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Father Claude

As I was saying.....

I embrace the world from my backyard at the University of Portland, January 1, 2018. I again invite you to "clod-hop" with me on my journeys to Latin America via this blog. More...

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POLITICS OF AFRICA , SEEN FROM CHILE AUGUST 2013 (Category: International Politics)

Director José Morandé, of the Instituto de Estudios Internacionales, My boss,for whom I worked for the pst 6 years. We were discussing the focus of my seminar on Politics in East Africa.

IEI /  U. of Chile

I have been in Santiago Chile for 3 weeks, teaching a seminar on Politics in Africa at the University of  Chile, Institute for International Studies. Students here are anxious to learn about Africa, and have been very responsive. Heavy readings, intense discussions. They have little background on African history, so they have much to learn. The biggest challenge for them seems to be the importance of Africa for international relations in the 21st Century.

They are surprised (and I hope, challenged) to  discover the useful contrasts between the two continuents, Laatin America and Africa. There are many points of similarities and differences. Similarities includes the struggle to overcome a colonial mentality,  two of the largest and riches continents in the world, intensely religious traditions  of both continents, military coups and fragility of democratic institutions. 

Differences include the diversity of languages,, intensity of regional conflicts, massive involvement and intervention by all the great powers, and the growing intervention of the US and Europe in the name of war on terrorism.  It is not difficult for Chileans to understand that Africans (especially Ugandans, Kenyans, Tanzanians,Nigerians and Sudanes need to discover how to manipulate these great powers to their developmental advantages.  

Perhaps one of the most challenging contrasts for me, between  Uganda (as representative of Africa) and Chile (as an intensely nationalistic people) is the reole of religion in national politics. Both of these religious cultures have contributed enormously to linking past, popular traditions to the organizaed r churches and their institutions. Africa’s rich religious past is only starting to emerge and the syncretism of religious customs (with Catholic rituals) is  profound and mysterious. Chilean have long adapted their Marian religious and popular spirituality to traditional Christian rituals.  

Finally, I can only remind interested readers that travel to Africa and Latin America involves an exhausting variety of experiences. However, there is not substitute to insertion in local customs, bet it the best Kenyan beer or the richest Chilean wines. Food along, in both places makes any visit worthwhile.


Permalink | Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A TALE OF TWO CITIES: MONTREAL AND KAMPALA (Category: International Politics)

I returned to Portland from Kampala in May (2009) after a year in Uganda. In May, I then taught a course for 6 weeks at McGill University in Montréal.

I admit to being a lover of cities They are fascinating places where communities gather. The best ones never sleep and reveal their secrets only through long, patient walks from center to remotest neighborhoods. Montreal is built on an island and most stores have huge underground malls connecting to the metro. Kampala is built on 7 hills connected by ribbons of asphalt and bumpy dirt roads. Santiago (Chile) begins from the bed of a wide river and climbs thousand of feet into the foothills of some of the highest mountains in the world. Paris is the stunning jewel of world history, with glorious avenues, hidden sewers and tunnels, and a sculptured steel tower visible around the world. These cities filled with many inter-dependent human communities. And this characterizes Kampala on the banks of Lake Victoria, and Montreal on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and the largest inland port in the Americas. This is not a systematic comparison with academic analysis. It is rather a tale from my journal entries of last year about Kampala that I discovered for the first time and Montréal that I only re-discovered.

Kampala is the largest city of Uganda (pop. 32 million) and has a diverse population of approximately 2,500,000. Although a majority of its citizens are from the Buganda tribe and speak Luganda as their first language, one hears many different African and European languages on the streets of Kampala. Even though Luganda dominates in Kampala, it is -- like the French culture in Quebec -- a minority ethnic group within a larger country. Uganda has at least 40 language and ethnic groups. English and Swahili are the two official, national languages. In Canada, it is English and French. Most Kampalans speak both official languages and a variety of other languages from other regions of Uganda or neighboring countries. For example, Kampalans who come from villages along he border with Congo or Rwanda, often speak French and one, or several regional Congolese languages.

Prosperous Kampalans (and foreigners) usually live on the mountain tops, and the poor in the valleys. I lived on Nsambia hill, but as I waited for a ride n early morning, I was greeted in tongues that I knew (and many that I didn't) by students going to class, by security guards going to work. by maids going to work in religious houses or international agencies. And sometimes by drunks returning from bars. Kampala's hills are doted with mosques, temples and churches, Nsambia hill is no exception with its embassies, churches and schools.

Montréal is the capital of the Province of Québec, and with a population of 3.5 million, one of the largest cities of Canada (pop. 32.5 million). A majority of Montréal's citizens(70%) speak French as their first language. English is the second language and is required to get a job at any public establishment. Although French and English dominate, there is a substantial presence of Italians, Poles, Chinese, Mexicans, Haitians and Portuguese who speak their languages, as well other nationalities from francophone Africa, and from Latin America, Middle East and South Asia.

Schools, churches, community centers and restaurants cater to most of these ethnic groups. On any given day, you can walk down a major city street and hear a dozen languages spoken (counting at least 3 different versions of French -- that of Québec, Africa and Haiti.

Life in both these cities is culturally rich and socially attractive. I have tried to explain to myself why these two cities are such attractive and delightful places. Many Kampalans and Montrealers are deeply attached to their nationalities and to the place where they live and work. Some Kamaplans told me that their city is too big and no place to raise a family, but they always promised to send their kids to the best schools in Kampala

Some Montrealers told me that some rich and influential persons moved out of the city after the Referendum of 1995, when Québec almost voted in favor of separation. After the referendum failed to pass, English Canadians (in Québec and in the other provinces) re-learned to live with their feisty Frenchies.

It seems to me that leaders and most citizens of these two cities have achieved a ritual balance of communities and individuals that is symbolized in Québec through Cirque du Soleil, and in Uganda through Ndere. For Montréal, the larger ethnic French tradition lives in harmony with the many other ethnic traditions. And the totality of these ethnic nationalities thrive within an Anglo-Saxon vision of the common good, respecting the human rights of all individual citizens. For Kampala, the powerful Kingdom of Buganda has recognized the many religious communities that arrived at the end of the 19th century. And the totality of these different regional kingdoms and European language traditions thrive under a former colonial framework that was adjusted to include the entire commonweal by establishing a common civic culture of respect for the human rights of all citizens. It is useful to examine the history of Ugandan nationalism within the role of British and French colonial traditions to see how Kampala has become such a welcoming and rich collection of ethnic communities. Likewise for Montréal, it is useful to see how the leaders of this French colony chose to transfer their allegiance from the French monarchy (after the Revolution) to the British crown. Since the 1960s, a renewal of French ethnic nationalism has been achieved without excluding the many other ethnic nationalities. Montréal's unique urban framework for its diverse ethnic nationalities is a result of it's delicate -- one might even say precarious -- balance of civic values that encompass human rights for all citizens with the deeply rooted collective culture of a French-speaking nationality.

We live in a world of cities in which life-as-usual is in large part unsustainable. Politically, competition for resources often leads to violence and injustice. Geographically, the growing concentration of human communities too often leaves a path of environmental degradation that is costly -- perhaps even impossible --to repair, . Life in Montréal and Kampala may be fragile -- even unsustainable -- but it has an extraordinary charm and seduction.
Permalink | Tuesday, August 18, 2009

AND FROM PORTLAND TO MONTREAL (Category: International Politics)


   I begin with some news from Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.

   The wheels of academia turn slowly, especially at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU). The proposal to modify the East Africa School of Diplomacy and International Studies (EASDIS) has been recognized, and proposed changes are forthcoming. I have asked to be officially appointed as Visiting Professor in International Relations at UMU. When that is formalized, perhaps within the year, I will ask UP to allow me to alternate semesters, teaching at EASDIS and at UP. I have also been asked to continue offering introductory lectures on African politics at the University of Chile (where I am already a visiting professor). Fr. David Burrell will continue teaching at Uganda Martyrs, and I hope to soon join him in his effort to establish a Holy Cross presence at UMU.

   As I write this blog, I am introducing US students to French Québec and to the history and politics of Canada. We live as a group in McConnell Hall at McGill University, in the center of English-speaking Montréal. However, most of the workers, cooks, maintenance staff, plumbers, guards, etc are French speaking. Some are "whites" (or, "pure laine" as they call themselves) but others are from various French-speaking regions of the world.

   Montréal is a wild and crazy place during the summer. The International Jazz Festival ended a few days ago, to be followed by "Les Francofollies", a 10-day celebration of music, street-theatre, plays, formal concerts and hundreds of crazy-culture events. It is the largest francophone music festival on the planet (according to The Gazette of Montréal). There are over 140 events with participants from France, New Orleans, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Brazil, and Cuba to mention only a few of their places of origin.

   French may be the predominant language of Montréal, but the city is infused with the cultures of global migrations. Walk down St. Denis, St. Catherine, or Duluth streets and you will hear Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Lebanese, Serbo-Croation, Polish and Greek mostly associated with the numerous restaurants and bars catering to their culinary and musical interests. In town for the music fesitval is Tiken Jah Fakoly, an African-reggae star from Ivory Coast who has a big francophone following Montréal (an among my students too). Paul Cargnello, an angloMontrealer has a strong following of francophones. When asked why he does albums in French, he answers "Why not? ...We're artists, and it's such a privilege to be able to write and express ourselves in different languages and references from other places...My generation does whatever it takes to communicate"

   Montréal is also the city of fine organs. Every week, there are several organ concerts in one of the city's large churches. I went to St. Joseph's Oratory last Sunday for the organ concert, but it was preempted by a Mexican Mariachi Mass. Several thousand Mexicans attended. For a few hours, the Oratory became the Guadalupe Basilica of Tepeyac.

Finally, I present you with the speakers for my class: Jafra, a Muslim journalist from Montreal. She is also a leader of the peace movement in Canada. Sylvie, from Madagascar will talk about her work with immigrants who are school dropouts. And my cousin, Ernie Pomerleau, will explain how he negotiates business in the byzantine corridors of political Montréal.

Et alors, c'est tout. Et pourtant, je me souviens!  

Permalink | Monday, July 20, 2009