of teddy bears and Bashir’s pardon

So in the last few days there has been uproar in Europe over the ludicrous jailing of a British teacher in Sudan because she let her young students christen a teddy bear Mohamed ……. really Sudan, really? Luckily for the poor well-meaning lady the international attention that was generated by her arrest and the resultant embarrassment to the Sudanese top brass made the Bashir government decide to pardon her and have her taken back to the UK.

This got me thinking, it is apparent – at least after this incident – that Bashir cares about what people outside Northern Sudan (East of Darfur) and China think of him. Just like embarrassment was used to put some sense into his administration about this teddy bear incident may be the international community can embarrass him with different kinds of stories about Darfur. Stories with a human face.

A lot of the stories coming out of Darfur have mostly included blanket reports on atrocities and numbers of those dead and displaced but we have not yet had a well publicised story of a poor woman, named say Aisha, who may have been raped, had a village razed to the ground and then left to die by the Janjaweed but who mysteriously survived. May be after Bashir sees these human stories he might just be persuaded into accepting the fact that Darfur needs more attention than it is getting right now from Khartoum.

As the world continues to call him names and antagonise him, Bashir might be growing even thicker skin and plugging his ears. What he can’t ignore, it seems, is an assault on his pride and his basic human sensibilities.

I have focussed on Bashir but this could apply to all those involved in the atrocities in Darfur, including the men bearing the red flag from the East.

the african eu summit, what will come out of it

I am not a fan of talk shops. That said, I am still very open to discussions in summits like the upcoming African-EU summit. The summit is intended to discuss trade relations between the two continents. Europe, having realised that China is fast taking up its position as the “Chief bank roller” on the continent is trying to make amends.

Another issue that will cloud the summit is the situation in Zimbabwe. Now that Rob is attending the summit and Brown chose to make a big deal of it, it has taken center stage and will definitely form part of the discussion – thereby taking vital time and resources away from pan-continental issues that could be more beneficial to a great number of Africans. Zim is in dire straits. But the more press we give Rob the bigger his head gets. He should be cut off and denied an audience, after which Mbeki should oust him and give Zim back to Zimbabweans.

Back to the summit, I think as the EU strategises on how to help the continent, it should move away from the previous peace meal deals that are not sustainable. Instead, there should be a genuine focus on industries that add value on African products before they are exported instead of wasting too much time on the issue of agricultural subsidies. The African delegation should also remind the Northerners not to be too pesky about the origin of flowers and fruits – as long as these items are fresh and edible and not growth through conscript labor.

On the whole, I hope that the summit goers know that we are in the 21st century – the age of broadband – and so they should strategize on ways of making Africans sufficiently well off soonest possible so that they can also get to enjoy the fruits of these wonderful times.

the lion meets the panda: China in Africa

So the Chinese, with their increasing hunger for raw materials, have been scouring the African continent looking for all manner of trade partnerships – all in an attempt to secure the supply of the essentials needed to fuel the East Asian monolith’s fast growth.

A stroll through many an African capital – at least in the East of the continent – will reveal a number of things Chinese. You won’t miss the Chinese workers laying out fiber optic cables or paving roads or even selling food in a Chinese restaurant. After years of living worlds apart, the lion and the panda have decided to become bosom buddies.

But is the relationship symmetrical? Can the panda and the lion cohabit in a sustainable and mutually beneficial manner? Many people have complained that the coming of the Chinese to the African continent will only serve to exacerbate the continent’s position as a mere source of raw materials. I beg to differ. This stance assumes that Africans and their leaders do not know what is good for themselves and are easily fooled – in the past by the Europeans and now by the Chinese.

The Africa that Europe encountered back in the nineteenth century is very different from the one that the Chinese are engaging with today. Furthermore, the Chinese are not here to merely take away things the way Western Europe did, they pay for the stuff they take. They may not pay well enough but the point is that they pay, plus there is no hand-chopping bula matari or a pontificating Smith Hempstone. On top of that the Chinese have created numerous jobs for the local people, be it in manual construction work or in higher level management and consultancy.

As the West continues to shy away from Africa because of the continent’s lack of or perceived lack of democratic institutions, the Chinese are taking advantage of the situation and reaping the benefits. The Africans are benefiting too.

It is high time the rest of the world took the pragmatic approach that China and increasingly India have taken in their relationship with Africa. Democracy and good institutions can only be supported by good economic outcomes and vise versa (Read scholars like Dahl, Moore, Przeworski, etc). The deepening of democratic beliefs and practices necessarily require economic development. Democracy’s proselytizers in Washington and Brussels should be informed that their lectures on liberties and human rights that are not backed by cranes, computers and jobs are akin to playing guitar to a goat.

So overall, I think that the new-found friendship between the lion and the panda is, at the macro level, a good thing. Darfur and other atrocities may tarnish this relationship but down the road we shall someday look back and with hindsight appreciate China’s contribution to Africa’s economic take-off. A word of caution for the panda though, the lion may seem lazy and unconcerned in the heat of the Savannah, but never take him for granted. He can pounce without warning and has the habit of switching lionesses with wanton abandon.

Here begins an era…

dear reader, thanks for stopping by. After having roamed many sites and registering a bunch of blogs I have decided to settle down with wordpress. I look forward to providing you with information that will be entertaining and informative with a touch of light Kenyan humour (yes we spell humor with a u, get used to it)

looking forward to interacting with you all,

me