Thursday, December 31, 2009

Department of yikes!

Our brains have some kind of process for deciding how many deaths is a lot... abstract from a paper by Olivola and Sagara, "Distributions of observed death tolls govern sensitivity to human fatalities":
How we react to humanitarian crises, epidemics, and other tragic events involving the loss of human lives depends largely on the extent to which we are moved by the size of their associated death tolls. Many studies have demonstrated that people generally exhibit a diminishing sensitivity to the number of human fatalities and, equivalently, a preference for risky (vs. sure) alternatives in decisions under risk involving human losses. However, the reason for this tendency remains unknown. Here we show that the distributions of event-related death tolls that people observe govern their evaluations of, and risk preferences concerning, human fatalities. In particular, we show that our diminishing sensitivity to human fatalities follows from the fact that these death tolls are approximately power-law distributed. We further show that, by manipulating the distribution of mortality-related events that people observe, we can alter their risk preferences in decisions involving fatalities. Finally, we show that the tendency to be risk-seeking in mortality-related decisions is lower in countries in which high-mortality events are more frequently observed. Our results support a model of magnitude evaluation based on memory sampling and relative judgment. This model departs from the utility-based approaches typically encountered in psychology and economics in that it does not rely on stable, underlying value representations to explain valuation and choice, or on choice behavior to derive value functions. Instead, preferences concerning human fatalities emerge spontaneously from the distributions of sampled events and the relative nature of the evaluation process.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pissing off the Rwandans...

So now it will be Mr. al-Bashir against the powerful forces of two small African countries, Botswana *and* Rwanda, and Sadiq al-Mahdi, he of the hennaed beard, and Save Darfur, and Eris Reeves. Let's call them the SPLA back banch.

And over here in West Africa, Burkina Faso suddenly realizes that international diplomacy is a big stretch, with Gbagbo still smiling, Moussa Dadis in hospital, Darfur more complicated than ever...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Al-Bashir's very bad scenario...

SPLM and Sadiq al-Mahdi work out a deal for al-Mahdi to stand (and possibly win) as President, guaranteeing peaceful secession and creating two states that actually work together to solve common problems... and one of them will be ICC indictment... oops!

And for people who might say that Sudanese "national pride" will never accept to be humiliated by a foreign court judging a past president (who took power in a coup), I say: Sudanese "national pride" took a holiday with the execution of Mah. Mohhamed Taha... cooperating by having a serious "truth mechanism" through the ICC seems like a perfect way to start restoring some dignity. Because, BTW, I think al-Bashir can mount a vigorous defense, and the whole sorry establishment will be exposed for what it really is and everyone knows it to be, and that is the first step of the twelve-step program back to "national pride".... along with making some more postage stamps with John Garang on them, for crying out loud.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Meaningful macroeconomic analysis of Sudan.... the skeptical note

I am reviewing applicants in macroeconomics for the position we have open here at Santa Clara University.... a couple hundred at latest count, and all with really interesting macroeconomic papers... lots of DSGE models etc. But what suddenly struck me is how this whole revolution in modeling macro is completely useless for a country like Sudan, where probably 2/3 of the economy marches on with no data, and the data for the 1/3 of the economy around Khartoum is seriously mismeasured (especially the government sector!). Macro modeling seems like a rather silly enterprise in that kind of setting. Better to just to use the DSCRPTV model for macroeconomic analysis ;-)

Though there is a dictum, attributable to T.N. Srinivasan, I think: "Bad data? Need better econometric tools."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Essential reading for when I have time

No Way Out? The Question of Unilateral Withdrawals of Referrals to the ICC and Other Human Rights Courts
Michael P. Scharf and Patrick Dowd
9 Chi J Intl L 573 (2009)

Breaking Up Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard: Default Rules for Partition and Secession
Nathan Richardson
9 Chi J Intl L 685 (2009)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Let the bluffing begin

At some point in the next year, the Sudanese public and the world community will be presented with a "deal", and every person concerned will have to ask whether the deal is an attempt to hoodwink the most marginalized and preserve the positions of power and wealth enjoyed by the few.

Who are the few?
- the NCP regime insiders comfortable with power
- the Southern Sudanese elites in the SPLM
- the oil company execs who have staked themselves on Sudan in intra-company competitions
- the government oil deciders who have made bets, and derive gains, from ensuring that current oil companies are able to stay in position
- the arms manufacturers and dealers who are happy to continue supplying current elites
- the lobbyists to the two regimes, north and south
- the diplomats who get feathers in their caps

The argument of the elites will be the same as usual:
- "This is the last chance.  If this deal is not accepted, the future will be far worse."
- "This is the only deal possible.  Either this deal is accepted or there will be no deal."
- "This deal is a reasonable compromise, good enough for everyone." 

The broad spectrum of actors in the Sudanese public should be skeptical of these claims.  The Sudanese public should be very worried that the elites involved would be very comfortable with turning Sudan into Nigeria.  Pretty soon "Operation Sweep Away Indiscipline" will be announced, and lonely voices at the periphery will be hanged.  (Wait, that's already been happening for 30 years... can it get worse with the "deal"?  You bet.)

So I only have one piece of advice for that Sudanese public.  Get some of those arm things that are used by civil disobedience demonstrators everywhere in the world.  Store them at Lubna Hussein's house, and break them out when the "deal" is announced and it doesnt contain four things:
1- Robust demobilization of NCP/SAF armed proxies in Darfur, permitting IDPs to return in security or stay in camps in security.
2- Stiff sanctions against NCP for violations of normal press freedoms and freedom of assembly.
3- Very aggressive international monitoring of elections, voter registration and referendum, enabling international backup if processes are tampered with.
4-  Oil revenues into a transparent account, and out of the hands of military

A couple more... right?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cabelly indicted

From the Dept. of Justice.  Wonder who's next? The revolving door of Africa "hands" out of the Dept. of State straight into the arms of the multi-million dollar Africa lobbying and "scheming" business needs much tighter oversight by newspapers and bloggers.  This kind of avarice is not what Adam Smith had in mind.
D.C. Lobbyist Indicted for Conspiring to Violate Sudanese Sanctions and to Act as Illegal Agent of Sudan
Robert J. Cabelly, 61, of Washington, D.C., has been indicted in the District of Columbia in an eight-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to violate the Sudanese sanctions regulations and to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign power, four counts of violating the Sudanese sanctions regulations, as well as one count apiece of money laundering, passport fraud and making false statements.

Cabelly, who was the principal and managing director of a Washington, D.C. consulting firm and a former State Department employee, is scheduled to appear in federal court today in the District of Columbia at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson. If convicted, he faces up 20 years in prison on each of the substantive Sudanese Sanctions Regulations counts, 20 years for the money laundering count, 10 years for the passport fraud, and five years each for the conspiracy and false statement counts.

According to the indictment, between early 2005 and mid-2007, Cabelly performed work on behalf of the Republic of Sudan, a country currently on the State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism list, without the approval of the U.S. government as is required by law under the Sudanese sanctions regulations. In an effort to make money, Cabelly brokered business contracts and transactions benefiting Sudan. He also provided Sudan with U.S. government information that was sensitive and controlled. All the while, Cabelly affirmatively misrepresented to U.S. officials the nature of his relationship with Sudan, as well as his relationship with the foreign entities doing business in Sudan.

Among other acts alleged in the indictment, Cabelly engaged in illicit contractual relationships with the oil industry in Sudan, operating as an intermediary between Sudanese government officials and oil company executives and a foreign oil company, and sought additional investors on behalf of that foreign oil company so that it could do business in the Sudan. He also allegedly provided strategic advice and counsel to Sudanese officials, including in the areas of economic development and trade, especially as it pertained to the development of the country’s petroleum natural resource and its government controlled airline industry.

According to the indictment, Cabelly was paid for these services by Sudanese government officials as well as by a foreign oil company. Cabelly allegedly directed a foreign oil company to deposit over $180,000 of the fees he received in an offshore account he maintained in the Cook Islands, an account he used to launder the funds in order to conceal the fact that it was proceeds obtained in violation of the sanctions. Cabelly also concealed his travel to the Sudan from U.S. authorities by misusing U.S. passports.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two graphs of rainfall and temperature in Darfur

I've been fooling around with the Willmott-Matsuura global climate data, partly at the prompting of some readers of my paper (with Leslie Gray) on rainfall in Darfur before the war, who kindly suggested looking at temperature data also. At the time we didn't have the temperature data available.  These rainfall and temp averages are unweighted averages of the raw data which is on.5x.5 lat-long grid. The slow and steady upwards climb in temperature of the hottest month (the annual average temperature seems a similar increase), about two degrees centigrade over 58 years, is very disturbing.

That said, I don't think the Willmott-Matsuura data is that useful for small-scale regional analysis. Notice that the four quadrants of Darfur are very correlated- about .95- suggesting to me that probably they are coming from a single source and are then being adjusted by being smoothed with other sources further away. There is, after all, a large mountain complex at the intersection of the quadrants so presumably the temperatures would not be so very closely correlated in the "real" world.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Natsios blast from the past reminder

Just to remember where he is coming from, since he is such a prominent commentator.  From an article he wrote for Yale Journal Of International Affairs in summer/fall issue of 2005:
We know that resolving the situation in Darfur is essential to a sustainable transition in Sudan.  We know that there will be setbacks. But we also know that dramatic and lasting change can happen, as it has in Iraq and Afghanistan, when there is a concerted commitment to change, bold and forward-looking leadership, and a sustained effort.
Like the leadership provided by George W. Bush...I guess he was careful though in using "change" rather than "improvement"... plus ça change...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where U.S. Sudan/Darfur policy is *really* made...

Why, over at Sojourner's of course, by people who write things like this:
Cautious Optimism on Obama’s New Sudan Policy
by Elizabeth Palmberg 10-23-2009

Activists greeted the Obama administration’s new Sudan policy with cautious optimism this week. If — and only if — it is fleshed out and put into vigorous action, the new policy could be the first step in course of putting concerted economic and other pressure on Khartoum. That would be a desperately needed change from the disastrously wrong-headed course of appeasement which Special Envoy Scott Gration has unfortunately adopted since his appointment — when a government is guilty of genocide and other war crimes, you just can’t operate on the theory that, as Gration has put it, “Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.” Nor should the regime in Sudan be allowed to hire U.S. lobbyists to plead its murderous cause; the only place Khartoum officials should be allowed to plead is in the International Criminal Court.

There is no time to waste, especially given the likelihood that the NCP, the ruling party in Khartoum, is behind the current rash of village burnings in Sudan’s south — and as the clock is ticking for the all-Sudan national elections that are supposed to be held next year, and the south’s referendum on secession in 2011.

In a couple of weeks, look for John Predergast and Maggie Fick’s commentary, laying out non-military ways to pressure Khartoum, in the forthcoming issue of Sojourners. But don’t wait that long to get involved in the issue. The people of Darfur and southern Sudan need your advocacy help now.

Elizabeth Palmberg is an assistant editor of Sojourners.
Categories: Global Issues, Human Rights, War & Peace

      Truth2Power 12 hours ago
      It's very troubling to hear of the current rash of village burnings in Sudan’s south.

      I'm confident, though, that the Christain peacemaking Teams will be there shortly to confornt the forces of tyranny and restore justice. The last thing the people of Sudan need is another US military incursion.

      irish_annie 3 hours ago
      i don't necessarily agree or disagree with obama's policy. what i wonder about is why we who claim to trust in God can only be optimistic when the kingdoms of this world behave as we think they 'should'.

      Jesdisciple 9 minutes ago
      Good point... However, I do think there's a difference between "optimistic about" and just "optimistic." One implies happiness and the other joy. I don't think a joyful person should never feel happiness as a result of circumstances.
Glad to see irish_annie isn't waiting, no, she's going straight to wondering...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Criminal justice for crimes against humanity

From Le Always instructive to think about the parallels between Argentina and Sudan.
Le général argentin à la retraite Jorge Olivera Rovere a été condamné vendredi 23 octobre à la prison à perpétuité pour des crimes contre l'humanité commis pendant la dictature argentine, dont les assassinats des parlementaires uruguayens Zelmar Michelini et Hector Gutierrez Ruiz, rapporte le site du quotidien Clarin. La lecture du jugement du tribunal fédéral numéro 5 a été retransmise en direct par les chaînes de télévision d'information du câble argentin.

Olivera Rovere, 82 ans, était accusé de quatre homicides et de cent sept séquestrations et disparitions, dont celles de l'écrivain argentin Haroldo Conti et des Uruguayens Michelini et Gutierrez Ruiz, qui avaient eu un fort retentissement. Le militaire était l'adjoint de l'ancien général décédé Guillermo Suarez Mason, un des chefs militaires de la dictature, surnommé "le boucher d'Olimpo" du nom du centre de détention et de torture qu'il dirigeait pendant la dictature (1976-1983).

Michelini, ancien sénateur et un des fondateurs de la coalition de gauche du Frente Amplio ("Front élargi") et Gutierrez Ruiz, ancien président de la chambre des députés de l'Uruguay, avaient été enlevés le 18 mai 1976 dans la capitale argentine. Leurs corps avaient été retrouvés trois jours après à l'intérieur d'un véhicule dans la périphérie de Buenos Aire.

From a CSIS commentary on the new Obama policy....

Morrison and Cooke write:
Lack of consensus within the administration has confused potential partners who have for some time seen the United States policy as hostage to zealous domestic pressures.
I feel the need to resist this narrative of U.S. policy, although I note that Morrison and Cook are careful not to say that the policy actually is hostage, but rather than it is "seen" to be hostage.  I find it very hard to think of a single real policy action (other than words) of either Bush or Obama administration that was "zealous."  There was plenty of inaction and nonaction, but that's not really what I think of when I think of zealous.  Was there any single positive policy action pushed by Save Darfur that was actually implemented?  I can't think of anything more disingenuous than saying that my exaggerated characterization of the "policy":
Calling what happened in Darfur genocide, but being very clear this had absolutely no "real" policy implications other than insisting that Pakistani troops mount firewood patrols.
is an example of what it means to be captured by zealous hardliners.  If that is the correct characterization, then Iran, North Korea, etc. policy have all been captured by zealous hardliners (i.e. the Save Baha'i movement and the save Placard-Holding Brainwashed North Koreans movement).

It seems to me pretty clear that when dealing with what Morrison and Cook call "intractable" regimes, the only policy possible is one that swings from engagement to hardline back to engagement and so on, and that is exactly what the U.S. policy review says the administration will do, swing from harder line to engagement and if nothing happens go back to hard line.  Did Save Darfur "cause" that?

A quick look at the largely agreed upon timeline:
1989 Coup. NIF takes power illegitimately, kills good number of upper military brass, hard crackdown on domestic opposition.
1990-1996 Escalation of war against SPLA, scorched earth in oilfields areas and Nuba Mountains,  lots of arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings in Darfur etc. Assassination attempt against Hosni Mubarak, support for LRA. Riek Machar and John Garang split, SPLA seriously weakened, horrific SPLA in-fighting,
1996-1998 Intra-regime drift as oil fields look like will start producing; U.S. attacks al Shifa with cruise missiles. (still waiting for Clinton to fully explain), Massive famine in Bahr al-Ghazal, regime cares not a whit.  Regime uses Operation Lifeline for own purposes.
1999 Regime splits, al-Turabi imprisoned, abandon international Islamist agenda, try to use oil and weapons to win war in South.
2001 After 9/11 and failure to win war in South, al-Bashir decides to do to Garang what did to Riek... settle for a peace and hope that SPLA would split apart in internecine disarray.
2003 Outline of CPA agreed upon. Gosh, the same thing that SPLA wanted, basically, in 1989.  14 years of useless war.
2004 Displacement of 2.5 million in Darfur in order to defeat small disorganized rebel militia... tactic: deliberate attacks on civilian populations.
2005-08 Regime dithers over CPA, brooks little domestic opposition, works hard to obstruct assistance and repatriation of IDPs in Darfur, over-shares problems with Chad while trying to oust Deby.
2009 Regime says, "We're doing all we can, honestly, the problem is those shifty southerners and Darfuris who can't get their act together.  You should forgive the debt, really, so we won't have to divert oil money to purchasing more helicopter gunships."
Save Darfur served a useful purpose for presidents and Secretaries of State and Special Envoys who really didn't want to deal with Sudan.  They could say reasonably, to themselves, "I can't do anything or I'll get clobbered by a bunch of 18 year olds who are the new Cuba lobby." 

The thing to ask is how Sudan policy is different from Congo policy, exactly?  In other words, what are the measures of difference: aid? meetings? sanctions? investment? public sentiment? And if we think of US/Europe as a block, shouldn't "policy" be thought of as a block rather than one half in isolation of the other half?  If Europe does not have sanctions in one place, and U.S. does not in the other place, is that then the same "policy"?  Would ordinary Sudanese in the south or Darfur be better off with a Congo policy instead of the existing Sudan policy?  Would the U.S. be better off?  Any differences, please attribute to Save Darfur? 

There is one point in which I am full agreement with the so-called realists, and that is that the problems will evolve according to local dynamics, since everyone knows there is no real prospect of a big push/intervention from the outside in any of the likely scenarios.  But the realists interpret that to mean the outside powers may as well be constructive, and I interpret that to mean exactly what it means, that constructive or hardline, causality will not run from U.S. policy to Sudan outcomes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More NYT commentary on Gration

Further down in the same article...
"“I think Gration’s understanding of the situation is pretty sound, but he has a way of appearing less smart than he is,” said Alex DeWaal, a leading scholar on Sudan at the Social Science Research Council. “He has a folksy way that makes him seem to trivialize things, and does him a disservice. But he’s not naïve.”"
Funny, that would describe George W. "Heckuva job" Bush to a T.   I wonder about people who after years and years of public service can't learn that their "folksy ways" are indeed "trivializing things"...  I guess they are like people who after years and years of Internet commentary can't learn that snarky irony "trivializes things" ;-)

Can't let it pass without comment....

From today's NYT:
"“Military officers are realists,” said Andrew Natsios, an envoy to Sudan during the Bush administration. General Gration “didn’t come to this crisis with the emotional baggage of so many people whose education about Darfur comes from the activists, or the media,” he said. “He’s not on some holy crusade.”"
Natsios. Him again?  The guy who said reconstruction of Iraq would be $2 billion tops?  Loyal Bushie?  The guy who waits until after 100,000 people have died to criticise the way Iraq policy was going?  He's qualified to distinguish realists from holy crusaders? 

Monday, October 19, 2009

‘Brothers’ or Others: Propriety and gender for Muslim Arab Sudanese in Egypt, by Anita H. Fábos

‘Brothers’ or Others: Propriety and gender for Muslim Arab Sudanese in Egypt, by Anita H. Fábos
New York, NY and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008

Enjoyed the overview of ethnicity construction of northern Sudanese living in Cairo.  The most important observation is one she rightly highlights, which is how a tiny minority of 'strangers' end up with a set of discussions of identity determinants (adab, in the case) that the larger population is almost unconcerned with.

Initial thoughts on the US Sudan policy

I wish I could have deep profound disagreements with the newly released Sudan policy summary (I don't see any link to the full document, guess the incentives are a secret (oatmeal raisin cookies or snickerdoodles?)).  But the document is a "satisfy most" document and so largely unobjectionable.  If you disagree it's largely because you have  some constituency that disagrees, and as a lone academic I have no constituency, so I can't disagree with perfectly reasonable policy document.

But... Foreign policy as business strategy.... ugh.
"Each quarter, the interagency at senior levels will assess a variety of indicators of progress or of deepening crisis, and that assessment will include calibrated steps to bolster support for positive change and to discourage backsliding. Progress toward achievement of the strategic objectives will trigger steps designed to strengthen the hands of those implementing the changes. Failure to improve conditions will trigger increased pressure on recalcitrant actors."
Why does this read like something my colleagues in the management department (the strategy people) would put together.... sounds like Google Labs....

And viability police APB:
"Strategic Objective II: Implementation of the CPA that results in a peaceful post-2011 Sudan or an orderly transition to two separate and viable states at peace with each other."
Then the word viability is never mentioned, so maybe I'm paranoid but did Gration insist on inserting it there just to tweak my nose?  Or is there a lengthy discussion of how to measure viability in the secret document?  Maybe Jeremy Weinstein has been working on that?

"Calling all English teachers, calling all English teachers..."

What's wrong with this statement?  And no low hanging fruit please... we already know that when you do something that the other person wants you to do, and they reward you for doing that, the reward is only an incentive if you were told about it in advance.

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                                                        October 19, 2009
Statement of President Barack Obama on Sudan Strategy
Today, my Administration is releasing a comprehensive strategy to confront the serious and urgent situation in Sudan.
For years, the people of Sudan have faced enormous and unacceptable hardship. The genocide in Darfur has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and left millions more displaced. Conflict in the region has wrought more suffering, posing dangers beyond Sudan’s borders and blocking the potential of this important part of Africa. Sudan is now poised to fall further into chaos if swift action is not taken.
Our conscience and our interests in peace and security call upon the United States and the international community to act with a sense of urgency and purpose. First, we must seek a definitive end to conflict, gross human rights abuses and genocide in Darfur. Second, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South in Sudan must be implemented to create the possibility of long-term peace. These two goals must both be pursued simultaneously with urgency. Achieving them requires the commitment of the United States, as well as the active participation of international partners. Concurrently, we will work aggressively to ensure that Sudan does not provide a safe-haven for international terrorists.
The United States Special Envoy has worked actively and effectively to engage all of the parties involved, and he will continue to pursue engagement that saves lives and achieves results. Later this week, I will renew the declaration of a National Emergency with respect to Sudan, which will continue tough sanctions on the Sudanese Government. If the Government of Sudan acts to improve the situation on the ground and to advance peace, there will be incentives; if it does not, then there will be increased pressure imposed by the United States and the international community. As the United States and our international partners meet our responsibility to act, the Government of Sudan must meet its responsibilities to take concrete steps in a new direction.
Over the last several years, governments, non-governmental organizations, and individuals, and from around the world have taken action to address the situation in Sudan, and to end the genocide in Darfur. Going forward, all of our efforts must be measured by the lives that are led by the people of Sudan. After so much suffering, they deserve a future that allows them to live with greater dignity, security, and opportunity. It will not be easy, and there are no simple answers to the extraordinary challenges that confront this part of the world. But now is the time for all of us to come together, and to make a strong and sustained effort on behalf of a better future for the people of Sudan.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good news is grounds for optimism....

The agreement on the referendum (50%+1) simple majority of 60% turnout of all eligible (people in south plus southerners in north) is reasonable, and to have it have been brokered by Ali Osman Taha (back from somewhere... someday the insiders will tell what happened).

U.S. policy sounds like middle of the road continuous engagement by Gration, the same kind of continuous engagement that helped broker CPA.  (Doesn't mean I can't keep making fun of his platitudes...)

Aid worker hostages released.  Maybe a good sign that there won't be a spiral of hostage taking for use as bargaining chips if relations got more acrimonious.

Salva Kiir and Riek Machar seem to be fully engaged in managing the transition at the national level.  To me that is a good sign for SPLA political leadership capabilities.  And a plus for people deciding to vote for SPLA in the north.  Imagine a situation where the southern leadership is viewed as more "competent" than the NCP leadership!

Caveats: I'm just observing this fom afar, reading news reports without special insider knowledge.... so margin for error is huge!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nothing like a Friday announcement... U.S. to Engage Sudan Leaders

From the NY Times, ...

In an interview on Friday, President Obama’s special envoy to Sudan, Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, retired, said the policy, to be announced Monday by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, would make use of a mix of “incentives and pressure” to seek an end to the human rights abuses that have left millions of people dead or displaced while burning Darfur into the American conscience. General Gration said the administration would set strict time lines for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to fulfill the conditions of a 2005 peace agreement that his government signed with rebels in southern Sudan.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

“There has not been any transformation or reform at the center"

Sudan Tribune often jumps the gun on stories, but if true this is pretty important public break.  Full story here...
October 14, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The First Vice President of Sudan and president of South Sudan Salva Kiir sent a letter to US president Barack Obama asking him to keep pressure on the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), the Washington Post reported.
The letter seen by newspaper comes as US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration is seeking a relaxation of some sanctions imposed on the East African nations and giving out some “cookies” to Khartoum as he described it.
Furthermore, Gration’s contacts with prospective lobbyists for Sudan has added to fury of Sudan advocacy groups who accused the US official of being “naïve” in dealing with Khartoum.
It appears that special envoy’s approach has also worried South Sudan’s ex-rebels.
The Washington Post said that Kiir wrote to Obama last month, saying that Bashir continues to foment violence in the region in an apparent reference to rising tribal violence in the South which he has accused Khartoum of standing behind it.
“There has not been any transformation or reform at the center," Mayardit wrote, referring to Khartoum. “The status quo prevails. . . . Significant change in policy in relation to Sudan should only come when there is change in the reality of Sudan” Kiir said in the letter.

De Waal "no sense" on Making Sense of Darfur

A discussion of debt relief for NCP regime provokes a response by Kevin Jon Heller, to which de Waal responds with this:

Is the international community “propping up” the Sudan government? I don’t think so. International players are relatively marginal in the overall Sudanese political scene. The Sudan government relies overwhelmingly on its internal base, which is a mixture of its financial/patronage power, and its security institutions, enormously assisted by the weakness and disarray of its adversaries. (And one reason, in my view, why the internal opposition is so weak is its tendency to look outside for its support.) The second point has nothing to do with blackmail. It’s not as though the Sudan government, or any other government, is a mega-version of an individual, controlled by a single will. As it happens, this government has never used this threat MK: turn to terrorism] and I don’t believe that it would do so. But what happens when the government is cut off from western and relatively transparent sources of funds? Inevitably, its institutions turn to different ways of obtaining funds. Another source, much more accessible and attractive at the moment, is Asia. (Recall that the late 1990s campaign to get Talisman Energy to withdraw from Sudan was successful, and Asian companies filled the gap.) As for “even more violent”: with the levels of violent fatalities in Darfur hovering around the 100/month mark, those of us who have seen wars rather more violent than this, are indeed worried that these are in prospect.
My comments would be that the response to Kevin makes no sense.  First de Waal says that the regime relies little on official transparent assistance, and then he says that if they are "cut off" from that assistance they may turn to Asia (is the implication that this will make them more terroristic?  Who cares if they "turn to Asia"?) and violence... huh?

More importantly, for someone to argument that human development in Sudan  (i.e. the well being of people in Darfur, Kordofan, and southern Sudan, outside of the Khartoum megalopilis) is dependent on unilateral creditor debt forgiveness, as the country continues to export several billion dollars a year of oil and spend (both sides) a big chunk of that on military-security apparatus and deny many basic freedoms and rights... well... I guess there is always room for wishful thinking.  Gee, maybe people in Nigeria will get ponies too.

Finally, irresistible snarky aside, classic De Waal..."those of us who have seen wars rather more violent than this, are indeed worried that these are in prospect"... IN YOUR FACE readers... how many wars have YOU seen?  Oh yeah, alright... Let's count... still waiting... NONE?  Come on readers... come on... have you seen maybe a little tiny lightly violent war?  No?  Heard gunfire?  SHUT UP then! 

I am curious in a serious way about why Gration and de Waal always seem to insist that it is the national government that needs cookies and carrot, and rarely argue with any vigor that more cookies and carrots for ordinary southern Sudanese and Darfuris are important.  Oh wait, I just remembered... if they did that, they'd have to be *angry* at Khartoum for expelling agencies doing precisely that in the IDP camps!!!!  But... not unless those IDP camp enablers were making poor people in Sudan worse off by making them lazy and dependent.  You see, debt relief doesn't do that, instead, it allows Coca Cola and Pepsico to invest in more bottling facilities in Khartoum, to sell more soft drinks, so that people will work harder to earn money to buy soft drinks.  And maybe by importing more "large equipment" from Caterpillar the Military industrial Corporation can make a bigger tank facility too.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Urbanization in Sudan.... reflections from Burkina Faso

I've just finished reading a nice article by Ernest Harsch, in African Affairs, 2009, Vol 108, "Urban Protest in Burkina Faso."  Since the press liberalized over the latter part of the 1990s, it became possible for someone to do a count of all the urban protest events in the major Burkinabe cities and towns.  Obviously there are some biases in the reporting and publication, but it is a really useful exercise, and I am glad someone has done it.  What do we learn from the exercise?  Something that is common sense, but important to raise in tems of salience, and espcially relevant for Sudan.  Urbanization is proceeding quickly in Burkina, Sudan, and other African countries.  The skills of managing large urban centers are very different from those of managing rural hinterlands.  Indirect rule through tribal chiefs just isn't possible, and instead a political leader has to manage an enormous bureaucracy, a bureacracy prone to commiting many acts of commision (bulldozing a residential area for "improvement") and omission (letting a marketplace become a chaotic fire hazard). 

The political leader becomes responsible for all of these flashpoints that generate urban protest movements that have the capacity to snowball.  Burkina's experience offers a good lesson for dictators like al-Bashir.... get on the decentralization bandwagon quickly and effectively.  What Harsch seems to suggest is that a lot of the urban protests are local- they are directed indeed at the local municipal officials.  The national government then gets to play the role of mediator/fixer, which adds to its legitimacy.  That's a good place to be for a regime with little legitimacy. 

Why doesn't every dictator do this?  Presumably because the more decentralization, the more a city official might become a threat to the President's clique.  Here's where another paper I've been reading Lindsay Whitfield "‘Change for a Better Ghana’: Party Competition, Institutionalization and Alternation in Ghana’s 2008 Elections", also in African Affairs 2009 "(detecting a pattern here?) comes in... She discusses the successful national election in Ghana in 2008, and attributes the largely peaceful alternance that has greatly strengthened Ghanaian institutional legitimacy as due to an ever-stronger coalescing around a two-party system that cuts across ethnic, regional and class lines. 

So the right thing for a national dictator to do seems to me to replicate as much as possible two-party competition at the city and town level, so that city politicians have to keep their eyes on working for the city, and it becomes harder for them to challenge the president- the distraction of national politics will cause them to lose the next city election.

Side note: Maybe there is more democracy in English-speaking Africa because the word change is so easy to use in English, and bores deep into the brains of English speakers, while in French the word alternance is a plate of soggy frites.... I mean freedom fries....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why do young men go fight....

The two important questions for Sudan...

1) What makes leaders decide to fight... to escalate...?
2) What makes young men follow leaders who are likely to fire the first shot.?

These questions have different answers in the beginnings of wartime, and different answers once war is full-on. Sudan right now back in the "beginnings" stage... there is no military commander making tactical decisions on the battlefield, which creates a dynamic of its own (i.e. Obama and McChrystal and Taliban commanders are in a different logic now than they were three years ago). So the decisions of political leaders are whether to initiate or escalate a battle. Or to create the conditions where a spark (an accidental rifle discharge, a deliberate attack by provocateurs) will result in a battle and full-on war.

What would make Salva Kiir order SPLA to take the offensive against SAF? What would make Omar al-Bashir order SAF to take offensive against SPLA?

These questions were prompted by reading Cherry Leonardi's 2007 article in African Affairs, "‘Liberation’ or capture: Youth in between ‘hakuma’, and ‘home’ during civil war and its aftermath in Southern Sudan" which deals with the other question of what makes young men fight when there is an ongoing conflict, namely the conflict in southern Sudan through the 1990s and early 2000s.

She nicely makes the distinction that young men in southern Sudan (she is careful not to overgeneralize, and treat her interpretation of numerous interviews and narratives of events as preliminary and tentative) are not gong to fight because their are angry at their oppressive parents (the generational conflict hypothesis) but in some sense quite the opposite- they are scared of being "abducted" into the SPLA, or they want to join in order to protect their parents and families.  In Leonardi's interpretation, joining the SPLA is like a diversification strategy of the family, to acquire a foothold into the hakuma world.  The treatment of home versus hakuma mirrors the old "two publics" interpretation of Peter Ekeh, and of course is subject to many of the same critiques... reifying hakuma, etc.  But still, it is a worthwhile distinction, I think, and gives considerable nuance to the question of why young men were joining.

A line at the end of the article (p. 412) echoes some of the survey work on demobilized youth done by others in other conflict areas: "Despite the negative depictions being made of traumatized young generations, the many years of war have not eradicated, and have perhaps contributed to, a moral continuity as evidenced in the deeper aspirations of many youth to become 'responsible'."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Getting fractionalized rebel groups to agree

The New York Times has an op-ed by Robert Frank on how to deal with violent crime, suggesting police view the problem as a dynamic game, where if they announce and credibly target one gang for crackdown, they can quickly achieve success, and then move on to the next gang, all the while credibly threatening to revert to the first gang if they act up, and thus quickly bring about a general reduction in crime as long as the "order" is public knowledge... turtles all the way down kind of thing.  And then over in The New Yorker Jon Anderson deals with a similar problem- ethnographic understanding of the favela gang lords in Rio de Janeiro.

And this reading about warlords and gangsters got me thinking about the opposite problem, which is Special Envoy Gration's problem, of how to sequentially get a bunch of small fractured rebel groups to agree to something.  Of course, the something that they have to agree to is one thing, and then how to get them to agree is the other thing.  Suppose we knew what the something was; say it was that they would publicly announce a chain of command and a structure of allegiances... i.e., who is to be king, and who sub-king, and so on.  Moreover, simultaneously, the king would announce what the conditions were for serious negotiations with Khartoum.  Finally, the whole group would commit to some costly action to show their credibility (like abandoning their positions and massing in some area protected temporarily by UNAMID).  So how to get the fractured groups to agree?  Do you start with the largest group and then work down to smaller and smaller groups?  Or start with the smaller groups, form a coalition, and then approach the larger groups.

In these kinds of problems, it is usually "garbage in, garbage out" style theorizing, in that certain assumptions will get you one direction and other assumptions will get you the other direction, largely because in strategic situations like this modeling the outcome depends on what you assume about the behavior of the actors, and for sure the assumption that they are "rational" present-discounted risk-averting calculators with infinite horizons blah blah is not a good assumption, but that means that there is little basis to choose from alternative assumptions.  But I still wonder whether they might not be some robust (i.e., unable to argue with the logic) result out there.  Or some codification of common sense- maybe something like, "there is no robust algorithm, so just keep experimenting patiently with various formulas until you hit paydirt."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Aftermath of fighting couple months ago in Malakal

From UNMIS video... they could do  better job of adding context to their videos, but don;t let perfection be the enemy of the good- post more videos!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brilliant blog on Sudan

De Waal sends readers to Rebecca Hamilton, whose "investigation" of Darfur policy will be a wonderfully entertaining read, given what is already on the blog.

The straighttalk "get over it" express did come into the station...

And it's name was Scott Gration... and now he left the station... where to!?!?!  Another IDP camp?  "Time to look to the future, guys!"  Ironically the whole thing is a great rebuttal to Collier's "greed vs. grievance" because here are the finest minds of U.S. diplomacy telling the rebels and the IDPs, "There's more satisfaction of greed in peace".... and yet they keep insisting on not following them down the path to peace... so they are dastardly clever or grievance-deluded... must be latter, hence the "psychological stuff"...

If I get a cookie I'll start blogging again. Honest.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No difference? What do Lubna Hussein and Alan Turing have in common?

And there things might have remained, an appalling story of injustice rapidly fading into the depths of the past. Might have, except John Graham-Cummings, a programmer of some repute, decided to mount a petition to try and get the British government to apologize for its treatment of Turing. He did not expect to succeed in this obscure and perhaps quixotic quest, but he pushed hard at publicizing the petition, and last week, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, called him:
A few minutes later the phone rang and a soft Scottish voice said: “Hello John. It’s Gordon Brown. I think you know why I am calling you”. And then he went on to tell me why. He thanked me for starting the campaign, spoke about a “wrong that he been left unrighted too long”, said he thought I was “brave” (not sure why) and spoke about the terrible consequences of homophobic laws and all the people affected by them.
That same day, the PM released a statement of apology
Read more....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Roads, roads, roads."

That is what John Garang famously (or apocryphally) answered when asked about development priorities for South Sudan. I've always been a skeptic... of course roads are good, but the question really is the opportunity cost of paved roads. Driving around Burkina Faso, I'm more than ever convinced of the low value of paved roads. The NGO I direct here in Burkina Faso, Friends of African Village Libraries (, has a library in the village of Sara, and the village is now at the midway point of a new 300km paved road between the regional towns of Bobo-Dioulasso and Dedougou. During our two hour visit to the library, no cars came down the road. When asked, everyone jokes: "One bus leaves each town in the morning, they cross near Sara, then they drive back in the evening." It's an exaggeration, but makes the point. The road isn't changing anybody's life.

Driving this weekend to Ghana, on the paved road from Ouagadougou to Po and then Bolgatanga, again, very little traffic. In fact, what I really noticed once again was the massive pileup of trucks at the border, all sitting idly while the customs men went about their Byzantine work. it struck me that here was the real opportunity cost of paved roads: what if instead of paving the road, it had been left as an improved graded gravel road, and the money for the asphalt had gone to build up the border infrastructure to expedite customs and enable trucks to get through in an hour. The time savings (and heck, maybe even the maintenance on the trucks- a rolling stone gathers no moss?) could easily be greater than the time savings by driving on a gravel road. And the gravel road might then be better maintained, and be made wider, so there would be fewer accidents than on the narrow paved and potholed roads (though the Burkina's credit, every year I see improvement in road maintenance).

And if it is this way for Burkina, how is it for South Sudan, clearly 20 years behind in terms of truck commerce? No, I say, a six-lane border crossing with transparent customs for a paved road! Or at least some more cost-benefit analysis along those lines.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are there two Mr. Platitudes in the house?

I am having a hard time keeping up with the blog while in Burkina Faso... too many meetings and places to be. Plus playing tennis with my Burkinabè tennis buddy! But there's always time for some gentle poking fun at Alex de Waal, whose latest blog entry over at Making Sense of Darfur is a recap of a "press conference" with Thabo Mbeki who is leading a panel of AU eminient persons, writing a report on Darfur after their listening tour... the summary statement is almost as interesting as a Scott Gration press conference. Are they trying to outdo each other with the platitudes? Come on... this is hardly worth posting on a blog. It's like the fawning sycophantic stuff on official state television... the dueling gilded armchairs... that leads people to tell each other the obscene jokes that Achille Mbembe writes about... the banality of power. One example paragraph:
General elections are scheduled for April 2010. The position of the Panel is that in any national elections, such as those of next year, the population of Darfur should be able to participate. The elections must be free and fair. So the necessary conditions will need to be created for that to be achieved.
Gosh I'm glad that is clarified. For a nanosecond I thought he might have read Paul Collier's new book and was going to say it would be better to have a quick fradulent election victory of al-Bashir which would be more conducive to political stability... President Mbeki's STRAIGHT TALK EXPRESS BRINGS GET OVER IT TO DARFUR. Would be more interesting.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Latrines here, latrines there, latrines everywhere

I am in Burkina Faso for a month, preparing for our study abroad program here, Reading West Africa. I went over the weekend down to the village of Bereba, where Leslie and I have a house. Not much has changed (since last year, or even in 15 years since we first starting having a residence in the village)... except.... the first public latrines were build, just outside the market. They are going to be for pay... next visit I'll learn more. The interesting thing is that latrines have really taken off, but only over these past 15 years. When we first came to Bereba in the mid-1990s, even though the village is pretty developed and a small administrative center, many people still used a corner of the compound and some straw as latrine. By contrast, when I was in Sudan and in mid-1980s, UNICEF and other NGOs had been promoting latrines for some time. Interestingly, in one of the libraries we sponsor through FAVL ( the team had build two latrines, one for girls and one for boys. The did not have roofs, though. There was a vent however. I asked why there was a vent if there was no roof. "To let the gases escape from the pit." "But there is no roof, so the gases can just come through the hole." "Hmmmm." Then my village didact self took over, explaining about putting a roof on and flies coming into the pit and going up the vent and being trapped in the vent by a mesh, just the way villagers in Sudan had explained it to me 20 years ago. So the knowledge came full circle, from some development expert to a villager to a development expert and back to a villager. Sweet.

Article on latrines in south sudan

And since we have to prove everything by a randomized trial....

Role of flies and provision of latrines in trachoma control: cluster-randomised controlled trial.

Lancet. 2004 Apr 3;363(9415):1093-8.

Emerson PM, Lindsay SW, Alexander N, Bah M, Dibba SM, Faal HB, Lowe KO, McAdam KP, Ratcliffe AA, Walraven GE, Bailey RL.

Medical Research Council Laboratories, PO Box 273, Banjul, The Gambia.

BACKGROUND: Eye-seeking flies have received much attention as possible trachoma vectors, but this remains unproved. We aimed to assess the role of eye-seeking flies as vectors of trachoma and to test provision of simple pit latrines, without additional health education, as a sustainable method of fly control. METHODS: In a community-based, cluster-randomised controlled trial, we recruited seven sets of three village clusters and randomly assigned them to either an intervention group that received regular insecticide spraying or provision of pit latrines (without additional health education) to each household, or to a control group with no intervention. Our primary outcomes were fly-eye contact and prevalence of active trachoma. Frequency of child fly-eye contact was monitored fortnightly. Whole communities were screened for clinical signs of trachoma at baseline and after 6 months. Analysis was per protocol. FINDINGS: Of 7080 people recruited, 6087 (86%) were screened at follow-up. Baseline community prevalence of active trachoma was 6%. The number of Musca sorbens flies caught from children's eyes was reduced by 88% (95% CI 64-100; p<0.0001) p="0.04)" n="14)" p="0.01)" p="0.210)">

Thursday, August 20, 2009

He may be Mr. Platitude in public, but he's getting the work done

Sudan Envoy Gration is in Sudan now, and seems to be getting parties to keep rolling towards the referendum, getting them fully engaged in compromising. The details are fascinating for the political science junkies I suppose- should southerners in Khartoum vote in the referendum? What if they are Khartoum residents but come down to the South for the vote? How does one tell who is or is not a resident of the South? Is a northerner who is in the south during the vote eligible to vote in the referendum?

In some sense it would have been preferable for the referendum to have take place at the same time as legislative elections... that way most people would have had to decide whether moving to vote for the South outweighed staying and voting for local affairs. I'll be curious how the cross-border vote issue gets settled.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sensible commentary

Very sensible commentary from the Justice and Human Rights Domain of the Hauser Center for Nonprofits at Harvard Kennedy School... A Fresh Perspective on the Aid Industry in Africa, Justice, and the Gacaca Court System in Rwanda

My one small quibble with Amaka Megwalu's commentary is at the end of the commentary I think she leaves a slight mis-impression of the ICC, which isn't really an institution designed to bring about local justice and trust, but is designed precisely for those situations where local justice and accountability are nigh impossible, and is designed really with the "big fish" in mind, who almost by definition are above "local justice" considerations. Omar al-Bashir and Ahmed Haroun are not "local" people and they didn't commit any acts themselves. What they did was order, or fail in their command responsibility, thereby being chargeable with war crimes and crimes against humanity. if a national court in Sudan, every bit as remote as The Hague, could try them, then the ICC would have no need for issuing arrest warrants.

Shared via AddThis

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"This I Believe": Partially lift sanctions on northern Sudan so large equipment can roll through to southern Sudan

Gration's "This I Believe"... That large equipment trucked and barged in from Port Sudan instead of Mombasa is the key to development in South Sudan. Because we've seen how easy it has been for Darfur to develop since they've always had a clear route to the sea for "large equipment"...

He's hard not to satirize: the earnestness "We all have to work together and to be on the same team", the non-sequitors (Darfur is most important, CPA is equally important, and lifting sanctions on heavy equipment is the right action at this time), the coded language, "I believe that we cannot hope to achieve these results and a lasting peace if we only engage with those we already agree with."... (you know who you are).

I'm totally in favor of making sure sanctions on Sudan are not sanctions against South Sudan. But Gration seems so awkward in how he is trying to bring this about. Surely there is a better way. Why not ask the people at exportlawblog?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paul Collier remains stuck on the Möbius strip

Reports are coming in that Paul Collier remains stuck on the Möbius strip that Sudan is in the bottom billion because of civil wars caused by greedy grievance-posing rebels supported by G-8 governments who read The Bottom Billion and decided to strategically intervene to promote transparency and accountability by the regional government of the grievance-posing rebels who are waging civil war against the national government that G-8 governments who have read The Bottom Billion are punishing for lack of transparency and accountability while oppressing grievance-posing rebels.... argghhhh

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Viability police patrol has a busy night

Former Ambassador (to a bunch of places) David Shinn gets nabbed in a viability dragnet:
A balkanized Sudan would increase the number of relatively poor, land-locked countries that have a highly questionable economic future. They would still lack truly meaningful boundaries because ethnic groups do not live in clearly demarcated areas and a pastoral lifestyle is common. The existence of oil, although providing badly needed revenue for some, would exacerbate tension among the new political entities. In the worst case scenario, this means more conflict, internally displaced persons, refugees and requirements for emergency assistance.
The night judge asked Mr. Shinn to explain how his worst case scenario differed from the previous fifty years (1955-2005), with violence on and off throughout South Sudan, hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of IDPs and refugees, and the largest relief operation ever mounted (at the time), Operation Lifeline, all caused by the other region of the "unity". Mr. Shinn mumbled "my worst case scenario by definition is worse than the historical 'regrettable' reality." As he was dragged off to viability detox he was heard to be yelling, "Eritrea-Ethiopia! Eritrea-Ethiopia! Won't you people learn from history! For the love of humanity, keep al-Bashir in charge of the South!"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kevin Jon Heller on South Africa and the ICC

South Africa Will Enforce the Warrant for Bashir

by Kevin Jon Heller

Excellent news — and a major blow to the AU’s promise of impunity for Bashir, given the symbolic and practical importance of South Africa for the continent generally...Ntstaluba’s statement illustrates how important it is for states to incorporate the Rome Statute into their domestic law, an issue I blogged about (briefly) here. Kudos to the NGOs who were willing to press the South African government to fulfill its international and domestic legislations.

PS. It is also worth noting that 135 African civil-society groups have just issued an “appeal to African ICC States Parties to reaffirm their support for the ICC and their commitment to abide by their obligations under the Rome Statute, particularly in relation to the arrest and transfer of the President of Sudan to the ICC.” The list is below the jump…

Monday, August 3, 2009

"Hi, glad to meet you, my name is Mr. Platitude..., er General Gration"

From a transcript of General Gration's comments comes this gem:
Past peace negotiations have faltered, and we have learned from these experiences. We are collaborating with the African Union and United Nations joint chief mediator, Djibrill Bassolé, to ensure that the peace process is inclusive and that it adequately addresses the grievances of the people of Darfur. We are engaging with the fragmented movements in Darfur to help them unite and to bring them to the peace table with one voice. We are working with Libya and Egypt to end the proxy war between Chad and Sudan that has ignited further conflict. We are supporting the full deployment of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) as a critical mechanism for protecting Darfuri civilians. We are determined to work toward a peaceful Darfur where displaced families can resettle and reestablish their homes. We must act without delay—innocent Darfuris have suffered for too long. [emphasis added]
Hmmm. What learning is embodied in these platitudes? The peace negotiations have always been a collaboration with the AU and UN and international partners. From the AU website is this description of the 23 August 2004 meetings...
The Sudanese Peace Talks resumed today, in Abuja, Nigeria, under the auspices of President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Current Chairman of the African Union (AU), President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and in the presence of President Alpha Omar Konaré, the Chairperson of the AU Commission. Also present were President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo, Chair of ECCAS, President Idriss Deby of Chad, and the representatives of the Governments of Libya, Uganda, Ghana and Eritrea, as well as the Secretary General of the Arab League, and the representatives of the UN Secretary General, EU, US, France and the UK.

The DPA talks included both SLA and JEM and even at times other fragmentary forces. The U.S. has never supported one movement over the others, at least not to my knowledge. Was there a time when the U.S. as a matter of policy did not pretend to work with Libya and Egypt to end the Chad-Sudan proxy wars? Was it U.S. policy to obstruct UNAMID deployment? Was the U.S. previously against working towards a peaceful Darfur? I'm so glad we have learned from the "faltered" peace negotiations. Yes, it is possible to imagine a U.S. policy very different from these platitudes, but if there is no change in policy why can't Gration just say "I am happy to tell you that none of our usual platitudes have changed, nor has there been any change in substance, but if you care to look carefully, you may detect slight changes in wording that indicate that if something good happens in the near future we will attribute it to our change in wording."

And then, I love it, the viable word enters the transcript:
Our strategy seeks to help the South improve its security capacity to defend against external and internal threats while striving to ensure a potentially independent Southern Sudan is politically and economically viable.
He must not be reading my blog. And, why should he! But I'd love to know what his criterion is for deciding whether a country is viable. I admit I can't really even imagine what these people have in mind. Would Los Angeles be a viable country? How about the Navajo Nation? Would Iowa be viable? I wonder if Burma is viable. And what makes Puntland viable? "Calling Mr. Platitude, Mr. Platitude to the white telephone please." The presumption is that there is some kind of threshold of viability that can be ensured through some kinds of strivings. Probably what he means is some kind of statistical likelihood of declining. But probably he has no conception of the counterfactual against which to measure that decline. Would a non-viable country be a viable region? Boggles the mind!

And then the "have it both ways plus some weirdness" department:
We also seek an end to Sudan’s efforts to weaken or marginalize opponents abroad or align with negative state and non-state actors.
But publicly Gration says that Sudan is a model cooperator in anti-terrorism, so what are these "efforts" to "align with negative state...actors." And WTF could a "negative state actor be"? I'm obviously behind on my jargon. Nattering nabob of negativism indeed.

The he concludes:
As you can see, we are aiming high, thinking big, and expecting much. We do so because we believe innovative concepts and ideas, coupled with detailed planning and sufficient resources, are the only way to achieve big results.
And it would be funny, because there is no evidence in the prepared testimony of any of that... just evidence of decent platitudes. But it's not funny... just disappointing.

In the spirit of constructive criticism, how about instead of the platitudes some measurable goals:
1) Pilot program of internationally monitored and assisted return of 100,000 IDPs, with Sudan government guarantees and verification of demobilization of local janjawid, internationally monitored resolution of Arab squatter claims to Masalit/Fur/Zaghawa homesteads, compensation (paid by government of Sudan) of some reasonable resettlement sum (say $200 per person), etc.
2) Six months of normal press freedom and freedom of association, where no newspapers are confiscated, no editors harassed, no fines handed down, no opposition rallies disrupted, etc.
3) President al-Bashir publicly present, before a panel of human rights lawyers and the multi-partisan subcommittee of the National Assembly, in a respectful and sober environment, his defense against specific accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity that are contained in the ICC arrest warrant application, and also present his administration's "official" history of the 2003-2005 Darfur conflict, the 1990s Nuba Mountains cleansing campaign, and the 1998 Bahr al-Ghazal famine. Wouldn't this be a clear indication of the regime's willingness to "turn the page" on the secrecy and belligerence that have characterized the past two decades? Isn't that what it means to "make unity attractive"... to at least pretend to tell the truth (in detail, not platitudes) about what happened that resulted in the deaths of so many?

I think everyone knows the al-Bashir regime will never agree to these benchmarks. It is useful to ask why not. Are they outlandish? Does anyone imagine a viable ;-) Sudan that doesn't at some point in time implement all three?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

All the elements will be taken care of?

People say strange things when they have been awake for a long time, or if they have decided beforehand to say weird things because being clear has no upside... a TNR blogger offered the following gem from the Gration testimony... I hope that a transcript becomes accessible soon... I was camping in the Sierras with family and friends for a few days and so missed the whole thing.
Nevertheless, at today's hearings, a committee member asked Gration how he defines genocide. Visibly irritated, Gration responded, "Well, the president has referred to the genocide that is taking place in Darfur--you can read that how you need to read it." Then, when asked if he had at least spoken to Rice about the disagreement, Gration ventured into strange territory: "This is a definitional issue and," he said, "I will tell you in public that Susan Rice is one of my dear friends. She is one of the few women in the world that I say, ‘I love you' to. We have a comprehensive and integrated approach to insure that all elements will be taken care of." I guess that settles it.
I'm trying to imagine what the downside (or lack of upside) is to not getting irritated and instead giving a thoughtful answer about the complexity of the genocide determination, while digressing into the ICC rejection of the charge while upholding the crimes against humanity and war crimes charges, and the arrest warrants for al-Bashir, Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kushayb, and the problem of vocabulary in characterizing a series of events that took place in 2003-05 that resulted today in 2.5 million displaced persons, with little progress being made towards resolving the conflict in a way favorable to those displaced persons, and ending with a somber note about the limits of U.S. power in Darfur and the need to work multilaterally. But maybe Gration had given that answer already a dozen times, and finally got pissed off. Have to wait to see the transcript. But I do love the "all the elements will be taken care of" part... almost reads like Sudanese Arabic translated into English. A nice flourish!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

When to say, "Shut up, you're only revealing yourself to be an idiot."

Yes that's right, sometimes it is OK to be rude. I've said this before, but when people make the comment, "But will South Sudan be viable as a land-locked country with no port and the lowest literacy rate in the world...?" You have to say, Dear Sir or Madam, South Sudan already is a land-locked region with no port and the lowest literacy rate in the world, and it currently is part of one of the most messed up countries in the world, and so yes things can get worse, or things can get better, but whatever your completely bizarre notion* of viable wouldn't even stand up to thirty seconds of scrutiny... explain what you mean, in English, Arabic, Dinka or any other language, just not in a platitude!!!!!

*Usually it turns out to be something like: a new country that has a giant wall all around its borders and maybe even a moat with crocodiles thrown in for good measure...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The U.S. as guarantor and mediator of talks and processes for implementing CPA...

The U.S. as guarantor and mediator of talks and processes for implementing CPA needs to help set an agenda that enables the north and south begin to resolve four points prior to end of 2009, on the presumption that the vote for independence has high likelihood to be favorable.

First, what attributes of southern sovereignty can be implemented right away in 2011, and which have to wait? South Sudan can take its seat at the United Nations, but maybe does not need to have dozens of waiting rooms at border crossings for the herders and farmers who straddle the north-south border.

Second, how are the assets and liabilities of Sudan to be divided? Separate sovereignty cannot accommodate the current deliberate ambiguity over responsibility for oil reserves,international debt (currently more than $20 billion), domestic government debt, infrastructure and public corporations (all concentrated in the north like the profitable Kenana sugar scheme and the giant dam near Merowe), and promises to compensate the 2.5 displaced of Darfur, who suffered war crimes committed by the Sudan Armed Forces and their irregular allies, the janjawid.

Third, how will Darfur be represented in the interim National Assembly of Sudan that will be the legislative body implementing the referendum during the period after elections in February 2010 and then agreeing to the decisions regardingthe first two questions? Elections are not possible in Darfur (at least Abdel Wahid Moh. Nuur was very clear on Radio Dabanga that he opposed elections until people feel safe enough to return, which seems highly unlikely before 2010 unless suddendly NCP completely changes tactics) because of the insecurity and the inability of the displaced to return to their homes. Some kind of temporary power-sharing arrangement has to be arrived at, then, to enhance legitimacy of southern referendum and subsequent separation.

Fourth, in lead up to 2010 elections and then referendum how can freedom of the press and freedom of association (holding meetings) be best enabled/guaranteed by international monitors, if NCP either does not want itself to guarantee that or NCP claims it is not in control of "rogue" security/militia/people's police type intimidation techniques. Applies to lesser scale in south, of course. Mobile networks ar turning out to be key flashpoints in this regard... will something like FrontlineSMS be deployable on a large scale and not interfered with?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The things people do!?!?! Kordofan and the life of Jesus...

Searching on Youtube for Kordofan, this totally weird comic book of Jesus's life told in Kordofan-style Arabic... weird! I loved the "fi al wakit da..."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Steve Paterno writing in SudanTribune...
Even though in its ruling the Court states that the ABC never exceeded its mandate, it goes on to also assert that the ABC did exceed its mandates in other instances. Therefore, the Tribunal then redraws a new map for Abyei. In the new map, the Court confirms Abyei boundaries to the north, at latitude 10º10’N. It however denies the Ngok Dinka their sharing rights to the land farther north at latitude 10º35. To the East, the court draws an intriguing line, purposely isolating the oil fields from Abyei area. To put this ruling in perspective and comparisons, the court new map reduces Abyei area to merely less than a half in size awarded by ABC—which is from 25,293 km²/9,765mi² awarded by ABC to only10, 460 km²/4,039mi² of the reduced size of the Tribunal Court.

This ruling can hardly be accepted for the facts that it grossly deprives South Sudan of its sovereignty and outlaws Ngok Dinka from the rights to their land. At the heart of this dispute and ruling is the natural resource of Abyei, the oil; the very reason NCP clings to the Abyei area. ... Perhaps the real showdown between the SPLM/A and NCP will come during the implementations of this ruling and demarcation of South-North boundaries. Salva Kiir, the chairman of SPLM/A and President of South Sudan at the press conference in awake of the ruling already hinted into this by claiming that he is very sure all the oil fields stolen by the NCP on behest of the Tribunal ruling will fall within South Sudan borders when the boundaries are demarcated. May be the new SPLM/A strategy to recover the already lost valuable land is during the demarcation of South-North boundaries, but how possible is that? In short, the dispute is never over.
I think Steve is wrong about the sovereignty... Abyei roadmap and agreement to abide by decision greatly strengthens South Sudan as sovereign entity. Exercising restraint is one of the key virtues of the sovereign- both parties exercised restraint and thus gained legitimacy, both domestically and internationally.

But the other point Steve Paterno brings up is really interesting, not just because the North-South border has to be fixed before the referendum (and the arbitration panel's precedent now is that straight lines are fine when they are acceptable compromises?) but maybe even more importantly with a vote for independence the North and South will have to negotiate a split of oil revenues again. So Heglig field maybe will get split 75-25 in that negotiation.... The ideal would be for *all* oil revenues to go to a Transparency Fund that would be monitored by... say.... anthropologists like Jane Guyer... wait... that was Chad ;-)

Saramogo's fiction was becoming reality... Mankien during the South Sudan civil war

... Our study estimated the prevalence of blindness in Mankien at 4%, which Kuper and Gilbert describe as being “beyond the range” of the studies reviewed by Pascolini et al. The review did not include any studies from the ten states that compose southern Sudan. The nearest surveys reported were conducted in 1998 in Al-Ginena province of Southern Darfur—which is within the 16 northern states of Sudan governed from Khartoum, and was not directly affected by the war in the south. The Al-Ginena studies show a blindness prevalence of 3.2% in all ages. Yet despite the geographical proximity, two decades of civil war in the south were accompanied by the absence of a health infrastructure, and no preventive health services to speak of, which makes southern Sudan unique. Comparisons with other parts of Sudan or with other countries are probably not justified or meaningful.

Our survey was conducted in Mankien, which was anecdotally known to be endemic for severe blinding trachoma, and this was subsequently confirmed by our trachoma survey, which showed an overall prevalence of trichiasis and bilateral corneal opacity of 9.6% and 3.1%, respectively. The prevalence of blinding cataract in Mankien was consistent with expectation, and would presumably have been higher had there been a systematic over-sampling of the blind. It is the prevalence of blinding trachoma that sets the population apart from all others reported and reviewed by Pascolini et al. These survey data from Mankien are extremely valuable in that they demonstrate the way uncontrolled trachoma can ravage inaccessible and underserved communities who have, quite literally, been off the map until recently. The war affected the whole of southern Sudan, and extremely high levels of active trachoma and trichiasis have been observed in all the areas that we have managed to survey in recent years.. Although not generalizable to the ten southern states, these data from Mankien are probably indicative of the overall situation in southern Sudan.
The context is a very interesting discussion of survey sampling biases... Great for the field worker to think about.

This one however is a little too much common sense for my taste... however famished for theory I may be

Famine Mortality, Rational Political Inactivity, and International Food Aid

Thomas Pluemper
University of Essex - Department of Government

Eric Neumayer
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

May 1, 2008

LSE PSPE Working Paper No. 2

Famine mortality is preventable by government action and yet some famines kill. We develop a political theory of famine mortality based on the selectorate theory of Bueno de Mesquita et al. (2002, 2003). We argue that it can be politically rational for a government, democratic or not, to remain inactive in the face of severe famine threat. We derive the testable hypotheses that famine mortality is possible in democracies, but likely to be lower than in autocracies. Moreover, a larger share of people being affected by famine relative to population size together with large quantities of international food aid being available will lower mortality in both regime types, but more so in democracies.
Dierdre McCloskey a long time ago had an article about the "it is possible" vein of theory in economic theorizing... She wasn't impressed.

While I'm idly speculating, I wonder which paper came first, the genocide one or the famine one... and did someone really think that a formal model was needed to "prove the possibility" of the intuition that all else constant if those affected by famine are less like you politically, and their famine doesn't affect your pocketbook, then you'll be less likely to care....

Quantitative research on the ICC....

A New Moral Hazard? Military Intervention, Peacekeeping and the International Criminal Court

Eric Neumayer
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Journal of Peace Research, Forthcoming

The newly established International Criminal Court (ICC) promises justice to the victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Past offenders can be punished, while future potential offenders may be deterred by the prospect of punishment. Yet, justice is no substitute for intervention for the benefit of people at acute risk of being victimized. The Court may create a new moral hazard problem if the promise of ex post justice makes it easier for states to shy away from incurring the costs of intervention. This article indirectly tests for the relevance of this potential problem by estimating the determinants of ratification delay to the Rome Statute of the ICC. I find that countries, which in the past have been more willing to intervene in foreign civil wars and more willing to contribute troops to multinational peacekeeping missions are more likely to have ratified the Statute (early on). This suggests that the Court is a complement to, not a substitute for intervention.

Abyei decision... total victory of SPLA?

That's the only way I can see it. What NCP got was some more oil money a little longer. SPLA would hardly have been improved by more money. What they have gotten now is more legitimacy and perhaps more focus. Imagine the reverse: tribunal decides to give NCP the territory (to the Messeriya!) and SPLA the money... now *that* would have been awful. Settling the border at 10.10 presumably also totally makes both referenda more likely to lead to southern independence and Abyei in the south.

And what is especially pleasing was to hear the top NCP leadership pledge to devote the entire proceeds of Heglig oil field to compensate and restitute IDPS in Darfur, enabling them to return to their homes with enough assets to start anew. Not!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Abyei decision...

Looks like ABC commission partially vindicated, as by and large their boundary stands... northern boundary is 10.10. Let's see if NCP and Messeriya respect the rule of law. Underscore that exercise of traditional grazing rights is not changed at all by boundary decision.

Encourage Presidency to appoint survey team to demarcate area.

Morning now... can actually see map... excluded Heglig oil field from previous ABC boundary. Scathing dissent from one of the panelists. All available here.

Abyei arbitration...


Failed to specify reasons... exceeded mandate with respect to some of their conclusions.

On northern boundary not an excess of mandate... lat 10.10 as northern limit of permanent habitation not incorrect

ACHHHHHH webcast failed!

Abyei arbitration...

ABC experts adopted predominantly tribal interpretation of their mandate... requiring them to delimit the are of Ngok area of 1905. Government however had territorial interpretation. Tribunal concludes that tribal interpretation *is not* unreasonable. Wording of formula can be interpreted either way, so not unreasonable. Object and purpose of formula supports tribal interpretation. Interpretation had function within context of CPA. The Ngok people were intended to be beneficiaries of provision for referendum, so interpeting as tribal not unreasonable. Tribal interpretation reasonable in historical perspective: boundaries in 1905 were uncertain; there was limited administration in 1905; Cond. officials had limited knowledge of Ngok; 1905 transfer effectuated to pacify.

Tribunal not required or authorized which (territorial or tribal) was more correct.


Abyei arbitration...

New review of evidence "if and only if" finding of exceeding mandate. If no finding of exceeding of mandate, then parties *did not* want tribunal to review evidence. Correctness of ABC decision is "beyond review" in determination if exceeded mandate.

How to know if exceeded mandate?
Reasonableness of ABC members interpretation of mandate, and ABC empowered to determine their own bounds and competencies... and principle of law is that if "primary decision maker" delegated this they should be respected. Is there "manifest breach".

Failure to state sufficient reasons for a conclusion may mean exceeding mandate. ABC included requirement to state reason. Were expected to operate within greater peace process. Supposed to be scientific, so should state reasons. They were required to explain. Insufficiency, incoherence, contradictory reasoning could mean excess of mandate.

Abyei arbitration...

Making a big point of sequencing... did ABC exceed mandate? Then if yes, what is boundary.... Also noted there was dissenting opinion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some questions on the arrest warrants of the ICC

Alex de Waal's blog had an interesting exchange between Christine Chung, Christian Palme, and de Waal and Julie Flint. It's a National Enquirer read for the most part, so I thought I would take the discussion back to the judicious language (and less gratuitous snark) that the blogosphere is well-known for ;-)

Alex and Julie,

In the spirit of continuing the substantive discussion, rather than the character discussion (which is tawdry, no?) I would like to ask you to re-state your objections to the indictment (arrest warrant) against al-Bashir. You say, "We do not oppose ICC justice in Darfur — only for the president, now." It would be nice also to leave aside in this discussion the issue of the genocide charges, since the consequences in terms of legal reasoning and precedent of having al-Bashir be tried for genocide for what happened in Darfur is I think not essential to what, as you have stated many times, are the quite significant enough crimes of war and crimes against humanity.

My understanding at the time (last March) was that you thought it would completely derail the peace process and possibly lead to enormous human suffering if al-Bashir "angrily" retaliated at the affront to his honor (I think that is how you characterized it). It seems neither has happened to the degree predicted. If anything, the peace processes (CPA and Darfur) are on better tracks than they were before the arrest warrant (we shall see tomorrow with Abyei), and even with the charade of expulsion and readmittance and non-readmittance of aid groups, the increase in suffering, while evidently quite real to those who suffer, has neither affected policymakers and media (chastened perhaps by the joint Mamdani-de Waal offensive) nor IDP community organizers (no large movements or protests seem to have emerged).

Since your objections to the arrest warrant were largely consequentialist, and those consequences have not emerged, have you rethought your position? I would be the first to say that the arrest warrant complicates the various processes, but a "non-arrest warrant" situation (held in reserve like a secret hammer?) would also have complicated things. So I am not sure there is much basis to make judgments on the action.

My own position is that the ICC as a quasi-independent judiciary once established has a logic that is certainly quirky, but not self-evidently negative, and hard to say how it could be improved upon given what the ICC actually is (a court established by a treaty, with lots of rules spelled out in the treaty), and the division among African countries (and I'll stand with Botswana any day on this, rather than Zimbabwe and Libya and all the others!) over ICC suggests that many people value the steps being taken towards an end to impunity, as complements to local/national struggles for establishment of robust, genuine, rule of law/human rights/civil freedoms etc.

I am not sure that there is any basis to have a great objection to the arrest warrant against al-Bashir "now". Sure one can object, but when objecting one should perhaps be clear that one is objecting because of a "gut" feeling rather than because one's status as an expert means one has some secret knowledge or insight that others cannot access, and so one's objection should have more standing than other's "embrace" of the arrest warrant "now".

Lastly, I take it that you think the arrest warrants against Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kushayb were good actions (otherwise do you mean something else when you say you "do not oppose ICC justice in Darfur"). When people ask you, "Why aren't they in jail?" I presume you give the reasonable person's explanation of the limits of the ICC, the power of the Khartoum regime to protect its own, the low likelihood of outside intervention, and hence the likelihood of delay, perhaps until after 2011... and the same reasoning applies to al-Bashir, no?


Monday, July 20, 2009

Insulting free thought...

Those are Mahmoud Mohammed Taha's words at the end of his brief statement at his "trial" where he was sentenced to death.

Another reason to switch... to Burkina Faso!

Tell me you recalcitrant Sudanists... does Sudan even have *any* music EVER that came close to this gem from Floby?!?!! Listen to the whole song, I guarantee you'll be humming it all day.

Dispatches from South Sudan

This is one nice blog... Rovingbandit:
Central Equatoria State Police at it again
After a number of Sudanese girls were arrested and beaten in Khartoum earlier this week for their "provocative clothing", it seems the Juba authorities are not about to be outdone, despite Salva Kiir telling them to stop this nonsense the last time they tried it. Today a girl from my office was beaten for wearing trousers. Being a clued in government employee she went straight to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (central government, above the state government who run the police) to register a complaint. Hopefully someone will sort them out.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Singing for reconciliation in South Sudan...

From Robin Denney writing in the blog World Mission Network. In some ways the posting is touchingly naive- she can "hear the hope" and "feel the change." I've got nothing against Christian proselytizing, but when someone is so triumphant (that's how the writing comes across) about the "witch doctor" casting off his "magic" when the Christian caravan comes through... you just want to say, "Gimmie a break." (With apologies to Jerry Drino, who's a great, and understated, guy.)
Dear Friends,

The convoy of three flat bed semi-trucks, half a dozen pick-ups and SUVs, and assorted government and police vehicles, thudded over potholes, fish-tailed through muddy slews, trundled over bumps and rocks, and occasionally zigzagged out into the bush or open plain searching for a passable route, all the while accompanied by the sound of drums and song coming from the 200 singing evangelists aboard the semi-trucks. In all we were, the Archbishop and his wife, three bishops, a hand full of staff, at least 30 pastors, government officials, soldiers, and the 200 strong marching choir. In a week and a half we traveled approximately 550 miles, averaging less than 20 miles per hour, through forest and plain and swamp, across territory plagued by cattle raiders and rogues, stopping at every village and town to greet the crowds who came to welcome us, preach about reconciliation, and pray for peace and justice. This was the Archbishop's peace, reconciliation, and evangelism tour of Jonglei state.


Abyei countdown, T minus 5, "It is the transferred area."

That's the final sentence of the NCP "memorial", or briefing, for the arbitration panel, in which the NCP asserts that the small part of Kordofan below the Bahr al-Arab river is the only part that was transferred to Kordofan in 1905. The reasoning of the government is simple: they assert that the evidence shows that everyone understood the boundary before 1905 to be the Bahr al-Arab, so nothing above the river was "transferred" and so cannot be part of the "new" Abyei... That area above the river is about 4 times the size of the area below, and sits on top of the oil reserves, and is what the ABC commission decided *was* part of the "9 Ngok kingdoms" transferred to Kordofan in 1905.

The SPLA "memorial", on the other hand, argues that in 1905 the occupiers had little idea where the boundary was, and had little capacity to fix a boundary, regarding the region as basically unexplored, and moreover they were confused about which river actually was the Bahr al-Arab, some mistakenly thinking it was a more northerly river (the Ragaba al Zarga). So instead the emphasis should be on what the territory controlled by the Ngok paramount chief actually was, at the time, and the SPLA thus argues it was considerably north of the Bahr al Arab.