Thursday, October 25, 2007

African prize a step in the right direction


Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese businessman created the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. One of the functions of the foundation is to give a "good governance" award to an African leader who has, well, exhibited "good governance". The recipient receives $5 million.
The first recipient is former president of Mozambique, Joachim Chissano. Great choice. Great idea. The award is supposed to encourage African leaders to govern well and be duly rewarded.
I fully support the idea and the award. More than anything, I am impressed that a multimillionaire Sudanese businessman would think up this award. How did Mo Ibrahim make his money? Not off the backs of impoverished Africans, or from the coffers of international aid organizations. He founded a mobile phone company called Celtel.
Obviously, Mr. Ibrahim doesn't need a $5 million award, but perhaps he should get greater international recognition for his leadership role in Africa. Better yet, Mr. Ibrahim, have you considered running for political office?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oil prices rise on Nigerian fears

Following the controversial elections in Nigeria, crude oil prices in both London and the United States rose over a $1.60 in each instance resulting largely from armed militants shutting down a 5th of Nigeria’s production. The Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell, one of the most important influences on the Nigerian economy has temporarily shut down their main oil field citing fear of future violence and damage to oil production.

Of more importance perhaps, if you care more about free and fair elections than gas prices at the local Wawa or Shell, European Union observers have declared the election “not credible”. Besides the outcry of electoral fraud, a body count of 200 people has mounted as a result of armed conflict between political parties. I wonder what implications about this violence means to the winner Umaru Yar’Adua… was his victory the result of deep pockets and best connections to militias? (Without jumping to conclusions of course?) What does it say about the state of Nigeria when the outcome of elections result not only in violence and political murders but sabotage to their own economy?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Google Maps the Darfur Crisis


Great news! Now you can sit back in the comfort of your own home and actually see (provided you have access to high-speed internet) the physical results of genocide in Darfur! You don't even need to go to Washington D.C. to rally for the cause. The United States Holocaust Museum and Google.com have collaborated in adding satellite images and detailed information on 1,600 villages in the Darfur region to the already popular Google Earth program. Since the Sudanese government strictly controls access to the region, the new feature on Google Earth is thought by some to be a fascinating and groundbreaking tool "in terms of raising awareness and showing the scale and extent of what is happening in Darfur for people who are interested and who want to be involved," according to Bea Spadicini, a representative of an aid agency that works throughout Sudan. Others insist that the effects of the "cool" new images are nothing more than another way of "raising awareness" that will have no significant effect on the crisis. I think that Peter Kagwanja - a senior analyst at the Human Sciences Research Council in Tshwane, South Africa - sums up this argument, noting that "The problem in Darfur is not a lack of information, and it's not a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the problem,[The problem is] a lack of action by the international community." I know I am getting tired of the popularized catch-phrases from students and Amnesty International, among many others, to "Save Darfur" or "Make Some Noise For Darfur." The problem is no longer a lack of awareness, it is clearly lack of action on the part of the international community. The crisis has become such a mainstream rallying cry that while being able to view the catastrophic physical damages in Darfur will indeed be "cool," I doubt that any changes will come from it.

Ivory Coast to scrap Buffer Zone


Not only have the President of Cote d'Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo and New Forces rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, signed a peace accord, but the president has appointed Guillaume Soro as the new Prime Minister. Now today, the buffer zone has begun to be bulldozed by UN forces. WHAT IS GOING ON?! All of a sudden, Cote d'Ivoire has managed to ink out a 10 month plan to reunite the armies, the country and hold peaceful elections. This was all supported by the President of Burkina Faso. Since the civil war began, the country has been split in two, the north being controlled by the rebel forces and the south by the government. the buffer zone between them resembles that between North and South Korea. The 600km-long zone had previously been patrolled by 11,000 French and UN peacekeepers. Now, government trucks freely roll through the space to the sounds of cheers and hoorahs. Could the Ivory Coast become the next Ghana? Are they taking a hint from their neighbors? The political community holds its breath while the ivory coast takes another stab at democracy.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

One less import for Uganda

Ugandan farmers recently started to grow fruits, such as apples, on the highlands of the country. These fruits cannot be harvested in other parts of the country because of the warm weather. They are usually very expensive to import for the country, because they typically come from Europe. This is a breakthrough: one of the farmers makes enough money from his apple crops to send his four children to school & university! He also uses some of the apples as part of his family's diet.

This type of farming has been introduced by Uganda's Agricultural Research and Development institute: they did not need someone else's help and truly succeeded!
This could be one of the ways that Uganda could eradicate poverty. The farmers can sell the fruits cheaper in the country (usually, the average individual from Uganda would not have enough money to buy fruits imported from Europe), feed their families, and they plan to export them to neighboring countries.
Uganda may soon no longer need to import fruits that grow in temperate regions.

Binge Drinking: Not Just a Problem at F&M


Binge drinking is not only a problem at Franklin & Marshall, but is also a growing problem in South Africa. Problems with alcoholism can be traced back to colonization (anyone surprised by that?) when the first colonial governor planted the first grape vine in Capetown in 1600 to ensure a supply of wine for those traveling around the Cape of Good Hope. Although the practice of paying people working on vineyards in wine was outlawed in 1980, it is believed that the practice still exists. Since the introduction of wine by colonizers, binge drinking had become “ingrained in South African culture at all social levels.”

The healthcare system in South Africa is all ready strained by the largest number of AIDS patients in the world. On top of the overwhelming number of AIDS patients, hospitals are dealing with more and more alcohol related issued. Some estimate that around 70% of hospital cases can be attributed to alcohol whether it is alcohol poisoning, domestic violence, or fetal alcohol syndrome (an increasingly prevalent problem as women lack the knowledge about what alcohol is doing to their unborn child)

The wine industry is beginning to step in to try to raise awareness and prevent fetal alcohol syndrome. One member of the wine industry said that, “we felt some social responsibility in regard to our industry to do something about this. We don’t need to sweep this under the rug.” Even with the problem being out in the open, alcohol is so ingrained into their society, what can really be done to stop it? Alcoholism and binge drinking is still prevalent in the United States and you don’t have to look far to find it. We know what the risks are but people still engage in it so what needs to be done to stop it in South Africa?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Flight of the Bemba


Mr. Bemba, the opposition leader in the Democratic--shall we share a laugh?--Republic of the Congo has left to seek medical attention in Portugal for his leg. Of course, this comes on the heels of his defeat in his bid for president last October. It seems he was willing to concede, but about 500 of his armed guards weren’t persuaded by the ballots. They refused to join the national army and opted instead to wage a bitter battle in the capital, leaving something like 600 people dead. Bemba himself was charged with treason, but those charges carry little weight since he is a senator and is thus enjoys immunity.

The fighting has ceased. But without a viable opposition (hitherto lead by Bemba), one has to wonder what will come of the DRC’s fledgling democracy. Democracy demands opposition. Maybe his leg was really in bad shape, but I have a hard time understanding how a man who can fly himself and his family out of the country in their personal Boeing Jet can’t find a doctor to come to him…house calls are out of fashion, I guess, but it’s amazing what checkbooks can do.

So, will he be back within the allotted 60 days to once again champion the little guys? (by little guys, of course, I mean the smaller assemblage of people willing to kill whomever may be about at the moment for their political ends). Or is this his graceful, bullet-free exodus, gone today never to return? No one could blame the guy for a medical cut and run, (well, limp, anyway) but where does this leave democracy in the DRC?

Do we really love Max Weber?

In response to my fervent inquiries last class, I have decided to post this, for all who are unfamiliar with the ideas and philosophy of Max Weber. Below I will outline his most important ideas which are relevant to this class:

Weber defines the state as an entity which "possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force." This definition has become central to Western thought. He goes on to describe politics as "any activity in which the state might engage itself in order to influence the relative distribution of force." Thus, according to the German philosopher, politics is derived from power.

Weber also identifies three types of political leadership.
1.)Charismatic Domination (familial, religious)
2.)Traditional Domination (patriarchs, feudalism, patrimonialism)
3.)Legal Domination (modern state and law, bureaucracy)

Weber's ideas, especially his definition of the state, are especially important for this class. Numerous times, Professor has written this definition on the board and questioned whether a state is legitimate. This definition also ties into our failed state reports.

I find this definition very interesting. Although I agree that a state is successful if it has a monopoly on the use of force, I do not think that this is the sole purpose of the state. In my failed state reports, I examined a number of other variables besides the physical power of the state. These included economic concerns, humanitarian concerns and infrastructural issues. I think that the state certainly has other responsibilities towards its citizens besides their physical protection. Because of this, I see this definition as interesting, but flawed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Testing Nigeria's Democracy

36 governor’s posts and hundreds of state legislators' seats are up for election this coming Saturday in Nigeria. This election, according to CNN new sources, marks a, what many hope to be, an end to the violence and rigging that has normally been associated with Nigerian elections. Nigerian officials believe this election will provide a peak into what can be expected during the Presidential election the following week. Although "elections" were held in 1999 and 2003, after three decades of military rule, they were not considered fair and free elections by normal standards. The current President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is required to step down, due to a two term limit, has promised that these elections will be fair, free, and credible, however, Nigerians are skeptical. One Nigerian woman commented that she believed it would be safer to stay at home than risk the violence experienced in past elections. Nigerian politicians have, in the past, recruited young "thugs" to intimate voters, which has resulted in more than 70 deaths.
Although Nigerian officials claim to have high hopes for this coming election period, a number of uncertainties still remain. Political analysts are worried that if the governor and state legislator elections do not run smoothly in favor of the current party in power, the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the party will make "deals" and do whatever is necessary to ensure that their candidate wins the Presidential election. Additionally, in addition to fear of violence and rigging, while the electoral body says that 60 million Nigerians are registered to vote independent monitors are arguing that voter registration was sketchy. Voters have not had the opportunity to confirm that their names are on the voter registration list nor have they been informed about the location of polling stations. Ghost ballots, ballot stuffing, violence at the election stations and shoddy voter registration all stand in the way of a successful election day on Saturday.
If these elections do not go as smoothly as hoped, what is next for Nigeria? Will the third time "be the charm" for Nigerian elections? I will keep my fingers crossed for Nigeria and hope that, despite their rocky past, the country will find the beginnings of legitimacy in a truly democractic election.

Is it the U.S's fault re. Ethiopia?

Does the United States have direct responsibility for the downturn in Ethiopia? Read the op-ed from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette above.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

No Compassion for Sierra Leone's Amputees


With the civil war having been over since five years ago, Sierra Leone's amputees were hoping to receive the help and care they needed. They were hoping to receive the compensations from the government they had been promised. They were waiting for the aid from the international health organisations. But this has not been the case. With the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, the government and the international community has forgotten about them. They have been told to take care of themselves.
With unemployment being one of the highest in the world, and health care being so disastrous, Sierra Leone's population is suffering. Many amputees never received the cares they needed in order to sure their wounds. But most of the time, though their physical wounds have cured, their psychological ones are still gaping open. Many children were targeted and are will now be victims of the harsh demands for labor and the lack of understanding for disabilities.
These amputees need help, they need to receive care for their wounds, prosthetics so as to give them an opportunity of finding work. They need support and motivation, they need the international community to react and give them hope. But are we willing to stretch out our hands to them? Are we willing to give them another chance?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another Step Towards Peace in the Ivory Coast?


The changes in the Ivory Coast are moving along rapidly. Earlier this month, a new peace agreement was signed in Ouagadougou between the government and the rebel forces in the north (the Forces Nouvelle). On Tuesday, more progress was accomplished as the leader of the Forces Nouvelle, Guillaume Soro, was appointed prime minister. President Laurent Gbabgo has approved the appointment and will sign the decree in the next few days. Gbagbo even stated, "The war is finished. The crisis is finished. Soon we will have a new government." Although both the government's and the rebel force's spokespeople sound confident in the new arrangement, political scientist Francois Koassi reveals the skepticism that is likely to be found in many of the Ivory Coast's citizens. He points out that "this decision will not change much at all because it is only a deal between two people." He fears that a deal has been negotiated between the sides that might negatively impact the people. Will Soro's appointment lead to enduring peace in the Ivory Coast? It seems unlikely since the article points out many other rebel groups have complained about the new peace agreement. Some will refuse to disarm unless they are invited to talks about (and are allowed input about) the new government. Whether or not the hope of the leaders or the skepticism of the people will ultimately prove accurate remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the Ivory Coast may be a ticking bomb, just waiting for another rebel force to stir up violence.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Should Britian Formally Apologize for its Role in the Slave Trade?

Britain marked the 200th anniversary of the laws abolishing the British slave trade this past Sunday. The commemorative event was held in Ghana at the Elmina Castle, which was the first slave-trading post in sub-Saharan Africa. Prime Minister Tony Blair attended the event and remarked that the UK's role in the slave trade is a matter of "deep sorrow and regret." These comments come after the Archbishop of York. Dr. John Sentamu, has called on the UK to formally apologize for its role in the slave trade.

Although the president made a number of strong statements recognizing the inhumanity of the slave trade, many people believe that he did not go far enough. Sentamu agrees, arguing, "A nation of this quality should have the sense of saying we are very sorry." A spokes person for Blair responded to requests for a further apology, by stating, "We must now look to the future."

It is important to note on the 200th anniversary of the UK's Laws Abolishing the British Slave Trade, modern slavery still exists around the world. Human trafficking, forced labor and present day genocide, like the Transatlantic slave trade, are all crimes against humanity.

Is a formal apology for something that happened 200 years ago necessary? or, Is it time to concentrate on what we can do in future? Perhaps we should do both. It is time that we learn from our history and prevent these crimes from happening again.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pressure Point on China

China plays a big role in the general deadlock the Darfur problem is experiencing. China is Sudan’s largest economic partner. It has also declared that it would veto any sanctions against Sudan. Therefore, in order to pressure Sudan, countries should pressure China.
What other way to do this than to suggest boycotting China’s upcoming Beijing Olympics? This is exactly what a French presidential candidate did at a pro-Darfur rally. China has invested colossal amounts of money for these games to be successful and Francois Bayrou knows just that.
France’s Olympic delegation is one of the biggest in the world and it would definitely send a strong message if they boycott the games. However, for this to work, more countries will have to use the same pressure point, something that even the official French government isn’t ready to do.
But I think that this presidential candidate brings up a very good point. If countries truly cared about the people in Darfur, they should all be taking such a radical stance. They should all demand that China stop protecting Sudan and start using some of its influence to solve the Darfur problem. Or else, they would hit China where it hurts, the Beijing Olympics.

This crisis calls for action, not for more fancy words.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lancastrians take conflict seriously

Deep in the heart of Lancaster, local businesses are doing their bit to prevent violent conlfict in Africa. Recently a number of jewelry have begun to question the origins of the diamonds they sell to their customers. As one local jeweloer stated, the money made on these illegal diamonds goes to fuel conflict and violence in Africa. By tracking the diamonds and ensuring that they are from a conflict-free zone, both the jeweler and the customer can be ensured that they are not supporting bloodshed in another country. It is heartening to see local businesses taking up a cause such as this. Only through increased awareness can the nature of conflict in the aAfrican continent be truly understood. And this helps, diamond by diamond.

Sierra Leone and its voting problems

Alas, as the elections come closer we realise that Sierra Leone's elections may yet again be frowned upon due to corruption and cheating. This article claims that Registration Officers are underpaid and under protected, and put into corrupt situations such as faulty cameras and no supervision otherwise.
In the past the elections were held with most of these officers belonging to the leading political parties and hence they would lose their respect and their guide lined job descriptions to become political activists changing votes and rigging the elections in favor of their party.
It was expected that the NEC would have worked out these kinks before the elections started preparing but it turns out this wasn't the case. There are hopes that now the NEC will do a better job at getting the population to vote, creating voting schools in useful places and keeping the elections clean.
If the NEC can do this it could prove a sense of sustainable peace in Sierra Leone. Wishful thinking maybe?

Stop Stereotyping Africa

In a recent opinion piece, a political commentator argues that the African continent is too often stereotyped as being filled with violence and poverty. He believes that most people are under the wrong impression about the current state of the continent and that the overall well-being of Africa is much better than people think. He further argues that Africa is ready for an economic boom, much like India and China. He points out how modern many African countries have become and that there are growing industries and productivity. Countries like Nigeria and Tanzania are doing well because of democracy and capitalism. The violence and poverty that we so often associate with Africa only is in a very small portion of the continent, according to the author.
This short opinion article offers a refreshing and optimistic viewpoint on the current state of Africa. But is the author being realistic? Are we under the wrong impression because we only hear about the negative aspects and events within the continent or is Africa as bad as it seems?

Mugabe's Very Own "War on Terror"...



Here’s [another] article about Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe. Though already not known as a world-class humanitarian, his latest round of crackdowns is catching attention as extreme. His government maintains they are taking steps to ensure the safety of the public against a few “terrorists” who threaten the stability of the country. There are so many things wrong with that characterization that it’s hard to know where to start, but let’s take a crack at it, shall we?

For starters, appealing to the stability of Zimbabwe is absurd; the economy is locked into a downward spiral, inflation rates are something like 1,700%--leading most people to operate via barter and trade and circumvent the failed economy altogether—and life expectancy for a woman is about 35. Stability has left the building.

None of that means, of course, that such a country couldn’t be besieged with terrorists. But terrorists aren’t generally thought of as protestors who refuse violence and adhere to democratic principles. Leader of the Movement for Democratic Change: "We are going to do it by democratic means, by being beaten up and by being arrested – but we are going to do it."

So where is the rest of Africa on this one? Is no one paying attention? There seems to be a deeply rooted aversion on the continent to criticizing Mugabe, probably because he is thought of as the great liberator of Zimbabwe who lifted its people from colonial rule all those years ago. Gold Star. That was over thirty years ago, and it’s probably time to start revering a new liberator. The rest of Africa should stand up and help.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cautious Optimism

The Ivory Coast government and the rebel movement inside the country have a long record of unsuccessful peace agreements that have been aimed at ending the civil war that has divided the country for a number of years. Earlier this month, two sides signed a new deal to form a power-sharing government and set up a joint army command within the country. The new integrated command center will be composed of and equal number of both government troops and the rebels. The agreement was made under the conditions that the two groups will work to demobilize militias from both sides. BBC reports that this joint army command structure is the “first and relatively painless sign that the two leaders intend to keep their word this time round.” Many believe that this peace accord has a better chance of succeeding where others have failed because the top leaders have been directly involved in the process. However, with such a long history of failed peace deals between politicians who are famous for not respecting their word, how can the Ivorian people be expected to be truly optimistic about the current agreement?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kudos to Ghana at 50

Dan Simpson, retired American diplomat and columnist at the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette gives an appropriate assessment of Ghana at 50 years of Independence.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New, Low-Cost, Anti-Malaria Drug

Malaria has been, and continues to be a huge problem for many Africans. Around 3 million people per year die from the disease, most of those people are from Africa. Even worse, about 1 million of those deaths are African children. To try and help solve this problem, (or at least subside it), Europe's largest pharmaceutical company, Sanofi-Aventis and a non-profit organization, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) have come together to create and distribute a low-cost drug to fight malaria. The drug contains two medications, therefore to help increase the likelihood of killing the parasite. Set at a low-cost most Africans will be able to purchase the drug. Why not make it free? Many Africans say that making it free makes them suspicious of the drugs intent, and putting a price on it that they can afford will be more popular with the population. Malaria is such a large problem, but has been solved by an easy-fix, a cheap drug that contains two medications instead of one. Getting Africa back on track is going to take a lot more than just selling drugs at a low cost, but at the same time helping the smaller issues and leaving the larger ones to Africa, such as civil war and corruption will help get their population strong enough to fight their own battles and win.

A Ban on Some Traditions is Essential

I chose this article so that people do not forget what happened in London on September 21st, 2001. The torso of an unidentified little boy "Adam" washed up in the Thames River. Massive media coverage was initiated, but today, have people forgotten?

Ritual killings and mutilations are still events that happen too often in some African countries. Some individuals believe that these disgusting acts will bring them good fortune. When people try to contact the police about these problems, they encounter barriers that disable them from taking further actions. The countries do not want to admit that this sort of behavior takes place on their land to them because it will cast them in an unfavorable light. One Gabonese citizen has finally been able to put a group together to speak up against this issue. The American embassy helped host the event, which is exactly the kind of assistance that many people need in Africa: the sort that will directly benefit the people.

I believe that Africans should be able to keep their traditional ways, as long as it does not hurt others! Human sacrifices are unacceptable, no matter what! The fact that governments do not actively pursue these criminals is truly appalling. In addition, something else that must not be forgotten is that public human sacrifices, not conducted out of belief that one will benefit from them, but rather out of pure evil, go on every day. One example is the LRA, led by Joseph Kony. When will these evildoers be stopped? When will justice be done? Should we be concerned or should we let these injustices happen? Personally, I believe this is a tragedy and we (the West) must absolutely do something about this!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Ceasefire That Ceases To Exist


33 minutes before I began reading this article, the six-month old ceasefire between the Ugandan Government, and its rebellious combatant for nearly 20 years, the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), became defunct. This may come as a bit of a shock to many, including myself, who were unaware that ceasefire's had end dates when the problem is clearly ongoing. Although there were recent difficulties arising between the two parties, most notably involving the LRA's indictments from the International Criminal Court (ICC), it is beyond me why all other options have not been exhaustively persued in the days leading up to today. This raises the frightening question (although much more frightening for Ugandans) of "What happens next?". Probably, both sides are currently preparing to attack each other, or perhaps the attacks have already begun, less than an hour after the ceasefire has been ceased. While it is very clear that there had not been much recent progress in terms of negotiations, the sheer brutality and overbearing length of the civil war recently halted would seem, in my mind, to be enough to deter both sides from immediate conflict. Nevertheless, the prospects are grim, as we are likely to be forced to yet again open the book on Ugandan civil war and write in it another tragic chapter.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Stick to making wine...It's time to leave Africa to Africa

The “scramble for Africa” is on, indeed. Here’s another story about international concerns influencing Africa. This situation is a little different than China’s involvement, though. Here, the former colonial giant, France, is continuing to ensure its influence on the African continent with their annual Franco-African summit. France is committed to continuing aid, debt relief, humanitarian assistance, et cetera, to Africa. How nice.
But there might be a problem here. Does anyone else think France has maybe done enough and should consider leaving Africa alone? The trouble is that France, (and other international, well-meaning aid givers) tend to “help” through the institutions of the established state in African nations. But, consider this quote from the article:

"For the average African, the state is the enemy," says Richard Cornwell, a political analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. "But very often, outside countries, such as France and China, tend to strengthen the state, which is the exact opposite of what the Africans want and need."

Maybe what Africa really needs is a chance to get back on its feet without foreign meddling. It’s not that France is really an evil conspirator, trying to reestablish effective colonial control via international corporations or whatever. It’s just that things like profit have a way of getting between good intentions and net results. Or am I just being paranoid?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sierra Leone War Crimes Suspect Dies


Ex-former Defence Minister of Sierra Leone Sam Hinga Norman has died, aged 67. For several months he had been receiving medical help, it is thought that he died from heart failure after an operation.
Verdict for his case was pending. He was indicted for several crimes against humanity including murder. During the 10 year civil war he had led a pro-government militia against the RUF (hence being considered a hero among some of the population of Sierra Leone).
Mr Hinga Norman had visited a hospital in Senegal for what seemed a routine medical check up but died after an operation. He was pronounced dead little more than 20 minutes after collapsing in hospital (around 1115am).
The court was set up to prosecute all those involved in the crimes committed during the civil war which created millions of displaced peoples in the region.

Mozambique's Response to Floods A "Success Story"


Paulo Zucula, head of Mozambique's National Disaster Management Institute, was surprisingly satisfied when speaking about his department's response to the flooding that has submerged whole villages in the southern nation. An estimated 70,000 families have been left homeless and the government reports that 10 have been killed (BBC News reports 120,000 Mozambicans displaced and a approximately 30 fatalities) since the flooding began in December. Such numbers would not please some disaster management agencies, unless they were comparing them to numbers from a flood like the one Mozambique was ravaged by in 2001, when around 700 people were killed by rising waters in the Zambezi River Basin.

The UN has applauded Mozambique for is deliberately early predictions of the flooding and subsequent actions that were taken months before the waters rose. Villages began preparing to evacuate, food supplies were being moved into the Zambezi Basin, and warning systems were being set up throughout the region well in advance of what could have been just as deadly of a disaster as 2001. A UN spokesperson for its World Food Program said, "If you're looking for a success story of an African government that's trying to make things better for its people, this is a very good example of that."

The disaster agency was recently set up by the government. Several outside humanitarian groups, as well as the US State Department, have applauded Mozambique for its development since its 17-year civil war ended in 1992. They point to its continued progress in creating a democratic government and sustaining economic growth, alongside its ability to manage its own affairs and crises itself (as has been demonstrated by its response to the flooding) as signs of the country being a budding model nation in Africa. The key to revamping their disaster management and creating such an effective new agency was (USA, take notes...) in making it prevention-focused rather than response-oriented. The government was predicting the floods as early as October, and acted accordingly right away, knowing that the natural course of the floods could not be stopped, but the impact could be minimized with proper action.

While land has been damaged and displaced Mozambicans are still hungry, the government's actions over the last few months are models of what a cooperative, organized government can achieve in saving the lives of hundreds of its own people. Their operations will continue as the flood-waters subside, leaving in its wake an even more difficult task: to help those who were displaced find new homes in the aftermath of the disaster that destroyed 100,000 acres of farmland.

North AFrica seen as breeding ground for terror

This article is disturbing at best and a dire warning to developed countries at worst. There is now evidence that terrorist groups are uniting and cohering in Northern African countries. These groups seek to train militant Muslims. They are uniting and establishing links with Al Queda. Currently, they have already claimed responsibility for numerous small bombings, but when are they going to plan another major terrorist attack? Last week in class, we talked about the US's motives for placing a permanent AFRICOM command in Africa. One of the motives was to deter and persecute terrorist attacks. Well, this seems to be a reasonable assumption gived the new intelligence given in the article.
Fighting terrorism in African states is especially hard because they lack the basic infrastructure which western nations take for granted in combating criminals. There is no reliable police force, army or intelligence gathering. The leaders of the nations only have their personal interests in mind, and therefore may support or finance these groups if it offers them personal gain. As we read last night, It is quite easy for terrorist groups to finance themselves from enclave economies. Therefore, it is easy for these groups to proliferate in African states. The solid eveidenccec that there are now such groups is very disturbing for developed nations. We must act together to find and eliminate such groups. Perhaps one of the best ways to do this is by helping these countries to develop. As Leonard and Straus argued, international guarantees would help to build goverrnamental stability in these unstable states. By ensuring the stability of African countries, the developed nations will also gain because they can ensure that terrorist groups do not proliferate.

The growing power of Nigeria's gangs


With the approaching 2007 elections, Nigerians are worried about the influence armed gangs will have at the ballot box. Stemming from the 2003 elections, desperate politicians hired armed muscle from gangs like the ‘KKK’, 'Greenlanders' and 'Icelanders' to steal ballot boxes and intimidate political rivals. These politicians offered political jobs and other incentives for their services. However, these jobs failed to materialize.

Leading up to the elections in April, one prominent gang leader pronounced that the upcoming elections will be… “bloodier. This time it’s [the gangs] who will say this person is good, this person can work”. Unfortunately for Nigeria and the rest of the world, these highly motivated gangs operate in and around the Niger Delta which serves as the hub for the cultivation and trade of Nigeria’s chief export: crude oil. Because the terrain of the delta is so difficult too manage, the gangs operate impervious to local police and military force. The gangs claim that political office is really a “low intensity” struggle to obtain the rights to control Nigeria’s rich oil trade. The gangs also are making their clarion call in the name of accountability, in the sense that political corruption leads to the impoverishment of their cities and people. Consequently, in a sad turn of events for all Nigerians, these gangs are openly declaring to the people that their vote will not determine the 2007 ‘democratic’ election, but instead determined by the gangs.

Unfortunately, this article begs the question about the viability for democracy in Africa. If political and in this case the power to control the lucrative oil trade changes hands every 4 years through bloodshed, is democracy really the best option? Wouldn’t stability in the form of a benevolent albeit probably corrupt dictator prove better?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Justice in Uganda

Starting on March 5th with aspirations of ending in May, eight Ugandan judges will be hearing 534 criminal cases in addition to other civil cases in the warring areas of northern and eastern Uganda. These judges will be dealing with criminal and civil cases that have been prolonged because of the instability in the region. Finally justice will (hopefully) be served to those who have been awaiting trial. This plan is part of an overall long-term strategy to bring about speedier trials. The implementation of this strategy has been granted 215 million shilling by the Prime Minister as part of the Emergency Reconstruction Programme.
There is a complexity to the judicial system in Uganda due its basis upon the British system; therefore, it can be difficult for cases to reach the appropriate court. As a result a build up of cases is not uncommon. There is also a gap in communication and authority between the Ugandan government and the judiciary, therefore, the government usually keeps from meddling in the courts' business. The attempts being made by the Ugandan government sound promising and should be a huge success if they are carried out properly. Only time will tell....

It's not so easy if you aren't Madonna


Kate and Joshua Pozzolo recently brought home Alice, a two and half year old girl from a small village in Malawi. They met her while volunteering at an orphanage and remained in Malawi for over a year and a half in order to go through the process of adopting her. Malawi requires a period of residency for perspective parents and although that time was not easy, they stuck through it to bring their daughter home. Malawi, a country stricken by AIDS, has over 1 million orphans looking for homes but the government’s strict regulations make it hard for people who are not willing to relocate as the Pozzolo family did.

Last year Madonna also adopted a child from Malawi. She breezed through the process and did not have to stay in the country as the Pozzolo family did. Child advocacy groups claim that Madonna was given preferential treatments and many are outraged that she did not have to go through the sacrifices that the Pozzolos and other couples do.

Although the Pozzolos were obviously frustrated by the fact that Madonna simply “whisked” into Malawi and adopted her son while they struggled and fought for their daughter, one can not argue the benefits the publicity has had for adoption. Adopting children from Africa is becoming one of the “hot” things to do in Hollywood. Even if Madonna and others like Angelina Jolie do not have to go through the same long process of adopting children, I applaud them for what they are doing. While obviously an increase adoption rate will not solve the problems of Africa, it will save children lives. If giving preferential treatment to Madonna enables her to adopt a child from Malawi and therefore raise awareness and publicity, I see no problem. Even if Madonna motivates just one person, then one life is changed. At the end of the day, there is one more child who is in a loving home and hopefully many more will continue to follow in the steps of Madonna and the Pozzolo family.

Rwanda Releases Genocide Prisoners

The Rwandan government is releasing 9,000 prisoners who were put in jail after the 1994 genocide. Since a 2003 provisional release decreed by President Paul Kaganem, Rwanda has freed up to 60,000 genocide suspects. These releases are said to be due to overcrowding in prisons as well as to foster reconciliation. This group of prisoners does not include any major figures involved in the genocide, and the government reports that most are the sick, elderly and children. Genocide survivors in Rwanda have expressed outrage and accuse the released inmates of carrying out more ethnic killings. The president of a local genocide survivors group, Theodore Simburdali, stated, “They should ensure that they keep an eye on these people because some of them continue to harbour a genocide ideology.” The government plans to send the prisoners to rehabilitation camps for two months before they are allowed to go home.

Is it worth freeing prisoners to ease the overcrowding of prisons? Are there any real hopes that this will foster reconciliation? Understandably, genocide survivors and critics are concerned about the release of more prisoners accused of participating in the slaughter of over 800,000 people in 1994. This move, in fact, may be detrimental to reconciliation if these prisoners continue to embrace a “genocide ideology.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Image is Everything...The Impact of International Media Portrayal of Africa

The South African government has taken exception to a BBC report on crime in the country, believing that the news corporation sought to portray South Africa as the crime capital of the world. According to a report in the online newsletter of the ruling party, the BBC "does not understand the universal and social phenomenon of crime, does not understand South Africa, and had, like the most die-hard racists in our country, convinced itself that crime in our country represents little more than black vengeance against the former white oppressors". This incidence highlights the important issue of the media's role in, perhaps, perpetuating Afro-pessimism. Is it a matter of simply telling the truth as it is, or does the international media selectively showcase Africa's failures to the rest of the world? And the effects...let's try to look at them in a more personal manner: Is it possible that being constantly bombarded with images of war, famine and disease could deter you from traveling to the continent (tourism money's important, after all)? Would you (after completing law school and going on to a successful career as a corporate attorney) advise your company that investing in an African country is a terrible idea?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Trees are Taking Over in Niger!

In Niger, a big effort has been put forth by farmers to make millions of trees flourish. Neither the government nor foreign companies have helped accomplished this victory. Farmers took on the initiative and stuck to it. Soon after colonization, when trees were cut down for firewood, they realized that they could make more money by selling parts of the trees such as barks, branches, and fruits.

One very important point that Lydia Polgreen makes in the article is that during colonization, the trees belonged to the government, or settlers. The farmers had no interest in taking care of the trees. When Niger became independent, farmers were soon able to own the trees. This motivated them a lot and they catered to their trees because the more healthy the trees were, the more profit they would end up making.

In the beginning of the year, we saw a movie that did not seem to show much hope for reforestation. This article does the complete opposite. There are more trees today than thirty years ago. Individuals in Africa are indeed competitive! No one is forcing the farmers to plant more trees, but they are doing it regardless. One of the farmers bought a motorized pump to irrigate his fields. Since the pump is doing the job, he is now sending his children to school (who used irrigate the fields before the pump was purchased).

Since there is clearly ways to make the land more fertile, should governments from other African countries leave it up to their people to do the work, or should they do it themselves?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cote d'Ivoire peace settlement?

It seems that the Ivory Coast is on the verge of negotiating a peace settlement with the rebel Forces Nouvelles. After five years of civil war, the country has been left ravaged. Thousands are displaced, and many more cannot find employment or the means to sustain their lives. The president of Burkina Faso and the AFrican Union have recently offered to mediate talks between the Ivorian president the the rebel forces. They hope to be able to resolve differences in order to better conditions in the ravaged state. Although peace talks sound easy, the road has been dotted with many obstacles. Pierre Schori, the UN special representative to the Ivory Coast cited specific UN obstacles to obtaining a peace agreement. Among these are the "old boys network" and the heirarchical structures which the UN relies on. I think that it is ironic because it is these exact obstacles that the UN is fighting to promote development all over Africa. Will the president and rebel forces be able to negotiate a peace agreement? Due to the conditions of the country and the already twice post-poned national elections, I think that the change of an agreement is slim. Lets hope to the contrary.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Kenyans taught to be better lovers

Amid all the crazy hullabaloo going on in Africa, there is peace and serenity in certain people's hearts. In Kenya, Gertrude Mungai has created a workshop to make better lovers out of Kenyan women. With the Valentine's season come and gone she receives flowers and presents from happy husbands.
Surveys have shown that Kenyans have a special appetite for sex, yet they are not good or frequent lovers. A "good wife" goes well beyond being a good mother and a good cook, but women do not seem to know what to expect in a sexual relationship. This causes low esteem in men who then further their desires by having affairs. Ms Mungai believes her therapy forces men to be more helpful around the house and less likely to go around having affairs.
Her therapy consists of preparing women for sex, creating the act of sex into a "love-making ceremony". At first, she merely gave friendly advice to friends and family but her fame grew and she was soon paid to be heard. She now runs her business from the garage of her home, which she has arranged so as to give a serene, tranquil atmosphere to it.
Ms Mungai believes women should assert their "womanhood" despite the challenges of modern life. Though her clients are mostly middle class women from Nairobi, more women are commuting from neighboring towns and even the poorer rural areas (these latter women have free sessions) just to profit from her advice.
Now this may all seem well and good, but if small businesses like these prevent men (in a way) from "sleeping around... don't they also reduce the spread of HIV infections? Couldn't these types of micro-businesses be used to also teach women and men of safer methods of sexual relationships?
I believe this is quite a good idea and could be useful in the future for education and proliferation of safer sexual contact in certain societies; if men do not need to go to the "red-light district" to satisfy their desires, less HIV positive prostitutes can infect them, more health services can prosper due to the lesser infections of venereal diseases and maybe their will be less birth control laws needed in countries where birth levels are outstandingly high.

AFRICOM - New Africa Command

The U.S Defense Department is planning to create a new command headquarters in Africa by 2008. With this, "the Defense Department will be able to coordinate better its own activities in Africa as well as help coordinate the work of other U.S. government agencies, particularly the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development". President Bush claims that "Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.”

All this sounds great, but is the military route really the way to go in order to help Africa? I would like to hear your comments about this.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

From Too Many Deaths to Too Many Births

Rwanda, Africa’s most densely populated country, wants to impose a three -child limit to couples in an attempt to reduce poverty levels. Since the 1994 genocide, the population has been rising at 3% per year and Rwandan women average six child –births in their lifetime. This proposed law is highly unpopular because a large percentage of Rwandans are Catholic and the Catholic Church is against contraception and other family planning methods.
Personally, I feel that this law is a good idea. The hope is that this law does not need to be permanent and that it will curb the population percentage enough to reduce poverty and influence the use of contraception. Even the slightest increase in the population can drastically raise poverty levels. Those who oppose this law argue that the population in Rwanda will soon level off because many Rwandans felt the need to “fill the gap” left behind by the genocide and that this trend in the rise of the population will soon end.

A Bittersweet Valentine's Day


As Valentine's Day rolls around again this year, Americans are undoubtedly stocking up on their beloved boxes of assorted chocolates. From Whitman's to Russell Stover to Godiva, consumers are bombarded with a seemingly infinite supply of the sweet confection. However, very few people stop to wonder where their chocolate came from. What they might be shocked to learn is that the hazelnut truffle they are enjoying is actually the result of dangerous child labor. In the Ivory Coast especially, young children are working with machetes and pesticides to harvest the cocoa beans that the world's biggest cocoa producer is famous for. Most of these children are not getting an education because they spend all their time working. Luckily, organizations around the world are starting to take action to limit the harsh conditions of this child labor. For example, the Confectionery Manufacturers Association of Canada is pursuing an initiative to oversee safe procedures on the farms. In the United States, Senator Tom Harkin introduced legislation in 2002 to require labels on chocolate bars stating "free from child labor." Instead, the motion now requires a label on every bag of cocoa beans. However, problems with documentation are making this noble idea difficult to carry out. The fact that the Ivory Coast is in the middle of a stalemated civil war presents yet another challenge. I cannot help but be reminded of the controversy over "blood diamonds." The two things so famously associated with women and Valentine's Day (chocolate and diamond jewelry) are now both under attack for their connections with pain and bloodshed in Africa. The question becomes, is there anything the average American can and will do? Are we really willing to give up our chocolate as a protest against cruel labor? On Valentine's Day, as on every other day, my guess is absolutely not. So the children will continue to suffer.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

China’s Interests in Africa will surely outpace its Values


According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, China’s president, Hu Jintao, has pledged $5 billion in aid to Africa over the next three years, as well as promised to double aid to Africa by 2009. By the end of 2006, China had already invested nearly $8 billion. “Invested” is the key word here. China’s blooming economy doesn’t run on nothing. Africa is an obvious opportunity for China to extract precious oil resources left untapped by Africans themselves.
But there’s a potential problem here. Chinese investment may aid Africans, but if it does, it comes only as a side effect. China’s interests are in mineral and oil reserves, not ensuring the development of a forlorn continent. If sensible, economic motivations purporting to be of humanitarian ends sounds familiar, it should. It sounds a little like colonialism to me. How, exactly, does exporting oil to China aid Africa? It employs a few Africans for a bit. But raw export of any commodity leaves Africa out of the potential profit to be found from the application of further industry to that product.
And I’m not the only who thinks so. Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, warned fellow African leaders to be weary of a “colonial relationship.”
That does not mean, however, that no good can come from a robust trading relationship between the African continent and China. Both sides surely have much to gain. But with the ghosts of a colonial past lingering in the not-too-distant memories of many African leaders, it’s a wonder more people aren’t more upset about the potentially abusive relationship. Perhaps it is these ghosts that will allow Africa to keep focus on ITS goals, a weary eye on China, and the potential to use Chinese investment as a boon to development from slipping away.

Liberia: The New African Success Story?


After fourteen years of civil war that left devastating effects on both the environment and people of Liberia, the country seems to finally be on the path to development. It has only been a year since Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as the first woman Liberian (and African!) president but already significant improvements are evident within the country. A meeting in Washington D.C. this week will bring together both President Johnson Sirleaf and members of the World Bank, IMF, UN and others to examine Liberia's progress and prospects for recovery and growth. In addition to finding solutions to the US$3.7 billion debt, this forum intends to secure international approval and support for the country’s reconstruction and development strategy, and explore new funding possibilities.
While Liberia's past has left the nation in deplorable conditions, President Johnson Sirleaf government has been successful in increasing exports, restoring clean water and electricity, and instituting economic reforms that have increased government revenues by fifty percent. Additionally, the economy grew at a rate of eight percent with expectations for it to continue at this rate. The Liberian Manager for the World Bank, Luigi Giovine, believes that this evidence proves that Liberia is committed to change and is worthy of support. It appears that since President Johnson Sirleaf has been at the forefront of the Liberian government the nation has seen nothing but progress, deeming it worthy of international support. Is Liberia on its way to becoming the new African success story? Is one year of progress enough to ensure that Liberia is indeed on the right path?

"Protect the People"

A new curfew and orders to avoid or prevent a civil war has been given in Guinea. Military patrols line the streets and protestors, starting on Saturday, are being killed by the military. Why? Public order has turned into disorder when protestors began demonstrating against President Lansana Conte and his decision to enforce martial law. Even though President Conte has won the past three elections, many citizens still blame him for the country's devastating conditions, including its economy. People want a change in Guinea and that change is a new leader. Yet is a new leader the answer? Does throwing out the old and bringing in the new produce a definite improvement? Or will violence persist among the citizens of Guinea? And, how much control should the military have in times of crisis? How many deaths of protesting civilians can be considered humane?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Food Shortage crippling Burundi

A few weeks ago, rainstorms swept through the northern provinces of Burundi. These rainstorms reduced the acres of maize, sweet potatoes and rice to murky swamps, plunging tens of thousands into serious food shortages. This is only aggravated by Burundi's transitional period from 13 years of civil war. Ever since the end of the civil war, Burundi has relied on the World Food Programme to feed it's people. The government has just put in a plea for $12million more because of it's current state of emergency. However, it is hard to convince companies to give aid when the country itself seemingly is so lush and fruitful. It is reported that 80% of this years food crops have been ruined by the rains. Stephanie Savariaud of the WFP, however, believes that aid MUST be given to Burundi. She says that "you can't get economic growth on an empty stomach or sustain peace on an empty stomach". This connects to exactly what we were discussing last week. The next question is, how much aid will it take for a country to get back on its feet?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

HIV Vaccine to be tried in South Africa

This article comments on a new HIV vaccine that is to be tried out on 3000 HIV negative, sexually active men and women in South Africa (the country with most HIV infections in the world). The vaccine has been created in Seattle and will be tried in South Africa, but is not the final cure. It is a trial that, if it works, may lead to future advanced studies leading to the eradication of this much feared disease. It is especially a trial to see if this vaccine can help a heterosexual population, especially women.
Participants will be aged 18 to 35 and no pregnant women will participate. The vaccine does not contain active HIV genes so cannot commence the illness, but it is hoped that it can cause immunization to the illness. Some participants will receive the vaccine, others a dummy version and will be given advice on practicing safe sex. There is much hope for success in gaining more information about HIV through this vaccine in all sectors of the field.
I believe though this vaccine seems like a good idea, since there will not be any HIV positive exposure to it may not help as much as hoped. It seems that it is a very vague idea that could eventually work but needs much more put into it. But is a cure really available for HIV? And how much will this vaccine cost, if it works? Will it be tested on HIV positive subjects whether it works with the present subjects or not?

New Option to aid Development?

In Uganda, many children are orphaned by violence and AIDS. Typically these solitary children are sent to orphanages where they live until their late teens when they then set out to live on their own. As we read in the readings for last week, the young people of a country can be a help or impediment to development. If the youth are unhealthy (AIDS) or uneducated (orphaned, poverty) they cannot contribute to a country's development. For example, if a child is orphaned or too poor to be educated both formally and in moral values, then he/she cannot grow up to become an engaged citizen. THis is important especially to developing countries because it is the young and the educated who undertake social change.
I think that this foster-system is extremely important for the future of the youth in Africa. By having a guardian and sense of family, these young people will be able to contribute more to their country and will be less likely to engage in violence.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Haleluya...Now There's Something New!

Burundi's president, Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza, is not allowing his position to tamper with his love for football. The man who once coached a first division team still manages to make time to play or train with his team, Haleluya FC, each week. Too often, many African leaders consider election into public office an elevation to demi-god status. Politics offers them a chance to distance themselves from the rest of the population, and many seldom look back. It is refreshing to see a president juggling balls and avoiding tackles on the same pitch as his fellow countrymen. In the end, he, Burundi and football are all winners.

Global Warming is Flooding African Villages

The negative effects of Global Warming can be experienced all over the world. The consequences of this problem are especially felt in Ngomeni, a village in Nairobi. The strong currents and rising sea levels have left many without shelter. Another problem this is creating is that fishermen are left without a job and their families are starving due to the low abundance of fish. In addition, people are making the situation worse by trying to fix the problems with the wrong approaches. One fisherman is trying to put up walls of rubbish close to the water in order to block the water from flooding the village.

The biggest issue that can be observed in this case is a general lack of education throughout the inhabitants of the Ngomeni village. First, the fishermen believe that the abundance of fish is low due to global warming. Today, there are very little fish in the sea due to over fishing in the past centuries. Fisheries have been depleted due to direct human actions, and not through global warming. Fishermen also hope that divine intervention will save them, instead of acknowledging their negative impacts and taking the initiative to change problems on their own.
Second, the individual putting up walls of garbage realizes that the junk makes people sick (attracting mosquitoes, and polluting the water as well as the village itself). His argument is that it is better to get sick than to lose one’s house. Again, the lack of education is clearly shown here: a problem can never be solved by another problem. Medication is very sparse in Africa and Malaria is a very big issue in areas infected with mosquitoes. It is evident that a wall of garbage is not a positive long-term solution. Garbage will not hold back heavy currents and will kill and contaminate the few fish that remain around the area.

There are clearly many solutions that almost anyone could think of. A few examples could be to address global warming a lot more aggressively, to educate African people, and to relocate the people living in this village. However, it takes time and money to do all these things and only efficient politicians in both Africa and Western countries will slowly but surely help resolve these issues.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Fight to Prevent Child Soldiers

58 nations, including Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda have vowed to prevent the use of child soldiers. Known as the “Paris Principle”, the aim is to make child soldiers, who commit crimes, be viewed as victims and not criminals. Countries will now have the obligation of finding child soldiers and help them leave arms groups. Besides the overall efforts to prevent children from becoming involved in war, there will be no amnesty given to those commit crimes against children.

While this is viewed as a significant step to stop the use of soldiers under the age of 18, it appears to be easier said than done. Few, if any, arms groups who use children as soldiers “play by the rules.” It is doubtful that war -lords like Joseph Kony will give into the pressures of this principle.

Ending Child Warfare

Imagine being raised not as a lighthearted child playing games and laughing, but rather being molded into a machine of war. What seems inconceivable for many around the world is the appalling reality for many in Africa. The children are not to blame, rather the monsters that kidnap and brainwash them to be used as soldiers in their army.
It is a difficult problem to stop, but a problem that requires international attention. It may be gaining some international consideration, as almost 60 nations, including 10 the UN believes still have child soldiers, signed an accord to put a stop to the use of child soldiers as well as disarm all existing child soldiers. The accord will obligate nations to find and liberate child soldiers as well as punish those who recruited them.

A Viable alternative for Southern Cameroons?

Sovereignty is a touchy thing. Just ask all those "nations" that don't have it. Kosovo is dealing with it, Somalia, Quebec, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the list goes on. But what to do about an on-going problem in a small African country that has been called a microcosm of Africa: Cameroon?
For many years, a small but vocal group of anglophones has been calling for the succession of the "Southern Cameroons". Should the Southern Cameroons be granted independence from francophone Cameroon or should federalism be re-instituted, or should there be a UN presence like in Kosovo? Only one African country has successfully won independence: Eritrea from Ethiopia. Will the Southern Cameroons be next?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ugandan rebel 'prophetess' buried

Alice Lakwena, the 'prophetess' of Ugandan rebels died last month in Kenya in a refugee camp. Unfortunately, the LRA did not cease to exist along with her. Ms. Lakwena led a rebellion, starting during President Yoweri Museveni's rule in the 1980s and was defeated finally by government forces in 1988. Her followers believed she could cure major diseases and she founded the Holy Spirit Movement in 1986. Her followers also founded the Lord's Resistance Army, which is led today by Ms. Lakwena's cousin Joseph Kony. Thousands attended her funeral...yet how many funerals of lost children is the LRA responsible for? With more than 1.5 million people moving to avoid their children being abducted by the LRA, should Ms Lakwena be honored, or blamed for the atrocious human rights violations against thousands of Ugandan children today? Who is responsible for the continual abduction of Ugandan children- the Ugandan government, Ms. Lakwena, the LRA, Joseph Kony or the rest of the bystanding world?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Need a cure for AIDS? The Gambian President has found it- he just won't tell you what it is

Although scientists have been searching for years for a cure to AIDS, the Gambian president Yahya Jammeh claims to have found it. He has begun to treat patients in his country but will not reveal the details of his process only stating that the secret process, which makes the patient HIV negative within 10 days, involves herbal medicine. Along with his magical process to cure AIDS, Jammeh says he can also cure asthma. Despite the absurdity of his claims, Jammeh defends himself by saying, "I am not a witch doctor and in fact you cannot have a witch doctor. You are either a witch or a doctor." One of his current patients is a Gambian university lecturer who says he has "100% confidence in the president." This situation highlights a clear problem in Africa- too much power being given to the ruler. The fact that he can claim to have discovered a cure and despite the secrecy of the process and disregard for the scientific process is not questioned by his people depicts the elevated status he must be at. Furthermore, he is further jeopardizing the health of his people since believing they are cured can lead to risky sexual behavior and only cause the disease to spread at a more rapid rate.

Nonetheless, this article and I take the view that his claims are absurd. But, perhaps we are all too cynical and the Gambian president has really discovered the answer to the HIV/AIDS problem. Especially if the answer is in cheap herbal medicine, who knows what wonders that could do for the continent. Still, no one is going to put all their eggs in his basket and scientists will continue to look for a legitimate cure.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Charles Taylor to be tried... finally

This article is about former Liberian president Charles Taylor and his trial at the International Court of the Hague, Netherlands. Charles Taylor has been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The trial in the Hague on the fourth of June "represents the vindication of the principle that no person, no matter what their position, is above the law" said the chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Stephen Rapp, chief prosecutor, also adds that the trials will be as fair, just and equitable for any person, no matter their reputation. To ensure transparency, the BBC World Service Trust will send two Liberian and two Sierra Leonean journalists to The Hague for the duration of the trial so that they can report back to their home countries on the proceedings. I believe this is a good idea since that way the local population can feel involved in the process and can see their dictator brought to justice.
Charles Taylor is judged for 11 counts for his involvement in the decade long civil war in Sierra Leone. He committed crimes such as raping, murder, sexual slavery and conscripting child soldiers. His trial will last between 12 to 18 months according to Rapp, and his prosecution will bring in as many witnesses and evidence from crime scenes. Rapp acknowledges some of the major obstacles that will have to be overcome such as the fact of having witnesses travel thousands of miles to present their evidence and the protection they may need to get back to their homeland safely.
Unlike other courts, the Special Court for Sierra Leone is based on voluntary funding only, but Rapp has great hopes that the $33 million will be raised.
This article struck me because I worked for a foundation helping women and children from Sierra Leone summer 2006 and the director had been at the airfield where Charles Taylor landed on his arrival in Liberia and hence managed to take photos of him and I saw these. She said he looked like any old man though exhausted and surprisingly guilty. Knowing that it is going to be 4 years since he was indicted, that it has taken to finally judge him has brought relief to her and the people she met, and to me also for it is known that previously trials have taken longer to commence; and some villains and war criminals have lived free lives until old age and their final natural deaths.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Who does foreign aid really help?

On January 23rd, President G.W. Bush delivered his annual State of the Union address. His speech included topics such as (but not limited to) the economy, education, Iraq, and AIDS and Africa. Except for Iraq, foreign countries were not a big part of the address. This means that Africa must have some importance to the United States after all. Bush declared: "the number of people receiving life-saving drugs has grown from 50,000 to more than 800,000 in three short years. I ask you to continue funding our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. I ask you to provide $1.2 billion over five years so we can combat malaria in 15 African countries." Although the amount of people who have access to drugs has tremendously increased, it also has to be noted that 800,000 no longer seems like a successful number when over 20 million Africans are infected by HIV/AIDS. In addition, the combat against malaria is a good attempt to improve health conditions although there will be more than 25 countries left alone to fight this killer disease.
One point Bush made about the aid for Africa was that he wanted it to go to "nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat." Many people believe that foreign aid is good no matter what, because it helps poor people and gives them a better chance at living a better life, and perhaps may eventually save a nation from all its troubles. However, when aid is given to countries that have corrupt dictators, it supports these crooks’ regimes. For example, instead of investing the money given to them for their country, they use it to their own benefit to get richer.
President Bush’s point of giving aid to nations where “corruption is in retreat” is one that must not be taken lightly. Giving poor nations aid is a very positive action as long as the money and goods are delivered to the right people. Developed countries and organizations that aid African states should pay close attention to whether the aid is serving its purpose, instead of helping corrupt leaders continue their negative influence.

Enthusiastic Nigerians Scramble to Register

As the final day of voter registration arrived in Nigeria, impatience and corruption interrupted an otherwise promising process. Current president Olusegun Obasanjo is stepping down at the end of his second four-year term. The April election will result in "the first handover of power from one civilian regime to another since independence from Britain in 1960." The Nigerian government declared Monday a public holiday to give people a better opportunity to register. Although many took advantage of this opportunity, some, like Mercy Simon, arrived too late. The final day, Tuesday, brought with it pushing, shoving, and swearing by Nigerians desperate not to miss their turn. Some electoral officers even allegedly demanded bribes before allowing eligible voters to register. The determination and enthusiasm of many Nigerians is encouraging, though. Joseph Itan waited over eight hours because it was "very important for [him] to register." Another declared, "I want to choose my leader and I believe that my vote will count. I don't even know whom I'd vote for, but I know I have to vote." With about fifty million of the seventy million eligible voters actually registered, it appears as though Nigerians are ready to have a successful democratic election for president. While most motivations appear to be heartfelt, one does have to take into account the fact that some states made voter registration mandatory for civil servants, even threatening to withhold wages. However, overall, public awareness does seem to have increased. Abdulsalam Ismail sums up the sentiment by saying, "We've all woken from our slumber. We had to wake up because we weren't getting what we wanted and we have now realised that this vote could make the difference." Only time will tell whether or not April's elections will prove this new-found awareness among Nigerians.

Less Rumble in the Jungle

Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon chose to take his first trip in office to the Democratic Republic of Congo. After his visit to the war-torn country, he commented that the past year had seen “remarkable progress.” The reason for hope in the DRC comes after the July 2006 national elections. Joseph Kabila, son of the former president of Congo who was assassinated in 2001, won the presidency. Widespread fears arose that his rival, Jean-Pierre Bemba would contest the results of the election and mobilize his personal militias. However, Mr. Bemba has acknowledged his defeat. President Kabila is now faced with the challenge of balancing the political situation by allocating power to Mr. Bemba as well as other militia leaders and warlords. On January 24th an announcement was made that in order for every faction to get its share of representation, the cabinet would have 59 ministers and vice-ministers. This number alone illustrates the huge obstacles in governing the country.
One of the main reasons Mr. Ban chose the visit the DRC was because of the UN’s peacekeeping force in the country. The MONUC is the largest UN deployment in the world with more than 16,500 soldiers. However, the Economist reported that the MONUC is still, “undermanned, underarmed, and without the intelligence and logistical support it would need to protect the civilians properly.” The UN mandate will most likely be renewed next month although there is little chance it will be given new troops because of the dangers around the mission and the lack of resources available.
After years of conflict, most Congolese have modest expectations. Mr. Kabila’s government has a long complicated road ahead that includes maintaining and observing the rule of law, running a disciplined army, and restoring infrastructure throughout the country.

Monday, January 29, 2007

DRC Warlord First to Face ICC

Located in The Hague, Netherlands, the International Criminal Court was instituted in 2002 for the purpose of prosecuting those suspected of being responsible for atrocities around the world. Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese warlord, is the first to stand trial in front of the ICC. Lubanga is accused of kidnapping and forcing children under the age of fifteen to fight as child soldiers from 2002-2003 during the DRC's brutal civil war (beginning in 1998). The prosecution claims that the children were kidnapped as they walked to school and forced to fight for Lubanga's ethnic Hema militia, the Union of Congolese Patriots. Instructed to kill all Lendu, child soldiers were forced to kill men, women, and children. Lubanga adamantly denies these claims and maintains that he is "an innocent patriot who sought to prevent the use of child soldiers and to end plundering of resources and bring peace to his mineral rich region." He has also argued that the international community wants to punish him not for war crimes but for his refusal to give mining concessions in areas he controlled to foreign firms.
Human rights groups in DRC are very pleased with the decision to charge Lubanga with war crimes. They believe this is a major step for the victims of the war as this represents their first chance for justice. While Lubanga is only one of many warlords, most have escaped being charged, he represents the beginning of what will hopefully be a effective and successful International Criminal Court, and a new start for many Congolese.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Outbreak of TB in South Africa May Effect Millions

When an outbreak of tuberculosis killed 52 of 53 infected patients in South Africa last year, international concern arose. This strain of TB is drug-resistant and is considered incurable. Many critics point to South Africa, one of the most developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and believe their "sluggish response to a health emergency" could cause the virus to cross boarder and threaten the lives of millions. The virus is all ready believed to have reached Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozambique and perhaps even Zimbabwe. The outbreak is just beginning to be researched in order to find the source and try to slow its progression in which the international community believes to be a response that is wasting precious time. If South Africa who is more developed then its neighbor cannot handle this disease, one can only begin to imagine how its neighbors will be affected. Although TB has also broken out in different parts of the world, this case is of particular concern because HIV greatly increases the risk of contracting and dying from the disease. One can only hope the virus is contained before it spreads to another country such as Zimbabwe in which the HIV/AIDS rates are extraordinarily high and TB would only cause more havoc in a country which cannot even feed its people yet alone contain a virus that South Africa was unable to handle. Unfortunately though it is likely this disease will spread because as one doctor notes, "it's an emergency, and we are not reacting like its an emergency," a theme which seems to be present far too often in African politics.

Friday, January 26, 2007

African Development: Kofi Annan's Take

Immediate past UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, recently delivered the inaugural lecture of the Ghana Golden Jubilee Lecture Series. His lecture was titled: "Championing Africa's Renaissance: Peace, Development and Human Rights", and Mr. Annan stressed the necessity of those three factors to development on the continent. He deplored the reliance of many African countries on primary production, believing that it had made them "subjects to the whims of the market without having any say in its functioning". He also empathized with those Africans who believed they had been exploited continually, initially through colonialism and then subsequently by bad governance and an inequitable world order. According to Mr. Annan, the high percentage of the youth in Africa, urbanization and technological change were changing realities that demanded "more inclusive, more accountable and more responsive Governments, and leaders who are in tune with this new Africa and myriad complexities".
It will be interesting to observe Kofi Annan's post-retirement activities in Ghana. It is being whispered around that he is being courted as a presidential candidate, but I sincerely hope that he continues as he has began, utilizing the respect he commands to serve as an impartial voice exhorting good leadership and accountability not just in Ghana but on the whole continent.

Desperate Women and Children Turn To the Forest in Ethiopia

Illegal destruction of the eucalyptus forests is a growing problem among the impoverished females citizens of Ethiopia. Due to extreme poverty women and children are forced to reluctantly turn to the forests in order to make less than $1 at the local market for approximately 65 pounds of wood. This article focused on a young girl named Maselech Mercho who has been gathering wood in the forests since she was six years old. Maselech, now 10, uses the money she earns from selling wood for food and to pay her school fees. The repercussions of being caught by the forest guards are terrifying. Usually those who are caught are beaten, however, rape also serves as a consequence. An approximate 15,000 women and girls earn about $240 per capita annually, which is double the average per capita income, collecting wood from this Entoto forest. The Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association (WFC) has been trying to provide jobs and opportunities by teaching these females other skills. The World Bank has finally stepped in and given Ethiopia $2 million in aid. The World Bank is hoping to hit two birds with one stone so to speak: “uplifting the lives of poor women and protecting the environment.”
While the World Bank and the Ethiopian government are trying to discourage illegal wood gathering, their approach is one of realism. They understand that they cannot completely put a halt to illegal wood gathering because of the large number of women who participate and who do so simply because they have no other options. Along with better access to forests where wood collection is permitted, the members of the World Bank helping with the implementation of their program are going to be looking for alternative methods of transportation. This solution is in order for the women to get the wood to better markets where they will be paid better prices. This approach to the problem is promising in that it acknowledges the current flaws and is trying to correct it and make it legal by slight changes rather than completely eliminating any possibilities of improvement for a different solution. These women do not choose to break the law and destroy the environment but are left with no alternatives. Hopefully, this new approach will be successful and accomplish both aspirations of the World Bank pushing Ethiopia to make some progress in the right direction and put an end to deforestation in the country.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ugandan Rebel Leader breaks silence

Since we were discussing Uganda today and the lack of news coverage today, I decided to do a little digging. On BBC, I found incredible amounts of information about the conflict, child soldiers and the one I linked here about Joseph Kony's interview. In the interview he discusses how the peace talks will be good for the country, saying, "If Museveni can agree to talks with me it is only a very good thing, which I know will bring peace to the people of Uganda." However, he does insist that the allegations concerning abduction of children to fill in his ranks of the LRA and killing civilians are completely false. He says "I do not kill the civilian of Uganda. I kill the soldier of Museveni." If they are so false, why does the ICC want him for 33 counts of crimes against humanity? Why is he hiding out in a DRC army camp? This is his first interview with the press since the conflict started.

Another interesting thing: if people are interested in reading an account of a child soldier in Sierra Leone, there was a very interesting article called "I was a child soldier" in the New York Times Magazine on 01.16.07.

Cote D'Ivoire Soccer Star To Acheive UN Millennium Development Goals

Soccer star of the UK soccer Premiership League and European Champions League Didier Drogba is from Cote D'Ivoire. He has recently been appointed by the UN as a Goodwill Ambassador to try and fight poverty, one of the eight Millennium Development Goals, especially focusing on Africa. Other such world known soccer stars previously appointed by the UN are Zinedine Zidane (originally Algerian) and Ronaldo (Brazilian). Drogba commented on how lucky he felt to have found a way to succeed and how even when he had overcome his humble origins, he never forgot them and wished to help those in need.
Drogba has worked several times in the past with development and poverty eradication programs, charities and organizations; and led his homeland, Cote D'Ivoire, to its first ever World Cup final in 2006. Both he and the UNDP are hoping that his fame and involvement will help spread the word and increase funding in the long run.
Other UN organizations have also appointed national or international sports stars to help different causes be publicized and hopefully create a network for further funding opportunities.
I think having appointed an African star as a Goodwill Ambassador to help Africa was a good idea since that way Africans can gain hope and the progress that may come from this may be felt closer by Africans. Also it will seem more convincing by the world population as a success story that though many Africans ARE poor, they can prosper and succeed in life, they just need to be given a chance.

Can Peacekeepers aid Somalia?

Problems within Somalia continue to grow even with the recent steps taken to remove Somalia's Islamists from Mogdishu. These problems center around the fact that removing the Islamists is one thing, but keeping them out is something totally different. These Islamists were pushed out of power by the Somalian government with aid from Ethiopian forces, which seemed like an easy task, however do these two African nations have the funds and resorces to keep them out? It seems that Western powers will "foot the bill" but it will be the African peacekeepers that will provide the man power to undergo this endevour. One country that has offered up troops is Uganda led by Yoweri Museveni. He has pledged at least 700 troops to aid the conflict in Somalia. This concerns me. Why would Museveni send troops to aid another country when his own country is riddled with problems? Well.. "The motivation of Uganda is political, partly to keep in America's good books," says de Waal. "Museveni's record on democracy leaves a lot to be desired, and closer to home he's fearful of a resurgence in militant Islam. So the Ugandans want to make sure they are part of some regional coalition with Nigeria and Ethiopia to keep it at bay." In this situation it is obvious that the UN should undergo some type of game plan to aid the crisis within Somalia. It seems that using African peacekeepers, made up of soilders from "Big-Man" countries like Uganda only acts as a front for the real goals of the leaders of these countries. Africa's problems should not be kept at 'arms length' for too much longer, because failure in the aid of these countries will only add to the problems and we could possibly see an Iraq-like situation rise from all of this.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Irony of the African Diamond Charity Campaign

In a recent article from the BBC news, Edward Zwick, the director of the Hollywood film Blood Diamond, was highly critical of the US diamond industry’s newest charity campaign. The US diamond industry will donate $10,000 to an African charity for every movie star who raises his or her hand, wearing a diamond ring, during Hollywood events like the Oscars. This campaign is ironic to many, including Zwick, because illegal diamond profits have been funding wars in Africa for years. This charitable campaign is also suspicious because Zwick’s film illustrates the atrocities of the violence in Africa funded by diamonds. Many in the diamond business have expressed reservations that the film will reduce the demand for diamonds.
Those in the diamond industry will be quick to point out that nearly 99.8% of new diamonds come from conflict free sources compared to 4% in the late 1990s. Personally, I feel as though the diamond charity campaign is a bad idea. Even the smallest percentage of diamonds coming from violent African areas can still create large profits. Furthermore, the money donated to the African charities many not necessarily halt the violence and the promotion of diamonds by Hollywood starts will only increase the demands for diamonds. Thus, with a greater demand for diamonds, there is a greater chance that diamonds will come from the violent areas of Africa and will fund these African wars.

A New Cycle of Violence in Rwanda?

BBC reported on Monday that Rwandan authorities must address the killings of genocide survivors that have occurred in recent years for fear that a new cycle of violence may erupt within the country. The Rwandan genocide, which claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis, as well as moderate Hutus, lasted for a 100-day period in 1994. Since the end of the genocide, numerous witnesses who were to take part in the judicial process have been killed. The Human Rights Watch believes that if swift action is not taken against these events, violence could rear its ugly head again. Officials in Rwanda have given some numbers as to how many genocide survivors have been killed in recent years, 16 in 2005 and 7 in 2006, however, survivor groups within Rwanda estimate around 20 genocide survivor killings a year since the end of the conflict.
The killings of genocide survivors have also caused reprisal killings in Rwanda. The article notes that, "in one case, the killing of a genocide survivor sparked the reprisal killings of eight adults and children." While the HRW argues that reprisal killings have been rare in the past, they add to the potential of an increase in violence if they continue to occur. Additionally the HRW is concerned over the deaths of three individuals who were incarcerated for the murder of a gacaca judge. Although a new constitution was adopted in 2003 which prohibits any political activity or discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) have continued to promote unity among Rwandans, fear of a new cycle of violence has grabbed international attention.