I have published the first part of a two-part review of Patrick Chabal’s Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling, on the African Arguments website. The first part is a general review of Bayart’s book, focusing on his treatment of patronage and clientelism. The second part will seek to explore the relevance of the analysis to Sudan.
This is the first in a two-part review of Patrick Chabal’s book, Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling . Part one is a general review, part two applies the account to a part of the continent that the author neglects, namely Ethiopia and the Sahelian-Sudanic states, including Sudan itself. Chabal’s book is an essay more than a monograph, its aim is insight rather than theoretical argument or empirical demonstration. In this is succeeds superbly. The essay is a provocation and a perspective, the kind of book that only a scholar with a career’s experience can write. It is replete with straw men and gross generalizations, and Africanist political science is repeatedly caricatured. The book’s title is also somewhat misleading as there is not much about smiling, nor indeed suffering. It is more about what it means to be an ethical ruler in Africa, drawing upon the moral archive of pre-colonial socio-political systems. Central to this approach, more common among Francophone political scientists, emphasizes what Africa is rather than how it falls short of what it ‘ought’ to be according to an external normative matrix. On issues such as corruption, rent, and democracy, Chabal excoriates the political science approach (implicitly, […]
The AUPD Report includes an Appendix that compiles the existing data for violent fatalities in Darfur from 1 January 2008 until 31 July 2009. As many people have not read that part of the report (pages 107-115), it is excerpted and reproduced here: AUPD Annex B fatalities in Darfur Some assistance may be helpful in reading the table on page 13, which contains numbers based on the identities the perpetrators and victims when they could be ascertained. The categories are ‘Regular Forces’ (including the army, police, Popular Defence Forces, etc.), ‘Irregular Forces’ (pro-government militia), ‘Signatory Movements’ (SLA-Minawi and SLA-Free Will), ‘Non-signatory Movements’ (JEM, SLA-Abdel Wahid, etc.), ‘Tribes’ (tribal militia, coded this way when fighting other tribal militia), ‘Bandits’ and ‘Civilians.’ To find out who was killed by (for example) the signatory movements, read the row with ‘Signatory Movements’ on the left and read across: they killed 8 soldiers and policemen, 9 militiamen, 48 members of signatory movements (this was mainly SLA-Minawi fighting SLA-Free Will), 12 members of the non-signatory movements, and 203 civilians. To find out who killed (for example) civilians, take the column headed ‘Civilians’ and read down: 131 civilians were killed by the regular forces, 85 by militia, […]
In most areas of public policy, gathering and analyzing evidence for the nature of the problem and the efficacy of response is a sine qua non for designing and implementing programs. The statistical analysis of disease patterns is the basis for public health policies and the discipline of epidemiology. Police services routinely gather and analyze crime data in order to decide where, when and how to deploy their officers and assets. The military officers commanding counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan similarly examine data-sets for the kinds of incidents they face, and their spatial and temporal trends. In business this kind of data collection and use can make the difference between profit and bankruptcy. Evidence is rarely clear cut. There are often multiple interpretations for trends. And there can be a tyranny of statistical accounting, which fails to capture important elements that are not being measured. Nonetheless, a commitment to evidence-based policymaking requires a commitment to taking evidence seriously. International peacekeeping operations are one of the last bastions that have yet to yield to evidence-based planning and assessment. The classic form of peacekeeping, as an extension of inter-state diplomacy, emphasized discretion and the cooperation and confidence of the parties to the conflict, […]
In the last month Sudan’s Government has forfeited the title ‘of National Unity.’ Cooperation between the NCP and SPLM hardly exists even in name. This week poses an important test of whether it warrants the name ‘Government’ at all. Sudan long ago failed many of the basic tests of governance. It doesn’t possess a monopoly on the use of force, doesn’t command the allegiance of large sections of its citizenry. But one test that it usually meets is paying the salaries of civil servants for the most important Muslim holiday, the Eid al Adha. This year the Eid falls at the end of this week, probably on Friday 27th. Muslims are expected to buy and slaughter a sheep. When the Eid falls towards the end of the month, established practice is for employers to pay salaries early so that employees can have cash in hand for the holiday. This year, the government hasn’t yet met this obligation. It seems to have run out of cash itself. This shortcoming is all the more striking when we note what has happened to public spending since the CPA. Due to the oil boom, all components of expenditure were expanding between 2000 and 2008. […]
Alex de Waal’s Christian Michelsen lecture, ‘Fixing the Political Marketplace,’ given last month in Bergen, Norway, is now available online at this link. His article ‘The Price of Peace’ in Prospect magazine can be accessed here.
These days’ mood in Khartoum is a mixture of disillusionment, suspicion and fear: not the best feelings for a country which finds itself at a crucial moment to determine its future. Amidst a growing anxiety, the different actors involved on the political scene seem to be affected by a form of paralysis: they are not willing to act, instead, they prefer to wait-and-see and then react. It is a war of positions in which the aim is to burden on the other’s back what is perceived as in imminent failure. Since July 2005, both the NCP and the SPLM/A have given the impression to run on parallel binaries, each one pursuing its own agenda while trying to manage its internal divisions. Nonetheless, they were conscious to be traveling on the same train and they knew that if it had derailed, it would have meant the end of the ride for both. This is the reason why, maybe beyond expectations, the NCP and the SPLM/A managed during the last years to overcome all the obstacles that threatened to put at risk the implementation of the CPA. At present, it seems that each one is planning to step down at a different […]
According to the reports received by UNAMID, there were 67 deaths directly attributable to violence in Darfur during October. This figure is subject to the usual caveats, which is that UNAMID access is uneven. In some places UNAMID patrols have been turned back by security officers, for example when investigating inter-tribal clashes in south-east Darfur. In other locations cooperation between UNAMID and the local authorities and commanders has improved. Relations between UNAMID and SLA-Abdel Wahid remain poor. (However, the fatality figure is derived from 176 incident reports, received through diverse routes–it is not the number observed or investigated by UNAMID only.) Twenty one people were killed in fighting between Zaghawa and Birgid militia around the Muhajiriya area, the single largest cause of violent deaths. Ten others died in conflict-related violence, 31 in criminal violence, and five in accidents. There were eight successful carjackings and one thwarted attempt. This is a decline from September but it is as yet unclear whether it is a random fluctuation or whether it reflects UNAMID restrictions on travel. Reporting of sexual violence is certainly incomplete. Nine incidents involving seventeen victims were reported. Most of these were from locations under the control of the army and […]
The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) has announced that it intends to establish a news agency that will cover areas of the south starved of mainstream media coverage . The idea for establishing the News Agency of South Sudan (NASS) was endorsed at a cabinet meeting chaired by President Salva Kiir at the end of October. NASS is envisaged as an agency that will replace the Sudan News Agency (SUNA), managed by the government in Khartoum. Overall, it is also seen as a vehicle for consolidating free expression in South Sudan. Southern Sudanese nationalists and proponents of media plurality and free expression are likely to welcome this announcement because it contains promises to fund the training of journalists and wean the Southern public of the services of the Sudan News Agency (SUNA), which is largely seen as a mouth-piece of the Khartoum government. But regardless of the grandiose statement affirming free expression, two troubling issues come to mind regarding the intended news agency. First, the news agency will purportedly “support news and information programming at public and private domestic media outlets” in South Sudan. Secondly, the ministry of information and broadcasting will be tasked with developing and managing the news […]
It is frequently heard that Arabs/Muslims and their media were silent, unmoved or without opinion over Darfur. These suppositions tend to contain a measure of moral equivalence and finger-pointing, suggesting that responding as a Westerner — regardless of the quality, timing or efficacy of response — is the most correct option. In most conceptions, there is only limited possibility of dialogue imagined for the Western and Arab media narratives on Darfur. Rather than tackling this issue of moral equivalence, this post will examine whether ‘silence’, ‘unmoved’ or ‘without opinion’ are fair descriptions of the Arab media response to Darfur, while maintaining that exoneration or incrimination of the Arab media performance over Darfur are not envisaged aims. The piece will also suggest that in addition, a fair appraisal of the quality and efficacy of the Western response is needed. In a previous post, I wrote about how the Western media were late in cottoning on to the conflict in Darfur, and that NGOs and activists had to overcome a good degree of editorial resistance before the mainstream media would run another African conflict story. I will contain this analysis to the year or so before the Western media responded to a […]