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.
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!”


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?
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!

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.”

Israeli Fauxpolitik

Israeli Fauxpolitik

NotABowIsrael’s steamy response to Obama’s acceptance of the new Palestinian government reveals a massive hypocrisy in Israel’s dealings with Africa.

Yesterday Palestine sort of came together, as Fatah (that recognizes Israel) formed a coalition with Hamas (that doesn’t).

The attempted amalgam was further complicated by the fact that Fatah is considered a wholesome government by the U.S. and much of the western world, and Hamas is considered a terrorist organization.

Complications hardly end there: mixtures of oil and water neither lubricate engines or quench thirst. It’s not clear to me the new coalition will be able to do anything but split up, again.

Be that as it may, Israel exploded diplomatically.

Israel spent 24×7 explaining to the media how hypocritical the U.S. was. On today’s Morning Edition, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. fumed.

I applaud Obama’s action because governments rarely mean what they say, only what they do, and it made me think of Israel’s long and “hypocritical” relationship with Africa.

Apartheid was prolonged, the war in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was prolonged, the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe is currently prolonged, the development of Ethiopia was inhibited and horrible men from today’s Kagame in Rwanda and Amin in Uganda were sustained … because of Israeli diplomacy, often secret, often not.

Israel’s justification in these and other similar African initiatives was basically two-fold: enhance their national security and protect and recover African Jews. And the dedication to these two missions was uncompromisable, even if it created a conflict with other established credos.

When I was guiding in a once peaceful eastern Congo (now the DRC) in the mid 1980s, I flew my clients south from Beni to Goma on DC3s that came from Israel carrying weapons to the then Rhodesia. I’ve never been clear which side they were destined for, but wherever they were headed it was illegal… and that didn’t matter to the Israelis.

The current dictatorship of the weirdo despot Robert Mugabe is legitimized by an Israeli firm, Nikuv, which “manages” the farce called national elections which keeps Mugabe in power. Many Israelis are themselves furious, calling Nikuv Mugabe’s “fixers.”

The arms shipments to Rhodesia in the 1980s were likely more political than commercial, but it seems Nikuv might be more commercial than political.

In the runup to his mass slaughters, Idi Amin was supported heavily by Israel when the rest of the world had abandoned him. Shortly after staging his coup, Amin visited Israel, since no one else would have him.

Today in neighboring Rwanda, another despot is supported heavily by Israel, president Paul Kagame. Apparently there are some in Israel who believe that Tutsis are ancient Jews.

That seems like a stretch, but it’s no stretch that many Ethiopians were ancient Jews. I’ve seen myself primitive huts 3 or 4 decades ago with Torahs in Hebrew the only book around, and totems of ancient Israeli personalities like the Queen of Sheebah. I’ve seen entire villages that speak only a local dialect and Hebrew.

The belief that these “Falasha” were the Lost Tribe of Dan resulted in 30 years of Israeli involvement in Ethiopia so that it could repatriate 40,000 of the Falasha. The mammoth undertaking ended last year.

In order to facilitate this undertaking, the government of Israel was the only government except the Soviet Union that supported the barbarism of ruthless Ethiopian leaders in the 1980s.

My point has nothing to do with whether these Israeli efforts were right or wrong, but that they were practical to an extreme.

Obama’s search for peace in The Mideast is not practical to an extreme, it’s just practical. Israel’s condemnation? The pot calling the kettle black.

Fifty Years Later

Fifty Years Later

mandelaFifty years on Sunday, one week after the merciless white mercenary Ian Smith wrested control of independence in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) from the British, Nelson Mandela delivered his greatest speech.

He was in the docket in Pretoria following two years in jail for a variety of charges including murder and sabotage.

Both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson supported the apartheid regime that brought Mandela to trial. America’s practical diplomacy, which Kissinger would later name realpolitik, needed South Africa’s trade, its uranium, its ports and four missile sites as a contra validation to Russia and China’s inroads in the continent.

The Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, blocked the U.S. from joining the economic sanctions increasingly coming from Europe, warning that weakening white rule would lead to “Communist infiltration.”

Communist infiltration. Inferior race. Slavery. Concepts at one time or another trumped all the glorious democratic principles on which the U.S. was supposedly founded.

And even more ironic that Lyndon Johnson’s great 1964 legislative achievement was the Civil Rights Act.

Alone in America stood Robert Kennedy, who after being denied a visa to visit South Africa in 1965 got one in 1966 and raised all sorts of hell. But not even this was necessarily exemplary morality. Kennedy hated Johnson and seemed positioned to beat him in national elections.

The Founding Fathers were out to lunch in 1964.

During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

There have probably been many historical personalities who valued their convictions as strongly and who then, died, and who then, we know little about. The fact that Mandela was not sentenced to death as he could have been likely reflected the apartheid regime’s belief that killing Mandela would have sparked an irrepressible revolution.

I’m not so sure. But I am sure that’s what the Bothas and Verwoerds thought would happen. They were not nice men.

I’m not sure that unwavering conviction is always a good thing. Consider the evil doers of the T-Party or the loonies in the Creationist Movement. Consider the Joseph McCarthy’s or the Klu Klux Klan. Belief just for its own sake can be wretched.

Mandela knew he was not going to be sentenced to death. He knew the white regime better than any of his colleagues, since he had practiced with them as a lawyer. He had felt the bitter racism of his jailors.

He knew that to challenge them with killing him was an ace in the hole. It flipped their own puritanical certainties on their buff. I don’t think Mandela believed the non-white population of South Africa would explode if he were killed. He just knew that his white oppressors thought so.

So I agree that this is a great speech but not because of what it said, but because of what it didn’t say.

He didn’t dare them to execute him. He played on their fears of black domination, based on their own visceral understandings of white domination.

Mandela was a great compromiser. He was not T-Partyish. He was the consummate politician who nevertheless managed to live by a set of principles. And that’s why when he came to power, the whites who remained in South Africa prospered.

Jim posted this blog in Cape Town.

SA Election in Balance

SA Election in Balance

sascaleofjusticeIn three weeks South Africans will likely reelect the ANC to power, but it will also likely be the last time.

Standing for a second term, President Jacob Zuma, wouldn’t have a chance in most any other open democracy. His playful life style and his list of scandals would doom any earnest candidate in any place but South Africa.

In fact in his last two political rallies he was booed, and people in the audience started throwing stones at cars.

So why will he prevail?

Twenty years since the end of apartheid memories of white rule during the oppressive years of apartheid still run strong. Apartheid began with the Nationalist election victory in 1948, and the insidious laws that began implementation in the early 1950s. That was more than 40 years of politics that was arguably worse than Zuma, today.

So it is remarkable to think that the ANC might not have the staying power that the apartheid regime had.

In 2004, the ANC won 70% of the votes. In 2009 it was 65%. I predict that this time it will be under 60%.

The ANC knows it’s in trouble. In fact, ANC candidates have pledged if they can wrest control of the Western Cape (Cape Town) – which is extremely unlikely – that half of all white civil servants will be immediately fired.

This play on racism marks the desperation of the failing ANC, and Zuma’s ineptitude in particular. It’s typical of banana republics like Zimbabwe, not of mature democracies of the sort South Africa can be.

It hinges on the belief that “you had your 40 years of oppression, we now get ours.”

To be fair ANC officials at lower government levels seem to be doing a decent job. It’s the heavies at the top like Zuma who are creating the aura of buffoonery. And the old adage that all politics is local is also a significant reason that the ANC is expected to win, again, this time.

But their support is dwindling, and with Mandela gone, and with the years clicking by, the end of the ANC can be imagined. The next national election will be in 2019. I expect the ANC will lose, then, unless the antics of their leadership change radically.

Or as many suggest, a palace coup takes place that ousts the old revolutionaries for the technocrats being produced, today.

The South African president is not directly elected by the populace, but by the lower house of parliament. The process is nearly identical to the election of America’s Speaker of the House.

A party convention that disapproved of a sitting president would likely be sufficient for that person to resign or face a humiliating election whipping by his comrades. The magic number being bantered around for Zuma’s survival is 60% or more of the May 7 votes for the ANC. Less, pundits say, and Zuma’s out.

It’s going to be close.

Jim filed this blog from Cape Town.

Beyond Wrath and Tears

Beyond Wrath and Tears

mandela and the worldNone but Mandela were able to get the presidents of the United States and Cuba to shake hands.

According to Reuters, a U.S. official implied it was a planned gesture of reconciliation in the spirit of Mandela’s legacy. As Obama walked from his seat to the podium to deliver his eulogy, he stooped briefly to shake Castro’s hand.

The day was marred by climate change. (Forgive me, that’s quite an exaggeration. But it’s true that throughout sub-Saharan Africa weather is increasingly severe as it is becoming at home.) Rain – heavy at times – competed with the aggressive vocalizations of the crowd in the stadium.

Obama was the most widely cheered. In stark contrast, South Africa’s president and his associates were so widely booed and jeered that the proceedings were interrupted.

And in a twist only explicable as South Africa’s growing frustration with Zuma and their increasingly corrupt government, the great and merciless tyrant from next door, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, received thunderous applause.

The tributes at today’s Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela were given by arch enemies and celebrated virtually every political system that exists today in the world.

The first speech was appropriately given by UN secretary general Ban. The second speech was given by the AU Commission chairperson.

The third speech, and the first of six world leaders was given by President Obama.

Obama was followed by the president Rousseff of Brazil, Chinese vice-president Li Yuanchao, Namibia president Pohamba, Indian president Mukherjee and Cuban president Castro.

Obama’s speech was indeed grand, as many of his public speeches have been. He began poetically and gently as you would expect from this gentle academic, acknowledging the sadness which in fact may not exist at quite level commensurate with Obama’s speech.

He then moved chronologically through Mandela’s life, linking him with the life ways of Ghandi and King, taking up the shackles of the oppressed.

Ever the equalizer, Obama referred to Mandela’s ascent during the time of “Kennedy and Khruschev” and then veering into the hyperbolic he compared Mandela to Lincoln for holding the country together “when it threatened to break apart” and completely ignoring the fact that Mandela himself had little to do with his country’s profoundly wonderful constitution:

“he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations – a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.”

Politicians have a clever way of stinging those listening to them (Castro and Mugabe, both of whom lead dynasties of power that have lasted longer than the life span of an average South African).

Obama then spent too long extolling Mandiba’s self-doubt and humility: “ “I’m not a saint,” Obama quoted him, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” Politicians rarely praise someone without praising themselves.

Obama then explained Mandela’s greatness in terms of his family and closer friends, again a somewhat tenacious bend of history, as for whatever reason, Mandela’s pre-release relationships were rarely strong or lasting.

In a recurring theme in almost all Obama’s speeches that refer to another individual, and a message that I find tiresome but was not the least tiresome on the South African audience, Obama defined greatness in an individual as something to be manifest in the simplest of men and women: Mandela should be used as model for yourself.

Losing himself momentarily, Obama praised Mandela’s “rebelliousness” only to immediately pull back and remind the audience of his team work.

In what I consider one of his greatest and most revealing lines, and one I see as timely and hopeful, Obama said that Mandela “learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his.”

It’s an insightful look into the mirror, and one tempered with humility.

Referring to “Ubuntu” which today mostly refers to a widely used computer operating system which like Linux is mostly free to African users, Obama worked its derivation as “the tie that binds the human spirit.” Non-violence, shared understandings, a sort of political Zen.

I don’t think Obama got it wholly correctly, and he certainly misused it as a lead into complementing Mandela for his work fighting AIDS. This may have been intentional, since it’s widely construed as one of Mandela’s greatest failings, his lack of wholly grasping what AIDS was and what South Africa should have done about it during his time.

Courageously embracing the fact that both Mandela and he above all represent victories in the struggles against racism, Obama said “Michelle and I are the beneficiaries of that struggle.”

He then quickly qualified the point that the struggles aren’t over, and while in the same remark he would once again chastise Cuba, Zimbabwe and China for their suppression of human rights, he began instead:

“There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.”

That was when I applauded most.

The end of the speech was magnificent, painting a wonderful picture of a wonderful man and ending with the poem Invictus.

Ninety world leaders plus dozens other dignitaries attended the service. Six world leaders sat on the podium and gave eulogies: China and Cuba are communist. Brazil and India are democratic socialist about equally left of U.S. democracy. Namibia like South Africa is squarely democratic, both a bit right of the U.S.

Obama went first among them, and the applause was thundering. It was much less so for the five who followed.

Mandela almost joined the communist party in South Africa during his youth, and much of his training in the 1960s and 1970s was paid for by China in Tanzania. The Indian icon and revolutionary, Mohatma Ghandi, was close friends with the first Secretary-General of the ANC, John Dube. Their lives followed remarkable parallels in South Africa where Ghandi lived an activist life for more than 20 years.

During the days of the 1980s when the ANC was blacklisted as a terrorist organization, Cuba was a vocal and proud supporter. Travel to the west by ANC executives from Tanzania, where most were exiled, was arranged almost always through Havana by Cuba.

One of Mandela’s few progressive initiatives was to develop a trade alliance that included India to the east and Brazil to the west. This successful trade powerhouse is now beginning to wield incredible influence in the world arena. Brazil’s rapid economic growth in many ways mirrors South Africa’s.

South Africa was given stewardship of the German colony of Southwest Africa (later to become Namibia) by the United Nations after the Nazi collapse in World War II. Enormous international pressure on the apartheid regime granted some autonomy to Namibia that allowed apartheid to effectively end there just before it did in South Africa.

But in return for this autonomy, South Africa retained control and assumed sovereignty over Walvis Bay, the only effective port in the country. One of Mandela’s first actions as president was to return Walvis Bay to Namibia.

The fact that a single world leader can command such tribute from such a range of ideologies and traditions is proof in my opinion that there are far better solutions to crises than war and that maybe the difference between these ideologies isn’t really as great as the proponents within each ideology may claim.

But listening to Obama carefully I realized that neither Mandela or he are capable of truly changing history. The gauntlet of demarcating important changes in history must just be too great a tax on the resources of the individual.

Mandela – and Obama – are artists, one revolutionary, the other an organizer. I wholeheartedly subscribe to their shared world view, one of enduring compassion and justice.

But the implementation of Mandela’s and Obama’s dreams must wait for less gentle souls. Judging from the impatience and enthusiasm of the South Africans applauding Obama, that won’t be long.

Ending Legacies

Ending Legacies

Background image by Justin Ng.
Background image by Justin Ng.
The ANC’s manifestos for what a free South Africa would be is far from what we see, today. Mandela’s vision of the ANC was far from what it was when he was released. White South Africans certainty that a black South Africa would self-destruct was dead wrong.

There’s a lot of myopia in South Africa’s most recent history.

In the rainbow of organizations that confronted apartheid — from the communist party to the almost identical but intensely rival trade unions, to the ANC to the Zulu off-shoots to the white ladies’ “Black Sash” – there were violent disagreements over what a new South Africa should be.

Ending apartheid was the only unifying force. I often wondered while working in a shared office in Johannesburg in the late 1980s and coming into contact on a daily basis with all these different political activists, that if apartheid ended quickly and abruptly, say by some or other group staging a successful coup, that all hell would break lose among the opponents of apartheid struggling for control.

All but white anti-apartheid groups also were unified in desiring a socialist society, one that was fairly tightly controlled from the top, and this was most represented by the certainty that South Africa’s mines would be nationalized.

The gold, diamond, coal and precious metal mines of South Africa is what gives it its wealth.

The communists and most of the trade organizations and radical youth groups also wanted to nationalize the banks. The apartheid government had essentially already nationalized the massive transportation system, so quite apart from equality for the races, education and health, nationalization was a fundamental core of the fight against apartheid.

But apartheid didn’t end abruptly with a coup, but with multiple years of negotiation albeit mostly in secret.

And today South Africa is one of the most capitalistic countries in the world. France, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are far more socialist than South Africa.

The country is also increasingly corrupt. No-bid contracts are the rule of the day for the current government, and that has led to a clique of new age business people that it is assumed either give huge kickbacks or equally valuable political support.

It has compromised the education of young children, the quality of infrastructure, and even the government’s own plans for home construction. This very rich country seems unable to improve the lot of its most oppressed, while its leaders become millionaires.

The country lost a decade or more in the fight and control of AIDS, as both Mandela and his successor refused to believe it was a sexually transmitted epidemic.

The youth of South Africa, those who are called “new borns” for having arrived after Mandela was freed, are understandably angry and impatient. The passing of Mandela will give them new strength.

I believe that one of the reasons South Africa flounders today is because Mandela carried no clear ideology with him into the new South Africa. Like Obama, overwhelmed at the helm of history making a radical change in course, Mandela became the Great Compromiser.

Keeping society at peace during such a serious change overwhelmed everything else. This is completely understandable. For if peace had not been maintained, a revolutionary period would likely have resulted in an even worse situation.

The country’s constitution is a magnificent document, but Mandela had little to do with it (and today’s problems rest squarely in not implementing it fully and well.) The lack of retribution and aura of magnanimity ascribed Mandela was really created by Desmond Tutu and others. The transference of real economic power that was tried in the late 1990s was instigated by the youthful agitators in the mines and the ANC, and by that time, Mandela was already gone.

One of the reasons Mandela did not oversee a major transformation of South African society is because he was a construct of others who were much more powerful than himself.

It’s fascinating today to read of white South Africans’ certainties that Mandela was a maverick operating outside ANC direction, while simultaneously listening to old ANC members claim how they groomed Mandela as their figurehead from the getgo.

The real truth is likely somewhere in between, in that compromise that is Mandela’s greatest and perhaps his only legacy.

“Real Change” remains a political banner. You can change the color of the president in both South Africa and the United States without altering where black people remain on the graphs of economy.

It’s a question that is being asked round the world, not just in South Africa.

But I admit it was a bad time, the early 1990s, to experiment with new social orders. The Cold War had been definitively ended with a victory of capitalism over socialism. It would be several more years before Hugo Chavez would be democratically elected to renew such experiments, and that hasn’t gone particularly well.

Mandela will forever be remembered, and rightly so, for peacefully transferring power from the oppressors to the oppressed. That’s remarkably important and a statement for the ages that retribution never works for any ideology, any idea.

He deserves the great honors that attracted. But the concept of a peaceful transition wears poorly when not enough then changes as a result.

The Cold War has ended. Overt racism at least is grudgingly ending slowly. The Great Recession is ending. From South Africa to the United States, there is an energy in the youth to bring to fruition the symbols their parents created as landmarks out of a terrible past.

It could be an exciting future. And if so, Mandela’s legacy of peaceful transition — and likely Obama’s too — will be an historic moment, the last moment of symbol, a turn towards substance.

On the Wings of a Dove

On the Wings of a Dove

.This month marked the last planned charter flight of presumed African Jews from Ethiopia to Israel, capping a generation’s long program that “repatriated” more than 40,000 Ethiopians.

(Some reports put the number as high as 92,000.)

Referred to as “aliyah,” the collection and immigration of disparate Jews from around the world into Israel is public policy, but is mostly funded privately. Once in Israel the state apparatus provides various educational and financial assistance.

The stated policy of Israel to provide citizenship and security to any Jew anywhere in the world is referred to as the “Right of Return” and imbedded in the entire raison d’etre of Israel.

Many impoverished around the world, however, wishing to invoke the Right of Return are unable to do so on their own. And many who are simply among the throngs of Africa’s impoverished who long to immigrate to someplace with a better opportunity, try to invoke the Right of Return with little evidence they are Jewish.

Avi Bram writing in Think Africa Press this week called the end of Operation Dove’s Wing “A page … turned in the history of Jews in Ethiopia. But despite what Israel may think, the page doesn’t mark the end of the book, but merely a new, uncertain chapter.”

The Ethiopians returned to Israel in Operation Dove’s Wing had to demonstrate seven generations of Jewish lineage to be eligible for aliyah. Over the last ten years large numbers of Ethiopians migrated to the town of Gondar where various Jewish agencies were supporting temples and Hebrew education programs.

But in the end as many as 7,000 Ethiopians claiming to be Jewish were left behind. Now that Operation Dove’s Wing has ended, almost all of the Jewish agency support is ending, although other NGOs to some extent may replace them.

But the dynamic of Africans wanting to be considered one thing or another, so that they can be brought to a better world, and then examined by a stated government policy to credential lineage, verges on institutionalized ethnicity if not outright racism.

In the case of the Ethiopian Jews, the four major programs in 1984, 1985, 1991 and the last ending this month, were funded largely from American, South American and European Jewish communities.

I witnessed the 1984/85 “Operation Moses” which was the first program in Addis, and it differed considerably from what I watched happening this month.

Back then the tarmac of the Addis airport was filled with white tents, El-Al 747s, and many professional Israelis, especially doctors. Busloads of very traditional Ethiopians would come onto the airfield, be examined and were often so naked that they had to be clothed as well before boarding the aircraft.

That operation, by the way, differed in many respects from subsequent ones. Technically these Ethiopians were refugees being bussed in from Sudanese refugee camps through the country they had fled.

The toppling of Haile Selassie, the last emperor, led to a very turbulent period in Ethiopia known as the Red Terror. Large numbers of refugees were sent into mostly The Sudan. The Sudan wasn’t kind to them, being one of the most anti-Israeli countries in the world.

So there was some real humanity in Israel’s program to bring those refugees into greater safety. To be sure, the ruthless dictator of Ethiopia at the time, Mariam Mengistu, had no love for them, and it was also a deft diplomatic effort of Israel that organized the exodus from Addis.

But that being said, I remember thinking from conversations with several Americans who were with me at the time and who were associated with the operation, that quite a few non refugee Ethiopians were squeezing into the mix that was being transported to Tel Aviv.

Regardless, everyone I saw looked like they desperately needed help. If not sick, they were certainly destitute. Contrast that today with the YouTube video of the last charter flight arriving Israel from Operation Dove’s Wing.

Part of the explanation for this difference is simply the good news that Africa has developed so rapidly in the last generation. But that’s the point of contention.

If these Ethiopians who were relatively well dressed and well, well-off, were being given this extraordinary boost of opportunity by now becoming citizens of Israel, while millions of their fellow countrymen remain certainly destitute and impoverished, is this fair?

Many analysts like Avi Bram question if it even well conforms to Israeli policy. But the question I’m posing is whether the Right of Return in today’s world is an anachronism that contributes to racism.

If not, how far back must history stretch to justify such policy. Should Norway facilitate a Right of Return to anyone demonstrating a Viking Heritage through the DNA testing that can now pretty well determine that?

We don’t need more separation in Africa, today, much less anywhere in the world. I applaud Israel for the remarkably humanity the state is giving people in need, but I wonder if the choice of who that humanity is given to is a moral one.

What does Egypt Mean?

What does Egypt Mean?

Cartoon reducted from original at
Cartoon reducted from original at
Karl Marx proclaimed a successful revolution was the dictatorship of the proletariat. As of today, the Egyptian revolution is the dictatorship of the middle class.

If ever there had been a truly democratic election in Africa – even including South Africa – it was the election of Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood had trained in western institutions and democracy for years. And they won.

They won because the common Egyptian, the Egyptian of the lower classes, the less educated, the less likely to be employed, the more likely to have been oppressed or even tortured, had the vote. And they voted for the one thing that they had maintained through generations of oppression: their religion.

What’s specially ironic and intellectually stinging is that they were a movement of conservative Islam whose level of violence was low. That isn’t to say it didn’t exist (the horrible murders by the recently appointed Governor of Luxor stands as the example), but compared to Hezbollah, Hamas or the Joker fringes of al-Qaeda, they were choir boys.

Many contend that it was the old dictator, Mubarak, who made them so, crushing them when they misbehaved and rewarding them ever so slightly when they towed the line.

And like African movements across the continent, from the opposition in Zimbabwe to the thrice failed people’s movement in Kenya, they displayed generational patience unfathomable to us in the west. Learning the ropes, so the speak. Patiently waiting to achieve a democratic victory.

But .. All for naught.

The most cogent argument still founded on democracy being used by the supporters of the Egyptian coup is that the Egyptian constitution under Morsi had no feature to allow for impeachment, and that the mass demonstrations of the last several weeks against Morsi were sufficient to constitute impeachment.


The second most cogent argument was that while Morsi was elected democratically, he has systematically dismantled government institutions based on democracy and was crafting a dictatorship for himself.

In my opinion this is true. He packed the legislature and tried to emasculate the judiciary, without any constitutional or legislative authority. He started muffling all opposition media. He kept interrupting the otherwise routine schedule of upcoming elections.

In other words, like every dictator before him, he was using democracy to end it.

But what is disingenuous by the opposition is to claim this while suggesting they aren’t now doing the same thing.

The middle class has at least for the moment come to power. This elicits great sympathy from us, because we are the middle class in America. But they did not come to power democratically. And they won’t stay in power democratically. If they remain in power, it will be through a dictatorship of the middle class.

General Sisi and his underlings have indicated there will be new “democratic elections” by the end of the year, and yet another referendum on a yet another “democratic” constitution.

But no sane person believes that Morsi or the Muslin Brotherhood will have much hope of being integrated into this process. They will be excluded.

And the regime will claim they are excluded “because they aren’t democratic.”

We’ve now created the most distinguished non sequitur of democracy: We’ve proved that democracy doesn’t exist.

In America it doesn’t exist because money and other non-issue components drive elections, giving a distinct advantage to the rich. Democracy is supposed to be a debate of ideas, not bank accounts. Yet we see how quickly this gets muddled in America if a democatically achieved idea condones the advantage of money and other non-issue but controlling mechanisms like seniority and filibuster.

So democracy in America disadvantages the poor and weak. Advantage, upper classes. Same as Egypt. And by the way, the mechanism is the same:

In America so-called “democracy” may not be exclusively defined by money, but money is a principal definer. In Egypt democracy is now clearly defined by the military, and for the moment at least, the military and Egyptian middle class are allied.

And what begets the Egyptian military?

About a billion dollars annually from the U.S.

In today’s world, money is power and reigns, whether in the U.S. or Egypt. Those of us in the relative comfort of the middle class are OK with this, because we are rich enough.

But the poor and weak are not OK with this.

In Karl Marx’s time the “proletariat” was the poor and weak but undeniably the largest segment of society. As it remains today in Egypt. But in America today the “middle class” is the largest segment of society.

And in the globally connected world America has now if not imposed at least facilitated the middle class dictatorship in Egypt. Not directly, of course, because we are fooled by our own ideas. But by the very nature of capitalism, by the means by which we defend our own middle class, so must Egypt become.

This paradigm has but a single peaceful and morally correct outcome: that everyone become Middle Class. To the extent America, or Egypt, or Kenya or South Africa – or China – moves rapidly in this direction, there will be peace. To the extent societies don’t move rapidly enough in this direction, or reverse it, there will be war.

All hail the Middle Class. Long Live the Middle Class.

But don’t be hoodwinked by democracy.

Memorial Day 2013

Memorial Day 2013

Especially for my readers in Africa, I wanted to explain the absence of a normal blog, today. It’s Memorial Day in America, Monday, May 27, 2013.

The holiday is intended to honor the memories of U.S. soldiers who have died in action. It’s similar to the Remembrance Days celebrated in many parts of Africa, and like in South Africa, directed mostly to freedom fighters for independence.

America’s Memorial Day honors all dead soldiers, so in that regards our own revolutionary fighters are to be in our memory as well. But it began as “Decoration Day” right after the Civil War, following a petition by recently freed slaves (mostly who came from Africa) to honor the Union soldiers who had freed them.

After World War I, it was changed to “Memorial Day” and extended as an honor to all soldiers in all conflicts.

As a young boy it was a big red-white-and-blue festival. We decorated our little red wagons and bikes, just as we would hardly a month later for July 4th. And in those days we were remembering mostly the two Great Wars.

Since then my own personal regards for Memorial Day has diminished. The numerous wars my country has begun have mostly been unfair and unjust. And with the end of the draft when I was in university, the military has changed radically. It no longer represents society as a whole.

Today, the military is composed either of young men who can’t get any other kind of job, or who need the benefits once the service is finished, or avowed militarists. We need them both, by the way, but it has drastically altered America’s weapon users, and the military is today more easily manipulated by politicians than it used to be.

I do stop during the day and think of my relatives in the Great Wars. I think of the way the country ultimately came together to fight world tyranny. But in my life time, there is little in America’s wars to be proud of. They are mostly memories I wish we didn’t have.

Ancient Waterboarding

Ancient Waterboarding

Britain’s invitation this week to Kenya that it seek financial compensation from the U.K. for acts of torture more than a half century ago opens a topic that could be stinging to the United States.

Britain’s highest ranking diplomatic officer delivered to President Uhuru Kenyatta Tuesday a huge report documenting British torture during the Kenyan battle for independence in the 1950s, and invited Kenya to request financial compensation.

The report followed a British High Court ruling last October that allowed Mau Mau (Independence) war veterans to sue the British government for their torture in the 1950s and early 1960s, and the British government’s subsequent negotiations with hundreds of alleged victims.

In fact the release of previously sealed and top secret documents from the U.K. Foreign Office suggested there could be still living as many as 10,000 Kenyans due compensation.

The tedious process of negotiating individual claims began last year, and attempting to get out in front of what could have been an endless line of petitioners, the British government commissioned the report that was handed to Kenyatta Tuesday.

Quite apart from the tens of millions of pounds likely to be paid to the victims of Kenya’s insurection, the released secret documents, court case and Tuesday’s government commission report opens the gates to similar allegations from other foreign colonies.

The British report acknowledge Red Cross archives that documented widespread use of torture techniques including waterboarding and worse, waterboarding with kerosene.

Kenya reacted yesterday by demanding an official apology from the British government:

Britain should “offer a public and unconditional apology to the people of Kenya for all injustices and gross violations of human rights committed by the colonial administration between 1895 and 1963,” the Kenyan response says.

Note that Britain and Kenya right now are not the best of friends. In fact, Kenya has few friends in the world as the world awaits to see if its president and vice-president will stand trials as accused for crimes against humanity scheduled to begin in just a few weeks.

The British report and offer of compensation, however, seems completely unlinked to the UK’s current cold shoulder attitude towards its former colony.

And there is every concern in America that the British action sets a precedent that could severely impact the U.S.

If U.S. violations, including torture and unwarranted war, become issues for compensation, there could be literally millions of claims.

No formal reaction has been forthcoming from the U.S., although Voice of America broadcast this week a story admitting that the “The Mau Mau settlement would set legal precedent.”

The report did not elaborate as to whether it was legal precedent restricted to Britain or one that would be more global in nature.

And of course a number of other warring or former colonial powers would be just as vulnerable to legal attack as the U.S., mostly notably France.

Current American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are really little different from the European colonial actions in the past century.

The West has a distinct problem imposing its will. Perhaps a financial slap will bring western morality to its senses.

Borders and Blood

Borders and Blood

by Conor Godfrey
I’ve been accused of being a relentless Africa booster… this is almost certainly true.

To fight back, however, I am going to offer a scarier version of the continent’s next thirty years that has taken up serious mind share recently.

This idea will hopefully pass muster as a research topic, so I would certainly appreciate your feedback as I am just getting the full proposal together now.

From the late 90s to the present, we have seen tremendous agitation around African intra and inter-state borders.

I would argue that this started with the Ethiopia Eritrea war (1998-2000) and would include the escalation of civilizational conflict inside Nigeria and Mali, the 2006 Ethiopian and the 2012 Kenyan invasions of Somalia, and, of course, the separation of Sudan and South Sudan.

Dozens of conflicts—including many in the DRC—do not make this list because they did or do not fundamentally challenge the status-quo colonial borders.

You can quibble with or add to my list – that is not the point.

Before this decade the Colonial borders exhibited nigh unprecedented durability. Here is a list of African border changes post WW1… 90% of them were trades between colonial powers.

My point (or wild hypothesis if you will) is this… from independence to 2000, most African states did not possess the material capabilities to mount a sustained challenge to the territorial status quo; doing so requires states to centralize political control, neutralize domestic opponents that pose a threat to the state, and have the material resources necessary to take, hold, and administer territory.

As the U.S. knows well, this requires lots and lots of money (not to mention a professional military and a tolerant domestic audience).

For this entire period, states concentrated on papering over the inconsistencies built into their illogical creations, and, if hostile foreign action were required, they relied on cheap and effective proxy militias and other irregular activity rather than large-scale mobilization.

The Council on Foreign relations writes —not totally persuasively in my opinion—that keeping colonial borders gave African leaders “reciprocal insurance” against invasion, and that leaders were more concerned with arguing over who controlled state resources than fighting over borders.

So why are things coming apart at the seams (pun very much intended)?

This could, after all, just be a blip, a decade long aberration on an otherwise century long consolidation along the lines drawn on a cocktail napkin in Europe.

Here is what I think:

1) Differential Growth: The continent is booming, but not everywhere feels the love.

As some countries outpace their neighbors they will be tempted to acquire the military capabilities to favorably alter the territorial status quo.

Colonialism left hundreds of potential territorial flash points, and for the first time since independence, some African states can likely do something about them.

Differential growth also exacerbates tensions within countries.

As globally connected and well endowed regions grow faster than other provinces inside the same country, resentments build and fuel long simmering separatist ambitions.

This narrative plays itself out most visibly today in Mali, Nigeria, and Cote d’Ivoire, and to a lesser extent in Kenya and Uganda.

2) Resources: As mentioned in this post, Africa is massively under prospected and companies are racing to catch up.

A powerful country may have let unfavorable borders lie when no rents could be extracted from the disputed territory, but what happens when billions of dollars of oil and gas hang on a few lousy kilometers, and investing in a miniscule navy would be sufficient to enforce a fait accompli on the border?

There are a number of possible mitigating factors—colonial withdrawal, regional integration, economic integration, etc… — but I will save those for some future post.

This is worth getting right. I would hate to see a decade of phenomenal growth and progress undone in an orgy of territorial revisionism, and reasonable precautions could help stop spirals of security competition before they begin.