Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The second famous NON in Guinean history?

Guineans returned to work today after a long and bloody general strike which ended only when the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté agreed to name a prime minister from a list submitted by trade unions. But some wonder if the appointment of Lansana Kouyaté, a former head of the West African economic community ECOWAS, is anything other than a temporary measure.

On the upside, Kouyaté should in theory have a fair degree of support. The unions presumably think well of him since he was on a list of candidates they proposed. And Kouyaté once served in the Guinean diplomatic corps and was named Guinean ambassador to several Arab countries and to the United Nations by Conté himself.

On the other hand, it remains to be seen if Prime Minister Kouyaté will actually be given a free hand in running the government. His two predecessors in the post, François Lonseny Fall and Cellou Dalein Diallo, also tried to reform the Guinean bureaucracy and sclerotic state institutions. Both faced heavy resistance from the mafia surrounding Conté that controls the country's economy.

Fall resigned in disgust while Diallo was sacked and fled the country amidst reported death threats.

In the midst of the normally rubber stamp Guinean National Assembly's unprecedented slap in the face to a head of state in rejecting Gen. Conté's demand to prolong martial law, Guinéenews reports on rumors that deputies of the ruling PUP party are under attack from the party barons and other internal divisions within the presidential movement.

Legislators defended themselves, claiming that they closer to the people than government officials.

Guinéenews also reported that deputies were reportedly fearful of mass popular vengeance had they voted to prolong the hugely unpopular and bloody martial law.

The sight also reported that many PUP deputies feel like "the shame of the party" and that the party appartus views them with condescension.

It is hardly surprising that these internal divisions would manifest themselves in a time of heavy tension. The party, which is almost always referred to as 'the presidential movement' by the Guinean press, was formed around the person of Gen. Conté when he transformed the government from a formal military regime to the facade of democracy.

When Sékou Touré, who became the country's first head of state, made a speech denouncing the economic community proposed France's Gen. de Gaulle and demanding the colony's independence, it became the first and most famous NON that now all Guinean schoolchildren are taught about. One wonders if the deputies' NON to Gen. Conté will become the second.

It may be wildly optimistic. In reality, Guinea's problems can not begin to be addressed until Conté's out of office and, just as crucially, his cabal out of power. But one hopes the deputies' action was a step in that direction.

Monday, February 26, 2007

General strike in Guinea ends (again) as union-backed prime minister named

Reprinted with permission from Friends of Guinea's blog

Guinean unions will again suspend the general strike after the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté agreed to name a prime minister from a list of names proposed by the labor organizations. His previous choice, Eugene Camara, was rejected by unions as too close to Conté.

According to Guinéenews, the unions proposed Mohamed Béavogui (of the International Fund for Agricultural Development), Saïdou Diallo (from the National Social Security Fund) and Lansana Kouyaté (former executive director of ECOWAS, the West African economic community).

The deal came shortly after the National Assembly took the unprecedented step of unanimously rejecting Conté's demand to extend martial law in the country.

Work in the country will resume on Tuesday February 27, according to unions who say that Conté has until March 2 to uphold his part of the deal.

The return to work was delayed by a day as unions observed a national day of commemoration for the over 100 people killed during the general strike.

Update: Guinéenews and the BBC World Service report that Conté has named former ECOWAS chief Lansana Kouyaté as the new prime minister.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Guinean National Assembly shows spine for the first time in history

Yesterday, Guinea's leader Gen. Lansana Conté asked the country's legislature to prolong the 'state of siege.' The move was assumed to be a formality as the body is almost entirely controlled by his allies, the opposition having boycotted the most recent legislative elections. The body has always assumed the role of rubber stamp to the head of state's decisions and has never, to my knowledge, rejected a prominent request either by Conté or the country's previous dictator Sékou Touré.

Instead, the The National Assembly delivered an unprecedented slap in the face to Conté by unanimously rejecting his request to extend martial law.

In the face of the astonishing vote, opposition leader Bâ Mamadou called for the naming of a national unity government since, according to the Bâ, republican institutions have joined the public in rejecting Conté's misrule.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dictator celebrates lavish birthday bash while doubling bread price for peasants

Looks like Guinea isn't the only economically-ruined country where people are taking to the streets against a repressive, incompetent band of crooks and thugs that call themselves a government. Teachers, students, doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe have joined university lecturers and students by going on strike. Working conditions are miserable. Wages are a pittance (when paid). And the country's 1600 (sixteen hundred) percent inflation rate makes those pitiful wages even more worthless.

The government's solution?

Last week, some 74 students and their leaders were rounded up, assaulted, and detained, according to the International Union of Students, which released a statement supporting its Zimbabwean peers.

More than 40 were arrested following a meeting to discuss "issues of the ever deteriorating standards of education, the astronomical hikes in tuition fees, and broader socio-economic and political pandemonium in Zimbabwe." The Zimbabwe National Students Union says that "more than 600 innocent, unarmed, and hungry students who had gathered on campus for the Extraordinary General Meeting were violently and brutally dispersed by the ruthless riot police and the non-uniformed state security agents."

Women marching near parliament were assaulted by tear gas.

The insecurity forces also went on the rampage against opposition supporters who'd gathered to launch a presidential campaign against the country's egomaniac-in-chief Bob Mugabe.

Mugabe subsequently banned all protests in the capital Harare. Maybe now he'll call off his thugs?

Not likely.

At the lavish birthday bash to which Bob insisted his poor countrymen should donate their own money, Comrade Mugabe lovingly promised that efforts would be made to ensure workers were well looked after because everyone from the gardener right up to the most senior official were important.

His government subsequently announced that it wanted nearly double the price of bread.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Missed opportunity

Deutsche Welle ran a brief piece on Henning Mankell. In it, the Swedish author argues that westerners know all about death in Africa, but little about life on the continent.

He is quite correct in his assertions about western media coverage of Africa focuses exclusively on death, disease and destruction. It's just too bad piece focused more on Mankell's denunciations of western countries' role in African corruption and the brain drain from the continent to the west. While I don't disagree with a word he said, it's unfortunate that he apparently missed an opportunity to actually talk about how people live in various parts of Africa.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The crisis in Guinea (guest essay)

A guest essay written by Chris Kirchgasler, who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea from 2004-06. This is re-printed with his permission.

As you know, I served two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea, West Africa teaching English in a small town called Tougué. Everyday living was difficult for most Guineans and has only gotten worse in recent months. An example: A 50kg bag of rice, which cost 50,000fg back in July 2004, is today sold at 500,000fg. Meanwhile, a civil servant's salary has stagnated at around 600.000fg/month (much less for teachers and other low-ranking employees), meaning that a month's supply of food often exceeds a civil servant's entire monthly salary. In addition, government salaries are often withheld and delayed for no reason. Many teachers weren't paid for more than 8 months last year.

I left Guinea in June 2006 to the sounds of gunfire in the streets of the capital. The country was then in the midst of a general strike demanding for wage increases. Guineans were telling us at that time that the situation couldn't hold out much longer. At the last minute, however, the government was able to hold off political protests by promising an 10% wage hike to all state employees. Eight months later, it has never delivered on even this meager promise and last month, the issue came to a head when jilted union leaders galvanized to launch an unlimited general strike to absolutely paralyze all activity in the country.

The goal of this new strike was to see that the original promises of wage increases be met, along with with new price controls on basic commodities (rice, kerosene for lamps, and gas for transportation) so that Guineans could continue to work and feed their families. The strike relaunched peacefully on January 10th, but the government made it clear early on that it was unwilling to make concessions. And the strike leaders decided to make the strike political for the first time in recent years, demanding sweeping government reforms, including the creation of a new post to handle executive duties.

Why the government has shown itself unable to meet the strike leaders demands is not hard to understand if you've followed the Guinean economy: The government is bankrupt, the result of decadent and systematic corruption over recent years that earned Guinea a ranking as the second most corrupt country in the world (source: Transparency International study, 2006). Most news agencies have taken to describing the government as "kleptocracy:" Those who own posts of power steal money destined to fund projects and development to buy themselves mansions and Mercedes. In short, the country languishes in poverty and fails to provide basic services, such as electricity and running water, in its capital and major cities (the vast majority of the country has never been electrified and is without running water).

As the government has shown itself unwilling and unable to carry out its basic functions, strike leaders changed their demands in late January, demanding that President Lansana Conté and his entire Congress step down from power. On January 22nd, tens of thousands of ordinary Guineans spontaneously took to the streets, carrying banners such as "We are ready to die for change." President Conté obliged them, ordering the army to open fire on protesters on the crowds. More than 60 people were killed in confrontations across the country on that day.

Conté, for those unfamiliar with him, is a former Guinean military colonel, "a chain-smoking diabetic" (source: Reuters) who has never completed high school and crowned himself General upon assuming power in a bloodless coup after the death of the country's previous president-turned-dictator, Ahmed Sékou Touré. He added the title "President" after a rigged election several years later to appease donor nations. After the bloodbath of the 22nd, Conté offered no apology for his actions, crowing instead that he has "never lost a war." Such a comment shows that he views a popular movements by his own citizens as an act of war and has no compunction about razing his country and killing his own people in order to "win" another.

A few days after the bloodshed of the 22nd, union leaders and the president reached a tentative compromise, through which the president would cede almost all executive power to a Prime Minister chosen from a list of candidates provided by union leaders. Two tense weeks passed with only sporadic violence. Then, last weekend, the president named his new PM, choosing someone not only not on the list of candidates, but whose previous job experience comes from rigging Conté's most recent landslide election victory in 2002. As one of my fellow volunteers still in country wrote, "it's as if Conté himself spit in the face of each and every Guinean."

Upon hearing news of the nomination this weekend, many Guineans, well aware of the risks they were taking, took to the streets again, this time with a view towards destroying the palatial estates of many of those close to Conté who've benefited from his corrupt reign. The army, however, was prepared, and responded to the new wave of protests with tanks and urban assault vehicles. At least 20 people are estimated to have died on Monday, and many more yesterday. The Conté has refused to retract his nomination and instead declared a state of siege in the country for the next two weeks, banning all traffic, pedestrian and vehicular, but for four hours during the day. He has given the army explicit orders to shoot on sight any violators.

All this means, of course, the end of Peace Corps in Guinea (all current volunteers have long since been safely evacuated and are sitting in limbo in Bamako, Mali awaiting word if they can transfer to other countries in West Africa or if they must go home). All other humanitarian agencies are evacuating the country, but as all commercial flights in or out of the country have been suspended, many are still stuck in the capital. The U.S. Embassy yesterday evacuated all its non-essential personnel.

Can one dictator suppress the will of the people? Conté has shown himself determined to see his reign through to the bitter end, while preening his son, "Captain" (a fictitious title) Ousmane Conté, to succeed him upon his death. Conté has also shown his dictatorial reach in withdrawing a million dollars in personal funds to hire 400 mercenaries (former rebels Conté supported in Liberia's recent civil war) to protect him and his possessions and to send his wives and children to France. He even has allowed foreign soldiers from neighboring Guinea-Bissau into the capital last month to help put down the violent protests, when he feared his own soldiers would hesitate shooting at their fellow countrymen.

In recent days, Conté has further tightened his grip on the country. He refuses to receive delegates from neighboring West African states who seek to facilitate peace talks between the government and strike leaders. In the last week, he has shut down all private radio stations after one called for his removal from power. He regularly disrupts service of the state-run telephone company in order to prevent citizens from organizing against him. Two days ago, he handed out promotions to everyone currently enrolled in the army (turning all privates into corporals, all captains into majors, and so on), regardless of merit, as a means of increasing pay and ensuring loyalty within the ranks.

This new found level in carnage and bloodshed in a country I just recently knew as easy-going and peaceful is hard to fathom. When I was a volunteer, Guineans constantly amazed me for their tolerance for living conditions most would find impossible. My friends got by somehow, always peaceful and almost always friendly--with a healthy amount of what-can-you-do complaining, of course. This has changed in less than a year and now I'm hearing from these same people that the deaths of their countrymen in recent days will not be forgotten and that they, too, will fight to bring an end to Conté's reign. I want to emphasize what a remarkable transformation it is to hear this new resolve in the voices and actions of ordinary people. Perhaps it is the natural, though long-overdue reaction, of a people who've been pushed to the brink.

Who will break first? I would optimistically assume the government, but given Conté's delusions (he's quoted as saying Guineans must to accept his rule as "the will of God"), I'm loathe to imagine how far he is willing to go to ensure the succession of his rule passes from father to son, and how many Guineans he's willing to take with him, in order to realize that nightmarish vision, as the country spirals into anarchy. We can only wait and watch.

I'm asking that you please keep Guinea and Guineans in your thoughts over the next few weeks. Even if you know nothing else of country, know this: 10 million people who've suffered under the yoke of oppression for 50 years under French colonization, and then for 50 more under barely disguised dictators, are standing up for what they believe in and doing whatever they can to bring an end to a kleptocracy, risking their lives and those of their families in doing so.

Here are a few English websites for staying up-to-date on what's happening:

from the IRIN News Service

from BBC News

from Reuters

[Editor's note: Friends of Guinea's blog also has extensive coverage]

Feel free to pass this email on to others so that we don't allow another tragedy in our world to unfold without our even being aware.

Take care,

Chris Kirchgasler
Peace Corps Volunteer, Guinea (2004-06)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nigerian information minister accuses CNN of fraud

The Nigerian government is quite sensitive to criticism about tension in the southern Niger Delta region of the country. A region which is country's primary oil region, oil being the government's main money maker. Citizens are upset that the oil industry has lead to massive environmental devastation with virtually no tangible benefit for the residents of the region. Hostage taking by militant groups and human rights abuses by the Nigerian army are commonplace there.

The federal government is so hypersensitive that it even accused CNN of staging a report which showed 24 Filipino hostages being held by masked gunmen in the remote mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta.

"We have evidence that some of these people were actually paid to put up a show," Nigerian Minister of Information Frank Nweke Jr. told CNN International about last week's report by Jeff Koinange, CNN's Africa correspondent.
"It was a paid job, and that's exactly why we are very upset about it," he said, without offering evidence.

"He had actually approached other people before then to do the same thing and his offer was declined. And he shopped around for more people and found those criminals who were willing to play ball with him and they put on the kind of show that they put up and which was shown around the world."

CNN and the journalist Koinange explicitly denied the information minister's accusations.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Terrorists in uniform brutalize residents, protected by impunity decree

The UN's IRIN service has a chilling piece on life in Guinea's capital under the 'state of siege.' Some Guinean soldiers, never the most disciplined bunch, are completely out of control ever since the martial law decree gave them complete immunity from prosecution.

"The boss made reference to President Lansana Conte and gave us the order to shoot anyone provocative, so whoever provokes me, I will shoot him without any hesitation," said one soldier.

Some on Conakry say 'provocations' can include staring, wearing a desirable pair of shoes, or simply being in the wrong place when the jeeps of soldiers careering around the city start shooting their guns in the air.

Additionally, Guineans say uniformed soldiers have also been looting, raping and beating people at random in most of the sprawling city's suburbs.

The NGO Human Rights Watch claims that the army has killed at least 22 people under this pretext in the last few days, including a seven year old girl. They also report that at least three women from Conakry's suburbs have been raped by uniformed members of the insecurity forces.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mugabe to Zimbabweans: fund my birthday bash

The gall of some people never ceases to astonish me. Even from someone who you'd think would have exhausted his powers of astonishment.

Some 80 percent of Zimbabweans live below a poverty line set at around US$1800 a year.

Living conditions for most Zimbabweans is even worse than this number suggests, with inflation running at some 1800 percent and official unemployment running at least 80 percent.

Yet the country's thieving dictator wants these Zimbabweans living in a misery his misrule created to contribute money so he can throw a big birthday bash. He wants to the equivalent of US$1.2 million (at the official exchange rate).

But the corruption of Mugabe and his clan has led to low or even unpaid wages for government workers. These people don't have any money to contribute to his birthday party because they regime has already stolen it all! For many of them, Mugabe's thugs have even destroyed their homes.

While even the normally placid Guineans brave bullets and batons and take to the streets against Gen. Lansana Conté's regime (whose ruining of Guinea has been more passive neglect), where are the Zimbabweans mobilizing against Mugabe's far more active destruction of the country?

Rest assured, though. The ruling party's youth secretary said the celebrations were important as they brought young people close to the president.
"That day is a day where he will be closer to them, encouraging them to have good morals," he said in comments to the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

Robert Mugabe lecturing on good morals is like George W. Bush speaking about peace on Martin Luther King Jr Day.

I'm sure many Zimbabweans would love to be 'close' to Mugabe.

Preferably within arm's length.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Guinean media activity halted on first full day of martial law, many Americans to be evacuated

Reposted from Friends of Guinea's blog with permission

In the first full day of martial law, Guinéenews notes that its reporting from Guinea is being seriously hampered as all cybercafés in Conakry have been shut down. It added that its "volunteer correspondents in Conakry who risk their lives to send dispatches can not work at this moment."

Radio France Internationale's FM broadcasting in Conakry has also been off the air.

Under the martial law decree ordered by the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté, Guineans are not allowed to leave their homes except between 4:00-8:00 PM. Even the Guinean Red Cross, which runs the country's only ambulance service, is grounded by the decree.

Despite martial law and the absolute power it gives to the army:

-A World Food Program warehouse in Kankan was looted and 450 metric tons of food stolen. In this time when Guineans are in an even more desperate situation because of the general strike and crackdown against it, the WFP was forced to temporarily suspend operations in Guinea;

-Gangs of machete-wielding young people prowled the streets of Conakry and its suburbs. Opposition leader Bâ Mamadou said, "Hooligans have taken control in a number of neighborhoods of the capital" and encouraged local communities to form crisis committees to address the situation;

-Unrest has spread to an elite military unit and many suspect this is related to the widespread assumption that Conté has called in mercenaries from the neighboring countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau. This is generally interpreted to be a lack of confidence in the Guinean military. Though Conté has reportedly made a number of promotions within the army in recent days to secure their support.

The International Labor Organization has called for an end to the 'senseless violence' in Guinea. And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appealed for calm and said that he "regrets the failure to implement the agreement reached on 27 January, which has triggered the resumption of the crisis and threatens to plunge the country into generalized instability."

A spokesman for the US embassy in Senegal's capital Dakar said that a transport plane was being sent to Guinea to airlift private citizens and the family of embassy staff from the country. He stated that the action did not constitute a full evacuation.

Monday, February 12, 2007

State of siege declared in Guinea but insurrection continues

Reprinted in its entireity with permission from Friends of Guinea's blog

Guinea's embattled head of state Gen. Lansana Conté has declared the country to be in a state of siege for the next two weeks and ordered the army to restore order by any means necessary, according to Guinéenews. The military has been given all the powers of the police. The decree ordered that all electronic communications were being monitored by authorities. All vehicle traffic has been banned with foot traffic only allowed between 4:00-6:00 PM.

The brand new Radio Liberté FM, one of the first private broadcasters in the country, has reportedly seen its offices ransacked by the presidential guard. The two employees, who were running a call-in program where opinions were running against the Guinean leader, were taken away by the red berets.

Two other private radio stations have suspended all programming as ordered by the presidential guard.

Armored tanks have been seen on the streets of the capital.

At least seven people have been killed in the Conakry commune of Ratoma.

A BBC reporter notes that protesters have ransacked a police station in the southern town of Guekedou and demonstrators are also out on the streets of other towns. The labor union collective insists that it is no longer about who happens to be prime minister. They claim their sole objective now is Conté's departure.

One of the more intriguing stories comes from COSA and ENCO 5, in the Conakry suburbs. Mobs there have attacked suspected members of the former Liberian rebel movement ULIMO. Lansana Conté had backed that faction during that country's 1989-97 civil war and some accuse the general of calling in the militiamen to help put down the general strike. Yet members of the Guinean army have sided with the residents, who provided the soldiers with food and drink. Apparently young soldiers at the Alpha Yaya military camp were angry that only a handful of their colleagues were rewarded during the latest round of promotions. Internal divisions inside the Guinean military are one of the reasons many observers fear a messy transition to the post-Conté era. This analysis from AllAfrica.com has other interesting speculation as well.

Fin de règne in Guinea

I was going to write a long analysis of recent events in Guinea but then I saw this very comprehensive piece at Global Voices. Definitely worth reading for anyone concerned about the country or its implications for sub-regional stability.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Guinea in 'virtual insurrection'

Yesterday, I asked if the naming of a new prime minister in Guinea, Lansana Conté ally Eugene Camara, would reduce tension in the country. Today, we got the answer.

People in the capital Conakry erected barricades to protest Camara's appointment.

At least eight protesters were shot dead (12 according to AFP) by insecurity forces, at least four in the western town of Kindia.

One high ranking government official warned that, "We risk having to declare a state of emergency because the situation has virtually turned into an insurrection."

Friday, February 09, 2007

New Guinean prime minister named but rejected by unions. General strike to resume?

According to Guinéenews, Guinean head of state Gen. Lansana Conté has named Eugene Camara as the country's new prime minister and head of government.

The announcement occurred as the powerful labor unions' alliance threatened to re-launch a general strike if a new prime minister was not named by Monday February 12.

The BBC warned that even if a new prime minister was named, a lot would depend on whether the unions accepted the impartiality of the choice. Camara is the current minister for presidential affairs.

Initial signs were not good. A union spokesman told Guinéenews that "It's incredible. Really, it's an insult to the Guinean people."

Another major union also rejected Camara and invited "citizens to mobilize today more than before to call for change."

The BBC also reported that students rioted in the cities of Dinguaraiye and Coyah.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Heroes in the crossfire

I consider humanitarian aid workers to be my ultimate heroes. I can think of no profession that requires so much selflessness combined with raw physical courage. These people could be living comfortable lives in some western country but they voluntarily to go to some of the most hellish places on Earth. This is an even more noble profession to me than that of a soldier particularly because humanitarian aid workers risk their lives without the protection of guns, tanks and flack jackets and their sole purpose is to help people desperately in need.

And as The Globalist notes, it really is a dangerous job. While I consider humanitarian aid workers to be the most heroic of heroes, many combattants see them as just another target. Aid workers were once considered off limits but this is no longer the case.

As The Globalist notes, Between 1997 and 2005, nearly as many aid workers were killed in the line of duty as were international peacekeeping troops.

An astonishing fact. But with civilians of all kinds being increasingly targeted by combattants, there's no reason to think that aid workers would be exempt from this trend.

When international aid workers die in the field, it is more likely to be from intentional violence than from any other cause, including illness and vehicle accidents.

Accidental landmine explosions and situations where aid workers are caught in the crossfire between warring parties represent a very small portion of total major incidents. In the vast majority of cases, the aid workers were deliberately targeted.

Furthermore, although they are certainly attractive targets for simple robbery, in most of the incidents where major violence was used, the perpetrators had political motivations as well.

In the nine years between 1997 and 2005, politically motivated incidents were seen to increase at a rate faster than the “purely criminal” attacks.

Part II of The Globalist's series mentions a point worth noting. While foreign aid workers play an important role in the delivery of services, too often the contributions home country national aid workers is overlooked.

The piece notes that the majority of aid worker victims (nearly 80%) are nationals of the country in question and that in the most violent hotspots, the relative risk to national staff appears to be rising significantly year to year, while that of international staff is declining.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Girls' empowerment camp in Burkina

The Globalist has an interesting two-part series on the planning and organization by a US Peace Corps Volunteer of a girls' empowerment camp in Burkina Faso.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Chinese are coming! The Chinese are coming!

Many economists expect that within 15 years, China will surpass the United States as the world's leading economy. Complaints about the loss of blue collar US jobs to China were once political dynamite (as the loss of white collar jobs to India has been in the last few years). Now, China is eyeing Africa as a huge untapped market for its cheap goods. The public radio show On Point did an hour long program on burgeoning China-Africa business ties.

To strengthen these links, China's leader Hu Jintao recently embarked upon an African tour. Some Africans welcome Chinese investment while others fear that the flood of new money would perpetuate corruption and bankroll human rights' abusers.

But the concerns are not limited to that. Many fear that Chinese companies would deteriorate conditions for African workers.

In Namibia, for example, Chinese companies are unburdened by minimum wages and labour laws and frequently undercut local construction companies, the BBC noted.

Namibia, in southwestern Africa, is hardly rich but the government is trying to raise living standards for its people. Due to good governance and reasonable labor regulations, Namibia has one of the highest standards of living in Africa and actually ranks in the top half of world countries in per capita income (GDP), higher than China (and most Latin American countries). Many fear that this will be eroded.

Some would argue that Namibia should just eliminate the basic guarantee but minimum wage or not, it's hard to compete with slave labor.

Namibia is not the only country that understands that reasonable labor regulations have a beneficial effect on living conditions. Many American small enterprises are starting to realize that the minimum wage is good for business.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A miracle worker in khaki?

I hate posting articles like this because they inadvertantly perpetuated western stereotypes about the African continent. But it's hard to ignore such dangerous absurdity from a head of state. Gambia's leader Yahya Jammeh recently claimed that he could cure AIDS in a few days.

Before a gathering of foreign diplomats, the military strongman said, "I can treat asthma and HIV/Aids... Within three days the person should be tested again and I can tell you that he/she will be negative."

Such lunacy might be easily dismissed if made by a quack doctor but when it comes from the military leader of a small country who expects people to follow his orders, it's not a good sign for those who take the fight against HIV-AIDS seriously.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bob's exit strategy

South Africa's Daily Mail and Guardian takes a look at Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe's exit strategy. Apparently it involves him being anointed life president of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Though interestingly, the paper speculates that Mugabe realises the dangers of insisting on remaining in power. For now it remains unclear how the idea of conferring the title of life president on Mugabe was raised, and by whom.