Posts Tagged ‘Bram Posthumus’

The hunt

February 8, 2014

‘Aaaarghhhhhh!’

There is nothing more annoying than waking up in the morning and having to go hunting for a missing item that is essential in creating one of life’s basic necessities. But here I was and there it was not. Nothing for it but put on shoes, presentable trousers, ditto shirt and hit the street.

8am This was going to be easy. The first shop just across the road has it. Always does. Except that it did not. Hm. Where next? Ha! I know a neat little supermarket down the road, turn right and

BEEP BEEP BEEP

No I don’t need a taxi, as you can very clearly see, you nut you.

8h15am Lovely supermarket. Really nice place. Neat rows. Well instead of wandering around admiring the neat rows full of stuff I don’t need (unlike some people, I do not treat supermarkets as art galleries or de facto museums), I’ll go and ask that very nice lady who is wearing a supermarket uniform. ‘Have you got…’

‘Sorry, no we haven’t seen that item here for…Asha how long haven’t we seen this for…?’ Anyway. Out the door and

BEEP BEEP BEEP

Hello? You don’t have to advertise services I am not interested in, you case you. Honesty obliges: the audio assault by taxi drivers from behind their wheels has diminished somewhat. It appears word has gotten around that the toubabs (those sun-challenged Europeans) don’t like being barked at while walking innocently along the street. I know many Dakarois share my massive irritation but are, as usual, way too polite to do anything about it.

Anyway. I am outside that very nice supermarket and it’s 8h25. Where next? Short of hitting downtown Dakar, which really is ridiculous considering how easy this thing was available only last month, there are two more places to go.

So off we go. On foot.

8h45 ‘Salaam aleikoum’

‘Maleikoum Salaam’

This is the small overstuffed but very friendly neighborhood super. Greetings are in order.

‘How is everything?’

‘We thank God.’

‘Do you have…’

Yes, he does. It’s right there on the shelf. Except that…it’s the wrong size. Quick. A plan, please. If I just walk from here to the Hypermarket (yes, we have those too), that’s a mere 20 more minutes – but wait a minute. Can I really be from home for so long without inviting unwelcome guests? Ever since a laundry list of stuff was taken from my flat last year I never leave without the essentials on my person. Turn back. Go home. Get bag. Load up all work-related items and I am on my rather less merry way to aforementioned Hypermarket.

9h25 Arrival. The guards by now know that no-one, and that means absolutely no-one comes between me and my gear and I rush to the shelf where much-needed item is surely waiting for me. It is. I thought. It’s not.

Wrong size.

So the plan goes into operation. I return to the neighbourhood super that I’d rather give my business to (9h50), grab two packets from the shelf and think: scissors. Scissors? Yes, scissors. Back home (10am). Open up packet. Grab scissors. Cut into the first paper and right-size it. Two hours and eight minutes later I finally have achieved the incredible.

Well, yes, I forgot putting the scissors in the picture.

Well, yes, I forgot putting the scissors in the picture.

Inexplicably, Yoff had run out of coffee filters size 4. The very next day I went back to the same little supermarket to get some cheese and of course, out of nowhere, they had re-appeared. Never mind. BEEP. No thanks. I’ll walk.

 

Busy…

April 28, 2013

I admit to having been neglecting Yoff Tales. This has three reasons. One: it’s busy. There were (and are) major and ongoing events in Guinea, here in Senegal, in Guinea Bissau, around Gambia and that’s for starters. Two: I’m working on some really large projects, long stories, a book and major blog entries (believe it or not…). And three: being a freelancer correspondent comes with freedoms and major financial constraints (as in: hanging by my fingernails above a canyon from the beginning of the year until about, well, now, really…), which means that the blog, regrettably, takes a back seat when the rent is due.

It WILL continue though, I have grown rather attached to it and I notice some of you have too. Bear with me and in the meantime here’s the view form the Ildo Lobo Cultural Centre in Praia, the Cape Verdian capital. Ildo Lobo died a few years ago but was in every respect the equal of Cesária Evora. Listen to his “Nós Morna”, “Inconditional” and “Intelectual” albums. All wonderful and even better: all still available.

The big blue and white building in the pic is the Auditório Nacional and that lovely pink building opposite has a very nice restaurant where I sent my mails from. I was staying in a equally nice place right next door (the white facade partly hidden by the Auditório).

The big statue in the foreground is Amilcar Cabral, the father of the Cabe Verde and Guinea Bissau liberation movement in the 1960s and 70s, a poet and writer too. He is looking straight at a brand new office block where you will find the very modern national mobile phone company with the red and blue logo. Would the revolution have gone differently if we all had mobile phones forty years ago?

Talk again soon! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The culture of debate

March 19, 2013

Caught my eye in the newspaper this morning. ‘Program launched at Senegalese universities.’ The strapline gave the game away: ‘Promotion of the culture of debate among Senegalese youth.’

When you read a line like this, the association is immediate: some NGO or other? Correct! Does it contain the word training somewhere? It does – double bingo!

Law students at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, an institution in the deepest crisis since its establishment, where students go without tuition for months and have even resorted to the extreme act of setting themselves on fire to get their grievances heard, that university, plays host to a team of foreigners (yep – you got that one right too – someone needs a holiday…) that will teach…er…

…Respect For Diversity. Ah, no, not that kind of diversity, that’s for Westerners in their own countries who have been taught to swallow the new gospel hook line and sinker. No: the Senegalese students will be taught the kind of diversity that is no longer taught at universities in the West, and in fact the only diversity that really matters: Diversity Of Opinion.

Tolerance of other peoples’ views will be preached, says the woman who coordinates the program, plus the ability to listen to others and accepting the public verdict in the end. All in the name of good democracy and an Open Society.

Yes, this time it’s George Soros’ outfit teaching those poor hapless Senegalese students – who only last year helped rid the country of a megalomaniac with seriously autocratic tendencies – how to do democracy. Of course, Ms Hawa Ba who coordinates the program in Senegal needs a job, like everyone else working for the Oxfams, the Action Aids, the official aid bureaucracies, the UN bureaucracies and everybody else in this more than US$60bn industry. The pay is good and the perks are nice, for as long as they last. Very few things are as fickle as the priorities of the aid establishment.

But here’s the rub.

If there is one thing the Senegalese excel in, it’s talk. “Wakh rek,” only talk, is a frequent referral not only to the increasingly irrelevant political class but also to the fact that work gets a lot more talked about than actually done. In an extremely rich place like the Netherlands, this has become a national pastime but then the Dutch can afford it – up to a point. They will eventually find out that holding meetings and shifting boxes do not constitute an economy. But that’s their problem.

What we don’t need here is more people who know how to talk; the law students will learn that in college – if the professor can be bothered to show up. What we need are people who know how things are made and done. We need entrepreneurs, like Aissa Dione, people who create factories, as the Nigerian industrialist AlikoDangote is doing.

On the Autoroute, a few metres from my flat: we want to work at Dangote cement.

On the Autoroute, a few metres from my flat: we want to work at Dangote cement.

We need people who can work and ensure that homes stay dry during the next rainy season, people who can fix schools and universities so that they start fulfilling their educational promises, people who can fix the deeply dysfunctional water and electricity systems. And so on. We emphatically do not need any more administrators, bureaucrats or people who can organise workshops and training sessions.

Oh and we need the outdated colonial laws fixed – so that the people who make things happen and create jobs are not obstructed, blocked, harassed, frustrated and thwarted Every Single Step Of The Way.

And listening lessons? Coming from a US-based organisation I find that, well let’s keep this polite, a bit rich. The times I was in the dear old USA I have been awestruck by the depth of the love affair Americans have with their own voices. It’s a place where political debate mainly consists of two people standing with their backs to each other and shouting ‘You’re wrong!!!’ (or worse) at each other. Where the soundbite was invented. And you are coming over here to teach us….wakh rek.

Hey, Open Society, I have a job for you: pulling the other one.

Four Easy Pieces – end

December 25, 2012

If you look for a divide between “left” and “right” today, you may find that those who think they are on the left say: we need special treatment because we have been victims in the past. Those who call themselves right wing say: we are being discriminated against now and nobody cares about us. Quite apart from the merits or demerits of the arguments, the omnipresence of the word victim is a devastating indicator. “Left” and “right”, “progressive” and “conservative”: all inhabit a society that has no interest in justice. Western society, deeply narcissistic, is looking for therapy.

However, no matter how nicely you dress it up, exclusion continues to rest on external features: chiefly – but not exclusively – skin and sex. Sure, the “progressives” will protest: but but but…we’re only against those who have all the power and are benefitting from unearned “privilege”. And yes, the “conservatives” wail: but but but… we’re only against those who really don’t want to belong here. Both arguments were used, to great effect, in the 1930s. The difference between them? Simple: the clearly delineated segments of society that were singled out for exclusion – or worse. Changing the target population does not signal progress. It signals the exact opposite.

However, it is especially distasteful when done for an alleged “progressive” cause. I found this assessment of the New Labour government on a British newspaper discussion site. I will let it speak for itself: ‘New Labour [was] a reactionary pro-market, oppressive, and even murderous, government which… managed to conserve the appearance of being progressive for many years by using the false veneer of identity politics… Many of us hate the way identity politics has been used to actually replace social justice.’

There is a word underpinning this sentiment: betrayal. While you were managing your supposedly progressive identity sweepstakes, you betrayed the original ideals of the progressive movement. And the results are in: today, the part of the world we call The West consists of a series of balkanized surveillance states where up to 20 per cent of the population has been cruelly written out of the script: uneducated, unemployable, a permanent underclass. Unrestrained commerce rules supreme, even after the monumental banking cock-up of 2008. Congratulations comrades! You were going to fight resurgent fascism – how, exactly?

What you need is a rigorous return to basics. This means the following: you are a member of a community, a society first. You are male, female, black, white, gay, lesbian, migrant, religious, atheist, et cetera second.

It is past time for the Left to rediscover why it was created in the first place: to bring about a more egalitarian society for all. Here is a clue, a paraphrase of that famous James Carville slogan that sums up four lost decades and which the Left needs to re-appropriate: ‘It’s the society, stupid!’ And once again, that means all of it – not just the part that looks and thinks like you.

New Dawn anyone? Let us hope so. All the best for 2013.

After a night's work: dawn. April 14, 2011, 6am, Nzérékoré, Guinea

After a night’s work: dawn. April 14, 2011, 6am, Nzérékoré, Guinea

 

Four Easy Pieces – 3

December 24, 2012

Early evening, October 4th, 1992. It’s five months after my return from Zimbabwe. Resettlement is not proceeding well. But this evening, all private musings become irrelevant background.

There is a massive accumulation of noise. Sirens, hundreds of them. Police, ambulances, fire brigades.All hurry to a place where apparently something absolutely massive has happened. And so it has. A cargo plane belonging to the Israeli airline El Al has lost two engines, made a last attempt to return to Schiphol Airport and has plummeted to the earth, smashing through a ten storeys high apartment block in Amsterdam’s Southeastern Bijlmer district. Fire, death and destruction. The Bijlmer Disaster, as it became known, leaves 43 people dead – probably more.

The Bijlmer is an area planned and designed in the 1960s to provide modern comfortable housing to city dwellers. It was spectacularly unsuccessful. After all, when left to its own devices, an ideology that seeks to uplift an entire society eventually gets to suffer from hubris. Of this Amsterdam social democratic hubris, the Bijlmer remains a powerful symbol.

The area stood largely empty for years. In the 1970s, it became home to many thousands of Surinamese, who were leaving their newly independent country en masse. It is at least ironic that the Independence of the sole existing Dutch colony on the Latin American mainland had been ordained, post haste, by the most progressive cabinet in Dutch history. And then, in one of those inexplicable historical twists, the Surinamese were joined by the descendants of some of their forebears, whom the Dutch had forcibly moved to Latin America, as slaves, mainly from Ghana. The Bijlmer became the destination of choice for African migrants, with papers or without. At the time of the crash, no-one knew for sure how many people were inside that stricken apartment block.

A few days later, the right-wing national daily De Telegraaf, had a picture on its front page of a long line of people waiting to get a paper that would qualify them for some compensation or other, in the aftermath of the crash. The newspaper, not known for its subtlety, asked its readers to note the faces in the line. Black faces. All pronounced to be illegal inhabitants of the disaster area. This is the precise moment that a well-orchestrated campaign began against immigration, with no end in sight.

And so it finally was back with a vengeance: identity politics, of the wrong kind – but identity politics all the same. After all, “we” had been very busy teaching people the virtues of identity politics – of the right kind, n’est ce pas? This old-but-new identity politics, the one “we” had thought we had kicked out of the house, has grown worryingly large, especially after those other plane crashes, this time deliberate, that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York. Immigrants, asylum seekers and Muslims – more and more groups have begun to qualify for exclusion. That is the central message of Geert Wilders, an abnormally successful populist politician in the Netherlands. What you see here is identity politics coming full circle. Fascism: say hello to feel-good fascism, and there is nothing the latter can do about the former: ideologically, politically, morally.

Is there a way out of this mess? Yes, I think there is. It’s called: back to basics. Final part tomorrow.

Four Easy Pieces – 2

December 23, 2012

Of course: it was the Left that had sent me on my way to Southern Africa. Teaching in Zimbabwe was my minute contribution to the project of constructing a Southern Africa where racial superiority thinking would be a thing of the past, sort of. Nearly every country in the region had shed it – at least formally – and in the late 1980s it was already crystal clear that the last remaining bulwark, apartheid South Africa, would be next.

That was the message of a massive musical extravaganza, the Harare leg of a series of world-class concerts called Human Rights Now. It had been organised by Amnesty International in 1988. I was fortunate enough to be there. Peter Gabriel! Tracy Chapman! Bruce Springsteen! Oliver Mtukudzi! And the high point? Music I had never heard before – mbalax, made by the man I share this city with and had the pleasure of interviewing earlier this year: Youssou Ndour.

But there were other matters I was blissfully, stupendously unaware of, and not just inside Zimbabwe itself. Under my radar, something was happening to the movement I felt myself part of. This became much more evident when I had – reluctantly – returned to Europe. I noticed screed after column after thesis, with increasing frequency and loudness, denouncing a portion of society deemed congenitally “racist”, “sexist”,  “homophobe”. That portion was, inevitably, the only group that was able, by dint of breathing in and breathing out, to be all these things at the same time. In one phrase: people who looked – more or less – like me.

With hindsight the following question is legitimate: could it be, that when we progressives were busy throwing out one reprehensible form of thinking like apartheid…through the front door, through the backdoor, off the balcony if necessary…could it be that we were simultaneously inviting into the living room another form of reprehensible thinking? One that did not sound exactly similar but was, in point of fact, exactly the same? I think now that the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes”.

My other city, Amsterdam, where I was born, had a proud tradition of social-democratic rule. It gave us, among many other things, housing projects for the working classes that are still the envy of the world. It would have been utterly inconceivable for those who designed these plans that their ideas about “uplifting the masses”, to use that ancient phrase, would have excluded specific groups because of how they looked. That was precisely what fascism had been about and wherever it reared its head, progressives joined forces to ensure it did not  gain power again. Today, the left is powerless to defeat it. Why? Because it has been dabbling in what I prefer to call: feel-good fascism.

Sometimes, a dramatic event can serve to highlight this like no other. Part three, tomorrow.

Four Easy Pieces

December 22, 2012

Mutare is a charming town in the east of Zimbabwe, a six hours’ bus ride from my former home in a remote rural area. It was April 1992 and I was strolling along the High Street for the very last time, a long goodbye to the music venues, some (rather dodgy) hotels, the shops, department stores, restaurants and market stalls. And of course: numerous friends.

My contract with this nation’s Ministry of Education had come to an end. I had worked as an English teacher in two very different schools. One was a well-established Roman Catholic mission school, the other so fresh that on my first visit it still smelled of bricks and mortar, like Zimbabwe’s Independence itself. These were rollercoaster years. Triumph and optimism played ball with disappointment; there was comedy and tragedy in spades and there were, for a lot of us, the traces, never fully erased, left behind by a single road tragedy in August 1991.

Zimbabwe was a “donor darling”, in reception of huge amounts of aid, no questions asked, certainly not about the murderous military campaign president Mugabe’s army had just finished in the South and the West. With the aid came hordes of development workers and volunteers. People like me: adventurous, reasonably professional, not armed with sufficient knowledge of the country to understand what was really going on there…but crucially, with impeccable left-wing political credentials. In short, not particularly suited to deal with a country freshly out of its war for independence and inhabited by people with street cred well beyond their age.

Still, now the contract is over and I am making my last Mutare round. Inevitably, I meet other volunteers. Small talk.

‘So you’re leaving?’ followed by ‘And what’s next?’

Well, I quite like this work to put it mildly. So my reply runs like this: ‘Well, I’m going back home but I hope to be back soon, in some other posting, I’m sure something will come up. So yes, I’m looking forward to more development work.’

‘You can’t,’ one of my alleged colleagues states, matter-of-fact.

Slightly taken aback and definitely not taking the hint, I venture: ‘I can’t…why not?’

‘Because you’re white – and you’re male.’

We say our goodbyes, me gobsmacked, she in excellent spirits, on her way to her next assignment.

Fast forward 20 years and I am working in Dakar as an independent correspondent. My reflections on what had been bothering me about the movement that calls itself “progressive” had brought me back to that Zimbabwean street and I realise that this was the very first time I had come across a phenomenon that has strangled to near-death that part of the political spectrum that thinks itself “of the Left”. Part two, tomorrow.

Gays and a London magazine

December 12, 2012

In the next few weeks/months (whenever I feel like it) I’m going to write some occasional comments on a magazine I used to write for. It’s a monthly called New African that offers the reader a combination of pure journalism and seriously agenda-driven writing. Making the distinction between the two can be difficult, although in this case, it’s not. Alright, here goes. 

 

New African’s editor Baffour Ankomah has decided to add a new dimension to the magazine’s tradition of heaping praise on some (not all) violent power grabbers like Charles Taylor and Robert Mugabe. In February this year, Ankomah wrote another one of his popular editorial commentaries, known as Baffour’s Beefs. Beefs has two key stylistic elements: it uses a lot of words and takes forever to get to the point. But there is never any mistaking of the target of his rhetorical long-distance arrows. This time it was gays.

Mind you, the targets are always arrived at by way of others, in this case David Cameron, the UK prime minister. Cameron said earlier this year that he was making aid disbursement contingent on African nations showing respect for (among others) gay rights. (You know my view on aid so we’ll leave that issue to one side for now.)

Beefs asked the question why Cameron ties giving aid to promoting something that ‘affronts the innate values of the African…’ This is a nasty little rhetorical trick he uses on occasion, to great effect. In this case, the implication was crystal-clear: molesting a gay man or a lesbian is akin to socking it to The White Man, who, and this is an important subtext to a lot of New African’s output, is racist, colonial…let’s say: Not A Very Nice Person. The writer carefully offers an extraordinarily mealy-mouthed ‘That however does not mean that we should persecute gays, as in Uganda or Malawi….’ but the point that gays are fair game has been made and will be repeated later.

In December, to be precise. Subject matter of Beefs this time: who will be the new Head of the Church of England? One main contender was John Sentamu, with whom Ankomah has a long-standing feud, originating in the former’s criticism and the latter’s starry-eyed admiration of Zimbabwean president Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Comrade Bob, like a true born African, does not like gays either.

So: why did Sentamu not become the new Head of the Church of England? We’re hundreds of words into Beefs when the cat finally comes out of the bag: Sentamu is against gay marriage. That is why he did not get the job. You see, white men are not only Not Very Nice – they also shag each other. And here, Ankomah uses his trick again: Sentamu remembered that ‘…he was African after all…’, hence his anti-gay and gay marriage stance. Oh really?

Early 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing the long-serving Cameroonian lawyer Alice Nkom, the first African woman ever to have been called to the bar in her country and a tireless campaigner for the rights of her compatriots (my radio report is the bottom link on this page). She famously defended the late crusading journalist and fellow citizen Pius Njawe. Equally famously, she defends the rights of sexual minorities in her country, where a widespread theory circulates that claims the French colonizers only granted independence once they were sure their successors were all gay… Back on Planet Earth, here’s a lengthy quote from my interview with Maître Nkom. Read this slowly.

‘Homosexuality is un-African? No, homophobia is un-African. It has entered the continent in tandem with two imported religions: Christianity and Islam. The most important value of our Constitution is the equality of all people in terms of rights and obligations. This means that regardless of my sexual orientation or my religion I have the same rights to protection of my home and my private life, as everyone else. In consequence, whatever I get up to in my home, in my bedroom, is my affair and mine alone and as long as I don’t call the police because there is danger, absolutely no-one has the right to come and disturb my peace. So when I defend the rights of sexual minorities I am following to the letter the constitution of Cameroon and I am helping the president to guarantee the constitutional rights of all.’

Maître Nkom later added that the persecution of sexual minorities, apart from being unconstitutional, also targets the poorest people in society. ‘I find that personally hurtful and it goes against all the values I have been inculcated with since childhood.’

A lawyer I will never be but I reckon it is appropriate to end here with a simple: I rest my case.

There are more interesting features adorning New African, such as its unwavering support for certain autocrats, its animosity towards the International Criminal Court and, of course, Europe. That’s for some other time. 

The Africa Express

September 27, 2012

Two visits to London, one just been, one coming up.

I always arrive by train – best way to travel from Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris. And the new arrival place is brand new, pristine place called St Pancras International.

It has scared me to death.

Between the time you set foot on it until the time you step out, voices drone on and on and on over the public address system.

Train departures? Sure, we’re in a railway station. Makes sense. But every single inbetween station from start to finish? Spare me.

But it gets worse. In the fog of drones droning on about everything under the sun you get a female voice intoning that “for your safety and security” you must do this or not do that.

There are cameras everywhere, as the drone never ceases to remind me. Twenty. Four. Hours. A. Day. Seven. Days. A. Week.

Surveillance. It’s accepted. That’s scary.

Walking through the railway corridor I see bland corporate stores selling bland corporate stuff at extortionate prices. Except newspapers; these are remarkably cheap.

So I want to get one. I enter a store, grab a paper and want to pay. But the cashier has disappeared. No, not the person working the till having gone out for a ciggie or a toilet break – no: the entire thing. No longer exists. I have to go to a machine and scan my paper. As my hands are full with a bag and a coat, I put both items somewhere so I can scan the paper. As a matter of fact, a very nice man in the shop does that for me. He could have been at the cash register.

I am now busy fishing out coins to pay the 1 pound something for my paper and some other item. Find the coins. Put them in the machine.

The machine refuses. Why? I am informed that there is an “unusual object” on the tray. Please remove.” Annoyance level goes up considerably. First off, you little insolent so-and-so: those are not unusual objects, those are my coat and bag and since the store has provided no other place to put them, they are on your stupid tray. I also object to being told by a piece of soulless technology what to do. Yes, talking elevators is another pet hate of mine.

But the damn thing refuses to take my cash until I remove said unusual objects. Where do I put them? On the floor? On the display over there?

Needless to say, I leave in a huff, paper in bag. I can imagine the other customers looking at me and thinking: unusual object. But the scariest thing is this: it seems that this nonsensical, soulless non-service is largely accepted. At least in railway stations. Why?

Back to the hall and “for your safety and security, cameras are in operation…”

Tune in next time, when I will explain why this piece is called The Africa Express.

A review of The Fear, by Peter Godwin – conclusion

January 18, 2012

Godwin’s descriptions make your heart wrench. What makes The Fear hit home so closely is of course that this time, the violence Mugabe and his generals unleash may have happened to people I have known personally. Or – there is no room for illusions here – may have been perpetrated by people I have known personally. There are literally thousands of these criminals crawling the length and breadth of Zimbabwe. From the local ZANU-PF village leaders who burnt down one man’s house and sent his wife and child scampering for safety, to the ZANU-PF Members of Parliament who were seen participating in atrocities against the people they are supposed to represent, to the vigilantes who burnt the house of the newly-elected mayor of Harare, murdered his wife and traumatised their small son…all the way up to ministers and generals like Perence Shiri and Constantine Chiwengwa who co-organised this orgy of violence, as they did the last one.

Heroes' Acre, Harare. Pic: MastaBaba on Flickr

Like the president, they have visions of themselves lying in one of those special burial places reserved at the bombastic North Korea-constructed national shrine, called Heroes’ Acre. But if there is a God, there will be a special place in Hell for all of those who destroyed thousands of lives and made the lives of countless more a living hell – on earth.

I read this book in Dakar, home to another octogenarian who thinks he is larger than God and in possession of the divine right to govern until eternity. He also got the North Koreans to construct a monstrosity known as the Monument for the African Renaissance  and nobody is any the wiser about the deals he has made with the late Kim Jung Il and his friends.

To be sure, Senegal is as different from Zimbabwe as Finland is from Portugal and president Abdoulaye Wade lacks the degrees in violence that Mugabe so proudly boasts of. Yet, as a presidential election edges nearer in which Wade stands for a highly contested third term, the nation’s Criminal Investigations Division has “interviewed” editors, journalists, website owners, political activists, human rights advocates. One of whom has gone on record saying that said Division ‘is becoming more and more like a political police’. And a campaign manager told me that he was keenly aware of the lengths to which the ruling party was prepared to go, in order to ensure victory. No, certainly not The Fear but these are sinister signs just the same. Lord, deliver us from megalomaniacal gerontocrats!