Three Things We Must Learn From The Battle of CAR

Mar 27, 13 Three Things We Must Learn From The Battle of CAR

Posted by in Featured, International

By now a lot of the dust has settled around the battle which waged for roughly 13 hours a few kilometres outside Bangui at checkpoint PK12. There is a lot of finger-pointing and many expectant questions of just why the hell we were there in the first place. Before larger allegations of uranium and oil deals emerge between South Africa, CAR, France, and god knows who else, we should take stock of three important points that can be learned regardless of how the forthcoming weeks proceed.   Our Soldiers Fought Well There has been a long-running misconception that our soldiers cannot fight. That they’re all HIV positive layabouts incapable of doing any actual soldiering. Naturally this might be true for certain portions of the military, as it would be for virtually any defence force around the world, but Saturday’s firefight proved, above everything else, that our soldiers are not only capable of defending themselves, they are able to fight back with a tempo that rivals most international forces of the same calibre. 200 paratroopers and Special Forces troops faced off against 3000 rebels advancing, according to the Chief of the SANDF, General Shoke, on a 1km wide front is no laughing matter. That our soldiers were able to hold their ground against a numerically-superior force armed with large-calibre machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and all other manner of weapons, is an impressive feat. That we were able to inflict an estimated 500 casualties on the enemy is an excellent outcome. The loss of 13 SANDF servicemen is tragic, but those lives were not given easily. No matter what criticism is leveled at higher command, the South African Government, the media, or any other outlet, the South Africans fighting for their lives this past weekend fought bravely and fought well, and that should put to rest any questions on the ability of our elite soldiers. Allegations and rumours of a hurried and panicked retreat in the face of the rebels is by all official and credible accounts false. Our...

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One way Kenyans can think about sanctions

The thing about Koffi Annan’s recent statement on Kenya was the sense one got of his “finger wagging”. Being a career diplomat he obviously did not do it literally but you got the clear meaning of it from the tone of his remarks. In an interview with the BBC, Annan remarked that Kenya’s “external relations could be damaged”. Evidently, he did not divulge to what extent this might be possible but he was unambiguous about this being a certain occurrence if Kenyans choose a leadership of International Criminal Court (ICC) suspects. Annan hinted at travel restrictions and the fact that many governments around the world will simply not deal directly with a leadership that will comprise of suspects. Of course a round of rebuttals, phrasing and campaign messaging about how Kenyans should be left to make their own choice was the expected reaction. However, my only wish is that out of this political gamesmanship an explanation on how we could survive any form of sanctions can be given. So, what do Kenyans need to know about sanctions? Of course a simple understanding of our political economy would suffice. The four major elements of the Kenyan economy are its land, its free market orientation, its need for foreign investments and its propensity to trade. Its production is highly driven by informal labour and varied skill levels of employment; the presence of Multi National Corporations (MNCs) in the country; and access to regional markets. The Kenyan economy is one that is highly dependent and responsive to world prices due to our production of primary products. It has a relatively vibrant manufacturing sector while it still relies on a massive agricultural base that is said to be shrinking due to growth in the service industry that has experienced an expansion in the communication and tourism sectors. An elaborate power infrastructure is being developed; the country has a proud constellation of profitable public; and private enterprises some of which have a regional presence. The country has experienced relatively...

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Somalia’s PMCs: What’s the big deal?

Jul 31, 12 Somalia’s PMCs: What’s the big deal?

Posted by in Featured, International

Khadija Patel recently wrote a piece on the presence of private military contractors, PMCs,  for the dailymaverick. In it she borrows heavily on the expertise of Sabelo Gumedze, an analyst at the Institute of Security Studies, and a “security analyst” who apparently remained nameless to protect themselves, or to sound more mysterious, either of which serves to add to the shadiness of private security. The article rides on the back of a UN Report detailing PMC activities in Somalia and most significantly fingering the South African Government as being incredibly naughty for not helping the UN on gathering information. But underneath all this is the theme of implied ‘evil’ on PMC actitivities, when really this tar and feathers approach utterly misses the point. PMCs, God help us all, can actually be useful. Media outlets have made a meal out of PMCs in the past few years. They’re a soft target, like Julius Malema and painting penises on caricatures of famous people. After all, many of the organisations running around Africa (and the Middle East) in their designer Oakleys and cargo pants, bristling with ridiculously-customised assault rifles and pickup trucks use South Africans. That’s because we happen to have an entire generation or two of black and white combat veterans who, upon being cast out of their military society in South Africa, are welcomed back into the private fold for quadruple the price and, this time, the Angolans are your battle buddies, not targets. Moreover, the bigger PMCs regularly get utterly roasted for their blunders (which do often result in innocent lives lost), and thus are ever the sinister ghoul hanging over many major conflicts around the world. But what Patel and most media on PMCs miss is the inalienable reality that private military work sees individuals fulfilling contractual obligations in bloody dangerous areas. Areas where people will die regardless of who’s there or not. Where civilian casualties, regrettable as they are, will happen. In Somalia there appears to be a rough consensus that the country and piracy off...

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KONY2012 Roundup – an overview and evaluation

Oxfam must be salivating at the marketing success that the Invisible Children (IC) organisation has created with its KONY2012 video. Ironically, there has been an unprecedented backlash over the KONY2012 video, the likes of which has not been experienced by equally manipulative charities. One has to wonder why. There is probably too much Internet opinion already. An overnight library of detailed material on the video and IC has been written. Some of it is substantive, some of it is mudslinging, and some of it is factual pedantry. I wanted to try to extract and isolate some of the more salient arguments going around in an attempt to evaluate the actual impact of the campaign. I’ve “scored” the evaluation by simply multiplying the probability of an argument being correct with the impact it would have, were it to be correct. The numbers and ratings are my own guesstimate and open for discussion. Not all arguments fit this model well, but I’m running with it. In addition, I’ve linked, where possible, to sites with further detail. As disclosure, I have had a strongly negative reaction to the video, and I’m unsure I know why. I’ve spent some time analysing my reaction, and separating the emotional response from the rational, conscious of my own bias. This is what I’ve come up with. If you’ve heard this all before (very probable), skip to the end, where I provide my own opinion of what all the fuss is really about. Please suggest additional (reasonable) arguments if you think I have missed some.   Arguments in favour of KONY2012 I knew 0 before, but now I know 1 Argument: Tens of millions of people who did not know about Kony before now know about Kony. They will be put more pressure on international organisations and government to do something. Evidence: Number of views Probability of Impact: High Impact: Low, Positive Score: 5 / 25 Evaluation: It is true – many people now know who Joseph Kony is and what horrible...

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Nigeria Prevailing Despite Setbacks

Feb 01, 12 Nigeria Prevailing Despite Setbacks

Posted by in Featured, International, Politics

To say that 2011 was a dramatic year in politics is putting things mildly. From  the Arab Spring in January to the political unrest in Cote D’Ivoire following the April elections, to the death of Kim Jong Il in December and the Christmas day bombings in Nigeria, one could easily have assumed that perhaps the first few months of 2012 would be calmer.  Alas, no such luck. Whilst in the middle of investigating the Christmas day bombings by the Boko Haram, the Nigerian government dropped  a bomb on the Nigerian public.  The government announced that it would cease subsidising the price of oil or any costs surrounding oil production on 1 January 2012 . In layman’s terms, Nigerians would be spending twice as much on petrol.  The price of petrol per litre shot up to 94 cents from 45 cents per litre. The government’s response to the outrage of the general public was a ‘promise’ that the biilions saved through not subisidising the cost of oil will be re-invested into the country’s infrastructure, in addition to deploying the military to the streets of Lagos to prevent the protestors from getting out of hand. The Nigerian government was facing the age-old challenge of balancing public spending in a manner that does not render the government completely penniless. Doesn’t this all sound familiar, if one were just to rewind 20 years (the 1980s for the mathematically challenged) when  certain African countries such as Tanzania were ‘strongly advised or recommended’ to cut public expenditure to help their economies grow and reduce government debt. This resulted in the opposite effect – African economies experieced negative growth and some are today still dealing with the ramifications of the implementation of those policies. This is not in any way to negate other  external factors such as the drop in demand for primary products which African countries exported or the effect of the oil embargos of the 1970s. However, there  have been some indications that the decision to stop subsidising economic...

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Reformers and Peacemakers, Nobel Women

Oct 24, 11 Reformers and Peacemakers, Nobel Women

Posted by in International

Liberia’s first woman president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace campaigner Leymah Gbowee and youth activist Tawakkul Karman are the first women to receive the Nobel Peace Prize since 2004. These three women were chosen for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. It seems the overarching theme attached to 2011’s prize was that of women’s rights and activism. In this regard, the Nobel committee was spot on. Democracy and lasting peace can only be realized if women’s needs and concerns are recognized in conjunction with the expansion of women’s aspirations and skills to their fullest potential. Until women are formally educated and can earn a living wage, they will not be able to take their rightful place in influencing development at all levels of society. However, having been criticized for imposing a political agenda on continuing events rather than capturing a moment of hope, the Nobel committee has received flack for their choice of winners.  I have no problem with this perceived political agenda, as long as that agenda arises from support of particular issues and is not just blanket coverage for the sake of granting women the Nobel peace prize. In a blanket coverage stance, the committee seems to have arbitrarily thrown the prize at three women, all in the name of merely supporting women’s interests. By doing so, they have diluted the standing of the Nobel peace prize. What the committee really needed to do was pick a particularly pertinent issue and stick with it or adopt a more representative approach. Over the last year and from their list of possible winners, the Nobel committee could have picked out three issues within the context of women’s rights and activism: The Arab Spring, Liberian women peacemakers and a decade of conflict in Afghanistan. But instead of focusing on one issue, the Nobel committee picked out two issues, Liberia receiving more emphasis than the Arab Spring while ignoring Afghanistan altogether. As part of a focused approach, the...

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