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/ 28 January 2008

Truth and lies in Eldoret

Last week, eight of us from the Concerned Writers Group went to visit Eldoret, the town at the epicentre of the clashes in Kenya. Having been born and brought up in the Rift Valley, I know this area well. We spoke to groups of displaced people. We talked with Archbishop Korir, who is legendary for saving the lives of many people who would have been killed in the clashes of 1992 — and now, of 2008.

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/ 18 December 2007

Down with Obama (up with Obama)

This morning, facing too many deadlines, I found my brain blocked. I have been reading all three fat Mandela books, trying to find something to say for a commissioned article. In the midst of my writer’s block I have been searching for a high by following the Obama campaign on the internet and ignoring our own political frenzy here in Kenya, for this time it has no grace.

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/ 3 December 2007

Oxfamming the whole black world

Hello kitty kitty kitty … Are you an orphan? Are you Sudanese? Chadian? Are you a sub-Saharan African suffering from mild mental retardation? Are you an African woman suffering from the African male? Would you like an Oxfam biscuit? Organic antiretrovirals? Have you been raped? You might not know it, but you are an orphan, a refugee.

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/ 19 November 2007

The perils of truthism

In the fevered talk these days about religion and secularism, there is little room for the thing Africans like me most fear: religious or cultural rationalism. Outside of tiny labs the general ignorance about science, even among people with good educations, is very high. I remember a famous Afrikaans rugby player, a medical doctor, saying in the 1990s that science had determined that black people could not swim — something to do with muscles and heavy bones.

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/ 5 November 2007

Majimbo mania in Kenyan poll

Last week Kenya’s newly selected cardinal — and for reasons that are obscure to me, we have not had one in a while — came out to declare that the Catholic Church opposes majimboism. To its supporters, majimboism is a kind of federalism; to its detractors it looks a lot like ethnic regionalism.

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/ 22 October 2007

Retirement home for life presidents

I am in Oslo, where we have been talking about New Images from Africa with a lot of people who know about such things. Mo Ibrahim, the mobile phone billionaire, spoke to us about his foundation, which has launched an index measuring how countries in Africa are governed. Later this year they will unveil a prize to be awarded to democratically elected presidents who step down after democratic elections.

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/ 28 August 2007

In search of coherence

It seems, despite the best efforts to manufacture our nations, that things will be built from the ground up. I have spent the past few months travelling around West Africa and everywhere where people have created enclaves of coherence there is growth and progress.

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/ 14 August 2007

Goodwill hunting with Monsieur Sarkozee

I am pleased to announce that a new species of bird, the African pheasant, was recently discovered by French wildlife enthusiast Nicolas Sarkozee. After years of carefully observing pheasants from all over the world, he visited West Africa and spent time in the jungle, noting carefully the features of this curious bird.

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/ 20 March 2007

On Kapuscinski’s ‘gonzo orientalism’

I have tried, just once in my life, to be an Angry Black Man. I planned a picket in New York City against a man I love to hate — Ryszard Kapuscinski. He was going to speak at a conference organised by American PEN. Nobody seemed to want to join me. There were better things to do in New York, like drinking — I do not lie — a hibiscus juice and chili margarita. So I got drunk.

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/ 7 March 2007

When all else fails … become a writer

"I don’t drive a Toyota. I’ve actually never owned a car. I can’t comment about its dominance of the world market. I do not read <i>Car</i> magazine, unless it is the only thing in the toilet at the time. So I was surprised to find myself reading a rather long piece about Toyota’s corporate culture recently in the <i>New York Times</i> magazine," writes Binyavanga Wainaina.

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/ 26 January 2007

Born-again sustainability

I am not a practising Christian or a right-winger. But I’m not an ostrich either, and that is the subject of this column. As the hordes of the World Social Forum gathered in Nairobi to "end poverty" and build "another world", two well-known televangelists announced their plans to run for president, prompting much screaming in the local media, writes Binyavanga Wainaina.

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/ 17 November 2006

Brand the beloved continent

The continent-watchers among you may have heard of Christoph Blocher, a historian who specialises in making the Swiss look hard at their World War II past and see roses. He doubles as the Swiss justice minister. Recently he said, "How one should deal with Africa, I do not know. Leaving it to itself is one possibility. Nobody knows how Africa can be industrialised. Perhaps they will manage on their own one day."