Sunday, June 5, 2011

and then there was the time..

and then there was the time david sent me to the coast, to mombasa, to interview the director of the entity that imported all the tools for the civil service, pencils, paper, erasers, paper clips, etc. i was supposed to ask the head of theunit how many kenyans were in the unit and what positions they held. well, being 27 years old and being in mombasa i spent most of the time on the beach. when i went to interview the head of the agency i did not have the courage to ask him the questions david insisted i ask, i did not push him. when i returned to nairobi, david asked me just one question, do we know how many kenyans had been hired and at what positions to which i had no answer. i felt as if i was seven years old and placed in a corner with a dunce hat on. david said nothing. nothing. he knew i knew i had messed up and he knew he did not need to pursue my uncomfortableness any further. i would never make that error again.

Monday, May 30, 2011

While driving to troy...

While driving to Troy, New York the other day, (I went to meet with a representative of the
Troy Book Makers to discuss my novel, The Firing of Stephen Ledberg, copyright, an adventure about an investigative journalist's search for his real parents. A search which takes Stephen from middle America - Wichita, Kansas to the center of Africa, a tiny town on the west side of Lake Victoria and Home again. Stephen does not meet in Africa anyone like David Anderson, but he does encounter a Jewish hotel owner who is terrified of what may happen to him now that the leading political party has adopted Uhuru na kazi for its rallying cry. But this is really getting away from my thoughts about David.) I recalled, as I drove to Troy the hours I spent in David Anderson's office while working for him in Nairobi, Kenya. Each time a visitor would come into the office David would greet him or her, look into the visitor's face and as soon as that person began to speak David would glance down at the top of his desk or begin to doodle with a pen or pencil. The visitor would stop talking. David would glance up and the person would begin speaking again and as soon as he did David would look at the top of his desk. i wondered what it all meant. Was David using some sort of psychological warfare? Was he trying to see how much the person cared about what they were saying? So one day i said, You know it is disconcerting to your visitors every time you glance down at your desk while they are speaking. I know, he said. I can' t help it. If I look at them while they are speaking I become entirely engrossed in their faces and I can't hear what they are saying. So you see, I really have no choice.

i believe, upon reflection, it was David's honesty which opened me to be allowed to write... the truth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

how i came to meet david anderson

            After spending the summer of 1962 in East Africa researching a thesis for graduate school I knew I wanted to return. Why? Because I knew that any job I held there would give me more responsibility at age 25 than any job I could possibly hold in America. And I particularly wanted to work in Tanganyika. I thought Julius Nyerere was a brilliant man. As soon as I returned home I wrote the ministry of cooperatives introducing myself and volunteering my services, such as they were. But I was willing to take on anything. I applied also to a program Syracuse University was running in East Africa. As well, I applied to the Peace Corps. I was not accepted into the Syracuse program but was into the Peace Corps. Only they wanted to send me to the Philippines!  I heard nothing from the Tanganyikan government and felt frustrated. I would have just flown out to Tanganyika on my own and then hunted around for a post. But there was a small affair going on at the time in a place called Vietnam. I needed permission from my draft board to leave the country. They informed me I would have to produce a document showing I had al job waiting for me in Tanganyika before they would allow me to leave the country. Somehow I was put in touch with a man who worked at the Ford  Foundation. We met. He persuaded the draft board tp let me go to Tanganyika. It was this same man, Robert Heussler, who put me n touch with David Anderson. the only contact I would have in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika.

               David Anderson spent his early adult life in Ghana, ultimately responsible for Africanizing the Ghanaian civil service. That meant replacing his own countrymen with Ghanaians. It was not a job to make friends. Kwame Nkrumah trusted him, suggesting to Julius Nyerere that David do the same thing on the other side of the continent. That is what David was doing when I met him.

               After I arrived in Dar es Salaam I spent many weeks just sitting around waiting to hear from the ministry of cooperatives. I heard nothing, discovering later that no one wanted to hire a non-African. One day David invited me to a dinner he was having at his house. At the dinner was every permanent secretary of every ministry in the government. It is the permanent secretaries, civil servants, who actually run most of the government, at least they did at that time. David climbed atop a table, gently rapped a spoon against a glass and said, "Listen, you chaps, this young man has come all the way from American to work for you. Someone must have a job for him." And someone did. I was hired to work for Israelis who were setting up retail consumer cooperatives throughout Tanganyika. If I committed a  sin, the Israelis would be responsible.

                Two years later I was on my way home, passing though Nairobi, Kenya where David was now Africanizing the Kenyan civil service. (It is appropriate  to point out that David Anderson could not have accomplished what he did without the support of his wife, Mary , and their children.) David asked me to stay a while and help him. No graduate school could provide me with the lesson i would learn over the next few months. I remember going to see the chief of the Kenyan police force. He was an Englishman. There were the three of us in his office, sitting around a small table. David began by asking if there was a record of how many Kenyans there were in the police force and at what level. Yes, there was such a report, said the police chief, but it was confidential. If David wanted to see it he would have to ask President Kenyatta. David stood, thanked the chief of police, and left ,me following. Outside he asked me, "What did you make of that?" Whenever David asked me that question I knew he did not believe the person. But I have always been a naif.  I said,"You think he lied. I don't believe he would do that. He knows you can go back to your office and call Kenyatta's office. He's not stupid."

                 "You want to bet?"


                 Naturally, I lost the bet. David said, "Part of a policeman's training is to learn how to lie." It just stunned me but one of the things I learned about David is that he knew every curriculum that each person within a ministry had to study in order to have a particular job. His knowledge of the civil service was immense.

                 After he died a trust was established in his name in England. The object and goals of the trst was to fund further studies for Africans in Africa. Americans could contribute but they could not deduct the contribution from their taxes. Susan Fisher, who worked for David for many years in Nairobi, and I therefore set up the FDAAT, the Friends of the David Anderson Africa Trust. Further writings will describe the individuals and organizations FDAAT has funded.