Today in Misuses of Legislative Authority

Joining Ugandan lawmakers’ most recent effort to ban mini-skirts in the “asinine interference with our freedoms” legislative initiatives file, local authorities in Kisumu, Kenya are considering a bill that would require women on bicycles and motorcycles to ride sidesaddle.

Apparently, riding astride is “uncultural.” And, like the much maligned mini-skirt, it threatens road safety by distracting male drivers. (See Uganda’s former Ethics & Integrity Minister, Nsaba Buturo’s, 2008 justification for a proposed mini-skirt ban here.) One motorcycle taxi driver interviewed by KTN insisted that having female passengers riding astride behind him compromised his ability to drive.  

Clearly, everyone would be better off if the ladies would just keep their legs together. Except, of course, for the women perched precariously on the backs of boda bodas with no way to keep themselves from flying off in the event of an unexpected stop, turn, or collision. But that’s a small price to pay to protect male drivers from having the knowledge that women have legs forced upon them, right?

To My Great Surprise, I Kind of Love This Charity Ad

When a tipster sent me this ad for the charity Water is Life, I had every expectation that I would hate it.

The gimmick sounded kind of gross: because 1 in 5 Kenyan children don’t reach their 5th birthdays, the ad takes a 4-year-old boy named Nkaitole and helps him complete his “bucket list.” I was prepared for lots of pathos and heartstring-tugging victimhood, but instead what I got was this:

After some reflection, I think that there are a few good things about this video that are worth highlighting.

  1. It focuses on potential, not victimhood. “Save a child” charity ads usually to try to prompt action by provoking the viewer to feel grief for dying children, and guilt for not saving them. By contrast, Nkaitole’s bucket list (which he refers to as “an adventure”), turns out to be a lovely illustration of the way that the whole world loses out when a child dies young. Nkaitole dreams of beating Kenya’s fastest man in a race, and of playing soccer in the national stadium, which subtly reminds the viewer that preventable child deaths might also prevent historic athletic achievements, or the emergence of beloved sports stars.
  2. The items on Nkaitole’s bucket list show that he is sophisticated and aware of the outside world, even though he’s never left his village before. In addition to his dreams of success at soccer and running, Nkaitole wants to ride a speedboat, fly a plane, drive a go-cart and a front-end loader, see the ocean, go ice skating, and ride a hot-air balloon. That’s not a westerner’s idea of what a remote, exoticized “African” would want to do. Rather, those are the dreams of any child, anywhere in the world. (If you add “become a ballerina with magical powers,” that’s pretty much my bucket list from age 4, especially the front-end loader part.)
  3. It makes Kenya look like an awesome place worth living for, not a sad place where children die. By showing that all that is waiting for Nkaitole when he leaves his village, it also tells the viewer that Kenya is a place full of exciting opportunities that are worth surviving for. Again, this goes back to potential, rather than victimhood. (Also, it really does seem great. I half-expected this video to be sponsored by the Kenyan tourist board. “Kenya: come for the beaches, stay for the ice rinks!”)
  4. No “whites in shining armor.” Did you notice that there are no NGO workers in this video? Seriously, none: no Water is Life volunteers pouring clean water for grateful children. No villagers doing a traditional dance of gratitude for their white saviors. No Water is Life SUV driving down a bumpy dirt road. Not even, it should be noted, any sign of Water is Life staff paying for or accompanying Nkaitole on his “adventure,” even though I presume that was the case. Once again, that puts the emphasis on how awesome Nkaitole is, not how awesome the viewer is for deigning to help him, which I appreciated.

I have no idea whether Water is Life is actually doing effective work or not. (They appear to be focused on distributing filtration straws at the moment, which is the kind of development trinket that tends to arouse my skepticism, but they claim to be working on longer-term solutions as well.) However, their ad’s respectful attitude towards the people they’re trying to help suggests that they’re doing something right.

WTF Friday, 2/15/2013

Weird week, huh? In a move unprecedented in the modern era, Pope Benedict XVI decided to call it quits. No word yet on whether God will accept his resignation, but I don’t think we can ignore the uncanny timing of this morning’s meteor strike.

Meanwhile:

  • The 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue came out, doubling down on the idea that nothing shows off white models in expensive apparel like a bunch of “ethnic” folks doing something cultural or labor-intensive nearby.
  • Kenya’s High Court declined to rule on whether pending ICC charges should bar Uhuru Kenyatta from a run at the presidency, saying that it lacked jurisdiction over the question. This is a reasonable position for the court to take, but, as The Guardian points out, it does set up the possibility that “If Kenyatta wins, his first foreign trip as president could be to appear in the dock in the Hague at a hearing scheduled for April.”
  • A Kiwi politician suggested that all Muslim men should be banned from flying on western airlines, and referred to the entire Arab world as “Wogistan” for good measure. Classy.

WTF Friday 12/9/11

“Columns of black smoke from burning tires rose over parts of this capital on Friday as Joseph Kabila, the incumbent president, was declared the official winner of Congo’s troubled election.” Apparently Charles Dickens weighed in over at the New York Times.

Forget all these bogus December holidays, this is my new favorite.

Twitter war between al-Shabab and the Kenyan military? Smh…

WTF Friday, 11/4/11

Why in the world would you wanna make this your issue? Even if it’s just meant to be part of a broader deregulation platform, this is now your issue. Congrats. (Hat tip to Aleksandra!)

Are donkeys under the jurisdiction of the ICC?

Paul Biya re-”elected” in Cameroon, gives him a reason to get out of Switzerland for a little while.

WTF Friday, 7/29/11

Props to Hugo Chavez for his Yul Brynner reference. No props for saying he’s gonna rule for another 20 years. Give it a rest, dude.

Medvedev planning to rap about the budget.

Somalis can apparently now thank members of the Kenyan government for putting al-Shabaab between them and their samosas (perhaps inadvertently).

WTF Friday, 8/27/10 and 9/3/10

I purposely withheld last week’s WTF Friday just to hit you guys with a double whammy this week.

8/27/10
Omar al-Bashir made a surprise appearance at the celebration for Kenya’s new constitution. The ICC has reported Kenya to the UN Security Council, but in the words of Kenya’s foreign affairs minister, “He is a state guest. You do not harm or embarrass your guest. That is not African.” Well thank you, Miss Manners.

Africa: Land of Rape and UN Condemnation of Rape

In non-African rape news, the rape of a transgender woman in the Vietnamese province of Quang Binh may not be prosecuted. The judicial authorities in Quang Bin province are apparently under the impression that rape law in Vietnam only covers the rape of women by men, and “the victim had not reclassified her legal gender from male to female.” According to the chief judge of the provincial People’s Court, “Even if the group raped her ten times, we would not be able to sentence them.” I sure hope the perpetrators haven’t seen that quote! (Vietnamese law actually says nothing about the gender of rape victims or perpetrators.)

Double secret reverse genocide in the DRC? Say it ain’t so, Pauly K.! (via FP Passport).

9/3/10
I don’t think it’s premature to name this photo the “Cutest/Saddest of the Pakistan Flood.” Disaster porn at its finest.

I find it kind of unfortunate that the Football Association elections in Sudan seem to have been run more fairly than the actual elections. And that the Sudanese government seems to take FIFA more seriously than the ICC. Just saying.

So Wyclef seems to be taking his disqualification from the Haitian Presidential Election well: “‘Do you intend to continue supporting people who have no respect for Haiti’s Constitution?’ read the message on his Twitter account, which was later translated into English. ‘Do you continue to support people violating the right of the person who [do] not believe in the value of mankind, that every man is a man, and everybody has to live decently?’” And of course, he’s dropped a protest song and video in record time. This whole thing is starting to make more sense to me now that I realized Wyclef is dropping a new album on December 4 (less than a week after the election) featuring two songs with “Haiti” or “Haitian” in the title, another called “Political Correctness,” and I believe an album cover in which the Haitian flag is wrapped around his head. In fact, and I am definitely delving into conspiracy theory here, his last 3 albums seem to be quite a bit more Haiti-centric than his earlier offerings. Has he been planning this since 2004? I think I need to find a new internship/use for my brain.

Lastly, Fidel Castro has issued an apology and taken responsibility for the discrimination faced by homosexuals during his time as President. He claims to have been too busy with food, medicine, the CIA, traitors, etc, to worry about homosexuality, which wasn’t decriminalized until 1979. You gotta make time to worry about rights and stuff, dude. I take like a whole 45 minutes out of my schedule every week!

WTF Friday, 8/20/10

  • In deportation news, the UK and France are going buck wild and looking to deport 20,000 Zimbabweans and 700 Roma, respectively. France has already moved forward with the plans while the UK is first performing a fact-finding mission. The mission is intended to assess the political and economic climate, but let’s hope it also assesses the real climate, which would push back the deportations until October when the UK is in the middle of Fall and Zimbabwe’s Summer begins. Upgrade!
  • Thanks to Kate for pointing me to this story on Southern Sudan planning to remake cities to look like animals. I was skeptical at first, but I was the same way when I heard they had cookies shaped like animals, and let’s just say I’ve been eating more than my words ever since.
  • Ok Brazil really needs to get a little tougher with its anti-slavery laws. I realize fining a company for keeping slaves on its ranches is better than turning a blind eye, but placing a monetary value on this kind of thing opens the door to a cost-benefit analysis on slave labor. Tell me someone’s not crunching these numbers right now.

WTF Friday, 5/14/10

  • John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, makes an ill advised cannibalism joke at the expense of the Tuhoe tribe, who were already holding a grudge over Key backtracking on an earlier government agreement to return sacred land. Really seems like a pretty dick move.
  • So apparently some pranksters altered part of the new Kenyan constitution and one thousand copies were printed, 500 of which were distributed. The altered version reads “The need to ensure that the enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms by any individuals does not prejudice national security, the rights and fundamental freedoms of others,” while the actual version does not include the national security part. Good one? Not clear yet who is responsible, but I have my suspicions…
  • FP has a slightly sensational and simplistic slide show about burqas called “Veil or Prison.” I mean, are those really the only options?

We Are All Deeply Interested In Subtext

Via Chris Blattman, an excellent video:

The Blatt Man did not know where it came from, but some sleuthing (and the assistance of our brilliant long-time reader Andrew) has tentatively identified the source as Episode 3 of Armando Ianucci’s 2001 show for Britain’s Channel 4. This message board lists the following plot synopsis for that episode:

Episode 3. [Tx 13/09/2001]
TV executives buy up the rights to broadcast life in a Buddhist monastery, a Priest sleeps with his entire congregation, and no one can buy anything without being evil. Also, Kenyan farmers plea for us to give money to British theatre, a different Priest puts on a pornographic mass, and Armando is shouted at for throwing away a sweet wrapper in someone else’s bin.

Hat Tip Chris Blattman, who got it from Kerry at IPA.