Problems in Africa kick off two day conference on international affairs

03/28/13 Janelle Irwin
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Many countries in Africa are facing famine, poverty and civil war. A panel of experts dove into the issues facing African nations during the first day of USF St. Petersburg’s Conference on International Affairs.

Countries like Mali and Libya face fierce fighting between groups in power and opposition forces. The issue has left a divide among people who think the U.S. should provide military intervention and those who think the militarization of nations should be avoided. Bill Felice, is a professor of international relations at Eckerd College.

"I think it is a last resort, that if all peaceful means and all negotiations are exhausted and there are killings happening day after day, so 5,000 today, 5,000 tomorrow such as in Rwanda, in that case I can visualize a scenario where such military force would be useful. But outside of that I think that there is no winner in war, everyone is a loser."

The conference aims to engage people in the community on international issues. That includes places like Nigeria where there are clashes between Christians who live primarily in the southern part of the country and Muslims who live in the north. Former political adviser Ed Fugit said Nigeria is one of Africa’s top two superpowers. The oil nation’s GDP is comparable to South Africa at about $400 billion.

"And as far as anyone can tell almost none of the proceeds from that oil have ever gotten through to the people of Nigeria."

Panelist Douglas Rogers, an author who lived years in Zimbabwe, painted the economic situation in that nation as bleak. He said he admired his parents for enduring it. They owned a backpacking lodge that catered to tourists.

"And they went through this crazy period where the backpacker lodge ran out of business because there were no tourists coming to Zimbabwe anymore and what developed there was effectively like an informal brothel. I was horrified by the way, my parents were leasing this out to a local businessman, and finding out he had turned it into a bar where prostitutes would come. Horrified by this and told my parents and they sort of looked at me and said, 'you know what, Hal, we're going to make a living in this country. A few weeks later on the same trip I discovered that my father was growing a little marijuana plantation at the age of 70, in my mother's rose garden."

The conference is also looking at issues Latin America and the Middle East as well as the world economy. Friday panelists will also talk about foreign policy and the threat of nuclear weapons. It starts at 9 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. at Harbor Hall at USF St. Pete.

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