Saturday, 27 June 2009

If SOAS were more like Hogwarts

I watched the first Harry Potter movie for fun on my laptop in between reading for my dissertation. I got the DVD from HMV - another for one those 'sales.' There's a friggin sale every other day - yay, good for me and my movie addiction. 

The first time I ever heard of Harry Potter was my 2nd or 3rd year at Queen Mary's. My friend Ben used to carry Marx around for 'light reading' was carrying Harry Potter as well. I remember him pulling it out of his book bag once and telling me what a sterling book it was. This guy Ben was a real contradiction.  He was a fervent Marxist and his political ideas and beliefs were so firmly formed the first year I had met him. I was just a bumbling kid schooled in these American schools, no political consciousness on that level and here was this guy who knew exactly what he believed in. He was also engaged and had a steady girlfriend. A real grounded guy. He was a Marxist but was afraid of watching horror movies ever since he watched Bambi and they killed Bambi's mother. After graduating and all, the guy started working for a bank! And not just any old job, he was hard core investment banking. He said he was going to bring down the system from deep within the belly of the beast. 

Well anyway, I first started reading Harry Potter when I was in Islamabad after finishing university. I was reading pirated copies - bless piracy. My little sister seemed less interested in it than me! It's a great world that R.K. Rowling has created. I guess it's so endearing because although it's a fantastical place, it's still pretty normal every day stuff about friendships, relationships, families, etc. And the funny thing is how multi cultural, politically correct it is, too. 

I met the love of my life while reading Harry Potter actually. I was waiting for my ride having just landed in Amman, Jordan and was reading this pirated copy! My ride had not come yet and I called the office and I guess was looking a bit worried and this guy suddenly starts speaking to me. I guess I must have looked a little lost. When he'd heard that I was going to get a cab instead he said, I would advise you to wait for your office car. So I called the office back and told them I would rather wait for the car. So we got talking about Iraq, South Africa, what he was doing, what I was doing, etc. The story according to him is that I picked him. Apparently I asked for the time.

There's another Queen Mary friend with whom I have long and ardent discussions (ardent and long discussions - what sounds better?) about the Harry Potter books and we make comparisons with the movies. This Greek friend of mine, Vassilia or Vasso, is one of the most quirky, un-self-conscious, intelligent and caring people I know. She's two years younger than me and is even more scatter brained than me and also very fussy in a cute granny way. You can tell her anything - the worst disaster you can think of - and she knows the appropriate thing to say. She's really nerdy, too, which makes her the ideal coffe-movie-date. We talk for hours about nothing. For instance, she thinks Snape was a bad character through and through. And that the books went downhill after the fifth or so. Plenty of room for discussion as you can see. 

Watching the first Harry Potter movie was great. Ron, Hermione and Harry are so adorable. Especially Ron, I have started to really become irritated by this guy along the way as he whines so much all the friggin time. More over, he is so lucky being friends with Harry who is single-mindedly brave and Hermione who is a walking encyclopedia. If you really ask me, Hermione is the real hero - Harry would be nowhere without her. But anyway, it was nice to see the movie. The little kids are so friggin cute. 

I sort of wish SOAS was more like Hogwarts! But let's imagine some parallels. 

I guess neo liberalism and capitalism are You Know Who.

Let's see. Is Professor Bernstein like Hagrid? Who is Snape? Good hand? Who is Dumbledore? I guess Professor Bernstein could also be Dumbledore. Cramer could also be, a younger one, I guess. I think Professor Trelawny is Rostami-Povey or Zoe Marriage?  Who's McGonagall?? We don't seem to have had that many lady prof's. Too bad. 

The library staff and the security are the goblins. Guarding our precious library books, the serious library atmosphere, and our tendency to eat and drink. They should call it Gringotts instead. 

The War to Peace Transitions class is like the Transfiguration class.

Okay, this was fun. Little joys of life. 

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

“Identity is such a crucial affair that one shouldn't rush into it.”

Every experience one goes through moulds ones character. Every challenge reveals and moulds one's character. But what of identity? Is that also tied to one's character? There is one's national, religious, ethnic identity. And these are very potent. 

Since I embarked on this masters, I have grappled with both. I do not want to delve into all the personal trials and tribulations but let's say on the intellectual, academic and professional front, I have had to think again about my identity. The lectures, the readings and the interactions with one's fellow students has prompted me to bring forth my sense of identity as someone from a developing country, from a Muslim country, and from a country that is experiencing a lot of violence. These realities all merge and diverge. It has also made me think about my career and my motivations for working in development, with the UN. It has made me think about my experience in Africa and how much I have come to identify and relate to Africa, how personal Africa has become for me. 

The question that I have to think about as I go along is why do I want to continue to work for the UN given all its dysfunctions, flaws and serious short comings? How do I justify earning the kind of money that one earns in the UN? 

How does one achieve an objective view of things? If you've read my blog, you will know I have spent a great deal of time ranting about the lack of the Other view. How important is it, after all? Or, should I not spend more time in coming up with a coherent, original view of my own? 

Some of the observations on my rants so far have been that I seem to be making an 'Us versus Them' kind of dichotomy. Well, to be honest, I have been making this dichotomy for some time. I started to become aware of the general Westerner's attitude towards the Other in Liberia in professional and private spheres and, to be honest, it really took me by surprise and shocked me in the worst cases. Mind you, I have been brought up in a very international space all my life, have been schooled in American international schools in the capitals of the world, been to the UK for my undergrad, had an international UN career. Perhaps I was still very sheltered. It was only really recently where I was struck by this social, political, psychological construction of the Other by the Western world. And lo and behold, I was the Other. Moreover, I realised this while working in Development. 

Hence, I brought along some of this baggage with me to the masters and, continued to see it around me. 

There's a lot of things I have to muddle through and come up with temporary conclusions. For the time being, I am fine where I am. I think my motivations vis a vis my career are still sound - I would like to see how far I can go in the UN, make some kind of a valuable contribution as a Pakistani and as myself. At some point I do also have to decide how I can make more of a contribution to Pakistan itself by living and working there. As far as 'Us' and 'Them' is concerned, it still holds for me. We come from entirely different points of view as far as development is concerned. I don't have a self-righteous, saving the world sense of duty and not that all Westerners do but by the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn, it is embarassing how many do, so many of my older colleagues and so many kids. 

I do perfectly realise I am objectifying, stereotyping The Westerner. Why not?

In the end, I shall say that I have had to think about my identity, how strongly should I assert it, does it blur my vision, how important is it, can I divorce it from these academic adventures, and so on. I guess it is good to go back inwards and explore who one really is. 

The VCD Group Case Study

What does Afghanistan have to do with Kashmir?
Pakistan's Support for Islamic Militancy is Not a Stupid Thing

The VCD Group Case Study was a crazy but fun and challenging part of the course. The objective was to present a conflict with as much breadth and scope as possible in groups in the space of 30 minutes. The groups were formed by February/March. I really did not 'shop around' for groups - I ended up being in the Kashmir group because my VCD tutorial classmate asked me whether I wanted to join that group. I thought, 'why not?' Some of my other friends were doing Botswana - a country that was not in conflict, which was ingenious enough but I thought I better stick to what I know!

I will say right off the bat that it was a very rewarding experience in every sense. My group really made a journey from A to B - from knowing very little about the conflict in Kashmir to having a real appreciation of the suffering, complexity in terms of having at least 3 different actors and historical roots, and to what it had evolved into. Moreover, we were constantly trying to figure out ways in which to present the conflict within a regional context with global implications. Finally, there was a great group dynamic and we all got along really well. 

So who was in the group? An Indian - (Anubhooti), an Afghani (Haseeb), a Finn (Helka), a Korean (Nodi), a French (Cecile) and a Pakistani (myself). The first time we met was in Anu's kitchen in her halls of residence. When we first met, I thought to myself - hmmm, what an interesting group. It was interesting for me because there were three South Asians who would know a little bit more about Kashmir than the others. Nodi had been to Pakistan and India but she mostly thought it was a religious conflict. Helka and Cecile seemed to have even less of an idea about it. Hence, there was a lot of learning and teaching to do. 

Anu and I dived into lengthy and emotional stories of the Partition, the Raj, Kashmir's significance, etc - the way we have heard of them, been socialised around them, learned of them through our separate nationalisms and state brainwashing. Haseeb offered his point of view now and then. For me it was very clear from the beginning that the Kashmir story could not be told without speaking of the spill over into Afghanistan - Pakistan's quest for strategic depth in Afghanistan and the subsequent Cold War adventures with the damn Americans. I think Haseeb was also convinced of this. If I can remember correctly, this had already formed in my head in the very first meeting. And happily, Helka and Nodi were content to let us South Asians steer the boat. Cecile was quiet and I think was observing at that point. 

We made it a point to go back and do as much respective reading on Kashmir as possible before we really decided how to tackle it. We were very diligent as a group to meet as regularly as possible, even if it was just to have very general discussions and Anu and I going off on tangents! Bless the rest of the group for being so patient with us! We even made the effort to go watch a documentary on Kashmir (Project Kashmir) that was being played in a cinema in Brixton. We were not very impressed with it but it did show some of the sufferings of every day life, the huge Indian Army military presence, road blocks, curfew, encounter killings/disappearances, destruction of houses, and the departure of the Pundits. It showed how entrenched the cycle of violence had become. And, now that I think about it, how entrenched the religious identities had become - Muslim and Hindu - at the expense of Kashmiriness. So I guess we should have been more impressed with it!

The presentation started to take form and, I managed to convince the group that what would be most interesting would be to present four different positions on the conflict (Kashmir, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan) in order to provide a multi-faceted picture. The Afghanistan position would say that because of strategic insecurities and the tension with India, Pakistan has always been interested in Afghan affairs. Haseeb would present Afghanistan and I would present Pakistan. What was funny was that Anu thought the Kashmir and India position would be one because Kashmir was an integral part of India. It took her a while to figure out that Kashmir was a disputed territory! It was very cute. That's what I mean that it was a rewarding experience - not only did the non-Asians learn something but the South Asians did too! 

So we laboured on, doing our respective research and preparing our parts. Helka researched the Kashmir position and did a really good job. Honestly, I did not know much of the Kashmir position but luckily had attended the Human Rights Watch talk earlier in the year. I had even lamented to myself of how much Kashmir had receded into the background while India and Pakistan continue with their rivalry. Nodi worked on the introduction and Cecile with her conclusion. We all worked separately and that it made it interesting in terms of coming up with each position and part. Cecile for example provided the SAARC and international perspective on the conflict in the conclusion she had been preparing. 

The last couple of weeks and the last weekend before we were supposed to present the case (27 April - right after our freaking spring break) were very intensive and nerve racking. We were meeting regularly in the library but because of everyone's differing commitments it was hard to find a common rhythm. Also there was a mini coup d'etat in the group and Haseeb took over the boss role from me! A few days before the presentation he said that the case was not interesting enough - the rest of us got pretty crabby and mutinous. He said that a certain group had rented a cottage just to work on the case. He was not very clear on how we should make the presentation interesting. I was very annoyed with Haseeb and told him so. Well, the next morning, mulling over tea and coffee, before we were to start working in the library, I thought open-mindedly about Haseeb's comments and it came to me! 'What does Afghanistan have to do with Kashmir?' That should make it interesting, right? The rest of the group came on board and, that is how we proceeded. 

Haseeb is a journalist by profession therefore he was able to steer the group in terms of creating separate and clear cut positions. It took us that entire weekend to alter our presentation. The challenging task was to distinctively carve out the positions. What did Afghanistan - the hot ticket item on Obama's foreign policy or at least that's what he's going around saying - and the mess it was in have to do with Kashmir? Why was Pakistan interested in Kashmir and Afghanistan? What did India have to say about it? We used a lot of journalistic articles that Haseeb had to put together our presentation. Helka's piece more or less remained the same but she did stick in some stuff about the presence of Afghan mujahideen veteran fighters in Kashmir and made the link. It started to come together but it was a frantic weekend and, we did not give ourselves enough time to polish it and come up with a strong conclusion with implications, suggestions and tie in with theory. And now that I think about it, we totally ignored Azad Kashmir. 

That weekend before the presentation was hair-pullingly frantic but fun. Other groups were also working around us and I got some snippets of it now and then. Some group was talking about putting in a Simpsons episode into their presentation. Whaat? I swear I heard that somewhere. Talking to others was funny as I am sure it was for everyone. None of the topics made any sense or seemed blah. 'What are you doing your presentation on'? 'Drones in NWFP' 'What about them?' 'DDRR in Liberia' 'What about it'? 'Responsibility to Protect in Guinea' 'Didn't they just get a UN Mission?' 'Kashmir' 'What about it'? 'Isn't it part of India'? 'Does not Pakistan have a piece of it, why can't you guys just be happy'?

The rule - apparently - was to attend all of the presentations for the day which you were on. A lot of people didn't follow this rule though, including some of my group members who were late! Well anyway, we were not on until 2 pm. I started to get really nervous seeing the other presentations which had power points and/or were presented in the form of panel discussions or role play. We did a bit of rehearsal in the lunch break and I told myself that our presentation was solid, we had worked hard and moreover, we had a secret weapon*! A cool tagline - Pakistan's support for Islamic militancy is not a stupid thing! Listen and weep, all you schmucks!

Well what can I say, we presented! Nodi went on, Helka went on. Anu all the while was gripping my hand and whispering loudly in my ear and I am sure the rest of the lecture theatre could hear us. Boy was she nervous! She went up, followed by myself, Haseeb and Cecile. It was okay. We went over the time and, perhaps that is why we did not get any good questions. This one fellow kept pestering us but Anu gave a good answer. I did not get Goodhand's question - something about transnational networks. I think he was asking us to explain how fighters could go from one war to another, what would be the motivations and mechanisms that would allow that. Haseeb answered that but I do not remember what he said. I guess he must have said that these networks were created by the CIA, ISI, the Saudis which exploited religious ideas of jihad. Once jihadis - they needed one jihad after another, I guess. 

What about the other presentations in general? Well, there was one that was really pretentious - it was 90% theory and felt like a lecture. I was very amused by the one on DDRR in Liberia - it was so hard to believe that the programme that was our freaking life for 3+ years in our wonderful DEX Unit at UNDP was being presented before me. This programme was a nightmare for us, from donors, to UNMIL, to UNDP management, to our IPs - careers were made, careers were lost - revenge was sworn - romantic moves were made. Man. It was a good time though.  All my 'inside info' apart - that information that was presented was really not correct and, it makes me wonder about the so-called academic research. But that's another blog post. It was still interesting to hear this presentation about the Liberia DDRR vis a vis women. What about the rest? There was nothing new about Palestine. The Mexico kidnappings was interesting enough but I should have paid more attention. The drones one was a hilarious presentation in terms of format but content wise not that solid. The state legitimacy angle - I didn't really get it. 

But still, if I had to grade these, I would give credit to those that are current and changing by the minute. Pakistan must be the most fascinating state to study at the moment because there is so much going on right now and, though everything is connected, each change/transition is something separate in its own right eg. lawyers movement, democratic transition, NWFP, Balochistan, Taliban, suicide bombings, violence, etc. 

As a tail note, I was really disappointed to see how unfriendly students can be towards each other. I was quite shocked to see students bombarding - rather attacking - each others' presentations with questions. Come on guys, take it easy! Why are you trying to score points or show how clever you are right now? Do it to lecturers, not your fellow students! I could have, for example, asked some leading questions to the Liberia DDRR group but why would I give my friends a hard time? I would either ask a simple question (they had enough though) or ask them later on. 

All in all, I am happy with my group and how far we came in understanding our case. We had a great sense of camaraderie. I think we tackled a difficult topic, did our best, and were on top of the current affairs. So kudos to us!

* Calvin's is a clear plastic binder! 

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Mahmood Mamdani - Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror

Saviours and Survivors
Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror
Mahmood Mamdani

3 June 2009
Where? A very crowded G3 at SOAS

Mamdani was introduced by our good old Henry Bernstein. It seemed that Cramer did not have enough clout to get a bigger room for Mamdani's lecture. What a SOAS joke - some of the most important speakers have given their earth-shattering lectures in very small and forgettable rooms. It reminded me of the Ahmed Rashid lecture I went to waaay in the beginning. Oh that was fun. It was also in a tiny room but what a buzz and what a talk!

Bernstein said that he knows Mamdani for more than 30 years now. Mamdani was a public intellectual in the truest sense. He did not agree with everything Mamdani goes around saying but he is highly critical, independent and encourages debate.

Well, I was utterly excited to be at this lecture. We have had to read Mamdani during the year and, to be honest, I did not know of him before coming to SOAS. I remember being told that he was a 'radical' (I love this word, anyone who vaguely speaks the truth is a radical). Who pointed that out to me? I don't even remember. Oh yes, and my UNDP colleague Paavani who has studied at Columbia told me to read Mamdani as well. I think I was asking her something about Rwanda for one of my classes.

Mamdani started off in a very quiet and measured tone. I was wondering whether he would be speaking like this the entire time but his voice rose gracefully and fell where necessary. There were measured silences. There was so much passionate anger. It was a wonder. How can I explain it? A lecture means so much more when you can believe that the speaker him/herself actually believe what they are saying. That they are conveying a truth. I think from all our VCD lecturers, the people who really were passionate were Cramer and di John and I respect them all for it. In TPP, the great speakers were Bernstein, Subir Sinha and Denise. Zoe Marriage's book is unbelievably passionate, sincere and deeply sensitive but unfortunately, she cannot seem to convey her passion in her lectures.

Mamdani said that he was interested in political violence - the issues that drive political violence in a historical context, particularly in the post colonial context in Africa. What got him interested in writing the book on Darfur was how globalised this conflict had become as compared to say, Rwanda. From the outset, Darfur was the focus of a domestic political movement in the US 'Save Darfur'. $ 14 million was raised for "advocacy." Save Darfur certainly did give the conflict publicity however it created distortions of the reality:

i) how many people died at the height of the violence? Estimates made by the Americans put the numbers killed at the height of the violence 2003-2004 at 400,000 and those made by WHO between 50-70,000. Those made by the JAO turned out to be the least reliable while those made by WHO were more realistic.
ii) were the dead killed? Of the 50-70,000 killed, 70-80% died from consequences of drought and these were mostly children and women.
iii) silence about the violence Does this violence have a history? Was this violence driven by issues?
iv) violence declined dramatically in 2004 The average number killed per month was 200 reported by the UN. The decrease in violence was brought about African Union efforts which brought the warring parties together. The only paper which carried this report in the UK was the Independent. At the same time, the UN on a higher level was throwing out figures that 300,000 were killed. (Classic tales of lack of coordination in the UN)

If you visit the Save Darfur website, you will see the accounts of murder, rape, burning of villages, documentation of perpetrators and victims. He said this Save Darfur along with aid agencies is 'naming and shaming' ultimately for the purpose of criminal justice. This framing in which violence is for violence sake and not of issues and without history is also shared by the War on Terror. This framing, this publicity got him interested deeper into the conflict.

Before 1987, the conflict was local, isolated and relatively reconcilable. From 1987 to 1989, the conflict become province-wide. It was waged with unparalleled brutality. Like all conflicts, there is not once explanation but several causes:

1) A deep cause was the land issue which can be traced to the British colonial period and the division of tribal lands. More land was given to settled tribes.
2) The trigger was drought, a four-decade long drought. A conflict ensued between the peasants and nomads - who would control the the land would survive the drought. This became a main cause of the brutality.
3) Technology. Darfur and the region became integrated into the Cold War. Chad's civil war was supported by US/France/Israel on one side and Libya/Soviet Union on the other. The opposition was mobilised in Darfur which became militarised. Darfur became eastern Congo to Rwanda. He said that while not one drop of water could be found in Darfur, the area was awash with AK47s.

The Save Darfur campaign became a marketing of grief. There was indeed a slaughter and Mamdani said that the responsibility can only be laid at the feet of the political authority. However, the Save the Darfur campaign seemed to be a new mobilisation. It was not a peace movement - it was a war movement using such language as sanctions, no fly zone, boots from Iraq to Sudan, command shift from AU to the UN, etc.

The observations here were really sharp and insightful. Mamdani said that if you look at the peace movements of the 60s, including the anti-apartheid movement, the movements brought students face to face with educators. It taught students context, history - connected the dots! This 'peace movement' brings media celebrities to the fore! The peace movement has gone from colleges to high schools. The entire thing was depoliticised in effect.

Between Afghanistan and Iraq, the 'only show was Save Darfur.' Tariq Ali apparently said that there was no draft for Iraq thereby producing a very blah peace movement. But there was draft for Darfur either and produced an even more blah and weird peace movement. Comparing the Americans' attitude towards Iraq and Darfur, Mamdani said that in the case of Iraq, there was at least some kind of intelligent discussion around Sunnis, Shiias, etc. Darfur on the other hand is a good versus evil platform, a place to feel good. In Iraq were discussed the limits of American intervention. Iraq was discussed by citizens. Darfur is discussed as humans, in moral terms. Further depoliticisation.

What needs to be done

The paradigm that guides human rights and NGOs etc is Nuremburg. A conflict ends and there are winners and losers. In Africa, however, conflicts are ongoing. The model that was followed was South Africa where the past was forgiven - political reform over criminal justice. Every conflict in Africa has hence followed this paradigm. But why not Darfur?

Ze Questions

There was one about the Zionist link to the Save the Darfur campaign. This was funny. Apparently, the movement was an inter-faith one and 'faith packets' were distributed to Jews, Muslims and Christians (Drivers, Informers and Navigators!). There definitely was a 'Zionist' link and Mamdani said a key proof of this was a piece he'd read in the Jerusalem Post. However, he did not want to follow that path and open up that front.

The dweeb question. There's always a dork question somewhere in there (say I who has never bothered to come up with a question of my own). Some kid says that as head of the student union movement in the UK, he'd supported Save Darfur but there was no Zionist link. They were simply saying that the African Union was not up for the job. Mamdani said that the reason the AU was not up for the job was because they never received the support as was promised to them. The US promised $ 50 million and 'not a penny' was received. The Canadians promised helicopters and pilots but only gave civilian pilots. The EU was to provide salaries but because of corruption, they only released salaries to the soldiers on a quarterly basis. Now how can you fight a war without paying your soldiers? The UN could not solve the political issue at the heart of the conflict - only the AU was the organisation to do it but it was actively sidelined and marginalised.

Mamdani was emphatic about regional organisations. Regional players are your peers who will not exceptionalise or demonise the problem but attempt to solve it as they have to live with the consequences. The international community however is fond of criminalising and marginalising the very key players which have to be part of the negotiations and solutions.

Comparing Zimbabwe and Kenya - a highly interesting one - there was higher election fraud in Kenya than in Zimbabwe. More people were killed in the recent election violence in Kenya than in Zimbabwe. However, the West did everything to have the opposition patch up with the government while the opposite was supported in Zimbabwe. The West has put a lot of pressure on South Africa to shut off electricity to Zimbabwe.

Mamdani said the oppositions seemed to be running out of imagination in Africa. They constantly run to Western embassies.

In answer to the Arab/African dimension to the conflict, this was a differentiation created by the British. The immigration of Arabs was a minor affair - the larger one was from West Africa since the 11th century. The royalty claimed descent from Solomon, the Prophet Muhammad. A merchant/royalty class - the merchant class ascribing to Sharia and the royalty class tradition. In the Nile valley, Arab identity was a privilege whereas in Darfur the Arabs were the poorest. The Arabs in Darfur are as local as anyone else.

It was in the 80s that Darfur became racialised where once it had always been tribal. Moreover, the NGOs feed on this dynamic and are part of the problem.

He did agree that land is not enough of an issue to explain the conflict.

As for oil, the Western powers have always controlled Africa's resources. And there are new powers on the rise who come not with guns but trade agreements, building infrastructure. The way things are. But oil doesn't explain the conflict which began as a civil war with local issues.


I completely agree with everything Mamdani said. Conflicts whether in the developing world or in the West's history are political and they have a context and a history. I never believed they were anything else before I came to SOAS and believe the same. I could have never imagined there were economists going around trying to pin down civil wars to greed. I never believed there was a primordial hatred between us Muslims and Hindus - perhaps the usual friction between religions - but whatever it was was the result of either power dynamics - Muslims having ruled India for centuries - or exploited by outsiders. I never believed anything other than that. Why? What for? Do we not have any self respect? Should we do away with our history for the benefit of academics and economists?

Mamdani's tracing of the Save Darfur campaign and the media projection of the conflict was so sharp. I used to think uncomfortably of the Arab/African differentiation - yet another savagery by Muslims against another minority. Was there any truth in it? Was it as bad? Was there really a genocide going on? And the way the AU was paraded as a useless or irrelevant organisation. Why? On the continent, people discussed it as an organisation like any organisation is discussed, with flaws and merits, but not as a joke. And it struck me as funny that while the US could spend the trillions it did in Iraq, why couldn't it lend a few helicopters to the AU?

Mamdani is African so his take on the issues is going to be passionate, sincere and concerned - far more than Clooney or an average moral Westerner. I have been saying this all along the year. I am interested in hearing what Africans have to say about Africa. What Asians have to say about Asia. There is a huge gulf of knowledge and sincerity between Westerners and us. For them development and conflict resolution is a lifestyle, a morality, a replacement of religion. For the academics, it is an inquiry or best, an attempt to re-teach their younger generation which thinks well the very same things their colonial grandfathers did.

I am glad the issue of regional organisations was so strongly addressed by Mamdani. We have to strengthen our political organisations - be it ECOWAS, AU, SADEC, SAARC, ASEAN, etc.