otherPriorities.com was supposed to become a site for texts and think pieces, written exchange and debate on Africa, the West, and the Rest of the World. It didn’t work.
I will now use it to offer short stories in which I pursue the origins of humanity and explore what has since gone differently in Africa and the West. The stories are based on facts, occurrences, and images from the media and science as well as my personal and professional life as a Swiss diplomat in Africa.
I invite you to follow the evolving story. And a notice to the reader: All of this is eclectic, anecdotal, and apodictic.
Geographically, the Lower Omo River Valley and the Lake Turkana Basin are one area. The reason for which UNESCO lists it as two World Heritage Sites has nothing to do with human evolution. It is due to those virtual lines drawn on the maps in the capitals of countries: Borders. To the East of the northern tip of Lake Turkana, the border between Ethiopia and Kenya is defined. But to the West, it is not clear where the South-West of Ethiopia, the North of Kenya and the South of South Sudan meet. The area is called ‘Ilemi Triangle’, and,
There is no knowing exactly where in East Africa Homo sapiens evolved because ever since Homo erectus, our ancestors were moving around. Fossils of early modern humans have also been found in Morocco and South Africa. Morocco being an outlier, this leaves the three countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania in the Great Rift Valley, and – to a lesser degree – South Africa as possible homes to the ‘Cradle of Mankind’. In these four countries, UNESCO has recognized five World Heritage Sites of importance for the evolution of mankind: The Lower Valley of the Awash and the Lower
Nowhere has human evolution left more traces than in the northern Great Rift Valley. There, we have the fossils of Lucy, there we have fossils and tools of Homo habilis, and there we have fossils, fireplaces, tools and the first footprints of Homo erectus. And nowhere do we have more fossils, settlements, tools, and artifacts of Homo sapiens. This is a region of Africa I know particularly well. I have crisscrossed it on many long and short safaris. From Djibouti, where I first put foot on African soil as a boy, through Ethiopia and Kenya, where at Lake Turkana