Thursday, August 21, 2003
Hmm...daudi seems a bit critical of the President's handling of the situation in Liberia. It's really presumptive to say that "Bush never wanted to send a robust force to Liberia."

My opinion? (Glad you asked.) Overall, I'm impressed at the way things have been done.

First, Charles Taylor--one of the continent's most monstrous dictators, a sponsor of international terrorism, and a war criminal--has been removed from power. Of course the US isn't completely responsible for this outcome, but Taylor wouldn't have left so promptly without some well-timed nasty words and saber-rattling from Bush. (My guess is that those 2,000 Marines parked outside of Monrovia amounted to a credible threat of force--i.e. if Taylor didn't leave voluntarily, the USMC was ready to show him the door.)

Second, the Bush administration -- by insisting on limited and conditional involvement in Liberia -- has put West African nations (especially Ghana and Nigeria) in leadership positions. That's probably how it should be. The essential message is: Yes, America will support you, but this is primarily an African issue, so African nations must step up and take responsibility. You'd think that Bush would be praised for his diplomacy and multilateralism, but instead he's being criticized for lack of leadership. I guess you can't win.

Third, American military resources, while significant, are not unlimited. The administration has the (difficult) task of assessing the world situation and trying to position troops where they can best protect US interests. Sure, I think there are lots of good reasons for the US to be involved in Liberia--the most compelling are security reasons. But there are costs, too. Those are hard calls to make--impossible, I think, for armchair generals like myself.

It's also worth noting that Bush is trying to be frugal with military resources: His number-of-troops-deployed-per-dictator-ousted ratio has really improved since the Iraq war.

Now that Taylor is gone, Bush will have to adapt his strategy to win in post-Taylor Liberia. There will likely be a reassessment of the situation and it's possible we'll see a larger deployment of civil affairs troops to oversee rebuilding and the installation of the transitional government.

More of the same in Zimbabwe... I'm afraid I haven't been following Zimbabwe very closely for the past few weeks. I suppose that Mbeki thinks that ignoring this type of behavior will make it go away...or at least make western donors forget about it.

Gaddafi--the terror master of Africa:
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in a statement last night that the Bush administration is "deeply concerned" about Libya's "destructive role in perpetuating regional conflicts in Africa."

One senior U.S. official said that the administration is particularly interested in Gaddafi's activities in Chad, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

"Gaddafi's money gives him entrée into many places, and he seems happy to spend it to gain influence," a United Nations official said. "If you look at the worst situations in Africa, you can almost always find Gaddafi's hand."

I'm glad to see that someone is paying attention, but what are we doing about it? Getting rid of Taylor was a good start, but what are the chances we could remove Gaddafi, too? Unfortunately, this would not only be difficult militarily, but diplomatically: Gaddafi seems to be awfully popular among other African governments--even the more responsible ones.

Paul Kagame is running for president in Rwanda's first presidential election since the 1994 genocide. Here's a not particularly flattering profile from the BBC.

Abiola has a long and informative post about privatization.

Gyude Bryant, Monrovia businessman, has been chosen to head Liberia's 2-year transitional government:
Bryant pledged to work closely with the United Nations and other international agencies in the two-year transition government which will take office in October.

"I have lived there throughout all these problems, and I see myself as a healer," Bryant told The Associated Press early Thursday in the Ghana capital, site of two-and-a-half months of peace talks that played out during heavy fighting in Liberia itself.

"I will try to meet the urgent, desperate social needs of our people," Bryant said.

A worthy goal, but not an easy job.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003
It will be interesting to see how this plays out:
Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin has emphasised that the success of the next round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations will depend on developed countries making concessions on issues of agricultural subsidies and access to markets.

The minister was addressing a two-day National Consultative Conference in Pretoria today, in preparation for the upcoming WTO fifth Ministerial conference to be held in Cancun in Mexico, from 10-14 September.

Mr Erwin said South Africa, as part of the Cairns group, including amongst others Brazil, Chile and Malaysia, had made it clear that progress in other areas would be impeded if there was no progress in agricultural issues and market access.

'No one is really going to enter negotiations on non-agricultural products and do nothing on agricultural products.

Bush tries to talk like a free-trader, but I'd like to see some progress on this issue. (I'm not holding my breath.)

NRO on AIDS in Africa:
Enhanced nutritional intervention (eNI) is one path the Bush White House should consider without delay. Existing treatment and prevention paradigms are showing increasingly ineffective results at unacceptable costs. Anti-retroviral drug therapies (ARTs) are widely considered too complex and costly, and given the mutating nature of the AIDS virus, prone to resistance by the disease. Getting infected patients to sign up for ARTs, even if offered at no cost, has also proved difficult due to the disease's stigma. Botswana's failing ART program, replete with free drugs and imported physicians, is a glaring example of how not to tackle the AIDS problem.

Alone, regimens aimed at prevention won't work; many African men, for example, are loath to wear condoms no matter what the risks. Treatments, such as Nevirapine, which aim to block mother-to-child transmission of the disease, are flawed at best. A paltry three percent of children born from HIV/AIDS-infected mothers have benefited from the use of interdiction drugs.

I'm certainly no expert on this issue... But I follow it enough to understand (I think) that most of these decisions end up being made for political and PR reasons rather than sound science. It would be nice to see some rationality prevail.

Sorry for the shabby blogging the last little bit. I've got a major exam coming up next week and I'm feeling the pressure.

A reader had a question about my rather off-the-cuff post below. The question was whether Christianity or Islam is growing more quickly in Africa.

To be sure, I didn't really know the answer myself when I wrote the original post, but a little bit of Googling sheds some light on the subject. Looks like Islam is definitely outgrowing Christianity worldwide, but Chrisitianity is growing faster than Islam in Africa. This site reprints an AP article which claims a 3.5% growth rate for Chrisianity in Africa -- with no source mentioned for that number. Then there's this table (which I think is originally from a UN study) that claims the growth rate of Islam in Africa is 2.15%.

I know this is quick and dirty and I'm sure that there's plenty more to be said on this subject. At least it's a start.

An article from the Wimington paper about local "Blawgers." Nothing about ChemE bloggers, though.

Here's more about water supply in Kenya.

Head Heeb reports on Somaliland's continuing quest for independence.

Abiola has more comments on the Nigerian peacekeepers.

I can only hope that this is a joke.

(Sent in by a reader.)

UPDATE: Sorry if you checked this before and weren't able to load the link. I've fixed it now.

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