Mar 29 2008

A Master on African governance

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 4:14 PM

Robert Bates, the Harvard scholar on African politics, has a new book out, “When Things Fell Apart,” about state-failure in late 20th century Africa. Bates is justly famous among students of Africa for his seminal book on states and markets in Africa, published some quarter-century ago. His new book aims to describe why African societies — and the governments that serve them — did so poorly even after recognizing the importance of markets. His book, while brief, is studded with great insights and, to my eyes, intended as a counterweight to reductionist arguments by others, notably the Oxford professor Paul Collier and Columbia’s Jeff Sachs, that the African state is essentially powerless in the face of wars over “greed and grievance” or geographic forces that isolate and undermine political actors. In a bid to undercut the ciricularity of these arguments, Bates tries to put politics — as a human activity — back in the center of the African condition. His diagnosis of the problem is familiar, but his suggested remedies are not.
Reading Bates, who writes in his new book that “electoral competition and state failure go together,” is an excellent companion to those trying to make sense out of Zimbabwe’s farcical eletions this weekend — or even the prolonged political stalemate in Kenya, where narrow election results highlights the importance, not of electoral contests, but of the benefits of power-sharing, regional autonomy and the necessity of a new winner-not-take-all electoral structure.


Mar 29 2008

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 4:03 PM

“Many in the ANC have fretted that to criticize Mr. Mugabe would be to betray Africa. To turn a blind eye to the electoral abuses would be the real betrayal. It would condemn … Zimbabweans to more suffering. It would also be viewed to the outside world as a sign that the ANC has abandoned the moral high ground it occupied just 14 years ago at the end of apartheid.” — Alec Russell


Mar 26 2008

Biya’s grip on Cameroon remains unshaken

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 4:19 PM

The editor of Britain’s “Africa Confidential” newsletter, Patrick Smith, has penned a wonderful analysis of the political situation in Cameroon, where ghost-like president, Paul Biya, is making noises that he wants to rule for another 10 years. Biya already has lorded over Cameroon for a quarter of a century, during which time the national government has slid into such disrepair that it exists in name only. Biya is seeking an amendment to the constitition that will allow him to run again in the sham presidential elections that are the cornerstone of his spurious claim that Cameroon is a functioning democracy.

Protests against Biya’s rule are rare, but the president’s desire for more years in power has critics speaking out — and even taking to the streets.


Mar 18 2008

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 2:29 PM

“Electoral competition and state failure go together.” — Robert Bates


Mar 16 2008

The Ghost of Africa says a few words

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 5:55 PM

Paul Biya, Africa’s longest running ruler, is facing unrest in usually-quiet Cameroon. Biya’s usual tactic is to ignore complaints — and even urgent problems — and even his entire country — out of a belief that the less he does, the better Cameroonians are. In response to a recent suggestion that he might seek another term in office, dissent broke into the open — in the form of a four-day national strike — and Biya responded with a crackdown and a media ban. When dissent persisted, he took the unusual step of raising the salaries of civil servants by 15 percent — an amount that might sound fine until one realizes that salaries had not been raised since the 1990s.

The protest against Biya continued in Washington on Friday, with concerned Cameroonians living in America taking part. More protests are likely. Whether Biya deserves a dignified end to his long rule over Cameroon is an open question. There is no question however that he does not deserve another term in office. He should be arranging for diginifed retirement now.


Mar 14 2008

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 3:37 PM

“Demographic issues are conspicuously absent from the African development debate. African leaders, in particular, and their development partners, have been reluctatnt to address these issues directly.” — John May and Jean-Pierre Guengant


Mar 04 2008

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 10:30 PM

“It’s the expression of multiple frustrations among the Cameroonian people. The trouble runs deep.” — Joshua Osih, opposition leader.


Mar 04 2008

Pity Cameroon, the loveliest of lands

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 10:28 PM

The unrest in Cameroon, sparked by Paul Biya’s decision to seek another term as president (an office he already illegally and immorally occupies), makes me weep. Among the best endowed nations in the world — both in terms of landscape, ferility of its soil, and talents of its people — Cameroon has been condemned to suffer awful political rule. Even by African standards, Biya’s 25-year reign over this picturesque West African country has been a disaster. While he has rarely organized killing sprees, he quietly has demolished country that ought to be among the most successful, not only in Africa, but in the developing world. Instead of planning a permanent retirement somewhere in Europe (where he seems to spend a great deal of time anyway), Biya wants to inflict more wounds on his long-suffering countrymen. What a shame. Biya is a president who rarely holds meetings with his ministers and he refuses to allow his government to even publish a phoney budget. He is indeed a ghost (his nickname in the country). I am sad at the thought he may haunt Cameroon for years more.


Mar 03 2008

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 4:05 AM

“When I see Uganda with 55 million people, will Kampala be like London, with everyone healthy and well-dressed, charging to the Underground? Or will I see people just begging in the streets, still two worlds apart? This is not what I want to see, but if I do, I will tell the story of how it came to be this way.” — Jotham Musinguzi, Uganda’s leading population expert


Mar 03 2008

Ugandan population: what path to eco-growth?

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 3:58 AM

The Financial Times published a fascinating account of the pro-birth sentiments in Uganda, which the newspaper described as having the youngest population in the world. At its current pace, according to demographers, Uganda’s population will double every 23 years, exceeding 50 million by 2020. Yet birth control is an alien concept in Uganda, even though an estimated one in three pregnancies are unwanted. Elite Ugandans, meanwhile, seem profoundly ambivalent about population growth, captivated by a illusory notion that a large domestic market, defined as a large population within the country’s borders, will insure economic prosperity. The notion is nonsensical. Uganda would sooner prosper if the government threw open its borders to millions of Chinese migrants. Adult immigration produces a far greater economic stimulus than higher birth rates. Those kids take a long time to grow up into productive workers, and they cost society a lot in the process. If Ugandans really want to use population policies to promote growth, they would be wooing immigrants — not having more babies per woman than practically any other nation on the planet.


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