June 22, 2005
West Africa update from California
Working on the post-production elements of my reporting from Ghana has been one huge, never-ending learning curve. With tons of mini-dv tapes and no production equipment of my own, I've had to rely on friends and colleagues to help me every step of the way. They've all been incredibly generous of their resources and time, and they remind me how lucky I am to be in the good graces of so many phenomenal people.
I've learned the basics of editing digital files, both visual and audio, editing digital still photos, and, thanks to my Mac-fanatic colleague Dick Van Wie, I've learned at every juncture why Apples are the ONLY computers worth buying (of course I don't own one!).
Meanwhile, as I'm tangled up in technology here in on the edge of Silicon Valley, I read the news out of West Africa, and it is not good. The peacekeeping in and rebuilding of Liberia is lurching along in fits and starts. One of the many latest developments there is the proposal to transfer power from the transitional government to a 'trusteeship' of so-called 'international experts.' The idea apparently arose because of the high level of corruption in the current transitional government.
I do remember a meeting I had a few months ago in Washington with an international businessman, who said he believed the corruption in Gyude Bryant's transitional government was among the highest in Africa.
Liberia's elections are still scheduled for October, and I'm sure the Liberians in Buduburam, Ghana, are watching events there closely. Many of the Liberian refugees I met in Ghana were at once optimistic for their country and wary of believing it safe for return. Of course, many had returned in 1996 during a period of 'peace', only to flee again and lose more family members when the country imploded in another paroxysm of violence. If I was a refugee, I'd be waiting and assessing the situation before going back, too.
And then there's the disturbing news out of Niger, to the north, of a drought and food shortages. This strikes close to home for me, since I spent more than two years in Niger and consider my village there, Diomoga, as a second family of sorts. Niger was devastated in the late 1980s by a long and severe drought. The drought this year was coupled with a plague of locusts, further decimating the crops that are a struggle in the best years. While drought and food shortages are bad enough, what's worse is that a UN appeal for aid for Niger was reportedly not heeded by a single donor:
I suppose with so many appeals for aid from so many corners of Africa -- and around the globe -- there comes a point of no response. But to know how desperately on-the-edge Nigeriens live in the best of times, it's heartbreaking to think of more hardship piled on top of them.
Some of my fellow returned Peace Corps volunteers (or 'rpcvs') are organizing some money transfers over to our villages in Niger, to help in way we can most directly.
Posted by Cathryn Poff at June 22, 2005 10:56 PM