A hypothetical Kony 2012 situation: “success”

March 8th, 2012

Let’s set up a hypothetical situation, one that is both theoretically and practically possible. The situation is objectively simple: Joseph Kony is captured or killed in 2012.

Now two subjective responses:

(1)    This is a good thing. Over 99 per cent of people would agree with this, myself included. It would be better if he were captured alive and tried at the International Criminal Court, but the US does not recognise the ICC.

(2)    The Kony 2012 campaign would be largely responsible for the effort. The majority of people would probably agree with this. I would be in the minority.

Imagine Tiger Woods was ten shots clear of the field on the final hole on the final round of the Masters and handed you his putter for a putt one inch from the hole. You nail it and the crowd stands to applaud and shout your name, but who deserves the trophy?

As this article in Foreign Policy magazine (one of the most respected magazines in the world) points out, Kony’s LRA is not in Uganda and has not been for about six years. The people of central Africa, including some political decision-makers as well as ordinary citizens, have been successful in calming a horrible war to the extent that the LRA is no longer in northern Uganda and has been reduced to a near impotent rump. A tremendous effort has been made, by Africans, to achieve the improved situation that exists today. Alas, Kony lives. Invisible Children thinks that wealthy white westerners should be credited for arresting him and for everything else that went before. The video consistently advances the notion that the people of Uganda and Africans in general are impotent and not worthy of decision-making positions. Invisible Children want to be given credit for the hard work of other people.

Worse still, they want to achieve this self-aggrandising aim by offering logistical, material, financial and emotional support to an army run by a man, Yoweri Museveni, who has a track record of using child soldiers (please watch this video). The logic is this: help child soldiers by escalating a war and aiding an army that itself has also used child soldiers. The logic continues thus: capture the criminal Joseph Kony and try him in the International Criminal Court, pressuring American and Canadian politicians to achieve this even though the US does not recognise that very court.

Furthermore, the army does not number 30,000, as the video suggests (rather, that is the ballpark figure for the total number of child soldiers since the army’s inception), but instead numbers at most in the hundreds. We should aim to eradicate the LRA, but what Invisible Children overtly advocates – assistance to the Uganda People’s Defence Force – would escalate a war that is presently enduring an uneasy ceasefire. This might – and only might – result in the capture and arrest of Kony, but only after a bloody campaign that would most likely result in children being used as human shields.

If Invisible Children were serious about making Kony famous via a poster campaign in cities, they would have gone with this very simple idea – by clicking a link on their site you could download a poster that you could print off at home and photocopy. Instead, they ask that you send them $5 for the posters. If people responded to this video not by opening their wallets but by opening their minds, they would think of something like this and act accordingly. But people are sending money to an organisation that supports the despotic government of Yoweri Museveni and will aid an army that has murdered, raped and looted its way across central Africa. Make your own posters, and make your own minds.

 

Hugo O’Doherty has written on African affairs for various publications in Ghana and Ireland. He believes that Joseph Kony is a vile person who needs to be brought to justice. hugo@hugoodoherty.com

Why You Should Not Donate To Invisible Children/Kony 2012

March 8th, 2012

Like many people across the world, I am in the large minority that takes internet access for granted. On March 7th, millions of wealthy people who count themselves among that group watched a half-hour long video made by a group called Invisible Children.

The video went viral and ended up gaining unprecedented support via a mixture of pledges of support and video sharing, both quite innocent, and donations. The request for these donations after an emotionally manipulative video, however, is quite sinister – brazenly so. It was a tour de force in coercion, emotional manipulation and sophistry, and millions are falling for it.

I can’t tell you what to do with your money, that’s entirely up to you. But if you had not heard of Joseph Kony before yesterday and are now thinking of reaching into your wallet for some change or your credit card, stop. Stop right now, please. I can’t tell you what to do with your money, but I can ask you what to not do with it, and what you should not do is donate to this group. Let’s say you do decide to donate though, as is your right; where would the proportion of your donation that is not spent on salaries and administration go? (If you want to read beyond this point, and you should, I suggest you open the video in another tab because I will be referencing certain points of it in parentheses.)

Invisible Children does not hide the fact that it would lend its financial resources to help the Ugandan Army in its aims (19.23 and 21.47). Uganda has been led by Yoweri Museveni, an autocrat who has also used child soldiers and “ghost soldiers” , since 1986. Among many of its human rights violations, the regime tortures prisoners, oppresses other political parties and the press and also wishes to introduce a bill that would have ‘convicted homosexuals’ put to death.

In the mid 1990s, the Museveni government forcibly removed over one million people of the Acholi tribe from the northern part of the country to concentration camps further south. These internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently have some of the highest mortality rates in the world at around 1,000 per week. Both Kony’s LRA and Museveni’s UPDF have committed terrible atrocities against these IDPs.

The video says we need to pressure American politicians (why just American?) to go after Kony and try him in the ICC, but the US isn’t even a member of the ICC (21.00). It asks that people put pressure on representatives to try a criminal in a court they themselves have voted against recognising. It juxtaposes a Republican lawmaker and an ICC prosecutor. It is incoherent logic.

It also states that it is the Ugandan Army that must be supported in achieving the aim of capturing Kony, but as the video also points out, Kony is most likely no longer in Uganda (15.00). This advocates that the Ugandan Army invades another sovereign state or states when those states offer no credible threat against the invading state, going against international law. The Ugandan Army has already entered other states and exploited resources: oil, mineral reserves and rich farmland. In addition, the Museveni regime, along with ally Rwanda, initiated or helped initiate the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that killed an estimated 6 million people – more than any conflict since WW2.

Look at the brief montage of footage (17.26-17.38) where people are out in matching shirts with a banner declaring where they are; not one of them is in a lesser developed country or even in Africa. No Cairo, no Abidjan, no Cape Town, Accra, Lagos, Nairobi . . . All of these cities have zones with internet access. They also have walls and they also have paper, so you would think that a “global” effort to capture Joseph Kony, an African, for war crimes by putting up posters would at least entail some element of Africa in the solution, no? This video was directed solely at rich nations because they are the ones with citizens who have the means to donate by buying the action kits and posters, which retail at $30 and $5 respectively.

The video also depicts the Ugandan regime as honourable, wishing to deploy soldiers to hunt a war criminal but limited by technological and financial restrictions that US advisors can help overcome.  This is simply not the case in reality. They are promoting keyboard activism.  If people use this viral exposure to do something useful, such as target the political root causes of the problems – something that we, as those with access to the internet, could do – then we ought to be impressed.

But for the moment, the lack of context and the black-and-white moralist tone of the video clouds a series of highly delicate political and social situations in central Africa.  Doing some good is great, but most of the video was filmed over five years ago. A lot of the ring leaders, such as Vincent Otti, are no longer alive. Going on a revenge spree is a solution for nothing. If you chase the symptom away, fix the problem, don’t wield pitchforks and hunt. This is not Rwanda 1995 when we actually ought to have done something to stop a genocide that killed 800,000 people in under 100 days. (That’s the same as three 9/11s per day for 100 days straight in an area smaller than the state of Massachusetts.) We didn’t care then because there was no economic or strategic interest in the region at a geo-political level as there is now.

At its worst, the video manipulates a child through a highly staged mock interview (09.20 and 13.00), is neo-colonial and says that only wealthy white people can cure poor non-white people of their problems. It is Kipling’s White Man’s Burden in all its jingoistic glory. It is a real life version of Team America. If you actually want to do something in the long-term about the LRA, Kony, Uganda and Africa, then take a consistent interest in Africa rather than hopping on board because everyone is wearing the same colour t-shirt. You could start by demanding of the education system in your country that if a history course is given on Africa (usually titled the “scramble for Africa”), then perhaps it should not just be given solely from a British and French perspective and should not focus exclusively on how it affected European affairs. If you want to do something positive in the short- to medium-term after watching the video and wish to make a donation to a group doing great work in the area, you can donate to Amnesty International, MSF or War Child, among others.

People are saying “Is it better to stand by and do nothing?” – implying that doing nothing is the only alternative. This creates a false dilemma, is a logical fallacy and is intellectually lazy.

Reading this was probably a lot less fun for you than watching the video, but then again I didn’t write this to entertain you or make you feel better or worse about yourself. Did you ever watch the Simpsons episode ‘Trash of the Titans’? It’s the one where Homer becomes sanitation commissioner. During a debate, his level-headed opponent says;

“All right, fine. If you want an experienced public servant, vote for me. But if you want to believe a bunch of crazy promises about garbage men cleaning your gutters and waxing your car, then by all means vote for this sleazy lunatic.”

Homer won in a landslide after an appeal to people that they could feel better about themselves by being lazy – intellectually lazy. It takes no intellectual effort to put on a t-shirt, put up a poster or make a donation. Let’s not do the same thing the population of Springfield did. For once, let’s actually care about Africa and Africans.

 

 

Hugo O’Doherty has written on African affairs for various publications in Ghana and Ireland. He believes that Joseph Kony is a vile person who needs to be brought to justice. hugo@hugoodoherty.com

 

We’ve neglected Somalia

September 17th, 2011

The following article will be published in next week’s Trinity News

At the precise moment that I sat down to write this article, there was no article on The Irish Times website homepage or world news page of that same site about the escalating famine in the Horn of Africa, primarily Southern Somalia.

There was, however, a Somalia-based news item that concerned itself with a Danish family being freed by Somali pirates having been held since February of this year. The New York Times website on the same day was the same – no homepage or world news page article about the famine, but a story on the freed Danes made the editorial cut.

Let there be no mistake about it – the story of the freed hostages is worthy and of great importance, but what is clear is this: the non-death of seven Danish people is more important to us than the real deaths of thousands upon thousands of Somalis every day, most of them children.

One of the ways in which we – potential donors to international aid organisations – manage to convince ourselves that we are powerless to help is by believing the myth that drought is the cause of this famine. This is a falsehood. The causes are almost entirely anthropogenic, caused by human factors such as war, corruption and religious fundamentalism. Drought, flooding or a bad harvest are the causes of famine and its associated starvation and mortality, or so we are told. But that is rarely, if ever, the case.

Media coverage and political responses to famine – and Somalia is no different – usually portrays famine as a natural disaster, but natural events are not so much a cause as a catalyst of famine. Al-Shabab, the Islamist fundamentalist group that governs – or more correctly, oppresses through a deliberate policy of mass death – large swathes of Somalia, is now blocking the attempts of secular NGOs who are trying to get food and medical supplies to millions of people who are presently at the point of no return.

Al-Shabab has reached an unsurpassable level of callousness by actually becoming an agent in bringing about famine. While Western donors give aid, as well they should, they ought to know that without dealing with the political and religious problems that have exacerbated or caused this present famine, they will be asked to give more again when the next one comes around, as it inevitably will. Until we care enough to try and understand what is going on, this is as sure as the sun rising in the morning.

When one considers that the escalating levels of starvation are almost entirely caused by humans and not by nature, as well as being perpetrated by one group upon others, the situation becomes more like Rwanda in 1994 all over again, with a slow wasting death awaiting victims instead of the point of a machete. This time, however, we do know what is going on and we do have the resources to tackle it, but we just choose not to. We may want to help Somalia and Africa, but we can’t do so without learning about it. We can’t learn about it without demanding news about it. News won’t be published unless we demand it.

What makes Somalia particularly unique is that the West has close to absolutely no economic or strategic use for it. There is no commodity to extract or even a central government to coax, nor is there much of a formal economy to speak of. If Africa is the continent that the rest of the world doesn’t care much for, then Somalia is the country within Africa that nobody cares for. The traditionally great powers have no further use for the place. It can be left to rot and crash.

It must be noted that we cannot blame newspapers, news websites and other media outlets entirely for their lack of coverage. Editorial decisions are usually arrived at after two questions are asked: will I get sued, and will running this story make money? We, the people, are the ones primarily to blame. When a story about a handful of alive Danes is far more important to us than a story about potentially millions of acutely malnourished Somalis, we have reached a very sad and potentially dangerous place.

It should not go unmentioned that, contrary to The Irish Times and New York Times, The Globe and Mail – Canada’ national newspaper of record – had an entire section on the famine linked from the homepage on the same day that the other newspapers carried no news at all on the issue. This meant that after one click, no less than ten articles directly related to the famine were available to readers of that site. There is hope.

Say the word I’m thinking of: Headline writing in USA Today

August 26th, 2011

Headline writing can be an onerous task. How does one draw the reader or passer-by into reading even the first line of an article while staying within the parameters of space, line decks and characters? Sub-editing is easier said than performed.

But at least get the grammar correct. Today I was walking to my departure gate at Charlotte-Douglas airport in North Carolina and saw a copy of USA Today. The headline above the page fold read: ‘Libya oil industry may fast recover.’ That’s bad. It reminded me of a friend in Ireland who used to ring and ask “do you want to go for a fast swim.” I honestly thought he meant that we would swim quite quickly and not that the activity would not take up too much of our day.

Would it have been too difficult for the sub-editing team at USA Today to write ‘. . . may make fast recovery’ or ‘. . . may recover quickly’? Additionally, would one write ‘Britain fish industry’ or ‘France wine industry’? Of course not; one would write ‘British’ or ‘French’, so why ‘Libya oil industry’ in today’s USA Today? Here we have three nouns coming together, so let’s get an adjective (I suggest ‘Libyan’) in there.

On the Cloyne Report, Somalia, and Anders Behring Breivik

July 26th, 2011

A rebuke, a hidden cause, a massacre – it has been a tough week for God. Or more specifically, for the parties of God.

Ireland

By admonishing the Vatican in a Dáil speech last Wednesday in the wake of the Cloyne Report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny – a relatively conservative-minded Catholic – has effectively pressed the reset button on the Irish state and its relationship with the Church. The unfathomable master-slave relationship that has existed is now seemingly confined to the dustbin of history and, more importantly, Kenny and the wider Irish body politic do not appear to be seeking a reversal of that relationship, where the state would become master, but rather a separation or divorce. Ireland is dragging itself, kicking and screaming (and I choose this metaphor because that is what the pre-pubescent victims of rape at the hands of priests were no doubt doing), into the twenty-first century. While the state is rapidly losing its economic sovereignty, it is at least finally asserting its social and cultural independence from the vapid, corrupt and at times sadistic institution that is the Holy See.

What is particularly significant about this week’s events in Ireland and the Church is that, like the leaders that went before him, Kenny is aligning himself with middle Ireland – the mass of slightly conservative Catholics that make up a huge proportion of the electorate. The tipping point that made this speech possible is tripartite: firstly, gross crimes had to be undertaken and covered up by the Church; secondly, these had to be disclosed by a non-ecclesiastical party or parties; lastly, and most importantly from a political point of view, it had to be clear that at least half of the voting age Irish people had to be publicly affronted and sickened by what was disclosed. It is a sobering reflection to note that without that last part, it is unlikely that Mr Kenny would have delivered the speech, at least not in such bold language, no matter what his private feelings on the issue. It was not so much that Mr Kenny was being courageous – and we should not doubt that his feelings are sincere – but rather that the Irish people have finally given a government the opportunity to scorn the Vatican without negative opportunity cost.

A final thought; given what has come to light in recent days, months and years, one can only shudder to think what was happening during the centuries where the Church was above all criticism. How many Cloyne Reports were never written? We should not delude ourselves into believing that the Church’s rape-and-torture policy towards children (and, given the protection afforded to rapists, calling it a “policy” is quite legitimate terminology) was solely a twentieth-century phenomenon.

Somalia

The United Nations has now declared famine in parts of South Somalia, a tardy declaration that has already cost lives. But what is famine? Its effects are more obvious that its causes – the most chilling being children with oversized heads sitting on wasted bodies, waiting to die. But famine is not something that suddenly comes upon a community, nation or region; rather, it is often as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning.

Media coverage and political responses to famine – and Somalia is no different – usually portrays famine as a natural disaster, but natural events are not so much a cause but a catalyst of famine. Drought, flooding or a bad harvest cause famine and its associated starvation and mortality, or so we are told. But that is rarely, if ever, the case. Al-Shabab, the Islamist fundamentalist group that governs – or more correctly, oppresses through a deliberate policy of mass death – large swathes of Somalia, is now blocking the attempts of secular NGOs who are trying to get food and medical supplies to millions of people who are presently at the point of no return.

About two-thirds of the starving are thought to be unreachable due to the presence of Al-Shabab, a theocratic party of God that is now launching a strategy of mass killing by starvation; starving people to death in the name of religion. (Note how much easier it is to kill innocent people when you believe you have God on your side, as the third and final segment of this article will further show). Previous famines also had political as well as natural causes, notably in Ireland, where the British government initiated a policy of negligence as part of its then Empire wasted and fled, but Al-Shabab has exceeded that level of callousness by actually becoming an agent in bringing about famine. While Western donors give aid, as well they should, they ought to know that without dealing with the political and religious problems that have exacerbated or caused this present famine, they will be asked to give more again when the next one comes around, as it inevitably will. The West may want to help Somalia and Africa, but it can’t do so without learning about it. The traditionally great powers have no further use for the continent. It can be left to rot and crash.

A final thought; during all your years of education, from pre-school through to third level, how much time was spent in the classroom or lecture theatre on African matters, save for the imperial scramble of the late nineteenth century? Answer: probably none.

Norway

Media coverage of the Utoya massacre in Norway is now four days hence, but few outlets and commentators are addressing one of the most unpalatable truths – Anders Behring Breivik is a Christian and a very conservative one at that. For Christians to disown him is moral cowardice and reveals a glaring double standard: if the 9/11 hijackers represent, at least in some part, a strand of Islam, then why does Mr Breivik not represent Christianity in some form?

It is clear from police and eyewitness statements given by survivors of the ordeal that Mr Breivik would not have stopped shooting at unarmed adolescents with the intention of killing them until police arrived on the island. He would have killed 3,000 people, given the opportunity. Why can it be said, as it has been repeatedly, that Mr Breivik is not a Christian, yet the 9/11 hijackers and their ilk are not only representative of a certain type of Islam – the fundamentalist fascistic type – but representative of Islam as a whole?

A final thought; if Mr Breivik has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour, do Christians by and large believe that he will go to heaven regardless of his actions on Earth? I often think it’s a pity there isn’t a hell for people like him to go to.

Given the events of the past week, it is clear that one of the defining arguments of the twenty-first century will be between secularism and the separation of church and state on the one hand and theocracy and fanaticism on the other. One should never miss an opportunity to celebrate the Enlightenment and admonish those who believe that they may do as they wish because a deity commanded them to do so. That is the solace that we may take from the events of the past week.

My hero, Romeo Dallaire

June 3rd, 2011

I have recently finished watching a superb documentary, ‘Ghosts of Rwanda’, about that nation’s repulsive genocide of 1994. In recent years, the US government — as well as those of Britain and France, among others — has publicly declared its regret that more was not done to prevent the attempted eradication of the Tutsis or reduce the human loss. The UN and its Secretary-General of the time, Kofi Annan, have made similar remarks.

Kofi Annan is from Ghana, a country that I have worked in and is very dear to me, and the UN’s spectacular ineptitude during the mass killings — including reducing their force when General Romeo Dallaire asked for backup — does not reflect well on the organisation or Annan.

However, I learned something new from the documentary. While other countries – including the US which, under the Clinton administration, was loathe to enter Africa after the Somalia debacle of 1992 and publicly stated so — were commiting to not providing troops for the UN mission, the two main countries that did stick around and provide the lion’s share of troops were Ghana and Canada. (This is discussed in part 6 of the above link, from around 4.00 to 6.00).

Dallaire, the beleagured Canadian General in charge of the UN mission, states that he said to Ghanaian General Henry Kwami Anyidoho, ”Henry, they want us out. We’ve failed in the mission. We’ve failed in attempting to convince… We’ve failed the Rwandans. We are going to run and cut the losses; that’s what they want us to do.” ‘They’ in this sentence can only be construed as the UN people at headquarters in New York.

Anyidoho said No.

“We haven’t failed, and as commanders we are going to sit here, work hard and see to its solution. So let’s tell those people back in New York that we do not think the mission should be closed.”

800,000 people are thought to have died in 100 days of genocide in an area smaller than the US state of Maryland – targeted killings without mercy in an attempt to wipe out Tutsis. The UN force, under Canadian command with a large chunk of Ghanaian troops, have been widely credited with keeping that number below the million mark.

While other governments, Western and African, were running away from Rwanda as genocide was beginning, it is no surprise to me, having lived and worked in both, that the two Generals who decided to stay were from Ghana and Canada, respectively.

And the relationship extends into our present millenium. When the Vancouver Canucks made it into the Stanley Cup Final last week — that’s the final of the (Ice) Hockey season, for your information — these Ghanaian children gave their support to Canada’s team.

Beautiful. Honest. Relevant.

“Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand”

February 28th, 2011

It’s been over a week since my last Gaddafi-related post, and things have moved on since then; largely in the right direction in the eyes of most people. A large proportion of news reports over the past week have naturally dealt with the effort to evacuate non-Libyans, among them Canadians and Irish, from what appears to be a rather epic endgame. Operation G.T.F.O. is well underway.

One of the stories coming out of Ireland is the case of a German pilot taking a group of Irish teachers from the horror of Tripoli airport (and having been there, I can vouch for its dreadfulness) to relative sanctuary in Istanbul. Every news report seems to lead with his nationality as if his very Germanness led him to indulge in these wonderful acts like a latter-day Moses. Whatever the case, the story reminded me of when I was three years hold and lost on a packed Killiney Beach in South County Dublin on one of those hot mid-summer days where everyone within two hours’ drive of the coast (i.e. everyone in the country) seems to load up the car and hit the sea. I walked, crying and semi-naked, up and down the beach searching for my Dad’s unique gait or the distinctive pitch of my Mother’s voice.

The Germans rescued me. Two of them, female and goddess-like. I have been told since that they were teenagers but to me at the time - in the way that when you’re three everyone over the age of six is ancient – they were grown ups. One of them put me on her shoulders and we strolled around between rock and sand searching for my family. We found them in the end.

Germans, I salute you.

The ballad of Colonel Kenny (Two of us riding nowhere spending someone’s hard earned pay)

February 18th, 2011

It was just after my 11th birthday when I first became acquainted with the banalities of political campaigning. “Vote Enda Kennaaayyyy, that’s Enda Kennaaayyyy number one,” slurred some man through a megaphone out of the back of a van. Or maybe it was a tractor. Or a car. I can’t really remember. The important thing was that our short family holiday to the beautiful Achill island, off the west coast of Ireland, was constantly being interupted by this chump trying to get locals to give their vote to a man called Enda Kenny. It was the long bank holiday weekend just before the 1997 general election and it occured to me that Enda is a funny name. I still think it’s a funny name, and that’s coming from a Hugo. Enda also likes his ice cream.

A dozen years later I was on my way to Accra, Ghana for an internship with the Ghanaian Times. The Dublin to Accra flight route has, strangely enough, never been too popular or commericially viable, so I had to make a stop in Tripoli, Libya. The first thing that you see on landing is this:

Well isn’t that nice? The Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Muammar al-Gaddafi (I’ll stick to this spelling solely for consistency purposes rather than Qaddadi, Gadhafi, Qadhafi, Kadafi, etc.), welcomes visitors with a smile and a message. If the gold-bedecked 7.5% owner of Juventus Football Club, 100% owner of an all-female bodyguard unit, pitcher of tents in Manhattan and general doer of wacky things wants to say ‘hi’, what’s the harm? But then you go inside the airport building. Revolutionary slogans adorn the walls and The Guide is now leading with a stick rather than a carrot with images that seem to suggest ‘Don’t mess with me’. This photograph is from the arrivals terminal:

I’ll give him one thing; he’s a lot cooler looking than Enda with an ice cream. Tripoli airport, however, is the most awful airport I’ve ever been in. There are two check-in desks for the entire departures area and the bathroom was a tiled floor covered in human excrement. Actually, I can’t be sure it was all human; there may have been bat or bird in there as well.

A couple of weeks later in Ghana I was attending a press conference in Accra as a Ghanaian Times reporter. The press briefing was supposed to announce details of an imminent visit from Gaddafi. A group of West African Chiefs had invited him down for a conference, and the story goes that at the last minute he cancelled because his request to be crowned “King of Kings” would not transpire. A more likely story is that the Ghanaian government begged the Chiefs not to have Gaddafi in town two weeks after a visit from Barack Obama; Investor confidence and all that. Hence, I never actually saw Gaffafi either in Libya or Ghana, just a lot of images of him and words about him.

And this brings us neatly back to Enda. This time next week Enda will be Taoiseach or Prime Minister of Ireland, but his party, having tried to get rid of him last summer, are now merely trying to keep him as inconspicious as possible. Enda did their work for them by refusing to attend the first leaders’ debate last week and saying that the empty chair would symbolise the emigration of Irish youth. Really? That surely has to be one of the dodgiest ad-libs I’ve ever seen. It can’t possibly be the case that he sat down and plotted out that line with his fellow Fine Gaelers. It’s like 1997 all over again, but instead of having a man shouting out of the back of an automobile on his behalf Kenny is doing all the weird stuff for himself. When I was 11 I asked myself, ‘surely this sort if thing doesn’t really make people vote for him.’ and now, after the empty chair-emigration thing, I’m asking myself that all over again.

One thing I noticed in Tripoli airport was how bored all the airport staff looked, how many of them there were, and how little they seemed to be doing. Most of them were born after Gaddafi came to power in a 1969 coup, so for many of them it must seem like Libya and Gaddafi are synonyms. This was 2009 however, when Gaddafi was the meat in a Ben Ali-Mubarak sandwich between Tunisia and Egypt. Now that it Libya an island of repression in a sea of revolution (please rate my metaphors on a scale of 1 to meta-metaphorist), those same workers are becoming more active.

Gaddafi is a leader whose political career began in 1969 and whose leadership, for want of a better term, is starting to crack. Kenny has been in the Dáil, the Irish Parliament, since 1975 and will now become leader of his state for the first time. One of them has been trying for decades to stay in power, the other to get into power. Both are now on the brink of changes in career direction that are largely out of their hands. Do you know what we need? More images of Gaddafi eating ice cream and more giant paintings of Enda wearing sunglasses in Dublin airport.