Saturday, July 31, 2010

Job opportunity: The Elders

Policy and Advocacy Director

The Elders

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace-building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Gra├ža Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu (Chair). Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders.

The work of the Elders is supported by a small team based in London which comprises a CEO and staff for policy, communications and operations. The team works in service of the Elders’ mission and assists the Elders with the development and implementation of their initiatives.

With growth in The Elders’ portfolio of activities, a new, senior position of Policy and Advocacy Director is being created to expand and strengthen the organisation’s capacity for policy, outreach and advocacy, strategic development and coordination of efforts. The Policy and Advocacy Director will report to the CEO, lead the three-member policy team and work in collaboration with all members of The Elders’ team. The Policy and Advocacy Director will guide and coordinate the implementation of the Elders’ overall policy agenda and advocacy activities; work with the CEO on creating new policy and advocacy strategies; and be the lead policy officer on research, strategy development, coordination and implementation of several Elders’ peace-building and thematic initiatives.

Key Responsibilities

- Supervise and provide day-to-day guidance to The Elders’ three-member policy team. Work with the Director of Communications to ensure coordination and integration of policy, advocacy, communications and media activity.

- Carry out the full range of policy work on several of the Elders’ peace-building and thematic initiatives – from research through implementation. This includes monitoring of developments in these areas; producing briefings for the CEO and the Elders; consulting and coordinating with key partners and external contacts; supporting the Elders in developing their advocacy strategies; facilitating planning and research visits by the staff team as well as Elders visits; and overseeing teamwork in the implementation of initiatives.

- Contribute to the organisation’s overall effort to build relationships with governments, civil society, opinion-leaders, parliamentarians, academic institutions and think tanks that will promote and further The Elders’ work.

- Work with the CEO on the exploration and development of new Elders’ initiatives, prioritisation of activities, preparation of meetings and events of The Elders and their supporters.

- Contribute to further team development by encouraging reflection on its effectiveness and efficiency.

The Policy and Advocacy Director may be deputised by the CEO to oversee specific Elders’ initiatives and/or during periods of travel/absence of the CEO to ensure smooth running of the office and adequate support to the Elders.


We are looking for a seasoned, hands-on professional who is used to working with a high level of energy and enthusiasm and has affinity with the mission of The Elders. Candidates should have the following experience and skills:

- Demonstrated policy and advocacy experience on global issues and conflict/crisis situations in the (inter)governmental or non-profit sector;

- Demonstrated ability to develop and manage international policy initiatives and advocacy strategies;

- Experience in collaborating with a range of organisations and high-profile individuals to influence policy;

- Analytical and research strength including the ability to understand, interpret and present complex and sensitive information from a variety of sources;

- Keen political antennae, agility across cultural environments and world views, and diplomatic finesse;

- Experience of serving a multi-member governance structure in support of its agenda;

- A flexible, collegiate leadership style; willingness to work in a “flat”, collaborative team; experience with matrix-style project management a plus;

- Ability to motivate and encourage staff, take wise team decisions and deal with competing demands, multiple priorities, time constraints and unanticipated external events;

- Excellent written and spoken English including writing and editing documents for high-level audiences;

- A keen eye for accuracy and detail;

- Fluency in other languages desirable.

A competitive salary and benefits package will be offered to the successful candidate including private pension, life and medical insurance.

How to apply

Please send your application by email to [email protected], clearly stating “Policy and Advocacy Director” in the subject line. Your application should include a succinct cover letter and CV, explaining your qualifications and interest in the position. Due to the large number of applications expected, we regret that only short-listed candidates will be contacted.

Applications close on 31 August 2010.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Nigeria, the world's 14th most failed state

According to Foreign Policy magazine. At least its one better than Kenya!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The World Bank backs Nollywood...

To the tune of 30 million Benjamins. More here.


Literary prize money in Nigeria

There is a general pattern emerging with the award of literary prizes in Nigeria. The delighted author or poet hears the good news and attends the award ceremony. Much mention is made of the prize money by 'the stakeholders'. Most likely, friends and relatives in the audience smile on that golden night, confident that they will share in the glory in one way or another.

And then the prize money never comes.

The recent 2.0 flare between Onyeka Nwelue, author of the Abyssinian Boy, and the Abuja Writers Forum is sadly not an isolated incident. On the back of the war of words, various writers and poets have divulged in public and otherwise that they never received prize money from other awards in Nigeria. One sentiment is that they suffered quietly, then why should Onyeka raise the dust? Another view however is that the prize money scam has gone on far too long and finally needs to be challenged.

None of this is to cast aspersions that there was any misappropriation of prize money by the AWF. Sponsors, like guests at the "Nigerian book launch", often like to make donations that are in reality only symbolic and never intended to be material. Most likely, everyone involved in trying to develop writing/the publishing industry in Nigeria has been sorely let down by a sponsor at one point or another.

However, there are lessons to be learned it seems in all this. The most critical one is that literary organisations should not raise expectations of prize money they cannot meet. Prize money should not be mentioned in publicity material until the organisation receives the hard cash from the sponsor in their bank account. There have been too many scandals in the administration of Nigerian letters in recent years. Its time literary organisations put transparency and accountability as their top priority. Why must the Nigeria Factor infiltrate everything? The answer is simple: it shouldn't.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A History of the world in 100 objects: Ife head

Somehow I missed this episode of A History of the World in 100 objects on the Ife head. You can download the podcast from Itunes or from here. Ben Okri is magnificent, as ever...


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Britain's Witch Children

Britain's Witch Children was shown on Channel 4 yesterday. If you are in the UK you can watch it again here. Can some very nice person stick the thing on YouTube for the rest of us please?


Tolu Ogunlesi on Africa

An interesting and provocative piece here. I'll just make a few comments/initial responses.

1. On white people at the airport. There are all kinds of foreigners who visit or come to stay in Nigeria. Quite a few are not lured by financial gain however. "NGO types" rarely get paid very much. There are foreigners who come and make good money in Nigeria, but perhaps not as many as people think. Meanwhile, many of the Nigerians you see at the same airport are economic migrants, returning home not for love of country, but motivated by the same financial gain. To be fair, a good many are also looking for opportunities racial glass ceilings denied them elsewhere.

2. Aid money. Aid money from Western governments is insignificant in the scheme of things. In most Western countries, its a fraction of 1% of the annual budget. Aid money into Nigeria is a meaninglessly small amount of the Nigerian budget. Donors have very little say in what goes on and are only given lip service. The big government spending decisions are made by Nigerians alone. Also, aid money to Africa is under threat right now thanks to most Western governments being heavily in debt. If Africa didn't exist, it wouldn't need to be invented right now.

3. The Angry African. I'm not sure many Africans are all that angry. Certainly, not enough are angry enough for the rest of the world to really take note. Far too few Africans are politicised. There is scant mobilisation or collaboration between different groups at play. Where there are angry Africans, they often work alone or are isolated and then alienated. This can create a shrill voice where exaggerations of the truth can fill in the gaps. And it can lead to its own forms of passivity and futility ultimately.

4. Africa of the past and future. If Africa is China's future (the Dambisa Moyo argument) we should all be worried. One only has to see how China does its internal repression (Tibet and elsewhere) to see that China is a strange sort of friend. China's real interest is to appropriate natural resources and increase the market for its shoddy goods, rather than develop Africa in any way.

One should also note that global warming and desertification is sadly going to hit many parts of Africa harder than elsewhere and is hardly a future to look forward to. Food and water security are set to become serious issues, as they already are in Niger. Better Internet access is going to take years to penetrate beyond the continent's large cities and towns. Increased power generation is decades away. The satellite image of the world at night that we have all seen will remain dark over Africa at least until the next generation.

5. How to read about Africa. There is another type of Western commentator on Africa Tolu doesn't refer to. These are the scholars of Africa. They often speak one or more African languages fluently. They have had access to information, analysis and other resources on Africa that most Africans have never seen, and in turn they create more information, analysis and resources. Some of them are even African. The scholarship on African society, economy and lived realities is much more extensive in the West than elsewhere. African philosophy, where it exists, takes place on American campuses. All that is to say: a key missing pillar of a publishing infrastructure is academia and the critical discourse it makes available.

My final thought. Africa should look to India perhaps more than anywhere else. The Indian sub-continent is more populous than Africa by around the population of Nigeria or perhaps more. India is engaged in many forms of internal conversation and doesn't look to the West for recognition or affirmation. India has excellent universities and a thriving internal publishing industry. It is not clear who the 'you' is in the title of Tolu's essay (I would imagine a pretty sophisticated readership for 3QD). However, its besides the point.

The African internal conversation is only just beginning. That's where the real action is at.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Dr Detective Sam Nwanti for President

Ok so here's today's test. I defy you, my dear reader, to go to this page and not laugh. Go on, see if you can pass!

Once you're done, read this.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

James Hadley Chase in Nigeria..

A company called Goodbooks Africa has bought the rights to James Hadley Chase's books for Nigeria and has republished them.

See above for some of the covers of the new versions. Their marketing gimmick has been to include soft porn images of black women on the covers. This trick follows a grand tradition for publishing Rene Brabazon Raymond's schlock fiction.

It comes across as a pretty cheap trick to me. Should images such as these be on display at children's eye level in bookshops (as they are at present in some stores?) Why have scantily clad black women on the covers, when the stories themselves have don't feature black female characters? More significantly, is promoting James Hadley Chase for the purposes of encouraging a reading culture in Nigeria the way to go?

I have no beef with Goodbooks Africa and wish them well. Publishing popular fiction is a good strategy to encourage a reading culture in general. But I question whether Nigerians really need to rediscover James Hadley Chase. Let's hope their next books have less pornographic covers and are written by Nigerians.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Margery Perham

While still on a historical tip, Margery Perham's role in criticising British colonial administration should never be underestimated.

Harold Smith dismisses her as a spy playing the role of Oxford don, writing of her in his autobiography, "Margery Perham was a close friend of the Governor General, Sir James Robertson, and of many other prominent personalities at the Colonial Office. It is not improbably, given also that I was always candid and completely open to friends and colleagues about the difficulties I was in, that Sir James Robertson knew my every move. And of course, as Government routinely censored mail, tapped telephones and employed informers, it would have been surprising had they not known every detail of my life".

This maybe true (and the establishment has done its bit over the years to indicate that Harry is 'mad' and ruin his life), but she was much more a prototypical James Bond/Judi Dench 'M' figure. Although she was embedded within the establishment and a friend/biographer of Lord Lugard, she was also fiercely critical of the way in which the British policy sought to weaken African nationalism wherever possible (an explicit policy towards Nigeria by the time of the late 1950s). If only her views had gained more currency, an alternative future for Africa may have unfolded post-Independence.

Scroll down this page to read another (American) academics recollections of her.


Lord Lugard

Just come across pages of Harry Gailey's book "Lugard and the Abeokuta Uprising" on Google Books. Its a fascinating insight into Lugard's mindset and his failure to understand cultural differences across Nigeria. Here are three passages to give you a flavour:

"Lady Lugard in the early years of the century had a more immediate effect upon Sir Frederick's career. She spent only one short period with her husband in Africa. They decided the climate and unhealthy conditions were too extreme for her delicate health and she never again accompanied him. Lugard therefore attempted to find ways of returning to Britain on leave as often as possible. He hit upon his 'scheme' whereby he could spend a large amount of time in Britain and still govern Nigeria directly."

Doesn't that remind you of something?

"Sir Frederick had decided very early in his administration to apply the northern system of rule to southern areas as far as possible. This meant salaried officials with well defined powers operating under the direction of a single African executive. There was a fundamental flaw in Lugard's conceptualisation. However similar a Yoruba Oba and his court might have appeared to be in comparison to a northern Emir and council, there were basic differences. No Yoruba Oba possessed the autocratic powers of his northern counterpart. There were many overt and covert checks upon his authority."

"Nevertheless, by 1912, it was obvious that there was a major flaw in the northern system. The Protectorate of Northern Nigeria could not pay its own way. The government was running a very large continuing annual deficit. This was compensated by a subsidy from the richer Southern Protectorate and by an annual British grant of £300,000 per year. The Colonial Office therefore conceived the idea of lowering administrative costs and providing for the cancellation of the annual subsidy by recourse to an expedient which must have appeared simple to the administrators in London. They would amalgamate the two Nigerian Protectorates. This would solve the problem of the subsidy by shifting the budget deficits of the north to the new central government."

Lugard comes across as a rather inept administrator, who played no small role in destroying traditional systems of governance and accountability in Nigeria by trying to apply his favoured northern model to the rest of the country. The effects of his decisions are arguably still being felt today.


Zimbabwe and blood diamonds

As Naomi (or her assistant) stares at her wardrobe and wonders what is appropriate court-ware for a Dutch summer, the world turns its fickle eye on the ultimate artificial luxury good: diamonds. The big story right now is, of course, Zimbabwe.

Its interesting to compare and contrast two recent articles in The Guardian on Zimbabwe's Marange diamond fields, by Petina Gappah and by David Smith. Gappah's piece is tinged with cautious optimism, as when she writes,

"As Zimbabwe saw with land reform, ordinary people may eventually benefit from national resources, but only after the lion's share has gone to politicians. The crucial issue around Zimbabwe's diamond wealth is how to ensure it benefits the whole country and not just a few, because if managed well it has the potential to transform the country."

There is no such hope from Smith's report, as he concludes,
"Yet again, it appears that Africa's vast mineral wealth is enriching everyone but Africans, who suffer in inverse proportion."

The Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) has allowed an initial sale of Marange diamonds to go ahead. However, if there is wrongdoing through this, Zimbabwe diamonds will be banned from the international market. It would then be difficult for illegal Zim diamonds to be then dumped on the world market as Gappah suggests. No Kimberly certification would significantly impede tradability. The current trade route through Mozambique would essentially be closed down through market forces, as demand in Belgium, Dubai and elsewhere nosedives for what would have become illegal diamonds. The KPCS and the World Diamond Council would not risk their credibility by ensuring the channel of uncertified goods (or fake certification) remained open for long.

The choice between Gappah and Smith is the same as the historical difference diamonds have made between Botswana and Sierra Leone. But then, Gaborone didn't have a cornered animal like Zanu PF...


Friday, July 23, 2010

A glimpse into Mukoma's Consciousness

Excellent interview with the Kenyan writer Mukoma wa Ngugi here.


Cindy Mayweather, angel/cyborg

The world will come to know and adore Janelle Monae - her wonderfully quirky beats and her use of cosmic futurism to imagine/open up a space of difference/otherness within human society. The interview linked to shows how much thinking and commitment goes into her work. She is wonderful.


I saw a wonderful film-poem by Alan Bissett at the Hay Festival earlier this year. This clip gives rich insight into the life of a writer. He has a more-ish voice too!


Who is the President of the United States?


Thursday, July 22, 2010

After the World Cup: that article

The LRB has now taken down the controversial piece by R.W. Johnson, after coming under considerable pressure. I have pasted it (and the comments) below so that you can read it for yourself. Its quite extraordinary that they thought it worthy of publication in the first place. Meanwhile, xenophobic attacks continue each day in SAfrica.

After the World Cup

R.W. Johnson 6 July 2010

Tags: south africa | world cup 2010

We are being besieged by baboons again. This happens quite often here on the Constantiaberg mountains (an extension of the Table Mountain range). Baboons are common in the Cape and they are a great deal larger than the vervet monkeys I was used to dealing with in KwaZulu-Natal. They jump onto roofs, overturn dustbins and generally make a nuisance of themselves; since their teeth are very dirty, their bite can be poisonous. They seem to have lots of baby baboons – it’s been a very mild winter and so spring is coming early – and they’re looking for food. The local dogs don’t like them but appear to have learned their lesson from the last baboon visit: then, a large rottweiler attacked the apes, who calmly tore it limb from limb.

Meanwhile in the squatter camps, there is rising tension as the threat mounts of murderous violence against foreign migrants once the World Cup finishes on 11 July. These migrants – Zimbabweans, Malawians, Congolese, Angolans, Somalis and others – are often refugees and they too are here essentially searching for food. The Somalis are the most enterprising and have set up successful little shops in the townships and squatter camps, but several dozen Somali shopkeepers have already been murdered, clearly at the instigation of local black shopkeepers who don’t appreciate the competition. The ANC is embarrassed by it all and has roundly declared that there will be no such violence. The truth is that no one knows. The place worst hit by violence in the last xenophobic riots here was De Doorns and the army moved into that settlement last week, clearly anticipating trouble. The tension is ominous and makes for a rather schizoid atmosphere as the Cup itself mounts towards its climax.

In the lull before the semi-finals there has been a great deal of speculation about the fact that none of the big names came off – Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi or Kaka. The press is looking for new stars – Miroslav Klose and David Villa are the names most mentioned – but the more obvious point would seem to be that soccer is a team game. The Germans quite openly say that the teams they are beating are more individually talented than they themselves are and that what’s important is to pick players who conform to the team plan, not virtuosos. Ladbrokes make Spain and Holland the joint favourites (2.87 to 1), ahead of Germany at 3-1, but the real point is that they have Uruguay at 12-1 – in effect they’ve decided the winner will be European – so Holland are more favoured than Germany because it’s assumed their path to the final is easier. When it comes to the Spain v. Germany match itself, the odds are evens. This seems to rely heavily on the fact that Spain beat Germany in the European Cup final, for it is difficult to say that Spain has played as well as Germany here so far.

Some local Afrikaners have rediscovered their Dutch roots sufficiently to support Holland but Cape Town is awash with visiting celebrities, ranging from Angela Merkel to Mick Jagger and Paris Hilton, and they make more of a splash. Merkel was so thrilled at her team’s performance against Argentina that she actually went into their changing room afterwards – a bold move for a woman. It’s not clear who Jagger is supporting now: the local press is full of jokes about how he can’t get no satisfaction. He isn’t the only one. The baboons are getting hungry and I’ve decided to encourage them to the extent of giving them bananas.

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Comments on “After the World Cup”

  1. A.J.P. Crown says:

6 July 2010 at 7:06 pm

You be careful of those baboons.

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  1. Camus123 says:

7 July 2010 at 7:39 am

Nature takes its course. Foxes moving into the towns, baboons in South Africa. I prefer the foxes, but wolves are returning to Eastern and Central Europe. During earlier World Cups, commentators liked to draw comparisons between the performance of a national Football team and the state of politics in the country. England 1966 – winning was just one more jewel in the crown. Germany in 1990 – success as a facet of the euphoria (if it can have one) generated by Unification. It breaks down in 2010 I think, because Germany has a terrible government, Holland is going right-wing and Spain’s economy is about to implode. Maybe winning will help one of them.
Books on Football? Cricket seems to produce the more literary volumes – anybody who hasn’t read ‘England, their England’ should read that chapter with the village cricket match as a little light relief from these blogs.

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7 July 2010 at 9:24 am

That’s true about cricket, there’s CLR James too.

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  1. Martin says:

7 July 2010 at 10:57 am

My sentiments exactly, RW. Whenever I see the baboons descending from the crags to raid my garden, my first thoughts are of those pesky Zimbabwean, Somali, Malawian and Angolan migrants come to scrounge for work in South Africa. Of course there is a subtle difference: when the violence erupts the rottweilers will be the ones doing all the dismembering.
Now, if only rottweilers liked bananas.

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    • Camus123 says:

7 July 2010 at 2:34 pm

Do I understand you correctly? “to scrounge for work” is a pejorative term to use for those migrants. The Somali migrants aren’t pesky, because they set up shop? Some explanation please!

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      • Martin says:

7 July 2010 at 10:21 pm

Um, I seem to have commented on an earlier draft of Mr Johnson’s post. Who’s doing the editing here? I’m calling foul. Unless I was hallucinating this morning, RWJ made a direct – and highly distasteful – comparison between marauding baboons and black migrants from other African countries. My earlier comment makes no sense now that the original post has been sanitised. Even the ‘rotweillers’ have become full-blooded ‘rottweilers’.
On another point, RW shows a shocking lack of knowledge about baboon-human interaction on the fringes of urban areas and a disregard of the many many warnings in this regard. As the signs say in the zoos: ‘Don’t feed the animals!’
The more I look at RW Johnson’s post the less sense it makes. What is the author’s point?

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        • Martin says:

7 July 2010 at 10:53 pm

A footnote: baboons are not apes. They are monkeys.

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  1. Imperialist says:

7 July 2010 at 11:56 am

Perhaps if the foreigners start a football team South Africans will be more sympathetic. Or throw them a parade at Melrose Arch.

Very disturbing.

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  1. Oliver Rivers says:

7 July 2010 at 2:57 pm

Who is being compared to what here? The baboons are itinerant (“the dogs appear to have learned their lesson from the last baboon visit”) so perhaps we’re supposed to think they’re more like the “Zimbabweans, Malawians, Congolese, Angolans, Somalis and others” than the “local black shopkeepers”. But that can’t be right, because the baboons are vicious killers, whereas it’s the Somalis who are getting murdered.

Or is Johnson suggesting that black on black violence is in some way the same as rotweilers being torn apart by monkeys? I doubt that, but his sloppy writing makes it extremely hard to see where, exactly, are the similarities to which our attention is being drawn.

Confusion reigns.

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    • Martin says:

7 July 2010 at 10:24 pm

Absolutely. And what exactly is he encouraging the baboons to do by enticing them with bananas? Doesn’t he like dogs?

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  1. Marmaduke Bradley says:

11 July 2010 at 4:59 pm

I wonder just how much more foolish and explicitly racist Johnson’s ramblings will have to become before you’ll stop publishing him.

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  1. Abraham Esau says:

12 July 2010 at 1:24 pm

So in a blog post about the real threat of xenophobic violence, Johnson by largely poor black South Africans against black African migrants from elsewhere (white migrants to South Africa don’t face this kind of hostility as they fall right into white privilege), brings up brings up baboons and bananas. We get it R.W. Baboons. Bananas.

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  1. Abraham Esau says:

12 July 2010 at 1:25 pm


So in a blog post about the real threat of xenophobic violence from largely poor black South Africans against black African migrants from elsewhere (white migrants to South Africa don’t face this kind of hostility as they fall right into white privilege), Johnson brings up baboons and bananas. We get it R.W. Clever. Baboons. Bananas. Blacks.


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