Thought for the day (via Tumblr)
- I’ve been paying more attention to North Korea ever since I picked up a copy of Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy a few years ago and found myself reading the entire thing in one sitting. Daniel Tudor & James Pearson’s North Korea Confidential picks up where Demick’s book ended and provides a fascinating update on the country. Here’s a representative section of the index.
John Githongo (source)
I’m quite behind the times on this, but in April, I had the chance to attend a dinner at Stanford for visiting scholar John Githongo. It was a fascinating chance to hear from a noted anti-corruption campaigner and insightful political analyst. His wife Mshai Mwangola also attended, and spoke about her activism with Ni Sisi! and work with the Africa Peacebuilding Network. Here are some of the main points I took away from the conversation with both of them.
On the future of the EAC:
- Githongo originally held strongly pan-African aspirations, and was hopeful about ECOMOG’s intervention intervention in Liberia. However, achieving the requisite level of coordination between states to make regional governance work is quite difficult
- The EAC is different to other regional organizations in that it’s the only one with a Parliament that can pass laws
- He’s optimistic that further economic integration between EAC countries will strengthen the alliance. However, coordination problems remain a challenge. At the time of his visit, the EAC wasn’t able to agree on a response to Nkurunziza’s attempts to seek a third term
On China in Africa:
- Chinese roads are bad in Angola but good in Ethiopia. The effects of Chinese investment depend on the relationship with the state and control of corruption
- The US has soft (cultural) power in Africa which China can’t match at present, although they are beginning to import new TV shows and music
- Most middle class families in Nairobi have at one member who’s spent some time in China
- There’s speculation that the Chinese peacekeeping troops in South Sudan are really there to protect their oil investments
On corruption (of course):
- Corruption can be a security threat — “why not steal from the road sector instead of law enforcement?”
- The idea of embezzling millions is too abstract to provoke popular discontent, but conspicuous consumption is looked down upon
- In Tanzania, Nyerere set an influential example of avoiding corruption
- However, there are limits to importing anti-corruption techniques from other countries. “If you put Kagame in the Kenyan context, it wouldn’t work — Kenyans are used to their freedoms”
On citizen activism:
- Mwangola runs a course on citizen activism, I believe through Ni Sisi. She pointed out that there are three main paths to change: reform (slow and incremental), transform (getting the middle class involved), or revolt (which rarely works)
- One important function of the course has been giving people a space to vent and organize
- As the media opens up, stand-up comedy is booming across Africa in response to continued political and economic crises
Olivia D’Aoust recently alerted me to the useful site JuriGlobe, which discusses legal regimes the world over, and also passed along a map she’d made based on their data. (Potential employers, she’s on the job market with a fascinating paper on electoral violence in Burundi – go hire her!)
What really strikes me here is how much variance there is in the recognition of customary law. Why does Togo use it when neighboring Benin doesn’t? Or Mozambique but not Angola? There’s no clear correlation with colonial heritage or the use of common vs. civil law otherwise.