Saturday 8 December 2007

Sorious Samura - Living with Corruption

Living with exposing the truth

Sorious Samura makes compelling viewing, he takes reality television to the extreme – rather than being the observer-reporter he becomes participant-reporter, his report then becomes an experience that draws the viewer into the heart of the matter.

Sorious has become a crusader of sorts shining the bright light of scrutiny on all sorts of questionable activities around the world, looking at the underbelly of society and bringing information we never get to hear or see through establish channels of information dissemination. He tells the African story as an African in Africa with an African perspective - sometimes, it is the Africa you do not want to see, but it is an Africa that is real an out there.

His style is not “Michael Moore”, it goes deeper and further but what should result is that we be filled with indignant rage to find ways to correct the injustices we see around us.

Living with stark realities

Sometime ago, I watch Living With Hunger and saw how people scraped and scrapped to exist, they ate plants that gave them a rash you began to see how the body almost needs anything to keep alive – the pictures endured, it was disturbing.

The Living with Collection also includes Living with Refugees and Living with Illegals both of which I saw on CNN, I never saw Living with AIDS my imagination had gone ahead of me to save my sensibilities from that depiction.

This morning I woke up to the much advertised Living with Corruption on CNN International, it had already been shown on Channel 4 in the UK as a Dispatches: Society programme under the title How to get ahead in Africa in October.

Living with corruption

In Kenya and Sierra Leone which one might say are microcosms of the greater Africa he shown how people in the “under-class” are squeezed to the pips by petty officials who line up to extort from those who have literally nothing to even get by.

Looking for day labour, he found work but two-thirds of his pay had already been taken by bribes to the gateman who lets the workers in and the supervisor who dishes out work.

Building a shack in the slums, “chancers” took their cut under threats of reporting to the authorities who were themselves corrupt, by the time he got his empty shack up, he had parted with literally a month’s salary.

You don’t know Kenya

The impunity of it all was exemplified in senior officials that got away with presidential pardons or a minister who when confronted with accusations that he had appropriated land that does not belong to him first fought back with accusing Sorious of having an agenda then said Sorious did not know Kenya.

An AIDS orphanage in dire need of aid was unable to access funds because the angelic proprietor of the organisation could not fork out the 10,000 Schillings required by corrupt officials to register her community based initiative – Sorious, parting with the same sum was able to register his bogus initiative and complete the process in two days in what should take two months. – It was heart-rending.

It was saddening to see how we hear of all the aid going into Africa but none seems to get to the people who are the symbols of what makes organisations and people give aid. Anti-corruption drives simply get bogged down in the political process and get hijacked by special interests as tools of oppressing others.

Usually, it is the middleman without any godfathers that gets caught and they are never the ones who have siphoned moneys off to foreign accounts. The heads of government and ministers who have done too well with the resources of their countries also need the collusion of Western financial institutions to launder their ill-gotten gains.

Scented soap for teacher

His return to Sierra-Leone also showed how children are already schooled in corruption, teachers demanding scented soap, toilet-roll and money to mark the papers of their pupils – the headmaster had to go through hurdles to get paid, these hurdles were tips, here and there to people who are paid to ensure these jobs of administration are done.

I remember times in polytechnic when I had to pay for tutorials and handouts we were told the questions appearing in the examinations would be derived only from the paid-for material rather than the proper curriculum – you could be assured of failure if you did not subscribe to that corrupt enterprise.

There were times as a consultant in Nigeria, there were grabbing hands all around the place, those who felt each time a payment was made they must have a cut – I was able to use my slight detachment from the society because of my accent to state that they had to make those arrangements in their internal systems and it must never appear in my direct transactions, the bank teller even thought he deserved part of my pay when I cashed my cheques at the bank.

The big message of Living with Corruption was simple – To make poverty history, you have to make corruption history – if there is a political will to do that and a society responsive to the abolition of graft is another matter altogether.

You can find all these films and documentaries at the Insight TV Store.

A snippet from Ethiopia - Living with Hunger - YouTube link

Sorious Samura on the Living with series (YouTube Link) a 24-minute frank talk

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