New NAI Associate
Covered the Biafran war as a reporter
Pekka Peltola is a new NAI Associate. In this role, he will be a resource for the Nordic Africa Institute by participating in seminars and moderating panels, among other roles. In particular, he will be an active NAI Associate in Finland. He is the co-author, along with NAI Director Iina Soiri, of the book Finland and National Liberation in Southern Africa.
His background is in journalism, but he also worked for many years with trade unions as well as for the Finnish ministry of labour. In 1979, he began to work on behalf of Finnish trade unions in SWAPO camps based in Angola, organised and taught classes on trade unions, what they are and how they work. His doctoral thesis discusses the role of Namibian workers in the liberation struggle. However, Pekka Peltola’s African experience had begun even earlier, when he was a reporter covering the Biafran war.
– It was horrible. At the front, l learnt what it’s like to be shot at. Our plane was later shot down, and we crash-landed in Guinea-Bissau. I promised myself that if I got out of there alive, l would never set foot in Africa again. Five weeks later l was back, says Pekka Peltola.
Most recently, he has been involved in a new book project that compares Namibia and Botswana. There are many similarities between the two countries in terms of population structure, mining industry and cattle ranching. So why have Botswana and Namibia moved in such different directions?
– The liberation struggle still characterises Namibia. It has led to an authoritarian model of politics, even after independence, says Pekka Peltola.
Botswana, on the other hand, has much better functioning public services. Although the country has had no socialist ideology whatever, more social reforms have been implemented by it than by its more socialistic neighbours, he notes.
Corruption occurs, but there is a real chance of being caught and being punished, and there is no such thing as impunity in Botswana, unlike many other African countries, Pekka Peltola adds.
– Botswana has a strict policy on how to treat government revenues and the regulations are obeyed by serious public servants. Of course, poverty exists in Botswana, but there are public services that actually manage to reach poor people, he concludes.