Monday, July 26, 2010

How to write about....

Continuing on from the 'How to write...' guides that began with the article in Granta on 'How to write about Africa', and subsequently followed by the 'How to write about the Middle East' guide, Haiti Rewired has now introduced the 'How to write about Haiti' guide.

Some pretty funny stuff

Why money makes you unhappy

Jonah Lehrer of Frontal Cortex, which has now moved to Wired, has an interesting post about a recent study on how "simply looking at money makes us less interested in relishing the minor pleasures of life"

good thing everything is on credit these days....

John: are you a 1-trick pony??

The one thing I love more than reading news articles and blog posts is reading the comments left by angry readers. I love internet commentary, people are always so angry and hateful. I assume that this is due to the fact that they are less inhibited due to the fact that they are protected by anonymity. If any of you have read the comments section on almost any Sudan Tribune article, you will know exactly what I mean.
John Prendergrast has posted another article about US policy failings on Sudan and blah blah blah.... You can really read the whiny tone of his writing in this one. However, scroll down to the comments section and you will see some criticism against Prendergrast written by one Ibrahim Adam, who attacks Prendergrast amongst other writers for their scaremongering. Its written very well, much better than my description of Prendergrast which would have simply consisted of using a 6 letter word starting with W and ending with a lot of tissue paper being used to wipe the computer monitor and keyboard clean.

Anyways, to Ibrahim Adams......Respect.

AU and the ICC

Ok, Im sorry I keep bringing this up, but this revelation was too exciting to pass up. Please also excuse the mess of this post as thats too much I want to include.

"The African Union (AU) delegates at the summit in Uganda agreed to remove language from the draft resolution that instructs its members not to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in apprehending the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir." ST

The removal of the language was pushed by (ICC members) South Africa, Ghana and Botswana, in opposition of (non-ICC members) Libya, Eriteria and Egypt.
However, the resolution will still stand to defer Bashir's arrest warrants and will push to amend article 16 of the Rome Statute that basically only allows the UN security council to defer any investigations. The AU is calling for that power to be passed on to the General Assembly. More on that here and here.

Despite the differing views on what to do with Bashir's warrants, it is nice to see a unified position on the ICC by AU member states
"To subject a sovereign head of state to a warrant of arrest is undermining African solidarity and African peace and security that we fought for for so many years," Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, current head of the pan-African organization.

This is concreted with the resolution
REQUESTS Member States that are states parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC to ensure that they adhere and honour their obligations to the AU under Article 23(2) of the Constitutive Act;
So the reason all this is so exciting is because it essentially brings rise to three major issues that that require careful deliberation:

1) Which international law is greater? With the growing importance and respect of regional bodies such as the AU or the EU by their member states, will the more global international law come second to those of regional law in the same way that international laws come second to state laws? In this case, a country that choose to go against the AU and favor the ICC may face isolation and sanctions by all other members, under article 23 (2).

2) Justice vs. Peace: should countries risk causing instability and potentially bringing harm to the civilians/citizens of the country in question as well as their own civilians/citizens, for some self-righteous conception of justice? If undermining the ICC warrants can lead to long term peace in Sudan and the region, is it not worth doing?

3) Will Africa and the rest of the non-western world ever really shake that feeling that the ICC is "a European driven court, focusing on the continent only and turning a blind eye to atrocities elsewhere"?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Traffic Lights in South Sudan

Over at Roving Bandit, there is some excitement about traffic lights in Wau.
I would just like to point out that this isn't that exciting as Ive seen traffic lights in both Rumbek and Malakal. Heres a photo of the one in Rumbek
See, nothing to get excited about. All the major towns have traffic lights.

On that note though. Roving Bandit is leaving South Sudan on the morrow. This blog would have only lived as spam within his email inbox if it wasn't for him, so I salute him. I am sure he will continue to be "probably the best economics blog in" where ever he goes......Watch out Blattman.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thought of the day...

If all goes well with the referendum and the people vote for separation and South Sudan comes up with a new name for it self (e.g. New Kush), what would happen to the SPLM/A?

Sudan embassy in Washington agrees....

....with me. Not sure how I should feel, but:

"In response [to the op-ed] the Sudanese Embassy in Washington said that the suggestion that the United States offer one-year suspensions of International Criminal Court arrest warrants, "simply proves Sudan’s point: that this court is a perversion of justice and a mere political tool to accomplish political ends. For how else could the United States exert any influence on a court that it doesn’t even recognize?""
Sudan Tribune

Also in the news today,

"The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) today blamed the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) for the delay in completing the border demarcation process, a crucial step in the run-up to the South Sudan referendum scheduled for January 2011."
It would be really interesting if the NCP had only come out with this statement after reading the NY Times Op-Ed piece, claiming that:

"The ruling National Congress Party has stalled on virtually every pertinent part of the peace agreement, and the national and local elections in April — which most international observers agree were stained by fraud — are a foreboding precedent," Sudan Tribune

"Err, we're not stalling, your the one whose totally stalling. We can't wait for the referendum" - NCP

Thursday, July 15, 2010

US diplomacy in Sudan

Dave Eggers and John Prendergast have publish and op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled
In Sudan, War is Around the Corner

The article pretty much stems from Scott Gration's comments on the US' lack of leverage/pressure in Sudan to ensure a peaceful referendum.

"But we do have leverage. The peace in Sudan is one the United States “owns.” Developing a more robust package of carrots and sticks — rolled out multilaterally when possible, unilaterally if necessary — would strengthen America’s diplomatic hand, not weaken it."

Ignoring the fact that they just said the US "owns" the peace in Sudan (because I really don't know and don't want to know what they meant by that), the suggestions of carrots and sticks that the writers provide include:

The sticks
"...placing sanctions on key ruling party officials, blocking debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, supporting International Criminal Court arrest warrants...tightening the United Nations arms embargo and providing further support to the south."

The carrot
"If — and only if — true peace comes to Sudan, we could offer conditional, one-year suspensions of the International Criminal Court warrants and normalization of relations between Khartoum and Washington."

Whilst most of these seem reasonable and is typical of most 'diplomatic' strategies, the main problem I have with their suggestions are those pertinent to the ICC. This is simply because the US has failed to re-sign and ratify the Rome Statute, simply because it fears its own citizens being prosecuted (though there are other arguments for this).
So, legally, the US can only go so far as providing strong words of "support" to the warrant, providing legal advice and/or discovery of documents . Support which doesn't have enough clout to be considered a stick. This isn't a rebel leader in an ICC member state, this is the president of a non-member. So unless the US wants to throw in all its chips and intervene to overthrow another state leader, "support" for warrants is not really going to add up to much. And when did the US gain the ability to "offer conditional, one-year suspension of the International Criminal Court warrants"?! Is this a bluff? Do they think that Khartoum will not realise that they are throwing political weight they don't actually have? Or were they hoping that the ICC will back them up on this? Because the ICC should realise, by doing so, they are destroying the credibility of their warrants and their overall credibility and legitimacy....put simply, they become the US' bitch.
Furthermore, why would anyone agree to a conditional one year suspension?!
"Brilliant! Il let there be peace just so I can enjoy a years' worth of freedom before you DEFINITELY haul my ass to the Hague...yeah, nice one."

Strategically, with the rest of the World gunning for Bashir, the US should take advantage of its position as a non-member of the ICC to approach Khartoum and apply some of its 'soft-power' rather than trying to eliminate the last channel of diplomacy with an already alienated state with its guns pointed at the South and Darfur, whilst potentially in possession of strong connections and intelligence on a range of terrorist networks. It is therefore very clear to understand why Scott Gration has recently come out to voice his disapproval of the second ICC warrant on Bashir - a further example of the divided relationship of the White House and it's diplomatic actors.

For more info on US and ICC: link and link

Southern Sudan's Land Act

The latest Juba Briefing paper entitled "Urban land conflict in Eastern Equatoria" was released a couple of days ago. It is worth a read to see the difficulties of land [re]acquisition for IDPs and refugee returnees as well as the issues of settled IDPs being kicked out of their new found homes. Issues that are quite easily forgotten but have quite an impact on conflicts nonetheless. The presentation of the briefing paper seemingly doubled up as the public release of the '2009 Southern Sudan Land Act'. An interesting and predictably problematic point can be found surrounding the issue of restitution of land for displaced peoples:

"A person may be entitled to restitution of a right in land if he or she lost her or his right after an involuntary displacement as a result of the civil war starting from May 16, 1983 (Chapter XXXI). But claims must be made within three years of the 2009 commencement of the act."
Fair enough right? Well, the only problem is that the Land Act, despite it being called the 2009 Land Act, was only really made available and operational this year. Therefore, the three years instantly becomes about a year and a half. Furthermore, it is only really available for social elites and those who have been lucky enough to catch wind of its release.

Also, for "foreign investors" like Phillipe Hielberg who "...insists the law is less important to his deal than the clout he has bought into by associating with a former warlord, Paulino Matip, whose family says it owns some of the land in Mayom county, in Unity state.", well.... he actually has nothing to worry about..... I just wanted to mention him because he's seems like such a wanker....
I hope the land he has leased turns out to be that of those displaced and that they manage to take it back.
Hielberg says, "You have to go to the guns: this is Africa,"........wanker

Positive directive by Salva Kiir

"Ministers in the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) are given strict directives not to unnecessarily travel abroad, according to a presidential order issued on Sunday."

Amidst all the talk of government failures, corruption and conspiracies, it is sometimes really nice to be reminded of the element within the GoSS working on truly positive initiatives - based on my personal experience, there is a lot more than most people would like to suggest. This may simply be down to a Negativity bias in conjunction with an Availability heuristic

Sudan Tribune

Monday, July 12, 2010

Warfare Goes Green

Even with the busy task of protecting the World from Evil-doers, the World's mightiest military forces have still manage to spare some morality for the environment.
What started as a typically humorous posting on The Onion 2 years ago, on "Bush's plan to make the War in Iraq more Eco-friendly" has now become a reality.
Jumping on the Green band wagon, some military forces and weapons manufacturers have recently been announcing several new products to ensure that killing people does not harm the environment. Here are some examples:

The US Air Force's A-10C Thunderbolt took to the air for the first time, powered by a blend of bio fuel or 'hydrocarbon synthetic jet fuel' to be specific.

At this year's Earth Day the US Navy launched its new line of "Green Hornets", an environmentally friendly version of its Super Hornet Jets

Being green is not limited to the skies though, most recently, the US Army introduced its new line of 'Green Bullets'.......yes that's right, Green ammunition. The new M855A1 will be replacing the Cold War Era M855 ammo and the 7.62mm rounds that are currently in use. So what makes this bullet environmentally friendly? Well, instead of the traditional lead slug, this new bullet will consist of copper slugs......Copper being kinder to the environment.

The US Defense Department has even included a chapter on "Crafting a Strategic Approach to Climate and Energy" in this quarter's Quadrennial Defense Review Report.

Across the pond, the British weapons manufacture, BAE Systems has spoken of developing a range of green weapons including, a 'bang-free bomb' to ensure the user doesn't choke on smoke when he is blowing people up, lead free ammo, and, my favourite, land mines that turn into manure over a period of time. The spokes woman for BAE said "We all have a duty of care to ensure that from cradle to grave products are being used appropriately and do not do lasting harm."

But it's not only the 'good guys' who are going green. In March, Indian intelligence officials received tips that terrorist groups may be planning an attack on the country using paragliders. It seems that even terrorist have fallen victim to global warming alarmists and are now reconsidering the use of commercial jetliners terrorise the world.

Whilst these ideas and inventions might lead one to believe that Warfare and those involved in it are trying to preserve the environment while they wipe out humanity - kind of like the neutron bomb - sadly, the real reasoning behind these changes are purely strategic. The best of these being the new m855A1 ammo because "
troops have widely criticized it, saying it is ineffective against barriers such as car windshields and often travels right through unarmored insurgents, with less-than-lethal effects."

So don't get too hopeful about seeing a new DARPA initiative to create Captain Planet just yet.

Zangief in Akobo?

Within every language there is typically a word used to get the attention of a person whose name you don't know. In Arabic it is Isma, in Malay it is wei and to some extent in English it is Oi! The latter two can be considered quite rude though. The Nuer in Akobo have, by far, the coolest phrase:


Now you may be asking, "Why is this so cool?". Well if you were ever much of a video game geek back in the day you may be familiar with this sound. The only example I could find of this being used in an old school game is Zangief in Street fighter II (1:20).
I've also heard this sound being attributed to Warcraft II and Im quite confident there are some other fighting games that came out of Japan that used this sound.

Talk about a warrior culture
(Or if you have database access)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Starknaked Redemption/ Escape from Akobo-Naked/ The Nude Escape

So I was in Akobo last week and had some adventures. This was one of them as told to a friend of mine in the US. The format might appear a bit weird but it was a simple copy and paste from our skype conversation.

" it was a beautiful sunny afternoon in the town of Akobo
the birds were singing, and the kids were laughing
There was a gentle breeze that swept the landscape intermittently touching the ground surface like a skipping stone
I was sat with some guys who work in the other organisations that were operating in Akobo. Working hard, there was a silent atmosphere where all that could be heard is the concentration of each individual focus on their task at hand
then, all of a sudden there was a single sound of a pop that rang across the lands.
It broke the concentration and possessed everyone's attention
they all looked up like meerkats keeping look-out, as if they were waiting for something more
Just like that, the sound returned more rapidly, accompanied by a similar yet distinctly different sound
By that point everyone knew what it was
..........gun shots
2 rifles

We got up from our seats a ran towards the river, we ran towards where the noise was coming from.
As we approached the location, i looked in the opposite direction to see a mass body of small children from our neighbouring orphanage running away.....running away from the shots.
By the time we had reached the river bank, the shooting had stopped
All that was left, was two naked bodies emerging out of the water on the opposite side of the river
Two men, running for their lives towards the Ethiopian border
They had escaped
I asked the youth leader who was by my side at the time what had happened
He explained to me that the two prisoners were taken to the river to bathe
They had then taken advantage of the situation, dived deep into the water and swam across it to escape
They had succeeded.......nakedly."