Daily Archives: 19 December 2005

Weird War, Weird Peace, Real Worries Across the Dniester

Over the weekend, I forgot to mention a blogpost by David McDuff of A Step at a Time about the weird war between post-Soviet Moldova and its breakaway province of Transdniestria. Kommersant ran the story on 12 December.

When Moldova and Transdniestria were fighting, it was a weird war. The local military called it Drunken. Officers of the combatants met every night to have a drink together. They went away in the morning and opened fire on each other. At night, they got together again to drink for those they had met with the previous night and who they had killed.

Now that Moldova and Transdniestria are no longer at war, this peace is weird too. A new generation has grown up in the self-proclaimed republic who are almost sure that they live in Russia. A lot of young Trasndniestrians go to [the Moldovan capital of] Chisinau to study, have a good time or do shopping even though they despise everything associated with the word “Moldova”. Transdniestrian state propaganda has taught every citizen that the Moldovan president Voronin is a bloody dictator eager to annex his country to Romania.

Vladimir Voronin comes from Transdniestria, by the way. His mother still lives in the breakaway republic. Transdniestrian President Igor Smirnov is a Russian citizen as well as most of Transdniestrian ministers, many of whom are appointed in Moscow….

Europeans went to ask Viktor Yushchenko after the Orange Revolution to close down the frontier with Transdniestria to crack down on the smuggling. But nothing happened. The whole of Transdniestria live on the smuggling, and at least half of Odessa Region get their bread on that. That’s why arms are still being smuggled in, through and later sold.

The Interpol states that the arms produced in Transdniestria later drift away for terrorist groups worldwide. A major part of them go straight to Chechnya. So, the West is actually accusing Russia (with some help of Ukraine) of supplying Chechen militants with arms and, and wants to hamper it. Russia, in its turn, condemns the West for striving to lock it in the circle of enemies. One thing is not clear: is it a renewal of the Cold War or the continuation of the Drunken War?

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South Korean Missionaries and North Korean Defectors

The Marmot calls attention to a fascinating New York Times article on 19 December about tensions between South Korean missionaries and North Korean defectors.

To the North Korean defectors, some South Korean missionaries seem more concerned about brokering deals to smuggle them out of China and using them in Seoul as publicity tools against North Korea. To South Korean missionaries, who have risked their lives to evangelize in China, some North Korean defectors appear ungrateful. Although no precise figures exist, only a fifth to a third of North Korean defectors ultimately convert to Christianity, according to most South Korean missionaries interviewed.

More at the Marmot’s Hole.

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Paul ‘Scrooge’ Theroux on Aid to Africa

The New York Times on 15 December carried an op-ed on African aid by Hawai‘i’s resident literary Scrooge, Paul Theroux.

It seems to have been Africa’s fate to become a theater of empty talk and public gestures. But the impression that Africa is fatally troubled and can be saved only by outside help – not to mention celebrities and charity concerts – is a destructive and misleading conceit. Those of us who committed ourselves to being Peace Corps teachers in rural Malawi more than 40 years ago are dismayed by what we see on our return visits and by all the news that has been reported recently from that unlucky, drought-stricken country. But we are more appalled by most of the proposed solutions.

I am not speaking of humanitarian aid, disaster relief, AIDS education or affordable drugs. Nor am I speaking of small-scale, closely watched efforts like the Malawi Children’s Village. I am speaking of the “more money” platform: the notion that what Africa needs is more prestige projects, volunteer labor and debt relief. We should know better by now. I would not send private money to a charity, or foreign aid to a government, unless every dollar was accounted for – and this never happens. Dumping more money in the same old way is not only wasteful, but stupid and harmful; it is also ignoring some obvious points.

If Malawi is worse educated, more plagued by illness and bad services, poorer than it was when I lived and worked there in the early 60’s, it is not for lack of outside help or donor money. Malawi has been the beneficiary of many thousands of foreign teachers, doctors and nurses, and large amounts of financial aid, and yet it has declined from a country with promise to a failed state.

In the early and mid-1960’s, we believed that Malawi would soon be self-sufficient in schoolteachers. And it would have been, except that rather than sending a limited wave of volunteers to train local instructors, for decades we kept on sending Peace Corps teachers. Malawians, who avoided teaching because the pay and status were low, came to depend on the American volunteers to teach in bush schools, while educated Malawians emigrated. When Malawi’s university was established, more foreign teachers were welcomed, few of them replaced by Malawians, for political reasons. Medical educators also arrived from elsewhere. Malawi began graduating nurses, but the nurses were lured away to Britain and Australia and the United States, which meant more foreign nurses were needed in Malawi.

When Malawi’s minister of education was accused of stealing millions of dollars from the education budget in 2000, and the Zambian president was charged with stealing from the treasury, and Nigeria squandered its oil wealth, what happened? The simplifiers of Africa’s problems kept calling for debt relief and more aid. I got a dusty reception lecturing at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when I pointed out the successes of responsible policies in Botswana, compared with the kleptomania of its neighbors. Donors enable embezzlement by turning a blind eye to bad governance, rigged elections and the deeper reasons these countries are failing.

Although I gave up on Theroux’s travel writing after his bitchy, self-absorbed The Happy Isles of Oceania, I think he has a valid point here.

via Arts & Letters Daily

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