Monday, December 15, 2008

Your Africa Update

One of the things that Fosco learned this past academic quarter is that there is no excuse to ignore the Third World. As residents of the richest country on earth, we cannot pretend that our lifestyle has no relation to the rest of the world. Governor MooseMunch may not know that Africa is a continent, but the rest of us have no excuse. Recently, Fosco has begun to educate himself about Africa. In what will become a periodic feature here at Fosco Lives!, here is your Africa Update:

  • Fosco has recently become very interested in Nigeria. The city of Lagos is one of the planet's most interesting (and most horrible) megacities. The best place to start your reading about Lagos is "The Megacity: Decoding the Chaos of Lagos" by George Packer from The New Yorker. A second accessible step would be the novel Graceland by Chris Abani. It's the story of a young Elvis impersonator trying to hustle a living in the contemporary slums of Lagos. The premise may seem too clever by half, but it's a surprisingly powerful novel. It's also written in English, which alleviates some of the potential translation problems.

    The recent political news from Nigeria? Strangely enough, their Supreme Court just ruled on the legitimacy of their 2007 presidential election (sound familiar?) in favor of the sitting president. President Yar'Adua plans to use this decision to consolidate his hold on power. Although Yar'Adua is apparently mildly anti-corruption (which, in Nigeria, is pretty remarkable), some observers still question the possibility of a clean Nigerian government. As Professor Yusufu Obaje notes:
    Any serious administration must address this issue of political illiteracy. As long as this is prevalent in our society, we cannot have free and fair election in Nigeria.
    Fosco is fascinated by this idea of political literacy--something that everyone seems to assume is prevalent in the US (probably more so than it is).

    Last Nigeria item: from naijablog, a video of "Ikotun, an unloved and anonymous part of Lagos."

  • Welcome to Zimbabwe. Things here aren't very good right now. As you may have seen on the news, there is a widespread cholera outbreak. Zimbabwe's ruler, strongman Robert Mugabe is an absolute monster, but is he to blame for the cholera? Well, it depends. If you are a member of the reality-based community, the outbreak is clearly a result of the water and sanitation policies of Mugabe and his government. However, if you are a member of Mugabe's delusional government, then the cholera is actually a biological attack launched by either the British or the US State Department. This type of rhetoric would be funny, of course, if thousands of people weren't dying of an easily preventable disease.

  • Finally, steel yourself to read about this recent massacre in the Congo. Sadly, this massacre has exposed the farce of UN peacekeeping efforts in the area:
    And yet, as the killings took place, a contingent of about 100 United Nations peacekeepers was less than a mile away, struggling to understand what was happening outside the gates of its base. The peacekeepers were short of equipment and men, United Nations officials said, and they were focusing on evacuating frightened aid workers and searching for a foreign journalist who had been kidnapped. Already overwhelmed, officials said, they had no intelligence capabilities or even an interpreter who could speak the necessary languages.
    Before you consign the Congo to memory oblivion, allow Fosco to note that this country is as populous as France. At some point, we are going to have to take the mental responsibility to think about places like the Congo.
[UPDATE: Please note the new list of "Africa Blogs" in the right column of Fosco Lives!]

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