Tough trying to be good in a bad neighborhood

A few days ago a Kenyan judge ordered the government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir if he ever sets foot in Kenya. Mr. Bashir has an outstanding arrest warrant against him from the ICC for crimes against humanity committed since 2003 in Darfur.

The ruling has since metastasized into a full blown diplomatic row; Khartoum expelled the Kenyan ambassador before rescinding the expulsion, and is now threatening to cut all trade ties with Kenya, expel Kenyans living in Sudan and deny any planes leaving or going to Kenya from flying in its airspace – if the government does not take back the ruling in two weeks.

The diplomatic row aside, the case has implications for the reform process in Kenya. The case is a test of the depth of the Kenyan judiciary’s new found independence from the executive.

According to Khartoum:

“al-Bashir expects Nairobi to scrap the arrest warrant within the next two weeks and not simply file an appeal.”

That is not how the judicial process works in a democracy. The executive cannot just scrap a judicial ruling. Within Kenya, for the sake of precedence the government must be seen to be complying with court rulings. The Chief Justice has already warned the executive against ignoring the court ruling saying that

“If a country chooses to live by anarchy, it must be ready to face the consequences of disregarding the law.”

It remains unclear what the executive will do given Khartoum’s two week ultimatum. Disregarding the court ruling will come with consequences for the individuals involved – in particular the Foreign Minister and the Commissioner of Police.

Kenyan Court Orders Bashir Arrest, Sudan Expels Kenyan Ambassador

UPDATE:

The BBC reports:

Sudan ordered the expulsion of the Kenyan ambassador after a Kenyan judge issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s foreign ministry has said.

Mr Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Sudan has ordered the Kenyan ambassador to leave the country within 72 hours.

It has also ordered the Sudanese ambassador in Kenya to return to Khartoum.

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

A Kenyan court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir over alleged war crimes in Darfur.

The ruling came after Kenya allowed Mr Bashir to visit in August in defiance of an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest.

The judge said he should be arrested if he “ever set foot in Kenya” again, the AFP news agency reports.

Kenya is a signatory to the treaty which established the ICC in 2002.

The new Kenyan constitution requires that the government implements its international treaty obligations. The ruling, though without much bite – I doubt Bashir will need to be in Kenya any time soon, has immense symbolism in the region.

It also matters for Kenyan domestic politics. Presently, a few high ranking Kenyan politicians – including the Finance minister, two former ministers and former police boss – are on trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity. The accused await judgment on the admissibility of their cases later this year or early next. The Bashir ruling means that if the charges against the “Ocampo Six” are confirmed but the government drags its feet in implementing an arrest warrant then the courts will step in.

More on the Bashir case here and here.

In other news, Uganda and Tanzania have rejected Khartoum’s petition to join the East African Community, citing “several issues like their democracy, the way they treat women and their religious politics.” Yeah right.

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.

Quick hits

Texas in Africa’s review of Fighting for Darfur.

Blattman on economic growth and development.

The long arms of the Rwandan state?

The Zambian elections will be close. Last time round the opposition leader lost by a mere 3% (I will be there for the campaigns this summer).

And lastly, Kenya’s trillion-shilling proposed budget. High on development expenditure but could it crowd out the private sector?

 

Afro-American relations and Justice

FP Magazine reports:

In short, all the carrots that U.S. diplomats are offering the Sudanese president seem to be working. Among the prizes for Khartoum are a U.S. promise to remove Sudan from its list of terrorism-supporting states and a possible visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to the Sudan Tribune. Earlier this month, U.S. State Department officials also signaled that they would be ready to begin normalization following Sudan’s acceptance of the vote.

While the US approach has yielded good results in securing the secession referendum in the South, American policy in the wider region leaves a lot to be desired. Washington appears to be ready to cut a deal with any dictator, as long as they serve a short-term US need.

America needs to do more on Darfur. America needs to do more in Ethiopia, where Meles Zenawi continues to reign with an iron fist without any pretense of respecting human rights. America needs to do more in Uganda, where Museveni has emerged as an anti-terror crusader who does not care for any liberal (in the classical sense) ideals.

The choice between protecting American interests abroad and respecting the rights of other peoples of the world is a false choice. Liberty (the world over) is not incompatible with American security. The ideals embodied in the federalist papers, the American declaration of independence, and the first amendment of the US constitution should not be confined within the US borders as far as American policy goes.

fast one meal for the emaciated children of darfur

If you are feeling like you haven’t done anything good lately or are running low on self-worth derived from history-changing feel-good acts then load up on brownie points with the gods by doing this….

all you need to do is fast one meal

This is not just a critique of such approaches in the African scene but applies to our approach to the needy in general. Do we need to feast on images of the destitute among us at their worst for us to respond to their needs? How does all the poorism and poverty porn reflect on our consciences as humans who OUGHT to respect other people for who they are, regardless of whether they are needy or not; Or whether they are in America or Elsewhere?

More on this here

HT Hiyabel

the icc and the congo

IRIN news reports that arrests in Europe of political leaders of rebel movements in the Congo may not have much impact on the goings on on the ground. Even the FDLR is not immune to the commonplace principal-agent problems we are all aware of. The disconnect between the political leaders in Europe and generals on the ground is limiting the deterrence effects of the arrests.

I am not a huge fan of the ICC. But I am not one to throw out the baby with the bath water. The institution has potential to be a voice for the voiceless. Because of the ICC Kenyan politicians in the future will think twice before ordering jobless youth to murder innocent civilians. Because of the ICC rebel leaders cannot fly in and out of Brussels to raise money with abandon. These are not trivial achievements.

Accusations against the court’s Africa-bias may have some merit. Even more important are charges that the court does not appreciate the political consequences of justice or that the very idea of justice is political (see the Bashir case in Sudan). Others even point out the fact that going after the big fish ignores local offenses that also require redress. These are serious concerns that the ICC should address. But that said, overall I think that the ICC does more good than harm.

Sudan’s president bashir charged with genocide, icc issues new arrest warrant

President Omar al-Bashir just won’t shake the ICC off. The strongman of Khartoum already has an arrest warrant with his name on it for war crimes and crimes against humanity. To this the international criminal court has added three counts of genocide, the most serious charge in international law. It is interesting to see how friends of Khartoum, and African states in particular, will react to this new charge. The African Union chose to back Bashir the last time the ICC called for his arrest. Many African leaders have slighted the court for its disproportionate focus on African conflicts and human rights abuses.

Since 2003 Mr. Bashir has been waging a war against insurgents (led by the Chad-backed Justice and Equality Movement, JEM ) in the Darfur region in the west of the country. More than 200,000 people have been killed and millions displaced from their homes as a result.

comparative child mortality stats, and other news

The Continent still lags the rest of the world in the effort to reduce child mortality. Malaria and GI related illnesses (due to unclean water and what not) are still the number one killers of children in Africa.

For more on the child mortality stats see Aidwatch.

In other news, IRIN reports that “Humanitarian officials will look to the Chad government to protect civilians and secure aid operations after the UN Security Council decided on 25 May to withdraw some 3,000 UN peacekeepers from the country’s volatile east.” Yeah right. The rather incompetent and grossly corrupt President Idris Deby of Chad has so far failed in his quest to eliminate the Union of Forces for Resistance (UFR) based in the East of the country and in Darfur, Sudan. In 2008 the rebels managed to stage a massive offensive in the Capital N’Djamena. Mr. Deby barely managed to repel them, possibly with French assistance. Government incapacity in Deby’s Chad, Francois Bozize’s Central African Republic and Joseph Kabila’s Democratic Republic of Congo continues to provide safe havens for rebel groups in the great lakes region. I am beginning to think that allowing countries with extra-territorial ambitions like Rwanda and Uganda to run AU-controlled mandates in segments of such countries might not be such a crazy idea.

foreshadowing post-independence southern Sudan

It is an open secret that Southern Sudan will likely descend into civil war once it secedes from Khartoum. Reports of a mutiny against Southern Sudanese government troops after last week’s election may foreshadow what is to come after Juba achieves full autonomy. Divisions within the South are not new. In 1991 Riek Machar led a rebellion of Nuer officers against the Dinka-dominated SPLM/A. In the end John Garang’ and SPLM/A prevailed after SPLM-Nasir (Machar’s faction) was accused of being stooges of the regime in Khartoum. The same divisions may plague post-independence Southern Sudan – there are already widespread grumbling about Dinka domination of state affairs in Juba. Khartoum is almost likely to play a role in destabilizing the South. The Southern referendum on secession will be held on January 9th 2011.

a pre-election truce in darfur? fingers crossed

Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president,  might be having information that we don’t in relation to the upcoming general election in April. His government just signed a peace accord with the JEM, Darfur’s biggest rebel movement. Mr. al-Bashir is desperately trying to stay in power. He also dreads the inevitable secession of Southern Sudan come 2011. Perhaps this is why he wants to make peace with the Darfuris so that he won’t have to deal with two war fronts if he chooses to maintain the territorial integrity of Sudan by force post-2011.

The conflict in Darfur has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced almost 2 million. Like Southern Sudan, the former independent Sultanate of Darfur has never really integrated into the Sudanese state – dominated since independence by the north central valley. The Southerners fought a protracted civil war between 1983 and 2005 before Khartoum agreed to a peace agreement that provided secession as an option. Southern Sudanese will most surely vote to secede in 2011. It will be interesting to see how the Darfuris will react to this. Khartoum is obviously loathe of any further dismembering of the Sudanese state.

required reading for africa’s ruling elite

The discourse on Africa in the West (and elsewhere) is laden with a lot of offensive stuff. And the offensive stuff is not restricted to plebes in the streets or newspaper articles written by ill-informed correspondents. Even more informed people still lapse into the default way of conceptualizing Africa. It is not uncommon to hear prejudicial and condescending comments about the Continent and its people in academic seminars and workshops.

Reading through Foreign Policy (FP) I found a piece that despite its tone and subliminal cues, should be required reading for Africa’s ruling elite. The article is offensive (may be innocently so) in the sense that the editors of FP thought it worthwhile to publish an article that seeks to tell the world that Africa is not a reincarnation of England circa 1200 A.D. The reason I suggest this as required reading is that sometimes I wonder if the ruling classes in some of the states on the Continent ever pose to think of the consequences of their actions in the wider setting of the globe. How do images from eastern Congo, Darfur, Somalia and other such places contribute to the definition of the Continent and its peoples?

people don’t go to war because they are poor

So as promised, I read the piece by Burke et al. They claim to have found a correlation between temperature increases and the onset of civil conflict in most of Africa. The mechanism is that hot weather messes up crop yields and therefore increases the likelihood of conflict (especially in places where people depend on rain-fed agriculture). This conclusion is based on the findings of a tight correlation between economic underdevelopment and civil wars. Nice and dandy, if you believe that people fight because they are poor. Sure, the opportunity costs are much lower for the poor aggrieved who oftentimes than not choose the conflict route to settling disputes. But state capacity, in my view, has a much greater influence on whether people choose to fight or not.

The paper’s policy prescriptions are even dodgier. The authors recommend that foreign aid be conditioned on projected adverse effects of climate change. Firstly, this “solution” is based on the premise that greater proportions of Africans will continue to depend on agriculture into the foreseeable future. This might be true, but shouldn’t we be trying to expand African economies and reducing dependence on agriculture (which necessarily forces us to deal with issues of governance)? Secondly, the idea that foreign aid should be conditioned on climate change is just, well, silly. Many a failed development initiative on the Continent can be blamed on the erratic nature of foreign aid. Adding more variance by pegging aid flows to climate changes will only make things worse.

For a more refined critique see Chris Blattman’s Blog.

development issues

My promise to write a post on African development is almost becoming like Dr. Dre’s promise to release the Detox album. I promise it will come soon, after I settle on an opinion that is robust enough to withstand more than a few critiques.

For now we should be content listening to much wiser development experts – like Blattman, TN Srinivasan (the man who taught me intermediate microeconomics) and cynic in chief Bill Easterly.

A few years ago I used to conflate economic development with modernization. I thought that all it took to make vibrant economies in the global south was the importation of technology, material goods and ideas of governance from the more developed parts of the globe. But time has taught me that historical lock-in effects matter. The global south’s geography, historical poverty and social structures have created path dependencies that will take a lot of time to undo. This is not to say that we should give up on the idea of accelerated development. What I am suggesting is that as we do this we should have it in mind that certain things take time to change and that short-term failures disappear when you look at the long-term picture.

In other news, the conflict in Darfur has become less sexy and so it is no longer all over the news. But Darfurians are still suffering. The same applies to the Congo. Here is yet another reminder that the madness in the land of Mobutu continues unabated.