Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One blog at a time

I find that I'm duplicating entries here on my other blog, The Infusion, so I'm going to stop adding new entries at this page. Thoughts on Africa will occur on a sporadic basis on my primary blog, interspersed with other items. If you are interested, feel free to come by.

Opinions on an opinion

There was a long editorial in the NYTimes today suggesting that creating a trade agreement in East Africa will create peace in the Congo. I think that's a lovely thought, but I'm skeptical. And it's not that I know a lot about the situation, and perhaps a trade agreement will help. But I'm particularly dubious that having the U.S. negotiate such a trade agreement will make any difference.

It seems rather infantilizing, suggesting that Daddy needs to step in and negotiate among the different parties. These are, you know, sovereign countries in their own right and if they want a trade agreement, they can negotiate it amongst themselves. If anything, I would suggest that the new administration say they are ready to help if asked, but will not create plans and programs for East Africa. My two cents.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Violence in Nigeria

I find it very strange that I only learned today that over 300 people have been killed in post-election, sectarian riots in Jos, Nigeria. And that I learned about it sideways through an Anglican blog, which was noting the silence of the Archbishop there.

I can believe that I haven't been paying enough attention; I know that full well. It's just particularly strange that this happened at the same time as the siege in Mumbai, in which (and not to belittle this at all) about 200 people died.

I'm not saying one is worse than the other because there's greater carnage. I'm just struck by the fact that there was constant radio and TV coverage of the one and (in my media exposure) silence on the other. To me, that painfully suggests that deaths in Africa are not news.

Please pray for Nigeria, and India, and all places torn by violence or strife.

At the U.N.

Of all the Obama appointees announced today, I am personally most interested about the ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice -- another Rice from Stanford (she got her BA there in 1986).

For one thing, she seems quite a change from John Bolton who simply despised the UN in which he worked (I was appalled by his appointment). What's more, Obama is making UN Ambassador a cabinet position during his administration.

I'm excited about her because her particular specialty seems to be African affairs, and one of her primary goals is to prevent and/or put a stop to genocide. I'm nervous about her because she seems very hawkish.

During her first run at the State Department, Ms. Rice was a point person in responding to Al Qaeda’s 1998 bombing of United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But her most searing experience was visiting Rwanda after the 1994 genocide when she was still on the N.S.C. staff.

As she later described the scene, the hundreds, if not thousands, of decomposing, hacked up bodies that she saw haunted her and fueled a desire to never let it happen again.

“I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required,” she told The Atlantic Monthly in 2001. She eventually became a sharp critic of the Bush administration’s handling of the Darfur killings and last year testified before Congress on behalf of an American-led bombing campaign or naval blockade to force a recalcitrant Sudanese government to stop the slaughter.

But I don't know. This could be a very positive thing, especially for African nations. Or it could be a disaster. Here's hoping it's a good thing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

An interesting blog

I'm not sure how, exactly, I stumbled upon this blog, but I really appreciate what Chris Blattman has to say about Africa, aid, and related topics.

As I wrote on my other blog, at the moment I'm really struggling with the concept of foreign aid, and this blogger has some worthwhile things to say on the subject.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The country of Africa

Sarah Palin took a lot of (probably unjustified) grief for saying that Africa was a country, not a continent, but I have to say that understanding is probably deeply embedded in a lot of us. I heard it today when Barack Obama was announcing the Secretary of the Treasury and said that "Growing up partly in Africa" had given him perspective on global markets--and it does. But I was surprised to find myself instantly wondering "Where in Africa?" knowing now better than before that "Africa" is not a country, and to grow up in Africa doesn't tell me as much as I think it does.

Incidentally--and significantly--the African nation where Geithner spent some of his youth was Zimbabwe, a country with a sad history of economic disaster.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dean Martha in Sudan

I've fallen behind in my Africa news, but I was very pleased to see this tidbit (following the Lead) about the Very Reverend Martha Deng Nhial being installed as the Dean of the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Renk, Sudan. Very cool!

Friday, August 15, 2008

China in Sudan

The NY Times has a very succinct summary of the China-Sudan situation: "The brief against China is by and large uncontested (except by China): the Sudan government buys its weapons from China with the foreign currency it makes from selling China its oil. China, meanwhile, protects Sudan from excessive attention in the United Nations Security Council." This is written in a much longer piece discussing the methodology of a group called "Dreams for Darfur," which is strange to read in retrospect because all the plans for making the Sudanese genocide a major issue for this Olympics don't seem to have materialized. I mean, I was looking out for this issue and I can't say I've seen it a whole lot. Is it just me?

I think the inkling of China's connection with Sudan came about only because Steven Spielberg resigned as a creative consultant for the opening ceremonies. I don't think that hurt the opening ceremonies, but it was the thing that got this issue into the news. Aside from that and Joey Cheek, former Olympic speedskater, having his visa revoked before the games started (Cheek is the president of an organization called "Team Darfur"), I haven't seen this issue mentioned very much.

Mostly, I am upset at the International Olympic Committee. I think they have been rather weak and cowardly in their dealings with China and could have done far more to say to the Chinese government, "We made a bargain; we can go somewhere else," and stick to it. But what do I know? I'm sure there's plenty of blame to go around: to NBC, the major advertisers, journalists, the U.S., the U.N., the athletes, all of us who are excited to watch the Olympics...point your finger anywhere, I'm sure you can find someone who's culpable.

My main hope is that the story doesn't disappear in a puff of Olympic success. And my prayer is for the people of Sudan who are the ones primarily affected by the conflict there.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

China in Africa

I hope at some point to post a slightly more knowledgeable entry on China's relationship with Sudan, one of the very touchy issues with the Beijing Olympics. In the meantime, though, I encourage you to read this very interesting article from "The Root" (which I think is affiliated with the Washington Post) that offers an intriguing look at why China is so warmly welcomed by most African nations. A former US ambassador to two African nations, David Shinn, summarizes it thusly: "One, they take greater business risk, and two, they don't attach the political conditions that the West tends to impose."

The article concludes, "If the West wants to push back China's undemocratic influence across Africa, it will have to match China's economic commitments on the continent. There are 900 million African faces waiting to greet the future as it approaches—from east or west."

A complicated situation of which I know only a smidgen. Read the article and tell me what you think.