Monthly Archives: April 2014

First Impressions of the Afghan Elections: Field Reports and Analysis

I went to the U.S Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. to learn about the elections that were just held in Afghanistan. First off it was a brand new facility and very very nice. The lecture was held in a lecture like classroom. I believe C-SPAN was covering the event. There was a group of four men on stage in a panel and they were on Skype with a panel that were located in Kabul, Afghanistan. I thought this was totally awesome. Although there were issues with video quality and sound, I heard enough to write this summary. The elections were important because it can mark the first democratic transfer of power in the country’s history. Basically, its a real test for Afghanistan’s governmental institutions. The three front-runners for election are: Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister… Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister, and Zalmai Rassoul, a former foreign minister. The panels discussed two possible scenarios and how a run-off would be very possible. They suggested it could still be awhile before an election winner is announced.

The most intriguing part for me is how they talked about the Taliban involvement. The Taliban have stated that elections are illegitimate and that they will consider everyone who participates to be a legitimate target. They unleashed a wave of violence against election-related and other targets, including intimidation of people at the polls. The panel discussed how in the end though, the Taliban came out as losers and Afghanistan and security forces came out as winners due to the turn of the elections. I heard that 60% of Afghanistan is 25 or younger and it was a huge turnout for the younger generation.

The key phrase that stood out to me was a little anecdote. One of the members on stage grew up in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union. He said when he was little, they would pretend to fight, shoot guns. He then went on to say that when he visited last and the recent photos that have went viral, kids now put a red dot on their finger while playing and pretending to vote. This is a sign that is really encouraging for the future of Afghanistan.

Stinger: A Reporters Journey in the Congo

I went to the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) book event the Stinger: A Reporters Journey in the Congo, written by Anjan Sundaram, which took place from 5:30-6:30. There were two other people on the stage. A lady by the name of Jennifer Cooke was moderating the event, and another man on the stage, though i forgot what his name was. Anjan Sundaram talked about his trip to the Congo in 2006, which marked the country’s first democractic elections. He mentioned traveling down the Congo River. The author talked about how people walked for 3 days from their villages to the nearest poll. Everyone in the country seemed very excited for the elections, although they apparently didn’t really make a difference, and nothing changed the country politically. There were a lot of local and regional conflicts during the time of his stay, and he also saw international intervention. This was something completely new for them. He felt very unprepared when he went there however, and he mentioned being robbed twice. There was so much conflict going on in the country, and he discussed how natural resources helped fuel the war, which i found interesting because we discussed this in class. He said living was very tough in the Congo, but he also discussed how communities banned together to take care of each other. He discussed how within a week a family might get less than a dollar, and one day a couple people would eat, another day another couple of people would eat, and then on sunday everyone was on their own. People there really depended on each other and shared expenses. There was a lot of areas in the country that had no government presence. Something else i found very interesting in the book event was when the other man on the stage (cant remember his name) discussed how when he went to the Congo, he found it really interesting how the people of the Congo referred to themselves as Congolese instead of referencing what tribe they were from. I think its very common in various areas in Africa for people to identify themselves with their tribe instead of country, so i found this very interesting. The last portion of the event was reserved for the audience to ask any questions or add comments.