Africa …

and here’s a map just to prove it …

If you drop a line from the Libyan/Egyptian border and come down about half way to the Cape of Good Hope, cast your eyes a little to the right you’re here …

and in a few days so will I be.

The largest lake, at the intersection of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is Lake Victoria. The chain of lakes to the west of it lie in the western branch of the East African Rift Sytem. The most northerly lake in the chain is Lake Albert and this part of the rift system is often called the Albertine Rift. The rift system is not only of great interest to the geologist, there are 41 species of bird found only along the Albertine rift.

Uganda made its first real impact on my life in 1972. I was studying at Sheffield University when Idi Amin expelled Uganda’s Asian community.

We are determined to make the ordinary Ugandan master of his own destiny, and above all to see that he enjoys the wealth of his country. Our deliberate policy is to transfer the economic control of Uganda into the hands of Ugandans, for the first time in our country’s history.

Said Idi, accompanied by the veiled threat that any remaining Asians would face a Hitlerian final solution. About 80,000 people, more than a quarter of whom were Ugandan citizens, had 90 days to leave the country. Most of those displaced came to England. I played basketball with a young man who had played for the Ugandan national team. The enterprises and personal goods left behind were distributed among ethnic Ugandans. The economy nose-dived (and basketball languished – it wasn’t until 2015 that Uganda took part in the African Championships finishing 15th.)

Rwanda provided even greater drama in 1994 as the news of the genocide slowly percolated into the consciousness of western nations. In about 100 days the majority Hutu population fell upon the Tutsi minority and the even smaller population of Batwa people resulting in the death of about 750,000 people (perhaps more). The United Nations distinguished itself by standing idly by  just as it would in Srebenica.

At the time everyone carried an ID card with their ethnic affiliation on it. Checking IDs at roadblocks followed by summary execution with a machete was just one of the strategies utilised in the carnage.

Just something to ponder in Australia as we consider inserting ethnicity into our constitution. In post conflict Rwanda it is illegal to talk about one’s ethnic affiliation.

I shall also be visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, often called Congo Kinshasa to distinguish it from the Republic of the Congo or Congo Brazzaville. The DRC was formerly called Zaire.

I hope to come back with photos of Chimpanzees and Gorillas, Shoebills and many other birds and even some of a seething red-hot lake of volcanic lava. I hope to share the experience with you … see you in about five weeks.

 

Rwanda …

Rwanda was a member of the UN Security Council in 1994 …

Back in April 1994, as the massacre of Tutsis rolled out, Rwanda’s diplomat in the UN Security Council, Jean Damascene Bizimana, firmly told colleagues there was no genocide and they agreed. Eighteen years later, Rwanda is back to the 15-member exclusive club. In a secret ballot, the country scooped 148 votes from the 192 cast – way ahead of the 128 required.

The UN did not distinguish itself in Rwanda …

Despite hearing evidence of the targeted mass-murder of Tutsis by interahamwe militias in 1994, the critics say the UN deliberately avoided labelling the slaughter as ‘genocide’. As a result, they avoided being obliged to protect the Tutsis and the genocide continued …  The massacres stopped in July.

On 21 April, while genocide raged, 11 Belgian peacekeepers were killed. As a result, instead of increasing forces, the UN reduced their forces from 2,500 to only 250.

On April 30, under intense pressure, the UN debated whether they should intervene in Rwanda to stop the massacres in Rwanda. The UN debated about the unfolding situation in Rwanda, and whether or not the International Community should intervene to prevent the escalation.  The UN forces on the ground were forbidden to intervene to protect people; instead they had to “monitor” the situation.

Estimates of the number that died vary, somewhere in the vicinity of 800,000 seems about right.

And now we’re bus monitors, too. Let’s hope the bus will start …