Archive for the ‘Current Afffairs’ Category

Late Christmas Presents…
December 30, 2010

David Cameron hasn’t had much to say for himself lately, leaving Cleggy to pick up the pieces of a coalition government in disarray, but he hasn’t taken his eye off the ball and was quickly off the mark yesterday cashing in on England’s Ashes victory by referring to it as a ‘great late Christmas present’.

There is nothing like sporting success to lift the mood of the nation and we certainly need it with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development already predicting unemployment is set to hit a seventeen year high during 2011. But that’s for another day…            

As expected it didn’t take too long for England to wrap up a historic innings victory on the fourth day of the 4th Test at the MCG.

There is no doubt this is not a great Australian team and before the series started, it could have been argued, on paper there was very little between the sides. However the Aussies, playing in their own backyard, have become so accustomed to pummeling the whingeing poms over the last 24 years that there was always an underlying feeling of inevitability about the eventual outcome.    

But not so, England have comprehensively out batted, out bowled and out fielded the Aussies, with the exception of the opening day of the series, in Brisbane, and a couple of sessions at Perth when Mitchell Johnson finally clicked into gear and bowled them briefly back into the series.

England’s preparation and attention to detail has been outstanding and much credit should go to Andy Flower’s coaching team and captain Andrew Strauss. All that now remains is to ensure, that with the Ashes secured, they don’t allow the Aussies any crumbs of comfort in the final Sydney Test.

With the Aussies in such disarray anything less than a 3-1 series victory might be considered disappointing!  How long is it since we have been able to say that?  

It will be interesting to see how the notoriously unsentimental Australian selectors deal with the Ponting question. He is great player at the fag-end of his career.

He could be dropped due to his dismal batting form, where unthinkably he is averaging just 16 for the series. Alternatively he could be omitted due to the hand injury, sustained in Perth, which he struggled with at the MCG.

Punter is nothing if not a battler and deserves a final chance to show that he isn’t quite finished.    

I’m sure celebrity cricket supporter Sir Elton John will have considered England’s victory the icing on his seasonal cake  following the announcement of his own special Christmas gift – a surrogate son born to him and his partner David Furnish.

I’ve always been an Elton fan, both of his music and personality. Let’s be honest he does genuinely fall into that increasingly over used category, national treasures.

However, on this occasion, I’m not at all sure about a 63-year-old pop star, still touring and living a highly publicised superstar lifestyle, arguably acquiring a newborn baby as if he were some sort of fashion accessory.

I hope I am wrong and that the happy couple can provide Zachary Jackson Levon with the start in life that he deserves.

Elton, formerly Reg Dwight, is also well-known, at least in Nottingham, as the nephew of Roy Dwight who scored for Forest in their 1959 FA Cup victory over Luton Town.

Elton’s uncle opened the scoring after 10 minutes. However with 33 minutes gone, and  Forest winning 2-0, Dwight was carried off the Wembley pitch after breaking his leg in a tackle.

These were the days before substitutes were allowed but Forest held on, winning the match 2-1, to become the only team reduced to 10 men by injury to lift the trophy.

Which brings me nicely to last night and the current Forest team who presented their fans with, the best possible late Christmas present, a beautifully gift wrapped 5-2 victory over local rivals Derby County.

The rivalry between the two clubs is as intense as any in the country. Both have seen better days but currently share aspirations of returning to the Premiership.

How often do former players return to haunt their old clubs? Last night was no exception. Marcus Tudgay and Robbie Earnshaw both picked up a brace for the Tricky Trees and Kris Commons withstood a torrent of boos to slot home one of his trademark free kicks for the Rams.    

The following is purloined from the http://www.thisisderbyshire website and will be music to the ears of Forest fans everywhere:

Forest’s pace and attacking play combined with Derby’s wretched defending made it a nightmare night for the Rams.

It was the first time in more than 100 years Derby had conceded five goals to the Reds. The last time was in March 1904.

The Rams are leaking goals at an alarming rate. Seventeen have found their net in the last seven games.”

Happy New Year!

News & Views from the UK
October 3, 2010

Thanks to all of you who have been keeping in touch either by email or posting messages on the blog. It is very much appreciated.

I did temporarily have an email virus so apologies to any of you who received unsolicited messages from my address advertising Viagra and the like! I seem to have resolved the problem now.

Although I have got regular internet access via the MTN dongle it can be terribly slow and it takes up most of my spare time accessing and responding to emails, keeping the blog up to date and keeping tabs on Forest and Gloucester.  

It’s a waste of time trying to get on the BBC website as it takes forever to download, so I’m feeling rather out of touch with regard to current affairs, which is rather frustrating.

I did receive a chatty email from Gem the other day informing me that Geeky (Ed Miliband ) had won the Labour leadership contest, surprised but pleased about that, and that the Pope’s visit had been annoyingly controversial, not surprised about that!

Gem also tells me she got the double page lead in last week’s Love It, plus a couple of smaller features inside – good girl, well done!

The tom toms were beating in deepest Rwanda with news of Gloucester’s 18-3 victory over Baarf at  ‘the Wreck’. Thanks for that Keith. I think that’s only their second league win there since the Rugby Premiership began and even better it was in front of the Sky cameras. I bet Stuart Barnes was full of praise for the Cherry and Whites! Interestingly no news from Solihull on this one, Steve!  

Forest continued their unbeaten run with an apparently hard-fought draw at Donny Rovers yesterday following their mid-week point at home to the Blades. I’m not quite sure where we currently stand in the Championship but if we could turn a few more draws into wins I’m sure we wouldn’t be too far off a top six place.       

Msafiri  tells me he’s showing Chelsea v Arsenal  this afternoon so I might settle myself down with a bottle of Primus in front of his giant screen.

Hostel Rwanda!
September 11, 2010

Torrential rain welcomed us as we touched down at Kigali Airport, around 14.00 hrs on Sunday 5th.  It was one  of the first downpours of the wet season and something that we have now become accustomed to each day, usually during the late afternoon or early evening.

The Ethiopian Airways flight from LHR had included a scheduled transfer in Addis Ababa but our onward passage to Kigali had taken us, unexpectedly, via Entebbe in Uganda, where we sat on the tarmac for an hour being refueled! On the up side, Entebbe airport is set next to Lake Victoria and there were terrific views as we came into land.

The total journey time from home was about 23 hours, which included the stop over in Entebbe and 3 hours sitting on the floor in the Addis Ababa departure lounge. This, at least, provided a bonding opportunity for the VSO recruits from the UK.

By the time we had cleared immigration and picked up our luggage, all of which thankfully arrived, the rain had stopped and the air felt fresh.  

We were welcomed by VSO Rwanda staff, including the country director, and transported to our current accommodation, the Hostel Amani. During the drive we were able to take in our first views of the Kigali skyline.

The Rwandan capital city straggles over several hills and valleys, spanning altitudes of between 1300m to 1600m. Our accommodation is close to the VSO office but about 12km from the main commercial city centre.      

Most people are sharing rooms but I somehow managed to get one to myself, which is a bonus. There are mosquitoes around so I’m taking daily malaria tablets, smothering myself in tropical strength Deet and sleeping cocooned within a net, which is something I’ll have to get used to over the next three months.

We are being rather spoilt at the moment with meals three times a day. The typical Rwandan meal is a melanje which is served buffet style and consists of a selection of salad, green vegetables (imboga), rice, fried potatoes, and fish or meat, usually in a tomato sauce.

There are a number of local bars and our nearest is just a couple of hundred metres up the road. It is in effect a converted metal container with a lean-to corrugated roof. There is a small courtyard, fenced off from the road, which houses colourful plastic patio furniture.  

The beers of choice are Primus and Mutzig , the taste of success as the slogan goes. A large bottle of inzoga ikonje, chilled beer, costs between 600-700 Rwandan francs (60-70p) and provides welcome relief from the somewhat oppressive heat.

The in country training is mainly taking place at the hostel although there have been outings to the VSO office, which is nearby, and a brief familiarisation visit to Kigali city centre which included a tour of the polyclinic.

The schedule includes a daily two-hour session of Kinyarwanda and has also covered more practical aspects of life such as how to light a kerosene stove and lamp. We have also had an informative and candid talk, from the British High Commissioner, Nick Cannon, who provided useful cultural and historical background information about Rwanda as well as a summary of the current political situation.

On our first full day here Paul Kagame was inaugurated as president, for a second time, following the recent election in which he gained 93% of the vote! A national holiday was called at extremely short notice, which apparently is a not uncommon occurrence. A couple of us managed to visit a bar to watch the final stages of the ceremony, which was attended by many visiting heads of African state.  

On one of our outings we were driven through that part of the city which houses the presidential palace and most of the foreign embassies. We were suddenly confronted by the headlights of motor cycle outriders flanking an official limousine which had  tinted windows and was sporting the national flag. It is highly likely it was the president who, apparently, chooses to drive himself around.

On Thursday we ate out and were treated to the omnipresent local favourite, ihene brochettes na ifiriti, (goat kebabs and chips) at the very originally named ‘The Bar’. The VSO staff put on a pub quiz and my team, the Mutzig Muzungus, won!

Your starter for 10!

In November 2009 Rwanda became the latest country to join the Commonwealth. It is one of only two member states that do not have a British colonial background. What is the other country?

Last of the Summer Wine!
September 4, 2010

It has been a last of the summer wine type of week all round. Glowing late summer days have been followed by chilly autumnal evenings and the nights are certainly drawing in. This year I will miss  ‘autumn days when the grass is jewelled…….’  in more ways than one!

This is the week that was:

The BBC series Last of the Summer Wine took its final bow  after an incredible run of 37 years and 31 series. To be honest, despite its endearing gentle northern humour and quirky characters, I felt its sell by date had passed some time ago but I do look back with some fondness on the early series with Foggy, Compo, Clegg and dear old Nora Batty.

Tony Blair was conveniently away on a journey to the States when his book of the same name became the fastest selling autobiography of all time. Mind you most outlets had it on sale at half price from the outset. Could that be because the proceeds are going to the British Legion not lining the pockets of the author?

I haven’t bought the book but having seen the newspaper coverage and listened to Mr Blair on a number of pre-recorded programmes I feel like I’ve read it!

In a nutshell, the reviews have concentrated on Blair’s difficult relationship with Gordon Brown , who he describes as ‘brilliant’  but lacking ‘emotional intelligence,’ and the  not unsurprising lack of an apology over the invasion of Iraq, despite his ‘anguish’ over the UK deaths in the war.

There has also been reference to Tony’s revelations that he turned to drink whilst in office and his apparent obsession with proving he is a red-blooded alpha male – too much information!      

With the return of the political hacks from their summer hols, Blair was quickly followed on to the front pages by Foreign Secretary William Hague, sporting a tight-fitting, long sleeved white T-shirt and baseball cap. This not a good look when your sexuality is being called into question!

Mr Hague has vigorously denied rumoured accusations, started by Guido Fawkes in his political blog, and claims he has never had a gay relationship. He then rather misguidedly, in my opinion, attempted to back up his defence with reference to several recent miscarriages by his wife Ffion.

I’m not sure what that has to do with anything! He might have done better to have kept his head down (and lost the baseball cap!)   

The tabloids have also been to work on Fabio Capello following his complaint that they had turned him from a god to a monster.

Big mistake Fabio, huge! He was immediately portrayed on several back pages as Frankenstein’s monster, an image (reminiscent of Turnip Taylor) that I’m afraid he will have to learn to live with!  

Never the less Fabio’s new look England team answered his and their critics, in the best possible way, with a 4–0 win over Bulgaria in last night’s Euro 2012 qualifying game.

Jermaine Defoe helped himself to a fine hat trick, Rooney began to find his feet again, Walcott injected the turn of speed that was missing in South Africa, Milner was at his industrious best and in Joe Hart we look to have found a secure keeper at long last.

The only disappointment was seeing Forest old boy Michael Dawson’s full international debut ending on a stretcher.     

The Premiership Rugby  season kicks off today. Gloucester have had a good pre-season beating two strong Welsh sides, the Scarlets and Ospreys, and narrowly losing at Munster.

World Cup winning England centre, Mike Tindall, has been named as captain and if he stays fit will have a big part to play in Gloucester’s continuing development. I’m quite optimistic about their chances of a top four place this season and hopefully they will get off to a flyer this afternoon, away at premiership newcomers Exeter.

Whilst the Pakistan spot fixing saga rumbled on Kevin Peterson, having been rested  from England’s forthcoming one day matches, had to make a public apology for venting his disappointment by tweeting an expletive!  

Meanwhile the Notts cricketers seem to be stumbling their way to the finishing line, having lost fairly emphatically to Durham yesterday. However they are still 22 points clear at the top of the County Championship with just two games to play. Hopefully, this will be their year and they can make the step up from being seemingly perpetual runners-up.

So, that was the week that was! My last in the UK for a while.

Last night there was an enjoyable  last supper, and last glass, at The Railway in the nearby village of Ripple. They do the best home-made fish and chips in the area!   

Thanks to all those who have sent cards, emailed, and called this week with best wishes. Next time you hear from me, internet permitting, will be from Rwanda.

I fly out  from Heathrow at 21.00 and hopefully should be met by a VSO representative in Kigali at mid-day tomorrow.  

It’s time to check my bags, take my malaria tablet, and enjoy a final piece of toast and Marmite before the great adventure begins. Murabeho!

                                   

Geeky or Gawky for the Labour Leadership Race?
September 1, 2010

The sun is shining and the sky is blue. High pressure is settling over the UK for the rest of the week so it must be the end of the holidays and the beginning of the new school year!

As Chris left for work with a sprightly spring in her step (joke!), I reflected on the fact that for the first time in many years I had enjoyed a good night’s sleep on the eve of a new school year and that my stomach was not churning!        

If it’s back to school time for teachers, then the politicians will soon be back in Westminster.

Since the end of term, Sam and Dave whilst holidaying in Cornwall were visited by a stork with special delivery package and the PM has been able to engage in a few politician kisses baby photo opportunities, with baby Flo aka Florence Rose Endellion. I don’t think she will thank them for the latter (after her place of birth) in years to come!

Meanwhile Cleggy, who got all excited about looking after the keys to Number 10 and being asked to water the plants, wet the baby’s head with a pint of Brains.

He also met a visiting football FIFA delegation and did his best to back the bid for World Cup 2018, claiming it was, “unbeatable” and that, “it will inspire people in towns and cities across the country,” which is more than we can say for the coalition.   

To be honest FIFA could cut down on their carbon footprint and save a lot of time. Paul the celebrity psychic octopus, formerly of the Weymouth Sea Life Centre but currently living in Germany, has chosen England so it’s a done deal!     

The Labour Leadership race is entering the final furlong. There are five runners but it is fast becoming a two-horse race with Geeky and Gawky battling it out for the finishing line.

Geeky (Ed – left) and Gawky (David) formerly known as Miliband minor and Miliband major are the bookies’ favourites.

Bullish Ed (Balls) has lived up to his name and made a bit of a mess up of the race, too much like a bull in a china shop!

Andy Who (Burnham), has had a pretty good run out, with his sales pitch about  aspirational socialism which will marry the best of Old and New Labour, but  there are too many hurdles for this young unknown who has always been an outsider. He’s one to watch  for the future and his day will come.  

Dear Dianne, a robust filly, has huffed and puffed from the start finding it very heavy going and will look forward to being reunited with her stable mate Portillo and trainer Andrew Neil in the This Week studio.

That old tipster, the Prince of Darkness (aka the Third Man when signing copies of his autobiography up and down the country) seems to have switched horses mid race.

He made Geeky, a slightly more charismatic contender than the rest of the field, an early favourite but his tendency to veer towards the far left has caused a change of heart. He now seems to favour Gawky who has more of an inclination towards a right of centre course.

Gawky is certainly a stayer and more experienced than his opponents but some pundits feel he will need to shed a bit of weight as he carries a bit too much baggage. His healthy, high energy diet will probably see him first past the post provided he avoids any banana skins in the final gallop for home.  

Whoever is paraded around the winner’s paddock in a few weeks time, (I would prefer Geeky but think it will be Gawky) will have their work cut out to mount a serious challenge against the coalition stable’s high flyers.

Interestingly, betting slips (sorry ballot papers) have been sent out to Labour party members on the same day that a former novice, and three times winner of the biggest race of all, has chosen to release his memoirs – A Journey

I hope it doesn’t prove to be too much of a handicap!

UN Inquiry into Rwandan genocide revenge claims…..
August 31, 2010

An article in yesterday’s Times, under the heading Peace threat over genocide revenge report, claims that leaks from a soon to be published UN Inquiry may call, recently re-elected, President Paul Kagame’s Tutsi led government to account for its actions in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 genocide.   

Kagame declared winner of the Rwandan presidential election, held earlier this month, with 93% of the vote, has recently come under increased scrutiny from the international community.

Human rights groups and observers have been critical of political repression during a campaign from which critical opposition parties were barred.     

A press release by the White House Security Council, whilst acknowledging the progress made by Rwanda since the 1994 genocide, raised concerns over a number of disturbing events including the arrest of journalists, the suspension of certain newspapers, the banning of two opposition parties from taking part in the election and the expulsion of a human rights researcher.

There were also acts of violence, including the murder of an opposition official, in which the government steadfastly denies any in involvement.    

Kagame seized power in the wake of the 1994 ethnic genocide in which 800,000 Rwandans (mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus) were slaughtered at the behest of the former Hutu dominated government.

The international community’s belated and guilty response to the atrocities has been to provide Kagame’s Tutsi led government with unprecedented levels of aid. 

Kagame has also received high-profile commendation, from leading figures such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bill Gates, for the way he has unified the country and masterminded its recovery.  

He responded to mounting criticism from western observers, following the recent elections, in an article for the Financial Times, published under the heading Rwanda’s democracy is still the model for Africa.

In it he claims that whilst few would doubt Rwanda’s rapid social and economic progress they fail to acknowledge the success of its political evolution.

The thrust of his argument for maintaining such an authoritarian grip on the country is that competitive democracy can only be possible following a sustained period of social cohesion.

He wrote that, although the healing and reconciliation process has made great progress, no country with Rwanda’s recent history can be expected to move from genocide to confrontational politics within such a short space of time.   

He further claims it was pluralistic politics spawning newly formed parties with a common extremist ideology that succeeded in mobilising the population to commit mass murder.  

However, when the findings of the UN inquiry are officially released, next month, it is likely they will lead to a rewriting of the current widely accepted historical account of the Rwandan genocide, which may in turn negatively impact on further foreign support for Kagame’s regime.

The report apparently carries detailed information of reprisals carried out by the Rwandan army, whilst under Kagame’s watch, as they pursued Hutu refugees into neighbouring Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).    

The revelations may lead to calls for Tutsi leaders, for so long portrayed as the heroes and victims of the genocide, to be prosecuted for their actions.

The Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo has already communicated with the UN Secretary General and is quoted as denouncing the report as ‘incredibly irresponsible’ and ‘fatally flawed’.

Should the report be published, Rwanda is already threatening to withdraw from UN peacekeeping forces.

Whilst the truth is paramount and needs to be known, it is essential that this report provides an impartial, fair and accurate account of events, and is delivered in such a way that it does not threaten to destabilise the current levels of social cohesion within Rwanda or derail its remarkable recovery.  

If it does my VSO stint might turn out to be shorter than anticipated!

La corrida de toros – a cruel beauty!
August 6, 2010

Chris and I spent much of our final evening in Cordoba perched on bar stools in the Café Gaudi. This traditional tapas bar owes much to the artistic style of the renowned Catalonian architect after whom it had been named.

We were the only tourists, surrounded by locals following their typical Sunday evening routine. As we sipped on our Cruzcampo beers, accumulating an impressive pile of empty tapas dishes, it was interesting to observe that in this particular corner of southern Spain smoking is still allowed and la corrida de toros (bullfighting) remains ever popular!

Duels in the sun were being fought out on a large TV screen in the corner of the bar, casually followed by customers, in much the same way as Match of the Day might be in England.

Just before leaving the UK I had read that the regional parliament of Catalonia had become the first on the Spanish mainland to ban this controversial traditional art.  

For many of course it is purely and simply a blood sport and animal rights activists have secured a long-awaited victory. They are now, apparently, setting their sights on the regional parliament of Madrid.

They will be armed with the evidence of recent polls which suggest nearly 70% of Spaniards have little or no interest in bullfighting as a spectacle while 35% are in support of a ban.

Catalonia has a long tradition of staging contests between el matador and el toro, particularly in Barcelona, but it is a region which considers itself quite separate from the rest of the country. Cynics are therefore suggesting that by providing such a high-profile public stance, against what is considered a Spanish national symbol, this decision smacks of political opportunism!       

Through his 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway famously did much to popularise the cruel beauty of bullfighting outside of Spain. During the grey years of Franco’s dictatorship it provided a certain touch of Hollywood glamour which endured into the 1960s and the early years of the international tourist boom.  

There is no doubting the spectacle; the artistry, skill and bravery of the matador dressed in his traje de luces (suit of lights) playing the raging bull with his muleta (cape). There is also no denying the resultant gore, be it of man or beast.

More often than not it is the estoque (sword) of the matador  that deals the estocado (death-blow) but there are huge risks and very fine, potentially fatal, margins of error when a half tonne bull lowers hits horns and charges by within inches of the torero (matador).  

Top toreros in Spain are feted alongside their national football and pop idols. Jose Tomas has demanded fees of up to 400,000 Euros for providing an afternoon of thrilling spectacle for bullfighting aficionados.

He is, however, currently recovering from a savage goring received in Mexico earlier this year. You may recall the TV images of the bull tossing him aside like a rag doll and his bloodied body being carried from the ring!

Apparently the history of bullfighting stretches back nearly 1300 years. It is undoubtedly a cultural tradition that forms part of the Spanish national identity. If its public appeal is on the wane, as polls suggest, it will die a slow death of its own.

In the meant time I suggest that the regional governments allow la corrida de toros to run its natural course and ignore the calls for a ban in much the same way as they appear to have dealt with European smoking laws!

VSO Rwanda: Provisional flights & the Presidential Election!
July 28, 2010

I have received an email with provisional flight details for my VSO stint in Rwanda.

All things being well, I will be flying out of Heathrow at 06.50 on Thursday 2nd September and arriving at Kigali Airport (right) following a transfer in Brussels, at 18.50 the same day.

My return flight out of Kigali is scheduled for 20.45 on Saturday 4th December, touching down 10.00 on Sunday 5th.

So I should be back home in plenty of time for the build up to Christmas!

I had my first rabies shot yesterday, following on from yellow fever on Monday and swine flu last Friday. The nurse said my immune system won’t know what’s hit it! There are still two more rabies and a Hep B to go before I leave a months from now.

The international spotlight is turning towards Rwanda once again with elections due on 9th August.

Last weekend the Telegraph Magazine (24th July) carried an in-depth interview article with President Paul Kagame which concluded with the unanswered question is he, “a benevolent dictator, the strong hand needed to pull Rwanda forward into a better future, or is he an incurable despot?”  

In the autumn of 1994 Rwanda experienced the fastest genocide in history. Over a 100 day period Hutu fanatics slaughtered more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

At that time the international community stood by staring in disbelief but failing to react until it was too late. In the 16 years since, western aid has enabled the country to make an equally staggering recovery and Rwanda is now considered to be a model for all developing African nations.

Rwanda is now considered to be the safest and cleanest country in Africa. It has experienced one of the highest rates of economic growth. Corruption levels are said to be low and it is the only country in the world with a majority of women in parliament.

The death penalty has been abolished, there is a national health system and 95% of children are in school. There is an aim for every pupil to have their own laptop by 2012!

The infrastructure is developing at an amazing pace with skyscraper buildings rising in the capital city, a good network of major roads, widespread internet availability and a national law banning plastic bags, on environmental grounds.

Amazingly this has been achieved in a nation where communities of survivors from the genocide live side by side with the killers.

Kagame is a Tutsi from the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) whilst 85% of the population are Hutu. He has simply addressed the problem of ethnic hatred and ethnic politics by making them illegal.

The Hutu – Tutsi divide and indeed the very words are no longer acceptable. The government mantra is, “We are all Rwandans now.”      

Politicians or citizens engaging in divisionism, as it is now called, face lengthy imprisonment or worse.

Some Hutu critics of Kagame, who maintain divisonism is merely a strategy to allow a Tutsi minority ruling elite to maintain control of a Hutu majority population, have been forced into exile, mysteriously disappeared or become the victims of unsolved assassinations.

Human Rights Watch are critical of Kagame’s authoritarian style of government claiming that denial of the Hutu political voice will only suppress tensions in the short-term and could be bottling up a resentment that may  manifest itself in another future genocide.

Rwanda still remains heavily dependent on the services of humanitarian NGOs (non governmental organisations) and financial aid from the international community. Whilst Kagame accepts this with a degree of gratitude there appears to be an underlying tone of resentment.

This is borne out of the west’s lack of intervention at the time of the genocide and an assertion that only five percent of agencies involved, “are doing it altruistically.”  Kagame however appears to be a very astute operator and uses the guilt of the western world to his country’s advantage.

Whilst his fiercest critics brand him a war criminal and liken him to Hitler, he has at the same time received huge international acclaim for his achievements and enjoys the support of Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and the Chief Executives of Google and Starbucks.

Beneath the surface the political situation may be more fragile than it seems and it will be very interesting to keep an eye on the forthcoming elections. However I suspect and hope that they will go off peacefully.

You can be assured that VSO will also be watching the situation very closely and I have every confidence that if there is any hint of political instability, surrounding the elections, that may compromise the safety of its volunteers I will not be boarding that flight in September and those already in place will be evacuated post-haste.

Watch this space………..

A little bit of needle…..
July 24, 2010

There was quite a bit of needle about this week!

BNP racist (and MEP!) Nick Griffin (seen well to the right…) was rather needled when, at very short notice, his invitation to attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace was withdrawn.

Many would say he should never have been invited in the first place but it didn’t matter as boastful claims, on his website, that he would be, “welcomed at Buckingham Palace by Her Majesty the Queen,” and that, “this event shows how far this party (the BNP) has come,” were enough for him to be banned on the grounds of insanity and exploiting the invitation for political purposes.  

Of course, having missed out on the cucumber sandwiches, he was now able to play the victimization card, making capital of what he described as a, “thoroughly unBritish outrage,” which subsequently picked up front page coverage in most of the dailies.

Another Nick, this time Clegg, needled a few of his coalition friends, and turned the air blue on both sides of the house, during PM’s questions.

While the master was away in Washington, playing down the special relationshipCleggy had his first opportunity to stand-in and promptly dropped a brick by referring to the ‘illegal’ invasion of Iraq.

The Speaker of the House and Cleggy’s Tory mates might not have been impressed by this gaffe but at least Jack, the grim reaper, Straw enjoyed a laugh at his expense.  

Apparently Cleggy is rather puzzled why a recent independent survey shows the yellows standing at 13% in the polls whilst his true blue mates are at 44%. I have to take my hat off to DC, he has played this coalition game to perfection!        

There was a bit of sporting needle on Le Tour, when Alberto Contador flouted an unwritten cycling rule by kicking on to build up a lead over his main rival, Luxemburg’s Andy Schleck, who had to stop and perform running repairs on his bike chain.   

It’s ironic, if not down right hypocritical, that in a sporting event renowned for its cheating, through the illegal use of performance enhancing substances, blood transfusions etc, that something as relatively insignificant as this caused such a fuss!  

Surely, if a cycle chain slips or is broken, it is unfortunate for the rider, but should be accepted as part and parcel of the race in a similar way to a Formula 1 car shredding a tyre or developing an engine fault!

Anyway the sporting etiquette of Le Tour was already set in only its second year, 1904, with recorded incidents as diverse as: booby trapping the road with tin tacks, hitching a lift in a passing voiture, the beating up of rival competitors and blackmail!     

Last but not least I’m also feeling a tad needled!

A visit to the local medical centre, yesterday afternoon, to discuss the immunisation requirements, for my VSO posting in Rwanda, led to an impromptu swine flu jab.

Just a little prick sir,” and, “by the way you might have a headache and feel nauseous over the weekend!”

This is to be swiftly followed up with yellow fever on Monday and the first of three rabies injections on Wednesday. I can’t wait!

‘Heroes’ and ‘Villains’
July 17, 2010

Definitions of a hero:

  1. A brave person
  2. A person noted for their courage or nobility of purpose especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life
  3. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field
  4. The main character in a drama or other literary work
  5. A celebrity

Definitions of a villain:

  1. A wicked or  evil person
  2. A mean, worthless character in a story or play
  3. A scoundrel
  4. An antagonist who has a negative effect on other people

The Facebook Fiasco!

I don’t agree with David Cameron’s political intervention, because you are never going to win in a situation like this. Firstly, you can’t control people’s opinions or take away their right to express them (not yet anyway!) and secondly, it only serves to draw attention to those misguided enough to have stated their support for Raoul Moat, as some kind of folk hero.      

Moat may have gained celebrity, in some quarters, as  an anti-hero but in actual fact he was a self pittying, wicked and evil villain.

He may also have been a victim whose cries for help went unheeded by the support services. That’s certainly the image being generated by edited extracts from his tapes which have been aired by the media. The verdict is still out on that one.

If there are heroes to come out of this whole sorry saga try PC Rathband who, in the line of public duty, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, was shot in the face and has lost his sight. And what about Moat’s children, who he supposedly loved so much? They have not only lost a father but will have to grow up with the legacy of his murderous exploits.    

Graduate Tax

I’m rather undecided about Vince Cable’s graduate tax but it’s certainly worth exploring further. On the face of it, it seems not a bad idea for students but less good for certain universities. Like everything the devil will be in the detail.

However I agree totally with his views on reducing some university courses to two years, flexible part-time modular degrees and raising the status of vocational training. University is not right for everyone and the previous government were misguided in implying it should be an aspiration for at least 50% of all school leavers.

Of course, modular degrees through distance learning are nothing new. I earned a degree that way back in the late 1970s through, what in my opinion is one of the greatest legacies of any Labour government, the Open University.  

Back to Vince Cable, it was reassuring to hear that voice of calm reason once again. His talents are clearly being wasted and I’m sure he would have made a far more considered and compassionate chancellor than Cameron’s buddy, Osborne. However I do concede there would be logistical difficulties having a PM and chancellor from different parties.       

In pantomime terms, which are probably those best suited to the coalition government at the moment, Vince cuts a lonely heroic figure surrounded by celebrity seeking villains!

The Famous Five

I admit to being rather ambivalent about the over hyped and much publicised Take That reunion but, back in the mid ’90s, as  a father of twelve and thirteen year old girls I remember well the female hysteria that accompanied Robbie’s dramatic exit and the subsequent break up of the boy band.

Ostensibly this was a consequence of an apparent disagreement over how the band should develop and the type of music they should be producing but quickly escalated into a battle of giant egos. Robbie and Garry were the main antagonists, and portrayed as the villains of the piece.    

Robbie, a celebrity hero to many in his solo career, has enjoyed his time in the sun including an 80 million pound recording contract with EMI, and whilst hardly on the bread line, his current standing and sales have somewhat slipped. And of course he never really conquered America did he?

Meanwhile, since 2006 the reformed Take That quartet has enjoyed meteoric success, sales are soaring, and their record-breaking The Circus Live has taken the USA by storm. Their heroic celebrity status of yesteryear has well and truly been re-established.  

Old cynics, like me, will say Robbie has got much more to gain than the rest of the boys by hitching his star to the Take That wagon.

The new album and the subsequent tour will undoubtedly be the music industry stories of the year and I am pleased for their legion of loyal fans, mostly in their late 20’s and 30 some things now I guess!

Their type of music never did and still doesn’t do anything for me other than by association with my kids growing up.        

I hope those five boys from yesteryear have matured into men who genuinely have buried their differences and that there is more to this reunion than pound signs!

Once the album is out, I have my doubts they will make it through the tour. Rumour has it Robbie suffers stage fright! Could that be his get out of jail card if he needs it?