The End

After four years living in Nairobi and reporting across Africa I’ve headed home to England. This blog, in hibernation for quite a while, will now be permanently put out of its misery.

You can still follow me on Twitter and, if 140 characters isn’t enough, you can read my work in Monocle where I’ve just started as foreign editor.

And you can always buy my book

Thanks for reading and commenting – you’ve helped to make this worthwhile.

Move along, nothing to see…

Clearly maintaining two blogs is beyond me. Let’s face it, one was always a bit of a struggle.

Until the World Cup is out the way I’ll be focusing my blogging on the Africa United website.

Normal service will be resumed in July.

This won’t make a difference

Kenya’s electoral commission has just launched a new hi-tech voter registration system. Every would-be voter will have their fingerprint scanned and a digital photograph taken. Supposedly this will prevent voter fraud.

Two things:

One. The problems last time had little to do with voter registration. The election was stolen in the count.

Two. Somaliland tried this super-duper foolproof digital photo fingerprint scanner thing back in 2008. The result? The country’s worst case of voter registration fraud ever.

“No to Al Shabaab”

As Somalia’s government continues to warn Al Shabaab that they are about to launch a “major offensive”, the Somali hip-hop collective, Waayaha Cusub, has unveiled a more musical attack.

Apparently it’s getting a lot of airplay in Somalia. Waayaha Cusub, understandably, are based in Nairobi.

Lessons in Big Man politics

Chris Mullin spent two years as the UK’s Minister for Africa, a role that wasn’t quite as important as it sounds. Any decision worth making was carried out by Mullin’s superiors but he managed to travel a fair bit across the continent.

On one of those trips, to Kenya, he spends a day with Raila Odinga and gets his “first taste of Big Man politics”:

“All day we raced around in a convoy of gleaming Land Cruisers, mobbed by cheering crowds. At every stop a visitors’ book was produced. At first, I duly filled in my name and details across a single line. The Honourable Raila was unimpressed. ‘That’s not how you do it,’ he snorts, ‘you must fill the whole page.’ I flicked back through the book. Everyone else seemed to have made do with a single line, but that apparently is not how Big Men sign their nams.

“Honourable Raila takes the book and scrawls his signature across a full page. ‘There.’ He holds it out for me to admire. Try as I may, I cannot rise to the occasion. By the end of the day I am managing a mere three lines.”

From Mullin’s brilliant diaries, ‘A View from the Foothills’.

Bob Geldof: “arrogant… pompous… smug”

The BBC/Band Aid row rumbles on. Rageh Omaar yesterday took the opportunity to write a fascinating and timely piece about the inevitable politicisation of aid that happens in all conflicts. It’s worth reading in full, but here is the crucial point:

Let’s get some things straight: humanitarian operations in the midst of large-scale civil wars where territory is held by rival powers are almost always politicised and misused. The idea that this never happens and that NGOs are never put in situations where, in order to get the aid delivered, they have to work with and often through the powers that control the territory where the suffering is taking place is a ridiculous fantasy. It’s happening now, in Congo; in my own country, Somalia, where al-Qaida-affiliated groups have dictated how the World Food Programme delivers emergency food; and also in Zimbabwe, where I have just spent two weeks talking to aid workers having to work through government bodies in delivering aid to prisoners of Mugabe.

Bob Geldof wasn’t too happy with Omaar’s suggestion that the BBC story might be accurate and wrote a riposte today. Geldof might have a point but, frankly, I got lost in the forest of abuse. His 1500-word article was little more than a series of personal insults aimed at Omaar:

“how arrogant you are, how self-important…”

“your pathetic interpretation of press freedom…”

“your pompous guff…”

“your smug certitudes and thin pieties…”

“You people, you self-important mediators of ‘news’…”

It’s great to see such an important debate reduced to name-calling.

Ignoring Africa

A Senegalese wrestler (Photo by Denis Rouvre)

There were several incredible photos from Africa in this year’s World Press Photo awards, from Denis Rouvre’s portraits of Senegalese wrestlers to Malick Sidibe’s wonderful fashion series for the New York Times magazine.

It was, as Glenna Gordon pointed out on Scarlett Lion, “great to see photos that aren’t of poverty porn.”

So it’s a shame that the World Press Photo organisers have decided to bring the winners’ exhibition to just one venue in Africa. To put that in context, the exhibition is going to be shown at seven separate venues in the Netherlands alone.

*10 points to anyone who can guess where in Africa the exhibition will be held. No cheating.