Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The Sandpaper Divorce-How long will Nigeria continue to exist in one piece? There's been an increased militancy in the northern Islamic regions of the country that is unlikely to be stopped by conventional policing. The Miss World riots are just the beginning; this piece on a Zamfara-state sponsored fatwa on the newspaper writer signals the beginning of a likely civil war with thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees. I'm not an expert on Nigerian politics, but the country isn't all that unified. I remember the civil war there in the early 70s, where the breakaway state of Biafra was the humanitarian poster child of the era. If the central authorities can't maintain secular civil law in the north, they can either maintain it via martial law or allow the northern states to form a separate Islamic entity. If the latter happens, I'd expect many of the partition hassles that India had when Pakistan was split off upon independence. Either way, it's likely to be bloody. Add that to the ongoing wars in Africa and we could see a lot of peace-keeping or peace-making efforts in the months and years to come. Zimbabwe is close to being a Ethiopia-level disaster, committing genocide by starvation, as Mugabe is looking more like a cross between the worst of Pol Pot and Idi Amin every day. West Africa is a mess and the Congo is still in civil war. The sad part is that there isn't much that can be done without some sort of neo-colonialism, where the western powers come in, separate the factions and start a long-term nation-building process of establishing the rule of law and respectful democracy; Jonah had a nice piece along this line two years ago. It would be expensive, bloody and controversial, probably too much so for the US to stomach. However, it's something that we might have to do later in the decade once the Southwest Asia theatre of the War on Terror has subsided.

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