Survival Suicide

Survival Suicide

Feel the epiphanous relationship of the disaster in The Sudan with Kaylin Gillis and Ralph Yarl.

It’s called destruction. It emerges from hate, love or some other intense emotion. Amplified by modern technology it grows exponentially, quickly fuses into cultural movements and governments like a Covid virus strangling our pulmonary cells. And then – always – it explodes into war.
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On The March

On The March

Western fixation with terrorism at the expense of poverty and basic human rights is finally coming home to roost in Africa.

New or reinvigorated democracies supported by the U.S. and France are imploding. Military coups are rearranging the rubble. A decade or so ago this would have represented serious political backwardness. But now it’s quite different. I’m surprised to find myself saying so, but these military coups look a lot better than the regimes they’re toppling.
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Sudden Sudan

Sudden Sudan

A few days ago in New York I sat down with someone deeply involved in The Sudan’s American diaspora, and I was stopped in my tracks when he affirmed with facile certainty that the diaspora thinks the current revolution will succeed.

But what do you think he said when I asked him to predict if Trump would be defeated next year?

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Peace Putsch

Peace Putsch

A moment of peace in a world of war. The Nobel Peace Prize correctly heralds the young democratic Ethiopian leader, Abiy Ahmed Ali, for his efforts “to achieve peace and international cooperation, [specifically] to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”

But forgive my refrain, the absence of western diplomacy from “Trump” risks obliterating all the good that’s been done.

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A New Human Spring

A New Human Spring

Elections, 0. Popular Uprisings, 3 (or more). Are we experiencing a new Arab Spring? Or better, a new Human Spring?

Popular uprisings in The Sudan, Algeria and South Africa are creating governments that align with the will of the people. Elections in the UK failed to achieve Brexit and so misconstrued the will of the Britts that it’s comic. Elections in the U.S. were called not by a majority vote; so they were never democratic to begin with. Elections in Israel reaffirmed the power of one of the vilest men ever to run a country. Democracy as it’s been known for a century or more is failing. Street protests, especially in Africa, are succeeding.

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#2 Cold Wind Blows

#2 Cold Wind Blows

Many Africans view 2018 positively, a time when autocratic leaders solidified power and stability increased. For many African conservatives it was a good year.

It was not a good year for African liberals, human rights activists, members of the LGBT community, women or those who champion democracy. Rightists celebrated; leftists wept.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.