One Wonders, What’s Next?

Feb 23, 11 One Wonders, What’s Next?

Posted by in International, Politics

We are in the second month of 2011 and one wonders, what else is the world in store for. In the last last couple of weeks, Egypt, Libya, Iran and Yemen have erupted into chaos. Citizens have to gone to the streets demanding that their leaders step down. On average these leaders have been in power for over twenty years. All this occurring as the world is still reeling from the news of civil unrest in Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire. One thing stands out, the people of Africa and the Middle East are ready for change. They have forced it on leaders who still thought the had another term in office. They are ready to enjoy their civil rights of living in a free un-oppressive state where they are no longer beholden to the whims and insecurities of their presidents. There has been some success, Egypt’s Mubarak and Tunisia’s Ben Ali were ousted. On the other hand Laurent Gbagbo still holds obstinately to ‘his’ office. The issue is that these leaders feel entitled to their position of leadership. It stopped being about serving the people of the country a long time ago, if it ever was. On the 17th of February 2011, Yuweri Museveni the president of Uganda for 25 years as of this year was quoted asking: “Why are people so agitated? The economy has grown, we’ve brought peace…” This indicates the general apathy certain leaders have towards democracy. He actually still believes he has ‘unfinished business’. This sounds so familiar, wasn’t Mubarak concerned that if he stepped down, Egypt would descend into chaos, as if the already looted capital did not demonstrate that the chaos he feared was already underway. For all the disdain some might have for democracy, it carries out an important task. Leaders are prevented from believing that they are the only factor that ensures development and stability. Even if they do, democratic practice dictates that one should not be in power for more than two terms. For the...

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Sudan’s Eye In The Sky

To my surprise I recently came across an article on the Sudanese referendum which was unlike all the other commentary I had been reading up until now, in that it serves as an interesting example of a situation in which celebrities are becoming involved in a cause, and their actions seem to be both heartfelt and may hold a genuine promise of producing some meaningful results.

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Response: The Republicans and Africa

John Stupart’s piece about the role of the republicans on Africa rightly identifies problems in Luyola Ngcuka’s suggestion that changes in US policy direction are something that Africans have the right to be highly critical of simply because we may receive slightly less aid. It could – and perhaps should – be argued, however, that the problem is not just whether the amount of money will decrease but how that money will be spent. A reduction would be sad, because the prioritisation of neglected diseases and good governance was starting to seem promising, but Africa is more than used to foreign governments changing their minds when elections shift policy direction. The greater potential problem with the republican stance on aid is the directions in which they would like the aid that is approved to flow. It was the Republican president’s PEPFAR, for example, that limited millions of dollars of HIV/AIDS funding to abstinence-only initiatives, thereby dramatically undermining the effectiveness of US-funded HIV prevention efforts in many countries and blocking out other funding because who is going to give money for AIDS in Africa when the US is already funding it? The USA’s recent 3D foreign policy approach claims/claimed to be elevating development (aid) to the same level as diplomacy and defence. While most development people were sceptical at the time anyway, republican control of this move is likely to have serious consequences. What this doctrine does in the hands of defence-focused aid-hawks, is to lump all development/aid work in with the defence strategy (again). This has been particularly destructive to the aid industry, for example in Afghanistan, where aid workers aligned with the NATO forces are killed on a more regular basis than those who are perceived as more independent but everyone is more likely to die now that all development/aid activities are increasingly perceived as part of the war efforts. We are already seeing serious problems with aid in Africa being perceived as part of military activity or a way to make money...

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The Republicans and Africa

Luyolo Ngcuka wrote last week on the perils for Africa in light of the mid-term elections in the USA and the resurgence of the Republican party. He argues that Obama’s four-pillared policy on Africa can be considerably threatened by Republican feet in the House of Representatives, and along with that the promise of a glut of aid money from American banks. For the most part this is not wrong, but it misses the point entirely. In a nutshell, it should not be America’s responsibility to prop up an entire continent with aid when their own strategic and economic priorities lie elsewhere. To paint the Republicans as robbers of African aid coffers is irresponsible. For example, Ngcuka notes that Chair of the House Kay Granger is an unashamed hawk, her policies often prioritising military spending over that of foreign aid. In the American context defense spending as a portion of GDP under the Obama administration has actually soared beyond that which his predecessor managed, and yet we are now meant to snipe at the statesmen underneath for their own budget priorities simply because they’re republican? The reality is that a Republican controlled house might result in a reduction of foreign aid spending in the mid-term, but from an American perspective this is not a particularly bad strategic move for a superpower rattled to the core from a major recession. Moreover, this is not to say that the USA would reduce all its concerns in Africa, if at all. Bush junior made great strides in many different aspects of America’s foreign policy in Africa, yet was depressingly overshadowed by an atmosphere of anti-American/Bush sentiment which saw a lot of this overlooked. In recent history Republicans have actually done many good things in Africa when compared to their Democrat counterparts. It was a Democrat (Clinton), after all, who oversaw the fiasco in Mogadishu 17 years ago, to name but one example. Furthermore, Obama’s 4-pronged strategy on Africa, to encourage democracy, promote economic development, better healthcare and prevent...

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The Freedom to be Critical

I recently had the privilege of being able to attend an event which will undoubtedly mark one of the most prestigious high-level diplomatic visits by a foreign leader in recent years, especially as far as the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation is concerned. The event in question was the speech given by the visiting Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping, on the 18th of November, at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria, a mere stone’s throw from the Union buildings. The event was so important because it is said Mr. Jinping will soon become the premier of China, replacing Hu Jintao. This visit therefore marks deepening ties between China and South Africa, because no one would send the future president of one of the world most powerful nations to negotiate with the representatives of another nation if that nation was an inconsequential partner. The next day, the event continued when I then went to take part in the Seminar celebrating the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), held in the Sinosteel building in Sandton. The thing that struck me through out these proceedings across two full days, particularly on the Chinese side, was the complete lack of critical engagement with the issues at hand. This was surprising in some ways because the Chinese contingent which included some very senior government officials and a large group of top academics who are supposed to be ‘experts on Africa’. The academics, in my opinion, were the most interesting component of the official proceedings for the very fact that this lack of objectivity is essentially counter to the very nature of being an academic. As a large portion of the Chinese academics present were social scientists, this was even more alarming, as if any group of academics are particularly renowned for their critical engagement with issues of the day, it’s social scientists. However the Chinese government official’s role in the process was understandably limited, and to some extent can be, if not...

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