Will be blogging less regularly in the next few weeks

Dear readers, third year of graduate school requires that I blog less frequently over the next three weeks or so.

Instead of the almost daily updates I will be bunching up the posts whenever time permits. You can also follow me on twitter at @kopalo where I regularly comment on stories on Africa and other interests of mine.

I should be back to regular postings by the last week of October.

when dictators’ oracles fail them

One of the biggest problems in dictatorships is the dearth of dependable information. This problem affects both dictators and their oppressed subjects alike. The same applies to presidents in electoral regimes who surround themselves with “yes men,” the latter who are oftentimes more concerned about pleasing their patron than giving him the right information.

This cartoon from the Daily Nation exemplifies the surprise from some quarters that greeted Rupiah Banda’s defeat in the just concluded tripartite elections in Zambia.

Former president Banda might have been a victim of misinformation, above and beyond the fact that the opposition Patriotic Front run a skillfully crafted campaign complete with this mega hit (in Zambia at least).

[youtube.com/watch?v=G16vj5hJKfw]

HT African Arguments

Prof. Wangari Maathai passes on

I remember as a kid watching TV and seeing a woman who was the head of the greenbelt movement being chased around by armed policemen. All I knew was that she was fighting to protect Karura forest and freedom corner in Nairobi from land grabbers. This woman was Wangari Maathai, the first woman in eastern Africa to receive a PhD. She would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize and do all Kenyans proud.

For many Kenyans Prof. Maathai was the face of activism against environmental degradation and misuse of natural resources. Her organization, the Greenbelt Movement has planted more than 20 million trees across Africa.

According to her family Prof. Maathai died “after a long and bravely borne struggle with cancer.”

She will be forever remembered as a key part of Kenya’s Second Liberation.

The other dimension of the (origins of) Congolese Conflict

UPDATE: Stay updated on the run-up to the elections in the DRC here.

**************************************************

In reaction to Dodd-Frank many in the blogosphere, including yours truly, have insisted that the problem in eastern Congo is not a law enforcement problem but a governance problem whose solution must come primarily from Kinshasa.

Often ignored is the regional dimension of the conflict.

The involvement of Rwanda and Uganda in eastern DRC (in the first and second Congo wars) have been excellently documented in Dancing in the Glory of Monsters (the author also blogs at Congo Siasa).

The invading forces may have left, but the geopolitical posturing remains and has consequences for the flow of arms and mushrooming of militias in the region.

Here’s a short documentary on the same.

This is not to simply vilify Uganda and Rwanda – one could argue that the presence of rebels from both countries in the Congo provided legitimate grounds for an invasion.

The point here is that the regional dimension of the conflict should not be ignored even as we insist that attention should shift to Kinshasa in an attempt to provide a lasting end to the conflict in eastern DRC.

Quick hits

The world marathon record is back in Kenya, where it belongs.

Zambian Economist has nice maps showing the results of the just concluded general elections.

(Dada) Kim on Haba na Haba has a story on the continuing decline of Malawi into overt and brutal dictatorship. President Bingu wa Mutharika recently appointment his wife and brother to the cabinet. This reminded me of this paper on the inefficient extraction of rents by dictators.

President Zuma of South Africa still hasn’t established his dominance within the ANC (and probably never will).

The drought in the Horn has thus far claimed 10,000 lives. The Bank is increasing its aid package to the region.

The Consequences of Dodd-Frank in the Kivus

The dusty streets of Goma, North Kivu’s capital and a mining hub, illustrate Congo’s ills. Metals dealerships dominated the city’s economy until last year but are mostly padlocked now. Repair shops and bars that relied on mining business are empty. So are most public offices. Local government, financed by mining taxes, is insolvent; salaries have not been paid in full for months.

In the past year Goma has suffered a miserable decline. Hundreds of mines in the surrounding countryside have cut output by as much as 95%. At the Humule coltan mine a few gumbooted miners scramble up a red-earth ravine where last year there were thousands. Most stopped coming because they could no longer find buyers for their nuggets of coltan, a metal used in electronic gadgets. They blame what they call “the American law”.

That is the Economist reporting on the mining sector in the DRC.

Dodd-Frank (found here) is a lesson in the failure of solutions imposed from 30,000 feet. As has been stressed by many DRC experts (see Mvemba, Aronson and Seay, for instance), the problem with eastern DRC is not a law enforcement problem but a weak state problem.

With that in mind, it is sad that Joseph Kabila, the man who has failed to pacify the country, is poised for reelection this November. Good governance, even in relatively peaceful and cohesive states, take a long time to evolve. Once can only imagine how much longer Congolese will have to wait before they can get an effective and accountable state.

For  a slightly different opinion check out AFJN.

Sata is Zambia’s president-elect

NB: Still hoping from airport to airport and will give my reaction to the Sata victory when I finally get back to Palo Alto on Friday evening Pacific Time.

Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front is the new president of Zambia. Mr. Sata beat incumbent president Banda after getting 43% of the declared results in the just concluded general elections in Zambia.

As was expected, the high turnout (from the numbers I have, low 60s), favored Mr. Sata. In the last election turnout was a dismal 45%.

For more of this read the Post.

 

Zambian Election Results

UPDATE:

Sata is leading 47% – 34% in the latest confirmed results from the electoral commission of Zambia. Most of these confirmed results are from Sata strongholds. Banda will almost definitely narrow the gap once the numbers from his base get put on the board.

****************************************

Results (not yet confirmed by the electoral commission of Zambia) posted on Zambian Economist indicate that PF has won 49/150, MMD 13/150 and UPND 4/150 of of the 66 constituencies with results.

It looks like turnout was high in the election (might reach the low 60s) which is good for the opposition Patriotic Front. PF will definitely be the biggest political party in parliament. Preliminary presidential results are expected to be announced later this evening. From back of the envelope calculation of the already announced constituency results it appears that Sata is ahead by a sizable margin.

It is important to remember that most of the results are from the urban areas of Zambia. The MMD and Mr. Banda will definitely have a strong showing once the results from the countryside start trickling in.

************************************

Unconfirmed reports indicate that PF has scooped all 22 seats on the Copperbelt, all the seats in Lusaka, 12 out of 14 in Luapula.

Banda has a wide lead in Eastern Province. MMD has apparently won all seats except one.

Turnout numbers are still not here yet. Presidential results still under wraps. Will update as I get more results.

outcome of Zambian elections remains uncertain

The Zambian elections remain a toss up.

So why is this so?

See this earlier post for reasons why the opposition might fail to dislodge MMD from power.

In addition, it is hard to tell what will happen because of PF’s campaign strategy of “don’t kubeba” (don’t tell them). Realizing that it is being outspent by spades in the election, PF has adopted a tactic of actively encouraging Zambians to falsify their party preferences. They’ve urged their supporters to attend MMD rallies, take their money and chitenges but not tell them who they are voting for. It remains to be seen if this strategy has achieved its goal or not.

Here are a few scenarios that might play out in tomorrow’s polls:

  • High turnout with PF winning: A high turnout will definitely favor the opposition Patriotic Front (PF). With a high turnout the party will be able to run up the numbers in urban centres and give the ruling party, MMD, no chance of making up for the gap with rural votes.
  • High turnout with MMD winning: An MMD victory after a high turnout will create a tricky situation. The numbers would simply not add up. Mr. Banda has lost enough ground in the last several months (including most crucially in Western Province over the Barotse Land Agreement) to make it very difficult for him to win after a high turnout. This scenario presents a high likelihood of violence in urban areas and particularly in the Copperbelt.
  • Low turnout: A low turnout will almost certainly result in an MMD victory. With a low turnout the PF will not get enough votes to beat MMD’s overwhelming presence in the rural areas. There will also be little likelihood of violence since voters will have revealed their preference for the status quo. This is not an entirely strange outcome since the Zambian economy has averaged a growth rate of over 6% in the last three years.

It is hard to tell which scenario will play out tomorrow. It all hinges on the turnout numbers.

more on the zambian elections

Check out African Arguments for a brief backgrounder.

The election remains too close to call, which means that Banda is winning.

Given how stacked things are against the opposition, they can only win if they do so convincingly. If it is close (like it was in 2008 when the president won by just over 30,000 votes) the electoral commission will be under immense pressure to hand the ruling party, MMD, the win.

Mr. Sata (the main opposition (PF) candidate) has urged his supporters to stay at polling stations to monitor the tallying and relay of results. I understand there will be an NGO-led parallel vote tallying (but which won’t be publicized because of govt. sanctions). I hope I can get a hold of these results before the end of the week. The electoral commission of Zambia has promised to release the results within 48 hours of the polls closing – that is Thursday evening.

In Lusaka everything is slowing down in readiness for the elections. There is a sense that there will be isolated violence in some parts of the city but nothing too serious. From what I gather the Copperbelt is the region most at risk of election-related violence. People there have (or believe that they do) the most to gain if PF wins (The Copperbelt is also majority Bemba. Mr. Sata is a Bemba speaker).

The MMD’s privatization drive (of the mining sector) since the early 1990s has hit this region the most. Many lost their sinecures in parastatals;  free medicare and schooling disappeared; and there is also a sense that foreigners are benefiting at the expense of ordinary Zambians in the region. Mr. Sata has promised to channel more resources from the mining sector into social programs and a more aggressive job drive.

This is largely campaign hot air but it appears to be sticking. The MMD will be lucky if it gets even a single parliamentary seat in the Copperbelt.

Zambian Elections

UPDATE:

The conference (organized by the SADC observer mission and donors) on the upcoming elections was a non-starter, with only Neo Simutanyi (Zambia’s preeminent political scientist), giving a talk that had significance. The rest of the conference was full of NGO-ese hot air. None of the major political parties had representation at the conference, even though this was SADC’s “fact finding” conference about the state of play in the elections.

************************************

Zambians will go to the polls next Tuesday.

According to the latest (and most reliable) opinion poll conducted by the Center for Policy Dialogue President Banda is leading the pack with 41%, followed closely by Sata at 38%.

I am attending a mini-conference tomorrow on the elections (academics, observers, NGOs, political parties, etc will be in attendance) and will report back after I get views from those closely involved.

The poll cited above predicts an MMD victory for the following reasons:

  • Incumbency advantage: MMD is using state resources, including government workers, in its campaigns. Road repairs are all over the place, with Banda’s picture and the words “Your Money at Work”, on billboards next to every project.
  • Divided opposition: Mr. Banda is polling a dismal 41%. A PF-UPND united front would almost certainly guarantee a victory for the opposition. But egos and personality politics remain a key barrier to opposition unity in Zambia. Some have claimed that MMD and UPND have a clandestine pact to deny PF victory in the polls. Post-election coalition building will reveal the veracity of these claims.
  • Opposition has ignored rural areas: In many parts of the rural areas you would be mistaken to think that MMD is the only party taking part in the elections. MMD posters and campaigners are everywhere. The opposition has, however, mostly concentrated its efforts in the urban areas. I recently had a chat with a PF operative who admitted that they strategy is to run up the numbers in the urban areas so that even if Banda rigs the rural vote he still won’t be able to beat them. The PF’s target number among urban voters is 2.7 million. There are slightly over 5.1 million registered voters in Zambia. Interestingly, there will be about 2.3 million new voters who did not take part in the last presidential election (turnout was a dismal 41%. Banda was elected president by only 18% of registered voters!!).
  • Fear of Sata: Underneath all the campaigning there is the fear that Sata is unpredictable and dictatorial. Many in the private sector fear that he might try to change things too fast and end up messing up everything. Some admit that they will vote for Banda merely for the sake of continuity.

I agree.

An MMD victory will however be a blow to the consolidation of Zambian democracy.

Since dislodging UNIP from power in 1991, MMD has increasingly become autocratic. Intolerance of the opposition and One-Party-Rule mentality is back in vogue. Indeed, many in its ranks are former members of President Kaunda’s court, including Vernon Mwaanga – derisively known locally as “Master dribbler” – who is notorious for being the brain behind MMD’s electoral manipulations.

Many of the founders of MMD have since decamped to PF.

Bozize’s son is not into authoritarianism, seriously

As we navigated a roundabout at the edge of town he turned to me and asked, “Have you been following the news?” I hadn’t heard anything since the day before. “About Ivory Coast? Gbagbo held his own inauguration today! Mais ca, c’est vraiment trop!”

Bozize’s son then launched into a diatribe about the failings of African executives. He and his friend, in the back seat, agreed that Ouattara would have been the better choice. “Ouattara is open. He’s for the West. Gbagbo is too much of a nationalist. You see what I’m trying to say?” Then he shifted fully into lecture mode: “We Africans, we have a problem. We like power too much. There are people who, once they grab power, stay there for thirty years! Est-ce que c’est normal? Non! Do you think you could see such a thing in America, or in Europe? No way! The problem here is the nepotism and the corruption.”

…… the conversation had turned to President Biya in neighboring Cameroon, now in power for more than thirty years. “C’est pas normal,” the president’s son clucked, shaking his head.

Bozize is the son of the guy who runs this place.

For more on this and other stories from CAR read this blog (HT Rachel).

Hand Relief International

Something for the humanitarian and aid communites to think about, courtesy of Hand Relief International.

Among those in the know, another fact has not remained unnoticed: there is more money flowing in than used to and that, reader, is excellent news.

The shit continues to be real in Nairobi, the dignified hub of any meaningful Somalia project, with necessary field trips to Dadaab, where HRI has quickly  set up cutting-edge infrastructure to ferry high-flyers through, complete with up-to-the minute roster of the photogenic fresh arrivals that can be summoned in an instant with their families for that perfect picture, should the visitor require one for the cover of their all-important trip report or their obligatory article in newspaper of choice back home.

More on this here.

HT Blattman

Railroaded

That railroads were political animals was the truth of The Octopus, even if the power Norris attributed to them did not necessarily always exist …. The Octopus raised questions that later critics of the Robber Baron school, dismayed by its exaggerations, largely dismissed. They threw the baby out with the bathwater. They did not spend much time on a central contention of the Robber Baron literature: that many entrepreneurial fortunes had as much to do with corruption of the political process as with success in selling transportation, and that such entrepreneurial success had long-term costs for society.

….  Leland Stanford was the president of the Central Pacific Railroad and its public face from its founding until his death…. In 1885 Stanford bought his way into the US Senate.

The above excerpts come from the book Railroaded, by Richard White. It is a fascinating read about America’s railroad men at the height of the Gilded Age. This was a time in American history in which politics and business were shamelessly linked to one another. Famous men such as Stanford, Crocker, Adams and Huntington were in the business of openly bribing legislators in order to protect their monopolies and suppress investigations into their insider dealings.

Stanford would later found a University – the Leland Stanford Junior University in Palo Alto California.

The book is a bit long – not even two days on the TAZARA was enough to finish it. But it is a fantastic read. It is also a lesson in development economics. Through corruption and control of government America’s Robber Barons managed to accumulate capital that would later on fuel development in other sectors of the economy. Having political control granted them the chance to reduce their political risk. By the time real democracy and the anti-monopoly crusade caught up with them the “damage” had been done. America had its railroads which enabled transcontinental trade in an age before the massive interstate highway system.

The big lesson here is that de jure rules oftentimes do not matter much for institutional development. It is the de facto balance of power (both political and economic) that does.

Eventually America had enough railroads competing against each other such that the ensuing interest alignment resulted in some railroad companies allying with anti-monopolists to “rat out” their competitors. And with that came proper regulation.

Railroaded is a book about big business, politics, human rights and the fallibility of even the greatest of men (very few women are mentioned in the book.) The men of the Gilded Age laid the groundwork for the American corporation and the American love of risk. Bankruptcies did not come with indelible stigmas. They were mere speed bumps. It was also an era in which Chinese, African Americans, and recent European immigrants were exploited for the sake of the bottom line. What mattered was how much could be squeezed from workers, the government and one’s business associates.

Add the book to your reading list if you care for economic and political history.

quick hits on Zambia and beyond

In case you missed it, Zambia is a middle income country – at least according to the Bank. This sort of shows in some parts of Lusaka. But Zambia is also a highly unequal and very poor country. Most people in the countryside have nothing else to do but subsistence farming and burning charcoal. The economy is also heavily dependent on mines and foreign owned consumer goods outlets from South Africa and beyond. Which is sad really, given how much arable land it has.

Does anyone know why Zambians use military time? Forget 4 PM, it is 16 hours in Zambian time. The people I have asked have speculated that it is a legacy of the mining industry. I find it fascinating. Taxi drivers think I am weird every time I bring it up.

Also, why is everyone in Lusaka out to some workshop???? Seriously. This is a big problem here. I have had to cancel about five appointments because the only person at the office was the security guard. When do people have time to do their work?

Moving a bit beyond Zambia, be sure to follow the Kenyan cases at the ICC. I am withholding blogging on the issue until the pre-trial judges make their decision. Whichever way they go it will have important ramifications for Kenyan politics. Next year is a make or break for Kenya.

Be sure to check out the Economist’s piece on South Sudan. The teething problems for the new nation will be epic and will take time to go away.

And lastly, check out Jim Fearon on Libya. HT Platas-Izama, who has a new blog here.