Friday, April 4, 2008

Zimbabwe's Turn

We don't hear much news of Africa here in the U.S, which is really too bad, as there is nearly always something interesting happening there. And marketing to a country that loves to buy up bad news and alarming headlines, you'd think that U.S. newspapers would want to take advantage of all Africa has to offer - people eaten by wild animals, killed in tribal warfare, living in conditions beyond horrific. It's a real mine for bad news, though there is good news too, also not covered. Every time I am there I find myself stunned by the local headlines. Last time I was in an airport the woman stamping my passport was reading an article entitled "Have We Angered the Gods?" and it wasn't a joke. Nor was "Power Outage During Open Heart Surgery" or "Is Air Conditioning Bad for Your Health?"

Recently Kenya did get some press here with it's election violence. Many lodges in Kenya have closed, the economy has tanked, people aren't going there, and the fate of the economy rests in large part on whether tourists make bookings for high season (migration) this year. Kenyan leaders are set to announce a new power sharing cabinet on Sunday, a compromise between Kibaki and challenger Odinga designed to stem tribal violence, see story here. I am glad I went to Kenya when I did but I want to go back, and I have friends there and a baby elephant whose life I am following...I want things to work out for all of them.

Unlike Kenya, Zimbabwe has long been a disaster, thanks to Mugabe and his insane policies which destroyed the economy long ago. The opposition claims to have won a recent election but Mugabe is holding on to power. One of his brilliant ideas to fight inflation is to issue new money - since a loaf of bread costs 16 million dollars (Zimbabwean) he issues a note for 50 million dollars. See news story here.

I stood at the border of Zimbabwe earlier this year trying to decide whether to enter or not. I decided not to as you can experience delays, the need for "additional money" to get out, and other complications. I was at Victoria Falls and I wanted to do a Lion Encounter, which is a place in Zimbabwe where you go play with 10 month old lion cubs. That has to be a cool...and there was a similar place in Johannesburg I had wanted to go to and not had time. Like all of Africa, I am sure Zimbabwe has a lot to offer and I'd love to go there one day - when it's politically stable and Mugabe is gone.

African countries have a lot to teach, if only, in some cases, what NOT to do when running a country. Political science would have been a lot more interesting if instead of only theory and western nations we spent some time looking at African countries, and the applications of various political theories and approaches in practice.

No comments: