Religion is Tribalism

Religion is Tribalism

kerry listeningObama is trying to be the Great Mediator in Africa having failed in America. Don’t hold your breath.

John Kerry is completing a whirlwind tour of Africa, today, dolling out money like carnival candy and telling the McCoys and Hatfields that they’ll be a lot more if they have Thanksgiving dinner together.

Kerry’s bitter sweet journey carries cargoes of carrots and sticks.

Read more

Young Discontent

Young Discontent

africandiscontentYou know, it’s not just US. Enormous discontent is sweeping across the most important countries in Africa with a heavy involvement by the youth.

Such generalizations are dangerous, so I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ll stop making conclusions: you make them. Let’s just survey today’s news.

Yesterday was budget day in South Africa. In Parliamentary fashion, the president is supposed to submit the annual budget, say a few words and then Parliament retires for a day before beginning a classic debate. That’s not what happened.

South Africa is a mess. The session was six hours of mayhem :screaming, fisticuffing, security officials pulling out MPs while those just pulled out snuck back in. The budget was never discussed.

The South African’s polity’s mess has a lot to do with one old peculiar man, Jacob Zuma, and one old revolutionary movement, the ANC, but many insist that it was the university students in the country who brought it to a head.

Last year’s country-wide student protests regarding fees and instructional language have moved into virtually all universities, even technical colleges.

Last year Nigeria elected a controversial old politician/general to clean up one of the most profoundly screwed up societies on the continent. I was skeptical but for the first few months things seemed to be going well.

They aren’t now. Leaks that the new president has sanctioned arresting the old president, a very public and questionable trial of a former Senate president, rising unemployment because of falling oil prices … and police and the military now battling not only Boko Haram, but students.

Tanzania’s good-guy president is suddenly behest by a host of unexpected protests, including support of indicted government officials, growing Islamic fundamentalism, and more which all probably began with the government’s stupid move to close all universities and colleges before last years presidential election.

In an attempt to avoid the turmoil of its neighbors, the president of Kenya announced yesterday he would remain neutral in the growing student protests in his country.

But what really caught my interest is the protests of youth in countries that … well, don’t allow protests.

A week of horrific student protests in Khartoum, the capital of one of the most dictatorial, autocratic countries in the world, ended today with tear gas and police shutting down the country’s main university.

And in neighboring Ethiopia, which tries hard to rival Sudan for in violating human rights, IT savvy government officials have so far failed at shutting down this internet music protest by youth of Oromo: click here.

My apologies if by the time you read this the Ethiopian government once again succeeds.

My take? The world is unsettled and it is largely the impatience of youth anxious for justice.

Forming The World Order

Forming The World Order

bashiratsummitOne of the most difficult things for anyone or any thing to do is cede control … to give away your authority to someone or something else. South Africa did that, today, and the United States in an identical situation in March refused to.

In my estimation, this makes South Africa more modern, more moral and presents a future more promising than the U.S. The world is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent upon every part of itself.

A global society with ultimate authorities will some day be an absolute certainty. The societies which embrace this future and now work towards it will be the movers and shakers in it.

Those who refuse may decay.

Omar al-Bashir, the dictatorial leader of The Sudan, was in South Africa earlier today attending the African Union summit in South Africa. A court ordered his arrest on an indictment from The World Court for crimes against humanity, because South Africa is a signatory to the World Court Treaty.

But minutes before the order was issued, Bashir jetted out of the country.

Bashir was in New York in March for the opening session of the United Nations. Although numerous organizations and individuals petitioned various U.S. courts to have him arrested, no court issued a warrant because the United States is not a signatory to the World Court treaty.

So he stepped onto a world stage and addressed the opening as all World leaders are allowed to do. He legitimized his ruthless rule. Obama could have cooperated with the World Court, even without a formal treaty, but he elected not to.

The situation in South Africa was not without controversy. Before The Court ordered his arrest, it ordered that he not leave the country while it deliberated the case.

The current government of South Africa headed by President Jacob Zuma was caught off guard, as it has continually been throughout Zuma’s troubled reign.

Having little choice but to play with the court that, in fact, has kept Zuma somewhat immune to the ramifications of his scandals, the South African government aruged that Bashir was technically not in South Africa, but in the nether world of the Africa Unity Summit, and therefore South African laws didn’t apply.

The Court adjourned for an hour at noon South African time after a morning of deliberation. In that hour Bashir was sped away from the summit in a black limo to a nearby South African airbase, where his plane’s engines were running.

He leaves behind him another Zuma scandal: Zuma heeded the call by the Court to deliberate the question, but essentially just ignored the earlier order to keep Bashir in the country until a decision was reached.

Bashir is under indictment by The World Court for crimes against humanity mostly in Dafar.

On Friday, the South African government urgently appealed to the court in The Hague to rescind their arrest warrant while Bashir attended the African summit.

Saturday, The World Court refused and a local South African court then ordered Bashir to remain in the country while it deliberated on numerous motions from South African citizens.

It’s not uncommon for Heads of State, including George Bush, to avoid international travel because of fear of being arrested in a foreign country.

Bush and Cheney avoided travel to Canada and Switzerland shortly after the end of the Bush presidency because of numerous lawsuits filed against them for the fraudulent war in Iraq.

Bashir has avoided almost all travel since being indicted, this because the majority of the world subscribes to the World Court. In March, however, he traveled to New York to address the opening session of the United Nations, having received assurances from the Obama administration that he would not be arrested.

The U.S. is not a signatory to the World Court convention, as virtually every African country is. Moreover, the Obama administration believes that peace in South Sudan is critical and dependent upon Bashir’s cooperation.

At the time, The World Court, which is a child of the United Nations but technically no longer linked to it, requested the UN to arrest Bashir. Ban ki-moon declined, answering that he lacked such authority.

It was a terrible travesty of human rights that Obama and Ban ki-Moon allowed the ruthless dictator to address the world assembly.

It’s arguably a greater travesty that President Zuma picks and chooses which court orders he will obey at home, but the overall situation and outcome in my estimation puts South Africa as a whole in a much more moral situation than the U.S.

Accepting authority is never easy. But without a world authority in the near future there will be no authority for anyone.

Soldiers At Bay

Soldiers At Bay

Commie or DespotRevolutionaries make lousy politicians, and that’s why South Sudan is so unstable.

Five theoretically democratic countries in sub-Saharan Africa were born of revolution: Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, South Africa and South Sudan.

(Modern Rwanda, which rose from the pyre of the 1994 genocide, never pretended to be democratic. Kenya’s election violence was too short-lived and geographically contained to be considered revolution. And The Congo and Somalia aren’t finished, yet.)

Of the five, South Africa is doing just fine if awkwardly so. Ethiopia is a far, far distant second, and Uganda and Zimbabwe are now lost causes. South Sudan, the newest, is still figuring out its peace land legs and right now, doesn’t look too good.

These five countries provide an excellent study of modern day transition from revolution and suggest what South Sudan must do to succeed.

All five countries sustained a revolution against their previous regime for a generation or more:

South Africa’s ANC was the revolutionary, fighting arm against the Nationalist government that blew up the factories and staged a couple fire bombs while figuring out ways from time to time to close the mines. The ANC is now in control of South Africa’s politics and has been since Independence twenty years ago.

The Ethiopian regime is composed of a segments of rebel groups pursued by the Terror Triumvirate, which assassinated Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974.

The current Ugandan and Zimbabwean regimes consolidated power after violent ousters of repressive regimes (Idi Amin in Uganda and Ian Smith’s UDI in Rhodesia).

The South Sudan is the newest, created from a 2005 peace deal with (north) The Sudan that led to independence in 2011.

All five countries pretend to be democratic and are founded on constitutions based on democracy. Only South Africa is.

Uganda and Zimbabwe are iron-clad dictatorships. Ethiopia is more communist than dictatorship albeit with a pretty wide net of political involvement across various segments of Ethiopian society.

We can predict what might happen to South Sudan based on what happened to the other four.

In all cases, the men (and it’s exclusively men) who shot guns and murdered adversaries of the ancien regime are now the political leaders. As George Washington summed it up when leaving a single term in office, soldiers do not make good democratic leaders.

Foreigners are eager to cast these country’s difficulties as ethnic, and to be sure the internal adversaries are clearly ethnically different. But I think as suggested by Hilary Matfess in an article in Think Africa Press, today, there are other more important reasons.

Once fault lines occur in a society, ethnic groups tend to congeal on one side or the other, and that’s certainly what’s happened in South Sudan. But that doesn’t mean the ethnicity or racism is the actual cause.

Ms. Matfess argues that it’s the constitutional makeup, but I argue that the constitution was made up by soldiers, and that’s the problem.

In a country as diverse, successful and developed as South Africa, soldiering onto the political stage worked well for the ANC, but soldiering into governance is not working so well. Nevertheless in South Africa, autocratic moves by politicians have been checked.

South Africa will do just fine as soon as these old soldiers go, and they are slowly but surely dying or being forced out.

Uganda and Zimbabwe, however, weren’t able to make the transition that I’m sure South Africa has, and both have devolved into despotic regimes.

I see Ethiopia as trying very hard not to slip into a despotic character, and the way it’s trying to do so is by a very restrictive, highly controlled mostly communist system that is forcing the old soldiers to stay at bay. Certainly without this very powerful central authority in Addis, the country would start fighting, again, and one or other of the soldiers would come to power as the despot exactly as Museveni and Mugabe have in Uganda and Zimbabwe.

This is South Sudan’s option, I’m afraid. Lacking the development and diversity that South Africa had historically, South Sudan must figure out “how to keep the old soldiers at bay.”

The only way is by a centrally restrictive “communist” government. All that democracy will do is facilitate war.

This is exactly the opposite of what Ms. Matfess believes, even though I’m using her argument to suggest it. But democracy cannot work until the population is educated enough to engage its mechanisms.

So if The West wants peace in South Sudan, it’s going to have to accept communism.

Now there’s a twist.

South Sudan like them all Crumbles

South Sudan like them all Crumbles

military-democracy1Add South Sudan, Central Africa and Libya to Iraq and Afghanistan and you have the most costly failure in human history to make undeveloped parts of the world in the image of its superpower.

“Most costly” is an understatement. None of us can begin to imagine the 20 years of military hardware costs, personnel deployment costs, global policy orientation costs … except perhaps Eisenhower’s impugned “military-industrial” complex.

And even if that impugned component could be economically conceived as contributing to America’s growth, how do you economically measure the human tragedies? It’s arrogant to simply refer to American military casualties, since the human toll is a hundred, perhaps a thousand times, perhaps ten thousand times American injuries and deaths.

Yesterday, Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee that South Sudan was “in danger of shattering.”

None of America’s experiments in democracy abroad was as promising as the South Sudan. Unlike elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East, America’s contribution to its generational civil war was mostly limited to diplomatic involvement.

Which was true of the other side as well. We supported the rebels. Russia and China supported the mother country, Sudan. And when Russia dared to send more than a Mig or two, Clinton bombed a Khartoum factory and Russia agreed to toe the unspoken diplomatic line to not arm the factions in the war.

So the war went on and on and on, very much like Darfur continues in the western Sudan, today. Rather than planes from Russia and tanks from the U.S., guns and hand-held missiles came from arms dealers in Jamaica that had mastered the insecure arsenal of the downfall of the Soviet Union. That wasn’t good, but it kept the war at a lower grade.

The emergence of the new South Sudan nation was a joy to the world, and especially to America. Politicians and celebrities all took credit. Although landlocked, the country’s potential was uniquely good, because it sat on so much oil, because so much of its land was unpopulated and fertile, and because its long civil war had leaders ready to go.

What happened?

Two things. First, democracy. Second, tanks.

DEMOCRACY
It’s one thing to nuke Afghanistan because its leaders bombed the World Trade Center. It’s quite another to suppose you can remake that part of the world in your own image.

We are learning again and again that America’s form of government — indeed lifeways, altogether – doesn’t work in the undeveloped world.

There are dozens of fundamental reasons why. But consider just this: America itself has had constant and serious problems with implementing its own democracy literally from the getgo.

We’ve mastered democracy, perhaps. But from Congressional gridlock to politicians’ lies to the uncertainty in counting votes to the complexities of voting at all … these are complicated, intricate problems created, analyzed and remedied by very modern and often high tech solutions.

I can blithely mention the “unimagined cost” of our mistakes, but even the carefully imagined costs of mistakes in the South Sudan result in that country’s own immediate deaths and destructions.

In America our mistakes are often manifest far from our shores. Not in places like the South Sudan. There is a simple line from a politician’s corrupt actions to the deaths of thousands of his fellow countrymen.

Writing today in African Arguments, Andreas Hirblinger dissects what’s left of South Sudan’s constitution and government and shows that little is left but the authority of the current “democratically elected” president.

Democracy doesn’t work in undeveloped places. This is a lesson the entire era of the “Arab Spring” is finally teaching us.

TANKS
Give two thugs AK47s and you turn a brawl into a war.

So pleased with their creation of the new democratic state in Africa, the western world began pouring in funds without strings.

What did that money buy? Communication systems from IBM? How about urban development consulting from J.D. Powers? No? Almost all the money went to Halliburton and it wasn’t just for catering services on oil rigs.

Not long after George Clooney and Hillary Clinton attended the unveiling democracy in Juba, the U.S. and its allies wittingly or not began arming South Sudan to the teeth.

Surprise! Huge new fighting began with The North. The war was supposed to have been over.

We need worldwide gun control. And that, because it’s so dearly linked to manufacturing and concomitant economic growth, is the harder problem.

Imagine suggesting to a country dominated by such an entity as the NRA that the UN should enforce a ban on all weapon transfers. Yet that is exactly what’s needed.

Fights are organic parts of any social development. Words don’t kill. Fistfights rarely kill. Give a newly emerged nation whose population is still mostly illiterate and has lived for generations by subsistence agricultural an arsenal of modern weapons …. well, I think anyone can understand this argument.

But will we do anything about it?

Maybe. I think Gates’ memoir, statements by Thomas-Greenfield and actions by Kerry have many lines to read between. I think America may be learning this critical lesson about democracy.

No chance we’ll stop the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower was spot on.

Good News From Africa

Good News From Africa

Four of my most important stories for 2012 were basically great, good news! Exciting discoveries in science in Africa, growing strategies for peace in Africa’s troubled regions, and my having guided an old friend and client, the Don of American zoo directors, Les Fisher!

These are my 6th to 10th Top Ten Stories. To see a list of all The Top Ten, click here.

#7 : China Partners with U.S. for Peace in Sudan
The world’s two most diametrically opposed societies have struggled uncomfortably ever since shaking hands during the Nixon administration in the 1970s. Whether it be over world wars and conflicts, climate change, human rights – you name it, we’ve been at odds.

But this year the two adversaries teamed up to make peace in The Sudan. This is terribly exciting.

Two years ago South Sudan became its own nation after years of civil war with The North. That in itself was amazing, and in no large part because of enormous initiatives by the Obama administration.

But the border between the two has never been completely demarcated. And it goes right through the most productive oil fields in the area, and so border disputes spilled over into outright warfare.

China and the U.S. got together and stopped it. Period.

It is an amazing geopolitical development, because the U.S. is heavily invested in The South, and China, in The North. But rather than parry their positions, they negotiated them for peace.

Unfortunately, trouble persists in both countries not due to this grander conflict. Darfur remains troubling for The North and The South’s northwest states are close to open rebellion.

But the grand deal signed earlier this year between the two hostile siblings of the once singular Sudan state remains laudable.

#8 : Breakthrough Discovery for Malaria Eradication
The devil is in the details to be sure, and despite a generation of unprecedented research and global aid, malaria finds ways to evade suppression. But this year a new genetic discovery might finally herald a definitive way to eradicate this disease that is so devastating in Africa.

Malaria is such a tough candidate for making a vaccine against because it’s really seven different types of life forms. True, it’s only one of the stages that infects us, but that one has proved terribly difficult to fight against.

If we could simply interrupt the change of life forms from one to the other, we’d do the trick. And now, a new genetic discovery gives us a guide towards finding out how to do that. It’s complicated, but perhaps the most promising new science regarding malaria in my life time!

#9 : African Arms Dealer Finally Prosecuted in U.S.
It’s no secret that you can’t fight a war without a gun. But the west – and especially the U.S. – and Russia have suppressed this evident fact because their war machine economies are so important to their overall economies.

And what’s even more embarrassing is that several of the most prominent arms dealers have lived as foreign visitors on extended friendly visas for some time in the U.S. The presumption has to be that the U.S. felt some advantage for letting them stay here.

So it was striking that finally the Obama administration actually began to prosecute arms dealers in a way past administrations, including back through Clinton and Reagan, declined to do.

Viktor Bout, a Russian, was convicted after a full court press by the Obama administration, suggesting more such prosecutions are on the way. This is an African story, because that was the turf on which Bout played, heavily involved in the most recent wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

#10 : Les Fisher Goes on Safari at 91 years old
The Don of African Zoo Directors who helped pioneer some of the first American adventure travel in Africa took a group of small friends on a not-so-easy safari into Botswana in the hot season.

I’ve guided Dr. Les Fisher on at least a dozen safaris over the years, and we’ve been in some of the most remote parts of Africa, together.

As I recall this was his 5th “Last Safari Ever!” At 91 that’s hard to argue, but it was hard to argue at 90, too!

Stay tuned.

No More Grains of Rice

No More Grains of Rice

Susan Rice’s performance on the Sunday Talk Shows incorrectly explaining the Benghazi attacks is a perfect example of how she has historically allowed political considerations to trump more important foreign policy or human rights considerations in Africa.

She’s been acting like this for years. She seems incapable of intricate analysis and quiet diplomacy. She’s no engineer of foreign policy. She’s a cheerleader. Africans don’t like it. I don’t like it. Americans should not make her the Secretary of State.

Her list of failures in Africa is impressive: Blackhawk Down followed by the Rwandan genocide followed by the East African embassy bombings followed by the escalating instability of Darfur followed by the poorly created South Sudan and most recently, the mishandling of the growing violence in Kivu and Goma.

There are more, but these are the main ones.

Contrary to the Huffington Post that I usually love, there were plenty of warnings that the Kenyan embassy was going to be attacked in 1998.

An Egyptian agent, or double agent initially set up by the FBI gave warnings of the attack on East African embassies about nine months before it happened. The details were published long ago by the New York Times.

After years of further investigations, Frontline organized all the evidence in a way that was resounding proof that plenty of warning had been given, warning that had been ignored. At the time, Susan Rice was advising President Clinton on African affairs and had to have been involved in the decision (or lack of decision) to do something about the intelligence.

Today in Nairobi the “August 7 Memorial Park” stands as America’s remembrance of the bombing and in particular remembrance of the 238 Kenyans who were killed. I’ve visited the memorial often and it includes a short movie that also describes a workman who came into the embassy hours before the bombing and tried to warn everyone to leave, but who was ignored.

The memorial has had a website for years: memorialparkkenya.org. The URL is confirmed by Google. But the website no longer works… for some reason.

I was in Nairobi and heard the bomb go off. It is a day I will never forget, and I will never forget what I’ve learned about it, even if websites die.

But worse than the 1998 bombing was the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The U.S. and France are specifically responsible for having allowed the genocide to happen by their actions blocking the Security Council from sending in more peace-keeping troops as desperately requested by the Canadian General at the time.

France refused to increase peace-keeping because of a complex historical feud with Belgium and France’s blind support of the Hutu who at the time were plotting the genocide but had been seriously repressed by the existing Rwandan regime.

Clinton backed France because of his being burned by BlackHawk Down. It was a cowardly response, and one for which he has since apologized.

There is a wealth of literature on this. The two best are the movie “Hotel Rwanda“ and the book, “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families.”

According to a former President of GenocideWatch, Dr. Gregory Stanton of Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars:

“The U.S. government was forewarned of the impending genocide. Communications were sent by cable, e-mail, and secure telephone… [But] Policy makers in Washington, D.C., especially Anthony Lake, Dick Clarke and Susan Rice at the National Security Council… did not want the U.S. to get involved in another African “civil war.”

The decision to “not get involved” hooked America into a mind-boggling expensive refugee and human rights initiative, followed by billions for Rwanda aid that continues today. But beyond the expense, we’re talking of at least a million lives lost.

The guilt of supporting Rwanda is something Susan Rice knows deeply and is deeply entrenched in. As the DRC Congo/Goma crisis deepened this fall, she specifically in her capacity as UN ambassador engineered multiple softenings of European led initiatives to impose sanctions on Rwanda to restrain its wanton support of the turbulence there.

A few weeks ago, America began reversing this overly cautious policy. It was terribly wrong in the beginning and has certainly led to more violence than was necessary.

Perhaps the best example of Rice’s inability to perform more than a political role was her performance in The Sudan, including Darfur and the creation of South Sudan.

The secession of South Sudan from the greater Sudan is overall a diplomatic victory for the world and most certainly a good move for the citizens there. It took more than 20 years and involved a serious civil war that the U.S. was deeply involved in.

But the creation of the new state was poorly done. Two years after independence, South Sudan is still mired in military difficulties with the north in a modern way, and with several ethnic groups in ways reminiscent of William of Orange. The untold oil wealth is not being mined because of this instability and a refugee problem within the country has grown severe.

Rice must shoulder much of the blame. She consistently created PR moments, sound bites and veneers of western institutions neglecting the much more difficult and intricate process of creating social institutions.

At a critical juncture in the negotiations that were leading to the two-country solution in The Sudan, Rice actually organized a rally of blurry-eye Juba citizens hurriedly rounded up for something more akin to an American political rally.

As reported by Matthew Russell Lee of InterCity Press who was traveling with Rice at the time:

“‘Are you ready to protect your country?’ [Rice shouted to the small crowd.]
Yes!
‘Are you ready for independence?’
Yes! … Another diplomat … would later call it a “political rally” and deem Susan Rice’s organization of the Juba leg as inappropriate.”

Rice has never displayed the insight or vision of a Hillary Clinton. She is schooled in American bureaucracy where she has percolated through the ranks and become one of its best soldiers.

One of Obama’s most serious failings is his inability to freshen up government. Rice like Geithner and others in his close circle, are old boys/girls who have rarely lived on the outside. While you might say the same of Hillary Clinton, it could be that rising to the top as fast as she did insulated Hillary from the strictures of soldiering Rice has not liberated herself from.

I’ve come to believe that Obama chooses people like Rice and Geithner not completely from a lack of his own personal courage, but because he very deeply believes in the American government status quo. He eloquently describes government’s ups and downs, but he sees overall America as on the right path.

I’m more radical. I’d like a visionary who shakes up government and doesn’t rely exclusively on old people with old ideas to join him at the helm. Africa has changed so quickly and so radically in my lifetime, I don’t think someone schooled and processed through American bureaucracy for her entire life is how we as Americans should be represented to Africa.

“Susan Rice’s chances of succeeding Clinton as secretary of state look slim,” writes a respected South African analyst.

And he, and I, think that’s just the way it should be.

Rally Round the Rig, Boys!

Rally Round the Rig, Boys!

Chen Guangcheng overshadows a great diplomatic partnership between the U.S. and China succeeding right now in Sudan.

Yesterday in coordinated diplomacy that worked faster than a ping pong match, the U.S. moved a resolution through the United Nations Security Council that would impose harsh sanctions of both the North and South Sudan if they don’t meet certain goals in two weeks. With Chinese support.

Then China walked the resolution over to the African Union and asked them to deliver it as a reminder of a much older resolution passed by the African Union: North Sudan’s leader is under indictment from the World Court of the United Nations and since refuses to recognize the world body.

Then minutes later (and this is through a wizardry of time zones) the North “agreed in principle” with the mandates in the UN resolution.

This is no ordinary thing.

I’ve written several times in just the past week about the growing catastrophe in the Sudan as a poorly demarcated border between north and south that runs right through the oil fields erupted in war.

For one thing the U.S. – whose interests in South Sudan have been popularized as a George Clooney star movie — backed off as lead negotiator to let China figure it out better, and China did. The U.S. would never have found the time, the interest, or the politics to transport the idea through what it considers a weak and often corruptible African Union.

Many wince at the notion that diplomacy is so practical: It’s all about oil. We especially in America like to believe that goodness is simply an elongation of god, and that we pounded Iraq and Afghanistan and liberated Kuwait and got tangled up in Iran for any number of reasons except oil.

But remember it was that burrowing wolf hound Henry Kissinger who made mince meat of morality and elevated national “self-interest” above the Ten Commandments. And the criminal Richard Nixon was praised yesterday by Hillary Clinton for his overtures to China 40 years ago.

It’s called the Real World.

Yes, Chen should be given asylum in the U.S. Yes, China should reverse policies restricting human rights. Yes, the U.S. should stop lying about its motivations for wars in deserts where the population densities approach that of the arctic circle and day time highs outperform Roundup. And yes, the two should continue to work for harmony in the world.

Get the damn oil flowing in the Sudan, OK? Peace follows.

Partnership for Peace & Oil

Partnership for Peace & Oil

The time has come for China and the U.S. to become allies to stop the war in The Sudan and get oil pumping, again.

The U.S. must immediately nominate China as mediator in the North/South Sudan conflict with wide powers to demarcate borders. Yes it’s agonizingly obvious it’s all about oil, but China unlike the west has never pretended otherwise.

There is now a movement in Congress to implement this as a resolution urging the State Department to do exactly this. Tomorrow Hillary is in China. Unfortunately a Chinese dissident is dominating the issues, so this may not be the moment. But a moment we need.

Yesterday a Dutch journalist confirmed that very nearly all-out war had begun along the border areas. The North declared a State of Emergency which in Bashir-speak is a declaration of war.

This war was started by The South, the dandy of the west, and recently independent from the North. But in typical colonial style, the freedom the west engineered for the south from the north is incomplete and unworkable.

Throughout the last several centuries of western war, colonization then independence, the net effect of the west’s efforts have been to create weak and corruptible states with immature political systems. The recent Arab Spring and Twevolution is rectifying this for much of Africa, but it’s taken more than a half century.

Global events move too fast today to wait 50 years for the Sudans to become friends. China, the U.S. and the west need the oil sooner.

The Director of the World Peace Foundation, Alex de Waal, spelled it out brilliantly in a lecture to the Royal African Society in London as a simple two-step process which is laughingly obvious:

(1) Stop the fighting; and

(2) Adjudicate the borders, which are the oil fields.

But it was de Waal’s eloquent explanation that unlike so many other past conflicts these two imperatives are relatively easy and within reach of the world community.

He explained that there are plenty of UN and African Union troops on the group in South Sudan to stop the fighting and police a cease-fire. It would take minimal resolutions from both organizations to effect this policy. It could happen, tomorrow.

And I’m supplying the implementation of the second imperative: China.

Even as the conflict unfolds, the president of the South was in China accepting an $8 billion loan. And China is about the last friend on earth of the North.

The only obstacle to the above, really, is America. Obama has 100 green berets and support within a few hundred miles of the conflict zone, a rather poignant statement. But current Obama policy isn’t bad. The problem is the lingering militarism of America’s last 40 years.

The president Bushs’ singular expert on Africa, Jedaya Frazer, (who I praise by the way for her handling of the 2007 Kenyan turbulence) essentially argued recently to the Council on Foreign Relations that the North should be bombed out of existence.

Frazer has become the intellectual mouthpiece for the Right Wing. What she says is either what they believe or will. It’s a dangerous sign that once again polarized politics will wreck this otherwise slam dunk solution.

Frazer’s Bush’ pre-Obama militarism to be applied to every conflict in the world had lasting effects on many of our allies. Britain, for example, follows America’s lead on foreign policy and shifts less nimbly than we do ourselves.

But it’s time to bury the ideological hatchet. The west cannot afford another major war in the world any more than China can lose a drop of oil.

I see a real partnership, here.

Breakup Brokers need China

Breakup Brokers need China

Only China can stop the Sudanese war. This is the first great test of its diplomatic strength and savvy in Africa.

Last week South Sudan restarted a generation-old war with its former northern master, Sudan, by invading an oil field on the common border which remains disputed territory.

Five days later the South retreated having been whipped to smithereens by the North, and the North then began aerial bombardments of the South which continue today.

South Sudan’s invasion of the disputed oil field at Heglig was the height of abject stupidity. The young country, dandy of the west and George Clooney, is revealing a personality its supporters hadn’t expected: a militant immaturity.

What on earth led the idiots in the South to think they could whip the North, which for a generation had clobbered them from 500 miles away?!

According to a Reuters report today petrol pumps were running low last week in the South and the idiots in Juba decided they had to come up with an excuse to get more oil.

This was likely because the South is running out of foreign currency, a failing of its own fiscal management combined with the international community having not lived up to its donor obligations, including the United States.

But instead the South decided to use PoliWarSpeak and claimed it was because the oil fields on the 20% of the two territories which remain in dispute were being mismanaged or pilfered by the North. Clearly the only option left was to invade and get slaughtered.

The huge swath of rich oil territory which remains in dispute between the two countries is a festering wound of an incomplete breakup, governed essentially by international oil companies. But it was nonetheless producing oil.

And both countries were receiving some revenue, although drastically less than they could if the areas weren’t in dispute. Now oil production is stopped. Dead bodies litter the oil fields.

The western powers led by the United States brokered the breakup, then turned quiescent way too soon. The South has lost all faith in its original supporters.

So the President of the South went hat in hand to China two days ago.

China needs oil more than any other single political entity in the world, and it has warm relations with the North, unlike the western powers which are remembered mostly for sending missiles onto northern pharmacies under Clinton and removing the cash cow from the barn.

So it’s China’s move, and the poor giant is generally not wont to direct politics from afar, preferring a status quo in situ as the perfect state of life.

If it wants oil, it’s got to broker peace. Paradoxical historical imperative, eh?

Top Ten 2011 Africa Stories

Top Ten 2011 Africa Stories

Twevolution, the Arab Spring [by Twitter] is universally considered the most important story of the year, much less just in Africa. But I believe the Kenyan invasion of Somalia will have as lasting an effect on Africa, so I’ve considered them both Number One.

1A: KENYA INVADES SOMALIA
On October 18 Kenya invaded Somalia, where 4-5,000 of its troops remain today. Provoked by several kidnapings and other fighting in and around the rapidly growing refugee camp of Dadaab, the impression given at the time was that Kenyans had “just had enough” of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliated terrorism group in The Horn which at the time controlled approximately the southern third of Somalia. Later on, however, it became apparent that the invasion had been in the works for some time.

At the beginning of the invasion the Kenyan command announced its objective was the port city of Kismayo. To date that hasn’t happened. Aided by American drones and intelligence, and by French intelligence and naval warships, an assessment was made early on that the battle for Kismayo would be much harder than the Kenyans first assumed, and the strategy was reduced to laying siege.

That continues and remarkably, might be working. Call it what you will, but the Kenyan restraint managed to gain the support of a number of other African nations, and Kenya is now theoretically but a part of the larger African Union peacekeeping force which has been in Somali for 8 years. Moreover, the capital of Mogadishu has been pretty much secured, a task the previous peace keepers had been unable to do for 8 years.

The invasion costs Kenya dearly. The Kenyan shilling has lost about a third of its value, there are food shortages nationwide, about a half dozen terrorist attacks in retribution have occurred killing and wounding scores of people (2 in Nairobi city) and tourism – its principal source of foreign reserves – lingers around a third of what it would otherwise be had there be no invasion.

At first I considered this was just another failed “war against terrorism” albeit in this case the avowed terrorists controlled the country right next door. Moreover, I saw it as basically a proxy war by France and the U.S., which it may indeed be. But the Kenyan military restraint and the near unanimous support for the war at home, as well as the accumulation of individually marginal battle successes and outside support now coming to Kenya in assistance, all makes me wonder if once again Africans have shown us how to do it right.

That’s what makes this such an important story. The possibility that conventional military reaction to guerilla terrorism has learned a way to succeed, essentially displacing the great powers – the U.S. primarily – as the world’s best military strategists. There is as much hope in this statement as evidence, but both exist, and that alone raises this story to the top.

You may also wish to review Top al-Shabaab Leader Killed and Somali Professionals Flee as Refugees.

1B: TWEVOLUTION CHANGES EGYPT
The Egyptian uprising, unlike its Tunisian predecessor, ensured that no African government was immune to revolution, perhaps no government in the world. I called it Twevolution because especially in Egypt the moment-by-moment activities of the mass was definitely managed by Twitter.

And the particular connection to Kenya was fabulous, because the software that powered the Twitter, Facebook and other similar revolution managing tools came originally from Kenya.

Similar of course to Tunisia was the platform for any “software instructions” – the power of the people! And this in the face of the most unimaginable odds if you’re rating the brute physical force of the regime in power.

Egypt fell rather quickly and the aftermath was remarkably peaceful. Compared to the original demonstrations, later civil disobedience whether it was against the Coptics or the military, was actually quite small. So I found it particularly fascinating how world travelers reacted. Whereas tourist murders, kidnapings and muggings were common for the many years that Egypt experienced millions of visitors annually, tourists balked at coming now that such political acts against tourists no longer occurred, because the instigators were now a part of the political process! This despite incredible deals.

We wait with baited breath for the outcome in Syria, but less visible countries like Botswana and Malawi also experienced their own Twevolution. And I listed 11 dictators that I expected would ultimately fall because of the Egyptian revolution.

Like any major revolution, the path has been bumpy, the future not easily predicted. But I’m certain, for example, that the hard and often brutal tactics of the military who currently assumes the reins of state will ultimately be vindicated. And certainly this tumultuous African revolution if not the outright cause was an important factor in our own protests, like Occupy Wall Street.

3: NEW COUNTRY OF SOUTH SUDAN
The free election and emergence of South Sudan as Africa’s 54th country would have been the year’s top story if all that revolution hadn’t started further north! In the making for more than ten years, a remarkably successful diplomatic coup for the United States, this new western ally rich with natural resources was gingerly excised from of the west’s most notorious foes, The Sudan.

Even as Sudan’s president was being indicted for war crimes in Darfur, he ostensibly participated in the creation of this new entity. But because of the drama up north, the final act of the ultimate referendum in the South which set up the new republic produced no more news noise than a snap of the fingers.

Regrettably, with so much of the world’s attention focused elsewhere, the new country was hassled violently by its former parent to the north. We can only hope that this new country will forge a more humane path than its parent, and my greatest concern for Africa right now is that global attention to reigning in the brutal regime of the north will be directed elsewhere.

4: UGANDA FALTERS
Twevolution essentially effected every country in Africa in some way. Uganda’s strongman, Yoweri Museveni, looked in the early part of the last decade like he was in for life. Much was made about his attachment to American politicians on the right, and this right after he was Bill Clinton’s Africa doll child.

But even before Twevolution – or perhaps because of the same dynamics that first erupted in Tunisia and Egypt – Museveni’s opponents grew bold and his vicious suppression of their attempts to legitimately oust him from power ended with the most flawed election seen in East Africa since Independence.

But unlike in neighboring Kenya where a similar 2007 election caused nationwide turmoil and an ultimate power sharing agreement, Museveni simply jailed anyone who opposed him. At first this seemed to work but several months later the opposition resurfaced and it became apparent that the country was at a crossroads. Submit to the strongman or fight him.

Meanwhile, tourism sunk into near oblivion. And by mid-May I was predicting that Museveni was the new Mugabe and had successfully oppressed his country to his regime. But as it turned out it was a hiatus not a surrender and a month later demonstrations began, twice as strong as before. And it was sad, because they went on and on and on, and hundreds if not thousands of people were injured and jailed.

Finally towards the end of August a major demonstration seemed to alter the balance. And if it did so it was because Museveni simply wouldn’t believe what was happening.

I wish I could tell you the story continued to a happy ending, but it hasn’t, at least not yet. There is an uneasy calm in Ugandan society, one buoyed to some extent by a new voice in legislators that dares to criticize Museveni, that has begun a number of inquiries and with media that has even dared to suggest Museveni will be impeached. The U.S. deployment of 100 green berets in the country enroute the Central African Republic in October essentially seems to have actually raised Museveni’s popularity. So Uganda falters, and how it falls – either way – will dramatically alter the East African landscape for decades.

5: GLOBAL WARMING
This is a global phenomena, of course, but it is the developing world like so much of Africa which suffers the most and is least capable of dealing with it. The year began with incessant reporting by western media of droughts, then floods, in a confused misunderstanding of what global warming means.

It means both, just as in temperate climates it means colder and hotter. With statistics that questions the very name “Developed World,” America is reported to still have a third of its citizens disputing that global warming is even happening, and an even greater percentage who accept it is happening but believe man is not responsible either for it occurring or trying to change it. Even as clear and obvious events happen all around them.

Global warming is pretty simple to understand, so doubters’ only recourse is to make it much more confusing than it really is. And the most important reason that we must get everyone to understand and accept global warming, is we then must accept global responsibilities for doing something about it. I was incensed, for example, about how so much of the media described the droughts in Africa as fate when in fact they are a direct result of the developed world’s high carbon emissions.

And the news continued in a depressing way with the very bad (proponents call it “compromised”) outcome of the Durban climate talks. My take was that even the countries most effected, the developed world, were basically bought off from making a bigger stink.

Environmentalists will argue, understandably, that this is really the biggest story and will remain so until we all fry. The problem is that our lives are measured in the nano seconds of video games, and until we can embrace a long view of humanity and that our most fundamental role is to keep the world alive for those who come after us, it won’t even make the top ten for too much longer.

6: COLTAN WARS IMPEDED
This is a remarkable story that so little attention has been given. An obscure part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act essentially halved if not ultimately will end the wars in the eastern Congo which have been going on for decades.

These wars are very much like the fractional wars in Somalia before al-Shabaab began to consolidate its power, there. Numerous militias, certain ones predominant, but a series of fiefdoms up and down the eastern Congo. You can’t survive in this deepest jungle of interior Africa without money, and that money came from the sale of this area’s rich rare earth metals.

Tantalum, coltran more commonly said, is needed by virtually every cell phone, computer and communication device used today. And there are mines in the U.S. and Australia and elsewhere, but the deal came from the warlords in the eastern Congo. And Playbox masters, Sony, and computer wizards, Intel, bought illegally from these warlords because the price was right.

And that price funded guns, rape, pillaging and the destruction of the jungle. The Consumer Protection Agency, set up by the Dodd-Frank Act, now forbids these giants of technology from doing business in the U.S. unless they can prove they aren’t buying Coltran from the warlords. Done. War if not right now, soon over.

7: ELEPHANTS AND CITES
The semi-decade meeting of CITES occurred this March in Doha, Qatar, and the big fight of interest to me was over elephants. The two basic opposing positions on whether to downlist elephants from an endangered species hasn’t changed: those opposed to taking elephants off the list so that their body parts (ivory) could be traded believed that poaching was at bay, and that at least it was at bay in their country. South Africa has led this flank for years and has a compelling argument, since poaching of elephants is controlled in the south and the stockpiling of ivory, incapable of being sold, lessens the funds that might otherwise be available for wider conservation.

The east and most western countries like the U.S. and U.K. argue that while this may be true in the south, it isn’t at all true elsewhere on the continent, and that once a market is legal no matter from where, poaching will increase geometrically especially in the east where it is more difficult to control. I concur with this argument, although it is weakened by the fact that elephants are overpopulated in the east, now, and that there are no good strategic plans to do something about the increasing human/elephant conflicts, there.

But while the arguments didn’t change, the proponents themselves did. In a dramatic retreat from its East African colleagues, Tanzania sided with the south, and that put enormous strain on the negotiations. When evidence emerged that Tanzania was about the worst country in all of Africa to manage its poaching and that officials there were likely involved, the tide returned to normal and the convention voted to continue keeping elephants listed as an endangered species.

8: RHINO POACHING REACHES EXTREME LEVELS
For the first time in history, an animal product (ground rhino horn) became more expensive on illicit markets than gold.

Rhino, unlike elephant, is not doing well in the wild. It’s doing wonderfully in captivity and right next to the wild in many private reserves, but in the wild it’s too easy a take. This year’s elevation of the value of rhino horn resulted in unexpectedly high poaching, and some of it very high profile.

9: SERENGETI HIGHWAY STOPPED
This story isn’t all good, but mostly, because the Serengeti Highway project was shelved and that’s the important part. And to be sure, the success of stopping this untenable project was aided by a group called Serengeti Watch.

But after some extremely good and aggressive work, Serengeti Watch started to behave like Congress, more interested in keeping itself in place than doing the work it was intended to do. The first indication of this came when a Tanzanian government report in February, which on careful reading suggested the government was having second thoughts about the project, was identified but for some reason not carefully analyzed by Watch.

So while the highway is at least for the time being dead, Serengeti Watch which based on its original genesis should be as well, isn’t.

10: KENYAN TRANSFORMATION AND WORLD COURT
The ongoing and now seemingly endless transformation of Kenyan society and politics provoked by the widespread election violence of 2007, and which has led to a marvelous new constitution, is an ongoing top ten story for this year for sure. But more specifically, the acceptance of this new Kenyan society of the validity of the World Court has elevated the power of that controversial institution well beyond anyone’s expectations here in the west.

Following last year’s publication by the court of the principal accused of the crimes against humanity that fired the 2007 violence, it was widely expected that Kenya would simply ignore it. Not so. Politicians and current government officials of the highest profile, including the son of the founder of Kenya, dutifully traveled to The Hague to voluntarily participate in the global judicial process that ultimately has the power to incarcerate them.

The outcome, of course, remains to be seen and no telling what they’ll do if actually convicted. It’s very hard to imagine them all getting on an airplane in Nairobi to walk into a cell in Rotterdam.

But in a real switcheroo this travel to The Hague has even been spun by those accused as something positive and in fact might have boosted their political standing at home. And however it effects the specific accused, or Kenya society’s orientation to them, the main story is how it has validated a global institution’s political authority.

Calling the South Sudan Corrupt

Calling the South Sudan Corrupt

I am sick of westerners criticizing corruption in Africa, and recent reports from Africa’s 54th country, the new South Sudan, reveal how hypocritical, racist and just plain unfair corruption charges against Africa often are.

The new South Sudan is suddenly rich by most African standards, because of its ownership – yet to be fully defined – of Sudan’s rich oil fields. And temporarily, at least, it’s enjoying huge amounts of western aid to get itself going. So there’s a lot of cash, and there’s been a lot of cash for several years.

There are two main reasons that criticizing Africa for corruption is so wrong. First, the donor encourages corruption. Second, the donor is corrupt.

Giving money without strict accountability is lunacy, yet that is what most of the donor group in the South Sudan is doing, including the U.S. It has led to some nearly laughable acts of corruption. When a dirt poor economy is suddenly flooded with nonspecific money, expect the slime to start skimming.

Only Canada, among all the donor nations, has retained the foresight to insist on its aid going directly to the projects for which it was allocated. All other western countries, including the U.S., send cash – however specified – through the new government.

So Canada alone can obtain relatively good accountability of its aid.

The tradition of foreign aid being allocated for specific projects – like water treatment, for instance – but then being given to the recipient country rather than its water works directly, has a long history. Part of it is simplicity.

The U.S. gives South Sudan about $300 million every year, and the largest portion of this is composed of specific development projects. Last year, for example, there were dozens of specific projects mentioned in the aid grant.

To send this as smaller pieces to each of the projects is tedious. It also requires much more oversight, as Canada now does, as it more carefully evaluates each and every project. This is ideally the way to go, but that would take a greater staff in USAid than the U.S. Congress is willing to fund.

So while conservatives in Congress decry foreign aid for being corrupt, they are exactly the ones who make it so.

It would be much better to reduce the aid – as Canada has done – but insist on the separate project funding and accountability by using what was reduced to fund additional Canadian staff to oversee the funding.

Brilliant, but in America ideologically impossible. Can you imagine any reason – even if it saves money – that Congress would accept to increase the federal workforce?

Even worse, can you imagine the battles in Congress over whether to fund this water treatment plant in Juba, because corruption was discovered there, or oil field catering services further north, because Haliburton is involved?

For both the structural and ideological reasons that restrain America’s way of giving aid, most all of the donor countries behave similarly.

“O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!”

Second.

Corruption is a learned behavior. It happens to be remarkably anathema to virtually all subsistence economies and traditional societies. It is a modern, capitalistic phenomenon.

You’ve heard of Macmillan Publishers, haven’t you? Massive publishing company. Revenues mostly from school text books.

Monday, Macmillan agreed in a UK court that it had bribed (massively) South Sudan officials to get the country’s school text book market.

It would have been a lucrative deal. Donor nations had given the World Bank nearly $50 million to develop educational materials for the new nation, and Macmillan was bidding on the contract. Macmillan is now barred from working with donor agencies for … three years.

Three years?!! So, you mean, after three years they can bribe some more?

This stalwart of America academia is also under investigation, now, for its similar contracts in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, not your cleanest of countries.

Example Two.

East Africa’s aggressive blogger, Mark Jordahl, recently reported several corrupt land grabs occurring in the South Sudan, all instigated by donor nation companies.

In the brilliant blog,“South Sudan – a Subsidiary of Texas“, Jordahl reports how an American company bought a hunk of The Sudan equal in size to the state of Delaware for a questionable payment to a possibly fictitious cooperative of ….

…$25,000. About a penny an acre.

The company, well, it isn’t even a company. It’s a hedge fund without a website. And it now owns a 49-year lease on land in the South Sudan equal in size to the state in which it is legally incorporated.

Not a lot of corruption money, you say? No, it isn’t. And it all went to a fictitious cooperative of bribed Southern Sudanese who agreed to a revenue split of 60/40 on anything developed there.

Like oil.

These are just two examples, one outright corruption, the other mostly clever theft, begun by the westerners who decry the corruption of Africa.

It’s called calling the kettle black. And, by the way, it’s infectious.

There are legions more South Sudanese who want a corrupt-free society than the criminals who live there. But the west is rewarding criminals while neglecting the honest entrepreneur. Who’s really to blame?

Genocide in Sudan

Genocide in Sudan

Even as muscled optimism sweeps across Africa and the MiddleEast, I worry that dark history is repeating itself, that the 1994 world-ignored genocide in Rwanda is occurring right now – this very moment – in The Sudan.

The racist North Sudanese government has started a military ethnic cleansing of Nubian peoples in the North Sudan province of Kordofan. The scale is terrifying. And I don’t think any country in the world will stop it.

The North Sudanese are cleverly mining the world’s troubled situations to pursue their evil. Modern aerial bombardment of Nubian huts, modern weapon assassinations even of traditional unarmed women and children, has all the markings of a well-thought out plan of genocide.

Monday the New York Times characterized the fighting as a “rampage” but the way the Times has issued the reports has confused readers and I fear diluted Jeffrey Gettleman’s fantastic reporting.

Mostly by its headlines, but also by the way it has lined its stories on the web, The Times seems to have confused the fighting in North Sudan with the upcoming independence of South Sudan on July 9.

We should all be effected by the genocide now going on, and none more than the new neighbor country to The South, South Sudan. But the way The Times has streamed the story, one could believe that the south’s Independence in two weeks is in direct jeopardy. It isn’t.

The situation in South Sudan actually improved Monday, while the genocide in the North just revved up. Clearly it is the intention of the evil North Sudanese government to take advantage of this confusion.

So let me interrupt the horrible story of the horrible story in the North with a clear review and separation of these two conflicts:

    Conflict 1: SOUTH SUDAN

Monday, fighting between North and South Sudan forces and their supporting militias finally came to an end with a US-UN brokered ceasefire that will bring 4000 UN peacekeepers into Abyei.

Abyei is literally the spot on the map where huge portions of Sudanese oil comes from, and its sovereignty remains unresolved. It isn’t “on the border” between the two countries, “it is the border,” and both sides claim it.

For the time being, the South while not conceding Abyei has more or less retreated from the heavier presence of military and other North Sudanese officials, there. This is wise, or independence on July 9 really could be jeopardized.

But the South’s de facto concession to the North does not conform with the majority of the residents of Abyei or the workers in the oil fields, there, and it will most certainly return as an area of contention again and again. Once UN peacekeepers arrive this week oil production in Abyei could start up, again, and a prolonged status quo would favor the North’s claim to sovereignty there.

But southern officials recognize any movement whatever of the elephant in the china cabinet could wreck entirely their plans for independence in several weeks.

So for the time being, this conflict has ended. It has not gone away. But South Sudan will become independent on July 9 with a host of problems, but none that include fighting right now with The North.

    Conflict 2: NORTH SUDAN

But even as Abyei settles down if only temporarily, the North Sudan government began a bold if blazoned all-out genocidal war in Kordofan just to the north and east of Abyei, Monday. This is what the Times has been reporting so well, but with headlines and web streaming that confuse it with the South’s upcoming independence.

This conflict in Kordofan has all the markings of a Darfur and could even be worse. It might rival the world’s greatest failing of the last several decades, the unstopped genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

UN press reports estimate that refugees from South Kordofan’s capital Kadugli number 40,000, but the World Council of Churches reported that the number is actually 300,000.

These represent people who have successfully fled the massacre. Do your own math regarding those who didn’t.

The North Sudanese Army has prevented aid workers from reentering the area and has announced that it will shoot down U.N. helicopters that previously had been given permission to bring in humanitarian assistance.

Like President Clinton’s retreat from Blackhawk Down, which led to his timid and delayed entry into Bosnia and his totally abandoning Rwanda in 1994, President Obama is withdrawing forces from Afghanistan to appease a war weary world.

Protests from Syria to Libya seem to be losing steam as conflict presses so heavily on the world.

It is just the time The Joker has been waiting for.

No Yawn, but not a Scream Either

No Yawn, but not a Scream Either

Southern Sudan has voted to split from the North in a peaceful, fair election. Minor trouble was reported in the border regions, but all the players took it in stride. It was not and never should have been considered the moments before doomsday.

We have known for 5 years this would be peaceful. George Clooney, of course, didn’t. And that’s understandable. There just wasn’t enough drama to hold his audience.

Exact and official results will be announced in about 4 weeks, as planned. But one of the most reliable sources of news from Khartoum, the Sudan Tribune, published a photo today of Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, the north’s pivot man for the referendum, announcing to the press that the outcome was for succession.

There were dozens of foreign election observers, and every single one of them has validated the process “peaceful and credible.”

The south, which is much more open and transparent, is being polite to its soon-to-be discarded motherland, by not officially releasing the exact numbers until the north does.

But it is widely believed that over 60% of the qualifying plebiscite voted, and that nearly 70% of both the north and south will have voted for succession, perhaps as much as 95% of the voters in the south doing so.

About 50 people were killed during the week of voting, although not even these casualties in the now disputed Abyei oil-producing region can be linked directly to the referendum itself. It seems as I’ve written earlier that the dispute between two militias was actually about who would be allowed to vote in another referendum to be held in this region some time in the future.

Creating two countries out of one is not easy. “The Sudan” has been more or less in tact since 1899. The two sides have been unable to demarcate the actual border, precisely because they have been unable to apportion the rich oil reserves that exist there.

But The New York Times headline, “Roots of Bitterness in a Region Threaten Sudan’s Future” is just another over statement of the current situation, with little credit to the good reporting The Times has otherwise managed from the region. The conflict in Abyei is more akin to a gang war in Watts than a war between the U.S. and Mexico, which is how The Times and others are characterizing it.

Another problem will be the flood of new immigrants into the South, although even that has been steadily occurring for some time.

There are many more positive components of this whole process. Basically, a five-year transition has been on-going. When this peace deal was signed five years ago, separation at that point was a given.

And while Khartoum may ultimately fiddle the numbers to save what little face it can, there’s no doubt the north will validate the result. The important point here, really, is that this was predictable, as so many of us were saying again and again.

But the voices of the little people on the street mean less when the predicted outcome is good and peaceful.

Thank you, Jimmy Carter. And George, I love your movies.

Sudan Update: Going Well

Sudan Update: Going Well

Half way through the referendum election process, the birthing of South Sudan is going well. Folks are voting, militias are firing, and U.S. celebrities have egg on their faces. (Or should I say, posho on their jowls.)

There is fighting along the proposed border near the oil-rich Abyei oil fields, and this should not be discounted but it is not yet significant enough to alter the ongoing referendum and certainly doesn’t presage George Clooney’s warning that a new civil war is about to begin.

The irony at the moment is that the two militias involved, Abyei’s Dinka Ngoc tribe, and the alleged attackers, the Arab Misseriya militia, began fighting not to disrupt the referendum but over who will be allowed to vote in a planned but not yet scheduled future referendum into which country (north or south) the disputed Abyei region should be assimilated.

Right now, neither the Khartoum government or the SPLA (the south’s military) are involved, and UN Peacekeepers are rushing to the scene as mediators. Clooney’s claim has some validity, and that is that the Darfur genocide has been conducted by militias as well, and it’s true that Khartoum often carries out its dirty work through militias.

But it just hasn’t reached the scale of Darfur fighting, not yet. And unlike Darfur, serious fighting in the south before the cease-fire agreement five years ago was mostly between the two armies, not militias.

Perhaps the greatest controversy is whether the presence of George Clooney and his battalion of friends and additional celebrities is good or bad. Read my earlier blog about Clooney and South Sudan.

The excellent NPR reporter, Joshua Keating, wrote rather disparagingly about Clooney, yesterday. His piece is very much worth reading.

The NGOs on the scene are very critical of Clooney. I had to stop reading most of the blogs, because, in fact, they started to become rather juvenile, although Clooney’s made-for-movie macho response is just as bad.

My feeling is that in balance Clooney helps, although as I said in my earlier blogs, I’m very concerned why this is true, and I very much worry that celebritizing a conflict might emasculate its solution. Once it’s no longer glitter and stars, the world could pull back the long-term and methodical support required.

Clooney and friends are probably overdoing it, now. And it’s the height of irresponsibility to warn of a war that at the moment really doesn’t appear likely. At the moment, I hope for the foreseeable future, Clooney has egg on his face in this regards.

And fortunately, for the moment anyway, the greatest heat in the conflict zone seems to be from the overwrought satellites as Clooney & Co. compete with Agence-France Press and World Vision for their use.