No ICC hearings in Kenya

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova on Wednesday decided that the trial of suspects of the 2007-08 election violence in Kenya will not be held in the country.

Great move.

I am of the view that holding the hearings in Kenya would have created an unnecessary distraction from the important task of implementing Kenya’s new constitution. Already, the bigwigs accused of masterminding the violence that killed 1300 and displaced over 300,000 Kenyans have ethnicized their predicament. Holding the hearings in Kenya would have handed them an opportunity for a circus of ethnicity-charged rallies and demonstrations in Nairobi.

The ICC continues to be a source of debate in Kenya and across Africa. Many have faulted the court’s apparent bias against African leaders. Some have even called it a form of neocolonialism. While admitting that the court could use a little bit more tact [principally by acknowledging that it cannot be apolitical BECAUSE it is an international court SANS a world government] I still think that it is the best hope of ending impunity on the African continent – at least until African leaders internalize the fact that it is not cool to kill your own people.

Among the cases that should have been handled with a sensitivity to political realities include Sudan and Libya [and may be the LRA in Uganda]. Kenya’s Ocampo Six, the DRC’s Jean-Pierre Bemba and Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo, on the other hand, should not raise questions of national sovereignty. Murderous dictators and their henchmen do not have internal affairs. In any case sovereignty for many an African country means nothing more than sovereignty for the president and his cronies.

Related posts here and here.

Is Peer Review in Decline?

One more reason for academics to keep blogging….

Glenn Ellison in this paper notes the general decline in the need for academics from top institutions to publish in top journals because they can get citations [hopefully confirming that they were right] by other means – through sites like SSRN [and perhaps even by sharing their works in the blogosphere]

Over the past decade, there has been a decline in the fraction of papers in top economics journals written by economists from the highest-ranked economics departments. This paper documents this fact and uses additional data on publications and citations to assess various potential explanations. Several observations are consistent with the hypothesis that the Internet improves the ability of high-profile authors to disseminate their research without going through the traditional peer-review process.

The author further notes that:

I started this paper by pointing out two trends: economists in several highly regarded departments are publishing fewer papers in the top field journals; and Harvard’s economics department is also publishing fewer papers in the top general interest journals.

Several pieces of evidence bolster the view that one factor contributing to these trends is that the role of journals in disseminating research has been reduced. One is that the citation benefit to publishing in a top general interest journal now appears to be fairly small for top-department authors. Another is that Harvard authors appear to be quite successful in garnering citations to papers that are not published in top journals. The fact that the publication declines appear to be a top-department phenomenon (as opposed to a prolific-author phenomenon) suggests that a top-department affiliation may be an important determinant of an author’s ability to sidestep the traditional journal system.

Inequality, Terrorism and Governance in Nigeria

On June 17th Nigeria experienced its first ever suicide bomb attack. Boko Haram, a militant Islamic group that seeks the imposition of Sharia Law in all of northern Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Although the group’s principal aim – at least according to its press releases – is the imposition of Sharia Law, its motivating factors include economic, social and governance issues that the Nigeria’s infamously kleptocratic elite have so far chosen to ignore. According to the Christian Science Monitor:

The “nationalization” of the Boko Haram problem will intensify pressure on elected leaders and security forces to deal decisively with the group and prevent further attacks. Nigerian officials have proposed solutions ranging from crackdowns to outreach programs to amnesty offers. The government has to some extent pursued all of these options. Yesterday former Kano State GovernorIbrahim Shekarauproposed a hybrid approach of sorts, which would rely on intelligence gathering to defeat the group while advancing employment programs to deal with social and political grievances in Northern society.

Whatever course the government pursues, the Boko Haram problem has already led several Northern leaders, including the newly elected Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, to speak quite bluntly about the North’s serious problems of economic stagnation and political isolation. Northerners have been voicing such concerns for some time, but perhaps now these concerns will reach a broader audience and stimulate a debate that goes beyond just the issue of Boko Haram.

Since the unification of Nigeria in 1914, the north has continued to lag the south in a number of socio-economic indicators. Years of military rule by northern generals did not make things any better. Most of the country’s oil revenue wound up in Swiss bank accounts and as investments in properties in European cities – even as regular folk in Kano, Katsina and Maiduguri, and in the wider northern region, continued to wallow in poverty.

In a sense Boko Haram and its ghastly attacks on civilians and government installations is as much a rejection of Western/Christian education (its name loosely translates to non-Islamic education is a sin) as it is an indictment of northern Nigeria’s leadership. Even by Nigerian standards, the north is doing very badly.

Recently, the governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, chastised the northern elite by noting that the “high and persisting level of poverty in the country is a northern phenomenon.” Nearly all northern states in Nigeria have poverty rates higher than 60%, with some at 90%. Prof. Soludo further added that “if you look at all the indications of development, what constitutes today the North seems to be lagging far behind that the gaps seem to have even widened.

It is hard to ignore the fact that regular southerners are inching ahead of their northern counterparts despite the generous revenue sharing arrangements among Nigeria’s 36 states.

What does this mean for national politics and governance in Nigeria?

Well, for one we know that the apparent north-south political divide in the last election was merely an artifact of presidential politics. Gubernatorial elections revealed that northern elites are also aboard Goodluck Jonathan’s gravy train.

Northern Nigerian elites are as much a problem in the north’s underdevelopment as the historical north-south divide.

In light of this, groups like Boko Haram show that the northern elite in Nigeria can no longer play the north-south card while keeping all the money from the national treasury to themselves. The men and women on the streets and in northern rural areas also want their cut.

I hope Abuja will not bury its head in the sand and pretend that Boko Haram is purely a security problem.

Kenya tried doing the same with the Mungiki group (with extra-judicial executions and all) without much success.

To Abuja I say: you must try to solve the problem you have, not the one you wish you had.

Accountable leadership 1 Abdoulaye Wade 0

Abdoulaye Wade is a study in delegative democracy gone crazy (In the words of Paul Collier, democrazy). Delegative democracy  is the phenomenon of elected leaders going rogue and essentially performing auto-coups (mostly through constitutional gymnastics) in order to entrench themselves in power (see O’Donnell). Leading lights in this regard include Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, the late Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand.

Mr. Wade’s latest assault on Senegalese democracy has been his attempts to lower the threshold for the election of a president to a mere 25% down from 50%. He’d much rather win cheap against a fractured opposition in the first round than risk a runoff against a single opposition candidate. After 11 years in power without much to sing about the risk is just too high for the Wade regime. President Wade also wanted to create the position of an elected vice president before the 2012 elections. Many believe that Wade had his son Karim in mind for this new post.

In the end determined opposition protest outside the Senegalese parliament forced the president to withdraw the draft legislation.

If the opposition unites [and that is a big IF], they could beat Mr. Wade in 2012. Frequent power cuts, a flagging economy, rampant inflation and Wade’s brand of crass and tone deaf nepotism (he wants to be succeeded by his own son despite the revolutions the Islamic near-abroad) have served to alienate the aging leader from many voters, particularly in urban areas.

Mr. Wade is expected to run for a third 7-year presidential term next year. He is 85.

Graphical Illustration of China’s global reach

NPR has this cool graphic on China’s global investments [click on image to enlarge].

Notice that Nigeria is among the top destinations of Chinese investments.

In my alternate universe Abuja (the undisputed regional hegemon) is stable and uses this, and the fact that it is also among the most important sources of US-bound crude oil, as leverage to nudge the two biggest global powers in the direction of a more stable and coherent Africa policy.

More on this here.

The new constitution and patronage politics in Kenya

Former president Moi infamously liked warning voters that siasa mbaya maisha mbaya (bad politics leads to a bad life). This was code for vote for the opposition and no roads, no schools and no hospitals for you.

The framers of the new Kenyan constitution must have particularly disliked the power of the presidency in doling out development money and other patronage largesse. According to the Daily Monitor (Ugandan Daily):

“From 2012, it is likely to have the most limited presidency in Africa. The president has only about 10 per cent of the budget to dole out his patronage and fund his pet projects. The bulk of the rest are fixed; both by a constitutional cap, and a negotiation process.”

It will be interesting to see how the Kenyan presidency evolves following this revolutionary clipping of its powers. Already the executive has seen its powers watered down by an increasingly powerful parliament. To reinforce this trend, the judiciary has just seen the appointment of a card carrying reformer as Chief Justice. A powerful judiciary will provide a check not only on the presidency but on the wider executive branch as well – especially the now independent and obscenely corrupt Kenyan ministries.

Credit for the relatively more limited presidency also goes to President Kibaki.

Many forget that for a long period of time Kibaki governed with Moi’s constitutional powers. It is a relief that the limited presidency will now be both de facto and de jure, especially because there are way more Mois than Kibakis vying for the presidency in 2012.

A word of caution, though. Institutions are not automatic fixes to problems of governance. They are like incomplete contracts that have to be reinforced by numerous conventions and “gentleman agreements.” The Kenyan political elite may yet find ways to circumvent the spirit of the new constitution.


When not worrying about jobs, terrorists and reelection, Obama calms babies

This is on the fluffy side of things…

Remember when Obama could do just about anything [including touching MC Hammer]? Well, he still has some of that magic touch – at least when it comes to babies.

HT Huffington Post

Quick hits

1. If you don’t have a summer reading list already, Blattman has one for you. The list is obviously not exhaustive, but two pressing titles I might add are Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy and Gerschenkron’s Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective.

2. In yet another not so nice chapter in the relationship between the Angolans and Congolese, Angola has deported thousands of Congolese. According to IRIN:

The expulsions are symptomatic of the tense relations between Luanda and Kinshasa, rooted in disputes over border demarcation and natural resources. Angola’s alleged loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue due to the unauthorized artisanal exploitation of diamonds is a particular bone of contention.

3. Michelle Obama is in Africa on one of those first lady gigs. Many Africa watchers have complained that the visit does not have any real policy agenda beyond the usual talking points.

I agree.

But I would also like to point out that the failure of Africa to reap an Obama dividend is not just because of the State Dept.’s indifference to Africa but also because Africa lacks a coherent voice in Washington. Is there an Africa lobby? What does it do?

Instead of a calculated strategic response to the election of the first US president of African descent the Continent has swung from euphoria to disappointment over the fact that manna did not fall from heaven.

4. Lastly, the fortunes of the AU force in Somalia appear to be on an upswing. Now if only Somali politicians can get their act together and form a stable government.

Failed states index out, the usual suspects top the list

FP has the annual list of failed states. The Continent has a heavy presence on the list, with the usual suspects like Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Central African Republic, among the top failures. Also on the list are otherwise stable places like Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, among others.

The list is, in some sense, a reminder that several states out there are in dire straits. Insecurity and poverty continue to be a daily experience of far too many people. But it also raises methodological questions regarding the rankings. Some of the rankings certainly do not make any substantive sense and merely feed into alarmist stereotypes we already have of certain countries or regions of the world.

Methodological issues aside, the list is yet another reminder that despite the recent surge in Afro-optimism, a lot still needs to be done in order to improve the human condition in Africa, among other regions of the world.

chiluba dies

The firebrand Zambian trade unionist-cum president, Frederick Chiluba, has died. The Daily Nation reports that the former president of Zambia died in the early hours of Saturday.

Mr. Chiluba came into power in 1991 following the defeat of Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia’s first multiparty elections. Although tainted by allegations of corruption – he has been accused of having embezzled US $46 million – Mr. Chiluba will be remembered as one of the fearless civil society leaders on the continent who championed the democratic cause at a time when it was dangerous to do so.

conflict minerals in the congo

As is now common knowledge, the mineral glut in the DRC has been more a source of pain rather than gain. Minerals have financed both corrupt governments and their cronies in Kinshasa and marauding rebel groups in the ungoverned corners of the vast country.

To over-simply the issue, reforms will have to tackle both angles of the problem, i.e. both Kinshasa and the plethora of armed groups will have to come clean with regard to the extraction and sale of mineral resources. Kinshasa’s hoarding of all the benefits from the trade provides a perverse legitimacy for armed groups to continue their illicit activities.

Jason Stearns, the author of Dancing In the Glory of Monsters [I highly recommend the book], has a post on the complexities surrounding conflict minerals in the DRC.

First, “cautious” is the operative word. The Congolese export ban (September 2010 – March 2011) and the US electronic industry’s embargo of untraced minerals (April 2011 – present) have caused major job losses in the Kivus, as well as played into the hands of a select elite of military commanders, including ICC-indictee Bosco Ntaganda. It is, however, important to point out that neither initiative was caused directly by the Dodd-Frank legislation in the US. Rather, the export ban was decreed by the Congolese presidency, while the industry embargo was an aggressive interpretation of the US legislation. Dodd-Frank call for companies to carry out due diligence and to report their findings; the OECD guidelines call on companies to minimize the risk of financing armed groups.

Secondly, the Malaysia Smelting Corporation (MSC), which I had reported as having signed a deal for the largest tin mines in the Kivus, has not yet officially concluded a deal. A large Congolese delegation visited Malaysia earlier this year, and MSC and their Belgian partners Traxys then came to meet with President Kabila. A “confidentiality agreement” was signed with MSC regarding the Sakima concessions in Maniema, a good place to start as most of the mines there are removed from the main areas of conflict. In addition, MSC has not yet given $10 million for certification an tracing schemes, although the mining minister says they have agreed to fund these initiatives.

More on this on Jason’s blog here.

The private sector is betting that Kenya will survive 2012

As I occasionally care to point out, Kenya is making meaningful progress towards institutionalization of government. According to Joel D. Barkan, the Kenyan parliament is the strongest in Africa. Its judiciary has just undergone radical reforms which saw outsiders from civil society appointed to the country’s newly created Supreme Court. The country’s provincial administration (with pith helmets and all), in the past the key tool of executive repression and control, is in its twilight and will be replaced by a devolved system of counties. The counties will elect their own assemblies, governors and will be funded directly from the consolidated fund.

But many fear that all these reforms could go up in flames in next year’s general election. President Kibaki is term limited and will be stepping down. The frontrunner is Raila Odinga. But new electoral rules – requiring a majority of 50% +1 – complicates matters a bit. Ethnic arithmetic point to an inevitable second round which will be closely fought between pro and anti-Raila factions. Raila is perhaps the most divisive figure in Kenyan politics. Most people tend to either love him or hate him, with a passion.

The prospect of another closely fought election has got many observers worried. 2007-08 is still fresh on many people’s minds.

That is why it is encouraging that the private sector is sending signals that they have confidence in the political system. Multibillion Shilling projects in construction, manufacturing and retail such as this and this are signs that businesspeople do not see that much political risk moving into next year.

These investments are also a vote of confidence in the nation’s property rights regime. The outcome of next year’s general election being unclear, it is significant that businesspeople have faith that their investments will be protected regardless of the outcome.

Kenyan supreme court takes shape

Judicial reform in Kenya made another big leap with the appointment of five individuals to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. Njoki Ndungu, Jackton Ojwang, Smokin Wanjala, Mohammed Ibrahim and Phillip Tunoi will join the Chief Justice, William Mutunga, and his assistant Nancy Baraza [Ms Baraza has since been replaced with Justice Kalpana Rawal] on the court.

Mutunga and Baraza will champion liberal views on the court – the Church and other conservative elements in Kenyan society unsuccessfully fought against their nomination to lead the Supreme Court. Messrs Tunoi and Ojuang will represent conservative views. Ndungu, Wanjala and Ibrahim are believed to be centrists.

The Supreme Court will provide the final word on constitutional matters as well as petitions involving presidential elections.

Although one can’t dismiss the possibility of political jockeying behind the scenes, the nomination of all seven justices was a coup for Kenya’s civil society. The Judicial Service Commission sought a clean break with Kenya’s muddy judicial history. None of the high-flying judges from the Moi and Kibaki eras got a nod to join the court.

Because this is Kenya, the JSC also made sure that the seven nominees reflected ethnic and regional balance. The ethnic balance in the nominations will ensure that parliament approves them.

Overall the court appears to have a progressive make up, albeit with a rightward tilt. This is good for Kenya.

In related news, the Kenyan parliament also approved the nomination of Keriako Tobiko to be the director of public prosecutions. Mr. Tobiko’s nomination was not without controversy, with civil society groups and a section of MPs accusing him of corruption and incompetence. In the end his nomination passed through.

The next big battle over judicial reforms will be over the appointment of the Attorney General.

Ignoring the log in one’s own eye (forgive the hackneyed biblical metaphor)

Hilary Clinton is on a tour of three African states. She is visiting Zambia, Tanzania and Ethiopia. This is what she had to say in Lusaka:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday warned Africa of a creeping “new colonialism” from foreign investors and governments interested only in extracting the continent’s natural resources to enrich themselves and not the African people. 

The point was directed at China.

But Mrs Clinton’s statement conveniently left out Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, among others. In these states the US government and American multinationals continue to cooperate with regimes that are obscenely corrupt and/or repressive for “constructive reasons.”

Chinese involvement in Africa is not clean, no doubt about that. Beijing’s support of the murderous regime in Khartoum is despicable. But this is nothing new. The US, Western Europe and Russia have done worse. The worst of all is the French who were in bed with the Rwandan army even as elements within it (Rwandan army) orchestrated the 1994 genocide.

Many people that I have spoken to about Chinese involvement in Africa seem to have lots to complain about, but they also like Chinese pragmatism. They get the roads built, the fibre cables laid out, etc.

I must say that Africans who are suffering under oppressive regimes still need western pressure on their governments to allow for more political space (however janus-faced this pressure might be). That said, Africa needs more options. A globally conscious China with lots of money to throw around will – in the long run – do more good than harm in Africa.

Their resources-for-(white elephant)-projects approach might yet prove to be better than the previous resources-for-Swiss-bank-accounts approach of Western multinationals.

And as has been the case with shady Western involvement in Africa, whenever the Chinese make deals that are bad for the locals the blame should be directed at the African governments who take side payments and look the other way.