LIBERIANS DEMAND SOME BUSH
Tyranny has few friends but it has many courtiers here in the West; a number of them in the academic world probably choked when they read this story
. Fortunately, the indicted war criminal who misrules Liberia has indicated he will be stepping down in a hopefully vain attempt to forestall justice
. ( Query: If Foday Sankoh
and Charles Taylor have been indicted for war crimes why not the culprit
who helped these thugs get started in the first place ? )
Africa is the great " sleeper " of profound international problems. There are a few bright spots - increased democratic reforms in Kenya, a popular weariness with the political mystique of " the Big Man " model of development and the stabilization of democratic rule in South Africa. These are not small victories.
I fear however that unless the international community takes some concrete steps over the next quarter of a century the future of Africa can be seen in Somalia, the Congo and West Africa - brutal dictatorships that collapse into civil war and ultimately the permanent anarchy of a failed state. Coupled with the demographic import of AIDS
, Africa could in thirty years resemble Europe after the Black Death or Germany after the religious strife of the Thirty Year's War. Zimbabwe
teeters on the brink of ruin, Nigeria will soon face a political challenge from militant Islamists
demanding a Sharia state or civil war like that which tears Algeria and the Sudan. As was demonstrated in the 1990's in Sierra Leone and Liberia, anarchy in one state can spread like a contagion to neighboring states. Imagine the snowball effect if Zimbabwe and Nigeria go the way of the Congo and the sheer magnitude of the humanitarian crisis that would result.
What to do ? Western nations need to open their markets to African nations that democratize and make progress toward restraining corruption and establishing the rule of law. Successfully reforming states will earn debt forgiveness and relief from economic growth choking austerity programs. Regressive regimes should face pressure, genocidal regimes intervention but the realization should be that some African states are ungovernable for the very reasons that Austria-Hungary and Yugoslavia were ultimately ungovernable. In some cases the European-drawn borders have created an ethnographic and religious crazy-quilt where the citizens do no have enough of a cultural " critical mass " in common to feel ties of attachment to the nation. In a few, extreme cases the redrawing of the political map should be considered under UN supervision to create states with some greater degree of homogenity, stability and safety for ethnic or religious minorities..
This is a risky strategy. The India-Pakistan partition left a legacy of hate and warfare while the Post-WWII west-central European frontiers have been accepted and internalized to the point that only crackpots long for the " return " of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany or think in terms of Poland's " claim " to western Ukraine. Nor should border changes be imposed on Africans without their participation and consent but minimal stabilization needs to be established in order to prevent an epochal disaster. The Bush administration seems to be aware of the strategic dimensions of the crisis and has begun to prod the world into action. The Europeans are starting to follow and younger African leaders are pressing hard for market access to Western economies and cheaper AIDS drugs.
There is time to act...but not all that much
PS. Prometheus 6
frequently, sometimes daily, has excellent links to African news stories and websites. One reason among several he is on the Blogroll.