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.