Andrew Walker, who reported from Nigeria for 4 years, is blogging. He always has original thoughts on Nigerian events. Here’s an example:
Boko Haram is a group that now sustains itself by bank robberies, like this one on the same day as the events in Sokoto. It’s a curious side effect of the banking revolution in Nigeria over the last few years, there are banks in the most remote of places. Easy pickings.
Tristan Reed might not know it, but he has introduced me to many of my most treasured running songs (including this ridiculously good mix). Now he will be introducing me to economic papers on (among other things) development via his new blog Margin Notes. Tristan will post abstracts and comments on articles he finds interesting. I’ve added it to my reader, and suggest you do the same.
Not to get sentimental or anything, but this month marks 5 years of blogging for me. (Thankfully when I moved from Blogger to WordPress, my oldest posts did not transfer completely, thus saving me the embarrassment of people reading my 2005 Oh-My-God-I’m-In-Africa posts.)
Chris Blattman outlines his reasons for blogging as follows:
- He likes it.
- Writing daily forces him to distill ideas he reads about and think about them more critically, and this sometimes leads to research ideas.
- Blogging can become your academic memory.
- Commenters sometimes make him re-think his logic.
I blog for all those reasons, and one more: In academia, the process of identifying gaps in research, designing research projects, doing the research, writing about your findings, and (hopefully) getting them published, is by necessity pretty long. Blogging complements this work by providing an outlet to quickly post thoughts, and get feedback within one or two days.
And I love that I’ve met so many people (in real life) as a result of this blog. Many thanks to my readers and fellow bloggers for making me feel like part of a thoughtful and compassionate global community.
My closest friend in Abuja was an amazing Nigerian woman named Florida. She’s an avid fiction and non-fiction writer, and has just started a new blog here. You can read her short stories and other work from Naija Stories, African Writers, and Triond.
Here’s an excerpt from a short story called “Reliving Christmas“:
Then there was Stanley, who was visiting the village for the first time. We pitied Stanley for being an only child. The decision to adopt him into our fold was based on the manner with which he held himself. Stiff, like someone in desperate need for friendship but didn’t know how to go about it. His father was non-Igbo, so he didn’t understand the language, which forced those of us who spoke nothing else, being born, ‘bread’ and ‘buttered’ in Onitsha, to dust off our English Language textbooks and update our tenses. That was until Stanley took to making long sentences in Yoruba that he refused to translate. Big mistake. Even Chibu and Chidi joined forces with us, all though their Igbo barely made sense. He learnt his lesson in a day, and took to teaching us Yoruba. None of us was really that interested in learning, but it was fun to scream out foreign words.
Among the crazier Google searches that have led people to my blog over just the past two days:
- “Nigerian call girls.” A long time ago I wrote a post about call girls at a hotel in Abuja. This one post has given me more hits than I ever imagined.
- “Why do Nigerians and Liberians not get along?”
- “grossman shelbey.”
- “shelby grossman victor bout website.” (This one kind of scares me.)
Hat tip to an old post on Mo’dernity, Mo’problems for this post’s inspiration.
I’ve spent the past few weeks wondering why no one comments on my blog posts anymore, and readers have spent the past few weeks wondering why their comments seemingly have been censored.
It turns out all requests for comment approval have been filtered into my spam folder. I have just approved all of the legit comments. Apologies about this. One reader accused me of censoring dissenting views; this was not the case.
One of the comments pointed me to Victor Bout’s Air Cess website, which does in fact in work. (In a post I had mocked the fact that the link was broken.) Had I accessed the site at the time, I would have had even more to mock. Bout’s narcissism is unparalleled:
Air Cess Aviation is probably the world’s most documented airlines name at the highest official levels by governments worldwide, and the most recognized aviation company by the United Nations and its related circles and organizations. Although the company no longer exists since the end of 2000, it is still being discussed and talked about on a daily-basis at the highest political levels.
Air Cess Aviation became a legend because of its founder, Victor A. Bout, a man who has been discussed, debated, argued, analyzed, and scrutinized by the world as a whole, and had specialized intelligence divisions in all of the world’s power housed specially assigned to reveal the mysteries surrounding him and his business-core, Air Cess Aviation.
If you can translate that last paragraph, please post below!
Liberia’s House of Representatives has passed a bill recommending that the country’s political capital be moved to central Liberia, according to Ceasefire Liberia blogger Nat Nyuan-Bayjay. The House did not recommend a specific city.
This is a fantastic idea. The representative who sponsored the bill said he proposed it because Monrovia is overcrowded. True, but I think an even better reason is to further Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s mission to decentralize the country.
Of course, one wonders if this bill passes how on earth the move would be financed.
I’m looking for a little bit of guidance to put some finishing touches on this blog. I’m a poor graduate student, so free advice would be much appreciated. But I can also pay for some help. My email is shelbygrossman (at) gmail (dot) com.
My love affair with the Trial of Charles Taylor blog hit a new level today: Stephen Rapp, the outgoing prosecutor in Charles Taylor’s trial, answered the question I posed to him via the blog. Granted he didn’t actually answer my question, but he responded to it. My responses to his responses are in bold.
Shelby Grossman asked: “During their cross examination of prosecution witnesses, defense lawyers used several lines of inquiry to discredit witnesses. They argued witnesses said what they thought the prosecution wanted to hear because of the compensation they received for testifying. They pointed to inconsistencies in witness testimony. They argued that witnesses testified against Taylor to avoid prosecution for crimes they themselves committed. Of these (and other) lines of inquiry, which do you think was the strongest (i.e. most persuasive)?”
MR. RAPP’S ANSWER: Obviously the defense was doing its job in making those kinds of arguments, or pursuing those kinds of things on cross examination. One always has to consider these things in perspective when you consider the inconsistencies in testimony. When people describe events that occurred many years ago, and sometimes when they describe attacks at places where there were multiple attacks, it is quite common for them to be incorrect on dates and times and places. There are also cultural factors where people don’t relate to the world in terms of directions like north or south, or east or west, or wear wrist watches to tell the time of day. So because people are not relating to those particular directions or those particular times, they may not always be very precise and so an attorney can say that the witness said it was 9 o’clock in one interview, and 10 o’clock in the next interview, and this will look inconsistent. That kind of inconsistency is immaterial – but it is the job of the defense to do everything in its power to discredit witnesses and you’ll expect those lines of attack. If you look at what’s happened in other cases, you will see that almost always judges have said no I don’t see the problem with these kind of inconsistencies – that these events happened and the witness is confused about certain aspects of it, but the basic testimony is correct. A book coming out this fall that I am not yet allowed to cite addresses issues of prosecution witness inconsistencies, and finds them to be far more substantial than 9 o’clock versus 10 o’clock. I’ll post more on this book when it comes out.
There’s this issue about witnesses having received expense reimbursements in certain situations and that’s something that the defense loves to talk about. Sometimes they will make a great deal about a payment of 10,000 or 15,000 Leones for a witness for transportation to come to and from an interview, but it is only a matter of a few US dollars. They will try to make it look like the witness has sold his credibility for the compensation of expenses that barely covered what the participation in the judicial process has cost the witness and his family. We have made it clear that witnesses are not paid for testimony but are merely reimbursed for what they have lost because of their willingness to testify. Defense has pointed to witness compensation that is far more than a few dollars. One witness was compensated for rent on his home for one year by two different branches of the Court.
[On people who defense claimed testified against Taylor to avoid prosecution themselves]: That is certainly an argument that’s been made, and there have been individuals who have testified that have admitted to acts that were criminal – but it needs to be borne in mind that the Special Court had a very limited mandate, that it could only go after the people who bore the greatest responsibility and that was essentially defined as people who were in national leadership positions, and since the initial decision on who to indict back in 2003, no additional individuals have been indicted. When most of the individuals who were witnesses in these cases were spoken to, the decision on who to prosecute had been made before they agreed to participate in any kind of interview. Sometimes they asked “Are you going to prosecute me?” and the prosecution always said “no, you are not on the list” and they said “well, can you assure me of that?” and so letters were given to the individuals saying that you are not on the list to be prosecuted. But those letters weren’t given as the result of a bargain. I know that happens in national systems, where people make those kinds of agreements, but this did not happen in regard to any of the witnesses that have testified in the Charles Taylor case or in any other trial before the Special Court, because the decision had been made not to prosecute those witnesses before those individuals were spoken to. I agree with this response. I don’t think many witnesses, if any of them, testified to avoid prosecution. I just raised it as one of the defense’s strategies.
After 4 years with Blogger, I have made the move to WordPress.
If you are reading this message, you are subscribed to the new blog. (If there are any problems, please let me know.)
I like this platform for many reasons. It has a search function and the postings will format better than they did on Blogger. But if there are any changes you would like to see, let me know.