Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Learning German is already one heck of a trouble, but that is just one tiny step in these millions of miles ahead that you have to take to integrate in Germany.

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Sierra Leone’s macro economy is doing well, but at the micro level it’s another story. Listen to my report on DW’s Africalink show.

http://www.dw.de/africalink-on-air-07-may-2013/a-16796997

By: Abu-Bakarr Jalloh

In 1994, almost two decades ago, I found a kid who had made away with one of my rental bicycles. My friends and I dragged him to the police station to get him to return the bike. At around 8pm local time at the central police station in Bo, Southern Sierra Leone, the police asked me to report a statement against the alleged thief. Before I began my narration, the officer told me to buy his candle, pen and paper. I tried to walk to a nearby shop to get him the items but he said no. “Put the money on the table,” he pointed to the table. “I will buy it later myself”. I paid a bribe.

Last week, I inquired about renewing my passport in Germany. I called at the embassy in Berlin and spoke to a young Sierra Leonean on the phone. “Use the account number on our website that ends with 3”, he instructed. ‘Wire 35 Euros to it and come to Berlin with a receipt”.

Splendid. That’s all he said. I had read on the “website”, which by the way is a blog, that the embassy does not issue passports. Excuse me? What do I do? I have three options. Option one is incur the embassy’s cost of making the passport for me in Freetown. The second option is to fly home myself and get a new passport or final option, get someone in Freetown to do it for me. That means, a DHL fee of about 100 Euros would have to be paid to get the booklet here. Also, splendid.

The question remains; why must I pay another 35 Euros to the embassy? I read that my new passport would have to be approved by my country’s diplomatic mission in my country of residence or the mission responsible thereof. On the SL embassy site, I also read that to approve all documents, the applicant must pay a fee of 30 Euros. But I was told to wire 35 Euros. Below the approval fee, I read another fee of 5 Euros for registration forms. What? Is the form a booklet or a mere piece of paper? Super splendid.

The question now in my mind is how is this different from a cop two decades ago that asked me to buy his candle, pen and paper?

For a system as corrupt as ours in the midst of political turmoil and a decade-long unrest that ravaged the economy, I reasoned with a lone cop trying to make ends meet. I believed the country was lagging behind the world’s development pace and no single individual could differentiate between good and bad governance; not even a cop.

I understand that our system then was not capable of making the officer a responsible cop. I would even reason with him now if he would ask me to buy his paper because our economy is still not strong enough to make our men and women in uniforms better officers.

But for the following reasons, I will not agree with Sierra Leone’s diplomatic mission to Germany to pay 5 Euros for a piece of paper:

Firstly, as a matter of principle, I refuse to see reasons why the embassy would require its citizens to buy forms. This is an archaic and outrageous form of revenue collection and one of the indirect reasons why we attained the status of a failed state.

Secondly, let’s do the math. How much does a paper packet cost? In Germany, it’s between 4 and 10 Euros depending on the quality of the paper. Let’s assume they are using a 60g paper. How many papers do they need for a form? I take it that the government in SL pays the person writing the instructions on the paper not by the revenue collected from selling the forms. This is just too outrageous.

Thirdly, for the fact that it is a diplomatic mission representing a country in a foreign land, that is the more reason why its system of operation should be transparent and corrupt free.

Finally, if SL has one of the fastest growing economies in the world today, is extracting unnecessary fees from its nationals the best way to maintain that development?

I am ready to negotiate a 50 percent tax of my income or even pay it without questioning. If I can pay that same amount of tax to my current country of residence, heck I am willing to give the money to my beloved country. But I refuse to pay 5 Euros bribe to the embassy of SL in Germany.

This month saw me joggling between several things. I was rounding up a month-and-a-half long internship at the Deutsche Welle English for Africa department, which by the way I was offered a job afterwards, when this television stuff came up. We met for a meeting and four of us offered to anchor the show called Glocal, Global Reporters, Local Stories. Glocal is produced by us  students in the International Media Studies Master’s degree program at Deutsche Welle Academy and is broadcast at the German western regional channel WDR. Anyways, at the meeting we agreed to host the show in German, I began getting nervous, and each anchor would have to write down his or her individual intros and ques for each piece. That solved, we had to select partners, two males, myself and a friend from Bangladesh and two ladies, a French and a Chinese. To make the selection easier, someone suggested “Height”. It looked like we were getting there. I was asked to compare heights with my French friend and that was it. Paired.

My co-host and I met a few days later and worked on our script, gosh…how  writing in German was much cooler than I feared. I’d worked in German before during my internship adapting stories from German to English and although this was a whole different I enjoyed doing it. I had to create my own words in German. Not bad for a starter I’d say. Anyways, we did it but not quite completely. I had to run to the library to read for the semester exams and my friend had her own appointment. By the way I am still studying for exams and that actually begs the question why am I blogging right now when I am supposed to be studying? No idea. So we met again, finished the job and emailed it to the lecturer for approval.

The script had been edited, with the wording almost entirely changed. At least my ideas stayed. That reminds me, I still have a lot of work to do on my German language. We’d met before for a practical training with the teleprompter but since I had anchored the newscast at ABC SL before, I wasn’t worried much. The entire time I had been thinking about how I was going to anchor it in German just like I did in English. The night before the hosting day, I stayed up for several hours literally planting the words in the script into my head.

As usual, I showed up in the morning at DW all glowed in smile as if nothing intense was happening inside of me. I changed into my suit and didn’t even notice when the producer came around taking photos. It sort of felt really good doing what I always wanted to do in my life. The media, news reporting and anchoring, making documentary films and setting up a new form of public sphere back home are always the issues I come to think of when questions about my career path pop up. These issues light me up and give me a sense of purpose of being in this world. I have tried thinking about different careers but this is what I believe to be my calling and I have set forth for it.

In front of the camera, I felt at first as if I was in a shoe box, i.e. the viewfinder to which I am so used framing people in a shot and for the first time since ABC I was getting framed in that same pattern. I saw myself because we had a TV monitor in our direction. With all the flattering comments of how cool we both looked on screen, no self praises here just recounting, I sort of managed to forget about the shots and concentrated on the content of the script.

After several takes, we pulled it off. We did it.

Glocal will be aired probably before the year ends and I will make sure I blogged it. If you might be wondering why my ending here is abrupt, I probably just thought about going back to reading the academic stuffs.

I do appreciate you time for reading about my work and thoughts and hope to share with you my next blog post.

Have a wonderful time.

ABJ

Africalink: Listen to the show

Africalink 20.08.2012: Listen to My Latest Report

Mahmoud Tahreq is heading to one of Nuremberg’s few Mosques to pray the daily five times prayers. Born and bred in this German community in Nuremberg,  Tahreq is a German muslim with that claims to suffer everyday discrimination in Germany.

“People sometimes do not come closer to me when I wear Islamic an dress,” said Tahreq. “In worst cases, they even leave the buses and the trains when I get in.”

The death of the Al Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, according to him, has awakened fear and tensions on the for muslims living in Germany. The 28 year-old is a student of Machine Construction at the Friedrick Alexander University in  Erlangen and Nuremberg.

He say he believes in Islam and happy to be a Muslim but emphasizes that the news of Bin Laden’s death has put him and many others in an awakened set of public humiliations.

Imam Dr. Bünyamin Garder attests that there has been a growing tension for Muslims since the Al Qaeda leader’s death.

“A lot of Muslims often get publicly humiliated in Germany and it is disheartening for me as a German and a Muslim,” says Dr. Garder. “This humiliation had self been minimized but Bin Laden’s death has shaken things up again.”

In Erlangen, a twenty-kilometre city away from Nuremberg, the municipal council partners with anti racial campaign group Freundeskreis Tambacounda to raise issues of increasing discrimination in the cities. The council and its partner organize art events in schools and public places to identify and discuss racial issues in communities.

David Herensberg, Head of International Affairs, Erlangen Rathaus said “The art events help people and most especially the young ones to see what they do that is discriminating and why they need to have a change of behavior.”

Abdou Karim Sane, Director Freundeskreis Tambacounda “We brought up the initiative ‘Bilder im Kopf’ in order to help change the thoughts of people, so we all could live in harmony. The events started in Hannover and it is spreading nationwide.”

“Bilder im Kopf” meaning images in the minds of people aims to raise more awareness of racial segregation. The events, however, do not make the amount of necessary impact enough for Mahmoud to move around Nuremberg without being afraid getting attached.

Mahmoud Tahreq “I get afraid sometimes in Nuremberg. When I wear an Islamic gown for prayers, I cannot dare go to every community. Why should the others get to practice their religious faith and not us?”

Although there hasn’t been report of physical attack on Muslims in the cities of Nuremberg and Erlangen, Mahmoud says he fears some people and societies get more intolerant to Muslims. He states he hope that people will get to put a distinction between a terrorist group and a peaceful religion.