quick hits

What disasters reveal. Excellent read. From disasters we get to know more about the societies that experience them. Perhaps the glaring international example of this was the difference in destruction and response to the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Haiti’s non-existent state capacity was exposed for the whole world to see.

Facebook diplomacy.

Are freedom and democracy (really) on the decline? (unfortunately gated)

Why we have college. This article reminded me of a conversion I had with my dad back in college. At the airport in Nairobi on my way back to New Haven he insisted that I should learn a “trade” in college. This meant either Engineering or Medicine. Political Science and/or Economics did not count. The humanities were not even an option. My dad and I have since reconciled our minor differences over my career choice. And I am  glad I chose academia (especially now that I am done with comprehensive exams and all).

double standards

The Times has a nice story on Obiang’s Equatorial Guinea that is worth reading:

Officially and unofficially, Americans do business with one of the undisputed human rights global bad boys, Equatorial Guinea, Africa’s fourth biggest oil exporter. Its widely criticized record on basic freedoms has offered little barrier to broad engagement by the United States, commercially or diplomatically.

American oil companies have billions of dollars invested here. One American diplomat, using language that makes human rights advocates fume, praised the “mellowing, benign leadership” of the dictator in power for more than 30 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in 2009 cables released by WikiLeaks. And a leading American military contractor with strong Pentagon ties has a multimillion-dollar contract to protect his shores and help train his forces.

You may recall that Obiang’s son was recently reported to have ordered a $380M luxury yacht. The Obiang’s and their backers continue to run the central African country like a personal possession.

According to the Guardian:

President Obiang, who has ruled since seizing power in 1979, has decreed that the management of his country’s $3bn a year in oil revenues is a state secret. That is why it is difficult to say for sure exactly how he comes to have about $700m in US bank accounts. But the president’s son gave an insight into his salary in an affidavit filed with the Cape high court in South Africa in August, as part of a lawsuit against him over a commercial debt.

On paper Equatorial Guinea is richer than most middle income countries. In reality, however, most of the 676,000 Equatorial Guineans live in poverty. The story of Equatorial Guinea is almost personal. Every time I post on Obiang’s inept rule I can’t stop wondering: How hard can it be to run a country of only 676,000 with over 3 billion in annual revenue?

Like the Times article points out, outsiders like the US government and foreign oil companies deserve to be called out over the goings on in Equatorial Guinea.

That said, the lion’s share of the blame is on Obiang’ and his backers. As far as I know none of the foreigners involved in the country held a gun to his head and asked him to siphon off billions of his country’s revenue to foreign bank accounts.

More on the Times story here.

 

Judges reject kenya’s bid to stop icc case

The government of Kenya has lost in its bid to convince the ICC that it has the political will and capacity to try key perpetrators of the 2007-08 post-election violence (PEV). Kenya had asked for six months to get its justice system in order and convince the ICC that it could bring to book those who planned and carried out the murder of over 1300 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands in 2007-08. More on this here.

The Kenyan political elite find themselves in a pickle. Less than two years ago parliament thought that they could punt on addressing the PEV by deferring the cases to the ICC. It turns out Ocampo and the court were actually serious. Realizing this, they (the Kenyan gov.) attempted to hurriedly create a local process with the hope of persuading the court to stop the proceedings at the Hague.

But even a blind sheep could see through the government’s insincere attempts to clean up the judiciary or “investigate” the key suspects.

The Kenyan civil society remains adamant that the government has neither the capacity nor political will to prosecute the crimes committed in relation to the 2007 general elections.

Now the clock is ticking. With parliament and the Kenyan legal epistemic community largely in charge of naming the new judges that will staff the supreme court (and the wider judiciary) the accused and their political godfathers are in a panic. They must try and clean up shop under the current system or they will lose big, soon. Realizing the gravity of the situation, the same ethnic chiefs demigods politicians who were running around screaming “sovereignty” and “neo-colonialism” have since gone silent.

The Kenyan case has also generated a lot of heat with regard to the geopolitics of the ICC.

Many in Kenya and across Africa have (sometimes rightfully) criticized the ICC. But in my view it remains to be a necessary institution in the fight against impunity and murderous dictatorship on the Continent. (Pardon the phrase) We cannot throw out the baby with the bath water.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Without the ICC the families of those women and children that were burnt alive in a Church in Kiamba, Eldoret or those killed in retaliatory attacks in Naivasha will never get justice. That is the reality.

Remember, more Kenyans were killed in the months before the elections of 1992 and 1997 than in 2007-08 and yet the Kenyan political class merely pushed the unbearable truth under the rug. Also of note is the fact that the present anti-ICC crusade comprises those suspected to have financed opposite sides of the PEV.

The situation is a grim reminder of the Swahili proverb that says when the elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.

To those who talk of the ICC’s infringement on African nations’ sovereignty I’d like to pose a question: Who’s sovereignty is being violated? Is it al-Bashir’s or the Darfuris?; is it the Central Africans’ or Jean Pierre Bemba’s?; is it the Kenyans’ across the Rift Valley or the sovereignty of the Ocampo six?