Reporters on the Job
SLOW CHANGE IN SIERRA LEONE: When the Monitor's Danna Harman last visited the diamond fields in Koidu, Sierra Leone, last October, chaos reigned. "As soon as I arrived, someone offered to sell me a diamond. The UN troops there were being accused of smuggling gems out in diplomatic pouches, and rebel gangsters were riding around town on the hoods of cars, hooting and hollering."
During this trip (this page), the town had quieted down. Laws were being enforced, and corruption was less obvious. "But as I sat in the bare government Office of Mines where the phones were locked, and officers with no shoes lounged on a ratty couch I saw the cracks in the new rule of law," says Danna.
"A senior officer's sister came in to ask for money for her sick son. He took out his wallet and emptied it. There were only a few dollars. Not 15 minutes later another sister walked in, saying her son needed an operation. She cried. But he said he had none to give her and showed her the empty wallet."
The officer then explained to Danna that he had 14 sisters. And if you have a "big position" in Africa, you are expected to support your whole family. But he makes only $80 a month. "He told me, 'It's impossible to provide that support without taking a little here, a little there.' "
UNLIKELY RAPPORT: Reporter Catherine Taylor took a taxi to meet Moshe Kuperburg, a former Shin Bet agent interviewed for today's story about Palestinian collaborators (page 1). It turns out the driver was a Palestinian from Jerusalem.
Half way through the drive to the Israeli settlement where Mr. Kuperburg lives, Catherine began to worry what sort of rapport the two might have given the enormous tension in the region now.
"But Kuperburg turned out to be a charismatic character, and the taxi driver took it all in stride. He stayed while we spoke at a cafe. Kuperburg seemed delighted for a chance to practice his Arabic and said that because he was born in 1947, before Israel was created, he was technically Palestinian, too. By the end of the meeting, the two men were laughing and backslapping. I found the scenario almost surreal."
David Clark Scott