The subtitle of this book by the Dutch journalist Rik Delhaas is : ‘Africa after the Cold War’. Maybe in a way the Cold War is over after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Sovjet-Union. But at the same time I have to say that the relationship between Europe/USA and Russia is not one of a cosy friendship. The situation on the Crimea and in other parts of Ukraine show this.
The Cold War does not feature in this book, I think it is more like a gimmick to sell this book, dating from 2006.
Rik Delhaas has travelled to six countries in Africa. He tries to connect a personal story of someone in that country with major developments in that very same country.
First he travelled to Rwanda. Earlier, this was the first African country he visited, one month after the start of the genocide in 1994. He dives into the world of the gacaca, the local courts were people meet the perpetrators and people can recount their stories. One of the government workers involved in this proces is Celestin Kayibanda. But at times it is hard to tell who is victim and who is perpetrator, or who is both. The political situation is mentioned as difficult for opposition politicians.
The next story we find in South Africa. We meet Wilson Nxumalo who works with kids who live on the streets of Hillbrow in Johannesburg. He paints a picture of the developments in recent years, the changes in population. In 1971 the first coloured and Indian people arrived in the area, 1979 the first blacks. The security in the area is a big problem. In 1997 270 murders were committed, in 2004 127 murders. So in a way the situation has improved. I get the impression that Hillbrow is a forgotten area, forgotten by police and politicians. But people like Nxumalo keep on going.
The third place we go to is Somalia, in the Horn of Africa. We travel to the capital city, and encounter many roadblocks. So many groups who want to have a go at the passing cars and busses and make quick money. We get a closer look at the area of Bulo Hubey, we meet members of the busownersunion who try to negotiate with the people who man the roadblocks. One of the people we meet is Mohammed Osman, who tries to find his way around and survive in this gunloaded town.
Next is a country or is not a country? Rik Delhaas takes us along to Somaliland. In 1991 the place declared itself independent, but since then it has some trouble in finding countries to support it in its independent wishes and dreams. In April 2003 elections were held and Delhaas does research on these elections, what happened on pollingday, who were the contenders, what was the result, was there an agreement? He talks with insiders and politicians and menbers of the Electoral Council. In the end the result of the election was accepted by the different parties and leaders. The title of this books refers to the nicknames given to Somaliland-politicians.
Next we dive into the world of matrasses in the eastern parts of Congo. We meet the familybussiness of Chinja. He and others run the GINKI company, that is famous for its matrasses, but it also has busses, tanklorries and a petrolstation. In times of trouble they manage to keep the business floating. One of the co-owners is Marguerite who is into textile, she sells even kitenge to Asian countries. The children of Chinja are either in the familybussiness or in another business, one wants to be a gospelsinger. At retirement Chinja hopes to find time to travel to Europe and North America. When there is not war and rebellion, maybe international companies come to the Bukabu area, what will this bring to GINKI?
Last but not least is a visit to the Pearl of Africa, as the English politician Winston Churchill called it: Uganda. We meet Rajab Mugambwa, a beggar in the streets of Kampala, who was born in the Luwero-triangle. We trace his life, his relations, we meet his son, who joins him in the streets and who takes care of him, we meet him at his sleepingplace at the KCC shoppingcenter and every morning he goes out into the street to take up his position at his own special place.
Rik Delhaas has given us a well written book, often showing us everyday life. He thanks many different people in his book, who helped him in his travels, who helped him to meet the right people, and who helped him to stay out of trouble.
And …. there are some very nice maps in the book!
Rik Delhaas – De president, de hyena en de kleine hagedis. Afrika na de Koude Oorlog – Amsterdam/Antwerpen 2006