CHILE: A tale of rescue

Last week was one where the story of fuel trucks headed for NATO forces in Afghanistan kept getting burnt in Pakistan.

Last week was one where the story of fuel trucks headed for NATO forces in Afghanistan kept getting burnt in Pakistan.

While at the beginning of the week suspicion was being focused on the armed forces of Pakistan, who it was said were motivated by a desire for revenge for the deaths of 3 border guards shot by a NATO helicopter as well as retaliation for the constant drone attacks in Pakistani territory, by the end of the week it was clear that it was the handiwork of Islamic militants.

The strange thing about the US-led war on terrorism is that wherever their armed forces in combination with those of their allies land, there usually follows an upsurge of militant attacks.

We saw this in Iraq and now it’s happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This armchair writer is not sure what to make of this.  Is the increase in attacks a vindication for the allied efforts in these areas?

As if to show why they had to invade these places in the first place. Or are these attacks a result of their intervention? Did the failure by the coalitions to provide basic services, a viable democracy, protect civilians from both militants and the collateral damage from airborne bombs drive the populations against them?

If the news out of South Asia was unhappy, the news from a small mine in northern Chile was encouraging. In fact, it was more than that, it was an inspiring tale of courage, determination and, hopefully (we’ll know by this Wednesday), rescue.

On August 5th of this year, part of the San Jose  mine in the arid Atacama desert of Northern Chile collapsed leaving 33 men trapped 700 metres below the surface.

It would take 17 days from the date of collapse to discover that the 33 were still alive and well, if a little emaciated. From that point on, plans of drilling a shaft to rescue them were made and we were made to understand that this would take anything up to 3 months before they could be rescued.

NASA experts on isolation in small spaces were flown in to advise the miners on how to survive in their tunnels while food and communication was passed through small tunnels bored to where they were trapped.

It is now being said that they could be rescued by late Tuesday or Wednesday. If carried out successfully, it would be a rare fairy tale ending in a world where the news is all about the reporting (and sometimes mis-reporting) of tragedy, human or otherwise.

In our own fair land, the Kigali City Council announced that it was going to spend 1.5 Billion Rwandese Francs on ‘enhancing’ hygiene and making the city beautiful.

This is not a bad objective by any means but I would have thought that hygiene enhancement would involve things like building more public restrooms, placing more rubbish bins around the city to reduce on littering and maybe even working on the drainage of storm and waste waters.

This was not to be, the one and a half billion is meant for tree planting and gardens. Of course after all the cutting down of trees that were deemed to be dangerous, more – and sturdier – trees should be planted and we could always do with public parks that the people of Kigali could use for sports and recreation.

However, for a City Council of the largest city in Rwanda, this seems like a remarkably unambitious plan. With all the multitude of problems facing the residents of Kigali, was this really the most pressing action to be undertaken?

Especially as we all know that for all the beautiful gardens, we will all be asked to keep off the grass. The gardens will become exactly like a beautiful painting that all can look at but do very little with.

Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer

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