Friday, June 17, 2011

Scramble for Africa

Please note that our blog has moved to our website,

Friday, April 4, 2008

Forthcoming Darfur book details

Our publisher, Black Rose Books, has a page up for our forthcoming book on Darfur (title pending). Available for pre-order on Amazon (also in hardcover) - hopefully soon also on Powell's, which is unionized.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Article on the Candidates and Darfur

We've published a new piece entitled "Candidates on Darfur" in Foreign Policy In Focus.

Also look for an interview with Kevin on the same topic in the forthcoming edition of the monthly program of the Darfur Radio Project.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Whither UNAMID?

Original caption: An AU soldier in El Fasher, securing the Joint AU/UN compound. UNMIS Photo/Fred Noy

It has been evident for quite some time that the West’s sanctimony regarding Darfur is purely posturing, as revealed with utmost clarity by the behavior of the loudest and most powerful nations. While Washington and its junior partners decried Khartoum's stonewalling of a UN deployment, they crippled the African Union deployment, AMIS. Though flawed, the African team was surely capable of greater effectiveness if better supported financially and logistically. Underfunding the AU mission, the only available force already on the ground, consigned Darfurians to a grim fate, amply fulfilled in the last several years of death and misery.

Khartoum's obstructionism was also the favored storyline of the commercial press. However, with the long sought deployment of UN forces finally a partial reality, a new public relations challenge has arisen. Thus far, it has been met with aplomb, made possible by an impressively disciplined media and a largely acquiescent activist movement. The inconvenient truth in this case is that the UNAMID deployment is being hamstrung by a lack of resources – precisely the difficulty that deep-sixed AMIS. The stinginess is naturally most glaring in the case of the wealthiest and best-equipped nations.

At present, only 2,000 peacekeepers have been added to the existing AMIS team, raising the total to 9,000 and leaving the force 17,000 personnel shy of the projected size. Much of the blame for the unimpressive launch of UNAMID has been placed on Khartoum which has hampered full implementation of UN force deployment through a myriad of devices designed to buy time - but its responsibility for the slow roll out appears to be matched by the absence of action from the nations capable of supplying basic military equipment.

For several months UNAMID has been waiting but thus far no UN member state has agreed to provide the much needed but very minimal transport needs (most notably two dozen helicopters) to the new UNAMID force. Ban Ki Moon has repeatedly called for capable member nations to supply the pittance.

To be more accurate, in early February two countries did step forward at long last: the fabulously wealthy nations of Bangladesh and Ethiopia. What has become of their offer is not yet clear; as recently as Feb. 20th U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referenced "more helicopters, which peacekeepers urgently need in Darfur." There have been no indications of embarrassment in Western capitals at being upstaged in generosity by the 54th and 87th wealthiest countries, respectively, as ranked by GDP.

Nor has changing the name and official sponsor of the peacekeeping force resolved the desperate financial situation of the mission, which cannot obtain spare tires for its Armored Personnel Carriers and is still struggling with "unpaid soldiers and a lack of equipment."

The sight of Washington, the leader of the pack of nations braying about the horrors of Darfur, failing to provide a few helicopters that it could doubtless spare without even occasioning a blip in a Defense Department budget that routinely misplaces billions or trillions of dollars through shoddy accounting, casts into sharp relief the true value of Darfurian lives for the leaders of democracy and freedom.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Where's Darfur at the Democratic debates?

For all their prior rhetoric on "saving" Darfur, the frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination have made surprisingly little noise about the conflict in recent months.

This much is clear from the most recent party "debates" - more accurately, heavily managed public relations exercises replete with obfuscation and evasiveness - as Darfur has merited no substantive mention from the participants in the latest outings:
  • The September 26 debate in New Hampshire included no reference to Darfur (aside from a brief mention by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson concerning his diplomatic experience), though Tim Russert did find time to ask the candidates for their "favorite Bible verse."

  • On October 30 in Philadelphia, Darfur again received no mention, perhaps preempted by Brian William's question to Barack Obama about how he would be dressing up for Halloween.

  • In the most recent debate - November 15 in Las Vegas - Darfur again went unmentioned by the candidates.
The omission would not be glaring, if not for two issues.

First, it would be understandable if Darfur were receiving less attention if the candidates were instead focused on other foreign policy issues of concern - such as the almost universally ignored crisis in the Congo, or concrete ways to end the war in Iraq and attempt to atone for the massive destruction the U.S. continues to wreak in the country (clearly, not forthcoming).

Second, Darfur has been a lightning rod issue for liberal activists and Democratic voters - in fact, claimed to be the "largest such activism" since the war on Vietnam - and the conflict is widely reported in the West as the "world's worst humanitarian disaster."

So what gives?

One can imagine several possible explanations - for example, that the frontrunner candidates take the votes of Darfur activists for granted, or that since they largely agree on how to address the crisis (implementing a no-fly zone, pushing for a UN deployment, and pressuring China), they have little to discuss. Both theories have some merit.

But it is important to not lose sight of another key piece of the equation.

For all their heated rhetoric, mainstream Democrats are highly unlikely to make any substantive changes to Washington's fruitful intelligence-sharing relationship with key elements of the Khartoum government as part of the "War on Terror."

Thursday, December 6, 2007

New piece published

Foreign Policy in Focus just published our response piece as part of our "strategic dialogue" about divestment from Sudan.

The original piece is available here, along with the original and response by Daniel Millenson, of the Sudan Divestment Task Force.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Commentary: The U.S.-Equatorial Guinea Alliance

Life is good if you're Teodoro Obiang.

Condi Rice considers you a "good friend."

ExxonMobil threw a party in your honor in Washington.

The Dutch mega-airline KLM at one point even named an airplane after you.

And you're "in permanent contact with the Almighty," according to the radio station you control, which also noted that you are "like God in heaven" with "all power over men and things." Accordingly, as the broadcast went on to note, "He can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell." (Sound familiar?)

Yet all is not well in Equatorial Guinea, the small, oil-soaked African nation that Obiang rules with an iron fist.

Human rights groups report that members of opposition groups are "flogged." One man recounted how the president's forces "cut his ears off with scissors." In addition to recurring accusations that the Obiang regime has targeted citizens in exile for assassination, the State Department notes the following characteristics of Equatorial Guinea's sparkling human rights record:
...abridgement of citizens' right to change their government; torture, beating, and other physical abuse of prisoners and detainees by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; impunity; arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention; harassment and deportation of foreign residents; judicial corruption and lack of due process; restrictions on the right to privacy; severe restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press; restrictions on the right of assembly, association, and movement; government corruption; violence and discrimination against women; trafficking in persons; discrimination against ethnic minorities; restrictions on labor rights and child labor; and forced child labor.
Taking advantage of the favorable climate for efficient exploitation, U.S. energy interests have established a firm foothold in the country. ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Halliburton, and Marathon Oil are all feeding from the trough, as two-thirds of Equatorial Guinea's substantial oil production goes into U.S. hands. Accordingly, the U.S. embassy (shut down in 1995, after the atypically outspoken then-U.S. envoy received death threats for daring to criticize Obiang and before the oil boom was in full swing) was reopened by the Bush administration to manage this burgeoning partnership.

Thanks to Western benevolence, the macroeconomy is booming, one of the world's fastest-growing, though mysteriously, as Peter Maass writes: "Per capita, it is one of the richest countries on the continent; rated by how much money ends up in the pockets of people not related to the president, it remains one of the poorest."

Not unfairly, China has taken quite a beating in Western media for its unsavory alliances in Africa, which are uniformly understood to be about securing access to natural resources and markets with little to no regard for human rights.

Yet the same elementary point about the United States somehow escapes the penetrating eyes of the Western intelligentsia, who display a marked tendency to simply ignore human rights violations in U.S.-allied states with expansive energy reserves (tellingly, the press posed two questions to Rice when she appeared with Obiang in Washington before their meeting - both of which were about Iran) - a fact perceived rather easily by others.

Says Gabriel Nguema Lima, one of Obiang's sons, who is "in effective control of the ministry of mines and energy," overseeing the country's oil industry: “The United States, like China, is careful not to get into internal issues.”

Nothing different should be expected from a world power without an enlivened citizenry that demands otherwise.