Budget for a Coup d’Etat

December 3rd, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

How much does it cost to stage a coup? €21 million, according to this document.

It’s the work of a Congolese military group called the Union des Forces Révolutionnaires du Congo, keen to topple president Joseph Kabila.

Before they can do that, though, they need to raise some cash. So they have reached out to the diaspora — especially in Belgium — to chip in. And in the process, somebody has put together the budget. The UN got hold of this and included it in a report, giving us all a glimpse of coup planning.

Suborned generals aside, it’s the kind of vague document that will be familiar to any middle manager. Some areas are uncharted territory — “maintaining hold on power” after the coup is a single, unelaborated line item.

Other areas are elaborated into full-fledged fantasies. We know not only that broadcasters will be taken over, but what will be broadcast. “Day Zero” of the coup begins with 2 hours of classical music, for instance. I imagine it Clockwork Orange style, Beethoven playing as ministers are dragged from their beds.

The sums don’t add up, the plans seem half-formed, and the whole document smells of wishful thinking. And, having seen the bureaucracy required for government work, I can say for sure: this is one coup Uncle Sam won’t even think about funding.

British burnt embarrassing documents before independence

December 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Britain’s colonial governments burned massive numbers of documents, reports the Guardian, rather than hand them over to their successor states.

Under what the British called “Operation Legacy”, they destroyed anything that “might embarrass [the] government”. In Northern Rhodesia this specifically included “all papers which are likely to be interpreted, either reasonably or by malice, as indicating racial prejudice or religious bias on the part of Her Majesty’s government

Nairobi’s pirate building boom

December 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Real-estate prices rise in Nairobi. Who do you blame? Somali pirates.

Suppose you’re a pirate. You’re sitting on a pile of ransom money — it topped $100/million a year during the piracy boom. You need to launder it, and store it somewhere more secure than Somalia. So you turn to construction, that classic route for cleaning excess cash. Looking for somewhere reasonably close, with a large Somali community, you end up in Nairobi.

A government investigation has been launched into soaring property prices in Kenya amid claims that Somali pirates are behind the unusual real estate boom which has seen prices increase three fold in the last few years.

In a neighbourhood of Nairobi now called ‘Little Mogadishu’ because of its Somali community, large business and apartment buildings have sprung up. A similar explosion of real estate development can be seen in higher income areas of the city.

It’s a nice story, but it doesn’t quite add up. Criminal house-building should lower prices, not raise them. Purchases of existing buildings might increase sale prices, but won’t much affect rentals unless the Somalis are living in Nairobi.

Besides, there just isn’t that much money in piracy. Nairobi’s GDP is perhaps $24 billion. $1000 million from piracy is a drop in the ocean

Most likely, the pirate housing story is just another way of blaming foreigners for local problems. It’s certainly causing difficulty for Nairobi’s Somali population:

Yet mud sticks, and many Somalis are concerned that the small of amount of pirate money coming through Eastleigh will continue to damage the neighborhood’s reputation.
“If piracy money is allowed to infiltrate into the local market here in Eastleigh, then our hard-earned money will be spoiled and soon we may close our line of businesses,” said Diriye Jamal, who owns a textile shop.

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