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Many years after her husband had died, Nwamgba still closed her eyes from time to time to relive his nightly visits to her hut, and the mornings after, when she would walk to the stream humming a song, thinking of the smoky scent of him and the firmness of his weight, and feeling as if she were surrounded by light. Other memories of Obierika also remained clear—his stubby fingers curled around his flute when he played in the evenings, his delight when she set down his bowls of food, his sweaty back when he brought baskets filled with fresh clay for her pottery. From the moment she had first seen him, at a wrestling match, both of them staring and staring, both of them too young, her waist not yet wearing the menstruation cloth, she had believed with a quiet stubbornness that her chi and his chi had destined their marriage, and so when he and his relatives came to her father a few years later with pots of palm wine she told her mother that this was the man she would marry. (Opening of the story an excerpt of which is listed below, p. 69)
Nwamgba was alarmed by how indiscriminately the missionaries flogged students: for being late, for being lazy, for being slow, for being idle, and, once, as Anikwenwa told her, Father Lutz put metal cuffs around a girl’s hands to teach her a lesson about lying, all the time saying in Igbo—for Father Lutz spoke a broken brand of Igbo—that native parents pampered their children too much, that teaching the Gospel also meant teaching proper discipline. The first weekend Anikwenwa came home, Nwamgba saw welts on his back, and she tightened her wrapper around her waist and went to the school and told the teacher that she would gouge out the eyes of everyone at the mission if they ever did that to him again. She knew that Anikwenwa did not want to go to school and she told him that it was only for a year or two, so that he could learn English, and although the mission people told her not to come so often, she insistently came every weekend to take him home. Anikwenwa always took off his clothes even before they had left the mission compound. He disliked the shorts and shirt that made him sweat, the fabric that was itchy around his armpits. He disliked, too, being in the same class as old men, missing out on wrestling contests.
But Anikwenwa’s attitude toward school slowly changed. Nwamgba first noticed this when some of the other boys with whom he swept the village square complained that he no longer did his share because he was at school, and Anikwenwa said something in English, something sharp-sounding, which shut them up and filled Nwamgba with an indulgent pride. Her pride turned to vague worry when she noticed that the curiosity in his eyes had diminished. There was a new ponderousness in him, as if he had suddenly found himself bearing the weight of a heavy world. He stared at things for too long. He stopped eating her food, because, he said, it was sacrificed to idols. He told her to tie her wrapper around her chest instead of her waist, because her nakedness was sinful. She looked at him, amused by his earnestness, but worried nonetheless, and asked why he had only just begun to notice her nakedness.
When it was time for his initiation ceremony, he said he would not participate, because it was a heathen custom to be initiated into the world of spirits, a custom that Father Shanahan had said would have to stop. Nwamgba roughly yanked his ear and told him that a foreign albino could not determine when their customs would change, and that he would participate or else he would tell her whether he was her son or the white man’s son. Anikwenwa reluctantly agreed, but as he was taken away with a group of other boys she noticed that he lacked their excitement. His sadness saddened her. She felt her son slipping away from her, and yet she was proud that he was learning so much, that he could be a court interpreter or a letter writer, that with Father Lutz’s help he had brought home some papers that showed that their land belonged to them. Her proudest moment was when he went to his father’s cousins Okafo and Okoye and asked for his father’s ivory tusk back. And they gave it to him. (-- p. 72)
Congo's Daily Blood Ruminations from a failed state
By Bryan Mealer
You could never count all of Congo's dead, the way they keep piling up. The country is slowly emerging from a five-year war that has killed 4 million people, mostly from war-induced sickness and hunger, and aid groups estimate 1,200 people still die every day. The war drew in seven African armies at its peak, and helped create and maintain tens of thousands of militiament who still live by the gun, killing and maiming at will. The militia have all but commandeered the eastern half of the country - rich in timber, gold, diamonds and coltan - which they've divided into personal fiefdoms at the expense of the population.
Near the eastern border with Rwanda, packs of Hutu rebels survive in the forests only by looting. These rebels, who fled into Congo after participating in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, control huge swaths of jungle too dangerous for UN and Congolese soldiers to police. They carry out regular massacres and are known for rounding up a village's women and gang-raping them while family members are forced to watch. Farther north near the Ugandan border, other militias simply exterminate everything alive, then loot and bury what's left. Often these militias butcher and the dead on the battle floor and feast on hearts and livers, both as ceremony and as a tactic of cold intimidation. Its effectiveness is superb.
...No one at the UN had any idea how deep the evil ran in the jungles. The tiny UN mission that began in 1999 with 90 staffers observing a rebel cease-fire had since grown by sheer necessity to encompass much of the country's infrastructure. Congo is now the UN's largest, most expensive mission, with 16,700 peacekeppers and a combined annual budget of nearly $2 billion. Congo's peacekeepers, along with UN agencies, have been saddled with trying to eradicate some 20,000 militiamen in the east, while at the same time trying to assist more than 2 million people displaced as a result of war and the ongoing raids. More recently, they've attempted to midwife a democracy by arranging elections in a country lacking roads, electricity, telephones, and local governments. Battling the various militias while planning elections in Congo has unexpectedly become the single most ambitious project the world body has undertaken in its sixty-one-year history.(- pgs. 54-55)
Goodbye, Columbus When America won its independence, what
became of the slaves who fled for theirs?
By Jill Lepore
Born on the Gambia River around 1740, not far from where he would one day die, Harry Washinton (see Fleeing the Founding Father by Cassandra Pybus March 16/06) was sold into slavery sometime before 1763. Twelve years later, in November, 1775, he was grooming his master's horses in the stables at Mount Vernon when the royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, offered freedom to any slaves who would join His Majesty's troops in suppressing the American rebellion. That December, George Washington, commanding the Continental Army in Cambridge, received a report that Dunmore's proclamation had stirred the passions of his own slaves. "There is not a man of them but would leave us if they believed they could make the escape," a cousin of Washington's from Mount Vernon, adding bitterly, "Liberty is sweet." In August of 1776, just a month after delegates to the Continental Congress determined that in the course of human events it sometimes becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the bands that have connected them with another, Harry Washington declared his own independence by running away to fight with Dunmore's all-black British regiment, wearing a uniform embroidered with the motto, "Liberty to Slaves." Liberty may not have been as sweet as he'd hoped. For most of the war, he belonged to an unarmed company known as the Black Pioneers, who were more or less garbagemen, ordered to "Assist in Cleaning the Streets & Removing all Nuisances being thrown into the Streets." The Black Pioneers followed British troops under the command of Henry Clinton as they moved from New York to Philadelphia to Charleston, and, after the fall of Charleston, back to New York again, which is how Harry Washington came to be in the city in 1783, and keen to leave before General Washington repossessed it, and him.
No one knows how many former slaves had fled the United States by the end of the American Revolution. Not as many as wanted to, anyway. During the war, between eighty thousand and a hundred thousand (nearly one in five) left their homes, running from slavery to the freedom promised by the British, and betting on a British victory. They lost that bet. They died in battle, they died of disease, they ended up someplace else, they ended up back where they started, and worse off. (A fifteen-year-old girl captured while heading for Dunmore's regiment was greeted by her master with a whipping of eighty lashes, after which he poured hot embers into her wounds.)
...(It was at (George) Washington's insistence that the names of those who boarded British ships were recorded in the "Book of Negroes," so that owners might later file claims for compensation.) In Charleston, after the ships were full, British soldiers patrolled the wharves to keep back the black men, women, and children who were frantic to leave the country. A small number managed to duck under the redcoats' raised bayonets, jump off the wharves and swim out to the last longboats ferrying passengers to the British fleet, whose crowded ships included the aptly named Free Briton. Clinging to the sides of the longboats, they were not allowed on board but neither would they let go; in the end, their fingers were chopped off.
But those who did leave America also left American history. Or, rather, they have been left out of it...(-- pgs. 74-75)
Blood Oil Could a bunch of Nigerian militants in speedboats bring about a U.S. recession? Blowing up facilities and taking hostages, they are wreaking havoc on the oil production of America's fifth-largest supplier. Deep in the Niger-delta swamps, the author meets the nightmarish result of four decades of corruption.
By Sebastian Junger
This is why oil is so valuable: one tank of gas from a typical SUV has the energy equivalent of more than 60,000 man-hours of work - roughly 100 men working around the clock for nearly a month. That is the power that the American consumer can access for about $60 at the gasoline pump. * If gasoline were a person we would be paying 10 cents an hour for his labor. Easily accessible reserves are running dry, though, which means that the industry must develop increasingly ingenious - and costly - techniques for getting at the oil. Deepwater drilling, for example, now happens so far offshore that rigs can no longer be anchored to the seabed; they must be held in place by an array of propellers, each the size of a two-car garage. The cost of deepwater drilling is close to twice that in shallow water.
... Added to these technological problems is the fact that - as if by some divine prank - most of the world's oil reserves happen to be in politically unstable parts of the world. (The alternative theory is that oil exploitation tends to de-stabilize underdeveloped countries.) Because of the financial risks involved, oil reserves in politically stable countries have more value, per barrel, than oil in politically unstable countries. As we speak, the value of Nigerian oil - as a function of the capital investment that must be risked to produce it - is in steady decline.
That is [b]MEND's trump card[/b]. It has several times threatened to shut down all Nigerian oil production, but it's possible MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta) doesn't quite dare, because of the chance it will provoke a military retaliation it wouldn't survive. By the same token, the Nigerian military has threatened to sweep the delta with overwhelming force, but it doesn't know whether that might force MEND to carry out one devastating counterstrike - taking out the Bonny Island Liquefied Natural Gas facility with a shoulder-fired rocket, for example. An act of sabotage on this scale could drive Shell and the other oil companies from Nigeria for good, completely wiping out the national (U.S.) economy. One major company, Willbros, has already discontinued operations in Nigeria because of the security threat.
... Short-term market predictions are a fool's game."
The Oil Shock Wave panel wasn't so sure. It found that a complete shut-in that coincided with another event - a terrorist attack in the Persian Gulf or even an exceptionally harsh winter, for example - could trigger a major recession. Furthermore, there seemed to be no good options for dealing with it. Opening up the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve - some 700 million barrels of oil in underground salt caverns along the Gulf Coast - would lower oil prices for the whole world without providing a long-term solution. Begging Saudi Arabia for more oil could compromise the United States politically and damage our long-term interests in the region. And sending the U.S. military into the Niger delta would be politically risky and possibly unfeasible, given American commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
That did not stop the U.S. government from authorizing a joint training exercise with the Nigerian military in 2004. It was reported to have been focused on "water combat." (-- pgs. 121-122)
* Compare the figures above with the following:
... The Nigerian constitution stipulates that just under 50 per cent of national oil revenue must be distributed to state and local governments and that additional 13 per cent must go to the nine oil-producing states of the Niger delta. Last year that amounted to almost $6 billion for the nine delta states - plenty, it would seem, to take care of basic social services. The problem, however, is that the money goes to the governors' officers and then simply disappears ...
(Ijaw priest, President) Owei lives in the great, seething slum of Bundu-Waterside, on the outskirts of Port Harcourt. Bundu-Waterside is a community built literally atop garbage and mud. High tide and raw sewage continually threaten to rise up over the thresholds of its thousand of plank-and-corrugated-iron shacks. People are packed into Bundu-Waterside with such desperate ingenuity that almost every human activity - cooking, fighting, eating, sleeping, defecating - seems to be observable from almost everywhere at any given moment. (-- p. 118-119)
... The costs of fully protecting the delicate delta ecology are almost incalculable. Once the militants participate in illegalities, however, the Nigerian government can dismiss the entire movement ... Further complicating the issue is that much of the oil pollution in the creeks is from sloppy bunkering operations - which villagers then use as a basis for further claims of environmental damage to the delta. Shell recently appealed a decision by the Nigerian courts that ordered it to pay $1.5 billion to the Ijaw people in compensation for environmental damage to the delta. Under the current system, everyone involved in the oil business - from corrupt government officials to the militants themselves - makes vastly more money than he would in a transparent economy. And the bunkered oil isn't lost to the market; it simply becomes an additional tax borne by the oil companies for doing business in Nigeria. (-- p. 120)
Annals of Crime The Perfect Mark How a Massachusetts psychotherapist fell for a Nigerian e-mail scam.
By Mitchell Suckoff
Every swindle is driven by a desire for easy money; it's the one thing the swindler and swindled have in common. Advance-fee fraud is an especially durable con. In an early variation, the Spanish Prisoner Letter, which dates to the sixteenth century, scammers wrote to English gentry and pleaded for help in freeing a fictitious wealthy countryman who was imprisoned in Spain. Today, the con usually relies on e-mail and is often called a 419 scheme, after the anti-fraud section of the criminal code in Nigeria, where it flourishes. (Last year, a Nigerian comic released a song that taunted Westerners with the lyrics "I go chop your dollar. I go take your money and disappear. Four-one-nine is just a game. You are the loser and I am the winner.") The scammers, who often operate in crime rings, are known as "yahoo-yahoo boys," because they frequently use free Yahoo accounts. Many of them live in a suburb of Lagos called Festac Town. Last year, one scammer in Festac Town told the Associated Press, "Now I have three cars, I have two houses, and I'm not looking for a job anymore.
According to a statement posted on the Internet by the U.S. State Department, 419 schemes began to proliferate in the mid-nineteen-eighties, when a collapse in oil prices caused severe economic upheaval in Nigeria. The population - literate, English-speaking, and living with widespread government corruption - faced poverty and rising unemployment. These conditions created a culture of scammers, some of them violent. Marks are often encouraged to travel to Nigeria or to other countries, where they fall victim to kidnapping, extortion, and, in rare cases, murder. In the nineteen-nineties, at least fifteen foreign businessmen, including one American, were killed after being lured to Nigeria by 419 scammers. Until recently, Nigerian officials tended to blame the marks. "There would be no 419 scam if there are no greedy, credulous and criminally-minded victims ready to reap where they did not sow," the Nigerian Embassy in Washington said in a 2003 statement. (-- p. 37)
Passionate Minds The great love affair of the Englightenment, featuring the scientist Émilie du Châtelet, the poet Voltaire, sword fights, book burnings, assorted kings, seditious verse, and the birth of the modern world
By David Bodanis
She (Émilie) and the great writer Voltaire were lovers for nearly a decade, though they certainly took their time settling down, having to delay for frantic gallopings across France, sword fights in front of besieged German fortresses, a wild affair (hers) with a gallant pirate's son, and a deadly burning of books (his) by the public executioner at the base of the grand stairwell of the Palais de Justice in Paris. There was also rigging the French national lottery to guarantee a multimillion-franc payout, and investing in North African grain futures with the proceeds.
... When they ran out of money, Emilie would sometimes resort to the gambling tables at Versailles - since she was so much quicker than anyone else at mathematics, she could often be counted on to win. Voltaire wrote proudly that "the court ladies, playing cards with her in the company of the queen, were far from suspecting that they were sitting next to Newton's commentator."
Too Close to the Sun The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton
By Sarah Wheeler
At the bookmakers or around the roulette table, Denys thrived on risk. Inheriting the family gene that ruined his uncle George, he had begun betting at school, and quickly found that it took him to a place where reality was blotted out and adrenaline hijacked his functions. Besides danger, he craved the visceral thrill of winning and the challenge of outwitting his opponents. Naturally, he was keen to fill No. 117 (High Street, Denys's flat off campus) with gambling partners. When, in the winter term of his final year, a vacancy came up, he wrote to John Craigie asking if he would like to fill it. Craigie, a bluff golfer three years Denys's junior who had kept a betting syndicate at Eton, was about to go up to Magdalen. "Denys was such a celebrity," Craigie recalled, "that Dr Herbert Warren, president of Magdalen, allowed me as a freshman to say yes to this, and forgo my first year in college." Craigie shared many of Denys's delinquent tendencies, but even he could not always keep up. He remembered one particular roulette session at No. 117 attended by the mayoral bookmaker John Langley, Count Felix Elston, whose real name was Prince Yusupov, and C.T. Chu, a convivial little man who liked to bruit about the observation that he was the "52nd heir to the Chinese emperor." Craigie bailed out halfway through and was awakened the next morning by a gray-faced Feltham announcing, "It's 'arf past seven, sir, the ball is still rollin' and the Chinaman's lost two 'undred." In a single session, Denys had lost and retrieved his entire annual allowance of £300. ...
By the time Denys left Oxford, he was gambling so ferociously that he was poised over the abyss of self-indulgence - a Prince Hal fallen into the hands of his own Falstaff. But the risks were, over time, to grwo exponentially. The terrestrial pleasures of gambling failed to hold Denys down. He took to the air, where the stakes were higher. (From Take Your Hat Off, Hatton, pgs. 41-42)
Far more compelling take on the guy immortalized by author Karen Blixen (and Robert Redford):
New York Times Magazine
Questions for Dambisa Moyo The Anti-Bono The economist talks about why we should stop sending aid to Africa, why no one feels sorry for the Chinese and the trouble with relying on celebrities.
By Deborah Solomon
You argue in your book that Western aid to Africa has not only perpetuated poverty but also worsened it, and you are perhaps the first African to request in book form that all development aid be halted within five years. Think about it this way — China has 1.3 billion people, only 300 million of whom live like us, if you will, with Western living standards. There are a billion Chinese who are living in substandard conditions. Do you know anybody who feels sorry for China? Nobody.
Maybe that’s because they have so much money that we here in the U.S. are begging the Chinese for loans. Forty years ago, China was poorer than many African countries. Yes, they have money today, but where did that money come from? They built that, they worked very hard to create a situation where they are not dependent on aid.
What do you think has held back Africans? I believe it’s largely aid. You get the corruption — historically, leaders have stolen the money without penalty — and you get the dependency, which kills entrepreneurship. You also disenfranchise African citizens, because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people.
If people want to help out, what do you think they should do with their money if not make donations? Microfinance. Give people jobs.
But what if you just want to donate, say, $25? Go to the Internet and type in Kiva.org, where you can make a loan to an African entrepreneur.
Do you have a financial interest in Kiva? No, except that I’ve made loans through the system. I don’t own a share of Kiva. ...
For all your belief in the potential of capitalism, the free market is now in free fall and everyone is questioning the supposed wonders of the unregulated market. I wish we questioned the aid model as much as we are questioning the capitalism model. Sometimes the most generous thing you can do is just say no. (-- p. 11)
Willie said, "I don't see what I can do. I don't know where I can go."
"You've never felt there was anything for you to do. You've never understood that men have to make the world for themselves."
"Don't talk to me like that. That's the way the oppressor class thinks. They've just got to sit tight, and the world will continue to be all right for them."
Willie said, "It doesn't help me when you twist things. You know very well what I mean. I feel a bad hand was dealt me. What could I have done in India? What could I have done in England in 1957 or 1958? Or in Africa?"
"Eighteen years in Africa. Your poor wife. She thought she was getting a man. She should have talked to me."
Willie said, "I was always someone on the outside. I still am. What can I do in Berlin?"
"You were on the outside because you wanted to be. You've always preferred to hide. It's the colonial psypchosis, the caste psychosis. You inherited it from your father. You were in Africa for eighteen years. There was a great guerrilla war there. Didn't you know?"
"It was always far away. It was a secret war, until the very end."
"It was a glorious war. At least in the beginning. When you think about it, it can bring tears to the eyes. A poor and helpless people, slaves in their own land, starting from scratch in every way. What did you do? Did you seek them out? Did you join them? Did you help them? That was a big enough cause to anyone looking for a cause. But no. You stayed in your estate house with your lovely little half-white wife and pulled the pillow over your ears and hoped that no bad black freedom fighter was going to come in the night with a gun and heavy boots and frighten you."
"It wasn't like that, Sarojini. In my heart of hearts I was always on the Africans' side, but I didn't have a war to go to."
"If everybody had said that, there would never have been any revolution anywhere. We all have wars to go to.(From the chapter entitled, The Rose-Sellers], at p. 5)
Modern piracy has its origins in the wars that the great European powers fought over trade in the centuries following the discovery of the New World. Like Donald Rumsfeld, Renaissance monarchs seem to have believed in military outsourcing, and they cheaply and quickly acquired navies by granting private vessels, known as privateers, the right to raid enemy ships and pay themselves out of the plunder, a share of which they were to pass along to the government. If all went well—especially if the ships taken belonged to the Spanish, who hauled a fortune in American gold and silver across the Atlantic twice a year—the contracting government grew a little richer. So long as one of the nations involved considered it legal, privateering wasn’t technically piracy, but the Spanish liked to put the paperwork making this claim around the necks of privateers that they hanged. The privateers themselves, according to a 1724 account, tended to “make very little Distinction betwixt the Lawfulness of one, and the Unlawfulness of the other,” especially when peace intermittently threatened to deprive them of an income. In December of 1670, for example, Henry Morgan ignored a letter telling him that England had signed a treaty with Spain in July and went on to sack the Spanish-owned city of Panama. Morgan had scored princely sums elsewhere, however, so when he was eventually arrested and sent to London, he was knighted and appointed deputy governor of Jamaica.
The men who sailed with Morgan were known as buccaneers. They were French and English men who had gone native on Hispaniola, the island now occupied by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and on Tortuga, a tiny island to the north. Their name came from a wooden frame, called a boucan by the Carib Indians, on which they smoked wild boar and cattle. They were the ones who developed the first pirate code of ethics, the Custom of the Coast, at the core of which was an explicit agreement about the sharing of booty, power, and responsibility called a chasse partie. Before attacking Panama, for instance, the buccaneers stipulated that Morgan was to get a hundredth part of the loot, with the rest divided into shares for the more than two thousand men in the expedition: each captain under Morgan was to get eight shares, and each man one share. They also allocated set-asides for professionals (two hundred pesos for each surgeon, a hundred for each carpenter), incentive payments (fifty to anyone who captured a Spanish flag, five to anyone who threw a grenade into a fort), and compensations for injury (a hundred for a lost eye, fifteen hundred for two legs). Pirates usually further agreed to maroon pilferers, to give “good quarter” to any victim who asked, and to keep their weapons clean. Sometimes they went so far as to forbid gambling and onboard romance (“No Boy or Woman to be allowed amongst them,” one such contract read) and to restrict late-night drinking to the deck.
Because criminal agreements have no legal force, it’s tempting to think of pirate articles as quaint—if not misguided, considering how often they showed up in court as evidence against their signatories. Leeson is at pains to show the articles as a rational choice, enabling pirates to create a voluntary association that was stable and orderly. By setting terms in advance, punishing embezzlement harshly, and keeping the pay gap between captain and men low, the articles reduced conflict over property claims. By limiting drinking and requiring clean weapons, they curbed individual behaviors that might otherwise have damaged the crew’s fighting ability. And by rewarding special achievements and providing health insurance they encouraged enthusiasm and risk-taking. The results were impressive. “As great robbers as they are to all besides,” a sea cook observed in 1709, they “are precisely just among themselves.” No one could join a pirate crew without swearing to the articles, which, Leeson explains, reduced what economists call the “external costs” of decision-making—in this case, the discontent of anyone who thought them unfair, a dangerous sentiment when betrayal meant hanging. Articles also made it harder for leaders to cheat, because their public nature enabled every pirate to tell if a rule had been broken. The only rules as tough and flexible, Leeson provocatively suggests, were the covenants that founded New England’s Puritan churches.
When Morgan campaigned against the Spanish in 1670 and 1671, he was both elected by the buccaneers and commissioned by the Jamaican governor. But when he returned to the Caribbean, in 1675, he had to choose sides. Planters now dominated Jamaican society, and thought the cost of disrupted shipping not worth the occasional benefits of poaching Spanish currency. Morgan turned planter himself, declared pirates “ravenous vermin,” and began hanging them. When piracy next broke out, it was in another part of the world. ...
Piracy seems to thrive when capitalism is advancing—when it has put enough wealth in motion to tempt criminals to kill for it but not yet enough for sailors to die in its defense—and perhaps, as in Somalia, when government is retreating. In several ways, Somalia’s contemporary pirates resemble those of three centuries ago. Violent and dangerous, they nonetheless are careful not to hurt coöperative hostages; they look to piracy to take them from poverty to a life of leisure; they have been known to regulate their own behavior with written rules; and they believe that their cause is just. The timing of their end, too, will probably be similar, coming whenever a major power decides that a crackdown costs less than the nuisance.
Greg Carr's Big Gamble "I had the idea at 25 that if I made a lot of money, I could do whatever I wanted," says the Boston entrepreneur. And so, in one of the largest private commitments in African conservation, he's putting $40 million into a spectacular national park in war-ravaged Mozambique.
By Stephanie Hanes
More on Africa from our favorite news source, News from Africa, based in Africa - not Washington or London.
The park (Gorongosa National Park) was once one of the most treasured in all of Africa, 1,525 square miles of well-watered terrain with of the highest concentrations of large mammals on the continent - thousands of wildebeest, zebra and water buck, and even denser herds of buffalo and elephant than on the fabled Serengeti Plain. In the 1960s and '70s, movie stars, astronauts and other celebrities vacationed in Gorongosa; tourists arrived by the busload. Tippi Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, was inspired by Gorongosa's lions to build her own exotic cat preserve outside Los Angeles. Astronaut Charles Duke told his safari guide that visiting Gorongosa was as thrilling as landing on the moon.
They called it the jewel of Mozambique," says Frank Merry, a visiting scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, which has received a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to study Carr's project. "You've got an iconic resource there... In the U.S., you might think of Yellowstone."
But all of that was before Mozambique's 16-year civil war, which erupted soon after the country won independence from Portugal and set up a socialist, single-party government in 1975. As was common across post-independence Africa, antigovernment forces took refuge in national parks, a ready source of hidden shelter and food. They set up headquarters just outside Gorongosa, and the park itself became a battlefield: land mines were planted, the main camp was shelled and the animals were slaughtered.
"There were government forces, you had the rebel force, you had displaced people - they all used the park," says (Roberto) Zolho, the current warden, who was a ranger in Gorongosa when the rebels attacked. "We closed the park in '83 because it was impossible."
Outside the park, government asoldiers forced villagers into towns or "communal villages" dozens of miles away, often along the main road linking Zimbabwe to Mozambique'es port of Beira. It was a traumatic move for people who had spiritual connections to the land and for families accustomed to living at some remove from one another. (-- pgs. 87-88)
I have had my own experience as that of being a writer given evidence of a disaster which seemed to exceed all measure. In South Africa racism in its brutally destructive guises, from killing in conquest to the methodology of colonialism, certified as Divine Will by religious doctrine, took the lives of thousands of Africans and stunted the lives of millions more, systematically. I grew up in the Union that came out of wars for possession between the British and descendants of the Dutch, the Boers. The Africans had already been dispossessed by both. I was the child of the white minority, blinkered in privilege and conditioning education, basic as ABC. But because I was a writer - for it's an early state of being, before a word has been written, not an attribute of being published - I became witness to the unspoken in my society. Very young I entered a dialogue with myself about what was around me; and this took the form of trying for the meaning in what I saw by transforming this into stories based on what were everyday incidents of ordinary life for everyone around me: the sacking of the backyard room of a black servant by police while the white master and mistress of the house looked on unconcerned; later, in my adolescence during the '39-'45 War, when I was a voluntary aide at a gold mine casualty station, being told by the white intern who was suturing a black miner's gaping head wound without anesthetic, "They don't feel pain like we do." (From Witness: The Inward Testimony by Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, pgs. 109-110)
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