January 2007

This photo shows one of the solar-powered lamp-posts that are springing up
around Burkina Faso, especially in small towns which otherwise have no
electricity. This one is at the colourful market in Markoye, about 40km
north-east of Gorom-Gorom.
Solar power of course has considerable potential in places like Burkina, where
there is more than enough sun. But the purchase and replacement costs for the
equipment are still prohibitive for people’s personal use.

We’ve been having a number of “lights out” at my home due to power shortages. Ghana has just made an agreement with Nigeria to help supply electrical power.

Nigeria has agreed to supply 80 megawatts of electricity to Ghana as part of a deal to help the country to address its current energy crisis.

Additionally, it has accepted to take over the supply of power to Benin and Togo, to take off the burden on Ghana and bring some relief to the country.
. . .
President Kufuor said Ghana again was exploring other alternative sources including solar and bio-diesel.

All Ghana’s power comes from the Volta dam. If water is low, we have both water and electricity shortages. It would provide Ghana with a great deal more security, as well as flexibility, if we establish other sources of power. I would love to see Ghana develop its use of solar power. That is the only power source we can count on for sure, and we have plenty of it. Ghana needs to develop both electrical resources, and water conservation and resources. Taxes and tax breaks could be used to encourage the use of solar power. Ghana should apply the following principles:

non-damage to economic growth, non-damage to the level of energy services provided to the energy consumers, and also reduce the damage to the environment. The order of priority should be:

1. Becoming more efficient and preventing waste;

2. Exploitation of residual energy;

3. Production and exploitation of renewable and alternative energies (exploitation of non-fossil sources). For Ghana, the obvious area to look at is solar power.

Solar power installation

Our Government may need to pass a legislation that all new houses built need to consider the inclusion of solar power provision. This could be encouraged by a small tax on new buildings, which is waived if adequate solar power facilities are installed. The tax incentive offsets the considerable cost of solar power, making it more attractive. This is a way to fund solar power at no cost to government. Would it not be wonderful if Ghana became the leading developer of solar power in Africa? It must surely have a future, and those countries who embrace it will get the opportunity to have the industry based in their country.

With appreciation to Dr. Doom for the graphic

Dan Froomkin pulls the pieces of the story together.

While Dick Cheney undoubtedly remains the most powerful vice president this nation has ever seen, it’s becoming increasingly unclear whether anyone outside the White House believes a word he says.
. . .
Cheney is increasingly out of touch with reality. He seems to think that by asserting things that are simply untrue, he can make others believe they are so.
. . .
Meanwhile, the trial of Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby is exposing to public view the vice president’s role as master-manipulator of misinformation and vindictive retaliator-in-chief — once again, indifferent to the truth.
. . .
And Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles nails it.

The dancer here is terrific. Also notice the drummer, particularly in the transition to the sebené, just before the dancer comes on. As the person who posted the video on YouTube puts it:

WOW! It is such a pleasure to watch drummer Isaac “Machine” Katalayi lead the transition into the sebené (you’ll want to replay it just to watch him), while Shiko makes EXACTLY the right sounds come out of that Ibañez Guitar!

Malage is a much respected vocalist. Always in demand, he is frequently called upon to lend his voice to the production of albums by big name artists from his country. Has had his own solo career, and has sung with some of the best Congolese musicians, including 1985-89 he sang with Franco and TPOK Jazz.

Kanda Bongo Man

Permanence, stability and continuity are very rare commodities in the political and social life of central west Africa. Congo, Zaire, Democratic Republic Of Congo, Mobutu, Kabila, this faction, that faction – it all leaves people very little to cling onto, let alone dance about. That’s why it’s all the more reassuring and heartening to see that Kanda Bongo Man is still strutting his stuff with his hi-octane unleaded soukous after a career spanning more than a quarter of a century. Soukous, is THE pop sound of Africa. It was originally blended from Cuban rhumba, Congolese rhythms and stripped down disco production values in the clubs and funhouses of mid 1970s Kinshasa, capital of what was then Zaire. The name comes from the French ‘secouer’, ‘to shake’, which is just about all you can do when you’re under its spell, unless you’re deaf or dead that is. Its hallmarks are a tub-thumping all-consuming groove, mesmerizing guitar work and gorgeous close harmony vocals. Kanda Bong Man, who earned his ‘Bongo Man’ nickname from his drummer grandfather, fronted the seminal early Soukous combo Bella Bella before moving to Paris from Kinshasa in 1979 to pursue a solo career. His 1981 album ‘Iloye’ topped charts all over Africa and he went to release a string of classics on the Hannibal label, including ‘Amour Fou’ and ‘Kwassa Kwassa’, the later named after a hip-grinding dance that Kanda Bongo Man invented.

Wikipedia tells us:

He is most famous for the structural changes he implemented to soukous music. The previous approach was to sing several verses and have one guitar solo at the end of the song. Kanda Bongo Man revolutionized soukous by encouraging guitar solos after every verse and even sometimes at the beginning of the song. His form of soukous gave birth to the kwassa kwassa dance rhythm where the hips move back and forth while the hands move to follow the hips.

You can find music from Kanda Bongo Man at Amazon.

More news here than on the TV.

Annan delivered the first lecture in the Golden Jubilee lecture series in Accra. He said that building for the future must be based on these three pillars: security which requires peace, development, and human rights which requires the rule of law.

Busumuru Annan said the high percentage of the youth in Africa, urbanization and technological change were changing realities that demanded faster thinking and quicker action to serve the needs of the African people.

“They demand more inclusive, more accountable and more responsive Governments, and leaders who are in tune with this new Africa and myriad complexities”

He also said he plans to go into farming and agriculture. That would be a huge boon to Ghana. A man of his stature, with all his international connections could do wonders for Ghanaian agricultural development. He could increase Ghanaian prosperity, and become an even greater inspiration at home and abroad. If a nation cannot feed itself, it cannot do much else. Ghanaian agriculture has much potential, but is still struggling.

Better than almost any European, Ryszard Kapuscinski knew and loved Africa. He knew that Africa was not one place, or one people, as many westerners tend to view it. As he writes in the introduction to Shadow of the Sun:

This is therefore not a book about Africa, but rather about some people from there – about encounters with them, and time spent together. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa.” In reality, except as a geographical appellation, Africa does not exist.

The Guardian has an excellent article about Kapuscinski’s life and work, that includes this:

In 1957 he went to Africa, and returned there as often as possible over the next 40 years. He covered the whole continent, including 27 revolutions and coups, and was exhilarated by the feeling he was in at history in the making. He and his employers had no money, but he was a deal maker who often had the contacts to help other journalists who did have the money to hire planes, and thus both arrived at the scene of the latest drama. “Africa was my youth,” he said later, describing how much the continent had meant to him.

He was present in Ghana for independence, and the first chapters of Shadow of the Sun are essays he wrote about being in Ghana at that time. Although his eye as a journalist missed nothing, and his descriptions have deadly accuracy, he also had the voice of a poet, and saw people and events in their historical and spiritual context. With his gift for language he was also blessed with one of the worlds most brilliant translators for his works in English, Klara Glowczewska. There are many things I would like to say about Kapuscinski, or quote from his works, but I think I will conclude this post with a very lovely observation of women getting off the bus, from a bus ride he took in 1957 from Accra to Kumasi. Many travellers to Ghana have remarked on the style and grace of Ghanaian women. Kapuscinski captures a bit of the essence from that time.

Every now and then our bus stops along the side of the road. Someone wants to get off. If it’s a young woman with a child or two (a young woman without a child is a rare sight), there unfolds a scene of extraordinary agility and grace. First, the woman will secure the child to her body with a calico scarf (her small charge sleeping the entire time, not reacting). Next, she will squat down and place the bowl from which she is never separated, full of food and goods of all kinds, on her head. Then, straightening up, she will execute that maneuver of a tightrope walker taking his first step above the abyss: carefully, she finds her equilibrium. With her left hand she now clutches a woven sleeping mat, and with her right the hand of a second child. And this way – stepping at once with a very smooth, even gait – they enter a forest path leading to a world I do not know and perhaps will never understand.

Steve Gilliard describes the dreadful effect of American warlords and mercenaries in Iraq. The use of mercenaries in Iraq, and the role they play, cries out for investigation. This is a lasting source of shame that very few here in the US have even begun to understand.

Any effort to bring order to Baghdad is undermined by our use of mercenaries. Now, while Bush is blathering on about JAM and the other militias, the largest militia in Iraq is Blackwater and friends. Lawless, loyal to their employer, the use of mercenaries has turned any idea of respecting law into a joke.

The great mistake of the KMT in uniting China was to tolerate warlords. Well, Triple Canopy and Blackwater are certainly warlords. How can JAM demobilize when private soldiers roam the streets of their cities? The Army and police are merely adjuncts to the militias at this point.

You cannot have private armies and then expect the other warlords to disarm. Isn’t going to happen.

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