Flooding Imperils 500,000 in Sudan

Not too much notice in the West of this:

Forty-eight people have been killed and more than 500,000 affected by the worst floods in Sudan in quarter of a century.

The region around the capital, Khartoum, was particularly badly hit, with at least 15,000 homes destroyed and thousands of others damaged. Across Sudan, at least 25,000 homes are no longer habitable. A UN official described the situation as a disaster.

The flooding, caused by continuous rains…

Deadly floods have hit 14 of Sudan’s 18 states. The capital Khartoum, one of the hardest hit areas, experienced the worst floods in 25 years.

Deadly floods have hit 14 of Sudan’s 18 states. The capital Khartoum, one of the hardest hit areas, experienced the worst floods in 25 years.

If there is little news there is less of its linkage to climate change.  This 2012 dissertation from the University of Reading points directly to it.

Rainfall was found to be associated with the strength and humidity of low level circulations, in addition to the positioning of the upper level tropical easterly jet. Sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean were found to be strongly associated with rainfall in Sudan, suggesting a degree of predictability in the rainfall based on sea surface temperature. Trends in these variables were analysed, with the conclusion that many variables have changed in recent years to produce more favourable conditions for rainfall in this region. This recent shift to a  favourable state relates well to studies in global circulation models which indicate a potential increase in precipitation over north-eastern Africa under anthropogenic climate warming.
And in Mali, also.  Torrential rains, flash flooding, deaths and homelessness:

At least 24 people have been killed in flash floods caused by torrential rain in the Malian capital Bamako, a government official said.

Thousands were also made homeless as the Niger river burst its banks, destroying around 100 houses in several hours of heavy rain on Wednesday in the city of around two million people, Alassane Bocoum, the national director of social development, said on Thursday.


Mali: How You Can Help

Mali MusicHello People,

I hope you can join me at this event I would love to see you there! Dana
As you know Mali, West Africa is at war. The eternally peaceful people of this country are in need .
Yoga Union and Ko-Falen are hosting a yoga class fundraiser to help the people of Mali through this tragic time.

We have the power to directly serve these families.

Ko-Falen is an organization based in Portland and Bamako, Mali which runs a rich cultural center for artists, musicians, and storytellers in Mali. They also run tutoring programs for children of the artisans year round. For each $200 we raise, they will personally deliver food and medical supplies to support a family.

In acknowledgment of their commitment to the global community, Todd Vogt of Yoga Union is leading a flow practice with special Malian music. This practice is dedicated to the support of the peaceful people of Mali and union with all.

Saturday, February 2. 5 – 6:30pm
Yoga Union 2043 SE 50th Portland 97215

Suggested donation $10
For more information KoFalen.org <http://KoFalen.org/>

NOTE: and of course, if you’re not in Portland, your generosity can be there. Follow the link.  [wbk]

News from Mali: “If one forgets where he comes from, trouble will follow them to where they’re going.”

Dear KoFalen members and friends,

Things are much calmer in the Capital of Bamako.  French and Malian troops have taken back the city of Gao in the North, and they are heading to Timbuktu as I write.  We hope that this important historical city is returned to Mali without tragedy.  Despite the return to calm, life is still not back to normal.  The struggles to place an interim government in motion has made daily life a difficult task. Food and fuel prices have soared, making it hard for businesses and families.  After ten months of this, peoples’ resources are exhausted.  I am so thankful we can help in our small way, with our 15 Families food and medical aid, one neighborhood at a time.  But today, I will continue my story of visiting the village of Soni Tieni to deliver school supplies raised by donors to Ko-Falen Cultural Center.  Read more of this post

News from Mail: Poetry

Though war and armed assaults in Mali have been much in the news lately good things continue to happen. Here, a letter from a friend in Portland, Oregon.

 “I wanted to share with you a project we began this year in Bamako, Mail,  linking a Malian high school class learning English with an American class learning French.  They are exchanging poetry written in their 2nd language (actually for the Malians their 3rd or 4th language).  Mali is a land of song, poetry, proverb, where the major language bambara is filled with metaphors and proverbs in everyday exchanges.  So it was a natural to suggest this exchange of poetry.
“Attached are 3 poems from KoFalen’s  “A Fo!  Say It!” project.  Alassane Diarra’s class of Fili Dabo Sissoko High School in BKO participating in the poetry exchange with (Return Peace Corps Mali Volunteer) Stephen Lambert’s class of Metropolitan Learning Center High School in Portland, OR.  This will culminate in a Poetry Reading in April in Directors Park, downtown Portland free and open to the public.”
Mali 1

Read more of this post

Mali in the Maelstrom

I’ve been posting letters from a Malian friend who has been back in his homeland visiting from his current home in Portland, Oregon.  This opinion piece by Karima Bennoune. a legal scholar with wide-ranging experience in the Arab world, draws a a grim picture of what has been happening in Timbuktoo and other parts of Mali.

She also reminds us that the surge in assaults in northern Mali began as Kadafi mercenaries fled Libya with his downfall, and that although the covering rhetoric of the raiders is Islam and sharia, the behavior — assaults and rape of women– contradicts their claims entirely.


Since the jihadist takeover, Gao’s economy has come to a standstill. Every Thursday, there are theocratic show trials in Arabic, a language many residents do not speak. The fundamentalists focus on teaching the predominantly Muslim population of Gao “how to be Muslim.” Like Al Shabab in Somalia and the Taliban in Afghanistan, they have a morality brigade that patrols the city, checking who is not wearing a sufficient veil and whose telephone sins with a musical ringtone. Speaking to a woman in public is an offense; this ban has caused such terror that some men flee in fear if they simply see a woman on the street.

The principal had been attending public punishments to document the atrocities. This meant repeatedly watching his fellow citizens get flogged. He has seen what it looks like when a “convict” has his foot sawed off. Close to tears, he said: “No one can stand it, but it is imposed on us. Those of us who attend, we cry.”


NY Times


News from Mali

Baba Wague Diakite sends this from Mali where he is visiting projects he’s initiated over the years, from his home in Portland, Oregon.

Dear friends,

Don’t be sad for Malian people and the circumstance in Mali at this time.

Mali is here and will remain here.

Don’t cry yet–for you are the hope and the hope is the root and the root is the strongest part of anything.
So don’t cry, for you are to be the one that cries last.

Turn around to witness the task that is well done. Recognize we have been blessed by your positive human spirit and never ending friendship that you have given us.

We are grateful for the empathy of other countries.

If you feel angry, drop the anger and sadness and recognize all the great things you have done through Ko-Falen over the last 15 years.

One village–2 classrooms of 30 students–is now 7 villages–18 classrooms with 1700 students.
Some are going to high school; others are going to college.

At the Ko-Falen Center, our tutoring program gives hope to the kids of artisans and gardeners that otherwise would not have had the chance of an education.

We help sustain a group of young scouts that are taking leadership roles of their own.

My mother once said, “Never close your eyes because of one bad incident, as you may miss seeing all the good things around you.”

Make sure you also appreciate yourselves for the 15 Families Program that ended up helping 20 families for food and medical expenses. You have no idea how blessed and grateful everyone here feels about that.

I am already a believer of human inspiration and yet this is the most positive one.

There was a night that I did not really sleep, thinking about how respectfully people responded when Ronna and I called for help for my fellow Malians. I had desert tea with friends and my brother Madou. We chatted all afternoon into the night. I am sure all the caffeine did not help me. Here is what I felt that night.

The head of my bed faces a window open to the neighborhood’s little creek. Already at 6 pm the frogs begin croaking; by 10 pm crickets and other insects join in creating the sound of harmony. Then a donkey brays to announce 12 am to the dogs, so they can begin barking. By 1 am, an occasional rooster pitches in with their “Kokoriko” until 2:40 am. The donkey brays again and soon after, the night is filled with harmonious chanting.
The donkey brays again around 4:30 am–the same time I can hear the mosque calling and the noise fades into a different type of noise. The Faithful rousing to perform ablutions before prayer. Crying sounds of babies, and their mothers comforting them; then occasional passers by holding conversations, their sandals crunching small grains of red sand.

Dawn comes.

By 6 am I hear the pumping sounds at the well, and cars passing by. By 7 am you can see women walking to the market with their little girls holding onto their pagna skirts, youngsters trying to keep up. School girls walking in groups, with littler sisters crying to their older sibling to wait for them! And the boys come along, looking up at the height of my mango trees, hoping one mango will fall. But the mangoes have not yet ripened so I say,

“Hey, don’t even think about it!”

The Boys will turn their faces toward me, respectfully greeting, “Ini sogoma, Tonton Wague.” I respond, “Good morning,” back to them as they continue their walk around the corner, kicking up the dust of the dirt streets.

Then I realize at this time that Mali is still here and well. I renew my world citizenship and say “No matter where you are in the world, hearing these sounds of nature and babies and watching children just as they have always been, gives me a great deal of hope.”

So the greatness of Mali and Malian people are still here and hopefully you will witness this when you come one day. If you are the hope for someone, you are the spiritual guidance. In Mali the djelibaw/griots/oral historians often sing, “When you are the hope to others, do not start crying, no matter how difficult things seem: simply because you are the root that holds everything together. This makes you the strongest part of the event. So your time to cry is after all of the others.”

I structured this writing from the words I hear from my elders, and if I might have used them wrongly, may their souls forgive me, because I am just Malian.
May love be our tying vines,

Baba Wague Diakite

Ko-Falen Cultural Center

Baba Wagué Diakité at AfricanCrafts.com

News from Mali

I’ve posted a few communiques from a Malian friend, now living in Portland, OR, who has been back home during much of the recent violence there.  Here is the most recent.

For the time being things have calmed down here in Mali. Although normal daily life seems to be returning at government and private sectors, the market place rumors are still on about the scattering of insurgents that are now navigating though the Niger river Southward.The Africa cup in soccer has started this week. As usual, people gather around televisions everywhere–even in the middle of the street. This has been shifting people’s mind from the war and brings a bit of calmness.

I went to meet Djeneba (The young blind girl from the village of Soni Cegni that a Ko-Falen member sponsored to go the the Institute for the Blind in BKO last year). It was great to meet her. She is awfully quiet but seems to be a bright little girl. I asked her if she liked her school and she said yes, but would like to visit home more often. I told her to bear with the school policies for now and that she will have a bright future. I also promised to her that I will pay another year of her school fee. She is very happy.

On Thursday, I will be visiting a school by request to meet and teach drawing through story telling.

I may want to find a place in Portland to share my experiences of this travel all at once.  Any ideas?


You can see Wague’s work and learn more about him at his site, here. 

Tahrir Square, Redux

Despite the fears of some for an Islamic party taking power in Egypt through elections, the Army retains its role as the most feared.  Tens of thousands showed up in Tahrir square to protest its recent re-write of the constitution and giving itself all final power. (Slide show linked to photo…)

The generals’ moves were denounced across the political spectrum here as a military coup, Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Inch’ Allah Dimanche: Algerian Immigrants to France

Immigration is big in the news these days – mostly the opposition to it–  around the world.  It is absolutely the case that most people welcome immigrants when they need them and curse them when they don’t.  What the natives really want is the fairy tale world of snapping fingers to make the genies of cheap labor appear and disappear as needed.  It was as true in France after WW II as it is now.

Inch’Allah Dimanche, a quite wonderful, if not quite complete, film from French Algerian director Yamina Benguigui, explores in microcosm what happens when, after ten years, women and children are allowed to join their worker-husbands in mainland France.  Zouina, as played by the wonderful Fejria Deliba,  also French Algerian, brings three children, and her ferocious mother-in-law [Rabia Mokeddem] to a small row-house in Saint Quentin, France.  After a too painful parting from her own mother at embarkation — with the mother-in-law cursing her, and the children frantic — she arrives to a husband, Ahmed,  [Zinedine Soualem] who is more engaged with his mother than with his wife.

Zouina, despite having to steal the key to get out of the house, begins to make her way around the neighborhood and into the prize flower bed of her next door neighbor after the hyper competitive horticulturist stabs the kids’ soccer ball for a transgression into her sweet babies – that would be flowers.  She learns the strange ways of shopping, that you can’t prepare your coffee in the back yard, and that some French women are demons and others are friends.  She knows when one brings a gift of lipstick and rouge it must be hidden, after a quick try and pleasure at seeing the results.

Deliba  is really wonderful as the determined, curious — and beautiful– mother.   Her  mother-in-law is a dragon of almost unbelievable portions, though she won’t be seen as a stranger to many cultures we are more familiar with.  The man of the house is alternately a beginning guitar player painfully picking out “Apache,”  a dutiful son and a rage-filled husband.

The weakness of the movie  is that Benguigui didn’t quite make up her mind as to whether she had a comedy going, or an angry tale about women in the Arab world.  The husband administers several savage and prolonged beatings.  A heart wrenching scene ends Zouina’s  first contact with another Algerian woman well into the film.  On the other hand, the music, the exaggerated sneaking and running, the flower-gardening neighbors,  sometimes cast it as a French comedy — promising to be all well that ends well.

And in fact it does end well as, after one more escapade, Zouina comes home with her kids alone on a bus whose driver she has caught the eye of.   Ahmed, standing outside waiting for her, suddenly orders his mother to shut-up and go back inside and seems to leap to a new regard of his wife — who announces proudly “From now on, I am walking my children to school.”

An evening of intelligent fun and social commentary, not nearly as disturbing as BiutifulAlejandro González Iñárritu‘s wrenching film, with Javier Bardem, about immigrant life in Barcelona.  Inch’Allah Dimanche won several awards in 2001 for best film, best actress and for  the director.  A very nice sound track complements much of it,  including several songs by Algeria’s well known Berber singer and song writer, Idir, [and here and here,] Alain Blesing’s “Lail” and “Djin,”  Hamou Cheheb’s sweet and scathing “Mon enfance,” [My Childhood.]  (English [google] translation below the fold.)

The title by the way, mixed Arabic and French, translates to “Sunday, God Willing.”

I’m going to watch it again, just to gaze, like the bus driver,  at Fejria Deliba‘s smile.

Read more of this post

Sahara Solar Power?

We’ve been hearing more and more about desert solar arrays as one, of the many, essential technologies to back off of CO2 production and end our dependence on Middle-East oil.  California, Arizona, China, Australia all have projects going, or in the works.  How about the biggest desert in the world, the Sahara?  Is it feasible to generate enough solar power there, and transmit it to population centers to make it a viable hope?  Some big investors think so.

“The Sahara gets twice as much sunshine annually as most of Europe. The European Union wants to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within a decade. So why not build solar power plants across North Africa and ship the electricity north via power lines under the Mediterranean?

Over the past year, more than 30 European companies have joined the Desertec Industrial Initiative, a consortium that seeks a $560 billion investment in North African solar and wind installations over the next 40 years. The group is completing a feasibility study and hopes to be building its first power plant by 2013.

A separate group of companies called Transgreen, formed in July, is working on plans for the thousands of miles of high-voltage lines needed. The challenge is immense: Winning agreement from very different countries on two continents to carry out one of the biggest infrastructure projects in history.

Read more at SF Gate:

It’s true there is a lot sunshine in the Sahara.  Is it enough, after transmission loss, the threat of disruption of a few “backbone” transmission lines, the still sticky Euro-Afro relationships to be better than solar panels on every available horizontal surface large cities have to offer?  It is there, after all, the energy has to be, before it is consumed.  Would a million small solar panels be more resistant to disruption — weather, earthquake, switch failure, terror attack– than several large, industrial size plants in the deserts of Libya, Egypt, Algeria?

Do we have a choice, given the speed of approach of climate change and the inability of governing bodies to make decisions?  We may be throwing mud in a fast moving river and anything to hand will be important.