(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Change in the Air

On the Continent

Change is in the air on the African continent. Not sure if there's ever been a time when you couldn't say but there is some serious stuff going on right now. Egypt is in turmoil as its president since 1981 is on the verge of getting the boot. That's huge. Even if you're not Egyptian. It's an entire generation that has only known one person as their leader. I think that's worth stopping and thinking about. Then there's Tunisia who is sorting itself out in a big way, actually a precursor to the Egyptian chaos. Its president was delivered his walking papers after being at the helm since 1987. Craziness. This all seems to be causing ripples of revolt, or potential revolt, elsewhere. Then you have the official announcement this week that the people of southern Sudan have voted for independence – a move that will divide what was the largest country in Africa. I don't have much experience in founding countries but my guess is that those folks have a big job ahead. I assume that it's more than just choosing a national anthem and a national cooking pot. And then there's that tricky little issue of a border cutting across the oil fields. Finally the standoff continues in the Côte d'Ivoire. President A was voted out while President B starts his new job in a hotel protected by the UN, the army mostly backing A while most of the country and the rest of the world is backing B. If that whole thing doesn't end up in a war then it's going to be a miracle.

This is all history in the making. As many Westerners ponder the Oscar nominations and the results of the recent Super Bowl, things that pretty much leave our minds once they're over, countries and the lives of their citizens are being turned upside down. Ever since I first stuck my nose outside the borders of the US, I've been blown away by the amazing events happening around the world that appear, at best, as sound bites in most Western news sources. There's very little time devoted to analysis. People get a few seconds of what's going on and before anyone can really think about it or grasp the ramifications of the events, it's on to the next story about a kitten in Iceland that was born with five legs.

And in Burundi

In the scope of history, things here are also under dramatic change – only not quite as drastic as those above. No one is digging the pavers from the streets, smashing them and then throwing the bits of brick at their neighbors a hundred meters away. It is significant though. After many years of civil war, a 2006 ceasefire, the elections last year, we are now in the critical phase as to whether or not the peace is going to hold. Increasing unrest in recent weeks has made many nervous that something nasty may be brewing. The government states that things are generally ok and chalks it up to banditry. It's hard to say what's going on but it's safe to say that we are all keeping a close eye on things.

And so our projects move forward. Things are actually going quite well and I'm happy with the efforts of the team. We are fully integrated into the Congolese refugee camps in the Eastern part of the country. Our child protection, youth and livelihoods projects are exciting and I'll be visiting the latter tomorrow and Friday with some people from the US government. Our governance, gender-based violence and women's empowerment efforts are particularly interesting and provide another reason to believe that we are contributing to positive change in the country. Regardless of whether you believe we are patching a boat that is headed for an iceberg or if this is just a stretch of rough water, you have to keep your perspective. Someone in this line of work has to keep one foot firmly planted in cynicism and the other in idealism. To lean too heavily in one direction or the other is not healthy and you probably won't last very long. And now, back to the task at hand.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The upheavals in the middle east are excting, and we all hope that they are resolved peacably. But in the lives of the people you serve, every new skill, every small sucess has imact. Impact on that individual and on suceeding generations. We don't hear about any of this on our news but it;s good to be reminded that it's happening.