Friday, 31 August 2012


Ambling  through the affluent areas of South West London I find myself at the famous Harrods shopping complex. Harrods towers above me like an old, crafty crocodile; where millionaires, the wealthy and royal buy stuff. It was created in 1834 and had many owners including Egyptian businessman Al Fayed whose son, Dodi, perished with Princess Diana in 1997. Two years ago this biggest (shopping) establishment in UK was sold to Qatar Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. (What a long name!) it is said the cost was one and half billion pounds.

 Harrods soars over me as I marvel its amazing architecture. Wazungu always score with their buildings. They keep them fresh and forever. Many years ago while touring (with a theatre group) in Vienna, Austria I was mesmerised  how ancient pretty buildings still dazzle the city.
Like Zanzibar’s Stone Town, perhaps?
Author ambles around Stone Town in 2011...spooky and interesting

Difference is ... Stone Town... somewhat gears towards tourism than tradition. We need to learn to sustain our old majengos. Anyway this is one of my thought lines; buzzing and circling through my mind as I step into Hans Crescent, a small obscure street jutting from Brompton road. Still at Knightsbridge, cars look and smell money... Mercedes, Jaguars, Aston Martins... a few meters away I see a bunch of policemen, standing attentively and firmly guarding the Ecuador Embassy; ready for Australian journalist and internet haktivist, Julian Assange to pop out. He has been hiding here since June and last Thursday he was granted asylum by the Ecuadorian authorities.

Facing the small premises of the Embassy is the media, dissenters and more police. One of the protesters has a huge megaphone and starring at the group of policemen she then blows her saxophone:
“Nobody made a 999 call asking for your assistance isn’t it!”

Apart from this verbal challenge and complaints there are numerous placards and photos of Julian Assange. The placard-words are as varied as the life of this interesting journalist: “Freedom”, “Courage is Contagious”, “Free Assange- Don’t shoots the messenger”, “Publish the truth”, “Educate the Youth” and more: “Why are met police working with the USA?” or “End the war on whistle blowers”...
Whistle blowers are the theme. It was an American soldier, Bradley Manning, who blew the whistle on atrocities committed by American soldiers in Iraq in 2007. This information and the alleged 2009 killings of 145 Afghani women and children were all published in WikiLeaks, the site founded by Julian Assange in 2006.
WikiLeaks, has since become part of media history so phenomenal that it has infuriated governments and cries for his blood by some senators in USA and Canada. Meanwhile Bradley Manning (pictured below) is in jail. One of the protesters told me Manning is "being tortured" and a campaign to free him is as important as Julian Assange’s ongoing ordeal.

Yeah. Assange.
 He was born in Australia 41 years ago and spent most of his childhood roving through  50 cities and 37 schools accompanied by his divorced mother. He is ironically still “roving” around the world. The fearless Australian, whose media career began as a professional “hacker” was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 2010, honoured with the Sydney Peace Prize and Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism 2011.  Three years ago having exposed the unlawful murders of Kenyan lawyers(Oscar Kingara and  John Paul Oulo) plus other human rights personell, he was given the 2009 Amnesty International Media Award.   Although WikiLeaks had been active since 2006 (earning at least 85,000 pounds daily, according to Assange) it significantly rose in presence in 2010. One was the exposure and toppling of the corrupt government of President  Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia; subsequently - beginning of the Arab Spring which still booms in Syria, as we speak. WikiLeaks also exposed corrupt dealings in Tanzania one of which was selling of BAE radar systems. Apparently in his constant travels, Assange visited and briefly stayed  at Dar es Salaam.
Dar es Salaam... looking impressive ...minus traffic jams...

So I am passing through watching all this and imagining what will happen. Charges that he sexually assaulted two women in Sweden and messed around with US government top secrets have been strongly denied. Last week he gave a strong statement (without stepping out of the embassy). One of the protesters, who says he is not afraid of CIA or any strong powers quipped :
“What Julian Assange is doing is bigger than us. It is about power. That man holed inside there is responsible for publicising through the internet -on WikiLeaks- serious atrocities committed by governments across the globe. If we know this information we can change things and make our world a better place.”
Also published in Citizen Tanzania... 

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