Four other stories we should care about
This is another diary on the periphery of world news and events hidden at back of newspapers – if noticed at all, even in the world of blogs. Still they deserve our attention, because these stories involve many people and may eventually affect all of us.
Here are the four topics:
- Preparing for the next war? The Expansion and Modernization of the East Asian Military
- After the royal coup: The situation in Nepal
- Shameful Politics: Anti-Gay Discrimination in Africa
- The End of the Empire: A new flag in New Zealand?
Plus a brief follow-up on Eastern Congo, Kyrgystan, Kenya and Danes in Germany.
Recently, there has been a public debate on plans by the European Union to liftan arms embargo against China, imposed in 1989 after the Tiananmen square massacres. This debate was focused on two main issues: First, whether the political and economic changes in the Peoples Republic of China justify a lift of the embargo and, second, whether arms sales would endanger the American role as a dominant military power.
It seems necessary to put this debate in a broader perspective: the role of military as an instrument of regional stability and the dramatic changes in the structure of the East Asian military over the last years. Only if you look at the relationships between the PRC, Taiwan, North and South Korea and Japan as an intertwined and fragile system in which military power assumes an increasing role, the arms sales issue becomes fully understandable.
First, it is important to understand that all these countries made massive investments in arms and a reorganization of the military since 1990. BTW, China already receives arms from other countries – most prominently from Russia and Israel.
The economic development of the last decade empowered China to invest heavily into an modernization of its armed forces. This is seen as a serious threat to Taiwanese security, triggering massive military support by the U.S. to Taiwan. Further North, the Korean peninsular is still in a – at least – problematic situation with the strange North Korean regime actively pursuing a nuclear weapon and South Korea with no current perspective for a peaceful solution with the North. Additionally, Japan, after 60 years of non-engagement also invested into its military, triggering fears across the region, especially in South Korea, which over the last years heavily invested into its naval forces in order to become a regional sea power. This is just a small summary. For more background check out this site.
Some Data: China spends 60 billion Dollar each year on its military (which has huge manpower with up to 14 million soldiers), Japan 43 billion, South Korea 15 billion, Taiwan 7 billion, North Korea 5 billion.
What I regard as even more problematic is the percentage of the GDP this sums represent: North Korea spends shockingly 23 percent of its GDP on its military, China 5 percent, South Korea and Taiwan 3 percent. Japan 1 Percent. [source].
With North Korea investing a quarter of its economic output into its military and therefore creating an internal structure of military elites dependent of a continuing flow of sums of this scale to stabilize their role in society, it seems hard for me to expect a peaceful conflict solution on the Korean peninsular in the near future: The power structure will have no interest in a subsequent limitation of the role of the military.
As I said before, the balance of power in North East Asia is fragile and depends also on a continuing economic growths. The question is, what happens in the event of a crisis. The escalation of a smaller crisis into a armed conflict is far from impossible.
To me it looks a lot like the summer of 1914 with the Austrian crown-prince already on his way to Sarajevo.
Towards Maoism? The situation in Nepal
The situation in Nepal is a mess. For years now the country is split between a Maoist rebel group and the forces of monarchy, both fighting each other. After the crown prince eliminated the Royal family incl. The King and his siblings in 2001, the situation got even worse.
On February 1, 2005, the new king staged a royal coup, effectively creating a royal dictatorship by abolishing all democratic elements of the Nepalese constitution. With the Maoist controlling most of the rural areas, it seems unlikely that one of the two sides can pull a military victory in the near future:
Here is the analysis of the International Crisis Group:
Using extortion and coercion, the Maoists are imposing an authoritarian regime on steadily increasing swathes of rural Nepal. State forces are engaged in well documented, systematic violations from extra-judicial executions to illegal detentions, “disappearances” and torture.
By its willingness in recent years to give the royal government the benefit of the doubt and sidestep serious criticism and remedial action, the international community finds itself confronted today with what it fears the most: a no-party state that has decimated democracy, kills people at will in the countryside, forbids freedom of expression or dissent and demands unquestioning support for its unelected leader. It now recognises the gravity of the situation. A joint statement by bilateral donors and the UN in Nepal has warned that “insecurity, armed activity and CPN/M [Maoist] blockades are pushing Nepal toward the abyss of a humanitarian crisis”.
The repeated gentle urgings of the past have done nothing to prevent the dismantling of democracy. Apart from the assault on fundamental rights, the royal coup and the royal government’s subsequent actions have emboldened the Maoists and made any resolution of the conflict all the more distant. As Crisis Group has warned before, the Maoists are the only party in Nepal’s complex conflict with a clear strategy. The king’s seizure of absolute power has not brought with it any new strategy that can hope to address the challenge of the insurgency.
I would urge for a continuing monitoring of this country that is surrounded by China and India, with the potential military intervention from both sides.
A background for this conflict is [here].
The royal coup forced many Nepalese journalist to find new ways of publication. They launched several blogs
Shameful politics: Anti-gay discrimination in Africa
The situation of gays and lesbians in Africa is one of the great tragedies of our time. With few exemption their role in societies is one of outcasts, their sexuality mostly illegal. Still there is an original gay sub culture in sub-saharan Africa. When I lived in Tanzania, I had the opportunity to experience some of it, and I have been outraged ever since by the evil spirit in which African politicias are using anti-gay demagogy to stabilize their power base.
But brave African gays and lesbians are fighting back. Last year, a conference of over 50 gay and lesbian organization published the following The Johannesburg Statement on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Human Rights:
Across Africa, we face human rights abuses which threaten our safety, our livelihoods, and our lives. That we are targets of such abuse proves that we exist–states do not persecute phantoms or ghosts. It also proves the necessity for action to safeguard our real situations and our basic rights.
African lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people confront harassment from police; abuse by our neighbors and our families; and violence and brutality–sometimes punitive rape–on the streets. We are discriminated against in the workplace. Some of our families force us into marriages against our will, in the hope of changing our inmost selves. Some of us, among them the very young, are evicted from our homes because of prejudice and fear
At the same time, we have and have always had a place in Africa. Despite the pressure of prejudice that politicians and self-styled popular leaders promote, many of our families do not succumb; many of our neighbors, co-workers, and friends continue to love and to support us. Many of our communities continue to affirm that we are an integral part of their web of relationships. Many traditional cultures still are governed by those principles of welcoming and belonging that have always been central to African life; they do not allow themselves to be distorted by the politics of exclusion, and preserve our rightful place in the gathering. Many African religious leaders from many denominations speak to us of love and inclusion, not hatred and revenge. And, on our continent, South Africa, at the end of its long liberation struggle, became the first country in the world to include, in its post-apartheid constitution, “sexual orientation” as a status protected from discrimination.
There is hope: Indeed the South African constitution includes the worlds first provision against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But it is a long way to make this rule a sociological reality.
Let me point you to a great South African website which sums up all relevant information on gay rights in Africa: Mask.org.za (Behind the Mask)
Since I wrote the last diary the situatin in Kyrgystan became rapidly front page news, with the president fleeing the county and the opposition taking over power. Only time will tell, whether the current change will end up peacefully, or if the looting turns into a permanent state of chaos.
In Eastern Congo, the situation is still unclear. I learned that the deputy foreign minister of Germany, Kerstin Müller toured the Congo and came back rather disillusioned. She predicts that no elections will take place in June 2005, which I regard as a very problematic decision by the Congolese elites.
In Germany the Danish minority were close to tolerate a coalition government of social democrats and greens when in the secret election of the prime minister, one unknown MP abstained, effectively robbing the Left of its majority. Now the conservatives will form a so called grand coalition with the social democrats, leaving the Danish minority in political shatters.
I also got emails from Kenya in response to the mentioning of Kenyan corruption. There is a great Kenyan blogosphere. Especially, I would like to point you to Afro Musing, a Kenyan blogger, living in the U.S.
This is crossposted from dailykos