Law & Order

Imagine you are Zambia’s chief prosecutor Mutembo Nchito.

You’ve been director of public prosecutions since 2011 and things seem to be going pretty well. You may or may not have taken advantage of your position for some constructive grafting. Then, in late 2014, disaster strikes. The president who appointed you dies in office. He’s replaced by a new guy after a campaign season focused on corruption and cost of living.

Nevertheless, you, Mutembo Nchito, are shocked when the police show up at your door. They arrest you on a host of charges, including corruption and forgery.

So what do you do?

You’re the chief prosecutor! You drop the charges.

h/t: Ben, formerly in Lusaka.

The Dark Art of Trial Observation

So, this is a thing that happened: “UN observer at Gaddafi trial held on suspicion of ‘black magic’.”

Ahmed Ghanem is one of three trial monitors sent by the UN to observe the prosecution of former Gaddafi regime officials. He was briefly detained by judicial police, who claimed that he was carrying documents “indicating possible ‘sorcery’ or improper communications”.

Personally, if I were a relatively new regime trying to convince the world that I could run a country and do normal government stuff like holding criminal trials and recognizing immunity, I would maybe not arrest UN officials on insane, made up charges. But that’s just me.


On Looking Good in Bad Places

If you read this blog, chances are you either have gone or will go to places you can’t buy a travel guide for, or are my mother (hi Mom!). If the former, pick up a copy of Expat Etiquette: How to Look Good in Bad Places ASAP.

Co-authored by Michael “The Bear” Kleinman, Expat Etiquette offers tips on navigating squat toilets, share cabs, black market alcohol dealers, and the poisonous Expat Bubble. And it doesn’t omit the single most important piece of advice for anyone heading to the non-touristed world: “Do not forget to bring your own emergency toilet paper.”

I look forward to sequel “Coming Home: What to Do When You Find Yourself Crying in a Big Box Store”. (Get on that, guys?)

WTF Friday, 2/14/14

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  I was going to put up a WTF Friday about this batshit insane story, but I thought that might spoil the mood. So instead, you get this gem:

“There has been chaos in the lower house of India’s parliament after an MP used pepper spray to disrupt proceedings.


Mr Rajagopal smashed a glass and used pepper spray on his colleagues when Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde tried to table the bill to create Telangana, which will be carved out of Andhra Pradesh state.

Some unconfirmed reports said another MP pulled out a knife. Several other MPs were reportedly involved in clashes with their opponents.

Mr Rajagopal told Indian media he had acted in self-defence after being attacked.”

State monopoly on violence, ur doin it wrong.

WTF Friday, 1/31/2014

I remember going to a Model United Nations conference for the first time and thinking it was a shame people didn’t take it more seriously and act like REAL delegates. (Yup, that’s the kind of super-fun 16 year old I was.)

Then I went to work at the actual United Nations.

I was sitting in the General Assembly one Friday morning when a junior Tunisian diplomat surreptitiously passed me a note inviting me to a kegger at the Egyptian third secretary’s apartment, and I thought to myself, “huh, I guess Model UN was more accurate than I gave it credit for”.

Further evidence in Model UN’s defense arose yesterday after the Security Council session, when Rwanda’s ambassador accused the Congolese delegation of “crying like small babies”. I can only assume that the Congolese fired back that Rwanda are a bunch of asshats who can suck it, and then stomped off to do their math homework.

WTF Friday, 1/10/2014

Today in “things you didn’t know you could get arrested for”: Opposition politician Frank Bwalya has been arrested and charged with defamation for calling Zambian president Michael Sata a potato. Specifically, a chumbu mushololwa, which is, apparently, a “sweet potato that breaks when it is bent”. He faces up to five years of prison time if convicted of this heinous offense.

In an interview with Voice of America, Bwalya claimed that his remarks were misinterpreted:

I called him a crooked sweet potato that cannot be straightened. It is a commonly used phrase which is not insulting. It is to explain the attitude of a person who doesn’t want to be advised who doesn’t want to be counseled.

So there you go. He meant potato in the sense of being a bad leader who won’t take advice, not in the more insulting sense of being a starchy tuber that tastes delicious with steak.

In either case, it hardly seems to qualify as “abusive language” aimed at “intentionally undermining the constitution”. So maybe dial it back a notch with your insane defamation statute, Zambia?

H/T: Ben in Lusaka

WTF Friday, 1/3/2014

It’s a new year, but the same old nonsense.

In a super-literal object lesson on the painful and long-lasting effects of war, an Allied bomb dropped during WWII detonated today in Germany, killing one person and injuring eight others. Sadly, this is a fairly regular occurrence. Just two months ago, 20,000 people had to be evacuated from their houses so that authorities could defuse a 4,000 lb. bomb in Dortmund.

And, lest you think North Korea news maxed out on ridiculousness last year, a Chinese newspaper claims that Kim Jong Un’s uncle was not just executed, he was eaten alive by 120 dogs. Guess the unicorns weren’t hungry?

Happy 2014, everyone.

WTF Friday, 12/20/2013

Strange news out of North Korea this week. The surprise execution of leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle Jang Song Thaek led many to wonder if the regime was gearing up for an act of international provocation. Yesterday they got their answer, and they got it in the most mid-1990s-est way possible: by fax.

Remember fax machines? We used to use them back in the days when we were still waiting to see whether Kelly would choose Brandon or Dylan. They looked like this:


Anyway, according to news reports, the South Korean National Security Council received a fax from Pyongyang, threatening to “strike mercilessly without notice”. Seoul responded, also by fax (apparently all their Doc Martens-wearing bike messengers were busy), to say that South Korea is prepared to “firmly retaliate” in the event of an attack. No word yet on whether floppy disks will figure in the counter-assault plans.


*Photo from the Wiki.

We Did It!

Advocacy organization Falling Whistles, which we’ve covered in the past, has recently revealed that they and their followers “stopped M23.” That’s pretty swell and all, but we’d be more impressed by their success if it weren’t for the fact that we’ve just arranged for the destruction of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

That’s right. We wanted those weapons to be gone, and said so to a whole bunch of people. And wished super hard every time we found a stray eyelash. And now the weapons are dunzo, so clearly our campaign worked! Hooray for us.

We are realistic about our accomplishments, and are not trying to take more credit than is due. While a single wish on a single eyelash might not have much of an effect on a despotic regime’s weaponry, we travel all over the world, wishing on stray eyelashes everywhere we go. That’s powerful.

We would also like to offer our gracious thanks to our partners in this struggle: Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, countless Syrians who risked (and in many cases lost) their lives, and the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Their work was very important, and we’re grateful that they decided to take action because of us. Even the Assad regime, which initially seemed resistant to our organized wishing campaign, eventually came around.

Great work everyone, but particularly Amanda and Kate!