Review of my post from yesterday tells me I should have stated more explicitly why Sunday’s terror bombings in Uganda don’t make me fear for the safety of Karimu’s volunteers for our August 1 trip to Tanzania. The militant Somali Islamists of Al-Shabaab claim responsibility for the attacks in Uganda and have loudly threatened Burundi with similar terrorism. At first glance this appears to put Tanzania in danger since Tanzania lies about the same distance from Somalia that Uganda does and since Tanzania is much closer than Burundi is to Somalia. And with its long coastline, although separated from Somalia by the three hundred miles of Kenya’s coast, Tanzania also seems a likelier candidate than landlocked Uganda and Burundi for provocation by Somali pirates. Yet Uganda and Burundi have peacekeeping soldiers in Somalia, which Al-Shabaab wants out, whereas Tanzania does not have soldiers there. Moreover, Kenya has already endured cross-border raids by Al-Shabaab and may soon cooperate to reinforce the Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers, along with Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti—but apparently not Tanzania.
This does not absolutely guarantee Tanzania’s safety from Al-Shabaab. Somalia-born Shirwa Ahmed, the Al-Shabaab-trained suicide car-bomber who murdered several dozen people in northern Somalia in 2008, had lived for many years, acquired U.S. citizenship, and become radicalized in Minneapolis. Terrorism has global reach, as we already know. But I’ll worry no more about terrorism in Tanzania than I would in Minneapolis.
So much for my needed clarification. Even as Ugandans mourn their scores of dead (who include some foreigners, one of them an American aid worker), Karimu can celebrate prevention of a substantial number of future deaths. After several months of trying, we have finally raised, thanks to the generosity of many donors, the four thousand dollars that will enable us to buy mosquito nets for all of Bacho’s thirteen hundred residents. Two of the youngest volunteers for our upcoming trip, Dan Pedersen and Jordan Derecho—both still fourteen years old, I think—each contributed fifty dollars in cash to put us over the top. Joas Kahembe, Karimu’s Tanzanian point man without whom we could achieve nothing, will make the hard, three- or four-hour drive from his home near Bacho all the way to the A to Z Textile factory in Arusha. There Joas will collect more than six hundred nets, many of which will cover several sleeping children at a time. In a country of some forty million people, malaria still kills tens of thousands of Tanzanians every year, down from well over one hundred thousand a decade ago. A bout with malaria put Joas’ wife in bed for a few days during our visit last year, but the disease claims eighty percent of its fatalities from children under five. We plan soon to expel this grim reaper from Bacho, however.—Don Stoll