Ethiopian President Meles has died [Updated]

[Update] “Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi’s death sparks fear of turmoil”, The Guardian.  Here is Jeffrey Gettleman’s take from the New York Times. And Ken Opalo’s Blog.

Ambassador Theatre--"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"
“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” Addis

Here is an assessment from NED’s Democracy Digest, “Ethiopia: Zenawi’s ‘tainted’ authoritarian legacy.”

Kenya’s government has lost a key regional ally.  From the Obituaries in the Washington Post:

Ethio­pian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was once hailed as a major U.S. ally against terrorism but whose 21-year rule was tarnished by the killing and jailing of political protesters and a grisly border war with former ally Eritrea, died late Monday while being treated abroad for an undisclosed illness. He was 57.

The death was announced by Ethio­pian state television, which said only that Mr. Meles died shortly before midnight after contracting an infection. The government did not specify where he died, and the circumstances of his death were laced with intrigue. . . .

With Ethiopian troops in Somalia just as the process of selecting new Somali leadership is underway, and heightened tension in Ethiopia itself, the region will be anxious as the stability and sustainability of new leadership post-Meles.  Meles got along with other rulers and governments in the region, and with the U.S. and China and international institutions, while maintaining a repressive role at home.

 

History–Kenyatta, the Kenyan military and GSU; origins of U.S. military assistance

From 1975 intelligence briefing for President Gerald Ford’s Nation Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft:

2. Nairobi has traditionally maintained one of the smaller armies in sub-Saharan Africa, (see table). The Kenyan leaders — especially President Kenyatta — have not wanted a large standing army. Tribal considerations have been a major factor in this decision. The army has long been the only significant institution in Kenya not under direct control of the Kikuyu, Kenyatta’s tribe. Kenyatta, however, has been gradually but effectively changing the balance to favor the Kikuyu through reorganizations and promotions. Apparently as a counterweight to the army, Kenyan leaders also have made sure that the elite paramilitary General Service Unit remains heavily armed, mobile, and dominated by the Kikuyu.

3. The Kenyans have in the past been able to take some comfort in a mutual defense pact with Ethiopia and a long-standing tacit agreement with the UK that provides for British assistance on request in the event of major internal trouble or an external attack on Kenya. Nairobi now realizes that the chances of Ethiopian assistance have been diminished by Addis Ababa’s internal instability, its problems with Somalia, and by troubles with insurgencies in Eritrea and other provinces. Nairobi also believes, rightly in our view, that it can no longer count on British assistance in the event of an emergency.

[Map of the Horn of Africa]

The Kenya-Uganda Balance

4. Relations between Kenya and Uganda, never smooth since Idi Amin came to power in 1971, have reached their nadir in the last few months. In February, Amin laid claim to part of western Kenya. Nairobi responded by stimulating a series of virulent anti-Amin demonstrations and a boycott at Kenya’s harbors of goods destined for Uganda.

5. The Kenyans later eased the boycott, but imposed a number of economic restrictions on Kampala. They cut in half Uganda’s fuel allotment from the Nairobi refinery and are requiring cash payment for petroleum products and other goods. The sanctions appear to be hurting the Ugandan economy. This may have provoked the mercurial Amin into launching some cross-border forays by helicopter -borne Ugandan troops this month — allegedly in search of rustled cattle. Amin has followed this up with verbal threats against Kenya that he has linked to criticism of Secretary Kissinger’s trip to Africa and charges of collusion between Washington and Nairobi.

6. Other factors have contributed to tensions between Kenya and Uganda. Nairobi newspapers have frequently published stories of alleged atrocities by Uganda perpetrated against Kenyans. Such stories have recently gained increased credibility among Kenyans by the well publicized disappearance in Kampala a few months ago of a Kenyan student, now widely presumed to have died at the hands of Ugandan security police.

7. Kenyan leaders have long been uneasy about Amin’s erratic behavior. Their concerns have been heightened by Amin’s accumulation of Soviet weapons, by the presence of Soviet advisers in Uganda, and by Amin’s ties to radical Arab states and Somalia. Kenya is concerned that Amin might make some supportive military move if Mogadiscio instigated a renewal of insurgency in northeast Kenya — it supported such an effort in the 1960s — or ordered the Somali army into action against Ethiopia or Kenya.

8. Amin is probably planning to keep alive the threat of additional cross-border raids to keep Nairobi off balance and to emphasize for domestic consumption the “threat” to Uganda. The Kenyans are nervous over reports that Amin has been stirring up his senior officers with threats to “crush Kenyatta.” Nairobi fears that the likelihood of some erratic move by Amin — a terrorist incident, an assassination attempt against Kenyatta, or the seizure of some Kenyan territory — will increase when Amin ends his term as chairman of the Organization of African Unity in July. Our judgment is that these concerns in Nairobi are exaggerated, but we cannot completely rule out such actions because of Amin’s personality.

9. The Kenyans are being careful not to push Amin too far publicly. President Kenyatta has returned the two Ugandan helicopters and several soldiers captured during the recent incursions, although he has privately issued a stern warning to Amin. Nairobi may ease the current economic restrictions once it feels it has made its point. Amin is already complaining loudly about a fuel shortage, and the Kenyans are probably wary about giving him grounds for justifying some military move by claiming he is being economically strangled.

10. Nonetheless, Nairobi has recently begun providing limited covert support for a group of Ugandan exiles in Kenya who have been plotting the overthrow of Amin. The group does not appear well organized, and the effort could backfire on Nairobi by providing justification for Amin to take counteraction against Kenya. For example, Amin might respond to any Kenyan-supported attempt to unseat him with a greater show of force on the border. In such a case, a major border incident could arise from a miscalculation by either side.

11. Kenyan concerns about Amin are compounded by his overwhelming superiority both in weapons and number of troops. Although Kenyan units are better trained and disciplined than Ugandan forces, Kenyan leaders are uneasy over an official assessment questioning the will of the army to defend the nation’s borders. Some army officers are concerned that the attention Nairobi is paying to Uganda will divert it from what they see as the far more serious Somali threat.

12. Recognizing its military inferiority, Kenya has approached the US and other potential sources for military assistance, especially aircraft. (Kenya continues, however, to turn down Soviet offers of military assistance.) Kenya has tried to interest the British in providing troops or aircraft for a joint exercise or some other show of force, preferably near the border, but London apparently has turned Nairobi down.

.  .  .  .

The Horn of Africa

15. Kenya’s policy toward the Horn of Africa countries continues to be marked by an alliance with Ethiopia, its partner in a 13-year-old defense pact, and by a deep distrust of Somalia, which claims about one fifth of Kenya as well as a large part of Ethiopia and all of the neighboring FTAI. Kenya supports Paris’ announced intention to grant independence to the FTAI, and has called for OAU and UN guarantees for the independence and territorial integrity of the state.

16. The likelihood of military conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia over the FTAI has sharpened Kenya’s worries about its security and the intentions of the Mogadiscio government. Kenya fears it would be drawn into such a conflict because of its defense pact with Addis Ababa.

17. Nairobi also believes that a successful Somali takeover of the FTAI would encourage Mogadiscio to reassert its claims to the northeastern part of Kenya inhabited primarily by ethnic Somalis and to press a new insurgency effort there. The Kenyans already suspect that Amin’s recent claims to parts of Kenya were made in collusion with Somali President SIAD in an effort to keep the Nairobi government off balance. We have no hard evidence to support the Kenyan suspicions, but relations between Amin and SIAD are relatively close.

Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Africa, Box 3, Kenya. Secret; Noforn; Nocontract; Orcon. Prepared jointly by the Central Intelligence Agency, The Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Sent to Scowcroft on May 7 by B.E. Layton, Acting National Intelligence Officer for South and Southeast Asia and Africa, Central Intelligence Agency.

Comparison Table of Military Forces

Somalia  Kenya  Uganda

Air Force
Personnel 750 760 2,000
Bombers 3 6 None
Jet Fighters 50 3 68
SAM Battalions 4 None Unknown
Helicopters 12 None 9

Are we watching the early stages of a broader conflict in the Greater Horn of Africa?

Now that Kenya has initiated a full-fledged ground war in Southern Somalia, the obvious and necessary question becomes “what are the near term unintended consequences?”. It is hard to be too clear about what is “unintended” because Kenya’s intentions, on either the military or the political side, are not altogether clear in the first place, but here is one possibility that few would desire:

Simon Allison posits in South Africa’s Daily Maverick: “Kenya’s Somali raid threatens to explode into regional conflict”, noting Kenya’s confrontation with Eritrea regarding alleged arms flights to supply Al Shabaab:

. . . This begs the question: what does Eritrea have to gain by funding a Somali Islamic fundamentalist militia?

The answer lies neither in Somalia nor Eritrea, but in the country that looms large between them: Ethiopia. Ethiopia is Eritrea’s nemesis, having occupied Eritrea for decades until Eritrea achieved its modern independence with a hard-fought and vicious civil war. But Eritrea can’t relax, ever, because it has the one thing that land-locked Ethiopia wants more than anything else in this world: a port. And rapprochement is not the style of Eritrea’s slightly mad President Isaias Afwerki, whose militaristic foreign policy has left Eritrea in the international wilderness.

Instead, Afwerki has fomented instability in Somalia, hoping the chaos next door will keep Ethiopia and its military occupied. Ethiopia is deeply involved in the Somali conflict itself, and its troops make frequent cross-border raids to chase rebels who are agitating against the Ethiopian government in the ethnically Somali province of the Ogaden. As International Crisis Group’s Somalia expert Rashid Abdi explains: “Eritrea definitely has been supportive of Al Shabaab for a long time and this support is not ideological. It’s essentially meant to counter Ethiopia’s influence in Somalia.”

So while we don’t know if it really was Eritrea sending planeloads of weapons to Al Shabaab during the current conflict with Kenya, this nonetheless represents the first step in turning what is a domestic conflict into a larger, regional issue. In a way, it doesn’t really matter if Eritrea was involved or not, as long as Kenya thinks they were, they will be implicated.

Kenya has said it will pursue its claims against Eritrea, saying that it has a “series of options” to deal with them. It’s unclear what these options are, but it’s unlikely that any of them will ease tensions in the Horn of Africa. And whenever Eritrea gets involved in something, it’s not long before Ethiopia follows suit – on the opposite side, of course. So what started out as a Somali issue might just turn into something much, much bigger, not forgetting that Uganda and Burundi are already involved as they are the only countries to have contributed troops to the African Union mission in Somalia.

Kenya hoped its Somali incursion would be quick and easy. But its troops are getting bogged down in the mud and are struggling to even find the enemy. And on the diplomatic front, as the incursion starts looking more and more like an invasion, other countries are inevitably getting involved, making it even less likely that Kenya can extricate itself from Somalia quickly or easily.

David Axe on “America’s Somalia Experiment”–a timely reminder of policy in the Horn of Africa in 2007-08

David Axe on “America’s Somalia Experiment”  this week in The Diplomat:

The complex US-led intervention in Somalia, a decade in the making, represents offshore balancing at its most potent and urgent. The Libyan rebellion was outside the United States’ core interests. For Washington, intervening in Libya was optional. But Somalia, a failed state since 1991 and an al-Qaeda safe haven, represents a direct threat to the United States, and indeed has inspired the first American suicide bombers.

If offshore balancing, with its emphasis on air and sea power and proxy armies, is to define the US strategic approach to Asia and the Pacific, it first must succeed in Somalia.

For advocates of the strategy, there are reasons for hope. US offshore balancing in Somalia came together gradually, almost by accident, as separate interventions chased the converging problems of famine, terrorism and piracy. Today, this increasingly unified US effort seems to finally be bearing fruit, as American-supported foreign armies rapidly gain ground against al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist fighters.

However, sceptics too might find ammunition in the United States’ Somalia strategy. For while current US efforts in Somalia have managed to avoid a major ground-force deployment – and  indeed have been essentially bloodless for Washington – they have at the same time failed to bring a speedy end to the country’s crises. The recent territory gains are encouraging but hardly decisive – and certainly reversible.

.  .  .  .

The ICU didn’t explicitly advocate terrorism, and there were probably only a handful of al-Qaeda operatives hiding out in Somalia at the time. But that nuance was lost on the George W. Bush Administration. Washington pledged support for the Ethiopian attack, including ‘intelligence sharing, arms aid and training,’ according to USA Today.

With this backing, plus air cover provided by US AC-130 gunships and carrier-based fighters and assistance on the ground by US Special Forces, the Ethiopian army launched a Blitzkrieg-style assault on Somalia in December 2006.

Ethiopian tanks quickly routed the ICU’s lightly armed fighters. ‘The Somalia job was fantastic,’ Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan told then-US Central Commander boss Gen. John Abizaid in 2007.

The Bush Administration agreed with that assessment, at least initially. And the proxy approach to African security challenges quickly became central to Washington’s policy for the continent. In 2007, the Pentagon formed a new regional command called ‘Africa Command’ to oversee operations in most of Africa.

.  .  .  .

In Somalia, the Ethiopian invasion and subsequent two-year occupation only served to rally the country’s Islamic extremists. Al Shabab coalesced from the remains of the ICU’s armed wing and launched a bloody, and surprisingly popular, insurgency against the Ethiopians.

Also targeted: the UN- and US-sponsored Transition Federal Government, formed under the protection of the Ethiopians, plus the new African Union peacekeeping force composed mostly of Ugandan and Burundian troops and funded by the United Nations and Washington.

Al Shabab also strengthened ties with al-Qaeda, which had sent operatives to advise clan forces during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu and, more than a decade later, still maintained a small presence in Somalia. The al-Qaeda-Al Shabab alliance helped Al Shabab pull off a twin suicide bombing in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2010 that killed 74 people.

.  .  .  .

US support for the peacekeepers and the TFG represents the proxy portion of Washington’s offshore balancing in Somalia. Naval patrols, Special Forces raids and strikes by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles round out the strategy. At first, however, the main air and sea initiatives weren’t directly tied to the proxy fight on the ground.

In parallel with its support for Ethiopia’s attack on Somalia, the Pentagon in 2006 was in the process of standing up an East African counter-terrorism complex anchored by secret bases reportedly in Ethiopia and Kenya. From there, US Special Forces and armed drones struck at terrorist targets in Somalia, occasionally in cooperation with naval forces.

In 2007, Special Operations Command aircraft launched at least two helicopter raids on al-Qaeda and Al Shabab operatives in Somalia. On no fewer than three occasions in 2007 and 2008, commandos spotted targets for US warships firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at Somali targets. Some of the same warships help make up Combined Task Force 150, a US-led international naval force assigned to intercept arms shipments bound for Al Shabab and al-Qaeda in Somalia.

“The Queen of Khat”, Somaliland, and the Future of Agricultural Trade?

A “must read” this morning on culture, trade and agriculture in the Horn of Africa, from Phillip Hedemann in Die Welt translated at Worldcrunch–read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:

For many Africans khat is a stimulant drug that also stills hunger pangs. But the world’s biggest seller of khat doesn’t fit the typical profile of a drug dealer.

In Somaliland, not a lot works. Somaliland is a republic in the north of Somalia, which, although it declared itself a sovereign state, is not internationally recognized as such. But one thing you can count on here: Suhura Ismail’s trucks, driven at breakneck speed, arriving as regular as clockwork every night on the unpaved roads. The trucks are delivering khat, a drug that is mostly forbidden in Europe.

In Somaliland, on the other hand, the business is legal – and booming. Up to 80% of all men in the tiny country in the Horn of Africa are addicted to khat. Suhura Ismail says she herself has never tried chewing the bitter leaves. But it has made her rich, and in her homeland, Ethiopia, she is a highly respected entrepreneur.

“I was just voted Businesswoman of the Year,” she says. “And then I got a bill for back taxes amounting to 48 million Birr (1.9 million euros.) But we’ll figure something out. I have good connections with the Prime Minister.”

The 49-year-old mother of ten is the biggest khat dealer in the world. And although she does have a flashy gold tooth, there is none of the usual baggage about her that usually attends international dealers: no body guards, no fake names, no fear of other drug cartels or the police — though the tax man is a bit of a bother.

Then again, this Ethiopian woman would not describe herself as a drug dealer. The devout Muslim sees herself simply as an entrepreneur. Her family business sells between 30,000 and 40,000 kilos of khat each day.

In the 1990s, when coffee prices fell, many farmers in Ethiopia switched to growing khat. Since then, the drug has become one of the country’s major export goods – and the government of the world’s 12th poorest country wants its share. Ismail brings in foreign currency, or at least she does when she pays what she owes the state, which is 30% of her profits.

.  .  .  .

The girl who used to hawk khat from a roadside stand is now an entrepreneur with more than 1,000 employees, as well as her own airline, Suhura Airways. “In the world khat trade, Suhura is uncontestably numero uno,” says Ephrem Tesema, who wrote a thesis at Basel University on the production, distribution and use of khat. “And in Ethiopia she is thought to control over 50% of the market.”

Ultimately, Ismail’s great breakthrough was in removing the stigma associated with the drug. “She did a lot of PR, so in Ethiopia now the leaves are just another commercial product,” says Tesema.

Suhura Ismail says she would like to expand into Europe, and is hoping that the continent’s biggest market, Germany, will legalize the drug. It’s a country she’s familiar with. When her husband started having trouble with his teeth she flew with him to Frankfurt for dental work. Now, back home, his teeth are again in good shape, and he can return to chewing his daily consumption of the green leaves.

Horn of Africa Famine Updates

Africa Works has a short post today that I will quote in full, recognizing the hard reality:

Africa Works (G. Pascal Zachary):  Somalia and the limits of humanitarian aid:

Jeffrey Gettleman’s excellent article on the Somali famine presents a useful reminder of Amartya Sen’s famous insight that famines, chiefly, are human constructions. The persistence of famines isn’t a tragedy but rather a consequence of social and political breakdowns. In the Somali case, the country’s long civil war– and the tactics used by contending factions — means that famine is a tool of combat rather than the result of “food shortages” as such.

Because famines usually arise from dysfunctional distribution of food resources (rather than from an absolute shortage of food), aid agencies are inevitably limited in what they can do to alleviate famines. Moreoever, realities on the ground mean that famine aid inevitably benefits combatants as much or more than the truly needy. In Somalia, political dysfunction mocks the good intentions of relief agents. That famines are man-made does not obviate the need for famine relief efforts. However, the social construction of famines ought to give rise to a parallel public understanding of why famines persist and the limits of humanitarian aid.

The U.S. State Department has a “background briefing” on “Somalia and the Delivery of Humanitarian Assistance”:

. . . nearly 12 million people primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Three reasons for this: This two-year drought that we’re currently experiencing, which is part of a 60-year drought cycle; then continued lack of central government in Somalia; and then the work of al-Shabaab or the depredations of al-Shabaab in southern and central Somalia.

We are taking all of the necessary steps. We’re doing everything we can to provide assistance to Somalis in need. That is really – right now our primary concern is helping to save lives in the Horn of Africa. And I just have to point out that it’s not a coincidence that the two areas in Somalia where the UN has declared famine conditions exist are areas under al-Shabaab’s control. Be that as it may, we are doing everything we can to get aid to people who need it. And we do remain, of course, concerned about the actions of al-Shabaab. And so as we’re delivering aid to people in need, we have got to take care that al-Shabaab is not able to profit from this humanitarian crisis.

Now, U.S. law has never prohibited humanitarian assistance to people in need in Somalia. In fact, about 90 million – or rather, about $80 million of our aid thus far has, in fact, been delivered to people in Somalia. But in the face of this evolving crisis and the extreme humanitarian needs, we have issued new guidance to allow more flexibility and to provide a wider range of age – of aid to a larger number of areas in need. We hope this guidance will clarify that aid workers who are partnering with the U.S. Government to help save lives under difficult and dangerous conditions are not in conflict with U.S. laws and regulations that seek to limit the resources or to eliminate resources flowing to al-Shabaab.

. . . .

We don’t expect there to be any grand bargain where we’ll be able to have access to all of southern Somalia, but we are working to find whatever ways we can to deliver that assistance and have a significant contribution of food arriving as we speak.

19,000 metric tons started arriving last week. We have been working throughout the Horn since the early warning systems alerted us to a possible drought last fall, and we were able to preposition supplies and increase programming throughout the Horn. The difficulty has been access in southern Somalia, and so that is the biggest challenge facing us right now, is how to get aid to the people who need it most who are still stuck inside of south Somalia. We’ve seen a huge refugee outflow into Ethiopia and Kenya as well as a significant displacement – about 1.6 million Somalis have fled north into the urban areas, which is – also presents a humanitarian challenge for us.

We believe that there will be ways and opportunities to move selectively into parts of southern Somalia with food, health – health is a critical piece of this given the leading cause of death in the ’92 famine was health-related causes – and send the therapeutic and supplemental feeding that will help save lives. We’re moving aggressively to provide all of that assistance.

Owen Barder at “Owen Abroad” has excellent background on the context of the famine and how preparation from past experience and political divergence make the situation now so different in Somalia and Ethiopia. And links on where each of us can contribute financially to relief efforts. (h/t Texas in Africa).

Ethiopian Mediation for Somaliland-Puntland Border Dispute

Hiiraan Online reports:

Regional authorities of Somaliland and Puntland are meeting in Ethiopia amid a longstanding
dispute that worsened the security situation of the two breakaway regions over the past few
years.

An Ethiopian embassy official in Somaliland Mr. Berhia Tesfie, said that leaders of the two
regions have reached a preliminary agreement to discuss the border problem in order to forge
peace between the authorities which were at loggerheads following disagreement over Sool,
Sanaag and Ceyn regions.

“The Ethiopian government is working to mediate the difference between Somaliland and
Puntland . We have advised leaders of the two authorities to embrace peace between their
people”.

.  .  .  .

The center of the conflict is the Sool region in the central north of Somalia. On Monday, 1
October 2007, Puntland and Somaliland armed forces fought near Laasaanood, the capital of
Sool region. Fighting worsened again two weeks later, on 15 October. Since then, Laasaanood
has remained in the hands of the Somaliland forces.

The heightened border security divided a community already fractured by a number of internal
conflicts, clan rivalries.

“Why 300 million more people are suddenly poor”–release of “Multidimensional Poverty Index” and Ethiopia

Why 300 million more people are suddenly poor, by Jina Moore at the Christian Science Monitor:

Kigali, Rwanda In November, 300 million more people around the world were suddenly poor – on paper, at least. The latest numbers on poverty from the United Nations, released Nov. 4, include a new measurement for poverty and reveal some surprises.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) raises the number of poor by 21 percent, to more than 1.7 billion. According to the MPI, sub-Saharan Africa is still home to the greatest proportion of the world’s poor, but more than half of the total number of poor lives in South Asia.

These numbers, and the new index that produced them, are part of the UN’s annual Human Development Index (HDI), a statistical touchstone. It covers everything from the number of women who die in childbirth to how many people have Internet access and can sway decisions on US policy, influence where nonprofits spend money, and help determine where donors give.

For years, the HDI has set the standard for just how little a person has to live on to be considered poor. The answer? $1.25. But some researchers have long said income alone doesn’t define poverty.

“There are some things money can’t buy,” says Sabina Alkire, cocreator of the index and director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, which launched the index in collaboration with the UN. “It might not buy electricity; it might not buy a public health system, or an education system.”

Ms. Alkire’s index looks at poverty more experientially. It uses existing survey data and categorizes households as poor if they lack three or more of the 10 poverty indicators, which are spread across health, education, and basic standards of living. “For the first time ever, it measures poverty by looking at the disadvantages poor people experience at the same time,” she says.

Examining more than income changes the equation. It doubles the poor in Ethiopia, where 39 percent of people live on less than $1.25 a day. But 90 percent are “multidimensionally poor,” or lacking at least three of the 10 indicators.

. . . .

Some specialists have raised objections to the new index, including the director of research at the World Bank, which publishes its own income measure for poverty. Among the criticisms is that the measure is still a single standard, even if it looks at many factors.

“If my bosses were to ask for my recommendation on using the MPI as a factor in allocating USAID resources among countries or programs, I would recommend against doing so,” says Don Stillers, an economist for the US Agency for International Development, in an e-mail message. “Rather, I would emphasize the ongoing need to pay attention to evidence on each major dimension of poverty in each country we work in.”

. . . .

Indeed, Alkire of HDI admits her index isn’t perfect. She acknowledges that good data are hard to come by, and not all types of data that researchers want even exist. “These are messy numbers, and comparisons are fraught with danger,” she says. But she also thinks her approach gives existing information more context and helps correct misperceptions.

This seems to me to represent incremental progress in understanding actual living conditions at the type of “overview” level that inevitably influences political decisionmaking and overall public awareness.  While the USAID economist is right about the need to look at specifics country-by-country, comparisons are necessary and inevitable.  The Ethiopia example seems especially useful in evaluating the performance of the Meles regime which claims credit for a significant level of “growth” and seems to use that as political capital with donors to excuse or divert attention from political repression.

Speaking of Ethiopian governance, Meles has attacked the EU Election Observation Mission for its report issued this week on the May election, which he called “trash“.  Thijs Berman, the Chief Observer, responded as reported by VOA:

“If we say 27 percent of the results in the cases we observed had changed between the polling station and the final aggregation, then this is something that warrants a serious investigation about what went wrong and is this something that can be corroborated by other investigations in the rest of the country,” Berman adds.

Tensions about the EU mission have been building, even before the election.  The government had laid down strict rules for conduct of the observers, arguing that a previous EU mission observing the disputed 2005 election had violated its mandate. The government has also criticized the long delay between the May 23 election and the release of the final mission report.

But Berman tells VOA the report was ready months ago.  He says the release was delayed and the report eventually released in Brussels after it became clear he would not be allowed to present it officially to Prime Minister Meles. “In more than 80 missions in more than 50 countries, it has never happened that the inviting government refuses the presentation of the final report before the first, who are entitled to get this information, namely the Ethiopian citizens.  Which is bad for the long-term future of Ethiopia because real stability can only be brought about by improving the democracy in Ethiopia,” he said.

“Linkage”–remembering how we got here, from “rules of the game” with the Russians and the “Carter Doctrine” to Al-Queda in East Africa and the Embassy Bombings

A mixed verdict today in the Ghailani trial from the 1998 al-Qaeda bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania led me to pull of the shelf Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser 1977-1981. These were my high school years and I wrote a paper contrasting the views in Brzezinski’s book and Jimmy Carter’s memoir Keeping Faith as an undergrad. Kenya was handed off from Kenyatta to Moi during this time. My children are roughly the age I was then.

So what did Brzezinski have to say, writing in 1983, about U.S. policy in Kenya and Somalia and the Horn of Africa generally? For him it was all about strategic confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, globally and in regard to the Middle East, most importantly Saudi Arabia. “Linkage” was between the Ethiopia-Somalia conflict and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty negotiations.

The more immediate source of friction between Vance and me was the Soviet-sponsored deployment of the Cuban military in the African Horn. In the summer of 1977, the long-standing territorial disputes in the Horn of Africa were complicated by the dramatic switch in allegiances of the Ethiopians and Somalis. The increasingly extreme leftist government of Ethiopia broke with the West, while the Somalis, who had been aided by Moscow, turned to the United States. The unsettled situation was of serious concern to Egypt, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and us, because we all had evidence that the Soviets were providing increased aid and using Cuban forces in the already tense border war. Of course, our ability to assist the Somalis was not helped by the fact that they were the nominal aggressors in the Ogaden, having crossed over an established border into territory they claimed belonged to them.
However, in my view the situation between the Ethiopians and the Somalis was more than a border conflict. Coupled with the expansion of Soviet influence and military presence to South Yemen, it posed a potentially grave threat to our position in the Middle East, notably in the Arabian peninsula. It represented a serious setback in our attempts to develop with the Soviets some rules of the game in dealing with turbulence in the Third World. The Soviets had earlier succeeded in sustaining, through the Cubans, their preferred solution in Angola, and they now seemed embarked on a repetition in a region in close proximity to our most sensitive interests.
I was strengthened in my view by the repeated, like-minded expressions of concern by both Giscard and Sadat, leaders with a refined strategic perspective. Both warned Carter on several occasions not to be passive or to underestimate the gravity of an entrenched Soviet military presence so close to weak, vulnerable, yet vitally needed Saudi Arabia. Sadat let it be known that he was afraid the Soviets were seeking to embarrass him specifically by seizing control of territory crucial to Egyptian interests. We had a report from the Shah, who had traveled to Aswan and to Riyadh, that both the Egyptians and the Saudis were increasingly concerned by the increased Soviet activity. In fact, the Shah reported that the Saudis were “petrified” by the prospect of a Soviet presence across the Red Sea. The Sudanese had also expressed to Carter their worries about Soviet activity and U.S. lack of activity. In a personal message the Sudanese President wrote: “We believe that the Soviet Union is pursuing a sinister grand strategy in Africa leading to some definite goals. We are truly alarmed . . .
Yet in spite of such expressions of concern, throughout the late fall of 1977 and much of 1978 I was very much alone in the U.S. government in advocating a stronger response: Vance insisted that this issue was purely a local one, while Brown [Sec. of Defense] was skeptical of the feasibility of any U.S. countermoves. But by the late summer of 1977, intelligence sources provided mounting evidence of growing Soviet-sponsored involvement. As a result, I promoted . . . a recommendation to the President, which he approved, to accelerate our efforts to provide support to the Sudan, to take steps to accelerate our efforts to reassure and strengthen Kenya, and to explore means of getting as many African leaders as possible to react adversely to the Soviet-sponsored Cuban military presence.
. . . . Continue reading

Transparency International Annual Corruption Perception Index released [corrected and updated]

The new Transparency International corruption perception rankings for 2010 have been released today.

For East Africa:

66 Rwanda (4.0 score on a scale of 10) [up from 3.3 for 2009]
116 Ethiopia (2.7) [unchanged]
116 Tanzania (2.7) [up from 2.6]
127 Uganda (2.5) [unchanged]
154 Kenya (2.1) [down from 2.2]
170 Burundi (1.8) [unchanged]
172 Sudan (1.6) [up from 1.5]
178 Somalia (1.1–lowest) [unchanged]

The United States dropped to 22nd with a 7.1 score.

The new report was drawn from surveys taken from January 2009 to September 2010.

For these listed East African countries, there was no demonstrated significant change from 2009 to 2010.

Given its methodology, the CPI is not a tool that is
suitable for trend analysis or for monitoring changes in the
perceived levels of corruption over time for all countries.
Year-to-year changes in a country/territory’s score can
result from a change in the perceptions of a country’s
performance, a change in the ranking provided by original
sources or changes in the methodology resulting from TI’s
efforts to improve the index.
If a country is featured in one or more specific data
sources for both of the last two CPIs (2009 CPI and 2010
CPI), those sources can be used to identify whether there
has been a change in perceived levels of corruption in
that particular country compared to the previous year.
TI has used this approach in 2010 to assess country
progress over the past year and to identify what can be
considered to be a change in perceptions of corruption.
These assessments use two criteria:
(a) there is a year-on-year change of at least 0.3 points in
a country’s CPI score, and
(b) the direction of this change is confirmed by more than
half of the data sources evaluating that country.
Based on these criteria, the following countries showed
an improvement from 2009 to 2010: Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador,
FYR Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait and
Qatar. The following countries showed deterioration from
2009 to 2010: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary,
Italy, Madagascar, Niger and the United States.