I have yet to see a single mention of this in North American or European news. And I get daily RSS newsfeeds from CBC, BBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and I read the Globe and Mail online every day (yes, I'm a news junkie). Not even a one-line sidebar.
Mwanawasa was an important figure in African politics. As President of Zambia, he took a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and even charged former President Frederick Chiluba (who had Mwanawasa as Vice-President) with theft. He was chair of the Southern African Development Community, which is a complementary body to the African Union. He has been cited as a champion of democracy in the region, and was an outspoken critic of Robert Mugabe (who does seem to make a presence the North American and European press easily). He called Mugabe an embarrassment to Africa as a result of the 2008 elections and likened Zimbabwe to the Titanic. He recently had been focusing on agriculture policies and improved Zambia's ag production by over 60 %. The policies helped produce a surplus of maize by 2007 - pretty important considering the rising cost of food and food shortages in Africa.
While I'm sure there are plenty of things to be found not-so-great about him (Wikipedia says there were a lot of problems in the 2001 election he won), the fact remains that he stood out in Africa. How is it that not a single news source outside Africa (and the Reuters alert I just found) has decided this is a newsworthy item?
Since I have been here, it is easy to see the distinct bias that seems to leave Africa out in calculating what is important in the world. It IS true that to most of the rest of the world, Africa is synonymous with poverty, famine, suffering, and disease. Sure, those things are here, but there is a heck of a lot more too. As long as the rest of the world regards Africa as a hopeless write-off and unimportant, things will never get better.
To anyone who has been involved in advocacy campaigns, I know that this is nothing new. The predictable "bleeding hearts" and commercials at Christmas say things like this all the time. But the problem with a lot of those messages is that they use stereotypical images and data to beg for help. It seems so unhelpful, though. It even has name: hunger-based advocacy. It irritates me.
While the name of this blog may indicate that I have a bit of a cynical view on life, there is a part of me that believes that it is possible for positive change to happen in the world. I think that humanity itself will someday be the basic common denominator among us, rather than divisions based on skin color, income, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, gender, age, or place of origin (and I'm sure that list could be greatly expanded). Sadly, I just don't think I will see it happen in my lifetime.
This is not to say that this condition doesn't exist anywhere. There are plenty of people and places who hold humanity as the common denominator - they're just not the majority and if one happens to get to a place of power, he/she often gets killed or has a tragic accident. A surprising upside to the HIV and AIDS epidemic is that the only approach that DOES seem to work in reducing infections and improving care for infected people is to ignore all the divisive factions and focus on people's value as human beings. It is hard to go back to hating people for all sorts of reasons after that.
I seem to have gone a bit off topic. My basic complaint here is that an important figure for Africa and the world, not to mention a head of state, has just died and no one outside Africa seems to think it is of note. It underscores a Euro-American bias and stereotype. Maybe if he had been horribly corrupt or killed a bunch of his citizens, the Euro-American-centrist world would think it was important that he died. But he seemed to have the best interests of his country and his region at heart (fully recognizing here that no politician is altruistic), and his country is on the Africa continent. So who cares, right?