“Partnerdship”

Who says the State Department doesn’t have a sense of humor?

INSIDE THE BELTWAY

Open Government Partnerdship

WASHINGTON, DC, July 12 – The U.S. hosted the first high-level meeting of The Open Government Partnership (OGP), a new international initiative aimed at securing concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, increase civic participation and fight corruption. The OGP will also strive to harness new technologies to make government more open, effective, and accountable. A multi-stakeholder International Steering Committee for the OGP, co-chaired by the United States and Brazil, is comprised of government and civil society groups, representing countries from around the world, including Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. “…There is an undeniable connection between how a government operates and whether its people flourish,” Secretary Clinton said in remarks during the high-level meeting. “When a government invites its people to participate, when it is open as to how it makes decisions and allocates resources, when it administers justice equally and transparently, and when it takes a firm stance against corruption of all kinds, that government is, in the modern world, far more likely to succeed in designing and implementing effective policies and services. It is also more likely to harness the talents of its own people and to benefit from their ideas and experiences, and it is also more likely to succeed investing its resources where they are most likely to have the best return.”   Full Text» The Open Government Partnership»Conversations With America: Open Government Partnership»Spurring International Momentum for Open Government»OpenGovPartnership.org»

From the Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Liaison: Public Liaison, Intergovernmental Affairs and Regional Media Outreach, E-news, volume 5 – 2011, Issue 25, July 26, 2011

Assessing Progress Toward Democracy in Francophone Africa | United States Institute of Peace

Assessing Progress Toward Democracy in Francophone Africa | United States Institute of Peace.

Webcast 2pm Washington (Eastern Daylight) Time, Thursday, July 28:  http://www.usip.org/webcast

Uganda’s Independent features CSIS report on risk of instability with NRM decline, Museveni succession

“American Group Predicts Instability Over Succession”  Independent(Kampala) July 22:

Election year 2016 will be a turning point for Uganda, according to a report by the powerful American policy solutions provider, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

As a sign of likely instability, the June 30 report notes that “the NRM is on a long-term trajectory of decline, and thus its survivability by the end of President Museveni’s current presidential term is certainly in doubt.”

Titled “Assessing risks to stability in Sub-Saharan Africa”, the report was commissioned by the Unites States of America’s military Africa Command, AFRICOM, which plans for America’s strategic security interests on the continent. The US government often uses the CSIS reports to project the future and strategise for change. The report is based on events that have toppled regimes that appeared to have a firm grip on power in Egypt, Tunisia, and led to a western-backed armed rebellion in Libya.

. . . .

The report is based on studies in 10 countries; Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, and Uganda, that it describes as “undergoing the growing pains of democracy”.

It notes: “In Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, and Angola – democracy has little meaning beyond the ritualistic holding of elections in which political space is severely constrained and the winner is generally predetermined”.

Joel Barkan, a professor of political science at the University of Iowa and a specialist on politics and development policy in sub-Saharan Africa whose books about the politics of Sub-Saharan African countries are recommended readings in many universities, wrote the Uganda section of the report.

He notes that change is inevitable by all means either through anointment of a successor by Museveni himself or through the overthrow of Museveni or his chosen successor.

He says the style of Museveni’s governance has grave implications for the future stability of the country because it is highly personalised that the running of the country to a greater extent revolves around Museveni’s personal position.

At the centre of the report lies a big question on whether Museveni will run for a fifth elected term in 2016 at the age of 73 or who will be his successor if he decides to step down and how the succession will be managed not to create disputes both within the party and the country at large.

Although he seems to have an insatiable desire to remain in power, Barkan counsels, Museveni should be realistic enough to know he does not have much time left and the sooner he drafts his end game the better for him and his country.

The CSIS Africa Program homepage for the “Stress Testing African States” reports provides an overview and gateway to the details of the studies.

Another good new read:  “A Middle-Income Uganda:  Aiming for Mediocrity and Failing” at the LSE Africa blog.

Ongoing East African Food Crisis Continues to Worsen

“Famine in East Africa: A Catastrophe in the Making,” Der Speigel:

Eastern Africa is baking under a merciless sun; the last two rainy seasons have brought no precipitation at all. It is said to be the worst drought since 1950. And hunger comes at its the heels. In Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Uganda, people are suffering like they haven’t in a long while. The UN estimates that some 12 million people are already faced with hunger. And that is likely just the beginning.

There are many indications that the situation will only worsen in the coming weeks. For the moment, many of the regions in eastern Africa are classified by the UNHCR as “emergency” areas. But on Wednesday, the UNHCR declared famine in two regions in southern Somalia and said that it could spread unless enough donors can be found to help those in need. “If we don’t act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months,” said Mark Bowden, humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.

It is a catastrophe that has been a long time in coming. Experts have been warning of the approaching famine for months and the causes are clear. They also know that the current disaster won’t be the last. As a result of climate change, it has become increasingly the case that rainy seasons fail to materialize in the region. Adding to the problem, the population in the countries currently suffering has quadrupled in recent decades, from 41 million to 167 million. Plus, aid organizations tend to budget most of their money for emergency situations, leaving little left over for wells, fertilizer, seeds and efforts to teach farmers how to make the most from their plots of land — all measures that could forestall the next disaster.

Somalia has been especially hard hit because the Islamists from the al-Shabab militia, who are fighting against the country’s government, have chased almost all aid organizations out of the country.  .  .  .

.  .  .  .

Despite the difficulties, the WFP has managed to more or less rebuild the harbor in recent years. Warships from the European Union anti-piracy mission Atalanta guide freighters full of aid supplies through the pirate infested waters and into the harbor.  .  .  .

. . . .

An equally large problem is the phenomenon known in aid circles as “donor fatigue.” People around the world are becoming tired of sending money to Africa, where nothing ever seems to change. Just last year, the WFP asked rich countries for $500 million to combat hunger on the Horn of Africa. They were unable to raise even half of that. And that despite the fact that the scientists working for the US-based Famine Early Warning System have long been warning that first the crops, then the animals and finally the people themselves would begin dying should the rainy season fail to materialize.

“Refugees flee famine stricken Somalia”, NPR

“Incredible Shrinking Kibera”–a lesson that should inspire humility in Western capitals

When we see popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya that no one in the United States or the West more generally seems to have anticipated we ought naturally to be drawn to some soul searching about how much we really know about societies and countries in Africa–and how what we do know gets filtered and reported back to policy makers and the public at home.

My experience in East Africa and what I have learned since certainly suggested caution and humility to me.  One particular glaring example I can highlight is the fiasco of what I will call “Incredible Shrinking Kibera”.  First let’s start with the setting:  right in the heart of Nairobi, one of the most cosmopolitan African capitals in many respects–a city that is a magnet for Western expats, in particular offices of international organizations and NGOs on a regional or Africa-wide basis, as well as a huge regional diplomatic presence.  Lots of tourists from the UK and the US in particular.  Yet, it has turned out that Western conventional wisdom about Nairobi has included numbers for the population of the Kibera informal settlement (“the largest slum in Africa”) that are vastly beyond those cited in Kenya’s new census.  Either the conventional wisdom about 1 million people, or perhaps many more, living in Kibera was vastly inflated, or the new Kenya census finding only a fraction of that population is completely flawed–or both if the real population is, say, double the census figure and less than half the “conventional wisdom”.   If Kenya can’t get anywhere close in a census, even in Nairobi, then how serious can we really be about drawing new boundaries and electoral districts and free and fair elections with equal voting rights for all citizens next year?  If the census is close, then a lot of us in the West have been shown to be either seriously misinformed about something that shouldn’t be so hard to know, or of “spinning” beyond the bounds of a fair representation of the facts.  I myself have referenced the “conventional wisdom” without the skepticism that I should have had.

I was fortunate to have a friend in Kibera and thus an introduction to one family and community in one neighborhood there, as well as being involved in a pre-election survey of the Langata parliamentary constituency in December 2007 and in observing a bit of the voting in one of the more upscale areas on election day with our international delegates.  I started to scratch the surface.  Personally, my family and I had more connection to Kawangware.  Wherever you live in Nairobi, if you are interested, you can pick a nearby informal settlement and start getting acquainted.

Here is a good blog about Kibera:

“Slum Tourism in Kibera: Education or Exploitation?” Brian Ekdale

4) Don’t assume you understand Kibera after spending a couple of hours there. I’ve been there 10 months and still learn new things every day. Kibera is a very complex place. People like to say 1 million residents, but population figures are contested. Not every organization is doing what they say they are doing. Not everyone is impoverished (I know some who have good jobs but would rather financially support their families and neighbors than move to a wealthy area and leave behind those that helped raise them). Now that you’ve been there, go back and read those articles and watch those videos I mentioned in #2.

5) Don’t think Nairobi is a city of contradictions. Sure, you can get a mocha and french toast at Nairobi Java House, go on a Kibera tour in the late morning, and then grab some upscale Indian food at Yaya Centre for lunch without traveling very far. But understand the Java House/Yaya/Westgate life does not exist in spite of Nairobi’s slum population, they exist because of Nairobi’s slum population. Cheap labor built those massive structures. Cheap labor stocked the shelves. And cheap labor keeps them running. That labor walks home at night to sleep in Kibera, or Korogocho, or Mathare, etc.

Maziwa Fresh by AfriCommons
Maziwa Fresh, a photo by AfriCommons on Flickr.

Independence Day–Secretary Clinton’s Congratulations to the Republic of South Sudan

Flag of the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Mov...

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Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 9, 2011

I am delighted to join President Obama in congratulating the Republic of South Sudan on its independence today. The realization of this historic day is a testament to the tireless efforts of the people of South Sudan in their search for peace. We commend South Sudan’s current leaders, including President Salva Kiir Mayardit, for helping guide Southern Sudan to this moment. And we recognize the determination and courage of the many southern Sudanese who never abandoned their hope that peace was possible and who stood in long lines on January 9 to cast their votes.

Independence presents a new beginning for the people of South Sudan; an opportunity to build a nation that embodies the values and aspirations of its people. The challenges are many, but the South Sudanese people have demonstrated their capacity to overcome great odds. The United States will remain a steadfast partner as South Sudan seeks to peacefully meet these challenges and build a free, democratic and inclusive society. The strong ties between our peoples go back many decades, and we are committed to continuing to build on the partnership we have already established in the years ahead.

This historic day not only offers opportunity for the people of South Sudan, but also for the people of Sudan and all of Africa. We commend the Government of Sudan on its decision to be the first to recognize South Sudan’s independence. By continuing on the path of peace, the Government of Sudan can redefine its relationship with the international community and secure a more prosperous future for its people. The United States recognizes the important roles played by the United Nations, African Union, European Union, Arab League, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and Sudan’s neighbors in supporting the CPA and its implementation, and we look forward to working with them and other international partners toward supporting Sudan and South Sudan as two viable states at peace with one another.

Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Second Wife and Somalia’s New Prime Minister

A little item from this week’s alumni news in my e-mail:

Ali Alumnus named prime minister of SomaliaThe New York Times—Alumnus Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, MA’88, who holds a master’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt, has been appointed the new prime minister of Somalia. Full story »

Vanderbilt is not as well known for producing African leaders, perhaps, as some universities. But it does have an economics department that has educated Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, for instance, so it may not be surprising that Somalia’s new Prime Minister got his masters in economics at Vanderbilt.

Cornelius Vanderbilt himself was arguably a quintessentially American character. Surely if he were alive today he would be making money in and around Africa. Maybe in airlines as well as shipping and rail, and maybe fiberoptics and other means of the “transportation of information” along with moving physical goods and people.

From his biography from The New Netherland Institute:

Between the years 1805 and 1810 Cornelius worked for his father and for the ferry services serving Staten Island. In 1810 when he was sixteen years old he convinced his parents to lend him $100 so he could buy a sailboat to start his own ferry and freight business. They provided him with the money but with the understanding that he would share the profits from the business with his parents. He used the money to start a passenger and freight service between Staten Island and New York City. There was a lot of competition in the ferry service business but Vanderbilt competed on the basis of lower fares, asking as little as 18 cents per trip. He was quite successful and apparently was able to repay the $100 loan to his parents within one year. According to local lore, he was even able to earn a $1000 for his parents during the first year of operations as part of their share in the profits.

The war of 1812 provided new opportunities for growth. The forts around New York City expanded and Vanderbilt obtained a government contract to supply them. Between 1814 and 1818 he expanded with additional schooners for freight and passenger services in Long Island Sound and in the coastal trade from New England to Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1818 he sold all his sailing vessels and became a steamboat captain and partner with Thomas Gibbons who operated a ferry service between New Brunswick, New Jersey and New York City. The Vanderbilt-Gibbons partnership charged only a quarter of the competitive fares. It soon became the dominant ferry service on the busy Philadelphia-New York City route. During the 1818-1829 time period the partnership made a fortune.

In 1829 Vanderbilt decided to go on his own and began passenger and freight service on the New York City-Peekskill Hudson River route. Again he competed on the basis of price and quickly eliminated the competition. He then expanded his service to Albany, New York. He also opened passenger and freight service to the Long Island Sound, Providence and Connecticut areas. By the 1840s Vanderbilt had a fleet of 100 steamships and he had become the biggest employer in the U.S.A. At that point he not only competed on the basis of price but also on the basis of comfort, size, speed, luxury and elegance of the steamship passenger transportation industry.

During the California gold rush in 1849 Vanderbilt began steamship service to San Francisco by way of Nicaraqua. His competitiors used the Panama route which was longer. Vanderbilt was able to cut two days off the length of the trip to San Francisco, and it was 600 miles shorter. This part of his transportation business netted him over one million dollars per year. As a result he became the principal transportation service provider on the East Coast to San Francisco route.

In the 1850s he did two possibly foolish things. In 1853 he decided to take his first vacation ever. He had a steam yacht built and made a triumphant tour of Europe. While on his trip he had left the management of the business to contract managers. They tried to fraudulently take over the business while he was away in Europe. Although they were not successful, his temporary absence from his business proved to be costly, but he quickly recovered. .  .  .

In the 1860s he became aware that the big growth in the future for the transportation industry was not by way of water but by way of rail. So he became interested in railroad transportation . . .
. . . .
A year after the death of his wife Sophia, Vanderbilt now 73 years old, married a distant cousin named Frances Armstrong Crawford, and known as Frank. She was 34 years his junior. The marriage was probably a good one because it gave him a new outlook on life. It is doubtful if his children approved of it. After all, his new wife was younger than seven of his twelve children. It appears that the marriage to a younger woman gave him an imagined extension to his life.

Although Vanderbilt had not engaged in philanthropy at all until that point in his life, through his new wife’s influence, he perpetuated his name through a gift of one million dollars to Nashville’s Central University. One million dollars may not sound like a lot of money, but in the 1870’s it was. Based on the gross domestic product per capita in 1870 and at the present time, the conversion ratio would amount to about 260. So the one million dollars was essentially equal to $260 million in today’s terms. The University would become, and to this day still is, the prestigious Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Somaliland’s President Silanyo Official Guest for Saturday’s South Sudan Independence Ceremony

HARGEISA (SomalilandPress)—President Ahmed Siilaanyo received an official invitation from the president of South Sudan Salva Kiir to attend the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of South Sudan on the 9th of July, 2011. South Sudan is set to become the 54th nation in the African continent after long fought civil against Northern Sudan’s rule that saw thousands of lives lost and millions displaced.

The invitation of Somaliland’s president Ahmed Siilanyo to South Sudan’s historic day has been welcomed with delight in Somaliland by both the government of Somaliland and its citizens. Somaliland believes it could use the south’s independence as a precedent as it seeks more support for its case for international recognition and become the 55th nation in the continent after South Sudan. Some foreign observers and politicians believe the Juba government will recognize Somaliland which will pave the way for other regional powers to follow.