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As there are different authors for the articles on this blog, each article does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bokamoso Leadership Forum.

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07 June 2010


By Sibusiso Mabuza a Ph.D. student in Mathematics at The University of Houston

The human can only survive by changing nature. As science and technology advances rapidly to higher levels, we get answers to the most complex of problems in life. One of these complex issues, currently facing Southern Africa and indeed other parts of Africa is the shortage of clean fresh water. In Swaziland for instance, the question has come up on several occasions on how a reliable source of fresh clean water can be obtained, especially in the drought stricken lowveld region where boreholes are an absolute necessity. The question is, how can the persistent drought that has brought about harsh realities to the rural subsistence farmer in the Ngwavuma valley as well as to the sophisticated vineyards of the Western Cape be subdued? Population growth, economic expansion, and increased pollution by mines and industries continue to make it harder and harder to get clean sources of water. This leaves us with no alternative but to seek revolutionary cutting edge solutions. Could Nuclear Desalination be the answer?

We are surrounded by water, well seawater, which is not drinkable. The process of nuclear desalination would use nuclear power to facilitate the reverse osmosis that is a key step of the process. Results were produced by some research conducted saying that desalination through nuclear power can go a long way to producing the much needed freshwater. As reported in the Science Daily, nuclear power could have limited environmental impact since there will be fewer emissions, and the nuclear plants will be sited offshore carrying out desalination as well as producing electricity for communities inland. Comparing this to fossil fuel process employed in places such as Israel, this might prove more advantageous. A scientific/industrial project of this magnitude might seem farfetched for Southern Africa, but it could open new doors in the nuclear tech industry and spur growth in other sectors. Maybe it is about time we take water from the sea to the land instead of the opposite natural process. Maybe it is about time Africans change nature to better suit our ever changing way of life.
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02 June 2010

Fast and Furious: Elections in post-conflict environments

Nadia Ahmadou is a Junior Researcher with the Africa Conflict Prevention Programme (ACPP) of the ISS.

Elections are applauded as a positive indicator of democracy. Post conflict African countries undertaking elections are supported by regional and international partners and are encouraged to hold elections almost to the detriment of other processes equally crucial to the entrenchment of a democratic culture.. There is a tendency, in post conflict environments, to forget the combined relevance of elections, as being part of a wider and more important process of democratic stabilization as opposed to being the only requirement for democracy. There doesn’t exist a specific designation for what constitutes democracy, but underlying the numerous forms are common values whereby the vision, desires and rights of the populace, not just a ruling elite, are reflected in the actions of government. The international community and the regional organizations are putting the cart before the horse, so to speak, in most post-conflict situations on the continent by demanding elections as a priority.

Peace building research has illustrated that elections in post-conflict situations serve the purpose of legitimizing a government over and beyond cementing. It is assumed that a legitimate government will then be able to handle any required transitions to peace and democracy. This serves further as a stopgap measure for the international community to be able to withdraw and focus its attention elsewhere. True that different conflicts require different approaches to their resolutions as well as for the establishment of a democracy; a short-term response in the form of hastily put together elections cannot bode well for long-term peace and the achievement of democracy. That aside, such elections are rarely a sign of the establishment of a legitimate government.

In the immediate future, the Central African region is, and will remain, a glaring illustration of this reality e.g Burundi and the Central African Republic (CAR), where democratic constitutions have been applied at a rather superficial level. A sustainable strategy for democratization would, for example, involve prioritizing the maturing and strengthening of institutions such as the judiciary and legislature, in addition to constituting a legitimate and credible electoral commission. It would also involve raising the political consciousness and awareness of the people in understanding what democracy, à la base entails and their rights and duties as citizens in a democratic system are. For example, in countries such as Rwanda, the development of the Gacaca courts as a traditional mechanism for justice, and part of the wider peace building architecture was accompanied by awareness-raising across the country. The project was taken to the local communities where awareness was generated and a certain sense of legitimacy achieved. The community has a right to understand the nature of the process and a duty to serve within this process, of which it was made aware during the various campaigns prior to the institution of the courts. Such an understanding of top level processes allows for increased ownership and grants more legitimacy to the process.

Unfortunately, it appears to be sufficient to set up electoral commissions in a short space of time with subsequent – often dubious – elections to be applauded by the international community as being democratic. The development of credible democratic institutions remains far removed from the electoral process that takes precedence over every other democratic practice. Priority issues in post conflict societies such as Disarmament Demobilization and Re-integration (DDR), do not accompany the path to elections; and even when it does, the culture of militarization of political movements gearing up to the elections remains a facet of the process. It further keeps the country far away from long-term, sustainable peace. If democracy, as conceptualised by Abraham Lincoln, means a “rule for the people, of the people and by the people”, how do ill-planned and potentially rigged elections lead to it?

It is critical to recognise that elections are not in themselves sufficient to lend credibility and give legitimacy to governments that are yet to become democratic. This is even more crucial in post-conflict environments where they are meant to legitimize a government that in turn would ensure long-term peace and steer democratization. Holding elections within an environment that does not contain a culture of peaceful resolution of socio-political conflicts and democratic practices represents a farce, a joke at the expense of those who are deeply in need of an improvement in security, their political rights and opportunities, and economic well being.
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