- Early intervention by high profile negotiators and pressure from world leaders is key to resolving conflicts (incl. President Bush who played a critical role through his envoy Condoleezza Rice)
- A free media and technology are vital to a transparent democratic process
- Democracy matters in Africa
So finally there was some agreement on the road to PEACE for Kenya …
After 2 months of bitter violence and intense drama, Kenyans turned a corner — from Power-Grabbing to Power-Sharing, old-guard Mwai Kibaki and opposition aspirant Raila Odinga decided to bury the hatchet on February 28.
Interestingly enough, all credit goes to Mr. Kofi Annan who brought Kenya back from the brink of anarchy and despair. Annan, it seems understood how critical Kenya is to regional stability and the U.N mission in Africa — Kenya is a hub for peacekeepers to Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and is a key port for most of East and Central Africa. In the past, he has come under heavy criticism for the U.N’s lethargic response to Darfur and was determined not to let this one get away. To honor the ex-UN chief and to show their gratitude Rangers at the Ol Choro Oirogua Conservancy in the Maasai Mara reserve named their new-born rhinoceros Kofi Annan .
Kenyan’s all agree that this is a fragile peace and a number of concrete steps need to take place for there to be a lasting solution – nevertheless a new constitution diluting the powers of the president is a reasonable start.
On a lighter note, there are delayed New Years celebrations all throughout the Kenyan capital as most residents felt that their new year was tarnished by the unrest and had nothing to celebrate.
According to Om Malik and the WSJ:
Google is teaming up with Space Data Corp., a company that sends balloons carrying small (micro) base stations about 20 miles up in the air for providing connectivity to truckers and oil companies. The electronic payload is retrieved by farmers after it drifts back using a small parachute. The farmers do it because they get $100 per payload retrieved, WSJ says.Google believes balloons like these could radically change the economics of offering cellphone and Internet services in out-of-the-way areas, according to people familiar with its thinking.
If this is true, perhaps a similar low cost solution would do wonders to connect rural communities in the developing world. There is definitely a business case to bring down the cost of communication in Africa from fishermen in Tanzania to Farmers in India, to tele-medicine to education. Projects such as the much touted Africa ONE, aimed at connecting 32 countries, face too much bureaucracy to ever take off the ground and its time to rethink our approach.
Mobile communication is on the rise in much of Africa and South and Central Asia, but is generally restricted to the main grid and is prohibitively expensive. Investments by companies like Google and Space Data in localized communication technology, would greatly accelerate the integration of these communities to the Telecom grid.
As good friend worded it in a rare epiphany, “The last mile in telecommunications is just as important as the first”. Perhaps there are some solutions that already exist. Any ideas, people?
Interesting Fact: Africa is world’s fastest-growing cell phone market. From 1999 through 2004, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million, an average annual increase of 58 percent. By the end of the decade, that’s expected to double.
President Bush tours the Kigali Memorial Center in Rwanda, February 19th, 2008
President George W. Bush had a chance to reflect on his Africa policy at the Kigali Memorial Center in Rwanda – the site was built in memory of the 500,000 Tutsi who were massacred in the Rwandan Genocide over the course of 100 days – all this as the world stood by and failed to act. Mr Bush was on a grand 5 country Africa tour – from Benin, to Tanzania, to Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. This was only his second trip ever – his first trip to Africa was in 2003.
Recently the Bush administration, together with other world governments and the UN, have come under heavy criticism for their policies towards the Genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The current administration has ineffectively pushed for sanctions, coupled with some humanitarian aid to combat Sudan’s role – and has defended its policies towards Africa by citing efforts to end Kenya’s bloody political crisis to the war on HIV/AIDS.
The Darfur issue dwarfs Bush’s accomplishments in Africa – which have somewhat been a positive island in an otherwise roller-coaster foreign policy. The administration’s accomplishments include the Millennium Challenge Corp, which provides funding to countries that adhere to democratic principles and sound economic policies; to investing $15 billion over five years to fund the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR; to investing $1.2bn for a five-year campaign to lower malaria deaths in Africa.
One thing is clear – Mr. Bush’s trip highlights how eager the people are for a more proactive US policy towards Africa as posters for Obama08 greeted the president, first in Tanzania, then all throughout his trip wherever he went.
I generally make it a point to stay away from reviewing Bollywood flicks, but this particular movie deserves a mention. This weekend I had the opportunity to watch Taare Zameen Par, a wonderful movie about a gifted child who is also dyslexic
. It is directed by one of India’s most cerebral director/actors, Aamir Khan.
Taare Zameen Par, which literally translates to ‘Stars on Earth’, handles a sensitive topic with relative maturity – 10% of India’s child population faces some form of learning disability but they are mostly misdiagnosed as troublemakers, ‘dumb’ or ‘slow’ learners. Ishaan Avasthi, the young child, is rejected not only by his peers and his teachers, but also by his father… as a result he builds up a wall of resentment between himself and the world as a defense mechanism. All this before Aamir arrives as Nikhubh Sir, a substitute art teacher who recognizes the child true potential and coaxes him out of his shell.
For a country that is gripped by a feverish competitive spirit to excel, kids with learning disabilities generally fall out of our collective conscience. Aamir Khan does a great job in trying to educate the general public of what challenges these kids face daily and how a little selective attention could bring out the best in these kids.
All this makes me think that perhaps, while we were looking away, a certain segment of Bollywood matured from the stereotypical song and dance sequences to movies with a message that make us question the status quo and challenge our understanding of the world around us.