June 14, 2013

Consequence of war

A colleague passed on an invitation to this year's Hargeysa International Book Fair in Somaliland.

Its Sheeko iyo Shaahid competition for "young short story writers" takes entries from people aged up to 40 because "we believe some older writers never had the opportunity to develop their literary skills, as a consequence of war".

Posted by aheavens at 9:43 PM

June 13, 2013

What did Emperor Tewodros II look like?

Not like this - the image you see on T-shirts and walls all over Addis

Emperor Tewodros II

Or this

Emperor Tewodros II

Definitely not like this

Emperor Tewodros II

Here's the closest thing I've found to, if not a life study, then one directly from death. A sketch made soon after the fall of Magdala from a book of photos I found in a regimental museum. It's not how I expected him to look. But you can imagine him being Alamayu's father.

Emperor Tewodros II

Posted by aheavens at 7:23 PM

May 25, 2013

Bob Dylan in Africa


Just four songs and five references:

Precious Angel/Slow Train Coming - "But there's violence in the eyes, girl, so let us not be enticed / On the way out of Egypt, through Ethiopia, to the judgment hall of Christ"

Neighborhood Bully/Infidels - "Every empire that's enslaved him is gone / Egypt and Rome and even the great Babylon"

Precious Angel/Slow Train Coming - "But there's violence in the eyes, girl, so let us not be enticed / On the way out of Egypt, through Ethiopia, to the judgment hall of Christ"

Got My Mind Made Up/Knocked Out Loaded - "Well, I'm goin' off to Libya / There's a guy I gotta see / He's been living there three years now / In an oil refinery"

Mozambique/Desire - "I'd like to spend some time in Mozambique"

Posted by aheavens at 2:15 PM

May 19, 2013

If this works

then Meskel Square is back up and running.

Posted by aheavens at 10:15 PM

July 6, 2010

Sudan faces split into two one-party states

An internationally brokered peace deal that was supposed to transform Sudan into a unified democracy could be about to split Africa's largest country into two one-party states.

In six months time, people from Sudan's oil-producing south are due to vote in a referendum on whether they should secede and form Africa's newest nation -- a plebiscite promised under a 2005 accord that ended decades of north-south civil war.

Most analysts say south Sudan's poverty-stricken population, traumatised by the conflict and years of perceived northern exploitation, are likely to vote 'yes' for independence.

Many are already looking beyond the referendum to work out what an independent south -- and a newly separated north -- might look like. The political prognosis is not good, particularly following elections in April when opposition groups say the main northern and southern parties stamped out competition with intimidation and fraud.

Read the rest on Reuters.

Posted by aheavens at 7:00 AM

June 14, 2010

Juwama vs. the Nile Republic – South Sudan searches for a new name

What’s in a name? An entire cultural and national identity if you are from Sudan’s oil-producing south.

The region of southern Sudan is now less than seven months away from a referendum on whether it should split away to form Africa’s newest country.

One of the biggest unanswered questions hanging over the vote is what the new nation should call itself if, as widely expected, embittered southerners choose to secede.

The easiest option would be to stick to what people call it now — South Sudan or Southern Sudan.

But there are some serious branding issues. Say "Sudan" to most outsiders and they will immediately think of a list of nasties — Darfur, the never-ending north-south civil war, military coups, militancy and crippling debt.

A new nation might be grateful for a new name with a clean slate.

Read the rest on Reuters' Africa blog.

Posted by aheavens at 6:55 AM

April 10, 2010

When is an election boycott not an election boycott?

When it takes place in Sudan.

Preparations for Sudan’s general elections — due to start tomorrow — were thrown into confusion over the past two weeks as opposition parties issued contradictory statements over whether they were boycotting the polls.

Some announced a total withdrawal, protesting against fraud and unrest in Darfur, only to change their minds days later. Others pulled out from parts of the elections — presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial votes are taking place at the same time — then changed their minds days later. Others left it up to individual candidates to decide.

Even a day ahead of voting in the divided oil-producing state, serious questions remain.

These confusions are more than mere technicalities.

They will hinder the ability of Sudanese voters to make clear choices when they start queuing up for their first multi-party elections in 24 years.

They could also fuel legal challenges to the results when they are finally announced later this month, stoking tensions in a country already weighed down by ethnic divisions and conflict.

Take two examples:

1) The boycotts were announced after ballot papers were printed. That means the names of all the boycotting candidates are still there on the forms, with a big fat box next to their party symbols ready for a voter’s tick.

So should people vote for them or not? Few parties have issued any instructions about what their supporters should do, or publicly endorsed other candidates.

And what happens if one of the boycotting candidates goes on to win an election? Observers say votes for boycotting candidates will still be counted as legal. One official, who asked not to be named, said it would still be possible for Sudan’s incumbent president Omar Hassan al-Bashir to be forced into a second round of voting by support for other candidates who have pulled out of the race.

Would boycotting parties really refuse to accept a victory if it was handed to them? Or would they jump in, saying they were competing all the time? One for the constitutional lawyers to argue over for years.

Read the rest on Reuters' Africa blog.

Posted by aheavens at 4:15 PM

March 7, 2010

Ethiopian 'aid for arms' story sparks storm

The BBC sparked a storm this week with a story claiming millions of dollars sent to help starving people in Ethiopia's 1980s famine were used to buy arms by rebels.

The rebels, who now dominate Ethiopia's government, and some aid groups dismissed the story. Bob Geldof, the Irish rock star who helped raise a lot of the money in the 80s with his Live Aid campaign, said it was "simply not the case". Britain's Independent newspaper published a blog saying the claim was a slur, cooked up by enemies of Ethiopia's government ahead of looming elections.

Ethiopian blog Ethiopian Recycler, clearly not fan of the country's current regime, begged to differ and defended the BBC story in two posts Aid money, arms, and Sir Bob Geldof and Live Aid money did pay for weapons:

Millions of aid money raised in the 1980s was indeed diverted to buy arms and had provided rebel leaders with a lifestyle that was inhuman and extravagant even by today's standards. That is no news. Thousands of the hungry from Tigray were forced to trek to the Sudan in the course of which many perished. And hundreds that were resettled in southwestern Ethiopia were returned to Tigray through the Sudan [hundreds of which perished en route]. That is no news either. The fact that yesterday's BBC report is followed by the question whether this scam ever took place is simply absurd.
Read the rest on GlobalVoices.

Since the article was published, Bob Geldof has stepped up his rhetoric in The Guardian and Rob Crilly has joined the debate:

I don’t know why Bob Geldof got his knickers in a twist over the BBC’s report on aid to Ethiopia. Surely anyone who knows anything about Africa knows that in dealing with emergencies, aid agencies will have to deal with unsavoury characters.

Posted by aheavens at 9:01 AM

January 25, 2010

"I am a British journalist"

A visiting friend recently left us with a copy of Chris Cleave's bestseller The Other Hand.

I particularly enjoyed the following scene, in which the heroine, a Nigerian refugee, is deported back to Abuja accompanied by her friend, a women's magazine editor.

The military police were waiting for me in a small room, wearing uniforms and gold-framed sunglasses. They could not arrest me because Sarah was with me. She would not leave my side. I am a British journalist, she said. Anything you do to this woman, I will report it. The military police were uncertain, so they called their commander. The commander came, in a camouflage uniform and a red beret, with tribal scars on his cheeks. He looked at my deportation document, and he looked at me and Sarah and Charlie. He stood there for a long time, scratching his belly and nodding ...

The military police followed our taxi from the airport. I was very frightened but Sarah gripped my hand. I will not leave you she said. So long as Charlie and I are here, you are safe. The police waited outside our hotel.

If anyone out there is short of a few bob, I would pay good money to watch you try that "I am a British journalist" line in a similar setting.

Posted by aheavens at 4:18 PM