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?