how much longer can Zimbabweans tolerate Mugabe?

A day after Zimbabwe’s March election there were already rumors that Robert Mugabe had lost and was trying to negotiate a graceful exit from power. But Rob was to have none of this. He ordered the electoral commission not to announce the results of the presidential election even though the opposition’s tallies confirmed their claim to victory. Meanwhile parliamentary results confirmed that Rob’s party, the ZANU-PF had lost its majority in Parliament to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In desperation, Rob ordered for a recount in several constituencies but even this did not overturn the original results.

With Mugabe having lost the election and his apparent resolve to stay in power come what may (evidenced by his failed attempt to purchase weapons from China) it remains to be seen just how much longer the people of Zimbabwe can put up with this crazy old man before all hell breaks loose and people pour into the streets. It has to happen at some point. Political Science theory says that revolutions happen just when things begin to get better and Rob may have initiated this process by allowing the MDC to win the elections. He could have simply rigged the vote to give himself a clear win – both for the presidency and parliament. But by allowing the MDC to win parliament and the presidency (although a run-off is in the offing) he has shown his people that he is indeed beatable and demystified himself.

The writing is on the wall for Rob and his cronies. But he still has support from a significant segment of the Zimbabwean population and thus any kind of uprising against him will almost inevitably be met with stiff opposition from his supporters. He may be a thug to most non-Zimbabweans but to his country people he is an independence hero who sacrificed a lot for his country. Because of this there is an increasing risk of conflict within the country.

As the international community continues to watch from a distance, (with South African president Mbeki makeing silly statements like this) Zimbabwe keeps moving even closer to the tipping point. I believe total collapse can be avoided by having Rob step down (forcefully if necessary) before it is too late. The alternative is to wait and send in peace keepers after the fact.

world food shortages, is it time to rethink ethanol use?

Africa’s food security is under threat; and this time it is not the usual threat caused by poor planning and the use of pre-modern agrarian technologies. This new threat is a result of the continuing rise in world food prices. Already the world food program (WFP) is predicting that this year it will be US $ 500 million short in trying to meet the needs of tens of millions worldwide who depend on it for food. These new developments are especially bad for Africa.

Millions of Africans depend on food aid. And this is not restricted to areas of conflict like Somalia, Sudan and Chad. Even relatively stable countries like Kenya and Zambia regularly need international donors to fill the gap left by ever-declining national agricultural output. As food prices go up and the international donors cut budgets, these countries will be in for even greater shortages.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. It is apparent that the world’s obsession with ethanol might be driving up food prices. This situation has been exacerbated by the rising oil prices due to Chinese and Indian demand and middle Eastern politics. The end result is that expensive grain (brought about by the fact that stomachs are competing with fuel tanks) has become even more expensive due to high transportation costs.

While controlling the price of oil might be difficult (middle eastern politics remain as muddy as ever), I believe the world can control how much food is diverted to the production of fuels. I understand the noble objective of saving the planet through the use of green energy. But I am totally against the idea that this can be done at the expense of developing nations and their millions of hungry people.

It is common knowledge that food deficiency causes stuntedness - both physical and mental – in children and that this persists into adulthood. This is what we shall be doing to humanity if we do not prioritise between endangered animals and humans.

Therefore, before we go all out on ethanol, we should make sure that humans are fed and healthy. For what is the use of saving the planet only to leave it to stunted offspring whom we failed to feed when they were young? Also, I think that WFP should aim at coordinating world food production so that nations like the US which perennially produce excess food can sell grain, at subsidized prices, to poorer, less advanced nations instead of destroying it to keep prices steady.

Most importantly, African agriculture should be pushed into the 21st century. Food production in most of Africa remains pre-10,000 BC. Farmers depend on rain even in places with giant perennial rivers that could be harnessed for iriigation. While appreciating the value of metis and fork knowledge, I believe that more science is needed to improve food production.  Simple scientific agriculture is not rocket science and the knowledge can be disseminated at a reasonable cost in order to improve agricultural output on the continent.

Food production was one of the main drivers of human civilisation. We are thus only as civilised as we are able to feed ourselves.

the new kenyan cabinet, bloated and expensive

President Kibaki and Premier Odinga are two men without much of a strong will. This is evidenced by their capitulation to the demands of their cronies and allies in the naming of the new cabinet. 42 cabinet including the president and AG was announced by these two men. And this in a country that struggles to feed its people, educate them and keep them alive. Did we really need separate ministries for medical services and public health and sanitation? or education and higher education? And what exactly will the minister for fisheries development do that the minister for agriculture or water cannot do?

It’s insulting how these two men turned a completely deaf ear to the calls made by Kenyans for a leaner, cheaper cabinet. It’s tax payer’s money you are spending Messrs president and premier.

I understand that there was need to please as many people as possible following the events of February, but at the same time I do believe that there could have been a cheaper way of doing this. Perhaps having a more transparent system of government where ministers did not run their ministries like personal fiefdoms would have made people feel included in the government and obviated the need for tribal representation in the cabinet.

And now that we have a cabinet, it will be interesting to see how it actually functions, given the animosity that exists between the ODM and PNU and the rest. I can speculate that there will be a lot of mission creep across amorphously defined ministerial portfolios resulting in intra-cabinet power struggles. I can also see the members of the cabinet continuing in their bad habit of addressing each other through the media like they don’t have each other’s contacts (I seriously think that the media should give such exchanges a black out to teach these men and women a lesson).

Oh, and on all those promises of better government, a new constitution, land reforms, prosecution of corruption, roads, schools, hospitals ………. etc : I am not holding my breath.

do we really need this circus?

The back and forth tussle that has become of the negotiations between Kibaki and Raila over a coalition cabinet is very unseemly. More than twice, the two men have met and agreed on a deal only to have their mouthpieces issue statements on the contrary.

What surprises me is how PNU is acting like they did not know what they were getting into by signing the Feb. 28th agreement. By agreeing to share power with ODM, they essentially admitted guilt to the shady mess that was the previous December’s general election and thereby allowed ODM to put one foot into government. If PNU thought that ODM would be contented with the ministry of fisheries and such then they were way off the mark. Like any political party these people want power and they will not settle for less.

What Kibaki ought to do now is just give them what they want and then control them via the Finance Ministry. The two most contentious posts seem to be Foreign and Local Government Ministries. Kenya’s foreign ministry is not that big of a deal. Who cares about summits and talk shops around the world? Plus it’s not like the country has any coherent foreign policy that would be severely changed by an ODM apparatchik in the post. And with the ministry of Local Government, I say give it to ODM. It’s not like the major towns and cities – outside of the wider Central region – are not pro-ODM already. Having to fight councils and city residents selling tomatoes in the streets might even make them unpopular come 2012.

My two cents on this is that the tussle is about nothing really. The president can continue to run the entire cabinet through control of the treasury and concentrate power in the hands of the Finance minister. Kenyan ministers are not an ambitious lot so I don’t think any of them will want to do anything revolutionary simply because they are now in charge of local councils or the ministry of heavy industry (I can’t believe they are actually creating these superfluous ministries).

So save us the drama Mr. President and name a cabinet already. Your government will be a joke anyway, with its 40 cabinet posts. Kenyans will pay over 500 million Shillings every year paying for the bloated cabinet and expect and get absolutely nothing in return. Shame shame shame.

I put it to you that what really matters to Kenyans is not what post some fat cat gets in your government but the stuff that increases the number of sufurias of ugali in their homes : equitable economic development.

this childish behaviour is embarrassing

At this point I don’t even know why African leaders bother to hold elections. In the recent past, Nigeria, Kenya and now Zimbabwe have had rather dubious elections. These three countries have again proven to the world that we Africans cannot manage our own affairs – even a matter as simple as tallying figures and announcing results.

You know, it is very hard to walk with your chin up – as an African – when day after day you have buffoons all over the continent who are too eager to prove to the world how incompetent and myopic Africans can be. Don’t these people have a sense of personal honor? Where is your pride Mugabe? Don’t you realise that every time you pull one of your dirty tricks you continue to reinforce a stereotype about our continent that not only tarnishes our image but also lays the groundwork for future generations of Africans to live in poverty and inferior circumstances to the rest of the world?

It is almost childish what goes on in places like Zimbabwe. Have we completely lost our minds? HOW HARD CAN IT BE TO RUN A COUNTRY? WHY IS THE MADNESS ONLY CONCENTRATED ON THIS ONE CONTINENT? DO THESE GUYS EVER READ THE NEWS ABOUT HOW PROSPEROUS OTHER REGIONS ARE? DOES IT BOTHER THEM THAT MAJORITY OF AFRICANS WALLOW IN PRE-MODERN EXISTENCE?

I just felt like I needed to let that out. It is really sad what we Africans are allowing ourselves to be put through by the Mugabe’s of our world. It is really sad that this is the kind of legacy we are going to leave for our descendants in the decades and centuries to come.

Mugabe nears exit

The end has come. Judging from what I hear and the stuff I am reading online, it is apparent that Robert Mugabe has lost in last weekend’s general elections. The people of Zimbabwe have finally managed to send home their many faceted leader. Mugabe was at once a militant, a mild mannered gentleman with some class, the independence hero of the former British colony and a tyrant who killed and jailed many and drove his country’s economy deep into the ground.

The supposed winner of the elections, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, is playing it cool. He says that although he is confident that he won he is not going to declare victory until the electoral commission officially announces the results. If indeed the MDC has won then uncle Bob will have done a great job of diminishing my afro-pessimism.

The next few days are going to be critical for Zimbabwe, especially following remarks by it’s security forces that they would not serve under Mr. Tsvangirai. However, it seems that even this threat cannot muffle Zimbabweans’ cries for change. The Times of London is reporting that Mugabe is right now trying to negotiate a settlement that will guarantee him immunity from prosecution under the new government. I guess that is the least they could do for an independence hero.