Monthly Archives: October 2009

Friday Afternoon Africana

Because there is no better way to spend a Friday Afternoon than watching Nigerians try to convince Beyonce to marry them in an amazing dance off:

Huge Hattip to Shelby Grossman.

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Yes We Can! Great Lakes Election Series Part 1

It’s election season in the Great Lakes and Jay-Z is marauding around Rwanda calling for everybody to rock the vote.  Burundi is going to the polls in November 2010,  Rwanda  in August 2010, and the DRC will go to the polls in 2011.  Leaders have started campaigning, advertisements have been produced, and you can now buy t-shirts with a photo of current Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza hugging cute ex-rebel combatant children.

In Rwanda, we’ve got Paul Kagame, who won the presidency in 2003 with 95.1% of the vote with a margin of error of 93.2% ,vs. somebody who will most definitely lose.It looks like Bernand Ntaganda who just founded the Imberakuri Party will run as will Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, head of the United Democratic Forces. Umuhoza, who presents a credible opposition  might be banned given that she holds a Belgium passport,  which according to the very-poorly named and dubiously intended “cleaning process” would make her ineligible to run for elections. Fortunately, she has a facebook page.

In Burundi, incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza who is often chided for playing soccer instead of attending state meetings will face Time 100 most important people of the year journalist Alexis Sinduhije. Sinduhije is popular, articulate, and already has a mash up of his political speeches. Nkurunziza, who doesn’t have a facebook page, is in trouble.  The UN has already committed 44 million to election effort, which means every Burundian citizen will be entitled to a hanging chad.

There is serious anxiety building up over the elections. In Rwanda, scholars fear that growing inequality and frustration due to political repression could be ignited by another Kagame victory.  To exacerbate issues, the government has instituted a National Identity Card Project in which each individuals’ national ID photo will appear on their voter card.  Not the best decision given the country’s history with national ID cards.  In Burundi, everybody thinks they are going to win and will be pissed off if they don’t. The FNL, who  recently disarmed, are hoping for a large win and researchers think that if they lose, there is a serious possibility of the FNL rearming. Rwanda’s earlier elections will impact Burundi’s outcomes, and really, who doesn’t love a domino effect in the region with these issues on the table?

No worries though, we’ve got 10 months for these regional feelings to set in. Next up in this series, how much does a Great Lakes election cost and how the hell did the UN manage to spend 460 million USD getting Kabila elected in the DRC?

Until then, banana beer for whoever stars up a new political party in any country with a recent history of ethnic violence!

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Friday Afternoon Africana

Because the Kasai Allstars have mastered the orchestral Congolese rhumba sound and produce awesome music videos where they dress in traditional garb and jam in parking lots filled with hondas:

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This Week in the Great Lakes

1. Emma Thompson accuses adopted Rwandan child’s elite American high school of being too elite; awesome.

2. Burundi agrees to stop forcefully deporting refugees, instead ensures sub-part living standards and meager food.

3. Political manifesto written by ex-rebel leader Laurent Nkunda found; amazon will be in stock in two weeks.

4. Congo says we want more; unveils new humanitarian crisis on the border of the DRC and Angola.

5. Rwanda’s Paul Kagame meets with UN; decides they can only agree on climate change.

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Transactional Sex, Peacekeeping-Style

Over at Microcon, Kathleen Jennings and Vesna Niklic-Ristanovic analyze the sexual dimensions of peacekeeping economies. Word on the street is that peacekeeping kind of bloats the sex-trade industry, in, you know, maybe not the best of ways:

Peacekeeping economies [do not] affect everyone equally, benigngly, or beneficially. Notably, many of the activities encompassed in peacekeeping economies – particularly in the unskilled or service sectors – can be considered as comprising specifically “women’s work”. In the case of the sex industry, this is not to imply that men and boys are not also providing sexual services to peacekeepers, but rather that women and girls are generally more implicated in these activities, if not necessarily organizing them.

The peacekeeping economy is considered as something marginal, incidental, or separate from the mandated activities and desired impact of the mission – and/or is ‘normalized’ by mission personal as an inevitable and, therefore unremarkable aspect of contemporary peace operation[s]….

The real question:  does the bust of this industry after peacekeepers leave get filled by post-conflict development workers?

Check out Jennings and Niklic-Ristanovic’s excellent paper.

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I’ll trade you 2 cows, 3 huts, and a pie for an FDLR Rebel

The guardian recently crunched the numbers to calculate the impact of MONUC’s military operations intended to disarm those pesky FDLR. Word on the street, 1 FDLR rebel costs a lot. Texas in Africa does some more math and figures that the for each FDLR rebel convinced to relax for a while:

  • 1 civilian was killed.
  • 7 people were violently raped.
  • 900 people were displaced from their homes.
  • 6 people lost their homes to arson.

If you threw in some crayons, it might make the deal a little less like a grave human rights atrocity, right?

It does beg one of the most complicated humanitarian questions:  what’s the best way to disarm a rebel and how much should it cost? It’s a tough question when modeling how to effectively stop violence. If we accept that there will be a cost, what is it? 6 people violently raped? 200,000 displaced? The cost of continued rebel violence minus the costs of stopping the rebels (assuming that they actually stop)? And what happens when we model those costs probabilistically – are we 50% confident that 200,000 people will be displaced and what’s our margin of error?

I don’t envy anyone making these decisions, but thankfully, in the head of MONUC’s Friday briefing to the UN Security Council, Alan Doss reflectively and critically analyzed these questions given Kimia II’s failings:

MONUC is the first mission in which the Force Commander has issued a specific directive on civilian protection to all contingents. Under that directive, MONUC blue helmets provide protection against attacks by the FDLR and other armed elements and patrol key axes to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance. On market days, peacekeepers provide armed escorts so that villagers can travel to and from the marketplace without fear of harassment and illegal taxation by armed groups.

Sorry, I got confused. I was sure the presentation to the UN security council on the tail-end of a massive military campaign led by the largest peacekeeping mission in the world, would you know, consider its ramifications. Guess it was a bit heavy or something.

Fortunately, MONUC’s directive has resulted in a lot of really great pictures of peacekeepers and African children used for fund-raising.

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Friday Afternoon Africana

Because this last week was the 20th anniversary of Franco’s death and because Franco not only irrefutably changed the landscape of African music, but also produce some awesome music. Check out this excellent retrospective on Franco and his TPOK Jazz Band and his classic Bimansha:

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