(I’ve mixed in a few news reports with the blog roundup this week, given the importance of several stories.)
Africa Is A Country on Senegal’s First Lady Marieme Faye Sall:
Joyce Banda of Malawi, the newest President of an African country–and only the second sitting African president who is a woman–is getting all the love for her achievements.* (So what if her ascendency came about due to the death of an aging president and his politically weak, colluding brother?). There is also much chatter on the internet about Malawi’s new First Gentleman, retired Chief Justice Richard Banda (with whom Madame Banda has two children). However, the Senegalese might suggest that their country’s new first lady, Marieme Faye Sall, represents a “bigger” deal in how her move to the presidential palace breaks with Senegal’s political history after independence.
Madame Sall’s husband, Macky Sall, has just been elected as President of Senegal. Her significance lies in the fact that she is the first woman of Senegalese birth and ancestry to become First Lady of Senegal. (Previous First Ladies have either been French or in the case of Madame Diouf of Lebanese descent.) This has made her a sensation, especially amongst Senegalese women; this is the first time they are seeing someone they recognize as one of their own in the presidential palace. Some more poetic accolades for her—within Senegal—have included “daughter of the land,” “a committed housewife,” “real Senegalese lady,” and “future burner of thiouraye (a secret mixture of oils, perfumes, seeds and fragrant wood used as a body [perfume], with an exotic, sweet, spicy, herbal aroma) and harbinger of Africa-ness to the state residence.” Top that if you can, Madame Banda.
Some Senegalese women hope that seeing Madame Sall by the president’s side will send a message to their men: They do not need to be married to a “white” French woman before they achieve success in the country. Another important dimension of her ascendancy is the fact that she is a Muslim. All the three previous First Ladies of Senegal were Christians in a nation that is 90% Muslim. Madame Sall’s carefully constructed story includes her having always been there as a support pillar for her husband, leaving her university studies to tend to his career and well being, and having his children.
Check out the whole piece. The significance of such cultural/political symbolism has been debated on this blog before, and will be again. At the very least it is an interesting set of issues to think about.
Lesley Anne Warner on the coup in Guinea-Bissau.
Electoral campaigning kicks off in Algeria in advance of May 10 parliamentary elections.
Boko Haram’s spokesman assassinated over plans to defect?
The New York Times on art in Senegal, Mali, and Cote d’Ivoire.
Owen Barder, “How Will the UK Cast Its Vote for the World Bank?”
The UK has repeatedly said that it favours merit-based appointments of the heads of the World Bank and IMF. It is also a leading advocate for transparency and accountability in development. Now it can live up to both these commitments.
The UK Executive Director will shortly be casting a vote on behalf of British citizens for the next President of the World Bank. At the beginning of the process it was widely assumed that all the European countries would back Dr Jim Kim, because he is the American nominee. Now that all three candidates have been interviewed by the board, I gather that is no longer being taken for granted.
Chris Blattman writes that “identity has crowded out substance” in the debate over the Bank presidency.
Speaking of Malawi’s new President Joyce Banda, The Economist‘s Baobab says that it “looks like she is off to a good start.”
Dr. Laura Seay, “What’s Next for the DRC?”
In light of a new report from the International Crisis Group on China and South Sudan, Amb. John Campbell assesses the relationship between the two nations. Roving Bandit looks at DFID’s livelihoods program in South Sudan.
What are you reading today?
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I suspect that one thing being ignored by most writers and thinkers is that changing the Bank position from one held by an American to anyone would do nothing to make it more meritocratic. Were Kofi Annan or Ban Ki-moon really chosen for skill at administration or knowledge of diplomacy?
Also left out is the future relevance of the World Bank. China is already set to be a larger factor than the World Bank to Africa. The trend is that most African nations depend less on donor funding/aid and most importantly, the competence of the World Bank as an institution is greatly overrated.
I grew up in Africa in the eighties and nineties, a period when the World Bank’s policy prescriptions were law. I witnessed urban incomes reduced by 90% and institutions destroyed in real time (did the World Bank not insist that spending on social welfare programmes be cut?). Well they were cut and these institutions – many which were barely two decades old, wobbled and fell.
What has the World Bank done since then? It has commissioned numerous “development experts” and academics to correct the mistakes it made in the eighties and nineties. It took Chinese foresight for that institution to take infrastructure seriously again and its signature achievement (HIV/AIDS programme) is as a result of its greatest failure – if African institutions weren’t so badly destroyed by the World Bank’s economic quackery, they would have been better placed to deal with public health problems.
Congolese Army operations in the East halted due to desertions: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/12/congo-democratic-military-idUSL6E8FC4G820120412
The sad thing about Congo is that the World neither has the enthusiasm, the inclination nor the capability to do anything about it. So we should cut bull and tell the Congolese people emphatically that “they are on their own”. We can fund cosmetic events like “elections” and fool ourselves into believing that Congo is a “democracy”. We can choose to ignore genuine grievances and only highlight them when the risk to us is minimal or simply mouth platitudes and do nothing.
Congo DRC will have to sort out its problems by itself. This is sad, because the global community used to be capable of doing great things. With Congo, nothing will happen, the daily grind of life continues.
If South Africa was half as committed as Nigeria is to conflict resolution in its neighbourhood, a lot more would have been done in Congo. South Africa’s leadership deficit in that part of Africa is painfully obvious.
Congo was left a mess (unsurprisingly considering its colonial rulers) and has been a mess for decades. A stronger U.N force from 1999 to today managed to avoid a creeping genocide that everyone was fearing when Rwanda and Uganda withdrew, but it didn’t solve the problem of warlordism and the weak and corrupt central government.
It’s actually a bit interesting that, to the best of my knowledge, we haven’t seen the same success by religious extremists that we have in Afghanistan and Somalia.
Hopefully the new first lady of Senegal will not follow the trend of recent first ladies such as Mrs. Gbagbo by meddling a bit too much in the country’s political affairs. Fortunately, she does not seem to be that engaged politically; so I hope she volunteers more and get the youth interested in volunteering!
1. Another reaction to Johnnie Carson’s speech on Nigeria/Boko Haram : http://www.sunnewsonline.com/webpages/opinion/editorial/2012/apr/16/editorial-16-04-2012-001.html
2. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala insinuates that World Bank job will go to Kim / not be based on merit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/apr/16/world-bank-president-jim-kim?newsfeed=true
What impact is this likely to have on young Africans perception of the US/West?
As I pointed out above, it’s never on basis of merit. No major position in international organizations is based on merit. Expanding the pool of candidates wouldn’t change that. As for African perceptions, I wouldn’t be surprised if they (or at least the ones who follow this in rising nations) feel resentment. My best response is that without systems like this, major powers would never use international organizations. Would France, the U.K, U.S and Soviet Union* have given so much support to the U.N if it weren’t for their veto powers? I seriously doubt it.
*Really China was just there for its contributions to the eastern part of World War II. It barely counted as a major power.