A year after an earthquake shook the small island-nation of Haiti, a mere 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared. Not even half of the donor money pledged has arrived. The government has failed to show leadership, and international NGOs are not helping -- circumventing the Haitian authorities to write their own rules. Perhaps most biting, the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) chaired by Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has so far "failed" to deliver its mandate for reconstruction, plagued instead by "contradictory policies and priorities."
These are the findings of a new report released today by the British-based charity Oxfam International. It's a damning read out on the last year of reconstruction -- or as the paper makes clear, lack thereof. While the emergency response is lauded for saving millions of people with vital supplies, services, and shelters, "neither the Haitian state nor the international community is making significant progress in reconstruction."
What went wrong? The report paints a picture of an international effort entirely divorced from the needs and wishes of the Haitian people -- not to mention the Haitian government. The original Action Plan meant to be put into place by the IHRC was favored by a mere 17.5 percent of Haitians, according to an Oxfam poll cited in the report. In implementation, the commission failed to include government ministers, for example consulting them in a tardy fashion -- and providing documents for review often only in English (the Haitian government operates in French). Individual NGOs and aid organizations actually carrying out the relief effort have done no better. "Many aid agencies continue to bypass local and national authorities in the delivery of assistanc," the report claims.
Ok, so the international community has been ignoring the Haitian government and just plowing ahead according to their own plan. Maybe that sounds like a good idea -- indeed, the government lacks much of the capacity to run the country's services and infrastructure today. It's incredibly tempting as an aid operation to want to cut corners, forget to do a bit of paperwork, or just fail to consult the local government -- so that your program can start helping people a few days or hours sooner. But the fact that Haiti's government is seen as inept is precisely the point. The Haitian authorities will never have that capacity to run Haiti if the international community cuts them out. So unless the international community plans on staying and running Haiti forever (something that Haitians would never -- and should never -- stand for), this is a disaster of an approach.
Ironically, these are the very same principles that the IHRC itself recognizes and has nominally committed to. One of its founding precepts was to empower Haitian authorities and help build up expertise in the local ministries. But like rebuilding a country, it seems this is easier said than done.
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As Cote d'Ivoire heads south fast, Salon reports that one of Washington's most well-known lobbyists -- former Bill Clinton counsel Lanny Davis -- has been hired by "the government" to step in. By "government," that would be Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president who has refused to step down from office after losing an election last month.
Davis, whose previous clients have included Equatorial Guinea dictator Teodoro Obiang, now finds himself in the service of a strongman who has no record of yielding to his opponents. And based on a statement released from Davis' lawfirm, that may be exactly why the Ivoirian incumbent sought him out. Davis counsels against "a rush to judgment [about the election result] until all the facts regarding the November 28 election are fairly evaluated" -- despite the fact that the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and the African Union have all certified an election result that would see Gbagbo losing. This was, by almost any measure, the most free and fair vote Cote D'Ivoire has ever held. Voting went smoothly and the results were certified by an independent commission.
So to be honest, convincing anyone to turn to Gbagbo's camp, especially here in Washington, is going to be a tall order, no matter who your lobbyist is. The U.S. yesterday approved sanctions against Gbagbo and would extremely unlikely to break formation with the rest of the international community in reversing that order. The World Bank, the African Union, and the European Union have all done the same.
But if there's one piece of good news, it's this: Davis' statement indicates that he's recommended that Gbagbo let an international mediator step in. Maybe even Davis realizes that Gbagbo needs more help than just him.
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After two weeks of stalemate, the political controntation in Cote D'Ivoire is finally moving -- in the very, very wrong direction. Last month, opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara won a presidential election -- but incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to leave. In recent days, the two have set up rival headquarters, named rival cabinets, and claimed rival military forces for their protection. Now it seems, the stage is set for a showdown.
Earlier today, troops loyal to Gbagbo surrounded Ouattara's headquarters at a local hotel. Now, Ouattara has set a date -- Dec. 17 -- on which his own loyal forces will attempt to take the government offices away from Gbagbo.
Ouattara is likely trying to put pressure on Gbagbo to step down -- something that the international community has also been trying for the last two weeks. The European Union, for example, today announced sanctions on Gbagbo's government. Cote D'Ivoire has already been kicked out of the African Union and the regional economic grouping ECOWAS, until the crisis is resolved.
Unfortunately, Gbagbo remains unyielding. Most every news report has been reminding readers about just how volatile the country remains, and just how real the possibility is that it could slip back into war. It looks more and more like this is not a case of crying wolf.
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It's all the rage. Got a contested election in a fragile African country? Send in the elderly statesmen, make the warring parties sit down, and force them both into an uncomfortable but face-saving unity government. It happened in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe now shares power with the real vote-winner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. It happened in Kenya, where incumbant President Mwai Kibaki was force-married with Prime Minister and rival Raila Odinga. And now, it's in danger of happening again in Cote d'Ivoire.
The mayhem in Cote d'Ivoire is serious. The country's presidential election was delayed repeatedly since 2005. When it finally took place, the results were delayed until international pressure came sufficiently to bear. The opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara is believed to have won and has been endorsed by international observers. But both he and the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo have now held swearing-in ceremonies.
So the temptation arises for a coalition. Le Monde has already floated the possibility, and African Union meditor (and former South African President) Thabo Mbeki has already flown to Abidjan. How else can we get both sides peacefully to come to some sort of agreement? But Zimbabwe and Kenya should be evidence enough of why not. Both pacts have ended in stagnation, infighting, and political deadlock. Ending the short-term crisis has come at the cost of sacrificing long-term political development.
Just take Zimbabwe, where the unity government may well have simply delayed the crisis. After months of being sidelined from Mugabe's unilateral decision-making, Prime Minister Tsvangirai has repeatedly boycotted his own government. He has been forced to sacrifice his entire reform agenda in favor of focusing all his political capital on a single goal: another election. There's no reason to believe another vote will go any differently that the last, when Mugabe lost and still claimed victory. Kenya has likewise proved troublesome; the president and prime minister are rumored to have gone months without talking. And so great was mediator Kofi Annan's frustration with the government's inability to push reforms and prosecute perpetrators of the 2008 election violence that he referred the names of the offenders to the International Criminal Court himself.
Now to Cote d'Ivoire, where the situation has more in common with Kenya and Zimbabwe than just its potential for turmoil. Here, as in those two countries, the two political rivals aren't just political foes but personal ones who are not likely to work well together (if the current standoff isn't evidence enough.) Incumbent Gbagbo, who lost, blames Ouattara for imprisoning him when the former was a rebel leader long ago. Ouattara, meanwhile, can't possibly feel fondly toward Gbagbo, having been barred from previous elections for his supposed non-Ivorian roots tracing to Burkina Faso.
It would be great if these two could get along. But the stakes are too high to let them try while running a country. Cote d'Ivoire's government is already suffering. And tensions have left more than a dozen dead in rival protests. Reconciliation is great and much needed -- but probably not best handled within the country's top office.
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An un-named Muslim country is funding the creation of a well-armed and privately trained militia force in Somalia's north to fight piracy, the AP reports today. And behind the scenes consulting are the George W. Bush administration's former ambassador at large for war crimes, Pierre Prosper, and former CIA deputy station chief in Mogadishu Michael Shanklin. The force has already trained its first recruits (Saracen, a private security firm, is taking the lead) and recieved its first shipment of weapons. And most incredibly of all, it will have air support -- something that no military force in the country currently has, even the U.N. peacekeepers.
If it weren't for WikiLeaks, this might well be front-page news. For the last two years, the international community has been trying to do two things: train a decent government army to defend the country from Islamist militant groups that now control much of the country's southern territory, and end the epidemic of piracy that has plagued the Somali coast. This donor Muslim nation now seems more serious (and more willing to pay) for both things in one sweeping blow, creating what may soon be Somalia's best functioning military force. As AP reporter Katharine Houreld points out, he who holds the gun makes the rules in Somalia.
I can't speculate with any authority on which country is behind this rather game-changing feat. But I will say that one of the region's most active ports, Dubai, sends a lot of cargo through the pirate plagued Gulf of Aden. Then again, we learn from Wikileaks that Egypt has urged the U.S. Joint Chiefs to "focus counter piracy efforts on the Somali shore." But equally of question is whether the United States knew about this and was on board. The State Department today expressed concern about the report. The United Nations was apparently cut out entirely; they are reported to be investigating a possible breach of U.N. weapons sanctions by the ongoing training. It wouldn't be the first time that Washington and the United Nations were behind the curve in Somalia.
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A bit of interesting breaking news from the wires: Nigeria's anti-corruption commission is set to unveil a warrant for former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. During his time at Haliburton, the company is alleged to gotten wrapped up in a dollars-for-LNG scandal in the country. Bloomberg has the story:
Nigeria will file charges against former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and officials from five foreign companies including Halliburton Co. over a $180 million bribery scandal, a prosecutor at the anti-graft agency said.
Indictments will be lodged in a Nigerian court “in the next three days,” Godwin Obla, prosecuting counsel at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said in an interview today at his office in Abuja, the capital. An arrest warrant for Cheney “will be issued and transmitted through Interpol,” the world’s biggest international police organization, he said.
Nigeria might sound like an odd place for this to be coming from, but the country's anti-corruption commission actually has quite the record of competance in breaking corporate and government scandals. So if you were wondering, this is "for real."
After you read through enough of these WikiLeaks cables, you realize that most of it is fairly mundane. And then you stumble on a line like this: Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to CENTCOM Commander John Abizaid: "The Somalia job was fantastic."
The Somalia job?
The month is January 2007, and U.S. airstrikes have just taken out alleged al Qaeda leaders in Somalia. Days earlier, an American-backed Ethiopian invasion of the East African country rolled into Mogadishu and unseated Somalia's government -- the first functioning (if still flawed) one it had had in two decades. The job would later go a bit sour: Today, the central government controls just about a third of the land in the capital. The rest is in the hands of one of several Islamist militant groups that sprang from the extremes of that once-ousted government. Yes, the one ousted by the Somalia job.
But back to the cable: the point here might be more about the weapon than the target. During the conversation, Zayed makes clear that he wants to acquire predator drones as a signal to Iran: "Iran has to know that there is a price to pay for every decision they make. They are expanding day by day -- they have to be dealt with before they do something tragic."
I wonder if they'll finally get what they asked for in the $7 billion U.S. arms deal anticipated to land in the UAE next year?
If you saw the movie Salt, you already know that one of the most intriguing intelligence conundrums that comes up is how to handle a 'walk-in' -- a foreign national who literally walks into a U.S. embassy (or other agency) and wants to talk. They can be sources of intelligence (maybe they know about nuclear proliferation) or in dire need of protection (perhaps they've been threatened by their home government.) But in all cases they pose a delicate challenge for diplomats: They are either valuable, dangerous, or both.
Brought to you be WikiLeaks: the State Department memo on how to deal with walk-ins. In short, the process goes something like this:
Assess if the walk-in is a security threat, get copies of their documentation asap, get them into an initial interview. Then, figure out what they want -- and if they are legit (as the memo warns, "Walk-ins may in fact be mentally disturbed persons, intelligence vendors, fabricators, provocateurs from hostile intelligence services, or persons gathering information on behalf of terrorist organizations." If they are for real, next steps are to determine of what value that person might be -- for example, intelligence value -- and hand over the process to the proper officials from there. Knowledge about protection requested by the walk-in is to remain confidential: " Only USG personnel with a need-to-know should be made aware of such requests."
This is all relatively straight-forward and intuitive -- but there are some nuances that hint toward further detail. For example, the priority languages listed for walk-ins are "Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Mandarin, and Korean," suggesting the nationalities of walk-ins that would be most useful for the U.S. government. The memo also acknowledges that the increased security in and around embassies has encouraged walk-ins to approach diplomats outside the embassy setting. (However, meetings with walk-ins off the diplomatic premises are discouraged.)
One can imagine how this information -- now public -- could be detrimental to the U.S. government's efforts to handle walk-ins, not least because potential walk-in frauds could get a glimpse at the process up close. This may be one of the many procedures that will need updating in the post-WikiLeaked world.
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