Tuesday, June 24

Worth reading: East Africa

  • Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga spoke at CSIS in Washington last week, and there's a mostly readable transcript, or a video for those of you with decent internet. I've been fairly impressed with Raila's public statements as prime minister (the content more than the delivery). Yes, he downplays the challenges the government faces and makes excuses for things like the high-paid hundred-member cabinet, in the interest of keeping together a dubious coalition. But he speaks fairly candidly about the elections, the post-election violence, ethnic and land tensions, etc - especially compared to Kibaki, who seems particularly fond of telling the country to "forget the past". Granted, not being the head of state, Raila has more liberty to speak out on things like Zimbabwe, which he does at length here (though he seems to sometimes go overboard in his efforts to ingratiate himself to his American hosts). Many progressive Kenyans say Raila has lost his reformist credibility after signing up to a business-as-usual government and for not doing more to curb the post-election violence. And it may be that after the election and its aftermath, he will remain too divisive a figure to recapture the enthusiasm he generated last year. But I think he's done fairly admirable job maintaining a semblance of credibility as a reformer while holding together a coalition that, given the circumstances, may have been the least-bad option.

  • Former NY Times foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer offers the best succinct description I've seen of the current tension in Rwanda between innovative development policies, good governance, and effective security on the one hand; and an extremely authoritarian regime and human rights problems on the other(LA Times).
  • Eliza Griswold profiles Roger Winter, a longtime advocate for the cause of the southern Sudanese who used to be the US special envoy for Sudan, and who now writes reports for the Enough project. There's also some good description of the dispute over Abyei, which is a good candidate to trigger the renewed north-south conflict that is looking more and more likely (NY Times).

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