Saturday, March 31, 2007


What is Uranium

  • Uranium is a very heavy (dense) metal which can be used as an abundant source of concentrated energy.

  • It occurs in most rocks in concentrations of 2 to 4 parts per million and is as common in the Earth's crust as tin, tungsten and molybdenum. It occurs in seawater, and could be recovered from the oceans if prices rose significantly.

  • It was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, in the mineral called pitchblende. It was named after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered eight years earlier.

  • Uranium was apparently formed in super novae about 6.6 billion years ago. While it is not common in the solar system, today its slow radioactive decay provides the main source of heat inside the earth, causing convection and continental drift.

  • The high density of uranium means that it also finds uses in the keels of yachts and as counterweights for aircraft control surfaces (rudders and elevators), as well as for radiation shielding.

  • Its melting point is 1132°C. The chemical symbol for uranium is U.
  • South Africa, Namibia and Niger are the three African countries currently ranked among the 10 leading global producers of uranium.

The Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine located in the west of central Namibia, Southern Africa.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Cleanliness is next to godliness and in Africa, this is a concept we take seriously.

Women Bathing in Lake Upemba in Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo Courtesy of NPR

Bathing in the Niger River by Steve Raymer

Monday, March 26, 2007


Former cabinet minister Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi has won Mauritania's historic presidential election. Abdallahi gained 53% of the ballots cast in Sunday's run-off, against 47% for opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah. These election is perceived to be the fairest since Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960.

Mauritania started its march towards democracy in November 2006, when local and regional elections were held throughout the country. Presidential elections followed in March 2007. However, none of the 19 presidential candidates won more than 50% of the vote in the first round, and the two top candidates, Sidi Ould Sheik Abdallahi, a former government minister, and Ahmed Ould Daddah, an opposition leader, headed for the country's first-ever second round of voting.

Newly Elected President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (Center)
"I hereby proclaim that the next president of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania will be Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi," said Interior Minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine announced on 03-26-07

Abdallahi is a member of the so-called White Moor elite and is reported to have spent time in prison under previous military rulers. Abdallahi has pledged tough measures against slavery, which was banned in 1981 but which still persists. Mauritania is an ethnically diverse mix of Arabic-speaking Moors and black Africans. The large Black Moor population are current and former slaves of the fairer-skinned ruling elite, the White Moors. Abdallahi pledged "special legislation" criminalising slavery while his rival, Daddah, promised compensation for slaves and penalties for law-breakers.

Photo courtesy by Fayries

Mauritania, three times the size of Arizona, is situated in north west Africa with about 350 miles (592 km) of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Morocco on the north, Algeria and Mali on the east, and Senegal on the south. The country is mostly desert, with the exception of the fertile Senegal River valley in the south and grazing land in the north.

A three months old baby in his mothers hand in a small village in the Mauritanian dessert.
Photo Courtesy by Ferdinand Reus

Mauritania was first inhabited by blacks and Berbers, and it was a center for the Berber Almoravid movement in the 11th century, which sought to spread Islam throughout western Africa. It was first explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century, but by the 19th century the French gained control. They organized the area into a territory in 1904, and in 1920 it became one of the colonies that constituted French West Africa. In 1946, it was named a French Overseas territory. Mauritania became an independent nation on Nov. 28, 1960.

The Camel does not look pleased
One of the world's poorest countries, Mauritania has pinned hopes for future prosperity on the exploitation of its offshore reserves of oil and natural gas. The Chinguetti and Tiof fields are expected to yield millions of barrels of oil.

Early Morning Koran Lessons for the Children
Photo Courtesy by Ferdinand Reus

Politics in Mauritania is based on ethnic and racial lines. The primary conflict is between blacks, who dominate southern regions, and the Moorish-Arabic north, which runs the country. Racial tensions reached a peak in 1989 when Mauritania went to war with Senegal in a dispute over the border. As each country repatriated citizens of the other, critics accused Mauritania of taking the opportunity to expel thousands of blacks.

Although Mauritania officially abolished slavery in 1980, the nation continues to tolerate the enslavement of blacks by North African Arabs. In 1993, the U.S. State Department estimated that there were more than 90,000 chattel slaves in the country.

Skyra a runaway Mauritanian slave in a recent interview narrated her slavery ordeal to BBC journalist. She recalls her earliest childhood memories are of fetching water, tending animals, cooking and cleaning.
"I was tied up all night and all day. They only untied me so I could do my chores. In the end I could barely move my limbs."

Yet she never earned a single penny.

"All those years...and I don't even own a goat".
Skyra was born to a slave mother so there was never any question she would be anything else. She reveals as having been raped often by her masters.

"My master is the father of my first child, my master's son is the father of my second child and my baby girl's father was my master's nephew".

Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International initiatives are consistently hampered by the government. The government has further refused to grant official recognition of similar organisations working on this issues. Despite numerous government talk against slavery and the passing of legislation prohibiting slavery it seems the government has little interest in really wiping out slavery. More Information

The Cars are over packed
Photo Courtesy by Ferdinand Reus

Capital Nouakchott; 600,000
Area 1,030,700 square kilometers(397,955 square miles)
Language Hassaniya Arabic, Wolof, Pulaar, Soninke, French
Religion Muslim
Currency ouguiya
Life Expectancy 54
GDP per Capita U.S. $1,700
Literacy Percent 42


  • Industry: fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum.
  • Agriculture: dates, millet, sorghum, rice; cattle.
  • Exports: iron ore, fish and fish products, gold.



Sunday, March 25, 2007


Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé President of Togo

Born in the town of Afagnan in 1966, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé studied in Paris and obtained Master of Business Admnistration degree from The George Washington University, USA. Prior to becoming president Faure was deputy to the National Assembly of Togo for Blitta, coordinator of the commission in charge of privatization and served as Minister of Mines and Telecommunications. He has a reputation of a skilled politician. Since coming to power, he has been working tirelessly to reconcile Togolese politicians and revive the relations with European Union.

Faure's Father

General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, 1937-2005 was the 5th President of Togo from 1967 until he death in 2005. At the time of his death he was the longest-serving head of state in Africa . He fathered more than a hundred children with numerous women. His son Faure Gnassingbe then took power as his successor as he was one he considered to be more level headed and had been his financial advisor on his business interests.

Like his father Gnassingbe Eyadéma, Faure is a man of very few words. But he does have the fierce loyalty of the West African country’s well-organized and well-equipped military. He is a relative newcomer to politics, entering the political fray in June 2002, when he won a seat in parliamentary elections as a candidate of the ruling Togo People’s Rally in Blitta constituency in central Togo.
Later, he was appointed by his father as minister for telecommunications, mines and equipment - a post he held until his Eyadema’s death in February. The Late Eyadema considered political leadership a matter for destiny to decide. The late president once told journalists he would never impose a successor on his people. However, while his son was minister, Eyadema lowered the eligibility age for presidential candidates from 40 to 35 years when the ruling party
Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais dominated parliament unilaterally amended the Togo constitution in December 2002.

Market life in Togo

On February 5, 2005, following his fathers death the late President Gnassingbe Eyadéma of a heart attack shortly afterwards, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé was named by Togo’s military as the country’s leader, raising numerous eyebrows. Army Chief of Staff General Zakari Nandja announced the succession, saying the speaker of parliament (who should have taken over under the constitution) was out of the country. Africa Union leaders described the naming of Faure Gnassingbé as a military coup. The constitution of Togo declared that in the case of the president’s death, the speaker of Parliament takes his place, and has 60 days to call new elections. However, on February 6, Parliament retroactively changed the Constitution, declaring that Faure would hold office for the rest of his father’s term, with elections deferred until 2008.

The African Union described the takeover as a military coup d’etat. International pressure from the United Nations and Togo's opposition to the takeover culminated in riots. In response, Gnassingbé agreed to hold elections in April 2005. On February 25, Gnassingbé resigned as president, soon after accepting nomination to run for the office in April. On May 3, 2005, Gnassingbé was sworn in as the new president garnering 60% of the vote according to official results. Disquiet has continued however with the opposition declaring the voting as having been rigged.

Dynastic succession is reported to be a characteristic of more conservative Francophone African countries, where power is heavily concentrated around the presidency - which in turn is dependent on the backing of the former colonial power, France. Remnants of chieftaincy traditions are also a deciding factor as illustrated by government ministers who are more akin to “courtiers”.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Kwame Nkrumah was the first black African post colonial leader in Africa

Kwame Nkrumah
was born Kwame Francis Nwia Kofie in the south-west of the Gold Coast a.k.a. Ghana in 1909. Whilst studying economics and sociology in America, he became an active member in the Pan African movement, which was demanding freedom and independence for the colonies. Nkrumah returned to his homeland in 1947 and became Secretary General of the United Gold Coast Convention, which was campaigning to end British rule. However, in 1948 he was expelled from the organization for leading a campaign of civil disobedience. He responded by founding the Convention People's Party in 1949, the first mass political party in black Africa.
After independence in 1957 Ghana became a republic in 1960.

But while Nkrumah worked to improve living standards at home, his ambitions extended beyond national boundaries. Right from the dawn of independence in the 1960s, Nkrumah made a passionate call for African unity. Explaining his vision in his 1961 book, I Speak of Freedom, he wrote:

"Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world...I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind."

The many attempts made to unite Africa came to naught, as few of the newly independent countries were persuaded of the need to give up some of the power they had recently won to a central parliament for the continent.

Ghana was one of 30 nations that founded the Organization of African Unity, in 1963. Nkrumah regarded it as inadequate, as it was not the United States of Africa he longed for.

Kwame Nkrumah seen here with his wife and supporters
"By far the greatest wrong which the departing colonialists inflicted on us, and which we now continue to inflict on ourselves in our present state of disunity, was to leave us divided into economically unviable States which bear no possibility of real development...."

Over the next few years as president he was increasingly regarded as an authoritarian and remote leader. In 1964 he declared himself president for life and banned opposition parties.

Justifying his actions he wrote:

"Even a system based on a democratic constitution may need backing up in the period following independence by emergency measures of a totalitarian kind."

Many Ghanaians celebrated when their former hero was overthrown by the police and military while he was on a visit to China in 1966. There was little response to Nkrumah's broadcasts calling for the nation to rise against the coup leaders. He died in exile in Romania in 1972.

Nkrumah in his wisdom:

"Revolutions are brought about by men, by men who think as men of action and act as men of thought."

"The best way of learning to be an independent sovereign state is to be an independent sovereign state,"

"Freedom is not something that one people can bestow on another as a gift. They claim it as their own and none can keep it from them."

"It is far better to be free to govern or misgovern yourself than to be governend by anybody else."

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Himba live on both sides of the border separating Namibia and Angola. Since the 19th century the Himba of Namibia have moved back and forth across the border in response to drought, war and repression. The Himba, acclaimed as friendly people, are closely related to the Herero and speak the same language. The Himba are herdsmen, breeding mainly cattle and goats, while leading a semi-nomadic life. They migrate with their herds to different waterholes from season to season. The Himba have been referred to as "multi-use strategists." They combine semi-nomadic pastoralism with periodic wage labor and handicrafts, as well as other small-scale rural industries. Like many indigenous peoples in southern Africa, they have a great deal of knowledge of their environment and relatively simple but efficient technology. Their population is small and widely distributed.

Himba Kitchen

Himba Chicken on a casual stroll

Himba hut

Himba storage hut
For the Himba, clothes, hair and jewellery hold a special meaning, and form an important part of tradition and culture. Even newborn babies are adorned with necklaces, while older children are given bracelets crafted from copper and decorated with shells.

Himba woman showing the red ochre they use for beauty. Ochre powder and butter fat are mixed until the mahogany colour is right. The mixture is then applied by the women in the morning and afternoon as a way of refreshing themselves and as a deodorant.
Photo Courtesy by Brian McMorrow

The proud Himba women spend many hours on beauty care and grooming every day. They cream their whole body with a mixture of rancid butterfat and ochre, scented with the aromatic resin of the Omuzumba shrub. The cream lends the body an intense reddish glow, which reflects the Himba ideal of beauty. Married women wear a small headpiece made of soft skin on top of their braided and ochered hair. In addition, they often wear a heavy ornament around their necks that includes a conch shell that hangs between their breasts in the front and a metal studded leather plate that hangs down the center of their back. They also wear heavy metal rings around their ankles, as well as other jewelry made of copper, ostrich shells, or woven reeds.

TRAVEL LOG BY Brian McMorrow, an intrepid traveller, and with whose immense generosity has offered us the opportunity to use photos from his travels, had this to say from his visit to the Himba community living in Namibia:

"The beautiful remote area of Epupa Falls was one of the highlights of my travels in Africa. This photo, I believe, is one of the best I have ever taken."

"The children seemed happy to be taking a break from their chores, which included collecting manure in tin bowls.We were told that the manure is used to repair the small huts the Himba live in.
Our visit was organized by the upscale Epupa Falls camp. In return for allowing us to visit the village and take photographs, the camp gives the village a small box containing things like coffee, tea and sugar."

Himba children collecting manure
Photo Courtesy by Brian McMorrow

Due to the uncontrolled influx of tourists into their homeland, the Himba's lifestyle and culture have become increasingly endangered. Out of ignorance, tourists are introducing many alien concepts to the Himba culture, like giving sweets to the children and alcohol to the men. As a result, it is reported that many Himba have become beggars and alcoholics. There have been numerous demands for better control of Himba tourism and to declare the entire region a conservation area.

Namibia Travel
Government of Namibia
Cultural Survival