Monday, June 21, 2010

Back to the Congo.

Since last Tuesday morning I am on my way to the Democratic Republic of Congo; with a detour through Kenya (a few days to meet friends) and South Africa (three weeks to support the Dutch team to the semi-finals). I will then be in the DRC for six months - coming back the end of January 2011.

So, because I am back in Africa, I will blog at Coding in the Congo in the months to come.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


So the Dutch parliamentary elections took place and the result is horrible (in total there are 150 seats):

Party Peter's summary Seats Change
VVD The liberals 31 +9
PVDA The labor party 30 -3
PVV The right 24 +15
CDA The christen-democrats 21 -20
SP The socialists 15 -10
GL The greens 10 +3
D66 The social-democrats 10 +7
CU The religious ones 5 -1
SGP The more strict religious ones 2 +0
PVD Yes, a party for animals 2 +0

The result is bad for two reasons:
  1. It will be difficult to create a stable government that survives to the next elections because the voters either went for very left or very right. Our queen now has to appoint an 'informateur' who will meet party leaders and try to come up with a solid government: i.e. a combination of parties that are like-minded, has a majority, and consists out of as few parties as possible.
  2. The biggest winner is the PVV. While they have some good points, they have many (many) bad ones: they want to stop (Islamic) immigration into the Netherlands all together, no money should be spend on development aid, and the role of the European Union should be diminished substantially. Why are so many Dutch people - almost 1.5 million of them - afraid of the rest of the world?
I like the following poster from Loesje:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Purity and Exile.

I just finished "Purity and Exile" by Liisa Malkki - associate professor of anthropology at Stanford [1]. The book is based upon anthropological fieldwork done in 1985/1986 in Tanzania’s regions of Rukwa and Kigoma. Her subjects of study are the Hutu refugees that fled Burundi in 1972 when the the Tutsi-controlled Burundi army initiated mass killings of the country's majority group the Hutu; an estimated 100,000 people were killed.

After placing the massacre in historical context - discussing the long history of oppression and inequality between Hutu and Tutsi in Burundi - Malkki gets to the core of her argument: "The social and imaginative processes of the construction of nationness and identity can come to be influenced by the local, everyday circumstances of life in exile, and how spatial and social isolation of refugees can figure in these processes."

In brief, there were two groups of Hutu refugees in Tanzania. One group was settled in a carefully planned, physically isolated refugee camp in Mishamo. The other group lived in Kigoma - a city on Lake Tanganyika - outside of any camp context and dispersed in non-refugee neighborhoods. These two groups ascribed meanings to national identity and history, to notions of home and homeland, and to exile as a collectively experienced condition in very different ways. The "camp refugees" were constantly engaged in the construction and reconstruction of their (Hutu) history as a people. The "town refugees", on the other hand, had not constructued a categorically distinct, collective identity. Rather than defining themselves as “the Hutu refugees" or "Hutu", they tended to seek ways of assimilating and inhabiting multiple shifting identities derived or borrowed from the social context of the township.

An interesting read; the 352 pages were finished quickly.

[1] Liisa Helena Malkki. 1995. Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Floribert Chebeya found death.

Floribert Chebeya - a leading human rights activist in the DRC - was found dead in Kinshasa, Amnesty said yesterday. He died of unknown causes after being summoned to meet the head of the national police force last Tuesday. Please see here for a little bit more information. Amnesty has called for an investigation into his death.

Floribert Chebeya

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dutch elections and migration.

On June 9th there are elections in the Netherlands. We have 10 parties in parliament and they are quite different - we even have a party for animals in parliament [1] - so the different leaders battling over their party programs is great entertainment.

On May 19th Nyfer published a report arguing that non-western immigration into the Netherlands costs the Dutch government 7.2 billion euros a year. The report, commissioned by the PVV (the Dutch right-wing party) is here in Dutch. The reason is that these immigrants make more use of the welfare state and pay less tax than the average native. They are also more likely to be unemployed, criminal, etc.

I finally read the report (127 pages) while in the plane to the Netherlands. The report's scope is very limited; solely looking at the budgetary effects of non-western immigration on the Dutch government's budget. Given this the report seems solid.

Geert Wilders

Unfortunately (but expectedly), the PVV now uses it as ammunition in the Dutch election. To quote Geert Wilders - leader of the PVV - "Ten years of unchanged immigration policy means a cost of 72 billion for Dutch Society. The fact that mass-migration is also financially disastrous emphasizes the necessity of PVV's proposals such as an immigration stop for Islamic countries, a limitation on other immigrants and for upcoming 10 years not paying benefits to immigrants [own translation]."

Three things:
  1. How do we get Islamic countries to have a special treatment? That's only 1/3rd of all non-Western immigrants into the Netherlands!?
  2. In addition to the above, the PVV also wants to get out of the EU, get rid of the euro and stop all Dutch development aid. What world does he live in?
  3. I can't wait to start writing my dissertation. In Eastern Congo we find that migration is positively correlated with public goods provision. Can't wait to provide ammunition to PVV's opposing camps.
[1] The following ten parties are currently in the Dutch parliament (the ones starred are currently in the government):

Party Full name (in Dutch) Peter's summary Seats
CDA* Christen Democratisch Appèl The christen-democrats 41
PVDA* Partij van de Arbeid The labor party 33
SP Socialistische Partij The socialists 25
VVD Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie The liberals 22
PVV Partij voor de Vrijheid The right 9
GL GroenLinks The greens 7
CU* ChristenUnie The religious ones 6
D66 Democraten 66 The social-democrats 3
SGP Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij The more strict religious ones 2
PVD Partij voor de Dieren Yes, a party for animals 2

That's science. From Dirk Jan.

A post from... the Netherlands, where I arrived last Wednesday (last week was therefore rather busy and thus no posts). To get things going again hereby a comic that goes to the heart of science.

Normally these "Dirk Jan" comics are about many different other topics: here another intellectually stimulating one, the sign reads "Men, please sit down while peeing".

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

USAID/QED conference.

It is 420am and I am at Penn Station; waiting for my train to Washington, DC. About a year ago we received a grant from USAID which made it possible to launch Voix des Kivus. I'm heading to a two-day "mid-term" conference - organized by QED - to present our project. Let's see.