Maiga said. “But we want development, more space, new appliances — things that are much more modern. We are angry about all that.”
It is a cultural clash echoed at World Heritage sites across Africa and around the world. While it may be good for tourism, residents complain of being frozen in time like pieces in a museum — their lives proscribed so visitors can gawk.
“The issue in Djenné is about people getting comfort, using the right materials without compromising the architectural values,” said Lazare Eloundou Assomo, the chief of the African unit of Unesco’s World Heritage Center.
Mr. Assomo ticked off a list of sites facing similar tension, including the island of St.-Louis in neighboring Senegal, the island of Lamu in Kenya, the entire island of Mozambique off the coast of the nation by the same name, or Asian and European cities like Lyon, France.
Here in Djenné, the striking Great Mosque is what put the town on the map. It is the largest mud-brick structure in the world, so unique that it looks as if it might have landed from another planet, an imposing sand castle looming over the main square. The architectural style, known as Sudanese, is native to the Sahel.
A trio of unique minarets — square, tapering towers topped by pointed pillars and crowned by an ostrich egg — dominate the facade. Palm tree boards poked into the mosque in rows like toothpicks create a permanent scaffolding that allows residents to swarm over the building to replaster the mud, an annual February ritual involving the entire town.
Djenné is the less famous but better preserved sister city to Timbuktu. Both reached their zenith of wealth and power in the 16th century by sitting at the crossroads of Sahara trade routes for goods like gold, ivory and slaves.
The town was also a gateway that helped spread Islam regionally. When the king converted in the 13th century, he leveled his palace and built a mosque. Mali’s French colonizers eventually oversaw its reconstruction in 1907.
The Grand Mosque was again near collapse when the Agha Khan Foundation arrived to begin a $900,000 restoration project, said Josephine Dilario, one of two supervising architects. The annual replastering had more than doubled the width of the walls and added a yard of mud to the roof. It was too heavy, even with the forest of thick pillars inside the mosque supporting the high ceiling — one for each of the 99 names of God.
In 2006, the initial restoration survey ignited a riot. Protesters sacked the mosque’s interior, attacked city buildings and destroyed cars. The uprising was apparently rooted in the simmering tension among the 12,000 townsfolk, particularly the young, who felt forced to live in squalor while the mosque imam and a few prominent families raked in the benefits from tourism.
The frustration seems to have lingered. While the mosque graces the national seal, residents here appear markedly more sullen about tourism than in many other Malian cities. They often glower rather than smile, and they tend to either ask for money or stomp off when cameras are pointed in their direction.
With the mosque restoration nearing completion, the town is focusing attention on other critical problems — raw sewage and the restoration of the nearly 2,000 houses.
“There is a kind of tension, a difficulty that has to be resolved by not locking people into the traditional and authentic architecture,” said Samuel Sidibé, the director of Mali’s National Museum in Bamako, the capital.
“We have to find a way to evolve this architecture, to provide the basic necessities the community needs to live, and to do it in such a way that doesn’t compromise the quality of the mud-brick architecture, the characteristic at the heart of the city’s identity.”
Elhajj Diakaté, 54, and his brother inherited three houses from their father. Mr. Diakaté hates bending over to navigate the cramped entryways, he said, and no room is big enough to accommodate a double bed. Worse, his wives and his brother’s wives all want armoires, he said.
But a Dutch-led restoration team working to save more than 100 houses ruled out expanding any rooms for armoires, he said. So Mr. Diakaté evicted them and tore down a fat interior wall graced by two narrow arches. The entire house collapsed. The Dutch restorer wept when she saw it, he said.
Collapses are the main threat, because mud brick requires regular upkeep. Just four rainstorms washed away much of the newly restored plaster at the Grand Mosque, exposing the underlying cylindrical bricks, each about the size of a mayonnaise jar.
But the natural materials needed — like rice husks or tree paste to make the bricks impermeable — have become so expensive that the art of hand-shaping the bricks almost died out.
Djenné occupies a small island amid the inland delta of the Niger River and its tributaries. The water was a rich source of mud, until it receded during an extended drought in the 1970s. Masons used more sand, weakening the bricks. Hungry residents also ate rice husks rather than build with them.
Urban problems multiplied. A project to pipe water into the city failed to include drainage, so raw sewage fouls the unpaved streets. Trash dumps mar the river embankments. Garbage has even made its way into the bricks, with black plastic bags jutting from house walls. A faint rotting odor hangs in the background.
Tourists complained, and in 2008 Unesco warned the city that something had to be done, said Fane Yamoussa, director of the city’s cultural mission. Trash and sewage alone is not cause to be kicked off the World Heritage list, until they start affecting the architecture.
The problem, said N’Diaye Bah, Mali’s tourism minister, is modernizing the town without wrecking its ambiance. “If you destroy the heritage which people come to see, if you destroy 2,000 years of history, then the town loses its soul,” he said.
Djenné residents take pride in their heritage and recognize that the Unesco list helped make their city famous. Yet they wonder aloud about the point of staying on it, given the lack of tangible gains, if they are forced to live literally in mud.
Many homeowners want to keep the distinctive facades, but alter the interiors. Unesco guidelines prohibit the sweeping alterations they would like, however.
Mahamame Bamoye Traoré, the leader of the powerful mason’s guild, surveyed the cramped rooms of the retired river boat captain’s house, naming all the things he would change if the World Heritage rules were more flexible.
“If you want to help someone, you have to help him in a way that he wants; to force him to live in a certain way is not right,” he said, before lying on the mud floor of a windowless room that measured about 6 feet by 3 feet.
“This is not a room,” he said. “It might as well be a grave.”
January 15, 2011
Nigeria’s Promise, Africa’s Hope
By CHINUA ACHEBE
AFRICA has endured a tortured history of political instability and religious, racial and ethnic strife. In order to understand this bewildering, beautiful continent — and to grasp the complexity that is my home country, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation — I think it is absolutely important that we examine the story of African people.
In my mind, there are two parts to the story of the African peoples ... the rain beating us obviously goes back at least half a millennium. And what is happening in Africa today is a result of what has been going on for 400 or 500 years, from the “discovery” of Africa by Europe, through the period of darkness that engulfed the continent during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and through the Berlin Conference of 1885. That controversial gathering of the leading European powers, which precipitated the “scramble for Africa,” we all know took place without African consultation or representation. It created new boundaries in ancient kingdoms, and nation-states resulting in disjointed, inexplicable, tension-prone countries today.
During the colonial period, struggles were fought, exhaustingly, on so many fronts — for equality, for justice, for freedom — by politicians, intellectuals and common folk alike. At the end of the day, when the liberty was won, we found that we had not sufficiently reckoned with one incredibly important fact: If you take someone who has not really been in charge of himself for 300 years and tell him, “O.K., you are now free,” he will not know where to begin.
This is how I see the chaos in Africa today and the absence of logic in what we’re doing. Africa’s postcolonial disposition is the result of a people who have lost the habit of ruling themselves, forgotten their traditional way of thinking, embracing and engaging the world without sufficient preparation. We have also had difficulty running the systems foisted upon us at the dawn of independence by our colonial masters. We are like the man in the Igbo proverb who does not know where the rain began to beat him and so cannot say where he dried his body.
May 11, 2011
A Rite of Torture for Girls
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love.
It’s female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision — and it is prevalent across a broad swath of Africa and chunks of Asia as well. Mothers take their daughters at about age 10 to cutters like Maryan Hirsi Ibrahim, a middle-aged Somali woman who says she wields her razor blade on up to a dozen girls a day.
“This tradition is for keeping our girls chaste, for lowering the sex drive of our daughters,” Ms. Ibrahim told me. “This is our culture.”
Ms. Ibrahim prefers the most extreme form of genital mutilation, called infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision. And let’s not be dainty or euphemistic. This is a grotesque human rights abuse that doesn’t get much attention because it involves private parts and is awkward to talk about. So pardon the bluntness about what infibulation entails.
The girls’ genitals are carved out, including the clitoris and labia, often with no anesthetic. What’s left of the flesh is sewn together with three to six stitches — wild thorns in rural areas, or needle and thread in the cities. The cutter leaves a tiny opening to permit urination and menstruation. Then the girls’ legs are tied together, and she is kept immobile for 10 days until the flesh fuses together.
When the girl is married and ready for sex, she must be cut open by her husband or by a respected woman in the community.
All this is, of course, excruciating. It also leads to infections and urinary difficulties, and scar tissue can make childbirth more dangerous, increasing maternal mortality and injuries such as fistulas.
This is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses worldwide, with three million girls mutilated each year in Africa alone, according to United Nations estimates. A hospital here in Somaliland found that 96 percent of women it surveyed had undergone infibulation. The challenge is that this is a form of oppression that women themselves embrace and perpetuate.
“A young girl herself will want to be cut,” Ms. Ibrahim told me, vigorously defending the practice. “If a girl is not cut, it would be hard for her to live in the community. She would be stigmatized.”
Kalthoun Hassan, a young mother in an Ethiopian village near Somaliland, told me that she would insist on her daughters being cut and her sons marrying only girls who had been. She added: “It is God’s will for girls to be circumcised.”
For four decades, Westerners have campaigned against genital cutting, without much effect. Indeed, the Western term “female genital mutilation” has antagonized some African women because it assumes that they have been “mutilated.” Aid groups are now moving to add the more neutral term “female genital cutting” to their lexicon.
Is it cultural imperialism for Westerners to oppose genital mutilation? Yes, perhaps, but it’s also justified. Some cultural practices such as genital mutilation — or foot-binding or bride-burning — are too brutish to defer to.
But it is clear that the most effective efforts against genital mutilation are grass-roots initiatives by local women working for change from within a culture. In Senegal, Ghana, Egypt and other countries, such efforts have made headway.
Here among Somalis, reformers are trying a new tack: Instead of telling women to stop cutting their daughters altogether, they encourage them to turn to a milder form of genital mutilation (often involving just excision of part or all of the clitoris). They say that that would be a step forward and is much easier to achieve.
Although some Christians cut their daughters, it is more common among Muslims, who often assume that the tradition is Islamic. So a crucial step has been to get a growing number of Muslim leaders to denounce the practice as contrary to Islam, for their voices carry particular weight.
At one mosque in the remote town of Baligubadle, I met an imam named Abdelahi Adan, who bluntly denounces infibulation: “From a religious point of view, it is forbidden. It is against Islam.”
Maybe the tide is beginning to turn, ever so slowly, against infibulation, and at least we’re seeing some embarrassment about the practice. In Baligubadle, a traditional cutter named Mariam Ahmed told me that she had stopped cutting girls — apparently because she knows that foreigners disapprove. Then a nurse in the local health clinic told me that she had treated Ms. Ahmed’s own daughter recently for a horrific pelvic infection and urinary blockage after the girl was infibulated by her mother.
I confronted Ms. Ahmed. She grudgingly acknowledged cutting her daughter but quickly added that she had intended only a milder form of circumcision. She added quickly: “It was an accident.”
June 29, 2011
Yet Again in Sudan
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The world capital for crimes against humanity this month probably isn’t in Libya or Syria. Instead, it’s arguably the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, where we’re getting accounts of what appears to be a particularly vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing, murder and rape.
In its effort to preclude witnesses, the Sudanese government has barred humanitarian access to the area and threatened to shoot down United Nations helicopters. Sudanese troops even detained four United Nations peacekeepers and subjected them to “a mock firing squad,” the U.N. said.
An internal U.N. report says that Sudanese authorities are putting on uniforms of the Sudanese Red Crescent — a local version of the Red Cross — to order displaced people to move away from the United Nations compound. They were then herded into a stadium in the town of Kadugli, where their fate is uncertain.
Western aid workers have been forced to flee, and there are credible reports of government troops and government-backed Arab militias systematically hunting down members of the black-skinned Nuba ethnic group and killing them.
“Door-to-door executions of completely innocent and defenseless civilians, often by throat-cutting, by special internal security forces,” a Westerner with long experience in Sudan recounted in a terse e-mail that I posted on my blog. The writer, who was on the scene but has now left, does not want to be named for fear of losing access.
The Rt. Rev. Andudu Elnail, an Episcopal bishop for the Nuba Mountains area, told me that the Sudanese government has targeted many Nuban Christians. Armed forces burned down his cathedral, said Bishop Andudu, who is temporarily in the United States but remains in touch daily with people in the area.
“They’re killing educated people, especially black people, and they don’t like the church,” he said. Women are also being routinely raped, Bishop Andudu said, estimating that the death toll is “more than a few thousand” across the Sudanese state of South Kordofan.
This isn’t religious warfare, for many Nubans are Muslim and have also been targeted (including a mosque bombed the other day). The Sudanese military has been dropping bombs on markets and village wells.
The airstrip that I used when I visited the Nuba Mountains has now been bombed to keep humanitarians from flying in relief supplies; the markets I visited are now deserted, according to accounts smuggled out to monitoring groups. At least 73,000 people have fled their homes, the United Nations says.
A network of brave people on the ground, virtually all locals, have been secretly taking photos and transmitting them to human rights organizations in the West like the Enough Project. My hard drive overflows with photos of children bleeding from shrapnel.
Samuel Totten, a genocide scholar at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, visited the Nuba Mountains a year ago to gather historical accounts of the mass killings of Nuba by the Sudanese government in the 1990s. Now, he says, it is all beginning to happen again.
“As I watch the international community dither as the people of the Nuba Mountains are being killed, impunity reigns,” said Professor Totten.
The Sudanese government signed a framework agreement on Tuesday that could be a step to end the violence in South Kordofan, but there has been no deal on cessation of hostilities. Sudan has a long record of agreements reached and then breached (by the South as well as the North).
Sudan is preparing for a split on July 9, when South Sudan emerges as an independent nation after decades of on-and-off war between North and South. The Nuba Mountains will remain in the North when the South secedes, but many Nuba sided with the South during the war and still serve in a rebel military force dug into the mountains.
Most of the violence in the Nuba Mountains has been by northern Arabs against the Nuba, but there are also reports of rebel soldiers attacking Arab civilians. There is a risk that violence will spread to the neighboring state of Blue Nile and ultimately trigger a full-blown North-South war, although both sides want to avoid that.
It’s critical that the United Nations retain its presence. Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, already indicted for genocide in Darfur, is now visiting China, and Chinese leaders need to insist that he stop the killing of civilians and allow the U.N. to function.
The appeals from Nubans today feel like an anguished echo of those from Darfur eight years ago. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization that has long worked in the Nuba Mountains, said it received a message from a Nuban pastor: “With grief today, I want to inform you that the new church is burned down. We have lost everything. The house where my staff lives was looted, and the offices were burned. Many people fled from town, but some stayed. There is no food or water now.”
An African Adventure, and a Revelation
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
An American student and a teacher discover that economies are growing, more girls are in school and gains are being made in nutrition.
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso
TAKE an American student and an American teacher who have never been near Africa before, lead them on a crazed “win a trip” journey through five particularly wretched countries, and what do you get?
Well, a few mishaps. There was that angry mob in Mauritania — who would have thought our cameras would upset people that much? And that bull elephant in Niger was equally inhospitable, although the giraffes seemed amiable as they approached to gawk at the strange white humans.
We encountered plenty of heartbreak, like the baby we met in Niger who was going blind from lack of vitamin A. In some places, we felt the gnawing disquiet of insecurity. The rise of banditry and a Qaeda network in West Africa forced us to take an armed escort across one particularly lawless stretch of “highway.”
Yet my travel buddies and I also found something far more significant on our journey: hope. One of the best-kept secrets in the world today can be found in thatched-roof villages like the ones we passed through: Africa appears to be turning around.
After a half-century of underperformance, Africa’s economy is growing significantly faster than America’s or Europe’s. In the last decade, 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world were in sub-Saharan Africa, and, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted in a recent speech in Ethiopia, that proportion is expected to rise even higher in the next five years. The global economy has turned upside down: Europe risks imploding, while much of Africa is booming.
July 9, 2011
After Years of Struggle, South Sudan Becomes a New Nation
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
JUBA, South Sudan — The celebrations erupted at midnight. Thousands of revelers poured into Juba’s steamy streets in the predawn hours on Saturday, hoisting enormous flags, singing, dancing and leaping on the back of cars.
“Freedom!” they screamed.
A new nation was being born in what used to be a forlorn, war-racked patch of Africa, and to many it seemed nothing short of miraculous. After more than five decades of an underdog, guerrilla struggle and two million lives lost, the Republic of South Sudan, Africa’s 54th state, was about to declare its independence in front of a who’s who of Africa, including the president of the country letting it go: Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, a war-crimes suspect.
Many of those who turned out to celebrate, overcome with emotion, spoke of their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters killed in the long struggle to break free from the Arab-dominated north.
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