Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Those East African work permits are a bitch.

Believe me, I know: my nonprofit employer tried for nearly a year to secure the right kind of documentation for me while I was living and working in Tanzania. We were foiled repeatedly by incompetent lawyers, incomprehensible (nonexistent) application procedures, and yes, corruption. I once watched my employer hand over 50 USD in the hopes that it would help our applications succeed. Tanzania's reasons for making this so difficult will always be somewhat obscure, but they're certainly making sure that any foreigners earning money in TZ's strained economy have jumped through a shitload of hoops to do so.

In Kenya, Tanzania's slightly better-off northern neighbor, the situation is pretty similar. But it looks like the frustrating government bureaucracy has finally ensnared a deserving victim: Jerome Corsi, American author of The Obama Nation!

Obama Nation is Corsi's second election-year-slander book. The first was Unfit for Command, which managed to influence 2004 election coverage by planting seeds of doubt about Kerry's military record.

Now, I've know several wazungu (white people) who've gone to East Africa on a tourist visa and overstayed their 90-day permit, or did some volunteer work undetected, or sold bootleg Tom Cruise DVD's by the thousand. But a prominent conservative shit-writer, showing up at a big hotel in downtown Nairobi to give a press conference? That, my friends, is a new one.

Had he crossed all his t's, Corsi may very well have found a receptive audience for his "ideas" in East Africa. I spoke with many Kenyans and Tanzanians who have reservations about Obama's candidacy. The prevailing wisdom in Tanzania is that Kenya is full of violent tribalist criminals. (My exaggeration is only slight.) And among Kenyans, of course, there's the fact that Obama's father was a Luo, and the dominant tribe in Kenyan politics since independence have been the Kikuyu.

I can only imagine what kinds of experiences Corsi would have had if he'd managed to secure a work permit and could travel the country unfettered by pesky immigration rules. East Africans have a political style all their own, and they're certainly not afraid to take the gloves off. But I'm not sure they're ready for Swift Boat stuff.

So thanks, Kenya Immigration! Hongereni sana (many congratulations).

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