Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dropping Truth Bombs

In an otherwise banal article from The Post about Patriotic Front MPs voting against the party line for salary increases, opposition leader Michael Sata drops a bomb.
Asked if he was disappointed that members of parliament went against his position on the issue of salaries, Sata said he could only be disappointed if he was not a Christian. He said the members of parliament were depriving Zambians representation because they were interested in serving their pockets instead of people.

"It's good that we have passed Easter because if not, we would have remembered Judas Iscariot. Jesus was betrayed by a Jew," Sata said.

I'm often baffled when the Zambian political discourse inevitably turns to bible verse but this one is particularly confusing. The tradition is that whoever quotes the book wins the argument, no questions asked. This leads to dodgy biblical analogies that rarely get challenged. In this case, I wonder, is Sata Jesus and the rebel MPs traitorous Jews or are the MPs Jesus and their constituents Jews. Who is betraying whom?

It doesn't really matter does it? Citing the Bible in politics is not meant to clarify, but to muddle. Mel Gibson would be proud.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cholera is gross

As I read about the Cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe I realised I had no idea what it was except that some how water is involved. Then I came across this old New Yorker article. omfg:

Cholera is a horrific illness. The onset of the disease is typically quick and spectacular; you can be healthy one moment and dead within hours. The disease, left untreated, has a fatality rate that can reach fifty per cent. The first sign that you have it is a sudden and explosive watery diarrhea, classically described as “rice-water stool,” resembling the water in which rice has been rinsed and sometimes having a fishy smell. White specks floating in the stool are bits of lining from the small intestine. As a result of water loss—vomiting often accompanies diarrhea, and as much as a litre of water may be lost per hour—your eyes become sunken; your body is racked with agonizing cramps; the skin becomes leathery; lips and face turn blue; blood pressure drops; heartbeat becomes irregular; the amount of oxygen reaching your cells diminishes. Once you enter hypovolemic shock, death can follow within minutes. A mid-nineteenth-century English newspaper report described cholera victims who were “one minute warm, palpitating, human organisms—the next a sort of galvanized corpse, with icy breath, stopped pulse, and blood congealed—blue, shrivelled up, convulsed.” Through it all, and until the very last stages, is the added horror of full consciousness. You are aware of what’s happening: “the mind within remains untouched and clear,—shining strangely through the glazed eyes . . . a spirit, looking out in terror from a corpse.”

You may know precisely what is going to happen to you because cholera is an epidemic disease, and unless you are fortunate enough to be the first victim you have probably seen many others die of it, possibly members of your own family, since the disease often affects households en bloc. Once cholera begins, it can spread with terrifying speed. Residents of cities in its path used to track cholera’s approach in the daily papers, panic growing as nearby cities were struck. Those who have the means to flee do, and the refugees cause panic in the places to which they’ve fled. Writing from Paris during the 1831-32 epidemic, the poet Heinrich Heine said that it “was as if the end of the world had come.” The people fell on the victims “like beasts, like maniacs.”

Not to sensationalize the Zimbabwe situation or anything. Apparently in modern times Cholera is amazingly easy to treat just by rehydrating victims. However, considering "you know who's" attempts to take Zimbabwe out of the modern world, things aren't looking so good especially with this rainy season now upon us.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rwanda vs France: What the Hell?

This keeps on getting weirder. Rose Kabuye, Rwanda's chief of protocol (no idea but it sounds important), is in front of a French judge now facing charges of inciting genocide. The thing is, this Tutsi and former Rwandan Patriotic Front member is widely regarded as having ended the genocide against her people.

She, along with president Kagame and anyone else in the former RPF leadership is charged by a French court for shooting down the plane that killed former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana. This is widely regarded as the excuse the Hutu power movement used to start massacring Tutsis in '94. The evidence, I'm told, is slim but let's just say, for the sake of argument, they're guilty.

The Rwandans (and a surprising number of French and international journalists, academics, soldiers and eyewitnesses) claim that the French are far more responsible for the genocide than they admit, calling for the arrests of former president Mitterand and other French politicians for aiding the Hutu Power movement prior to and through the height of the killings. The French are accused of supporting the genocidaires with a military intervention (called, of course, a humanitarian mission) and providing arms to the Hutu militias. Mitterand is commonly quoted as saying “a genocide in a place like Rwanda is no big deal” though this seems suspect. The evidence here is not slim, having been noted all over the place by just about everyone with a clear view of the conflict, except, of course, the mainstream media. Let's also assume France is guilty.

So the RPF, Tutsi exiles who eventually invaded Rwanda stopping the genocide and installing the current dictatorship, killed president Juvenal Habyarimana. Makes sense. Isn't that the point of a rebel group?

The French, a powerful capitalist state with important strategic interests in Sub Saharan Africa, militarily intervened in the conflict for their own economic good. Again, isn't that the point of the capitalist state: to promote its interests?

So both guilty parties did precisely what they were meant to do. Now France has dragged this Tutsi woman in front of a court accusing her of shooting the plane that sparked the Hutus to kill her people as an excuse to invade with the RPF. What the hell?

Even if she is guilty of the assassination how does that make her guilty of a totally premeditated, French funded, GENOCIDE against her own ethnic group. Amazing. What's the line again: "we condemn the apathy of the international community." What bullshit.

Update, now the Rwandan exile who is responsible for the statements from which the charge against Kabuye stems is denying the whole thing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Father Charged With Sedition: Truth is no Defense

From the Watchdog:

Father Bwalya likely to be charged with sedition

By Lloyd Himaambo-Despite the riots that broke out early on Thursday in protest of the arrest of Catholic Priest, station manager for radio Ichengelo on the Copperbelt, the police will go ahead and charge the priest. The Watchdog has leant that Father Bwalya will be charged with sedition.

The Zambian penal code prohibits what it describes as sedition under section 57. Sedition in the code encompasses advocating for the desirability of overthrowing government, bringing into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against government and to raise discontent among the people of Zambia etc. The most critical aspect of sedition is that it does not recognize ‘truth’ as defense.

Frank Bwalya was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly inciting the public and police in the area say the Catholic priest has in the last few days been broadcasting messages that are likely to incite people.

Kitwe District Police Commanding Officer, Daniel Siame, told journalists that the 40 year old priest spent a night in custody in Kalulushi and will be charged after police record a warn and caution statement from him.

The police say that the priest has been broadcasting messages suggesting that the October 30 election was fraudulent.

Mr. Siame said Father Bwalya has also been heard through his broadcasts saying that the government is in office illegally.

They're charging a Catholic priest with sedition, a charge that doesn't recognize truth as a defense. So if by telling the truth you cause civil unrest that's grounds to be arrested for sedition. Interesting. By the way, I have no opinion on this; I'm cool with whatever Rupiah thinks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Congo Situation is Baffling

Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda is telling the BBC reporter that he plans to march on Kinshasa claiming that he's not an agent of Rawanda and is in fact a proud Congolese. I'd been listening to Nkunda speak for weeks on the BBC. The radio gave me the impression that he could only be reached by smuggled audio recorder in some damp jungle camp. I was surprised then when I moved into my new house, turned on Al Jazeera and there he was, all fifteen feet of him, wearing his trademark late 90s R&B glasses and confidently posing for the world's cameras and chatting with reporters.

It's strange how world media digests this new fighting. Since the Rawandan genocide, Tutsis are considered the victims and Nkunda, with his media savvy but perhaps correctly, brands himself as a Tutsi defense force. Why then are they going to march on Kinshasa? Why is the entire region so afraid of him? Can someone fill me in?

In one of Stephanie Nolan's blog posts she mentions being stuck in a remote eastern Congo village with no power, water or food, yet she could read the New York Times on her Blackberry. With that in mind, take a look at Originally designed to monitor post election violence in Kenya, the site takes cellphone and web reports of violence and displacement and plots them on a map of the Lake Kivu region to give you a better idea of the geography of the conflict.

ps I stole that pic from the BBC website. It says Getty images on it if you look closely.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Some Afrocentric Links

Scarlett Lion is a very good blog (with photos) that I found through the Walrus website. The author takes her role as a Western journalist living in Africa very seriously; something I do not do. Maybe I should start.

A bumptious guide to book writing is an article mentioned on Scarlett Lion describing the pretentious flock of young men who aspire to write books about Africa and end up with "a manuscript that is all about you, with Africa as a picturesque backdrop to your macho derring-do." FYI I have no intention of writing a book but if I did, yeah, it would probably be as described above but weirder and not all that macho.

On that note, I genuinely enjoyed The Village of Waiting by George Packer which is a young man unashamedly writing about himself. In fact I routinely recommend this book to anyone who hasn't already been annoyed by my giddy lectures on, Darwin's Nightmare, my favourite documentary.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gratuitous Fuzzy Animal Pictures

The lion is from a conservation/breeding place near Livingstone. The baboon is part of a pack that harasses tourists near Victoria falls. Minutes before he had stolen an ice cream off a girl, no joke.