Category Archives: War & Peace

My heart’s with Ethan

 Chris Jordan, Cell Phones, 2007 (courtesy: http://www.chrisjordan.com/)

Ethan Zuckerman remains my No. 1 favourite blogger of all times, and given how much I struggle to update GlobaLab at least 2-3 times a week, while trying to work and retain a decent social life, I am in awe at his amazing prolificacy.

A quick browse at his last few entries would be enough to feed an average person’s brain for 6 months. Over the last few days, he’s been busy reporting from the PopTech conference, which he describes as “the annual three-day gathering of scientists, inventors, geeks, philosophers and thinkers in coastal Maine“. The event is a catwalk for amazing projects and ideas that are truly transforming the world. If you haven’t followed the event, you can read Ethan’s posts on some of the most interesting presentations, including (but there are more):

It took me good part of the day to read them all, and there are many more celebrity bloggers who reported from the event, including BoingBoing, Next Billion, and a few (but not many) non-English speaking bloggers.

If this isn’t enough for you, check out Ethan’s earlier post about a new initiative to fight counterfeit pharmaceuticals in Ghana (hopefully soon the whole of Africa), mPedigree, which will use mobile phones to track drugs from their original producers all the way to the pharmacy shelves, allowing each buyer in the chain to ensure that they’re dealing with a legitimate product. Or check out the entry in which he takes a good shot at unravelling the complex situation in Somalia, in response to the Onion’s eye-opening video Situation in Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex, a must see for all Africanists:

In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

What can I say? Ethan, you are my personal hero!!!

Coeur of darkness

 Bozize, Chirac, BFFE

The Independent’s Johann Hari writes a long overdue report on France’s secret involvement in the Central African Republic, the most forgotten and under-reported country of Africa.

This is classical, old-fashioned war-reporting and political journalism, an uncompromising indictment of France’s foreign policy in Central Africa (and Africa more generally), and a very uncomfortable read for those who still think *we* are the good ones, and *they* are the underdeveloped ones. Francewatcher will be pleased…

The end of Coca-Cola?

Arabic Coca Cola 

Dana Milbank writes a scathing report about yesterday’s press conference by the Sudanese ambassador to the US in response to President Bush’s new sanctions against his country, criticised as overdue by Human Rights Watch:

A dozen reporters, and a similar number of Sudanese Embassy officials, watched the ambassador for an hour as he shouted into the microphone and delivered a circular and rambling complaint about the injustice of U.S. sanctions. His fingers, fists and arms flew through the air, exposing the flashy gold watch on his wrist.

Dana goes on to dismiss the laughable idea that Sudan might halt its exports of gum arabic, hence depriving the world of a crucial component in the production of Coca-Cola:

What’s more, the good and peaceful leaders of Sudan were prepared to retaliate massively: they would cut off shipments of the emulsifier gum arabic, thereby depriving the world of cola. “I want you to know that the gum arabic which runs all the soft drinks all over the world, including the United States, mainly 80 percent is imported from my country,” the ambassador said after raising a bottle of Coca-Cola. A reporter asked if Sudan was threatening to “stop the export of gum arabic and bring down the Western world.” – “I can stop that gum arabic and all of us will have lost this,” Khartoum Karl warned anew, beckoning to the Coke bottle. “But I don’t want to go that way.”

Dana would probably laugh less if he realised that gum arabic is indeed a prime export of Sudan, which was responsible for 56% of the $90 million-worth world trade in 2000. The rest came from Chad and Nigeria, two countries which cannot be said to be the most peaceful in the world, and where production can be seriously hampered by local political upheavals and conflict too.

It is unlikely that Sudan will halt production altogether, since millions of its citizens depend directly or indirectly on this product. But there is no reason why we shouldn’t expect Sudan to retaliate against the US by dramatically increasing the price of the product, in very much the same fashion as OPEC did in 1973 thanks to its monopoly on oil production. Moreover, the protracted conflict in Darfur – one of the prime spots for the cultivation of gum arabic – is already seriously affecting exports, and price increases are a realistic expectation.

Since no one really knows the exact formula of Coca-Cola, except for its two top executives, Coke aficionados might rest in peace for the time being, especially since Wikipedia does not list gum arabic as one of the suspected ingredients. But should gum arabic be present in even little quantities – like in most soft drinks – expect to pay quite a lot more for your fizzy drink in the near future.

Salvos and skirmishes

Philip Wouwerman (Haarlem, 1619-1668) - Cavalry Battle in front of a Burning Mill 

World War E – the latest joint GlobaLab and SurfaceCut gadget to brave the world – is a very healthy baby, having screamed and kicked its way straight at the heart of several interesting conflict and technology-related issues. Topics covered so far include:

That’s only in a week. Brace for more soon!

And if it’s conflict theory you’re into, check out this video of Paul Collier‘s 2006 lecture at the Royal Economic Society on the causes and consequences of conflict in Africa. Excellent stuff.

Peace.

Chinese troops to Africa

Ornate gable ends of entrance to Chinese army barracks in Longzhou. 

The Washington Post writes about the decision by the Chinese Foreign Ministry to send a military engineering unit to help strengthen the overtaxed African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur:

[extract]

In recent weeks, the Darfur crisis has become particularly sensitive in China because of suggestions in the United States and Europe that people should boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics to demonstrate opposition to Chinese policies in Sudan. China, which has deep economic and military ties there, has been widely criticized for failing to bring strong pressure on the government to persuade it to accept a large force of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.

The ties include large oil purchases and extensive arms sales, which the human rights group Amnesty International charged recently have been continuing despite U.N. calls for an embargo. Jiang, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, declined to respond to questions about the Amnesty charges. But she said China’s arms sales to Sudan are strictly controlled, include only conventional weapons and do not violate U.N. regulations.

What implications for a Chinese military presence in Africa?

Is the US about to attack Iran?

Rolling Stone 

A number of on-line media have started getting over-excited about an imminent US attack on Iran. The story is not new to the Web. It has in fact been circulating for a number of months on both sides of the political spectrum, from the far right to the moderate left. It was deemed credible enough to be scrutinised by the Guardian back in September, which claimed amongst other things the following:

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon are opposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans. The sources said Mr Bush had not yet made a decision. The Bush administration insists the military build-up is not offensive but aimed at containing Iran and forcing it to make diplomatic concessions.

But today Indymedia.org has given us the actual date of the attack, basing its statement on reports in the Russian press:

The US military attack on Iran is now on track for 4 AM on April 6, writes the well-known Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov in the Moscow weekly “Argumenty Nedeli”. Uglanov cites Russian military experts close to the Russian General Staff for his account.

What made me initially doubt this might be the case was that the blogsphere seemed to have gone rather quiet on this matter, despite earlier moments of excitement when similar reports had appeared earlier in 2006. People like Jon Stolts on StopIranWar.com‘s blog has not been posting for almost 3 weeks, for example, perhaps too busy appearing on TV shows.

Then I came across this on The Daily Scare, reporting an article from This Can’t be Happening, and I became a little more concerned:

[…] there are new reports circulating now that an attack by US air and naval forces could come in early April, and this time, the oil traders are taking them seriously. On Tuesday, oil futures shot up $5/barrel to hit $68/barrel—quite a jump, and the highest price for oil since last September.

.

Reports say that traders were responding to rumors—unsubstantiated—that Iran had fired on an American ship in the Gulf, and no doubt also to the ongoing tensions over Iran’s capture and detention of 15 British sailors, whom it claims had illegally entered Iranian territorial waters.

.

Phil Flynn, a trader with Alaron Trading in Chicago, was quoted as saying that the oil market has been “on pins and needles” because of the tensions in the Persian Gulf between the US and Iran.

This is when I start wondering whether the markets know something we don’t know…

Update 30/03/07: Apparently, the German BUND has dropped considerably over the last few hours, so this means the markets still doesn’t believe a word of these rumours… Meanwhile, Debka cites US financial sources in Bahrain reporting on American investors in Bahrain advised to pack up business operations and leave

Face 2 Face Project

Face3FaceProject Main 

An extraordinary project, bringing together ordinary Israeli and Palestinian citizens in a journey rediscovery of their common humanity. Check it out. [via Patrick]

When we met in 2005, we decided to go together in the Middle-East to figure out why Palestinians and Israelis couldn’t find a way to get along together.

We then traveled across the Israeli and Palestinian cities without speaking much. Just looking to this world with amazement.

This holly place for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This tiny area where you can see mountains, sea, deserts and lakes, love and hate, hope and despair embedded together.

After a week, we had a conclusion with the same words: these people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families.

A religious covered woman has her twin sister on the other side. A farmer, a taxi driver, a teacher, has his twin brother in front of him. And he his endlessly fighting with him.

It’s obvious, but they don’t see that.

We must put them face to face. They will realize.

We want that, at last, everyone laughs and thinks when he sees the portrait of the other and his own portrait.

The Face2Face project is to make portraits of Palestinians and Israelis doing the same job and to post them face to face, in huge formats, in unavoidable places, on the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.

In a very sensitive context, we need to be clear.
We are in favor of a solution for which two countries, Israel and Palestine would live peacefully within safe and internationally recognized borders.

All the bilateral peace projects (Clinton/Taba, Ayalon/Nussibeh, Geneva Accords) are converging in the same direction. We can be optimistic.

We hope that this project will contribute to a better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

Today, “Face to face” is necessary.
Within a few years, we will come back for “Hand in hand”.

Face2FaceProject NGO workers

FACE2FACE

Lorsque nous nous sommes rencontrés en 2005, nous avons décidé d’aller ensemble au Proche-Orient pour essayer de comprendre pourquoi les Palestiniens et les Israéliens ne parvenaient pas à vivre ensemble.

Nous avons alors traversé les villes Palestiniennes et Israélienne sans beaucoup parler. En regardant simplement ce monde avec étonnement.

Ce lieu saint pour le Judaïsme, le Christianisme et l’Islam.
Cette région minuscule où l’on peut voir des montagnes, la mer, des déserts et des lacs, l’amour et la haine, l’espoir et le désespoir mélés ensemble.

Après une semaine, nous sommes arrivés à la même conclusion : ces gens se ressemblent, ils parlent presque la même langue, comme des frères jumeaux élevés dans des familles différentes.

Une religieuse couverte a sa soeur jumelle de l’autre coté. Un fermier, un chauffeur de taxi, un professeur, a son frère jumeau en face de lui. Et il combat sans fin contre lui.

C’est évident, mais ils ne le voient pas.

Nous devons les mettre face à face. Ils réaliseront.

Le projet Face2Face consiste à faire des portraits de Palestiniens et d’Israéliens faisant le même métier et de les coller face à face, dans des formats géants, à des endroits inévitables, du coté Israélien et Palestinien.

Nous voulons qu’enfin, chacun rie et réfléchisse en voyant le portrait de l’autre et son propre portrait.

Dans un contexte sensible, il faut être clair.
Nous sommes en faveur d’une solution dans laquelle deux Etats, Israël et la Palestine, vivraient en paix à l’intérieur de frontières sures et internationalement reconnues.

Tous les projets de paix discutés (Clinton/Taba, Ayalon/Nussibeh, Accords de Genève) convergent dans la même direction. Nous pouvons donc être optimistes.

Nous souhaitons que ce projet puisse contribuer à une meilleure compréhension entre Israéliens et Palestiniens.

Aujourd’hui, « Face2Face » est nécessaire.
Dans quelques années, nous
reviendront pour « Hand in Hand ».

Face2FaceProject Market

Face2Face Project Road