OnSafari: Lucy’s Future

OnSafari: Lucy’s Future

kenya and lucyWe had a Maasai guide for our final days in Kenya. There are about 500 guides in Kenya’s best game park, the Maasai Mara. Only three are women: “our” Lucy was one.

Two days after national elections, results have yet to be announced but the country looks increasingly like it will accept the outcome peacefully. Lucy won’t be the only beneficiary of peace. In 8 of Kenya’s 47 counties (comparable to our states) provisional results give governorships to women.

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Democratic Flames

Democratic Flames

flamesofdemocracyKenya’s August 8 national election will test democracy as never before, anywhere in the world. Kenya’s incredible tribalism and its new found intellectualism are being force-blended into a modern world that just so happens at this very moment in human history to be questioning the very worth of democracy.

I think it will make it. Others aren’t so sure.

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May Day Dead

May Day Dead

maydayMuch of the world takes a holiday, today. All of Africa’s largest and most powerful countries are on holiday. May Day carries a morbid tradition of celebrating the horrible mental and physical tolls on workers in the second millennium.

So who isn’t a worker? Is Trump a worker? Is Nigerian Aliko Dangote a worker? Is the poor Joe who was once a miner in Appalachia still a worker? Everyone and no one is a worker, today. This is a false moniker for the modern age and it leads us into a sort of dangerous nostalgia.

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Now a Grim Tale

Now a Grim Tale

viewfrom.saruni.518.jun10‘Laikipia’ runs off the tongue into conversation exactly like the beautiful waterfalls that burst out of the high jungles over the dramatic cactus landscapes of deep canyons and endless vistas in north central Kenya.

Laikipia was a beautiful story in the 1970s, still compelling two decades later in “I Dream of Africa,” but it’s a grim and dark tale, now.

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Macabre Renewables

Macabre Renewables

newcapitalDrop some pop western culture into a poorly developed area of Africa, add a pinch of a dictatorial politic, and you get a horribly tragic ritual slaughter of three agricultural workers in rural Tanzania.

When the three field scientists from the urban center of Arusha traveled yesterday to a very rural part of central Tanzania, villagers accused them of being vampires and hacked them to death.

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Party Paradox

Party Paradox

tandonclintonAfrican intellectuals bring clarity to our current campaign: Nothing matters in this election but Establishment-Yes or Establishment-No. Obama’s failed promise of change makes any qualification heresy.

Clinton and the DNC’s very public decision not to indict Republicans, thereby reducing Democrat’s chances for a legislative majority, suggests nothing less than stale embrace of the Establishment, and by so doing, boosts Trump.

Yesterday a Kenyan. Today a Ugandan.

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Societal Upheaval

Societal Upheaval

ikundaanalyzestrump“How can a billionaire businessman who calls Mexicans rapists, …insults women, stereotypes black Americans, admires…Putin, threatens to bar Muslims from entering the country …become a presidential candidate? Surely decent, responsible, fair-minded people would not give such a national and international menace a chance to become the leader of the free world?”

To that South African columnist Donald Trump is as newsworthy as a dozen other crisis in his country this morning and hundreds across the continent.

There’s a lot of news in Africa, today. And a lot of it is about Trump.

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Democratic Disease

Democratic Disease

gabon and polioRotary Charity and Gabon Wealth, two very different issues this morning that teach a similar lesson: you can’t buy success.

The oil rich country of  Gabon remains unsettled this morning following contested elections and days of violence.  A third case of the presumed eradicated polio was confirmed this morning in Nigeria.

Two extremely different African tales share an amazing similarity. Both of them were completely predictable and for the same reason.  Let’s start with Gabon.

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OnSafari: Dar Hell

OnSafari: Dar Hell

DartrafficBPOn a two-day hiatus from my Miller Family Safari, I find myself in a Poe or King hell: Dar-es-Salaam.

The family’s foreign exchange student joined them for the first ten days. The two of us peeled off the group yesterday so that I could shepherd him onto his international flight home to Paris.

Unable to catch up with the family in Zanzibar for two days, I’m staying in Dar es Salaam. The Ramada Resort on Mbezi Beach had a good deal, and I also booked their “40-minute” transfer from the airport. It took two hours.

This was 7 p.m. on a Thursday night. My savvy cabbie avoided the main roads as much as he could. We wound our way through a maize of small streets that anywhere else in the world would resemble a walking mall, but with nano-millimeters to spare we passed giant petrol trucks and mammoth buses, but at least we were moving.

It was dark. No street lights, so the only illumination was the ubiquitous “open” and “welcome” neon signs of the myriad of shops lined up one after the other. Bridal shops, grocery stores, children’s toys to many pharmacies were doing a robust business, many with lines of people waiting to get in. People crossing the street, 3-wheel tuk-tuks and an unending barrage of motorcycles somehow effortlessly wove in an out of our two moving lines of mammoth traffic.

But this clever navigation had its limits. Three or four times we had to get back on a disastrous main road: Four, five or six lines of vehicles moved often quickly then stopped … once for 25 minutes. White uniformed policeman at several intersections wielding large red or green neon batons waved tides of vehicles forward and back in a futile attempt to unclog the mess.

Two minutes less than two hours I arrived at my destination, 11.2 miles from the airport. Taxi fee: $70 with tip.

Of course I was frustrated and exhausted, but I couldn’t help thinking of the people who live here, of the enormous resources spent just coming and going. Easily 1 out of 4 large trucks were petrol tankers. Sometimes my cabbie decided to turn off his car engine, but usually not. He explained that was hard on the engine and used even more gas.

What percentage of the gas was used to stand still? But that pales in comparison with the time all these people have lost of their productive lives.

Speaking with staff at the hotel I learned that most of them live in reasonable proximity to the hotel, but that was less true of management and specialty services. One woman said she spent five hours daily getting to work and back! Another has been given a room in the hotel, and “commutes” home (15 miles away) on his days off!

Most African metropolises are a mess. Urban immigration for the last two decades has stunned social anthropologists by its magnitude and speed, and Tanzania is right there at the top of the charts.

Of the estimated Tanzanian population of 55 million, nearly ten percent reside in Dar es Salaam. Add surrounding communities in the area where I stayed Thursday night and it’s likely around 8 or 9 million.

I’ve written about Nairobi’s congestion often in the last several years, and the new highway system that came on line last year did seem to help … a little. But even in Nairobi’s worst times, it did not take two hours to go twelve miles.

This was a real education for this old safari guide. All the pontificating about how to help the developing world, how to share the world’s resources, seems meaningless after this experience. Until the chaotic congestion of African cities is resolved, how can anything else begin to be done?