Category Archives: Africa

Myths About Crime In Black America – Debunked

Just as the after-effects from the arrest of George Zimmerman for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida began to die down, America has once again been hit with an uncomfortable reminder of the delicate state of its relationship with its dark-skinned communities.


On Sunday morning, a policeman in Oakland chased 18 year-old high school senior Alan Blueford and shot him three times (also managing to shoot himself in the foot once) as Blueford ran away from him. Blueford died as a result of his injuries. Blueford and two friends were standing outside waiting for some young lady friends to come and pick them up. According to Oakland police, two of their officers “believed one of them were carrying a hidden gun.” How they managed to deduce this from looks alone was not clarified, nor was it explained why this might be an issue in a country which thinks that carrying killing machines is a fundamental civil right.

Police say the young men ran. In light of what happened next, nobody could blame them. An officer followed Blueford for two block before recklessly firing at him. This is, by the way, against the law on a federal level in the US: in Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985), the Supreme Court specifically outlawed police shooting at fleeing suspects without probable cause. Nonetheless, the officer has been given a free holiday (“paid administrative leave”) for his troubles.

It is clear that Blueford was in possession of a gun at the time. Police claim he pointed it at them. However, it’s not clear when he might have had time to do this if he ran away from them immediately. The weapon found by his body was never fired.

Police detained his innocent friends for 6 hours and ignored protocol by neglecting to contact Blueford’s parents informing them of the death of their son, even though they had identified him. Instead, one of Blueford’s friends had to call them after he was released.

A summary execution such as this one shows just why a black American might have trouble trusting any police force. All of the officers involved were white. Their identities are being kept secret.

This case, along with Trayvon Martin’s killing, indicates the extent to which racial profiling has a detrimental effect on American citizens’ abilities to live harmoniously with one another. It also shows that the problem is not about to go away and illustrates just how disenfranchised black and coloured communities are within the States and how unfairly they are treated by the media, by law enforcement agencies and (as a result) by society in general.

This would not be as important an issue if so many white Americans weren’t convinced that racial discrimination is a thing of the past now that they have appointed a black president.

As Shani Hilton writes:

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, we’ve seen a lot of discussion of the larger societal issues that play into how and when people are perceived as criminals. There were hoodies, there were marches, and there were frank talks from parent to child about how to minimize the danger of being a young person of color. On the other side, there were justifications of George Zimmerman’s actions: a smear campaign against Martin’s character, and plenty of writers explaining that statistically, blacks are simply more dangerous to be around.

That framing ignores the realities behind the numbers.

Below is an infographic explaining how five popular presumptions regarding the relationship between race and crime are, in fact, not only false but very false.

It is relevant because, much though Europeans like to think of themselves as better, more equal and more liberal than America, our racial situation is only slightly less horrendous.


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Filed under Africa, America, Culture, Current Affairs

Africa courts the white farmers north

An organisation named Agri South Africa, which represents over 70,000 South African farmers, is organising a mass movement of white SA farmers in conjunction with several African nations who believe that their expertise could kick-start an agrarian revolution across the continent.

These farmers are being offered millions of hectares of land in places such as Congo-Brazzaville, where the government is offering farmers from South Africa long leases on up to 10m hectares of land in an area which includes abandoned state farms and bush. A similar, if smaller, deal has been struck in Mozambique.

There have been similar sporadic moves north by white farmers since the end of apartheid in 1994, but this is the first time that a wave of immigration has been so well organised. With a third of white-owned farms in South Africa to be transferred to black owners by the year 2014, the urgency for whites to move on to ‘greener pastures’, as it were, is very real. This ‘New Trek’ has the support of several major SA finance bodies such as Standard Bank.

Nonetheless, there are some major concerns. One of these is that, while many of the African states involved hope to lessen their reliance on imported foods, South African farmers are most interested in growing profitable tropical fruit crops for exports to Europe, rather than growing grain for local consumption.

As well as this, it is not entirely clear what kind of land is being offered. The Congo-Brazzaville government says the land it is handing over to the white South Africans has been empty since the closure of state farms a decades ago. Others report that former owners have already returned to grow cash crops.

It won’t be a smooth run, that’s for sure. As a friend of mine from SA often says: “It’s hell in Africa”.

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Filed under Africa, Current Affairs, Uncategorized

The story of North Africa’s political tribulations, told through the medium of Angry Birds

For those of you not in the know, Angry Birds is a hit game played first on the iPhone and now on all smart phones. 12 million copies of the game have been sold on Apple’s App Store.

Here, the birds face the challenge of destroying the premiers of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (aka The Three Pigs).



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Filed under Africa, America, Current Affairs, Laughs

Impressive interview with an anti-government protester at Tahrir Square, Cairo

The story of civil unrest in Egypt over the past week has been a recurring theme on the news and online media generally.

The ‘Papyrus Revolution’, as it is now being called, is a series of ongoing protests, unprecedented in scale, which have been staged across Egypt in many of the major cities including Luxor, Alexandria, Cairo and Suez. The participants are from every socio-economic background and creed – this is a true people’s’ revolution, although it has been largely peaceful so far.

Grievances for Egyptian protesters have focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, ‘state of emergency’ laws, lack of free elections and free speech (the nation has been under dictatorship for the past three decades) and corruption. As well as this, economic issues including high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages have served only to make the situation more volatile. Demands from protest organizers include rights of freedom and justice, the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime, and a new government that represents the interests of the Egyptian people. Basically – they want democracy.

Today, one million people converged at Tahrir Square in Cairo (photo above) to protest.

This interview with a young woman protester is as impressive as it is inspiring. She is well spoken, fluent and focused in what she has to say and is adamant that peaceful protest is the best tactic.

‘Those who make peaceful protest impossible will make violent protest inevitable’  – John F. Kennedy

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Filed under Africa, Current Affairs, Politics

Why is this not bigger news?

The fourth year medical students at Aberdeen University finished their exams yesterday. The general rule with these people is that they ‘work hard, play harder’, only I’ve never seen a more terrifying example of that cliché. I was invited to a party at Kittybrewster furnished with food and booze and the familiar ‘unacceptable behaviour’ of people who have just been freed from the stress of important exams.

I hadn’t expected any deep, meaningful conversations but Helen, an old friend from the days of Wavell House halls told me a story I’d never heard before about her time in Zambia two summers ago. Naturally, I’m always willing to hear about Africa, so I listened intently.

Many of the patients Helen was dealing with when she worked at a hospital there were at least suspected to be HIV+ (the infection rate among adults between 15 and 49 is 17%). One day, a patient came in and was diagnosed with fungal meningitis, a kind which tends to be associated with immune deficiencies. As a matter of course, the doctor treating the patient decided to perform a lumbar puncture, removing a sample of cerebrospinal fluid from the patient’s spinal cord in order to ascertain whether or not the patient had HIV. Helen was asked to hold the syringe, but since the rubber of her gloves kept sticking to the plastic, she was told to remove them.

It was this point that it became obvious the syringe was leaking potentially extremely infectious HIV+ spinal fluid. She immediately washed her hands and spent the next six months worrying could she have contracted the disease (due to manual labour, her hands had several cuts). Helen told me that it is standard procedure in the West to give staff exposed to such situations immediate prophylaxis treatment. No such thing was done for her. (She’s fine, by the way).

All this came down to a conversation about HIV, its treatment and research to find cures. I had never heard of this story before yesterday and I just don’t know why it’s not received greater attention. A patient in Berlin who was HIV Positive was being treated for leukaemia and the stem cell treatment he underwent (inadvertently, I believe) cured him of HIV as well as the leukaemia. I’m sure it’s still a long way off, but the story shines a ray of hope on finding a possible cure some day.


Filed under Africa, Current Affairs