Category Archives: African Advent Calendar

My African Advent Calendar: Day 24, BABIES OF IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

The 21 children recovered in Nairobi in 2004 during the Miracle Babies investigation

All 21 of them. All apparently conceived without sex. All miracle babies.

It is more than five years since police in Kenya seized 21 children from two homes as part of an investigation into baby smuggling. Archbishop Gilbert Deya, who ran an evangelical church in London, reckoned he could make women pregnant through the power of prayer (he also claimed to heal a man with a “rotten penis”). He is still fighting extradition.

Meanwhile, 50-odd sets of parents came forward to claim the children. However, none proved a genetic match for the kids leading police to speculate that the real parents may have sold their children – for as little as £15 – making them unlikely to come forward. With the case unresolved, the children are stuck in limbo, wondering where they came from.

My African Advent Calendar: Day 23, AN ASS

Me on a donkey in the Jebel Mara

Insert your own gag here.

The problem with riding donkeys in Darfur is that rider is expected to hit ridee with a big stick in order to facilitate steering. For the first 30min it is possible to threaten to hit the donkey across the face in order to turn left (hit the right side) or right (the left). However, said donkey soon gets wise to this ploy and then stops reacting to the phantom thwack altogether. All in all, not a recommended way to travel. Mary had it all wrong.

My African Advent Calendar: Day 22, A PROPHET

Alice Lakwena at her home in Dadaab camp, shortly before her death in Jan 2007

And lo, a prophet appeared in a faraway land.

“Follow me,” she declared, “but only those that have two testicles – no more, no less.

“And I will protect you with my magic potions and butter and together we will deliver the Promised Land to our people. You must kill snakes.”

Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement very nearly toppled Uganda’s government in the 1980s – helped by the magic butter which appeared to repel bullets (although it may have been that corruption at the bullet factory was making too many duds).  She ended up in Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, and her followers regrouped around Joseph Kony, possibly her nephew, possibly her cousin, although certainly equally bonkers.

She was easy to trace: “Oh yes,” said the International NGO worker in Dadaab, “one of our drivers is a disciple of hers.”

She died in January 2007.

My African Advent Calendar: Day 21, A BOAT

The Lynn Rival (pic supplied by EU)

It has been another good year for the pirates – less so for the 272 sailors (as of last week) still held in or just off Somalia, including the Chandlers from Tunbridge Wells (whose boat is pictured above). With few ideas on how to tackle the menace, 2010 will hold more of the same. The only way out is to build peace and stability on land. Until then, detaining pirate skiffs at sea will simply be a case of picking off mosquitoes without draining the swamp.

African Advent Calendar: Day 20, A TEDDY BEAR

Just don’t call him Mohammed… Anyone know what happened to the little chap?  I seem to recall someone telling me he had been released from the Sudanese cupboard where he was locked up…

My African Advent Calendar: Day 19, A PRINCE

Prince Harry

A king is born? A wise man? Anyway, can’t say much more about this particular snap

African Advent Calendar: Day 18, A GOAT

John the Goat, with maybe 48 hours to live

ME (VIA PHONE): Well I’m having a bit of difficulty getting access on election night. The place is swarming with press and the Obamas are a bit fed up with it all. I’ve just bought them a goat though so I think I should get in for that piece we discussed…

ED: Oh, thanks. (CLICK BRRRR)

30 minutes later

ED (SLIGHTLY BREATHLESS): Love the goat. Forget that other piece. Give us the goat. How much did he cost, how did you pick him, what’s his name, you know the sort of thing

African Advent Calendar: Day 17, A PLANE

Two Chinese A5S at Wadi Sayyidna Air Force Base (2008)

Two Chinese-built A5S warplanes at Sudan's Wadi Sayyidna air force base

Well… two actually, proving it’s difficult to keep your sanctions-busting arsenal secret when anyone can peruse your Chinese-built hardware using nothing more sophisticated than Google Earth. Thanks to Andrei Chang at Kanwa Defense Review Monthly for the image.

My African Advent Calendar: Day 16, A BUCKET

Amos, one of Firestone's rubber tappers in Liberia

Each bucket weighs almost 75lb when full with sticky, white latex sap. But Amos Mulbh was still able to manoeuvre nimbly over fallen trees in Firestone’s Harbel plantation. After all, he had learned how to balance the thin wooden beam across his thin shoulders when he was just 12. I met Amos a in 2006 few months before yet another damning report was published on Firestone’s Liberian plantations. (My story never saw the light of day. Can’t think why…)

My African Advent Calendar: Day 15, A GOLF CLUB

The water hazard at the Race Course's par-three second claims a victim

The BBC’s Adam Mynott gets his feet wet retrieving his ball from a wayward tee shot at Nairobi’s Race Course par-three second hole (if memory serves).