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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mugabe Ending Unity Deal?

Anyone who knows Mugabe’s political history won’t be surprised by this at all. He has a history of making political alliances for convenience and discarding allies at whim.

Zimbabwe’s president has said a power-sharing deal which expires in four months’ time should not be extended.

Robert Mugabe said the country should hold a referendum on a new constitution early in 2011 and then elections.

He said he was reluctant to renegotiate the unity deal as some events happening in the coalition were “foolish”.

Mr Mugabe has been sharing power with rival Morgan Tsvangirai since last year, under a deal worked out after disputed 2008 elections.

No, There should be no surprise at all.

Read the rest.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

That’s Not Right

I was going to lead this story with something like this: “I found myself wondering if they had been inspired by So You Think You Can Dance.” Then I realized that it doesn’t really fit my mood right now; not that there isn’t room for humor, but that it isn’t how I want to see this story today. So, instead, this:

I continue to insist that I not only can judge other cultures, but I must judge them so that we maintain a clear-eyed understanding of what distinguishes us from them. We’re told we aren’t supposed to judge and we aren’t supposed to think in terms of us and them--I know this because, like the rest of you, it has been hammered into me from the time I was a child.

It just isn’t done. The problem is that what we were taught is wrong. It is vital for us to be honest and open about other cultures in the world--not in deifying or demonizing those cultures, but in being earnestly critical in the same way that I hope we consider our own culture and politics. With that said, imagine what I think about the culture that gives us a news story like this:

A group of young Muslim men have been publicly flogged in Sudan after they were convicted of wearing women’s clothes and make-up.

The court said the 19 men had broken Sudan’s strict public morality codes.

Police arrested them at a party where they were found dancing “in a womanly fashion”, the judge said.

We need to judge because we need to constantly remind ourselves of what it is that we value as a society and what it took to create something as grand and diverse as the United States of America.

Read the rest.

Friday, May 28, 2010

That’s the Way to Handle a Heckler

Kudos to Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, for his handling of a surprising heckler during his remarks at an Africa Day celebration. The surprising source? The Zimbabwean ambassador, Machivenyika Mapuranga. What could have been embarrassing, though, wasn’t quite a “tear down this wall” moment, but it is admirably frank and utterly right.

Carson silenced both the ambassador and the crowd when he started speaking again. Changing his tone, he scolded Zimbabwe by pointing out that such outbursts would have evoked vicious punishment in the southern African country, which has been ruled by revolutionary leader Robert Mugabe with an iron fist since the 1980s.

“You can sit in the audience in darkness, but the light will find you and the truth will find you,” Carson told Mapuranga, as event staff quietly tried to encourage the ambassador to leave.

Turning to the crowd, Carson said: “It seems that Robert Mugabe has some friends in the room tonight. Unlike in Zimbabwe, they are allowed to speak without oppression, because this is a democracy.”

Good job.

Read the rest.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Headline Reads: “Malawi gay couple face full trial”

The story is bad enough: two gay men are facing a trial in Malawi for the simple act of engaging in homosexual acts. “Homosexual acts carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.”

What bugged me most wasn’t the story, though. I suppose I’ve become somewhat numb to the plight of gays in some parts of the world; not that I accept it or think that it’s in any way right, but that I know how the story goes and I’m no longer shocked.

What bugged me most was the picture. There are jeering, mocking faces surrounding the two gay men and I realize that I can’t imagine ever doing anything that would expose me to so much public ridicule or shame--and they are experiencing it for nothing more than living openly as gay men.

Sad, sad story.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A Bad Plan

Robert Mugabe continues to find creative new avenues to lead Zimbabwe down a path of self-destruction. He’s talented that way.

Statutory Instrument number 21 was imposed by Robert Mugabe, the president, without any consultation with his partners in the coalition government, notably Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister from the Movement for Democratic Change.

The law gives any relevant business with assets of more than $500,000 (€369,000, £333,500) just 45 days to submit a plan for achieving this transfer of ownership within five years. Companies based in Zimbabwe declined to disclose whether they were preparing any such plans.

But economists, business leaders and trade unionists warned Mr Mugabe’s law would wreck any chance of attracting foreign investment and strangle the economy’s weak recovery.

“We are just coming out of a self-inflicted economic crisis,” said Lovemore Matombo, head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. “This law could create fears that the process could be chaotic, just like the land reform, which will affect the economic recovery of the country. We do not need this right now as we need investment.”

Brilliant.

Read the rest.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead

In May of 1904, a sometime American citizen by the name of Ion Perdicaris was kidnapped by one Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli while living in Tangier.  Since a US citizen was believed to be in danger, President Theodore Roosevelt sent a fleet of seven ships and a small marine* detachment to demand that the Moroccan government obtain his release.  (This Wikipedia article had a decent description of the facts at 11:30 am today.) At the Republican convention in 1904, the Secretary of State famously said, “This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.”

Today, we have a civilian from a US-flagged ship being held hostage by Somali pirates.  With any luck, the situation will be resolved without the loss of innocent lives, but since this situation might recur or deteriorate, I think it would be well to consider a longer-term policy.  I submit that Roosevelt’s solution is the correct one.

The Wikipedia article previously mentioned goes on at some length (in rather sniffy tones) about how the US was just pressuring the Moroccans to accede to the kidnapper’s demands.  What that article fails to consider, however, is the value of forcibly changing the ownership of this sort of problem—what I’ll call “Big Jake diplomacy"**.

In 1904, the US didn’t particularly care about Moroccan politics or the justice of the claims of a “rebel”.  The US cared about the safety of its citizens and about future credibility in the eyes of the world.  To that end, one of three results was acceptable: Perdicaris released, Raisuli killed, or Morocco punished (in pretty much that order of preference).  The policy was simple: the safety of people in Morocco was the responsibility of Morocco, and if Morocco did not see to the safety of US citizens, it would pay.  How the safety was secured was the responsibility of Morocco.

The same calculus should apply in “Somalia”.  The Somalis would like the world to consider the lands they claim and the waters off their coast as their territory.  If that’s the case, anything that goes wrong there, anything at all, is their responsibility.  They can stop the pirates (possibly with the assistance of other nations), abjure responsibility for the territory entirely (and thus allow others to police it), or be punished.  There should be no fourth option.

Read the Rest...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

At Last, Some Fiscal Sanity

Unfortunately, the fiscal sanity isn’t happening here.

Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s new finance minister, on Wednesday halved spending plans for 2009 and cut revenue projections 40 per cent, in one of the first signs of change under the country’s new power-sharing government.

Presenting his first budget, Mr Biti, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, said the government would operate on a cash budget basis: “What we gather is what we eat.”

It’s an awful shame when the finance minister from Zimbabwe--one of the most blighted, backward, and failing countries in the world--shows the kind of sense that our own leaders here in America can’t quite fathom. Live within your means. Try to honestly project your revenues. Cut spending instead of printing another trillion dollars.

This is the most positive change I’ve seen in Zimbabwe in a long time. Not because it represents a big step forward (given the actual value of the Zim dollar, I still wonder how they’ll manage to dig out of the hole Mugabe dug for the nation), but because it represents some real power sharing. This is the first meaningful thing that’s been done by a member of an opposition party in a long time.

I wouldn’t and don’t trust Mugabe to keep his word, to share power peacefully, or to allow the kinds of changes that might ultimately save Zimbabwe from the final collapse that would destroy the government and fairly force a civil war, but it’s nice to latch on to a little hope (and change!) now and again. Especially when it is embodied in good ideas.

Read the story.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Currency? We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ Currency.

Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed a long time ago and all that’s left is people sifting through the rubble. With every rational person understanding that the Zim dollar is worthless (and worth less by the day), the government has lifted the ban on using foreign currency.

Zimbabweans will be allowed to conduct business in other currencies, alongside the Zimbabwe dollar, in an effort to stem the country’s runaway inflation.

The announcement was made by acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says the Zimbabwean dollar has become a laughing stock. A Z$100 trillion note was recently introduced.

Until now only licensed businesses could accept foreign currencies, although it was common practice.

Mugabe soldiers on as elected dictator for life, playing games with the MDC, and I can’t help but wonder: even if the MDC “wins’ and Mugabe were to retire to his squirreled away bank accounts overseas, what would they have won? Is there anything left to rebuild? Or is the ruin so complete that the entire nation, its infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and social structures will all need to be completely rebuilt?

My gut, sick and sad and angry, says that’s exactly what will need to happen. Mugabe, whenever he is finally gone, will leave only wreckage behind him and the Herculean task of rebuilding a nation from nearly nothing. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

For Zimbabwe: Something Better Than a Hunger Strike

I don’t mean to cruelly diminish Desmond Tutu’s hunger strike, but Zimbabwe’s problems are hardly going to be muted by his dietary choices. Admittedly, Jenny Des-Fountain’s food drive won’t make a dent in the Zimbabwe’s problems, but it might actually save a few lives.

Fiftieth birthdays are supposed to be special.

But a party was the last thing on Jenny Des-Fountain’s mind as her half century approached.

Jenny Des-Fountain will drive tonnes of donated food to Zimbabwe

“It just didn’t seem meaningful when Zimbabwe was going through what it was going through,” the blonde life-coach says.

“So I just got hold of my friends and said: ‘Come on guys, bring a bag of mealie-meal [maize porridge powder] along’, and they did.

“They brought beans and they brought fish as well and I ended up with a boot-load of food.”
[...]
Ms Des-Fountain puts the overwhelming response to her appeal down in part to the South African government’s inability to find a solution for Zimbabwe.

“What is our government doing? Let’s be honest - they’re not doing anything,” she says.

“People are calling me asking me what can we do. They wonder what they can do because our neighbours are suffering so much.”

Zimbabwe’s problems are such that Ms Des-Fountain’s truck is barely even a drop in the ocean.

But for Thulani’s village it will make a real difference.

For those with cholera or chronic malnutrition it may be the difference between life and death.

Zimbabwe needs more than a few truckloads of food--and even boatloads of food won’t solve the political and economic problems, either. But though she can’t save the nation nor all of its citizens, though she can’t remove Mugabe nor force recognition of the democratically elected government, she can help some people make it a few more days.

And while South Africa’s government has made a habit of giving Mugabe cover when criticism grows too loud, it’s good to see that some of South Africa’s citizens can still muster a little neighborly care for the citizens across the border.

Lovely woman.

On a completely different subject, can the Beeb’s web site ever run with normal-length sentences? Nearly every sentence on most of these stories is treated as a new paragraph and it drives me absolutely mad. I realize that typical journalist sentences aren’t measured in the same way as your typical essayist sentence, but it bugs me to see the way the Beeb site handles their copy. 

Thursday, October 09, 2008

231,000,000

No, that’s not the amount of my own, personal bailout check from Uncle Sugar (pity); it’s the newly revised Zimbabwean inflation rate.

imbabwe’s annual inflation rate - already the world’s highest - has soared to 231,000,000%, newly released official figures for July show.

The rise - from 11,200,000% last month - was largely due to increases in the prices of bread and cereals.

A landmark power-sharing deal between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has failed to ease the country’s economic crisis.

Ouch.

I’ve been so involved in watching our own nation’s political scrum that I’ve neglected to write about the situation in Zimbabwe. I’ll try to rectify that in the near future with a piece that I’ve had in my head for a number of weeks about why we can’t expect Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal to work--and why if it does work, we should worry for the MDC.

There ain’t no justice for Zimbabwe, is there?

For now, though, read the story.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It Probably Wouldn’t be a Good Idea…

It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to test this on the Russian armor waddling through Georgia. But one can dream…

On the other hand, it seems a quiet test on the “battlewagons" here wouldn’t be out of bounds either ethically or politically.

Seriously, though: read through that first link and consider deeply. If that system works as advertised, as reliably as hoped, as accurately as predicted, and as quickly as that theoretical “strike” would indicate, the PASDEW is a game changer. From the moment the United States establishes air superiority in any region, regular flights could largely negate the effectiveness of enemy armor and even naval forces, completely disrupt supply lines, demoralize the enemy, and provide unprecedented support to advancing allied forces.

Of course, the energy use must be phenomenal and it’s far too early to judge anything like real world reliability. As a first step toward practical frickin’ laser beams, though, this looks like a hell of a thing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

All Your Zeroes Are Belong to Us

What do you do when hyper-inflation makes your currency worth less than the paper that it is printed on? Lop a few zeroes off here and there and everything will be right as rain.

Zimbabwe’s economy is unravelling at such a pace that the central bank is set to slash yet more zeroes from the country’s increasingly worthless currency.

State media on Sunday quoted Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor and one of the members of the ruling elite targeted by fresh western sanctions last week, as saying he would extend a currency policy that has so far failed to stem hyperinflation.

“This time, we will make sure that those zeroes that would come knocking on the governor’s window will not return,” Mr Gono was quoted as saying on Saturday in a speech to farmers.

Independent estimates put Zimbabwe’s inflation rate well above the official 2.2m per cent, prompting the introduction last week of a 100bn Zimbabwean dollar note. Even state media reported Mr Gono’s comments “drew laughter” from his audience.

The governor is expected to chop three or six zeroes from the currency, following a three-zero cut in 2006.

Beside the inflationary zeroes haunting Mr Gono, analysts and some opposition politicians say the crumbling economy in what was once a regional bread basket is perhaps the single greatest factor that might force Robert Mugabe, president, into relaxing his grip on power.

Read the story.

To the MDC negotiators: just say no to powersharing. Anything that leaves Mugabe with official standing or official government seat is purely a lie. Over these past two decades he has destroyed an economy, watched as infrastructure crumbled, ruined the country’s largest industry (farming, led an violent and oppressive regime, starved political opponents, stolen elections, and still, somehow, maintained some claim to legitimacy. That lie can’t be tolerated any longer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Check in the Guinness Book of World Records Under Holy Damn, Can That Be Right?

This is an amazing story--amazing in that the country of Zimbabwe still exists as a mostly cohesive entity. That the economy hasn’t collapsed to the point that the government can no longer function just beggars belief.

Zimbabwe’s annual rate of inflation has surged to 2,200,000%, official figures have shown.

The figure is the first official assessment of prices in the troubled African nation since February, when the rate of inflation stood at 165,000%.

Zimbabwe, once one of the richest countries in Africa, has descended into economic chaos largely blamed on the policies of President Robert Mugabe.

Zim dollars are worthless--worth less, probably literally, than the paper the stuff is printed on. Which brings up the next story about Zim’s failed leadership:

It has come to this - Zimbabwe is about to run out of the paper to print money on.

Fidelity Printers & Refiners, the state-owned company that tirelessly churns out bank notes for the Mugabe regime, was thrown into a crisis early this month after a German company stopped supplying bank note paper because of concerns over Zimbabwe’s recent violent presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent by international observers.

The printing operation slowed drastically. Two-thirds of the 1000-strong workforce was ordered to take leave, and two of the three money-printing shifts were cancelled.

The result on the streets was an immediate cash crunch.

Intriguingly, if Fidelity continues to refuse to supply the special paper, it will become even more likely that Mugabe’s government will crumble. Without the truckloads of cash to pay off the cronies, military, and police, Mugabe’s true base of support may well crumble. With every passing year, Mugabe’s leverage on the people of the country erodes a touch more; unfortunately, it also leaves more dead, displaced, and unfed citizens suffering under his failing government, too.

It would be funny (although, ultimately, quite damaging) to see the government fail because it could no longer print money. What the democratic process has thus far failed to do may be accomplished by such a small thing as special paper.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Still Providing Cover for Tyrants

Leaders in Africa continue to provide cover for Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to continue his illegitimate rule of the country. By resisting calls for sanction and continuing to suggest that the road forward is through a unity government, these leaders are doing their best to provide legitimacy to the tyrant: while no one can seemingly deny that he bullied, murdered, brutalized, and intimidated his way into office, they still imagine that no legitimate representative government can be established without Mugabe and his party.

What they seem to fail to understand is that no legitimate representative government can be recognized untilMugabe and his party no longer stand at the helm of the government. Until power has passed peacefully from Mugabe and to a democratically elected head of state, the government of Zimbabwe is a lie that was forced on its citizens at the barrel of a gun. Specifically, any government that preserves Mugabe’s presidency is a lie and an affront to Zimbabweans.

Leaders from the developed world and Africa failed on Monday to agree on how to deal with the crisis in Zimbabwe, which overshadowed a meeting between the Group of Eight and seven African heads of state.

The African leaders resisted pressure from the US and Europe for sanctions against the Mugabe regime, telling the western nations that they still saw scope for African diplomacy to lead to a power-sharing accord.

Appearing at a joint news conference with President George W. Bush, Jakaya Kikwete, president of Tanzania and chairman of the African Union, said: “The only area where we may differ is on the way forward.”

Last week the African Union called on both sides in the Zimbabwe crisis – President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change – to come together in a national unity government. The call came after Mr Mugabe declared himself the winner of a presidential election run-off on June 27 which the MDC candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, boycotted, citing violence against his supporters.

Mr Kikwete said: “We are saying no party can govern alone in Zimbabwe and therefore the parties have to work together.”

The continued assertion--even if only by implication--of Mugabe’s legitimacy is disgusting and shameful. Once again, Africa’s leaders are failing Africa’s citizens.

Read the story.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On the Latest “Victory” for Robert Mugabe

I’ve been stuck on what I want to say about Zimbabwe for a few days now. When Robin left a comment noting that “the thugs won” I realized that at that moment there wasn’t much more for me to say. The thugs--Robert Mugabe and his goons--won through a program consisting of violence and terrorism. They did it with not precisely the complicity of other regional leaders, but certainly with folks like Thabo Mkebi making excuses and providing some cover and legitimacy.

Of course, even those African leaders are finding it harder to excuse the behavior of their old comrade. Sadly, any turn to overt criticism and something other than “quiet diplomacy” will be coming too late to support the change that the people of Zimbabwe deserve. Politics as usual in post-colonial Africa has betrayed the trust between the government and the governed. Democracy has not failed them; this turn of events has proven conclusively that there simply is no democracy in Zimbabwe.

The election was a sham. “Quiet diplomacy” is a lie. The people of Zimbabwe are paying. They are paying sometimes with their lives, with their health, and with a future that seems now to be irretrievably broken. The Mugabe apologists are speaking for one of the most brutal regimes in the world today and for a leader who has proven himself adept only at bullying his way to power. They should be ashamed.

In a country where the media is truly controlled by the government, where the demand for fair elections is met with murder, where the leader threatens a new civil war if the opposition party wins in fair elections, there can be no democracy. This isn’t just whiny progressives childishly complaining when they don’t get their way; this is a brutal government grinding its citizens into the dust.

The US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, has been an unwavering voice of support for the citizens of Zimbabwe. We back home should be proud of him and the job he is doing.

... James McGee, the US ambassador in Harare, said 30,000 potential opposition supporters had been displaced from their homes as part of brutal tactics by the Mugabe government to swing the run-off in his favour.

Mr McGee, who was speaking by telephone from Harare, said the conditions ahead of the poll were the worst he had ever witnessed, while another western diplomat said Zanu-PF was determined to secure an election victory “at any cost”.

“It’s very, very obvious that there is political intimidation, there’s thuggery, there’s outright theft, murder, happening here in Zimbabwe,” Mr McGee said. “In my long diplomatic career, I have never seen anything comparable to this.”

Consider this: Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who won the original election (although apparently not be enough) and recently dropped out of the new round of voting, has been harassed and arrested throughout the campaigning process. That stands as some of the more tender oppression in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Amazingly, this doesn’t even touch on the mismanagement of the government that has left Zimbabwe’s schools, health care, infrastructure, and economy in ruins. Failed governments don’t often fail more dramatically than this one.

What remains for us to decide after reading through this recounting of vile governance is to find a way to effectively support the people of Zimbabwe in their hope for a good government. And, I believe, that means supporting Tsvangirai’s call for an African solution.

We have always maintained that the Zimbabwean problem is an African problem that requires an African solution. To this end, I am asking the African Union and SADC to lead an expanded initiative, supported by the United Nations, to manage the transitional process. We are proposing that the AU facilitation team, comprising eminent Africans, set up a transitional period which takes into account the will of the people of Zimbabwe. The African Union team would lead in the constituting and character of the transitional period. The transitional period would allow the country to heal. As the MDC, we have always said we will be magnanimous in our victory. Genuine and honest dialogue amongst Zimbabweans is the only way forward. The MDC is a people’s project; we value our county and our people.

I want to emphasize that the basis of any settlement must recognize the fundamental principle of democracy, that is, the respect for the will of the people to choose their own leadership. Over and above this, the Zimbabwe political solution must recognize the following – stability, inclusivity, acceptability, and credibility. The sum total of all this is legitimacy. A negotiated political settlement which allows the country to begin a national healing and the process of a) economic reconstruction; b) provision of humanitarian assistance and c) democratization would be in the best interest of the country.

For the sake of legitimacy throughout the governments of the region and for the sake of the legitimacy of any government that would be placed after any removal of Mugabe, this eloquent call for basic freedoms, good government, and the restoration of democracy seems right on. I wonder, though, how quickly surrounding nations will be to not only criticize Mugabe, but to use their own diplomatic levers as an effective lever to force Mugabe to negotiate the transfer of power? So far, none of the nations that make up the SADC or the AU has shown that kind of initiative or will in relation to Zimbabwe’s ongoing problems. And the UN is as toothless as an old lion--all roar, no bite.

There is no practical way for Western nations to take a direct part unless we are asked by the MDC--and even then it would be a risk. Mugabe plays the race card with brilliance and any belief that a new government is just a stooge for Western powers (specifically either the UK or the US) could lead to a weak new government. The best role we could play would simply be to extend our offers of knowledge, help, and friendship to the MDC and the citizens of Zimbabwe along with a promise to help them limp out of their economic crisis once a new and truly representative government is in place.

The people of Zimbabwe deserve better than Robert Mugabe; the SADC and AU have the opportunity to help make that “better” happen. To that end, I think Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times has a series of good suggestions that could do a good deal to help salvage Zimbabwe. As he says, though, the need to act is urgent. I urge you to read his piece--it’s an honest (and, in terms of Thabo Mbeki, blistering) look at the situation. It doesn’t read particularly hopeful, but it is unflinching about the prospects.

A last “must read” in this opening salvo is Counterterrorism Blog’s “Africa’s Shame and Zimbabwe’s Greater Threat. It answers the question of why we should care about the future of a small, landlocked country in Southern Africa. It leads to a longer post on another site.

More links follow in the extended entry.

Read the Rest...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Who You Gonna Call?

No, not Ghostbusters. Get your head out of the eighties, pal.

You’re gonna call Blackwater--that is, you will if you have a very specific set of needs that generally don’t include finding the Keymaster or defending the world from the minions of Zuul. If you need a paramilitary outfit with global reach and capabilities to take on some dangerous, tough jobs, though, keep Blackwater on your speed dial. This even goes for left-leaning activists, apparently.

Mia Farrow, the actress and activist, has asked Blackwater, the US private security company active in Iraq, for help in Darfur after becoming frustrated by the stalled deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force.

Ms Farrow said she had approached Erik Prince, founder and owner of Blackwater, to discuss whether a military role was either feasible or desirable.

She acknowledged that many people might have reservations about Blackwater being involved in Darfur – the company’s men were involved in the fatal shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians last September – but said the threat of violence to refugees meant all options had to be explored.

“The people in the camps would say ‘we don’t care whether it’s Blackwater, any-water, as long as they help us’,” she told the Financial Times.

I recognize the concern many people have about subcontracting military functions to a group like Blackwater. In fact, I share those concerns. I find this approach from a charitable, non-government organization intriguing, though. Could Blackwater play a part of peacekeeper in Darfur? If so, would they be acting on a charitable level or a more mercenary level? Would they even be able to provide a good solution to the problem?

Without a willingness and the authority to take action--violent, decisive action--I’m not sure that any peacekeeper presence is going to make a significant difference. And that kind of action could precipitate a much larger confrontation. Does anyone have the will to stick through that kind of a military action right now?

Read the story.

For the record, Farrow represents Dream for Darfur, although I am unsure whether her approach to Blackwater was an official approach or not. When I called Dream for Darfur, I was given the number of their media representative. He didn’t answer his phone and has yet to return my call; if he does get back to me, I’ll update this post if necessary.

Update: I just spoke with Jonathan Freedman, the media contact for Dream for Darfur, who actually confirmed most of the story. Mia Farrow has been in contact with Erik Prince (although she has never personally met with him). She and the organization are reiterating their stance that they are willing to talk to anyone who can help provide security--and although the word “peacekeeping” was used, I have a feeling that they might be speaking more about a security roll, especially after consideration of what Robin wrote in the comments.

Freedman was very clear that there is no partnership with Blackwater at this time, but neither are they really backing away from the story. I was considering writing something a bit bigger on the subject, but, honestly, there’s not much story in this so I think I’ll leave it where it sits. While I don’t always agree with either methodology, tone, or some of the chosen targets of the Darfur activists, I admire their cause. I also admire the streak of pragmatism that allows them to approach a group like Blackwater that has been demonized in the media over the last few years.

And here’s a link for folks in Denver who want to join a Dreams for Darfur protest in hopes of forcing some large corporations into pressuring China to use their leverage to help end the genocide in Darfur.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Misplaced Optimism

When the citizens of Zimbabwe voted for change--a peaceful, democratic vote for change in the way their interests were represented by their government--I was hopeful that there would be a reasonably calm change in the government. I, very obviously, misplaced my faith in a big way. Here’s a report from the Beeb:

As the date for Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off approaches, state-sponsored violence has escalated sharply, according to human rights workers and opposition politicians in Zimbabwe who have given first-hand accounts to the BBC.

Andrew Makoni and Harrison Nkomo, both young human rights lawyers, fled to the safety of South Africa last week, fearing for their lives.

Five of Mr Makoni’s clients, all activists for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have been murdered over the past few weeks.

He says three of them had their eyes gouged out, and their tongues cut off.

I’ve been watching the news every day and it’s only getting worse.

Read the rest.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Resources for Africa Obsessives (Like Me)

In just about a month, the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) will begin with the aim of focusing on “high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and development partners.” This might not sound particularly sexy, but coordinating aid efforts on concrete goals and principles, finding ways to encourage African “ownership” of development and solutions, and encouraging international donors to become real partners in development is a set of goals near to my heart.

That the TICAD conferences are organized by the UN (admittedly, not my favorite nor my most trusted institution) doesn’t lessen my hope that it continues to bring us closer to a prosperous set of stable, liberal, independent nations that contribute heartily to the world community.

The UN University has a site devoted to tracking interesting stories related to African development on a page within their site. Set up in a blog format, it’s a great resource for those of use who believe that Africa really can be, as TICAD believes, the “Continent of Hope and Opportunity.”

Check out the site and, if you feel so inspired, leave your critique on their site here. I’ve promised one of the organizers that I would both publicize it and offer up my critique and suggestions. I would like to be able to offer more than my own small suggestions, though--and since I’m pretty sure that the smartest people in the world read my site (I mean, they would, wouldn’t they?), I would ask for their insight.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Is it True? Zimbabwe Could be Taking Steps Toward Freedom

Given the reports of irregularities and the pressure placed on voters, I imagined that ZImbabwe’s election would have the same dismal results as the last few elections. But the determination of the opposition--and, indeed, the faith peaceful, democratic change--looks to have overwhelmed even Mugabe’s ability to bully, buy, and cheat his way to victory.

That is a truly amazing thing. To his credit, and if these early reports are correct, he is doing what he needs to do to negotiate a peaceful exchange of power.

A resignation by Mr. Mugabe, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, would be a stunning turnabout in a country where he has been accused of consistently manipulating election results to maintain his lock on power.

There is no guarantee the negotiations will succeed, and the situation could still deteriorate. But a Western diplomat and a political analyst said the opposition was negotiating with Zimbabwe’s military, central intelligence organization and prisons chief.

“The chiefs of staff are talking to Morgan and are trying to put into place transitional structures,” said John Makumbe, a political analyst and insider in local politics who has spoken in the past in favor of the opposition.

“The chiefs of staff are not split; they are loyally at Mugabe’s side,” Mr. Makumbe said. “But they are not negotiating for Mr. Mugabe. They are negotiating for themselves. They are negotiating about reprisals and recriminations and blah blah blah. They are doing it for their own security.”

Amazing. There is reason for hope for Zimbabwe today--and if this all comes to pass, I will be celebrating soon.

If power does change hands--and if the new leadership proves to be devoted to liberalizing, responsible monetary policy, and finding ways to solve the current crisis, then it will be important for Western powers to be ready with offers of assistance in the transition. Rebuilding the economy, infrastructure, schools, and health care system will be a monumental task both in the sense of the effort involved and the potential to revive what was once the most promising nation in the region.

For the citizens of Zimbabwe, this is looking like a time for joy and celebration--but soon the hard work of rebuilding will bring its own pains. I’m hoping that the United States can find a way to be a productive partner in the rebuilding process, nurturing a relationship that will help bring peace and stability to a country that has lost far too many years to Mugabe.

If the moment of meaningful change has come, it will be because of people like the folks at Sokwanele who have worked so hard for so long to see the potential for something better. God willing, I will be able to meet some of them in the coming years in a nation of free men and women.

Read the rest.

HT to CentreRight. Update: Instapundit points to Gateway Pundit for more information.

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