Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Ware Crimes of Charles Taylor

Last week and this, International Criminal Court received the attention it deserves because of Hollywood and glamour.  Pity it took the testimony of Naomi Campbell and that of Mia Farrow, who contradicted her, to turn the spotlight on the trial of a leader who allegedly used blood diamonds to pay for a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. 

It should be noted, however, that the prosecution's case is pretty weak if this testimony is the strongest evidence they've got.  But at least the media, particularly the myopic one in the US, paid attention.  That's something, I guess.

Putin at 10

Vladimir Putin - World Economic Forum Annual M...Image by World Economic Forum via Flickr
First, yes. I know. Long, long dry spell between posts.  As usual, my day job has tripped me up.  Live with it.

Probably few have noticed but Vladimir Putin has now been in power for over 10 years.  Plucked from nowhere by a failing Boris Yeltsin, he succeeded in restructuring Russia - sometimes not in a good way - with the massive support and approval of the Russian people.  He crushed the nascent free media. He crushed the oligarchs - at lease those who refused to tow the line.

The devastating heat wave and fires during the past month have dented his popularity - but there are few countries in the world who don't blame their leaders  for events beyond their control. Like the weather.  But, then, people are not particularly smart in general and like easy answers.  Most of the time it is the response to disasters that usually kill the politician.  This phenomenon has taken aim at the Russian Prime Minister where calls for his resignation have surfaced this week.  Ain't gonna happen.

Putin will be remembered for consolidating the state and not indulging in revolutionary fervour. As a result, changes that started and faltered under the Yeltsin years have taken place merely because Putin said "do it".

Last May when I was in Moscow to review progress on the consolidation of a certain number of government agencies - something my colleagues and I advocated in 1995 - the progress that had been made when Putin had said "do it" three years ago was astounding.  He also cleared out the old - aged and backward vodka swilling - guard in government, replacing it with very bright and very young professionals. 

I saw a report recently that while visiting Nizhny Novgorod - the fourth largest city in the country - he promised those standing amid smoldering ruins that once had been their homes that all would be rebuild before November. Indeed, work had already begun. All because Putin said "do it".

From a human rights, civil society and media freedom perspective, I don't particularly like him.  But, more leaders should be able to get things done with similar determination.

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