Sunday, July 10, 2011

getting ready

We are getting ready to return to Sierra Leone for a visit. This has meant renewing passports, getting visas, getting malaria tablets, and emailing ahead to confirm old cell numbers. I hope to interview some former human rights activists I met in 08-09. At that time I asked them to recount how activists had stood up non-violently to authoritarian rule against three different governments (two of them military). Finally, in 2002, the civil war ended, and democracy took hold again. Now, in preparing for a book I plan on Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Liberia's peaceful struggles, I want to learn more about what has happened since democracy was restored; and what happened to those human rights activists.

In Kenya, some activists joined the government and actually obstructed justice and human rights, though most kept true to their cause. But donors made the mistake in Kenya of thinking it was time to shift their donations to the government and away from ngos since the 'good guys' had won. Well, that was a mistake, a corruption spiked and abuses continued, including the muder of two human rights investigators.

Sierra Leone, best known to many as the place of 'blood diamonds' which were used to fund the civl war that ended in 2002, is actually a peaceful country, democratic, and making progress on institutionalizing human rights. But many challenges remain, including disputes between political parties.

But a recent study by a Sierra Leonean found that contrary to conventional wisdom, a significant portion of citizens are voting across ethnic lines for the candidate of their choice. this is encouraging because ethnic voting loyalties can lead to violent clashes.

A post-script - on Somalia. The rains have failed for two seasons, according to an NPR report July 10. It's worse than Ethiopia 1984 or Somalia early 90s. Many are two weak to reach refugee camps across the border. The Shabab militant Islamic group, according to NPR, denied access to donor groups until recently. Now the U.S. is considering significant help; other donors would follow.

We'll be taking you along on the Sierra Leone trip. So thanks for your interest. And best wishes for a good remainder of the summer. Please post questions, comments; it's easier than it used to be. And you can share this blog with friends who might be interested. Bye for now