Mapping indigenous lands

World Resources Institute and a dozen other groups have launched a collaborative mapping project to document indigenous lands all over the globe. Incredibly exciting!

…up to 65 percent of the world’s land is held by Indigenous Peoples and communities, yet only 10 percent is legally recognized as belonging to them. The rest, held under customary tenure arrangements, is largely unmapped, not formally demarcated, and therefore invisible to the world. Starting today, anyone can view the detailed coordinates and borders of indigenous and community lands around the world using LandMark (www.landmarkmap.org), the first online, interactive global platform to map collectively held lands.

 

Burkina Faso presidential campaign kicks off after transition

Just over a year after a street uprising and military coup ousted the longtime regime of President Blaise Compaoré — and less than two months after a short-lived, violent coup attempt against the transitional government — Burkina Faso is heading to the polls for what it hopes will be its first free presidential election after decades of strongman and military rule. It has been a bumpy ride to get to this point.

Despite a ban on ruling party candidates, France24 reports that:

Seven of the 14 candidates played important roles in the fallen regime, without backing Compaore to the end.

 
Sort of inevitable when there is single-party/one-man rule for decades. Anyone who goes into public service ends up working for the regime at some point. And here they are:

Roch Marc Christian Kabore and Zephirin Diabre, considered the frontrunners, are both former government ministers.

Kabore worked with Compaore for 26 years, serving as prime minister and then speaker of the National Assembly. He also ran the CDP for more than a decade, but quit the party in disgrace 10 months before Compaore was ousted.

Diabre, an economist, long opted for an international career, but also served at home as minister of the economy and finance. He also joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from Compaore.

 
burkina-faso-map

When is a solution to end a war not a solution for the peace?

The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, aka Dayton Accords, were preliminarily signed on November 21, 1995 in Ohio. With that accord reaching its 20th anniversary — and Bosnia continuing to be wildly dysfunctional and notoriously stagnant, albeit not openly at war with itself — it’s time to reflect on how the solution reached to end the war did not do much beyond that.

“The Dayton Accords at 20: Why Bosnia’s Government Is So Dysfunctional” – The Atlantic

Dayton created a byzantine governance system that constitutionally entrenched, rather than resolved, the divisions that emerged from the war. Bosnia was divided into two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska. Bosnia was further split into 10 cantons, and the contested city of Brčko was given special district status, while the state presidency rotates between the representatives of the three constituent peoples—Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. With a population of 3.8 million people, Bosnia has three presidents, 13 prime ministers and as many governments, more than 180 ministers, and over 700 members of parliament. The outcome is an ungovernable mess. Two years after the 2013 census was completed, the results haven’t yet been announced, because Bosnia and Republika Srpska each carried out its own census, with different methodologies.
[…]
This doubling-up of everything can seem comic. But the system entrenched by Dayton has done serious damage to Bosnia’s development. “The political caste uses Dayton to stay in power,” explained Nermina Mujagić, a political-science professor at Sarajevo University. “Dayton is a convenient scapegoat to justify why nothing is being done to address the plunder of the state’s assets and pervasive corruption.”

 
And on the other hand, the dilemma remains: This is bad, but at least it stopped the horrific, genocidal fighting.

President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, President Alija Izetbegovic of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and President Franjo Tudjman of the Republic of Croatia initial the Dayton Peace Accords at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Nov. 1-21, 1995. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force.)

President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, President Alija Izetbegovic of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and President Franjo Tudjman of the Republic of Croatia initial the Dayton Peace Accords at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Nov. 21, 1995. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force.)

Burundi appears to be sliding into full-blown meltdown

2015 Burundian Constitutional Crisis

Until recently, a major African ally of the United States and a purported model for other African nations. Now, a mass exodus from the capital, daily body dumps of assassinated figures, and a fracturing military.

burundi-map

“Burundians flee capital over fears of violence” – France24, November 6, 2015:

Thousands of residents have fled the Burundian capital of Bujumbura in recent days over fears of escalating violence as the United Nations warned there was a risk that the central African country could slip back into civil war.
[…]
Meanwhile, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) also drew attention to dangerous “hardline rhetoric” in Burundi, drawing parallels with the hate-filled climate that led to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

 
United Nations statement, via AllAfrica.com, November 7, 2015:

The statement said the Secretary-General is alarmed that in recent weeks, the discovery of the bodies of civilian victims, many apparently summarily executed, has become a regular occurrence in several neighbourhoods of Bujumbura, where just today, Welly Nzitonda, the son of prominent Burundian human rights defender Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa was found dead following his arrest by the police in the morning.

Further, Mr. Ban in the statement also condemned public statements that appear to be aimed at inciting violence or hatred towards different groups in Burundian society.

“Inflammatory rhetoric is reprehensible and dangerous; it will only serve to aggravate the situation in the country. [The Secretary-General] calls for accountability for those who have engaged in publicly inciting violence,” the statement said.

 

The ethnically mixed military from the 2005 peace accords, even in the face of a renegade coup attempt in May, had largely been a lone rock of stability in the face of mounting ethno-political tensions earlier this year. Less than a month ago, reports emerged that that too looks increasingly precarious…

“Burundi: Cracks Widen Within Burundi’s Army,” IRIN, October 12:

A recent post on a Burundi news blog by Thierry Vircoulon of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said the [integrated military] was “dangerously close to rupture.”

IRIN’s interviews with more than a dozen people, including leading Burundian civilians, analysts and members of the military, indicate that a faction of former Hutu rebels has embarked on a campaign of harassing, abducting, detaining, and in some cases killing, members of the army’s old guard, as well as others perceived to oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza, himself a former rebel leader.

 
This October assessment marks a stark contrast with International Crisis Group’s prior assessment that institutional divisions designed in by the Arusha Accords of 2005 “could ironically help the army stay together.”

One wonders if it could, after all, go the way of South Sudan’s “unified” military which has now splintered back into rival ethnic groups from the former rebel factions before independence.

The United States suspended military cooperation and its major training program in Burundi back in July. In August, the president openly announced his intention to expand “patriotic” teenage death squads.

Trench warfare comes to eastern Syria

Trench warfare largely fell out of favor when aerial bombing became more commonplace and it wasn’t so rare for one or both sides to possess aircraft with serious ground attack capabilities. (Paratroopers didn’t help matters either, if you were trying to defend a location via front-facing trenches.)

But in a conflict where neither side has its own air force, such as the war between Kurdish YPG fighters and ISIS in eastern Syria, extensive trench complexes still make sense for slowing offensives and for securing territory. The New York Times sent reporters to the Kurdish front lines and reported back on the scale and complexity of the earthworks there:

[Kurdish] fighters hold most of the more than 280-mile-long front line with the Islamic State. Parts of it have come to resemble an international border, with deep trenches and high berms running for miles, lined with bright lights to prevent jihadist infiltrators. The whole line is dotted with heavily sandbagged positions to protect against machine gun and mortar attacks by the jihadists.

 
The geo-ethnic divisions wracking Syria, Iraq, and Turkey today were largely drawn during World War I and the five or so years that followed it, so it’s interesting to see massive earthworks and trench networks like that war re-emerge a century later in the waging of this conflict.

Approximate front line of the southward push by Kurdish YPG forces against ISIS in eastern Syria, as of October 26, 2015. (Map via Wikimedia community.)

Approximate front line of the southward push by Kurdish YPG forces against ISIS in eastern Syria, as of October 26, 2015. (Map via Wikimedia community.)

Should blue cities in red states adopt mandatory voting?

A clever, low-cost, politically self-executing idea to promote rapid adoption of compulsory voting across the United States (if you think that’s a good idea, along the lines of jury duty), explained in The Atlantic by Nicholas Stephanopoulos of UChicago Law School:

To start, a blue city in a purple state — such as Miami, Florida; Columbus, Ohio; or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — would have to adopt compulsory voting for its own elections. Its elections would also have to be held on the first Tuesday in November [in an even year], allowing voters to cast ballots in municipal, state, and federal elections at the same time.
[…]
At this point, redder jurisdictions would face enormous pressure to follow the blue city’s lead. Not doing so would award the Democrats an electoral bonanza: a surge in turnout in their urban stronghold unmatched by greater participation in suburbs and exurbs.
[…]
Importantly, it’s easier for a single city to adopt compulsory voting than for myriad suburbs and exurbs to follow suit. This collective action problem is why compulsory voting probably wouldn’t stay at the local level for long. Red states, in particular, would find it in their interest to impose statewide voting mandates.

 
I cut out some of the details or proposed scenarios in this excerpt, just to get the gist down, so I recommend you check out the full piece.

I also think any mandatory voting system should, however, only be implemented alongside a None-of-The-Above option on all ballots. That way people can either pay a small fine for not voting or they can vote against everyone running. Either action would still be a positive expression of democratic will: support for/indifference toward the status quo or unhappiness with all options presented.

I’m sure a lot of people will have objections (in both ideological camps) to increasing turnout dramatically, especially at the local level. But fundamentally, if you’re unwilling to campaign toward everyone in democratic elections, that’s your problem and you need to get over that or lose. If you’re afraid of voters, it’s either because you’re wrong or because your side hasn’t put in the work necessary to persuade them to agree with your view.

And if mandatory voting strengthens party machines at the expense of individual campaigns, maybe individuals will actually take the time to sway the party or get in line with an easy to understand political agenda. What might that mean? We’ll stop having thousands of candidate-driven campaigns where voters pick someone they like over someone who will fight for them and their issues in office. Instead there would be candidates aligned with each platform, so you would know for sure what you would be getting when you vote.

Australia has had enforced compulsory voting (i.e. vote or pay a fine) since 1924, and they haven’t collapsed. Instead, they had decade after decade of turnout greater than 90%. Our democracy is only limping along by comparison.

Bill’s 2015 Endorsements for Newton MA

My endorsements for tomorrow in Newton MA. I have met all but two of these people this year, and I have actively been canvassing for 8 of them (indicated with a *).

Vote Yes on establishing a Charter Commission, then vote for these 9 (alphabetical):
Bryan Barash*
Jane O’Connor Frantz*
Howard Haywood
Rhanna Kidwell*
Josh Krintzman
Anne Larner
Brooke K. Lipsitt
Karen Manning
Chris Steele*

Aldermen-At-Large — all of these candidates support bringing the city responsibly and inclusively into the future.
Ward 2: Susan Albright* and Marcia Johnson*
Ward 3: Ted Hess-Mahan*
Ward 5: Deborah Crossley*
Ward 8: David Kalis and Rick Lipof

School Committee
Ward 5: Steve Siegel