Saturday, April 12, 2003
The editorial staff at the Wall St. Journal comment on UN legitimacy and the French policy of appeasement:
Look at the travesty of what the U.N. Human Rights Commission is now doing in Geneva. It's bad enough that the Commission is chaired by Libya and includes five other nations featured on Freedom House's list of the world's most repressive regimes. But the Commission is now trying to upgrade the human rights status of Sudan, a country that still practices slavery and which the U.S. officially deems guilty of genocide.

There's a certain twisted logic to one ugly regime, Libya, wishing to whitewash another. And if that were all the support Sudan had, it wouldn't go anywhere. But this has all been happening with the help of France. Could its willingness to carry water for Khartoum possibly have any connection with the oil fields in southern Sudan, presently inaccessible, where TotalFina has more than a passing interest?

The recent skirmish over Iraq policy may just be the first in a series of disagreements between France and the US if this kind of thing keeps up.

Here's a blog that I like. Scroll down a bit for these comments about the disaster that is Thabo Mbeki:
One would have thought Thabo Mbeki, who has watched Zimbabwe slide into brutal anarchy but done nothing about it, would have had the good sense to shut-up (to twist a phrase of M. Chirac's) rather than pontificate on matters of precedent in distant Iraq. Who is Mr. Mbeki to lecture others on matters of morality, when he has presided over an AIDS epidemic that could have been halted were it not for his ridiculous superstitions, has left the black citizens of Zimbabwe to suffer the consequences of Mugabe's racial demagoguery, and is busy presiding over the transformation of South Africa into a lawless, corrupt one-party state, just like so many others on the continent?

And much, much more!

Friday, April 11, 2003
Learn about election fever, Somaliland style:
Late last year, Somaliland held its first democratic elections after 33 years choosing the local government officials and in the process screening the political parties that would participate in this year’s presidential elections. That electoral exercise was noted to be the most peaceful in the whole of Africa for the past 20 years.

While the South of Somalia are busy with the UN sponsored peace conferences trying to keep more than 300 warring clans and warlord headed groups into the peace negotiating table, Somaliland is silently building its country.

In other election news, Nigeria holds parliamentary elections this weekend in a bit of a warmup for next weekend's presidential election. The BBC reports that election-related violence is expected.

UPDATE: Well the election violence expected by the "experts" never really materialized, according to CNN. Everything seems to have proceeded in a rather orderly manner. Of course, there's no word yet on how much vote-buying and ballot-box-stuffing was going on behind the scenes. Results are expected Tuesday.

Mike Golby has an unusually wide-ranging post about... well, you'll just have to read it and see. Excerpt:
Over the past few years, hundreds of MDC supporters have been brutally murdered [tortured or beaten to death], gang-raped, violated with rifles, thrashed, locked up, shocked, shot, and hounded out of town. The MDC is a tough outfit and is not going anywhere. Despite harrassment and vote rigging on a scale expected in Zimbabwe, the MDC won both seats.

The people of Zimbabwe are more than capable. They are bloody incredible. They will adhere to the democratic process and shoot Mugabe out of power. They know there is more than one way to skin a cat and Bob is set to be flayed. They, more than anybody, realise there is but one way out for Mad Bob.

When they tire of him, somebody will shoot him or blow him up and, once the brouhaha has died down and several hundred MDC supporters have been buried, the party will take over. [This is the best-case scenario. Civil war is a distinct possibility the longer Mugabe stays in power.] Whether or not Tsvangarai will brook opposition is anybody's guess, but Zimbabweans will [and do] insist that it is they, and nobody else, who will see to Babbling Bob's demise.

And much, much more.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
Uganda has agreed to pull its troops out of Congo:
South African President Thabo Mbeki, the head of the African Union, chaired Wednesday's one-day summit of presidents from Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania in the coastal city of Cape Town.

"We will be happy to withdraw," said Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who claimed his forces had already achieved its goals of hunting down rebels.

This won't end the violence in Congo, but it will vastly simplify the political situation -- for all parties involved.

On Uganda's other front, the "cease-fire" continues. It's enough to make one wonder if the UPDF won't move directly from eastern Congo to northern Uganda.

Mbeki is now deeply concerned about the future of democracy in Africa:
South African President Thabo Mbeki has warned that Africa could face a similar fate to Iraq if it is seen to be acting against democratic principles....

"The prospect facing the people of Iraq should serve as sufficient warning that in future we too might have others descend on us, guns in hand to force-feed us," with their democracy, he said...

But he insisted that democracy had to be home grown and practised within a country's social context and not imported from abroad.

Is someone getting a little defensive about his appeasement of a dictator, hmm?

John Derbyshire thinks that now might be a good time to invest in Africa. The World Bank agrees, according to the BBC.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
More about oil: An Alert Reader pointed out this post on Instapundit from earlier in the week, which links to a TCS article about Chad's petroleum revenue-sharing program which has been set up by the World Bank. The idea of the program is to keep oil revenue out of the hands of a wasteful, corrupt and tyrannical government and instead give the money directly to the people -- like setting up a trust fund where all citizens are given a share.

The TCS article is maddeningly optimistic about the prospects of such a scheme succeeding in Chad to which our Reader says this:
I've lived in Chad. There are oil wells already drilled -- drilled and capped off. Inactive. Same with a few gold mines there. Yet Chad is the third-poorest country in the world. My American parents, living in a remote village, watched as their native students boiled tree leaves during a recent famine. Chad's economy is almost nonexistent, controlled by the pseudo-president whose tribal appointees to all the top positions live in sprawling mansions and enjoy lavish wealth.

Why? The French.

Yes, this former French colony is technically a democracy. But any Chadian will tell you the hopelessnes of voting in the elections. "He'll only win again." A similar hopelessness is expressed every time the prospect of a new "oil economy" comes up. That's because the French government, in cooperation with its oil giant Elf, has bought off the the Chadian officials, and paid them to sit on their oil. France is hoarding it for future use, or for a war, or for some oil crisis years from now. Who knows? Much of it is already drilled for. Every Chadian lives with the knowledge that France still has utter control of this "democracy." Texaco tried to bargain with the Chadians several years ago, but got nowhere.

It's why the more you mangle your french words in Chad, the better. They won't sit down to tea with a Frenchman. It's why the silence of the desolate bush country would be broken, as I chopped young trees, by the sound of French fighter jets. "Why?" I'd ask my native friends. "Why are the jets here?" The response was simple: "Huile!"

Hmm... France appeasing a dictator in order to get cheap oil? I sense a pattern emerging. It's also interesting to think back to last month's Chadian-backed coup in CAR. The French loudly protested the coup publicly calling it "unacceptable," "illegal," and demanding that the previous government be immediately reinstalled. This is apparently just for show. The French will be perfectly happy to let Deby play kingmaker in Africa provided that French commercial interests are guaranteed.

As our Reader points out, this seems to be a pattern in many former French colonies (with Senegal the most striking exception). Of course, former British colonies have had their problems, too, but at least Mugabe isn't invited to London with full diplomatic honors.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003
If anyone has any good information about Guinea, please send it my way. I've seen that the current "president", Lasana Conte, is dying of diabetes and may not live to the end of the year. Although Guinea is a one-party police state, it's actually been somewhat of a stabilizing force in the region (balancing the chaos and destruction of Liberia). Conte's death could leave a power vacuum that might be filled by... well, I don't really know who would fill it. No doubt Charles Taylor is keeping an eye on things, though. I wouldn't be surprised to see a situation somewhat like what's happening currently in Ivory Coast.

Well here's two more reasons that I'm skeptical about "the peace process":

Less than a week after the "unity government" meets for the first time, another clash between the government and rebels in Ivory Coast.

And nearly 1000 killed in Eastern Congo. This says it all:
Vital Kamerhe, the Congolese minister for peace, said the probe by officials from the government, the U.N. observer mission in Congo and its high commission for human rights will seek to identify and bring to justice those involved in what has been described as the worst atrocity in Congo's 4 1/2-year civil war....

The killings were carried out a day after the Congolese government, rebels, political parties and civic groups signed an agreement in South Africa to share power in a transitional administration intended to end the war. "This is a setback to the peace process," Kamerhe said shortly before flying to Drodro in a U.N. helicopter.

Militias in the area are saying that the Ugandan army was responsible for this latest massacre, but there's no way to know at this point whether that's true. I'd like to say that I'm confident those responsible will be brought to justice... but I'm not confident of that at all.

UPDATE: Once again, all news from Eastern Congo has to be treated suspiciously -- the 1000 deaths have now be revised to 500 or 300 or 100... Regardless of the numbers, no one has yet claimed responsibility for this attack, but the UN is still claiming that they will bring someone to justice. Meanwhile, The Skeptic has a good post about high casualties in the Congo:
Of those 3.3 million deaths, only ten percent are violent deaths. Statistics like this account for the rest: "In three of the ten health zones [International Rescue Committee (IRC)] teams visited in the east, more than half the children were dead before the age of two."

And perhaps that's the real tragedy: nearly 85 percent of those deaths are preventable. They result from "easily treatable diseases and malnutrition, linked to displacement and the collpase of much of the country's health system and economy."

Sadly, those "preventable" deaths won't be prevented as long as there's a war on, and this war shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Monday, April 07, 2003
Who knew? Uganda's got oil:
Uganda has a potential oil reserve of "several billions of barrels", said Canadian oil and gas exploration company, Heritage Oil Corporation, in a statement released on Monday. "Heritage is confident of our continued success in Uganda and our commitment is demonstrated by the mobilisation of a more powerful drilling unit, well test equipment and a new seismic campaign," said Michael Wood, Chief Executive Officer.

It will be interesting to see how the Ugandan government handles this news. In most "developing countries," the petroleum industry has been nationalized. In almost all cases, this leads to government corruption -- sometimes in the form of a more or less benevelent dictatorship, but more often as outright tyranny and kleptocracy. I wonder what would happen if the petroleum industry remained private. Would it keep the government more honest?

Of course, "several billion barrels" is still a pretty small amount, especially compared to the >100 bn bbls in Iraq.

Of course, even several billion barrels of oil is fairly modest -- less then 5% of Iraq's estimated 150 bn barrels.

Sunday, April 06, 2003
The BBC reports that the Tanzanian left is complaining about the privatization of state-owned companies, but the Tanzanian business community doesn't seem to mind, even when the companies are bought by South African interests:
Samuel Sitta, executive director of the Tanzania Investment Centre, said South African companies have been a positive force for change. "We find that they've improved management methods and skills... in these organisations and this has a rub on effect because people employed there go to other sectors and therefore you have a ripple effect on the economy," he said. "Other organisations copy those methods, our own people have been able to upgrade their skills and knowledge in terms of managing organisations, it's very positive."

I think probably the worst (and longest-lasting) legacy of colonialism is the centrally-planned economy. Tanzania probably had it worse than most having been saddled with Nyrere's brand of "African socialism." The results were disastrous and the country has only now begun to recover.

In other Tanzanian business news, the BBC also reports on the recently privatized port at Dar es Salaam, which hopes to surpass Mombasa as the busiest port in East Africa.

Here's good news that hasn't been reported nearly enough--another peaceful, democratic election in Benin:
The coalition of Benin's President Mathieu Kerekou has won legislative elections, securing a solid parliamentary majority for the first time since democracy was introduced in the small west African nation in 1991, the election commission announced late on Thursday. It said provisional results from Sunday's polls showed the ruling Union for the Benin of the Future (UBF) and its allies had won 50 of the 83 seats in the unicameral parliament, against 33 for opposition parties.

Twelve years of democracy is a long time in Africa, so this is commendable.

And this is interesting, too:
According to recent statistics released by the finance ministry, gross domestic product (GDP) growth rose from 4.5 percent in 1998 to six percent in 2002. The inflation rate has fallen from 5.8% in 1998 to 2.5% in 2002. Cotton, the country's main export accounting for about 80% of earnings, yielded a record crop in 2001-2002 with an output of 415 000 tons against an annual average of about 350 000 tons since the last 10 years.

2.5% inflation is fantastic, so they are clearly doing something right. 6% growth isn't bad either, although I suspect they will have to grow faster in order to make a real dent in poverty. Nevertheless, I'm impressed.

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