Big business and economic development in “pristine lands” is awful. Especially if you grew up with the comforts of indoor plumbing and general over-abundance of the purest hedonistic-capitalist kind. It is only when you have the choice to pop in and out of “tropical obscurity” that you would find the intellectual courage to defend a way of life that is just above that of man circa 1750 A.D. Suddenly you find yourself forgetting the basic fact that it is underdevelopment that makes infant mortality, HIV infection rates, gender inequality and a whole lot of other maladies most acute in your presumed tropical paradise.
I am beginning to read things to the effect that the development of a port in Lamu (Kenya) is bad – both for the environment and the local people and their culture. I don’t buy most of the stuff though. The likes of Gettleman want us to believe that people in places like Lamu are inherently anti-development. According to him the people of Lamu “say they are not especially well suited for the mechanized world.” Good for them. They would much rather live with the “omnipresent smells of donkey dung” than have a modern port constructed in their district. This is total horse manure.
Firstly, the environmental costs of having a modern port in Lamu will surely be outweighed by the socio-economic benefits. Oil exports from Uganda and Southern Sudan, among other trading opportunities in the wider region will surely create jobs in the area. Secondly, why should we assume that exposure of Lamu culture to the wider (albeit still not completely apparent) Kenyan Culture is necessarily bad? Aren’t cultures supposed to change with time? Plus if Lamu culture cannot keep up after such an encounter it should be allowed to go the way of the dodo. That is why we build museums.
If it can be done – as it should – the construction of Kenya’s second port in Lamu should be a foregone conclusion. The Kenyan government should make this crystal clear to all the environmentalists and anthropologists concerned.
I just read this article on the Economist website on the security situation in Southern Sudan. The piece reminded me of posts I made on this blog a while back about nomadic pastoralism and other supposedly “African” ways of life.
The strongly worded emails that I got over these two posts notwithstanding, I still stand by them. I think that it is time we woke up and faced the truth. Subsistence agriculture, nomadic pastoralism and the isolated rural life that characterizes most of Africa are inefficient at best and the real causes of African poverty at worst. Economic history shows that the percentage of a state’s population involved in agriculture is inversely proportional to per capita GDP. Forgive the cliche, but numbers don’t lie (at least not all the time).
Now I am not advocating for Soviet-style relocation of whole populations or anything close to that. But African governments ought to be cognizant of the above mentioned trend and so offer incentives to their nomadic communities to settle down (plus it easier to provide public goods to sedentary populations) and encourage rural farmers to consolidate their production.
I say this with a firm belief in agriculture as a pillar of economic development. Again, the history books show us that agriculture, textiles and construction comprise the holy trinity of economic development. This was true for England during the Industrial Revolution in the mid 18th century and is still true today. Starving, unclothed and homeless people will not magically start thinking about how to land a man on Mars.
The Washington Post has a piece on Darfur that I liked. check it out.
The Times too has a piece on Darfur. Also interesting about the piece is the fact that Bashir seems to be betting on the idea that since Sudan is an Islamic country (and a member of the Arab league) the international community will be hesistant to intervene even as he continues in his plans to punish Darfuris by denying them aid. The Arab league and the African Union should be most ashamed for not having come out to condemn Bashir’s actions when he expelled aid workers from most of Darfur.
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has announced that he wants all foreign aid groups out of the country in one year, adding that the aid agencies can drop off their aid at airports and let the Sudanese distribute it on their own – yeah right.
If we ever doubted the sanity of this man here is the confirmation that he is certifiably insane. It may have been political posturing on his part but he is president and should not be saying such crazy things. Nearly 3 million Sudanese have been displaced thanks to this man’s genocidal rule since he took over power in a coup in 1989. There is no way on earth that he can be trusted with relief food, or any other supplies. His airforce continues to bomb villages, killing innocent civilians. His bands of militia in Darfur, Abyei and other areas continue to run around raping women and terrorizing villages in a sick and twisted genocidal mission to “Arabize” certain regions of the country.
There has to be a way of forcing him to allow aid to reach civilians. The international community ought to invoke the ‘right to protect’ clause and intervene (force him to allow aid in) before this man’s madness leads to even more deaths.
Omar al-Bashir is a war criminal, no doutbt about that. Because of his genocidal tendencies hundreds of thousands of Sudanese in the East, West and South of the vast African country have lost their lives. Almost two million have been displaced from their homes and live lives not worth living. He deserves nothing but to be locked up in a tiny cell for the rest of his life.
Omar al-Bashir is also still the president of Sudan. He still has access to the security apparatus of Sudan. He can revoke aid licenses. He can bomb villages. He can jail aid workers. He has been doing a few of these things since his arrest warrant was issued by Moreno-Ocampo. He expelled aid workers in Darfur whom he accused of colluding with the ICC in gathering evidence against him. As the aid workers leave or downsize their involvement in Darfur hundreds of thousands of IDPs will be left without hope – the same people that institutions like the ICC are supposed to protect.
Justice is political. It is not some abstraction. It depends on realities on the ground. And for now the situation in Darfur is not conducive to the idea of arresting the commander in chief of the Sudanese Army. Omar al-Bashir is as guilty as charged. But it might do the Sudanese more good to engage him constructively than to demand for his immediate arrest.
The International Criminal Court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir. It is the first time that such a warrant has been issued for the arrest of a sitting head of state. The ICC is accusing Bashir of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his involvement in the genocide in Darfur.
This particular warrant will be a real test. Being a sitting president, it is hard to see how he can be arrest since the warrant itself will be delivered to the government of Sudan. Furthermore, al-Bashir now has every incentive to remain president and to clamp down on the opposition. Some members of the Sudanese civil society have criticized the idea of attempting to arrest al-Bashir, arguing that it will only make him dig in and reverse any progress that they have made in terms of being granted civil liberties and political space.
The government of Sudan is yet to officially respond to the arrest warrant although the BBC quotes a government official as terming the warrant as “neo-colonialist.”
“Human rights cannot interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises.” These were the words of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state on her current visit to China. In an effort to warm up relations with the Asian mammoth (the party preferred to have a Republical White House), the Obama Administration seems to be willing to turn a bling eye to some nagging questions, at least for now.
But I say that this is the wrong approach. Chinese poor record on human rights issues at home and abroad cannot be ignored. China should be embarrassed into stopping its support for the genocidal regime of Mohammed al-Bashir in Sudan. The US (and the world) cannot afford to put aside human rights issues just because of the world economic crisis. Indeed this might be the only time in the near future when China would feel vulnerable enough to feel threatened by international condemnation. Letting this opportunity pass by will be a big mistake for secretary Clinton and the Obama White House.