Thursday, December 29, 2005

More Vignettes of Christmas in Accra

At the I-Net internet cafe in the A&C mall this evening, doing some work for the office wouldja believe...!! and ofcourse, having some fun to boot:-) )

More of the Spintex Road. The authorities--whoever they may be--did little to create the Christmassey feel. At least, that "OPTIMUM THERAPY" could have had some Christmas lights. Honestly!!

Is that red garden chair going to a party? Only in Ghana!! Incidentally, only a ubiquitous van like this, with the characteristic yellow number plate (indicating public transport), would dare to do something like this...I took this on the Spintex Road, on Christmas day, in my parents' car as we cruised into the capital.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Vignette of Christmas in Accra

Sort of.

The picture to the left was taken at A&C Shopping Mall a few days ago.

Would just like to say that despite Accra not looking very "christmassey", people, pls, I exhort all of you--in particular, ELSA, to have a STUPENDOUS Christmas and a joyous new year!

Many thanks to all those who cruised in on this blog. Will see you next year!

lots of hugs,

Saturday, December 17, 2005

I'm Getting Some Good News from Hong Kong

News coming in from my colleagues in Hong Kong are indicating that the WTO talks are going to present to us another failure.

This is most endearing news. The developing countries got bigger and more proactive.


More grease to the Third World, I say!

check this article out: New Power Bloc Emerges.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Future of West African Regional Banking is Here!

The article in Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper of November 24 suggests that the West African landscape is undergoing a revolution. Forget ECOBANK, which is not going anywhere anytime soon, but watch out for First ECOBANK. According to the article, this will revolutionise the West African banking area, with the merger of three banks. What is most exciting is this—that the bank aims to “be one of the largest end most diversified banking groups in Africa with assets of over $5.5 billion and over 470 branches and offices across 15 countries in West and Central Africa, a subsidiary in the United Kingdom and a representative office in South Africa.”


Rock on West Africa!!



First Bank, Ecobank to Become First Ecobank

Daily Trust (Abuja)
November 24, 2005
Posted to the web November 28, 2005

By Adelenwa Bamgboye

First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated and Ecobank Nigeria Plc Tuesday signed a combination agreement setting out the framework and timeline for the completion of what would be the largest indigenous cross-border banking combination in Sub-Sahara Africa.

The marriage of the three institutions which would give birth to First EcoBank plc with the elephant logo of the FirstBank would operate in 15 countries in the West African sub-region.

The agreement calls for Ecobank Nigeria and Ecobank Trans-national Incorporated, the parent company of the Ecobank Group to be listed prior to the completion of the combination which will take place in the third quarter of 2006.

Upon completion, Business Trust gathered that the future potential of the combined group will be one of the largest end most diversified banking groups in Africa with assets of over $5.5 billion and over 470 branches and offices across 15 countries in West and Central Africa, a subsidiary in the United Kingdom and a representative office in South Africa.

Alhaji Mutallab, chairman of First Bank said the Bank looks forward to the combination as a vehicle for better meeting the needs of the African private sector and for developing products for the consumer, SME and microfinance sectors.

Omo-Obe Odimeyo, chairman of Ecobank Nigeria in his remark said "we are elated with this combination from which our shareholders and employees should derive optimal value."

Ecobank Nigeria will be fully capitalised before the end of the year in order to meet the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) minimum capital requirement and will be subsequently listed in the first quarter of 2006 on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

In line with its regional identity, Ecobank Transnational Incorporated will be listed in the second quarter of 2006 on the three regional stock exchanges in West Africa namely the Ghana Stock Exchange in Accra, the Bourse Regionale de Valeurs Mobilisers (BRVM) in Abidjan and the Nigeria Stock Exchange.




Copyright © 2005 Daily Trust. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (





Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Unbearable Lightness of Blogging--Part II : Close Encounters of a WTO Kind

I spent my lunch period with a very very personable young woman today at the Kofi Annan ICT Centre of Excellence, whose link you can access here: They currently have this fair going on. I met an interesting group from ASHESI UNIVERSITY, studying computer science, who explained to me a new traffic system that they have come up with that would be used on the LABADI road in Accra.


Basically, the system is designed such that rather than having a policeman guide traffic, ultra-sonic sensors would detect – from a distance of 50 metres as yardstick – whether there were any cars up to that distance. If there are, then the traffic lights remain red; if not, it goes green.


And the brains behind this are Ghanaians!


Can you imagine that they would like to use LINUX software, which would enable them to change the code—as opposed to traditional Microsoft et al, that will not. Coupled with the fact that they can use JAVA applications, too.


I’d like to visit the place tomorrow with my colleague at lunch.


For now, though, my blogging will be a tad light as I prepare myself for my colleagues who are preparing to go to Hong Kong. In a post reminiscent of the August one (, I’d just like to get you to try and read between the lines.


My colleagues are preparing to go down to Hong Kong in a couple of day’s time for what will prove to be another historic battleground for social and trade justice groups.


I can already feel the World Trade Organisation excitement building up…and it’s building big time.

useful links
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2005

    Accra by Night

    I do not think I have ever shown a picture here of Accra during the evening, so drum goes:

    The picture to the extreme left (top) is that of Fenix lying in the dark last Saturday evening. To the right (top) of that is the front of Papaye, fast-food eaterie, where they sell mostly fried rice and seriously delicious-yet-imported broasted chicken. To the immediate left of this text is inside Papaye, taken two nights ago, minutes before there was a power-cut!

    Friday, November 25, 2005

    Back to Rain...and AREEBA Inanity


    As I write this, rain is pouring down this side of the capital of Accra, and we at the office are all tempted to just stay in and not go out to lunch. Few are intrepid here, faced against the weather-- and for a bunch of social activists, that’s pretty ironic, but that’s another story…


    I arrived ten thirty pm on Tuesday evening to a 28-degree Accra. The flight, by way of Alitalia, was okay—could have been better, though. We left around 2.45pm, were served lunch around 3/4pm. But whatever happened to dinner? Instead we got some cake and a drink! What is that about?


    We stopped at Lagos for a good hour and a half (nothing indicated on the itinerary/manifest!), before taking off.


    It’s always been my experience since we started coming to Ghana in 1997 that each time the plane landed after flying from Amsterdam, or Malpensa, or Germany, for the passengers – predominantly African – to clap.


    They clapped again as we touched down to the almost-obscurity of Lagos airport. I am sure one of the things the Italians—like the Dutch and the Germans-- like about us Ghanaians is our empathy to their plight of flying a good six or seven hours from their respective European capital—only for those darkies to appreciate their flying with a clap. I think everyone enjoys being appreciated, and pilots are hardly an exception.


    I have to say I was surprised by the number of people who clapped after the forty-odd minute journey from Lagos to Accra!! Yet these were the same people who were mumbling that we were taking too long at Lagos airport…


    Things like these make me proud of being African, Black, Ghanaian.


    I got my hand-luggage only yesterday afternoon. It failed, along with a couple of passengers’ things, to turn up with my suitcase on Tuesday evening. Got home around 11.30pm…and went back to work on Wednesday!!


    Regrettably, I am back to the inanity of those torturous AREEBA ads (the latest is winning a MERCEDES C Class once you buy a starter pack, and may be selected, or something like that). And whilst we are talking about starter packs, who would want to get another starter pack after buying one?!! Get me a phone goddamit—not another number!! What can I do with another number when I have no phone???


    Honestly, AREEBA, please do grow up…




    On a positive front, I enjoyed Buffy Wednesday, who has somehow met her doppelganger--another slayer! Mmm...the plot thickens...


    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    Ghana Stand Could Have Done Better

    As for the Ghana stand, my colleague and I were rather disappointed with them. The best they could do was showcase…our beleagured National Communications Authority, and annoyingly badly-performing AREEBA. Actually, not quite. Sudan did that very nicely for us. What Ghana also showcased was Ghana’s privatised “ONETOUCH” service. I almost forgot. Must buy the sim card at 30 thousand cedis before the end of November, once I get back to Accra. Obour, with his almost indefatigable energy, has had ONETOUCH co-opt his song “SHINE YOUR EYE” for the promo, where you are supposed to get 10 SMSs free, since early October.

    Even the African Development Bank was giving out t-shirts—I know, cos the lady there asked me to come at 3 pm, and I was there on the dot!—yet we had nothing free to give out.

    More later this Saturday. I am off with my colleague to Hammamet, a more beautiful and historic place to see.

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    So, We Finally Voted…

    …and boy, was it laborious. Democracy in Africa, I swear! No wonder we are so left behind, our democratic process is like the oil that cogs the wheels. I had to run out of there after 9.30pm. After everyone was elected, kind of, they were going to proceed with the voting of the President.

    Poof! I was all handshakes, smiles, and out the door to catch the Tunis bus into the town centre 20km away!

    Only to come back to see that BBC had contacted me about my humble reportage of the WSIS process, and I had missed it! You can read about here:

    It hurts. It hurts…

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Still at Palexpo Kram

    We continue to deliberate over which sub-regional coordinators should be represented. Nigeria was not amused at the fact that a predominant number of the people there were francophone, plus the fact that the text of ACSIS statues was available ONLY in French.

    Yes, the francophone/anglophone divide exists very much in Africa. It is a great shame. This is one of the reasons why it will take long for us to move forwrd. We started at around 5.15pm. It is now 8.18pm. How much longer?!!!

    Running Late to Vote for the African Civil Society on WSIS (ACSIS)

    The title says it all. Oh, I posed at the Rwanda stand yesterday with no-one less than Republic of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. He is actually shorter in real life than he seems on tv.

    You cannot imagine the security detail that trailed him. Surprisingly, he was VERY friendly, urging all those round to take a picture with him, too. I got to even shake his hand. But I was not in awe. Not when he is going round portraying South Africa and NEPAD like the panacea to Africa's problems.

    Not on your nelly!

    I have to go vote for the very very personably young woman at this ACSIS election now...

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    I am Humbled, BBC...More on A&C (Ghana)

    Out of 12 pages of looking for "Tunis WSIS", the British Broadcasting Corporation decided to take a look at mine. Obviously, noone left a comment, but they were there!!! Or, rather, they were here...;-)

    On the Ghanaian front, someone who has access to aandcdevelopment webmail :(16 Nov, Wed, 11:49:13 ) visited this site.

    I now know that A&C Development FINALLY has a website, which you can readily take a look at here:

    Why I never thought of going into PR beats me. Honestly...

    Off to another workshop, which started late...only ten minutes ago...

    Incidentally, the UN delegates deliberations have been beamed through to the Palexpo Kram,and so as I type this, I could literally give you a running commentary...but won't bother. Too jaded by it all really;-)

    Microsoft is about to talk, but the CEO of KDDI will talk right now. Let's go:

    No idea what company that is. The guy is Japanese; he is talking about "how to enhance" something or other "for developing countries".

    PLease change the record!

    Reflecting the Eccentric World of...WSIS

    For your info, I am writing two variants of my experience of WSIS 2005, Tunis. The one, for the more international audience is at this link here, and the one for the pan-african audience(though all nationalities are welcome!) is on this particular blog.

    Thanks, Global Voices, for picking up on my feeds, nut honestly, I cannot for the life of me understand why people would be looking for links like these:

    1. 15 Nov, Tue, 17:26:45 Google: wantto have sex in ghana in madina or east legon

    In the words of Buffy, in one of those memorbale episodes back in Season I, "I think I speak for everybody when I go "huh?!" "

    Ok, ok, so I'm a relic. Sue me!

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    What, Do I, Like, Look French to You?

    Ah stereotypes! Stereotypes, stereotypes, stereotypes. It is bound to run amok in a gathering like this. I hear Kofi Annan is in town. Obviously, the hotel is probably kept secret.

    I am in the Civil Society area of the Palexpo Kram. Sorry I cannot bring you any piccies as my Zire Palm decided to give up on me a few days before I left. There was no time to do anything about it...

    Pooh, so I am resorting to normal pictures:-( Talk about low-tech in a hi-tech place like this, where almost everyone with a laptop is checking out their emails whilst a meeting goes on. Yes, WI-FI, or wireless internet is in FULL swing, baby!

    As for the taxi-driver, well, I had to go deliver something on behalf of my Dad to his acquaintance who works at the African Development Bank. Can you actually believe that there is a road called "Avenue de Ghana", that is one of the three streets that leads to the ADB? Wow...

    Anyway, did that, left and caught a cab. He bemoaned the state of Tunis, telling me that "c'est un police d'Etat". Funny, my Dad's friend also said the same thing. You wouldn't think it to see it, though. I thought the place was so secure because of the UN status of the summit and the high number of dignatries--ouch spelling!!--attending.

    Both two bemoaned that the police was too much, and what are the Tunisians afraid of? A policeman almost round every corner. Seriously. That bad. For foreigners, I think it's quite welcome, but I can understand why the denizens do not think the same way.

    Oh, well.

    The taxi driver was interesting. He tried to teach me how to say "welcome" and "bonjour" in Arabic. Sounded cool! Not that I could say it without chuckling or anything, but the language is seriously very elegant. He asked me where I came from, and I was not surprised when he associated football with Ghana. He said that he could detect an anglophone accent.

    Conversely, two or three people right here during the past two hours have addressed me in French--and I have responded straight back at them, with a smile, in English, triggering a visceral chuckle from both of us. The anglophone accent and the stunted attempt at speaking French is so detectable:-), don't you think? I doubt any anglophone can ever pass the French test of speaking fluently with a francophone accent -- do you? Bar Jodie Foster, whom I heard, what, four/five years ago in an interview on Belgian television speaking IMPECCABLEMENT. Sexy.

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    What One Tunisian Newspaper is Saying about WSIS...The Eve of Day Two of Internet Governance Discussions

    It's a cool, dry Sunday evening. It's almost 8pm, and I am sitting at the Internet cafe of the Hotel. I have in my hand one newspaper--Le Renouveau. It's subtitle is "organe du rassemblement constitutionnel democratique", and the redacteur en chef, or editor-in-chief is one Nejib Ouerghi.

    Here are some of the headlines on WSIS in today's paper:

    1. XVIIIeme Anniversaire du Changement--Le Chef D'Etat recoit des messages de felicitations de plusiers organisations et associations. Cohesion autour de Ben Ali et engagement a faire reussir le SMSI:: 18th Anniversary of Change. The Head of State Receives Messages of Congratulations from Many Organisations and Associations. Cohesion around Ben Ali and an engagement to make WSIS Succeed.

    2. Reprise, aujourd'hui, des travaux de la Prepcom3. Le document politique et la declaration de Tunis, a l'ordre du jour: The Resumption, today, of PrepCom3. The policy document and the Tunis declaration top the agenda.

    3. L'urgence de reduire la fracture numerique: The urgent need to bridge the digital divide

    4. Les Jeunes Au SMSI:Une mobilisation remarquable, un engagement total: Youth at WSIS: a Remarkable Mobilisation, Total Engagement

    5. Intel entend lancer un projet de modernisation par le tout numerique en AFrique du Nord et Moyen-Orient: Intel counts launching a modernisation North Africa and the MIddle East

    6. Quatre secteurs seront cibles par investissement: l'entreprenneuriat local, l'education, laccessibilite au systeme digital et la specialisation des competences techniques: Four Sectors will be Targetted for investment: Local Entrepeneur, Education; Accessibility to Digital System, and the Specialisation of Technical competencies

    ...and many more.

    Looks like Tunis is capitalising big-time, as one would do, on its status as the cynosure of the place where information society sits at the cusp of historical change.

    And it certainly looks to be a big summit. Internet governance talks started tpday, but I stayed in the hotel most of the time, being fed French news and some French inanity left, right centre. It was only later in the afternoon that I decide it was time to listen to the radio, and check out a few good radio stations.

    Of course good is relative.

    I ended up, apart from Radio Mosaique that inspired yesterday's title, finding two or three other stations. There was Radio Tunis international on 98.2 FM. They surprisingly have a mosaique of languages. First, I heard English, where they interviewed around 2.30pm a civil society activist on the WSIS, then later French news, then later Italian, and some Italian music.

    Talk about eclectic.

    The other stations were playing some alluring and rather sensual Tunisian music, which sent signals viscerally to your body to shake some body stuff, y know:-)

    Later, after having my bath, strolled down the boulevard that runs adjacent to the street that leads to the Hotel I am staying in, and I enjoyed the fresh air and psychedelic lights.

    I went to one particular hotel -- Hotel Africa -- that is a towering edifice located right in the heart of the boulevard. AFter passing through the hotel security, where I was asked to take off my watch, several dinar coins and other metalliuc stuff on me, walked through the elegant hallway that made no bones that it was a five star hotel.

    I just had to try the food here. SO up I went to the fifth floor. I knew it was fifth because I was here yesterday evening to an empty room.

    It was empty again, but I persisted. I asked for Couscous and Lamb stew.


    Couldn't even finish it all. For dessert, Tunisian patisserie, which was predominantly pistache and sugar baked together very elegantly. Didin't finish that either. My orange juice, like yesterday at another eaterie, was freshly-squeezed.

    AFter about an hour, feeling a bit cut-off from the outside world as I sat all alone on the fifth floor eating, I left--with a very full stomach.

    I needed to walk, so I walked plenty...found some papers, and here I am.

    Earlier, met two civil society delegates from Zimbabwe who were doing some passive window-shopping. Passive, because the shops were mostly closed.

    As I write now, shops are re-opening, and activity has begaun anew.I've been here almost two hours again.

    Tomorrow promises to be interesting; I am definitely looking forward to it, but before I take leave of you, must note for posterity that the magasine I bought just a few hundred metres away from here had the alluring title: SMSi. Les Enjeux du Sommet de Tunis WSIS: The Stakes of the Tunis Summit.

    Internet Governance is certainly one of those.

    I hope to be able to blog from the Kram Exhibition Park tomorrow, despite the business of the place.

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    Tunis : A Mosaique of Breathtaking Frenchness and Beauty

    "En Tunis, si tu oublie quelque chose, tu peux y aller et venire, ca restera au meme place". This is how I would begin a memorable period in a country I never dreamt of visiting – let alone for a UN World Summit on Information Society.

    It’s getting to 7pm, or 19heures, over here in Tunis. I’m sitting at an Internet café specially prepared for participants of the WSIS, or SMSI in French. I am the only one here, yet I know that there are WSIS participants staying at the hotel. To my immediate left are transparent doors that look into and outside this place.

    Goodlooking—nay, gorgeus-looking—women pass with their boyfriends, friends, etc, passing a poster that says “KILL BILL. Cette Semaine au Cinema”.

    How long has the film been out again? I thought it was almost a year. Reminds me of the legendary questionable rights that Tunisians are supposed to have. When I say rights, I am talking about censorship.

    I’m actually thinking of checking that film out. Maybe not tonite, though. I have to pretend to myself that I can do something serious whilst I am preparing for the Internet governance discussions to begin 13 November. It ends on 15 November. The following day, 16, is when the Summit ends, only to end on the 18. I get almost two days free time.


    There are workshops, or ateliers, that I and my colleague are bent on attending, so I am not going to shirk that one.

    The information society maybe lost to many people. In the beginning, even I couldn’t get my head round the utility of a conference round it, but now having back-pedalled and seen the bigger picture, I am beginning to think that it’s pretty cool being here.

    Especially in Tunis.

    We are treated like royalty. We, being those delegates going to the WSIS. These people are far friendlier than I ever anticipated or expected. Many of them after they ask me where I am from say “bienvenue. Tu es chez toi.” Alright so they are tutoieing me, that is not using “vous” since they do not know me, but I am not bothered. They seem to like me, and I certainly find them personable.

    They have been very accueuillant, or welcoming, as they say. My French is upping the ante again big time. There is no CNN in my room. Just TF1, France 2 and a host of Tunisian/Arabic stations. I wish I could speak Arabic. Considering it’s a UN language. We sometimes forget don’t we that it’s spoken by a sizeable part of the world.

    But a sizeable part of the world do not have signs contemporaneously in French and Arabic. Neither, as far as I know, have predominantly French influence in a country that is supposed to be predominantly Moslem.

    There are many Peugeots here—the funk, latest ones—as well as the latest BMWs, even rovers. The buildings like white a lot—as they like blue, shiny faces too. Looks swell.

    As I arrived into the town centre (rue de Marseillaise) near the Hotel Oscar, you could have sworn you were approaching Paris. I swear, man.

    This is a gorgeous city. It certainly is not reminiscent of Africa, which in many ways is a shame. What happened to the dusty roads?

    The security detail (men taking turns in the lobby and outside with their inimitable earpiece) treats you like royalty and you are sure that you will come to no harm.

    When I stupidly forgot my suitcase at the badging centre yesterday, I was assured by security that they would find it and bring it back to me. Though they didn’t find it initially, when I was asked to return with the bus people (they did come to the hotel after I reported it), they asked me to tag along.

    Within minutes, I found it not far from where I forgot it. It had been on the bus, but in all our haste to get to the badging centre, I forgot it on the bus after I helped a Rwandan delegate who’s bag got torn, leaving all contents trailing. God her colleague was just this side short of very sexy. The slender Rwandan physique, the smooth physiognomy, and that beautifully permed hair she kept on stroking. Wow.

    I must have been driven to distraction.

    Never again!

    The sweat beads that trickled down my face as I pondered over the prospect of losing my suitcase was too great.

    And so, when the friendly, congenial and gregarious security man who happened to be a police officer monitoring activity at the badging area late last night told me that "In Tunis, if you forget something somewhere, you can go and come and find it there", I was inclined to believe him.

    Just behind us read the gigantic sign "Aeroport Fret".

    I was not lost in the irony.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Lights Off...I'm Off! Go Buffy!

    As I write this, I am getting a live feed from Parliament, thanks to CITI-FM97.3, of the proceedings leading up to the discussions on the budget. Yes, for the first time ever, Finance minister Baah-Wiredu is reading the budget a month ahead of time. Usually, the budget is delivered in February the following year. News reports this morning were indicating that he has lived up to the constitution.
    Good stuff.
    Accra has been interesting off-late.
    What with the taking off of Ghana International Airlines late October this year. Speculation became rife that because GIA was selling tickets to London at $398 plus taxes, Lufthansa and British Airways were slashing their prices, too. In fact, KLM, in tune with its 45th celebration of flying to Ghana, is selling its tickets st $450 to...anywhere in the world.
    No, I'm not prepared to do any dubious advertising; I want GIA to succeed, even if 30% is owned by a consortium, with government of Ghana owning the rest. But, for me, it represents exciting times in the country and the aviation industry, especially with Ghana considering itself the gateway to Africa and, I hear anecdotal evidence that Nigeria is...the destination;-)
    Good one.
    Latest news from my personal side is that, God willing, I will be en route to Tunis, Tunisia, by way of Italy this evening. I'm off, with my colleague, to attend the UN Summit World Summit on Information Society ( There will be a myriad of side events taking place and it promises to be an interesting eleven nights in North Africa. Another colleague at work has suggested that I read some history on the country so that the place comes alive, once we get there. Seeing as diplomatic history is a major area of interest to me(especially 1815-1914--pls check: , I was out to the 'Net and the printer in a flash printing everything and anything I will pretend to read while contemporraneously dosing under my specs...:-)
    Ho hum...
    Now, back after an hour and a bit of of two mini-meetings, it is now lunch time, and I'm getting butterflies in my stomach. I'm preparing to go down to Alitalia to get me and my colleagues transit visa through Italy.
    Just now, the live feed on the reading of the budget by Baah-Wiredu, Ghana's finance minister, is making uncomfortable hearing.
    First, there will be considerable tax breaks for companies. Just the type of things many NGOs, like Third World Network-Africa here are campaigning against in the light of the campaign against the Minerals and Mining Bill that is currently in parliament. You can obtain an insight into the campaign at this link here:
    Thankfully, tracking of goods by our CEPS (Customs, Excise, Preventive Service) will be intensified. CEPS is one of the biggest collectors of revenue for the state through goods that come into the country.
    On a lighter side, which, frankly, is ironic, I got home yesterday evening to darkness that had fallen.
    It would continue to be dark up until 3am this morning. I know it wasn't earlier, because I woke up around 2am for a pee and it was still dark outside with only the beautiful moonlight lighting up the area, and houses.
    Mosquitoes were not too bad this time as we lit the coils earlier. I heard on the radio that the lights were going to come back around 10pm. Alas, no.
    We ended up using our silent generator to watch tv for a good two hours or so. We caight Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, as per usual, on Ghana's TV3. Buffy has been showing for a few months now, and I find myself enjoying it. Yesterday's episode involved Buffy's ex-boyfriend seeking to be a vampire, as well as immortality. So he decides to sacrifice Buffy to a hard-nosed vampire who goes by the name of Spike, who tags along with what has been described as a "criminally-insane" sensual-yet-dangerous vampire. (Episode 5V06)
    Back in Brussels, I always changed the channel when I saw it on BBC2.
    Reality is very much different these days!!:-)
    BTW, I check up on detailed programming on buffy at this link here:

    Monday, October 31, 2005

    ...And It's Off!

    culled from Ghana International Airways makes its maiden flight Posted by Picasa

    With characteristic pomp and pageantry, Ghana's new "national carrier", as designated by one of our ministries, called GIA, or Ghana International Airways, made its maiden flight Saturday, ending 3 full months of speculation that it could never take off.

    I guess everyone would have preferred "Ghana Airways", but, hey, this reality should serve to remind Ghanaians that things can only get better.

    Of course, things getting "better" is always ever-so-relative;-)

    headerfrom GIA website Posted by Picasa

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    We are All Nigerians Today

    117 lives lost from Nigerian plane crash Posted by Picasa

    The contemporraneous passing of Nigeria's first lady, Stella Obasanjo, and the perishing of the 117 people on board the Boeing 737 flying under Nigeria's privately-owned Bellview respectively, has brought into sharp relief how indiscriminate death is.

    Whether you are the wife of the highest official in the land, or bank officials from Ghana's National Investment Bank attending a seminar in Abuja, or a German or Briton, or even the second top official in the regional grouping of ECOWAS, when your time is up, it's up.

    That might sound crude and uncalled for at this very sober time, but what can explain the fact that the highest ECOWAS official (Executive Secretary), Mohammed Ibn Chambas, credited for bringing resolution to a number of crises in the ECOWAS region, is reputed to have MISSED this particular plane?

    Reminisces of people who called in sick on that fateful September 11, 2001 comes to mind.

    I spoke to my very good friend today who was equally shocked. She suggested that maybe God should just tell us when we are born that you have x number of years on this earth to perform x, y, z. After that time, he will come to take us back.

    My question, though, is at what point does He tell us this? And who is to say that we do not forget what He has told us?

    Plus, what do you do about such plane crashes where people completely perish like that,where, according to the report on The Star,

    A wig, human intestines, clothes, foam seats and a hand were visible wedged in the sodden earth.

    And what about this?

    A cheque for 948,000 naira ($7,300) from the evangelical Deeper Life church was one of a number of personal papers found in the smouldering wreckage

    How do you explain the fact that the person to whom the cheque was destined will NEVER see that money.

    The questions go on and on. But what remains is that we will have to thank God for small mercies, and one of that is that the instantaneous death meant that there was no suffering.

    Regrettably, suffering for the families of those who perished will remain for some time to come.

    May they ALL rest in peace.

    Incidentally, I was rather distraught in June this year when, at the airport, waiting to board the plane for Bamako, Mali for a work-related project, we were informed through the tannoy that due to a crash at the airport in Nigeria, the plane had been cancelled.

    It wasn't my time to go.

    ECOWAS Airline
    Speculation was rife in the media last week that ECOBANK is moving towards establishing a regional airline.

    Imagine the European Union with its OWN airline, something like EUROAIR? Feasible? Why not? That is if Lufthansa, Alitalia, and BA had anything to say about that?

    In the region, they are contemplating ECOAIR. ANd this is no lame idea. A serious amount of capital has been disbursed by no less than ECOBANK, as the private sector arm of the regional grouping ECOWAS, and other ECOWAS-related institutions towards the realisation of something that had been mooted in 1999/2000.

    This will not necessarily mean that other operators cannot operate in the region, but it will definitely create the competition that is so needed in this region of circa sixteen countries.

    ECOBANK moves towards establishing a regional airline

    A regional airline to give the needed impetus to free and easy movement of people and trade development across West Africa, a key protocol of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), is soon to be established.

    The Board of Directors of the airline's promotion company has already tasked a four-member steering committee it has put in place to identify an international strategic partner as well as private investors for the project's development by the middle of next month.

    Mr Gervais K. Djondo, Chairman of the ECOBANK Group, the principal sponsor, made this disclosure when he led a delegation of the committee to pay a courtesy call on President John Agyekum Kufuor at the Castle, Osu on Monday.

    from: ECOBANK moves towards establishing a regional airline

    SOBERING STATS for the day


    22 October: A Bellview airlines Boeing 737 carrying 117 people on board crashes soon after take-off from the Nigerian city of Lagos,
    killing everyone on board.

    5 September: A Mandala Airlines plane with 112 passengers and five crew on board crashes after take-off in the Indonesian city of Medan, killing almost all on board and dozens on the ground.

    23 August: A Tans airline Boeing 737-200 crashes on an internal flight in Peru, near the city of Pucallpa, with at least 40 people reported dead.

    16 August: A Colombian plane operated by West Caribbean Airways crashes in a remote region of Venezuela, killing all 160 people on board. The airliner, heading from Panama to Martinique, was packed with residents of the Caribbean island.

    14 August: A Helios Airways flight from Cyprus to Prague with 121 people on board crashes north of the Greek capital Athens, apparently after a drop in cabin pressure.

    16 July: An Equatair plane crashes soon after take-off from Equatorial Guinea's island capital, Malabo, west of the mainland, killing all 60 people on board.

    3 February: The wreckage of Kam Air Boeing 737 flight is located in high mountains near the Afghan capital Kabul, two days after the plane vanished from radar screens in heavy snowstorms. All 104 people on board are feared dead.




    Customer Service at its Best

    ECOBANK Headquarters, near Ridge. British Council is on the immediate right of this picture, just after the signboard, where you can see the turquoise bus Posted by Picasa

    SO there I was on a Saturday morning, when around 10.15am, just when I was listening intently to a Saturday programme on the radio, my cellphone rings, with an unknown number ringing.

    My mind would process the number quickly--021.680431--only to remember that the "680" looked like one of the prefixes that accompany ECOBANK's H/Q.

    I was right.


    A young man answered.

    "Is that Mr.Emmanuel Bensah?"

    "Yes, who is this, please?"

    "My name is...I'm calling about the problem you had with your card yesterday"

    So, I explain that I tried getting some money from the ATM at A&C Shopping Mall, East Legon only for my money to be debited on the receipt, but no cash from the ATM. I called my accounts officer who informed me that it sometimes happens that way, but assured me that the bank can tell when the money is taken.
    What a relief it was to hear that!

    In any event, the man assures me that he has my details. He asked me to read out my card number for verification. He even saw on the system that I had shopped earlier, which meant I had been able to get my money.

    "We'll credit your account on Monday", he added after some minor checks.

    Now that is what I call customer service

    I might just go to their cocktail invite next time!

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    An Afternoon with CITI-FM Staff Makes me Remember the first President, Dr.Kwame Nkrumah.

    At CITI-FM HQ. The station's news bus @ no.11, Tetteh Loop Posted by Picasa

    Merchant Bank, Adabraka. Taken: Tuesday, 18 October 2005 (c)E.K.Bensah II. Just to the right of this picture is the police station. Just opposite that is where CITI-FM is located Posted by Picasa

    So there we were--near CITI-FM headquarters yesterday, at an eaterie--2 broadcast journalists, and one journalist of a web-kind. All products of inter-marriage by our respective parents (Brong Ahafo-Ashanti region; Eastern-Central region; Volta-Central region).

    Thanks to our first president Dr.Kwame Nkrumah who, through a deliberate policy of "ethnic decentralisation", scattered people from all of Ghana's ten regions into the many different schools he built.

    People subsequently found themselves attending schools in regions they knew nothing about. What mattered was that you were Ghanaian. That still matters today. My Dad, for example, was born near the Volta region, but spent most of his schooling in the Central region, whilst my Mum schooled in the Ashanti and Greater Accra, when she was born in the Central.

    Once again, thank you, Kwame Nkrumah, for banning ID cards as far back as my grandparent's time--unlike the colonisers who visited it on the Rwandans of Central Africa, as well as many other parts of Africa.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    Controversial Song Puts Tuobodom {BRONG AHAFO region} On World Map (BBC)

    Controversial Song Puts Tuobodom On World Map

    Nkasei Hiplife Artist

    Ghanaians defend 'backward 'song

    BBC -- A Ghanaian band has defended a hit song and video that poke fun at a rural town, portraying locals as backward.

    Angry elders in the small western Ghanaian town of Tuobodom campaigned to get the song banned, saying it was making all their lives a misery.

    But controversy over the song, which showed Tuobodom residents mesmerised by a tarred road, made it a bigger hit.

    The male duo, Nkasse, told the BBC the song referred to events some 80 years ago and was not about inhabitants now.

    "We don't find anything in the song which should make them mad," Naa K and Shy told the BBC's Network Africa.

    "The video had to show how the town might have looked back then," he said.

    "We can't sing a song about a town 80 years back, and go and shoot the modern place," they said.

    However, students who come from the town are said to be keeping their birthplace to themselves at campuses across the country for fear of ridicule.

    And teachers from the village who are working in other parts of the country are reported to have asked to be sent home because students have been making fun of them.

    Other Ghanaians, though, have expressed a desire to visit the previously little-known place.

    Source: BBC




    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    Playing Receptionist...


    Black Stars of Ghana off to Germany's World Cup in 2006! Posted by Picasa

    From time to time, I get to play receptionist at the office. And given that free opportunity, I use it to the maximum by calling friends and acquaintances;-) In any event, I called a friend, whom I haven't spoken to in a long time. She failed an exam twice, but by hook or by crook has managed to get a permanent job in the same industry she was doing the exams for.

    Don't get me wrong; this is someone I genuinely like, even though she could do better in getting in touch with me, but I genuinely abhor such things, especially when I know of many people perhaps brighter than she is, who have not yet secured a job...

    Ofcourse, I would understand if my comments resonate with a degree of naiveite, after all, some would say, isn't this the way of the world? Old boy networks and all that? Hardly makes it right, but there you go. Maybe she prayed, and God listened--and she secured this permanent job. Good on her anyway...

    As for the other friends, I'm trying to take my mind off the break-up with my girlfriend--the most gorgeous woman I know with whom I have the most genuine and heartfelt feelings for (I think it's called love last time I looked) -- who wants to remain friends. I am hoping "for now". As you know, these things are pliable, and they can change with time once we get to know each other properely as friends...

    But, yes, you guessed it: I AM digressing.

    To the point is this: I am contacting other friends, including a former CITI-FM presenter who is now in law school, for lunch next week. It's good to have friends in high places!!;-)

    Seriously though, a re-examining of where I fit in to the whole Scheme of Things is critical in these doubtful days where I ruminate over my reliability in the bilateral formula they call a "relationship".

    I love Gee. And it's not going to stop any time soon. If you're interested in how I got here, might I suggest, with many apologies to Elsa, my "international" blog here.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    When Sports becomes a "Continuation of Politics by Other Means"

    Yaw Osafo-Maafo, incumbent Education and Sports Minister Posted by Picasa

    Ghana is a funny country.

    In so many ways, its major passions are not dissimilar to that of its British colonial masters. Like the Brits, we Ghanaians are equally obsessed with politics as we are with sports. The difference between us and them is that whilst the Brit's apparent obsession with politics is micr-managed in the context of their national development, we Ghanaians prefer to obsess over politics...for the sake of it! Also, it appears our journalists prefer to do that as it is positively easier than talking about fundamental issues, such as sanitation and health.

    Okay, so now we have a National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)in place--yet to be fully operative, but campaign for registration has gone nation-wide, and even CANADA's reported on it in June, which you can read here.

    As regards sanitation, we have numerous debates in the papers--both print and electronic--that basically go off-tangent. When Accra mayor Stanley Blankson cleared the busy busy Accra business streets a few months ago, in a manner akin to peace enforcement soldiers, his resolve would soon break when the hawkers decided, with characteristic obduracy, to come back down to ply their informal trade.

    Equally praised and criticised, the mayor's popularity has yo-yoed in a manner akin to Ghanaian's attention towards stories that involve corruption of a ministerial kind.

    But I digress.

    Sports, without intentionally forcing a pun, is a whole different ballgame.

    I was sitting with my parents watching a live feed -- from Cape Verde on one of Ghana's premier TV stations, Metro TV -- of Ghana's football team -- the Black Stars -- playing against Cape Verde. Ghana would win 4-0. Michael Essien, Chelsea player and player of international repute, was in mid-field. Speculation on the private radio stations here in the capital were rife that he may have been frustrated by not being able to score in a manner characteristic of his reputation. Small wonder he offered no comment after the game was over!

    Someone who did comment was the Honorable Minister of Education and Sports,Yaw Osafo-Maafo, former Minister of Finance in the previous NPP administration (2001-2004). This was the same be-spectacled man who some would say blazed the trail for Ghana's now-hailed macro-economic stability, earning Ghana a B+ rating with Fitch. Ghana also paved the way for the low inflation of around fifteen percent that Ghana, despite the third petrol hike introduced last week. The minister is equally responsible for introducing the so-called F-CUBE, which I referred to in September.

    I cannot begin to think that the irony was lost over CITI-FM listeners when discussion of sports, as well as a possible qualification of Black Stars to Germany was discussed on the "Inside Politics" segment of the CITI Breakfast Show on Thursday.

    Carl von Klausewitz might just be turning in his grave.

    Conversely, Osafo-Maafo, now an interesting element in the equation that took Ghana's football team for qualification to Germany's World Cup in 2006, might just be turning towards the presidency in 2008.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    FCUBE, not Ice Cube

    Yesterday morning, as I went for my habitual constitutional with my pet dog Fenix, I saw – as I often do – this young girl of around nine years. She was wearing clothes more reminiscent of cold weather than this usually warm climate.


    It was not an illusion; the weather truly was cool that time of morning, and those not used to around fifteen-eighteen degrees at that time of day would happily misconstrue the weather as ice-cube “cold”, so that they could get to wear very warm cotton jackets.


    Today, I thought, it was time to muster up the courage to ask her a question—so I did.


    “How are you?” I asked in twi


    “O ye”, or “it’s fine/I’m fine”, she responded with a smile.


    Then I stopped. “Na, owo, inko school?” (aren’t you going to go to school?) I asked with an air of seriousness.


    She almost curtsied, smiling a weak smile.


    “Don’t you know that education is now free?”


    She nodded in the affirmative; I couldn’t believe that she did. I don’t think she’s been reading a newspaper lately!


    SO, standing my ground for the attention she had given me, I went in for the kill.


    “Education is now free. SO, tell your relative, or your parents, or those who look after you. Ok?”


    She nodded, and curtsied yet again.


    Evidently, a sign of a person with potentially good manners.


    But, I felt sad, at the fact that the so-called FCUBE, or Free Compulsory Basic Education had been launched a few weeks ago here in Accra by the Minister of Education Osaafo-Maafo, yet here was an example of those who knew NOTHING about this.


    But if it is a crusade I have to embark on, as was the case with CITI-FM, then I will do so. To the degree that each time she sees me, she will JUST want to go home and tell her relatives about FCUBE so that I don’t bother her again!:-)



    The Government of Ghana's Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) Program

    In response to these and other concerns about educational quality, the government launched, in 1996, its Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) program, a package of reforms designed specifically to focus on basic education access and quality. FCUBE has three primary components:

    • Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning: Activities focus on enhancing specific teaching skills through pre-service and in-service teacher training; improving teacher motivation through incentive programs; promoting quality of student learning and performance through curriculum reviews and improved teacher-student interaction; provision of adequate and timely learning materials to all schools; improvement of teacher-community relationships.
    • Improving Efficiency in Management: Activities focus on the re-organization and re-orientation of management practices in the education delivery system. Specifically, this component strives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of management performance in the education sector. Activities address management reforms; discipline and accountability in schools; increased enforcement of effective teaching and learning; elimination of teacher absenteeism, lateness and misuse of instructional time; and building the morale of pre-tertiary personnel.
    • Increasing Access and Participation: Activities are designed to ensure that there is total access and retention of all school-age children in the nine-year basic education program, and that all stakeholders participate fully in educational services/programs within their localities. Activities involve expanding infrastructural facilities and services to enhance access; addressing issues of enrolment and retention for all school-age children; enhancing quality in the provision of educational services and facilities; ensuring good quality teaching through the setting of performance targets; encouraging all stakeholders to participate fully in educational services/programs.

    To achieve these objectives, the Government of Ghana enlisted the assistance of a broad range of stakeholders. Local partners include District Education Oversight Committees (DEOCs), School Management Committees and Parent Teacher Associations, parents, teachers and other interested citizens. International partners include DFID, USAID, ADB, IDA, JICA, UNICEF and GTZ.








    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    FW: The Constant Gardener--a Must-Read!!! and Must-See!!

    From: E.K.Bensah II (TWN-Africa) []
    Sent: mercredi 14 septembre 2005 11:33

    I have not seen the movie as yet, but the review provides a damning insight into the execrable and sordid world of TNCs, pharmaceuticals and the complicity of the UK diplomats in the whole panorama of African life and death. In this case, KENYA is the country.

     Two brilliant articles written by John Le Carre and Larry Elliott (especially very incisive as always) respectively for the Guardian newspaper in 2001 are a must-read:

    1.,,436621,00.html (Evil triumphs in a Sick Society)

    QUOTE: “The WTO is not a law unto itself. Governments should write the rules, not multinational corporations. And if they fail to back Brazil, India and Egypt they will have blood on their hands. It was once said that all that is needed for evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing. And what is happening here is evil. I have tried to think of another word for it. But there isn't one. “

    2.,3858,4134705-103635,00.html (A Lot of Very Greedy People)

    QUOTE: “Big Pharma in the US had persuaded the state department to threaten poor countries with trade sanctions to prevent them making their own cheap forms of the patented lifesaving drugs that could ease the agony of 35m men, women and children in the third world who are HIV-positive, 80% of them in sub-Saharan Africa.”

    -enjoy! And prepare to be sobered…


    The Constant Gardener, directed by Fernando Meirelles, screenplay by Jeffrey Caine, based on the novel by John le Carré

    “Quayles always make reliable servicemen.” Thus Sir Bernard Pellegrin of the British Foreign Office describes the lineage of Justin Quayle, the “constant gardener” of the title. In fact, events will oblige Justin to break the long-term pattern of constancy and reliability—qualities demanded of a diplomat/bureaucrat serving the interests of British imperialism.

    John le Carré’s novel of political intrigue, The Constant Gardener, has been adapted for the screen by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God). The movie opens with the murder of Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz), the wife of Justin (Ralph Fiennes), a British diplomat in Kenya. As the latter begins looking into Tessa’s death, as well as the disappearance of her traveling companion and fellow activist, Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Koundé), he discovers that the two were on the verge of exposing a drug-testing program that killed some of the Africans it used as unwitting guinea pigs.

    An “axis of evil” is in operation: Dypraxa, a drug for tuberculosis manufactured by KDH and distributed in Africa by the House of 3 B’s. The slogan of the “big pharma” company is “The World is Our Clinic.” Indeed, as the company races to have its treatment for the disease approved, it doctors the negative test results with the complicity of the British High Commission in Nairobi. Many of the drug’s recipients are already dying of the African scourge, AIDS, which means that any of Dypraxa’s injurious or fatal side effects can be concealed. “We’re not killing people who are not already dead,” callously declaims Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston), the Head of Chancery.

    Predicted to be the future global pandemic, tuberculosis represents megabucks with Dypraxa positioned to shoot into the realm of blockbuster drugs. In the interests of this potential jackpot, no obstacles, such as Tessa (“that rarest thing: a lawyer who believes in justice”) can be tolerated.

    The drug’s inventor, Dr. Marcus Lorbeer (Pete Postlethwaite)—in self-imposed exile in a remote Sudanese desert—was one of the last persons to meet with Tessa before her death. He is in possession of a document that points a finger at the complicity of the British state in her death. When Justin succeeds by way of a pharma-watchdog group in Germany in locating Lorbeer, he obtains the goods, allowing him to blow the whistle, as much for Tessa as for the drug-trial’s numerous victims.

    Lorbeer sums up one of the film’s central themes: “Pharmaceuticals are right up there with arms dealers.”

    Meirelles has legitimately interpreted le Carré’s intricately plotted thriller. Kenya’s slums and villages and Sudan’s terrifying desert with its long-abandoned population are wrenching. Reportedly, actors Fiennes and Weisz were so shocked by Kenya’s poverty that they set up a trust fund to provide aid to the slum that features prominently in the film. Weisz told an interviewer, “In the slum of Kabira we saw a level of poverty that I don’t think anyone had seen before. There’s a million people living in a very small space with no running water, no electricity, no sanitation, with a very high level of disease and HIV.”

    Cast and crew contributed to The Constant Gardener Trust financing a bridge, schooling costs, road building and community groups in east Kenya. Producer Channing-Williams stated, “These are places where people are seriously, seriously poor and deprived, and water is at a dreadful premium. A lot of people were astounded by what they saw and wanted to do something about it.”

    The actors bring this empathy to their performances. Fiennes and Weisz are affecting. Weisz’s brief interactions with Kenyan children (some of which were apparently not scripted) make an impression. British Foreign Office representatives are sufficiently cold-blooded and calculating, without losing all traces of humanity. The actors don’t hold back in their depiction of colonialist condescension, tipped towards revulsion, when dealing with the African poor.

    When veteran British spy Donohue (Donald Sumpter) tells Justin that there is a contract out on him in Africa and coolly says, “Getting people out of countries is one of the few things we still do well,” one feels a blast from the old Empire. Maneuvers between Her Majesty’s cunning servants, the corrupt Kenyan officials and the cutthroat minions of big Pharma are convincingly enacted.

    In the character of Sir Kenneth Curtiss, actor Gerard McSorley (last seen in Omagh, in a strikingly different role) embodies the nasty, sordid head of the drug distributor, 3 B’s. Pete Postlethwaite as Lorbeer, who opportunistically headed up the Dypraxa tests and then runs off to hide out in the depths of Sudan, delivers a strikingly complex performance. Existing as a walking encyclopedia of the pharmaceutical corporation’s dirty work, his days are numbered.

    The relationship between the former colonial master and the corrupt representatives of the Kenyan state is brought out nicely in a scene where Justin is arrested by local police. “For a diplomat, you are not a very good liar,” says one of the latter; Justin responds, “I haven’t risen very high.”

    In general, the performances of an outstanding group of British actors tend to rise above the limitations of the script, including an unnecessary number of clichés, and its direction.

    In The Constant Gardener, the first meeting between Justin and Rachel stands out. Justin, having delivered a drab, abstract lecture on the “art” of British diplomacy, is verbally attacked by audience member Rachel: Why, she asks angrily, is Britain embroiled in IraqVietnam the sequel? How does the lecturer justify the British government’s killing of thousands of people for oil and a photo-op on the White House lawn? Rachel then goes on to advocate a policy that lamely involves the United Nations. Nonetheless, her point about the war in Iraq hits home.

    Without disclosing too much, mention should be made of the film’s final sequence, a deviation from the novel. Although the scene perhaps tips the scale toward an overly satisfying emotional catharsis, there is something to be said for the blunt exposure of the Foreign Office’s Pellegrin (Bill Nighy), a high-level official preparing for a new career with pharmaceutical giant KDH.

    Having floated the lie that Justin committed suicide, Pellegrin goes on to describe the murdered diplomat as the quintessential representative of his profession—someone who is courteous, self-effacing and would not have inconvenienced Her Majesty’s Government; in fact, says Pellegrin, nothing gave credit to his life so much as the way he ended it. The truth about Justin’s fate at the hand of the British state, together with a condemnation of the deaths “from lives that are bought so cheaply” to benefit the “civilized world,” dramatically closes the film.

    The decision to film this novel is not insignificant. After four decades of writing fiction, le Carré is an insightful and talented novelist with intimate knowledge of the workings of the British state and the ruling elite as a whole. The publication of The Constant Gardener in 2001 was preceded by an article in the Daily Telegraph, entitled, “The Criminals of Capitalism,” in which le Carré condemned “the conviction that, whatever profit-driven corporations do in the short term, they are ultimately motivated by ethical concerns, and their influence on the world is therefore beneficial, and so God help us all.” Le Carré continued, “It seemed to me, as I began to cast around for a story to illustrate the example, that the pharmaceutical industry offered the most eloquent example.”

    Le Carré’s book is based on documented cases, such as trials that the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer carried out in Nigeria during an epidemic of bacterial meningitis. The drug company administered to sick children an antibiotic that was banned for treatment of meningitis in the West. Despite its having been shown to cause damage to the joints and potentially to produce arthritis, Pfizer’s tests were directed towards obtaining licensing for a wider use of the drug. Records indicate that the deaths of patients were kept anonymous and recorded only as numbers. Without follow-up treatment for the trials’ survivors, there exists no official record of the long-term impact of the drug.

    The filmmakers have made a conscious connection with the objective situation. They are not simply stumbling around in the dark like so many of their colleagues. There are certain objective landmarks in the film; definite social and material interests are represented.

    Certain social types—corporate director, spy, diplomat, radical activist, political hit man— are delineated. Various issues arise, most essentially the role of transnational corporations, in the form of the pharmaceuticals, backed by the great powers. The ravaging of Africa by these forces and the desperate condition of its population are deeply felt. What type of society allows this to take place? What is the remedy?—are some of the questions that arise both logically and emotionally.

    The film’s remarkable cast labor with considerable diligence and conscientiousness, obviously affected by the extreme distress of the Kenyan population. It is within the core of the performances that one senses the growing global opposition to the Iraq war. A growing unease over the state of the world is to be welcomed.

    As in the book, Justin Quayle is not a fully formed character and never really comes to life, but rather functions as something of a congealed plot device. His transition from formless, invisible civil servant (and “gardener”) to an unstoppable—almost reckless—force raging against the machine at times stretches credulity. The depiction of his relationship with Tessa—the vital raison d’être for his personality about-face—contains some of the film’s weakest and least dramatic arrangements.

    Why did Meirelles opt for such jittery camera-work and a fragmented approach? The director might consider it artistically fashionable, given that City of God, his previous film about Brazil’s slums, was essentially made in this manner. Perhaps he is fascinated with new methods of narrative. He might argue that he is not interested in the social realism of the past and that only this oblique, indirect manner of telling a story is appropriate to our “new global reality” and new media, and so forth. Be that as it may, does this fragmentation help or hinder in relating the drama?

    In the most obvious sense, it obstructs the viewer from experiencing, except fleetingly, the characters’ inner world, as well as the film’s more suggestive images.

    One feels dissatisfied as well by the level of interaction with the Kenyans, who function more or less as background material. This reveals something about the director’s political outlook—his sympathy for but essential distance from what he terms the “underdogs” of society. The same problems were present in his depiction of the slum dwellers in City of God.

    While the director is not obliged to come up with a solution to the problems he chooses to focus on, one feels that Meirelles is made somewhat nervous by the seriousness of the concerns raised in the film—what is to de done with giant conglomerates that dominate the globe and wreak havoc on the world’s population? How to proceed against their plundering? Unfortunately, the fragmentation and relentless chop-editing function primarily to deflect attention from these weighty matters.

    The film raises issues for which there is no simple solution, but distracting the audience with cinematic pyrotechnics doesn’t help. It would be better, for example, to explain that this reality is difficult, that there are no quick fixes, or that a handful of outraged activists with slogans is not enough to make things right.

    The Constant Gardener disturbs, lingers in the mind, for its images of Africa, images of corporate thuggery, images of well-meaning people drowning in their own self-deception (Woodrow), for its inner look at the machinations of imperialism with its mendacious servants, and so forth. Society is in deep crisis, and cinema is called on to continuously address this fact.




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