Friday, August 29, 2003

Geneva: generic drugs deal ... almost got signed

Last night, the negotiating committee brought the draft resolution to the full WTO council, expecting all the countries to sign-off on it ... but Argentina and the Philippines wanted clarification on some issues and the vote was postponed.

This article in the Economist gives a fabulous rundown of the evolution of the generic drugs debate/deal in the WTO. Best summary I've seen yet.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

DRC: EU troops will stay on two weeks longer

Here's a bit of good news. French-led EU troops will remain in Bunia until September 15 to allow the UN to get its peacekeepers in place (mandate was set to run out on Sept 1). Had EU troops left before the UN was ready to take over, local militas would have taken advantage of that vacuum to assert themselves.
The French-led interim force has succeeded in securing the town of Bunia, fulfilling the narrow terms of its mandate, so far without fatalities among its troops.

However, observers said there had been no real disarmament, although the EU force had banned visible weapons in Bunia. They also suggested that its clampdown on the Congo People's Union (UPC), the ethnic Hema militia group that seized control of Bunia earlier this year, may have worked to the advantage of rival militias from the region's Lendu majority.

EU officials said the mission - named Operation Artemis - had fulfilled its objectives in protecting civilians and easing conditions for humanitarian aid, but admitted: "The problem of Ituri is not resolved."

Guinea: strict form of Islam gaining ground

According to this, more people in Guinea are embracing very strict interpretations of Islam. The piece doesn't offer numbers but it does say that more women are now seen wearing the burkah.

The Islam practiced across Africa is generally quite relaxed. So it's interesting to note changes in practice and dress.

The most well known case is that of provinces in northern Nigeria which have adopted stricter interpretations of Islam and brought in Sharia law. This has caused no end of problems with the central government.

While on the subject of Nigeria ... an Islamic court has postponed the appeal hearing in the Amina Lawal case untill next month. If you recall, Amina is the young woman who was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery. She has a baby from that relationship.

In Mali, at least 10 people have been killed in sectarian clashes between Wahhabi and non-Wahhabi Muslims. The fight began on Monday over the Whhabis' efforts to build a mosque.

Zimbabwe: fuel prices up 500%

The government of Zimbabwe removed price control on fuel causing prices to go up five fold. The government doesn't have the foreign currency to import fuel so supply has been very uncertain. So the government has freed up private companies to charge market rates ... in the hopes that the supply will get better.

The higher fuel prices have already begun to affect regular folk ... companies that provide public transportation have raised fares.

But don't despair, there's positive news out of Zimbabwe... for Mugabe. His new house is almost ready.
The house with its 25 bedrooms in Borrowdale Brook Lane, an upmarket suburb in northern Harare, is being completed in haste because Mugabe allegedly wants to move in there when he retires [expected in December].
As for the cost ...
Mr Makumbe, also a member of the anti-corruption group, Transparency International, asked where Mr Mugabe got the funds to build the colossal structure as its cost [£3.75m] outstripped his annual salary of £23,000.

Cote d'Ivoire: more details on accusation against PM

Late yesterday, Pascal Affi Nguessan, a former prime minister and current head of President Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front party, accused current Prime Minister Seydou Diarra of being involved in the alleged plot to assassinate Gbagbo.

Nguessan told reporters, "We can prove the prime minister guilty of incitement and complicity in destabilisation."

The proof he offered reporters .... that the France-based plot unfolded shortly after Diarra visited Paris.

According to this Reuters story, Diarra did meet with opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, "... a northern Muslim, who is reviled by Gbagbo supporters and accused of backing last year's rebellion."

But accusations against Diarra should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Here's a bit more from the article linked above.
Following Diarra's appointment, rebels finally joined Gbagbo's team in April and the war was officially declared over in July.

But the peace process has stalled because of a row over who should control the defence and security ministries [problem compounded by Gbagbo's reluctance to move on the issues -- which Diarra has complained publically about].

Many Gbagbo loyalists accuse Diarra, himself a northerner, of sympathising with the rebel New Forces -- many of whom also have their origins in the mainly Muslim north.
For more BG, click here to jump to yesterday's post on Cote d'Ivoire.

UN: SC votes to appoint separate prosecutor for Rwanda tribunal

UPDATE: The Security Council voted to appoint a separate prosecutor for Rwandan tribunal. As for the timetable ... "the courts are to complete investigations by the end of 2004, complete most trials by 2008 and close down before the end of 2010."

The Security Council is expected to vote today on a resolution which would appoint a separate chief prosecutor for the Rwandan tribunal. It would also set out a timetable for both the Rwandan and Yugoslav tribunals to wrap up their work by 2010.

Carla del Ponte who serves as chief prosecutor of both the Rwandan and Yugoslav tribunals will remain in charge of prosecutions at the Yugoslav tribunal. It's still not clear who will be appointed to replace her at the Rwandan tribunal.

The Rwandan government has been lobbying to get Del Ponte replaced ... and she's been lobbying just as hard to keep both jobs. The Rwandan tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania has been accused of being slow and inefficent by both outside observers and the Rwandan government.

Del Ponte's supporters say that the Rwandan government is trying to push her out because she has pursued people inside the government for revenge killings during the Rwandan genocide.

Here is an earlier post on the issue which has a few more details.

Geneva: agreement on generic drugs may be signed today

Negotiators at the WTO are expected to approve an agreement on generic drugs today. The negotiators settled on the final wording late yesterday .... after two years of talks!
The proposed statement says that rules allowing countries to override patents "should be used in good faith to protect public health ... not be an instrument to pursue industrial or commercial policy objectives."

It calls for special measures to prevent drugs being smuggled back to rich country markets, including special packaging or different colored tablets.

.... But the development aid group Oxfam said the deal would be a "disaster."

"This would be a travesty of an agreement that would no doubt be presented as wonderful thing for development," said Oxfam's Head of Advocacy in Geneva, Celine Charveriat. "The text contains so much red tape and so many obstacles that if it were accepted developing countries would still struggle to get access to cheap medicines and thousands of people would continue to die unnecessarily."

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Cote d'Ivoire/Pan Africa: using mercenaries

I mentioned mercenaries very briefly in the last post ... but I've come across so many stories about mercenaries recently that I thought I would point some of them out here.

Just to make clear ... some of the 10 men arrested in France are characterized as mercenaries ... Ibrahim Coulibaly, the former army master sergeant, is reportedly under investigation for "recruiting mercenaries".

Let's begin the story ...

Late last month, a South African man pled guilty and was fined for recruiting mercenaries to fight for the Ivorian government during the civil war.

About a week after that, this opinion piece appeared in the South African paper, "The Star". The writer, Peter Fabricius, posed a provocative argument -- why not use mercenaries in situations where nations aren't willing to send troops to stop the fighting (eg. Liberia)? At the time he wrote this piece, Liberia was in chaos and there seemed no hope of getting any peacekeepers there. Though the situation has gotten better since then, it's still far from ideal as evidenced by recent reports of fresh fighting.

Fabricius offered the following defense:
In 1995, the SA [South African] security/mercenary company Executive Outcomes, hired by the legitimate government, decisively defeated the repugnant RUF rebels in Sierra Leone with a few hundred men and a few helicopters. Then Sierra Leone succumbed to political pressure to get rid of the South African "dogs of war" - and promptly suffered major reversals.

And EO disbanded because of the above-mentioned Foreign Assistance Military Act [1998 law which bans South Africans from acting as mercenaries].

The Sierra Leone/EO deal in 1995 could instead have become a model for future contracts between international organisations like the UN and Ecowas or individual governments, on the one hand, and private military/security companies on the other.

Many would protest that mercenaries cannot be trusted to fight for the right cause. True. But they are going to do that anyway. If the international community wants to get the dirty work of war done when no one else will do it, it may have no alternative but the mercenaries.

These private military companies - as they prefer to be called - would be contracted by the UN, etc, to do a specific job and would be subject to the same penalties as anyone else who breaks the law. The threat of losing future contracts would be a strong incentive to stay legal.
This isn't as crazy as it sounds. Consider the following comment as reported in the lastest issue of Newsweek.
This [using mercenaries] is no longer necessarily a bad thing, says Peter Takirambudde, Human Rights Watch's executive director for Africa. The old notion of the mercenary as a hired killer is outdated. Properly managed and given a specific mandate by international organizations or sovereign governments, Takirambudde believes, private armies can be a useful tool in coping with the world's humanitarian emergencies. "It is not a crazy idea," he says. "Times have changed."
There was a story reported back in early August, which I noted here, about a miliary company offering to arrest Charles Taylor so he could stand trial in Sierra Leone ... and also offering to send in 2,000 men to "enforce" peace in Liberia. The company is under investigation by US and UK authorities. Most interesting bit ... the report said that the company had initially offered its services to Charles Taylor.

It's that last issue, selling your services -- loyalty -- to the highest bidder, that makes people uncomfortable about the whole idea of using mercenaries.

Here's a bit more from the Newsweek article about the extent to which private military companies are being used by the US government.
Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution in Washington estimates that, after the latest gulf war, there are five times as many military contractors on the ground in Iraq as in 1991. Between 1994 and 2002 the U.S. Department of Defense entered into more than 3,000 contracts with private military companies for a total value of roughly $300 billion, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a journalism watch group in Washington, D.C. Contractors are training security forces in Iraq, flying gunships in Colombia, training civilian police in Bosnia and Kosovo and protecting Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai.
The idea that you can pay a group to go and stop the killing is appealing ... but also highly problematic as highlighted in this piece titled "Mercenary as Future Peacekeeper?". Here's a bit from the article.
Maj. Roger D. Carstens, an active-duty commander of a U.S. Special Forces company at Fort Bragg, N.C., and former American military official in Bosnia, said that when it comes to peacekeeping matters, private military companies can do both harm and good.

... Carstens also noted that these firms do not necessarily live up to the code of conduct governing the U.S. military and others top forces around the world. This is important because the peacekeeping operations take place in countries where the rule of laws has collapsed, making local law enforcement difficult.

In addition, established international laws for dealing with crimes committed by traditional soldiers do not clearly apply to those without a state, a fact that has resulted in problems in the past.

Several employees of DynCorp working in the Balkans are alleged to have been involved in running a child prostitution ring. The company fired the whistleblower that brought attention to the problem and took the men back to the United States and out of the hands of local law enforcement authorities. They were never prosecuted.

In the case of peacekeeping, private military companies contend they can provide services and do things that Western governments have become unwilling to pursue when strategic concerns are not at risk. However, those that follow the issue see the profit motive as both a motivator and a risk when it comes to humanitarian missions.
I have to point this out .... the group which represents military service companies is called the "International Peace Operations Association".

Cote d'Ivoire: the plot thickens?

On Saturday, France arrested 10 people it said were plotting to destabilize Cote d'Ivoire. Four of them were arrested at the airport, about to board a plane to Abidjan. France is holding the men under a new anti-mercenary law.

Sourcing unnamed prosecutors and judical officials, the Associated Press reported that some of the men admitted they were planning to assassinate Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.

Over in Cote d'Ivoire itself, another 20 people have been held for questioning, suspected of being involved in the alleged plot.

President Gbagbo went on national television yesterday and thanked the French government for its help.

Today, Pascal Affi Nguessan, a former prime minister and current head of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front party, alleged that the current Prime Minister Seydou Diarra was involved in the plot. Nguessan offered no proof.

In recent weeks, Diarra has complained about the pace at which the peace deal was being implemented -- an indirect swipe at Gbagbo.

One of those arrestsed in France was Ibrahim Coulibaly, a former army master sergeant who led a successful coup in 1999. Once he grabbed power, Coulibaly handed leadership over to General Robert Guei. Guei regime didn't last long and Coulibaly has lived in exile in Burkina Faso since 2000. Coulibaly recently announced that he wished to return to Cote d'Ivoire. He denies being involved in any plot

Coulibaly does have a supporter.
... former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, who has been brought into the government of reconciliation as communications minister, says Ibrahim Coulibaly should be released. According to Mr. Soro, Mr. Coulibaly was simply exercising his right to return to his native Ivory Coast after a recent amnesty was put into place.
Earlier this month, Cote d'Ivoire's parliament approved a bill offering amnesty to rebels. This was a key element of the peace plan signed back in January. However, amnesty wouldn't apply to those "who have committed serious human rights abuses or economic crimes during the hostilities". It's not clear whether Coulibaly would have qualified under those rules.

This IRIN story, sourcing an unnamed French diplomat in Abidjan, names some of the other people arrested in France. One of the most prominant is Mamadou Diomande, a lawyer who serves as MPCI's spokesman in Europe. (The MPCI is the rebel group which controls the north of the country.) The MPCI leadership was quick to disavow any assocation with the alleged plot.

MPCI = Patriotic Movement of Cote d'Ivoire

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Kenya/Qatar: how do you make a Kenyan into a Qatari?

I just watched the 3000 meter steeplechase race on TV ... the World Championships in Paris. What a race!!!! The Kenyan and the Qatari battled it out to the very finish. Besides great running, this race also had a great backstory ...

Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar won the 3000 meeter steeplechase. Until a month ago, Shaheen was Stephen Cherono of Kenya. Qatar is reported to have offered Shaheen a lifetime salary of $1,000 per month to get him to change his citizenship.

Shaheen's older brother, Abraham Cherono, was running for Kenya in the same race and placed fifth. He is apparently unhappy that his brother changed his citizenship. At the end of the race, neither Cherono nor Ezekiel Kemboi, who placed second, went over to congratulate Shaheen. It was quite sad to see Shaheen wrapped in his Qatari flag, doing his victory lap, with no Kenyan, no brother, in sight to offer him kudos.

According to this article, Shaheen was asked about the name change and he replied jokingly: "My name? I didn't choose it. They just gave it to me. Do you like it?"

I don't blame the guy for trying to make a living but it's sad that African athletes (and doctors and engineers and teachers) feel they have to go elsewhere to make a decent living. Though if you win one or more of those million dollar purses, you would be set for life as an African athlete or anything else!

But there is a serious side to all this. According to IOC rules, unless the mother country gives permission, an athlete has to sit out three seasons before racing for his/her new country. According to this article in the Guardian, the Qataris may have offered to help Kenya build an all-weather track to get Kenya give permission for the transfer. Both Qatar and Kenya deny any such deal exists.

But money is money. And $1,000 a month for life is a good deal. Sheehan is very young at 20. How many young, poor, African athletes can resist when somebody comes courting with that kind of offer?

IOC president Jacques Rogge has characterized the practice of luring athletes with money as immoral. I don't entirely disagree with him. There is something creepy about "buying" people. In fact, I'm creeped out by the language in sports which has players "traded", "bought" and "sold".

Sheehan's gold in the steeplechase was Qatar's first gold in world-class athletic competition.

Liberia: criticism of peace deal

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf says the deal signed by the government and rebel groups in Ghana gives them too much control of Liberia's economy.
"We really have all the major financial and economic functions and the security functions held by the three belligerent groups," Ms Sirleaf said in an interview. "Our fear is that they will select people as a reward for those who financed or supported war."

.... The government takes control of the ministries of defence and internal affairs, the national security agency and the Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation. Lurd will run the National Ports Authority and Model the Bureau of Maritime Affairs, the Forestry Development Authority and Roberts International Airport.

Government statistics show that income from forestry, petroleum sales and maritime fees accounted for more than 40 per cent of state revenues of L$1,942m (US$35m, €32m) during the second half of last year, with customs and excise duties accounting for another third.
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was one of the candidates shortlisted for the chairmanship of the interim government. She lost out to Charles Gyude Bryant. She also came a distant second to Charles Taylor in the 1997 presidential elections. She is also a former UN official.

Here is one of the more recent posts about Liberia.

Rwanda: Pres. Kagame wins election

No surprise ... Paul Kagame won the presidential election. Some may be surprised that he won with 94.3% of the vote.

Faustin Twagiramungu told Reuters that he could not accept the results and was going to challenge the results in the Supreme Court. He told a VOA reporter that had the vote been fair, he would have received at least 32 to 40% of the vote.

For more BG on the elections, go to this post from a couple of days ago.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Algeria/Mali/Germany: freed hostages told not to sell their stories

Freed German hostages have been told not to sell their stories to the media. If they do, the German government could claim the money and put it towards the rescue costs!
Under the German consul law, the government can ask the victims of kidnappings and other misfortunes to cover some of the costs involved in rescuing them.
Here is the last post about the hostages.

By the way ... it appears Libya paid the ranson for the hostages.

Liberia: female rebels (more detailed article)

This is a far more nuanced and detailed article on Liberia's female rebels ... with a focus on their commander Black Diamond.

Rwanda: election day

Here's my election round-up from yesterday.

And this is something I noticed just today .... Jean-Nepomuscene Nayinzira, one of the candiates challenging Paul Kagame, proposed granting amnesty to those involved in the genocide.
"If I am elected, I will use clemency and declare a general amnesty, except for those who planned the genocide," Jean-Nepomuscene Nayinzira said.

"For those who carried out the plan, nearly nine years after the fact, one must have recourse to amnesty," said Nayinzira ....

"Justice on a case-by-case basis risks creating a lot of conflicts," he said.

Nayinzira has held several ministerial portfolios since the genocide of 1994 ....

Sunday, August 24, 2003

stuff I've failed to mention

To those who've mentioned it (you know who you are) ... I admit I've been behind on this blogging thing ...

I know the VP of Kenya died... and that Sudan's peace talks are in some limbo... and so is Somalia's ... and that DRC parliament is in session ... and that SADC has called for the end of Zim's sanctions ... and Liberia's factions are fighting ... and Senegal's PM resigned and was reinstated in a matter of minutes ...

Rwanda: election round-up

Rather than make you trawl through the entire blog ... I've pulled together some of the more interesting stories about the Rwandan presidential election that have come up over the past few weeks.

Rwanda is going to the polls to elect a president on Monday, August 25. This is the first presidential election since the genocide in 1994. Legislative elections will follow next month.

Rwanda has three ethnic groups -- the majority Hutus (84%), minority Tutsis (15%) ... and the Twa (Pygmy) which constitute about 1% of the population. During the 1994 genocide, extremist Hutus massacred minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Estimates vary, but anywhere between 500,000 and 800,000 people were murdered in 100 days in 1994.

Presdient Paul Kagame is expected to win easily. His campaign appeared both more organized and had more resources than his opponents. Kagame is facing off against two candidates, Faustin Twagiramungu and Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira. Here is a tidy profile of these these two men. Because ethnicity casts such a long shadow over the country, you should probably know that Kagame is a Tutsi and his opponents are Hutu.

A third opponent, Alivera Mukabaramba, also a Hutu, dropped out of the race today and told her supporters to go to the Kagame camp. Mukabaramba was largely invisible during the campaign period and people had given her very little chance of winninng, or even placing well.

Faustin Twagiramungu is considered Paul Kagame's most serious opponent. During the campaign, he complained that his supporters were being harassed by police and the supporters of Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Police today confirmed that they arrested 12 of Twiramungu's campaign workers. Police allege that the 12 were planning to violently disrupt tomorrow's presidential elections.

Twagiramungu returned to Rwanda in June after eight years in a self-imposed exile in Belgium. He served as Prime Minister in a post-genocide government with Paul Kagame's RPF. After a year in that post, he had a falling out with the RPF and went to Belgium. Twagiramungu was very active in politics in pre-genocide Rwanda as well. He agitated for multi-party system and stood up against the Hutu extremists. He was a target of the militas during the genocide and barely escaped with his life. Here is a long-ish profile of Twagiramungu (worth a read).

This past May, Twagiramungu's party, the Hutu-dominated Democratic Republican Movemement (MDR), was officially dissolved for allegedly fomenting ethnic division.

That same month, Human Rights Watch, published this briefing paper saying that Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) are "working to eliminate any opposition to its [RPF] victory in elections...".

Rwanda's constitution says that political parties must ''reflect Rwandan unity" ... which I think means that you cannot appeal to people's ethnicity when campaigning. Candidates have also had less than two months to campaign to reduce the chances that passions might be inflamed.

Twagiramungu has also had other troubles. He was recently called before the National Electoral Commission, accused of appealing to ethnicity in his campaign ... a charge he denies. And the VOA reports that during a big election rally yesterday, President Kagame issued "... a thinly-veiled warning to his political opponent, ... [when he said] that he will not tolerate anyone who tries to stir up ethnic troubles."

And there's more. This story was in Uganda's Montior newspaper two weeks ago ... "Rwanda's cabinet announced ... that it had rejected the registration of Twagiramungu's new political party, ADEP-MIZERO."

Yesterday (Saturday, August 23), Amnesty International issued this condemnation of what it calls "... the growing number of incidents of politically motivated threats and intimidation of individuals and local communities in the run-up to the presidential elections of 25 August."

About a week ago, the Netherlands froze financial aid for the elections because it hadn't been satisfied by the government's explanations concerning the disappearance of five opposition politicans. The Netherlands is one of Rwanda's largest donors. Here is a very brief post about the disappearances.

You are probably wondering about the incumbent, President Paul Kagame. (Please note that he wasn't elected to that post by the electorate.) Here is a decent bio of Kagame from the BBC ... which also offers a good outline of the relationship between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Thumbnail sketch ... Kagame is a fighter turned statesman. He led the Rwandan Patriotic Front into Rwanda (from Uganda), helping to end the 1994 genocide. He's been in charge ever since. Even if you don't like him or agree with his political decisions, you have to give him some credit for keeping the country together following such a traumatic event like the genocide. The core of Kagame's campaign in these elections has been this idea -- 'I saved you from the genocide and I'm the only one who can keep you safe.'

The Financial Times interviewed Kagame last week ... I posted the interesting bits from the article here.

Kagame recently resigned from the military because the new constitution doesn't allow military personnel to stand for public office.


The president will serve a 7-year term. The country also held municipal elections in 2001.

This San Francisco Chronicle article is one of the better pieces on the elections. Worth your time.

One last thing ... about the genocide casting a long shadow over the country. If you read more into the issues, you will discover that Faustin Twagiramungu gets into the most trouble for saying that all who committed human rights violations during the genocide should be held to account. This includes members of the Rwanda Patriotic Front who participated in revenge killings when they marched into Rwanda in 1994.

In a related story, Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has been trying to investigat/try members of the RPF for years. She has run into problems every time. Recently, Kofi Annan, suggested that the Security Council appoint somebody else to be chief prosecutor of the ICTR ... del Ponte is fighting to keep her job.

The Economist does a brilliant job of summarizing the problems facing del Ponte and the ICTR. And here is an earlier post about the concerns expresssed by some international groups about the impartiality of the ICTR.

Uganda: cabinet supports scrapping presidential term limit

Uganda's Monitor newspaper reports that cabinet has endorsed scrapping the two-term limit for the president ... and has endorsed a federal system of governance. The newspaper says confirmation of the news came from the National Political Commissar, Dr Crispus Kiyonga.

Under the constitution, the president is allowed two, five-year terms. President Yoweri Museveni's second term is due to end in 2006.

As for federalism, the Buganda Kingdom has been agitating for federalism for over a decade.

But these changes aren't welcomed by everybody.
Debate on whether Museveni should be allowed to run again in 2006 divided the ruling group with a number of senior members of the government speaking out publicly against it.

Museveni responded by purging those critical of the attempt to have him have another go at the presidency in 2006.
According to this Monitor article, during cabinet discussions this past month
... ministers who are opposed to both the third term and federo [federal system] chose to boycott the Cabinet meeting when Museveni appeared the following day.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ms Janat Mukwaya said that a bill to amend the Constitution would be in Parliament before the end of the year.

A fascinating aside about Ugandan politics ... Uganda is a "no party" state. Political parties are allowed to exist, but not organize. Candidates essentially stand as independents. A few years ago, this issue was put to a referendum and people voted to keep the "no party" system. Here is an article which will give you more BG.

Rwanda: profile of Kagame's opponents ...

UPDATE The BBC has a longer story spelling out that Dr Alivera Mukabaramba has indeed stepped out of the race ... and told her supporters to go to Kagame's camp.

Here is a tidy profile of the opposition candidates in the race.

There is a small notation on the profile of Dr Alivera Mukabaramba, the sole female candidate .... "[dropped out of race 24 August 2003]"

Haven't yet seen another story that confirms that she has dropped out of the race ...

Here is a more detailed profile of Faustin Twiramungu.

Rwanda: opposition campaign workers arrested

Police have confirmed that they arrested 12 of Faustin Twiramungu's campaign workers. Police allege that the 12 were planning to violently disrupt tomorrow's presidential elections.

Ethnicity is a sensitive issue in Rwanda following the 1994 genocide which saw militias of the majority Hutu people massacre the minority Tutsi people, and moderate Hutus. Faustin Twiramungu is a Hutu and President Paul Kagame is a Tutsi. It is against the law to appeal to or talk about ethnicity during the campaign.

For more on Rwanda and the elections, please go on to the next post. Follow the links at the bottom of that post to earlier posts on the coutry and the elections.

Rwanda: Amnesty condems "politically motivated threats"

Amnesty International issued this condemnation of what it calls "... the growing number of incidents of politically motivated threats and intimidation of individuals and local communities in the run-up to the presidential elections of 25 August."

And here is a VOA news report from yesterday.
In a thinly-veiled warning to his political opponent, Mr. Kagame told his supporters Saturday that he will not tolerate anyone who tries to stir up ethnic troubles.

Mr. Kagame said that it is not enough to simply denounce people who promote ethnic divisionism. He says those who do will be dealt with swiftly, once he wins the election on Monday.
Here is an earlier post on "ethnic divisionissm".

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Algeria/Mali: SGPC claims responsiblity for kidnappings

According to this, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat has claimed responsiblility for the kidnapping of the European tourists earlier this year. "Amari Saifi, an Algerian army renegade known as Abderrezak the "Para", claimed in a statement published in El Khabar ... "

People had suspected th SGPC was involved but they hadn't claimed official responsiblity until now.

Here is an earlier post on the kidnappings.

Liberia: female rebel fighters ...

According to this article, the female rebels are reputed to be the most disciplined and fearless. Some of the women seem to have taken up arms in fear of or in reaction to sexual violence.

Global: WTO close to a deal on generic drugs

The Financial Times reports that negotiators from the US and developing countries are close to reaching a deal which would allow developing countries to access/manufacture generic drugs.
When the Doha round was launched in late 2001, governments pledged to prevent WTO patent-protection rules blocking the supply of medicines to treat serious health problems such as HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis in poor countries.

However, attempts to implement that commitment have suffered repeated setbacks. The US single-handedly rejected last December a draft agreement because of objections by its pharmaceuticals industry.

... Under the compromise plan, the US would accept the December draft agreement. But in addition, as many as 30 developed and developing countries would give assurances that compulsory licensing would be used strictly for genuine health reasons and not for commercial advantage.

Norway: database of landmines with defusing instructions

Norwegian Peoples Aid has this online database of 130 landmines and instructions on how to defuse them. They say these are landmines commonly found in "Angola, Mozambique, Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, South Sahara, Laos and Iraq."

Found via memepool.

Rwanda: article with good summary of election issues

This is the most evenhanded article on the Rwandan election I've read so far. It ties together all the issues mentioned in the different articles I've linked to over the past couple of weeks.

Botswana: Bushmen being pushed off their land

This is so sad!
In a special focus on the Bushmen's plight, the September edition of The Ecologist reveals that since 1997, the government of Botswana has been uprooting the Bushmen from their ancestral lands and moving them to resettlement camps.

In June, the Mail & Guardian Online reported on at least 10 of the Bushmen who were charged with entering a game reserve without a permit. President of Botswana Festus Mogae then stated that the reserve was "for animals, not people". The Central Kalahari reserve was established in the 1960s to protect the Bushmen's land from encroachment.
The Bushmen aren't doing very well in these "resettlement camps". Alcoholism and other social ills are rife. And guess what ... De Beers is moving into the Kalahari looking for diamonds. What a surprise!

Here is a post from a couple of days ago about the conflict between conservationists & indigenous people across the continent.

Rwanda: profile of Faustin Twagiramungu

With the Rwandan presidential election on Monday, I thought I would share this profile of Faustin Twagiramungu that I came across recently.

Please note that at the bottom of the profile, it says "Reported by Faustin Twagiramungu, Michael Wakabi and Shaka Kanuma" ... unless there's another Faustin Twagiramungu, it would appear the candidate had a hand in writing the profile. But this doesn't negate the value of the piece.

In addition to Twagiramungu, there are two other candidates facing off against President Paul Kagame who is expected to easily win Monday's poll. Twagiramungu is considered Kagame's most serious opponent because he has a name in the country. Twagiramungu was a target of the militas during the genocide and barely escaped with his life. He is also a Hutu who served as Prime Minister in a post-genocide government with Paul Kagame's RPF. He fled to Belgium after a year in that post because he had a falling out with the RPF.

Twagiramungu was recently accused by Rwanda's National Electoral Commission of appealing to "ethnic divisions" ... a charge he denies.

If you can, read the entire profile ... here is an excerpt to whet your appetite.
As a Hutu and a former leader of the Movement Democratique Republicain (MDR) to which many Hutus subscribed until it was banned this year, one would think that Twagiramungu has the Hutu ethnic vote in his pocket.
But he is incensed that anyone in Rwanda should accuse him of playing the ethnic card. "There must be something wrong with people in Rwanda!" he exclaims.

"Why should everything become a Hutu, Tutsi issue? For instance, do you know many Hutus in this country actually hate me and will not vote for me? They blame and hate me because the changes I instigated in the past led to the Hutus' fall from power." What Twagiramungu is alluding to, is his earlier political life in the early 1990s as an activist for change in Rwanda, and for the institution of multiparty opposition politics.
RPF = Rwandan Patriotic Front

something to get you started ...

-- Africa Ministers Urge EU to Lift Zimbabwe Sanctions
-- UN threat to halt food aid to Zimbabwe
-- Islamist Chief Leaves Algeria for Health Treatment
-- Kenya's vice-president dies

Friday, August 22, 2003

Burundi: power sharing talks end ... process might be in trouble

This is one of those stories where you wonder if journalists are covering the same event.

The headline for this VOA story on the talks is "Burundi Negotiators Express Cautious Optimism Following ..."

News24 headlines their story "Burundi peace process in doubt".

Guess what ... the detalils provided by News24 bear out the grim assessment in their headline. It appears that the VOA, and Reuters in this story, took their lead from the statement released by South African mediator, Jacob Zuma who called the discussions "frank, focussed". But I believe his statement is what we can call "diplo-speak".

As News24 reports, a regional leaders summit on Burundi which had been scheduled for Sunday in Tanzania, has been postposed. If I recall correctly, the leaders were supposed to discuss whatever progress had been made in this week's meetings between Burundian President Domitien Ndayizeye and Peter Nkrunziza, leader of the major rebel force FDD.

Ndayizeye and Nkrunziza today finished a three-day summit in Pretoria, South Africa. This was their first ever face-to-face meeting (Ndayizeye has only been president for a few months). The main issue on the agenda was power sharing and they were unable to agree on some major points. Nkrunziza wanted the posts of second vice president and speaker of the national assembly ... but the government wouldn't agree.

According to News24:
Both sides in the meeting agreed to hand the problem over to South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, the mediator, as fighting between government troops and FDD forces northwest of Bujumbura forced thousands of people from their villages.
I don't think the situation is completley hopeless but it's hardly rosy. So to go back to the issue of headlines and substance, the News24 stoy is far more precise than the VOA story ... and more substantial than the Reuters story.

The FNL is another rebel group in Burundi. They aren't engaged in any type of talks with the government.

Here is a very rough sketch of Burundian history. Like Rwanda, Burundi has a Tutsi minority and a Hutu majority. In fact, between 1890 and 1962, Rwanda and Burundi were one nation -- Ruanda-Urundi. In the decades before the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Hutus controlled the Rwandan government. Conversely, in Burundi, the Tutsis were/are in power. Recall that the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed in 1994 when the plane they were both flying in was shot out of the sky. It was this incident which marked the start of the Rwandan genocide. But less known is that ethnic warfare, between Hutus and Tutsis has plauged Burundi since about 1993, claiming an estimated 300,000 lives.

FDD = Forces for the Defence of Democracy
FNL = The National Liberation Forces

Liberia: new interim leader wants amnesty not tribunals

The new chairman of Liberia's interim government said that he wants a general amnesty granted to all who took part in the civil war. Charles Gyude Bryant doesn't want a war crimes court like the one in Sierra Leone because he said, "It will do more damage than good."

"Neutral" is how Bryant describes himself in this NY Times article. He spent the 14 years of the civil war in Liberia ... and managed to stay out of trouble. According to reports, his party, the Liberian Action Party, called for Charles Taylor's resignation and also criticized the rebel groups for their violence.

Bryant and the interim government will talke over on October 14, when President Moses Blah steps down. That is the date Charles Taylor's mandate, elected in 1997, would have officially ended.

I think people had expected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to easily win the chairmanship. She came in a (distant) second to Taylor in the 1997 elections, capturing 10 per cent of the votes. She is also a former UN official. But it appears she may have been more popular outside Liberia that inside. She has lived outside Liberia for many years.

There is an interesting argument in this article that having Johnson-Sirleaf as chairman would have helped gain the confidence of the UN and western governments who are familiar with her.

Here is a thought ... Bryant isn't allowed to run for office in 2005, but Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is.

According to this, so far, about 500 of Charles Taylor's relatives/dependants have gone to Nigeria.

UK: actor intoxicated with water

I've heard of this phenomena before but never had it explained this well. An actor in the UK drank water -- about eight liters a day for a number of days -- and ended up in a coma.
... he was building up a condition known as hyponatremia, which is usually associated with ecstasy-users and marathon runners, and often mistaken for heat exhaustion.

Over the weeks, the salt in his body had been so diluted that by the end of the performance on June 28 he was rapidly moving through a list of symptoms that are usually fatal - headaches, weakness, nausea, confusion, unsteadiness, agitation, delirium, unconsciousness. The sodium concentration in his body was so low, it was almost non-existent.

Blogging will be light today ...

Blogging will be light today, as it was yesterday. (I'll provide the excuses later.)

But I am not completely lazy ... here are two articles:

France Hopes Deal Soon with Libya on UTA Bombing

A Man Without Enemies: Charles Gyude Bryant

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Pan-Africa: interests of conservationists & indigenous people clash

Please read the entire article.

The human rights group, Forest People Programme, recently released a book chronicling the effects of the national park system on indigenous people in Africa. The book is called "From Principles to Practice" and is based on studies of nine conservation efforts (parks) in six central African countries.

Here is a bit from the article linked above.
"Conservationists feel that their job is to protect nature," says Dorothy Jackson, coordinator of the FPP's Africa programme. "There is a strong feeling that wildlife and people are not compatible. They do recognise the social aspect of their work but say it's unfair to put the onus on them. National legislation itself often ignores indigenous people's rights and conservationists argue that it is the state's job to define areas and protect people." Conservationists, who tend to have money and influence with governments, could push far harder to protect people, Jackson says.

One of the most worrying examples in Africa is in the Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, where the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, the International Gorilla Conservation programme, and a Rwandan government organisation work with leading international donations to conduct scientific research on gorillas and to promote ecotourism.

The national park, which was set up in 1924 and is now only a third of its original size, attracts thousands of westerners a year, each prepared to pay £160 for less than an hour with the gorillas. In 1974, the Ba'twa pygmy tribes of the area were evicted and forbidden to hunt, cut trees, quarry stone, introduce new plants or in any way threaten the animals or the ecosystem.

The majority now live in squalor on the edge of the park, without work or food, receiving nothing from the tourist revenues and no help from the conservation groups. "Their villages are covered in human waste," says Kalimba Zephyrin, the author of the Rwanda case study for the FPP. "They do not have plates, forks or beds. One dwelling of 2 sq metres may be shelter for five to eight people - the majority of whom are children and orphans either poorly dressed or even without clothes. Some 70% of the people live by begging and they are not even allowed into the park where they used to hunt [emphasis mine]."
Here is an earlier post about the history of national parks in Africa.

Angola: trouble with resettlement

The government of Angola has suspended the distribution of resettlement kits to ex-UNITA soldiers in contravention of the deal signed by UNITA (rebels) and the government in 2002. The government says that the ex-UNITA rebels don't have the necessary "demobilisation cards" which would entitle them to the kits. However, it does appear that the government failed to issue them the neccessary documentation.

Millions of people are internally displaced in Angola as a result of decades of brutal civil war. When the cease-fire was signed last year, the government agreed to help resettle the former rebels ... in addition to the civilians.

From the article linked above:
Ex-UNITA soldiers were to receive benefits such as demobilisation and identity cards, five months of salary, an additional US $100 for travel expenses, resettlement kits with non-food items, and access to vocational training.
The following is clipped from a Human Rights Watch report they recently published on the situation in Angola.
Hundreds of Angolan refugees have spontaneously returned to their homes since the ceasefire of April 2002, but millions of internally displaced people, refugees and ex-combatants remain in exile, in transit or in temporary resettlement sites within Angola.

Rather than paying special attention to children, women, and vulnerable groups, the Angolan government has granted preference to ex-combatants for resettlement. The government has also failed to provide people with identity documents that would help them get access to humanitarian assistance, which is in any case inadequate.

... Human Rights Watch found that local authorities have forced internally displaced Angolans to return to their home areas by violence or threat of violence. One such incident occurred in transit center Cambabe II, in Bengo Province. Local administration and police forces entered the camp in September and October 2002, and burned the internally displaced Angolans´ homes and 10 acres of crops. With their homes and crops destroyed, the displaced people had nowhere to go except their home areas, which were not ready to receive them. Most fled immediately, without stopping to gather the animals or possessions that had survived the fire.
UNITA = National Union for the Total Independence of Angola

If you have time, I highly recommed you read this article about Jonas Savimbi, the man who led UNITA. The piece illustrates how Angola was a pawn in the Cold War and how the US and Russia fueled the decades of civil war there. But it's interesting to note that the fighting didn't end until Savimbi died in 2002 ... over a decade after the Cold War ended.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Liberia: profile of LURD leader

Here is a fascinating profile of LURD leader Sekou Conneh.

LURD is backed by Guinea and according to this profile, Conneh got his job because he has a good relationship with the president of Guniea, Lansana Conteh. Conneh's wife, Aisha, is the daughter of President Conteh's personal soothsayer ... and Aisha herself is a clairvoyant.
... Conneh began exporting second-hand cars purchased in Guinea to Liberia. But the activity landed him in trouble a year later when he was arrested by Liberian intelligence officers at the Ganta border crossing and accused of smuggling.

... One of Conneh's cousins told IRIN: “Sekou, got released upon the intervention of Lasana Conteh who phoned Taylor to use his influence to have him released. Taylor summoned all of his security top brass to find out where Sekou was in jail and on what charges. Taylor instructed (Intelligence) Director Freddie Taylor to have him released.”

Conneh was duly freed and delivered into the care of one of the Liberian president's several wives, Tupee Boakai-Taylor, who ensured his safe passage back to Guinea.
Then, somehow, Conneh ended up leading LURD.

I said the profile was fascinating ... not complete :)

LURD = Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy

Canada: it's legal to share music here???

This is very interesting.
While the Digital Millennium Copyright Act may make it illegal to share copyright material in America, the Canadian Copyright Act expressly allows exactly the sort of copying which is at the base of the P2P revolution.

In fact, you could not have designed a law which more perfectly captures the peer to peer process. "Private copying" is a term of art in the Act. In Canada, if I own a CD and you borrow it and make a copy of it that is legal private copying; however, if I make you a copy of that same CD and give it to you that would be infringement. Odd, but ideal for protecting file sharers.

South Africa: Pan-African stock exchange planned

The South African stock exchange is planning to set-up a Pan-African stock exchange. In the beginning, people would trade shares in companies from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. Eventually, the exchange would trade stock in companes from all over Africa.
The hope would be that a pan-African stock market would help attract more foreign investment to the continent and to slow the oft-seen capital flight out of these countries when their economies suffer knocks.
Note ... this earlier article in a South African business paper names Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana as the four countries that would be part of the initial launch.

UN: safety of humanitarian aid workers

I was stunned by the bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq yesterday. I don't think I'm alone in seeing the UN as something sacred -- though we fail to live up to the ideals outlined in the Charter, the fact that "we" recognized those ideals and articulated them there, is reason for hope. I am fully aware of the UN's failings and limitations ... and you will often find me railing against UN excesses and indecisiveness. But ultimately, the UN is an imperfect institution in an imperfect world and it's better than nothing. But that is no reason for complacency. We should work to improve the system .... engage in debate to see what we want the UN to be.

I was particularly affected by this New York Times article on yesterday's attack.
Mark Malloch Brown, the under secretary general for development, spoke for many at headquarters when he voiced a sense of betrayal, saying: "We do this out of vocation. We are apolitical. We were there to help the people of Iraq and help them return to self-government. Why us?"

... "Even before this, there was concern" about security, he said. "But there was also a desire to operate as normally as possible, not live within a perimeter of guns and barbed wire. The United Nations is a people organization. If we lose that thread, if that gets cut, it's more than an umbilical cord. It's at the core of the trust and legitimacy and moral authority of the blue flag."
The article also says that about 240 civilian United Nations workers have died in the line of duty since 1992.

US: program to test effect of "adult" drugs on children shows success

Check this out.
A program encouraging pediatric testing of drugs approved only for adults has helped improve the safety of medicating youngsters, a government study says.

... In one case, the anti-depressant Prozac was found to suppress height in some growing children after only about five months' use. In other cases, steroid creams used to treat diaper rash and athlete's foot were linked with potentially dangerous suppression of the body's stress response in some youngsters."

Zimbabwe: first arrests for cash hoarding

Four Zimbabweians have the honour of being the first people to be arrested for cash hoarding. They were caught in possession of 13-million Zimbabwe dollars (approx $17,600).
three men and a women were arrested in Harare on Monday after a group of soldiers allegedly spotted them behind a building, dealing out piles of banknotes among each other and stashing them in sports bags.
Zimbabwe is in a cash crisis ... they don't have enough bills circulating! (They also announced an inflation rate that is something like 400%.)

Here is an earlier post on Zim's ban on cash hoarding.

Middle East: Jordanian wins "pop idol" competition

Jordanian Diana Karzon is the new superstar in the Middle East. She beat out Syria's Ruweida Attiyeh to win "Superstar", an American Idol/Pop Idol type show. The 12 finalists were from across the Middle East and North Africa. But Karzon prevailed by winning half of the five million votes cast.

"Superstar" was produced by Lebanese satellite channel Future TV ... and broadcast throughout the region.

Zimbabwe: govt not joking ... takes control of food aid

It appears the government of Zimbabwe wasn't joking about taking control of food aid away from non-governmental aid organizations. This is developing into a very serious situation because there is a food crisis in the country.
Local elections are due this month and critics fear that Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party wants to use the food to influence the outcome.

... The directive demands that all non-government organisations surrender their food stocks to the government and no longer select beneficiaries, as they have been doing in a well-organised emergency relief programme over the past year.

When Zimbabwe had grain stocks of its own and provided a minor work-for-food relief programme last year, it was found to be withholding assistance to tens of thousands of opposition supporters.

Three months after the latest harvest, the government has no grain to distribute to people on the brink of starvation, including supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF.

Nigeria/Switzerland: Swiss banks to help Nigeria get money back

The Finanicial Times today carried the story that Switzerland has "... declared itself willing to co-operate in Nigeria's efforts to recover funds worth $618m (€555m, £389m) stolen by Sani Abacha ...".

Sani Abacha ruled Nigeria from 1993 till his death in 1998. During that time, he stole $4 billion from the country. The Nigerian government has been trying to reclaim that money ever since.

Besides the $618 million in Swiss banks, another $630 million are stashed in banks in Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and the UK ... and Nigeria is going after the banks in those countries as well.
Nigeria decided to seek confiscation of Abacha funds last year after a $1bn out of court settlement with the former dictator's family collapsed. Switzerland's federal office of justice said it had handed over bank documents to the Nigerian government's lawyers.

... An investigation by the Financial Times established how banks in London played a key role in Abacha's money laundering operation, and the revelations damaged the UK capital's status as a leading financial centre.
Nigeria's lawyer in Switzerland is expected to make an application for restitution within two weeks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Rwanda: "hate media" trial drawing to a close

Today, prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda finished their closing arguments in the trial of three men accused of enabling/urging on the Rwandan Genocide through radio, TV, and newspapers -- hence, the "hate media" trial. The defence is expect to begin its summation on Wednesday.

The three men are:
[Ferdinand] Nahimana, a former history professor and government propaganda chief, helped found Radio-Television Libre Mille Collines in 1993.

This provided a megaphone for the Hutu extremists who carried out the massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus who sided with the Tutsis.

[Jean Bosco] Barayagwiza, the former director of political affairs at the Rwandan foreign ministry, helped found an extremist anti-Tutsi political party, and was a board member of Radio Mille Collines.

Hassan Ngeze was the editor of a newspaper called Kangura, whose violent tracts against the Tutsis were aired or discussed on the radio.

... A Belgian journalist, George Omar Ruggiu, who worked for Radio Mille Collines, pleaded guilty to inciting killings and received a 12-year prison sentence in June 2000.
Radio in particular played a huge role during the Rwandan Genocide. People got the order to start the killing through radio broadcasts. The broadcasters told people where to go, which high profile people to target, and where people were said to be hiding and what cars they were driving. And before the actual bloodletting began, the hate mongers used TV, radio, and newspapers to stoke the hatred.

The three men are charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and complicity in genocide.

The prosecution alleged that Barayagwiza and Nahimana especially were very powerful within the Rwandan administration which orchestrated the Genocide.
The prosecutor talked of one incident where a government prosecutor had told his subordinate not to pursue RTLM after learning that Nahimana was involved in the radio station.
Note, if you need to book interviews... the names of the lawyers defending the three men are listed in the above article. They hail from France, UK, and Canada.

Rwanda: government critical of ICTR

This article is a week old ... but I wanted to bring it to your attention. The article quotes Gerald Gahima, Prosecutor to the Supreme Court of Rwanda (this is not the UN court).
"We have concerns about the failure of the ICTR to indict many genocide suspects who are at large, and yet at the same time the ICTR has decided to conclude its investigations by the end of next year without making any provisions as to what will be done to bring those other suspects who are at large to justice."
I know I have raised this issue before but I raise it again because it's terribly important. It's about justice.

As I mentioned before there has been a lot of criticism of how the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is being managed and the pace of prosecutions etc. The Rwandans blame the chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, who also serves as the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Kofi Anan has taken up the cause and recommended to the Security Council that Ms. Del Ponte be replaced at ICTR (she would stay on at ICTY). But the issue isn't very straight forward. As this earlier post shows, a number of organizations are concerned that the campaign against Ms. Del Ponte is championed in part by those seeking to stop her pursuit of people in the present Rwandan government who are suspected of having committed human rights violations during the Genocide.

So far, the ICTR has convicted 12 people, acquitted one, and has 56 defendants in detention. There are also a number of very important people who have not been apprehended and charged. The ICTR was created by the Security Council in November 1994 ... and started operating in 1995.

Estimates vary but during the Rwandan Genocide, anywhere from 500,000 to a million people were killed during 100 days of violence. The genocide began on April 6, 1994 when Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down.

Rwanda: Twagiramungu responds to charges of "divisive speech"

It's only been nine years since the Rwandan Genocide and the country is still raw and sensitive to anything/anybody who could provoke ethnic divisions. It is Rwandan law that nobody appeal to ethnicity during elections. Now, you have to decide if opposition candidate Faustin Twagiramungu is guilty of that ... or if the government and its supporters are using that issue as a cover to attack a viable candidate. Here is how Twagiramungu responded:
The [National Electoral] commission pointed out specific sentences in them [election flyers] that it said were indicative of the divisive nature of Twagiramungu's campaign. One of the sentences says that If I am elected, I will fight for the division of Rwandans.

However, Twagiramungu denied the charges by the commission, attributing the problems to a typographical error. He said that if the sentence were read in context, and in its Kinyarwanda meaning, one could see this wasn't the intended message.

Mr Karangwa [president of commission] also accused Twagiramungu of harping on the distinction between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in his campaign speeches, which he said revealed a lurking obsession with the dangerous politics of ethnicity. ...

But Twagiramungu said all this was part of a sustained attempt to derail his campaign. "I don't know what exactly you can construe as divisive speech in this country," he said, and asked: "Should we therefore strike the words Hutu and Tutsi out of the Rwandan vocabulary?"
The post right below this one also deals with Rwanda's presidential elections and it will lead you to earlier posts on the issue.

Rwanda: Financial Times' interview with Pres. Kagame

If you get the chance, read the full Financial Times article on their interview with President Paul Kagame. In the meantime, here's what I found interesting.

No surprise, Kagame believes he's going to win. What really interested me was his response to questions about Rwanda's role in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
... Kagame said he had asked the country's prosecutor-general to investigate United Nations reports that his army orchestrated the plunder of resources during its four-year occupation of eastern Congo.

... "We are not responsible for the problems of the Congo," he says, insisting that turmoil and dictatorship there had been claiming lives long before his troops marched over the border in 1998, sparking a war that has led to at least 3m deaths.

"We would not shy away from moving back to Congo if anything threatened our security here. We are not even apologetic about it."

Nor is Gen Kagame concerned that by punching well beyond its weight in the region, tiny Rwanda may have made more new enemies in Congo than it has eliminated old ones. The region's problems go back decades, he says, underlining that parts of Congo were ruled from Rwanda before Africa's borders were drawn by colonial powers.
Kagame was questioned about allegations, made by an opposition candidate Faustin Twagiramungu, of harrassment during the campain leading up to next week's presidential elections. Not surprisingly, he dismissed all those charges.

Here is an earlier post chronicling the allegations and rebuttals. At the end of that post, is a link to an even earlier post. Keep following the bread crumbs!

Liberia: short list of candidates for chairmanship of interim govt.

The folks gathered in Ghana might choose as early as tomorrow the person who will serve as the chairperson of the interim government. They have a list of three people to choose from.
The choice is between former United Nations official and open Taylor opponent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Rudolph Sherman who heads a coalition regarded as broadly sympathetic to Taylor, and Monrovia businessman Jyude Bryant of the Liberia Action Party.

Iraq: new media commissioner appointed

The US has appointed a new media commissioner in Iraq. The commissioner will oversee broadcasters and the print press.
In June, L. Paul Bremer, the civil administrator in Iraq, issued guidelines for all media outlets here, forbidding them from inciting violence, promoting "ethnic and religious hatred" or circulating false information "calculated to promote opposition" to the occupation authority.

Occasionally, U.S. soldiers have raided newspaper offices deemed to be in breach of the regulations, and they have closed at least two newspapers and one radio station. But the delicacy of sending heavily armed troops to enforce media rules has prompted the occupation officials to look for other ways to exercise their power to censor.

The new media commissioner will be Simon Haselock, a spokesman and media supervisor for U.N. authorities overseeing Kosovo. In June, he drafted a proposal to regulate journalists' activities through a panel that officials here have dubbed a "complaints commission." The commission, which would include journalists, would levy fines. Alleged transgressors could appeal. The system is similar to one functioning in Kosovo.

Zimbabwe: govt wants food aid handed over to local authorities

Food aid organizations are seeking clarification on a directive from the Zimbabwe's government saying that food aid should be handed over to local authorities for distribution. The problem:
There have been allegations by many Zimbabweans that the food assistance controlled by the state has been manipulated so that supporters of President Mugabe are given easier access to the food than his political opponents.

China: $282,000 for "8888 8888"

Sichuan Airlines, based in southwestern China, paid $282,000 for the phone number 8888-8888 at auction. The money will go to charity.
Many Chinese consider the number "eight" to be lucky because it rhymes with the Chinese word for getting rich.
Here is an earlier post about a similar auction in Thailand.

Uganda: common African monetary policy discussed

At a two-day symposiumion which began in Kampala yesterday... 38 members of the Association of African Central Banks looked at how to create a common African monetary policy. They looked at the EU experience with the creation of the Euro. After all, an EU-style integration is what the African Union (AU) is aiming for. But there are challenges.
... other participants pointed to obstacles in Africa to monetary integration including unrest and a lack of political commitment and of rule of law.

"Instability and inavailability of resources, coupled with disparity in development amongst countries, slowed the processes in the continent's preferential trade areas," an Egyptian delegate observed.

Burundi: fresh fighting near Bujumbura

IRIN is reporting that there is fresh fighting near Bujumbura between FNL and government troops.

Here is an earlier post on the latest argument between FNL and the government.

FNL = The National Liberation Forces

Monday, August 18, 2003

US/Canada: group linked to al Qaeda claims responsibility for blackout

Note: Just to make it clear ... I don't believe this story!

Interesting story ... here's my summary.

On Monday, the London based al-Hayat newspaper ran this story saying that they had received a communique from a group, Al-Qa'ida's Abu Hafs Brigades, claiming responsibility for the blackout.

In the communique, Al-Qa'ida's Abu Hafs Brigades characterized the blackouts as "a gift" from Osama bin Laden. They also called the operation ... "Operation Quick Lightning in the Land of the Tyrant of this Generation".

The US based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) says they went to this page and found the communique, which they partially translated here (they also provide excerpts from the al-Hayat story).

According to MEMRI, this is the third communique issued by the group on the same website. In the first communique, they accepted responsibility for the downing of an airplane in Kenya. In the second, they accepted responsibility for the August 5 bombing of the Marriot hotel in Jakarta.

Story first found via Drudge.

Liberia: Bush says that US troops will leave by October

President Bush has said that the marines will be withdrawn from Liberia by October 1. He said they would be replaced by UN troops.
"We have a special obligation in Liberia to help with humanitarian aid. And, therefore, we will," Bush said. "And I said, secondly, we will have a limited mission, of limited duration and limited scope, and that we will help what's called ECOMIL (search), which is the Western African nations' militaries, go in and provide the conditions necessary for humanitarian aid to move."
Bush made the statements during an interview last week with Armed Forces Radio and Television.

Australia: pheromones everywhere and nary a female

They're trying something novel in Australia to stop fruit moths from destroying peach and nectarine harvests. Residents of this one farming town are being asked to put pheromone emmiters in their backyards. The male moths find female moths by tracking the pheromones the females release. And the idea is that the pheromone emmiters will release a lot of synthetic pheromones, overwhelming and confusing the males ... to the point that they'll be unable to track down a real female moth. Over time, end of your pesky moth problem.


Story found via Fark.

Liberia: they have a deal!

LURD, MODEL and the Liberian government have signed a deal which outlines the makeup of the interim government which will be in place in October.

Just yesterday, this deal had seemed impossible. LURD had demanded the VP position in the interim government and the mediators had refused to allow them that. Then late yesterday, LURD dropped their demand, allowing the negotiations to proceed.

The mediators had initially decided that nobody from any of the warring factions could be president, vice president, speaker or deputy speaker in the interim government. However, they have now agreed to open up the speaker and deputy speaker positions to all members of the transitional government, and not limit it to members from political (non-rebel) parties.

The rebels had also wanted to reduce the president's powers because right now, the Liberian constitution grants the President a lot of power. However, the mediators felt that that issue should be dealt by elected representatives and prevailed on the rebles to drop this issue as well.

Here is a bit on what the deal contains:
The president and vice president - to be called the chairman and vice chairman - will be drawn from political parties and civic groups, not the rebels or Blah's government, said ECOWAS spokesman Sunny Ugoh, explaining that "the posts have been renamed as it is an interim administration".

... The new government will have 76 members: 12 each from Blah's government and the two rebel groups; 18 from political parties; seven from civil society and special interest groups; and one from each of Liberia's 15 counties.
LURD had said that the VP position had been offered to them. And I think they're right. According to this article, President Moses Blah went on CNN after Charles Taylor stepped down and said:
"I'm inviting (the rebels) even now... to come to Monrovia and I'm giving the post of the vice president to the rebels... to come and join a government to help bring peace to Liberia," Blah said in an interview with CNN.
ECOWAS, the folks mediating this peace deal, were against awarding the rebels the plum position .... they didn't want to reward warfare.

LURD = Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy
MODEL = Movement for Democracy in Liberia

South Africa: our land reform won't be like Zimbabwe's

Last week, South Africa's chief land claims commissioner, Tozi Gwanya, caused an uproar when he compared the current situation in South Africa to that of Zimbabwe 20-some years ago. He was quoted in this story as saying: "... white farmers in Zimbabwe had a negative attitude to land reform for the past 20 years. They want to talk now, but it's too late. We can prevent a similar situation if farmers [here] begin to co-operate."

Note ... the quote above is slightly different from the quote that appears in the following story, even though it's from the same news organization. However, the gist of the quote is the same.

And now, the spokesperson for the agriculture minister has come out to reassure people and deny what Tozi Gwanya said.

The South African Land Claims Commission has been criticized for moving slowly and recently complained about being underfunded. To put Gwanya's comments in context ... he was at a discussion where the high price of land was raised. The Commission is charged with buying land from its current (white) owners and redistributing it to black farmers.

Israel: still trying to convince people women can handle combat

Women in Israel have served in the military since the country was founded ... but they served in non-combat roles. In 1995, they won the right to go into combat and as this article shows, dispite their success, people still aren't convinced women can/should be in combat.

Here's a bit from the article:
... At stake in the controversy was more than a woman's right to fight for her country. The military is one of the nation's most respected institutions. Its elite fighters begin their career rated as the nation's biggest heartthrobs and often become national heroes. A career in the defense forces is the steppingstone to power and prestige, with revered soldiers often dominating Israel's business and political life.

.... Orthodox Jews, exempt from military duty on religious grounds, are as much a hindrance to women getting equal opportunity in the military as sexism within the armed forces.

Iraq/US: US abandons plans for oil "advisory board"

The US has decided not to appoint an "an international advisory board" of oil industry types who were supposed to oversee and advise on the direction of the Iraqi oil industry.
While U.S. and allied officials remain in charge of reconstruction, the decision to scale back foreign supervision signals their increasing confidence in the competence of Iraqi oil professionals and heightened concern about Iraqi political sensitivities, officials said. Instead of answering to a global board of directors, oil technocrats will report to a minister named by the new Iraqi Governing Council.

... The decision was prompted in part by the reluctance of foreign oil company experts and prominent Iraqi expatriates to join the board, officials said.

Retired Shell Oil Chief Executive Philip Carroll will continue to serve as the U.S.-led administration's senior advisor to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, officials said, but the corporate-style advisory board he was supposed to chair will not be established.

Georgia (Asia): power's out!

Virtually all of Georgia is without power today.

Algeria: newspapers suspended for not paying bills

The six newspapers were told on Thursday to pay $44 million in printing debts to the state-run printing press ... or they would be stopped from publishing. And true enough ... all six papers were suspended from publishing today.
Their editors said a sudden call to pay the debts was part of a government move to stifle press freedom.

.... Daily Liberte said it paid its debts in time, but was still halted.

... Newspaper reports this summer have brought to light allegations of embezzlement that have implicated [President] Bouteflika, his brothers, government ministers and other officials.

N. Ireland: Sinn Fein wants criminal records erased

Here is the story.
Sinn Fein has demanded that the criminal records of all 15,000 IRA members convicted during the Troubles should be erased. ... to help "reintegrate" terrorists freed under the Good Friday Agreement.

... The move has been condemned by Unionists as an attempt by republicans to airbrush their crimes out of history.

... The list would include Patrick Magee, the Brighton bomber, who tried to murder Margaret Thatcher, Sean Kelly, the Shankill bomber who murdered nine Protestants in a fish and chip shop, Lord Mountbatten's killers and the sniper gang convicted of shooting nine members of the security forces just before the latest IRA ceasefire.

Iraq: trying to count the war dead

Various groups, including the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, are digging amongst the ruins in Iraq to try and find casualties. They hope to have a more accurate, if incomplete, count of the number killed during the war.
The only major nationwide study was done by The Associated Press in May and June. Based on the records of about half of Iraq's hospitals, it documented 3,240 deaths between March 20 and April 20, but reported that the real number is sure to be significantly higher.

Algeria/Mali: European hostages FREED

UPDATE: The Hostages have been freed (for real this time!).

There are reports that the European hostages held in the Algeria/Mali Sahara might be freed today. Again, there has been no official confirmation of this ... but the German envoy in Mali has spoken positively about their imminent release.

Germany's ZDF television had mistakenly reported yesterday that the hostages had already been freed.
But rival public station ARD later reported that the liberation failed to take place. A military plane from Mali sent to pick up freed hostages in the northern town of Thessalit [Mali] returned empty Sunday to Gao, from where it started, ARD said.
This AFP report quotes a source close to the mediators as saying that the plane returned because they have not been able to group all the hostages together.

Speculation has been that the hostage takers had divided the hostages into two or more groups, and taken them in different directions, to evade detection.

Here is an earlier post on the situation.

Uganda: poverty makes abstinence difficult

This is one of those "well, duh" stories ... but I suppose some people have never really considered this issue.
Sex starts early here for a variety of reasons. There is the sexual curiosity that stirs in young people everywhere. Marriage for young girls is common as well, with girls dropping out of school, often to become an older man's second or third wife. Sex also presents an opportunity to make money, and young women find few jobs available. Poverty, it seems, can weaken even those with the most resolve.

... A dedicated student who dreams of going to college, Lillian struggles to come up with the fees that all secondary school students in Uganda are required to pay. For Lillian — who, like some of her other classmates agreed to be interviewed on the condition that her last name not be used — the tuition comes to about $30 a month. Recently, some of the cousins with whom she has been living since her uncle's death have begun pressuring her to raise money by selling herself.

... At first she rejected outright suggestions by her cousins that she find a man to solve her financial woes. But the more she talked about it, the more her resolve seemed to weaken.

... She would use a condom and hope that the man would be kind. "If it was a single man who wasn't married, if he had good character, maybe I'd consider it," she said. "It would be for my future."

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Saudi Arabia: fatwa against terrorism

In Saudi Arabia, the Council of Senior Clerics issued a fatwa against terrorism.
'It is necessary under shariah law to severely punish those carrying out acts of sabotage and depravity, like bombings and murder and destruction of property. These are dangerous crimes and an aggression against human life and wealth,' the council said in a statement carried on the official Saudi Press Agency.

'And those who claim sabotage, bombings and murder are jihad, they are ignorant and misguided because these acts have nothing to do with jihad for the sake of God,' said the council, headed by the kingdom's highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh.
The lede in this Arabic News article on the fatwa says the Council ... "denounced terror attacks in the Kingdom" [emphasis mine].

The Reuters article, partly excerpted above, seems to say that the fatwa denounces all terrorism ... and I could just be reading the lede in Arab News too closely.

The Arab News article also says that the Council "... declared its support for the actions being taken by the state to track down terrorists in an effort to shield the country from their actions."

I'll keep looking for a full-text translation of the fatwa. The articles I've read so far aren't satisfying. If anybody comes across the full-text of the fatwa ... OR an explanation of how this fatwa affects the whole doctrine of jihad, please send it my way and I'll post it here.

Liberia/US: Pentagon quashed report urging intervention

How sad is this:
A team of 31 military specialists sent by the Defence Department to Liberia on July 7 to make recommendations for an "appropriate level of intervention" completed its analysis and delivered it within 72 hours to Air Force One during President George Bush's Africa trip that week.

The team urged the US to immediately send 2300 marines to stabilise the country and protect civilians, several officials said.

.... The report never made it to President George Bush's desk, and thus never officially existed. "The Pentagon squashed it," an Administration official said. "It was way too strong for their liking."

Liberia: government-rebel talks salvaged

When I woke up early this morning, word was that Liberian President Moses Blah had left Ghana for Monrovia after failing to reach a deal with the rebels.

What a difference a dozen hours make ...

It now appears that the factions have arrived at a deal and could sign it as early as tomorrow.

The main obstacle was LURD's demand that it be given the vice-presidency in a new government. The mediators were loathe to award them that plum job because they didn't want it to seem like a reward for going to war. And late today, LURD retracted their demand, putting the deal back on track.

Here is an interesting comment in the VOA report on the story:
U.N. representative to Liberia Jacques Klein has also voiced his frustrations with the slow pace of developments at the talks. He said the ECOWAS head of negotiations, former Nigerian ruler Abdulsalami Abubakar, was being "too patient," and that those involved in the negotiations were "too comfortable."
It's not often one hears the UN complain about the slow pace of things!

LURD = Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy

Algeria/Mali: hostages may have been freed

There hasn't been any official confirmation from either the Malian or German governments ... but a German TV sation is reporting that the remaining 14 European hostages have been freed.
Earlier on Sunday, Germany's ZDF television reported the 14 were freed after a Malian negotiator gave a ransom to the hostage-takers. It said the money did not come from the German Government.
Among the hostages, nine are Germans, four Swiss and one Dutch. Here is an earlier post on the situation.