Saturday, March 15, 2003
Malawi's President Muluzi has held a celebration in honor of the country's Peace Corps volunteers:
" It is my desire that all Malawians should change their behaviour as a means of arresting the further spread of HIV/AIDS because the disease is also creating numerous orphans. I have no doubt that with the various support activities you are undertaking in our rural communities the problem of orphans will be alleviated," Muluzi said.
This really reminded me of the novelty of American optimism in circumstances when other countries retreat to self-preservation and cynical realpolitik. It's a refusal to turn a blind eye to hurt and brokenness, regardless of the personal cost. I think it's that kind of selflessness (whether from our armed forces or Peace Corps volunteers), that the world desparately needs. And it's humbling to think that Peace Corps volunteers could actually be an inspiration to the children of a young democracy like Malawi.
Well, I'll admit it: I'm an optimist at heart. And I think stories like this are a reminder that America really is a force for good in the world. Our role in building and strengthening democracies has gained even greater significance due to the War on Terror. I'm not saying that Peace Corps projects are an adequate substitute for killing and arresting terrorists and destroying regimes that harbor them, but I think those activities are certainly complimentary.
Sign up today!
The news tonight is reporting another coup attempt in the Central African Republic. The rebels are apparently loyal to Bozize, former CAR army officer:
Thousands of singing and dancing civilians ransacked Patasse's lavish private residence, shouting "Patasse out!" as the rebels watched. The insurgents also occupied Patasse's official residence and offices in the capital, Bangui.
The article says Patasse has already survived 6 coup attempts, which must be some kind of record. A year ago, he was bailed out by the Libyan army and a Congolese militia led by Jean Pierre Bemba. Although CAR is a former French colony, Paris doesn't appear to care one way or the other.
CAR is yet another example of a country enormously rich in natural resources, but completely dysfunctional as a political unit... Off the top of my head, it's difficult to name a central African nation that couldn't be described that way.
Here's some news from my alma mater. Vol nurses are going to Ghana in May:
Maureen Nalle, an instructor in the college of nursing, was one of three faculty members who went to Ghana last year and will be leading the health team again this year. Last year, Nalle said, her health team of 20 students provided health care to as many as 100 patients per day, in spite of lacking modern technology.
This seems like a really great experience for nursing students. How many American nurses get hands-on experience with malaria, typhoid and yellow fever? I wonder if any other universities have programs like this. Even for non-nurses, a trip to Africa is a great way to get a taste for how the majority of the world lives. Plus, you couldn't find nicer people than Ghanaians.
Wish I could go too.
Update: And here's where they're going. (Looks like the beach!)
Friday, March 14, 2003
I haven't posted much on the war in eastern Congo, but there were some important developments this week, so here goes... First a very brief backstory:
Although the war at one time involved at least 7 nations, that number is now only three: Congo, led by Joseph Kabila; Uganda, led by Yoweri Museveni; and Rwanda, led by Paul Kagame. The turning point in the war came about two years ago with the assassination of Kabila's father, Laurent. The elder Kabila was seen as an obstacle to peace and his death provided impetus for new peace negotiations leading to the withdrawal of most foreign troops and insertion of some UN peacekeepers. An end to the war has been elusive, however, as Uganda and Rwanda have continued to support Congolese rebels in the eastern part of the country.
Last fall, Rwanda agreed to withdraw their troops from Congo, but Ugandan (UPDF) forces have remained in the Bunia area. The UN has recently brokered a power-sharing agreement between the Congolese government and the two main rebel factions (the RCD and the MLC), which I posted about here.
The latest skirmish in the war occurred on March 6 when UPDF forces expelled the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), a rebel faction, from the town of Bunia. In response to what it perceives as a provocation, Rwanda has threatened to return troops to Congo. Rwanda also accuses Uganda of funding Rwandan rebels based in the Congo. Simultaneously, Uganda justifies its presence in Congo with concerns that Rwanda-funded rebels are trying to destabilize the Ugandan government. Although tensions are high between the two countries, talks are planned.
I think that war between Uganda and Rwanda in the eastern Congo is highly unlikely. I don't see that either country has much to gain from that course of action. At the same time, both countries do have legitimate security concerns. By all accounts, eastern Congo is lawless and dangerous, and the government in Kinshasa is too weak to improve the situation. Until this changes, Uganda and Rwanda will continue to maintain a military presence in eastern Congo, either directly or through proxies.
Another African celebrity denounces George Bush. Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka:
Reviewing the current stand-off between the US and Iraq, Soyinka described President George Bush as a 'dangerous fanatic," asking the world to support the United Nations.
This statement is eerily similar to the one made by Nelson Mandela earlier this year.
One would have thought that the experience of military dictatorship in Nigeria and the apartheid regime in South Africa would have taught some Africans the difference between democratically-elected leaders and tyrants. This explains a lot about why Mugabe isn't more widely condemned in Africa.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
The Zimbabwean opposition is taking charge:
"The leadership resolved to respond positively to the call and we will be embarking on a serious mass action in due course. We cannot afford to let the situation go unchecked and sooner rather than later, the MDC will guide the people in reclaiming their power and pull them out of this monster called ZANU PF."
Is this the beginning of the end for Mugabe? One can only hope so. My guess is that 20 years from now, Morgan Tsvangirai will be remembered as the author of Zimbabwean liberation, not Robert Mugabe.
The Washington Post reports that the Rockefeller Foundation is funding a new initiative with Dupont and Monsanto to develop agricultural technology for Africa:
The companies say they plan to support the foundation for noble reasons, while acknowledging that in the long run they also hope to create new markets in Africa. They're also searching for ways to burnish their image amid a continuing public relations battle over their development of gene-altered crops. And the companies are mindful of the harsh lessons learned by the pharmaceutical industry for its failure to help Africa battle the AIDS crisis by supplying low-cost drugs. One way to undercut the argument that patents cost lives is to donate the use of those patents for humanitarian causes.
It's a worthy cause and I wish them luck, but this certainly isn't the magic answer to Africa's economic ills. It seems strange to me that the "profit motive" is discussed in this article as if it were a sinister force, fundamentally at odds with the prospect of African development. It seems to me that the opposite is true. A common feature of nearly all African economies is intrusive government regulation of the agricultural sector -- through quotas, taxes, price controls, government-owned corporations and all the rest. African agricultural will always be dysfunctional until African farmers are able to reap the rewards of their labors. (If you want to see how a productive agricultural economy can be ruined by the elimination of the profit motive, take a look at Zimbabwe: Once the breadbasket of Southern Africa, now famine-striken.)
On the flip-side, the US would probably be better off to stop meddling in its agricultural economy as well. Maybe we could start buying our food from Africa.
For those of you who don't read Andrew Sullivan, he's done several posts about the anabashed liberal bias on the BBC (Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation). Anyway, I caught this article on the Beeb about terrorists in South Africa:
Police have conducted raids on homes in six of South Africa's nine provinces in a hunt for white right-wing militants.
I totally agree that these people are horrible terrorists and need to be put in jail for a long time, but isn't it a little far-fetched to call them "right-wing?" These people are rascist white supremacists who want to overthrow the government. "Right-wingers" are just people who listen to conservative talk radio -- not dangerous or threatening... unless you're a writer for the Beeb, I suppose.
Nick Denton has a great comment that was also mentioned on Instapundit today:
So how to punish the French? Changing the name of French fries won't do it, nor pouring French wine into the gutter. But here's an idea: dismantle the French empire in Africa. France has long supported African dictators who rob their own people to go on shopping sprees in the Rue de la Paix. The US should support the democratic opposition to every French client across the continent. It's a win-win solution: promote democracy in a badly-governed region, and castrate the French at the same time.
I think, in fact, that the French influence in Africa is probably already waning and has been waning for some time. This is occuring for several reasons that I see:
1) Citizens in Francophone countries are generally resentful of French influence -- particularly France's habit of supporting autocratic strongmen who (conveniently) are aligned with Paris. Sometimes the anti-French sentiment is expressed in surprising ways like these recent pro-American protests in Ivory Coast.
2) Francophone countries are learning that they cannot depend on France for their security. Best example: The current civil war in Ivory Coast. Rather than providing military and political support to the government and working to restore law and order, the French are patiently sitting on the fence, refusing to take sides and ready to support any party that ultimately seizes power. Contrast this to the current military cooperation in the War on Terror taking place in East Africa between the US, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti (a Francophone country). This lesson won't be forgotten in West African capitals.
3) While most of the Anglophone countries are making real progress in terms of strengthening democracy, improving security and reducing state control of their economies, Francophone countries continue to be mired in the poverty of planned economies and corrupt one-party governments. Tellingly, Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe (an Anglophone country) has been making overtures to France. The reason? Because the "Mugabe way" fits right in with the "French way" when it comes to governing an African nation. (Senegal which is very free and democratic is a major exception to this.) At the same time, two Francophone countries (Guinea and Rwanda), are slowly inching towards the US.
Of course, I'm speaking in generalities and there are always exceptions, but I think these trends are roughly right. As I've said, watch the UN Iraq vote to see if Guinea and Cameroon place their future interests with the US or France. It should be interesting.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
This makes me sick. Joel Mobray has an article about the State Department's overtures to Qaddafi. As I've been saying, Qaddafi is a master of spin, but his purposes are evil and he's not to be trusted:
State is so eager to normalize relations with Qaddafi that officials there are claiming that the tyrant of Tripoli is a changed man. A particularly striking example of the spin machine in action can be found in a preface to a January 10, 2003, Newsweek interview with Qaddafi, in which the reporter states, "U.S. officials concede that the former master of terror appears to have gotten out of the terrorism business." Nothing could be further from the truth, according to senior administration officials.
As if this weren't enough, he's also (in my opinion) the #1 sponsor of terrorism in Africa -- the prime mover behind the Liberian and Burkinabe thugocracies; a strong supporter of the Zimbabwe police state; funder of civil wars in Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone; and probably a supporter of al Qaeda.
For the good of Libya, Africa and the rest of the world, this is exactly the kind of person that the US should be opposing, not cozying up to. Write your Congressman today!
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Well, this is timely...
The big news today is that Foday Sankoh, former leader of the RUF, has been indicted by the war crimes tribunal in Freetown. Sankoh has been in prison since early 2000 and according to this article he suffered a heart attack in October of last year which left him unable to use one hand.
I can't find any more recent updates on his health, but with luck, he will be well enough to stand trial.
Next up: Charles Taylor?
An article on the BBC about attempts to end child slavery in Ghana:
The IOM believes more than 1,200 children in the central Volta region and other areas of Ghana have been trafficked for forced labour.
I've talked to people from Africa who deny that things like this go on... or deny that it's truly "slavery." Based on what I've read, though, it's hard for me to think of any other way to describe it. It seems to be fairly widespread, too, as I've read different stories about slavery and the slave trade in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Mauritania, Sudan and Togo. Now surely slavery occurs for different reasons in different places, but it still seems like a problem.
Incidentally, there's a good resource for "modern abolitionists" here (with a great picture of Francis Bok meeting President Bush). This is some disquieting reading, if you ask me.
There's a none-too-complimentary review of Tears of the Sun on NRO today.
I guess I wouldn't have gone to a Bruce Willis movie, looking for a profound statement about US policy toward Africa, but I do think that this is worth thinking about:
There are real issues here, regarding genocide and the question of America's moral responsibility to do what it can, when it can, to intervene. But Tears of the Sun skirts the tough prudential issues of when, where, and to what extent America might effectively combat such atrocities. One could almost say it skirts politics altogether — subsuming the political, in fine liberal fashion, entirely into the personal. When Waters learns that Kendricks has concealed information crucial to their mission, he responds to her explanation (I did not trust you) with a sympathetic, "I would not have trusted me either." Then there is an altogether incredible dialogue of Waters with his men, just after Waters has resisted "in conscience" the command of his superior to cease his involvement in the "internal politics" of another nation. Waters asks his men to speak freely about what they want to do. One soldier suggests they should return to their initial mission, but the rest voice platitudes about no longer being able to treat the Nigerians as "packages." When a black American solider tells Waters that he is doing the right thing, Waters extends his hand and says, "For our sins." So, Waters is now atoning for the entire history of America's imperial injustices, both abroad and at home.
I don't think the answers on these issues are very obvious, but the experiences of the last decade in Rwanda, Somalia and Sierra Leone ought to provide some guidance.
I guess that the Somali Bantu refugees were the talk of the blogosphere today. You can see posts here and here as well as here.
As for me, I'm perfectly happy to have more refugees immigrate to America, particularly if reasonable steps are taken to make sure that none of them are terrorists and if each family has a plan to become productive and self-supporting. And I figure that the fact that they are poor and uneducated probably makes them better candidates for immigration, not worse. (Isn't that what America is about?)
I guess my big question is: How do we decide to take 12, 000 Somalis instead of 12, 000 Congolese or Ivorians or Liberians or anyone else? It would be interesting to know.
Monday, March 10, 2003
Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson are buddies with Charles Taylor? I guess this is old news, but it was news to me so I'll post it anyhow...
In 1998, Jesse Jackson was President Clinton's special envoy to Africa.
Jackson first met Taylor in 1998, in what was billed as a friendly meeting, and in November 1998 called for the Sierra Leone government to "reach out to these RUF in the bush battlefield." In January 1999 the RUF launched an attack Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital and, as Lizza recounted, "burned down houses with their occupants still inside, hacked off limbs, gouged out eyes with knives, raped children, and gunned down scores of people in the streets." Even so, Jackson strongly supported the July 1999 Lome agreement, pushed through by the Clinton administration, which made Sankoh vice president, placed him in charge of a commission overseeing Sierra Leone's diamonds, and granted amnesty to the RUF for all crimes. In May 2000 the RUF took U.N. peacekeepers hostage, and the Clinton administration sent Jackson to mediate.
This, it seems to me, is a very common mistake: the tendency to want to "defuse" all military confrontations through a "peace process" in which one party is forced (effectively at gunpoint) to cede political authority to the other party. I think this is how the IRA was "disarmed." It is also being tried with disastrous results between the Palestinians and Israel. Now the French are trying again in Ivory Coast and it likely will fail again.
Whether you call them freedom fighters or terrorists, it doesn't make much sense to sign any sort of agreement with a party who is not in the least interested in "peace." (Hint to Jesse: The guys who impress child soldiers and use gang rape as a battle tactic are not to be involved in power-sharing agreements.)
The part about Robertson's business affairs in Liberia is pretty damning as well. I'd always thought he seemed a little naive on TV, but he really should have known better.
There is a good story about the Ivory Coast rebels in the Washington Post today which asks an important question: If the rebels (MCPI) win (which is likely if war breaks out again), what then? The answer is that no one really knows -- other than removing Gbagbo, no one knows what the rebels plan to do or how they will govern.
According to people living in the northern areas, these rebels aren't that bad:
Much of the goodwill can be attributed to the sharp contrast between the MPCI and the two other rebel groups fighting the government of Ivory Coast. The latter two, from the western part of the country, emerged relatively late in the war and are known to have Liberian guerrillas among their ranks. While the MPCI rebels have been polite to civilians, organized and calm -- paying cash for cars they commandeer and shooting any looters in their ranks, witnesses say -- the western rebels have been violent and rapacious.
In fact, maybe anything would be an improvement over the current government. Gbagbo has been a pretty bad president in his 2 years in office and there are continuing reports of human rights abuses by government allied "death squads." He's also made a habit of stirring the pot of racial envy for political advantage. Best quote:
"We are unsure what skills the rebels have, but we're also unsure what skills the Ivorian government has," said Drumtra of the U.S. Committee for Refugees. "This was brewing for a number of years."
Yeah, I guess that about sums it up.
A great Africa-related post on Instapundit this morning about an article from the NY Times. This speaks for itself.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
Here's a report on a group of African scientists who went to an EU-sponsored conference on agriculture in the developing world:
The scientists complained that humanitarian groups such as Oxfam, Christian Aid and Save The Children, backed by EU funds, had frightened African governments into rejecting food aid. They said the groups had also alarmed starving populations. "Some groups have told people that genetically modified products are dangerous and could cause cancer," said the executive director of industry body Africabio, Prof Jocelyn Webster. Webster and Prof James Ochanda, head of biochemistry at the University of Kenya, led the African delegation.
Yeah, the scare tactics of the Euros on this issue are really unbelievable. In southern Africa this has led to several situations where thousands (millions?) of people starved while tons of donated (GM) food piled up undistributed.
I think that the Euros are totally wrong on this and it's good that someone is calling them on it. GM foods are the wave of the future. Europe will be on the bandwagon eventually, but one wonders how many people will have to starve first.
This sounds like at least a start in the right direction. Senator Feingold wants to try Charles Taylor for war crimes. Among other things, Feingold notes Taylor's support for al Qaeda:
In an appalling revelation, the Congressman said that there are substantial and compelling evidence on Taylor and his connection with operatives of Al-Quada terrorist network. "It is established that Taylor and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) are actively engaged in blood diamond trade and gun running with Al-Quada terrorist network across the African continent. The main undercover mediator that facilitates this terrorist enterprise is one Victor [Bout], an international terrorist. Few months ago, the Washington Post reported that the Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, was bribed one million dollars by Al-Quada operatives with the aim to engage in diamond smuggling trade by using Liberia as a gateway to buy cheap diamonds from rebels in Sierra Leone.
A strong anti-Taylor policy would fit in well with Bush's goal of hunting down terrorists and those who harbor them. Getting rid of Taylor would also have the added bonus of liberating the Liberian people and significantly improving the security of West Africa.
I'm a little skeptical that a war crimes tribunal is all it will take to deal with Taylor. For one thing, how will he eveb be brought to trial? I don't think he'd go without a fight. Nope. When it comes down to it, Taylor will likely have to be driven from Liberia by force.
I wish the US could do it, but I imagine Bush has bigger things on his plate at the moment.
At any rate, due to his support of al Qaeda, Taylor's thugocracy must not go unchallenged. There is too much at stake. During the 90's, the US and Europe chose to look the other way during wars in Rwanda, the Sudan and Sierra Leone, with disastrous consequences in each case. I think we'd do well to take Liberia more seriously. The new military cooperation in Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia is a good sign, but something similar should happen in West Africa with the purpose of stabilizing democracies (Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal) and opposing the Liberian thugs.
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