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!