Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sort-of hiatus

Due to a very busy schedule, I will be posting only sporadically to BSJ between now and the end of October. I should be able to resume more regular postings in November.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The heroes of the world

Yesterday marked the first celebration of World Humanitarian Day. The date was chosen because it marked the sixth anniversary of the homicide bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad which killed 22 UN workers including former Human Rights Commissioner Sergio Vieria de Mello.

Humanitarian aid workers have always been in harm's way but they are suffering greater and greater numbers of casualties in recent years. This is not down to bad luck but rather to an intentional strategy by warring parties.

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, which at the time hosted one of the largest refugee populations in the world, I came in contact with and made the acquaintance of many humanitarian aid workers. I visited a refugee camp and it gave me some idea of the absolutely miserable conditions these aid workers labor under.

I've come to consider these people the heroes of Humanity. The majority of western aid workers are people who could easily have remained at home in comfortable, air-conditioned apartments in London or New York but have chosen of their own free will to go to the worst places in the world in order to feed the starving and heal the sick.

It's also worth remembering that most big aid organizations also rely heavily on domestic staff from the countries in question. These are people who could very easily and understandably flee the conflict in their land but choose to stick around and help people who would otherwise suffer in misery or die.

I can think of no more noble calling.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Flooding in Conakry

Reprinted with permission from Friends of Guinea blog

The UN's IRIN news service reports that flooding has hit parts of the Guinean capital Conakry last week. IRIN notes that torrential rains caused extensive damage in the Damondy neighborhood, near the international airport. The rains flooded homes, washed away belongings and destroyed some crops locals grow nearby.

It added: Dabondy residents said the area lacks the infrastructure to evacuate water. Everyone IRIN spoke to pointed to a low bridge nearby, where rubbish packed underneath hinders the passage of water. Fuel residue mixed in with debris in the area has exacerbated the blockage and hurt crops, residents said.

Other areas of the capital were also affected but Dabondy was particularly hard hit.

The UN news service points out that Dabondy is affected by flooding every year but that the rains have been particularly hard this year.

One resident who gave her name as Madame Bah said the floodwaters submerged a community well and swept away the cover. The well was used for cooking and bathing water; for drinking water residents fill jerry cans at a communal tap about 5km away.

The mayor of Matoto, the district in which Dabondy is located, blamed the residents for not being able to afford to build their houses anywhere else.

Note: a reader contacted me asking me if I had any more information other than the IRIN article on the flooding. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted this email and can not reply to her directly. But I do not really have any further details. I contacted an acquaintance of mine in Conakry but she didn't know much about it and hadn't been affected. If any readers have any further information, please feel free to comment.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Get updates via Twitter

Just a reminder that you can get a notification via Twitter whenever I update either my main blog Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian [MOFYC] or my Africa blog Black Star Journal [BSJ]. On the Twitter feed, I also provide links (Re-tweets or RT) to stories around the web that may be of interest to readers of either blog. The Twitter feed can be found at:


Monday, August 10, 2009

Travels in Brazzaville correspondent Guy Pfeffermann muses on his travels in the Republic of Congo in a piece alliteratively entitled ' Birds and Bureaucrats of Brazzaville: Travels in the Congo.'


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bits and pieces - Africa edition

Foreign Policy's blog has a piece on Africa's missing billions and the tax havens that aid and abet these crimes. Each year, more than $1 trillion exits developing countries, and more than $140 billion of comes from Africa. That's almost four times as much as the continent gets in official development aid... The key players in this shadow economy are corporations. Globally, more than 60 percent of capital flight comes from multinationals operating in resource-rich regions.

The Wall Street Journal has an article on a small village in Guinea's Forest region that saw a housing market develop around investment from giant Rio Tinto only to crash when the controversial mining giant shuttered two-thirds of its operations only a short time later.

The New York Times had a feature on a film festival held in the Algerian desert.

A story I must've missed earlier: Ted Roberts, the much loved Sierra Leonian news presenter, retired in February from the Voice of America. He worked at the VOA since 1964 and spent the last 14 years as host of the weekend news program Nightline Africa.

The American channel C-SPAN had an excellent hour-long interview with Kenyan Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai, who spoke, among other things, about her book The Challenge for Africa.

You know freedom of the press is pretty limited when media outlets are banned from publishing polls that are 'extraordinarily favorable' toward the head of state. That's what happened in Morocco recently. The Moroccan magazine Tel Quel and the French daily newspaper Le Monde collaborated on a poll to measure the popularity of King Mohammed VI, on the 10th anniversary of his accession to the North African country's throne. Publication of the results were banned in Morocco. "The monarchy can not be put into the equation, even via a poll," explained Khalid Naciri, the government's spokesman and information minister. Daring ask people if they approve of their head of state would sent a terrible precedent, apparently. The irony? The banned results were overwhelmingly favorable toward the king, who is the 7th richest monarch in the world. 91 percent admitted to having sensed some positive change, since Mohammed became king. The further irony? 51 percent said that the overbearing royal protocol had lightened.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Thoughts on US policies toward Africa

Here are some good recent pieces exploring western, and particularly American, policy with regard to Africa...

-Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) explores the increasingly militarized nature of the United States' policy toward the continent.

-FPIF also muses on the dictatorship in Uganda.

-Oxfam America and Foreign Policy held a discussion calling for a new path on American foreign assistance to Africa. Panelists called on U.S. leaders to make U.S. foreign assistance more supportive of effective states and active citizens. In particular, the panelists called for a U.S. aid approach that is more transparent, more consistent with the needs of citizens and local governments, and more focused on giving recipient states the power to manage their own development.

-Nigeria's This Day wonders in an editorial if Africa needs food aid.

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