Oh, Boris

I have been wanting to write this blog entry for many months now, but at the time of relevance things were a little crazy over here and there simply wasn’t the time.

Well, by dint of fate, relevance has returned and there now is the time.

I refer, of course, to the tragic election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, proving that it is not just the good people of America that lack a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to deciding who should hold the power and who should not.

The election of London is slightly beyond my remit, although I do note here that a) he has mastered Classical Greek and therefore should be capable of anything (paraphrased quote from his father); and b) that he has certain reservations about the million or so Poles now working in London and wants to kick them out (for someone who writes so often on economics, he really should read one or two good economics text books).

No, my gripe is with the commentry he wrote about Gillian Gibbons, the teacher that was accused of blasphemy before Christmas.

Like so many other commentators on Sudanese affairs, he is not actually all that well-connected here and, to the best of my knowledge, has never been to the country. Spluttering outrage about the way Gillian Gibbons was treated, and accusing the Sudanese government of being nutballs that should be brought to bare by the British colonial empire, may look good on the page – but has nothing to do with reality. He had no idea why Gibbons was imprisoned, nor any idea of the slight that she made to Islam. I fully agree that she should not have been imprisoned, and that the whole thing was blown out of proportion – but at least I understand why. At least I am here, living and breathing Sudan and Islam. Not touring the golfcourses of England.

(Shouldn’t surprise me, of course. Boris was famously sacked as a journalist in his first job, on the Times, for making up a quote. He also gained something of a reputation for creativity when he was the Telegraph’s Brussels Bureau Chief. But everybody loved him for his white hair and his wit. The same reason, I guess, that Londoners love him.)

To recap, for those that do not know the story, Gibbons was arrested because some secretary at the school had a grudge against the principal. The thing was blown out of a proportion because of a few loose cannons in the government. Bashir was quite surprised to hear that the issue had got as far as it did, and summarily sacked the Minister of Justice. It was all very embarrasing for him.

But that’s the problem with media coverage of Sudan. Too many people arrogantly pronouncing upon Sudan from afar, without any real insight into what is going on here. Well-known commentators in London and New York write prolifically on the country, as though their word is God, whilst only a handful of hacks in the country really understand what’s going on. Then you have the press pack in Nairobi, based there because visas are easy and booze is cheap. Many of them flit over the border from time to time, head for the Juba bars, scribble down a few lines and scoot back again. Most do not speak Arabic.

I have so far found one person who is a Boris fan here, and it surprised me as to who it was. A teacher, whom I had thought had a strong socialist streak running through him. Now I am not so sure. Yesterday, though, I happed upon someone who shuddered as much as me at the thought of Boris Johnson running London-town. And the strange thing was that he is one of Khartoum’s many foreign richies. Which just goes to show.

Well, it just goes to show something anyway.

Boris Johnson. Brilliant man. Brilliant writer. Lousy politician.


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One Response to “Oh, Boris”

  1. Stockholm Syndrome « Blake Evans-Pritchard’s Weblog Says:

    […] I feel oddly affronted when those with an in-depth knowledge of the south (one might hark back to my previous critical comments about the Nairobi press back) wants to lay all blame at the hands of the northern Islamic […]

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