Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Royal African Society "No Show" - Tim Spicer

I was trolling around the Blogosphere the other day and ran across some interesting postings over at Ethan’s Place (Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center). One of his articles that caught my attention was the posting on mercenaries (a.k.a. private security and defence contractors) winning a big contract with the U.S. Pentagon for Iraq. You (my fellow Americans) need to read that article because the people it talks about and the practice of paying these mercenaries with TAXPAYER’s MONEY in the name of Democracy & The American People is dangerous and it is flat wrong.

What’s wrong with you Papa Rumsfeld? You done lost your mind, boy? We c’aint be havin’ nothing like this going on with neither our money nor our government!”

Now if you read Ethan’s article there and check out the comments you will see that I opened my Big Mouth again before engaging my brain. I’m talking about the little exchange between Robbie Honerkamp and me re: Tim Spicer’s scheduled lecture at the
Royal African Society tomorrow night in London, England. The name in the article that made me see RED right away is that of Viktor Bout (a.k.a. Viktor B., the Merchant of Death). You can read plenty about these two gangsters by checking links in a Google search using their respective names and aliases. I’m not going to waste any time on these lowlifes here in this article because I want to talk about something else, that is the Royal African Society website. However; if you are interested in certain plans for improving security and safety in Africa you might want to head on down to the lecture at the RAS tomorrow.

That’s funny. I can’t seem to find any information on the January 27, 2005 lecture by Tim Spicer on the RAS website. It was there just a few days ago, where did it go? Ahh, here it is right here…
CANCELLED. Cancelled, what?”

So, now that I have “run that up the flagpole” on my blog as promised I would like to say a few things about the Royal African Society and their fine website. First of all, what is the Royal African Society? I thought this organization went out with
Speke and Burton after their tragic search for the source of the Nile and the lost Dr. David Livingston.

That’s the Royal Geographical Society who sponsored Speke and Burton's expeditions, you dummy!”

“Oh! I’m sorry. I stand corrected

Anyway, Robbie’s defense (U.S. spelling for Robbie in Atlanta) of the Royal African Society prompted me to look a little deeper into the RAS and their very fine website. One of the first things that I did is find out something about their
history and their mission. Then I checked out their special feature titled “Voices of Africa”___ a collection of about 16 essays to date from some of Africa’s best experts and professionals. More essays to come I believe. Here is an essay from Charles "Mase" Onyango-Obbo, Associate Editor of the Daily Nation in Nairobi, Kenya. Charles talks about press freedom and freedom of speech in his native country of Uganda under President Yoweri Museveni’s rule. Some people know that Uganda and Kenya have become dear to my heart, like Sudan, and that I have a keen interest in what’s going on there and how things work, how they really work. This article is helpful.

There are a number of other very good resources at the Royal African Society website also, like this web page
recent RAS meetings from 2003 to the present. While scrolling down this list of reports I came across a January 13, 2005 meeting report titled “History of the Hanged: Reparations, Reconciliation and the Mau Mau War”. Wow! I remember seeing documentary reports on this when I was a real little guy back in the States. Here is an excerpt from an interview with David M. Anderson, author of the book “Histories of the Hanged…” as posted on the RAS website:

David Anderson, Lecturer in African Studies, University of Oxford.

“This book tells for the first time the story of the dirty war the British fought in Kenya, in the run-up to the country's independence in 1964. In 1952, after years of tension and bitterness, the grievances of the Gikuyu people of central Kenya exploded into open rebellion. Only 32 European settlers died in the subsequent fighting, but more than 1,800 African civilians, over 3,000 African police and soldiers, and 12,000 Mau Mau rebels were killed. Between 1953 and 1956 Britain sent over a thousand Kenyans to the gallows, often on trumped up or non-existent charges. Meanwhile 70,000 people were imprisoned in camps without trial for between two and six years. Men and women were kept together in conditions of institutionalised violence overseen by British officials. David Anderson provides a full and convincing account of a war in which all sides behaved badly, and therefore few of the combatants can be either fully excused, or blamed…”

The interview conducted by the Royal African Society’s chairperson, Charlotte Njeru (who’s that?), is a must read for my readers interested in a better understanding of what the heck really went on under the colonization of East Africa and the decades of torment for African people and societies during the post-colonial period in the latter half of the 20th Century. Many Britains should feel pretty bad and ashamed about this kind of thing going on as well, hmmmh?

I shall of course be expecting some comments from my friends and readers from Kenya and the U.K. regarding this tragic period in your country’s respective histories. That is, unless the subject is too painful to think or write about, which I certainly can understand.

P.S. My apologies for playing around with “the Queen’s English” grammar, I’m just having fun with my British readers and the rest of the Commonwealth crowd. “Queen Liz” and I have been on very good terms ever since that “incident” with my Boyz over in Greater Britain back in ’82. She would understand my good intentions on this blog. Cheers.


Mshairi said...

Hey, BRE, the problem with the issue of the Mau Mau and Kenya's liberation struggle is not that it is too painful or that we are too angry to write or comment it. This issue is far too detailed and complex to just write a comment or too about. The History of the Hanged sounds like an interesting book and I would like to read it eventually.

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks for your comment, Mshairi. I knew that you would speak up about the reference to Mau Mau and Kenya's war for independence. Maybe you could help us learn more about this important historical subject by pointing readers to some good online resources.

Note that Kenya Hudson (great name, isn't it) over at the Ambiguous Adventure blog made mention of this posting and included reference to another good book on the subject titled "Imperial Reckoning" by Caroline Elkins. You can check out her January 27th post at the link below or link to her blog via my blogroll: