Category Archives: Africa

Caroline Elkins’ Mau Mau book, contd.

    Editorial note: I put this post up last night. It elicited some interesting & helpful comments. This morning I wanted to correct a couple of typos in it & put in a couple more page numbers… But by mistake I ‘deleted’ the whole post! Yikes! Luckily I still had one loaded on my browser, so now I’m reposting it here (with those comments.) Sorry for any confusion caused. If you want to link to this post, please use the present permalink (above).

On Sunday, I wrote how much I was learning from a book about Britain’s shockingly repressive end-of-empire counter-insurgency in Kenya, Caroline Elkins’s Imperial Reckoning. One commenter noted there had later been a letter to the NY Review of Books that had questioned some of Elkins’ use of her sources.

Today, by chance I picked up an old issue of the NYRB, and there was the letter. It was from David Elstein, who is not a historian of Africa or even, it seems, any kind of expert on matters African. He’s a TV producer.

His main criticism was with, as he wrote, the fact that, “She suggests ‘hundreds of thousands’ of Kikuyu died at British hands

April 2004: two big African decennials

For millions of people in southern and central Africa, April 1994 was a very momentous month; and the ten-year anniversary of it is coming up.
In Rwanda, at the beginning of the month, President Habyarimana’s plane was brought down, setting into train the long-planned, long-prepared horrors of the country’s anti-Tutsi genocide. During the thirteen weeks that followed, some 14% of the country’s entire population was wiped out: around 800,000-1,000,000 people killed. Eighty percent of the dead were Tutsis, the rest, Hutus who tried to shield them or otherwise to resist the hate-fueled bloodlust of the killers.
In South Africa, meanwhile, April 1994 was a month of hopes laced with great trepidation and tension as the country made the last preparations for its first-ever democratic election, scheduled for the end of the month. Everyone was wondering: Would the Inkatha Freedom Party participate, or would it try to make the country ungovernable and thereby force the postponement or cancellation of the election? And then, there was the threat of disruption from the White extremists, who also had good connections in the country’s security forces….
In South Africa, the negotiations over the terms on which the security forces would continue to provide security for the elections continued until the second or third day of the elections themselves… It came that close to not working out… In the end, the ANC and its allies had to commit to providing some form of amnesty for perpetrators of apartheid-era atrocities, in return for having the elections conducted under conditions of general (though not total) public security.

    A footnote: something similar may well also have to be negotiated with the US occupation forces in Iraq.

But back to my main story here…

Continue reading

News from all over Africa (and elsewhere)

There’s a new blog, “Mostly AFRICA” which has been up just over a week and looks like incredible, one-stop shopping for the obsessed-with-Africa brigade.
The author, who doesn’t post a name, has links to a particularly rich collection of background pieces about today’s election in Rwanda.
Now that I’m an old-timer at this blogging business– nearly seven months now!– I can say it’s really great to see new people coming into the blogosphere.
Riverbend from Iraq is getting better and better. Time for me to put in the permanent link to her blog. But it means getting up close and personal with something called the “Main Index template” which still for some reason scares me.
Go on Helena, you can do it!
(p.s. I did it.)

DAR ES-SALAAM:

DAR ES-SALAAM: When my travel agent, Alaina, told me that various flight schedules had been changed and I could not any longer fly from Arusha, Tanzania to Maputo, Mozambique in a single day, at first I felt really frustrated. I mean! For goodness sake! This would cut a whole workday off my valuable schedule! Etc.!
Then I got a grip and thought, wow, it’s amazing I can do this whole four-location research trip with as much amazing convenience as I still have. I should stop whingeing. Besides, I’ve never been to Dar Es-Salaam before, so maybe an overnight here would be fun?
Well, I’m here. I’m not sure about fun, yet– I’ve been holed up in a hotel room writing a slightly overdue column for Al-Hayat.
(Hey, wouldn’t you just know that while I’m really getting into this Africa project, Syria suddenly becomes a big subject? The Lehrer Newshour on the phone; my editor at the CSM graciously asking me if I want to write about Syria for her; etc etc? If you, my devoted reader, want to see the most recent thing I wrote about Syria, check out the link I have in the column to the right, to my recent Boston Review piece on the subject.)
Anyway, tomorrow I’ll go out and look for the seafront or something.
Basically, so far, all the travel arrangements have been working amazingly well. This morning, my last in Arusha, I had a really good meeting with Martin Ngoga, who’s the Rwandan government’s “representative” to the ICTR. (Also, a Rwandan diplomat accredited to the Govt of Tanzania.) I said some sad farewells to two of the people who helped me find my way around ICTR: Gabi Gabiroz, of Hirondelle, and ICTR public-affairs officer Straton Musonera. Then I went back to the dear old Impala Hotel to await the shuttle bus to Kilimanjaro that had been promised when I went by the Air Tanzania office last week.
What with the worries Gabi and others had expressed about whether Air Tanzania still existed this week, etc, plus a lot of pessimism– expressed by, guess who, the Impala taxi drivers– over whether the AT shuttle would ever come, I was determined not to be too worried about possible glitches, but…
Well, the shuttle arrived just fine. And the flight occurred just fine (in a South African-liveried plane). So here I am. Plus, it’s kind of nice to be able to catch my breath here before plunging into Mozambique, which is another whole part of my project; another, entirely different story to get myself immersed in; and another topic that really, really fascinates me.
So Jambo, tonight, from the House of Peace: Dar es-Salaam. Can’t tell you much about it yet except that it looks like I’m in the middle of a very big African city.

VISITING WITH THE MASAI

VISITING WITH THE MASAI: Since I’m here in Arusha alone, I was looking for a good day-hike I could sign up with for yesterday, Sunday. Luckily, in the Tanzania Tourism Board office in town I found something much better: a “cultural tourism program” in the nearby Masai (Wa-arusha) village of Ilkiding’a.. What’s more, on the brochure it said there was an option to walk to the starting point from the city. So I signed up.
The TTB person said my guide would come and pick me up from the hotel. I was waiting to see if someone in full-scale red-and-blue Masai robes–perhaps with the elaborately braided and decorated hair that I had seen on several Masai men around town– would walk into the hotel lobby. But no. Jeremiah, when he came, was wearing jeans, tee-shirt, and sneakers. The main thing that stood out about him was his loping, loose-limbed walk.
I should have realised: these people really know how to walk. They do it, after all, nearly all the time: up and down the foothills of Mount Meru where their villages lie, and where wheeled vehicles only rarely penetrate.
So Jeremiah and I set off at a brisk clip from the hotel, through some peri-urban areas around Arusha. Then, from the main Nairobi-Moshi highway, we took what looked like an insignificant back alley which took us to the main track leading up to the group of villages of which Ilkiding’a is a part. Nearly all the other traffic on this precipitously rutted track was pedestrians. Sometimes a bicycle would come by, or we would see a car painstakingly navigating a dusty way between the potholes.
But a LOT of people were walking to and fro. It being Sunday, many of them were dressed in some form of best clothing, carrying well-worn Bibles as they made their way to or from church. Three or four times, as we walked along, we passed tiny churches that seemed uplifted by the multi-part singing that came forth from within.
Jeremiah seemed to know a lot of people. I was really glad he was with me. If people shouted over some comment about the “muzungU” (that was me, the only white woman anywhere in sight), he would goodnaturedly shout back something about “m’africa” (an African person). And to the many calls of “how are you?” or “good morning?” that came– mainly from small children– he would often take turns with me in shouting back an appropriate English-language response.
As we loped along, I had also been trying to get him to teach me some words in his mother-tongue(which is wa-arusha, not Swahili; English is his third language.) However, I proved myself a truly really lousy learner. My ear was definitely NOT in tune. He taught me two ways to say “How are you?” in wa-arusha, and told me that they were gendered. But whether gendered according to the speaker or the addressee I couldn’t entirely fathom. So when someone said “takweniya” (“How are you?”) to me, I was generally supposed to say “Ee-ko” back to them. But I often couldn’t even hear when they “takweniya”, along with everything else they might be saying. So then Jeremiah had to prompt me on the “ee-ko” bit, which always caused great merriment all round. Two of the people who seemed to get the most laughter out of this performance were two fully regalia-ed Masai men who walked a little but of the way up to Ilkiding’a with us.
The track took us slowly up above the town and through a couple of villages. The terrain here was all intensely cultivated. Coffee bushes I saw for the first time ever. There were maize fields, cabbage fields, beans, tomatoes and other crops. Generally, though, the track was shielded (and shaded) with high hedges of woven thorns, and many different kinds of trees.
At a certain point, Jeremiah announced that we had crossed into his village. It would now be possible– after asking permission each time– to take photos. “People worried about camera,” J. had explained earlier. But from here on, people had been exposed to the “cultural tourism program”. Not only had their worries about cameras been somewhat allayed. But also, as it would turn out later, the parents of all the kids in Ilkiding’a were on alert to teach the kids not to harrass the muzungi. (Given the way whitefolks have, in the not-too-distant past, treated the indigenous people of this part of the world, I would say a certain amount of residual resentment would be more than understandable. That was why I was really happy that the CTP allowed me to have this lightly-mediated experience with some Wa-arusha in their own environment.)
There was still a bit more walking till we reached the starting point, however. Ilkiding’a is not a compact village. Far from it. The people of the village live in a number of hamlets scattered over the foothills here: In each, there are from around six to more than 20 boma’s, with a boma being a fenced household compound belonging usually to a man, and housing however many wives he has, and their children. Jeremiah, who is 29, told me that his late father had had, I think, six wives. He himself has only one.
The main form of shelter within the boma is a sturdy round hut with a heavy thatch of straw. The hut, around 20 feet in diameter, is built from thick wood staves planted close together in the ground, and plastered with a pink-brown mud plaster. Each wife has her own hut for herself, her children and animals. There are separate, smaller huts for cooking.
We walked quickly past Jeremiah’s boma. His wife wasn’t there, but his 5-year-old daughter Lucy waved from the door.
Jeremiah’s two cows lowed at us from behind the hut. They are a legacy from the life-plan he had had a lot earlier, of sticking with the traditional Masai men’s heavy focus on livestock-raising. He had followed that life-plan until he was about 15. But then his dad died, and at that point an elder brother who had been put into a school by an uncle intervened, and put Jeremiah himself into a school. So he started doing book-learning only at that point. And he never thereafter pursued the traditional Masai men’s (and women’s) forms of personal beautification such as splitting the ear-lobes and letting the lower loop dangle down to hold heavy pieces of beaded finery; or various forms of scarification on the face and arms that I saw; or putting the long, intricate braids and metal decorations into their hair… He said he’d tried to put piercings through the top-back of his ear-lobes, such as many Masai people have. (This allows them to have pretty beaded ear-decorations that dangle down the back of their ears quite fetchingly.) But he’d even given up on that after a while. Now, the only apparently non-‘western’ thing about his looks and grooming was a bead-covered belt such as I’ve seen several urban Africans wear– as a sort of ‘legacy’ thing, I guess.
Soon we came to his mother’s boma; and shortly after that to the CTP “starting point”, which was a little thatched shelter looking out over the next hill. His mother had laid out some beadwork here, and I bought a couple of items.
Then, after about 3 minutes sitting down, we started the “real” program…. For the next four hours we walked practically nonstop up and down hills that seemed to get steepr each time. Mainly, we were walking along narrow paths that cut across beautifully cultivated fields– of cabbage, maize, beans, or tomatoes– or where the land was steeper, across lush green pastures. All the cultivating that I saw being done– and this was tough, back-breaking work– was being done by women and girls. With their checkered Masai cloths knotted over one shoulder and tied around their waists, they would hoist those hoes over their shoulders and over and over again– thwack, thwack, thwack– and tilll that dark-covered, well-irrigated soil.
The herding was being done by young boys. I have to say I didn’t see any adult men actually DOING any work unless you count Jeremiah’s guiding (which can’t have been easy for him), or the handful of men we saw on the track who were leading cows to or from the market.
Well, there were men selling in the market, too. I’ll come to that later.
One of the main things I was looking forward to on the tour was the promised meeting with the traditional healer. I’m actually very interested in learning about all non-western views on the question of violence. So I had imagined myself having a wonderfully revealing discussion on the cosmology and ontology of violence with a wise Masai elder… until it slowly dawned on me that what with Jeremiah’s very limited English and my far, far more limited ability to communicate in either wa-arusha or Swahili, this conversation would probably have many of the same bizarre qualities as the (twice-interpreted) discussion on the same topic that I’d attempted with a Mozambican traditional healer, in Maputo, two years ago.
Anyway, once we had climbed the enormous hill to the boma of the Ilkiding’a traditional healer, he was out. Darn it.
I should note that I found the visit to the “traditional” knife-maker a little disappointing, too.
Masai men like to walk around with a specifically-shaped kind of knife, carried in a particular kind of pink-stained scabbard, hanging form their belts. The brochure promised a visit to the knifemaker. Turns out the knifemaker in question buys regular-style, Chinese-made agricultural machetes (pangas) from someplace, and then essentially cuts them down to the dimensions favored by the Masai; then he makes the scabbard. Somehow it didn’t seem like the “timeless handicraft” passed down from “many generations” that I had been expecting. (I guess that’s the problem with my naive, essentialist view of culture. Oh well.)
But those disappointments were tiny, compared with the exhilaration– I can only call it that– of having this great new hiking-plus-cultural adventure with my new friend, Jeremiah. It really did feel great to be able to walk with him around his home environs, and to have him pay such close attention to trying to help me understand everything I saw. The inside of the huts that I visited, and how the space there is used. The “maize stores” high up in the trees. (Someone climbs the tree and sits on a likely branch. A colleague on the ground tosses up each corn-cob with its streamer-like wrapping; and then the streamers are somehow tied over the branch, one and then the next, till hundreds of corn-cobs are tied up there in a huge clump, secure from any animal predators…. And we’re talking sometimes maybe 40 or more feet high.) So many things to learn about!
Along the way, Jeremiah and I decide that, since we have no traditional healer visit, we’ll have time to go to the “Masai market” late in the afternoon. He promises that it’ll be interesting. But it seems he’s also fairly eager to go there himself.
At one point, as the afternoon hours wear on, we walk along an extremely steep-sided ravine to see the waterfall at the end of it. The streams and rivers here generally gush plentifully down from deep inside Mount Meru. Jeremiah does explain one ritual the traditional helaer leads, at a specific tree, to beg the power-that-be for rain in times of drought. As he explains, it involves four calabashes being reverently placed by the tree, each containing various things; and then the name of Jesus being invoked. “Jesus?” I ask. “What is his role in all this?” “Well, they just say ‘Jesus’,” Jeremiah explains. “They don’t say the word Christ. That would not be right.”
But that explanation came later. We were there, at the bottom of the ravine. It was nearly 2 p.m. We’d been walking nearly nonstop for five-and-a-half hours. “Up here,” said Jeremiah. And he led me just about vertically up the mud-covered, many-hundred-feet-high bank of the ravine. I knew if I missed my footing even once, I would slip back straight to the bottom. Amazingly– I don’t know how– I made it. “We reach!” Jeremiah told me exultantly as we emerged into the pasture above. And indeed we had: we’d reached exactly back to the “starting point.”
“You hungry,” he said matter-of-factly. And yes, by then it was a burningly evident matter of fact. His mother brought four covered pots of food and I wolfed down a huge plateful. There was a traditional dish (I think) of beans and maize. There were rice, potatoes boiled in a tasty broth, and some cooked greens. I was beyond ethnography and failed to ask the name of a single dish. Eating seemed more ways important at that point.
We sat, ate, and visited for about an hour. But then it was time to leave if we wanted to catch the market. Jeremiah, his CTP “coordinator” Eliakim, and I had a short discussion of how much it would cost for J & I to get a “transport” to the market, and then back to Arusha. So then J and I walked the 20 minutes or so to the “stand” for the “transport”. There were no vehicles there, and seemed little prospect of any coming; so we decided to walk down to the market instead.
It was a good experience. (1) It’s the way that most of the Masai people get around. So as we walked along those tracks, there was a constant stream of other folks walking to and from the market. (2) It was mainly downhill.
Do I need to note the observation that when there were things to be carried, it was nearly always the women and girls who did that? A girl skipping along with a hoe balanced on her head; a Masai woman with a baby tied on her back and a huge woven basket on her head; teenage girls elegantly carrying huge, heavy heads of bananas on their heads… The main time that I saw men and boys helping withe conveying goods was where there was either a bicycle, or some kind of a hand-barow involved. I’m not saying those jobs weren’t hard, too. They were. But a lot more sheer weight of stuff was getting carried by women and girls than ended up being pushed along by guys.
Jeremiah’s estimate that it would take “about 40 minutes more” to get to the market proved remarkably accurate.
When we got there it was vast! It spread out all over the creekside settlement of Ngarantoni. It was all open-air; and most of it was quite unshaded. Jeremiah led me through various sections: the used-clothing section; the used-shoe section; along a little back-alley to the fabric section– many red-and-blue Masai wraps, but many batik-style wraps in other bright hues as well; the basket section; the fresh-produce section; a row of women selling baked goods; the meat section; the beans section… on and on and on. Buyers and sellers tiumbling over each other in the dust. A man improbably trying to drive five cows through the crush in the middle of the market– one with viciously long horns. People yelling their wares. Friends greeting other. Buyers haggling. Sellers pleading for custom… A dizzying maelstrom. And not another mazungu to be seen anywhere.
We emerged breathless on the other side. Jeremiah had said I should NOT take pictures here– we were no longer in “the program” here. I hadn’t bought anything either. I wouldn’t have minded looking at the baskets, or some of the baked goods. But there was no leisurely buying and enjoying the atmosphere here: these people, who hold the market here twice a week, were all here strictly for business.
My main achievement as we emerged was not to have lost Jeremiah. His was, I think, to have said hi to around three dozen of his friends, and as far as I could figure to have repaid a few of his financial debts along the way.
We emerged onto a paved road. Actually, according to my map it looks like the Nairobi Road, just several miles further along it by now.
“You want the livestock market?” Jeremiah asked.
Another whole market?? “Where?” I asked, weakly. He pointed to a cloud of dust somewhere over near the horizon. “There!”
“I think not. Perhaps we go back to my hotel?”
Haha! Easier said than done… What I got included in my “extra” of the trip to the market was my first two rides in Tanzanian dalla-dallas — the ones that took us back to the Impala Hotel. A dalla-dalla, as I was to learn from the inside, is a totally overstuffed Japanese passenger van that is plied at breakneck speed along a fixed route by a team of at least two people: one to drive it, and the other one or two to hang out of the sliding door on the pasenger side and drum up business along the route.
In the first of the two dalla-dallas that we rode, J and I ended up scrunched backwards onto a four-inch bench placed in right behind the front seat. (That one lost all power for a worrying ten minutes too, somewhere along the road, until on about the eighth attempt it got pushed back into life.) The second dalla-dalla was remarkable for the fact that once the seats had all filled up, the passenger side jockey pushed up a huge section of the roof on double hinges and then proceeded to cram in additional passengers who traveled standing, with their heads and shoulders stuck out the top of the van…
So I certainly ended up getting more than I’d bargained for, cultural-experience-wise, with the Ilkiding’a Cultural Tourism Program. I am totally grateful to Jeremiah, his mom, Eliakim, and all the other people who make such a great set of experiences available to a total stranger who happen to walk into the Tanzania Tourism Board office looking for an interesting day-hike. Sure, the Ilkiding’a folks could work out some of those small wrinkles in the program. (I want my traditional healer!!!) But all-in-all it seemed like a fabulous program that helped this ignorant muzungu to see beyond the mere “exoticism” of the Masai people and to initiate a respectful interaction with some actual Masai persons.
The TTB actually has a number of different cultural tourism programs that they offer. I have some brochures for this one. But the brochure says you can get more info from www.tourismtanzania.org .
Ashinali! Amani!

FROM NAIROBI AIRPORT

FROM NAIROBI AIRPORT: I’ve now been traveling for 40-plus hours, so far seen four airports and a few areas of West London (I guess that was on Monday). Interesting that these places (Dulles, Heathrow, Jo’burg, Nairobi) seem almost totally unaffected by war-related anything. The only notable thing, in Jo’burg, was several passengers who looked Asian were wearing face masks. SARS seemed bigger than what Jim Woolsey described last week “World War IV”.
I have a few issues of connectivity to work out, regarding the GSM cellphone I bought in London. The phone weighs far, far less than the whole mess of plug adaptors I had to buy to use it, since it has English-style pins… Oh well, joys of technology.
The next flight– to Kilimanjaro– is on something called Precision Air. It’s apparanetly a new operation. The name may express aspiration more than description, but let’s see.
I’m so glad I remembered there’s this little internet place at Nairobi airport. $2 per 15 mins.
Better run!

MENTAL MIGRATION TO AFRICA: I

MENTAL MIGRATION TO AFRICA: I am definitely on my way, switching gear between my obsession with the unfolding Iraq situation, and my upcoming five-week research trip to Africa.
Wednesday, I picked up my Mozambique visa in DC. Thursday, I picked up my traveler’s checks. Today, I picked up my re-issued ticket. I am definitely ready to rock and roll! Sunday evening will be the time I actually leave, from Dulles airport near DC. Then I’ll arrive in Arusha, Tanzania Tuesday evening. Kilimanjaro International Airport, here I come!
Because of the way I work, I do nearly all the work of preparing my research trips myself. No-one ever gave me a secretary. But that’s okay. I kind of love the nitty-gritty of it all: sending out the emails and faxes; planning the schedule; poring over the well-thumbed Lonely Planet guides to East Africa and Southern Africa; etc etc.
And then, there’s reading myself into where I want to be with the subject of the research. If you want to know what my project is about, there’s a description of it here. That description is a little old at this point– I do need to FTP my latest version of it over to the site. But you’ll get the general drift there. These days, I’m recontextualizing it a bit. I see the project as looking at how effective the different strategies have been, that these different societies chose back in the 1992-94 period, to deal with legacies of grave recent violence– and therefore, what does it take for societies to escape from cycles of violence?
The three cases in question are Rwanda, Mozambique, and South Africa. And yes, I know that the violence that occurred in each case was very specific, very sui generis. But still, I’m comparing the escape-from-violence strategies, not the violence itself.
Of the three, I’ll confess that right now it’s Mozambique that intrigues me the most. Maybe because it’s been so little studied. Maybe because it challenges so many of the unquestioned assumptions of the “modern” western view of the world. Yes, yes, contacts who are anthropologists of Mozambique have warned me against essentializing the cultural/cosmological differences between western and Mozambican worldviews, and against “exoticizing” my view of Mozambique.
But still…
(What’s the opposite of “exotic”, I wonder? I guess it should be “endotic”… )
Just yesterday, I got hold of and started avidly reading Leslie Swartz’s intriguing book, “Culture and mental health; A southern African view.” (This morning, I found LS’s email address, and sent a message to him pleading for time to talk w/ him while I’m in SA.)
Anyway, I wanted to write something here about a really interesting interview a friend from FCNL sent me today, in which Africa Action Exec Director Salih Booker talks about the devasting effect the present USUK war on Iraq is having on people in Africa. Maybe I’ll take some excerpts from that interview and discuss them in a subsequent post. Bottom line: “The war in Iraq is sure to have an overwhlemingly negative impact on Africa.” But go to that link I put, to see some of the really horrendous details Booker talks about.
I have also found it really inspiring, as I’ve been preparing for this trip, to go and read the “Jaded in Africa” blog that I have a link to in the column to the right. Yvette, who writes that blog, is a most remarkable person: a Filipina who’s doing social-development/social-organizing work in Somaliland. She’s observant, sensitive, self-aware, funny, informative, and dedicated. And she writes a beautiful blog!!
Today, she wrote a post about the Somali concept of “bulshada“, which is sort of like a strong concept of “community”. She writes that she’s found a strong and supportive bulshada with other Filipinos working in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa.
I have a number of great, supportive bulshadas. I have a fabulous family. I have my f/Friends in the Charlottesville Friends Meeting (Quakers), and in our town’s lively peace-and-justice community. And I have friends and contacts around the world who provide emotional support as well as intellectual challenges and plenty of humor.
And now, thanks to this amazing world of the blogosphere, I have another new friend, whom I’ve never met but for whom I feel huge empathy: Yvette. Go read her blog!
Please send me your comments.

FROM NEW YORK, Valentine’s Day

I’ve had a busy couple of days of work here, talking to some really interesting folks about my ‘Violence and its Legacies’ project, and starting to make plans for the research trip I’m planning to Africa in April, as part of the project.
From time to time, the idea of going to Africa in April seems weird. Shouldn’t I be concentrating more on this terrible Bush War in (and around) Iraq??
But I think its important not to become too, too distracted by the Bush War. Other parts of the world do still matter– a lot. And this project I’m working on, which looks at how effective three countries in Africa–Mozambique, South Africa, and Rwanda–ended up being when they sought, eight to ten years ago, to deal with legacies of atrocious violence, is certainly one with lessons that will have relevance everywhere. Including Iraq.
Yesterday, I talked to Alex Boraine, who worked with Archbishop Tutu as Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. He’s now head of an organization called the International Center for Transitional Justice, that seeks to advise countries in transition on setting up their own TRCs.  Well, since I was focusing on my African research, we didn’t specifically talk about the idea of a TRC for Iraq.  But it’s not a bad idea.
What the S. African TRC did was significant because it helped to allow the white-minority regime to give up power to the democratic will of the (non-white) majority–and to be reintegrated into the new S. Africa as part of Mandela’s new ‘Rainbow Nation’.
In Iraq and in Syria, we also have the problem of minority-based regimes hanging onto power– with one great motivation for them to do so being their fear of how the majority might treat them if the majority were given a democratic order.
In South Africa, the TRC, and the broader black-white negotiation of which it was a part, allowed the white South Africans to cede power to the majority without fear of bloody retribution…
Wednesday, I talked for the first time to Andrea Bartolli, an Italian national now at Columbia who first came to NYC in the 1980s as the representative at the UN for a Catholic lay-based social-justice organization called Sant’ Egidio.  In that role, Bartolli played a significant behind-the scenes role with the rest of the Sant’ Egidio team who were helping to bring an end to Mozambique’s long-running civil war.  They succeeded in 1992.
Talking to Bartolli was fascinating.  One of the key factors he mentioned that allowed the negotiations between the two sides to the Mozambique war to succeed was the fact that they proceeded largely out of the public eyeof the world’s media, big governments, etc.  Another factor was that at that time, “No-one was even thinking that criminal prosecutions for past atrocities should be part of a peace negotiation– unlike today.”
So instead of criminal prosecutions etc (which became the international flavor-of-the-decade just a few months after Mozambique’s October 1992 agreement), what the Mozambicans did at both the national and local levels, was to state clearly that “the era of war and violence is past”, and to get on with the job of healing and rebuilding.
Bartolli told me he thought it was really important to have a consciously transformative event like the one where the leaders of the two sides there made a joint announcement that the war had ended.  He also noted that while most Westerners have a view of war that is purely instrumental– that “man uses war for his own purposes, a la Clausewitz”– in Mozambique the most common view is that war and violence are forces that themselves take hold of and use people.
Hey, George W, are you listening??
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UNCLE VANYA:  We went to a great production of Brian Friel’s version of the play last night at BAM’s Harvey Lichtenstein Theater.  It seemed as though friel had cut/adapted the play well.  It moved right along.  A wrenching performance by Emily Watson as Sonya; and both Friel and Sam Mendes, who directed, had really succeeded in keeping/capturing Chekhov’s general gestalt of inescapable social decline.
Of course, New York is exhilarating and fun!!!  I guess the anti-war gathering tomorrow is not getting a permit to move, so we’ll be standing around freezingat the rally, listening to Tutu and others speak.
Yesterday, walking around the financial district, we passed a vast, slowly-moving convoy of fully-filled police vans.  The police presence on the subways was not as heavy as the NYT seemed to have portrayed.  In general, the security measures around the city seem to have settled back somewhat from when I was doing similar kinds of meetings here in March ’02.
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NOTES OF 2/13 (but posted a day late):  In New York.  Front pages of most tabloids screaming about Bin Laden’s latest tape.  Audio-tape, that is.  Then, there’s the issue of duct tape: photos of people cleaning out the store shelves of this item which will– Tom Ridge assures us– save our lives in the event of chemical attack.
Mainly, though, New Yorkers seem to be stayng indoors because of the icy grip of winter here.
Today, my latest column in The Christian Science Monitor.  A challenging one indeed.  I wrote it Monday, seeing as how Tuesday I would be driving here to NYC.  The main argument I was making was that in his Feb 5 speech to the UN Colin Powell definitely did NOT establish w/ any credibility that there is a ‘nexus’ between OBL and Saddam (see my previous musings on this, below.)
So the drive here from Virginia was a toughie: swirling snows etc etc.  I heard a few scattered news reports on the car radio, but mainly listened to some Hemingway stories on CD.  I was focusing 100% on driving safely.  Got in maybe 10:30 p.m.
Wed. morning my editor at the CSM calls early, in a panic about the piece. She was right, my careful argumentation did look a little OBE (overtaken by events) in light of the new Osama tape, and the use Colin and his friends were making of it.  (Did you see Maureen Dowd’s great column on that in Wednesday’s NYT? Fabulous!)
So I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and tried to write a new head-and-foot for the piece.  It probaby wasn’t the greatest piece of work I’ve ever done.  But I was under a very tough deadline at that point
The arguments I was making in the piece are little complex.  But duh!  The world is complex!  It cannot be reduced to the war hawks’ simple Manichean view of things.  Jerking the American public into this quite avoidable war on the basis of the administration’s phony argumentation about an OBL-Saddam nexus is still
a really dangerous path to follow.
Plus, as I wrote in the column, by talking up the alleged OBL-Saddam nexus so much, the Bushies seem to have ended up virtually daring OBL to try to make it a reality. A challenge which– surprise, surprise– he seemed eager to take up.
Except he never shook his utter distaste for Saddam and Baathist socialism…