Sunday, January 26, 2014

Corruption and Death in Africa, Repression in China

A new country in Africa and a new leader in Beijing both, in their own ways, represented a small sense of hope and change last year.  Not any more.

The new country, South Sudan, has rapidly descended into the almost textbook condition of new African countries of inter-tribal violence and the financial corruption of its 'big men' leaders.  The signs were there long before its independence, and the reluctant conclusion of Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society, in his article for African Arguments, is that after 50 years, African leaders have learned nothing.  Dowden's article is a good primer for anyone unfamiliar with the current bout of South Sudanese violence, tracking the historic enmities of the country's different ethnic groups.  It is also, perhaps, a rather rueful reminder that part of the reason we laud and elevate the memory of Mandela, is that his ability to transcend conflict and practise reconcilation remains a uniquely rare characteristic amongst African leaders.

The new leader was Xi Jinping, who even recently was saying he wanted to wipe out corruption in China's politics.  So a good way to do it, clearly, is to ratchet up China's repression of academics who come up with irritating campaigns.  Two such campaigners are being subject to judicial persecution.  Ilham Tothi, an intellectual who has argued for the rights of the minority Uighur people, faces a possible prison sentence.  Xu Zhiyong, a legal scholar who set up grassroots movements to fight social injustice and official corruption, has just started his four year jail sentence.  And so the world turns.

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