SAfrica Guidance

SAfrica Guidance

nscSAfricaStudy carefully the picture above. (The inset is mine of South African protests, today.) That’s the website page that millions, maybe billions of people worldwide access to understand U.S. foreign policy. And that’s how it looked this morning: Come Back Later.

As a group of activists in my small town discussed the possibility of creating a new political force, I found particular use in the image above.

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The Whole World Weeps

The Whole World Weeps

thewholeworldweepsThe “world’s on edge” was the headline in South Africa yesterday, but I could have plucked it from virtually any corner of the world.

Most Americans don’t care what the rest of the world thinks, including Democrats and even Bernie supporters. I think of all the sadness I feel at this election, this is the greatest.

It proves that we are egocentric if narcissistic, but most importantly, grade school dumb. That may be fine for writing an involuted gaming app; it’ll kill you – and everybody else – in the real world.

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Decamping to the Desert

Decamping to the Desert

desertjihadistsAs radical jihadists slowly and systematically lose control of Iraq and conditions improve in Somalia, it’s clear where they’re fleeing to: the deserts of Africa.

From eastern and northern Mali to western Niger radical jihadism is on the rise. This is the very southern fringe of the great Sahara. The dynamic is accelerated by Nigeria’s successful campaign against jihadists, both militarily and diplomatically.

Why now, and why the desert?

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A Horrible Choice

A Horrible Choice

congotravailsThroughout most of the continent today, Africans confront a horrible choice: Peace & Prosperity… or Freedom & Democracy. Seventeen demonstrators dead overnight in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, is today’s best example.

Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC are located in the Lake Victoria area, and each one sits on lots of precious natural materials like rare earths and gold amounting to enormous wealth. But only Rwanda has fully exploited this. Why?

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Soweto Anniversary

Soweto Anniversary

hectorpietersonToday perfectly demonstrates how America helps lead Africa out of the ignominy of racism and bigotry.

Africa often moves with about a ten to fifteen year lock-step delay to America’s own progress on cultural rights. Today is the 40th anniversary of the Soweto uprising that began the last great offensive against apartheid. Twelve years earlier America adopted the powerful Civil Rights Act after a decade of protests.

Today the LGBT community in Kenya lost their first high court battle against the country’s anti-gay laws, yet the very fact it reached the court indicates that LGBT community’s growing influence. Consider how fast the LGBT movement’s successes have occurred here.

In fact cultural changes throughout much of Africa are happening with even greater speed than they did in America, because much of emerging modern Africa is hardly a few generations into self-governance.

It’s Youth Day in South Africa. The moniker honors the mostly primary and secondary school students who 40 years ago marched in protest to new apartheid laws and got massacred by South African police.

The horror of the mass slaughter of hundreds of children was immediately transmitted around the world with the photo taken by photojournalist Sam Nzima showing the dying student child, Hector Pieterson, being carried from the protests.

Each time I take a group to South Africa we visit the incredibly moving Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto. As in the Apartheid Museum many displays are mostly black-and-white, such an appropriate adjective for the times and the struggles which ended them.

The Soweto protests attacked an apartheid regulation requiring non-white South Africans to be taught in Afrikaans rather than English or any of the native languages.

Many protested – as so well documented in the Hector Pieterson Museum – for very practical reasons: Soon to graduate students had spent their lives being taught in English but were suddenly confronted with final exams in Afrikaans.

Today quite a few South Africans are remarking on this Youth Day that it is the youth, again, who are integral in the country’s current protests, this time like 40 years ago, fired by controversies over the language of public education.

Most of the horrible apartheid laws were passed in the 1950s to virtually no opposition from the outside world. The end of World War II gave Afrikaans leaders sufficient cover to legislate a horribly repressive regime.

But as the anti-apartheid movement grew within South Africa, there was a wicked resurgence of new laws and regulations that greatly tightened the noose around South Africa’s majority non-white population.

Yet even by 1976 South Africa remained under the public radar of most of the world. The western world was in the depths of the Cold War and South Africa was considered the lone and essential partner in a continent increasingly socialistic.

But the Soweto protests began the galvanization process worldwide. European sanctions came not too long afterwards, and President Reagan suffered a humiliating defeat when Congress overrode his veto of American sanctions against the apartheid regime.

So it was the Soweto protests more than any previous event that moved the anti-apartheid forward.

Equality irrespective of race is a human value that because of our Civil War probably has more currency in American society than any other. The battle never ends, of course. The racist backlash in our current political discourse is proof enough of that, and the current student protests in South Africa are as well.

But for as long as we uphold and protect these civil rights, the unthinkable murder of Hector Pieterson will not have been in vain.

Africans Speak About Paris

Africans Speak About Paris

BELGIUM-FRANCE-ATTACKS-POLICEConsider seriously Africans’ reactions to the Paris attacks.

There’s no shortage of empathy in Africa for the victims, nor any support for the barbarism of ISIS. But there’s an understanding of the situation that most Americans lack.

Many more thousands of Africans in Nigeria, Somalia, Mali, Kenya and elsewhere have been barbarously slaughtered by radical Islamists than westerners, with little note in the west. Sidelined by this western arrogance understandable anger animates much African analysis.

In an open letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg published in one of Nigeria’s main newspapers, writer Jafaar Jafaar politely criticizes the French flags and other gifs that Facebook spread over its platform, worldwide:

“While my heart goes to the French over [the] terrorist attacks… I couldn’t but lash at the folly of Facebook for failure to identify with Nigeria when an estimated 15,000 Nigerians were killed by terrorists in round-the-clock attacks in eight years.

“Sir, I don’t want to believe your bias was informed by the assumed superiority of the races you often identify with.”

Why do westerners pay so much attention to their own suffering at the expense of even the slightest attention to the much greater suffering of Africans?

“Well the simple answer is that to some in the world some lives are more important than others. Western media … has made this abundantly clear,” writes Christopher Charamba for Zimbabwe’s Herald.

I’d say the majority of analysis also lays the blame for the Paris attacks fundamentally on the west itself, for having disrupted Mideast societies for so many years:

The respected author, Charles Onyango-Obbo, recounts almost a thousand years of history in his analysis for Kenya’s Daily Nation this morning.

He reminds readers of the constant exploitation of the world by the powers that be, including the horrible epoch of slavery. Pointing out that the Mideast “is not much bigger than DR Congo and Algeria… mostly desert with relatively few people,” the wars there are all about oil and Israel.

He concludes so appropriately as so many of us have for so many times, that the foolish notion of “wiping out” ISIS or whatever other horrible group might be contesting the region will only ready it for something worse.

This dynamic – fighting to eliminating the bad guys in the Middle East – has been going on for many centuries, but has never ended well for any of the temporary victors. Each time a bad group is eliminated, a worse group arises.

Some in Africa are not as polite as Jafaar, Charamba or Obbo.

A South African Muslim cleric, Farid Esack, told a South African news agency yesterday, “I am sickened … that whenever [western] chickens come home to roost then I must feign horror.

“Stop supporting and funding terror outfits, get out of other people’s lands and continents… abandon your cultural imperialism, destroy your arms industry that provides the weapons that kill hundreds of thousands of others every year.

“The logic is quite simple: When you eat, it’s stupid to expect that no shit will ever come out from your body. Yes, I feel sorry for the victims… But, bloody hell, own it; it’s yours!” he said.

Just as in Nigeria much more attention is paid to Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria than ISIS attacks in Paris, it’s understandable on the one hand that western media – which is predominantly the world media – will focus more on attacks to westerners than Africans.

But the margin of that difference in attention is hard to justify, given the simple numbers of people suffering at the hand of radicals in Africa versus in the west. And Obbo’s astute analysis that this whole mess is a western derivative makes it even less explicable.

We are arrogant. We are forgetful of even recent history. We are small, reactionary thinkers as demonstrated by the lunacy surrounding our fear of accepting Syrian refugees. We should listen to some Africans, rather than just ourselves.

Pitiful Profits

Pitiful Profits

zanburndi and religioniZanzibar and Burundi, today, are both tinder boxes rooted in ethnicity ready to explode.

It’s time to stop pretending that both Christianity and Islam, Hutu and Tutsi, or Arab and African are mostly “good.” It’s time to denounce religious ideology and ethnicity as mostly “bad.”

Recent studies about religion reenforce this. “Religion doesn’t work,” a South African newspaper has concluded. “Children of non-religious people are nicer than their religiously raised brethren.” (More on this below.)

Zanzibar’s divide is two-fold: Africans who link their heritage to animism and Christianity versus Arabs dedicated to Islam; and a never successful federation between Zanzibar and Tanganyika nearly a half century ago, which poorly formed modern Tanzania.

Burundi’s divide is wholly tribal: Hutu versus Tutsi, the same divide that led to the Rwandan genocide.

Zanzibar has progressed far more than Burundi has in the modern era. From ancient times the island was the seat of Arab power on the Swahili African coast. Its royal families grew trade with parts of the world as far afield as China.

Its gigantic misstep in history was to become dependent upon the slave trade. That gave the British colonizers a moral platform on which to justify their empire building. (It is, of course, illustrative that British industry – ships in particular – were indispensable in the development of the slave trade.)

Burundi is struggling through the ethnic chasm between Hutu and Tutsi that Rwanda solved by becoming an autocratic if communist state. Smaller than already small Rwanda, it’s nearly lockstep historically.

A “civil” (read “ethnic”) war was ended almost a decade ago with a peace agreement that led to free enough elections and a period of relatively stability. But the democratic mechanisms riveting the government were inevitably seen as threats by one side to the other, and the current man power is so unconstitutionally – nondemocratically.

As everywhere in the world, from Syria to Myanmar to Obama/Netanyahu, ethnic divides easily reenforce themselves with religious ideology.

Obviously I don’t want to give up St. Patty’s Day or Christmas, for that matter. But it’s time to grow up. Black Lives Matter. Intelligent Lives Matter.

A study published last week in Current Biology of 1170 children from a variety of religious backgrounds around the world concluded that children from religious families were less generous and more intolerant and sanctioned physical punishment more than children from non-religious families.

Christian and Muslims scored identically with regards to generosity, both groups are 28% less likely to share than nonreligious children.

The children were tested in seven different cities: Chicago, Cape Town, Toronto, Amman, Izmir, Istanbul and Guangzhou.

Researchers asked the parents to identify their child’s religious orientation: 23.9% were Christian, 43% Muslim, 27.6% not religious, 2.5% Jewish, 1.6% Buddhist, 0.4% Hindu, 0.2% agnostic, and 0.5% something else.

The research funded by the religious John Templeton Foundation used animation, physical games and structured social intercourse with other children in the study to reach these conclusions.

“Consistent with previous studies, in general the children were more likely to share as they got older. But …the negative relation between religiosity and altruism grew stronger with age; children with a longer experience of religion in the household were the least likely to share.”

According to Science Daily the studies “challenge the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior, and call into question whether religion is vital for moral development — suggesting the secularization of moral discourse does not reduce human kindness. In fact, it does just the opposite.”

In a world of diminishing resources, increasing human demand and aggressive global warming, some very tough decisions are going to have to be made.

The Bible and the Koran, like Mao’s Little Red Book or Gaddafi’s slightly larger Green Book, should not be used as references for a solution.

OnSafari: District Six

OnSafari: District Six

Dave & Carol Winikoff, Michelle Fisher, Alan Gross, Sue Lebby, Marj Newman and our guide, Linda Fortune, at the District Six Museum in Cape Town.
Dave & Carol Winikoff, Michelle Fisher, Alan Gross, Sue Lebby, Marj Newman and our guide, Linda Fortune, at the District Six Museum in Cape Town.
We spent the day in Cape Town’s District Six, learning of some very heavy history, eating some fine local food and applauding the country’s transformation.

Around 60,000 people were relocated out of District Six under apartheid’s gruesome Group Areas Act, from 1966 – 1974. One of those persons was our guide, Linda Fortune, author and advocate for the District Six Museum.

Altogether more than 3½ million people were forcibly removed from their homes throughout the country during that period, but what makes District Six so important historically is that it was probably the most multi-cultural, multi-ethnic area in the country.
street_bokaap.capetown
Begun by the Batavian slaves brought to the colony in the 17th Century, District Six had grown into an “old part” of Cape Town with a rich, rainbow heritage. In an area hardly more than 2 sq. miles, virtually every religion on earth had a house of worship, and virtually all of the 11 race classes proscribed by apartheid had been living an integrated life for generations.

So the breakup of District Six is one of the best examples of apartheid’s sinister mechanisms.

Linda’s story, like all the varied guides I’ve enjoyed having from the museum, was an incredibly melancholy one. Today the residents have reclaimed their land, but it will be a long time before the promised reconstruction of what had been bulldozed down will be completed by the government.

Today the district which has just begun rebuilding is vibrant and … colorful. BoKaap merges with District Six and the primary color architecture of BoKaap brings a smile to every face!

Owner Joey of BoKaap Kombuis explains our special Cape Malay meal.
Owner Joey of BoKaap Kombuis explains the history of Cape Malay cuisine.

And smiles galore to our tummies, too! We had a special Cape Malay meal prepared by Joey and Nazli of BoKaap Kumbuis. Joey gave us a history of Cape cuisine, which he calls a cuisine franca.

Curry lamb, dall, rice, wonderfully spiced chicken, yellow tail, and of course, Bobotie were just part of the fare.

We also had time to visit Streetwires! This is one of my favorite artisan coops in Cape Town, where 55 young artists are trained to create the most imaginative objects from near full-size Volkswagon beatles to every animal on the African veld … all from wire and beads!

Tomorrow we head to Cape Point. Fortunately the fires are out, the park is completely open and even today the spectacular Chapman’s Peak opened as well!

Frontiers Are Endless

Frontiers Are Endless

MarsOneMarsOne has all the makings of the Africa Association and might just be mankind’s next great exploration.

Revolution was stirring across the globe, a sort of Arab Spring. The major powers were preoccupied with managing a tech boom as well as numerous wars. Distant and unexplored parts of Africa had their attention but not their passion.

Arabs had been the real explorers. They knew much of interior Africa intimately, but they lacked good map making skills. They dominated slaving and ivory harvesting, but they lacked the ships for transport, which came from the Europeans. With few exceptions they worked individually with little capital like bounty hunters in the wild west.

Several major powers including Britain, Spain, Portugal and France established coastal outposts in West Africa by the early 1700s. They wanted to control or at least regulate the growing slave trade. Their vying for territory in Africa mirrored their rearrangement of Europe as former fiefdoms and tiny kingdoms began to form the countries we recognize today.

Europeans excellently charted most of the African coast during the 16th century but very little was known inland more than 10 or 20 miles. The few explorers who ventured inland died of strange diseases, complained of deathly climates and hostile savages and for some reason lacked the wherewithal of the Arab slavers and ivory hunters.

Competition among European powers, though, forced their reluctant leaders to invest in Africa. By the mid 1700s Britain had a dozen trading stations in interior West Africa.

The furthest and controversial Pisania station was 200 miles up the Gambia River. The managers were to monitor the slave trade, keep their eyes on the Arabs and develop new commerce in palm oil.

But Britain had no passion to find out what lied over the next hill. Revolution was brewing in its colonies across the Atlantic. India demanded most of the colonial office’s resources, so Africa was left to private companies to develop.

Enter MarsOne. MarsOne is Dutch created and managed. So was Cape Town, Jakarta and New York.

MarsOne will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024. Our first unmanned mission will be launched in 2018.”

According to an MIT group studying Mars One half of the first set of explorers will die enroute Mars, the costs will be exponentially greater than the organization predicts, and “it’s not really feasible under the assumptions they’ve made.”

Very similar remarks to King George’s Prime Minister, the Early of Bute, about the group that later became the African Association.

Lord Bute was right, by the way. When the Africa Association raised the capital and government license to explore West Africa, nine of its first ten explorers died exploring the Niger River.

It wasn’t until the formidable Mungo Park in 1795 successfully went beyond the Pisania Trading Station and returned to tell about it.

Recently MarsOne chose its first 100 explorers. I listened to one interviewed by Chris Hayes this week.

Women, too, of course, because all the missions will be … one way.

One advancement mankind has made in the last several centuries since Mungo Park sailed down the Niger is to better predict outcomes. In those early African days explorers were often driven by notions of the divine, or of their heroic and legendary personal heritages.

Mungo Park and the dozen explorers who died preceding him knew their chances of returning were slim, but actual probabilities were much harder to ascertain. Mungo Park’s main concern wasn’t the chances of running out of food or fuel, but of overcoming fear.

Many were motivated by the rewards of success, the book deals that in the 18th and 19th centuries were like worldwide movie contracts. I don’t doubt there are some in the MarsOne 100 who are similar.

But the MarsOne folks have a lot more data to sit on than Mungo Park did. They don’t wonder if theirs might be a one-way journey. It is. So whether they die on the way, or die there, they will never come home.

The MIT study is packed with much more science than the drawer-full of old Arab maps and stained notes of early explorers held by the African Association. Yet to me it still reeks of the obdurance of Lord Bute’s plaintiff appeals to King George III to forget about Africa and those “unknown worlds,” accept the 1763 Treaty of Paris and concentrate on making life better in Edinburgh.

Thank goodness there are still humans in this world with the passion to explore and the bravado to tempt the unknown. More than ever today we need a belief that there is so much more out there than our troubled selves.

Pretender or Defender

Pretender or Defender

rover.fronviewOnce upon a time going on safari meant two weeks in a Landrover TDI110 “Defender” literally in the bush: no roads.

You found trails, usually elephant paths, and plowed your Landrover TDI110 “Defender” into the wild.
roverdownstream.haley
With roads and government tariffs and mercantile competition and especially, with tourists who are terrified that traveling off roads is what al-Qaeda wants you to, who need room for 30 pounds of cosmetics and hair shampoos, who schedule their spinal epidurals depending on air fare sales, who are allergic to Wonder Bread and need additional room to bring their sleep amnea machine and additional plugs in the cab for their kids’ Xbox …

… the “Defender” has died. “Long live the memory of the Defender!”

GiantCricket.Botete.Apr14.640.JIM

I still manage to slip real bush into some of my safaris, although I often play it by ear because many of my clients today would have a heart attack if a little cricket jumped on them.

But in the main I don’t. Nobody does. You don’t fork out ten grand to feel like you’re riding a jackhammer.

Once upon a time, we didn’t mind, but no one would tell you that the Defender was comfortable – it wasn’t. But that was a machine! You could drive it up a boulder. (Coming down was the problem.)

The Defender was expensive. Being so tough meant that we constantly challenged it, and so often man the ultimate defeated the machine and the machine had to be fixed. That was difficult: it was soooo expensive.

Even 20 years ago a simple universal joint exceeded most safari’s net costs. And it was hard to explain to clients that it was noble that, in fact, they couldn’t move for a while.

I mark that as the point at which Landrovers began to decline in popularity. It was about 20 years ago and spare parts were so expensive that clients would often get into the car and then not be able to go on safari because it wouldn’t start.

So in comes the New World, that is the new world of automotive mercantilism which in English is “Toyota.”

And shortly after “Toyota” came “Nissan.”

And Defender was overwhelmed by Pretender. They were so cheap. And besides, there were now roads, and the Toyota stretchie does pretty well on roads and it can easily be modified to carry cosmetic cases.

Modified is the key. Yes the Defender could be modified, but it was hard work, because it was thick metal. Toyota’s and Nissan’s metal is a tad better than aluminum foil, and there are a myriad of things you can do with such pliable material: origamy, for instance.

You can also add extra seats and stretch the sides and stretch the length, ergo the nickname “Stretchie.”cutofftops

You can cut out the roof then put it back on extenders so people can stand up and pretend they’re on the subway.

You can have all sorts of kinds of seats: pillows and cushions and even ones that warm themselves.

Windows is a problem we’re working on. When a vehicle is changed so much, the preformed window sometimes doesn’t work so well, but not to worry, stand up and look out.

So what has happened to my Defender?
Gwinnett-dealer-img
Landrover is not to be displaced from modern times. It began after World War II, a copy of a military jeep, which farmers needed in Wales to defend themselves against Northumberlers. Ever since that courageous moment of birth, Landrover has evolved with the times.

So today, you’ll find these legendary machines mostly in mall parking lots, because it is today what the Landrover does best, defend its owners against obscurity.

On safari, we’ll make do with the “Pretender.” Bring on that Lacombe! We can handle it!

But ode to awesome, what a machine that was!
submergedlandrover.botswana

Landslides Are Irrevocable

Landslides Are Irrevocable

tiltingmaseruLesotho is a spot of a country surrounded by South Africa. Is it time to wipe the spot out?

There are spot countries all over the world: European potentates (Vatican City, Monaco, San Marino & Liechtenstein); scattered South Seas countries (Marshall Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, Palau); other scattered sea countries (Seychelles & Maldives); Caribbean beaches (Saint Kitts & Nevis, Andorra, Granada, Barbados, Antiqua & Barbuda), regal airline hubs and tax havens like Luxembourg.

In fact, there are 110 of the 252 countries listed by the U.S. WorldFact book smaller than Lesotho.

South Africa’s other spot, Swaziland, is only half Lesotho’s size. So why am I asking if it’s time to wipe out Lesotho?

Most of the spot countries of the world are either too anemic or too essential to mess with: the Seychelles and Singapore, for instance. Few will protest when most of the Seychelles tiny 90 granite islands sink as the world’s ocean’s rise.

But a lot of Asian billionaires and world banks will tremble if Singapore cracks.

Swaziland tilts ever so slightly into the Singapore camp of countries. Its western border is with South Africa, and its eastern border is with Mozambique. There aren’t any refugees anymore from Mozambique, but if there were, this is the conduit.

Some creative accounting is possible for trucking companies depending upon what particularly taxed goods they’re carrying.

In the old days during the very strict moral laws of apartheid in South Africa, Swaziland was the playground of the debauched with lots of casinos and gentlemen’s clubs. Today’s South African laws are less restrictive, but still more restrictive than the g-string thresholds in Swaziland.

These aren’t all necessarily good reasons for Swaziland to exist, but they are reasons. That’s Lesotho’s problem. It doesn’t have any reasons to exist.

The reason Lesotho is Lesotho, and Swaziland is Swaziland, and neither is a part of South Africa starts with their geography. But Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa. Unlike Swaziland’s geographical situational raison d’etre, Lesotho was left alone because it was too high to get to.

Lesotho is almost entirely above the clouds. It has the highest lowest point of any country in the world, 4,593 feet. The rest of it scraggles upwards to a peak of 11,424 feet high. It’s mostly gravel, limestone and granite mountaintops, with a very few meadows that some unusual sheep live in, and one tiny city, the capital of Maseru, that if lifted down to a reasonable altitude would look something like a sprawling mobile home community near Flagstaff.

There are less than two million people widely scattered among its nooks and crags with a third of the resident population unemployed and the rest, two-thirds, all working for the government.

There are no natural resources, and the country only produces 20% of its food. In fact, Lesotho imports 90% of everything it uses.

Essentially all of its wealth comes from its citizens working in South Africa and sending the money home.

This was all honky dory for the two entities, Lesotho and South Africa, for years. Rather than undertake this extremely undeveloped region that needs so much expensive infrastructure, South Africa preferred to let Lesothoans work in South Africa and avoid many of South African taxes, so that the money could flow up to the mountain tops and keep everybody peaceful and quiet.

They aren’t peaceful and quiet, anymore.

People grow up. They get educated. They learn when they’ve got a raw deal, and technically South Africa has maintained Lesotho as a kingdom to save money.

Several years ago revolution erupted. Basically that meant that the 57-member military/police force took over the palace then the legislature.

South Africa mediated a solution that gave more power to the people. But then only a few weeks ago, baton wielding coupest turned into gun firing takeoverists.

What Lesothoans want is to become absorbed by South Africa. Most outsiders don’t realize this. Like Thomas Friedman, they think that all Lesotho needs are few new restaurants.

This has been going on too long, now. In a country with only 2 million people, 30,000 signed a petition then staged a march in Maseru four years ago demanding annexation by South Africa.

When nobody listened, the men with batons hit the street, and now, men with guns are taking over. What had been a peaceful if placated democracy is now another African dictatorship.

Last week South Africa’s trade unions, far more powerful than trade unions in the U.S., decided it was time to annex Lesotho. (A very high percentage of South Africa’s mine workers come from Lesotho.)

“In reality, Lesotho is in the Free State and so it can be an extension of the Free State, or the 10th province,” one of South Africa’s principal union leaders, Frans Baleni, said last week.

He’s absolutely right. It’s time to wipe out the spot.

Born Free

Born Free

BornFree“Born Free” is an African expression that resonates with Americans as none other, and today is the 15th anniversary of the death of the man who coined it, George Adamson.

“Born Free” was the name of the first book written by George and Joy Adamson about their orphaned lions in a part of Kenya that is now Meru and Koru National Parks, east of Mt. Kenya.

Their central story of Elsa, the lioness, has been told, retold, mistold and told differently a thousand times since. It’s headlined movies, wall murals, safari company names and trip titles and even Broadway theater.

The couple Adamson was one of the most gentle conservation teams I’ve ever known. Unlike so many others, they actually shied away from the public. They divorced about ten years before Joy’s murder in 1980, although continued seeing one another often. Time and again you’ll hear the story of a successful conservation couple in Africa whose complicated business growth through the years tangles up and finally ends their marriage.

Yet there is no question that their successes and their fame was entirely mutual. It’s hard to imagine either would have had any notice without the other.

George was British and came to Kenya during the height of the colonial days, starting as a hunter but quickly becoming deeply interested in the wilderness. He was a game warden for many years for both the colonial then independent Kenyan government.

Joy was Czech and as a young and fairly privileged young lady came to Kenya to hunt. She fell in love not only with George but with his new style of conservation.

Joy was the principal author of the book Born Free but is perhaps now better known for her amazing portraits of early Kenyan tribes people.

EWT’s involvement with the Adamsons came through Marlin Perkins’ wife, Carol. The Perkins were deeply involved with the Adamsons charities after featuring their work in the wilderness in several of Marlin’s Wild Kingdom television episodes.

Carol was specially close to Joy and would almost always begin her safaris by taking her small group of friends by charter aircraft directly into the Adamson’s camp. Few other people were welcomed there.

Their tragedies came at the end, separately but the same. Both were murdered by bandits – nine y ears apart – as they stubbornly refused to leave their little homestead in an increasingly lawless part of Kenya’s great Northern frontier.

Dumb Historians

Dumb Historians

IraqIsNotRwandaErbil is not Rwanda.

Supporters of the U.S. air attacks in northern Iraq spent the weekend invoking the mistake the U.S. made in 1994 in Rwanda as a reason why we should restart the military campaign in Iraq.

They obviously don’t know the history.

Prior to the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations Security Council empowered a peace-keeping force with boots on the ground from more than a dozen countries including a number of Rwanda’s African neighbors.

This had occurred after the French had unilaterally sent a small military force to Rwanda. France was the lead nation in the intervention force.

But the general overseeing the UN troops was Canadian. And the troops that saw most of the active engagement were Dutch. And literally dozens of other countries were involved in air lifts and logistical support.

And the entire world, as represented in the Security Council, was behind the effort.

Right now, there is absolutely no international effort to support Kurdistan (Erbil) or to help the stranded refugees in the Sinjar mountains. Right now it is only the United States.

In Rwanda the genocide followed when the French enlisted the United States in blocking increased UN military involvement by the Security Council even as the situation worsened. That was the mistake in Rwanda: choosing sides and letting one side start massacring the other.

In Iraq today a genocide may already have happened, and the stranded refugees in the Sinjar mountains could be the next genocide.

That’s the tough question, but it has an answer however horrible. If I believe a genocide is possible, am I saying the U.S. should not go it alone to stop it?

In this specific case, yes.

Based on the recent history of the area, the effort by us alone to change history, to abate even temporarily a genocide is likely to cost thousands more lives and infinitely more misery in the future.

The question to me is quite simple. Do we react to the horror of the present by damning the future to an even more horrific destiny? Can we not refer to history?

Can we not stop rewriting history, as with the analogies to Rwanda?

This is not isolationism. If what is happening in the Sinjar mountains were happening in Puerto Vallarta then my orientation would change. If other countries in the Mideast and nearby Europe asked us for support, my support is available.

But to go it alone? No. Definitively and completely. Not only must Americans grow their sense of community, they must extend their human vision into the future and realize as nature’s greatest achievement we have the capability to fashion our future, not just react to our present like unintelligent animals.

A final subtle argument floating around the weekend talk shows was that yes, we were wrong to go into Iraq, but we did so, so we are now responsible for the mess we created.

Yes, we are completely responsible for the mess we created. So do we create a greater mess? The only responsible thing to do is stand back and let the area’s own social and historical equilibriums reappear however awful that may be.

We can’t fix it. We were unable to fix it in the beginning, and now we are unable to fix the mess we created. All we are capable of doing is making bad situations even more terrible.

Virtually every conflict that America has gone alone in my life time has been a disaster, starting with Vietnam. The world today would be so much better and happier if America had not blustered solo into those wars.

We shouldn’t feel unmasculine recognizing this fact. Power is never insurmountable, not even moral power. From my point of view, the only global power that will prevai is GLOBAL power, the combined efforts of multiple countries. We supply the warplanes. Sweden or Chile supplies the justification.

The conflicts in which we were only a part – like the Balkans War – had very good outcomes.

We are strong and should remain so. But we are dumb and should listen to the rest of the world before throwing our punches.

All’s Well That Ends

All’s Well That Ends

happyfromgomaHere’s something profoundly light and happy. Contradiction? Try it out for your Friday. This is what happens when a generation of war ends.

With all the turmoil going on today in the Mideast to Iraq and Ukraine, it may be hard to fast forward your interest to when it’s all over. But I think that’s what’s happening today in The Congo.

Take a listen.

The brains behind this and many other similar good feeling videos is a diminuitive if shy Congolese, Kelvin Batumike. With help from UN agencies and the Congolese diaspora, he persists in the belief the eastern Congo is becoming peaceful.

I think Batumike is right. Peace is coming, although slowly. Less than a hundred miles north of Goma, still a part of the giant Kivu province, warlords still effect daily lives, although they do seem to be fading further into the jungle and becoming weaker.

A little bit further north towards the troubled Sudan, warlords are still fully in control. Yesterday they announced the execution of three priests who refused to convert to Islam.

The horrible conflict in central east African which includes The Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, western Uganda and little parts of both The Sudan and South Sudan, is incredibly complex. Nearly a century of horrible Belgium rule and exploitation ended when extremely rich rare earth resources were discovered here.

The end of the colonial era, which I believe came far too early and prematurely, turned over all its unfinished business to the greed, terror and rightist ideologies of The Cold War.

Strong Congolese ethnic groups pitted against one another in colonial times were let loose with new found wealth that was quickly transformed into weapons.

When the Cold War ended this part of Africa was in such a mess that the newly empowered West and the newly subdued East just walked away from it. One of the typical results was the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

A century of exploitation included the following gifts to the developed world: the (tires on your) automobile, the cell phone, the xBox and personal computers. None of these items would exist without the resources first found then exploited from this troubled region.

Do you feel guilty? You should.

The half century of serious fighting in the eastern Congo began with the assassination of its first democratically elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, on January 17, 1961. Even today the complex details of the 1960 coup against Lumumba by Moshe Tsombe and the terrible despot Sesi-Seko Mobutu, who subsequently ruled The Congo for almost 40 years, remain uncertain.

But the apology ultimately given and the reparations ultimately paid by the Belgian government to The Congo admitted that the coup, and the assassination, were not only planned but actually carried out by the secret services of Belgium and the United States.

The U.S. has never joined Belgium in the admission, but neither has it denied it.

That likely horrific act by America and Belgium was because Lumumba was an avowed socialist with policies of nationalization which attracted the support of the electorate. Of all the elections that have followed in Africa since 1960, this one was probably the freest, fairest and most democratic.

But 1960 was frozen in the Cold War. The world was seen in simple contrasts, then. Socialist was communist was the Soviet Union.

If only … There are so many “if onlys” in Africa. As one of my favorite clients says, “All’s well that ends.”