Thursday, August 12, 2004

WHO Africa: 'retirement home' for bureaucrats -- Kenyan author attacked

The British publication The Lancet offered a scatching attack on the World Health Organization's Africa regional office. According to the BBC, the prestigious medical journal described the Africa office as a political club, rather than an effective health agency, and says it must evolve or die. Management is ineffective, it says, and staff demoralised.

Further claiming that Relations with governments are too close, even incestuous, and senior officials in African health ministries regard the WHO as their future retirement home.

The BBC notes that the WHO differs from other United Nations agencies in that power is largely devolved to the regions, meaning that regional management becomes critically important, particularly in Africa, which faces some of the world's most difficult public health challenges.


Deutsche Welle reports on Col. Gadhafi and what the German broadcaster refers to as the Libyan leader's "checkbook diplomacy."

His country reached a compensation deal with families of victims of a 1986 disco bombing in West Berlin (other media reports indicated that the deal was struck with German and Turkish families, but not with the Americans because he wanted Washington to compensate Tripoli for the deaths caused by the American air raids on Libya that were in retaliation for the disco bombing).

DW noted that Gadhafi has long been aware that it's not remorse and change which are important, but a checkbook: $2.7 billion for the relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, $170 million for a French plane which exploded over West Africa, a couple of million for the ransom of German hostages in southeast Asia and Algeria.

In return, the sanctions imposed against Lybia were lifted and Gadhafi was welcomed in Brussels. Euoropean politicians meet him, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who has a visit scheduled for later this year.

It's almost like an exclusive tennis club, which members have to buy into in order to then be able to benefit from the advantages of the 'better society,' advantages which far outweigh the cost of the joining fee.

This is in addition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to Tripoli, which coincided with the signing of a contract between Libya and the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell.


The BBC ran an interesting piece on the new family code in Morocco. The law revolutionized the status of women in the Kingdom. As of February 2004, Moroccan women no longer have to obey their husbands by law, something many Moroccan men saw as enshrining their right to use their fists on disobedient wives.

But the article noted that attitudes are very different in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.

"For us, if a man beats his wife, he is no longer a man, he is a dog," said Salka, a 45-year-old Saharawi woman, recently divorced for the second time.

In the Western Sahara, if a man beats his wife the minimum he must do to ask her forgiveness is hold a second wedding, with all the gifts of camels and jewellery that entails.

Even so, he will rarely be successful in convincing his wife to return.

Saharawi women divorce their husbands for far lesser misdemeanours.

"I divorced my first husband because I never really fell in love. I divorced my second because he fell in love with someone else," says Salka.


While some think democracy (or lack of dicatorship) is one of the basic requirements for living a decent life, simple personal security is higher on the list. Whoever's running Iraq would do well to remember this.

Kenya is generally seen as a free and safe country, especially last year's election of then-opposition leader Mwai Kbaki. His NARC coalition's victory ended over three and a half decades of often-autocratic dominance by the KANU party.

The country's capital, Nairobi, is so frought with crime that it has the reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in Africa. The election of Kbaki and NARC and the arrival of democracy didn't change that overnight.

This reality was discovered by Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o. The reknown author of several prominent and politically charged novels had rejoined his country only days ago, after 22 years in self-imposed exile.

It was exactly what pan-African intellectuals dream of: one of the continent's best and brightest sons returning to help contribute to the development and improvement of his native land. He obviously had faith that things in Kenya had improved.

His faith was rewarded when armed men stormed the Nairobi apartment of Thiong'o and his wife. The Nairobi police chief said they burned Ngugi with cigarettes, beat him with the butt of a gun, and hurt his wife Njeeri while they ransacked their home for money and valuables.

I suspect Mr. Thiong'o will find little consolation in knowing that police don't consider his attack politically motivated.


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