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’sTerrorism 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.
New York- I’ve just read on Al Jazeera English that the staff of the hospital in Ajdabiya have decided to rename a square after fallen English journalist Tim Hetherington. When I read that he had died in Misurata, my first reaction was that I did not know he was in Libya in the first place. That was until I read a blog post by Jon Lee Anderson on the newyorker.com which jogged my memory somehow of my last day in Libya where I realized that I had seen and noted Hetherington…standing outside the emergency room in Ajdabiya alongside Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario (who would be taken hostage there the following afternoon). What a fateful image that now replays in my mind.
In other much more comparatively staid developments, C-SPAN has posted videos from the Jamestown Foundation’s April 20 MENA conference at the Carnegie Endowment where I spoke on my experiences in the Libyan conflict.
Washington D.C.- I gave a presentation today here in DC about my experiences, observations, and analysis of what I witnessed in Libya during a few harrowing weeks in March. I was sure to mention that a colleague of mine, Clare Gillis is currently hostage in Libya. According to USA Today, who she was writing for up until her capture by Qaddafist forces, she is still captive and her parents were in DC today trying to publicize the case of their missing daughter. I explained to the audience that in my view, Libya is the most dangerous spot on earth to be working as a journalist in 2011. The threat does not come from the rebels, but from the Qaddafists fighting them who have orders to capture (or in the case of the Al Jazeera cameraman kill) foreign journalists. I did not know either man terribly well but we are all part of the same milieu, those who constantly chase the flame. The way the world works now, I looked them both up on Linked In and I am connected to Hondros through 19 people and Hetherington through my friend’s wife. Crazy.
As the total news addict I am, today was complete anomaly in that I actually went an entire day without checking the news in large part because my blackberry does not get a signal in the Carnegie Endowment’s Root conference room. Then I find out at dinner that both Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington were killed by an RPG round covering Misruata today. I also mentioned the case of Michael Christopher Brown, a guy who had broken his SLR and was covering the war on his iphone who was shot clear through the calf in the first battle of Bin Jawad back in March (which when I talked to him on my last night outside our hotel, did not seem to have phased him). He was injured by shrapnel in the same incident but not seriously. That guy must have either the best or the worst luck in the world depending on one’s world view. It’s not only tragic but hard to believe. Another photographer, a young Briton named Guy Martin, was “critically injured” in the attack.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Addis Ababa- Finally made it down to sub-Saharan Africa after a completely sketchy 24 hour excursion to Bahrain to get a first-hand glimpse into the repression there-story forthcoming. The internet connectivity situation here in Addis does not seem so great and I came to the Sheraton just to use the wifi. I spent the first night in the Taitu Hotel, a classic old clap trap in a bit of a dodgy area and quickly switched to the Ras whose claim to fame is that Nelson Mandela once stayed there while on the run from South African authorities way back when. My first impression of Ethiopia is a place with a magnificent history and immense poverty in the present, though it has obviously come a long way since the dreadful images of the Derg era from my childhood. I suppose Ethiopia is sort of sub-Saharan Africa for beginners the way Cairo is a soft introduction to the Arab world for the uninitiated (in terms of safety, accessibility, tourism etc).