Because the US has been urging him to resign his "presidency", Charles Taylor of Liberia says that our country has "blood on its hands". Then again, he offered to step down two weeks ago and reneged. Seems like that's happened a few times now.

Taylor said he did not know if the U.S. would require his departure before their arrival in Liberia.

"I don't understand why the United States government would insist that I be absent before its soldiers arrive," Taylor told a meeting of Liberian clerics. "It makes a lot of sense for peacekeepers to arrive in this city before I transit."

Maybe it's important because we don't want you to suddenly change your mind again once everything is peaceful?

So what's the deal with Africa? Conventional wisdom ascribes the near-perpetual civil wars to ethnic divisions and tribalism, but I just read a fascinating paper titled "Why Are There So Many Civil Wars in Africa? Understanding and Preventing Violent Conflict" which argues persuasively that such heterogeneity may in fact be beneficial, if proper democratic institutions can be developed.

The authors, Ibrahim Elbadawi and Nicholas Sambanis, suggest that there are three main factors hindering Africa's development: heavy dependence on natural resources, a lack of democratic institutions, and a lack of political freedom. The dependence of Africa's economy on natural resources is important because such resources can be easily looted by rebels, and tend to concentrate geographically in the territory of a handful of ethnic groups. Little can be done to diversify Africa's economies, however, until there is significant economic growth away from agriculture and mining.

That economic growth will come about once the last two problems are solved: the need for political freedom and democratic institutions. The authors claim that based on their statistical analysis, political freedom isn't required for a ethnically homogenetic nation to prosper, but Africa's fractured cultures make it a necessity. (On a side note, America's broadly diverse population also flourishes under a strong democratic system; Europe's weaker democracies are floundering with an influx of immigrants.) Past attempts to introduce political freedoms in Africa have failed because they did not construct institutions that practically allowed Africa's various ethnic groups to bargain politically and reach acceptable compromises.

Such institutions are the critical building block. They must be created with Africa's tribal culture in mind, and the authors suggest giving major ethnicities formal political recognition. In my own mind, a federal-type system would seem ideal; using America's political system as reference, imagine the bicameral Congress of an African nation composed of a Senate wherein each tribe is equally represented, and a House built of representatives from geographically-based districts all of nearly equal population. There are certainly significant details that need to be worked out during the process of creating such a government -- which tribes get representation, for instance -- but such a bicameral system should allow both the large and small tribes to reach a concensus.

As economic development takes hold, the opportunity cost of civil war rises. As employment rises, fewer men are available for fighting, and there are fewer grievances to fight about. What disagreements still exist can be resolved peacefully though the democratic institutions in place. The important thing to realize is that economic developement follows political development, and not the other way around. Siphoning money from rich nations into Africa won't solve anything if there aren't significant political reforms first. And once the political reforms take place, Africans will have no use for our money; they will prosper on their own.

Clayton Cramer gives an example of how graft and corruption run rampant in Africa.

Update 2:
Via Donald Sensing, here's an excellent two part description by Vessel of Honor of Charles Taylor's ties to Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson, and al Qaeda. It's almost too incredible to believe.



Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info