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Africa is a Country (Old Site)

By Mukoma Wa Ngugi

“Sir, I am very happy to finally meet you in person – I have read all your books,” a man gushed to my father, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi. My father loves talking with people, but he also does not mind a compliment or two and so we stopped to chat. “Your books, especially Things Fall Apart…” 

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Posted: September 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

A muted response in the blogosphere persuaded me to write about Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai’s now not-so-recent remark, which I’ve come to think of as ‘the “white man” comment’. If you missed it, in June 2012 Yishai, responding to criticism of Israel’s treatment of African migrants, claimed that: “Muslims that arrive here do not even believe that this country belongs to us, to the white man.”

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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.


Africalink: Listen to the show

Africalink 20.08.2012: Listen to My Latest Report

The Sierra Leone Anti Corruption Commision has released a field visit report stating that extreme corrution and mismanagement derails the government’s free healthcare insurance scheme. The policy established in 2010 was intended to reduce infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. According to the United Nations, in 2010 Sierra Leone lost 1 child out of 4 due to child mortality. An outbreak of Cholera disease in Freetown has killed 66 people since January.

The country celebrated as its president, Ernest Koroma, in April 2010 announced, a Free Healthcare insurance for pregnant, breast-feeding women and children under five.

Following Sierra Leone’s decade long civil war that killed over 500,000 people. The medical and healthcare situation in the country was left in shambles. President Koroma initiated a free healthcare program to reduce the infant and maternal mortality rate. Two years after the launching, the anti corruption body now reports that the free service initiative is at the brink of failure. The report released testimonies of many women saying they can no longer get medication and healthcare for free. They even have to buy drugs like Paracetamol and Amoxicillin from street peddlers, medicine which should be freely given by public hospitals. But how do these medicines end up on the street.

“When we went there, the beneficiaries complained that when they go the health units they are asked to pay for facilities that are supposed to be free,” said Mohamed Ali Kamara from Sierra Leone Anti-corruption Commission. “That is what they alleged but we have not yet conducted any investigations.”

The government agrees that there are malpractices among doctors and nurses but maintain the initiative has been very successful. Alim Sesay, Director of Communication at the Office of the President says even donor organizations can attest.

Alim Sesay, Director of Communication at the Office of the President said “The last surveys conducted by external agencies recorded that in fact the uptake (irrespective) of reports that there are deteriorating health standard in this country, but because of this free healthcare the number of people accessing government medical care has increased tremendously.”

Even though Alim Sesay says the number of child and maternal deaths have reduced in Sierra Leone, there are no specific reports from Sierra Leone to back the government’s claim. In contrast, a recent Cholera outbreak has claimed the lives of almost 70 people. Since the introduction of the free healthcare scheme in 2010, Salaries of Medical staff have remained the same, at about an average 100 dollars monthly, while the cost of living in the last two years has skyrocketed. No wonder drugs meant for the public are finding themselves in the streets as Mohamed Ali Kamara from the Anti-corruption found out.

“That is the problem, most of the areas we went to to sensitize people about the scheme and others issues of corruption that is the complain people are making that they are underpaid. They are not paid properly, so that is why some of them are involve in corruption practices.”

Although Sierra Leone has made much progress in the health sector since the war ended, corruption and mismanagement continue to pose much difficulties for this small West African nation. It currently ranks 180 out of 187 in the United Nation’s Human Development Index which measures poverty, literacy, education and life expectancy.