Africa Update: Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.
It's time now for our Africa Update.
This week, election campaign violence in Sierra Leone ahead of the presidential run-off vote next month. In Nigeria, more unrest in the volatile oil-producing Niger Delta. Ghana strikes black gold. Plus, how cheeky monkeys in Kenya are terrorizing women.
For more, I'm joined by NPR Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Ofeibea, it's great to talk with you again.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.
CHIDEYA: So we don't hear much from or about post-war Sierra Leone but the West African country is all over the news this week. Why?
QUIST-ARCTON: Because Sierra Leone has managed to organize what observers from within and outside the country are calling very good elections. Now that was a little while back. Meanwhile, the results are out. The parliamentarians have been announced. But the presidential election is going to a second run-off vote on the 8th of September. And that's where they've hit obstacles. There's been violence on Sunday and, again, on Monday between supporters of the main two rival candidates.
The president - the outgoing president of Sierra Leone, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, has given them a very stern warning.
President AHMAD TEJAN KABBAH (Sierra Leone): All those responsible for the violence and lawlessness should be prepared for the consequences. Henceforth, government shall not hesitate one moment to declare a state of public emergency if the current states of intimidation, molestation, and violent acts is not stopped immediately.
QUIST-ARCTON: Now, Farai, the opposition is saying that the president, who comes from the governing party, and it's his candidate who's the outgoing vice president, Solomon Berewa, that they're making this announcement because they are worried that their candidate is going to lose the second round of the vote. So the opposition is saying there's absolutely no need for anything like a state of emergency. But the government is saying if this violence doesn't stop on all sides, we will intervene. The opposition is saying if the president goes down that route, it means that he could just then extend his mandate because a state of emergency would mean that he could just stay on. So, after a very good first round of elections, it looks now as if Sierra Leone has hit some problems.
CHIDEYA: So after the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, how is the country doing?
QUIST-ARCTON: It's picking up. There has at least been reconciliation. There's a war crimes tribunal that is actually taking people accused of atrocities during the civil war to court. And Sierra Leoneans say, slowly, things are mending. But they feel that the government of outgoing President Tejan Kabbah has not done enough. They cite corruption. They cite that the fundamentals -things like utilities - are not where they should be because Sierra Leone has so much goodwill after the end of the war. So I think there's a big question mark about what goes next. But there is peace for now.
CHIDEYA: So let's stay in West Africa, talking about Nigeria. There appears to be no end to clashes between militants and security forces in the Niger Delta. So can you bring us up to date on that?
QUIST-ARCTON: Now it's the government, which seemed to be going along the route of dialogue saying enough is enough. They say there's been too much violence by the militants in this really volatile area of the country, which pumps the country's wealth, which is, of course, the oil, saying we are going to flush out. We are going to find those who are creating the unrest and the violence in River State and other areas of the Delta. Now, some people, including elders in River State, are saying what the region needs is emergency rule, is a state of emergency.
Listen to this gentleman, Albert Hosfort(ph).
Mr. ALBERT HOSFORT (Resident, River State): The proper thing to do for the sake of the people of River State, for some impartial person to take charge of River State. Sanitize these militia people. Flush them out of the system. So that people can go about their business. People can buy and sell. People can trade. People can go to work.
QUIST-ARCTON: But you know, the response from the River State information commissioner, Emmanuel Okah, to Albert Hosfort and other elders in the region who say that the state of emergency is needed, is that emergency rule is out of the question. And is not the answer.
Mr. EMMANUEL OKAH (Information Commissioner, River State): And as elders, we expect that even if there are circumstances that have caused discomfort, it is their responsibility as elders to call these voice to order or to prepare solutions that will generate the kind of environment that will promote amity and unity amongst the people. The point when everybody appears to be giving a sigh of relief, somebody now comes from nowhere and say go and bring back anarchy. Our conclusion is that these are indeed the two enemies of the people (unintelligible) because they do not want peace.
CHIDEYA: So, Ofeibea, let's keep traveling. Jump over a couple of borders and talk about your home country of Ghana. You were there when the president reacted to the discovery of more oil. Tell us about that.
QUIST-ARCTON: It looks as if Ghana is going to be joining the leagues of oil-producing countries. But President Kufuor says good news but be careful.
President JOHN AGYEKUM KUFUOR (Ghana): Ghana deserves good news for a change. We've been suffering so much over the past decades. Now, Ghana can proudly say that she has broken the jinx and she's joining the company of nations. So I want people to be reasonably optimistic but not overly optimistic.
QUIST-ARCTON: So Ghana looks as if it's going to become an oil producer. They found reserves of oil in shallow waters. Now, the same company, Tullow, Inc., says it seems to have found more oil in deeper waters. Ghanaians are pretty excited about the discovery of oil. But they also looked to countries not so far away like Nigeria we just spoke about, to Congo, Brazzaville, to other countries where oil has been more of a curse than a blessing. And everybody is saying, if indeed we have struck oil, let it be used for the benefit of Ghanaians, all Ghanaians, to develop the country and not just go into the pockets of the few to make them rich.
CHIDEYA: And you have a story for us now that probably you got to see to believe. But describe it to us. We're talking about monkeys in Kenya.
QUIST-ARCTON: Indeed. Monkey business in Central Kenya, where women are complaining that vervet monkeys just don't take them seriously. That they are eating their crops and even trying or potentially trying to attack them. Listen to these women. They sound genuinely concerned.
Unidentified Woman #1: (Through translator) When we come to chase the monkeys away, we come dressed in trousers and hats so that we look like men. But the monkeys can tell the difference and they don't run away from us, especially the big ones. They just look at us and continue to eat the crops. The monkeys grab their breasts and gesture at us while pointing at their private parts. Now, we are even afraid that they will attack us or even sexually harass us because we hear they can do that.
Unidentified Woman #2: (Through translator) We started wearing trousers so that we look like men and the monkeys would fear us. But now, they can tell us apart. They point at their heads as if to say they are too clever for our tricks. They also point at our breasts. They know when it is the women who are wearing trousers. These monkeys are very clever.
CHIDEYA: Well, Ofeibea, apparently, man and primates really aren't that far apart genetically. So why not sexual harassment from the animal world?
QUIST-ARCTON: These poor women, they just sound unbearable. And it really is no laughing matter. But, apparently, they've asked the government to come and deal with it, and the wildlife people. Because if monkeys can tell who is a man and who is a woman, even if they're wearing hats and trousers, and especially ruining their crops, I think they're going to have to deal with this problem.
CHIDEYA: All right. Well, Ofeibea, thank you for that unusual take and for all the news you bring us.
CHIDEYA: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking with us from the Dakar, Senegal.