Lydia Polgreen of the NYT reports on the southward spread of yet another conflict not worth stopping, although France has intervened at the request of the current government of the CAR.
KALANDAO, Central African Republic — The Central African Republic — so important as a potential bulwark against the chaos and misery of its neighbors in Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan — is being dragged into the dangerous and ever-expanding conflict that has begun to engulf Central Africa.
So porous are its borders and ungoverned are parts of its territory that foreign rebels are using the Central African Republic as a staging ground to mount attacks over the border, spreading what the United Nations has already called the world’s “gravest humanitarian crisis.”
The situation is so bad in some places that 50,000 residents have fled the Central African Republic to find refuge in Chad, of all places, while starvation threatens hundreds of thousands who remain.
“This is the soft belly of Africa,” said Jerome Chevallier, a World Bank official who is trying to help stabilize the Central African Republic. “It has little protection from whatever might strike it.”
There’s much more on Darfur and the fighting in Chad at Passion of the Present.
The ever-vigilant Head Heeb has been closely following the growing likelihood of a regional proxy war in Somalia. Here is are the final paragraphs of his latest post.
Ethiopia and its local allies will push south from Puntland at the same time as they try to break the encirclement of Baidoa. This may, in turn, spiral into a proxy war; the same UN report that estimated the Ethiopian troop presence at 6000 to 8000 noted ominously that up to 2000 Eritrean soldiers may be in the country fighting on the Islamist side. In addition to Ethiopia’s jitters over the possibility that an Islamist state in Somalia might support domestic insurgencies, its fears of a second front against its long-time regional enemy now seem to be materializing.
And as if this isn’t enough, the possibility of Somalia being torn apart in a regional proxy war has a truly ironic postscript. A report on the fighting in the Independent notes sardonically that “the Palestinians are next in line to take over as head of the Arab League – raising the bizarre prospect of the Somali peace talks (if they are ever restarted) moving from Khartoum to Gaza.” Bizarre this may be, but not necessarily inappropriate. Given the number of contending factions in Somalia, the diversity of their interests, the unlikelihood that they can be persuaded to compromise and the number of foreign countries that want a hand in the outcome, Gaza might be the perfect place for them to negotiate.
Emily Parker in today’s Wall Street Journal profiles the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Here’s a snippet that detours from the primary focus on how Murakami deals with Japan’s dark past.
Even as he chooses to spend much of his time in Honolulu, Mr. Murakami appears to reveal the punctilious ways of his homeland. (He reminded me to take off my shoes before entering his home, an airy Hawaiian residence that offers a breath of quiet and anonymity for the celebrity writer. Then he promptly sat down at a light wood table–in formal repose–and looked at me expectantly, waiting for the interview to begin.) And as if to confirm this impression, the Kyoto-born Mr. Murakami says that, in some ways, he is 100% Japanese. “The difference,” he says, “is that I’m kind of individualist.”
In truth, he is a cultural hybrid. He has spent time living in the U.S., and in our conversation he jumps back and forth between English and Japanese. His own books are dotted with Western cultural references, and he has translated several American classics into his native language, such as the work of J.D. Salinger, Raymond Carver and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He claims to be somewhat of a black sheep in his home country, in part due to his distaste for drinking parties or social conversation. How about Karaoke? “I hate it,” he says in Japanese. “If I enter a store and there is a Karaoke machine there, I leave immediately.”
I wonder if the author knows that removing shoes at the door is a custom that is nearly universal in Hawai‘i.
Filed under Hawai'i, Japan