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The African Union at 50

May 27th, 2013 No comments
An African Union billboard outside the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia featuring the four main languages of the international body- Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

An African Union billboard outside the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia featuring the four primary languages of the international body- Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- While it’s memorial day here in the United States, this past Saturday it was the 50th anniversary of the African Union [formerly the Organization of African Unity until 2001]. I visited the AU/OAU’s original headquarters in 2011in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after the hectic melée’s of Egypt, Libya and Bahrain when I needed a bit of a break.Upon reading of the AU’s 50th anniversary festivities, I thought a short photo essay was in order.

I initially ventured to the AU’s grounds from my hotel on Churchill Road to try and gather information on the possible creation of Jubaland astatelet  in southwestern Somalia as well as the doings of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Dolo Odo refugee camp on the Somali border. But I quickly discovered that a Chinese government construction outfit was building a gleeming new AU conference hall and tower on the adjoining lot which captured my attention.

An Ogadeni woman exits the Chinese government's construction of the new African Union complex on April 13, 2011. Just after I took this photo the Chinese man in the pink shirt ordered an Ethiopian security guard at the site to wrest my camera from me because he deemed it forbidden to take photos of the Chinese foremen and engineers. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

An Ogadeni woman exits the Chinese government’s construction of the new African Union complex on April 13, 2011. Just after I took this photo the Chinese man in the pink shirt ordered an Ethiopian security guard at the site to wrest my camera from me because he deemed it forbidden to take photos of the Chinese foremen and engineers. Fortunately for myself, the burly security man had no clue how to erase the flash card on my Olympus DSLR ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

As the China State COnstruction Engineering Corporation builds the new African Union conference center, goat herders push their flocks past. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

As the China State COnstruction Engineering Corporation builds the new African Union conference center, goat herders push their flocks past. Despite the vast poverty surrounding the Chinese project, Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated: “China, its amazing reemergence and its commitments for a win-win partnership with Africa is one of the reasons for the beginning of the African renaissance.” ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Despite being adjacent to war ravaged Somalia, the then coming partition of north and south SUdan, and and hermetic Eritrea, the AU's Situation Room was a dim office of tranquility in the comparative safety of the Ethiopian capital. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Despite being adjacent to war ravaged Somalia, the then coming partition of north and south SUdan, and and hermetic Eritrea-not to mention the rest of the conflicts spread across the continent, the AU’s Situation Room was a dim office of tranquility in the comparative safety of the Ethiopian capital. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

In the courtyard of the original AU headquarters before the Chinese project was completed in 2012. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

In the courtyard of the original AU headquarters before the Chinese project was completed in 2012 stands a monument for the 25th anniversary of the OAU as it was then called in 1988. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A poster promoting the AU's peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. ©2011 Derek Henry Flod

A poster promoting the AU’s peacekeeping mission in Darfur, Sudan. ©2011 Derek Henry Flod

As the AU's new tower took shape over Addis Ababa's low rise skyline dotted with corrugated aluminum shacks coated in red dust. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

As the AU’s new tower took shape over Addis Ababa’s low rise skyline dotted with corrugated aluminum shacks coated in red dust, the contrast between Chinese influence and African ground realities never seemed more stark. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

 

A Decade of War and Peace

August 20th, 2012 No comments


Barcelona- Partly out of boredom and partly out of the itch to simply create something new out of old, I threw together this photo montage over the weekend. In this era of digital photography where one shoots thousands of frames rather than analog hundreds, I was reflecting on how almost all of the images I make will never see the light of day in this regard. I put this video together in a largely random fashion with images that have been just sitting in my laptop for years. I put the photos in the order they came to me as I grabbed them one by one from various folders containing my view of many of the biggest news events of the last 10 years.

Interspersed with them are much more sublime moments of everyday life around the world. An elephant in Thailand, an aged priest in Ethiopia, a glitzy office tower in Manhattan. This has been my reality and is our collective reality. Globalization and social networking simultaneously accelerate worldwide travel and technological integration while hyper compartmentalizing our lives. We speak more so to only those who we want to and listen to those with whom we already agree.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah preparing to depart for Ghazni province with the Afghan airforce to campaign in remote ethnic Hazara villages. Abdullah was the leading opposition candidate challenging President Hamid Karzai in the August 2009 elections. On the right stands a Shi’ite Seyyid accompanying him to Shia population centers for campaign credibility. ©2009 Derek Henry Flood

No one knows just where any of this is going. Billionaire fraudsters suddenly imprisoned, social revolutions springing up from seemingly nowhere (though not quite), calcified dictatorships counted on for decades in the interests of “stability” suddenly crumbling to pieces, it seems as if the entire world order is in question.

No grand conspiracy here, just plain, old awful war. On August 15, 2006, a Lebanese ambulance lay destroyed by what appeared to be an Israeli missile strike (quite possibly a drone strike or SPIKE anti-tank missile) outside of Sidon in southern Lebanon, an irrefutable violation of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. Pro-Likud right-wing bloggers would dare say scenes like these were part of elaborate false flag operations by Hezbollah or photoshop masterpieces by left-wing or pro-Hezbollah journalists meant to demonize the Israel Defense Forces. This ambulance was not part of the so-called “ambulance controversy” nor am I aware that this particular wreckage appeared anywhere in the international media at the time.  ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

May Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

December 31st, 2011 No comments

Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi got his backside kicked by Spinal Tap on The Simpsons two decades ago. Funny how his Matt Groening rendering looks a lot like Libyan revolutionary street art.

New York- Watching my old Simpsons DVDs the other day, I caught this quick gag where a tout tries to sell Bart a Spinal Tap t-shirt where the band is kicking Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi’s backside. This art presaged that of the Libyan revolutionaries by a good nearly 20 years. The Qaddafi shirt appears in The Otto Show which was broadcast in April 1992 at the end of the show’s third season.

2011 was one crazy roller coaster of a year. I want to thank some of the people that made the year both possible and memorable: Faisal my driver in eastern Libya who took me as far as Ras Lanuf and invited this strange Westerner who didn’t eat meat into his home for lunch, watching the circus that was Libyan state TV, and letting play with his Kalashnikov which he procured in case things got really bad. My old San Diego friend Brad, a reformed Orange County punker turned family man/junior diplomat at U.S. Embassy Bahrain and Nabeel Rajab for giving me his thoughts on the grim human rights situation in his besieged country. In Addis Ababa I want to thank my friend Carlo who introduced me to the last Italians in Ethiopia at the Buffet de le Gare near the defunct railroad station. Sorry we never did the trip to the Somali border mio amico! Next time… Khalid and the very hospitable Amazight (Berber) rebels in Nalut in Libya’s Jebel Nafusa. I hope the war really is over for you. Kenny in Barcelona who rescued me on the way back from North Africa when there was no place to stay in the city on a hot summer night. And Kostas and Veronika at Caveland on Santorini, I hope to come again! I miss those pups. Caroline and all the staff at the American Embassy in Paris closed out my year very nicely and for that I am grateful.

No one could have ever predicted all of the things that took place this last year. The world began to reorder itself in a messy and violent way. The status quo became unbearable to the point of both peaceful and armed revolt. The drone war escalated, the neocons are trying to stage an awkward comeback and a host of other negative trends mean we are in no way out of the proverbial woods. But people were and are willing to fight and die for their freedom which came at a terrible cost in Libya (and continues unabated in Syria). Plenty of dictators-yes I’m talking about you Central Asia-and monarchs-GCC, Jordan, Morocco-still stand around the world. The clock is ticking for Bashar al-Assad. Plenty of issues seek to be ironed out in 2012 in the European Union to say the least. God only knows where the next crisis will arise in the coming year and anyone who says they do is likely a fool.

Happy New Year from TWD!!!

Do They Know It’s Christmas Time? Feed the World…

December 24th, 2011 No comments

New York-Last night some bar fly friends and I were screaming this tune on a freezing Brooklyn sidewalk at some ungodly hour. None of us could come close to remembering the full lyrics. “Snow in Africa….do they know it’s Christmas time at all…the other ones…” Earlier this year, taking a bit of a break from the revolutionary Arab world, I spent some time in Ethiopia, a place that had occupied my imagination…well…since this Band Aid video. Twenty-seven years after Bob Geldof and co tried to save rural Ethiopians from  Mengistu Haile Mariam’s vile Marxist Derg junta, plenty of people in the Ethiopian highlands still depend on food aid from the developed world.

I visited the lauded rock hewn churches of Lalibela and was almost more taken aback by the sprawling feeding center just outside of the little town that I wandered into. Ethiopia has obviously come a long way since the Derg’s civil war era but Meles Zenawi is certainly no saint and Isaias Afewerki is just plain crazy it seems (Note: the two big men are cousins). Ethiopia’s stalemated conflict with Eritrea, its lack of any port, military adventures in Somalia, and being located in an all around unstable neighborhood has kept most kinds of development at bay (save for communist China as of late). Come on Meles and Isaias, don’t you guys know it’s Christmas time at all??

A child looks through a barbed wire enclosure around a feeding station in Lalibela. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A young highlander queues up for a dispersement of food staples to make it through the hunger season. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

A Kalashnikov-laden security man tries to keep order as wheat is off-loaded outside the feeding center. To me this image represents a classic juxtaposition Some sort of "guns and butter" situation. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Wheat handouts are then packed onto waiting mules and transported to the surrounding villages at dusk. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

The immediate hillsides in the area appeared completely denuded and locals had to climb higher and higher to collect firewood. Rural environmental degradation writ large. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New Horn of Africa Article Out

April 29th, 2011 No comments

New York- The fruits of my intellectual East African labors came to bear and my Jubaland article is out in this week’s edition of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor. Though it may appear to be a concise, quiet analysis, a lot of shoe leather went into the production of this piece, not to mention a decent sunburn or two in the thin air of the Ethiopian capital. I must say, after having returned stateside two weeks ago now, I desperately miss my daily helpings of injera, the oddly (at first anyway) delectable Ethiopian national dish. A young Ethiopian-American kid I met in Lalibela told me how I would be in great shape after the combination of high altitude walking and zero fat, zero preservative food. Unfortunately, I am sure I am back to me old habits after multiple trips to some of my favorite DC and NYC eateries and drinkeries since I’ve been back.

Just cranked out yet another issue of Militant Leadership Monitor, should be another great issue. I will post a plug for that when we go live with it. I’ve also added two Wikileaks links along the right side of this page-that connecting to the Guantánamo files and that connecting to the Cablegate Cable Viewer. Take a look.

In other, more dire news, Syria still seems to be burning in it’s own self imposed Hades. Aside from sanctions and further isolation, the internationals are powerless to stop al-Assad from smashing the Syrian people as protests are now reported in all corners of the country-including Qamishle in the very vulnerable northeastern pocket of Syrian Kurdistan.

Latakia, Syria at dusk. Taken from the roof of my hotel en route to the Lebanon war which would change my life. ©2006 Derek Henry Flood

A minaret in Latakia, Syria bellows the azan at dusk. I wonder what it must be like to be in revolutionary Syria now that the fear barrier has been breached.©2006 Derek Henry Flood

Coming Home

April 17th, 2011 No comments

Ground Zero from the sky where this journey without end began (sort of) almost 10 years ago. Thankfully this US Airways flight did not require Captain Chesley Sullenberger at the helm. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

New York- Following six weeks of African adventure of all sorts, it felt alright to return to New York (before turning right around and heading to Washington for Jamestown’s MENA conference) with all of the difficult readjustment that entails. I’ve realized that one of the most difficult things about returning to the United States is the change in diet. After eating a nearly vegan, preservative-free diet in pre-Lent Orthodox Ethiopia-where practicing Christians eat vegan for nearly half of every year- for the last ten days, it’s tough on the body returning to a sugar heavy, preservative-laden American diet.

To buy tickets to this Wednesday’s MENA conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on think tank row in DC, click here.

An Ethiopian Orthodox priest reads the gospels in a moment of quiet, vegan contemplation on the stoop of an 800 year-old church carved out of solid bedrock called Beit Emmanuel. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood .

China in Africa

April 9th, 2011 No comments

The monitor in the African Union's Situation Room here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Addis Ababa- Crashed the African Union HQ here in Addis yesterday to do research on my next Jamestown article. Absolutely fascinating, rather quiet place. I just showed up at the front gate, which took me a bit to locate, handed them my California driver’s license which got me a visitor badge, and walked in and wandered around. I was looking for information on a certain volatile political situation in the region and stumbled into the AU’s Situation Room, a fascinating office with a large flatscreen monitor with live news feeds from all over the continent (and these days that’s a lot of information). But what was most notable was the glittering, massive new AU complex being constructed by the Chinese government in the neighboring lot. It was as if the Jamestown Foundation’s China in Africa conference had suddenly sprung to life.

This is Africa! Chinese government foreman, Ethiopian laborer. Total south-to-south globalization. D.C., do you see this? ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

After working on my story at the AU-and an AU representative telling me the Chinese were unrelenting in their pursuit of primacy in not only Ethiopia but in all of Africa-it became blatantly obvious that anywhere where the political space allowed them, the Chinese were ready to move in overnight. I snooped around a sprawling construction site that cast wide shadows over corrugated aluminum shanties. It felt like I was breathing in some globalization cliché but it was all too visceral. It looked to be a hideously cheap structure that was being built at a breakneck pace. Progress at any cost looks to be the Chinese model here in the Horn of Africa. Click here for a bit of Chinese propaganda on the whole operation.

Gift of the Chinese people to Africa? OK. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Down the backstreets. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

In other TWD news, my last three destinations have not cooled off in the slightest. The Bahraini government grabbed another human rights activist in a night raid. Back in Cairo, the Egyptian army showed it is not as benevolent as many had thought as they raged during renewed protests calling for Mubarak and family to be tried. And in Libya, a group of journos, including a gal from Harvard I had socialized with on a few occasions, were captured by Qaddafist forces outside of Brega. Hope to god they are ok. Damn dangerous there. The fuse continues to burn. I’m off to Lalibela to explore the 12th century rock churches and expect to hassled by an army of touts. Should be fun. Been wanting to go there for about a decade.

This is how touts work their minibuses in Addis. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Lion of Judah. Jah! ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Looking at Bahrain from Ethiopia

April 6th, 2011 No comments

Addis Ababa- I’ve got a new article out on ATol today about political and sectarian repression in little Bahrain. Going to try and do a major road trip here to look into a Horn of Africa trans-border story and I have no clue whether it’ll even work but going to go for it anyway. According to the wikitravel entry for Addis, Ethiopia supposedly has the 4th worst internet connectivity in the world. Glad I read that AFTER arriving here! Loving this city though. Vive Jeune Afrique! Oh, and the coin that my editor Tony used in the graphic to the left, I am bidding on on Ebay! Funny…