Friday, April 22, 2011

Post-liberation governance, aid effectiveness, and a less dismal science

On the difficulty of running a post-liberation government, with applications to Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan: 
the central challenge for power holders is often not economic, but political. Former rebels continue to use the informal mechanisms that suited them so well when conspiring outside government. Power consequently resides in a shadow state, characterised by the personal and reciprocal arrangements which developed in the struggle. … though optimists point to economic progress, the reality is one of intense intra-elite competition with incredible violent potential, as has been witnessed in all three countries in the past and as might soon occur again in Rwanda and South Sudan.
Last month’s violence in South Sudan between rebel groups and the government.   
“Satellite images released by US pressure group the Enough Project, appear to back up claims of troop reinforcements and northern ‘fortified encampments inside Abyei.’ … With the referendum over, [former peace] deals [between southern groups] are now falling apart as groups jockey for power.”
The ‘consensus’ still seems to be that outright war is unlikely, that enough people want to avoid it … but they don’t yet have the trust and social capital to make it a nonissue.

The Africa News Blog cynically posits that the lessons to be learned from Gbago’s fall are not the ones we might wish: don’t hold elections unless you know you’ll win, don’t let the news get out if they don’t, and do your election rigging well in advance (prevent opposition from getting out their voice) rather than trying to stuff ballot boxes.

How effective is aid in Madagascar? Aid doubled between 2008 and 2010 with few noticeable results.

How effective is aid in Haiti? Well, people would rather stay in the tent cities where conditions are much better thanks to the aid. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It’s just a good thing we don’t have to actually talk to poor people to find out how to do this kind of work (/sarc)

Over lunch two weeks ago, I wondered at the fact that media don’t run more positive stories about Africa like the successful, peaceful, free, and fair elections that happened recently. After all, since the West expects bad news, reporting more bad news is just “dog bites man,” it’s not news. When things go right, why don’t we see more news announcements “Something Goes Right in Africa.” … Might make an interesting blog title, that. 

One answer to why not is because, among the people who have information about the continent, it’s in very few people’s interest to widely spread good news. Another name for it is the Tragedy of the Commons in Selling Tragedy by Kenny, who has a book out trumpeting development successes: Remember Tolstoy’s maxim: “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” From its introduction, Kenny writes that
the proportion of the population of sub-Saharan Africa affected by famine averaged less than three-tenths of a percent. The proportion who were refugees in 2005 was five-tenths of a percent. The number who died in wars between 1965 and 2001 averaged one one-hundredth of a percent.
For instance, on the plus side the Somali government prevented the trafficking of a pair of endangered lion cubs. See, occasionally the news in Africa really is about lions!

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