5 Weird Diets From Africa

cooked rats

People will eat all kinds of shit - sometimes literally, as you would know if you were unfortunate enough to be around in 2007 and watched the infamous scat fetish flick 'two girls one cup' (If you haven't watched it, don't). What may be a freaky ass dish for me to eat may be perfectly normal for someone in another part of the world. Take snails for instance - almost universally loved across Europe, the Spanish pop them in Paella, the French serve them into soup, and the Maltese serve them up as bar snacks. Universally loved except for on this crappy little island off the French coast where I live. I would not eat a snail. Not ever. Not even if the alternative was being forced to watch 'Two girls, One Cup' again.

Here at Weird Africa, we understand how such dietary kinks arise. If it's late at night and we're hungry, we check the cupboards, or we send out for pizza. But if there's nothing there and the cupboard is bare, we might have a problem. Maybe fish a mouldy piece of bread out of the bin and eat that instead.

Under normal circumstances, when the shops opened in the morning, we'd look at ourselves with shame and loathing and resolve never to mention our dietary slip again.

But what if we'd discovered something so delicious, so nutritious, tasty and filling that regardless of how unwholesome it looked, we just had to keep going back for more, even when there are other more traditional foodstuffs available? That my friends, is how regional delicacies get started.

Here's a list of places in Africa where, by chance, the locals have hit on a foodstuff so unusual and barftastic, that anyone from outside the area  will immediately throw up like those two young ladies in 'Two Girls, One Cup'  around run away screaming.


 1.

What? Cane Rats. Where? Sub Saharan Africa

cane rat


Why?

Seriously. Why not? Most people have eaten rabbit. Some people eat Kangaroo. Tasty, tender flesh cooked perfectly over open coals, or with a juicy pineapple-based marinade. There's nothing not to like. They're just one more addition to the oversized edible rodent happy family.

Except, maybe, just maybe, there's the knowledge in the back of your mind that rats spread disease; that the nibble on the corpses of the dead and are fundamentally dirty, unclean creatures which best serve humanity by living caged, in a lab, being subjected to human diseases.

grilled cane rat


Perhaps it's just guilt. Cane rats are herbivores, feeding on aquatic grasses in the wild, as well as the sugar cane in cane plantations in Central and West Africa. They don't eat people. Even dead ones. You didn't get that from the name? Boy, you are stupid.

Instead, the rats are hunted as bushmeat, and in some places, even bred as livestock, occupying a similar place in West African cuisine as pigs or goats. Their year round breeding cycle and early onset sexual maturity mean that tasty rat goodness can be had for a bargain price.

Grossness rating: 1/10


2. What? raw meat, raw milk, and raw blood.  Where? Among the Maasai of Kenya and northern Tanzania.

Maasai Drinking Blood


Why?

Its been fashionable in the last 50 or so years for Westerners to leave behind the trappings of civilisation, and 'travel the world, man.' Backpacking from country to country on the parents' credit card and achieve some level of spiritual enlightenment along the hippy trail. Sadly, these travellers are always going to dependent at some level on the civilisation they're trying to leave behind.

People need to eat, right? And unless you're into the whole hunting / gathering gig (not sustainable on a large scale), at some point there has to be infrastructure: agriculture, breeding programmes, crop rotation, refrigeration, shops. You cannot simply live life on the road and expect to constantly replenish your food stores while travelling. Not unless you're a pirate.

Yes you can. And you don't have to resort to spreading terror on the high seas. The Maasai are a nomadic people. They move from place to place, erecting semi-disposable shelters in  temporary villages. Never staying still long enough to let agriculture take hold and anchor them to the land they travel. But that's cool, everything the Maasai eat and drink coes with them, and is self-replenishing.

It all comes down to the cattle which travel with them. The cows, frequently stolen in a piratical manner, provide milk, blood, and meat and fulfil every single dietary requirement a person could have. Uncooked.

While we do occasionally eat a steak tartin, we in Weird Africa Towers would probably baulk at having to subsist on the same three raw animal products every day. Forever. Even if it did allow us to live a hippy lifestyle on the Tanzanian plains.

Grossness rating: 2 / 10 with extra points for boredom.


3.

What? Locusts. Where? Niger.


Yummy locusts

Why?

There's an old joke that in Soviet Russia, Vodka drinks you. We didn't think it was funny either, but it highlights the unexpected nature of spontaneous role reversal. Typically, when locusts hit an area, swarming in their hundreds of millions, that area is destroyed; the locusts consume all of the crops and leave the land barren. It's not nice and people die.

The locusts even eat their own in a cannibalistic orgy leaving nothing but a dried out parched landscape looking like nothing so much as a set from Westworld, but with more dead bodies and less Yul Brynner.

Farmers in French speaking Niger have the shitty end of the stick even at the best of times. More than two thirds of the country is desert, while the remainder suffers from periodic droughts lasting for years at a time. If you want a crash diet, Niger would be the destination of choice.

Added to this landscape, which seems fundamentally unwilling to support human life, are locusts. Not every year, but frequently enough to turn a metaphorical hell-on-earth into an actual hell, insects descend on the quarter million hectares of fertile land and, regardless of the oceans of pesticide applied to crops, proceed to rape what is left of the country.

So, what is the Niger resident to do? Eat the locusts of course. They're rich in protein and, according to those in the know, are, "crunchy, nutritious and delicious."

Sounds good, right? Pull a Russian reversal and eat the things which are eating the things which are the things which you eat. Locusts! Fuck those guys!

Um yeah. About that.

You may remember that a little earlier, we mentioned pesticide. In a desperate last ditch attempt to save their crops, Niger farmers plastered the fields with many and various super-toxic pesticides. This didn't stop the locusts, but it did mean that the bugs which became a principal part of the Niger diets were loaded with neurotoxins. "Eating locusts, that's not a sign of famine, that's like eating caviar," said one Niger woman. Erm... no its not.

Grossness rating: 6 / 10. Principally because twitching to death is marginally worse than starvation.

What? Gorilla Where? Congo

Gorilla Head in a Congo Bushmeat Market


Why?

If you're a regular reader of Weird Africa, the Congo region is going to come up on these lists with some considerable frequency. Freaky shit - Congo is where it's at.

As preparation for writing this entry, we watched the  1998 classic 'Gorillas in the Mist' - a heart-warming tale of how naturalist, Dianne Fossey travelled to Africa to caralogue and study mountain gorillas in Congo. Ultimately, she discovers that the primates are just like us, possessing sophisticated social hierarchies, family units and communication.  In the end [SPOILER ALERT] Dianne is murdered by poachers in her bedroom by poachers and her best bud, a gorilla called Digit, has his head unceremoniously removed by the same gang [/SPOILER ALERT]. We cried.

Gorillas have demonstrated a startling ability to communicate with humans and with each other. They may be animals, but they are less than a hair's breadth away from being human. A bit like the French in that respect. Gorillas in captivity have shown the ability to format and frame their thoughts and emotions, to cover up their actions and when feeling guilty, to blame others. Along with their tiny penises, this makes another French comparison inevitable.

We can understand that gorillas, at times, can be aggressive, and when roused are 2 metre tall, 600lb killing machines capable of ripping a human limb from limb in less time than it takes to introduce ourselves in sign language. But at heart, gorillas have the mentality of naughty children and to eat them would be like eating your retarded French cousin, Pierre le idiot.

We can't see any legitimate reason why anyone would eat gorillas.

Grossness rating: 8 / 10 We would rather eat our retarded French cousin, Pierre le idiot. He isn't cuddly and he stinks.



What? People. Where? Congo/ Zaire / Uganda. Anywhere with psychotic dictators.

Idi Amin


Why?

Because craziness. Because power. Because what else are you going to do with the bodies of your enemies.

This one is, in modern times, almost exclusively the preserve of dictators who, for reasons of syphilis and / or paranoia decided that the best way to deal with their enemies was to suspend them from hooks in the deep freeze and occasionally shave off a strip for consumption with some fine Italian bread and Western Cape red wine.

Jean Bedel Bokassa, who features elsewhere on these hallowed virtual pages, is probably best known for his ridiculously overblown coronation ceremony - almost bankrupting the country and modelling the entire proceedings on those of the French emperor, Napolean Bonaparte. What is less well-known are his air-conditioned cool rooms, containing as they did, human corpses dangling limply from meat hooks.

Idi Amin Dada, third president of Uganda, with an irrational hate hard-on for Asians and who proclaimed himself to be the Conqueror of the British Empire, also was not averse to a little of the strange meat.

Nelson Mandela, as far as we know, never ate human flesh. Nor did Festus Mogae of Botswana, or Mwai Kibaki of Kenya. For this particular delicacy, it is not enough to be the leader of an African country. You have to be an absolute dictator and absolutely insane.


Grossness rating: 10 / 10. Because people.


As a side note, if this article has completely put you off eating anything at all, you could always try Breatharianism, as pioneered by the Australian charlatan, Ellen Greve. Breatharianists hold that they can survive off nothing but fresh air and sunlight. They do not tend to live long.




Tuesday, 25 March 2014

5 Weird Diets From Africa

cooked rats

People will eat all kinds of shit - sometimes literally, as you would know if you were unfortunate enough to be around in 2007 and watched the infamous scat fetish flick 'two girls one cup' (If you haven't watched it, don't). What may be a freaky ass dish for me to eat may be perfectly normal for someone in another part of the world. Take snails for instance - almost universally loved across Europe, the Spanish pop them in Paella, the French serve them into soup, and the Maltese serve them up as bar snacks. Universally loved except for on this crappy little island off the French coast where I live. I would not eat a snail. Not ever. Not even if the alternative was being forced to watch 'Two girls, One Cup' again.

Here at Weird Africa, we understand how such dietary kinks arise. If it's late at night and we're hungry, we check the cupboards, or we send out for pizza. But if there's nothing there and the cupboard is bare, we might have a problem. Maybe fish a mouldy piece of bread out of the bin and eat that instead.

Under normal circumstances, when the shops opened in the morning, we'd look at ourselves with shame and loathing and resolve never to mention our dietary slip again.

But what if we'd discovered something so delicious, so nutritious, tasty and filling that regardless of how unwholesome it looked, we just had to keep going back for more, even when there are other more traditional foodstuffs available? That my friends, is how regional delicacies get started.

Here's a list of places in Africa where, by chance, the locals have hit on a foodstuff so unusual and barftastic, that anyone from outside the area  will immediately throw up like those two young ladies in 'Two Girls, One Cup'  around run away screaming.


 1.

What? Cane Rats. Where? Sub Saharan Africa

cane rat


Why?

Seriously. Why not? Most people have eaten rabbit. Some people eat Kangaroo. Tasty, tender flesh cooked perfectly over open coals, or with a juicy pineapple-based marinade. There's nothing not to like. They're just one more addition to the oversized edible rodent happy family.

Except, maybe, just maybe, there's the knowledge in the back of your mind that rats spread disease; that the nibble on the corpses of the dead and are fundamentally dirty, unclean creatures which best serve humanity by living caged, in a lab, being subjected to human diseases.

grilled cane rat


Perhaps it's just guilt. Cane rats are herbivores, feeding on aquatic grasses in the wild, as well as the sugar cane in cane plantations in Central and West Africa. They don't eat people. Even dead ones. You didn't get that from the name? Boy, you are stupid.

Instead, the rats are hunted as bushmeat, and in some places, even bred as livestock, occupying a similar place in West African cuisine as pigs or goats. Their year round breeding cycle and early onset sexual maturity mean that tasty rat goodness can be had for a bargain price.

Grossness rating: 1/10


2. What? raw meat, raw milk, and raw blood.  Where? Among the Maasai of Kenya and northern Tanzania.

Maasai Drinking Blood


Why?

Its been fashionable in the last 50 or so years for Westerners to leave behind the trappings of civilisation, and 'travel the world, man.' Backpacking from country to country on the parents' credit card and achieve some level of spiritual enlightenment along the hippy trail. Sadly, these travellers are always going to dependent at some level on the civilisation they're trying to leave behind.

People need to eat, right? And unless you're into the whole hunting / gathering gig (not sustainable on a large scale), at some point there has to be infrastructure: agriculture, breeding programmes, crop rotation, refrigeration, shops. You cannot simply live life on the road and expect to constantly replenish your food stores while travelling. Not unless you're a pirate.

Yes you can. And you don't have to resort to spreading terror on the high seas. The Maasai are a nomadic people. They move from place to place, erecting semi-disposable shelters in  temporary villages. Never staying still long enough to let agriculture take hold and anchor them to the land they travel. But that's cool, everything the Maasai eat and drink coes with them, and is self-replenishing.

It all comes down to the cattle which travel with them. The cows, frequently stolen in a piratical manner, provide milk, blood, and meat and fulfil every single dietary requirement a person could have. Uncooked.

While we do occasionally eat a steak tartin, we in Weird Africa Towers would probably baulk at having to subsist on the same three raw animal products every day. Forever. Even if it did allow us to live a hippy lifestyle on the Tanzanian plains.

Grossness rating: 2 / 10 with extra points for boredom.


3.

What? Locusts. Where? Niger.


Yummy locusts

Why?

There's an old joke that in Soviet Russia, Vodka drinks you. We didn't think it was funny either, but it highlights the unexpected nature of spontaneous role reversal. Typically, when locusts hit an area, swarming in their hundreds of millions, that area is destroyed; the locusts consume all of the crops and leave the land barren. It's not nice and people die.

The locusts even eat their own in a cannibalistic orgy leaving nothing but a dried out parched landscape looking like nothing so much as a set from Westworld, but with more dead bodies and less Yul Brynner.

Farmers in French speaking Niger have the shitty end of the stick even at the best of times. More than two thirds of the country is desert, while the remainder suffers from periodic droughts lasting for years at a time. If you want a crash diet, Niger would be the destination of choice.

Added to this landscape, which seems fundamentally unwilling to support human life, are locusts. Not every year, but frequently enough to turn a metaphorical hell-on-earth into an actual hell, insects descend on the quarter million hectares of fertile land and, regardless of the oceans of pesticide applied to crops, proceed to rape what is left of the country.

So, what is the Niger resident to do? Eat the locusts of course. They're rich in protein and, according to those in the know, are, "crunchy, nutritious and delicious."

Sounds good, right? Pull a Russian reversal and eat the things which are eating the things which are the things which you eat. Locusts! Fuck those guys!

Um yeah. About that.

You may remember that a little earlier, we mentioned pesticide. In a desperate last ditch attempt to save their crops, Niger farmers plastered the fields with many and various super-toxic pesticides. This didn't stop the locusts, but it did mean that the bugs which became a principal part of the Niger diets were loaded with neurotoxins. "Eating locusts, that's not a sign of famine, that's like eating caviar," said one Niger woman. Erm... no its not.

Grossness rating: 6 / 10. Principally because twitching to death is marginally worse than starvation.

What? Gorilla Where? Congo

Gorilla Head in a Congo Bushmeat Market


Why?

If you're a regular reader of Weird Africa, the Congo region is going to come up on these lists with some considerable frequency. Freaky shit - Congo is where it's at.

As preparation for writing this entry, we watched the  1998 classic 'Gorillas in the Mist' - a heart-warming tale of how naturalist, Dianne Fossey travelled to Africa to caralogue and study mountain gorillas in Congo. Ultimately, she discovers that the primates are just like us, possessing sophisticated social hierarchies, family units and communication.  In the end [SPOILER ALERT] Dianne is murdered by poachers in her bedroom by poachers and her best bud, a gorilla called Digit, has his head unceremoniously removed by the same gang [/SPOILER ALERT]. We cried.

Gorillas have demonstrated a startling ability to communicate with humans and with each other. They may be animals, but they are less than a hair's breadth away from being human. A bit like the French in that respect. Gorillas in captivity have shown the ability to format and frame their thoughts and emotions, to cover up their actions and when feeling guilty, to blame others. Along with their tiny penises, this makes another French comparison inevitable.

We can understand that gorillas, at times, can be aggressive, and when roused are 2 metre tall, 600lb killing machines capable of ripping a human limb from limb in less time than it takes to introduce ourselves in sign language. But at heart, gorillas have the mentality of naughty children and to eat them would be like eating your retarded French cousin, Pierre le idiot.

We can't see any legitimate reason why anyone would eat gorillas.

Grossness rating: 8 / 10 We would rather eat our retarded French cousin, Pierre le idiot. He isn't cuddly and he stinks.



What? People. Where? Congo/ Zaire / Uganda. Anywhere with psychotic dictators.

Idi Amin


Why?

Because craziness. Because power. Because what else are you going to do with the bodies of your enemies.

This one is, in modern times, almost exclusively the preserve of dictators who, for reasons of syphilis and / or paranoia decided that the best way to deal with their enemies was to suspend them from hooks in the deep freeze and occasionally shave off a strip for consumption with some fine Italian bread and Western Cape red wine.

Jean Bedel Bokassa, who features elsewhere on these hallowed virtual pages, is probably best known for his ridiculously overblown coronation ceremony - almost bankrupting the country and modelling the entire proceedings on those of the French emperor, Napolean Bonaparte. What is less well-known are his air-conditioned cool rooms, containing as they did, human corpses dangling limply from meat hooks.

Idi Amin Dada, third president of Uganda, with an irrational hate hard-on for Asians and who proclaimed himself to be the Conqueror of the British Empire, also was not averse to a little of the strange meat.

Nelson Mandela, as far as we know, never ate human flesh. Nor did Festus Mogae of Botswana, or Mwai Kibaki of Kenya. For this particular delicacy, it is not enough to be the leader of an African country. You have to be an absolute dictator and absolutely insane.


Grossness rating: 10 / 10. Because people.


As a side note, if this article has completely put you off eating anything at all, you could always try Breatharianism, as pioneered by the Australian charlatan, Ellen Greve. Breatharianists hold that they can survive off nothing but fresh air and sunlight. They do not tend to live long.




Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Malawi's Weed, Madonna and A Struggling Economy

Malawi On The Map

Considering the incredible vastness of Africa as a whole, it's easy to miss the smaller nations such as Malawi. It's only just bigger than Serbia and a hell of a lot smaller than Cuba. To use better known African nations for scale, Angola is has around 12 times more land, while you could fit an entire 23 Malawis into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At Weird Africa, it's our business to know everything there is to know about the continent, yet even we hadn't heard of Malawi until Madonna, in an attempt to thwart her own ever-ticking biological clock, reportedly started kidnapping babies there in 2006.

In the interests of completeness and providing in depth coverage of weird facts, phenomena and predictions from even the completely insignificant parts of  continent, we decided to take a closer look. And what we saw did not bode well for Malawi.

Aside from the grinding poverty, high infant mortality and overwhelming chance of being killed by major infectious diseases, including bacterial and protozoal diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria, plague, schistosomiasis, and rabies to name just a few, the situation looks A.OK.

Politically for instance, Malawi boasts a democratic, multi-party government and so is the envy of its neighbours, ruled as they are by cannibalistic despots with a penchant for torture and arbitrary executions. As such, Malawi has been seen as a haven for refugees from other African countries, including Mozambique and Rwanda, since 1985.

Economically, Malawi which gives your average Malawian US$900 per year to spend on getting wrecked. Considerably more that the US$1 per day enjoyed of residents of Nigeria, Angola, Congo, and Zimbabwe.

Overall, there are worse places in Africa than Malawi, due in a large part to its thriving industries of fishing, marijuana growing, and to a lesser extent, tourism.

That may be about to change, and here's why.

1. Marijuana legalisation in the US will lead to a drop in demand for Malawian weed.

Malawi Gold is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest varieties of cannabis available, with a 2003 report by the Institute for Security Studies naming it as the best and finest weed in the world. It's a classic smoke, and one of the 'Big Cs' of Malawian exports.

Here at weird Africa, we're all wholesome, clean living boys. We don't drink, we don't smoke, and we don't do drugs (Kids - Winners Don't Do Drugs). So naturally, we couldn't give you an objective account of the experience or exactly how much it made us crave a Domino's pizza delivery at 3am. However according to a reputable marijuana review site, Malawi gold provides the user with "a soaring high and huge potential along with being exceptionally pure and strong," boasting, "a sweet earthy to lemonesque scents and flavour very easy to grow with heavy results common...beautiful earthy and introspective that works on so many levels you can feel the history these plants have with mankind."
Malawi Weed Farm


That's one hell of a review and if we were to tread down the addictive spiral of illegal narcotics, it would be Malawi Gold that we'd start with.

The plants take a long time to grow and are wrapped in banana leaves and buried to cure. It's a quality smoke and attracts weed tourists in vast numbers, as well as being exported to the US, Europe and Asia. Obviously, the import trade is as illegal in the US as homosexuality is in Malawi.

Or it was.

Traditionally, weed growing in the US has, by necessity, been a very hush-hush operation. Illicit small-scale plantations hidden in the middle of the cornfields of Idaho. Hydroponics labs in high-rise apartments hidden in downtown New York. They've had to be quiet, and portable, unable to invest the time needed to produce the high quality THC rich product produced by the professional farmers of Malawi.

But slowly the law changed and the first great cracks appeared in America's 'War on Drugs.' In 1996, medicinal use of Marijuana became legal in the states of California. In 2013, Washington State and Colorado made the recreational use of cannabis legal. Across the united States, use of the drug is being decriminalised, and legitimate cannabis plantations are springing up everywhere from Kentucky to Nebraska.

While currently, the aim of the game for narcotics growers and corrupters of youth, is to start making their operations profitable as quickly as possible, it won't be long until the focus switches to quality. Malawi Gold is already grown outside Africa, albeit on a very small scale. In the very near future, US entrepreneurs will be planting and maturing Malawi Gold using traditional methods, and on a vast scale. There will be no need to travel to the other side of the world, or pay a premium on smuggling it through customs. The real deal will be available right in the local pharmacy.

And where America leads, other nations follow. The former Chief Constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrom, has long been calling for a decriminalisation of all drugs and a reclassification based on a risk hierarchy. While we can't see Her Majesty's Government encouraging the use of heroin or crystal meth on the streets of London, we don't think it entirely infeasible that there might soon be Malawi Gold growing in the allotments and market gardens of Albert Square.          


2.  The fishing industry is about to fail.

The second of Malawi's 'Big C' industries is Chamba, a fish variety made up of several sub-species of Tilapia. Unlike Malawi Gold, chamba isn't exclusive to Malawi, and is easy to find in shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes throughout Africa. Here though, it's pretty much only caught in Lake Malawi, a huge body of water shared with Mozambique and Tanzania.

It's a nice place, and if we could afford to travel there for our next vacation, we probably would - lounging on a lilo in the middle of Lake Malawi with a gin and tonic is our idea of fun.  If we could avoid the the huge fishing fleets of home-made clinkers also sailing the tranquil waters.

The lake is reportedly the habitat of more species of fish than any other body of freshwater anywhere in the world, and provides a dietary staple for the entire population, who, quite frankly, could probably do with some chicken or perhaps even Goliath Frog to relieve the boredom.

But there's a problem. And not an insignificant one either. Despite the bounty of marine life provided by the lake to hungry Malawians, the lake is being abused.

From an average haul of 30,000 metric tons a year 25 years ago, the amount of fish currently pulled from its murky depths had fallen to an all time low of  2,000 tons by 2010. For those of you who never paid attention during maths, that's 28,000 tons of fish less than in 1990.

It's not easy to see why so little has been done about this. Maybe it's because the lake has shared sovereignty and there isn't an overall body overseeing quotas. It could be simply that when you'r losing a few percent per year, you don't really notice that the catch is a bit smaller. Maybe the local Malawian population finally became fed up of the smell of fish farts and intentionally poisoned that lake so they wouldn't have to eat Chamba anymore.

Raphael Mwenenguwe of Malawi's Research Into Use office blamed a fall in the water levels in the lake over recent years - itself a huge problem. Others, such as the World Fish Centre  have said it's due to population growth, and stressed that Malawi really, really needs to find an alternative food source. Some have gone so far as to suggest that its down to fishermen crapping over the side of their boats. We believe the last one.

Regardless, there were a handful of half-hearted bylaws passed in 2012, restricting the fishing season to nine months of the year. But seeing as how most of the fishing crews are unlicensed and unregulated or just from other countries bordering Lake Malawi, this doesn't seem to be working. Fish stocks are still in freefall.

And what do we get when a country's main food source vanishes? We get famine. We get war and ineffective UN interventions. We get desperation and increasingly frantic fishing until finally, there are no fish left.


3. Tourists will soon have no reason to visit.

Just like the English love to take their weekends off in Amsterdam for an epic few days of stoned debauchery, prostitution and fantastic art galleries, the rest of the world occasionally likes to visit Malawi for similar reasons.

Like Amsterdam, Malawi has a thriving Cannabis culture. There's the Lake - fantastically beautiful and the third biggest in Africa, and according to the Malawi Tourist Board (which we were shocked to find out is a real thing, also boasts safaris, tours and a legendary welcome from the "beating heart of Africa." Lonely Planet notes that its a nice place to pass through on your way to somewhere else.

We've already covered the upcoming decline of the Malawian weed plantations and consequent drop in cannabis tourists. Why visit when you can grow your own at home?

Thanks to us, you are also now reluctant to go swimming or scuba-diving in the shit infested waters of Lake Malawi.

So what's left? Madonna, for all of her good intentions has potentially damaged the, at best, mediocre Malawian tourist trail by bringing the country to the world's attention. Why would anyone visit a country for recreation when the government will allow a foreigner to adopt a child against the wishes of its family; where according to her own foundation, Raising Malawi, 1,000,000 adults and children are living with AIDS, and endure "desperately poor rural living conditions isolated by primitive infrastructure and overcrowded peri-urban slums." If Madonna hadn't told us, we'd have gone by what the Malawi tourist board and Lonely Planet websites had said. We'd have believed it and ignored the rest.

Thanks Madonna. There's no way in hell I'm spending my tourist dollars in that dump.

How would you feel sipping mojitos on the veranda of your five star villa, knowing that only a few dozen metres away, HIV ridden plague children are starving to death and contracting rabies from starving dogs prowling the dirty streets? You'd feel bad. We wouldn't. But that's because we're complete bastards.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Malawi's Weed, Madonna and A Struggling Economy

Malawi On The Map

Considering the incredible vastness of Africa as a whole, it's easy to miss the smaller nations such as Malawi. It's only just bigger than Serbia and a hell of a lot smaller than Cuba. To use better known African nations for scale, Angola is has around 12 times more land, while you could fit an entire 23 Malawis into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At Weird Africa, it's our business to know everything there is to know about the continent, yet even we hadn't heard of Malawi until Madonna, in an attempt to thwart her own ever-ticking biological clock, reportedly started kidnapping babies there in 2006.

In the interests of completeness and providing in depth coverage of weird facts, phenomena and predictions from even the completely insignificant parts of  continent, we decided to take a closer look. And what we saw did not bode well for Malawi.

Aside from the grinding poverty, high infant mortality and overwhelming chance of being killed by major infectious diseases, including bacterial and protozoal diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria, plague, schistosomiasis, and rabies to name just a few, the situation looks A.OK.

Politically for instance, Malawi boasts a democratic, multi-party government and so is the envy of its neighbours, ruled as they are by cannibalistic despots with a penchant for torture and arbitrary executions. As such, Malawi has been seen as a haven for refugees from other African countries, including Mozambique and Rwanda, since 1985.

Economically, Malawi which gives your average Malawian US$900 per year to spend on getting wrecked. Considerably more that the US$1 per day enjoyed of residents of Nigeria, Angola, Congo, and Zimbabwe.

Overall, there are worse places in Africa than Malawi, due in a large part to its thriving industries of fishing, marijuana growing, and to a lesser extent, tourism.

That may be about to change, and here's why.

1. Marijuana legalisation in the US will lead to a drop in demand for Malawian weed.

Malawi Gold is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest varieties of cannabis available, with a 2003 report by the Institute for Security Studies naming it as the best and finest weed in the world. It's a classic smoke, and one of the 'Big Cs' of Malawian exports.

Here at weird Africa, we're all wholesome, clean living boys. We don't drink, we don't smoke, and we don't do drugs (Kids - Winners Don't Do Drugs). So naturally, we couldn't give you an objective account of the experience or exactly how much it made us crave a Domino's pizza delivery at 3am. However according to a reputable marijuana review site, Malawi gold provides the user with "a soaring high and huge potential along with being exceptionally pure and strong," boasting, "a sweet earthy to lemonesque scents and flavour very easy to grow with heavy results common...beautiful earthy and introspective that works on so many levels you can feel the history these plants have with mankind."
Malawi Weed Farm


That's one hell of a review and if we were to tread down the addictive spiral of illegal narcotics, it would be Malawi Gold that we'd start with.

The plants take a long time to grow and are wrapped in banana leaves and buried to cure. It's a quality smoke and attracts weed tourists in vast numbers, as well as being exported to the US, Europe and Asia. Obviously, the import trade is as illegal in the US as homosexuality is in Malawi.

Or it was.

Traditionally, weed growing in the US has, by necessity, been a very hush-hush operation. Illicit small-scale plantations hidden in the middle of the cornfields of Idaho. Hydroponics labs in high-rise apartments hidden in downtown New York. They've had to be quiet, and portable, unable to invest the time needed to produce the high quality THC rich product produced by the professional farmers of Malawi.

But slowly the law changed and the first great cracks appeared in America's 'War on Drugs.' In 1996, medicinal use of Marijuana became legal in the states of California. In 2013, Washington State and Colorado made the recreational use of cannabis legal. Across the united States, use of the drug is being decriminalised, and legitimate cannabis plantations are springing up everywhere from Kentucky to Nebraska.

While currently, the aim of the game for narcotics growers and corrupters of youth, is to start making their operations profitable as quickly as possible, it won't be long until the focus switches to quality. Malawi Gold is already grown outside Africa, albeit on a very small scale. In the very near future, US entrepreneurs will be planting and maturing Malawi Gold using traditional methods, and on a vast scale. There will be no need to travel to the other side of the world, or pay a premium on smuggling it through customs. The real deal will be available right in the local pharmacy.

And where America leads, other nations follow. The former Chief Constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrom, has long been calling for a decriminalisation of all drugs and a reclassification based on a risk hierarchy. While we can't see Her Majesty's Government encouraging the use of heroin or crystal meth on the streets of London, we don't think it entirely infeasible that there might soon be Malawi Gold growing in the allotments and market gardens of Albert Square.          


2.  The fishing industry is about to fail.

The second of Malawi's 'Big C' industries is Chamba, a fish variety made up of several sub-species of Tilapia. Unlike Malawi Gold, chamba isn't exclusive to Malawi, and is easy to find in shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes throughout Africa. Here though, it's pretty much only caught in Lake Malawi, a huge body of water shared with Mozambique and Tanzania.

It's a nice place, and if we could afford to travel there for our next vacation, we probably would - lounging on a lilo in the middle of Lake Malawi with a gin and tonic is our idea of fun.  If we could avoid the the huge fishing fleets of home-made clinkers also sailing the tranquil waters.

The lake is reportedly the habitat of more species of fish than any other body of freshwater anywhere in the world, and provides a dietary staple for the entire population, who, quite frankly, could probably do with some chicken or perhaps even Goliath Frog to relieve the boredom.

But there's a problem. And not an insignificant one either. Despite the bounty of marine life provided by the lake to hungry Malawians, the lake is being abused.

From an average haul of 30,000 metric tons a year 25 years ago, the amount of fish currently pulled from its murky depths had fallen to an all time low of  2,000 tons by 2010. For those of you who never paid attention during maths, that's 28,000 tons of fish less than in 1990.

It's not easy to see why so little has been done about this. Maybe it's because the lake has shared sovereignty and there isn't an overall body overseeing quotas. It could be simply that when you'r losing a few percent per year, you don't really notice that the catch is a bit smaller. Maybe the local Malawian population finally became fed up of the smell of fish farts and intentionally poisoned that lake so they wouldn't have to eat Chamba anymore.

Raphael Mwenenguwe of Malawi's Research Into Use office blamed a fall in the water levels in the lake over recent years - itself a huge problem. Others, such as the World Fish Centre  have said it's due to population growth, and stressed that Malawi really, really needs to find an alternative food source. Some have gone so far as to suggest that its down to fishermen crapping over the side of their boats. We believe the last one.

Regardless, there were a handful of half-hearted bylaws passed in 2012, restricting the fishing season to nine months of the year. But seeing as how most of the fishing crews are unlicensed and unregulated or just from other countries bordering Lake Malawi, this doesn't seem to be working. Fish stocks are still in freefall.

And what do we get when a country's main food source vanishes? We get famine. We get war and ineffective UN interventions. We get desperation and increasingly frantic fishing until finally, there are no fish left.


3. Tourists will soon have no reason to visit.

Just like the English love to take their weekends off in Amsterdam for an epic few days of stoned debauchery, prostitution and fantastic art galleries, the rest of the world occasionally likes to visit Malawi for similar reasons.

Like Amsterdam, Malawi has a thriving Cannabis culture. There's the Lake - fantastically beautiful and the third biggest in Africa, and according to the Malawi Tourist Board (which we were shocked to find out is a real thing, also boasts safaris, tours and a legendary welcome from the "beating heart of Africa." Lonely Planet notes that its a nice place to pass through on your way to somewhere else.

We've already covered the upcoming decline of the Malawian weed plantations and consequent drop in cannabis tourists. Why visit when you can grow your own at home?

Thanks to us, you are also now reluctant to go swimming or scuba-diving in the shit infested waters of Lake Malawi.

So what's left? Madonna, for all of her good intentions has potentially damaged the, at best, mediocre Malawian tourist trail by bringing the country to the world's attention. Why would anyone visit a country for recreation when the government will allow a foreigner to adopt a child against the wishes of its family; where according to her own foundation, Raising Malawi, 1,000,000 adults and children are living with AIDS, and endure "desperately poor rural living conditions isolated by primitive infrastructure and overcrowded peri-urban slums." If Madonna hadn't told us, we'd have gone by what the Malawi tourist board and Lonely Planet websites had said. We'd have believed it and ignored the rest.

Thanks Madonna. There's no way in hell I'm spending my tourist dollars in that dump.

How would you feel sipping mojitos on the veranda of your five star villa, knowing that only a few dozen metres away, HIV ridden plague children are starving to death and contracting rabies from starving dogs prowling the dirty streets? You'd feel bad. We wouldn't. But that's because we're complete bastards.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Most Awesome ways of getting around in Africa


Spiderman Pimped Matatu Kenya

1. Mini-bus taxis of Kenya (matatus)

As in many African countries, private car ownership is limited in Kenya. There are about three cars for every 1,000 people in the country, but that's OK In Kenya they have the Matatus.

Flashy at Night


The Matatus, the ramshackle public minibuses seating between 14 and 24 people that zip along the streets of Nairobi, carrying a third of the capital's residents to and from work each day in a journey that takes around 45 minutes from the suburbs to the city centre. Sounds great. We've had to do far worse commutes than that.

So why is it that IBM ranks Nairobi as having the most painful commute in Africa?

To start with, there's the fact that the friendly neighbourhood Matatu driver who picks you up each morning from your semi-detached suburb, could easily disappear one day, never to be seen again, until they drag his decomposing body from a ditch by the side of the road.

You see, Nairobi has a few problems with gangs and corruption. Routes taken by Matatus are controlled by not only brutal gangs to whom the drivers must pay protection money, but also corrupt police officers to whom they have to pay bribes.

A normal day for the fine, upstanding Nairobi police force.
Credit: http://sabahionline.com/

Every year, matatu drivers and owners who fail to pay protection money to the Mungiki gang are targeted by the gang and killed. While it would be unfair to say that the police don't care, it would be totally accurate to say that most of the police couldn't give a shit. As long as their palms are greased, officers of the law are prepared to look away. In many cases, they're actually an integral part of the gang.

If your driver has managed to stay alive long enough to pick you up, you then have to consider that the Matutu is probably one of the least safe vehicles in the world.

Maintenance is poor. After all those bribes, bungs, and protection fees, drivers seldom have enough money to keep their vehicles in tip-top condition, and while seatbelts were made compulsory in 2004, there are an estimated 1,500 people killed every year in Matatu accidents in and around Nairobi. Considering that there are 25,000 of the vehicles in the the capital, you're taking a huge chance just standing next to one.

At least five of the people in this picture are now dead.
Credit: Newstimeafrica

The cash the drivers manage to save from local gangsters, police and from dodging repair shops, tends to be spent on sound system mods for their chariots of fire. The average Hi-Fi costs around $2,000 and is devoted to spitting out the latest in hip-hop at ear splitting volumes. You may like hip-hop, but we don't, and can think of few things worse than being subjected to the latest from 'South Central Cartel' on our way to work every day.

Like you couldn't tell just by looking.
Credit: Hansueli Krapf


Remember how we said that the minibuses seat between 14 and 24 people? That was a lie. 14 to 24 is what they're designed to take and allowed to take, but it's frequently the case that Matatus manage to squeeze in upwards of 50 people. And Nairobi is not known as an excessively chilly city.

Taking into account the danger, the murders, the discomfort, the dreadful music and the prospect of imminent death, how come Matatu rides made it onto the list of Most Awesome ways of getting around in Africa?

Because they are awesome. That's why.


2. Camel commuting

We've always had a soft spot for camels. Ever since one tried to bite our sister's face off during a trip to the circus. She still screams every time 'Lawrence of Arabia' comes on the TV. We bought her the directors cut DVD for Christmas because we're gits.

We should totally put Amazon affiliate links in for all of these movie recommendations.

Imagine our surprise and delight when we learned that camel trains are an actual real thing, still in use across large parts of our favourite continent on a daily basis.

That's right. People actually get paid to charge across the desert on what is essentially an angry, deformed horse with a saliva control problem.

But so much sexier than a horse
Credit: Charles Roffey / Flickr.com


Yeah, we get it. You can hire camels by the day in Egypt and gallop around the great pyramids waving a cheap-ass sword and pretending you're T. E. Lawrence. You can even go on camel safari in Kenya if that's your kind of thing, but it's not the same. You have to pay for that kind of shit.

Although camel trains still exist in Australia and a couple of other places not hospitable enough to support civilisation, By far the greatest use of camel trains occurs between North and West Africa by the Tuareg, Shuwa and Hassaniyya, as well as by culturally-affiliated groups like the Toubou, Hausa and Songhay.

Although they generally conduct trade in the Sahara Desert. Camel commuters frequently travel as far south as central Nigeria and northern Kenya.

So what's it actually like to travel around Africa on a camel?

Pretty strange, we'd imagine. There are roads in the Sahara, but the caravans don't use them. No truck stops in which to spend a drunken evening masturbating to cable TV porn; no breakdown emergency services - if your camel dies, doubtless you have spares. And you can eat the corpse over a desert barbecue.

Either that or someone else eats your corpse. The desert doesn't care.
Credit: Mags' pics for everyone

Aside from supplying goods and services to the towns and villages on the edge of the world's largest desert, camels are still used to transport massive blocks of salt from the desert in Mali and Djibouti's Lake Assal. Which isn't half as cool.

And you know what? It's pretty easy to join in. There are tens of thousands of camels living wild in and around the Sahara. Pop along and grab one (But you'll probably die because you have absolutely no idea what you're doing).

3. Motorbike 


Is she seating sideways?
Image courtesy of  flickr


OK. So you've relocated to Africa, left all your first world problems behind at the airport along with your wife and your five seater Honda civic. You loved the Nairobi Matatus, but only for one trip; you were forced to eat your only camel after a failed attempt to force a hostile takeover on the Tuareg trade routes. Fortunately, they left you in the desert to die of thirst rather than dirty their hands by murdering you themselves, and you eventually made it back to the bright lights of the big city.

Only to discover the power is out in Lagos again.

You find yourself yearning for some two wheeled transport which doesn't require pedalling.
We completely dig it. We've owned some of the finest machinery Misters Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha have ever produced. But what's awesome about the motorbikes in Africa is not the marques themselves - raw horsepower and handling don't count for much where you can ride for days without seeing a paved road - what's awesome is the way they're put to work by their owners, who, in fits of ingenuity which would make Felix Wankel turn in his grave, manage to run everything from removal services to taxis on their two wheels

ugandan boda bodas


As we mentioned earlier, private vehicle ownership is a rarity in Africa. So whatever vehicle you own, you're going to try wring every last possible ounce of use from it.

People like:

This guy. We don't know his name, but thanks to the Telegraph, we know that this picture was taken near Goma in Congo and that his motorised scooter is made of wood. We couldn't say whether this is a one off event, or if he moves sofas for a living. We'd like to think the latter.

Credit: Reuters




This substitute for a school bus, which we are told (but don't believe) is a pretty normal thing in Uganda.




This gent, we're assuming, is a farmer of some kind:



And finally thanks to CNN, we get to see the effects of severely cut back military spending as Mali soldiers ride around on the most 1980s scooter imaginable after liberating the city of Konna from Islamist militants.



And after all of this, you might just go home and decide that that sitting in traffic isn't too bad after all.

Did you enjoy reading this article join our twitter page , Facebook Page or subscribe to receive email alerts of new posts.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Most Awesome ways of getting around in Africa


Spiderman Pimped Matatu Kenya

1. Mini-bus taxis of Kenya (matatus)

As in many African countries, private car ownership is limited in Kenya. There are about three cars for every 1,000 people in the country, but that's OK In Kenya they have the Matatus.

Flashy at Night


The Matatus, the ramshackle public minibuses seating between 14 and 24 people that zip along the streets of Nairobi, carrying a third of the capital's residents to and from work each day in a journey that takes around 45 minutes from the suburbs to the city centre. Sounds great. We've had to do far worse commutes than that.

So why is it that IBM ranks Nairobi as having the most painful commute in Africa?

To start with, there's the fact that the friendly neighbourhood Matatu driver who picks you up each morning from your semi-detached suburb, could easily disappear one day, never to be seen again, until they drag his decomposing body from a ditch by the side of the road.

You see, Nairobi has a few problems with gangs and corruption. Routes taken by Matatus are controlled by not only brutal gangs to whom the drivers must pay protection money, but also corrupt police officers to whom they have to pay bribes.

A normal day for the fine, upstanding Nairobi police force.
Credit: http://sabahionline.com/

Every year, matatu drivers and owners who fail to pay protection money to the Mungiki gang are targeted by the gang and killed. While it would be unfair to say that the police don't care, it would be totally accurate to say that most of the police couldn't give a shit. As long as their palms are greased, officers of the law are prepared to look away. In many cases, they're actually an integral part of the gang.

If your driver has managed to stay alive long enough to pick you up, you then have to consider that the Matutu is probably one of the least safe vehicles in the world.

Maintenance is poor. After all those bribes, bungs, and protection fees, drivers seldom have enough money to keep their vehicles in tip-top condition, and while seatbelts were made compulsory in 2004, there are an estimated 1,500 people killed every year in Matatu accidents in and around Nairobi. Considering that there are 25,000 of the vehicles in the the capital, you're taking a huge chance just standing next to one.

At least five of the people in this picture are now dead.
Credit: Newstimeafrica

The cash the drivers manage to save from local gangsters, police and from dodging repair shops, tends to be spent on sound system mods for their chariots of fire. The average Hi-Fi costs around $2,000 and is devoted to spitting out the latest in hip-hop at ear splitting volumes. You may like hip-hop, but we don't, and can think of few things worse than being subjected to the latest from 'South Central Cartel' on our way to work every day.

Like you couldn't tell just by looking.
Credit: Hansueli Krapf


Remember how we said that the minibuses seat between 14 and 24 people? That was a lie. 14 to 24 is what they're designed to take and allowed to take, but it's frequently the case that Matatus manage to squeeze in upwards of 50 people. And Nairobi is not known as an excessively chilly city.

Taking into account the danger, the murders, the discomfort, the dreadful music and the prospect of imminent death, how come Matatu rides made it onto the list of Most Awesome ways of getting around in Africa?

Because they are awesome. That's why.


2. Camel commuting

We've always had a soft spot for camels. Ever since one tried to bite our sister's face off during a trip to the circus. She still screams every time 'Lawrence of Arabia' comes on the TV. We bought her the directors cut DVD for Christmas because we're gits.

We should totally put Amazon affiliate links in for all of these movie recommendations.

Imagine our surprise and delight when we learned that camel trains are an actual real thing, still in use across large parts of our favourite continent on a daily basis.

That's right. People actually get paid to charge across the desert on what is essentially an angry, deformed horse with a saliva control problem.

But so much sexier than a horse
Credit: Charles Roffey / Flickr.com


Yeah, we get it. You can hire camels by the day in Egypt and gallop around the great pyramids waving a cheap-ass sword and pretending you're T. E. Lawrence. You can even go on camel safari in Kenya if that's your kind of thing, but it's not the same. You have to pay for that kind of shit.

Although camel trains still exist in Australia and a couple of other places not hospitable enough to support civilisation, By far the greatest use of camel trains occurs between North and West Africa by the Tuareg, Shuwa and Hassaniyya, as well as by culturally-affiliated groups like the Toubou, Hausa and Songhay.

Although they generally conduct trade in the Sahara Desert. Camel commuters frequently travel as far south as central Nigeria and northern Kenya.

So what's it actually like to travel around Africa on a camel?

Pretty strange, we'd imagine. There are roads in the Sahara, but the caravans don't use them. No truck stops in which to spend a drunken evening masturbating to cable TV porn; no breakdown emergency services - if your camel dies, doubtless you have spares. And you can eat the corpse over a desert barbecue.

Either that or someone else eats your corpse. The desert doesn't care.
Credit: Mags' pics for everyone

Aside from supplying goods and services to the towns and villages on the edge of the world's largest desert, camels are still used to transport massive blocks of salt from the desert in Mali and Djibouti's Lake Assal. Which isn't half as cool.

And you know what? It's pretty easy to join in. There are tens of thousands of camels living wild in and around the Sahara. Pop along and grab one (But you'll probably die because you have absolutely no idea what you're doing).

3. Motorbike 


Is she seating sideways?
Image courtesy of  flickr


OK. So you've relocated to Africa, left all your first world problems behind at the airport along with your wife and your five seater Honda civic. You loved the Nairobi Matatus, but only for one trip; you were forced to eat your only camel after a failed attempt to force a hostile takeover on the Tuareg trade routes. Fortunately, they left you in the desert to die of thirst rather than dirty their hands by murdering you themselves, and you eventually made it back to the bright lights of the big city.

Only to discover the power is out in Lagos again.

You find yourself yearning for some two wheeled transport which doesn't require pedalling.
We completely dig it. We've owned some of the finest machinery Misters Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha have ever produced. But what's awesome about the motorbikes in Africa is not the marques themselves - raw horsepower and handling don't count for much where you can ride for days without seeing a paved road - what's awesome is the way they're put to work by their owners, who, in fits of ingenuity which would make Felix Wankel turn in his grave, manage to run everything from removal services to taxis on their two wheels

ugandan boda bodas


As we mentioned earlier, private vehicle ownership is a rarity in Africa. So whatever vehicle you own, you're going to try wring every last possible ounce of use from it.

People like:

This guy. We don't know his name, but thanks to the Telegraph, we know that this picture was taken near Goma in Congo and that his motorised scooter is made of wood. We couldn't say whether this is a one off event, or if he moves sofas for a living. We'd like to think the latter.

Credit: Reuters




This substitute for a school bus, which we are told (but don't believe) is a pretty normal thing in Uganda.




This gent, we're assuming, is a farmer of some kind:



And finally thanks to CNN, we get to see the effects of severely cut back military spending as Mali soldiers ride around on the most 1980s scooter imaginable after liberating the city of Konna from Islamist militants.



And after all of this, you might just go home and decide that that sitting in traffic isn't too bad after all.

Did you enjoy reading this article join our twitter page , Facebook Page or subscribe to receive email alerts of new posts.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Walking Dead: Real Life African Zombie-like Resurrections

Scary Zombie
Credit:Arkmedia


It should come as no surprise to you that Africa seems to have more Lazarus imitators than any other place on the planet. Medicine is a thing there, it exists, as do doctors. It's just they they often don't seem to be particularly good at their jobs.

The people on this list survived their own funerals and (some) went on to live long and happy lives. We imagine there are many more who didn't.

1. Brighton Dama Zanthe starts moving during own funeral - Zimbabwe

Aside from being named after the gay capital of the UK Brighton Dama Zanthe seems to have been a reasonably decent man. He was married, worked for a bus company, became ill and then passed away peacfully at age 34. A tragedy for everybody involved.

Even the statues wept.
Credit: Ljungberg

We don't know exactly what the procedure is for certifying death in Zimbabwe, but we're pretty sure it would involve a doctor checking things like heartbeat, lividity, blood pressure, perhaps even poking the deceased with a pin just to see if they bleed. It's what we'd do, and our medical training consists of exactly nothing. So it's a good thing that Zimbabwe has a national health service, whose job it would be to look after sick people and make sure that they're actually freaking dead before

Mr Zanthe's wife had even less training than us and had evidently never heard of the Zimbabwe Health Service. When Brighton fell ill, she cared for him herself at home. When she couldn't hear him breathing one morning, she certified her husband dead, had the coffin brought to her house and weeping, laid him out for a final viewing before burial.

Guests arrived, drinks were drunk, and eventually, Brighton's boss at the bus company, Mr Lot Gaka spotted that the corpse was twitching erratically - something which corpses are not known for doing.

“This shocked me. I was the first to notice Mr Zanthe’s moving legs as I was in the queue to view his body. At first I could not believe my eyes but later realised that there was indeed some movements on the body as other mourners retreated in disbelief.”

Thankfully, one of the mourners had the presence of mind to call an ambulance which arrived an impressive seven minutes later. After a couple of days in hospital, Brighton discharged himself, saying, "I feel OK now" and went home.

ToMo News has resconstructed the entire event with startling realism in this clip:




2. Paul Mutora - kills self; fails, Kenya

Paul Mutora - Kenya
Credit: Standard Newspaper



It's rare though, that having killed themselves, the tortured individual who saw fit to end their own suffering has a chance to cry, shrug it off and get back to whatever it was they were doing.

However one man, Paul Mutora, did exactly that. We have no idea what Mr Mutora does for a living, but we're guessing that he writes tragic poems and sings sad, sad songs about how his dog doesn't love him and his wife ran off with another man. She didn't. The dude is happily married with children as far as we can ascertain. Well then, maybe he's an over-emotional man-baby who drinks a litre of insecticide after a minor argument with his father.

Awesome. We guessed right this time. That's exactly what happened - death by insecticide. Possibly even worse than death by insect.

Bonus facts: Caffeine is a natural insecticide & people who drink four or more cups of coffee per day are less likely to be suicidal.
Credit: Yug


Paul was certified as dead by actual doctors with medical degrees and sent down to the mortuary to spend his last night with the other stiffs. And it was there that he woke up.

Not like our previous entry, where consciousness recovered slowly, one twitch at a time, but actual wide-awake, sitting up and talking 20 hours after he had died.

Everyone screamed. The mortuary workers screamed and ran off. Paul screamed like the little girl he is.

Artist's impression
Credit: Antique Dog Photos


The problem was with the particular type of drug used to treat the poisoning, and we're not going to tell you which one because this isn't funny when you try it on your friends (we know this through experience).

"The drug makes the heart to beat slower and this might have confused medical personnel, but the victim was saved before he could be embalmed," explained Dr. Joseph Mburu, superintendant in charge of the hospital

Here's another hilarious reconstruction from ToMo News. We recommend watching with the sound off.


3. MaNdlo - the miracle prostitute of Zimbabwe

The phrase 'Dying on the job' means different things to different people. To the firefighters trapped inside the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, it meant going into a situation knowing that there was a damned good chance they wouldn't come out again; for travelling salesmen it means toppling backwards while demonstrating the virtues of the newest Kirby vacuum cleaner on a prospective client's rug; for Elvis it meant taking his final breathe while simultaneously taking a colossal shit.

For the Zimbabwean prostitute, MaNdlo, it meant dying while doing whatever it is that prostitutes do.

Yeah. Ok. We know what prostitutes do. She was being boned by a client in the Manor Hotel, Bulaweyo - a venue we have yet to visit, but look forward to checking in.


The client, naturally put off his stroke by the unexpected expiration of his call-girl, immediately called the police. And then he called the girl's pimp to request a refund.

This guy.

The police called the paramedics, and the paramedics utterly failed at their jobs by straight-up bundling MaNdlo into a stainless steel coffin. Presumably to prevent a biohazard risk as the corpse passed through the Bulawayo suburbs.

Then much to everyone's surprise (except yours) MaNdlo woke up like she was some kind of Pokemon, leaped from the casket, and yelled: "You want to kill me, you want to kill me".

Credit: The Sun


Bulaweyo24 reports one witness as saying, "It was like a movie. People were running away in different directions. It was a scary incident because we were all convinced that she had died because she was just cold. Miracles surely do happen."

Hmmm.

4. The Mysterious Mr Agosu -Nigeria

Oh Nigeria. Nothing that happens in the scam capital of the world should surprise us now. And yet, the paucity of detail in the reports surrounding the details of the man known only as Mr Agosu have somehow managed to. As have the comments from Nigerian internet users in their downtime from trying to find safe havens for their friend, the Nigerian Prince.

The facts, as far as we can see, are these:

Mr Agosu was a member of the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Church. He died (or appeared to die) and was taken directly to the mortuary of Badagry General Hospital without seeing or being seen by any doctors.

A few days later, he was heard coughing, removed from the mortuary and nursed back to health by medical staff.

The fact that he died on a Friday evening and was resurrected on a Sunday leads us to think that perhaps, Mr Agosu, as a member of  a church notorious for phony miracles was trying to work a scam. And some of the comments from the original articles reflect, he may have been onto a winner.

Credit: VanguardNGR


Judge for yourself:


"There is a process called ''resurrection" which has no medical basis, that is only possible through faith. That God Almighty has the power to raise this man from the dead, is not in doubt. That this man will tell us an unbelievable story of "the other side" is not in doubt."

"There's nothing God cannot do. He killth and maketh alive."

While it would be easy to make fun of the gullibility of Nigerian believers. The implications highlighted by more rational commenters were disturbing:

"Not really his fault. Nigeria just lacks the technological advances to better diagnose a patient. Why do you think our leaders run abroad for treatment ?"

"Do you know how many people are declared dead medical doctors in Nigeria, all because they don't have money for medical fees, A Nigeria doctor doesn't care about the wellbeing of his/her patient. The first thing to be requested on the death bed is: oga, where is ur money ? Many people in Nigeria have been buried alive because of the poor healthcare system."

We don't know about you, but we'd rather die literally anywhere other than Nigeria.


5. The Zimbabwe gold dealer who resurrected to bathe.

For our last entry, we're flashing back to Zimbabwe - land of metal coffins and prostitutes with weak hearts. And appropriately, this case is the strangest on the list.

You see, Taurai Paul Tsapauta, didn't just appear to die and then wake up in his kitchen or the local mortuary. Mr Tsapauta died in Old Mutare Mission Hospital after a lingering illness, went through the mortuary, and was actually buried. With witnesses, tears, and everything else you'd expect at a Zimbabwe funeral.

We wouldn't even turn up unless there was pizza.
Credit: Jakob Dettner


Life went on. People moved into his house. Goblins, taking a vacation from the dungeon dimensions, moved into the garden.

What?!

Yup. Witnesses of varying degrees of reliability report seeing hairy demons sporting a baby’s head, and which could move despite a distinct absence of legs.

Things became weirder when people tried to actually enter the house where Tsapauta, a gold dealer, kept magic charms which allegedly helped him to turn a profit.

Four prophets, a woman and three men, were hired to go in to remove the spooky artifacts which included a clay pot, traditional beads), a traditional dagger, a small axe, and "a cow horn-like object with hairy human skin on it and fresh blood pouring out" which "mysteriously hit" one of the prophets.

Further inside the house, the bathroom to be exact, Mr Tsapauta was found in the bath. Alive and soaped up.

"Fuck off"
Credit: Smileham


He has not been seen since. Maybe he's in your bath.


Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Walking Dead: Real Life African Zombie-like Resurrections

Scary Zombie
Credit:Arkmedia


It should come as no surprise to you that Africa seems to have more Lazarus imitators than any other place on the planet. Medicine is a thing there, it exists, as do doctors. It's just they they often don't seem to be particularly good at their jobs.

The people on this list survived their own funerals and (some) went on to live long and happy lives. We imagine there are many more who didn't.

1. Brighton Dama Zanthe starts moving during own funeral - Zimbabwe

Aside from being named after the gay capital of the UK Brighton Dama Zanthe seems to have been a reasonably decent man. He was married, worked for a bus company, became ill and then passed away peacfully at age 34. A tragedy for everybody involved.

Even the statues wept.
Credit: Ljungberg

We don't know exactly what the procedure is for certifying death in Zimbabwe, but we're pretty sure it would involve a doctor checking things like heartbeat, lividity, blood pressure, perhaps even poking the deceased with a pin just to see if they bleed. It's what we'd do, and our medical training consists of exactly nothing. So it's a good thing that Zimbabwe has a national health service, whose job it would be to look after sick people and make sure that they're actually freaking dead before

Mr Zanthe's wife had even less training than us and had evidently never heard of the Zimbabwe Health Service. When Brighton fell ill, she cared for him herself at home. When she couldn't hear him breathing one morning, she certified her husband dead, had the coffin brought to her house and weeping, laid him out for a final viewing before burial.

Guests arrived, drinks were drunk, and eventually, Brighton's boss at the bus company, Mr Lot Gaka spotted that the corpse was twitching erratically - something which corpses are not known for doing.

“This shocked me. I was the first to notice Mr Zanthe’s moving legs as I was in the queue to view his body. At first I could not believe my eyes but later realised that there was indeed some movements on the body as other mourners retreated in disbelief.”

Thankfully, one of the mourners had the presence of mind to call an ambulance which arrived an impressive seven minutes later. After a couple of days in hospital, Brighton discharged himself, saying, "I feel OK now" and went home.

ToMo News has resconstructed the entire event with startling realism in this clip:




2. Paul Mutora - kills self; fails, Kenya

Paul Mutora - Kenya
Credit: Standard Newspaper



It's rare though, that having killed themselves, the tortured individual who saw fit to end their own suffering has a chance to cry, shrug it off and get back to whatever it was they were doing.

However one man, Paul Mutora, did exactly that. We have no idea what Mr Mutora does for a living, but we're guessing that he writes tragic poems and sings sad, sad songs about how his dog doesn't love him and his wife ran off with another man. She didn't. The dude is happily married with children as far as we can ascertain. Well then, maybe he's an over-emotional man-baby who drinks a litre of insecticide after a minor argument with his father.

Awesome. We guessed right this time. That's exactly what happened - death by insecticide. Possibly even worse than death by insect.

Bonus facts: Caffeine is a natural insecticide & people who drink four or more cups of coffee per day are less likely to be suicidal.
Credit: Yug


Paul was certified as dead by actual doctors with medical degrees and sent down to the mortuary to spend his last night with the other stiffs. And it was there that he woke up.

Not like our previous entry, where consciousness recovered slowly, one twitch at a time, but actual wide-awake, sitting up and talking 20 hours after he had died.

Everyone screamed. The mortuary workers screamed and ran off. Paul screamed like the little girl he is.

Artist's impression
Credit: Antique Dog Photos


The problem was with the particular type of drug used to treat the poisoning, and we're not going to tell you which one because this isn't funny when you try it on your friends (we know this through experience).

"The drug makes the heart to beat slower and this might have confused medical personnel, but the victim was saved before he could be embalmed," explained Dr. Joseph Mburu, superintendant in charge of the hospital

Here's another hilarious reconstruction from ToMo News. We recommend watching with the sound off.


3. MaNdlo - the miracle prostitute of Zimbabwe

The phrase 'Dying on the job' means different things to different people. To the firefighters trapped inside the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, it meant going into a situation knowing that there was a damned good chance they wouldn't come out again; for travelling salesmen it means toppling backwards while demonstrating the virtues of the newest Kirby vacuum cleaner on a prospective client's rug; for Elvis it meant taking his final breathe while simultaneously taking a colossal shit.

For the Zimbabwean prostitute, MaNdlo, it meant dying while doing whatever it is that prostitutes do.

Yeah. Ok. We know what prostitutes do. She was being boned by a client in the Manor Hotel, Bulaweyo - a venue we have yet to visit, but look forward to checking in.


The client, naturally put off his stroke by the unexpected expiration of his call-girl, immediately called the police. And then he called the girl's pimp to request a refund.

This guy.

The police called the paramedics, and the paramedics utterly failed at their jobs by straight-up bundling MaNdlo into a stainless steel coffin. Presumably to prevent a biohazard risk as the corpse passed through the Bulawayo suburbs.

Then much to everyone's surprise (except yours) MaNdlo woke up like she was some kind of Pokemon, leaped from the casket, and yelled: "You want to kill me, you want to kill me".

Credit: The Sun


Bulaweyo24 reports one witness as saying, "It was like a movie. People were running away in different directions. It was a scary incident because we were all convinced that she had died because she was just cold. Miracles surely do happen."

Hmmm.

4. The Mysterious Mr Agosu -Nigeria

Oh Nigeria. Nothing that happens in the scam capital of the world should surprise us now. And yet, the paucity of detail in the reports surrounding the details of the man known only as Mr Agosu have somehow managed to. As have the comments from Nigerian internet users in their downtime from trying to find safe havens for their friend, the Nigerian Prince.

The facts, as far as we can see, are these:

Mr Agosu was a member of the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Church. He died (or appeared to die) and was taken directly to the mortuary of Badagry General Hospital without seeing or being seen by any doctors.

A few days later, he was heard coughing, removed from the mortuary and nursed back to health by medical staff.

The fact that he died on a Friday evening and was resurrected on a Sunday leads us to think that perhaps, Mr Agosu, as a member of  a church notorious for phony miracles was trying to work a scam. And some of the comments from the original articles reflect, he may have been onto a winner.

Credit: VanguardNGR


Judge for yourself:


"There is a process called ''resurrection" which has no medical basis, that is only possible through faith. That God Almighty has the power to raise this man from the dead, is not in doubt. That this man will tell us an unbelievable story of "the other side" is not in doubt."

"There's nothing God cannot do. He killth and maketh alive."

While it would be easy to make fun of the gullibility of Nigerian believers. The implications highlighted by more rational commenters were disturbing:

"Not really his fault. Nigeria just lacks the technological advances to better diagnose a patient. Why do you think our leaders run abroad for treatment ?"

"Do you know how many people are declared dead medical doctors in Nigeria, all because they don't have money for medical fees, A Nigeria doctor doesn't care about the wellbeing of his/her patient. The first thing to be requested on the death bed is: oga, where is ur money ? Many people in Nigeria have been buried alive because of the poor healthcare system."

We don't know about you, but we'd rather die literally anywhere other than Nigeria.


5. The Zimbabwe gold dealer who resurrected to bathe.

For our last entry, we're flashing back to Zimbabwe - land of metal coffins and prostitutes with weak hearts. And appropriately, this case is the strangest on the list.

You see, Taurai Paul Tsapauta, didn't just appear to die and then wake up in his kitchen or the local mortuary. Mr Tsapauta died in Old Mutare Mission Hospital after a lingering illness, went through the mortuary, and was actually buried. With witnesses, tears, and everything else you'd expect at a Zimbabwe funeral.

We wouldn't even turn up unless there was pizza.
Credit: Jakob Dettner


Life went on. People moved into his house. Goblins, taking a vacation from the dungeon dimensions, moved into the garden.

What?!

Yup. Witnesses of varying degrees of reliability report seeing hairy demons sporting a baby’s head, and which could move despite a distinct absence of legs.

Things became weirder when people tried to actually enter the house where Tsapauta, a gold dealer, kept magic charms which allegedly helped him to turn a profit.

Four prophets, a woman and three men, were hired to go in to remove the spooky artifacts which included a clay pot, traditional beads), a traditional dagger, a small axe, and "a cow horn-like object with hairy human skin on it and fresh blood pouring out" which "mysteriously hit" one of the prophets.

Further inside the house, the bathroom to be exact, Mr Tsapauta was found in the bath. Alive and soaped up.

"Fuck off"
Credit: Smileham


He has not been seen since. Maybe he's in your bath.


Thursday, 27 February 2014

Shocking ways superstition and religion are screwing up Nigeria.


We're sure we've mentioned before that Nigeria is one of our favourite places to write about. It's a country of contrasts. Insane wealth living side by side with abject poverty; a space programme capable of putting four satellites in orbit while at the same time only 30% of the population bother going to secondary school.

Nigeria has some of the largest oil reserves outside of the Arabian peninsula, but only 3% of the population own cars.

This is one of them

And then there's religion. Historically a cause of strife everywhere from ancient Rome to the modern US, religion is more fucked up in Nigeria than pretty much anywhere else in the modern world. There are traditional Nigerian beliefs, religions imported from elsewhere in Africa, various Christian sub-groups, atheists, peaceful Islam, violent Islam... the list goes on and on.

Now, people being people, most of these groups tend to get on with each other most of the time (excluding Boko Haram because those guys are twats). But there have been a few instances in the last several years which caught our attention. Times when craziness and group hysteria take over and lead to bizarre and frightening situations where everyone involved feels ashamed afterwards. Or they should anyway.

Like when...


1. Bullshit claims by Nigerian Muslims lead to murder of vaccination workers (plus about 900 unnecessary deaths)


You know what's really awesome?  Don't answer, we'll tell you. Medicine is really awesome. Along with flushing toilets, sliced bread and the ready availability of poon in our neighbourhood, modern medicine is the number one thing that makes life in the 21st century worth living.

Our favourite medicine

Most of the deadly diseases have been wiped out or are  at least on their way to becoming extinct. Smallpox was eradicated 34 years ago, a dose of penicillin will prevent syphilis from melting your brain, rickets ain't no thing in much of the world. Even HIV, the number one threat to Swaziland's very existence, is controllable to the extent where if you have enough money, you're more likely to die of old age than AIDS.

That kind of treatment costs money though. More money than an average Nigerian would see if they lived to be a thousand years old.

What doesn't cost money is the polio vaccine. And the reason is that the inventor, Jonas Salk, refused to patent it and thereby passed up an estimated US$7 billion. Salk, a New York Jew, gave it away for free in order to rid the world of a terrible paralysing disease which killed millions of children every year and left more cripples than an explosion in a lawnmower factory.


In what we in the west like to call the civilised world, the disease no longer exists. It's so rare now that a single case found in Afghanistan last month made international news.

And efforts are underway to extinctify (it isn't a word, but it should be) the disease in the rest of the world. Give it another ten years and Salk's sacrifice will finally pay off.

Or it would, were it not for uneducated fuckwits who will stop at nothing to undermine the vaccination effort.

According to news reports at the time the world health organisation expected Nigeria to be polio free by the end of 2002. It wasn't and the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the so-called Muslim leaders who discouraged their followers not to get the vaccine.

At first, the reasons were at least plausible - the country had been subjected to a drugs trial six years previously which left 12 children dead and a further 200 brain damaged. But the polio vaccine isn't new - it's been successfully used throughout the rest of the world since the 1950s.

Other spurious excuses aimed to turn Muslim hate and distrust against the Western Wold in general, with the notorious dickhead cleric Muhammad bin Uthman saying, "If they really love our children, why did they watch Bosnian children killed and 500,000 Iraqi children die of starvation and disease."

Further accusations from Nigerian Muslim leaders include that the polio vaccine spreads AIDS, that it's a plot by Jew to empty Africa and that it causes baldness (we made that last one up).

12 years later and Nigeria is one of the few remaining polio hotspots on earth. The religious gobshites fanatics have given up all pretence at rational argument and resorted to more direct action instead.

In February last year, nine female polio vaccinators were shot dead in two incidents at health centres in northern Nigeria.

We don't know whether the killings were because the workers were female or because they were trying to prevent an incurable disease which kills around 400 Nigerians annually. The group is called Boko Haram, which translates roughly as "Western education is forbidden," so we'll let you take your pick.


2. Nigeria cartoon riots kill 16

Do you remember back to 2006. We do because we were having an awesome time spreading love and good cheer around the North of England. Other people remember 2006 for darker reasons, not least among them, that a series of relatively tame comic drawings  published by Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard.

It was then that we found out one in four UK Muslims wanted Sharia law, while one in five expressed some sympathy with the 'feelings and motives' of the July 7 bombers.

In case you missed the whole controversy, here's a bit of background: In a fit of ironic comedy genius, Westergard drew a picture of the prophet Muhammed with a bomb in his turban as a commentary on how religion, Islam in particular provide, "spiritual ammunition for terrorism."

What was ironic about it was that he immediately received death threats and was forced to go into hiding because of fundamentalist Muslims using their offence at his drawings as spiritual ammunition for terrorism. We'd laugh, only its not funny.

Unlike this hilarious drawing


And while there were 10,000 strong protests in London, at least no-one died. The same  could not be said in Nigeria, which as you may have guessed from our first entry, has a pretty heavy Muslim presence.

And the Muslims of Nigeria were unhappy. We have no idea what they hoped to accomplish with their violent expressions of unhappiness. Westergard, to our knowledge, had never visited Nigeria. Nor was he likely to.

Regardless, riots in Borno and Katsina saw hotels and shops wrecked, and Christian churches burned by Nigerian Muslims outraged at the suggestion that their religion gave them an excuse for violence.

Borno, a predominantly Muslim state but with a sizeable Christian population, saw the worst of the violence, with 15 people killed before the police restored order.

These attacks on non-Muslims in the northern region of Nigeria led to reprisal killings in the predominantly Christian south. In one city, Onitsha, two Mosques were burned and at least 100 people killed.



3. Nigerian Priests convince parents their kids are witches and must die 

Our hate hard-on is an equal opportunities erection and will spurt its vile juice at anyone, be they Christian, Jew, atheist or Wiccan.  The only criteria which will attract the attention of our malicious member is a desire to use your own beliefs as an excuse to hurt or kill other people, either through wilful ignorance or actually pre-planned malice.

And so we come to the Christians of Nigeria, and their desire to cleanse the country of witchcraft. Don't get us wrong. Witchcraft is a massive problem throughout Africa and there is a vigorous trade in child body parts which will grant wealth and good fortune if eaten, kept in a bag or buried under a building.

Finger food
Credit: Jill / flickr.com


But that's an issue for another day and an article all of its own.

What we're looking at here is a craze for seeking out witches similar to that which gripped Europe in the middle ages and America until the last witch was hanged in Massachusetts Common in 1692.

While we fully support hunting down and exposing those who traffic in human body parts for the sake of magical rituals (more on this later), we can't help but be suspicious that most of those implicated as demonic practitioners in Nigeria are children.

Take for example, the case of Nwanaokwo Edet, who was a perfectly normal nine year old Nigerian boy. That is, until the family pastor, accused him of being a witch, after which his father forced him to drink neat acid in an effort to burn Satan out of him. Instead, the acid spilled, burning away his eyes and large portions of his face. Nwanaokwo died one month later.

Nwanaokwo Edet


Pastor King, a member of Mount Zion Lighthouse church, which encourages its members to take seriously the phrase, "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live," got away with it.

Around 15,000 children are accused of witchcraft in Nigeria in the last decade. Of these, around 1,000 have been killed by acid, with a sizeable proportion being set on fire for good measure. You know. Just in case.

For the record, and just so that you quote statistics to your friends in the pub later, there are at least 13 different churches in Nigeria with the same attitude towards disobedient children as the Mount Zion Lighthouse church.

It would be remiss of us not to point out that the Nigerian state does occasionally make an effort to capture these rogue pastors. In 2008, police arrested and charged one "Bishop" Sunday Ulup-Aya, who they believed had killed at least 110 children throughout the country.

Naturally, the bishop denied having killed anyone, telling a Channel 4 documentary team that he had delivered" children from demonic possession had only killed the "witches" inside, not the children.

So, against our better judgement we looked into how exactly Mr Ulup-Aya achieved this miracle. Driving nails driven into skulls; forcing children to drink poison; and of course, the old standby: exorcism by fire.

Try as we might, we were unable to find any suggestion that following his arrest, the baby burning bishop was actually convicted or spent any time in jail. He was reported to have said that there are 2.6 million child witches in Nigeria. So presumably, he's making his way through them right now.

4. Nigeria atheist attacked by a mob of Christians at a child witchcraft conference.

At weird Africa, we spend our spare time reading academic studies. Not for any particular reason, but just because that's how we roll. One that caught our eye recently highlighted the fact that atheists are the least trusted group of people in the US. Well below Muslims, homosexuals, immigrants, and Christians, atheists are the people that Americans would least like their children to marry. When the study was restricted to only religious respondents, atheists came out below rapists.

It's a teensy bit weird, because atheists are also more likely to have a higher level of education and commit proportionally fewer crimes than people who profess to having a religious affiliation.

But that's America, land of irrational eagle humping, gun carrying, McDonalds loving cowboys. We'd expect far more of the enlightened people of Nigeria, who we know can appreciate a rational argument when its presented to them.

Well no. This is an article about how religion and superstition are totally screwing up Nigeria. What did you expect?

Here's a nice little tale which links back into the previous point about witchcraft and Christianity.

Imagine for a second that you are that rarest of creatures, an educated Nigerian atheist. There aren't that many of them about, and it's quite possible that Leo Igwe was the only such animal in the entire country.

As a humanist without a belief in any kind of divine presence, it was pretty important to Mr Igwe that he make people appreciate the one life that they have and not spend it pouring acid over children, or setting fire to them, or hammering nails through babies' skulls.

Nigeria's number 3 choice for exorcising demons
Credit Lotte Gronkjaer

He had recently returned from London where he had been addressing the British Humanist Association on a range of issues, and decided on his return to Nigeria, that something really ought to be done about that whole child murdering business.

Another man might have exhorted the police to actually give a shit, or maybe just pulled together a posse and gone Pastor hunting in the badlands of Lagos. But what the rational Mr Igwe did was far worse. He called a public meeting where people could talk about murdering their own children and attack the problem at its root with reasoned argument and debate.

It didn't go down too well.

As the conference began at around 10.30am, religious protesters dressed in orange raided the venue and began protesting loudly. Over the course of the next hour or so, Leo  had his glasses smashed and his bag, phone and camera stolen by the mob. Eventually the police turned up dispersed the mob and arrested one person.

It's worth noting at this point that the protest was organised by followers of Helen Ukpabio - a well respected preacher who states in her book that, "a child under two years of age that cries at night and deteriorates in health is an agent of Satan.

Religion 4 : Rationality 0



Thursday, 20 February 2014

Shocking ways superstition and religion are screwing up Nigeria.


We're sure we've mentioned before that Nigeria is one of our favourite places to write about. It's a country of contrasts. Insane wealth living side by side with abject poverty; a space programme capable of putting four satellites in orbit while at the same time only 30% of the population bother going to secondary school.

Nigeria has some of the largest oil reserves outside of the Arabian peninsula, but only 3% of the population own cars.

This is one of them

And then there's religion. Historically a cause of strife everywhere from ancient Rome to the modern US, religion is more fucked up in Nigeria than pretty much anywhere else in the modern world. There are traditional Nigerian beliefs, religions imported from elsewhere in Africa, various Christian sub-groups, atheists, peaceful Islam, violent Islam... the list goes on and on.

Now, people being people, most of these groups tend to get on with each other most of the time (excluding Boko Haram because those guys are twats). But there have been a few instances in the last several years which caught our attention. Times when craziness and group hysteria take over and lead to bizarre and frightening situations where everyone involved feels ashamed afterwards. Or they should anyway.

Like when...


1. Bullshit claims by Nigerian Muslims lead to murder of vaccination workers (plus about 900 unnecessary deaths)


You know what's really awesome?  Don't answer, we'll tell you. Medicine is really awesome. Along with flushing toilets, sliced bread and the ready availability of poon in our neighbourhood, modern medicine is the number one thing that makes life in the 21st century worth living.

Our favourite medicine

Most of the deadly diseases have been wiped out or are  at least on their way to becoming extinct. Smallpox was eradicated 34 years ago, a dose of penicillin will prevent syphilis from melting your brain, rickets ain't no thing in much of the world. Even HIV, the number one threat to Swaziland's very existence, is controllable to the extent where if you have enough money, you're more likely to die of old age than AIDS.

That kind of treatment costs money though. More money than an average Nigerian would see if they lived to be a thousand years old.

What doesn't cost money is the polio vaccine. And the reason is that the inventor, Jonas Salk, refused to patent it and thereby passed up an estimated US$7 billion. Salk, a New York Jew, gave it away for free in order to rid the world of a terrible paralysing disease which killed millions of children every year and left more cripples than an explosion in a lawnmower factory.


In what we in the west like to call the civilised world, the disease no longer exists. It's so rare now that a single case found in Afghanistan last month made international news.

And efforts are underway to extinctify (it isn't a word, but it should be) the disease in the rest of the world. Give it another ten years and Salk's sacrifice will finally pay off.

Or it would, were it not for uneducated fuckwits who will stop at nothing to undermine the vaccination effort.

According to news reports at the time the world health organisation expected Nigeria to be polio free by the end of 2002. It wasn't and the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the so-called Muslim leaders who discouraged their followers not to get the vaccine.

At first, the reasons were at least plausible - the country had been subjected to a drugs trial six years previously which left 12 children dead and a further 200 brain damaged. But the polio vaccine isn't new - it's been successfully used throughout the rest of the world since the 1950s.

Other spurious excuses aimed to turn Muslim hate and distrust against the Western Wold in general, with the notorious dickhead cleric Muhammad bin Uthman saying, "If they really love our children, why did they watch Bosnian children killed and 500,000 Iraqi children die of starvation and disease."

Further accusations from Nigerian Muslim leaders include that the polio vaccine spreads AIDS, that it's a plot by Jew to empty Africa and that it causes baldness (we made that last one up).

12 years later and Nigeria is one of the few remaining polio hotspots on earth. The religious gobshites fanatics have given up all pretence at rational argument and resorted to more direct action instead.

In February last year, nine female polio vaccinators were shot dead in two incidents at health centres in northern Nigeria.

We don't know whether the killings were because the workers were female or because they were trying to prevent an incurable disease which kills around 400 Nigerians annually. The group is called Boko Haram, which translates roughly as "Western education is forbidden," so we'll let you take your pick.


2. Nigeria cartoon riots kill 16

Do you remember back to 2006. We do because we were having an awesome time spreading love and good cheer around the North of England. Other people remember 2006 for darker reasons, not least among them, that a series of relatively tame comic drawings  published by Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard.

It was then that we found out one in four UK Muslims wanted Sharia law, while one in five expressed some sympathy with the 'feelings and motives' of the July 7 bombers.

In case you missed the whole controversy, here's a bit of background: In a fit of ironic comedy genius, Westergard drew a picture of the prophet Muhammed with a bomb in his turban as a commentary on how religion, Islam in particular provide, "spiritual ammunition for terrorism."

What was ironic about it was that he immediately received death threats and was forced to go into hiding because of fundamentalist Muslims using their offence at his drawings as spiritual ammunition for terrorism. We'd laugh, only its not funny.

Unlike this hilarious drawing


And while there were 10,000 strong protests in London, at least no-one died. The same  could not be said in Nigeria, which as you may have guessed from our first entry, has a pretty heavy Muslim presence.

And the Muslims of Nigeria were unhappy. We have no idea what they hoped to accomplish with their violent expressions of unhappiness. Westergard, to our knowledge, had never visited Nigeria. Nor was he likely to.

Regardless, riots in Borno and Katsina saw hotels and shops wrecked, and Christian churches burned by Nigerian Muslims outraged at the suggestion that their religion gave them an excuse for violence.

Borno, a predominantly Muslim state but with a sizeable Christian population, saw the worst of the violence, with 15 people killed before the police restored order.

These attacks on non-Muslims in the northern region of Nigeria led to reprisal killings in the predominantly Christian south. In one city, Onitsha, two Mosques were burned and at least 100 people killed.



3. Nigerian Priests convince parents their kids are witches and must die 

Our hate hard-on is an equal opportunities erection and will spurt its vile juice at anyone, be they Christian, Jew, atheist or Wiccan.  The only criteria which will attract the attention of our malicious member is a desire to use your own beliefs as an excuse to hurt or kill other people, either through wilful ignorance or actually pre-planned malice.

And so we come to the Christians of Nigeria, and their desire to cleanse the country of witchcraft. Don't get us wrong. Witchcraft is a massive problem throughout Africa and there is a vigorous trade in child body parts which will grant wealth and good fortune if eaten, kept in a bag or buried under a building.

Finger food
Credit: Jill / flickr.com


But that's an issue for another day and an article all of its own.

What we're looking at here is a craze for seeking out witches similar to that which gripped Europe in the middle ages and America until the last witch was hanged in Massachusetts Common in 1692.

While we fully support hunting down and exposing those who traffic in human body parts for the sake of magical rituals (more on this later), we can't help but be suspicious that most of those implicated as demonic practitioners in Nigeria are children.

Take for example, the case of Nwanaokwo Edet, who was a perfectly normal nine year old Nigerian boy. That is, until the family pastor, accused him of being a witch, after which his father forced him to drink neat acid in an effort to burn Satan out of him. Instead, the acid spilled, burning away his eyes and large portions of his face. Nwanaokwo died one month later.

Nwanaokwo Edet


Pastor King, a member of Mount Zion Lighthouse church, which encourages its members to take seriously the phrase, "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live," got away with it.

Around 15,000 children are accused of witchcraft in Nigeria in the last decade. Of these, around 1,000 have been killed by acid, with a sizeable proportion being set on fire for good measure. You know. Just in case.

For the record, and just so that you quote statistics to your friends in the pub later, there are at least 13 different churches in Nigeria with the same attitude towards disobedient children as the Mount Zion Lighthouse church.

It would be remiss of us not to point out that the Nigerian state does occasionally make an effort to capture these rogue pastors. In 2008, police arrested and charged one "Bishop" Sunday Ulup-Aya, who they believed had killed at least 110 children throughout the country.

Naturally, the bishop denied having killed anyone, telling a Channel 4 documentary team that he had delivered" children from demonic possession had only killed the "witches" inside, not the children.

So, against our better judgement we looked into how exactly Mr Ulup-Aya achieved this miracle. Driving nails driven into skulls; forcing children to drink poison; and of course, the old standby: exorcism by fire.

Try as we might, we were unable to find any suggestion that following his arrest, the baby burning bishop was actually convicted or spent any time in jail. He was reported to have said that there are 2.6 million child witches in Nigeria. So presumably, he's making his way through them right now.

4. Nigeria atheist attacked by a mob of Christians at a child witchcraft conference.

At weird Africa, we spend our spare time reading academic studies. Not for any particular reason, but just because that's how we roll. One that caught our eye recently highlighted the fact that atheists are the least trusted group of people in the US. Well below Muslims, homosexuals, immigrants, and Christians, atheists are the people that Americans would least like their children to marry. When the study was restricted to only religious respondents, atheists came out below rapists.

It's a teensy bit weird, because atheists are also more likely to have a higher level of education and commit proportionally fewer crimes than people who profess to having a religious affiliation.

But that's America, land of irrational eagle humping, gun carrying, McDonalds loving cowboys. We'd expect far more of the enlightened people of Nigeria, who we know can appreciate a rational argument when its presented to them.

Well no. This is an article about how religion and superstition are totally screwing up Nigeria. What did you expect?

Here's a nice little tale which links back into the previous point about witchcraft and Christianity.

Imagine for a second that you are that rarest of creatures, an educated Nigerian atheist. There aren't that many of them about, and it's quite possible that Leo Igwe was the only such animal in the entire country.

As a humanist without a belief in any kind of divine presence, it was pretty important to Mr Igwe that he make people appreciate the one life that they have and not spend it pouring acid over children, or setting fire to them, or hammering nails through babies' skulls.

Nigeria's number 3 choice for exorcising demons
Credit Lotte Gronkjaer

He had recently returned from London where he had been addressing the British Humanist Association on a range of issues, and decided on his return to Nigeria, that something really ought to be done about that whole child murdering business.

Another man might have exhorted the police to actually give a shit, or maybe just pulled together a posse and gone Pastor hunting in the badlands of Lagos. But what the rational Mr Igwe did was far worse. He called a public meeting where people could talk about murdering their own children and attack the problem at its root with reasoned argument and debate.

It didn't go down too well.

As the conference began at around 10.30am, religious protesters dressed in orange raided the venue and began protesting loudly. Over the course of the next hour or so, Leo  had his glasses smashed and his bag, phone and camera stolen by the mob. Eventually the police turned up dispersed the mob and arrested one person.

It's worth noting at this point that the protest was organised by followers of Helen Ukpabio - a well respected preacher who states in her book that, "a child under two years of age that cries at night and deteriorates in health is an agent of Satan.

Religion 4 : Rationality 0



Thursday, 20 February 2014

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