Friday, August 18, 2006

Aids 2006 Conference and Harper's Disinterest

Ontario's capital Toronto has seen her streets buzzing with activity the past three weeks. Caribana Festival for instance usurped this mega city in fashion as usual, filling her blue skies with Caribbean/afro beats and jamming up her streets with energized people of African descent from Southern USA to Nunavut- Canada, dancing away in memorably colorful festival costumes.

We had no costume for the festival, so we dressed as appropriately as we possibly could. Despite the glamour Caribana exhibits, Hamilton's Mardi gras is the most exciting to me, simply because the afro-beats are only downed by the sunset on the harbor front by Lake Ontario. Equally important, where else do you get to feast on real African & Caribbean chicken (e.g. luwombo) and roast corn/maize? South Africa's very best Castle lager and some Primus from Rwanda flowed at the Mardi gras like the source was Lake Ontario.

Caribana (Mardi-gras) militants strolling at the Lake shore

However that is not why I am blogging today, because the last days have seen a galaxy of delegates, media and observers converging onto Toronto once again for the 2006 Aids Conference. They all had a great reason to offer their presence to the largest aids conference to date. The biting slogan adopted; "time to deliver" is a telling story to the neglect and misconceptions of the disease and its problems that has led to hundreds of thousands infections each year unabated! They all attended in appreciation of the fact that this is a global problem in escalation which needed a robust awareness campaign to wake up western dwellers to the effects showing up at their door steps unnoticed, and yet for doing just that, some Delta hotel employees received their employer's wrath for wearing buttons supporting AIDS awareness. Misconception at its best!

One such person that needs a rude awakening is the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, who despite being the host chose not to attend or even offer contribution to the fight. We chanted our disapproval in unisom at the elaborate skydome when Clement the Health Minister showed up and applauded each speaker that showed disdain towards Harper's childish stunt! He and his fellow conservatives still believe that this is a gay, crack addicts and a sex trade problem and that they should (the conservatives) not be seen as offering support to such sinners being punished by God!!

Instead our Premier chooses to bolster Canadian influence in Afghanistan and elsewhere (a costly adventure) in apparent attempt to outbid Tony Blair in pleasing Bush, at the detriment of AIDS Research, control, prevention and treatment funding promised by the previous Liberal government. Actor/Activist Richard Gere echoed my sentiments whilst responding to the lukewarm showing by the Conservatives. He stated, "Aids is the true terrorist on the planet today." How I grinned with pomp, the message was simple but loud and clear.

I applaud all the organizers that worked hard to make this event a success, the delegates that included stars like Gere, Alicia Keys, Bare Naked Ladies et al; Members of both provincial and federal parliaments; the Governor General of Canada Michaelle Jean; VIPs like Bill Clinton who offered his time to be there most especially where its known that his presence and speeches usually costs organizers a cool 100k in US dough and Bill Gates, who recently donated a half a billion dollars towards international research efforts and everybody out there that attended in spirit & soul. To all those conservatives digging in with Harper, I say, AIDS is not only a developing countries’ catastrophe. In this era of open boundaries, movement of people and globalization, when the south catches a cold the north sneezes and that’s why this epidemic is a direct global threat to the economic, social and political development and stability of humanity as a whole. The good news is that it is preventable.

Let’s get back to earth for a moment; when will the days of investigative journalism come back? Remember the days of Water gate? If you happen to watch CNN American edition or Fox News, you must have noticed how these two have become Bush's mouth piece. Seriously, what airs as a statement from the white house becomes fact without adequate scrutiny I must say. The 'mayinjas' in the media are spending more time and money reporting on unhelpful events when our respective countries and the essence of globalization are being run into gutters! As if that is not frightening enough, Harper's conservatives are reading from Dubya's script and threatening to perfect it. If you thought Uganda's investigative journalism is disheartening, you must be throwing up now, as you wake up to the realization that we have passed on our 'values' to the western world with much success. Small world!

Btw, has anybody noticed that every time there seems to be an election closing in, suspected terrorists get arrested in high profile raids? Not that I do not believe these intelligent services and their political masters. If these people in London were being trailed for a year as reported, what was with the hype all of a sudden? What is with no fluids, gels, alcohol, and lotion et al. on planes? Jesus, what next? The next thing we'll know, we won't be using planes since the human body is made up of 70% water according to my Human anatomy professor. Humans are easily controlled by medals and fear, it would seem. IMO, too much power availed to governments under any circumstance is the genesis of dictatorship in a democracy, because governments more often than not abuse their powers. It is therefore pleasing to me that ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) gave the ‘Bushites’ a bloody nose in a recent court case that attempts to protect Americans from government excesses .

My best quote of the day; Safe and Free: "There has never been a more urgent need to preserve fundamental privacy protections and our system of checks and balances than the need we face today, as illegal government spying, provisions of the Patriot Act and government-sponsored torture programs transcend the bounds of law and our most treasured values in the name of national security."- ACLU (2006).

I watched Kassim Ouma fight (on tele) a couple of weeks ago. Like everybody, I was impressed with that great personal story he enveloped himself with (don't most of us Africans make claims of killing lions protecting cattle and our pride? I know I did). This dude throws a galaxy of punches in a frightening succession, but for some reason I am not yet sold on him until that time when he develops a hard punch to actually hurt an opponent. Imagine what the hard punching and ferocious Ike Quartey would do to Kassim if they met! OK forget Quartey, the Monitor reported yesterday that our man wants to go toe to toe with Jermain Taylor; Are u kidding me Kass? I think he will be minced meat if he steps in that ring with Taylor. Hey Kassim, if you want to throw billions of punches with 'femalish gloves' against Taylor, it’s your prerogative but I won't be watching unless bulky pays a visit with your gloves. Period!! I hope it is a bluff.

I do not want to take a lot of heat on this one; but Bill Clinton just turned 60, Chuck wonders if he is spending quality time with Hillary? Is he spending any time with Hillary? He seems to be all over the world at the word GO!

OK, so Dikembe Mutombo threw a few million bucks (US$15M) here and there to build a hospital in his native DRC and yet some haters insist he is exploiting a donation loop hole in the US taxation system (IRS). You got to be impressed with the guy's commitment though, as he prepares to open this US$29M hospital. The idea that he is doing this for tax purposes is absurd, degrading and shallow.

At least some things are off my chest, phew! I am totally out.