Footnotes from the British Underground

This blog began as venue for my stories as I traveled in Africa. 18 months later, I return to it as I travel to study as a Marshall Scholar in the United Kingdom. My hope is that this blog can be a conduit for you - my family, friends and secret/strange admirers - to track my movements, see a photo or two and get a glimpse of my days in the UK. Apologies once again to Dostoevsky for the blog's name...

My Photo
Name:
Location: Bradford, United Kingdom

After graduating from Notre Dame, I'm off to England for graduate study. I'll be studying for a M.A. in International Politics and Security Studies. When not studying, I'm continuing to coordinate Uganda-CAN's efforts to end the 20-year war in northern Uganda!

16.7.05

All Rock, No Action in Live-8 - New York Times

From yesterday's New York Times -

All Rock, No Action
By JEAN-CLAUDE SHANDA TONME
Yaoundé, Cameroon

LIVE 8, that extraordinary media event that some people of good intentions in the West just orchestrated, would have left us Africans indifferent if we hadn't realized that it was an insult both to us and to common sense.

We have nothing against those who this month, in a stadium, a street, a park, in Berlin, London, Moscow, Philadelphia, gathered crowds and played guitar and talked about global poverty and aid for Africa. But we are troubled to think that they are so misguided about what Africa's real problem is, and dismayed by their willingness to propose solutions on our behalf.

We Africans know what the problem is, and no one else should speak in our name. Africa has men of letters and science, great thinkers and stifled geniuses who at the risk of torture rise up to declare the truth and demand liberty.

Don't insult Africa, this continent so rich yet so badly led. Instead, insult its leaders, who have ruined everything. Our anger is all the greater because despite all the presidents for life, despite all the evidence of genocide, we didn't hear anyone at Live 8 raise a cry for democracy in Africa.

Don't the organizers of the concerts realize that Africa lives under the oppression of rulers like Yoweri Museveni (who just eliminated term limits in Uganda so he can be president indefinitely) and Omar Bongo (who has become immensely rich in his three decades of running Gabon)? Don't they know what is happening in Cameroon, Chad, Togo and the Central African Republic? Don't they understand that fighting poverty is fruitless if dictatorships remain in place?

Even more puzzling is why Youssou N'Dour and other Africans participated in this charade. Like us, they can't help but know that Africa's real problem is the lack of freedom of expression, the usurpation of power, the brutal oppression.

Neither debt relief nor huge amounts of food aid nor an invasion of experts will change anything. Those will merely prop up the continent's dictators. It's up to each nation to liberate itself and to help itself. When there is a problem in the United States, in Britain, in France, the citizens vote to change their leaders. And those times when it wasn't possible to freely vote to change those leaders, the people revolted.

In Africa, our leaders have led us into misery, and we need to rid ourselves of these cancers. We would have preferred for the musicians in Philadelphia and London to have marched and sung for political revolution. Instead, they mourned a corpse while forgetting to denounce the murderer.

What is at issue is an Africa where dictators kill, steal and usurp power yet are treated like heroes at meetings of the African Union. What is at issue is rulers like François Bozizé, the coup leader running the Central Africa Republic, and Faure Gnassingbé, who just succeeded his father as president of Togo, free to trample universal suffrage and muzzle their people with no danger that they'll lose their seats at the United Nations. Who here wants a concert against poverty when an African is born, lives and dies without ever being able to vote freely?

But the truth is that it was not for us, for Africa, that the musicians at Live 8 were singing; it was to amuse the crowds and to clear their own consciences, and whether they realized it or not, to reinforce dictatorships. They still believe us to be like children that they must save, as if we don't realize ourselves what the source of our problems is.

Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme is a consultant on international law and a columnist for Le Messager, a Cameroonian daily, where a version of this article first appeared. This article was translated by The Times from the French.

6.7.05

Interviewed Today on Chicago Public Radio!

Today, I was interviewed on Worldview, Chicago Public Radio's international news analysis program. The show focused mainly on the political developments regarding the Museveni's third-term and the July 28th referendum on the political system, but we also talked a bit about the conflict and importance of the international community in supporting the peace process. The audio feed should be available soon at: http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/programs/worldview/worldview.asp.

Urgent: Walk for Peace

Two Canadians are refusing to be silent in the face of the plight of children in Uganda's two-decade war. They are walking nightly 12.5 kilometers to sleep in the streets of Toronto just as the thousands of child "night commuters" are forced to do in northern Uganda. They are asking for people to walk with them and sign their petition. Visit their website for more information. We hope Uganda-CAN can link with them and start walking with them as we work to give coverage and face to the unnecessary human suffering in Uganda.

African "Success Story" Gone Sour

Salon.com reports today on the African "success story" gone sour with Uganda. For the last decade, the West, especially the United States government, has touted Uganda as a success in the war on terror, the war on HIV/AIDS and the war on protectionism. Yet, it appears the West should have and should now take a more discerning look at the current political system in Uganda that has fueled and perpetuated division, repression and conflict.

1.7.05

Uganda-CAN Website Expanded/Updated

Check out the new expanded and updated Uganda Conflict Action Network website at www.ugandacan.org. The new site not only has an active working blog, but it also features the most recent news headlines about the conflict.

Also, as I mentioned, I spoke on the BBC Radio Five Live station in Britain on Tuesday night. You can access the recording from the Uganda-CAN website in the "Uganda-CAN in the News" section.