Mugabe’s rival quits Zimbabwe runoff, citing attacks. Saying he could not ask his voters to risk their lives, Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the race, a move that seemed intended to force action from other nations.
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Susie recently pointed out that we’ve both been back in the States almost a year now… how crazy! After my year working in Kenya with Cindy, after the backpacking trek across all of Southern and Eastern Africa with Susie, after the high tech trip to Korea to visit Laura and Hanna, and continued backpacking in the US from Austin to Chicago to Asheville, Caroline and I eventually met up and did another road trip from Austin across to California and then up to Seattle. So much has changed between when I left for Kenya, when I moved back, and where I am today. I had no idea what would come after life in Kenya, but I know I wouldn’t have predicted a life that includes living in my same old apartment building, leaving the nonprofit world, a new job in environmental consulting, dating in a crazy new scene, and last minute decadent trips to Vegas.
As for travel… I’m consulting again, which means a fair amount of (domestic) travel for work. And while I have no big international trips planned till Thailand in spring, I daydream about my “top ten” places all the time and think about where I might be able to visit next. More immediately though, I am very excited about my upcoming trip to Burning Man this summer and all of the craziness that entails. Hope y’all are well!
From the NY Times:
June 22, 2008
Assassins in Zimbabwe Aim at the Grass Roots
By BARRY BEARAK and CELIA W. DUGGER
JOHANNESBURG — Tonderai Ndira was a shrewd choice for assassination: young, courageous and admired. Kill him and fear would pulse through a thousand spines. He was an up-and-comer in Zimbabwe’s opposition party, a charismatic figure with a strong following in the Harare slums where he lived.
There were rumors his name was on a hit list. For weeks he prudently hid out, but his wife, Plaxedess, desperately pleaded with him to come home for a night. He slipped back to his family on May 12.
The five killers pushed through the door soon after dawn, as Mr. Ndira, 30, slept and his wife made porridge for their two children. He was wrenched from his bed, roughed up and stuffed into the back seat of a double-cab Toyota pickup. “They’re going to kill me,” he cried, Plaxedess said. As the children watched from the door, two men sat on his back, a gag was shoved in his mouth and his head was yanked upward, a technique of asphyxiation later presumed in a physician’s post mortem to be the cause of death.
Zimbabwe will have a presidential runoff election on Friday, an epochal choice between Robert Mugabe, the 84-year-old liberation hero who has run the nation for nearly three decades, and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. But in the morbid and sinister weeks recently passed, the balloting has been preceded by a calculated campaign of bloodletting meant to intimidate the opposition and strip it of some of its most valuable foot soldiers.
Even as hundreds of election observers from neighboring countries were deployed across Zimbabwe in the past few days, the gruesome killings and beatings of opposition figures have continued.
The body of the wife of Harare’s newly chosen mayor was found Wednesday, her face so badly bashed in that even her own brother only recognized her by her brown corduroy skirt and plaited hair. On Thursday, the bodies of four more opposition activists turned up after they had been abducted by men shouting ruling party slogans.
The strategic killing of activists and their families has deprived the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, not only of its dead stalwarts but also of hundreds of other essential workers who have fled while reasonably supposing they will be next.
At least 85 activists and supporters of the party have been killed, according to civic group tallies, including several operatives who, while little known outside Zimbabwe, were mainstays within it. They were thorns in the side of the government, frequently in and out of jail, bold enough to campaign in the no-go areas where Mr. Mugabe’s party previously faced little competition.
“They’re targeting people who are unknown because cynically they know they can get away with it,” said David Coltart, an opposition senator.
One such target was Better Chokururama, a 31-year-old activist with an appetite for bravado and fisticuffs, nicknamed “Texas” for both the cowboy hats he favored and the moniker of a torture camp from which he once escaped. He was abducted on April 19, and his legs crushed by his captors with boulders.
He said in an interview afterward, as he lay with both legs in casts, that he had told his captors “that beating people would not change anything because the opposition had beaten the governing party, ZANU-PF, in the elections.”
“They laughed loudly,” he said, “then threw me out of the moving vehicle.” Weeks later, he was snatched again, with two other opposition activists; the three bodies were discovered separately and identified by family members.
But the violence has been aimed not only at campaigners but at voters as well. So-called pungwe sessions, the Shona word for all-night vigils, have become common in areas where people once loyal to President Mugabe dared vote against him in the first round of voting on March 29. Villagers are rousted from their homes and herded together. Suspected opposition supporters are then called forward to be thrashed.
In Chaona, a village in Mashonaland Central Province, a man named Fredrick said he was among 10 suspected opposition supporters tortured for five hours under a tree. One man was caught while trying to escape. “They tied his genitals with an elastic band and beat him until he passed out and died,” said Fredrick, who asked that his last name not be used in order to protect himself. He said a second man was killed after his tormentors dripped bubbles of burning plastic on his naked body.
Prosper Mutema, 34, from Mtoko in Mashonaland East, said he was among dozens captured on June 4, taken to a torture camp and beaten all night with sticks and clubs called knobkerries. In the morning, he was ordered to hand over a cow as a “repentance fee.” Lacking so costly an animal, he pleaded for a more modest penitence, eventually winning his freedom with a bucket of maize meal and a chicken.
There have been dozens of killings, thousands of beatings and tens of thousands of people displaced, civic groups, doctors and relief agencies say. Though roadblocks seal off rural areas where most of the abuse is taking place, there are so many surviving victims and witnesses that human rights workers and journalists have been able to catalog much of the brutality. Pain is often inflicted through hours-long pummeling of the soles of the feet and the flesh of the buttocks.
“When Mugabe declares himself the winner, the world must know what he has done,” said the opposition’s director of elections, Ian Makone, who has gone underground and travels only at night. Two of his chief aides have been killed; several others have scattered into exile.
Mr. Mugabe, on the other hand, is campaigning boldly. A vigorous octogenarian, his life span is already more than double the national average in this destitute country, where inflation has gone so berserk that a loaf of bread now costs $30 billion Zimbabwean dollars.
Mr. Mugabe openly portrays the election in the terminology of warfare, a battle to preserve sovereignty against puppets put up by the British, the nation’s onetime colonial masters who in his view want to reclaim the land for white domination. Either he will win, he insists, or he will keep power by force.
“We are not going to give up our country for a mere X on a ballot,” he said in a speech last week. “How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?”
The opposition claims that Mr. Tsvangirai won a majority in the earlier round of voting, and that the government manipulated the count to force a runoff and ready its violent response.
Whatever the actual count, hard-liners in the governing party agreed on a “war-like/military style strategy” to recapture votes that had drifted astray and win a second ballot, according to the minutes of one of their meetings obtained from a ZANU-PF official.
“This is not going to be an election,” said one senior ZANU-PF official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the plans are secret. “The election happened in March. This is going to be a war. We are going all out to win this, using all state resources at our disposal.”
Army officers were sent to every province to direct the strategy, which eventually employed soldiers, intelligence agents, policemen and paramilitary groups known as war veterans and youth brigades called the green bombers, the senior official said. Ward by ward voting results dictated the campaign’s geography. In the Zaka district of Masvingo, once a reliable ZANU-PF stronghold, Mr. Tsvangirai won in March, and the opposition party also took three of four seats in Parliament and the Senate seat. Reprisals began within weeks.
Names of the opposition’s poll workers had been published in the newspaper as required by law, and these workers seem to have been systematically identified for nighttime beatings. Hundreds of them have since fled, leaving their polling stations vulnerable to ballot stuffing on Friday, said the constituency’s senator-elect, Misheck Marava. He said his wife and children were savagely beaten with chains and whips.
Then, on June 4 at 4:15 a.m., 13 men led by soldiers attacked the local opposition office at Jerera Growth Point, where some of those displaced by violence had sought a haven. At least two men were killed. The office was set afire with gasoline.
As one of survivor of the blaze, Isaac Mbanje, lay with maddening pain in a Harare hospital, skin peeling from his raw wounds and fluids seeping through the bandages on his charred hands, he described his ordeal.
One of the assailants ordered him: “Lie down! Keep quiet!” Then shots were fired from an AK-47. “One of the guys who was shot fell on my body,” Mr. Mbanje said. Then the attackers set both the dead and living alight.
Tichanzi Gandanga, the opposition’s director of elections in Harare, said he was abducted April 23 by men who blindfolded and gagged him and then thrust him into a truck. As the vehicle raced into the countryside, he was badly beaten and stripped before being dumped onto the road, where he was beaten and kicked and then, as he hovered near unconsciousness, run over.
The men attacking him were armed and could have shot him, Mr. Gandanga said. He is not sure why they left him alive, or even if they meant to.
“We had an election machinery with some important foot soldiers,” Mr. Gandanga said. “These soldiers were identified and eliminated.”
Opposition leaders assumed the carnage would stop once election observers arrived to monitor the vote. But that has hardly proved true.
Emmanuel Chiroto, 41, was elected to represent his ward in Harare. Fearful of attacks on his family, he sent his wife, Abigail, 27, and son, Ashley, 4, to stay with her mother outside the city. But on Sunday, fellow city councilors chose him as Harare’s mayor, and his proud wife came home the next day to celebrate, he said.
Soon after she arrived, he was called away because a ward chairman had been beaten up. While Mr. Chiroto was away, two truckloads of men firebombed his home and abducted his wife and child. Opposition party officials hurriedly contacted Tanki Mothae, a Lesotho native who is a key manager of the election monitors from the Southern African Development Community.
“The house was completely destroyed inside,” Mr. Mothae said in an interview. “The furniture, everything, was burned to ashes.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Chiroto’s little boy was dropped off at a police station. Wednesday, his wife’s battered body was found in a Harare morgue.
Mr. Chiroto still has not had the heart to tell Ashley that his mother is dead, he said. The boy told his father he had sat on his blindfolded mother’s lap as she was held captive and then he was left behind as soldiers took her away.
“We need to go get Mommy,” the 4-year-old has told his father over and over. “We have to go! She’s in the bush. Let’s go to Mommy!”
Four journalists contributed reporting from Harare, Zimbabwe.
From today’s NY Times…
A Disabled Swimmer’s Dream, a Mother’s Fight
By ALAN SCHWARZ
SAN DIEGO — As Kendall Bailey swims, his praying-mantis limbs flapping him forward, something about the water disguises his many maladies: cerebral palsy, mental retardation, autism and more. Only in a swimming pool do they dissolve and allow his troubled body and mind to be all but normal. He is happy, safe and possibly the fastest disabled breaststroker in the world.
“I’m going to the Paralympics,” Bailey told a waiter last week at his favorite restaurant, speaking of the Olympic Games for disabled athletes in Beijing this September. He wears his Team USA jersey everywhere, every day, and sleeps under an American-flag blanket, occasionally with the medals he has won around his neck. “I’m going to swim for the U.S.A.”
Listening to Bailey stumble through his words, his mother, Connie Shaw, wanted to smile and imagine her son swimming on behalf of his country. But she couldn’t. For two months, all she has been able to imagine is his dreams being dashed — perhaps even by the United States itself.
Mrs. Shaw has been left with questions similar to those of other parents who fight bureaucracies they think are interfering with their disabled children’s rights and dreams. Was U.S. Paralympics really trying to protect Kendall when it formally requested that he be rendered ineligible for the Beijing Games? Or did team officials file the appeal simply not wanting the distraction of handling a 6-foot-6-inch 19-year-old with an elementary-school mind and a nursery-school temperament?
Kendall Bailey is a rare case of a mentally disabled athlete who also has the physical disabilities to qualify him for the Paralympics. But in April, amid confusion about how disabled athletes are classified both before and during the Games, officials who oversee the American team on behalf of the United States Olympic Committee formally asked that Bailey be ruled ineligible.
Mrs. Shaw objected and had the request withdrawn, but was distraught over what United States team officials continued to describe to her as the strong possibility her son could be disqualified after arriving in China. Bailey’s local coach, Don Watkinds, feared the swimmer’s reaction: “Kendall would be uncontrollably enraged, or he might just crawl into a ball in the corner crying,” he said. “And he might never come out.”
The head of U.S. Paralympics, Charlie Huebner, who lodged the request to render Bailey ineligible, said in several interviews this week that he was merely “seeking clarification” of Bailey’s status so that his eligibility would be assessed before Beijing.
But David Grevemberg, who handled the matter for the International Paralympic Committee, said Monday that Bailey’s eligibility for the Paralympics was never a plausible issue, called the United States’ rationale “far-reaching,” and questioned its legitimacy altogether.
Only on Monday did Connie Shaw learn that United States officials were mistaken and her son was in no danger. She said she was relieved but also angry at having been terrified over nothing for two months. But she didn’t have to fear how it had affected Kendall.
He doesn’t know a thing.
“The one good thing in this whole nightmare,” Mrs. Shaw said, “is that Kendall doesn’t have any idea of what’s going on.”
A Lifetime of Challenges
At first glance, Kendall Bailey could be just a desperately awkward teenager needing to grow into his body. Only 175 pounds cling to his lanky frame, and he less walks than lopes. Somewhere between a newborn foal and a condor, he calmly gobbles three to four stairs in a stride.
But Bailey’s body is more than just gangly. Cerebral palsy leaves him with gross motor impairment, overactive reflexes and hypotonia, or virtually no muscle tone. (Look closely, and on many steps his feet collapse inside his loose sneakers and he walks almost on his ankles.) Klinefelter’s syndrome keeps his body from producing testosterone.
Bailey’s mental disabilities and autism are far more noticeable. He has the attention span of a small child — at one moment during lunch near his home in La Jolla, he clawed his spoon through his oatmeal, completely consumed with the process, and the next he was drawn intensely to the window behind him: “Look at that bird right there! I want to take him home.” He is terrified of most strangers and unfamiliar settings, occasionally fleeing rooms or crawling under tables.
Is he excited to be going to Beijing?
“Yeah,” he said at the beachside restaurant.
How is his training going?
“Good. A lot of big waves out there.”
What does he like about swimming?
“I’m eating right now.”
Bailey goes to a life-skills school Monday through Friday, learning to cook and perhaps take care of himself someday. A counselor spends eight hours a week with him working on mental relaxation exercises and social interaction. He loves playing golf, occasionally reads the sports pages and laughs hysterically at Scooby-Doo. He alternates between being a clumsily communicative fifth-grader and an intractable toddler.
Bailey loves fetching Gatorade for his fellow swimmers and has been known to run beside the pool with a teammate’s prosthetic legs so they’d be handy at the finish. He generally keeps to himself, but he can get on his training partners’ nerves. Last week, as an 8-year-old boy did pull-ups, Bailey stood about four inches away and drawled, “You’re not doing it right.”
“Back off, Kendall,” said the boy, half Bailey’s size and less than half his age. Bailey barely budged, staring down through his glasses as the boy tried to ignore him.
Bailey’s problems were only gradually evident to Mrs. Shaw in the months and years after Bailey, her third adopted child, was born in El Paso. He had endured a difficult delivery and spent his first 10 days in intensive care because of an infection, but emerged apparently healthy. Within three months, Mrs. Shaw could tell that something was wrong.
“When you picked him up, he was like a rag doll,” she said. “There just wasn’t much there. And just the way he moved as he grew — 3 months, 4 months — he did things differently.”
Intense physical and speech therapy for cerebral palsy helped — Bailey wore corrective shoes and ankle braces to learn to walk until he was 5 — but by then he was exhibiting other eccentricities, particularly behavioral ones. He was terribly nervous and uncomfortable all the time — except when he was in water. Only there was he calm. In fact, he so craved the feeling of being enveloped that when he became hysterical he would lie in an empty backyard kiddie pool while his parents poured gallon after gallon of rice over his limbs and chest.
If Bailey went to a noisy restaurant, he was known to run out and climb to the top of a tree. “A 30-foot tree, like a cat hanging on a limb,” his mother said.
After Mrs. Shaw divorced and moved Bailey to San Diego eight years ago, Bailey rode the bus to his new school and refused to get off. When the principal climbed aboard to cajole him, Bailey bolted out the door, scaled the side of the school and sought refuge on the roof, from which he threw pebbles at the strangers below.
Although she had two older children of her own and three more by her new marriage, Mrs. Shaw made taking care of Bailey her full-time job, driving him to the special-needs programs of conventional schools and working with his various therapists.
Bailey tried to play organized sports with able-bodied children, but he was hopelessly uncoordinated. He played catcher in T-ball because he didn’t have to throw, and because the heavy protective equipment felt good. Play often stopped because his arm and hand were too weak to support the catcher’s mitt.
“It kept falling off into the dirt,” said his stepfather, Roland Shaw. “The first time he won a running race, he just kept running and running, kind of like Forrest Gump. He didn’t really understand that the race was over. He just kept running. He was so happy.”
Faster and Faster
It was in San Diego that Mrs. Shaw discovered Mr. Watkinds, a swimming coach who welcomed children with or without disabilities. Bailey arrived with little more than a frenetic dog paddle, but with a sense for the water that Mr. Watkinds immediately recognized and cultivated.
“I think swimming always suited him because he doesn’t interact with people in the water — he can isolate himself in his own little world,” Mr. Watkinds said, watching Bailey practice last week at a local recreation center. “And the flow of the water around his arms and legs, it just feels good to him — and the faster he goes, the better it feels.”
Bailey did go faster and faster. His long and lean body started to slice through the water like a college crew boat, making up for his muscle weakness and coordination deficits. His floppy ankles were perfect for the breaststroke, where the feet are rotated outward for maximum thrust. After a lifetime of sports failure, he started winning Paralympic-sanctioned races, beaming from the medal stand with a self-esteem that had gone untapped his entire life.
Held two weeks after the Olympics in the same host city, the Paralympics are for athletes with physical disabilities like amputated limbs, paralysis and cerebral palsy. It is a serious competition for medals and sponsorship dollars, yet often confused with the Special Olympics — a far less competitive event for people with mental disabilities like Down syndrome.
Bailey always qualified for Paralympic races because of his cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities. Last year, after a challenge by another country, he was classified briefly as only intellectually disabled — therefore ineligible for Paralympic competition — but Mrs. Shaw appealed and I.P.C. inspectors reclassified him in December as physically disabled and cleared him for the Paralympics.
Bailey was still a long shot to make the United States Paralympic team before formal trials this April. His fastest meet time in the 100-meter breaststroke (1 minute 23.6 seconds) had been six seconds slower than the minimum required for consideration. But he blitzed through the water in 1:15.8 — winning the race, shocking the field and breaking his classification’s United States record.
The next day, a ceremony officially named Bailey to the United States Paralympic team and gave him his U.S.A. jersey. Bailey wore that jersey on the plane ride home and — quite out of character — informed strangers he would swim in China in the Paralympics, even though he really didn’t know what China was. He showed them his medals. He signed autographs. No one had ever seen him anywhere near that proud.
The United States Protest
A few weeks later, having to plan for Beijing, Mrs. Shaw telephoned the U.S. Paralympics office and spoke with the head coach of the swimming team, Julie O’Neill. Ms. O’Neill told Mrs. Shaw that Bailey’s classification was again an issue, and that U.S. Paralympics had approached the I.P.C. to clarify the matter.
That inquiry consisted of a formal, six-page appeal by Mr. Huebner, the chief of U.S. Paralympics. It opened:
“Mr. Kendall Bailey, an athlete who is a citizen of the USA and eligible to represent the USA in international competition, is inappropriately classified to compete in International Paralympic Committee (IPC) swimming competition. Mr. Bailey is intellectually disabled. The intellectual disability classification for swimming (S14) is not presently recognized by the IPC; nor is an intellectually disabled swimmer eligible to compete under the IPC Swimming Functional Classification System.”
The document claimed that “procedural errors” with Bailey led to his incorrect classification as physically disabled. It did not request explanation for these alleged errors or a review of the procedures. Under “relief sought,” the appeal requested that the I.P.C. “nullify” Bailey’s physical-disability status and render him ineligible for Paralympic competition.
“Everything Kendall had worked so hard for, in 10 days, it was all taken away,” Mrs. Shaw said. “Everything became such a struggle from then on — against the U.S.O.C. trying to get him ineligible, and the struggle to keep Kendall from finding out.”
Mr. Huebner said in several interviews this week that he lodged his appeal to clarify Bailey’s status to ensure Bailey would not be subject to I.P.C. reconsideration or another country’s challenge upon his arrival. Said Mr. Huebner, “The worst thing that I can see happen to any athlete, and I’ve seen it in the past, is an athlete at the Games be told that they have been reclassified and they have to go home.” (Ms. O’Neill, reached by telephone as well, said she shared Mr. Huebner’s concerns and supported all the actions taken.)
Mr. Grevemberg, the I.P.C.’s executive director for sport and international federation relations, said in a telephone interview Monday that Bailey’s eligibility for the Paralympics was never truly endangered. He cited rules distributed to the U.S.O.C. early this year that state how no nation could lodge a protest against Bailey’s eligibility at the Games, and that the I.P.C. could step in only after a race and under “exceptional circumstances,” which Mr. Grevemberg said meant an egregious error in an athlete’s classification.
Mr. Grevemberg added that in his nine years at the I.P.C., he had no recollection of any nation filing a protest that expressly requested ineligibility for its own athlete.
“Now the question is, are they acting in the best interest of their athlete?” Mr. Grevemberg asked. “Are they acting in the best interest of their sport? They’re the only ones who can express their intention.”
Mr. Huebner and Ms. O’Neill reiterated that their sole intention for filing the appeal was to seek clarification. They said that Bailey’s intellectual disabilities and behavioral issues had no bearing on their decisions. “I don’t even know who Kendall Bailey is, to be honest,” Mr. Huebner said. “I’ve never met him. I don’t know him.”
Bailey’s intellectual and behavioral issues would never be disputed. At lunch near the beach, he gave glimpses of the feeble desperation that he can feel even in the most familiar surroundings.
“Mom, can you put butter on my toast?”
“Why don’t you start out and if you get frustrated, I’ll help you.”
“Can you do it?”
“Just try it — you’re getting better all the time.”
“I don’t know how. Mom, please! I’ll pour the syrup while you do the butter. Mom!”
Mrs. Shaw incurred $25,000 in legal fees trying to get U.S. Paralympics to drop its appeal and to sort out the matter of her son’s eligibility. In an interview at her home on June 8, she burst into tears at the thought of Bailey being rendered ineligible in Beijing, which the United States had told her was very possible. “It could take him under for life,” she said. “I mean it could make him a whole different person.”
When informed on Monday afternoon that a top I.P.C. official had just said that her son had never been in any real danger, she said: “I can’t believe my ears. I just can’t believe it.”
Later, she doubted that U.S. Paralympics had acted out of malice — its officials devote their working lives to giving opportunities to disabled athletes — but out of ignorance of at least the rules and maybe more.
“Just because he has other issues, he’s been looked at in a whole different way that hasn’t been fair,” she said. “He’s been singled out and isolated because of his autism, because of his intellectual disability. If Kendall wasn’t autistic, would any of this have happened? Absolutely not.”
And so Kendall Bailey continues to train for the Beijing Paralympics, oblivious to the rancor that has surrounded him. Every weekday afternoon between 4 and 6, Bailey swims with Coach Don at the recreation center, dreaming of wearing that Team USA jersey into China and leaving with another medal around his neck.
Last Monday he jumped off the side of the pool, arms tight to his sides, as thin as a closed umbrella, and sliced through the water all the way to the bottom. There, he wiggled his limbs to get himself flat, and lay on the concrete floor in silence, like Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate,” for a good 10 or 15 seconds.
As usual, Bailey’s inner thoughts remained a mystery. Other swimmers’ ripples then crawled across the surface, leaving him all but invisible.