/ 'Africans don't do democracy'

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KTT on 02 May 2012 - client-86-25-237-202.mcr-bng-012.adsl.virginmedia.net
I was out on a job today with a colleague and as I was driving I put the radio on and listened to the news, anyway after the end my collegaue who is shall we say not the brightest (ex squaddie but handy to have around if things let a little spicy) made the comment above ad while it's not the most PC way of putting it he does have a point.

Other than Mandela I can't think of one African or Arab leader who has stood down (although I'm sure there must be one more).

The real question is why, is it just too soon to move from primitive and tribal societies to democracy?
Gob_Stopper on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT: There are numerous other African countries with a democratic process, though admittedly some of these are accused of being rigged. With the poverty, desperation and corruption that exists across Africa it is hardly surprising that getting food to eat, or a roof over their heads often comes before establishing a democratic process. The people at the top who are very happy in a kushty number are hardly going to take the initiative.
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

Nyerere in Tanzania and Kaunda in Zambia, probably others. There are a number of functioning democracies in Africa these days.
Dave Williams - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

I'd add Namibia to that list too.
Fraser on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

Do tell us...is ignorance really bliss?
Eric9Points - on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

No doubt you would rather saw off your own genitals with a rusty hacksaw but I suggest you read Chris Mullin's diaries, "A view from the Foothills".

During his time in government he spent a couple of years as a junior minister in the foreign office with responsibility for Africa. A more humane and understanding man you could not meet and someone who had taken an interest in the lot of those from under developed countries for most of his life.

Anyway after a while dealing with struggling African governments I'm afraid he came to the conclusion that the problem with Africa stemmed from a lack of good governance more than anything else. You might also want to listen to this song by High Masakela, he's gopt some rather unkind things to say about African leaders.

Many of the countries that are deepest in the mire aren't particularly democratic. Their leaders are crooks though.
gd303uk - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to KTT)

>
> Many of the countries that are deepest in the mire aren't particularly democratic. Their leaders are crooks though.

a bit like ours then ;)
Eric9Points - on 02 May 2012
In reply to gd303uk:

Not even close.

Check this out: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vice.com%2Fthe-vice-guide-to-travel%2Fthe-vice-guid...

(with thanks to Dauphin for posting the original link)
coinneach - on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT:


anyway after the end my collegaue who is shall we say not the brightest


HELLO !!!!

Pot calling kettle..........

Colour check, colour check...................
Scrump - on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT:
Since your not sure, yes its not even slightly ok to say that anymore. As your your question. I think the colonial era knocked quite a lot of africa pretty badly to put it mildly. I would also strongly recomend reading guns germs and steal. To paraphrase, its nothing to do with race and everything to do with geography.
AdrianC - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Eric9Points: Martin Meredith's book The Fate of Africa comes to similar conclusions. A fascinating if not exactly uplifting book.
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to KTT)
>

>
> Anyway after a while dealing with struggling African governments I'm afraid he came to the conclusion that the problem with Africa stemmed from a lack of good governance more than anything else.
>
>
When Tanzania gained independence in 1961 it had a total of 120 university graduates, 2 lawyers and 2 engineers. It was probably better equipped than most.

It is hardly surprising that with so few of the basic skills to govern a country the countries were poorly governed. The problem then becomes a vicious circle. If the only decent jobs are in the State sector then the few who get them have to support their extended families and to do so need to exploit the system etc etc. Breaking out of that is hard.
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT:
>
> The real question is why, is it just too soon to move from primitive and tribal societies to democracy?

please expand your thesis..
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to KTT)
> [...]
>
> please expand your thesis..

It took the uk 800 years or so to get from a rudimentary parliament to a fairly dubious parliamentary democracy. Most African have had about fifty years.

funsized on 02 May 2012
> The real question is why, is it just too soon to move from primitive and tribal societies to democracy?

My god, I have seen some A-Grade internet-drivel on this site but this is exquisite tripe of the highest order. Where on earth to start with this comment.

You know what, start by reading Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' and we will go from there eh?

subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: and how much have we learned?
Rob Exile Ward on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT: At a guess, you've never been to Africa or met any of the people trying to create functioning democracies out of what was, frankly, a bit of a post colonial mess?
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) and how much have we learned?

A huge amount. Which of course is not to say we've forgotten much of it and have a lot to learn. Put it this way: would you rather live in Liberia?
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to funsized: yeah pmp and kmt (and the most ukcers) are really on a different world- that means we really don't have much hope as a species:(
David Hooper - on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine: with exceptions like KTT,I get the impression that UKC regular posters are quite a well read,thoughtful and compassionate bunch.
ads.ukclimbing.com
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: so what are you doing to harm?
Eric9Points - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Eric9Points)
> [...]
>

> It is hardly surprising that with so few of the basic skills to govern a country the countries were poorly governed. The problem then becomes a vicious circle. If the only decent jobs are in the State sector then the few who get them have to support their extended families and to do so need to exploit the system etc etc. Breaking out of that is hard.

Yes indeed but I think that's roughly where Chris Mullen started from. I can't find the book at the moment but IIRC his epiphany came while walking around some filthy capital early one morning and realising that it wasn't a lack of money or education that stopped the city fathers from keeping the streets clean but a simple lack of interest.

Further having few technocrats in a country doesn't automatically mean the the leaders (who are often well educated) are compelled to steal their country's assets or murder those who are critical of them. I think someone has just pointed out that Ghana can be regarded as a well governed democracy. Was it particularly well blessed when it became independent or is there some other reason?
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to David Hooper: i think most ukcers are probably doing more harm than good..
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to funsized) yeah pmp and kmt (and the most ukcers) are really on a different world- that means we really don't have much hope as a species:(

I am not agreeing with ktt. I am simply offering a few passing ithoughts on some of Africa's problems. You should try it sometime.
Dave Garnett - on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT:
>
> Other than Mandela I can't think of one African or Arab leader who has stood down (although I'm sure there must be one more).
>
Most famously, Kenneth Kaunda did in Zambia and I think Nyere did in Kenya.
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>

>
> Further having few technocrats in a country doesn't automatically mean the the leaders (who are often well educated) are compelled to steal their country's assets or murder those who are critical of them. I think someone has just pointed out that Ghana can be regarded as a well governed democracy. Was it particularly well blessed when it became independent or is there some other reason?

Lots of raw materials but so has the DRC! I'm not sure but I think the end of old war support for stable but corrupt leaders has allowed democracy, with it's implicit instability, to benefit.

subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: it's no good passing thoughts if you don't do anything about it...
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) it's no good passing thoughts if you don't do anything about it...

You know nothing about what aim or am not doing about it and I intend to keep it that way.
I would suggest that trying to understand it better might be worthwhile for you.

Eric9Points - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Neither of which do particularly well in this survey of how "good" each country in the world is. Scroll down to the bottom of the list and sadly that's where you'll find most African countries.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/08/15/interactive-infographic-of-the-worlds-best-countrie...

subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
>
> You know nothing about what aim or am not doing about it and I intend to keep it that way.

quite..
In reply to Dave Garnett: What's the name of the (Ethiopian?) telcom millionaire who launched that prize of some considerable amount of money for African leaders who leave office peacefully on losing elections? It has been paid a couple of times IIRC. A depressing idea that it is needed, but an interesting one non the less.
Blunderbuss - on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) it's no good passing thoughts if you don't do anything about it...

What are you doing about your idea to improve this country by booting out immigrants?
Dave Garnett - on 02 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

The Mo Ibrahim Prize ($5 million) is for an African leader who is elected, rules well and steps down when his term ends. Unawarded for the past two years for lack of candidates, it went this year to the former President of Cape Verde, Pedro Verona Pires.

http://www.royalafricansociety.org/component/content/article/973.html
Bruce Hooker - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> It is hardly surprising that with so few of the basic skills to govern a country the countries were poorly governed.

For once I agree completely with you, at independence the situation that ex colonies were left in was so bad it's hardly surprising they struggled. On the other hand the problems of corruption have made progress very difficult since, and in cases of corruption it's also the one doing the corrupting who must share the blame.

Having said that, Africa is a mess, what should be the richest continent of the world is the poorest. I don't know what the answer is but an African friend told me once that what Africans really wanted was to be left alone, that the ex-colonial countries stop interfering every time a government came to power which didn't suit their interests.
Dave Garnett - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Dave Garnett:

Googling a bit more, previous winners were Chissano (Mozambique, stepped down in 2004 after two elected terms; and Mogae (Botswana, stepped down after two terms in 2008).
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Blunderbuss:
> (In reply to subalpine)
> [...]
>
> What are you doing about your idea to improve this country by booting out immigrants
i'm allowing immigrants to enter willy nilly by inaction, sorry but it's beyond my control, unlike some other people here..
Blunderbuss - on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> (In reply to Blunderbuss)
> [...]
> i'm allowing immigrants to enter willy nilly by inaction, sorry but it's beyond my control, unlike some other people here..


Inaction you say.

So nothing beyond spouting thoughts on the net, which is what you are criticising others for.

Thought as much.
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> Having said that, Africa is a mess, what should be the richest continent of the world is the poorest. I don't know what the answer is but an African friend told me once that what Africans really wanted was to be left alone, that the ex-colonial countries stop interfering every time a government came to power which didn't suit their interests.

Probably true but That was primarily a cold war phenomenon which has thankfully subsided.
There are lot of tentative signs g.botswana,Ghana that corners are being turned.

Read "Dead Aid". Interesting polemic arguing that trillions of dollars of aid have done more harm than good, primarily by creating dependency and sustaining corruption. Maybe exaggerates the case but quite compelling.


subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Blunderbuss: actions speak louder than words, but you won't hear any actions on this forum- they are hidden..
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine:
> they are hidden..

by money...

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Blunderbuss - on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine:

Is this some sort of mini-puzzle where I meant to decipher WTF you are on about?
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Blunderbuss: so how exactly are you helping the world with your job? (just an an example, not personal)
Bruce Hooker - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

France still interferes on a regular basis in Africa and has troops stationed there, partly because of the dependence of the country on nuclear power for electricity generation and the need for uranium that this leads to.
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> France still interferes on a regular basis in Africa and has troops stationed there, partly because of the dependence of the country on nuclear power for electricity generation and the need for uranium that this leads to.

French exceptional ism :-)

David Hooper - on 02 May 2012
In reply to subalpine: before I got ill,I was to a small extent helping developing countries through my job - something I greatly miss.

PS You are sitting in on your own and drinking again aren't you. You do yourself and your "causes"no favours when you are in this state.
Rob Exile Ward on 02 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: 'primarily by creating dependency and sustaining corruption.' Apart from beleiveing that to be true, I have seen that with my own eyes.

I was working with a charity in Sierra Leone providing eyecare. A local lad in Freetown started a private enterprise dispensing specs - an opticians, by any other name. He was perfectly OK. But because he tried to make a modest profit - which to me was a way of creating a sustainable service - he was considered non grata by the charity.
Postmanpat on 02 May 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) 'primarily by creating dependency and sustaining corruption.' Apart from beleiveing that to be true, I have seen that with my own eyes.
>
> I was working with a charity in Sierra Leone providing eyecare. A local lad in Freetown started a private enterprise dispensing specs - an opticians, by any other name. He was perfectly OK. But because he tried to make a modest profit - which to me was a way of creating a sustainable service - he was considered non grata by the charity.


On a bigger scale donations of old clothes have wiped out local tailoring businesses.
Also NGOs offer one of the few "well" paid alternatives to the State so suck up potential entrepreneurial talent.
David Hooper - on 02 May 2012
In reply to KTT: oh and in reply to your utterly stupid "darkie" question,try putting it into the title of this well known UKC thread and see how it sounds to you.

"Darkie Outdoor Instructor Endures Racist Hate Campaign"

Does that sound good,or evn remotely funny? Idiot!!!
Sir Chasm - on 02 May 2012
In reply to David Hooper: Threads work much better if you at least read the first post. These "" are used to indicate that you're quoting. Of course he may just be a racist, in which case carry on frothing.
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to David Hooper:
> PS You are sitting in on your own and drinking again aren't you. You do yourself and your "causes"no favours when you are in this state.

lol- thanks for your support, but i don't need any help from you and my state needs to be expressed otherwise we're all gonna die!!

David Hooper - on 02 May 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm: ah I see what you mean. He was referring to his debt collectors, ex squaddie "muscle" using the term. My misunderstanding for which I apologise. I was a bit surprised because although KTT comes across as thoroughly unpleasant,he usually does speak out against racism.
subalpine - on 02 May 2012
In reply to David Hooper: KTT is a banker..
Morgan Woods - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to gd303uk)
>
> Not even close.
>
> Check this out: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vice.com%2Fthe-vice-guide-to-travel%2Fthe-vice-guid...
>
> (with thanks to Dauphin for posting the original link)

geez....what an eye opener!
Lurking Dave - on 03 May 2012
In reply to KTT: Good article. And on topic :-)

http://www.economist.com/node/21551494

Cheers
LD
Al Evans on 03 May 2012
In reply to Lurking Dave: They are all very young countries, what works for us doesn't yet work for them. Did you realise than no woman in England was awarded a degree until 1920, because it was not legal for women to have degrees.
Trangia - on 03 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

In South Africa I was once in a discussion with a bunch of Afrikaners who very much held this view. They believed that the Black African mind cannot grasp the concept of democracy, and in particular the concept of having a government with an opposition as we know it.

After generations going back thousands of years the concept of autocracy by tribal chiefs is firmly embedded in the black African mind and an opposition is just that, not a balancing or restraining voice to government, but a force to be destroyed, literally, so as to further the power of the autocrat.

But this same group then went on to solemnly explain to me that Black Africans, and to some extent, Coloureds cannot judge distance and speed in the same way that Whites can, which explains why so many get knocked down and killed when trying to run across motorways that cut though informal settlements....
Lurking Dave - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Al Evans: Sophie Bryant - B.A. (1878), D.Sc. (1881), both awarded by the University of London.

That argument is way too simplistic.

LD
Enty - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Morgan Woods:

In reply to Eric9Points:
> (In reply to gd303uk)
>
> Not even close.
>
>
> (with thanks to Dauphin for posting the original link)

geez....what an eye opener!

Yep - that's Enty's summer holiday booked.

E
bradholmes - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Trangia:
> (In reply to KTT)
>
> In South Africa I was once in a discussion with a bunch of Afrikaners who very much held this view. They believed that the Black African mind cannot grasp the concept of democracy, and in particular the concept of having a government with an opposition as we know it.


Funny how they never put it down to the fact that they denied an entire generation of non-white South Africans an education. I can remember the first day a black child was allowed to join our school, about two thirds of parents kept their kids home as a protest. Disgraceful day. Sweet girl too and she turned out to be bloody clever, that annoyed the afrikaaners even more..........
Thelongcon - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

>
> It took the uk 800 years or so to get from a rudimentary parliament to a fairly dubious parliamentary democracy.

King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king...

Dennis: Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Bruce Hooker - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Al Evans:

Women only got the vote in France in 1945 - and that was only because it had been decided by the largely communist resistance in the final stages of the war.
Bob Hughes - on 03 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

So far we have:
Botswana
Ghana
Namibia
Nyerere in Tanzania
Kaunda in Zambia

and I'd add Senegal (Wade just stepped down a couple of weeks ago after 12 years in office)
Trangia - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Bob Hughes:

and South Africa
doz generale - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to subalpine)
> [...]
>
> It took the uk 800 years or so to get from a rudimentary parliament to a fairly dubious parliamentary democracy. Most African have had about fifty years.

We are not a true democracy though so comparing us fully democratic nations is silly.

Botswana is an example of a fully functioning african democracy with a successful growing ecconomy.
Postmanpat on 03 May 2012
In reply to doz generale:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> We are not a true democracy though so comparing us fully democratic nations is silly.
>
I didn't. As a matter of interest what would you classify as a "fully democratic nation"?
Mike Stretford - on 03 May 2012
In reply to doz generale: I think the Postman summed it up pretty well in the text you quoted.
Sir Chasm - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: He's told you, Botswana.
Lord of Starkness - on 03 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

In 1997 I worked in the UAE for company owned by an Indian national. My boss was reasonably well educated - but very commercially astute - and had worked his way up from being a junior clerk in a shipping company in Dubai to owning and running a multi million pound engineering and manufacturing company.

It was the time of India's 50th anniversary of independence. My boss's elder brother (who was ex Indian army) made the comment that even after 50 years of independence the country was more corrupt than it had been under British rule, and that the poor were even more exploited whilst the rich elite grew even wealthier.
Frank4short - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to doz generale)
> [...]
> I didn't. As a matter of interest what would you classify as a "fully democratic nation"?

Possibly because you've got an unelected monarch as your head of head of state as opposed to a republic with an elected head of state.
Postmanpat on 03 May 2012
In reply to Frank4short:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>
> Possibly because you've got an unelected monarch as your head of head of state as opposed to a republic with an elected head of state.

Possibly what?

Postmanpat on 03 May 2012
In reply to Sir Chasm:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) He's told you, Botswana.

I see.

Frank4short - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat: The reason that Doz Generale doesn't think that the UK is a true democracy. At least that's what I imagine he's talking about considering in the past he's expressed republican/anti monarchist opinions.
doz generale - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to doz generale)
> [...]
> I didn't. As a matter of interest what would you classify as a "fully democratic nation"?

A nation that has a fully elected administration.

As long as we have an upper house whos members are appointed undemocratically or are there through birthright we can't say that we are a full and proper democracy.

Postmanpat on 03 May 2012
In reply to doz generale and frankshort:
>
> [...]
>
> A nation that has a fully elected administration.
>
> As long as we have an upper house whos members are appointed undemocratically or are there through birthright we can't say that we are a full and proper democracy.

When I described the UK as being a "dubious parliamentary democracy" did you interpret that as "the UK has a full and proper democracy"?

Very odd if you did. My point was that after 800 years of sometimes violent history the UK still has a very imperfect democracy )which in my personal views has recently regressed rather than progressed).

It is therefore a stretch to think that African countries will achieve full democracy in fifty years. Botswana's democracy is remarkable achievement and example.

doz generale - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to doz generale and frankshort)
> [...]
>
> When I described the UK as being a "dubious parliamentary democracy" did you interpret that as "the UK has a full and proper democracy"?

I did! sorry, i see what you mean.
>
> Very odd if you did. My point was that after 800 years of sometimes violent history the UK still has a very imperfect democracy )which in my personal views has recently regressed rather than progressed).

I agree! shocker!
>
> It is therefore a stretch to think that African countries will achieve full democracy in fifty years. Botswana's democracy is remarkable achievement and example.

It certainly is.
Morgan Woods - on 03 May 2012
In reply to doz generale:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
> [...]
>

> As long as we have an upper house whos members are appointed undemocratically or are there through birthright we can't say that we are a full and proper democracy.

Substitute Brussels for upper house and you might be on to something.
MG - on 03 May 2012
In reply to doz generale:
tion that has a fully elected administration.
>
> As long as we have an upper house whos members are appointed undemocratically or are there through birthright we can't say that we are a full and proper democracy.

While strictly correct, that is pretty pedantic view of whether we are a democracy. Freedom of expression, rule of law, free elections at all levels of government, freedom of religion, etc, etc, all point to a pretty "full and proper" democratic state. Not perfect, but getting hung up on the monarchy and few remaining hereditary peers is rather missing the point.
doz generale - on 03 May 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to doz generale)
> tion that has a fully elected administration.
> [...]
>
> While strictly correct, that is pretty pedantic view of whether we are a democracy. Freedom of expression, rule of law, free elections at all levels of government, freedom of religion, etc, etc, all point to a pretty "full and proper" democratic state. Not perfect, but getting hung up on the monarchy and few remaining hereditary peers is rather missing the point.


Free elections at all levels of government? The upper house is mostly made up of appointed, not elected members, there are over 780 members ( more then the house of commons). there are 92 hereditary peers and 27 from the church. If you think of the govermnet as both houses we have more unelected members then elected members!
Postmanpat on 03 May 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to doz generale)
> tion that has a fully elected administration.
> [...]
>
> While strictly correct, that is pretty pedantic view of whether we are a democracy.

We're getting off topic but apart from the dogs breakfast that is the HofL my major reservation would be the "powers under the crown" of the PM which in effect gives the PM regal powers for five years. Combine that with the lack of any constitutional protection for the concept of cabinet government and a party and whipping system that denies backbenchers any real power and you have seriously undermined democracy.

And that's before you factor in the EU which seems to account for between 30 and 70% of our laws which, whatever its theoretical powers, are seldom properly reviewed by parliament.

And that's before we you factor in a questionable first past the post system, unbalanced constituency boundaries, questionable financing of political parties and dodgy postal voting practices.

Now,must go and tick Monster Raving Looney at the polling booth.

GrahamD - on 03 May 2012
In reply to MG:

'Proper Democracy' is not the same as majority vote or popular rule for sure, encompassing as it does recognition of minority interests.
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MG - on 03 May 2012
In reply to doz generale:
> (In reply to MG)
> [...]
>
>
> Free elections at all levels of government? The upper house is mostly made up of appointed, not elected members, there are over 780 members ( more then the house of commons). there are 92 hereditary peers and 27 from the church.

As I said I am not particularly defending that. However, as a defect in a democracy it is pretty small when considered as part of the whole. Certainly we are much more democratic than many countries without Lords and Monarchies.
Bruce Hooker - on 03 May 2012
In reply to doz generale:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> As long as we have an upper house whos members are appointed undemocratically or are there through birthright we can't say that we are a full and proper democracy.

This is more or less a consequence of Britain still being a monarchy - until it becomes a republic it will always be a partial democracy to some extent. Having said that, having a less direct method of filling the second house is not unique, in France, for example, the Senate is elected by indirect suffrage. The British system has recently evolved a bit and will hopefully continue in this direction, with a parliamentary republic as a fitting objective in my view.

I agree with Postman about the time scales involved - European democracies have taken centuries to reach their present situation, it is hardly fair to expect African countries to condense this into a few decades, especially with other countries putting sticks in their spokes when it suits them.
MG - on 03 May 2012
In reply to MG: 18/167 doesn't seem too bad to me

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index
kipper12 - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]>
> African friend told me once that what Africans really wanted was to be left alone, that the ex-colonial countries stop interfering every time a government came to power which didn't suit their interests.

From my limited experience of the topic, I would agree.

I worked a while back with a couple of Ghanian post-grads who were quite happy with Flt Rawlings (not sure of sp), and wished us in the west would just leave them alone

Rigid Raider - on 03 May 2012
I've been travelling to Africa for 27 years, including two or three visits every year to Nigeria. Sensible Nigerians realise now that it is no longer right to blame the white man for Africa's woes.

There are many reasons why things don't work in Africa and if you asked me to name just one I would say the African "big man" obsession is the continent's worst enemy; if politics wasn't viewed simply as a ticket to success and wealth there might be a few more honest and effective politicians.
Bjartur i Sumarhus on 03 May 2012
In reply to Thread:

If only more politicians were called Goodluck Jonathan...that's where Africa puts us to shame. Imagine the red tops with that!
GrahamD - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

Just because your rulers have all been elected does not guarantee a proper democracy in that there is the very real possibility that minorities can be persecuted more easly because it is 'the will of the majority' (the majority in this country get their 'news' from the Sun).

There is no reason why a monarchy and a partially unelected upper house cannot form a much fairer basis for democracy than simple mob rule.
dissonance - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> We're getting off topic but apart from the dogs breakfast that is the HofL

which has limited impact on democracy since all other factors aside the commons can overrule them on (i believe) any issue given a year or so.

> my major reservation would be the "powers under the crown" of the PM which in effect gives the PM regal powers for five years. Combine that with the lack of any constitutional protection for the concept of cabinet government and a party and whipping system that denies backbenchers any real power and you have seriously undermined democracy.

it does seem to rely mostly on people following tradition and not abusing it.
Which given the recent form of some PMs (both Labour and Conservative) is risky.

doz generale - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

Australia is another example of a young democracy that has worked well. Allthough technically a monarchy, both its houses are fully elected by the people. As far as i can see the influence of the monarchhy is symbolic.

Johnny_Grunwald on 03 May 2012
In reply to KTT:
> my collegaue who is shall we say not the brightest (ex squaddie but handy to have around if things let a little spicy) made the comment above ad while it's not the most PC way of putting it he does have a point.
>

Why did you feel the need to tell us about your colleague's previous job? Does it have any bearing on your post?
Bruce Hooker - on 03 May 2012
In reply to GrahamD:

> There is no reason why a monarchy and a partially unelected upper house cannot form a much fairer basis for democracy than simple mob rule.

Well I'd say there was as the principal of democracy is based equality, both an unelected upper house and a monarchy are based on the very opposite. For example, I really can't imagine singing God save the Queen, how can a democratic country be compatible with such a contradiction?

Another example, if you take a look at boards of management, they very often have lord this that or the other on them, the more well known lords sit on several boards, not because it's their money in the company or their talent, purely because they are lords, it "looks good" and they have contacts... with other lords on other boards. How is this compatible with democracy?

Third example: land ownership, there are huge estates still owned by the aristocracy in Britain, ol' Charlie's for one, huge chunks of London for another, all handed down from generation to generation, not based on talent or hard work, just birth. How can this be compatible with democracy?

The answer is that it can't, but it is accepted by most as they have grown up accepting an imperfect democracy where birth still counts, as much if not more than merit.
David Martin - on 03 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

I suppose Southeast Asians, until recently Latin Americans, Central Asians and Eastern Europeans don't or haven't done democracy either at certain points.

Nothing to say Africans are any more or less pre-disposed to it, but the lack of democracy may have more to do with economics. No doubt good old democratic England and the US may have played a substantial role in stamping out some incipient African democracies too.
John Rushby - on 03 May 2012
In reply to GrahamD:

Agree - "democracy" like "community" is one of those words that is often used but when you deconstruct it, has no real definition and is interpreted on such a wide and varying basis.

I like Karl Popper's take "You can choose whatever name you like for the two types of government. I personally call the type of government which can be removed without violence "democracy", and the other "tyranny"
MG - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to GrahamD)
>
> [...]
>
> Well I'd say there was as the principal of democracy is based equality, both an unelected upper house and a monarchy are based on the very opposite.

Possibly but most of the top five of the world's most democratic countries as linked above have monarchies which suggests it is a pretty minor defect, at worst.

> Another example, if you take a look at boards of management, they very often have lord this that or the other on them, the more well known lords sit on several boards, not because it's their money in the company or their talent, purely because they are lords,

Cobblers. These characters rose to the top of the business world and have (or are at least perceived to have) high levels of relevant talent and experience? Being a Lord is a consequence of their careers, not the other way round.
Mike Stretford - on 03 May 2012
In reply to GrahamD:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)

> (the majority in this country get their 'news' from the Sun).

I find that hard to believe.

> There is no reason why a monarchy and a partially unelected upper house cannot form a much fairer basis for democracy than simple mob rule.

Straw man, nobody is suggesting 'mob rule' as an alternative. There are plenty of better alternatives.
Postmanpat on 03 May 2012
In reply to MG:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
> [...]

>
> Cobblers. These characters rose to the top of the business world and have (or are at least perceived to have) high levels of relevant talent and experience? Being a Lord is a consequence of their careers, not the other way round.

Not only should shareholders be banned from electing lords to their board but anyone whose name has an s or z in it. Allowing them to is, er, undemocratic.

Do you think I'll be allowed to to inherit my old dad's Honda or is that incompatible with democracy as well?

Eric9Points - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

Finally found some stuff on Chris Mullin's views on Africa from when he was a minister. Here's an extract from a speech he made on a debate on the subject:

"Thirty years ago in Africa, there were just three democratically elected heads of state. Today there are more than 30. The bad news remains; there is a wide and growing gulf between the standard of living and development in Africa and just about all of the rest of the world. As I said earlier, mineral wealth has so often proved to be a curse rather than a blessing and has fuelled civil wars and instability. Africa's problems are to some extent a colonial legacy, although that is fading.

The big issue is corruption and misgovernment on an awesome scale. Zimbabwe is only the latest and saddest example. It has led in some cases to the implosion of entire societies and we are presented with the relatively new phenomenon; the failed state. In the case of the Congo, it is a failed state the size of western Europe. Somalia has seen a catastrophic failure, resulting in the exodus of almost the entire educated class, leaving the rest in chaos."

Lots more here, interesting that he notes that Rwanda has successfully recovered from the horrors of the genocide.

http://www.chrismullinexmp.com/speeches/uk-and-africa
Bruce Hooker - on 03 May 2012
In reply to MG:

> Possibly but most of the top five of the world's most democratic countries as linked above have monarchies which suggests it is a pretty minor defect, at worst.

But that's on the basis of the scoring system used, it throws up several odd results for countries as well. It may not take into account the sort of criteria I am referring to.

As for lords on boards, I'm afraid you seem to be a bit naive there, I won't name names but there are many who are just there for the name and have no active role at all. What are you basing your opinion on? I'm basing mine on information about real people on real boards... Hereditary lords don't become lord by talent they become it due to their Dad's sperm finding it's way into their Mummy... no talent of their own involved.
Postmanpat on 03 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply
>
> As for lords on boards, I'm afraid you seem to be a bit naive there, I won't name names but there are many who are just there for the name and have no active role at all.

Come on Bruce.its not like you to be shy. Name names. Tell us how you know that they have no active role. Explain why allowing shareholders to elect directors is undemocratic.
seankenny - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:
> (In reply to Postmanpat) 'primarily by creating dependency and sustaining corruption.' Apart from beleiveing that to be true, I have seen that with my own eyes.
>
> I was working with a charity in Sierra Leone providing eyecare. A local lad in Freetown started a private enterprise dispensing specs - an opticians, by any other name. He was perfectly OK. But because he tried to make a modest profit - which to me was a way of creating a sustainable service - he was considered non grata by the charity.


I've worked for some of the large international development organisations and I can tell you that they are very keen on small businesses. Aid agencies are forever giving people money to start market stalls, expand farms, etc etc. Obviously that doesn't mean the one you worked with was particularly savvy at this sort of thing, but generally they love small scale private enterprise.

One thing to remember is that they often target their efforts at particular groups, eg women, lower caste people, people from a certain poor community, displaced people, etc. It may have been your chap didn't fit into the group the charity was trying to help (and for which the grant money was specifically given). Before people jump down my throat for saying this is stupid - would you rather charities worked without a plan and just dishing money out to whoever?
Bruce Hooker - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

That would cause problems for my source! A lot of boards have members for other reasons than economic talent, having a lord looks good, having a retired police chief, or Interpol chief can often be handy too. In case of problems they "know people" and can often smooth things over, as can retired politicians. That's the way the world works, they are paid regularly, have only to come to a meeting from time to time and maybe say a word to a friend when required.

As for "democratic election by shareholders", that only applies where there are no majority shareholders, or blocks who work together, in most cases appointments are just rubber stamped by the board on proposition of whoever is really running the company.

You seem to have a rather idealized view of the way these things work :-)
IainRUK - on 03 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to KTT)
>
> Nyerere in Tanzania and Kaunda in Zambia, probably others. There are a number of functioning democracies in Africa these days.

To be fair.. I've heard similar by friends and family who live or have lived in Africa.. 'Africa' is tribal.. I'm not sure if one can generalise to such an extent but the general view was a democracy was only a stable period of governence by a tribe...

I thought Zambia had issues.. hence confusions over the death of their president?
Postmanpat on 04 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> In case of problems they "know people" and can often smooth things over, as can retired politicians. That's the way the world works, they are paid regularly, have only to come to a meeting from time to time and maybe say a word to a friend when required.
>
Yes, Bruce. That's why they're called "non executive"......

> As for "democratic election by shareholders", that only applies where there are no majority shareholders, or blocks who work together, in most cases appointments are just rubber stamped by the board on proposition of whoever is really running the company.
>
Ah, so an election isn't an election if the share holders agree. Nice!

Am I allowed to choose my partners and staff for the little shop I'm opening or is that inimitable to democracy as well? Should I call the local council and let Bohemia appoint them?

Postmanpat on 04 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
Inimicable,

Bohemia? Don't know how that got thre!

kingjam - on 04 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

Think it might be better to easier to name countries of the world that dont have tribalism underpinning power .

Saying that Africans dont do democracy then you can throw in there Russia and a large number of ex soviet states, the middle east and majority of the far east.

Bruce Hooker - on 04 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:

> Am I allowed to choose my partners and staff for the little shop I'm opening or is that inimitable to democracy as well? Should I call the local council and let Bohemia appoint them?

To quote JC, isn't it a bit early in the day to be in this condition?
Bruce Hooker - on 04 May 2012
In reply to kingjam:

> Saying that Africans dont do democracy then you can throw in there Russia...

Why Russia? They seem to have moved quite convincingly to capitalist democracy. Now if only the yanks would stop pushing their men it would settle down nicely.
Postmanpat on 04 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Postmanpat)
>
> [...]
>
> To quote JC, isn't it a bit early in the day to be in this condition?

My iPad is pissed :-)

seankenny - on 04 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to kingjam)
>
> [...]
>
> Why Russia? They seem to have moved quite convincingly to capitalist democracy.

Is that a new definition of the word convincing that I've yet to come across?
Bruce Hooker - on 04 May 2012
In reply to seankenny:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
> [...]
>
> Is that a new definition of the word convincing that I've yet to come across?

Which bit do you contest, capitalist or democracy?

Objectively Russia is now capitalist, how can you refute that? As for democratic, a lot of Russians like Poutin, whether you like it or not, and they vote for him. There may be a few percent that can be put down to problems of counting etc but not enough to put the result in the slightest doubt. Try looking at the figures.

KTT on 04 May 2012 - client-82-0-10-225.mcr-bng-012.adsl.virginmedia.net
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Do you think that the Russian elections were really free and fair?
Bruce Hooker - on 04 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

I wasn't there but the foreign observers who were came to that conclusion. It may not fit in with Western propaganda but Poutin really is popular... try asking a few Russians.
In reply to Bruce Hooker: It's interesting that you are so understanding of the electoral choices of Russians and so dismissive of the same choices of Tunisians and Egyptians. I suppose the latter two are in Africa so maybe you agree with KTT's acquaintance.
Anonymous on 04 May 2012 - host86-132-172-47.range86-132.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> try asking a few Russians.

I was E-mailed by one of my Russian friends re. the recent election; she lives in Voronezh. She used to be pro-Putin but said the recent "election" was a farce.
n=1 admittedly.
How many Russians did you ask?
Flashy - on 04 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
You make some good points. Clearly we don't live in a pure democracy; that would be awful. We have the law to protect each of us from each other and from the majority. Otherwise all you'd need to enact anything would be a majority vote, no matter how unjust.

I did wonder about the below though. You're essentially saying "how is personal ownership compatible with democracy?" I don't think those things are incompatible in any way. Is there a reason you've singled out 'aristocracy' (not sure what that is today in the UK) -- it seems like a red herring, but maybe there's a good reason.

> Third example: land ownership, there are huge estates still owned by the aristocracy in Britain, ol' Charlie's for one, huge chunks of London for another, all handed down from generation to generation, not based on talent or hard work, just birth. How can this be compatible with democracy?
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to Flashy:

It depends where the "personal ownership" finds its origins. For example the Queen is an immensely rich person, do you think her fortune came from the hard work and merit of her ancestors?
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to Anonymous:

I have a friend who works with Russians in Baku, he is a life long Conservative, by no means a rabid lefty, he was the person who told me this and I have no reason to think he is fibbing. I also follow the news, it's clear enough if you are unprejudiced that Poutin still has a very strong following, as it is clear that the opposition is very much Western encouraged and a minority, if a very vociferous one.
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

> It's interesting that you are so understanding of the electoral choices of Russians and so dismissive of the same choices of Tunisians and Egyptians.

More red herrings and straw men, true to form Toby! I don't dismiss the electoral choices of Tunisians, I am very concerned by them, which is a little different. The "Arab Spring" was cracked up to be the arrival of democracy in the area, now it is turning into a fundamentalist takeover, which is pretty well the opposite of democracy... especially for women, although many would argue that the men, by brutalising their relationships with women, are victims too.

Can you say the same about Russia? Does Poutin call for the enslavement of women? Is he trying to set up a theocracy? Or is the problem simply that Russia is a force of opposition in the world that doesn't suit your own camp?
Postmanpat on 05 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Flashy)
>
> It depends where the "personal ownership" finds its origins

Why?

Ant the Queen has a specific constitutional role so is not relevant to your original point.
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Anonymous)
>
the opposition is very much Western encouraged and a minority, if a very vociferous one.

I don't think that's true. I speak to a number of Russians and there is a strong anti=Putin sentiment among them. Some of them go on rallies etc, and they are not "encouraged" by the West. Of course, they all naturally have a western-leaning outlook - learning English, interested in our culture - so it's not a representative sample. Russia must be a bloody difficult country to govern.
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Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

> Of course, they all naturally have a western-leaning outlook - learning English, interested in our culture - so it's not a representative sample.

Q. E. D.

> Russia must be a bloody difficult country to govern.

I quiet agree there, which is one reason why I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. As said by PMPat and others for African states, who we are expecting to move from tribalism to democracy in 50 years, we perhaps shouldn't expect Russia to move from one of the most backward feudal societies to perfect democracy in little more than a century.
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to Postmanpat:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
> [...]
>
> Why?
>
That's my opinion, you either think the huge estates carved up in feudal times are still valid today or you don't... Queenie included.
In reply to Bruce Hooker: I thought that fly might get you to bite. ;)

Of course the Russian people deserve whoever they vote for, but I think your view of Putin (transliteration into French must include the o you seem to use, but never in English BTW) and modern Russia seems naive. To much "Russia Today" or are you just being wilfully naive in the service of debate? Of course the opposition in Russia is small, but then its not a free democracy for them.


I also wonder how many Russians you know? My experience of Russian social attitudes is that particularly away from the cosmopolitan cities, they are are very conservative. Amusingly we were having a debate over gay marriage in Finnish class the other day. All the Russian men and most of the women were pretty outraged by the idea. Interestingly, my rather religious Somali mate was personally quite appalled by the idea but at least could say "well if that's the law in Finland, then that's the law; and its not for me to judge, that's is God's job". I've found it quite depressing how readily the Russian women I know fit into what feel to me like 50 year old stereotypes. They seem depressingly open about needing to trade being attractive and being housewife for financial support from a husband, but that is perhaps not surprising considering the type of society Russia is today.
Anonymous on 05 May 2012 - host81-129-75-17.range81-129.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> I have a friend who works with Russians in Baku

So, not an actual Russian then; someone who works with Russians who don't actually spend most of their time in Russia.
Anonymous on 05 May 2012 - host81-129-75-17.range81-129.btcentralplus.com
In reply to TobyA:

> but I think your view of Putin (transliteration into French must include the o you seem to use, but never in English BTW

As usual, French transliteration of Russian names is more accurate - Poutin is a lot closer to the correct pronunciation of the name when said in a French accent.
Anything is better than the tortured "Pyutin", beloved of many posh London journos - that's simply wrong. "Yu" and "u" are completely different characters in Russian.
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
> Some of them go on rallies etc, and they are not "encouraged" by the West. Of course, they all naturally have a western-leaning outlook - learning English, interested in our culture - so it's not a representative sample. Russia must be a bloody difficult country to govern.

This may well be true of the people you've met, but it is absolutely not true of the opposition to Putin. Along with liberal bloc - Yabloko etc. - there were all sorts of ultra-nationalists in this winter's demonstrations. The increasing perception that Putin is leading a non-ideological administration aimed primarily at enriching and sustaining itself has led to much anger both on his left and right.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/world/europe/russian-liberals-weigh-alliance-with-nationalists.htm...
In reply to Anonymous: It's written Putin in Finnish as well, although Finnish u is a pronounced bit different from English u. I guess as ever in English you can pronounce vowels differently - so perhaps one of them is right!
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

> I thought that fly might get you to bite. ;)

Keep your flies to yourself!

I daresay many Russians are conservative, as are Brits, more and more these days, but that doesn't prevent either countries from being democracies. In Russia I find the attitude of the "opposition", at least those we see endlessly in the Western press, which basically refuses the choice of the majority - clear enough even if there may have been a few irregularities - and continually seeks to escalate the situation by provocation and excessive language pretty undemocratic too.

If democracy is based on the winner running the country it also requires a little modesty from the loser who should accept the popular choice and work towards the next election rather than try to sabotage the country.
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to Anonymous:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
>
> [...]
>
> So, not an actual Russian then; someone who works with Russians who don't actually spend most of their time in Russia.

He knows Russian engineers who come to Baku to work on the project he works on, I think. Although Azerbaijan is independent there is still a very strong Russian influence there, many people speak Russian, my friend is learning it even as it is so useful in the country, and the region as a whole.
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Anonymous) It's written Putin in Finnish as well, although Finnish u is a pronounced bit different from English u. I guess as ever in English you can pronounce vowels differently - so perhaps one of them is right!

It's only "right" written in Russian (which you can't do on this site).
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Submit to Gravity)
>
> [...]
>
> Q. E. D.
>

Not really. The point I was making was that they're anti-Putin (Pootin) off their own backs - they're not being manipulated by the West. Suggesting they are is a little patronising.
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

> Suggesting they are is a little patronising.

Suggesting there is no Western manipulation going on in Russia is a little naive :-)
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker) I thought that fly might get you to bite. ;)
>
I've found it quite depressing how readily the Russian women I know fit into what feel to me like 50 year old stereotypes. They seem depressingly open about needing to trade being attractive and being housewife for financial support from a husband, but that is perhaps not surprising considering the type of society Russia is today.

I speak to a girl who is scathing about both Russian men, and the fact that they get attractive women as wives who both run the house, bring up several children and often earn money as well, while they (the men) wallow in self-pity and seek constant validation and emotional support. I don't know if this is generally the case, or just her family experiences. She was also less than complimentary about the women who perpetuate that culture - spending 2 hours a day putting on make-up before work etc in a desperate attempt to attract a man who will put a "stone wall" around them.

Mind you, I think there are a *lot* of attractive women in Russia, and with societal pressure to get married and have children it must create a lot of insecurity. They can't all be as strong-minded and feisty as my friend.
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to Submit to Gravity)
>
> [...]
>
> Suggesting there is no Western manipulation going on in Russia is a little naive :-)

Possibly so, I don't know, I'm no expert. What I do know is that the people in Russia I know are pretty smart and quite capable of forming their own views. I would imagine that the balance of the media in Russia is on Putin's side too, so I'm not sure how this Western manipulation works in practice .
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> I daresay many Russians are conservative, as are Brits, more and more these days, but that doesn't prevent either countries from being democracies.

I think British people (like most Western Europeans) are increasingly social liberal. Funnily enough, the guy who seemed most upset by the rampant homophobia from the Russians in that discussion, was an 18 year old English guy. There is sociology studies that show homophobia is increasingly marginal in young British people.

But isn't exactly what you say about the Russians true of the Egyptians as well? Many are conservative and want to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood as a result. Why are they wrong whilst Putin voters are right?
In reply to Submit to Gravity:
> I would imagine that the balance of the media in Russia is on Putin's side too, so I'm not sure how this Western manipulation works in practice .

I think that these facts are very uncontroversial. TV news remains vital to how Russians understand the world, internet is only recently starting to become more important, and the Kremlin controls TV.


andy.smythe - on 05 May 2012
In reply to KTT: Botswana
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

> Why are they wrong whilst Putin voters are right?

I'm not sure it's particularly useful to make these sorts of comparisons, the history and culture of each country could hardly be more different and it's not really a points match.
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> I'm not sure it's particularly useful to make these sorts of comparisons, the history and culture of each country could hardly be more different and it's not really a points match.

So for history and culture reasons Russians should be allowed democracy whilst Egyptians and Tunisians are not?
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
>
> So for history and culture reasons Russians should be allowed democracy whilst Egyptians and Tunisians are not?

You'll need to clarify what you mean here. Who is going to stop either the Russians or the others having democracy, except themselves? Many would say the Yanks are trying to interfere in Russia for their own agenda, but who do you think is trying to prevent Tunisia and Egypt moving towards democracy? Islamic extremists? Israel?

Please say what you mean your rather than posting riddles.... Don't forget we can't read your thoughts.

ads.ukclimbing.com
hokipoki - on 05 May 2012
In reply to KTT: In comparison with say, Malaysia, which gained independence around the same time as many African states; the difference between how far they've come is, frankly, unbelievable. True, there are various factors to take into account, but largely, many of the so called leaders of those African nations have been going more for kleptocracy than democracy.
Anonymous on 05 May 2012 - host81-129-75-17.range81-129.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> Who is going to stop either the Russians or the others having democracy, except themselves?

You're quite right of course, they seem to be perfectly capable of managing without any external help.
Of course things are more democratic than they were pre-1991, but Russia is hardly a democracy in the western sense. The media is not free, and most importantly, political expression is not free. (Or rather it is free in the sense of the old joke about wanting freedom afterspeech, as well as freedom ofspeech.)

Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to Anonymous:

I don't want to get dragged into defending modern Russia as I always managed to get dragged into defending the USSR, but I just wish people would be a little more patient and not throw the baby out with the bath water. If Gorbachev had had a bit more help then the transition could have been so much less destructive but instead it had to be everything straight away, with the horrendous results for the Russian people, from world power to nigh on third world, one of the only countries I can think of that actually had a drop in population for several years. Now they seem to be getting back on their feet again I think all the anti-Putin propaganda in the press here seems a bit excessive, leave them a bit of time.

The press may not be free over there but can you really say it is in Britain? Murdoch & Co are hardly giving us the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth, and people with non-standard view can't really express them that easily on the national level.
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Different problems. I reckon in Russia, two big problems are the lack of separation between the Govt and the judiciary, and the endemic corruption that affects everything. In this country, in my view it's the influence of lobbying on Govt policies and the business interests of politicians. Our corruption is more subtle.
Bruce Hooker - on 05 May 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

I'm not saying that in most old European democracies internal democracy isn't better than in present day Russia, but as has been said for other countries they need a bit of time.

In terms of our countries' relations with other countries I don't think we are in any position to criticize at all - we still have military bases all over the world and think nothing or sending bombs and bullets at anyone that really gets in our way.
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> I don't want to get dragged into defending modern Russia ... but I just wish people would be a little more patient and not throw the baby out with the bath water.

You should defend who ever you like I just don't understand why you are sympathetic to Putin but don't seem to think that Egyptians and Tunisians should also have their electoral choice respected and be given some time to see how their attempts at transitioning to democracy play out.
Bruce Hooker - on 06 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
>
> You should defend who ever you like I just don't understand why you are sympathetic to Putin but don't seem to think that Egyptians and Tunisians should also have their electoral choice respected and be given some time to see how their attempts at transitioning to democracy play out.

You keep repeating this but refrain from answering my question, - why do you think that the two situations are similar?

While you are at it,

- and why should my views on Russia imply identical view, or any views at all, concerning N Africa (real, or in this case imagined by you)?

- Must I also list my views about Kenya, S Africa, all the countries in the world every time I express an opinion on one?

PS. Does my asking for Russia to be given time to change necessarily imply "sympathy" for Putin? What a strange black and white world you live in!
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> You keep repeating this but refrain from answering my question, - why do you think that the two situations are similar?

Because they are cases of state transition from authoritarian towards democratic or quasi democratic regimes obviously. South Korea or South Africa would also be interesting parallels, and of course Burma right now.
Bruce Hooker - on 06 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

Yes and in both case babies drink their mother's milk, it doesn't mean that the past and probable futures are identical, nor that the consequences of present change in both cases are identical. You may think they are but others, myself included, may beg to differ.

You often put up this sort of argument, for example when someone criticizes Israel you say, "but what about the Sudan?", for example, but as here, this is just red herringing.
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> this is just red herringing.

It's actually far more specific to you. I think that you don't really believe in the universality of human rights and have a soft spot for 'strong men' who somehow fit your political ideology or, more often, claim to. You have an interesting mix anti-American(and by association anti-Israeli) views AND anti-Muslim views that seems to end up with you rooting for all sorts of noxious leaders be that Putin, Assad or the Chinese communist party in Tibet.
Bruce Hooker - on 06 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

The problem is not if I believe in the universality of human rights, I've made it clear that I do on many occasions, it's whether the Muslim Brethren and so on do. I think the evidence shows they don't, you think they do, two opinions that differ, but do not really imply what I should think concerning Russia, whether it is intelligent to demand all straight away or whether it is more reasonable to give them time.

The two questions are quite different.
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> The problem is not if I believe in the universality of human rights, I've made it clear that I do on many occasions,

Which is why I don't understand how you can support regimes like Assad and Gaddafi.

> it's whether the Muslim Brethren and so on do. I think the evidence shows they don't, you think they do,

Actually, I don't - or not in a way that I do. But then I also think that Putin doesn't believe in them either.
Bruce Hooker - on 07 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Bruce Hooker)
>
> [...]
>
> Which is why I don't understand how you can support regimes like Assad and Gaddafi.


I'm not sure I've said I supported Assad, but that doesn't mean I think "we" should destabilise the country by encouraging what is going on now, then do a Libya on them. A similar remark could be made for Iran, which we all know is the real target, or a step closer to the ultimate goal, further North.

Concerning Libya, not long ago you were claiming that I was against the valiant struggle of plucky grass roots Libyans fighting for freedom against all odds... Who turned out to have been right on that score, me or you?
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Well you were supporting Gaddafi. So I'm not sure what you think you were wrong or right about?

> A similar remark could be made for Iran, which we all know is the real target, or a step closer to the ultimate goal, further North.

Do you mean Russia!? In which case you have been watching too many conspiracy theorists on Russia Today!
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to TobyA)
> [...]
>
>
or a step closer to the ultimate goal, further North.
>

Bradford?
Bruce Hooker - on 07 May 2012
In reply to Submit to Gravity:

No, right a bit.
Bruce Hooker - on 07 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

> So I'm not sure what you think you were wrong or right about?

Squirming there! Now we all know who the "rebels" were and who was training and arming them, do you still claim is was a grass roots popular movement of freedom loving Libyans?

You don't like the idea that behind the scenes all those thousands of bright young people in government departments actually do something for their wages, do you? Maybe because you would like to be one of them? I've no idea, but the notion that they do absolutely nothing in terms of long term planning, preparing for eventualities etc etc is even more inconceivable than the opposite. So it's nothing to do with "conspiracy theories" it's all to do with people in power thinking and planning ahead.

Just look at the last few decades, the end of the cold war, the mopping up of remaining E European countries, the role change of NATO, instead of disappearing as it should logically have done, it's reconversion into the "acceptable" armed wing of the West.... Libya, now Syria, the build up against Iran and, of course, the permanent sapping propaganda against the remains of the Soviet Union and China.... It's not a conspiracy, it's foreign policy, and you are part of it, whether you like it or not.
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Don't be ridiculous Bruce, the armed factions in Libya just like now in Syria were the predictable outcomes of the violent oppression of a wider social movement by Gaddafi and now Assad. If you use state violence to deny democratic aspirations of the population, some will radicalise and turn to violence. It has always been that way and can even happen in otherwise relatively free and democratic states when the situation is extreme enough at least for some community; hence the PIRA, ETA, Red Brigades.
Bruce Hooker - on 07 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

So the films we saw of jihadists and white advisers were all part of a conspiracy? The fact that the trouble started in the East under the old pro Western king's flag, is just a coincidence too? The leader of the movement who took Tripoli and has a long Al Qaeda past was an oppressed Libyan, who just happened to spend his holidays all over the world before deciding to fight in Libya, against an Arab and under orders of the Great and the Little Satan? and now all this mixed bag, including the racists murdering black Libyans, are all good democrats anxious to bring democracy and secular freedom to Libya, or what's left of it?

I think we must be talking about a different country!

Bruce Hooker - on 07 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

> when the situation is extreme enough at least for some community; hence the PIRA, ETA, Red Brigades.

Are you sure you really meant to type this?
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> The leader of the movement who took Tripoli and has a long Al Qaeda past

Once again you are showing you don't know much about the history of either al Qaeda or the LIFG, and besides that lots of groups were involved in Tripoli's fall. Perhaps unsurprisingly when I put LIFG and Tripoli into google the third hit is an AT article by your old friend Escobar! You should expand your reading a little.



Bruce Hooker - on 08 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

Maybe Finnish telly is less informative than French or British? There has been no lack of info concerning this unsavory character... for those who want to see it, of course. "There are none so blind as will not see..." etc.

After typing this I wondered where the expression came from so I looked it up and found that the full quote is even more appropriate - goes back nearly five centuries:

"There is no manne so blynd as he that will not see, nor so dull as he that wyll not vnderstande."
[1551 Cranmer Answer to Gardiner]

Bruce Hooker - on 08 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

Here's one for you about Libya:

"Libya PM office attacked by gunmen in Tripoli

At least two security officials have been killed after ex-rebels attacked the office of the Libyan prime minister in the capital, Tripoli.

A witness said pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns surrounded the building and a gun battle ensued."


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17995427

It was about money, apparently, not a burning desire for democracy:

"The attackers are said to be former rebels who fought to topple Col Gaddafi last year, who are demanding pay-outs promised under a reward scheme."
In reply to Bruce Hooker: I'm not sure what you think this is meant prove? That there is chaos in a post revolutionary situation? That some people think what they hoped for from the revolution hasn't come about? For anyone who follows the news coming out of Egypt or Libya (or indeed who remembers the fall of Ceausescu) none of this is exactly surprising.

Is this story meant to explain why hundreds of thousands of Libyans started protesting against their totalitarian ruler a year ago? For money? You seem to think very little of Libyans - they are to you it seems either just greedy or stupid enough to believe the greedy ones when they said they're not greedy. Again, it seems you respect strongmen who spout anti-imperialist rhetoric, but have very little time or respect for the mass of people who have to live under such regimes.
Bruce Hooker - on 08 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

I think this and many other articles show quite clearly that your NATOesque version of what happened in Libya is as far from reality as these thugs are from freedom loving democrats. These mercenaries, al Qaeda style mercenaries and the relics of the old royalist clique of E Libya, stimulated, armed and paid from abroad have destroyed, with more than a little help from their friends of NATO, the country with the highest standard of living in Africa, all in the name of Western oil and strategic interests. In the process the country has been wrecked, tens of thousands of Libyans have died, far more than Gaddafi killed in 40 years, at best bombed, at worst tortured to death by racist thugs.

The whole of N Africa has been destabilised by the floods of arms dumped in the area - Mali is just one, like the Bamiyan statues they have started destroying irreplaceable historical remains... great success all round, the important being that the oil is flowing again and the oil companies have got their revenge on the young army officer who freed Libya from Western domination four decades ago... Your fun loving rascals grabbed him, sodomised him with a rod and then beat him to death. Now Libya is in chaos, many of those who fought for NATO there are off doing the same in Syria, and the Libyans, who you pretend to care for are in the proverbial.

I suppose this is one in a line of successes, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria on the way with Iran after, and destruction of Lebanon (twice), Gaza, Palestine and all the rest.... the sweet breath of freedom!
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> In the process the country has been wrecked, tens of thousands of Libyans have died, far more than Gaddafi killed in 40 years, at best bombed, at worst tortured to death by racist thugs.

You don't actually know how many people died, because no one does. The claims of 25-30,000 come from the now transitional government, i.e. the rebel side, because they claimed the Gaddafi loyalist forces killed so many civilians. Most international organisation don't put much trust in these claims though. But let's just accept that terrible things happen in civil wars and ask why it started? UN Resolution 1970 from February 11, before the war had started, might help remind you:

"Expressing grave concern at the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and condemning the violence and use of force against civilians,
Deploring the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including the repression of peaceful demonstrators, expressing deep concern at the deaths of civilians, and rejecting unequivocally the incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population made from the highest level of the Libyan government,
Welcoming the condemnation by the Arab League, the African Union, and the
Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference of the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that are being committed in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,"

I guess though if all the protesters were just "mercenaries" and "racist thugs" (the irony of your fixation on this in the light of the Gaddafi regimes systematic terrible treatment of migrants - sometime at the behest of the EU and Italy - over the last ten years leaves a very unpleasant after taste), gunning them down was what they deserved?

> The whole of N Africa has been destabilised by the floods of arms dumped in the area - Mali is just one,

You're having a laugh here I suppose. Because Gaddafi's regime had so obviously been a source of stability and peace over the last 30 years in the Sahel/Sahara. Not.

> I suppose this is one in a line of successes, Yugoslavia,

Yes, having Milosovic as agent was just a masterful move by "NATO".

> Iraq,

Which you supported.
Bruce Hooker - on 09 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

I've heard of the voice of Moscow but you get more and more like the voice of Uncle Sam every day!

Concerning deaths in Libya, NATO has steadfastly refused to reply to demands for figures on deaths. We know approximately how many bombs they dropped and saw all the burnt out tanks, lorries and so on - just adding that up makes a pretty high figure before you even get on to civilian deaths, both by bombing and by the NATO mercenary ground forces, the "football hooligans with kalashnikovs" we spoke about a while ago. 30000 must be a minimum, and probably ignores the people they killed and the Libyan regular forces killed, the true figure is certainly higher. Now tell me, how many did Gaddafi have killed in 40 years?

PS. The Iraq reference went further back, when the West encouraged Saddam Hussein to launch a war on Iran which resulted in a million deaths, you people don't mention this much nowadays. The second Iraq intervention seemed justifiable at the time in that it removed this war mongering tyrant, what happened afterwards, and still is, can be put down to bad policy, or lack of, I don't support that.
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> 30000 must be a minimum, and probably ignores the people they killed and the Libyan regular forces killed, the true figure is certainly higher.

Says who? The wikipedia article which is pretty hopeless currently beyond showing how different the claims are has 30,000 as the maximum claim and that was from the transitional government. There is then a later figure from the same source saying 25,000. So where is your certainty from? I have no idea and you don't either. I do know you play fast and loose with these figures though. Indeed 30,000 is what you incorrectly claimed for Chile - that seems to be a number you keep going back to.
Bruce Hooker - on 09 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

Carry on minimising the number of deaths, both in Libya and Chili, if that's what turns you on (I hope you are remunerated for you valiant efforts at justifying Western murdering BTW) but until NATO accepts to reveal it's own estimations on combat deaths - many were filmed during the attacks so they must have an idea, we can only assume the worse... If they were not extremely high why the cover up?

One little question, what happened to the Libyan regular army if they weren't killed? Were all those wrecked vehicles NATO TV footage showed us, tanks, planes etc driverless and without passengers? Maybe Gaddafi was in advance on technology and all his army was using the same driverless techniques as mentioned on another thread? You never know!
MJH - on 09 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> all in the name of Western oil and strategic interests.

Errr how does this make sense in terms of Libya given that Blair had "rehabilitated" Gaddafi and got him to sell us oil? Where is the strategic advantage in removing him?
Alex Slipchuk on 09 May 2012
In reply to KTT: neither do we. Our democracy is an illusion. We are simply voting in the next fall guy. Big multinational business and global bankers are the true decision makers. The public simply vote in who the media advise. Or even worse are loyal to a colour, we tend to vote in a party rather than the individual.
Bruce Hooker - on 09 May 2012
In reply to MJH:

Strategically it would still rely on Gaddafi, or his successors in power, to agree to continue supplying oil. If the buyers started a war against Syria or Iran (and I know they wouldn't possibly do that, but just suppose) then Libya could cut off the supply, just while the supplier being attacked couldn't produce either.

The other reasons might be less logical, getting their own back on a "disturbing element" in Africa, for example. One indication is that many other African countries, including South Africa, supported Gaddafi to the hilt... maybe they had some reasons for doing this? WDYT?
In reply to Bruce Hooker: I'm not minimising anything, I'm saying you have no more idea than me, you're just pulling number out of the air to suit your argument. I find that in poor taste.

I haven't forgotten what we started arguing about years ago: on Chile you cited a film article in the Guardian for your 30,000 figure (a typo presumably); I looked it up and found the massive amount of research done by Chilean human rights groups and their truth and reconciliation commission after the return to democracy which is why I know you were out by a factor of ten.
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> One indication is that many other African countries, including South Africa, supported Gaddafi to the hilt...

No they didn't, the African Union condemned the violations of human rights by Gaddafi prior to the outbreak of war, as stated in the UN resolution.

Some like RSA were suspicious of NATO intentions, but they hardly support him "to the hilt". The AU recognised the rebels as the government before Gaddafi was dead, and some individual African countries like Nigeria were early in recognising them.
Bruce Hooker - on 09 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

> I find that in poor taste.

I bet the poor buggers who got wiped out by your NATO bombs or massacred by your "freedom fighters" because they happened to be black would have found this "bad taste" too if they were still around to say so.
Bruce Hooker - on 09 May 2012
In reply to TobyA:

S A supported him as long as they could, at least until it was clear he had lost the war. They were also critical of the way UN resolution 1973 was distorted to alloy bombing and providing military aid to one side in the civil war, but in the end they had to cut their losses, you know why.
In reply to Bruce Hooker: Equally the civilian protesters, inspired by the nations either side of them, demanding their rights, and for doing so shot down by the soldiers and policeman from their own state. I suppose they were all "counter-revolutionaries" to you, and we know what happens to them.
almost sane - on 09 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
>
> Having said that, Africa is a mess,

What, the whole continent? A mess?

Have you even looked at some of the detailed analysis that is freely available.

According to wikpedia, in 2009 (most recent data) the homicide rates in Morocco and Egypt were less than in Canada or New Zealand, and less than a third of the homicide rate of the USA.

the 2011 corruption index puts Botswana at joint 32nd best in the world, the same level as Taiwan and Portugal. Rwanda (49) and South Africa (57) and Namibia (57) all come in ahead of Italy (69).

In the 2012 Environmental Performance Index, Switzerland came first and Iraq last. UK was joint 9th. Gabon came 40th, Australia 48th, Eritrea 122nd.

Details matter.
almost sane - on 09 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

Going back to your OP, consider this:
how often do the news media report on good news stories?
Think about events you have personal experience of that get reported: how accurate are these stories?
Would you (or your squaddie friend) keep watching / reading the news if there were lots of stories about people leading happy lives?

There are lots of happy stories about Africa, but by and large the media don't think the public here are interested in hearing those stories of quiet content.
Bruce Hooker - on 09 May 2012
In reply to almost sane:

> What, the whole continent? A mess?

Compared to what it could/should be, yes. It's not just about crime rates, it's about living standards, health, and all the other aspects of life that makes it bearable first, even before one starts looking at things like human rights, democracy and so on.

In terms of mineral assets and agricultural potential it should be paradise on earth, and even with the rosiest tinted spectacles that exist it clearly isn't.
ads.ukclimbing.com
MJH - on 10 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to MJH)
>
> Strategically it would still rely on Gaddafi, or his successors in power, to agree to continue supplying oil.

But the point is that for better or worse Gaddafi was in the good books and selling oil. Replacing him with unknowns is hardly a strategically wise move if you want the oil.

> The other reasons might be less logical, getting their own back on a "disturbing element" in Africa, for example. One indication is that many other African countries, including South Africa, supported Gaddafi to the hilt... maybe they had some reasons for doing this? WDYT?

I suspect that there may well have been an element of truth in a desire to remove Gaddafi as punishment (and let's face it he was hardly a saint). Whether that was the main reason - I doubt it.
almost sane - on 10 May 2012
In reply to Bruce Hooker:
> (In reply to almost sane)
>
> [The whole continent? A mess?...]
>
> Compared to what it could/should be, yes. It's not just about crime rates, it's about living standards, health, and all the other aspects of life that makes it bearable first, even before one starts looking at things like human rights, democracy and so on.
>

Sadly, the same could be said about every continent on earth.

Every country I have visited or heard of has its areas of crime, poor health, low living standards, drug and alcohol abuse, violent crime, depression, suicide, social exclusion...

Every country could be better than it is, and every country has untapped potential.

I live in the UK, which is a relatively prosperous, uncorrupt country with good health and social services and a well-developed infrastructure meaning we all have access to good drinking water, well-kept roads, well-lit urban streets, our homes have reliable electricity supplies, I have internet service in my home, there are good and well-enforced environmental standards...
Yet I know places within an hour's travel where average life expectancy is under 55, where people have huge structural barriers against them getting a good job, where violence is endemic and drunkenness appears to be the norm, where the idea of "family" is incredibly complicated with often a group of children in the same house where some share neither mother nor father with their sisters and brothers.
Jim Fraser - on 10 May 2012
In reply to KTT:

One of the great problems with democracy on the modern European model is the removal of loyalties that undermine it. Many ancient social structures were (and are) democratic, but may not appear so to us because roles are restricted within predefined structures and loyalties. The most common type is kinship. That was certainly the European model before the development of political society and with the publication of Sarah Fraser's book and talk of the loss of the Black Watch name, I feel its presence powerfully here this very day.

In Morgan's reports of the Iroquoi confederacy, different tribes had different roles in governance. In Highland structures like Clan Chattan, Lordship of the Isles and others, there were hereditary medics, judges, boat builders and so on but democratic governance still existed at different levels.

The principal enemy of democracy is war. In traditional social organisation, it is not unusual for peacetime structures to be put aside so that a violent threat can be effectively dealt with. The trouble is that those who do not adapt in this way are slaughtered but those who do adapt have a strong tendency to lose what they were fighting for and take many generations to recover their stability. This is where much of Africa is today.

So, KTT, is it just too soon to move from primitive and tribal societies to democracy?

No. That is not the real question. If we wanted them to be democratic then we Europeans and the Arabs should have approached them in a democratic way. We didn't. We enslaved them, stole their land and destroyed their trading infrastructure. Some of Africa's problems are of Africa's making but we should never underestimate the enormity of the destructive efforts of European and Middle Eastern intruders.
dissonance - on 10 May 2012
In reply to Jim Fraser:

> The principal enemy of democracy is war. In traditional social organisation, it is not unusual for peacetime structures to be put aside so that a violent threat can be effectively dealt with.

not necessarily eg the Greek city states tended to be fairly keen on war despite a certain amount of democracy. In those cases there was a clear benefit for those "voting" to go to war even with direct threats, namely the chance of plunder.
It gets less so as the State economics change though


> No. That is not the real question. If we wanted them to be democratic then we Europeans and the Arabs should have approached them in a democratic way. We didn't. We enslaved them, stole their land and destroyed their trading infrastructure.

of course they also traded with certain African states for the slaves.
Anonymous on 13 May 2012 - host86-141-104-1.range86-141.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Bruce Hooker:

> In terms of mineral assets and agricultural potential it should be paradise on earth, and even with the rosiest tinted spectacles that exist it clearly isn't.

When I read this post I thought it was hyperbole but you're bang on the money here Bruce.
Just spent a while on Wiki reading about just one country, Congo.
Some interesting stats about that country
- it is widely considered to be the richest country in the world regarding natural resources; its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of US$ 24 trillion. (!!)
- the Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country and is sometimes referred to as the "African world war" because it involved nine African nations and some twenty armed groups. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continues in the east of the country. In eastern Congo, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world. The war is the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people since 1998.

Now I'm certainly no expert in world affairs but I knew that Congo had vast mineral wealth and that a lot of people had died there over the last couple of decades. But the scale of the figures involved is absolutely staggering.

Why is so little known about this in the wider public conciousness? It makes the trouble in other parts of the world - including the Middle East - look like a side show.

In reply to Anonymous:
> The war is the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people since 1998.

I think the 5 million figure is relatively well known, it was the result of ICRC research who used to bring attention to the region, but that's not deaths from fighting. The figure is an attempt to account for the results of famine and ill health that plagues the Congo as a result of the endemic insecurity, along with a much smaller number of combat deaths, so called "excess deaths". There are clearly also massive problems to doing any serious epidemiology in that region as well, so some experts have doubted the ICRC figure: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8471147.stm


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