Movement

Two hands (mine) unsteadily holding a camera yield a picture of a scene that holds various movements, slow, fast, very fast. There are several layers in the mix, all containing light and people. Nearby, there is a concert going on: one of the country’s superstars dishing out a series of extremely loud, badly played and overly bombastic tunes, all of which lack musicality, story, point and purpose.

The green lighted tents stand on the floor, full of people trying to get some food and away from the noise produced by DJ Arafat, whose show it is, on a stage by the side of the lagoon that divides this city into several islands. Above the tents, traffic rushes along a badly tarred road, lit up for the season by a light display, courtesy of the local authorities. The bridge nearby connects the centre to one of the islands.

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The French use a rather nice word for an eventful time. Mouvementé. Last year certainly had plenty of movement. I (very nearly) finished my book on Guinea (close to 90,000 words written in hotel rooms, rural lodges and various apartments) while Guinea itself completed its lengthy – and turbulent – transition to what some describe as “democracy”. This is the idea that having more or less distinguishable legislative (the National Assembly) and executive (the Presidency) bodies composed through elections constitutes “democracy” (we’ll leave the judiciary out of this for now). It is ironic to say the least that the man who has done more than most to erode that concept of “democracy”, a certain Tony Blair, is now an advisor on “good governance” to the Guinean president, Alpha Condé. Yes, sick buckets are available.

Writing books are very helpful for developing a condition known as RSI, symptoms being numb fingers and electricity currents running through arms. It is also sublimely helpful in courting bankruptcy. Happy to report that I remain firmly in the red – but most assuredly alive.

Far less alive was this blog, a problem I hope to address in 2014. Yoff Tales has provided me with an outlet for worthwhile stories that were a struggle to publish or just ideas that I knew would never get a platform unless I created my own. It is very much a reflection of one journalist covering a corner of Africa that merits a much better press and an attempt to change deeply-ingrained misconceptions about this continent. These are especially (but not exclusively) virulent in “The West”, the result of its obsession to shape the rest of the planet in its image. Your responses have been thoughtful and I appreciate them a lot.

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There was more movement. Just I was adapting to the end of my relationship with Radio Netherlands Worldwide and acquiring a new rhythm of producing stories and scripts and production for other broadcasters, my radio equipment was taken away in a burglary. I have re-bought the equipment and reporting will resume shortly.

This year will see another move – from Dakar…to Abidjan, where I took this bad pic. I rather like the name of this blog but I may have to add something…Yoff Tales from Deux Plateaux? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, here’s hoping YOUR 2014 will have plenty of movement too. In a good way, of course.


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