Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Radesh, one of my housemates and Anna’s boyfriend, says that there are supposed to be 40,000 cases of cholera in Zimbabwe. The number has increased since I left. Have you heard of the group Physicians for Human Rights? Go check them out. They are saying that the cholera epidemic is so bad that action should be taken with the International Criminal Court.

Ghana just had its run-off election in December while I was gone. The incumbent New Patriotic Party offered candidate Nana Akufo-Addo who beat the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party candidate John Atta Mills by a small enough margin that the rules required a run-off. In the runoff, Mills won 50.2% of the vote compared to Akufo-Addo’s 49.8%. Wow! That’s close. It’s supposed to be the smallest margin of victory in Africa’s (the continent’s) electoral history. Asia and Africa have shorter electoral histories than the Americas and Europe but that’s still something. It seems they have developed a two-party-dominant political system there which is reminiscent of the States.

Many were watching Ghana with hopes of showing that Africa can have a peaceful election compared to Kenya or Zimbabwe or even strife in Nigeria a bit ago (not as bad). But Akufo-Addo admitted defeat quickly after the election results were announced, and the current president Kufuor (of the NDC) also conceded for his party. So though there were some reports of intimidation and attacks at the voting polls (and the police had to use a water hose to tame a brawl), there were less reports during the run-off as such. And international observers were happy with the decision. This is good news.

In all honesty, I was never worried about Ghana erupting in violence. They have had democratic rule since 1992 and have been doing a good job. They also discovered offshore oil in 2007 which some worry will lead to the type of corruption in Nigeria. I doubt it though as Nigeria had oil before it ever had democratic rule (correct me if I’m wrong). But Ghana’s oil discovery and resulting revenues came under democratic rule. It’s a different story.

Ethiopia’s started the withdrawal of its 3,000 troops from Somalia. They’ve been there for about 2 years with the U.S. encouragement. Somalia’s president Abdullahi Yusuf resigned on the 29th of December, so now the country is led by an interim government. There will be a – correction – there are talks of a new presidential election within weeks. But we will see how fast that can be done. People hope a new deal between the moderate Islamists and the interim government can be achieved now that Yusuf, who many thought promoted or supported warlordism. I wonder about the fanatical or extreme Islamists. I feel like these are the people that should be brought into any peace deal negotiations.

The 1600 Ugandan and 1300 Burundian peacekeeping troops will pull out as well unless they are reinforced by other promised AU troops (Nigeria, Malawi, and Ghana who have not yet honored their pledge of troops). Can I say that I am SO proud of Uganda and Burundi. They are not really in the best position as countries; they each have their own set of problems and both have dealt with Hutu-Tutsi problems/relations. And even in their state with no outside support from the UN militarily or the “West” they are taking initiative or at least taking action in their region to help promote peace and send troops (not that sending troops will work; we need something more lasting). That is so amazing to me. If you get the chance read up on Burundi’s history or Uganda’s. The U.S., India, China, and Europe have all decided against military intervention inside Somalia.

So that leaves the scary possibility that with Ethiopia gone, there is a winner-takes-all situation, a “power vacuum” as the Economist calls it. Who will gain control? Who will the radical Islamists side with? The radicals (like the Shabab organization) or with the warlords and transition government? It’s anyone’s guess. There are many independent groups from rival clan elders who are loyal to warlords, moderate Islamists, radical Islamists, private security groups, gunmen up for hire, etc. It’s a sad situation. And it is one we will keep watching and pursuing a solution.

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