foreshadowing post-independence southern Sudan

It is an open secret that Southern Sudan will likely descend into civil war once it secedes from Khartoum. Reports of a mutiny against Southern Sudanese government troops after last week’s election may foreshadow what is to come after Juba achieves full autonomy. Divisions within the South are not new. In 1991 Riek Machar led a rebellion of Nuer officers against the Dinka-dominated SPLM/A. In the end John Garang’ and SPLM/A prevailed after SPLM-Nasir (Machar’s faction) was accused of being stooges of the regime in Khartoum. The same divisions may plague post-independence Southern Sudan – there are already widespread grumbling about Dinka domination of state affairs in Juba. Khartoum is almost likely to play a role in destabilizing the South. The Southern referendum on secession will be held on January 9th 2011.

kenyan mp Dick Wathika to lose Makadara seat

Following a petition by former MP Reuben Ndolo (of the “weka tire” infamy), Lady Justice Kaplana Rawal has nullified the election of Dick Wathika as Makadara MP in the 2007 general elections. Mr. Wathika becomes the 5th sitting MP since the chaotic 2007 vote to lose after an election petition in court. The 2007 elections were marred by irregularities that almost plunged Kenya, previously an oasis of peace in a turbulent part of the Continent, into civil war. 1300 people died before a power-sharing agreement was brokered between incumbent Mwai Kibaki and his challenger Raila Odinga. Given that most Kenyans voted “three piece”, the apparent widespread irregularities at the constituency level must be highly correlated with those of the presidential vote. Neither PNU nor ODM can claim innocence. The real culprit, however, is one Mr. Samuel Kivuitu. The former boss of the electoral commission presided over a sham election with a straight face and got away with it. Shame on him.

if a tenth the charities out to help “africa” were any good ….

A lot of money has been poured in Africa (to use a Kenyan phrase) since the 1960s. Most of it has gone down the drain without much impact. If a tenth of the aid effort in Africa were effective things would be very different. Instead you have a cacophony of aid effort without much coordination. Yes there are the many hospitals, schools and business projects that have improved millions of livelihoods, and we applaud them. But there are also bizarre projects – like giving rape victims cameras to record their ordeals in the Congo or this crazy idea to send a million shirts to Africa.  As Aid Watch aptly puts it, a lot of aid is never about what the people in this mythical place called Africa need but what people want to give – and oftentimes what they want to give is a function of their warped notion of what life is like on the Continent.

And in other news, Sierra Leone has seen the light. As I noted here two years ago, the country’s HDI indicators belong in a time long gone. It is therefore encouraging that the Sierra Leoneans have decided to take HDI matters seriously.

after sudan, ethiopia

Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir is here to stay. Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi is up next on a list of African autocrats who face elections this year. Ethiopia holds parliamentary elections on May 23rd in a vote that will determine who becomes Prime Minsiter. Africa’s second most populous country cremains under tight rule by the increasingly despotic Meles Zenawi. It is a foregone conclusion that Mr. Zenawi’s party will win. The only non-academic part of these elections will be how many seats the opposition is allowed to win. Mr. Zenawi has run the country since 1991 when he led a rebellion that overthrew the tinpot dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam.

More on Mr. Zenawi’s rule here.

The other elections coming up in the next month include Mauritius (May 5th) and the Central African Republic (May 16th). Keep track of these elections here.

south africa steps up fight against aids

The most embarrassing part of Thabo Mbeki’s presidency was his bizarre approach to South Africa’s AIDS epidemic. Together with his nutty health minister, President Mbeki refused to dot the lines between the HIV virus and AIDS. The Minister was known to traffic in the idea that beetroots and traditional herbs could confront the deadly virus.

It is thus encouraging that Mr. Zuma, Mbeki’s successor has taken a more rational approach. Mr. Zuma recently declared that he is HIV negative. The country is currently in the midst of a massive campaign to have at least 15 million South Africans tested by June 2011. South Africa has 5.7 million HIV positive citizens, the biggest number of any country.

Mr. Zuma himself is known to have had sex with a HIV positive woman. This particular sexual encounter was the subject of a public trial in which Mr. Zuma was accused of rape. The South African president prevailed in court in a ruling with which many were not satisfied.

Development and how to achieve it

A while back I argued for a move away form small scale, “pro-poor” development strategies to more robust development strategies aimed at economic innovation and large-scale job creation. This is not to say that micro-development should be neglected. What I am saying is that jua kali kiosks will not increase Africa’s per capita income to 10,000 USD. The most they do is enable people to cope without really changing their standard of living.

Alkags, a blog I just discovered, deals with this debate.

Aid watch also has videos from a conference at the Yale law school on development. Chris Blattman and William Easterly are some of the featured development experts. Blattman makes some interesting comments about micro-finance, industrialization (medium to large farms) and development.

Quoting Blattman: “I think we have gone too far in the pro-poor direction…… we don’t necessarily have trade-offs. Factories are pro-poor.”

ruto moved in cabinet reshuffle

Former Agriculture Minister William Ruto has been demoted to the Ministry of Higher Education. This is certainly linked to Ruto’s position on the draft constitution. Mr. Ruto has been the most vocal minister in the Kibaki cabinet opposed to the draft constitution which is due for referendum in a few months.

In other news, I love this idea of cattle registration. The government is touting it as a security and rule of law policy but one of the (un)intended consequences will be ease of taxation of cattle owners. Someone at Kenya Revenue Authority must have come up with this idea.  Anything that establishes an accountability chain between farmers and the government (be it through transfers or taxes) is always good, as far as I am concerned.

Registration (and taxation) will also have the added benefit of incentivizing protection of property rights by the government. I hope that the revenue from this scheme, however little, will be used to further develop productivity in Kenya’s northern districts.

china in africa: getting the right picture

Here is a new blog on this by Brautigam. I attended her talk at Stanford and kind of liked the book.

I am glad that a consensus seems to be emerging that one-sided and blind China-bashing is not productive, especially with regard to Chinese involvement in Africa.

And in other news, what is Kagame up to? The man appears to be turning into a paranoid autocrat. It’s been 16 years since 1994 and about time he started being more open to constructive criticism.