As we were traveling from the Entebbe (Uganda) airport late last night, the first topic we discussed was “security.” Security against a catastrophic 9-11 is better in Africa than at home.
My first clients, the Pomerantz family, (Roger and Cathy Colt and son, Daniel) remarked first that they had recently been to Egypt where it seemed like security was nonexistent. And I told them a very funny story that just happened to me in Nairobi.
I was at Gate 3 of the Jomo Kenyata? airport, the basement gate, which sends off 3 or 4 late night flights more or less at once, so in a waiting area that is always jammed. To get into this waiting area you have to pass through “security” – a metal detector.
A novice traveler to be sure, a very small (possibly Twa) Ugandan dressed in finest Sunday clothes was having great difficulty getting through the metal detector and to everyone’s irritation was holding up the line.
Each time he tried to go through, the red light beeped and security officials ordered him to return and try, again. He’d empty his pockets. Beep. He took off his belt. Beep. He removed what looked like a medicine ID tag. Beep.
Finally, the security official pointed to his highly, thin-toed black polished shoes. He took them off. Beep.
This time we knew why. He took them off, but he held them in his hands as he walked through for the upteenth time, and of course the detector beeped. The other items he had removed he had carefully placed in several of the big pockets of his Sunday dress coat. Which he didn’t remove. Beep.
The security official, finally realizing only moments after the rest of us did what was going on, laughed uncontrollably and waved the gentleman through. Beep. Last beep, though. No enforced retry.
No threat, either. Some of us get through when we don’t beep. Others – like this gentleman – when it’s just obvious he’s no threat.
Until this month, there was little to terrorize in poverty-stricken, weather forsaken, economically oppressed Africa.
A decade ago it was different. I was in Nairobi on August 10, 1998, when the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar were blown to smithereens. But every American embassy in Africa is now a fortress of unbelievable magnitude. Can’t bomb it, now.
So terrorizing sufficient numbers of westerners has become problematic. And … until recently .. there was no point in terrorizing nonwesterners.
A couple weeks ago more than 70 people were killed in the Kampala bomb blasts. That’s where I am at this moment as I write. But the bombs were meant for westerners. Al-Shabaab (Al-Qaeda in Somalia) expressly said it was targeting Ugandans.
Things have changed.
The Ugandans were targeted because they are the lead in an OAU military peace-keeping force in Somalia that Al-Shabaab is fighting.
The OAU military force is being exclusively outfitted by the U.S. and the UK.
Clever Obama. Our proxy wars have begun, again.
Huge and terrible wars, with thousands and thousands of casualties and untold destruction occurred during the Reagan years in proxy wars between Ethiopia (Russia) and the Somalia (U.S.).
Russia, despite all its other misfortunes and missteps, has bowed out of these miserable controversies. Our adversary is no longer a Super Power. It’s a terrorism organization. “Cold War” is now the “War on Terror”.
Terror only works when the recipient can be terrified. The Twa walking through the metal detector creates humor. Our military-industrial complex descending on Somali – oh so cleverly – creates terror.