Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Touring Africa

A vast amount of Africa stuff has crossed my desk and my mind, and I want to try to sort it out today for those of you who may not pay quite as much attention to things on the continent as you would like to:
Sadly, it took the visit, pregnancy, and birth (a healthy, and inevitably gorgeous, little girl, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt) for Brangelina to draw attention to something other than death and carnage in Africa. Namibia is one of my favorite countries on earth. So maybe I can seek solace in this cocktail of inanity and frivolity in hoping that The Washington Post travel section is on to something in its speculation that the Pitt-Jolie road show might be good for tourism in Namibia. Etosha National Park, the Skeleton Coast, the rugged deserts -- in fact, now that i think of it, while I am glad Namibians might benefit from the tourism dollars (and yen and euros), I'd just as soon everyone stay away and just send checks.

Of course economic development is a vital, maybe the vital issue in all of Africa. So outside of pop culture superstars showing up en masse to finish (or consummate) pregnancies across the continent, what can be done? In the Mail & Guardian Larry Elliott looks at the economic situation in Africa and asks "Why is Africa not doing better?" The answers are not easy, and in some ways Africa is doing better than most of us would have ever imagined based on the news we see from the continent. Still, there is much work to be done. But we sort of knew that.

Paul Rusesabagina has been in the news of late. The former manager of Kigali's Hotel des Mille Collines (who was featured in Hotel Rwanda) has called upon the world to act to prevent the atrocities in Darfur. The world continues to pay little heed. Or at least the world now watches but continues not to act in any meaningful way. there is a difference, but it is not one of which we ought to be proud. Rusesabagina has made a second home in the Boston area.

The New York Times reports that explicit violence is not the only cause of death for Darfurians. The hundreds of thousands of refugees that have crossed the borders of Sudan and Chad face death by disease and starvation that could match or surpass the 400,000 or more already dead. These too will be the results of genocide, though the purveyors of inaction will try to find a way not to include them. As if all of this is not bad enough, the Mail & Guardian asks if the Sudanese government executes minors. We emerge with no satisfying or conclusive answers, but let's just say our worries do not emerge assuaged.

Injecting an even more sobering note, Alan Kuperman writes in a Times op-ed piece that Americans misunderstand the conflict in Darfur and thus our solutions are simplistic. While Kuperman is right about Americans, his own proposed solutions are both too sanguine and too wrong:

we should let Sudan's army handle any recalcitrant rebels, on condition that it eschew war crimes. This option will be distasteful to many, but Sudan has signed a peace treaty, so it deserves the right to defend its sovereignty against rebels who refuse to, so long as it observes the treaty and the laws of war.
So let me get this straight: Evil regime drags feet, countenances genocide, reluctantly steps up to the table, has a record of breaking and ignoring just about every agreement it has ever signed, and yet it deserves the benefit of the doubt? Sorry. No go. The only reason we are in a position to have to defer to the noxious regime in Khartoum is because of our fecklessness in the face of their perfidy. Let us not presume to reward their behavior just because lots of people do not understand the complexities of the crisis. While he is correct in his assertion that most of the rebel groups are hardly rife with good guys, any military force worth its salt would go in with the goal of stopping violence on all sides without taking simplistic dualities of good guys and bad guys.

Meanwhile Ethiopia and Eritrea continue to fight over a little sliver of land that has caused the death of tens of thousands in wars and border skirmishes between the two nations in the Horn of Africa. The UN is talking about forsaking the region, essentially tossing it back into a state of war. The UN is spread thin in Africa, to be sure, but this is no solution.

Speaking of the UN, forgive me for feeling disquieted to read that United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has emerged as the new hope to resolve the hitherto intractable Zimbabwean political and economic impasse. Annan means well. I believe that. But when we toss things to the UN as our last, best hope, we are punting. Meanwhile the South African silence hurts the ears, and it would be nice to see the United States make a forceful assertion about the evil emanating from Harare.

I am about to embark on another bout of globetrotting, and one leg of my trip will return me to South Africa for a few weeks. I look forward to returning, even if I am not gorgeous, rich, and pregnant.


Pete said...

Enjoy the visit and we will roll out the red carpet for you ;)

dcat said...

Thanks! I look forward to it. I'll write more about the specific itinerary next week.