Thursday, March 26, 2009

Journalists braver than you or I

I hope my sister-in-law is not reading this …

Out of Africa: The final dispatch | World news | The Guardian by Chris McGreal

They were the best of times in Africa, and the worst. They were the years when South Africa was swept away by the belief that it was a nation blessed, a moral beacon to the world, symbolised by a single moment as Nelson Mandela stood outside a small KwaZulu school in April 1994, dropped his vote into the ballot box with a cross next to his own name, and undid what an entire system had been constructed to prevent…

… Weeks after watching Mandela vote, I was standing at a church among thousands of corpses rising from the ground…

…I had met the man responsible for all this a few hours earlier. Clément Kayishema was a doctor and, at one time, head of the local hospital, but by the time of the genocide he was a political force as the governor of Kibuye province. When I turned up in his town, he directed that I be held in a hotel-turned-barracks. One day he would have cause to regret that…

…after two decades of watching failed leadership, the Africans that have made the greatest impression on me are the extraordinary individuals who stood against that tide.

In South Africa there is Zackie Achmat, an HIV-positive gay Muslim man of Indian extraction and ANC member, who led the campaign against Mbeki's perverted denial of life-saving anti-Aids drugs to poor black people…

…the women in eastern Congo who venture into the most dangerous areas to rescue other women from years of systematic mass rape by the gangs of armed militias that amount to the only form of authority over vast territories. Or the Nigerian journalists who risked assassination or long sentences in hellish prisons to expose the truth about the military dictators plundering their country…

…And there are those who names cannot, for now, be revealed. They include the Zimbabwean doctors who have for years lived with the risk of arrest, torture and even death to run an underground railroad to help the victims of Mugabe's sustained and bloody terror against his people…

…Sosthene Niyitegeka. The Hutu shopkeeper and pastor risked everything - his own life and that of his wife and children - to save every Tutsi in his village at the height of the Rwandan genocide

...A decade later, Mbeki's failed leadership is principally remembered for sacrificing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people while he fiddled around in league with a group of maverick scientists who questioned the causes of Aids and the established methods of keeping HIV-positive people alive. Mbeki's blocking of the life-saving drugs to millions of people was his greatest crime, but his stature was further eroded abroad by his malign manipulation of Zimbabwe's political crisis to help keep Mugabe in power. When he wasn't squandering South Africa's moral authority over Zimbabwe, Mandela's successor was wasting it at the UN security council protecting Burma's military regime...

McGreal’s stories, including his own, are awe inspiring, but not examples you necessarily want your loved ones to follow …

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