Archive for the ‘Africa’ tag
The two basic values of this piece are: (1) showing what an utterly appalling farce international relations can be, and (2) giving some view into a country you very likely know almost nothing about. It’s also an amusing and well-told story.
(via The Browser)
Stephen W. Smith offers a brilliant and devastating primer about recent Rwandan history for anyone who thinks the country’s problems ended with the 1994 genocide. The whole piece is great, but for the lazy, the crucial sentences:
We’ve learned the wrong lesson from the organised massacre of 800,000 people, which we failed to prevent. … the denial of freedom and rights under the previous regime in Rwanda impels us to shower Kagame with leadership awards and aid money even as he denies them again. We are hypnotised by the 1994 genocide, and oblivious to the atrocities of a regime we regard as exemplary. Aid, we say, must be conditional on good governance – but post-genocide government is an exception.
I feel like I either linked or read something about this idea before, but could find no record. In any case, Paul Romer’s idea is both appealing and problematic:
By building urban oases of technocratic sanity, struggling nations could attract investment and jobs; private capital would flood in and foreign aid would not be needed. … To launch new charter cities, he says, poor countries should lease chunks of territory to enlightened foreign powers, which would take charge as though presiding over some imperial protectorate. Romer’s prescription is not merely neo-medieval, in other words. It is also neo-colonial.
I liked this animated map of the spread of paleolithic man, but it probably won’t change your life.
If all the publications and people grousing about the death of reporting were producing pieces like this, I’d feel a great deal more sympathy for them. A comprehensive (and thus somewhat daunting) look at Ethiopia’s problems today.
In a further effort to lessen my — and your — ignorance of current events: The Cliff Notes version of the recent Guinean coup.
I recently heard — I wish I remembered where — Bill Clinton make the point that a moratorium on the use of the word “Africa” would likely make people see the continent as a little less bleak. While there are still big problems in places like Somalia, Chad, Sudan, and the DRC, there are a number of good and improving governments and economies.
The Ibrahim Index, a quantification of a sub-Saharan government’s quality, highlights the differences. While the aforementioned contries have the lowest scores, places you rarely hear about — Mauritius, Seychelles, Cape Verde, Botswana, Namibia — are relatively well run. (South Africa’s pretty good too, but we constantly hear about it.)
Though I think giving Nigeria’s active but low-budget film scene an “-ollywood” is tacky, these are some interesting (and graphic) photos of it.
(via Boing Boing)
Today’s good news: a new study found that there are many more western lowland gorillas in Congo than anyone expected. I found this line somewhat ironic:
“The message from our community is so often one of despair,” he said. “While we don’t want to relax our concern, it’s just great to discover that these animals are doing well.”
Economics, Big Macs, and Coca-Cola
I’ve documented before The Economist’s penchant for unusual economic indicators. The classic example, the Big Mac index — in which the price of the sandwich serves as a proxy for purchasing power parity (PPP), has been unveiled for 2008.
Perhaps more novelly, the magazine’s Africa correspondent, Jonathan Ledgard, offers the intriguing possibilty that sales of Coca-Cola are a signal of how peaceful and prosperous a given area of the continent is. (via Passport)
Peter Maas argues that Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang — nope, never heard of him either — is actually worse than the far-more-famous Robert Mugabe. Obiang’s qualifications:
Years of violent apprenticeship in a genocidal regime led by a crazy uncle? Check. Power grab in a coup against the murderous uncle? Check. Execution of now-deposed uncle by firing squad? Check. Proclamation of self as “the liberator” of the nation? Check. Govern for decades in a way that prompts human rights groups to accuse your regime of murder, torture, and corruption? Check, check, and check.
He goes on to speculate that no one criticizes the reign because, like the Saudis, they worry about access to the country’s (rather modest) oil reserves.
Sounding nearly as pessimistic as everyone else, The Economist assess which rivers around the world are most likely to lead to conflicts in the coming decades.
Already, the annual death toll from battles over water and grazing in the badlands of south Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya is in the hundreds. Aid-workers say growing numbers of people and livestock, escalation from rifles to machineguns, erratic rainfall and especially the increased rates of evaporation expected in the future will put the toll into the tens of thousands. That still doesn’t add up to a real war between proper armies—but a thirsty planet is unlikely to be a stable and peaceful one.
A fascinating idea is being implemented in Tanzania:
The $1.8m trial – to be launched this year – will counsel 3,000 men and women aged 15-30 in southern rural Tanzania over three years, paying them on condition that periodic laboratory test results prove they have not contracted sexually transmitted infections.
The proposed payments of $45 equate to a quarter of annual income for some participants.
The programme, jointly funded by the World Bank, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Population Reference Bureau and the Spanish Impact Evaluation Fund, marks an important step in the fight to tackle Aids, which claims 2m lives a year.
Reuters conveys a story both troubling and — perhaps inappropriately — humorous:
Lychings in Congo as penis threat panic hits capital
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men’s penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.
Some News from Somalia
I’ve been completely remiss about sharing actual news this week, so to begin to pay back that debt, two slightly different views about the current — and thoroughly underreported — debacle in Somalia.
For Newsweek, Scott Johnson put together a piece that compares the situation to Iraq. How good or bad that comparison seems to you probably has a fair bit to do with how good or bad Iraq seems to you. A sample:
“Every year this fighting continues, the situation worsens,” says Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Abdul Salaam of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government. The Islamists’ eviction in 2006 left a power vacuum that the U.N.-backed government still hasn’t managed to fill. Ethiopian troops are loathed as occupiers and rarely leave their heavily fortified bases. And al-Shabaab has broken off from the Courts to wage a brutal and effective insurgency. The guerrillas have overrun at least eight Somali towns this year and control parts of the capital. Where once they brought order to Somalia, they now gleefully spread chaos.
Meanwhile, The Economist is more sanguine:
So Somalia is not yet a lost cause. After 17 years of anarchy and bloodshed, its GDP per person is still higher than Ethiopia’s or Eritrea’s. Somali traders still influence the price of commodities across the region. The country limps on, even without much aid; the trade in livestock to Saudi Arabia during the haj is worth a lot more than foreign assistance.
I’ll let Joshua Keating explain:
Uganda is being held in suspense right now as Lord’s Resistance Army commander Joseph Kony continues to delay signing a peace agreement that would bring an end to one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.
Current TV just put up an amazing short documentary on the conflict that includes an interview with a former top LRA commander who says he has no regrets about his actions
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe’s opposition and, depending on who you ask, it’s president elect penned a Op-Ed in The Guardian today. The most bruising line:
How can global leaders espouse the values of democracy, yet when they are being challenged fail to open their mouths? Why is it that a supposed “war on terror” ignores the very real terror of broken minds and mangled bodies that lie along the trail left by Mugabe?
I’ve of two minds on this story from today’s New York Times Magazine. On the one hand, Helene Cooper is a captivating writer who tell a compelling story of both Liberia and her family. On the other, the excerpt feels like an excerpt and left me mostly wishing that they’d published the book and not a part of it. If you can accept that the story ends too abruptly, and that the book won’t be out until September, I do recommend it.