Elecciones generales en España: ¿qué pasará con la cooperación al desarrollo?

Entrada publicada originalmente en Foro AOD – donde ha generado varias respuestas interesantes – el original y los comentarios pueden verse aquí.

Foto: María Manrique

Elecciones generales en España: ¿qué pasará con la cooperación al desarrollo?

Este domingo se celebran elecciones generales en España, en un contexto que es sin duda de los más complicados en la actual era democrática. En estas condiciones de crisis económica, el voto (o abstención) de castigo al PSOE parece ser que tendrá unas proporciones hasta ahora desconocidas – con lo que se espera que el PP alzance sin problemas la mayoría absoluta (aunque como siempre, hasta conocer los resultados, nada es seguro). En cualquier caso, la multitud de problemas existentes, han conspirado para prácticamente excluir de la agenda a los temas de política exterior (los no relacionados con Europa), y por ende, la cooperación al desarrollo. Sigue leyendo

There’s a new war raging in the Horn of Africa, does the EU know about this?

Catherine Ashton addresses the media after an EU foreign ministers meeting yesterday (Yves Logghe / AP)

We, Europeans, often feel frustrated at the way the EU – the most important and cohesive regional body in the world – is unable to punch its weight on international affairs. And all the more so at present, given our internal economic and political woes. However, when reading things like Catherine Ashton’s remarks following yesterday’s Foreign Affairs Council, the surprising thing is that the EU is able to do anything at all. The Foreign Affairs Council discussed: Syria, Libya, Tunisia, the Common Security and Defense Policy, and the Horn of Africa. Here’s the extract on what Baroness Ashton had to say on the topic of the Horn: Sigue leyendo

Tense countdown to Liberia’s presidential election run-off tomorrow

Liberian riot police gather as they clash with supporters of presidential challenger Winston Tubman in Monrovia November 7, 2011. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

 From Reuters:

By Richard Valdmanis and Alphonso Toweh MONROVIA (Reuters) –
Clashes and sporadic gunfire rocked part of Monrovia on Monday, killing at least one person after Liberian riot police fired tear gas to disperse several hundred supporters of presidential challenger Winston Tubman.
Members of Tubman’s CDC party said at least three other people were killed, though this could not be confirmed. Two United Nations helicopters flew overhead as police and Tubman’s rock-throwing supporters clashed in side streets.
Liberian police firing tear gas and live rounds later stormed the CDC headquarters before they were repelled by U.N. peacekeepers, who have set up a cordon around the building.
Tension has risen in the Liberian capital ahead of a November 8 election run-off between Tubman and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf after Tubman called on his supporters to boycott the vote over alleged irregularities, despite international pressure on him to stand.
Violence erupted after police tried to break up a crowd of several hundred CDC supporters. Shooting then broke out and a police officer said both the police and Tubman’s supporters had fired, but it was not possible to confirm the information.

Johnson-Sirleaf took nearly 44 percent of the first round vote on October 11 and has since won the backing of the third-place finisher, former warlord Prince Johnson, all but sealing her victory in the second round run-off.
Former U.N. diplomat Winston Tubman – who took roughly 33 percent in the first round – announced last week he would withdraw from Tuesday’s race and called on Liberians to boycott the poll due to evidence of fraud.
But international election observers called the October 11 vote mostly free and fair, and the United States, regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union have all criticized Tubman’s decision to boycott the second round.

And here‘s an interesting commentary from Clair MacDougall at African Arguments (extract):

Opposition leader Winston Tubman’s decision last week to boycott the runoff, has also suggested that Sirleaf is the frontrunner. However, if she wins, her government could be perceived as lacking legitimacy, posing further challenges for Africa’s first female president. But with an opposition that lacks coherence and political parties without clear policy platforms or core principles and ideals, will Johnson Sirleaf’s victory further enhance or inhibit the development of a multiparty system in the fledgling West African democracy?

15-0 united for #globalchange & Fela’s anniversary today!

Today, thousands (millions?) of people will go out to the streets in over 190 cities in 82 countries to demand political change and a system that puts people over profit. Here’s a video showing some of the protests that have already taken place this year, and giving you an idea of why today is important:

I will be attending the Madrid demonstration this afternoon and afterwards, if there is energy, may go to this tribute concert to Fela Kuti, whom today would have turned 73.
Fela was not only a great figure for African music, but also a political mind, who fought for the same reasons people are out on the streets today!

Here’s a 1978 Berlin performance of “Cross Examination”

Otro 12 de octubre

Hoy 12 de octubre, se celebra la Fiesta Nacional en España, en conmemoración del día del Pilar, así como del avistamiento de América por parte de Cristóbal Colón . Por este motivo, el día es festivo y se celebra en diversos países de América, bajo diversos nombres, incluido el del Día de la Raza – este fue su nombre también en España durante un tiempo (lo que da una idea de las ideas detrás de la celebración).

En cualquier caso, el 12 de Octubre no es sólo fiesta nacional en España, sino también en Guinea Ecuatorial, donde se celebra el día de la independencia. Hace 43 años, en 1968, España salía de Guinea – desde entonces gobernada de forma brutal por la familia Nguema (primero el tío Francisco Macías (hasta 1979), y después su sobrino Teodoro Obiang). Pese a la grave violación de los derechos humanos y la explotación a la que ha sido sometido el país desde entonces, el silencio en torno al tema aquí en España es bochornoso (como he señalado anteriormente), y sólo aparece esporádicamente o  agitado por partidos minoritarios con motivo de elecciones como las del próximo mes.

En cualquier caso, para recordar otro de los significados de este día, os dejo con un par de interesantes fotos correspondientes a las celebraciones de la independencia de Guinea Ecuatorial el 12 de octubre de 1968.

El recién investido Presidente Macias se dirige a presenciar el desfile de honor. Foto: Paco García Gallego (Crónicas de la Guinea Ecuatorial)
El Presidente Macías y D. Manuel Fraga Iribarne presiden el desfile de las tropas con motivo de la celebración de la independencia. Foto: Paco García Gallego (Crónicas de la Guinea Ecuatorial)

Cameroon elections this Sunday – Achille Mbembe’s take

Cameroon his holding Presidential elections this Sunday, and incumbent Paul Biya – who’s ruled the country for 29 years – is expected to win and continue its authoritarian rule.
The Cameroonian philosopher and post-colonial theorist Achille Mbembe is one of the most insighhtful commentators on African politics. His recent interview at Slate Afrique (translated into English by Dibussi Tande on his blog “Scribbles from the Den“) on the subject of the elections, which he defines as a “non-event”, is a must-read from start to finish, but here’s an extract I found particularly interesting:

QS: How do you explain Paul Biya’s longevity at the helm of the state for 29 years?
ANS: Having understood very early on that in order to stay as long as possible in power, one had to do nothing, Biya put in place a new system of government which I call government by inaction. Biya studied Machiavelli a lot, and successfully adapted his lessons to a typically African situation. Paul Biya’s genuis is to have discovered that power has no objective other than power itself. The goal of those in power is not to accomplish any grandiose project whatsoever. It is simply to hold on to power. Thus, to govern is to not govern.

Entrevista en Radio 5 sobre Libia

Acabo de hablar en “El Asunto del Día” de Radio 5 sobre la situación en Libia.
Puede escucharse pinchando aquí (intentaré colgar el audio aquí también, pronto)

Copio también un resumen de la web:

En Libia las tropas rebeldes cercan el último bastión gadafista de importancia, Sirte, la ciudad natal del dictador, donde el asalto final parece inminente. En Trípoli, el Consejo Nacional de Transición intenta poner en marcha un gobierno que empiece a trabajar en la recuperación del país.
Manuel Manrique, analista de FRIDE, la Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior, considera que “Gadafi ha perdido la guerra pero cuando caiga Sirte no se habrá acabado todo”. Lo que puede acelerarse es el proceso de reconstrucción, habrá que ver, añade, los pasos del Consejo de Transicion tanto en el frente político como en el militar.

No hay que descartar en su opinión la posibilidad de que se cree una resistencia al nuevo Gobierno, lo cual sería bastante preocupante para el proceso político de Libia. La mayor amenaza, explica está en la cantidad de grupos autónomos que podrían dedicarse a desestabilizar al Gobierno bien por lealtad a Gadafi o por otras divergencias.

La gran preocupación por tanto es saber dónde van a ir las armas que están repartidas por el país. Se calcula, dice ,que unos 10.000 misiles podrían haber desaparecido.

En su opinión tamibén es imperativo que se establezca una cadena de mando dentro del bando rebelde para evitar disensiones.

También señala que hay que prestar atención a zonas del sur de Libia y Argelia donde Al Qaeda podría hacerse popular entre la escasa y descontenta población

Zambia’s presidential election – a reflection on the power of silence

Following the September 20th presidential and pegislative elections, Michael Sata (a.k.a. King Cobra) has become the new Zambian President (here’s his inauguration speech, delivered on Friday 23rd). Sata’s victory, standing on the opposition party ticket of the the Patriotic Front (PF), constituted a surprise to most observers (although not all) who had predicted that the incumbent Rupiah Banda of the MMD would benefit from the “uneven playing field” that characterises the country’s electoral process.

In reflecting on the reasons why the PF was able to ovecome the challenges that stood ahead of them, Jack Hogan writes on the African Arguments website:

One slogan more than any other has dominated Zambia’s 2011 elections, the PF’s ‘Don’t Kubeba!’, or  ‘Don’t Tell!’. It lies at the heart of the PF’s seemingly successful campaign to negate the benefits of incumbency enjoyed by the MMD. It appeared on posters, on the lips of cadres and at rallies. Dandy Krazy’s ‘Donch Kubeba’ (with appropriate shushing dance move) has been one of the most popular tunes heard out and about during the last two months. In essence, it encouraged voters to take the chitenge, maize meal, oil, or even bribes offered by the government, even attend the rallies, but not feel they couldn’t vote against them anyway. As a way of upholding the secrecy of the ballot, and running a campaign against an opponent with resources far in excess of your own, it is a risky, but clever strategy. Indeed, the EU Observer Mission stated that unequal access to resources meant a “level playing field” was distinctly lacking during campaigning. Despite this, it appears “Dont Kubeba!” paid off. (Emphasis added)

This strategy was not only extremely intelligent, but also contains an important reflection, in my view. These are times dominated by new Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), from mobile phones to social networks. Tools we all (including myself) praise as a powerful way to bring social change, or at least help to create alternative narratives and mobilisation opportunities. More information, and the ability to share and communicate this, will help to bring political transformation. And yet, in the Zambian case it has been precisely the opposite strategy, one of silence, which has unleashed the power of the Zambian people in voting for a change of government (something possibilitated also by Banda’s acceptance of defeat, something that unfortunately cannot be taken for granted in other African cases). In an era of abundant information and a myriad of communication channels, it has been a strategy built deliberately on remaining silent, that has proved successful in bringing about political change. Something to relfect on, I think.

But before that, have a listen to “Donch Kubeba”, which is also a great song and a prime example of “kombi music” (it was my girlfriend who came up with this label, to refer to the music commonly heard on Southern Africa’s public transport system). Enjoy!

27 year old Oxford graduate wants to be Kenya’s next President – will she succeed?

27 year old Kingwa Kamencu has just launched her bid to become Kenya’s President in next year’s elections.
Kamencu, a poet, winner of the Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 2007, was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford in 2009. Now, the self-described “driven, passionate, intense, seeking soul” wants to become Kenya’s next (and first female) President.
And over 3,000 people support her Facebook group.

Taking the plunge greatly deserves an applause, and I wish her best of luck. The question is, on a notoriously fierce political arena like Kenya’s, does she stand a chance?

To help you decide, have a look at her recent interview with Citizen TV.

A stark and terrible reminder of why development is important

Often debates about international development (especially among practitioners) swiftly turn towards the shortcomings of the development system, the huge challenges ahead, and the question of whether it all matters. Among this talk, it is often forgotten that the ultimate purpose of development is to improve the lives of people.
Two terrible pieces of news coming from East Africa this weekend have provided a stark reminder that, very often, more development means not only better quality of life, but also more safety for the population and less likelyhood of things like this happenning:

Zanzibar ferry death toll could rise sharply: VP

Photo Reuters: Beatrice Spadacini

The death toll from Tanzania’s ferry disaster could significantly rise after it emerged there were more than 1,000 passengers aboard the vessel when it capsized last week, a senior Zanzibar official said on Monday.

Initial reports suggested the MV Spice Islander was carrying 800 people, well above the ferry’s 600 passenger capacity, when it sank in the east African nation’s worst maritime disaster for 15 years.

“We are expecting some more bodies between now, tomorrow or the day after. We managed to recover 197 bodies, but because the ship took more than 1,000 people, we expect more bodies,” Zanzibar’s second vice-president, Seif Ali Iddi, told Reuters.

More than 600 passengers were rescued from the ferry and the vice president of the semi-autonomous archipelago said he does not expect any more survivors to be found.


Kenyan police find 75 bodies in slum fire

Photo: REUTERS/via Reuters TV

At least 75 bodies have been recovered after petrol that had spilled into an open sewer caught fire and sent a wave of flame through a densely populated slum in the Kenyan capital, police said on Monday.

Kenyan media said more than 100 people were burnt to death and a similar number were taken to hospital. Police said it was proving difficult to establish the exact number of dead among the charred remains.

Residents said petrol spilled from a fuel depot owned by the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and ran into a sewage dyke that runs under the slum, known as Sinai. The petrol ignited, causing an inferno.

Two incidents which – at least in Spain – have got almost no media attention despite the terrible loss of lives (at least 320 people), proving again how cheap African lives have become in the present world, and which could have been easily prevented if safety measures and quality controls had been in place. Something that requires economic and political development, and more accountability to those responsible for this.