Friday, December 31, 2010

Degrees of separation

Because I don't have Twitter, I have to be oldschool and share my links here:

Al Jazeera's latest episode of People & Power is a must watch as it looks at the identity crises faced by those tribes living by what is now a state border. Towards the end, it also has a brilliant example of how NOT to conduct a peacebuilding forum as it shows clips from a somewhat recent event that tried to bring the government and the Shilluk Kingdom together. Really good stuff.

Clooney's Satelite

P: No, Im Batman. You be Robin
C: What?! No way, Im Batman, I have more experience.
P: Exactly, you were Batman before, and you were shit at it. So this time I am Batman and you're Robin

In case you haven't seen, here is Batman (Clooney) and Robin's (Prendergrast) latest flash of genius...
Using public access satelites (from Google) to monitor military activity. If your interested, you can sign up and follow their twitter page* to be updated on genocide as it unfurls. Now you can be the cool kid at the table who is up to date with how many women and children were killed and raped as it happens!

Although while this is rather amusing on so many levels. I would just like to geek it for a second and talk about how exciting it is to see increasing usage of public satelites for a variety of reasons. In the case of South Sudan, this is not even the first time......this was. It was when Jane's Defense Weekly used commercial satellites to track down the cargo of tank from the hijacked MV Faina in 2008.

*there is no twitter page to follow, I made it up. If there is actually one.....2011 i going to be a very sad year

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So what happens to the north after secession?

With only 10 days to the referendum and talk of whether it will happen or not essentially dead (hint: its going to happen), what happens next is the new exciting topic.

In the South many of those who will be voting for unity (however many secessionist, especially soldiers believe this too) are preparing for what they see as the intra-south war between the Dinka and the rest of the various tribes/ethnicities/nationalities/whateveryouwannacallit. Although this view have mainly came from Equatorians who really only see a clash between the Dinka and the 'united tribes' of Equatoria, without consideration of anyone else, not even the second majority Nuer peoples. However, this is merely the speculations of average everyday people and I'm sure that GoSS has a strategy to deal with these issues - because at the end of the day, a civil war would only really happen if the politicians and tribal leaders decide it. They are the ones to incite hate in their communities towards others, and at the same time, they are the ones able to stop an escalation into war - if they choose to. Low-level inter-tribal conflict will essentially continue, but merely on a criminal level as it has throughout history.... Bla bla bla


What is interesting now is the ripple effect of the South's exhibition of a successful struggle. Now that the referendum has shown that success and freedom can be granted to those who try, we have begun to see a forthcoming revolution in the north. Well, at least that is the feeling I got when I read these headlines the other day:
Sudan opposition gives NCP ultimatum to hold constitutional talks
SPLM North threatens to use violence against Sudan's NCP

But the thing is, they are too late, and Bashir made some pretty strong arguments against them with his classic beautiful rhetoric.

"Whoever wants to overthrow the government can lick his elbow....."

In case you didn't get it, to lick one's elbow is physically is to overthrow the least through legal channels. As he argues, the NCP was a democratically elected government
"The government is not a revolutionary council or any government that can be ousted but it is the Sudanese people,"
And yes, I fully meant it when I said democratically elected government. Now I don't care about what you have to say about how valid the elections were and whether you witnessed some terrible electoral crimes, because at the end of the day, the election observers and the wider international community did not oppose the results or the credibility of the whole process.

It seems that at the time, people (locally and internationally) were too focused on ensuring that the election just happened so that the next milestone (the referendum) could be reached. Now that we are all reaching that milestone, the troubles that we chose to leave behind is catching up with us. Bashir now sits very comfortably in his position, with no legally legitimate threat to his power. SPLM in the South had sacrificed the right of the people in the north by getting Yasir Arman to stand down during the April elections as a compromise to NCP to ensure SPLM's dominance in the South (as it did to so many independent candidates in the South, what ever happened to Alfred Gore?). The international community (as non-biased as it is) didn't want to rattle the cage too much and was content with the two major sides being happy. And then of course there were those parties who tried to boycott the elections but were essentially left to stand alone with their dick in their hands with absolutely no love or support.

So, once again everyone settled for the easy path at the time of crisis and once again, they will pay for it. Everyone made sacrifices by turning a blind eye, or withdrawing from the process, but in the end Bashir still came out on really do have to hand it to the crafty little fuck.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Really Bored in post-conflict


This holiday season really emphasises the title of the blog. Juba is currently dead.......
As a result I have been feeling especially uninspired

However, I am going to make up for it,

So here is a few Juba updates:

  • Juba Police have recently received some new sexy wheels. Several sedan/saloon cars with Police painted on its side and the flashy lights have been parked at every major roundabout in town, where police have been keeping a strong presence all through the night. The reasoning is unclear, but it has worked wonderfully as a social facilitation where drivers are now driving a lot less like wankers and a bit more like fearfully law-abiding citizens. Also, the police (non-traffic) are now rocking their new uniforms - a strange colour of brown camo. I'm still unclear as to why the police need to be able to blend into dust and dirt in an urban setting, but they seem happy. I'm sure once the military mentality slowly washes away they will suit up once again. Finally, mad respect going out to all those traffic cops who have been working really hard in conducting traffic while showing no sign of a resurgence of everyday corruption......I no longer fear the sound of the whistle, and instead feel much safer driving around with police present.
  • The SPLA has been a very happy and excited as Santa brings them some new helicopters. They spent all day yesterday flying them all around town in, once again...terribly selected camouflage colours and patterns. These helicopters didn't seem like the Mi-17 Kazan Helicopters that were reported to have been purchased, but rather a smaller model....maybe the Mi-38.
  • There is a new GIANT billboard in town by the Petronas roundabout that simply tells people to vote for secession, with a reminder of the days left until the referendum (might I add that this was not in sync with the days left on the countdown clock at Juba roundabout - i think that's fixed now though).
  • Stim apple drink is now rather difficult to find in town as supplies from the north begin decreasing either due to fear of war or maybe just a holiday thing.
  • UNDP DDR is in trouble with this little gem of news. Victory point to GoSS for what may be more funding for their own DDR projects.
  • OH - it rained.....twice. In one week.
See, I told you it was boring. That is all for now. I will try and get some posts up soon to cover the northern opposition insurgency, why Salva Kiir is a cool cat and the unsettling (and sometimes stressful) ties between civil society organisations and politicians.

p.s. sorry i couldn't get photos of some of this stuff but my camera is dead. If you would like some photos, feel free to give me a camera.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Conflicts in Everything: Man vs Elephants

Man vs Elephant

From Osborn and Parker 2003, Towards an integrated approach for reducing the conflict between elephants and people: a review of current research(pdf):

Conflict between elephants and people persists even where considerable resources have been devoted to solving the problem. This can be attributed to a range of factors, including technical faults, lack of commitment of the farmers and limited resources

An expensive ‘arms race’ can develop between managers and elephants that are able to adapt quickly to new fence features designed to electrify the parts of the fence that elephants destroy.

Most interventions aimed at reducing crop-loss come from organizations outside of the aCected community, which include government wildlife departments and external development organizations. Farmers expect the conflict to be resolved, and when it is not, often turn against the responsible agencies. Donor-funded technical solutions are often unsustainable because external agencies are reluctant to provide the high maintenance costs.

Tests with various chemical repellents have been undertaken in a number of field situations. In Malawi, Bell (1984) conducted trials with HATE 4C, a commercially available deer repellent, on fields and found no significant reduction in crop loss.
The current methods to reduce conflict between elephants and farmers are either expensive or ineffective. If it is essential to bring farmers into the process of resolving conflict by taking responsibility for the problems of crop pests, then any large-scale solution that involves continuous funding from outside the community will eventually fail. We suggest that the more responsibility farmers have for crop protection, the more successful deterrence will be. The role of external agencies and wildlife managers is, therefore, to work with farmers to develop a range of management solutions for repelling elephants.

They should try adopting a peacebuilding strategy that is so widely used here in Sudan.....the peace conference. Although it would be cool to say that you resolved conflict with HATE 4C

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quantifying Terrorism

photo credit

Discover Magazine has a fascinating article on how a particle physicists and an economist attempt to establish a model of terrorist behaviour.

“In political science literature, human rationality is primary. They assume groups are rational actors, have access to all the information, and make the right decisions,” Clauset says. “A physicist’s natural approach is to assume people are like particles, and their behavior the result of constraints beyond their control.”

The researchers found that the pattern of varying sizes of terrorists attacks against the number of casualties repeatedly formed a power law curve.

The splintered, disorganized nature of insurgencies became still clearer when Johnson and his colleagues looked at the timing of attacks. The numbers in Iraq, Colombia, Peru, and Afghanistan followed similar patterns, with “sudden bursts of activity, then quiet periods,” Spagat says. “If it were random, you would have far fewer busy days and far fewer quiet days than are captured in the data.” Without a centralized command to issue orders, there must be something else behind the clustered timing of attacks.

The article then delves into a debate on the strategic efficacy of adopting rational models of behaviour as opposed to context specific analysis.

Cultural context is not something Johnson pays much attention to. Accustomed to analyzing particles, which are not known for their reasoning capabilities or complex inner lives, physicists tend to ignore the why and go straight to the how. “All those questions of ‘why’ show a lack of understanding,” Johnson insists. “Whatever the reasons are, this is how they operate.” He has explained this to British and American military officers, Iraqi officials, and even security officials at the London Olympics. “Insurgents may be doing it for all sorts of reasons, but the mechanics are what matters.”

In the end the model still could not do what it had sought to accomplish, that is, to be able to predict terrorist attacks.

“Nothing we’ve done suggests we can predict there will be an attack in, say, the next two weeks,” Spagat freely concedes. “Rather, a physics-inspired insurgency model can help guide more general decisions. If the data show that attacks happen in a bursty pattern, it makes sense to have emergency medical teams able to react to several attacks at once. And the data offer a rough guide to how big those attacks might be, based on how they’ve looked in the past.” Moreover, he says, if the model is right about modern insurgencies’ being a constantly shifting collection of small, unconnected groups, it would be a useful tool for military planners trying to find the most effective tactics.

Definitely worth a read as the world continues to fly almost blindly in its counter-insurgency strategies, put together with the devastatingly horrible results of using quantitative analysis based strategies in Vietnam.

“a lot of people think counterinsurgency is very qualitative, very mushy, and should stay that way. It’s almost a mystical thing,”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mind-controlled sharks?

"The shark attacks have the potential to do some real damage to Egypt, where tourism is pillar of the economy and an important provider of jobs. But the idea that Israel is behind the attacks is pretty farfetched."

That's Max Strasser writing for FP

Is it really pretty far-fetched? Just last week someone from the US Naval Post-graduate School suggested that DARPA should finance a robotic submarine system that would intelligently control teams of dolphins to detect underwater mines and protect ships in harbors.......

Ok, yeah it is still pretty far-fetched, but a guy can fantasize can't he?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dracula vs the Ottoman Empire

Mideastpost has a brilliant article on the origins of Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) and the very first vampire hunters, Dracula's own brother Radu the Handsome and Mehmet, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire).

"[Dracula] scorched the earth and slaughtered all the living in his path leaving a wake of desolation and writhing impaled bodies. He would not give up his homeland to the Muslims that easily. He began a beleaguering campaign of guerilla warfare that the elite Ottoman Sipahis could not endure. It is said he slaughtered 15,000 of the Ottoman soldiers in one single night. Still, as the mightiest of the Ottomans fled, Radu was undeterred seemingly driven by what can only be interpreted as an austere piety, to end the bloody reign of his haplessly misguided brother. None remained to fight Dracula save Radu and his fellow Romanian Muslim Janissaries."

This is the first time that I have heard this story and I have no idea how accurate it is......any Islamic history scholars out there are welcome to comment...*cough* Harith Ramli *cough*. Nonetheless, this is still an absolutely beautiful tragedy where one can sympathise with Dracula, while at the same time feel the heroic inspiration of Radu. There is also a nice little undercurrent narrative of the complexities of military alliances for personal survival. I could go on for days......

Rest in peace Leslie Nielsen

Best official reaction to the Wikileaks so far

[Admiral Mike] Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the exposed conversations showed that the United States was "a global power with relationships all over the world."
"I don't mean this arrogantly, but I've lived in Europe, I've been a part of NATO, I've lived in the Pacific. I understand what United States leadership means and brings," Mullen said at the Center for American Progress think-tank.
"That doesn't mean we always have it right, that doesn't mean that we don't make mistakes - because we do," he said.
"But we as a country choose to engage because we think that in engaging and focusing on and trying to solve the problems, it leaves a region, a relationship and a world potentially in a better place," he said.
DefenseNews reports