Thursday, June 11, 2015


We enter now, metaphorically because actually Conrad’s tale was set in the Congo, the heart of darkness. A vast, vast emptiness where the Sahara desert ends without really ending, drought is the country’s normal condition - the last one went on for five years. The military ruled it with a severity even greater than the drought for decades, and among the daily unknowns of life in Niger are where the next meal is coming from, and what is that word “literacy” that people in other countries use. “Numeracy” too, and “health”, let alone the word "peace" – there are virtually no schools, even at primary level, and what passes for hospitals would barely be called clinics in most parts of the world. Yet, unlike Eritrea and the Sudan, when did Niger ever make it into the spaces between the adverts on page seven let alone the headlines of the world’s media outlets, or the fund-raising appeals of the major Third World charities, let alone the publicity-gigs of fading pop stars. Add to all this the Tuareg rebels in the north of the country, seeking independence from Niger just as they are doing from Mali immediately to the west, and the description of this catastrophic human disaster is almost complete. Almost. Alas for the word "almost".

Elections in 2011 brought the Social Democratic Party’s Mahamadou Issoufou to the Presidency, ending yet another period of military rule, following the ousting of his predecessor in a coup in 2010. The 1999 constitution is still in place, but uncertainly, as it was his attempt to rule beyond his constitutional powers that led the army to remove President Tandja. Uncertainly, too, because, shortly after his election, five senior members of the military were arrested for plotting his assassination as a prelude to seizing power themselves. Oh, and Niger is the only country in Africa where slavery is still in place, despite its official abolition in 2003. And now there is Ebola and there is al-Qaida. As Mistah Kurtz quite rightly said. “The horror! The horror!”

But there is some brightness too amidst all this darkness. Niger has discovered oil, and it has huge amounts of uranium as well as other minerals, so watch this space to see whether the Americans or the Chinese are the first to turn up with false promises of humanitarian aid.

Marks for: I cannot bring myself to give a country that is in such a parlous state zero; yet zero it has to be

Marks against: 无限, which I am told is written phonetically as Wúxiàn, and pronounced Wu-zi-an, and is the Chinese equivalent of the symbol I have been using to separate countries throughout this book (and yes, I am presuming that economic conquest will be by the Chinese, not the Americans).

You can find David Prashker at:

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment