Sunday, May 20, 2007

Africa: Dispatches From The Edge (Thursday's Second Hour)

Hi everybody. In this hour Anderson and Jeff Koinange sit down to play a big game of Risk. Okay, actually they sit down to talk about Africa. You might recognize the table/setting from the conversation Anderson had with Michael Ware, which I know everyone loved. This was just as good. That table is very popular! Before we get into it I want to explain how this will work. Basically I'll just be blogging the conversation they have because the pieces that are interspersed throughout the special are all repeats, which I'll linked to. I should note, that normally I'd be annoyed with a special that had all repeat pieces, but this instance is very different. Every region they talk about in the special is either incredibly difficult or impossible to cover, so I think it's great they're using what they already have to bring more awareness. In fact, I think I even suggested (in an email) a long time ago that just because they don't have new footage they could still put another spin on it by simply having a conversation with Jeff Koinange or Nicholas Kristof-any excuse to talk about the region. So good for them for doing this.

Anderson, Jeff, and Sanjay Gupta were in Africa in October, so you might want to check out the archives of the blog for more (there's screencaps!). Also, a lot of Jeff and Anderson's conversation revolves around pieces that have been done and I've blogged, but they don't show during the special. I don't have time to link to all of them, but if anyone is interested in anything specific, let me know and I'll see if I can find it. When I started this blog back in September I posted an essay I wrote about Darfur entitled, "They're Just Africans Anyway, Right?" I basically had no readers back then, so I thought I'd bring it up again. It was also recommended as a diary on dailykos. It's kind of a departure from the voice I use on this blog, so something a little different there for you. And now on to the show...

Anderson begins by giving us a little overview of the hour and then we're right into a Jeff Koinange piece on Darfur. Afterwards Anderson asks Jeff why things are getting worse there even though the area now has the world's attention. Jeff thinks the Sudanese government is fooling the world into thinking rebels in Chad are trying to topple their government, when really the people are just victims. Anderson notes that now there's an "active rebel conflict in Chad sponsored allegedly by the Sudanese," which Jeff thinks is just a distraction. He believes Sudan president Bashir is using Darfur as an excuse because he's afraid of being toppled. Anderson then goes into how hard Darfur is to cover because while they can get pictures and stories of the aftermath, the violence itself goes unseen. You always need pictures, people. Think about what a difference they made with regards to the tsunami. Jeff points out that logistics can also make the story hard to cover because Darfur is the size of California and there are very few roads.

Anderson then transitions to talking about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and notes that three to four million people have died there over about a decade and no one seems to pay attention to it. You know, it's kind of criminal what little coverage this conflict has gotten. I know it's tough to cover, but I watch (and read) a lot of news and I don't think I knew the extent of what was going on there until I saw it on 360. So kudos to them for that. Jeff states that like Darfur, the Congo has few roads and is huge (the size of all of Western Europe). Anderson points out that the Congo is the scene of the largest peacekeeping and election operations in UN history. However, even after successful elections there's still been fighting, which is being blamed on General Laurent Nkunda, a man already wanted by the authorities. This info intros us into a piece of when Anderson and crew tracked the general down, freaking us all out a little.

After the piece Anderson notes that since they filed the report, not only has Nkunda failed to give up his weapons, he's been fighting, causing 600,000 people to be displaced. Anderson wants to know how he can just get away with all that. Jeff tells us that the UN even knows where he is, but they can't get him because he's so well armed and equiped. Sounds a little like Mullah Omar, doesn't it? Unbelievable. Anderson says that in the Congo people can literally get away with rape and murder. Sickening. Jeff tells us it's "so sad" (a phrase he uses a lot during the special and I imagine much of what he sees falls under "so sad") and these guys do it because they can. After break we're introed into a Jeff piece on rape victims in the Congo. Back at the table Anderson states that it's hard to imagine in this day an age people getting aways with rape and gang rape of children. Jeff points out that the victims have their lives pretty much ruined because there is no physical or mental therapy.

Anderson then tells us the story of a women he met named Angela who had been gang-raped in front of her children. As if that wasn't enough, she was then kicked out of her house by her husband because he feared she had HIV. We learn from Jeff that the number of HIV positive cases in Africa is 25 million. And counting. Anderson asks how many of those people have access to treatment. Jeff tells us less than 10% (damn!), but at least antiretrovirals are provided free and this is done so it doesn't blow up a country's GDP. Anderson next brings up the stigma surrounding AIDS and tells us that even some government officials say HIV does not result in the disease. And of course, as Jeff notes, this results in people not taking precautions and the numbers explode. Anderson points out that AIDS is wreaking havoc on armies too and then if these armies rape women it spreads even more. They both then talk about how there's still the belief in some places that if you have sex with a virgin it will cure you of HIV. Back when Jeff was in Gambia, the president actually told him he could cure HIV. But only on Tuesdays and Thursdays because Wednesdays he's all about curing arthritis. Fridays he takes off because who wouldn't need a day off after all that fake healing? Sadly, I am not kidding.

On now to an Anderson piece when he goes to find some mountain gorillas and I'm also linking to when the baby gorilla smelled his arm pit. Just because. Back at the table, Anderson notes that Jane Goodall says you can't protect the animals without working with the local populations. Jeff notes people are digging all over the Congo because there's diamonds everywhere. This leads into the topic of blood diamonds and Anderson wonders if there's anywhere to get some diamonds that aren't evil. As a matter of fact, Jeff tells us that Botswana has been a real success story in that regard. Anderson then adds to this positive news and tells us that Africa's GDP as a whole has risen 6%. Jeff points out that the Chinese are driving everything by buying up all their oil and stuff. Okay, but that's probably not all a good thing I wouldn't imagine. I mean, forget global warming even, China is still essentially helping to fund the genocide in Darfur if they're buying oil from the Sudan government. Anderson notes that the money often doesn't filter down to the people and from Jeff we learn that "60 percent of Africa's total population still lives on less than a dollar a day." Can you imagine that? Less than $365 a year!

After a break we're introed into a Jeff piece on the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Anderson notes that one can't really get over being a child slave. Jeff tells us that he's met refugees who have been in camps for over 20 years, meaning the children have literally grown up there. Anderson then points out how scary it can be when you go to a roadblock manned by kids because they might be high or drunk and they're holding an AK-47. Yeah, no thanks. Jeff states that it's better when it's an adult because you can relate, but a child will do anything just to prove to their friends they can. Also, he tells us the armies know just how to drug and exploit these kids and he wonders how they can even be rehabilitated.

Transitioning to something more positive, we're introed into a Jeff piece about Oprah's school. Both Anderson and Jeff are pretty much in awe of what she's done. "And what Oprah did -- I mean, it was unbelievable. I saw the look on those girls' faces when she announced that they were going to be in her first class. You should have seen that room. There wasn't a dry eye in that room," says Jeff. Anderson notes that included Jeff's own eyes. Yeah, Jeff totally cried. After all the rape and death he reports on that must have been a nice story for him to cover. At the end of the special we have a weird announcer guy pimping Anderson's book. Okay then. Anyway, great special. Bring back the map table again!

Screencap by rokukitty.


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