drug trafficking and african politics

UPDATE: Obama names Harun Mwau as a drug kingpin.

President Obama, in a letter to the US Congress, named a prominent Kenyan member of parliament and one of the wealthiest Kenyans, Harun Mwau, as a drug kingpin. Mr. Mwau is a renowned Kenyan businessman with links to container depots, retail and banking interests, among other investments.

I am still waiting for official reaction from the Kenyan government on the Obama letter to the US Congress.

Kenya, Gambia, Ghana, South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea. All these countries have experienced allegations that people high up in government – sometimes individuals very close to the heads of state – are involved in drug trafficking. Africa is a major transit point for drugs from Latin America and Asia into Europe.

The latest news on this subject is the jailing of Sheryl Cwele, the wife of South Africa’s intelligence minister. Ms Cwele was found guilty of recruiting women to smuggle drugs in and out of the country. It is hard to imagine that the intelligence minister was not aware of the fact that his wife was a drug trafficker.  Cwele refuses to resign.

In the recent past a woman close to President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya was allegedly linked to a ring of East European drug traffickers. The murder of President Joao Vieira of Guinea-Bissau was also thought to be connected to a dispute involving Latin American drug lords. Ghana’s President Atta Mills has publicly admitted that it is hard to deal with the problem of drug trafficking because powerful people in the country’s security apparatus are involved.

The South African, Kenyan and Ghanaian cases are particularly alarming. Most people would imagine that only incorrigibly inept kleptocracies such as Jammeh’s Gambia or Vieira’s Guinea-Bissau would engage in drug trafficking. If better run places with stronger states cannot tackle drug trafficking who will?

africa’s Middle class

Elizabeth Dickinson at FP reports:

Given all this, perhaps the only thing about Africa that isn’t changing quickly is our perceptions of it. There’s an image impressed in all of our minds of a starving child, symobilizing an impoverished continent. If that was ever true, this is an excellent reminder that today, it’s at most a snapshot. Yes, there’s great human suffering and it’s not hard to find. But Africa as a whole is becoming a middle class continent.

It is hard to completely buy Dickinson’s optimism given the fact that Somalia, the DRC, Chad, Central Africa Republic, Sudan, among others are still far from being stable polities. The precarious nature of the stability in the more stable African states such as Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda e.t.c. are also cause for concern.

That said, the reality is that there are many Africas. Those who fail to internalize that fact continue to do so at their own peril. Just ask the Indians and the Chinese.

quick hits

The long awaited discussion about the real content of higher education in Africa is underway. Be a part of it.

The DRC is getting ahead of itself with elections. One wonders whether holding elections is the wisest thing to do right now. Wars raging in the east. A country the size of western Europe but with the most rudimentary infrastructure. Loads of mineral wealth that create a few billionaires – most of them non-Congoleses – while the real Congolese starve or eke out a living with one eye on the lookout for marauding rebels and government forces thugs. The DRC is one big mess in need of radical clean up. Kabila simply will not do it. But he will win these elections for sure. And that means more instability in the great lakes region.

I just found out that I shall be in Zambia for the election campaigns – elections due in October – so watch this space for stuff on Zambian politics this August and September.

And lastly, China is upping its involvement in the Kenyan economy. According to Business Daily:

Several Chinese manufacturers are already setting up local production plants in Kenya, shifting from the previous strategy in which they supplied the domestic consumer market with goods imported from their home country.

More jobs = lower infant mortality rates. Everybody wins.