Archive for Africa

Overnight: Africa: Overland from Nairobi to Cape Town


Africa Overland

I've been in Africa several times, North Africa and in Kenya and Tanganyika.  I loved it.  

I'm not sure how it would be now. To Michael Crichton who taught school in Malawi as a Peace Corps volunteer and later at a university in Uganda as he details in Dark Star Safari, it had changed dramatically upon his return.  I'd love to travel through it overland for a longer period. I have alternated between taking a group overland trip, such as you'll see in this video, and outfitting a Land Rover or a Unimog to travel on my own.  The former is much less expensive - very reasonable - and has the advantage that the drivers know the routes and the borders and you're always among friends.  Taking your own vehicle is far more complicated and expensive, but you can travel on your own schedule.  

Incidentally, Africa's size is misrepresented on most maps: in reality, it is enormous.  


Video Mid Day Distraction- Doctor builds his own rural hospital equipment out of scrap




Time to Speak Up


Cameroon flag
Eric Ohena Lembembe, Gay Rights Activist, Tortured And Killed

This is the headline of an article by Robbie Corey-Boulet that caught my attention, especially during the honeymoon of the victories that the LGBT community has been celebrating since the US Supreme Court rulings. Sometimes we forget how awful things are in other parts of the world.

DAKAR, Senegal -- A prominent gay rights activist in Cameroon was tortured and killed just weeks after issuing a public warning about the threat posed by "anti-gay thugs," Human Rights Watch said.

One friend said Lembembe's neck and feet looked broken and that he had been burned with an iron.

I started to get curious about something. Cameroon. Is this the same Cameroon that I read somewhere was getting billions of dollars in US foreign aid?

Where is it exactly?And what part do we play in their existence. If we have any sway over them, maybe it's time we start using it. So I Googled U.S. foreign aid -- okay, first I Googled a map of Cameroon to get my geography right, then I found the foreign aid numbers.


It's hard to get a real grasp on what we're really spending and even harder to know why. According to the U.S. official development assistance office, the most recent numbers are from 2007 and 2008. In the first of those two years, we officially gave $1.908 billion in aid to Cameroon. We dropped that nearly three-quarters to a mere, $524 Million in 2008. Maybe we need to drop it again, or see to it that it's being put to good use -- educating the people there.

Lembembe was among the most prominent activists in one of Africa's most hostile countries for sexual minorities. First as a journalist and later as executive director of CAMFAIDS, a Yaounde-based human rights organization, he documented violence, blackmail and arrests targeting members of Cameroon's gay community.

Homosexuality is punishable by prison terms of up to five years in Cameroon, and the country prosecutes more people for gay sex than any other in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Human Rights Watch.

We have to start holding countries accountable for human rights if they want our handouts.  From a strategic position, Cameroon offers us little. But from a human standpoint, it offers us a lot. It's a chance to show the world that even small countries matter. But they also have to treat their citizens with respect and dignity or the money for friendship will stop.


Video- Michelle Obama and Laura Bush in Africa on Being First Lady



Live Streaming Video- President Obama and President Kikwete Hold a Joint Press Conference 9:45a EDT




John Kerry appoints Russ Feingold as State Department's new special envoy to Africa's Great Lakes region



So much for hopes that Feingold would run for office any time soon...

Via the U.S. State Department site, the press briefing announcement regarding Russ Feingold as the new Great Lakes Special Representative:

...I wanted to be able to focus personally on an important addition to our team here at the State Department; an individual who is going to provide, I believe, a very important focus on a long-troubled region.

As everybody here knows, the suffering in the Great Lakes region of Africa and the ongoing crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to trouble all of us greatly.  We are convinced that we have to help the parties find a path to a lasting peace, to a permanent cessation of hostilities, and to the disarmament and demobilization of M23, accountability for human rights abuses, and finally, a breaking down of the barriers that are standing between humanitarian aid and the civilians who need it.

For the President and for me, this is a high-level priority and it needs to be met with high-level leadership.  And that’s why today, I’m pleased to announce the appointment of my former colleague in the United States Senate, Russ Feingold, as the new United States Special Representative for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Russ and I served together in the Senate for some 18 years.  I have a lot of respect for a lot of qualities of Russ – his intellect, his courage, his passion – but with respect to this mission, chief among those qualities that are important right now is his expertise on Africa.  In the Senate, when Russ Feingold addressed the issues of Africa, the Senate listened.  He chaired the Africa subcommittee when I was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and I think my predecessor as chairman, the Vice President Joe Biden, would agree with me that Russ Feingold was the Senate’s leading advocate and expert on Africa.  I’m very grateful that he has agreed to come back to government and to apply the expertise that he gained those years for the Obama Administration and for the State Department.

Russ will be coordinating with me and with the Bureau of African Affairs to shape our strategy on the many challenges in the region – cross-border security; political, economic, and social assistance issues; and many other issues.  I mentioned some of them earlier – M23, the violence, the need to build confidence and capacity in the region.  He will also work very closely with the United Nations Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, and he will work specifically to ensure the prompt and full implementation of the UN’s Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework.


Video Overnight Thread- Spring in Kenya


Via Sullivan.