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Showing posts from October, 2011

Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh

It is unfortunate that, although thoroughly enjoying this book, you can't help but feel a little bit dirty for having read it and liked it. That said, Evelyn Waugh picks apart the colonial world of the inter-war years wonderfully and treats most parties involved with the contempt they deserve. 
The story itself follows the story of a fictional African island state of Azania. Their Oxford-educated monarch, Emperor Seth, starts a programme of reforms to modernise his country. Emperor Seth recruits an Englishman, Basil Seal, who, needing something to do with his life, decides that working in Azania is a great idea. 
So with a cast of characters designed to add an element of chaos to the story, things move forward at quite a pace. The French consul, Ballon, becomes increasingly disgruntled with the modernisation plans, as do the church leaders - especially when their place of worship is threatened in an infrastructure building programme. 
Inevitably, all roads lead to a coup d'é…

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

Following on from my first foray into the world Agatha Christie's Poirot earlier this year, I couldn't resist picking up another novel from the collection. Similarly to last time, I selected a novel set in the Middle East, this time in the British Protectorate of Mesopotamia, what is now Iraq.
Published in 1936, and set prior to Poirot's most famous case, Murder on the Orient Express, this novel is centred around a group of scientists on the site of an archeological dig - something close to the author's heart as her second husband, Max Mallowan, was himself an archeologist. Most of the action doesn't take place at the dig though, but rather focuses around the claustrophobic confines of the staff compound.
The narrative starts with a preface by Dr Giles Reilly, who goes about introducing us to our narrator, Nurse Amy Leatheran. Nurse Leatheran assumes the narrative, retelling the story of what happened subsequent to her employment by Dr Leidner, one of the archeolo…

World Food Day 2011: Food Security

In one of my endless Twitter conversations with Inii Ukpabio, I recently learned of something that had gone hitherto unnoticed in my knowledge of development studies. It related to different types of security and the fact that there was such a thing as ‘food security’.
Unknowingly, I had already shown some awareness of the issue of food security in East Africa by looking at the choices families may have to make between food costs and education, and also when looking at aid distribution during the current East African famine.
And so, being a latecomer to the international development party, I scratched my head a little and then realised what a massive issue it really is and could continue to be for the world and in particular, to my beloved corner of East Africa.
In Uganda, where the shilling remains so weak and inflation so high, the implications on food security are seriously high for the average citizen on the street. In the urban environments, wages aren’t going as far as they o…

The Right Kind of Aid II: East African Drought Crisis

Anyone with a heart, or even a scrap of interest in their fellow human beings, will find it hard not to have been moved by the scenes of hunger and desolation coming from the Horn of Africa. Countries such as Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Sudan are having all been affected in some way by an immense drought that has it the region. Eritrea may also be affected, but according to the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) data is hard to come by there. At a time like this the support of a foreign government towards an affected group of people shows the great degree of compassion that people can show to their brothers and sisters around the world.
Indeed, it can go some way towards restoring my faith in humanity – especially where the Western powers are involved. In this spirit, on the 6th July, the UK Government stated that the size of their assistance will run to £38 million pounds (just under $61 million at mid-market rates) which, ac…

The Bakiga Window: The Closest Thing to Eden?

The sun is setting to my left as I sit looking out over what could be paradise on earth. The trees are helpfully beginning to mute the warmth of our most powerful star as it sinks lower and lower behind the line of hills to the West.
It is Saturday 16th April and I am sat watching the evening sky paint its moving picture over Lake Bunyonyi, from a vantage point on the Itambira Island resort of Byoona Amagara.
As with every year, after a week of attending meetings, organising my own students and working on education projects with various institutions around Kabale, we retreat to Lake Bunyonyi to relax and reflect for the weekend. As with previous years, we have come with a group of Kigezi High School students and staff.
I will admit, that at this moment, I am leaving all and sundry to their own devices and, although I am sat with two close colleagues, no one is speaking and I am glad of that fact.
This place is so unspoiled by humanity – I guess I mean large numbers of westerners. Th…