This Week in the Great Lakes

1. Fifa to inspect DRC’s soccer stadiums in June; concerned that seats might  be made of non-certified blood minerals.

2. Burundi adopts law that severely restricts political opposition; requires organizing parties to have proof of 50,000 founding members, all of whom must have competed in a banana eating contest.

3. Brazil donates 1,562 cows to DRC in biggest international cattle dowry ever documented.

4. Rwandan envoy to British Royal wedding uses invitation to harass dubious Rwandans in the diaspora, country officially claims that a wedding is the perfect time to take dissidents by surprise.

5. Excitement abounds around DRC and Rwanda’s announcement to look into potentially building a power plant fueled by methane gas in Lake Kivu; currently raising money to see if they can afford a feasibility study on how feasible studies of energy production are in the Great Lakes.

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Powering Africa

Le Monde Diplomatique maps out the distribution of energy in Africa, which is inherently cool because of its use of subway graphics and because highlights many of the geo-political regional power struggles throughout the continent:

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My Country’s President is Better than Your Country’s President

The Sierra Leonian Deputy Minister of Information on Rwanda:

Notwithstanding, the Deputy Minister is positive that Sierra Leone now has what it takes to match Rwanda’s record and even overtake it: “The age-old problem of Sierra Leone was that of leadership. But by all indications, we now have a committed and development-oriented leadership in President Ernest Bai Koroma. You can see that his style of leadership bears the marks of President Kagame’s, and it’s no wonder that the former Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair has openly said the two Presidents are the best in Africa. However, I am very optimistic that Sierra Leone will overtake Rwanda under President Koroma’s leadership.”

Watch out Rwanda, here Sierra Leone comes. While leadership is key to re-constructing a legitimate and effective post-conflict government, the structural dynamics of the country and the political landscape matter much more than one figurehead. Moreover, Paul Kagame is a brutally effective leader, but his success is largely a function of the deep and cohesive RPF apparatus he has constructed. Fetishizing leadership misses the larger picture of political and economic development in post-conflict countries, but it does facilitate absurd ministerial challenges towards who will win the future.

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Friday Afternoon Africana

Because Vivian N’dour is one of the emerging leaders in the Senegalese pop scene who hits the wildly good line between West African hip hop and diva-pop:

Hattip to Afroklectic

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Gettin’ High in a Post-Genocidal State

According to the East African, Rwanda may become the first African country to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes:

In June last year, Rwanda took the initial steps in legalising marijuana strictly for medical purposes, the first country in Africa to do so.

The proposed law provides that marijuana will only be administered in health institutions to relieve pain or to treat mental problems.

Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Dr Richard Sezibera while presenting the draft law to Parliament, said that the objective of the Bill was to contribute to the protection of the population while “ensuring that drugs and psychotropic substances are exclusively available for scientific and medical purposes”.

The implications of the move in the region are potentially far-reaching. It is speculated that with the greater availability of a relatively affordable pain treatment that medical marijuana offers, Rwanda could conceivably become the hospice care capital of East Africa, in a region where specialised care and anti-pain medication for the terminally ill is often out of reach of most patients.

While it’s unlikely that Rwanda will become the epicenter for hospice care in East Africa due to this change in policy – the majority of individuals in the region don’t have the money to travel for medical care and if they do it’s unlikely that they would travel just to purchase medical marijuana – this might create a domino effect in the region. Often lauded for their economic policy and development playboy status, Rwanda’s “We’re-the-African-Singapore” bumper-stickers are widely desired by neighboring countries who tend to follow the country’s business decisions. And, given that the Rwandan health minister Dr Richard Sezibera who proposed the policy was renamed head of the East African Community earlier this week, it’s possible that there will be a growing legalization campaign in the East African block. Which is all just to say young development tourists in the region will be getting high  in Kigali and throughout the region with greater ease in the coming years.

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Not in My Humanitarian Crisis

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has just put out a policy paper, “To Stay and Deliver.” While the first subtitle was, “How to fully enjoy air conditioning in your land rover and the best spots to get martinis in crisis zones,” lead author and humanitarian expert Jan Egeland rejected that and, well, the large land-rovers and culture that characterizes humanitarian operations:

There is little point in an aid agency being present in a country if its staff remain behind compound walls or cloistered in safe ares and capital cities, unable to work with the people in need. The study recognizes that heavier protection is often necessary when a clear and present threat of direct targeting exists, which cannot be immediately mitigated through greater investment in dialogue and acceptance, or in cases where violence is perpetrated by economically-motivated criminal groups. In such scenarios good practice points to the development of ‘smart’ protection measures, which add a layer of security to the organisation but minimize negative appearances. In particular, humanitarian organisations need to do more to avoid ‘bunkerisation’ which distances them from the local community, thereby increasing vulnerability and perpetuating a negative cycle.

Not only does this paper acknowledge the detrimental impact of humanitarian operations culture, but calls for a departure from it. While this shift in policy posture should ultimately be measured by it’s impact on implementation change, it’s nonetheless a significant step for the United Nations worth lauding.  The important question: what to do with all those left-over inflatable summer-time party pools sent to the Eastern DRC and Sudan? Read the paper for thoughtful reflections on other good practices for humanitarian operations.

hattip to the scarlett lion for ever beautiful pictures of bunkered bureaucracy.

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Friday Afternoon Africana

Because the Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars – previously featured on Friday Afternoon Africana – were refugees in Guinea, then repatriated back to Freetown, and finally have made it to National Public Radio where they recently put on a vibrant three-track show:

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