Kenyan politicians, you keep using that word [culture], I don’t think it means what you think it means

Here is the Standard reporting on the proposed amendments to the Marriage Bill:

The Bill passed through its second reading in the House Wednesday, even as controversy raged over how much say women should have on their husbands’ choice to get them co-wives [?!!!???!?!??!?!?!?!?].

Although the Bill has wide ranging provisions touching on marriage, the clause on polygamy has assumed a life of its own, with debate in the House and in the public zeroing in on the controversial clause. During debate last week, the chairman of the National Assembly’s Legal Affairs Committee Mr Samuel Chepkonga said they had considered an array of opinions before the decision to introduce the amendment that may see the controversial clause deleted when the Bill comes before the Committee of the Whole House.

Predictably, the reaction during debate was sharp and immediate, with mostly male MPs supporting the amendment, terming the consent clause “impractical and unrealistic” in the context of African culture [emphasis mine].

To which I say:

[youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk]

 

The Extramarital Origins of Poverty and dictatorship?

Polygyny is widespread across many human societies….

Yet in much of the world, particularly the wealthier parts, monogamy — albeit with cheating around the edges — has flourished. Why? The article says the answer lies in the “group selection” advantages conferred by the one-wife norm, which reduces the pool of men who can’t find any wife at all, making them less likely to become socially alienated and violent. And the practice helps the elite, too: “By shifting male efforts from seeking wives to paternal investment, normative monogamy increases savings, child investment and economic productivity.”

It is important to note that:

The authors stress that it is not only monogamy that causes cultures to flourish but any “polygyny-inhibiting” cultural practices. That would include Islam’s restrictions on the number of wives men can take (four, the authors say).

In conclusion the authors note that:

it is worth speculating that the spread of normative monogamy, which represents a form of egalitarianism, may have helped create the conditions for the emergence of democracy and political equality at all levels of government. Within the anthropological record, there is a statistical linkage between democratic institutions and normative monogamy. Pushing this point, these authors argue that dissipating the pool of unmarried males weakens despots, as it reduces their ability to find soldiers or henchman.

The entire paper (click here) has more nuance than this summary depicts. You may not agree with all the implications of the findings (I for one remain dubious, I couldn’t help but suspect potentially serious cases of omitted variable bias), but it is definitely worth a read.

HT WSJ Blog here.

jacob zuma: why crash so soon?

Update: President Jacob Zuma agrees that he fathered a child out of wedlock with the 39 year-old daughter of one of his friends. Mr. Zuma is 67. In his statement the President said that he had done the “cultural imperative” of admitting to having fathered the child. A few suggestions for Mr. Zuma and those around him:

– having three wives is bad enough. Concentrate on the job. South Africans are looking up to you

– please fire your communications director. You are really bad with PR

– you are embarrassing the entire Continent. Not just yourself and your immediate family but the entire Continent. The whole 700 million of us.

The BBC reports that Jacob Zuma may have fathered a love child last year. The South African president just recently got married for the fifth time (he has three wives). He is estimated to have about 20 children. Recently when confronted about his rather colorful matrimonial situation Mr. Zuma shot back with the claim that anybody who was against polygamy was a cultural bigot.This is total horse manure. Mr. Zuma should know that culture is not static and that an attack on his wayward habits is not an attack on Zulu culture.

Until recently Mr. Zuma had exceeded expectations. His cabinet appointments (i thought) signaled his pragmatism. He stayed clear of the incendiary demagoguery that characterizes the ANC’s youth wing leader, Julius Malema. Even the media had warmed up a bit to the man who had to wiggle out of corruption and rape charges to become president. For a moment I thought that Mr. Zuma was going to be the nice blend of populism and realistic politicking that had so much eluded the intellectually aloof Thabo Mbeki. South African land reform, a fairer redistribution and creation of wealth (through a more transparent BEE and faster job creation), a reduced crime rate, etc etc seemed somewhat doable because the core of his base was the working class. But as is fast becoming apparent, it appears that the man has decided to let his personal life interfere with his job. I hope this latest incident will embarrass the ANC enough for the party to ask Mr. Zuma to go easy on the distractions and concentrate on his job.

Update: This is the last thing that SA and its ailing economy needs. The tabloid-like headings are soiling the SA presidency.

zuma defends polygamy at davos

Yesterday South African president Jacob Zuma defended polygamy at Davos, adding that those who think their culture is superior have a problem.

This is absolutely ridiculous. The fight against polygamy is not a cultural war. It is a war against the unfair treatment of women. It is very irresponsible of Mr. Zuma to set such a sad example for his countrymen.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of you out there.

Let’s start off the year by looking at the one thing that the Continent needs really badly: economic growth. Uganda’s New Vision reports that African business people have positive expectations for the new year. Responding to a survey by Africa Practice most of them believed that intra-continental trade as well as FDI would increase in the coming year. Perhaps most crucially, a plurality of those polled believed that infrastructure development – ICT and what not – would be more influential to business development than politics. For a very long time Africa’s governance challenges have retarded economic development. May be economic development might be the key that will incentivise good governance. Angola, Namibia and Kenya, to some extent, are the countries that may prove this prediction right in 2010.

2010 will also be a footballing year for the Continent. From January 10 – 31 Angola will host the 27th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN). May the best team win, and I hope none of the Continental heavyweights will pick up injuries because come June South Africa is hosting the FIFA World Cup. The Continent has good teams in the World Cup and this might just be the year that an African team wins the coveted FIFA World Cup Trophy.

And in other news, South African president – Jacob Zuma – just got married for the fifth time and is engaged to at least one other woman. I still stand by my previous comments on this matter.