Darfur has become all but invisible. With fewer and fewer human rights reports, news dispatches, or even candid accounts from U.N. leaders, events in the region have dropped almost fully out of international view. Facilitating this slip is the fact that global attention has recently shifted away from Darfur to other areas of Sudan: to negotiations with Khartoum, to the south’s independence referendum in January, and, more recently, to the mounting crisis in Abyei, the contested border area between the north and the south. So have things improved in Darfur?
For Western journalists visiting Zimbabwe in the middle of the last decade, a background chat with U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell was an opportunity not to be missed. A veteran Foreign Service Officer with a refreshingly informal, outspoken style, Dell could be counted on to deliver candid assessments of Robert Mugabe’s latest skullduggery, and of the hapless efforts by Zimbabwe’s opposition to get rid of him.
With South Africans' dreams of soccer glory dashed by the elimination of their Bafana Bafana from the tournament today, fans may now be hoping that at least the World Cup will deliver on the economic boost its organizers have repeatedly promised them. They are likely to be disappointed again. "We want, on behalf of our continent, to stage an event that will send ripples of confidence from the Cape to Cairo—an event that will create social and economic opportunities throughout Africa," former South African President Thabo Mbeki said in the run up to the tournament.
Since nearly every South African political commentator has decried Jacob Zuma's victory last month in his bid to become president of the African National Congress (which essentially means he'll become president of South Africa), it is refreshing to read Joshua Kurlantzick's attempt today to divine a silver lining. Considering the one-party dominant nature of South Africa's young democracy, the notion of an intraparty split in the ANC brought about by the rivalry between Zuma and South African President Thabo Mbeki whets the appetite.
When the real history of African National Congress South Africa will be written, the Rockefeller Foundation--for all the good it did there and elsewhere, and some not so good--will be saddled with the fact that it anointed Thabo Mbeki as Nelson Mandela's successor. The fact is that Mbeki is a nut-case and a cruel nut-case besides. To him you may credit his likely successor Jacob Zuma, a demagogue on the old Communist model, and corrupt besides.
In his otherwise excellent piece yesterday, Joshua Kurlantzick surveys the perilous state of democracy in Africa but singles out South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki as one of the continent's "few true democrats." Yet, as is revealed today, Mbeki will be meeting privately with the leader of the country's loyal opposition, Tony Leon of the Democratic Alliance, for the first time ever. Leon is stepping down from office this week, having led the party for the past 8 years.
South Africa's second post-apartheid general election, held several weeks ago, turned into quite an intriguing affair, although you would hardly know it from the American press. The media focused on Nelson Mandela's retirement and his replacement by faithful lieutenant Thabo Mbeki--a story line that fits the fairy-tale narrative into which post-apartheid South Africa is so often shoehorned. But, on the ground, real politics were taking place. In particular, the National Party, the party of F.W. de Klerk and of 50 years of apartheid, collapsed.