Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hannah Gilkes, "Interview: Meles Zenawi, Africa Confidential, Vol. 50, nol 10; May 3, 2009.

[About the international response to events in Somalia, Zenawi says, "there was not enough money to support the government, lots of promises but very little delivery. Secondly, whatever money was being delivered was being delivered by third-party organisations: NGOs, international organisations." The same is being said about Afghanistan. -jlt]

Africa Confidential: You’ve gone on record as saying that an effect of the financial downturn could be increased political unrest in Africa. That was three months ago. Is that point of view still valid and are there particular areas that you are more concerned about?

Meles Zenawi: Well, soon after I said that, in the context of preparation for the G-20 summit, I got in touch with a number of African leaders and my worst fears were confirmed. The President of Liberia [Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf] was in a preparatory meeting for the summit and she said that one of the sources of instability in Liberia has been the very high rate of unemployment among the youth and the fragile peace that they have in Liberia was too fragile for it to withstand massive layoffs among the youth; and that is what she feared would happen as much of the investment that they had been promised had simply disappeared.

Later on, the President of Southern Sudan and Vice-President of Sudan [Salva Kiir Mayardit] got in touch with me and indicated to me that because oil prices had collapsed and because oil was the primary source of revenue for his government, he may not be able to pay the salaries of his armed men and he felt that that was a rather dangerous thing to do. And, thirdly, in the DRC [Congo-Kinshasa], I heard reports that in the mining areas of the country, which are the most economically vibrant areas of the DRC, something like 300,000 people had been laid off since the recession began. That is 300,000 mostly young people who are no longer employed and that is a very dangerous thing in an environment of a very fragile peace. So I think that while, initially, that appeared to be a sort of pessimistic assessment of what could happen, since then it appears that that prognosis was not all that pessimistic.

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