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January 25, 2010

"I am a British journalist"

A visiting friend recently left us with a copy of Chris Cleave's bestseller The Other Hand.

I particularly enjoyed the following scene, in which the heroine, a Nigerian refugee, is deported back to Abuja accompanied by her friend, a women's magazine editor.

The military police were waiting for me in a small room, wearing uniforms and gold-framed sunglasses. They could not arrest me because Sarah was with me. She would not leave my side. I am a British journalist, she said. Anything you do to this woman, I will report it. The military police were uncertain, so they called their commander. The commander came, in a camouflage uniform and a red beret, with tribal scars on his cheeks. He looked at my deportation document, and he looked at me and Sarah and Charlie. He stood there for a long time, scratching his belly and nodding ...

The military police followed our taxi from the airport. I was very frightened but Sarah gripped my hand. I will not leave you she said. So long as Charlie and I are here, you are safe. The police waited outside our hotel.

If anyone out there is short of a few bob, I would pay good money to watch you try that "I am a British journalist" line in a similar setting.

Posted by aheavens at 4:18 PM

January 19, 2010

Cultures collide in the Ethiopian blogosphere

What happens when cultures collide? One of the best places to find out is the Ethiopian blogosphere, with its writers spread across the Ethiopian Diaspora, from China, through Europe to the United States of America.

Bloggers spent the past few weeks writing posts inspired by the differences between Ethiopia and the far-flung nations which many Ethiopians now call home.

Zewge A. Assefa, the writer behind Negere Ethiopia, was unnerved when he first moved to Norway as a student. At first, he wrote in First impression is not always the lasting one, everyone seemed so quiet and reserved. When he got up the nerve to talk to his fellow students, he had to overcome other cultural barriers:

I do not ... mean to underestimate the difficulty for me as an African and in particular as an Ethiopian to give a proper picture of the place I call home. Many people seem to have a thick background reinforced with terrible images of war, famine and overall poverty...

Personally, I do not feel rejected. Neither do I feel fully embraced. I still live with the situation where more often than not, people prefer to sit by people of their color type even when I am sitting alone.

Read the rest on GlobalVoices.

Posted by aheavens at 3:36 PM

January 9, 2010

Searching for reasons to be cheerful in Sudan

Only the most foolhardy commentator would dare to say anything optimistic about the coming year in Sudan, four months away from highly charged elections and 12 months from an explosive referendum on southern independence.

So here goes — five reasons why Africa’s largest country might just manage to reach January 2011 without a return to catastrophe and bloody civil war, despite the worst predictions of most pundits.

Oil
Often the cause of conflict, oil could end up helping to prevent it in Sudan. The country’s oil industry, as it currently stands, only works when north and south Sudan work together. The south has most of the known oil reserves while the north has all of the infrastructure — from pipelines to refineries to a sea port. Talk of a southern refinery and an alternative pipeline route to the sea via Kenya are currently “pie in the sky”, one diplomat told me.Both sides may choose to fight it out over contested border oilfields after the widely expected “yes” vote for southern independence, thereby disrupting oil flows and scaring off investors. But it would be much more profitable for all concerned to work out a revenue sharing scheme and live side by side as business partners. The south’s government gets up to 98 percent of its revenues from oil sales so would struggle to survive without some kind of deal.

Read the rest on Reuters' Africa blog.

Posted by aheavens at 5:42 PM