Some stories around the African continent, in blogs and news, that have caught my attention over the past few days.
– “idland”, the blog of an international development worker somewhere in Southern Africa, has a serious bone to pick with a recent New York Times article on pediatric AIDS in Lesotho. (The detail of his critique suggests that the blog’s author may, in fact, be a health worker somewhere in Lesotho… or simply really knowledgeable about medicine in southern Africa.) He offers a nine-point guide to writing “a Times-quality article on Africa”, which includes gems like “When the facts don’t seem grim enough, make them seem worse through thoughtful omission” and ” Buy into the Bono/Sachs story that the only good work being done is by international charities, and the only issue is funding”. Add these nine suggestions to Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa” and soon everyone will be able to oversimplify and condescend, not just visiting journalists!
– Uganda’s high court has cleared opposition leader Kizza Besigye of rape charges, arguing that the government “failed ‘dismally'” to prove its case. Besigye still faces trial for treason, and after that, the possible resumption of military trial for terrorism and weapon charges.
Of course, prosecuting Besigye is no longer a high priority for Museveni. By forcing Besigye to appear in court 25 times during the election process, Museveni was able to help cement his victory, extending his rule into a third decade. Then again, since Besigye is challenging Museveni’s victory in court, and the courts have shown at least a modicum of independence from Museveni, perhaps we’ll see a high-stakes treason, terrorism or weapon-posession trial.
– Congogirl uses her post on The Salon to observe that the modest amount of money being provided by EU donors to the Palestinian authority to help prevent economic collapse is vastly greater than the $16 million the UN managed to “drum up” to support more than 80,000 displaced people in eastern DRC and 420,000 displaced Congolese currently living in 9 neighboring countries. As she admits, the situation is not an apples to apples comparison, but it’s interesting to see just how little attention gets paid to one of Africa’s largest, poorest and most desparate nations as they lurch out of civil war and towards democratic elections.
– Head Heeb has an excellent commentary on Ghana’s controversial Representation of the People bill, an ammendment to which will allow Ghanaians living in the diaspora to register to vote in upcoming elections. Ghana’s diaspora is large – perhaps as big as 3 million, in relation to a nation of less than 20 million people – and powerful, providing 14% of the nation’s GDP in the form of remittances. Ghana’s second-term president John Kufuor is seen as a champion of the diaspora, and his party is supporting the bill, while the opposition NDC has held a two week boycott of Parliament over the issue. As Jonathan points out, the bill doesn’t work out how diaspora Ghanaians would vote in elections – if they register abroad, would they be able to vote abroad, as in Iraq, or would they need to return home for elections?
– Kenyan Pundit Ory Okolloh has posted the stories from the Weekly Citizen that are believed to have sparked last week’s raid on the offices of the Standard newspaper group. They are – unsurprisingly – highly critical stories of figures in the Kenyan government involved with the Anglo Leasing/Githongo dossier scandal. Karen Allen, writing for the BBC, reports that Kenyans are genuinely shocked by the raids on the media – my reading of Kenyan blogs suggests that bloggers, at least, are outraged, but probably not shocked. And Kenyans are taking to the streets, demanding the ouster of Security Minister John Michuki, the man behind the raids.
– I join friends all over the blogosphere in mourning the passing of Ali Farka Touré, one of the most important musicians in the history of the continent, and an amazing ambassador from Mali to the rest of the world. MattyG at Benn Loxo du Taccu has a moving remembrance with some excellent sound files for anyone wanting to hear a little bit of the great man’s work.