The Other Africa

Using my miles to fly from Douala, Cameroon to Windhoek, Namibia gave me the opportunity to visit four airports over a period of 24 hours. Painful as it was, I had some very interesting seat companions. On the flight from Douala to Addis (as the locals call it), my seatmate and his friend were speaking Arabic. Curious as to where they were from, I asked if they were Iraqi and in a less than friendly tone, one of the men responded, Syria. When I asked if they were living there and how the situation was, the English speaking man retorted yes and angrily said the war was the fault of the foreign powers to destroy his country. It was evident he was an Assad supporter so not to escalate into a fight, I backed off.

On the flight from Addis Abba, to Entebbe, Uganda, a 25 year old Ugandan was sitting next to me. He worked for a French non-profit doing statistics on HIV in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Our conversation included his support for the recent anti gay law signed by the president/dictator Museveni and a known fact about the deception of the Rwandan genocide. Together Museveni with his director of intelligence, Paul Kigame, (now president of Rwanda and trained by the US military}secretly planned the Rwandan genocide and blamed the Hutus.Our military seems to be busy training all the bad guys in the world.

Less than comfortable, Entebbe airport needs a serious makeover, probably last updated around 1976, when the Israeli military rescued a hijacked plane from Tel-Aviv.
The airport staff personally escorts transit passengers like me, up and down broken escalators carrying our hand luggage, demanding we identify our checked bags. It’s midnight and I have another 7 hours to sit on hard plastic chairs under florescent lights until my plane boards for Johannesburg. After I looked at the one and only cafeteria near my boarding gate, I chose fasting.
Finally the South African airways flight takes off and four hours later we land in Johannesburg. A first world ultra modern airport offering designer shops, gourmet restaurants and Hagen Daz. I wander for 3 hours, eat a mango sorbet and finally I’m on the last leg of my journey to Namibia. While I was in Cameroon ,I was given a bunch of movies passed around among the Peace Corp volunteers. Coincidently there was a BBC documentary called Namibia, Genocide and the Second Reich. I was ready to confront the realities of Namibia.
? When I arrived in Windhoek, most of the 200 or more passengers at passport control were white and they spoke mostly European languages… mostly German and Afrikaans. A long wait gave me the opportunity to chat with people around me.
I was offered a ride into Windhoek, 45 km from the airport with a newspaper editor who was being picked up by his driver. As we drove into town, one could be in Utah or New Mexico. The rolling hills on the outskirts were decorated with lovely modern homes, surrounded by walls and alarm systems. Manicured gardens, Spanish and New Mexican style architecture, and modern cars that looked like they had just been detailed sat behind gates in driveways. Why doesn’t the rest of Africa look like this. And I am going to find out.

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