Saturday, October 01, 2005
Three Names to Know
Thabo Mbeki is the President of South Africa, the major poliical power on the African continent, which grants him a fair amount of leverage in African affairs. Though he has held some controversial stances during his time in office (especially on the AIDS virus), he is often involved in brokering peace deals and negotiations across the continent. He has received a fair amount of criticism as of late for his refusal to interfere in Zimbabwe’s destructive “clean-up” program.
Click here to read more on Mbeki.
Robert Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe and the architect of the aforementioned Operation Murambatsvina (or "Drive Out Trash") and the disastrous land reform policies that have undermined the nation’s economy. Mugabe was a freedom fighter in Zimbabwe’s fight for independence and has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. He has seen the county go from one of the strongest and economically vibrant nations in Africa to a country racked with unemployment, inflation, and an inability to produce an adequate supply of food, and many point directly to him as the primary cause of this decline. He is widely considered a dictator who has remained in power by rigging elections.
Click here to read more on Mugabe.
Olusegun Obasanjo is President of Nigeria, and there are many reasons to learn to recognize his name. First off, he is the President of the most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly 1 in every 5 black Africans live in Nigeria. Such a high population will undoubtedly lead to migrations, so look for Nigerian immigrants to become more visible in the next several years. Secondly, though he himself is regarded as an earnest (if inefective) opponent of governmental corruption, he is President of what is considered to be one of the most, if not THE most thoroughly corrupt governments in Africa (and that is saying something there, folks). Thirdly, and most importantly for us Americans- Nigeria has oil. Lots of oil. And it is causing lots of problems, from civil unrest, to rebels fighting for control of the supply, to outspoken advocates against multinational companies (Ken Sara-Wiwa vs. Shell) being executed as dissidents (possibly with Shell’s support). The US wants this oil, so watch for us to get increasingly involved in Nigerian politics.
Click here to read more on Obasanjo.