Sunday, May 31, 2009

How to do development well...

The Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Northern Sudan recently released a set of consultancy reports on the capacity of local administrative offices in northern Sudan to successfully participate in a community development fund (I guess they used to be called social investment funds). These are basically the microfinance approach to public expenditure, giving small grants to localities for public projects, and conditioning future grants on successful metrics of previous grants. is there anything not to like? Even if corruption is high, do we not want local people to get a bigger share of corruption than central people?

The reports are interesting in that northern Sudan comes across looking very much like the poor African developing country that it is- and not the gleaming modern Dubai-financed Khartoum skyline the regime wants to become. The local administrative capacity is almost pathetically weak. I imagine many other African countries doing far better.

But the reports are very competently written and provide a good base for verification of improvement of procedures in localities. Also, the synthesis report lays out very clearly the (mistake of the) CPA's abrogation of the previous local government acts and replacement with each state constitution having their own local government structures.

World Bank/LICUS "Assessment of Localities' Compliance with Minimum Qualifying Criteria and
Identification of their Capacity Needs in Northern Sudan: Synthesis Report (Final)
" January 2007

Wealth Sharing Beyond 2011: Economic Issues in Sudan’s North-South Peace Process by Achim Wennmann

This paper by Achim Wennmann is the product of the Centre of Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP), a Swiss think-tank, as they attempt to learn some lessons about conflict resolution.

An important point in the brief review of the process leading up to the CPA is that peace talks had been going on and off for 20 years, almost as soon at the second rebellion against the north started in 1983. So the parties were very familiar with each other, their strengths and their personalities, and what they stood for. The observation does not, however, lead to a generalizable conclusion; i.e., familiarity meant no quick resolution, if one thinks that 20 years is a very long time for a peace process to be resolved.

The author has an extremely good summary of the various factors that made a peace agreement possible in 2003-05. These factors included the likelihood that oil revenues would strengthen the northern army, so SPLA would never win the war, the changed international environment of 9/11, which meant that the U.S. might be prepared to inflict serious harm on a victorious but un-democratic north; considerable regional hostility to the north; internal divisions between northern regime members and smaller-level threats in east and Darfur; the growing realization in the north that a persisting low-level war could be very harmful to continued flows of international capital.

The author justly emphasizes the importance of separating ownership from management of the oil resources; the CPA explicitly did not resolve the ownership question. it would be interesting if political scientists could figure out whether mediation attempts in other civil conflicts where natural resources play a significant role could be similarly structured. On the other hand, delinking has been a strategy of many international agreements; one thinks of the Chad pipeline agreement where the Chadian government formally ceded part of its sovereignty over oil. Presumably this has also been a big recurrent issue in the Cyprus negotiations.

Wennmann reminds us of some interesting points in the wealth-sharing negotiations and agreement. the North was given 100% of oil located in the north. Chain apparently agreed to pay for oil in cash rather than through barter of consumer goods. Much oil revenues were already locked in through future sales- Wennmann does not give a number, which would have been interesting. My recollection of the CPA is that these sales agreed to in the past were not the subject of explicit discussion- were the proceeds split 50:50? Finally, apparently the issue of sharing of the $20+ billion debt-burden came up in the talks, but again my recollection of the CPA is that it is silent on this qyuestion in the event of secession.

One of the conclusions is something I strongly disagree with, and want to subject to critical commentary:
The declining deposits of high quality oil wells in the south pose a challenge to the future viability of an independent state of Southern Sudan. Efforts should therefore be placed on developing Southern Sudan’s non-oil economy and redefining Sudan’s centre-periphery relations. Postponing the referendum may be a pragmatic strategy to strengthening wealth sharing agreements and the multiple ongoing peace processes in Sudan beyond 2011.
I just don't understand people when they talk about "viability" of South Sudan. The Sudan (the larger state) has been in civil war pretty much its entire post-independence history, including two of the largest most awful humanitarian catastrophes of recent history, involving hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of persons displaced, and somehow that is supposed to be "more viable" than South Sudan? So please stop with the "viability" rhetoric. Any entity of the world is "viable" as a state. Any entity in the world can be a "successful" state. A political scientist who claims to know something more than common-sense about "viability" (a state composed of fragments one-square-kilometer blocks spread randomly around the globe will have a tough time) and "success" (a state created by international fiat and encompassing both parties to a very bloody conflict may not thrive) is not worth listening to. Otherwise, anything a political scientist can say is based on regression analysis with state outcomes as dependent variables and stata characteristics as explanatory variables, and more than likely all the state characteristics are endogenous, rendering the estimated coefficients pretty much meaningless. Correlations, not caustion. And correlation means that South Sudan becoming a state cannot be the object of meaningful inference.

One last thing. Wennmann has a throwaway line that, "It would be highly unlikely that Southern Sudan would get a better deal with the north on southern oil deposits if it was an independent state." I am not sure why that would be the case. Seems like they could easily get a better deal.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Commentary on a paper about the 2011 referendum...

I've been reading an interesting paper, "Referendum, Response and Consequences for Sudan: The Game between Juba and Khartoum" by Ibrahim Elbadawi, Gary Milante and Costantino Pischedda, part of the Development Research Group at the World Bank. I'll call the authors EMP for short from now on.

EMP start by using a simple model of strategic interaction to model the likely unfolding of actions after the referendum. Juba (representing the elite of the SPLM, the "deciders" of how the South should vote) first decides whether to secede. If they secede, then Khartoum (representing the NCP regime) decides on war or peace. Obviously the payoffs are crucial here. EMP assume that "under unity the expected payoff to Khartoum is tax revenue plus oil less military expenditures ... and the expected payoff to Juba is tax revenue plus oil less military expenditures ... In the event of partition and peaceful response from Khartoum, the expected payoff is simply tax revenues for Khartoum less military expenditures ... and tax and oil revenues for Juba less military expenditures..." In the event Khartoum goes to war, captures some of the oil revenue, and both sides bear losses proportional to their pre-referndum investments in military capacity.

Oddly, EMP don't model the game as explicitly starting with military investment, which temporally occus before the referendum. They refer to those investments as talking place in a "pre-game" period. (EMP report various estimates of military expenditures and suggest that these were on the order of $1 billion for the north and $500 million of the south, in 2007; the north's army, SAF, is on the order of 100,000 troops, while the army of the south, the SPLA, is about 30,000 troops, and both sides have alliances with informal and rebel fighting groups of sizes difficult to estimate.)

The analysis of the game is largely common-sense: both sides will invest heavily in the military pre-referendum, and the outcome of the referendum then depends on Juba's assessment of its military capacity relative to Khartoum. We did not need a model to understand that.

EMP then move to some asymmetric information scenario, and reasonably conclude that more information (census, resolution of Abyei boundary dispute, oil revenue transparency, etc.) would reduce the likelihood of conflict because if conflict is valued less than partition then they will be less likely to go to war. Of course, the analysis compares moving from lack of information to complete information, whereas in reality the extra information means moving from a situation of lots of asymmetric information to one with less asymmetric information, and where information that is revealed updates prior probabilities about the world. If priors suggested that war would be unwinnable, and more information revealed that war was more likely to be winnable, then the greater information could paradoxically increase the chances of war. But EMP do not consider this possibility.

The more interesting part of the paper comes next, when they take issue with the Collier et al proposition that elections are bad for peace in transitions from conflict and repression to greater political openness. EMP argue that it is likely that the planned 2009 elections (now scheduled for 2010) can lend legitimact to Khartoum, enabling it to credibly commit to lower military expenditures and hence a peaceful outcome from the referendum, possibly even unity. EMP note that the marginal effects on well-being outcomes are likely to be high if military spending is diverted to anti-poverty programs.

The paper concludes with a wish list of lots of good things that could make things better (more northern opposition party involvement and deal-making to give NCP a soft-landing to encourage democratization, a third referendum option of confederation, more efforts to increase integration between north and south, etc.), and reads more like one of those "people of good will" documents than "analysis".

Did you know...? Secession to be implemented immediately after announcement of results

That at least seems to be the implication of the Interim National Constitution, which in Part III, Chapter III, 69(2) says that the President, if from the South, "shall be deemed to have resigned" in the event that the vote for secession wins. Moreover, Part 17, clause 10, says that all parts of the Constitution dealing with the south "shall be deemed to have been duly repealed" if the referendum is favorable to secession. It seems then there is no interregnum, and all negotiations for secession would have to be completed in advance of the referendum, since once secession is voted for the two sides become sovereign immediately.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Resource based conflict or ethnic cleansing?

I've just finished reading a great working paper, "Ethnic cleansing or resource struggle in Darfur? An empirical analysis", by Ola Olsson and Eyerusalem Siba, both of University of Gothenburg, analyzing the patters of attacks in 2003-04 in Western Darfur. They use a dataset of all villages and nomadic settlements in the region, and find that there were many villages side by side, where one was attacked and one was not. The difference? the resource based conflict suggests the one attacked would be closer to water, etc, the ethnic cleansing one would suggest it would be a Fur/Masalit/Zaghawa village. The analysis of 530 villages, of which 327 were destroyed or abandoned, finds overwhelming evidence that the ethnic composition of the village mattered. Basically only the Fur/Masalit/Zaghawa villages were attacked and destroyed. Wow- great work by Olsson and Siba.

I did send to them one suggestion for further work. While the distance to nearest wadi is a good proxy for village resources, there are four others that might be relevant, and indeed might even be measurable with careful analysis of Google maps:
1) gum arabic gardens
2) tebeldi trees (baobab trees) - before boreholes these were important source of water, and many settlements sprang up and tended baobab for water storage; alternatively boreholes should be mappable, no?
3) wadi gardens with 10km of village (many anecdotes suggest that capturing villages where these fruit and vegetable gardens existed was a factor in pattern of assaults)
4) pasture - I wondered if merging the data with recent two decades of NDVI indicators might also prove fruitful in giving more nuance to patterns of attacks?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A report of wrongdoing...

Back in 2005, the AU force in Darfur received a letter from a Sudanese Armed Forces officer. Team 2A was sent to investigate. The no-longer confidential report is available here. The amazing conclusion? Someone attacked the lorry and wounded some passengers. The recommendation? More should be done to ensure the safety of passengers. Ladies Home Detective Agency this was not. What is interesting is the bureaucracy of the AU mission. This little incident report seems to have required the signatures of 5 officers to sign the "investigation", and then 7 officers (colonels, no less) to sign off on the investigation report. Maybe it's part of that "sweat the small stuff" approach to problem-solving.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A real genuine interest in peace

From the BBC:

The conference on Darfur that could now be cancelled was to bring together some 400 people from Darfur's diverse ethnic groups in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Pro-government groups as well as those close to Darfuri rebels were included.

Funded by Sudanese expatriate and telecoms entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, it also had the backing of the UN, the African Union and the Arab League.

But Mr Ibrahim told the BBC that the process is now being held up by the Sudanese authorities.

He said delegates were being harassed, their passports withdrawn and that some have been warned they were engaging in activities against the state.

Unless the Sudanese government gave its permission, the conference would have to be abandoned, he added.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When the divorce comes, how much should the South get?

Damien Helly reminds me of a paper by Ali Abdel Gadir Ali written back before the CPA...:
On the basis of the MDG on poverty section (II) presents the proposed analytical framework.
In a nutshell the idea behind the framework is that of minimizing poverty in a two region economy (South and North) by allocating a given total of resources between the two regions. With poverty summarized by the head count ratio the resulting allocation formula depends on a number of poverty magnitudes such as the head count ratios for the two regions, the growth elasticity of poverty in each region and the elasticity of the per capita expenditure of the South to that of the North.
I am not enamored by this kind of overly utilitarian approach; if the North is very effective at reducing poverty (because more people are close to the poverty line, or because poor people are more accessible- after displacement they are living in shantytowns or IDP camps, or because of a legacy of more administrative capacity), is it right that the North gets more poverty-reduction funding? My ethics sense says no.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ah, now we can relax after signing the peace deal

Incursion de rebelles: Ndjamena accuse Khartoum

par RFI

RFI: Article publié le 05/05/2009 Dernière mise à jour le 05/05/2009 à 14:15 TU

Le gouvernement de Ndjamena a accusé, ce mardi, le Soudan d’avoir lancé « plusieurs colonnes armées, avec des centaines de véhicules » contre le Tchad, en violation des accords, signés dimanche dernier à Doha, qui devaient réconcilier les deux Etats voisins. En février 2008, Khartoum avait déjà été accusée d’avoir appuyé les rebelles qui avaient déclenché une importante offensive en direction de Ndjamena dans le but de renverser le président Idriss Déby Itno. Dans une déclaration à la radio d’Etat, mardi matin, le ministre tchadien de la Communication, Mahamat Hissène, a souligné que le régime soudanais « en déclenchant cette agression programmée vient de renier la signature qu’il a apposé à Doha ». Pour sa part, le Soudan a affirmé qu’il n’a « aucun lien » avec cette offensive qui, selon Khartoum, concerne uniquement « l’armée tchadienne et les rebelles tchadiens ». Selon plusieurs sources au Tchad, les combats n’ont pas encore commencé.

More Mamdani: Big, Powerful, Save Darfur Imperialism, the Prototype

A Writer’s Violent End, and His Activist Legacy
Published: May 4, 2009
The New York Times

“I had a surprising call this week,” the author Richard North Patterson told the audience that had gathered last weekend as part of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. It was former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Patterson’s new novel, “Eclipse,” is based on the case of the Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Mr. Clinton spoke of a phone call he had made 14 years ago to Gen. Sani Abacha of Nigeria, asking him to spare Mr. Saro-Wiwa from the hangman.

Mr. Clinton said General Abacha “was very polite,” but “he was cold,” Mr. Patterson related. “Clinton took away from that, among other things, that oil and the need for oil on behalf of the West and other places made Abacha, in his mind, impervious.”

The event’s moderator, the Nigerian novelist Okey Ndibe, added an unexpected epilogue. A friend in the Abacha cabinet said the general later boasted: “All these pro-democracy activists run to America and expect America to save them. But the U.S. president himself is calling me ‘sir.’ He is scared of me.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

Abdullahi Ali Ibrahim is running for president of Sudan... al-Bashir: be afraid, very afraid!

I don't think Abdullahi stands a chance (I know him only very distantly, but have enjoyed his presence at various SSA meetings). But it's great to see him setting the example (see this fine profile). A Joseph Ki-Zerbo for Sudan? The quote at the end of the profile referring to Sankara though... a trifle ironic... Sankara immediately moved to squash Ki-Zerbo, who fled to Paris and spent a decade in exile!

Arbitration hearing... set for blast-off

Oral arguments are over, and very very soon the arbitration panel will render a decision on Abyei. You can hear the oral arguments, and read the legalese, at the Abyei website of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Should U.S. sanctions on Sudan be lifted?

This question is presumably something that the new administration is considering. The sanctions imposed in 1997 by President Clinton are very comprehensive in terms of limiting commercial involvement. Obviously humaitarian and development assistance have continued unabated. Al-bashir's expulsion of 13 large humanitarian organizations suggests that "entangling commercial alliances" create little leverage over Khartoum policy-making. These organizations had a large middle-class Sudanese professional staff, had wealthy Sudanese landlords for their headquarters in Khartoum, brought in tons of foreign exchange, etc. etc. Wishful thinking that commercial activity with "sweeten" the regime then should be dismissed.

So the relevant questions would be: (1) how much do sanctions hurt ordinary people; (2) what short-term benefit to the U.S. or its interests can be obtained with the carrot of lifting sanctions; (3) how can the deal be structured to be credible (i.e. Khartoum won't just walk away from the deal's commitments once the sanctions are lifted.

If current sanctions have little impact on ordinary people (because few other countries have qualms about commercial activity in Sudan), and in negotiations Khartoum offers nothing for the lifting of sanctions (because they are better negotiators and have no internal constituents pressing for the lifting), and our negotiators can't figure out a way to make an agreement credible (i.e. in the old days each side gave up a "hostage" to the other to make the agreement credible), then the lifting of sanctions is pure symbolism/spin. I hope it will be spun correctly.

But what if Khartoum really values the lifting of sanctions, either because some investors want to franchise McDonalds or Starbucks and make tons of money (America still sells very well, even after Abu Ghraib)? What should the U.S. ask for? Unfortunately so far I have no sense of U.S. administration policy towards Africa. So I'll venture three suggestions relevant to implementation of CPA. The U.S. was a guarantor of CPA, so the linking is relevant.
1) Formal, legal, big-deal acceptance of an Abyei boundary. This issue has to be resolved for a referendum to take place in 2011.
2) Availability online of census and electoral commission registries. Burkina Faso has online the voter rolls for the entire country, along with electoral outcomes. There is no reason Sudan could not do this. Electoral transparency is going to be key for peaceful transition in 2011.
3) Oil deals transparency. All oil deals should be made transparent and available online. The privacy concerns of the oil companies can be easily "purchased" by making future oil access conditional on current transparency. Paul Collier's team at Oxford should be able to figure out a way to implement this in short order. Again, how can a peaceful transition post-2011 happen if the division of the oil wealth is not transparent to the two sides and to outside mediators, let alone the general public?

Stop going after the easy targets, guys

Mamdani and de Waal's frontal attack on Darfur advocacy seems (correct me if I'm wrong) to treat the media's telegenic fave power friend Samantha Power with kid gloves. Mamdani has one dismissive sentence about Power in his book. De Waal also slammed her once on his blog, back in October 2008. But that seems to be it, in 2 years of blogging about Darfur. Interesting that they don't seem to think she merits attention, given that her single opinion right now is probably worth more in terms of action than Save Darfur's $48m budget.

Friday, May 1, 2009

More Mamdani obfuscation

This guy is too much. In an article in the Mail & Guardian from last month he summarizes his argument. A central part is a defense of al-Bashir agains the ICC.
The prosecutor's case
The prosecutor's application charged President al-Bashir with (a) polarising Darfuri tribes into two races (Arab and Zurga or Black), (b) waging a violent conflict (2003-2005) leading to the ethnic cleansing of Zurga ethnic groups from their traditional tribal lands, and (c) and planning the malnutrition, rape and torture of internally displaced persons (IDPs) so as to "slow death" in the camps -- a process that the prosecutor claimed went on from 2003 to the time the application was submitted in 2008.

But this was only one-third of the prosecutor's case, the genocide charge. The other two-thirds were the charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Mamdani acts as if those didn't even exist- he completely ignores them, even though at the time of writing he is well aware that those were the charges that the judges approved. So just to get it straight: his idea of a good opinion piece about the ICC is to problematize the charges that were dropped, and ignore the charges that were actually made! I sincerely hope al-Bashir defense team hires him to provide expert background for his case. Make it more likely he loses.