Day 1 of fieldwork in Kampala. Government-owned New Vision daily, page 4, manages to get everything wrong about police reform, church-state relations, and – I would argue – even Christianity itself:
Ph.D. dissertations are a funny thing: some form the basis of a life-long examination of a single topic, some serve as training or staging grounds in which a new researcher can cut her teeth, and yet some may foreshadow future work in ways that are not easy to anticipate. My job in Manchester seemed at first to take me in an entirely new direction away from that 2012 Cornell dissertation, and yet recent turns of events keep bringing me back to it with a vengeance. Between 2009 and 2011 I became a bit of an expert on Sierra Leone and Liberia – or more specifically on their politics and post-conflict reconstruction. Now that the world’s gaze is once more fixed on the Mano River region – sadly for tragic reasons – I have decided to catch up with Freetown and Monrovia in order to find out whether my claims back in 2011 retain any scrap of relevance a couple of years – and elections – later. Continue reading Catching up with Sierra Leone: The numbers
The Liberian information minister has acknowledged that the ebola outbreak ravaging his country is “overtaxing” the public health system; MSF drops the pretenses and claims the system is “falling apart” (BBC). There are two ways to interpret the current epidemic in the Mano Region: one could argue, as the minister does, that the scale of the crisis is due to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea being on the “frontline” of the disease; or one could argue, taking a step back, that it is the weakness of the Liberian state which has allowed this outbreak to become a full-blown epidemic (the same claim could be made about the inability of Nigeria‘s state elite to educate and protect its citizens in the North). There are many figures being thrown around in the current crisis: but what are the numbers that really matter?
Hollywood does not have a track record of accurate or sensible portrayals of Africa in film. But that does not mean they can’t make a preposterous romp that somehow touches upon the key dilemmas of political economy in Africa. My personal favorite in this category is, without a doubt, Sahara (2005).
Sahara stars Matthew McConaughey (before his current Academy Award-winning self but already in his “all-right, all-right, all-right” mode) as Dirk Pitt, the ultimate alpha male fantasy: ex-Navy seal, marine archaeologist, treasure hunter, classic automobile collector, charismatic, smart, irresistible to the ladies, and all-around good guy. Together with his inseparable pal Al Giordino – a crass, tech-savvy comic relief machine – Dirk follows the 140-year-old track of an old confederate ship believed to have sailed up the Niger river (you read right), and in so doing he manages to fight a warlord, help a doctor (Penélope Cruz with a thick Spanish accent) stop a plague, and thwart the plans of a shady European businessman.
Too much camp for you? Keep reading. Continue reading Pop Political Economy: Sahara (2005)
Outside Navrongo stands a huge white empty hospital, flanked by bungalows, erected at some fantastic cost, unfortunately in such a position that flood-water drains into, instead of away from, the building. The designs were drawn in Accra by persons who never visited the site until the hospital was too substantially in existence to be moved to a drier spot a little farther up the hill. Bare, bleak and out of scale with its surroundings, it stands there like some temple of the future, lacking gods or priests.
Elspeth Huxley, Four Guineas (1954)
In appearance, Kwame Nkrumah is a slender man in his early forties, of middle height, with a mop of frizzy hair, big soulful eyes, a sultry, sensual expression and a trace of petulance, of prima donna touchiness, in his manner. He is, I am sure, a born actor, with all the magnetism, emotional sensitivity and panache of a good players. To say this is not to suggest insincerity. A true actor believes entirely in the reality of his characters. Nkrumah’s part is that of the savior of this people from foreign oppression. To give point to the part he has had to invent the oppression, but that was not difficult, nor in his eyes wrong. Nationalism is a passion, not an exercise in logic, and to passion’s servant all means are justified.