Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Being in the U.S. for a few days allows me to see the Somali pirating issues is big news, especially with the capture of Captain Richard Phillips American ship, the exchange of Captain Richard Phillips for the release of his crew, and the final rescue by the U.S. Navy of Captain Richard Phillips who is now safely back home, lauded as a hero. With only one sole survivor among the Somali pirates who captured Phillips’ ship, I initially thought it was a mistake for Somali pirates to ever hijack a U.S. ship. But even France has rescued some of its own citizens, recently saving four (including a 3-yr-old boy) on board the hijacked Tanit, a yacht on which one captive was killed. So it’s not only the U.S. that is taking strong measures to take its own people back. The question is whether it is enough. Is a deterrent?

The problem has been going on for awhile before it has arisen in prominence in Western media, and there are currently 15-20 ships being currently held by pirates. With 111 attacks in 2008, Somali pirates have attacked more ships than the number in the previous year. Hopefully the number will go down in 2009, but now are unsure.

The lack of a stable government in Somalia is still present, and combined with the busiest shipping lanes in the world, it still creates a environment conducive for such piracy. So it seems any piracy solution must address the instability of government within the country. With such a large sea and tons of suggested solutions, as of now, most ships must resort to defending themselves through the vast area of water in the Gulf of Aden and beyond. But the situation does point to the continued fact that one problem in one part of the world affects us all. And the development, stability, growth, and peace of developing countries do affect us. It is our problem.

The biggest news in Africa, is the South Africa elections. So South African news can have continental importance. In fact, much of the world is watching. The elections were yesterday (Wednesday, the 22nd of April), and Jacob Zuma stands poised to win. By the time I e-mail this, he may already have done so. But why does it matter? South Africa, in a simplistic sense, leads the continent in many ways (economically, militarily, etc.). Why would people prefer he not be president?

Well, when apartheid ended, we thought things would immediately get better. But the “new South Africa” vision gave way to realism. We’ve seen many societal indicators and statistics go in the wrong direction. For instance, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. Unemployment is extremely high (I’ve seen projected figures as high as 40%). And though I talk much about such statistics worsening, a lot of good has been done: 2.7 million houses have been built since 1994 (though we need much more), 60% of 5.7 million HIV-infected people are taking anti-retrovirals, welfare is given to over 12 million people (it was 3 million in 1996), etc. So some things are improving, but the task is completely overwhelming and there is so much more work to do. The question is will it continue with Zuma is he fit to lead.

People are worried about him because of corruption (remember those charges were only dropped because the National Prosecuting Authority [NPA] felt the timing of the charges were politically motivated) and competence (he is very popular but is he savvy or intelligent enough to lead well; remember the HIV fiasco after sleeping with a girl who considered his niece and claiming he’s ok because he showered afterwards?). Here is an article on the elections from which I got a few of the statistics above:

Perhaps the most important thing for him to welcome is actual opposition. Having a multiplicity of heard voices is crucial for a democracy, and right now it’s one-party rule for the most part. I do believe in 5 years the ANC may have viable opposition, but for Wednesday’s election this week, not yet.

And as of today (Sunday), he’s won.

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