Thursday, July 17, 2003

ST&P, The Kleptocrats Edge?-Before yesterday, you would have marked yourself a truer geopolitics geek than I if you could have said something intelligent about Sao Tome and Principle. They had a coup there yesterday while the ST&P president was visiting Nigeria (how many times has that been a coup MO?), it's neighbor on the mainland. Normally, this wouldn't interest me that much, but ST&P is sitting on top of a shipload (actually thousands of tankerloads) of offshore oil, thus the leaders of the country are sitting on a big wad of potential wealth. One would hope that ST&P manages its oil wealth better than Nigeria has, where in made the kleptocrats who were in charge wealthy but that wealth didn't trickle down much to the citizenry. My new friend on the left, the Uniblogger, lit into the Nigerian government and Big Oil the other day, citing the execution of regional activist Ken Saro Wiwa, who's become something of a martyred secular saint to the NPR crowd. What killed Saro Wiwa wasn't Big Oil but the Nigerian kleptocracy. Activists have butted heads with Big Oil elsewhere and lived to tell the tail. Democratic, law abiding governments will politely shove activists aside rather than kill them off. Authoritarian governments arrange for lead poisoning, either by executing them on trumped up charges, as seems to have been the case with Saro Wiwa, or by gangland-style assassinations, as is often done in Russia. While oil companies may have helped the Nigerian government in general, if they arraigned for Saro Wiwa's kangaroo court, they'd have their butts in a sling and rightfully bled dry in lawsuits. The coup leaders in ST&P have pledged to have quick elections. Pray that they do so, so that a government of the people can manage the oil wealth rather than the kleptocrats on 1990s Nigeria.

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