Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Less than a week until historic elections in Guinea... and you can help!

Republished with permission from Friends of Guinea blog.

Campaigning and preparations in Guinea are well underway for the June 27 poll, expected to be the first ever free and democratic elections in the country's history. Some 24 candidates are contesting the presidential election, none soldiers.

The US NGO the Carter Center has sent a delegation to monitor the vote and has described the campaign as 'positive.' The African Union has also praised preparations.

The Economist had a profile of the head of state Gen. Sekouba Konate and his efforts to ensure that both the elections and the future civilian administration remain free of military meddling. Additionally, the army chief of staff Col. Nouhou Thiam warned that there would be no immunity for soldiers involved in the Sept. 28, 2009 massacre.

However, Foreign Policy warns that challenges remain beyond the formal election. It published an article on 'Guinea's economic junta' which noted that the army's domination of lucrative mineral contracts won't end with the ascension of a democratic head of state.


Also from FOG blog:

Our colleagues at Alliance Guinea have launched a 'high-tech election monitoring system' in support of this Sunday's presidential election in the country.

The system, GV10 Witness (or GV10 Temoin, in French), will allow Guineans on the ground to report violence, threats of violence, fraud and other serious incidents via SMS, email and Twitter.

The messages will then be posted to the website www.GV10Temoin.org on a map of Guinea, organized by incident location and type of incident or report. People monitoring the elections – whether election administrators and observers, international media, civil society organizations or the general public – will then be able to follow developments on the site or through email updates.

This effort will require volunteers to process the information. If you'd like to help, please click here for more information.

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The return of blood diamonds

The Wall Street Journal online has a piece on the diamond industry in Angola.

Several years ago, the diamond industry was pressured into the creation of the Kimberley Process, an attempt to eliminate so-called 'blood diamonds' from the market. However, The WSJ reports that a big loophole threatens the viability of the entire program.

The Kimberley Process was designed to stem human rights abuses in territories controlled by rebel movements, but apparently does not take into account such abuses in government controlled territories.

The WSJ highlights a raft of problems in Angola, widely considered one of the most corrupt states in the world.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

On the nature of reconciliation (guest essay)

Editor's note: The following is an email sent to me in response to my essay on the nature of reconciliation. It is published here with the permission of the author.

by Rufus Arthur Wilderson

Your post on the views of Africans towards reconciliation struck a chord with me. As much as the diverse views of an entire continent can be generalized, I think yes, Africans do have a greater propensity to live and let live than is seen in Eurasia.

My first anecdote comes from my brief time in college, I want to say 2005-2006 time frame. For some reason Somalia was in the news; maybe the piracy was starting to get bad. At the time I was attending an African Studies course, and the professor was a somewhat world-weary type who had been an ambassador and was able to add a lot of color to the discussion of the Horn of Africa, including all the nuances and shifting alliances during the Cold War and Ogaden conflict (someone should make an opera out of it). His conclusion looking at Somalia? "It is better to have a bad government than no government at all". That was it, verbatim. Of course, this was about the same time that Zimbabwe had been making the news for bulldozing slums, so this struck me as a somewhat odd outlook on matters. Considering the state of life in Somalia though; perhaps it is not entirely unjustified.

The second anecdote comes from the excellent book In Search of Zarathustra, and dates to about the seventies or so when the author was having adventures in Afghanistan and Iran.

He had come to explore the ruins of an old Zoroastrian fire temple and met a community elder just before mid-day prayers. He asked about the temple. The elder said the temple was haunted, and the site of a great battle between Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and the local tyrant. The lesson from that is that while centuries-long or even millennia-old grudges and events are remembered in much of the world, they are not necessarily remembered accurately! Perhaps there was some ancient battle at that site, but the story had become hopelessly distorted over time as it was told and retold for whatever didactic or political reasons were expedient at the time.

To me, as an American, both views seem strange. I have been taught, ultimately via the Enlightenment tradition, that it is not only justified to fight injustice, but that it is a moral imperative to do so. The American emphasis on the individual leaves me feeling a bit odd with the idea of punishing someone because our ancestors five generations ago were in a battle. Why should that matter to us, now?

It is tempting to think that the American outlook has the best balance of emphasis on social justice tempered with the mercy of easy forgiveness and individual, rather than group accountability. This is probably provincial though, and I suspect such a world view works best and flourishes only in a prosperous and stable environment. In an environment where even basic necessities like clean water or food could be hard to come by and life could be beset by all manner of natural and man made privations, fighting overmuch for social justice would seem like foolish idealism. Better to live and let live and get on to more important basic necessities. In an environment with a greater degree of prosperity and wealth, but with shifting alliances and organized national militaries all around like Eurasia has had for most of the past three thousand years, too much forgiveness and too much forbearance with tyrants might be the complacency that gets one's entire tribe destroyed in the next war.

Or at least that's what comes to mind for me. I could be making up just-so stories based on vague generalizations about people and places; always a risk in sociology.


Monday, June 07, 2010

'Has HIV/AIDS Destroyed Its First Nation-State?'

Chris Albion's fascinating Conflict Health blog asks the provocative question: Has HIV/AIDS Destroyed Its First Nation-State?

He reports that there's a growing movement in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho to have the country annexed by South Africa. Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by its giant neighbor, has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Malaria prevention advance?

IRIN (via All Africa) has an interesting piece on malaria prevention efforts in Burkina Faso. Officials have launched a small project of the indoor spraying of the insecticide Bendiocarb. The World Health Organization notes that such programs are most effective when at least 80 percent of households are sprayed. Right now, the spraying is only occurring in the southwestern part of Burkina Faso, due to cost. The country counted some 4 million cases of malaria last year.

Labels: ,