China to send observers to Sudan Referendum–what will they look for? [Updated Jan. 6]

The link to the Reuters report from Beijing is here.

China will send observers to Sudan when the south holds an independence referendum on January 9, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

“At the invitation of both the north and the south, China will send observers to participate in the referendum,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular news conference.

“China is willing, together with the international community, to continue to play a proactive and constructive role for the sake of Sudan’s peace and stability,” Hong said.

Hmm. Will these be people who have observed an election before, much less participated in one? If China is serious about peace and stability within the parameters of a democratic process then great and welcome to the community, but if they are just protecting their own interests irrespective then what are they adding?

This is surely a clear example of a diplomatic observation rather than an assistance effort–no indication that China has an interest in improving democratic elections abroad.

Radio France International has an interesting take on the Chinese diplomatic strategy:

Beshir’s more reconciliatory tone is however a diplomatic advantage for China, which is a long-time ally of Beshir and a major investor in the country’s oil industry, which is mainly based in the south.

“China is working very hard to in effect play both sides of the border,” says David Shinn, the former deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Khartoum. “It wants to maintain its very close relationship with the Beshir government and it wants to maintain as close a tie as possible to the southerners if they secede.”

China has a consulate in Juba and has been providing some assistance to southerners over the last year, but Shinn says it will still have to work hard to create a good relationship with the south, should it become independent.

“They certainly will have an uphill climb in that they are well known to have been very strong military backers of the northern government and those feelings will not disappear quickly,” says Shinn. “On the other hand, the Chinese have shown great propensity over the years to be able to make the switch to the new rulers in town”.

Chinese financial resources will give it an advantage, especially as it is almost alone in having a state sector that is willing to make investments. The Chinese government also backs several banks in Africa, which able to provide low interest loans fast.

Shinn says China has enough invested in the north to want to maintain a good relationship with the north even though most of Sudan’s resources come from the south. Beshir’s diplomatic approach has given China a chance to work with the south without upsetting the Khartoum government.

“Who knows, behind the scenes maybe China has even been encouraging that,” says Shinn.

 

IRIN Africa | SUDAN: What they’re saying about the referendum

IRIN Africa | SUDAN: What they’re saying about the referendum The UN humanitarian news service has a run down of links to major recent reports relating to Sunday’s referendum from the International Crisis Group, the Small Arms Survey, the Enough Project, the US Institute for Peace and the AU High-level Implementation Panel.

Sudan referendum voter registation begins Monday amid complaints by registrar

The head of Sudan’s voter registation effort blasted the Western donors for funding third parties to work in support of the registation effort for the referendum rather than fund the official agency receiving funds from the Northern/National and Southern governments, reports Reuters.

Obama, the Midterms and Africa–some thoughts from the hinterlands

G. Pascal Zachary has a very interesting take at Africa Works on the possible impact of the US midterm elections for Africa: “For Africans, an Obama defeat at polls can bring help”:

For Africa, an Obama presidency has been a disappointment. Rather than pay attention to the sub-Saharan because of his Kenyan heritage, Barack Obama has gone the other way: giving less attention to Africa than any other region of the world. Partly Obama’s inattention to African affairs reflects the crises of his presidency. Urgent problems are elsewhere. But the situation may be about to change and because of an unlikely reason: the defeat of Obama’s Democratic Party allies in Congress.

Next Tuesday’s polls could deliver a big setback to Obama: loss of control by the Democrats of at least one house of Congress. With the Republicans back in command, Obama will face new pressure on his administration to intervene directly in African affairs, and in ways the president has so far avoided.

A glimpse of the future direction of U.S. policy towards Africa can be seen by looking backwards — to the policies of former President George Bush. For complex reasons, the Bush administration engineered an increase in financial assistance to Africa, chiefly in the form of an enormous outlay — an estimated $80 billion over 10 years — to cover the cost of treating Africans with HIV-AIDs. In addition, President Bush engineered a peace deal in Sudan that effectively brought an end to one of the region’s oldest civil wars.

Much of the impetus for Bush’s activism in Africa came from the Christian right, which saw the Sudanese conflict through the prism of religious freedom; the conflict to Republicans was between a militant Islam and a persecuted Christian minority. Evangelicals flocked to the defense of south Sudan and, even now, are among the loudest advocates for legal partition of the country — and a more muscular U.S. role in overseeing a planned election next year that could lead to the creation of Africa’s newest nation.

Obama’s studied restraint towards African issues has permitted him to ignore the liberal wing of his own Democratic party, which would like his administration to push Sudan on the thorny question of the Darfur region as well as the country’s Christian south. With Republicans in control of the House, for instance, pressure for dramatic action will grow.

Nigeria is another large, troubled country that Obama has essentially ignored but his critics say he has done so to the detriment of long-term U.S. interests. Nigeria is the fifth largest source of foreign oil for the U.S., and the country of origin for the largest group of African immigrants in America. As most populous country in Africa, Nigeria has an economic weight that warrants American attention. But the country also contains the largest number of Muslims in any African country. And one of those Muslims last December was caught trying to blow up a plane, raising the profile of militant Islamic groups in Nigeria — and their potential connections with anti-American factions throughout the Muslim world.

President Obama has done little thinking about how to support the progessive in Nigeria. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has repeatedly warned that Nigeria’s government is dangerously derelict, but she’s offered no concrete proposals on aidiing the country, whose presidential election is only months away.

Thus, the possibility exists that Obama will face two African crises — in Sudan and Nigeria — and a Congress who wants his administration to take an active role in engaging the continent. Africans, frustrated privately with the president’s lack of attention to their region, likely will welcome a new approach, even if the approach comes in the wake of Obama’s political retreat.

While what Zachary says is accurate as far as it goes, it seems to me that African expectations for Obama were always misplaced and failed to account for both Obama’s main focus as a politician and the realities of the American political system and the American electorate.

In particular, in Kenya, I never thought that Obama’s decision to make a quick visit to Ghana rather than to Kenya should be seen so much as a criticism of Kenya’s political failings as a reflection of Obama’s needs as President of the US. Obama has been under vigorous, and quite effective, attack since the early part of his campaign from the right in the US for being too “Kenyan” and too much associated with Islam–and of course as actually both Kenyan and Muslim rather than American and Christian. This has only gotten worse as it has crawled out of the e-mail networks and blogosphere and into open discussion by current and former elected officials, the cover of Forbes and Glenn Beck. A state visit to Kenya with a riotous outpouring of welcome from Kenyans has always been the last thing he has needed in America, and has become more and more politically untenable as his popularity has slipped.

Beyond that, while Obama obviously has a personal connection to his African heritage, it has simply not been a big part of his direction as a politician. In general, Obama has been more involved and identified with domestic issues, working as a “community” poverty activist in Chicago and then going to law school to come back to Chicago to go into politics there. He was an American law professor teaching US Constitutional law and a lawyer working in civil rights areas. Aside from having little record in foreign policy in general, he did not chose to spend any length of time visiting, much less living, in Kenya or anywhere else in Africa.

There are a lot of American politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, who have been more engaged over a period of years in African affairs and American policy in Africa. Even though his first foray into politics was in speaking in favor of divestment as a tool against South African apartheid as a student at Columbia this was not a deep engagement or a primary path he followed subsequently. 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.

Sudan Update

Major State Department briefing today with Special Envoy Gration, Assistant Secretary Carson and Samantha Power from NSC on Sudan diplomacy.
Interesting reference to Kenya leadership: “Regional leaders have a central role in the implementation of the CPA. The U.S. has been in close contact with Uganda’s Museveni, Ethiopia’s Zenawi, Kenya’s Odinga, and chair of the Pan-African Union Jean Ping.”

Maggie Fick writes at Foreign Policy about the risk of internal fighting within the South even if the referendum succeeds and things are stable between North and South. This is well beyond any claimed expertise on my part, but I have a hard time imagining that she isn’t completely right–and I would certainly hope that serious consideration and planning has been going on within the U.S. foreign policy and security establishment on this for quite some time. The “gold rush” mentality coming from foreign investors and even NGOs–will certainly be a factor. Remember that Rolling Stone article about the Americans and warlords and mass tracts of farmland just south of the North/South border?

Discussion about Gration as Ranneberger replacement hits media

On Friday, Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog ran a piece about tension between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Sudan Envoy Scott Gration over Sudan policy ahead of the January referendum, and indicated that there were discussions about assigning Gration to replace Ranneberger as Ambassador to Kenya. This has been a topic of conversation in various forms for quite a long time, but so far as I know this is the first explicit media report since a mention in Al Kamen’s “In the Loop” column in Foreign Policy’s sister publication, the Washington Post in April. The Cable post was picked up by Kevin J. Kelley in the Saturday Nation.

The timing of this continues to get stickier as the date for the Sudan referendum approaches in January–in fact, it seems quite late to make a change in Sudan now. It has been said that the Administration was waiting for Gration to be available to make a change in Kenya. At the same time, Gration has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle in Congress as well as from activists and the Administration may want a fresh face and voice even if there is no change in policy.

“The election that wasn’t” in Sudan

Jeffrey Gettleman from Khartoum on the start of voting Sunday.

Reuters says that the largest Sudanese observation group reports that the National Election Commission was “clearly not ready” for the voting and that the observers have called for an extension of the scheduled three day voting period.

“In Southern Sudan, for the money”

“In Southern Sudan for the Money”

JUBA, Sudan, April 9 (Reuters) by Ed Cropley – The only thing that’s cheap in southern Sudan is life.

One of the world’s poorest regions, where four out of five people are illiterate and one in five children fails to make it to their fifth birthday, the south’s economy has been turned on its head since the end of a 22-year civil war in 2005.

A flood of foreign aid workers and more than $2 billion a year in oil revenues under a peace deal with the central government in Khartoum has transformed the south into one of the most expensive corners of Africa.
. . . .

Nobody knows how many people live in the city, although some say its population has trebled in the last five years under the weight of tens of thousands Kenyans and Ugandans out to make a quick buck.

“Earning $100 is difficult in Kenya. Here it’s easy,” said Amos Njay, a Nairobi taxi driver hoping a year in Juba will set him up in a trucking business.

Africans are not the only ones with an eye on the cash.

Foreign aid workers, holed up behind barbed-wire fences and armed guards in semi-permanent tented camps on the banks of the Nile, boast of earning $10,000 a month tax-free and with all their living expenses taken care of.

“You know what they say: in places like this you only get missionaries, mercenaries and misfits. Me? Sure, I’m just here for the money,” said one U.S. aid contractor knocking back a cold beer in a bar on the banks of the Nile.

Other drinkers ranged from dapper pro-democracy activists from the U.S. International Republican Institute to former soldiers whose lives are spent treading in the heels of conflict across the globe, cleaning up mines and unexploded bombs.
. . . .