03 July, 2010

What I'm Reading...

Blood diamonds are making a comeback! IRIN and Africa Works have run posts on the issue. The key is Zimbabwe and whether or not (not!) they satisfy the minimum requirements for their diamonds to be considered "conflict free" or if conflict diamonds are getting labeled Kimberley safe when they are anything but. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme has a lot of good, it started off as a good idea - but like many other international organizations, or bodies, has failed to do what it was supposed to. When many are calling on cell phone providers to create something similar to the KPCS we need to look at the success/failure of the Kimberley Process before we move too far forward. 

Steve Jobs weighed in on the issue of conflict minerals (article 2). 

Yes, it is incredibly hard to verify positively that organizations aren't using conflict minerals - but it has to be done. To do nothing because it's hard - and to just assume that someone will be honest when they write - come on Steve! You are a pioneer, a visionary, a man who has done time and time again things that were hard, seemingly impossible. You look at the bar people set for you and destroy it. So, you're telling you are going to sit there and wait for someone else to figure out how to fix this? I am a Mac girl all the way - but not if Apple just expects us to be content with them shrugging their shoulders and saying, "Let someone else handle this..." 

This kind of accountability, this type of regulation must be industry established. As "good" as this Bill in Congress is - it will do very little to truly change anything. But a self-regulating system of accountability can actually have an impact. Look at the cocoa industry in London if you want some ideas. Or if you want to see how bad it can get when people start to realize where their luxury item really comes from... 

Speaking of the Congo (love easy transitions!) Happy 50th Anniversary of Independence! 

In 1960 Congo finally gained it's freedom from Belgium. What was supposed to be a joyous time - a chance to move forward, turned into The Congo going from one oppressive dictator to another, from being under The Belgium to having their future determined by the other people.  

What would have happened if Belgium and the U.S. had let the free/fair elections that made Lumumba PM stand? He wanted foreign entities out, he wanted Congo to have control of their mines (go figure!), he wanted the wealth that was being exported out and benefiting European powers to benefit the Congolese. They stood on the other side of Leopold and saw a brighter tomorrow. They could have become the most prosperous, well-developed country in Africa. They could have been a model for the rest of the continent. They could have broken that glass ceiling and maybe we would have an entirely different Congo today. But in the midst of the Cold War - when the U.S. and others were ensuring the Communism did not spread by any means necessary, when we did not want to be told what to do, when we did not want a "third world" nation to become strong, we had Lumumba killed and instilled Mobutu - and fifty years of massacre, of dictatorship, of genocide, of corruption - too reminiscent of Leopold followed. And look where we are today... 

NPR ran this story in the Congo - it's worth a listen. 

Texas in Africa posted this video on her site:

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The Guardian ran this article on Patrice Lumumba - Congo's first PM who was killed a year into office (emphasis added) 

"Much that is incredible, extravagant, ambiguous and unjust has been written about Patrice Lumumba", his friend Thomas Kanza once noted. He was right. Congo's first prime minister, a hero of independence 50 years ago this week, was overthrown and murdered less that a year after taking office. Of all the deaths in that country's terrible history, Lumumba's is the best remembered: a man whose killing doomed hopes of African independence. It is too easy to think that, had he lived, the Congo would have thrived. Lumumba was not a saint and the challenge of running a vast country whose population had been denied basic education by Belgian rulers interested only in exploiting its wealth would have sunk any government. But the Congo, which became Zaire, would have been spared the autocracy of President Mobutu and perhaps the hideous war that followed his death. This week the Belgian king arrived in Kinshasa to mark Congo's half century as an independent state, a peculiar re-enactment of his predecessor's role granting independence in 1960. Then, Lumumba, denied a formal place at the ceremony, denounced colonial rule. Belgium conspired to overthrow him; so did the United States. No one knows who ordered his death, only that Belgian troops were involved in it. Now Lumumba's sons say they want justice. More than that, though, DRC needs peace and prosperity, rather than the continued abuses of its latest discredited government. 
That would be the best tribute to its lost leader.

Read Lumumba's speech to Congress in 1960 here

Louis Michel, a Belgian Member of European Parliament, would do well to read it. Michel who recently told P-Magazine, a publication in Belgium, "Leopold II was a true visionary for his time, a hero... And even if there were horrible events in the Congo, should we now condemn them?"  He later said, "To use the word 'genocide' in relation to the Congo is absolutely unacceptable and inappropriate. And yes, maybe colonisation was domineering and acquiring more power, but at a certain moment, it brought civilisation." (site)

Maybe Michel needs to read Hochschild's book and then try to say that Leopold was a hero or that genocide did not happen because of his greed. 

In other news. Want to help Uganda? Send condoms! Change.org recently ran a post about how Uganda would love people to donate condoms so the country can distribute them. 

From the post: Uganda's New Vision reports that 95% of the country's contraceptives are paid for by donors. But at this point, AIDS patients newly in need of ARVs are learning the hard way what life is like when donors change priorities. So it's a double slap in the face that, as donors stop funding AIDS treatments, the country is having a difficult time getting its hands on condoms, too. Condoms that — say it with me now — help prevent the spread of AIDS. ... The New Vision says Ugandans use 20 million condoms a month, half of those given out for free by the health ministry.

Uganda has roughly 16 million people who are aged 15 - 64 (or 48% of the population). The campaign to get people to use condoms has worked. Women have more say in family planning. But just giving out condoms is not an answer. I can't quite get to articulating this - I need to read more. But something seems off. Are there programs being done that mention abstinence, or faithfulness, or has it been totted as just wear a condom and do what you want? I find the numbers interesting... 

And finally, The Road to the Horizon has been running a series "You've been an aidworker for too long..." Here is reason number five

..if your memories are indexed in reference to the different humanitarian emergencies:
- "My oldest daughter was born the year after Angola"
- "I got married three years before Bosnia" 
- "Just after the Tsunami, my parents finished building their new house"
- "I bought that car the third month after the start of Rwanda"
- "My brother started his company the year before the Iraq war"