Of cholera, rabies and malaria: An air ticket to hell?

In Kampala, media coverage of the 13th Northern Corridor summit was overshadowed by a social media celebrity and Makerere University research fellow Dr. Stella Nyanzi, who demonstrated the literal meaning of ‘naked truth’ when she undressed in protest of alleged workplace abuse by her boss, decorated scholar Prof. Mahmood Mamdani.

Is this an air ticket to hell? I wondered. Let me get back to that affair in a minute; first, a recap of this week’s top headlines.

In Kampala, media coverage of the 13th Northern Corridor summit was overshadowed by a social media celebrity and Makerere University research fellow Dr. Stella Nyanzi, who demonstrated the literal meaning of ‘naked truth’ when she undressed in protest of alleged workplace abuse by her boss, decorated scholar Prof. Mahmood Mamdani.

 

One of the antagonists in South Sudan’s theatre of war, Dr Riek Machar, returned to the capital Juba where he was installed as vice-president by President Salva Kiir in a unity government; but until both men are clean-shaven, me-thinks, the two-year old conflict that has claimed thousands of lives may just be taking a breather.

 

Internationally, USA, the world’s self-appointed yardstick for democracy remains at crossroads ahead of the November 8 presidential election with two likely choices between two firsts; a possible first female president in Hillary Clinton or America’s potentially first ‘tyrant’ in recent times Donald Trump.

 

Back to home affairs; in Kigali, the city is readying itself to unleash Rwanda’s legendary and heavenly hospitality on the thousands of delegates expected here for next month’s World Economic Forum on Africa.

WEF-Africa meeting is among several other high-profile summits taking place here, this year, a key performance indicator that Kigali, the continent’s cleanest and safest city is steadily becoming a hub for conference tourism.

Events hosting is fast becoming a major competition among countries but with Rwanda’s favourable credentials, this is a contest in which the country can ably participate to mostly win and lose a few times to other countries.

As it is, the Zambian capital Lusaka is set to host this year’s African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meetings in the last week of May; Rwanda hosted the Meetings in 2014 and put up a terrifically immaculate show of order and avant-garde hospitality.

Last year’s host of the Meetings was the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, where AfDB is headquartered.

My invitation to this year’s AfDB’s Annual Meetings came early this week followed by an air-ticket a couple of days later; RwandAir was my obvious choice of three options provided.

Lately, Zambia has been in the news but under the wrong headlines, due to attacks on foreigners, especially Rwandans, following claims of ritual killings; these have lugubriously dominated international media space with just a few weeks to the Annual Meetings.

Those violent incidents probably explain why my e-ticket came with a stern travel advisory that left me wondering whether I should attend the Meetings or just pull out for my own safety.

The advisory warned of all sorts of diseases, including rabies, malaria, cholera, typhoid, yellow fever and Diarrhea, and notified me of rampant petty crime.

Don’t I love jogging? Yes, I do.

But the advisory warned me against jogging in Lusaka as it would increase my risks of being attacked by stray dogs carrying rabies; that these are almost everywhere in the city.

“Malaria is present year-round in all of Zambia,” the advisory reads in part.

It adds, “Medical care in Zambia is well below international standards, especially in the government facilities, only private facilities should be utilized if available.”

For those planning to visit friends in the city, the advisory warns of high chances of catching typhoid and cholera because water and food in Lusaka are contaminated.

Instead, travelers are advised to stick to hotel food and bottled water.

Scared, I reflected on what to do. Then I made up my mind. Pulling-out of the trip, I decided, would not only be ‘un-journalistic’ but also un-Pan African of me.

Besides, isn't this the narrative on Africa that we have been fed on for ages? The advisory firm is based in the UK. 

The conventional media frame in which Africa has firmly been fitted by international news coverage is of a place littered with danger.

Journalistically, in order to verify the advisory claims, I must travel to Zambia and see for myself.

When I traveled to Abidjan last May, West Africa was being ravaged by Ebola and there was raging negative coverage of the scourge; but I went and returned, fit as a fiddle.

Hopefully, delegates travelling for WEF are not receiving misguided advisories on Rwanda.

I will go to Zambia, out of defiance.

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