NYT’s lazy, content-free reporting on Algeria

Today’s New York Times carried an article reported from the Algerian capital, Algiers, by staff reporter Aida Alami. What a waste of a reporting opportunity! This was the first time an NYT correspondent had been writing from inside this important North African country for a long time. Previous NYT pieces about Algeria were one on March 1 on some serious antifracking protests in the south, reported by Carlotta Gall from who knows where (no dateline given, and no sourcing for what she wrote, either); and an AP story from last December 20 about Algeria feeling the effects of the oil price collapse… So clearly, for Ms. Alami to get into Algeria was a major opportunity for some good, well-informed, on-the-ground reporting.

She flubbed it.

Her article is headlined “In Algeria, Entrepreneurs Hope Falling Oil Prices Will Spur Innovation”. It consists almost entirely of interviews with two Algerian guys aged 30 and 38 who founded a PR company in the capital, Algiers, and recently (last February) organized a conference on “innovation” and “success”, under the rubric “Fikra” (Thought). The other named source is someone described as a senior analyst at the political-risk research firm Eurasia; but his location is not disclosed, so it’s likely that Alami spoke to him outside Algeria.

Does Ms. Alami provide us with any flavor of what life is like in today’s Algiers? None at all! As it happens, I was in the country for most of this past week, and in Algiers itself for most of that period. I could tell you about the bustling downtown pedestrian zones, the busy port operations, the stifling traffic jams, the tens of thousands of students at the capital city’s three massive universities, the construction zones (often completely Chinese-staffed and -run) all around the city, the bookstores and restaurants, the well-cleaned streets often with beautiful streetside plantings, etc etc. You get no sense of the city or the lives of its people whatsoever from Ms. Alami’s thin and ill-reported piece.

But the piece is far worse than actually ill-reported. It is massively misreported, including in the following ways:

(1) Ms. Alami writes:

Since [the] French colonial era ended in the early 1960s after a bloody war, Algeria has been relatively closed to the world culturally, politically and economically.

This is absolute nonsense– and is belied by the little bios she provides for the two entrepreneurs she talked to. Of one, she says he “travels between Nice, in France, where he has another company” (though she doesn’t name the other place where he travels between, I assume it’s Algiers.) Of the other, she says he was educated at King’s College, London…

One of the the things I did in Algeria this past week was attend an international conference of librarians, who came to the east-Algerian city of Constantine from many parts of the world. Now, it is true that a handful of foreign participants in our conference– as Ms. Alami also reported of February’s Fikra conference– did not get their visas in time to attend. But organizers of my conference said that at least one participant had been refused permission to come to Algeria by her employer, a major research institute in France… Go figure.

Culturally, Algeria has produced numerous fine writers renowned throughout (mainly) the French-speaking world; a unique, indigenous form of hip-hop-fusion music called rai that resounds throughout the whole Mediterranean, and further afield; and numerous world-class soccer players…

The Algerian economy is, as Ms. Alami notes, fueled in a major way by exports of hydrocarbons. This is not at all a country that is “closed to the world economically”!

Plus, the way she writes that sentence makes it seem as if, under French colonial rule, everyone in the country had full and wonderful access to the world outside. Totally not true. French colonial rule, like colonial rule everywhere in the world, involved the maintenance of heavy restrictions on the ability of the indigenous people to maintain relations with the rest of the world– or even, under France’s notorious system of “quadrillage“, with compatriots in other districts.

Now, it is true that the rulers of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria have had no incentive or desire to embrace integration with the neoliberal, US-led wing of the world economy. But that doesn’t mean it is isolated from the rest of it, at all. (And actually, I believe a lot of Algeria’s natural-gas exports are shipped to the U.S.; plus, a lot of U.S. firms are involved in various hydrocarbon exploration and extraction operations throughout the country– including Halliburton, which was doing the highly contested fracking there.)

(2) Since Ms. Alami’s visit to Algeria is/was such a rarity in the NYT’s reporting, she also definitely owes it to readers to try to describe the country’s tough geostrategic and geopolitical position more fully.

She writes:

The political system has been dominated since independence by one party, the National Liberation Front, while the economy has been choked by cronyism, insider dealing and anticompetitive regulations.

Algeria had its version of the Arab Spring in the 1980s amid another collapse in oil prices. In 1991, the army canceled elections after an initial round was won by Islamists, sparking a decade of civil war and terrorism that killed tens of thousands. Then, military leaders imposed a state of emergency that was lifted only in 2011.

What she does not write is that Algeria, population nearly 40 million, has two deeply troubled neighbors with whom it shares very long, hard-to-police borders. These are Libya and Mali. (A map should have been provided, to show this.) Given the proliferation of terrifyingly well-armed, extreme-Islamist militias in both those countries, today’s Algeria is in a very tough position indeed.

Add to that the fact that the country’s ageing, military-backed President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is apparently in a very vulnerable (and not clearly known) health situation with no clear mechanism in sight for organizing a succession… and the country’s politics actually seem much, much more important than the issue Ms. Alami chose to write about: whether two young-ish Algerian entrepreneurs are able to make a go of their PR company or not.

Back in early 2011, Algeria was just one of the many African Union countries that argued strongly against NATO’s use of any force against Libya. In the days leading up to the highly ill-advised NATO bombing of Libya, an African Union mission was actually in Libya, trying desperately to mediate a ceasefire between Col. Qadhafi and the Libyan opposition forces. But France, Britain, and their friends in the Obama White House were determined to go ahead with their bombing of Qadhafi’s forces, which they carried out under the (oh-so-mendaciously misapplied) excuse of a “humanitarian” intervention… And we have all seen what has become of Libya since then.

So nobody in the “west” listened to the anti-war arguments being made by the African Union governments, back in 2011. Today, now that Algeria is de facto and in practice a strong bulwark against any further spread of Al Qaeda and its affiliates in the region, people in the “west” should certainly be eager to learn a lot more about the country’s situation. This, they won’t do by reading silly, inconsequential, and unthinkingly orientialist reporting like that of Ms. Alami.

Algiers bookstore  Algiers Bay

In Algiers: Book Fair and Colloquium

I’m writing this on a plane, at the end of a four-day visit to Algiers… In Algiers I was participating in a big international Colloquium on the Arab Spring organized in conjunction with the ‘Salon Internationale du Livre d’Alger’ (SILA– the Algiers Book Fair.) It was really interesting to return to Algeria. I hadn’t been there since 1989; in the interim, the country passed through a truly terrible, lengthy civil war that lasted throughout most of the 1990s and was laced with repeated atrocities, committed by both sides: both the very secular government and the ferocious Islamist opposition. In 1998, at the end of what Algerians today refer to as “the Black Decade”, the government finally won.
On Friday morning, participants in the Colloquium were taken on a tour of the city’s historic Casbah, the labrynthine, historic area of four- and five-story dwellings that clings to a steep hillside in the center of the capital city. Yes, we walked right by the (under-reconstruction) house in which famed national-liberation activist “Ali La Pointe” was entombed along with two other militants, when the French colonial powers blew up the house during the national liberation war, as memorialized in “The Battle of Algiers”. And that night we dined with Madame Zohra Bitat, one of the liberation heroines who figured in the war (and in the movie), who is now Vice-President of the country’s Senate…
When we toured the Casbah our guide told us that for several years up until 1998, the country’s security forces were unable to go into it, so strongly did the Islamists control it. That’s how grave and present the threat was, that the regime felt itself under.
It is notable to me, during the present Arab Spring, that the Arab countries that have experienced grave internal conflict in the past 15 years have not witnessed the kind of mass pro-democracy movements that marked the Arab Spring. We didn’t discuss that phenomenon very much during the colloquium. But we did have a very rich discussion of, in particular, developments in Egypt and Tunisia. There were some excellent analysts– and analyst-participants– from those countries, from several other Arab countries, from the U.K., U.S., Turkey, etc., who also participated. I believe the organizers are hoping to publish some kind of a ‘proceedings’ volume from the gathering. (At which point, you can read the presentation I gave on the reactions of the Anglo-Saxon media to the Arab Spring. A shortened version is here.)

Continue reading “In Algiers: Book Fair and Colloquium”

U.K. government forced to open end-of-empire files

Great news from London, that a landmark court case by elderly Kenyan freedom fighters has now forced the Foreign Office to confess that they have suddenly “found” what are described as “around 8,800 files relating to 37 former British administrations — including those in Palestine, Cyprus, Malaya, Nigeria and Northern Rhodesia”, dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, and that “most of them” will be made public.
(If “Palestine” is among them, that means they must include the 1940s, too, no?)
Hat-tip to Laleh Khalili, by the way. Over on Facebook one of Laleh’s other commenters and I both identified this as a sort of time-warped Wikileaks trove.
That article by AP says,

    Foreign Office minister David Howell said the search for the Mau Mau documents had uncovered around 2,000 boxes of files from the 1950s and 1960s which the office has “decided to regularize.”
    Howell said in a statement to lawmakers in Britain’s upper house on Tuesday that although colonial administrators left behind most of their papers after independence, they took certain files “not appropriate to hand onto the successor government” back to Britain.

I don’t like that word “regularize”. It smacks to me of “sanitizing.”
The article includes this:

    The British government will face its first test on whether these new files can be used against it on Thursday, when the four Kenyans — Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara — will argue that they were severely beaten and tortured by officers on behalf of the British government trying to suppress the Mau Mau uprising. Two of them have claimed they were castrated.
    The Kenya Human Rights Commission believes 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown against the Mau Mau and 160,000 were detained in appalling conditions. Among those detained was President Barack Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama.
    All sides declined to reveal detailed contents of the papers ahead of the court case Thursday, but [Oxford University historian David] Anderson said the documents may show evidence that people in all parts of the British government knew that captured Mau Mau fighters were being tortured.
    “I’ve heard British officials say that all the abuse was carried out by junior officials, a few bad apples,” said Anderson, whose book “Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the end of Empire” investigates the Mau Mau uprising.
    “These documents are critical — we must hope they will reveal who did or did not know about what was going on.”

Moreno-Ocampo and the future of the ICC

The International Criminal Court started its work in 2002 with great fanfare and expectations. The hopes of its many supporters around the world (but concentrated particularly in rich western countries) was that this new court could bring a new day of “accountability” to the perpetrators of some of the most heinous mass crimes of our day.
Sadly, those hopes have not been realized. And not just because of the complete inability of the ICC to even start grappling with Pres. Bush’s perpetration of a monstrous Crime Against the Peace in 2003, and his administration’s perpetration of numerous serious war crimes subsequent to that big original crime.
But beyond that big lacuna, the way the ICC itself has gone about its business since 2002 has also been deeply, perhaps fatally, flawed… And one person who has certainly contributed to these mistakes has been the Chief Prosecutor, Argentina’s Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
Tragically, one of the main problems for this court that was meant to usher in this new era of “accountability” has been that the degree to which the court’s own major organs are– or even, can be– held accountable to the public they purport to serve is extremely limited; or, almost non-existent.

Continue reading “Moreno-Ocampo and the future of the ICC”

Progress in untying the ICC-Northern Uganda knot?

Are Uganda’s talented people about to unlock the riddle of “peace versus justice” that has confounded so many other peoples around the world in recent times?
As long-time JWN readers are aware, I have a longstanding interest in the complex intersection between working for peace and working for ‘justice’, however the latter might be defined. (Hint: In my view, it is not co-terminous with “the orderly working of a western-style criminal court,” shocking as that thought might seem to some readers.)
Two years ago, I spent a little time in Uganda, trying to learn about the complex interaction there between the workings of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), which then had five arrest warrants outstanding against Ugandan citizens who were in the leadership of the long-standing Lord’s Resistance Army movement, and the peace process the Government of Uganda had been pursuing with– yes– exactly that same leadership of the LRA.
The ICC’s actions had caused the peace process to freeze in place, since LRA Joseph Kony and his colleagues feared that if they left “the bush”, that is, the inaccessible areas of northeastern DRC where they and their remaining fighters were hiding out, and came forward to complete the negotiation, then they would be arrested and whisked off to The Hague.
I did some interviews with members of the ethnic group most affected by the continuing insurgency, the Acholi. The vast majority of their numbers had by then been shut by the government into vast sprawling encampments described by the government and the “international community” as “IDP camps”, but which could more accurately be described as strategic hamlets or concentration camps. You can read some of my reporting from that trip, and from the interviews I had done immediately beforehand with ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, here.
Bottom line: The vast majority of the Acholi people seemed clearly to want to have the peace settlement with the LRA concluded, including by getting Kony “out of the bush” and bringing him back to be reintegrated in some way into civilian society.
That was two years ago. Moreno-Ocampo had a number of ways he could have withdrawn or suspended his indictments, but he chose not to pursue those paths. Of course, he was not living in a concentration camp for all that time.
Fast forward to today. Numerous Acholi community leaders have been working hard, along with representatives of both the government of Uganda and the LRA leadership to try to find a way to integrate into the country’s national legal system provisions of the Acholi traditional conflict-resolution mechanisms that would allow the reintegration of the vast majority of LRA people into their home communities in the context of the Final Peace Agreement, the return of the IDP/concentraion camp residents to their ancestral homes and lands, and the submission of Kony and his high-level colleagues to some form of national-level judicial process. This would get Ocampo and the ICC off all their backs, since the ICC is supposed to be subsidiary to national-level justice efforts.
In May, the excellent, Kampala-based Justice and Reconciliation Project held a very important workshop in Kampala, with high-level representatives of both the government and the LRA taking part, at which the questions around how exactly these accountability and reconciliation processes might be designed to work together in the interests of allowing the peace to proceed. The good people at the JRP recently put the Final Report of that workshop up onto their website. I found it a little hard to get the link to the actual report. But if you go to their website’s front-page, you can currently click there on the link that says “On Accountability: Agreement III, Juba Peace Talks,” and that will take you to it.
I regret I don’t have time right now to write out most of the comments I have on the report, which I read about a week ago. Suffice it to say, for now, that I think the JRP did a great job in convening the workshop, which looks as if it resolved numerous really important questions, including about the the relationship between the newly formed “Special Division” of the Ugandan judiciary and the ICC. (There will be none.)
I hope I can write some more about this later. But since the Uganda case is so very important in the whole, rather sad history of the ICC to date, I wanted to make sure this report gets the attention it deserves. Maybe some of you who have more time available than I do, or who have knowledge of the whole issue that’s more up-to-date than mine, can chime in here with some comments and move the discussion along a bit further.

Kenya: Life, death, and unknowing when things fall apart

If you want to know what actually happens in communities that get caught up in a paroxysm of inter-group violence, and what it feels like to live in such a community, go over to the Kenyan Peacework blog today and read this post from Dave Zarembka, a US Quaker who lives with his Kenyan Quaker wife Gladys in Kipkarren River, in western Kenya.
All of Dave’s emails about the violence that has swept Kenya since the deeply contested January 27 election have been posted on the KP blog (which I earlier wrote about here), and are worth reading. In this one he writes, in particular, about the role played in fomenting the climate of violence– and the commission of actual acts of horrendous violence– by the rapid spreading of fear-inducing rumors and the parallel spreading of great clouds of unknowing.
He gives several examples of this, and reports several things that have been happening in his town in the past couple of days. Including this:

    In Chekalini, the area where Florence lives, the high school is now the internally displaced person’s camp for about 1000 Luhya who have fled the violence in Nakuru and Naivasha. Like the Kikuyu IDP’s here, they have lost everything. More are coming all the time as they are being forced out of Central Province as being non-Kikuyu. So soon we are having another humanitarian disaster. A man stopped me on the road during my morning walk through town and said that it was not fair that the Kikuyu were getting relief and the others were not. At that time I did not understand since I did not know that so many internal refugees had showed up in Lugari. Lugari is the closest Luhya District on the main road through Eldoret so I suspect that many of these people will stop here.
    None of this, of course, is reported by the media since no one has reporters of any kind in the area. Are those who have died in Lugari District accounted for in the national total which
    is now officially 850? I doubt that many of them are. There are hundreds and hundreds of little places like Lumakanda, Turbo, and Kipkarren River. What is the real truth of what is happening in all these communities?

He ends with this:

    So truth, the reality of what actually is happening around you is difficult to grasp because all those normal markers you have about your surroundings are suspect. It is so easy to be “sucked in” by rumors. And yet to understand the dangers around you, you have to listen to others.

Dave is an incredibly fearless guy and a valuable witness for us all there. He reports that another US Quaker, Eden Grace, has been evacuated from Kisumu to Nairobi with her family, but he himself seems thus far intent on staying where he is.
Send Dave and Gladys a thought or a prayer. Read (and perhaps send your comments to) that blog post there at KP. Circulate that post or other KP posts to all your friends who might be interested. And do whatever you can, wherever you are, to urge your government to work with Kenya’s people to restore calm, security, and hope to a country now bleeding badly from this internal violence.

Kenya: violence, nonviolence, moral authority

I’ve been watching the news of this week’s violence in Kenya with huge concern. Many of the news reports speak of horrors similar to those experienced in eruptions of mass inter-group violence anywhere in the world. Particularly terrifying: the reports of people who were previously good neighbors and close personal friends to each other suddenly becoming polarized into violence and hatred along the lines of some supposedly “essential” difference. This kind of sudden, hate-filled fanaticism can overtake any communities, our own included.
How to guard against it? By continuously teaching and re-teaching the value of all human lives, and trying to live out that commitment; by calming fears; by using all the moral authority anyone can muster in order to call for nonviolence, de-escalation, and the peaceable resolution of outstanding conflicts.
I have noted, regarding the present post-election violence in Kenya, that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was much, much faster off the mark– by a matter of days– than anyone in the Bush administration in exercising the kind of moral leadership that Kenya’s citizens and parties so sorely need to hear.
Yesterday, Condi Rice did finally get around to issuing a statement— jointly with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband– that included a call for a cessation of violence and noted that there had been “independent reports of serious irregularities in the counting process” in the country’s recent elections.
However, that statement came an agonizing five days after Rice, in the immediate aftermath of the heavily disputed December 27 election, had rushed to congratulate former President Mwai Kibaki on his electoral “victory.” That, even as election monitors from the EU and possibly also from US-based organizations were raising enormous doubts about the integrity of the election.
Rice’s moral authority was considerably compromised by that. (Of course, the administration for which she works also bears the burden of having grabbed the election of 2000 by some very questionable means.)
How wonderful, therefore, that yesterday, presidential candidate Barack Obama— the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother– issued his own call for a peaceful resolution of the controversies that divide Kenyans. (Other Democratic candidates hurried to follow suit.)
Meanwhile, this AP report says that the State department is now steadfastly refusing to reiterate its earlier endorsements of Kibaki’s claimed victory.
I should note here that Kenya also has the largest group of Quakers any country in the world. I imagine they are also adding their weight to the calls for de-escalation, dialogue, and trust restoration in the country. (If anyone can find any news about the peacebuilding activities of Quakers or other faith groups in Kenya, do please tell us about that on the comments board here. Thanks!)

Mia Farrow: “virtual hostage”

Irony alert
Those familiar with Farzaneh Milani’s path-breaking literary analysis will recognize the phrase “hostage narrative,” a term she has been devloping over many years to apply to that best-selling genre of politically tinged “true stories.” In these “hostage narratives,” women writers who are now “liberated” or “un-veiled” tell the world of their past “cultural captivity” in their native, usually Muslim lands.
In this genre, as Professor Milani documents, the line between “fact” and “fiction” gets lost, as those sympathetic to the “message” focus only on the cause served. It’s a great way to sell books and a shrewd way to “heat up” the political culture to support bombings and invasions to “liberate” the presumed hostages. Thus the sequel:
“Reading Lolita while bombing Tehran.”
(And oh by the way, are women now better off in today’s de facto Islamic Republic(s) of Iraq than they were under Saddam? Where’s columnist Ellen Goodman been on that?)
Veteran actress Mia Farrow now takes the “hostage narrative” to a new, virtual realm, with her over-the-top offer to exchange herself for the “freedom” of a Sudanese “dissident” rebel leader and Darfur advocate, Suleiman Jamous. Depending on the source you read, Jamous is a “virtual prisoner” who cannot leave a UN hospital and/or cannot leave the country for medical treatment.
To Sudan’s President, Ms. Farrow writes,

Mr. Jamous is in need of a medical procedure that cannot be carried out in Kadugli… Mr. Jamous played a crucial role in bringing the SLA to the negotiating table and in seeking reconciliation between its divided rival factions.
I am… offering to take Mr. Jamous’s place, to exchange my freedom for his in the knowledge of his importance to the civilians of Darfur and in the conviction that he will apply his energies toward creating the just and lasting peace that the Sudanese people deserve and hope for.

How curious. Ms. Farrow’s “courageous offer” to become a female hostage in a Muslim land is a recognizable stroke of p.r. brilliance. It’s getting widespread softball media treatment in the US, as anything supporting the long-suffering Sudanese Darfuris is “hip” in the US and must be “a good thing.” And besides, she’s a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, and what’s the harm — particularly if it helps focus the international microscope back on unresolved Sudanese nightmares? (US international broadcasting has been prominently featuring Ms. Farrow’s offer too….)
Ms. Farrow of course knows there isn’t a chance the Sudanese government will take her up on her offer to become a “hostage.” What a p.r. disaster for them that would be!
In her best acting yet, Ms. Farrow professes to the media the sincerity of her wish to be a real hostage. Indeed.
We’ll likely have to settle for Ms. Farrow keeping a journal for enthralled admirers of her “ordeal” as a surreal hostage-in-waiting – a “virtual hostage” on behalf of a “virtual prisoner.”
Oh the drama. I feel another best-seller in the works, no doubt for a worthy cause. (Aren’t they all? Though perhaps in Mia Farrow’s case, the title, “Not Without My Daughter” might be a bit inappropriate…..)
So what’s next? Hundreds, if not thousands, of Darfur activists on college campuses signing up to join Mia as “virtual hostages?” eh? Me & Mia? No doubt that’s too harsh.
I hear Ms. Farrow’s next movie will be a comedy.

U. Iweala on whitefolk who want to ‘save’ Africa

Uzodinma Iweala, a young novelist from Washington DC and Nigeria, has a great opinion piece in today’s WaPo that should be must-reading for all young whitefolk who get the urge to “save” Africa.
He writes:

    News reports constantly focus on the continent’s corrupt leaders, warlords, “tribal” conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like “Can Bono Save Africa?” or “Will Brangelina Save Africa?” The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and “civilization.”
    There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one’s cultural superiority. My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head — because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West’s fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West’s prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.
    Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been “granted independence from their colonial masters,” as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?
    Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments — without much international help — did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.
    Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn’t want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth.

Fair partnerships? We are still a long, long way away from that. One excellent first move would be for the US, the EU and Japan to immediately end the massive subsidies their governments give to their own agricultural producers– primarily, at this point, it should be noted, producers who are part of large-scale agribusiness concerns. These subsidies have completely tipped the playing field of international trade against farmers in Africa and other low-income parts of the world, and have forced them off their farms and into penury and, far too often, into a state of a desperate struggle for the resources needed for basic survival that too often becomes full-scale conflict fueled by– you guessed it!– Western exporters of small arms.
Yes, let’s have some fairness and basic inter-human respect restored to these relationships, indeed.

Three on Africa

In a fit of hyper-productivity I just put three posts on Transitional Justice issues in sub-Saharan Africa up onto the Transitional Justice Forum blog.
They are on Uganda, Sudan (including Darfur), and Charles Taylor and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The last of those is heavily based on the JWN post I had on the topic last week. The other two contain considerably more new material. Read especially Moses Okello’s great commentary from Kampala on the ICC and Northern Uganda.
Comments should go over there rather than here.