Good morning, it has been a very long time since I have been able to write for fun, but I have recently been given the opportunity to develop some pieces that have languished in blog-purgatory for an embarrassingly long time.
My last post provided some really great topics to explore and I sincerely hope to spend a considerable amount of time, and brainpower to learning about the following topics. Granted, a lot of time has passed since I wrote the last post, so some of the topics have changed. I note this below:
1) The first being a request by a dear friend and blogging machine Thomas Leamy who wanted me to take a look at the trend of urbanization in Africa and the reasonable prospects for success in the ‘new cities’ popping up throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
I have this one just about wrapped up, and placed largely within the context of elected officials accepting situations that may be politically unpopular, or may conflict with some other deeply held belief. Stated simply, urbanization is happening all throughout Africa. This provides an opportunity for centralized administrative control and antiquated land-use policies to be updated to use these cities as engines of economic growth, rather than shantytowns.
This cannot be accomplished without a willing cessation of administrative control to incorporate and engage local stakeholders. Politicians in weak African democracies will undoubtedly have a difficult time mustering enough political will to do so effectively.
2) Examination of the conditions of economic hardship, corruption and lack of rule of law that allow Boko Haram to operate and grow in Northeast Nigeria.
Lots of developments in this area – Nigeria has a new president, Muhammadu Buhari (Retired Major General, former “Head of State,” former Governor of Borno and Northeastern States) and has doubled-down on security in the country, particularly in the Northeast. Lots to cover here.
3) Since I arrived in Myanmar I have become unbelievably interested in the country. There are some extremely important aspects to the ongoing political, social, and economic situations that I believe can be analyzed side by side with other cases of similar situations.
Some of these being:
A) the transition from a military to civilian government, its prospects for success and what the timeline should realistically be in order to maintain peace in civil-military relations
The day I looked forward to for years came on November 8, 2015 where I sat in my apartment drinking scotch, exchanging cautiously optimistic texts with old friends, and constantly refreshing my browser window.
The National League for Democracy almost swept the election, gaining 218 seats in the Pyithu Hluttaw (House of Representatives) and 131 seats in the Amyotha Hluttaw (House of Nationalities). This accounts for a whopping 86% of the assembly’s seats, far exceeding the 67% needed to marginalize the pro-military voting bloc. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is technically barred from the presidency by a targeted constitutional act, has stated she will be wield all real power “above the presidency,” much to the chagrin of many of her most steadfast supporters. Her portfolio currently includes being the Minister of Foreign Affairs, State Counsellor, and Presidential Advisor, not to mention her political posts.
This all happened shortly after a mid-August purge of the United Solidarity and Development Party leadership. President HE U Thein Sein pushed out the paty’s most powerful figure: HE U Shwe Mann (former #3 in the military junta, Chairman of the USDP, speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw), with whom the President was said to have had some tension with. This tension was evidenced by the rejection of HE U Thoe Sane’s (former Commander-in Chief of the Navy, key advisor to the president and cheerleader-in-chief for the 2010 constitution and subsequent reforms) candidacy in the 2015 election, among other moves.
A lot of ink had been spilled contemplating Thein Sein’s weakness (both physically and politically) in the months leading up to the election. It seems he put that speculation to rest.
Apparently, the move was swift. Armed guards were sent to the party HQ in Naypyidaw (I’ve driven past this building many, many times), Thura Shwe Mann was surprised to find guards posted at his house one morning and USDP Deputy Secretary Maung Maung Thein was called and told not to come into work anymore. When asked for the reason behind the party coup, the President stated it was “for unity.”
I can sympathize with how Thura Shwe Mann and Maung Maung Thein. That’s a strange thought.
Anyway, here’s a picture of me with the aforementioned HE U Soe Thane. Adorable, right?
We now find ourselves in the first year of HE U Htin Kyaw’s administration! Although,lets be clear, we all know who’s administration it is. Things seems to be going well to this point, and I will admit to having been skeptical of the developments made in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. But I was not “seeing the forest for the trees.” I look forward to diving head first into the ongoing developments in this country that I love so much.
B) The military of Myanmar, also known as the Tatmadaw, as an economic actor who controls a huge amount of the local economy and its similarities to the Egyptian military which has been rumored to account for nearly half of that country’s economy.
In the time it has taken me to get back to blogging, Thailand has a new government, a new, military government. Things change so quickly.
It is curious that just last week Thailand voted to accept a military-backed constitution.This is similar to Egypt where, despite a period of extreme violence in the last days of Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government and the subsequent coup, the public has appeared to acquiesce to the authority of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
I guess there is something to be said for having an authoritarian government in the Middle East. Is it the best? Certainly not. Is it not the worst? Yes. Think of how relatively peaceful Saddam Hussein’s regime was when compared to the current state of affairs.
C) The bargaining process in the Kachin conflict in the north – Is it still a fight for independence? Is it a fight to drive out Chinese FDI in the state? Is it spiraling to an enclave conflict where both the Kachin Independence Army and Tatmadaw are now fighting over the plentiful natural resources?
I don’t even know what’s going on up there anymore! I’d expect that little has changed considering violence has begun to spread to the valuable jade-producing areas, like Hpakant.
D) The violence in Rakhine – What is going wrong with the peace dialogue?
Was there ever a peace dialogue?