Monday, May 24, 2010

TEDxDar 2010: A Huge Success

The first Tanzanian independently organized TED event (dubbed TEDxDar) took place in Dar es Salaam over the past weekend, with a live online simulcast. The conference centered around 3 main themes for discussion: "What would Nyerere Do?", "Hadithi Zetu" (Our Stories) and "The In-Between Place"

Various bloggers attended the event and gave their take on what took place. Mikocheni Report and Shurufu did a comprehensive live-blogging of the event, while Majibu and Swahili Street provided an overview.

Maya Wegerif, one of the speakers, posted the explosive poem she delivered at the event, titled "Who tells our stories?" The entire list of speakers can be found on the event website or event program (pdf).

Congratulations to the TEDxDar team for a successful event and we look forward to see videos of all presentations at the event.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

End of Ghetto

When Barack Obama was elected US President, many blacks, rightly or wrongly, saw the ushering of a new era - in which Ghetto and its life will be banished. Recently, I was listening to my old recordings of 2Pac Shakur's, and this one struck me. I thought: can Pac's ghetto be banished in these Obama years? Follow the song and its lyrics. Great and surreal production.

Major! Hell motherfuckin yeah
This one goes out to my nigga Mike Coolin, hell yeah
Mama raised a hellrazor... born thuggin
Heartless and mean, muggin at sixteen
On the scene watchin fiends buggin
Kickin up dust with the older G's
Soakin up the game that was told to me
I ain't never touched a gat that I couldn't shoot, I learned
not to trust the bitch from the prostitutes, was taught lessons
A young nigga askin questions while other suckers was guessin
I was ganked for sexin'
Elementary wasn't meant for me, can't regret it
I'm headed for the penitentiary, I'm cuttin class
and I'm buckin blastin, straight mashin'
Mobbin through the overpass laughin'
While these other motherfuckers try to figure out, no doubt
They jealous of a nigga's clout, tell me Lord
Can ya feel me? I keep my finger in the trigger
Cause some nigga tried to kill me
and mama raised a hellraizor, everyday gettin paid
Police on my pager, straight stressin
A fugitive my occupation is under question
Wanted for investigation, and even though
I'm marked for death, I'ma spark til I lose my breath
Motherfuckers, every time I see the paper
I see my picture, when a nigga's gettin richer
They come to get ya, it's like a motherfuckin trap
And they wonder why it's hard bein' black
Dear Lord can ya feel me, gettin major, unhh

Chorus: Stretch
Mama raised a hellrazor, stress gettin major
Lord be my savior, unnh
(Repeat 4X)

Mama raised a hellrazor

[2Pac] Dear Lord can ya feel me
Stress gettin major, unnh
Mama raised a hellrazor, stress gettin major
Tell me Lord can ya feel me, show a sign
Damn near running outta time, everybody's dyin
Mama raised a hellrazor, can't figure
Why you let the police beat down niggaz
I'm startin to think all the rich in the world is safe
While the poor babies restin in the early graves
God come save the youth
Ain't nothin else to do but have faith in you
Dear Lord I live the life of a Thug, hope you understand
Forgive me for my mistakes, I gotta play my hand
And my hand's on the sixteen-shot, semi-automatic
crooked cop killin Glock, tell me Lord
Can ya feel me? Show a way
I'm prayin but my enemies won't go away
And everywhere I turn I see niggaz burn
Every nigga that I know's on death row
My younger homie's seventeen and he paid a price
Little young motherfucker doin triple life
Though I tell him in his letters, it's gettin better
If my nigga knew the truth he'd hit the roof
Just heard ya baby's mama was smoked out, fuck the drama
Wanna break my Loc out, smokin blunts
Gettin drunk off that Tanqueray gin
Bout to break my nigga out the fuckin pen
Mama raised a hellrazor, uhh, yeah
C'mon, uhh, mama raised a hellrazor
Uhh, dear Lord can ya feel me, stress gettin major
(Lord be my savior, unnh)

Chorus: Stretch
Mama raised a hellrazor, stress gettin major
Lord be my savior, unhh
(repeat 2X)

Mama raised a hellrazor, stress gettin major

Dear Lord can ya hear me, it's just me
A young nigga tryin to make it on these rough streets
I'm on my knees beggin please come and SAVE ME
THE WHOLE WORLD done made a nigga crazy!
I got my .357 can't control it
Screamin die motherfucker and he's loaded
Everybody run for cover, I cause shit
Thug Life motherfucker, duck quick
Now am I wrong if I am don't worry me
Cause do or die gettin high til the bury me
Dear Lord if ya hear me, tell me why
Little girl like LaTasha, had to die
She never got to see the bullet, just heard the shot
Her little body couldn't take it, it shook and dropped
And when I saw it on the news I see busta girl killin 'Tasha
Now I'm screamin fuck the world, in the end
it's my friends, that flip-flop
Lip-locked on my dick when my shit drop
Thug Life motherfucker I lick shots
Every nigga on my block dropped two cops
Dear Lord can ya hear me, when I die
Let a nigga be strapped, fucked up, and high
with my hands on the trugger, Thug nigga
Stressin like a motherfuckin drug dealer
And even in the darkest nights, I'm a Thug for Life
I got the heart to fight now
Mama raised a hellraiser why cry
That's just life in the ghetto, Do or Die!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Naants' Indod'Emnyama

In the struggle against apartheid, Nelson Mandela defines the courage and bravery - willing to die for a just cause; and healing and reconciliation - willing to forgive those who took away his freedom and dignity for 27 years. But, there were other heroes who never saw 1994. The one that moves me the most is Vuyisile Mini. Born in 1920, he was an activist, a singer and a songwriter. In early 1960s, he composed Naants' Indod'Emnyama a Xhosa phrase for a threat: "Here Comes Black People". The song became an anthem for a struggle. In its popular rendition, the chorus Verwoerd Pasopa or Beware Verwoerd was added (Henrik Verwoerd was the architect of apartheid policy). So, basically the song was an irritating, boisterous, repetitive chorus saying: "Beware Verwoerd, Here Comes Black People". The song irritated the white establishment so much because it was so popular and so powerful that they found reasons to jail Vuyisile Mini. Mini, in his bass voice, used to sing it in meetings and rallies to arouse the passion of black people who would march stomping their feet. Later, the police found charges in his militant activities and the courts gave him death sentence.

In October 1964, he made the following statement from the death row:

"I am presently awaiting execution at Pretoria Central Gaol having been sentenced to death at the beginning of the year. On October 2, 1964, Captain Geldenhuys and two other policemen came to see me. They asked me if I had been informed that my appeal had been dismissed. I told them I was not interested to know from them what my advocate said. They then said there was still a chance for me to be saved, as they knew I was the big boss of the movement in the Eastern Cape. I must just tell them where the detonators and revolvers were, and they would help me. I refused. They then asked me about Wilton Mkwayi [subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment]. They said I saw Mkwayi in January 1963. I said `Yes.' They asked me if I was prepared to give evidence against Mkwayi whom they had now arrested. I said `No, I was not.' They said there was a good chance for them to save me from the gallows if I was prepared to assist them. I refused to assist. When they asked would I make the Amandla Ngawethu [‘Power is ours'] salute when I walked the last few paces to the gallows, I said, `Yes'. After a few more jokes of that nature, they left.

On 6 November 1964, Mini, together with Wilson Khayinga and Zinakile Mkaba were hanged in the Pretoria Central Prison. Story goes that Mini walked down the hallowed prison corridor towards the hanger's noose singing "Naants' Indod'Emnyama Pasipo Verwoerd". The next day, one of black prisoners who was facing a normal sentence sent the following entry for the official ANC journal:

"The last evening was devastatingly sad as the heroic occupants of the death cells communicated to the prison in gentle melancholy song that their end was near... It was late at night when the singing ceased, and the prison fell into uneasy silence. I was already awake when the singing began again in the early morning. Once again the excruciatingly beautiful music floated through the barred windows, echoing round the brick exercise yard, losing itself in the vast prison yards.

And then, unexpectedly, the voice of Vuyisile Mini came roaring down the hushed passages. Evidently standing on a stool, with his face reaching up to a barred vent in his cell, his unmistakable bass voice was enunciating his final message in Xhosa to the world he was leaving. In a voice charged with emotion but stubbornly defiant he spoke of the struggle waged by the African National Congress and of his absolute conviction of the victory to come. And then it was Khayinga's turn, followed by Mkaba, as they too defied all prison rules to shout out their valedictions. Soon after, I heard the door of their cell being opened. Murmuring voices reached my straining ears, and then the three martyrs broke into a final poignant melody which seemed to fill the whole prison with sound and then gradually faded away into the distant depths of the condemned section.

Now, you can listen Mariam Makeba's rendition of Naants' Indod'Emnyama - and imagine it sung with baritone voice of a black man stomping his feet, with pride and defiance, on his way to confronting death. May the Lord Rest His Soul in Peace.

The Math of Breaking Up

From Most people know love takes work, and effort is needed to sustain a happy relationship over the long term, but now a mathematician in Spain has for the first time explained it mathematically by developing a dynamical mathematical model based on the second law of thermodynamics to model "sentimental dynamics." The results are consistent with sociological data on marriage breakdowns.

The model produces a plausible scenario, through a sequence of effort inattentions, for the deterioration of a relationship in a gradual form, which seems to be typical according to data. Because of the effort gap, there is a tendency to lower the right effort level. Then the intrinsic instability of sentimental dynamics obeying the second law causes the piecewise decaying trajectories to move further and further away from the target trajectory and eventually to cross the threshold level xmin. This is considered a point of pre-rupture, since it is a matter of time before effort is abandoned.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back to Basics

Corruption: lack of integrity or honesty; use of a position of trust for dishonest gain

Monday, May 17, 2010

What went down in Rwanda before 1994?

I ran into excerpts of this book, and it has some fine, well researched observations on the Rwanda Genocide contrary to the public opinions.


To accept the standard model of “The Genocide,” one must ignore the large-scale killing and ethnic cleansing of Hutus by the RPF long before the April-July 1994 period, which began when Ugandan forces invaded Rwanda under President (and dictator) Yoweri Museveni on October 1, 1990. At its inception, the RPF was a wing of the Ugandan army, the RPF’s leader, Paul Kagame, having served as director of Ugandan military intelligence in the 1980s. The Ugandan invasion and resultant combat were not a “civil war,” but rather a clear case of aggression. However, the invasion led to no reprimand or cessation of support by the United States or Britain—and, in contrast to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait just two months before, which was countered in the Security Council by a same-day demand that Iraq withdraw its forces immediately—the Council took no action on the Ugandan invasion of Rwanda until March 1993. It did not even authorize an observer mission (UNOMUR) until late June 1993, the RPF by then having occupied much of northern Rwanda and driven out several hundred thousand Hutu farmers.


Paul Kagame and the RPF were creatures of U.S. power from their origins in Uganda in the 1980s. Allan Stam, a Rwanda scholar who once served with the U.S. Army Special Forces, notes that Kagame “had spent some time at Fort Leavenworth…not too far before the 1994 genocide.” Fort Leavenworth is the U.S. Army’s “commander general staff college…where rising stars of the U.S. military and other places go to get training as they are on track to become generals. The training that they get there is on planning large scale operations. It’s not planning small-scale logistic things. It’s not tactics. It’s about how do you plan an invasion. And apparently [Kagame] did very well.”

By 1994, Kagame’s RPF possessed, in addition to the necessary manpower and material, a sophisticated plan for seizing power in Rwanda that, in its final execution, Stam says, “looks staggeringly like the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 1991.” Stam adds that the RPF launched its final assault on the Rwandan government almost immediately after the assassination of Habyarimana, within 60 to 120 minutes of the shooting-down of his jet, with “50,000 [RPF] soldiers mov[ing] into action on two fronts, in a coordinated fashion”—clearly “a plan that was not worked out on the back of an envelope

More excerpts

Very big lies about Rwanda are now institutionalized and are part of the common (mis)understanding in the West. In reality, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame is one of the great mass murderers of our time, far surpassing Uganda’s former dictator Idi Amin.41 Yet, thanks to the remarkable myth structure that surrounds him, he enjoys immense popularity with his chief patron in Washington, his image of big-time killer transmuted into that of an honored savior, deserving strong Western support. Philip Gourevitch, one of Kagame’s prime apologists for many years, portrays him as an emancipator, a “man of action with an acute human and political intelligence,” who “made things happen.” He also compares Kagame to “another famously tall and skinny civil warrior, Abraham Lincoln.”42 A more recent hagiography by Stephen Kinzer portrays Kagame as the founding father of a New Africa, “one of the most amazing untold stories of the modern history of revolution,” as Kinzer explains it, because Kagame overthrew a dictatorship, stopped a genocide, and turned Rwanda into “one of the great stars” of the continent, with Western investment and favorable PR flowing.43 In fact, what Kagame overthrew was a multiethnic, power-sharing, coalition government; what Kagame imposed was a Tutsi-dominated dictatorship; and what Kagame turned Rwanda and the whole of Central Africa into was a rolling genocide that is ongoing. But it is true that he is a shining “star” in the Western firmament and its propaganda system

One more

The Pentagon has very actively supported these invasions of the DRC, even more heavily than it supported the RPF’s drive to take Kigali. This support led to the killing of many thousands of Hutu refugees in a series of mass slaughters (ca. 1994-1997), and also provided cover for a greater series of Kagame-Museveni assaults on the DRC that have destabilized life in this large country of perhaps sixty million people, with millions perishing in the process.56 In his letter of resignation to Chief Prosecutor Hassan Jallow, Filip Rentjens, a Dutch academic and one-time expert witness before the ICTR, took issue with the “impunity” that protects the RPF leadership from prosecution. “[RPF] crimes fall squarely within the mandate of the ICTR,” he wrote. “[T]hey are well documented, testimonial and material proof is available, and the identity of the RPF suspects is known….It is precisely because the regime in Kigali has been given a sense of impunity that, during the years following 1994, it has committed massive internationally recognized crimes in both Rwanda and the DRC

The rest of excerpts are here

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What is the role of government?

There is always ambiguity on a truer role of a government. Most of the disagreements are ideological, but practically, what is the role of an effective government? The governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer whose state is among only two in US running budget surplus on his take on a role of a government.

The tea party people get up in the morning and they make phone calls to each other that they‘re going to go to a rally. And they use a subsidized telephone system. Then they drive down a road that was built by the government that is protected by government workers called highway patrolmen.
They get to a rally and they carry their signs and they are protected by the firemen and the policemen who are in that town. And then they eagerly drive home and say, “It was a success". We‘re against the government.

So you have got to have government that works. In Montana, we‘re one of the two states that have a surplus. We have $400 million in the bank. But I‘m still challenging expenses. I‘m not cutting government. We‘re challenging expenses of government, the same way a small businesses and some big businesses all over the country are. It‘s not a sin to be frugal. It‘s not a sin to challenge expenses. But it is a sin to cut back on education for our most valuableresource. And when we‘re expected to keep people in prison, we should keep them in prison. Don‘t turn them loose because, well, you‘ve got a bad budget. That‘s government that doesn‘t work.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Social experiments to fight poverty

A good talk by this brilliant economist. She is basically using good old randomized trials to provide ground evidence for social policies.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Another Quiet Epidemic in Tanzania

There is unnoticed epidemic of diabetes creeping up in Tanzania as well as in other low income countries. Few practitioners in Dar have cautiously voiced their grave concerns in this new epidemiological trend. Kwamba, eventually we will have to address the growing morbidity and mortality rates of chronic non-infectious diseases. Of which our health systems have been understandably ignoring because of the burden of infectious diseases. I have been trying to figure out what has happened that wabongo are getting diabetes in high numbers. It is important to figure this out right away because chronic diseases are expensive to manage, and prevention is always the best approach. Besides, our healthcare system is so crippled that once this Diabetes thing has caught full steam, we are toast.

I have noticed that 1)we consume a lot of sugar, baiskeli za Azam Ice-Cream zipo kila kona, and they are dirt cheap. Na joto hili la bongo, it makes sense for people to go overboard on sugar. Same as soda, na juice baridi, which are available kwenye kila kona ya nchi. 2) There is are link between TB and Diabetes—kwamba if you are infected with TB (not necessarily diseased) it changes carbohydrates mechanism and lead to impaired glucose tolerance. Essentially, having infected with TB, it increases your risk of getting diabetes. This is an interesting finding because Bongo is a TB endemic country, and chances are majority of us are infected with TB (Latent TB). I’m sure most of us have positive Mantoux test, I know I am. It makes sense that as we consume so much sugar and majority of us have the TB infection, diabetes epidemic is inevitable.

Moving forward, MOH has to start a countrywide surveillance on new and old Diabetes cases, so as we can have the data ready for future studies. And initiating bottom-up community awareness campaign on diabetes, people have to understand the implications of going overboard on sugar especially, when they are already at risk. Obviously there are other risks for Diabetes that will also have to be addressed as well, but it has to start now, because we simply cannot afford another epidemic.