Monday, July 30, 2007


A McGill University graduate with good looks and articulate speech, but no journalistic grounding, Zain Verjee began her career at CNN International writing copy and producing news bulletins. She moved on to cover the conflict in the Middle East, the trial of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, and the Iraq war.

Zain was called for auditions and was told that there was no guarantee of a full time job as a news anchor.

Today Zain Verjee is CNN's State Department correspondent, based in the network's Washington, D.C., bureau. Before that her face beamed from screens across the globe as she anchored CNN's international rolling newscast, Your World Today, with Jim Clancy, and the debate program Q&A on that network. Though there is a lot of money to be made working in renowned international media houses like CNN, Zain admits that money is not the key incentive, but, instead, it is the work and the challenges that come with it that motivates her. Presenting breaking news, interviewing rare personalities such as the heads of states, business leaders, meeting interesting and inspiring people at work all keep her motivated and looking forward to the next day. In addition, she is has the opportunity to call the likes of Larry King, Christiane Amanpour, and Wolf Biltzer colleagues.

Zain was born on February 11, 1974, in Kenya, to Ismaili Muslim parents hotelier Johnny Verjee and DNA sequencing and forensic expert Yasmin Verjee. She attended Hillcrest school for her primary and secondary education. She then went on to McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and obtained a BA degree in English. She later joined York University for her masters degree in gender and environmental development. Zain speaks English, Gujarati, Swahili and conversational French.

Zain's tryst with media began in 1996, when in Nairobi on vacation and working on her masters thesis from York University. Her father suggested that she volunteer at Capital FM, which had just been launched. She tried her voice at a local radio station, and it was there that she fell in love with broadcast journalism. With her clear and simple English accent and flow of speech she was soon anchoring the prime time news bulletin for Kenya Television Network (KTN). She also compiled, produced, and presented documentaries for KTN, and hosted talk shows. At the same time Zain was able to make room in her busy schedule for freelance gigs for the BBC, as well as the production of several other programs.

Inevitably the drive to work for an internationally acclaimed TV network gained momentum, as she relentlessly pursued her dream job for a month. Persistence and ambition are what led her to send a demo tape to the CNN channel's headquarters in Atlanta.

She told the Nation Newspapers in an interview "They had not advertised any post but I thought I should send them a tape of my work along with my CV just in case there was something I could do for them, even on a freelance basis. I had nothing to loose anyway. The worst that could happen is I could be told no. So I sent in the tapes of my stuff on both radio and television. Well, they liked it and the rest if history."

Zain's talents are opening doors in high places for the 6 foot Kenyan with a flying ambition. She is noted to be polite and cheerful and maintains a decorum of humility and self confidence with all sorts of people and her fans.

Working at CNN International, Zain now understands why African events are rarely covered effectively in western media forums, noting that getting information from the continent is very difficult. Some of the challenges she notes include problems with getting flights, some countries not giving visas to foreigners, and others not respecting journalists, all of which makes it difficult to cover African news. Time lags in getting materials and transmitting to CNN for broadcasting are therefore inevitable.

Photo by CNN
"....I do feel like a role model, but my desire is to prove that I represent something positive from Kenya. This is what I would like people to emulate. I want to show that there are people from Africa that are positive and encouraging.
I am not naive not to see the problems facing Africa, but the continent has good and positive things to offer too. I would like to present a balanced report on Africa."

"The CNN environment is very professional and more advanced that the environment in Kenya's stations. In Kenya, journalists do everything, from sourcing the stories and identifying the people to be interviewed to researching and putting the story together and transmitting it on air or on paper.

"At CNN, the environment is different. There are executive producers who come up with ideas, then there are agents who book the guests to appear on the different shows and segments, there is a research team that does all the research on guests and events prior to interviews, news reports and different segments. Everything is very well-organised."

In the US, journalists have more freedom of speech and there are more resources at their disposal. They enjoy better pay, have an elaborate access to information from various sources.

Journalists at CNN critic themselves on a regular basis. At the end of each show or segment, a conference is held where the journalists analyse it. They point out the flaws or mistakes and discuss possible improvements. This sessions allows journalists to grow, and Zain loves it.

"I love going to work every day because I'm always laughing. But at the same time all the journalists are serious, experienced and professional, and they know what they are doing and do it to their best ability."
Interview extract from Nation Media

Zain misses her home in Kenya
east or west home is best.

Photo by Worth 1000


CNN Zaine Verjee Bio

Friday, July 27, 2007


Girma Wolde-Giorgis not too old to lead
old is gold

Girma Wolde-Giorgis born December 1924 in Addis Ababa (1917 as per the Ethiopian Calendar) is the President of Ethiopia. He was elected on October 8, 2001, as a relative unknown and a surprise choice, by a unanimous vote of the Ethiopian Parliament. The Ethiopian presidency is largely a symbolic office with little power. Presidents serve six-year terms. The president is independent of any political party in the country and would have no affiliation with any political party.

As reported by the BBC "UnKnown Elected Ethiopian President" "The elderly businessman-turned-politician has survived three successive regimes.

Under Emperor Haile Selassie, Lt. Girma served in various capacities at the Ethiopian Air Force and the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority in the former province of Ethiopia, Eritrea, until his retirement in 1953 E.C., when he became member of the parliament.

Also under the emperor, he joined parliament and became president of the lower chamber.

In this role, he established the first international parliamentary committee and developed a flair for international relations.

When the military regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam overthrew the emperor in 1974, Lieutenant Wolde Giorgis worked with the "dergue" regime in many different roles including as president of the Red Cross in Eritrea, which was then a province of Ethiopia.

When the military dictatorship was overthrown in 1991 by the present day ruling EPRDF party, Lieutenant Wolde Giorgis embarked on several private business ventures.

He is now a stakeholder in several banks and is an independent MP in a constituency in the western Shoa region.

President Museveni of Uganda, President Wolde-Giorgis of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia

There was been a mixed reaction to the Lieutenant Wolde Giorgis becoming due to concerns over his age and comments that he looked too frail to assume the presidency.

BBC reported that political analysts considered Lieutenant Wolde Giorgis an "opportunist" for surviving and working under three totally opposing regimes in Ethiopia.

Most however remain apathetic, saying that the president does not really matter as his powers are largely ceremonial and so he could never bring about real change in the country.

Lieutenant Wolde Giorgis is from the majority Oromo ethnic group which make up more than 30% of Ethiopia's 63 million people.

The President of Ethiopia speaks Oromiffa, Amharic, Tigrigna, Italian, English and French.

He is married with five children.

Biography Girma Wolde Giorgis

Lieutenant Girma Wolde-Giorgis Elected President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Everyone seems to want a part of Africa. The Scramble of Africa has been part of the African history for thousands of years. Phoenician, Greek and Roman peoples all sailed the Mediterranean Sea and colonized the lands on its shores. Carthage, founded by the Phoenicians about 814 BC, speedily grew into a city without rival in the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians subdued the Berber tribes who, then as now, formed the bulk of the population, and became masters of all the habitable region of North Africa.
Greeks founded the city of Cyrene in Ancient Libya around 631 BC. Cyrenaica became a flourishing colony, though being hemmed in on all sides by absolute desert it had little or no influence on inner Africa. The three powers of Cyrenaica, Egypt and Carthage were eventually supplanted by the Romans. After centuries of rivalry with Rome, Carthage finally fell in 146 BC. Within little more than a century Egypt and Cyrene had become incorporated in the Roman empire. Interaction between Asia, Europe and North Africa during this period was significant; major effects include the spread and the cross pollination of culture.

1812 map of Africa by Arrowsmith and Lewis

However the events that took place in the late 19th century will forever over shadow any previous attempts to colonize African continent by previous super powers. Due to growing interest to explore and exploit Africa, the Europeans felt that it would be desirable for the powers who were interesting themselves in Africa to come to some agreement as to "the rules of the game," and to define their respective interests so far as that was practicable.

The 19th century imperialism was characterized by frantic competition among European nations to gobble up as much of the world map as possible. This led these nations into conflicts with native peoples and with each other.

One of the biggest stories of the NEW IMPERIALISM was "THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA",also known as the Race for Africa, which was a sensational issue then.

Before 1880 only 10% of Africa was controlled by European Powers. Colonies dotted along the coast of West Africa from the defunct slave trade, settlements in southern Africa by Dutch, English & Portuguese, and Algeria in the north, conquered by the French.


Commercial greed, territorial ambition, and political rivalry all fueled the European race to take over Africa. In part the so-called White Man's Burden to rescue the rest of the world from themselves. (Forms of arrogance, military and cultural, still a part of Western society.)

Leopold II of Belgium

He is chiefly remembered as the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State, a private project undertaken by the King to extract rubber and ivory in the Congo region of central Africa, which relied on forced labour and resulted in the deaths of between 5 to 22 million Congolese

In 1865 Leopold II becomes King of Belgium and begins the New Imperialist rant; that is he starts giving speeches in which he pushes the glories of exploration and conquest. In the 1870s Leopold sets his sights on the heart of Africa ( Conrad's "Heart of Darkness") and in 1876 sends H. M. Stanley up the Congo to establish trading posts and the beginnings of the Belgian Congo Free State . This opens up the question of control of the bulk of sub-Saharan Africa (West, Central and East Africa).

In 1880 France establishes a French Protectorate on the north bank of the Congo in direct response to the Belgian Congo on the south bank (hence the division that still stands between the two Congos.)

In 1882 Britain conquers Egypt, heating up fierce, unbridled competition among all the powers of Western Europe for control of the African continent, leading to the. . .

Otto Von Bismack aka Otto Eduard Leopold of Bismarck-Schönhausen


Hosted by Otto von Bismarck, at this summit meeting on Africa, the Western powers lay down the rules for dividing up Africa, mainly establishing the principle of "effective occupation" to claim territory. Simply put, they agree to recognize any areas that are already occupied or being exploited by other European nations. This ultimately led them to explore the interior zones within Africa by competing European armies, as the European powers rushed to establish legitimate claims to areas unoccupied by other European powers.

Soldiers of King Menelik II fended off the Italians, keeping Ethiopia independent from European colonization. No African countries were consulted during the partitioning of Africa. An "International treaty" was signed that disregarded the ethnic, social and economic composition of the people that lived in that area. This was to resurface years later, as ethnic or "tribal" conflict, after the African countries gained their independence.

1885-1898 Germany and France cooperate against Britain in Africa. Pushing south from Algeria, East from Senegal and North from the Congo, France conquers much of Western Africa (and some of Central). The British greatly expand their holdings by pushing into the interior from their coastal colonies in the West, from South Africa north and east, and from Egypt south. Germany enters the fray with Togoland & Cameroons in West Africa, Southwest Africa (Namibia) and German East Africa or Tanganika (now most of Tanzania); Italy gets into the act in Libya & Somalia, as does Spain in coastal West Africa.

No territory could be formally claimed prior to being effectively occupied.

The many large and small resistance armies by the native communities were in time destroyed by the superior armaments of European armies and a brutal cultural arrogance.

By 1900 only Ethiopia and Liberia remained free of European control. By this point in history, even the Dutch Afrikaaner Republics in South Africa were conquered by the English in the infamous Boer War.

More information and editing to be done on this page.....

Monday, July 23, 2007


Photo by Cedric Kalonji

A group of friends carrying a coffin bearing the remains of their deceased friend. Their friend passed away and they had no money to rent a hearse and transport his remains to his village for burial. Hence, they decided to carry his coffin and walk all the way to his village.

Selling newspapers

No Matter What Life Serves Us Everyday,
Despite All Odds, Life Goes On In Africa

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Africa's little Venice
Photos by Brian McMorrow

village of Ganvie, located about an hour north of Cotonou, Benin is built on the waters of Lake Nokoué. With a population of around 20,000 people, it is probably the largest lake village in Africa and as such is very popular with tourists.

Photos by Brian McMorrow

The houses stand on stilts and the inhabitants move around in small boats. The market is conducted on the boats that roam over the lake and people carry out their daily affairs by boat.
East West Home is Best
Photos by Brian McMorrow

The village was established in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries by the Tofinu people, who were fleeing the Abomey kings and their brutal rule, war and slave trade. It is not clear as to why they adopted this strategy however some sources claim that since the king’s soldiers could not swim, they built themselves a village on the water, and were thereby safe from the persecutors. Other sources depict that the Kings solders were forbidden to enter into water during warfare and thus the option of building their homesteads offered a safe haven. Some sources claim the Dan-Homey's religion forbade them from attacking over water.

Tourist shop



School building at Ganvie
Photos by Brian McMorrow

There are no dry connections between most buildings in Ganvie. The dry land in Ganvie is usually used to build on schools, churches, and for grave yards. Vodoo temples, craft houses, hotels and restaurants are also built on stilts. Originally based on farming, the village's main industries other than tourism are now fishing and fish farming.

To get to Ganvie you drive to Abomey-Calavie and take a boat from there. It is recommended to go with a guide from Cotonou, who is used to the hustling at the boat stands.

Ganvie Boat Landing

Brian McMorrow an intrepid traveller had this to say from his journey to Ganvie, Benin.

"Ganvie is a village of small huts built in the middle of the shallow lake Lac Nokoué. While quite interesting and a highlight of Benin, the unfriendly attitudes most of the inhabitants display towards tourists makes me think perhaps people should take their $£€ elsewhere."