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December 29, 2003
Zimbabwe Crisis Continues to Grow
The cattle of Zimbabwe used to provide food not only for the nation, but for the entire region. Now, with was is, essentially, the complete collapse of the economy and the dire need for food aid, the cattle are dwindling.
That estimate of 620% inflation is suspect as it is Zimbabwe's government's internal estimation. The real rate, according to observers, is already likely over 700%. While the economic issues have become frighteningly large over the last few years, the fact is that this is an economic implosion that is the result of decades of poor policy, cronyism, and mismanagement. That the complete collapse of the nation has accelerated over these last few years, though, is terrifying.
It isn't too hard to imagine Mugabe facing armed resistance by the end of next year. His opponents will be both Ndebele activists (who have grown tired of seeing all of Zimbabwe's real power in Shona hands) and those who, regardless of tribal affiliation, have grown weary of sham elections, corruption, and a defiant leader who continues hoard power and the nation's dwindling wealth.
Whatever level of (or lack of) assistance or intervention you believe should be coming from international sources, there should be no surprise when Zimbabwe completely fails in the near future.
Frankly, this could be very similar to watching a car wreck: we see the reasons, we see the direction, and we even have a fairly clear idea of what might result from the crash. We also may have already passed any point where stopping that wreck is even possible. I still believe, as I have explained elsewhere, that the US, the UN, and South Africa should be taking action to avert the coming disaster. I also believe that we are very near that point where no assistance can stop Zimbabwe's collapse; soon, all that will be left to do is watch, try to minimize the damage, and wait for an opportunity to help begin the rebuilding process.
A More Useful Aid
The form that aid takes ranges from food donations and debt reduction to AIDs drugs and industrial equipment. And, of course, cows.
USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) funded the donation of 503 "gift cows" to poor families in Rwanda. The gift program was designed to help give poor families both a source of milk and a source of income.
This kind of program--one that aids families in a more direct manner and provides an ongoing source of assistance--is the kind of thing that should be explored more throughout Africa. African aid needs to be viewed bottom up--that is, treating the source of problems, not the fallout.
A nice story and an intriguing model for direct aid--not incidentally, aid that bypasses government siphons.
December 22, 2003
The government of South Africa is working hard to spin this statement by President Mbeki.
Mbeki's spokesmen responded to the predictable fallout by saying, essentially, that Mbeki didn't really mean any of what he said, but was simply playing nice in hopes that Mugabe would welcome a closer relationship with South Africa and consider making suggested reforms.
There are two ways to look at it: either Mbeki really didn't mean what he said or Mbeki really does, like some other African leaders, see something noble in Mugabe's continued arrogance. If Mbeki didn't mean the words, then his tactic was foolish and, unsurprisingly, led to attacks from critics. If, on the other hand, he does find something admirable about Zimbabwe's leadership, then the problem is far deeper.
Either way, it's hard to see this as positive.
December 16, 2003
Hiding the Truth
In Rwanda, survivors and witnesses to the attempted genocide of 1994, are being systematically harassed and killed.
In a country where 800,000 died in racial purges, finding a way to mete out justice is not just in Rwanda's best interest, but in the UN's interest as well. The UN was founded partially as a need to avert just this kind of racial violence and should be taking a direct interest in facilitating the regional "gacaca" courts to, hopefully, ensure fair trials and protection for survivors.
While it took only 100 days to kill those 800,000, it's ending up taking years to try the suspects in the killings. According to the article, around 100,000 are still awaiting trial. That it's taking so long to try the suspects is not necessarily a bad thing--it may indicate a serious attitude towards trials. That it's allowing time for survivors and witnesses to be bullied and killed is, however, unacceptable.
The UN role in setting up international tribunals for those who had the most responsibility in the purges is fine. Unfortunately, hampered by the Rwanda's reluctance to assist, the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) doesn't even foresee a completion of its own trials (of some 82 mostly government and military officials) for charges of genocide until 2008. The report from the International Crisis Group is grim.
Rwanda is proving to be unreliable and, most certainly, "unable to carry [the trials] out satisfactorily." The UN needs, at this point, to take a much stronger line with the government and step in where necessary. It is best for Rwanda if the situation is handled by their government; what is not acceptable, though, is the thought that those guilty may escape justice by committing further acts of violence.
While the ICTR is overburdened, the UN cannot escape the responsibilities that it has as the international organization overseeing the events in Rwanda.
December 15, 2003
Liberia's New Big Problem
Something about this makes me smile.
Hopefully, the disarmament continues to go well. This is certainly a positive response from people who would probably like to get back to the business of living.
December 12, 2003
It seems so rare to run into anything that might resemble good news in most of Africa, that it's nice to see a good sign in an area that was, until recently, embroiled in civil war.
As I said, good newsl. Hopefully this can be nurtured into something lasting.
December 09, 2003
I've spent some time updating the blogroll today, I've finished the CIA Factbook links, and now I have a few other little details to flesh out (like a final statement of purpose and submissions guidelines).
This would be a great time to comment if you:
One of the nice things about the Wizbang blog awards has been the increase in traffic. A good portion of that traffic is simply stopping here to look at the layout, but some of you have stuck around to read the articles. Thanks very much for that.
December 08, 2003
Zimbabwe Quits Commonwealth (Updated)
Mugabe seems to be moving Zimbabwe further toward isolation from the international community. While the IMF is moving to expel Zimbabwe from the organization, Mugabe has refused to take steps to fix the economic issues that are quickly pulling the country to a complete collapse. Likewise, with the Commonwealth extending a suspension on Zimbabwe, as a Reuters report notes, "on grounds that President Robert Mugabe rigged his re-election and persecuted his opponents," Mugabe is refusing to take steps to liberalize and legitimize his rule. Instead, he's claiming racism within the Commonwealth and withdrawing Zimbabwe from the ranks of the organization.
This continued move from Mugabe to isolate Zimbabwe not only damages his reputation, but means a loss of aid that might have saved lives and helped rebuild the country's economy. Instead, Mugabe seems to be taking steps that almost guaranty a complete economic collapse and make a civil war even more likely.
From my childhood, I remember Rhodesia as a shining, beautiful country. I remember how beautiful and ideal it seemed. Of course, that memory is filtered by the years and by a child's understanding; even then there was political turmoil and racial inequity that I wasn't equipped to understand. Still, after independence, Zimbabwe could have been something special.
It was always my dream to be able to go back one day and find a place in that country. Watching the nation slipping into a self-destruction that likely cannot be healed within my lifetime is like watching a dream die.
Updated: Mostly Africa has a nice roundup of thoughts on the subject well worth reading.
December 07, 2003
This entry will grow with links to the CIA Factbooks on African nations and other links as I find them. Please be patient as I work to get all of these links in place. If you find that any of the links are not working, please feel free to email me to let me know.
Once it has been completed, it will be linked permanently on the side bar as a reference tool for interested parties.
CIA Factbook Links
December 05, 2003
Poverty in Angola
Walter in Denver has some quick thoughts on poverty in Angola that are worth the time to read and consider.
This is why building up African nations is no simple task of throwing money at the governments to distribute. Nope, the problems are larger than that: education, health care, industry, infrastructure, tribalism, and political structures are all poorly developed. Of course, there's also a good portion of the entire continent starving, agriculture as a lost science in many nations, and industries that used to thrive fallen since the technical know-how to maintain them left with the imperial powers.
Read the rest of what Walter has to say. Then follow the links to more interesting commentary.
December 04, 2003
Words Come Hard...
Queen Elizabeth's trip to Nigeria included an interesting little stop:
I understand the security concerns, I truly do, but still...
December 03, 2003
Infecting Her Neighbors
African nations ignore the plight of their neighbors at their own peril. This is precisely why the health of Zimbabwe matters not only to her own citizens.
If a civil war breaks out, neighboring nations can count on two things: more citizens fleeing Zimbabwe and rebel forces launching attacks from camps beyond Zimbabwe's borders.
They Should Count Themselves Lucky
For promoting racial violence, for encouraging mad crowds to kill, for listing the names and locations of those that they wanted dead, three people were sentenced to jail terms in Rwanda. My opposition to the death penalty simply doesn't extend to this kind of crime; there is no punishment that could possibly be enough to heal the wounds that they caused.
Yes, they should count themselves lucky that they continue to breathe. That is far more than they deserve.
December 01, 2003
World AIDS Day
Here in the US, we continue to make noise about the horror of AIDS and continue to search for a cure to the disease. Most of us, though, live sheltered from the true horror of AIDS running wildly through a society with few checks and almost no chance of even the medicated survival that we have here.
In the US, HIV infection is something that can be lived with and controlled over a long period of time. The effects can still be devastating, but those infected are leading longer and healthier lives. Throughout Africa, that isn't the case.
I'm not one who thinks that the entirety of our GDP should be leveraged to find a cure or to fund poor countries. I think that the money being spent and the money that has been promised are appropriate. Throwing more money at a problem doesn't always solve it--time and the hard work of relief workers and doctors, hopefully, will.
Still, I think it's important to look at the cost--and the faces of the afflicted--to understand why it's so important to keep up the fight and the search for a cure.
The Scotsman Magazine has an article today that fills that purpose.
I remember when AIDS was first being understood here in the states. The fear over methods of transmission and the incredible lethality of the disease were overwhelming. We believed that AIDS was on a path to utterly ravage our population. It didn't quite happen that way.
While AIDS has taken its toll here in the states, it hasn't been the plague that we thought it was going to be. Aggressive education for prevention and treatment helped contain the spread and to make infection less deadly. Sub-Saharan Africa, though, has seen almost precisely what the rest of us feared we would face. That doesn't make it a uniquely African problem, though.
The effect that AIDS has on African nations--in the decreased economic output, the overstressed (and already minimal) health facilities, and the contribution to political instability--effects us here in the West, as well. As we try to help African nations overcome poverty, political churn, and a sore lack of education, our work is undermined by the continued attack of AIDS.
There is certainly a cap on the amount that can be spend on one problem in hopes of solving a puzzle--especially when the world still faces other medical crises. But the money we see spent to combat and prevent AIDS is not wasted; it is going to a good fight that will hopefully see a cure to this most horrible disease.