Saturday, March 29, 2003
Check out A Taste of Africa for more interesting pictures and description of life in Somaliland. (The food looks particularly enticing.)
Scroll down for some warblogging (or peace-blogging, in this case) reported by the blogger on the scene.
Jonathan Edelstein blogs about Comoros:
The Comoro situation is a textbook example of what happens when power-sharing agreements are not spelled out with sufficient detail. The 2001 constitution left many details unspecified, in the anticipation that they would be filled in by cooperative legislation and the judgments of the constitutional court. In a country where the dominant political tradition is feudal and both the rule of law and trust between political leaders are virtually nonexistent, however, neither of these things can be taken for granted.
I'd go even further than that. I'd say that this is a textbook example of what happens when power-sharing agreements are signed and at least one of the parties has no interest in sharing. This type of thing seems to happen a lot in the name of "peace," typically with disastrous results. That, I think, is what we're already starting to see in Ivory Coast.
The history of Comoros is an interesting snapshot of the history of Africa since independence, and Jonathan has as good a summary as any I've seen.
In keeping with the musical theme, Angelique Kidjo just released a new album and she's going on tour starting soon. Catch her if you can.
There are also some neat pictures related to Benin under the "Culture" link on her website. The Fon people of Benin are best known as practitioners of Voodoo.
Some friends and I went to Philly last night to see Charlie Hunter, master of the 8-string guitar. I must say that he is really spectacular and has a fantastic group of sidemen. And young, too! Just think what he will have accomplished when he reaches his peak!
The concert was at a small club in North Philly. The immediate neighborhood appeared to be predominantly black and a bit rough around the edges, to say the least. What disappointed me is that although outside the club were almost all black people, inside were all white (except for some of those on stage).
Maybe I romanticize too much, but I had thought that there was a time in this country when jazz was the musical vernacular of the "urban black street"; the music of the people; the soundtrack of innumerable dives, juke joints and speakeasies. If last night's experience is any indication, today's jazz audience is a group of white, gentrified, musical afficianados (and not a few musical snobs).
Jazz shouldn't be about knit-brow discussions of form, mode and harmony; it's about rhythm and dance -- how the music makes you feel. It would be sad to have such music completely removed from the streets and appreciated only by experts.
I guess my point is that it was a fantastic concert and one that I wish the entire neighborhood could have heard and liked.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
Instapundit links to this story about Robert Mugabe. If he says it's a must read, it must be a must read.
More hints that Uganda will soon be a democracy again: Museveni openly supports lifting the ban on political parties.
The opposition is already denouncing this as a scheme for Museveni to serve another term as president, but I'm willing to give Museveni the benefit of the doubt. Museveni seems to me like the Ugandan version of Jerry Rawlings -- not really a democracy-loving kind of guy, but not a die-hard dictator either. Most importantly, both men have an ability to set aside their (very large) egos enough to actually serve the interests of the country -- an all too rare quality in African leaders. In sum, I think that Uganda will be far better off at the end of Museveni's presidency than it was at the beginning, as was certainly the case with Ghana and Rawlings.
Here's a brief Ivory Coast update. The rebels have rejected Pres. Gbagbo's appointments to the "unity government." Well, anyone who thought that the rebels were interested in peace has not been reading the newspaper: They've said all along that they want Gbagbo to go, and they won't quit fighting until he's gone.
The rebels must have been further emboldened by France's finger-wagging response to the coup in CAR. France either is unable or unwilling to take charge of the situation (or both), so the rebels will likely take advantage of this.
In the meantime, this war is clearly having terrible and irreparable effects on Ivorian society. There's a frightening story in the NY Times about the situation in the "Wild West," the area of Ivory Coast largely controlled by Liberian mercenaries, militias and child soldiers:
The stolen cars that screech along these roads are marked with the names of their rebel platoons, nearly all allusions to Hollywood and comic book heroes: Delta Force, Black Ninja, Death's Highway. Kids joy-ride through the empty streets, piling their guns and girlfriends and rocket-propelled grenades in the back, kicking up clouds of dust, sometimes firing in the air....
According to the article the Liberians have been fighting for both the government and the rebels -- I suppose they will kill anyone for the right price.
This seems terrible... I don't know how a country can recover from something like this. What's scarier is to realize that this type of situation has become a way of life for the people of Liberia over the last decade. It's hard to imagine what kind of results we will see in 10 years if this is allowed to continue.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
In case you didn't catch it, Nowhere in Africa, a German film set in Kenya during WWII, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film on Sunday:
It is about a Jewish German family - but is not a conventional holocaust movie. Early in the film, before the film, they move to Kenya to escape the impending danger at home, so most of the movie is set in the bright, dusty landscape of African farms and villages rather than the darkness and rubble of Germany. The central character is a young girl, Regina, who adapts to Kenyan life more easily than her parents, who feel isolated, dispossessed and helpless.
I bet it's a good movie, though I won't be able to see it until it comes out on DVD.
I wonder how long it will be before an African film wins an Oscar... (If this has already happened, please let me know.)
France and Germany's response to the Sudanese government's war on the south:
France provided Khartoum with military intelligence for the prosecution of the jihad, while French and German helicopters have been used for ethnic cleansing in southern Sudan's oil fields. Driving black, non-Muslims out of their homes creates greater security for the investments of oil firms like Total Fina (France/Belgium) and the German engineering giant Mannesmann.
Looks to me like another way for France and Germany to garner influence in the world by collaborating with tyranny. It's a disturbing pattern and a practice that leaders of free countries should be ashamed of.
Read the whole thing.
Wow! Mugabe really is Hitler! He said so himself:
At the state funeral of one of his cabinet ministers, Mr Mugabe said: "I am still the Hitler of the time. This Hitler has only one objective, justice for his own people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people, and their right to their resources. "If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for."
Via The Corner.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
This is a fascinating post from The Corner about France's attempt to position itself as the leader of the non-aligned movement. It links to an article by Chris Caldwell in the Weekly Standard:
Chirac is in a better position than most to woo Muslims, French and otherwise. He has long been something of a hero in the Arab world. It was he who, as prime minister, arranged the sale of the Osirak nuclear reactor to Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s. When Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin was pelted with stones for describing Hezbollah as a "terrorist" group on a visit to the West Bank in 1999, Chirac angrily reminded Jospin that foreign policy gets made by the president, not the prime minister. The French press has been full of reports in recent days that Palestinian families have begun to name their newborn boys "Chirac." When he visited Algeria early this month, crowds estimated at over a million turned out to acclaim him. And a new book that arrived in Paris bookstores last week--"L'Orient de Jacques Chirac," written by the Egyptian journalist and literary critic Ahmed Youssef--compares Chirac to Alexander the Great and Aladdin. Indeed, Youssef meekly expresses his hope that he might serve as Cicero to Chirac's Caesar, or Stendhal to his Napoleon.
I agree with everything up until the last sentence. France's military intervention in Ivory Coast isn't a show of strength; in fact, it's almost the opposite. The French military has become too weak to shape events in Africa anymore. In Ivory Coast, rather than defend the country from a rebel uprising, the French have chosen to sit on the fence, opportunistically waiting to back anyone who seizes power.
Likewise, in CAR the French have completely avoided military involvement. Apparently they are content to let Qaddafi have his way.
Similarly in Burkina Faso ten years ago.
Yep, the French have become a second rate military power. Their only chance to have the type of international influence that they so desparately crave is to collude and cooperate with two-bit thugs like Qaddafi, Saddam and Mugabe.
There was a timely article on NRO about the Sudan today. I suppose that it has to be taken with a grain of salt since it's written by a member of the "'missionary' lobby," but if even half of this is true, it's time to start putting some serious pressure on the Sudanese government:
Even as U.S. mediators in Nairobi were scolding Khartoum behind closed doors, Bashir again unleashed Arab slave raiders to wreak further havoc in western Upper Nile. His government was even so bold as to announce to the press, on February 2, that its armed forced had captured the southern town of Akobo from the SPLA. Khartoum's ceasefire violations and attacks on civilians — which included the enslavement and sexual abuse of women and children — received further confirmation in a report issued on February 6 by Gen. Herbert Lloyd and his new international team of "Civilian Protection Monitors." Yet, State apparently still regards Khartoum's Islamist war criminals as credible partners for peace.
As I mentioned below, the impression of the last few years had been that the Bashir government had been purged of the extremist elements and was now ready for peace, but according to the article such assertions are merely wishful thinking. If the head extremist is Bashir himself, then negotiations are worthless.
Fortunately, when Bush signed the Sudan Peace Act last year, he promised consequences if the government of Sudan failed to be an honest partner in peace. Let's hope Bush keeps his word to the people of Sudan as he has kept his word to the people of Iraq.
Here's another good reason to support Somaliland rather than the UN-sponsored government of Somalia:
The president of Somalia's transitional government has condemned the United States-led attack on Iraq as naked aggression. Abdulkassim Salat Hassan said he was praying for an Iraqi victory. Somalia has denied repeated accusations that it is harbouring members of the al-Qaeda network.
The article goes on to mention huge anti-war (anti-American) rallies, riots and protests in multiple African countries, including Senegal, Mauritania, Sudan and Tanzania. It's kind of interesting to compare these cases:
Senegal is nearly 90% Muslim, but has a pro-Western government and has never been known for extremism. I've been told that the Saudi influence over the Koranic schools is growing though.
I wonder what's going on in Nigeria and Kenya...
Interestingly, some in Africa are viewing the war in Iraq with envy.
Here's an anti-American South African blogger, via The Corner. Scroll down to see some more useful comments about Robert Mugabe, though.
Monday, March 24, 2003
Well, Uganda supports the war in Iraq now. Rwanda will be next.
An interesting article was sent in by a Reader about one Africanist's rejection of Africanism:
Mr. Kitching's polemic cuts against the grain of African studies' dominant tendency, in which primary responsibility for Africa's plight is ascribed to the legacy of European colonialism and to the effects of corporate-driven globalization. To forces, that is, beyond Africa.
I can relate to this. As I've blogged here and here, I think that all of the anti-colonialist rhetoric is really hurting Africa... Because that sort of thinking lets people like Robert Mugabe say things like this:
He [Mugabe] said the money used to organise the "pretended" stayaway, to pay youths to self-destruct and turn them into career purveyors of violence, came from Britain, the United States, Holland and Germany. "All these nations were united in sponsoring violence here, ironically to bring us freedom, democracy, to deliver us from food shortages and a declining economy. Yet the same nations who accuse us of ruining our economy seek to cripple it through sanctions."
Yep... how can you argue with that?
Sunday, March 23, 2003
Well, I've been posting a lot from the East African tonight, but I've been saving these for a while and they're all worth taking a look at. This article takes a look at the conflict in the Sudan and how the war in Iraq might affect the peace process:
On the one hand, it [Sudan] is trying to maintain good relations with the US for several reasons, among them the Sudan Peace Act and the removal of Sudan from the US government’s list of terrorist countries and the wooing of American oil firms to the Sudanese oil fields. On the issue of Sudan’s membership in the Arab League, Mr Dirdeiry said: "I think the idea of asking us to support any action against Iraq is completely out of the question." The possibility of Sudan siding with Iraq could potentially antagonise the US.
I'm not exactly sure what the "'missionary' lobby" is -- are these American Christians who think it's not okay for southern Sudanese to be slaughtered by government attacks?
But the current attitude of the government does indicate that there is some hope for peace. If implemented, the current agreements will lead to some degree of autonomy for the south. These efforts continue to be derailed, however, by continued government attacks on civilians. In addition, the government has taken some steps to fight terrorism and has been remarkably silent (to my knowledge) about the war in Iraq.
In related news, Glenn Reynolds blogs that a Canadian oil company has been indicted in the US for helping the Sudanese government commit atrocities against civilians.
There's some good background on Uganda's northern war against Joseph Kony's LRA rebels in this article in the East African.
And this piece from The Monitor describes exactly why Kony is worth fighting:
There are stories of blood covenants made and grisly tales of human sacrifice to placate the spirits made in the dead of the night, as all well-meaning souls rest unawares. Somebody told me that some of the rebels move with five-litre jerry cans of human blood when they go on their bizarre killing missions. When they abduct people, each abductee is given a cup of blood to drink. Urgh! This provision is not negotiable when it comes up. When they get to the LRA camps, the abductees have to undergo the "cleansing" ceremony during which shea nut butter (odi) is used to make a sign of the cross on the forehead, palms and chest.
I don't have any way to know how much of that is true. But I haven't seen anyone trying to publish a rebuttal either. Kony's LRA is well known for targeting civilians. They seem particularly fond of rape and torture. As I've said, I'm not sure why Museveni is trying to negotiate with these guys.
More news about the al Qaeda navy as reported by the East African (Kenya):
The war on terrorism in East Africa has now targeted the activities of 24 foreign-registered vessels operating from Mombasa amid a warning by the US of possible shoulder-fired missile attacks in Nairobi. Security agencies suspect that ships flying flags of convenience (FOC) are being used by Osama Bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorists to smuggle explosives, chemical or biological weapons, or even radioactive "dirty" bombs into target countries.
Kenya has shied from supporting the war on terror too aggressively, largely out of fear of inflaming their large Muslim population. This issue will become a big test for Kibaki's government.
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