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Watching Zimbabwe with dismay along with much of the rest of the world – nothing to be surprised about here with regard to Mugabe’s violent tactics, and there are links all over the web, so I’ll forgo most of that, except to say that Mugabe’s been prepared for this for years – see Samantha Power’s 2003 article, “How to Kill a Country” for a succinct summary.

Rather it makes me wonder about the ease with which many tout civil society and media initiatives, and whether they/we chronically underestimate the enduring power of state control. Morgan Tsvangirai makes this calculation when he debates whether the MDC should even engage in electoral politics, and this is clearly a major reason why he pulled out, though it’s also a tactical move to put pressure on the regional African community.

A friend mentioned yesterday that he’d recently been in Djibouti training Somali journalists in how to cover violent conflict. Shortly after the training, the war once again escalated, and two of the trainees were killed while trying to cover the fighting. We discussed whether it was unethical to propose such training opportunities in the first place. Answer: helping pass along knowledge and skills, but not resources, security, ongoing mentoring, or any focus on the structural conditions under which journalists, or activists/monitors/human rights reporters conduct their work is risky, and those engaged in training or promoting such projects need to be very aware of the risks their fellow journalists or activists will be taking.

Sokwanele’s map mashup of electoral violence is full. 1450 incidents.

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