A few more things that caught my eye during my post-festive season catch-up on happenings in the blogosphere.
- Jina Moore gets out the dictionary on the current turmoil in Côte d’Ivoire – a must read.
- Charles Onyango-Obbo wonders whether we might be heading towards the inevitable in Côte d’Ivoire, and whether, in that respect, that electoral strife might be a good thing. (H/T Jina Moore in an earlier post.)
- Chris Blattman features various others’ suggestions that put that idea to shame.
Overall, despite there being reasons for optimism about the way the rest of the world has got its act together over Côte d’Ivoire (in contrast to the dithering over similar electoral shenanigans in Kenya a couple of years ago), it does rather seem as if there is no easy option. Even if one accepts the rather one-sided view of things which predominates in the Western media – Outtara is surely no saint – the more satisfying, morally-robust route to military intervention seems to threaten catastrophe on the ground. (Anyone remember Iraq?) And promising Gbagbo an amnesty won’t do much to soothe the worries of his various lieutenants and lesser supporters who are likely equally guilty of various human rights variations.
I’m not sure I hold out too much hope for Côte d’Ivoire; from my remote (and uninformed) vantage point it seems likely to be rather messy for some time to come. But an international community that stays firm may deter the next African leader who thinks they can steal an election. Popular tyrants like Kagame and Zenawi will stay in power because, well, they’re still pretty popular amongst wide swathes of their respective countrymen, but more contested strong man polities (Madagascar? H/T to Chris Blattman and various others who have already made this point) may give more consideration to stepping back from the brink before it is too late. Ultimately, to me, that is the appeal of the ICC. There may not be much we can do about the present generation of oppressors come mass murderers, but we can put off the next generation, and that is a worthy goal.
As for redrawing Africa’s borders, we should not forget what a complex place it is. We should remember the chaos of Europe’s religious wars following the Reformation, as well as more recent tragedies over the partition of India and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Determined leaders may attempt to create facts on the ground, but things are going to have to get very messy indeed before splitting most countries will make sense – so messy that we should be intervening long before it gets that bad. From a perspective of complete ignorance I would suggest one possible exception: DR Congo just seems too vast and unmanageable a place that division might just be the only feasible option.
Of course, on most if not all of the above I have little actual experience, so please feel free to put me to rights in the comments section below. Alternatively just go and read people like Jina Moore and Laura Seay who do know what they’re talking about.