Thursday, October 13, 2005

Surrender or Starve

I'm reading 'Surrender or Starve: Travels in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea' by Robert D. Kaplan next. It was written some time ago - well before the current Sudanese crisis - about the regions of the Horn of Africa and examines the factors behind the area's famine-related problems, citing ethnic, religious, and class conflicts.

It is very clear to me that I know almost nothing about Africa in general and that area in particular.

The problems in the Sudan exploded in the media almost immediatley after Live8. It is easy to sneer - and indeed sneer I did - when Coldplay's Chris Martin announced from the London stage, "[This is] the greatest thing that's ever been organized in the history of the world" but it isn't really constructive.

Try reading this article 'The Utopian Nightmare' by William Easterly in Foreign Policy which says:
This year, economists, politicians, and rock stars in rich countries have pleaded for debt relief and aid for the world�s poorest countries. It certainly sounds like the right thing to do. But utopian dreams of alleviating poverty overlook some hard facts. By promising so much, rich-world activists prolong the true nightmare of poverty.

I hope this isn't true, but I have the ugly feeling that there might be a lot of truth in it. From another perspective there was a very impressive profile of Bono and his work for Africa in The New York Times Magazine (registration required) which is more hopeful.

I'll make some notes on what I've learned after I finsh the book.

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