Recently in New York,
11 October 2007
In those days when grown hacks used to fight over datelines and the scrupulousness of sub-editors ruled, a favorite dateline would start with the words 'recently in...' followed by some interesting-sounding location.
It was a device much favoured by the Financial Times and Guardian. Lengthy stints in Nigeria for much of the 1980s meant I rarely earned the accolade when reporting for those august organs; once the Guardian gave me a 'Recently in Cotonou' dateline after I nipped across the border from Lagos. This week, some prompting from a quizzical friend, who occasionally doubts the accuracy of the datelines of this letter has encouraged the return of 'Recently in...'
Of course, datelines are part of the journalistic conceit. We hope you will take our story on the UN General Assembly more seriously if you know that we were actually in the UN headquarters when Ban Ki-moon was making his inaugural speech to the General Assembly and also when Comrade Robert Mugabe was berating the Brits and the Americans, along with his odd bedfellows from Iran and Venezuela (although this year Sr. Chavez gave the UN platform a miss).
Well, this year it was worth going to the press scrum at the UN General Assembly. Contrary to some expectations, Ban is taking Africa seriously and has spent much of his first nine months on the Darfur dossier. Again, contrary to expectations, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy is also taking Africa seriously. He hosted a Security Council session on Somalia and Sudan, announcing the European Union's operations in Eastern Chad and French naval support in the battle against pirates who attack supply ships heading for Somalia.
It was also the first UN outing for Nigeria's President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and Britain's new Foreign Minister David Miliband. So from the news gathered 'Recently in New York', we've tried to piece together the most important developments for Africa, with plans for 46,000 peacekeepers to be deployed in Sudan and Somalia.
To keep with the precision, I'm currently in transit, waiting for a UN flight to Monrovia where I'm due to interview some of President Johnson-Sirleaf's team. Next week, expect a letter starting 'Recently in Monrovia…'