Saturday, July 30, 2011

**WHiY? SPECIAL EDITION: The Geography of Yerbouti**

The country of Yerbouti is shaped roughly like a short, fat clown standing on his head, and tipping to the right a bit.  The country still retains roughly the same borders assigned to the French at the Berlin Conference in 1884 when the map of Africa was divided between the Europeans powers.  Split up with no consideration given to the cultural topography of the area, the country encompasses Arabs, dozens of native tribes, and (nowadays, at least) westernized Africans.  Languages spoken include Arabic, French, English and twenty or so native dialects.  Fortunately, though the country suffers from a particularly low literacy rate, most of its residents speak at least three languages so there is rarely a language barrier to hinder what trade there is. 

Yerbouti is bordered by five countries.  The most important is the country to the north ruled by that crazy colonel, H'wakhy K'dhaffy.  Although the colonel has his hands full at the moment, he is always a threat to his neighbors and by-products of the problems there are always likely to spill over into nearby lands.  To its west, Yerbouti adjoins Ipekakya, which is economically, politically and socially stable and contains, for a change, no major (or minor) threats to Yerbouti.  Ipekakya tries to be a good neighbor to its less fortunate friend, and it was Ipekakya that allowed the UN to stage relief convoys in its territory following the civil war.  To the southwest is another of its most important neighbors, the Republique du Moz, which, though fairly stable economically, harbors certain elements that no country wants to see invade its borders.  The Black Water River and the swamps which share the same name separate the Republique du Moz from Yerbouti, but trouble always seems to find its way across this forbidding waterway.  The exact border through the waterway between these two countries is a continuing source of contention.  To the southeast we find Goannaland.  Goannaland has had a troubled history and finds itself in the midst of rebellion, revolution or civil war every 10 years or so on average.  Bamabar, Yerbouti's neighbor to the east, is likewise a poor country, poorer even that Yerbouti.  Politically, economically and socially it is in complete chaos most of the time and so busy dealing with its own problems that it is of little consequence (at the moment at least) to Yerbouti, except for the occasional groups of refugees that find their way to Yerbouti's borders.  Most of the potential refugees came to realize during the civil war that Yerbouti was worse off than their own country in some ways and avoided it like the plague it was.  Now that the civil war has ended and prosperity, such as it is, has returned, so will the refugees, we are sure.

Yerbouti can be divided into three distinct bands.  The northern third lies in the Sahara (which, by the way, is Arabic for 'desert' so it's redundant to call it the Sahara Desert - that would be like calling it the 'Desert Desert').  In this region, farming and herding is minimal, and found only in the occasional oasis where natural springs rise to the surface and provide life sustaining water for the desert dwellers.  This area does harbor approximately 1/4 of the country's population, mostly made up of Muslim Arabs.  Below that, the middle third is grassland dotted with occasional stands of trees.  Here there is a good bit of farming and ranching, supporting about 3/8 of the population.  In this region, most of the inhabitants still live in their traditional tribes and follow their ancient animist ways, though some Christians and Muslims live among them.  The southern third of the country is forested and likewise contains about 3/8 of the population, mostly Christians, some live in tribal villages while others have adopted the modern life of the the city and regional centers.  There is a fair amount of agriculture and ranching in this region as well.  As can be seen, these geographic regions also serve to roughly define the cultural regions of the country.

The east central portion of the country is located in high plateau, which slopes gradually down in all directions forming, at its lowest point, the Black Water Valley.  A few tributaries of varying sizes feed the Black Water River from Yerbouti's side, but only one extends as far as the grasslands, and none to the desert north.  There are no mountains to speak of, but rolling hills do serve to break up the monotony of the landscape, and in the north central part of the country there is an odd topography created eons ago when rushing water cut meandering channels into the landform which remain to this day, forming a sort of rocky badlands region.

Wacca Jawacca, the capital of Yerbouti, is located between the grassland and forested regions in the western half of the country on the Ray'nbo River, a tributary of the Black Water River.  Wacca Jawacca is the only locale that could be considered a modern city by any stretch of the imagination.  It created untold excitement in the country when the first - well, only - stoplight was installed, and sightseers from the surrounding villages still stop to gawk at the flashing light when travelling to the big market in the city square.  There is a small handful of towns that have risen to the level of regional centers where government services can be obtained, but these in no way rival Wacca Jawacca.  In essence, aside from the capital virtually all population centers in Yerbouti could be considered little more than villages by western standards, and even Wacca Jawacca is little more than a town to most westerners.

As noted elsewhere, the economy is subsistence agriculture with a small surplus for trade.  Cattle and goats are herded for their meat, hides and milk.  Herds tend to the small size.  Honey bees are kept in most villages.  An abundance of vegetables are farmed in most villages as well.  Yerbouti has no cash crops, though there is some small scale farming of cotton strictly for local use.  What industry there is is cottage industry.  The official currency is the pokah t'ship, currently worth about 5/8 of an American cent in international trading, and the average household in Yerbouti earns about 250 t'ships per year.  The surplus of veggies and other small crops are generally sold to neighboring countries to earn the country its limited budget, most of which goes to the military and to paying government employees.  Despite the small population - or perhaps because of it - a significant percentage of the population works for the government in some capacity. 

We hope that this special edition of 'What's Happening in Yerbouti?' has given our readers some more insight into our beautiful, pristine homeland.  We will cover Yerbouti's history and mixed culture in future special editions.  We love Yerbouti and hope you will too when you get to know us.  Coming at you from Wacca Jawacca.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Phoenix Rises from the Ashes

WACCA JAWACCA:  Day after day, week after week, the progress in Yerbouti is heartening and hopefilled.  Interim President General Robert Aygotcha is pleased that everything is running so smoothly.  "My plans for Yerbouti are coming along nicely," he was overheard telling his cabinet.  "Soon life will return to normal for our simple people."

Agricultural Minister Wa'tah da Plance, announced that everything has gone well with the planting season and most regions are reporting that they have completed planting their local crops.  Some regions are already seeing plants rising from the soil and hopes are high for a successful season.  Since Yerbouti has two planting seasons, three for some crops, this could be the best year in history for Yerbouti's subsistence agriculture-based economy. 

Finance Minister Shomy da'Muny stated that the pokah t'ship, the official currency of Yerbouti, continues to be stable and has actually climbed to 5/8 of an American cent, back to where it was when international trading in the t'ship began a few weeks ago.  This stability further increased the hope of Yerboutians everywhere and astounded international analysts, who questioned the economic basis for stability of the t'ship.  "The Gross National Product of Yerbouti is virtually non-existent...always has been...and probably always will be!" a flabbergasted Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of the United States, blurted out in a press conference.  Minister da'Muny responded to this statement simply.  "Deh Yerbouti pokah t'ship isn't just a colored bit of plastic. As every citizen of Yerbouti knows, it has real value and you can buy t'ings wit' it."  The pokah t'ship comes in five color-coded denominations - the 1, 5, 10, 25, and 100, which correspond to the colors white, red, blue, green and black, respectively. 

A flabbergasted Alan Greenspan commenting on Yerbouti's economy

Colonel Gnu Gobangbang, interim chief of the Combined Defense Forces of Yerbouti, announced that the CDF has already formed two training classes of recruits and one of officer candidates and that these first 125 trainees have this week begun learning the military arts at Yerbouti's primary military base, Fort Don'wannagohdeh.  Again, international experts question how Yerbouti was able to get classes formed and in training so quickly and wonder who is training them.  Rumors abound, but little hard fact is known as Colonel Gobangbang is not answering questions on these issues. 

It is known that General Lok N'Lode, Commander of the Bongolesian National Defense Forces, with the approval of His Excellency, President-For-Life P'hat Daddee B'wonah, has offered military assistance to Yerbouti in the form of advisors, trainers and specialists.  In a statement from the general he offered, "In the spirit of international cooperation the military advisors of Bongolesia are only too willing to get to Yerbouti, and do what we need to have done to Yerbouti, before they get overrun by the destructive forces of those surrounding third world hell-holes, (and you know who you are)...We merely await the invitation to move ourselves into, and to help protect and enhance Yerbouti..."

Upon consultation, Interim President General Aygotcha and Colonel Gobangbang decided to politely decline this most generous offer made by the people of the African Nation of Bongolesia on the basis that "Yerbouti is already overrun with foreign military assistance, most of which was invited by the government, and excellent military advisors are already beginning to train the fledgeling CDFY."

Curiously, a spokesperson for the Sultanate of Ifat thought it necessary to warn the government of Yerbouti, that Bongolesia's offer was "a trick."  No further comment was made and we have been unable to uncover what was meant by this comment.   

Additionally, the CDF announced this week a stunning find at Fort Don'wannagohdeh.  While clearing barracks and warehouse space for the new training classes coming in, CDF soldiers discovered some old French military equipment which had been left here when the country abandoned its former colony.  Among the equipment found in the back of Yerbouti's famous Warehouse 51 behind piles of boxes, crates, garbage and broken materiel were two World War II-era American-built M3 Stuart tanks, an M8 HMC and three M3 halftracks, along with a few other miscellaneous vehicles.  Work will begin shortly on restoring these vehicles to operating condition and they will become the backbone of the CDF's First Combined Arms Battalion once recruits have been trained to operate them effectively. 

One of Yerbouti's M3 tanks at Fort Don'wannagohdeh.  Fabled
Warehouse 51 is shown in the background.

Now that the planting season is over and people have time on their hands, rumors of unrest are beginning to circulate as well.  In the north, Islamic radicals are said to be forming factions aimed at taking over the country and making it an Islamic state.  In the south and east, opposition parties are said to be forming, some with militias in order to give them support at the polls.  Trouble has also been reportedly brewing with the foreign military contingents which have entered Yerbouti under the auspices of protecting it in the power vaccuum that formed after the end of the civil war.  All of this is, of course, rumor, but hopefully we will soon uncover what is really going on in Yerbouti.  Interim President Aygotcha issued the following declaration in response to our questions: "Any parties forming militant factions in the Republic of Yerbouti with the intention of overthrowing this, or any other legit gov'mint of this country, will be dealt with swiftly and harshly as soon as we once again have a trained military force available to us." 

Coming back at you from Wacca Jawacca, this has been another installment of 'What's Happening in Yerbouti?'

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Everything's Coming Up Roses in Yerbouti

CDFY Reestablished; Economy Still Progressing - Yerbouti is in Fine Shape

N'jamma Jamma:  Life continues to improve for the residents of Yerbouti as UN convoys roll throughout the country delivering their goodies to towns and villages.  The summer crop is mostly planted and in some areas, sprouts are beginning to show their green, leafy heads above the soil.  Village women in their bright native clothing are smiling again as children run barefoot through the streets happily yelling and calling to their friends.  Little Anthony in the town of N'jamma Jamma, southeast of the capital, giggles delightedly.  Today is a good day for him.  He received a new shirt for his birthday and despite being the smallest boy in his school, he gets to be General Aygotcha, Yerbouti's interim president, as the children play civil war at recess. 

Anthony, on the left, playing General Aygotcha with an older schoolmate

In the latest news from the capital city, Wacca Jawacca, the renamed Combined Defence Forces of Yerbouti (CDF or CDFY) are again taking applications for recruits and officers.  Recruiting was temporarily suspended following the termination of the civil war hostilities while the armed forces reorganized.  Colonel Gnu Gobangbang, chief of the Combined Defense Forces until elections are held and General Aygotcha can return to his rightful place as head of the Army, told us in an interview that "serving in the Combined Armed Forces, now the Combined Defence Forces, of Yerbouti will now be a fine upstanding tradition for the young men of this great country."  There are super benefits, he added, such as learning a trade, getting paid to do something you love, or even just being clothed and fed.  Finally, he recommended that all the young men of Yerbouti "visit your local recruiting office now and sign up before we have to come to visit you.  Things will go smoother that way."

The CDF plans to split what is left of its land forces and use them as a nucleus for a presidential guard and two combined arms battalions.  It hopes to have the first of the two battalions fully trained and fielded within a couple of months, despite the lack of equipment.  Advisors and analysts suggest that this could be a very difficult proposition to achieve successfully, but Interim President General Aygotcha and Colonel Gobangbang have both brushed off nay-sayers as "rebels and opposition in sheep's clothing."  In a joint press conference, the 52-year-old General Aygotcha, who has nearly 40 years of active military service clarified that "training the Army is not the difficult part.  Arming the Army is not the difficult part, though it is expensive and will take approximately 72% of the nation's annual budget for the next three years.  Making the Army stay on the battlefield and fight rather than running away like girlie-men is the difficult part."

We would also like to congratulate former chief economist Shomy da'Muny on his elevation last week to the post of Finance Minister.  He is the latest to join President Aygotcha's cabinet and so far he is doing a bang-up job as the pokah t'ship continues to hover around 1/2 of an American cent in international trading.  "It is important to have a stable value to our national currency," Minister da'Muny explained to fellow Yerboutians.  "That way, we can continue to buy things."  He clearly has a superior grasp of economics. 

This has been yet another installment of 'What's Happening in Yerbouti?' coming at you from Wacca Jawacca. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Aid Making a Difference; Army Reforming*

With the UN now able to get food to most of Yerbouti's citizens, the Army has announced that it is in the process of reforming and will soon be taking on new recruits and candidates. 

Juuji Frute: There has been surprisingly little trouble for the UN convoys and other humanitarian aid traveling the dusty roads of Yerbouti as they deliver food supplies to towns and villages throughout the war torn country.  Here in Juuji Frute, a village of a few hundred residents located about three hundred kilometers northeast of the capital, two of the familiar white trucks pull into the village square.  The village women turn out in droves to help unload the trucks and quickly pile sacks of beans, rice, flour, sugar, salt and other staples in a communal building designated to hold the supplies.  This food will supply the village for the coming month or two, during which time crops will be planted and life will begin to return to normal. 

Village resident J'ronga talking with one of our reporters

"We will be well fed during planting season," says J'ronga, the stocky woman who seems to have taken charge of the process.  "In no time, our husbands, those lazy good-for-nothings, will return to the village as well."  Most of the men, it seems, all ran off during the civil war.  They have not been seen or heard of for years.

*     *     *     *     *

In other news, the Yerboutian government in Wacca Jawacca has announced that it will soon be ready to begin training recruits for the Army and the National Police again.  Further announcements will be made as to where interested parties should report for examination.  The Combined Armed Forces of Yerbouti, once composing several thousand men and including land, air and naval units, was ravaged in the civil war and along with the rebel armies lost most of its men and equipment.

Foreign militaries have moved troops into Yerbouti to help keep the peace while the country is in the process of rebuilding.  Most of them have been invited by the government of Yerbouti, including UN forces from a variety of countries. 

"We are very pleased at the rate of redevelopment," Buta Moutaheditha, spokesperson for Interim President Charles Aygotcha, told our reporter.  "Within a year we will be able to sustain ourselves and defend ourselves once again, until the next crisis."  Chief economist Shomy da'Muny reported that the pokah t'ship, the national currency of Yerbouti, is already once again showing a positive value and is registering at 5/8 of an American cent per t'ship in international trading.  "It is very inspiring," he stated, clearly close to tears with national pride.

*We apologize to our dear readers for the delay in publication.  The local energy crisis has delayed our ability to publish on a regular basis although intended as a weekly journal.  If the energy issues continue, we may have to return to using hand presses for publication.  Thank you for your support.

Coming at you from Wacca Jawacca, this has been What's Happening in Yerbouti?