Browsing articles in "Africa"
May 3, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Development first means giving into dictators

Helen Epstein has a great takedown on the development first crowd (i.e., economic development should come before democracy) in the current edition of the New York Review of Books. The subject of her article is Ethiopia, specifically focusing on President Meles Zelawi:

Meles’s Ethiopia is now the subject of an informal experiment to see whether “the big push” approach to African development will work. Its foreign aid receipts, which have tripled since 2000, amounted to some $3 billion in 2008, more than any other nation in sub-Saharan Africa…

Unfortunately, this aid is also subsidizing a regime that is rapidly becoming one of the most repressive and dictatorial on the continent.

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May 1, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Gaming the (electoral) system

Guest post from David Jandura, a student in the MA in Democracy and Governance Program. David takes a look at Sudan’s electoral system:

In the world of electoral system design, there are advantages and disadvantages to the many types of systems that exist.  It would probably be incorrect to say that any one system is “better” than another, because better is dependent upon what your priorities are.  One of the many advantages of a proportional representation, or PR system, for example, is that it does a relatively good job of ensuring that electors’ votes accurately translate into who is elected with less “wasted votes.” While it may be wrong to say which system is better, however, I don’t think it’s wrong to look at a system and question what its priorities are.  Sudan is a good case in point.  The nation claims to have a parallel system, which includes a significant amount of PR seats, yet the Sudanese have managed to create a PR tier that doesn’t actually deliver any of the advantages the system is designed to provide.

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Apr 30, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Life in Dar es Salaam

Great new posts on life in Dar es Salaam!

JSM at Politics, Society, and Things examines the incentives of dala dala (mini bus) drivers in Dar es Salaam:

The Drivers of the dala dalas in Dar have only one incentive; to make more than TZS 100,000.00 a day. Yes, that is the sum total a dala dala driver is required to bring to his boss – the owner of the those ubiquitous little traveling machines…The dala dala driver knows he must hand over that bottom line figure each day in order for him to keep his job.  So to him nothing else matters, regardless of the consequences he will always race, slow down, over take or block other cars in order for him (and always a male) to get the next passenger, or in his mind the next opportunity to top off that TZS 100,000 for his own income.

The incentives are more perverse for long-distance drivers: they get paid by how quickly they complete their routes. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of bus crashes in Tanzania.

Elise at The Mikocheni Report alerts us to a new trend in rigging elections in Tanzania, buying voter registration information:

I have a “friend” who came by today…

Her local councillor had dropped by the neighborhood sometime before Easter to encourage voters to sign up for a rather novel program. Basically, anyone who wrote down their name and voter registration number on his sign-up sheet would get a t-shirt and other freebies ‘when the time comes.’

Maisha Bora kwa Kila Mtanzania, indeed!*

Finally, Lindsay at Dispatches finds A Tale of Two Cities right under her nose:

Two sets of people in one city [Dar es Salaam], side by side practically, living different lives. One goes to eat and get her nails done and works out at places with generators, so most of the time, she isn’t even aware of how fragile the power supply is in this town. The other spends her nights in the dark. One treats herself to a 15,000 shilling sandwich and coffee at the sleek, urbane Kempinski hotel, and pays 10,000 shillings for the cab ride home. The other spends 1,500 shillings on a lunch of bananas and rice, and 200 for the dala dala home. One wears pretty scarves that she bought in New York. The other cleans them. One rents an apartment on Dar’s peninsula for $1,500 a month, while the other pays a kind of rent to the guy who “runs” the slum where her and her children live, except she doesn’t think of it as a slum.

From her blog, I believe that Lindsay works at the World Bank. Thus, her job is to work for a World Free of Poverty. Lindsay could have a productive conversation with Elise and JSM about the reasons she is fighting an uphill battle to achieve that objective in Tanzania.

*”Maisha Bora kwa Kila Mtanzania” means “A better life for Every Tanzanian” in Kiswahili. It was the slogan of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), in the 2005 election.

Apr 28, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

FY 2011 US D&G Funding

Freedom House has recently released its analysis of the Obama Administration’s FY 2011 budget request for D&G programs (which the US Government calls Governing Justly and Democratically). Overall, it is a pretty good picture, although there are some troubling signs. Continue reading »

Apr 27, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Failed argument

That “failed state” is a misleading term is a point that we have raised numerous times on this blog. Failed state does typically not mean anarchy, but failed modern sovereign state. To be cheeky, it means “why don’t you govern the way we [i.e., the developed world] want you to govern the boundaries we imposed on you without your consent?” To be cheeky and terse, it means “why don’t you govern the way the west wants you to govern?” Failed modern states often do provide security – hence making them a state in the theoretical sense – just in a different way than people with blue uniforms and badges. Their only failure is to live up to our expectations. Continue reading »

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Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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