Chief Moore

Chief Moore

roymooreIn 2013 after a lifelong success of writing novels about his native East Africa, H.R. Ole Kulet was awarded the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for literature. His short novels are now an essential part of the history of East Africa.

Ole Kulet described life that was changing so fast that today young Kenyans can’t fanthom his characters or his plots, including such things as rich old chiefs sexually assaulting young teen girls.

Get where I’m going?

Read more

OnSafari: Tiny Places

OnSafari: Tiny Places

7.classic.mvAutonomy is the buzzword, now. The Navajo Nation, Catalonia, Maasai Ngorongoro, Yukon First Nations or Zanzibar, and they are all wrong. This is becoming clearer and clearer to me as I tour America’s southwest and listen to the same story lines and their dismal outcomes that I have heard in Tanzania for years.

Kathleen and I spent a half-day with T.J. in his pretty beat up jeep in Canyon de Chelly, a part of the greater Navajo nation. He showed us some amazing scenery and intrigued us with closeups of Anasazi, Hopi and other Pueblo indian pictograph and petroglyph. But I was belabored with his stilted view of history and saddened not just by his own personal story, but the story of his people.

Read more

OnSafari: Northern New Mexico

OnSafari: Northern New Mexico

first snow taosWe woke to a brilliant white sunrise over an absolutely still landscape of New Mexico’s first snow. By 10 a.m. it was gone from all but the highest mountain tops.

Two days in Santa Fe is not enough. The museums are brilliant, the ubiquitous art enthralling if a mite homogenous, and the history grand and often hilarious. From Judge Tobin who spent most of his time in a bar to Kit Carson who spent most of his time in dime novels, the wild west slowed down a bit here. The native Tiwa-speaking Pueblo Indians tradition of keeping secret their past seems to have prevailed: An extremely nice Santa Fean gentleman who struck up a warm conversation with me on the plane from Dallas told me to “enjoy yourself as you never have, just don’t stay.”

Nearby Taos is a different world. My personal impression is that this is the last of hippie-dom. More crafts than arts. Sotheby’s, on the other hand, has an awful lot of multi-multi-million dollar private desert retreats for sale up the countless little desert roads around here. There’s a lot less talk and a lot more sitar than in Santa Fe. Everybody goes by their first name, but nobody seems to know exactly where they’re going.

Tonight we go to Catholic vespers at the start of Geronimo celebrations at Taos Pueblo. The Spaniards catholicized the Pueblo Indians and made St. Jerome their patron saint. The annual saint-day tomorrow is the most important day of the year for the Taos Pueblo, and for god’s sakes don’t use TripAdvisor’s conservative admonitions about not bringing children! This is a perfect demonstration of what happens when you try to synthesize modern religion with ancient beliefs. Thank goodness Geronimo won over St. Jerome!

Tomorrow we head west of the Raton Pass that the old wagons had so much trouble navigating, over the high forests across today’s modern ski country into the heart of the Navajo Reservation.

Stay tuned!

Worse than Thought

Worse than Thought

NambiaMore and more fireworks followed the sunsets around the world until the Trump administration corrected the misspelling or conflation or whatever, and Nambia ceased to exist in the official record. It was the briefest country ever to exist on earth.

It’s not uncommon for Americans to conflate multiple African countries. It is quite uncommon that conflation makes it onto a prepared document. It’s unheard of these are then actually delivered by a Head of State.

Does it matter?

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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?

Read more

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?

Read more

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.
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.