Africa Vignette 4: It Takes a Long Time to Get to Zambia

Hippos in the Luangwa River, Zambia

Sure, the getting here was miserable. The long haul was more than thirteen thousand kilometers – leave shore over Charleston, South Carolina and don’t see land again until Cape Town. As if the continents were mountain peaks, you slid down the valley called the Atlantic on the flight map. That got us to Cape Town where it never dawned. The gray of winter just brightened up.

Nine more hours of airports, and these were the difficult ones, desynchronosis raging, hours 18 to 26 or so straight in a public place, no time to yourself. Now, finally, Lusaka. Here we are.

We hunt around the Lusaka airport and somehow find a woman who’s going the same place we are. She’s named Beatrice, from the copper belt up near Lubumbashi, Congo.  Up there, there are tons of ex-pats in the mining trade, so it’s a place that needs a travel agent, which Beatrice is. Next we find Ryan, the pilot from Durban, and finally Kitty and Maeva who are also lost and that’s all of us, so we load up the Cessna and head for a town on the Zambian border with Malawi called Mfuwe.

As we walk across the tarmac, Maeva, Kitty and my wife Mirja discover that they’re all three Finns, which is incredible. Three out of six random people in a Cessna from Finland, a country of just five million.

There is a lot of anticipation in this little Cessna.

See photos from Zambia in the Zambia Gallery at Earthphotos.com.

Africa Vignettes is a weekly series most Mondays this summer on CS&W.

Weekend Reading

It’s a long weekend in the USA and here in Georgia, we’ll be spending some quality time outdoors. Wherever you spend the weekend, here are a few quality reads to load into your portable reader and take along:

This Is What A 21st-Century Police State Really Looks Like by Megha Rajagopalan in Buzzfeed, on Beijing today
If Crisis or War Comes, a pamphlet distributed to 4.8 million households in Sweden this week by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (English pdf)
The Ukraine Model – The last time a country agreed to give up its nukes, it didn’t turn out well by Mary Mycio in Slate
The New Passport-Poor by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian on the NYRB blog. Passports “were invented not to let us roam freely, but to keep us in place—and in check.”

And two sort-of similar stories:

Why a San Francisco Burger King Blasts Classical Music Day and Night by Anne Ewbank at Atlas Obscura, and
The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations by Allan Richarz at Citilab.com

As for books, I can recommend two works of fiction which are also sort of similar, in that each follows a disparate cast of characters over time, and each has an environmental theme. They’re both really well-written: The History of Bees by the Norwegian Maja Lunde, and a book I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, The Overstory by Richard Powers.

See you next week.

 

Socotra

It’s not often the Yemeni island of Socotra is in the news, and today it’s not for any good reason. A cyclone has torn across the island with some 17 people feared dead.

If you’re not familiar with Socotra, take this opportunity to introduce yourself. Home to some 60,000 people, it is an entirely unique place, the way Madagascar is. Because of its isolated location about 200 miles off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, it is home to flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. The Independent newspaper ran this worthwhile two part series on Socotra recently. Check it out. There’s a video tour.

How Is Bullying Working Out for You?

This morning’s cancellation of the US/DPRK summit comes as no surprise. It turns out that the president who threatens “fire and fury” can’t countenance similar rhetoric from his interlocutors.

It’s not just the threat of “fire and fury” that the North Koreans have been responding to. The other day the American vice-president went on a friendly news channel to say that “There was some talk about the Libya model … as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.”

This was a straightforward threat to the life of the North Korean leader, thuggish and anti-diplomatic. But boy, he sure is a big ol’ tough vice-president, yessiree.

The vice-president was referring to an appearance by the new national security advisor John Bolton on the same friendly Fox News channel, in which Mr. Bolton provocatively laid out a maximalist negotiating position, demanding the unilateral disarmament of North Korea along the lines of the “Libyan model.”

Libya’s ruler Moammar Gadhafi was persuaded to transfer his nuclear equipment out of the country in 2003 and 2004. This came under the George W. Bush administration. Later the Obama administration, along with European allies, mounted military action against Libya in 2011 to prevent a threatened massacre of civilians. In that conflict, rebels hunted down Colonel Gadhafi and killed him. This was the “Libya model.”

Since everyone knows this, Mr. Bolton’s remarks were artless and, as we see this morning, if the U.S. is really seeking to pursue diplomacy, counterproductive.

The United States, along with the United Kingdom and France, was instrumental in the death of Colonel Gadhafi. The United States has meanwhile just unilaterally abrogated an internationally negotiated treaty with Iran.

In this light, consider how much weight a member of the North Korean leadership would give President Trump’s remarks on Tuesday that “I will guarantee his (Mr. Kim’s) safety, yes … He will be safe, he will be happy, his country will be rich, his country will be hard-working and prosperous.”

We now enter a period of blistering tit for tat rhetoric between the US and the DPRK.

That Nobel prize will have to wait.

Africa Vignette 3: Germany Enters the Scramble

Tanzania generally comprises the former German East Africa. Germany came late to the Scramble for Africa, as the Europeans’ colonizing land grabs came to be known, and left early, because it was stripped of its colonies after the Great War. Its important colonies were only four – today’s Togo, Cameroon and Namibia along the west coast and today’s Tanzania, in the east.

For a while, German Chancellor Bismarck hung back from colonizing Africa with plaintive realpolitik: “Here is Russia and here is France,” he said, “with Germany in the middle. That is my map of Africa.”

Bismarck was no cosmopolitan, hardly a product of the European salon. A provincial, a scion of Prussia, he declared “The only healthy basis of a large state which differentiates it essentially from a petty state, is state egoism and not romanticism.” And by 1884, as Britain and France were madly laying their African stakes, a sense the Germans called Torschlusspanik, or “door-closing-panic,” took hold in Germany, a fear that it might be left out. Traders felt mercantile pressure from their British and French rivals, and let the government know it.

Maybe it was best to get while the getting was still good. Bismarck reexamined, applied a dose of egoism and with the support and urging of business interests from Hamburg and Bremen, Bismarck instructed the German explorer Dr. Gustav Nachtigal to seize Cameroon, Togoland and Southwest Africa, which is now Namibia.

Climbing sand dunes in Sossusvlei, Namibia.

See more photos from Namibia in the Namibia Gallery at Earthphotos.com.

1/3 of All Shopping Centers in Russia Shut Down

This is remarkable:

“On May 15, a demolition crew went to work on the charred wreckage of the “Winter Cherry” shopping center in Kemerovo, where 60 people (including 40 children) died in a fire on March 25. Following this tragedy, Russian fire safety officials launched unplanned inspections of shopping malls across the country. By early May, the authorities had shut down nearly a third of all the shopping centers in Russia, finding widespread noncompliance with federal fire safety standards.”

Meduza has the story.