Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Ethiopia: disagreement over Malaria treatment

Another story involving Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)...

There is a serious Malaria outbreak in Ethiopia, affecting an estimated 15 million people. MSF has criticized the Ethiopian government for its choice of anti-malarial drugs (you can find the details here, a NY Times article reproduced on the MSF site).

Ethiopia's Health Minister has now lashed back at MSF, saying it's inappropriate to call for new treatment in the middle of an epidemic ... and that the current treatment regimen is working.

I'm sure this is not the end of it.

Sudan: new epidemic threatens the South

Medecins Sans Frontieres warned of a possible new epidemic in southern Sudan. They are treating a large number of people for kala-azar, a deadly parasitic disease that weakens the immune system and is transmitted by the bite of the sandfly. An epidemic of the disease between 1985 and 1993 killed an estimated 100,000 people.

Zimbabwe: WFP cuts food aid

The World Food Programme has halved food rations to 2.6 million Zimbabweans because of "insufficient donations from the international community".
Zimbabwe’s lean season starts in January, a period when granaries tend to be empty and people enduring food shortages are most reliant on food aid.

... Few people still have income or savings to buy staple foods, which have jumped in price by nearly 50 percent in the last few weeks, putting them out of reach of the average family. Inflation on some commodities is running at over 500 percent. In most rural areas, there is simply not enough food to go around. Overall, food security is rapidly deteriorating.
From the press release.

Nigeria/Switzerland: conviction in money laundering case

British businessman Uri David was convicted in Switzerland of laundering millions in bribes for the late Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha. About $86 million from an account in the Swiss bank UBS (opened on David's instruction) has been returned to Nigeria.

France's role in Africa

Here is an AP article that provides a good background on France's role in Africa.

Nigeria: "I'm not a nice guy."

The capital of Nigeria was moved from Lagos to Abuja because the former had become dirty and crowded. Abuja was supposed to be the anti-Lagos, a "planned city". But over the past few years, things haven't gone exactly as planned. Now the city is beginning to demolish squatter settlements and other unapproved structures.

The following is from a Q&A with Dr. Nasir El-Rufai, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (basically, the guy in charge of Abuja).
Q: It must be a job [demolishing] that’s going to make you unpopular...

A: I’m not a nice guy. I’ve never been involved in a popularity contest. We are going to take down many buildings in this town.

We are going to demolish many churches and many mosques and adherents of both religions are going to be very critical of what we are doing. But they are illegal structures. Some of them endanger public health, because they are built on sewer lines or water cines and we are going to take them out. It’s not a popular job and this is why I’ll not want to do it twice. But it’s a job that’s got to be done by someone... I think the rich will suffer more in this exercise, because the buildings we are taking down now are the buildings of the rich. We haven’t gone to the squatter settlements yet, because I want to make the point that the problem of Abuja is not the poor. The poor live in those (squatter) settlements because they have no option, but the rich that feel they are above the law. So, that’s what we’re focussing on. All the buildings we’re taking down are the buildings of very rich and powerful people. If you build where you are not supposed to, whether you are rich or poor, we’ll take it down. (link)
Dr. Nasir El-Rufai was last in the news when he publically accused two senators of asking him to pay thousands of dollars to confirm his appointment as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

Here is an interesting story about Lagos ...

Libya: can you feel the thaw

Here's something from yesterday's briefing by State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher.
To the extent that Libya is taking these steps to ease tensions and to lower the tensions that might exist for Americans; that may contribute to a review of the passport ban. (transcript)
The passport ban -- people carrying US passports cannot travel to Libya. The ban has been in place for 22 years and was last renewed in November. At that time, Colin Powell said that the ban would be reviewed every three months.

And there is of course the matter of that other ban ... the one barring US companies from trading/investing in Libya. But as this Houston Chronicle article relates, a couple of that town's oil companies don't expect this ban to last much longer.

Burundi: blue helmets on the way?

Kofi Annan has been charged by the Security Council to begin exploring ways that the UN can make itself more useful in Burundi. Though the SC made no direct reference to taking over the peacekeeping mission in the country, it did leave open the possibility.

The African Union already has 2,656 peacekeepers in the country. They began deploying back in March. They have asked the UN for help.

But where is the UN supposed to get the troops to keep the peace in Burundi? Annan and peackeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno have been begging for more troops to send to hotspots all over Africa. They're already finding it difficult to get the 15,000 troops they need for Liberia. And there's going to be more demand for peackeepers, most likely in Sudan next and possibly in Cote d'Ivoire. By most published accounts, the UN needs about 10,000 more soldiers to fulfill its commitments.
Of the 43,500 troops, military observers and police in the field now, about 30,600 are in Africa alone – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Western Sahara and on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
And it's not just a matter of getting more "soldiers" ... the UN needs more soldiers from Northern countries.

Ethiopia: EU wades in on border dispute

Richelle Koos, head of the EU's development program, has warned Ethiopia that it might "lose its development partners" unless it settles its border dispute with Eritrea.

More on border dispute here ...

Kenya: Moi won't be investigated

Former President Daniel arap Moi won't be targeted in the graft and corruption investigations going on in Kenya. And contrary to earlier reports, Moi has not been granted immunity from prosecution.
"I'm not saying Moi's name will not crop up in investigations or that he won't be mentioned as facts are uncovered," [Permanent Secretary for Ethics and Governance John] Githongo added.

"But we have absolutely no plans to target him personally in the same way as has happened in other places. It's a hard political choice. But we have to recognise the significance of the manner in which Moi left office." Kenyans say Moi fostered a nepotistic system that bled the state of resources, and Kibaki's government is working to recover between $1-billion and $4-billion in public funds it said was stolen and hidden abroad during Moi's rule. (link)
Though Moi is safe, everybody else from his administration is "fair game".

Monday, December 22, 2003

The best radio show ever!

Are there any who doubt that This American Life is the best radio show on the air! This episode, the first act about the island of Nauru, reminded me of why I love this show so much.

Burundi: criticism of peace deal

Human Rights Watch has criticized the Burundi peace deal because it provides immunity from prosecution for crimes committed by government and rebel forces during the 10 year civil war.
Parties to the first peace treaty in this war, the Arusha Accords of 2000, asked the United Nations Security Council to establish an international commission to investigate genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in Burundi, but, despite a subsequent request from the Burundian government, the UN has yet to dispatch even a preliminary assessment mission to examine the feasibility of such an investigatory commission. (link)
And then I saw this, a story about Sinburadayihi, a Burundian rebel child soldier. Chilling.
... "If people kill your family you are going to go and kill them.

"To stop their friends from killing you, you kill them in a horrible way so that everyone is scared of you," he said ...

... Sinburadayihi said he wanted to join the Burundi Army, "so that we can fight our other enemies and chop them up".

... "I would like to learn to read, but without a gun you cannot lead or have respect and I need respect," says Sinburadayihi ...
Sinburadayihi has been fighting since he was seven.

Cote d'Ivoire: rebels returning to government

The New Forces rebel group has announced that its members will return to the power-sharing transitional goverment that they walked away from in September. They are going to take up their posts on Friday.

Ibrahim Coulibaly, who was proclaimed leader of the group on Friday, had issued a statement earlier today saying that they would return.
"I have just ordered each of our ministers to return to their posts on Monday, December 22, and to work resolutely and devotedly for the rigorous application of the Marcoussis accords," Coulibaly said in a statement issued in Paris.

... "I also invite President Laurent Gbagbo to also work resolutely... to put the country's higher interests over political calculations and suspicions and deliver a speech about the official end of the war," he said. (link)

Friday, December 19, 2003

Libya: giving up weapons programs

Reuters had this brief translation of the statment made by the Libyan foreign ministry ...
" ... [Libya] had decided on its free will to... completely eliminate the internationally banned weapons of mass destruction".
President Bush made the announcement at about 5:30 this afternoon ...
Today in Tripoli, the leader of Libya, Colonel Moammar al-Ghadafi, publicly confirmed his commitment to disclose and dismantle all weapons of mass destruction programs in his country. He has agreed immediately and unconditionally to allow inspectors from international organizations to enter Libya. These inspectors will render an accounting of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and will help oversee their elimination.

... As the Libyan government takes these essential steps and demonstrates its seriousness, its good faith will be returned. Libya can regain a secure and respected place among the nations, and over time, achieve far better relations with the United States.

... Because Libya has a troubled history with America and Britain, we will be vigilant in ensuring its government lives up to all its responsibilities. Yet, as we have found with other nations, old hostilities do not need to go on forever. And I hope that other leaders will find an example in Libya's announcement today.
Prime Minister Blair also made a statement ....
Libya's actions entitle it to rejoin the international community. I have spoken to Colonel Qadhafi to say that, as the process of dismantlement goes forward, I now look forward to developing a productive relationship with him and with Libya.

... Today's announcement shows that we can fight this menace through more than purely military means; that we can defeat it peacefully, if countries are prepared, in good faith, to work with the international community to dismantle such weapons. Those countries who pursue such a path will find ready partners in the US and in the UK, as Libya will see.
Both Bush and Blair said that Libya sent representatives back in March to see if there was a way to resolve the weapons issue.

And check this out ... Britain and Libya signed a cultural agreement in Tripoli yesterday.

Mali: photographer Seydou Keita

Here is a story about two Frenchmen who are fighting over the right to represent Seydou Keita's estate.

You can find a few of Keita's portraits here along with a brief bio.

If you want more about Keita's work, go here.

Cote d'Ivoire: who's in charge of New Forces?

A group of rebel fighters in Ivory Coast broke into a television station on Friday and declared an exiled soldier, long seen as the secret mastermind of the rebellion, their new leader.

..."All talks, all decisions between the New Forces and third parties cannot take place without the effective presence of Sergeant Ibrahim Coulibaly. As a result, any other decision is null and void," said a spokesman for the fighters called Bamba Kassoum, known as "Kass," in the rebel stronghold of Bouake.

...The statement read out by the spokesman said the insurgents supported [Guillaume] Soro's efforts to find a solution to the West African country's crisis but made no mention of [Soumaila] Bakayoko, the man who earlier this month signed an agreement paving the way for the eventual disarmament of rebel fighters.

... IB [Ibrahim Coulibaly] was among a group of suspected mercenaries detained in Paris in August on suspicion of plotting to kill Gbagbo. (link)
Here is the post on Coulibaly and the arrests in France from this past August.

Botswana: breaks with SADC statement of Zim

Botswana said it had no part in the Dec. 9 SADC statement that criticized the Commonwealth for its decison to continute Zimbabwe's suspension from that body.

This from Jeff Ramsay, press secretary to President Festus Mogae.
"It should be further noted that Botswana was not in fact present at the meeting at which certain Sadc countries agreed to issue the said statement distancing themselves from the position taken by the Commonwealth as a whole," Ramsay said.(link)
Here is a bit more on Botswana's position from the Botswana Gazette.
"We can't attack the Commonwealth stance, which we were part of. That is what the SADC statement is saying. But as a country we wanted the Zimbabwe suspension lifted," said Ramsay.

UN wants more Northern soldiers

UN Under Secretary for Peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, wants more soldiers from first world armies for peacekeeping missions. It's not just that the UN needs more soldiers on the ground, it also needs the equippment these Northern soldiers would bring to the missions.
"The key is very specialised capacities," Mr Guehenno said. "For instance we need attack helicopters in operations that are deployed in unsettled contexts.

"The number of countries [militaries] in the developing world that have that capacity is limited. so this is typically the kind of capacity I'll be looking for in the months ahead".

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Burundi: how a community got Malaria

Fascinating story ...

The environment in Karuzi province, in the highlands of Burundi, was such that the people never suffered from Malaria ... which meant that ...
... the population built up no immunity and were as vulnerable as the 19th century European explorers it felled.

Two events ended Karuzi's luck. Some farmers cleared papyrus from the lower wetlands to cultivate rice, not realising that by releasing an oil on the water's surface, the papyrus had acted as a barrier against certain mosquitoes. Then a civil war in 1994 brought an influx of lowlanders with malaria to Karuzi.

The mosquitoes feasted on the newcomers' blood, thus becoming malaria carriers. Each subsequent rainy season left a slowly growing number of locals stricken with the classic symptoms of fever and nausea.

Then, in the course of several terrible weeks in October and November 2000, the trickle turned into a torrent. About half a million cases of malaria were recorded in a population of 350,000 as almost every man, woman and child was infected, many more than once. (link)

Russia: ... attacks on people of colour

Last year, ambassadors from 37 African nations appealed to the [Russian] Foreign Ministry for protection for their citizens. Human rights groups have documented widespread harassment, often with the compliance or support of the police.

... "Nearly every week, or every other week, someone stands up and says, `Please pray for me, I had a run-in with skinheads,' or, `Pray for my friend who was beaten by the police,' " said the pastor, John Calhoun [of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy].

...National holidays and major sports events — with their drunkenness and heightened passions — are times to stay home, many students said. Mr. Diboi Kath said that although he loved sports, he had never been to a soccer stadium or a basketball game in Moscow. "It's like a dream for me," he said. "The cinema is like a dream. If you go to the cinema or to a stadium, it means you want to die." (link)

to cover up or not ...

Sensible editorial from the Christian Science Monitor on the hijab issue in France.

Zambia: 44 convicted in coup attempt are headed to the gallows

Zambia's Supreme Court confirmed the death sentences of 44 non-commissioned officers, and acquitted 10 others, for the 1997 attmpted coup against then President Chiluba. President Levy Mwanawasa could still pardon them or commute their sentences.

Cote d'Ivoire: 250 guys all dressed up and with nowhere to go

Remember how Eugene Djue and 100,000 of his Young Patriots were going to march on rebel held towns yesterday ...

Well, only 200 to 250 guys showed up ... and then their buses didn't show up ... so they went back home.

Worth mentioning that President Gbagbo also gave a speech calling on people to be patient ...
"I ask all the youths to listen to us, to look at us and not to hinder us by actions that the military will not understand," Gbagbo said.

...Gbagbo's conciliatory speech seemed designed to cool spirits -- previously the "young patriots" have called off demonstrations and protests when asked by the president.

"We are at the end of the war -- very soon, I will declare the end of the war because the structures of war like the roadblocks and heavy weapons are being taken down," Gbagbo said.

Gbagbo was speaking after a meeting with army officers and rebel leaders to take stock of progress in disarmament. Both sides have until December 25 to pull back heavy weapons.
The rebels have said they will meet in Bouake on Monday to discuss a possible end to their boycott of the transitional government.

Nigeria: now this is standing by your product

I've often wondered why this doesn't happen more often.
A traditional healer in Nigeria has died after an anti-bullet charm he prepared failed a potency test.

... The herbalist reportedly tied the charm round his neck and asked his client to shoot him to test its efficacy.

Zimbabwe: school fees up 2,500% next year

How sad is this.
For middle-class Zimbabweans this spells disaster - especially since 80% are unemployed.

... [John Robertson, a Zimbabwean economist] also said that even now, a large percentage of children dropped out of school at the age of 12 because their parents could not afford the fees.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Kenya: ... another claim of AIDS "wonder drug" discovery

A few days back, Dr. Arthur Obel announced that he had discovered some HIV/AIDS wonder drugs.
Lentura II, he claimed, will improve the immune status of HIV-positive patients by raising the concentration of CD4 cells, while Magenta will eliminate the virus and help minimize risks of mutation. A third drug, Nectum Cygnul, is supposed to improve the general status of a patient. (link)
Dr. Obel introduced a patient, a remarried widower, whom he said had been healed of HIV/AIDS by the drugs. But despite these wondrous claims, and "proof", the news was received quietly.

This isn't the first time Dr. Obel has made such a big "discovery". Back in 1996, Dr. Obel announced that he had found a cure for AIDS which he called "Pearl Omega". Faced with mounting evidence to the contrary, Dr. Obel later amended his claim and said the drug cured opportunistic infections associated with the disease. But it doesn't even do that and Pearl Omega is now counted as full-fledged quackery.

The Daily Standard story on Dr. Obel's new discovery carried quotes from Dr Davy Koech, director of the The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).
He said Prof Obel should have presented samples of his drugs for clinical trials by Kemri or any other reputable scientific organisation.

He said a new drug must be subjected to scientific scrutiny before clinical trials are done following approval by Ethical Clearance Committee.

But Koech was quick to acknowledge the contribution made by local doctors, including Obel, in the search for a cure for Aids.

He said when Kemron's discovery was announced, it was dismissed by international organisations.
Only thing is, Dr. Koech and the "drug" Kemron are now the stuff of legend.

In 1990, Dr. Koech and KEMRI announced a breakthrough with Kemron. He claimed AIDS patients who used Kemron had all their AIDS symptoms disappear within weeks. He also claimed that eight out of 40 patients "serodeconverted" -- that their HIV status changed from positive to negative. The government of Kenya came out to support him and there was a whole lot of hype ... and a couple of years later, all his claims were debunked.

These fabulous claims of cures and the such have appeared periodically across Africa ... here is a darn good article (a few years old) that tells of a few of them. Scary thing is that some of these claims are made by trained doctors/researchers.

This is stating the obvious but state it I must. These quacks aren't just an African phenomenon. Claims of miracle drugs/cures have appeared all over the world. Wherever there are people trying to cope with scary and little known diseases, a quack will appear with a cure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Cote d'Ivoire: youth group to march on rebel territory tomorrow

Eugene Djue, one of the leaders of the so-called Young Patriots group, said more than 100,000 followers would march on the towns starting Wednesday. He told French forces guarding the demilitarized "confidence zone" between the government forces and the former rebels, now known as "the New Forces," not to intervene.

.... About 200 Young Patriots and elements of the Ivorian army, apparently acting on their own, tried November 30 to cross into northern territory controlled by former rebels.

French and west African peacekeepers patrolling the confidence zone fired warning shots and used tear gas to drive them back. (link)
As for why Djue is doing this ...
... [He said his] men had to march on the north because the rebels hadn't disarmed by Dec. 15. Djue and other pro-Gbagbo youth leaders vowed earlier this month to march on Bouake if the rebels hadn't disarmed by Dec. 15.

The rebels and the government army started Dec. 13 withdrawing heavy arms from the former front line and storing light arms. Both sides said Monday that the moves were preliminary to the "real" disarmament, which would start as soon as funds were available for demobilization and disarmament.

Djue said these preliminary moves were insufficient. "We don't want war, but we are ready for war," Djue said, adding that he had 108,500 men ready "on all fronts" and 30,000 special commandos for what he called "the surveillance of Abidjan." (link)

Uganda: who you call'n impotent

"I have never been impotent because I have four wives and 30 children," [first deputy Prime Minister, Mr Moses] Ali said yesterday.

He was appearing as a witness in a case in which he accuses The Monitor of defamation.

Ali claims that the article, published last year under the headline Diabetic Men More Prone To Impotence, and which carried his photo, portrayed him as sick and impotent. (link)
The case has been adjourned till Feb 4.

Somalia: approx. 34 killed, 80 injured in two days of fighting

This is in the central Somalia ....
The clashes were the latest in a series of tit for tat confrontations rooted in the April murder of a Marehan [clan] elder, allegedly by Dir clansmen. ...

The heavily inter-married Dir and Marehan clans have lived side by side in Somalia’s Gedo region for several decades without much confrontation.

The Dir are affiliated with the Southern Somalia National Movement faction while the Marehan belong to Somalia National Front, both of which were among the 27 factions that signed a cease-fire agreement in Kenya on October 27, 2002.

The latest round of fighting erupted despite calls by the Kenyan government to all warring factions and clans in Somalia to respect a ceasefire agreement. (link)
And here's a bit more context ...
The last confrontation between fighters from the Marehan and Dir subclans over land occurred in mid November and left nearly 100 people dead. Elders and chieftains from the two groups are still in peace negotiations, but after Tuesday's fighting both sides were remobilizing their militias.

Hundreds of women and children have fled their homes in anticipation of more fighting, residents said. (link)

Cote d'Ivoire: rebels could return to cabinet w/in days

Sidiki Konate, the spokesman of the northern rebels who are officially known as "The New Forces," told IRIN there had been good progress in negotiations on a deal that would allow the rebels to return to government.

... “On Wednesday or Thursday, the [UN-led] monitoring committee will give an answer to our proposals," Konate told IRIN by telephone from the rebel headquarters in the central city of Bouake.

Judging by the “favourable feedback” received from the monitoring comittee, the eight rebel ministers who withdrew from the broad-based coalition government on 23 September could return to Abidjan "at the beginning of next week," he added.
(link)
But these positive developments could be scuttled if the Young Patriots do manage to have 100,000 march on rebel territory tomorrow.

Rwanda: genocide survivors say they're harassed, killed

An umbrella organisation for genocide survivors in Rwanda, known as Ibuka, has denounced the killing, harassment and intimidation of its members over their testimony under the "Gacaca" [traditional village court] justice system. (link)

Sudan: SLA/M, govt talks in Chad collapse

A day after they started, talks between the government and the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M) have collapsed.
The SLM "wanted their own force to control the (contested) region during a transition period, be given a percentage of oil earnings, and claimed autonomy in the management of the region," [Chadian Communications Minister Abdramane] Moussa said.
SLA/M are active in western Sudan, in the Darfur region

Monday, December 15, 2003

Sudan: SPLA/M, goverment close to deal on wealth sharing

It appears the SPLA/M and government are close to agreement on one of three remaining issues -- wealth sharing.
According to the [unnamed] source, both sides had agreed on the idea of a central bank with two "windows" - one overseeing an Islamic banking system for the north and the other commercial banking for the secular south.

... He noted there could soon be an agreement on currency as well as the percentage of oil revenues to be shared between the north and the south. The north, he said, would continue with the dinar and south Sudan would adopt the new Sudan pound.
The two other issues are power-sharing and the status of three disputed regions.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Chad: an end to a five-year rebellion

The Movement for Democracy and Justice in Chad (MDJT) has been fighting a "low-level guerrilla war" against President Idriss Deby in northern Chad since 1998.

The deal was signed today in Burkina Faso where the leader of the MDJT, General Adoum Togoi Abbo, has been living in exile for three years. Aduramane Moussa, the Minister for Security and Immigration, signed for the government.

And as for the deal ...
It provides for an immediate ceasefire, an amnesty for MDJT fighters and supporters, and the appointment of an undisclosed number of MDJT ministers in the Chadian government. The two sides also undertook to silence hostile propaganda against each other in the media.

The peace agreement said that within four days, the MDJT would be converted into a legal political party and within three months its fighters would be incorporated into the national army.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Ethiopia/Eritrea: three years later ... still no progress

Three years ago today, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace accord in Algiers, ending a border war that killed tens of thousands. And three years on, the main point of contention has not been settled.

As part of the Algiers agreement, both sides agreed to accept as "final and binding" a ruling by an independent boundary commission.

The commission delivered its ruling in April 2002 (full-text). Ethopia rejected the ruling in September 2003 because, among other things, the commission awarded Irob and the town of Badme (the flashpoint of the war) to Eritrea.

Eritrea has accused Ethiopia of holding the process "hostage" and refused to engage in any more talks, asking instead that the international community bring pressure to bear on Ethiopia. Last month, Eritrea recalled its ambassador to the African Union saying that the AU has failed to pressure or take disciplinary action against Ethiopia for not living up to the Algiers Agreement.

As for Ethiopia, its position is that the Boundary Commission's decision violates "the central undertaking" of the Algiers peace agreement because the Commission did not "... consider the implications of its demarcation for the stability of the boundary or the humanitarian impact ..." (article here)

A bit more about Ethiopia's position can be found in the following ... a letter Prime Minister Meles Zenawi sent to the UN Security Council in September.
The Colonial treaties which are the basis of the Algiers Agreement and which should have been the key basis for the delimitation and demarcation of the boundary leave Badme inside Ethiopia. This is also the Commission's own interpretation of the relevant Treaty. Nonetheless, the Commission chose to base its decision on state practice, and having done so, it went on and awarded Badme to Eritrea despite the overwhelming evidence produced by Ethiopia proving that Badme had always been administered by Ethiopia. The Commission's decision which was allegedly based on state practice also ended up splitting a single village and even a single homestead between the two countries. Its decisions in some parts of the central sector are equally illegal.(full-text)
The Security Council refused Zenawi's request to get involved in the dispute and told Ethiopia to abide by the Boundary Commission's decision.

The process to demarcate the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been postponed a number of times, the last time in October. Next week, the Boundary Commission is expected to essentially pack up and leave its headquarters in Eritrea ... leaving only a skeleton staff behind.

The UN has confirmed it's going to appoint a special envoy to try and get past this deadlock. Rumour has it that Lloyd Axworthy, a former Canadian foreign minister, is up for the job ... and for his part, Axworthy has said he's willing to take on the role.

The UN has a 4,200 strong peacekeeping force monitoring the border between the two countries. (See UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea)

Go here for a past post on the dispute.

Sudan: SLA leader holds out little hope for peace

A leader of the Sudan Libeation Army (SLA) has said he holds out little hope of coming to an agreement with the government when talks restart in Chad on December 14.
"The government still is not respecting the ceasefire and we cannot see there will be a good result (in talks) because...they are not serious to negotiate," secretary-general of the SLA, Minni Arcua Minnawi, told Reuters in an interview.
SLA = Sudan Liberation Army -- based in Western Sudan, in Darfur

SPLA/M = Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement -- based in the South, negotiating in Kenya with government

Kenya: happy anniversary!

Kenya today marked 40 years of Independence.

Tomorrow's papers are already out ... so you can read about the festivities here.

Zimbabwe: ZANU wants to kick out ambassadors

Mugabe's party, the ZANU-PF, wants the government to kick out the ambassadors of the US, Britain, Canada and Australia.

Implications ...
More than 400 British companies, employing 30 000 people trade in Zimbabwe. The fear is that if their embassy is thrown out that business will go too.

Zimbabwe stands to lose more than R7 million worth of British aid if links are cut. However, the government argues that it was paying more than R6 million to the Commonwealth and now that it does not have to fork that bill it stands to lose little from Britain's exit from its country.
A few days ago, there was a report that the government was considering cutting ties with Britain and Australia.

Uganda: the jam's the thing

Uganda Investment Authority says investors are "fleeing" the country because of traffic jams. Some lose three to five hours stuck in traffic. (link)

Nigeria: ... lower house to hold hearings about Taylor

Nigeria's House of Representatives' foreign relations committee is going to hold hearings on whether Charles Taylor should have asylum in Nigeria. A date for the hearings hasn't been set yet.

Dr. Usman Bugaje, chairperson of the committee, thinks Taylor should be handed over.
"We in the legislature felt it was wrong [to give him asylum]," he told reporters. "Even the UN refugee charter forbids giving asylum to refugees accused of war crimes."
And as for that offer made by the mercenary company to kidnap Taylor, presidential advisor Femi Fani Kayode had this to say ...
"They will be apprehended, incarcerated, prosecuted and jailed - and if they resist any attempt to arrest them they will leave Nigeria in their coffin, it's as simple as that." (link)

South Africa: Mbeki's scathing letter about CHOGM

This week, Mbeki's weekly letter to the African National Congress is on the Commonwealth meeting and its decision on Zimbabwe. It's clear from the letter that Mbeki is furious. And if you can, read the whole thing ... especially where he outlines the steps he says SA took to resolve the Zim issue.

Here are some excerpts ...
At its March 19, 2002 meeting in London, at which it suspended Zimbabwe for a year, the Troika [SA, Nigeria, Australia] reiterated a critically important statement made by the Coolum CHOGM. It said that the land question was at the core of the crisis in Zimbabwe and could not be separated from other issues of concern.

At the Abuja CHOGM, the land question in Zimbabwe was not discussed. Indeed, the land question has disappeared from the global discourse about Zimbabwe, except when it is mentioned to highlight the plight of the former white landowners, and to attribute food shortages in Zimbabwe to the land redistribution programme.

... With everything having failed to restore the land to its original owners in a peaceful manner, a forcible process of land redistribution perhaps became inevitable.

... It is clear that some within Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world, including our country, are following the example set by "Reagan and his advisers", to "treat human rights as a tool" for overthrowing the government of Zimbabwe and rebuilding Zimbabwe as they wish. In modern parlance, this is called regime change. (full-text)

Kenya: ... will no longer honour Nile Treaty ... Egypt mad

Kenya has decided it will no longer honour the Nile Basin Treaty even as talks about reworking the treaty continue.
"The government will not accept, under any circumstances, any further restrictions on the use of Lake Victoria waters as it was not party to, and was not consulted, before the treaty was signed," said [Foreign Affairs minister Moses] Wetangula to applause from MPs.
Egypt, as you might well guess, is not pleased. (See map of Nile basin)
Egypt has reacted strongly to Keny's intended withdrawal from the Nile Basin Treaty, describing it as "an act of war" against his country.

Egypt's Minister for Water Resources and Natural Resources, Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, speaking to the East African Standard on the sidelines of a water conference in Ethiopia, accused Kenya of breaching international law by opting out of the treaty.

The Egyptian minister threatened that Kenya could "not lay claim to sovereignty to protect itself from any action that Egypt may want to take". (link)
Water/enviroment ministers are in Ethiopia for the "The Pan-African Implementation and Partnership Conference on Water" ... a UN sponsored conference. Conference site here.

Countries have been arguing over the Nile for decades ... almost gone to war a few times. And Kenya's dissatisfaction with the treaty has been clear. Just this past June, Kenya's energy minister, Raila Odinga, called for a review of the treaty. In Uganda last year, an MP sponsored a motion annulling the Nile Treaty. The motion didn't get far but it did have supporters. And there are a number of other examples like that.

However, Kenya's move is still a bit of a surprise because word was that Egypt, the regional superpower, and jealous guardian of the Nile, has been talking to the other nations that lie along the Nile's course -- seriously talking about finding a more equitable way to share the waters. Here is a story from just a few months ago, talking about how the Kenyans and others were sending delegates to talk to the Egyptians.

So what's with the treaty ...

**Disclaimer** I've been trying to figure out this story. But as you might guess ... digesting 150 years of water/colonial/post-colonial history is not that easy. So here is what I've been able to glean from a couple of hours of reading ...

In 1929, Britain -- acting on Sudan's behalf -- signed the Nile Waters Agreement with Egypt (full-text). The agreement divided the use of the Nile waters between Egypt and Sudan, allotting Egypt 48 billion cubic meters (bcm) and Sudan 4 bcm. The deal was revised in 1959 and became known as the Nile Waters Treaty (full-text). This treaty increased Egypt's allotment to 55.5 bcm and Sudan's to 18.5 bcm ... and set the limit for the other countries along the Nile's course -- the riparians -- at 1,000-2,000 million cubic meters per year.

The Kenyan papers mention that the 1929 agreement was reviewed in 1952. I believe they're talking about this -- an agreement between the UK and Egypt regarding the construction of the Owen Falls Dam in Uganda. The dam made it necessary to raise the level of Lake Victoria ... and Egypt agreed to compensate Uganda for loss of hydroelectric capacity.

Also note that the Kenyan papers call the treaty the "Nile Treaty" or the "Nile Basin Treaty". I believe both are just different terms for the "Nile Waters Treaty".

Getting back to the treaty ...

Except for Ethiopia, the other countries along the Nile's route didn't exist as countries in 1929. And as evidenced by Mr. Wetangula quote excerpted at the very top, some folks in Kenya (and other riparian states) believe that since "Kenya" didn't sign it, the agreement doesn't apply. The legality of this argument is of course in question.
"This is international law and they have to inherit this as they have inherited their boundaries," commented Ahmad Metawie, chairman of the government's [Egypt] Nile Water Sector. (link)
The biggest issue with the 1929 agreementent is that it basically bars the riparians from utilizing the waters that feed into the Nile without Egypt's agreement. Here is the pertinent graf ...
4(b) Save with the previous agreement of the Egyptian Government, no irrigation or power works or measures are to be constructed or taken on the River Nile and its branches, or on the lakes from which it flows, so far as all these are in the Sudan or in countries under British administration, which would, in such a manner as to entail any prejudice to the interests of Egypt, either reduce the quantity of water arriving in Egypt, or modify the date of its arrival, or lower its level. (full-text)
John Kamau posed an interesting argument in a commentary published in the New African two years ago. He argued that the agreement should be scrapped because it is pegged on the wrong assumption that Lake Victoria is the source of the Nile.

When the agreement was signed in 1929, people didn't know that two-thirds of the water that reaches Egypt actually comes from the Blue Nile which originates in Ethiopia. Rather, they thought that the White Nile, with headwaters at Lake Victoria, was the main source. Kamau was arguing that since the White Nile doesn't provide the bulk of the water, it would do no harm for Kenya to utilize Lake Victoria and its tributaries.

However, there's a problem with Kamau's argument. Though the White Nile contributes less water, it's still crucial.
The White Nile ... rises in the headwaters of Lake Victoria in a region of heavy, year-round rainfall; unlike the Blue Nile, it has a constant flow, owing in part to its source area and in part to the regulating effects of its passage through lakes Victoria and Albert and the Sudd swamps. (link)
The rainy season in Ethiopia is restricted to a four-month period when the rivers that feed into the Blue Nile are flooded. Outside of that time, the water level is quite low.

The World Bank offers this "bio" of the countries along the Nile, explaining their relationship to the river.

If you find mistakes, omissions, better/more information ... please e-mail me.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

DRC: profiles of Joe Kabila

There's no "news hook" for posting these stories at this time ... the profiles are just interesting.

This profile by the Boston Globe's Carter Dougherty is more positive than not. Here is a bit from it ...
Kabila spent most of his life in exile in Tanzania, where he learned English and Swahili, but neither French nor Lingala, the two most widely spoken languages in Kinshasa.

When his father led a rebel invasion in 1997 that ousted Congo's longtime dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, the younger Kabila participated fully.

Initially known for a fast lifestyle of clubs and cars in Kinshasa, Joseph assumed power after his father was assassinated in 2001 and became the world's youngest president [at 30].
And the Economist has this profile, titled "Not as bad as dad". Not high praise exactly ... it encourages a "lets watch and see" attitude. At issue are his friends ...
Mr Kabila may have some dodgy friends, but he has some good advisers too. Last year the economy grew by 3%, despite half the country being in rebel hands. In delight, foreign donors pledged aid worth more than $2.5 billion. But diplomats in Kinshasa are beginning to sound queasy. The president's friends, they say, are becoming a problem.

Mr Kabila would rather discuss the election he promises to hold. His party is already holding rallies, even though other parties are forbidden to do so. Elections are hard to imagine, however. Fighting still rages in the east, and the country has virtually no infrastructure.
And here is an intriguing piece from USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham.
The real test for this fledgling democracy ... may come from the children of Patrice Lumumba, Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila, who generated enough bad blood in Congo to float a battleship.

.... [DRC stability is] not likely to happen if the sons of Mobutu and Lumumba are locked out of any meaningful role in the new political structure.

Three years ago, the elder Kabila jailed Francois Lumumba for violating the dictator's prohibition against political parties. Now Lumumba openly leads his National Congolese Movement, which lays claim to his popular father's legacy. But so far the younger Kabila's transitional government has kept Lumumba at bay. That's a prescription for unrest, not reconciliation.

Kabila also must find a place in this emerging democracy for Mobutu's two sons, Manda and Nzanga, whom he recently allowed to return from exile. Manda has formed a political party, and Nzanga says he may seek a seat in the parliament. Although their following is thought to consist largely of people who benefited from their father's ruthless rule, that may be enough to derail Congo's democracy movement.
Here is a bio of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the DRC.

And here is a bio of the elder Kabila, Laurent-Desire Kabila.

Liberia: investors wanted for Taylor kidnap mission

Northbridge Services Group, a mercenary company, says it is ready to kidnap Charles Taylor in Nigeria and take him to the war crimes court in Sierra Leone. They're looking for investors to fund the mission to the tune of $1 million. In return, they offer to share the $2m "reward" offered by US Congress. Northbridge's director Pasquale Dipofi hinted that the group already has people in Nigeria, ready for the mission.

The U.S. State Department says it is against the use of "violent action" to capture Taylor. And they still don't know quite what to do about that $2 million "reward".

Northbridge Services Group was formed two years ago by a former British paratrooper. It is a "...a loose-knit band of private soldiers predominantly based in the US."

This isn't the first time Northbridge has offered to arrest Taylor. Check this past post ...

Interpol has also issued a "red notice" for Taylor ... for more, check here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Africa/Iraq: seven African countries can bid on Iraq reconstruction

US Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz issued a "Determinations and Findings" paper listing the countries that can bid on reconstruction in Iraq.

The African countries on the list are ... Anglola, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Morocco, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Now, let's compare that to the list of countries who were cited as being members of the "coalition of the willing" and we end up with ... Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Egypt was against the war in Iraq ... so was Morocoo (being members of the "Arab League" and all).

Funny thing about Angola ... it was on the "willing" list when it first came out but was removed the next day -- and then it reappeared on the list.

And there was this rather amusing story that Morocco's contribution to the war effort was to be 2,000 monkeys for detonating landmines.

Libya: the leader's homepage

I was trying to find some info on Libya (as per yesterday's post) ... and though I didn't find what I needed, I did find this, Gathafi's "homepage".

Gathafi offers up "The Definitive Solution of The Kashmiri Problem" ... and in another piece, he writes that "It is in Turkey's economic interest to be part of Europe".

Zimbabwe: interview with Samantha Power

Samantha Power's Atlantic Monthly article on the situation in Zimbabwe isn't online yet. In the meantime, you can read this interview with Power about her trip there and what she saw. (link via Bookslut)

By most accounts, Mugabe had been doing a decent job of running the country until a few years ago. Power argues that the turning point was his participation in the war in the DRC. Read it for yourself ...

Power is the author of A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide ... an amazing (if depressing) read.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Libya: bad host?

Check this out ...

It seems Libya was supposed to host a two-day Arab League environment ministers meeting ... which was to start yesterday. But, according to AFP (quoting an anonymous source), Libya pulled out at the last minute, no explanation. The meeting was instead held at Arab League headquarters in Cairo ... Libya didn't send a delegate either.

If you're as confused as I am about whether Libya is still in the League or not ... then this excerpt should help ... confuse you a bit more.
An Arab diplomat told AFP that Libya's attitude was linked to its decision to no longer take part in Arab ministerial meetings since the beginning of the year.

Libya still maintains a delegate at the Arab League.

In October 2002, Tripoli announced its withdrawal from the Arab League to protest the absence of initiatives to the Iraqi and Palestinian crises, but had decided to suspend its decision after several Arab countries intervened.

In October this year, however, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi called on the Popular Congress, the basic structure of the Libyan political system, to "confirm Libya's withdrawal from the Arab League.

"The Arab League is in the middle of giving up the ghost, and Arabs will never be strong even if they unite ... They will remain content every night to watch bloody newsreels from Palestine and Iraq," he said.
Kadhafi has been turning away from the "Arab world" for a while now ... choosing instead to focus his attentions south, to Africa. See yesterday's post for an example ...

Kenya: civil workers are going to lose jobs

The East African Standard reports that thousands of civil service workers will soon lose their jobs.

The numbers are impressive ...

Kenya civil service = 425,000
civil service pay = 80% of recurrent budget = 9.2% of GDP
Despite [civil service head Francis] Mwiraria’s vehement denials, it is understood that the International Monetary Fund’s decision to resume lending was premised on the State’s promise of massive layoffs.

A Sh19.25 billion three-year financial arrangement has already been entered into under which the Government has promised to retrench at least 23,740 civil servants from July next year and a further 5,000 the following year.

Parastatal workers and staff of public universities have been included in the retrenchment net. The universities will lose 3,500 workers while parastatals will shed 11,840 in the lay-offs.
Check this post on the issue ...

Libya: investing in the DRC ...

Colonel Gadaffi's Libyan government owns a large stake in Oryx Natural Resources, the Arab-owned diamond mining company whose London listing was unexpectedly cancelled in 2000, the Telegraph can reveal.
With a lede like that, this is one of those stories that you expect to be all juicy and tabloidy with details of outrageous wrongdoing ... but it isn't. In fact the most interesting bits were buried near the end of the article.
Eugene Diomi, the Congolese minister of mines, said: "We think around $30m worth of diamonds a month are smuggled out of the DRC. Our borders are impossible to police."

The minister said around 10,000 workers exploit diamond deposits throughout the DRC. He added that Oryx operates entirely legally and that its diamond production is passed through legitimate channels.

The DRC would like British help in both setting up a system to track diamonds internally and changing the Kimberley Process to prevent neighbouring countries such as the Republic of Congo, which has no mines of its own, from exporting diamonds.
As for Oryx ... it's a diamond company with mining concessions in the Mbuji Mayi region of the DRC. A year ago, the state-owned Libyan Arab African Investment Company bought a 20% stake in Oryx. (No impropriety alleged here.)

And according to the newspaper report, Oryx was recently accused by the BBC of having links to al-Qaeda and selling 'blood diamonds' ... the Beeb had to pay out big to settle that case.

The story appeared in Sunday's London Telegraph, written by Edward Simpkins.

... sometimes people do get what they deserve

Oliver Mtukudzi received a lifetime achievement award at the Kora Music Awards in South Africa.

Mtukudzi is an amazing musician ... one whose music makes you think while you groove.

Check his site here ...

And you can listen to Mtukudzi in concert here ... recorded live at Royal Festival Hall (UK) last November.

Zimbabwe: SADC slams Commonwealth

Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states have issued a strongly worded statement criticizing the Commonwealth for its stand on Zim.
"We wish to voice our strong disagreement with the decision not to allow Zimbabwe back into the Councils of the Commonwealth, as reflected in the Abuja CHOGM Statement on Zimbabwe".

... "The present situation in Zimbabwe calls for engagement by the Commonwealth, and not isolation and further punishment. We reaffirm our determination to continue to assist the people of Zimbabwe.

"We also wish to express our displeasure and deep concern with the dismissive, intolerant and rigid attitude displayed by some members of the Commonwealth during the deliberations.

... This development does not augur well for the future of the Commonwealth," the statement read. (link)
This didn't come out of nowhere ... check here and here and here ...

Liberia: rethinking the demobilization strategy ....

Fighters have rioted, firing their guns and looting ... and according to AFP, some even laid siege to the UN Mission to Liberia (UNMIL) offices.

Now UNMIL has reconsidered its demobilization strategy. It has changed the way it's giving out the cash and the number of fighters it'll take on.
The disarmament program will also be scaled back to process a maximum 400 former fighters every day at the Schieffelin military barracks just outside Monrovia, with the emphasis placed on government soldiers and members of Taylor's irregular militias.
And about the money ... the fighters were upset about being asked to hand in their guns and not getting money up front. Now, they'll get $75 up front, another $75 once they complete the three-week demobilization program, and the balance ($150) once they're back in the community.

Note this ... last Thursday, Refugees International (RI) publically warned the UN not to rush the demobilization ... and the criticism is still valid.
"... [RI] expressed concern that disarmament was due to begin this week with only 5,000 of the planned 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops actually deployed in Liberia.

It also warned that international relief agencies had so far been focussing mainly on the care of people displaced from their homes by Liberia's 14-year civil war and had limited capacity to support the reintegration of an estimated 38,000 combatants at short notice.

... "DDRR programmes [Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration] in Liberia have been implemented unsuccessfully twice before and each time combatants took up arms again. It is imperative that the current DDRR process is a success," it added.
The point about there not being enough peacekeepers ....
The incidents [riots] had led to a fresh deterioration in security, forcing UNHCR to cancel two missions to Zwedu and Harper and put on hold a relocation of internally displaced people from public buildings in Margibi County, [UNHCR spokesperson] Mr. Janowski added. (link)
UNMIL is supposed to have its full complement of 15,000 peacekeepers by late February or ealry March.

Kenya: man gets life for raping child

The man was found guilty of raping a four-year-old child and sentenced to life in prison.
The landmark judgement was made possible by the recently passed Criminal Amendment Bill, which raised the penalty for child rape to a mandatory life sentence. The bill, approved by parliament in July, also raised the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years.

Uganda: maintains Sudan is harbouring LRA

Today, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni accused Sudanese officials of sheltering the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Sudan has allowed Ugandan troops into southern Sudan to pursue the rebel Lord's Resistance Army and Museveni's statement at a press conference Tuesday was his first criticism of the Sudanese government in at least two years.

... Sudan has backed the [LRA] rebels in retaliation for Museveni's support of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army. But in since 2000, Uganda and Sudan normalized relations and pledged not to support each other's rebel groups.
Uganda's Junior Defence Minister Ruth Nankabirwa made similar allegations about Sudan a few days ago ... and the government of Sudan issued a statement denying they have anything to do with the LRA (see yesterday's post.)

Zambia: trial of former president begins

Former President Frederick Chiluba is facing corruption charges, accused of having stolen more than $30 million. This is only the first trial ... another one begins on Dec 16 when he'll face more theft charges on money totaling about $4 million.

Chiluba was president of Zambia for 10 years ... 1991 - 2001. Last year, Parliament stripped him of his immunity so that he could stand trial.

This piece from the BBC gives a really good run down of the corruption allegations.

Now if you want just a bit more about Chiluba the man, check this piece. Here's a bit from the article ...
In 1996 when Kaunda [Chiluba's predecessor] regained political momentum, Chiluba changed the constitution to bar anyone with foreign parentage from becoming president. That effectively barred Kaunda because his parents hailed from neighboring Malawi.

In 1997 Chiluba survived a military coup by junior army officers who believed he had become too corrupt.

He then had Kaunda and other opposition leaders arrested on charges that they had financed the dissident soldiers.

In 2001, he tried to change the constitution to enable him to run for a third consecutive term, but met vigorous resistance, with thousands protesting in he streets.

He then hurriedly hand-picked his successor, Levy Mwanawasa, who last year had parliament strip him of his immunity so he could be prosecuted.
I haven't seen mention of this anywhere but I remember Chiluba as a natty dresser.

... what's that word ... you know ... starts with an "e" and means ....

This is a dream come true! It's a "Reverse Dictionary" ... you put in terms/meaning and the site spews back a word. (link via The Olive Press)

So I tried "loves luxury" ... second word is Erzule ... and Erzule is the goddess of love, beauty, jewelry, etc... ... a goddess in the Vodun (Voodoo) religion which originated in West Africa with the Fon and Yoruba people ... it is also the state religion of Benin and most recently, Haiti.

So I didn't find exactly what I was looking for but I learned something new ... about Africa nonetheless!

Now seriously ... what's the word for "loves luxury" ... starts with an "e" ...

Canada: ... gets Sharia

I'm so late on this story ... I guess it happened on the wrong side of the ocean ;)

In a suburb of Toronto, a community group is setting up an arbitration board which will base its decisions on Sharia law. It will be called the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice (Canada). According to the Law Times article, the Arbitration Act was changed recently to make an arbitrator's decision final and enforceable by the courts (I'm not a lawyer ... don't know if this is true/accurate).

Now here is the detail that caught my attention ...
The committee [setting up the new institute] is hopeful that the system will be accepted by the Muslim community at large, and in particular, Muslim women. There was only one woman present at the convention. Bibi Zainob Baksh attended in her capacity as president of the Ladies' Muslim Organization. She pointed out that there has been a mediation service in the past but it folded when it failed to attract Muslim women. She is of the opinion that if the present initiative comes to fruition, women will participate "later" in the process.
The article was published in Law Tims Online on Nov 25 ... but it's no longer on the site. But don't despair ... the good folks at Vancouver Indymedia posted the entire article here and Damian, a Canadian blogger, posted most of the article here.

I am disappointed by the paucity of the coverage available on-line ...

Came across this rather snippy editorial from the Montreal Gazette saying there should be "one law for all" ... but don't we have two types of law in Canada ... Quebec law is based on the Napoleonic Code, with the rest of Canada using common law.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Libya: Ghaddafi proposes a pan-African airline

Ghaddafi offered the idea today at a meeting in Tripoli of the African Airlines Association. He said the joint airline could be owned by the African Union and proposed a fund to develop the region's air sector. He also called for freedom of movement in the continent for all citizens of African Union states.

Sudan: we're not harbouring the LRA

The government of Sudan has denied Uganda's allegation that it's harbouring the Lord's Resistance Army.
"The (Sudanese) ministry also requested Uganda to send a fact-finding mission to Sudan, with US participation, to verify the fact that it is not true that there are any LRA camps within Sudanese territory, behind Sudan army lines," the statement added.
And they want an apology.

Zambia/Zimbabwe: Mwanawasa on Mugabe

Zam president Levy Mwanawasa's position on Mugabe ... no regime change from without.
“In the same manner as we would not want external parties to determine our political direction, Zimbabweans should be left alone to do what they is good for them,” Mr Mwanawasa said.
Mwanawasa had gone to the Commonwealth summit intent on championing Zim's desire to be let back into the fold.

Reuters interviewed him as he was leaving Abuja and has this story ... He is quoted as saying that the richer Commonwealth countries "bulldozed" Zim's continued suspension through.

Senegal: who's listening to the radical Islamists?

I was reading this article about Mamour Fall, a Senegalese imam who was recently deported from Italy for, among other things, going on about having a "blood pact" with Osama bin Laden ...

That story is just the lead in to breifly explore Islam in W. Africa. Incidentally, the piece concludes that al Qaeda brand Islam is unlikely to find root in the region.

Near the end of the piece, the reporter mentions that there had been reports of al Qaeda presence in Liberia .... that the head of the war crimes court in Sierra Leone has said he had proof.

I couldn't find mention of that last point ... but this year-old Washington Post article offers detailed allegations that the governments of Liberia and Burkina Faso "... hosted the senior terrorist operatives who oversaw a $20 million diamond-buying spree that effectively cornered the market on the region's precious stones."

Anyway, to the point ... this clearly isn't a huge relevation ... even if radical Islamists don't find a ready audience in W. Africa, they can still exploit the instability and the mineral resources of the region to fund their activities.

Study -- Islam not drag on economic growth/development

This was the conclusion of a study conducted by the Institute for International Economics.
Excluding the effects of oil production, which dominates the Islamic Middle East, or studying Muslim Arab countries separately made no difference to the results. Conventional economic fundamentals such as the level of education and the share of investment and government in the economy - which were found to be unrelated to the prevalence of Islam - mattered far more for economic success.

"If one is concerned about economic performance in predominantly Muslim regions or countries, conventional economic analysis may yield greater insight than the sociology of religion," the study says. (link)
If you're interested in reading the study for yourself ... click here.

At the risk of sounding holier-than-thou ... do you really need a study to prove this!

DRC: integration of fighting forces begins ...

It's a merger. About 600 men now constitute one unit ... they are former soldiers from the government, Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC).

At full strength, they will be a 3,700-strong brigade ... and are expected to reach that number by June.

A ceremony was held in Kisangani today to introduce the new unit ... witnessed by the DRC and Belgian defence ministers. Belgium will be training the soldiers who will be deployed in Ituri province within three months.

Zimbabwe: the morning after ...

The main Zim opposition group, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), characterized Mugabe's move as illegal because the decision to pull Zim out of the Commonwealth was taken without Cabinet approval.

This piece arguess that Mugabe's decision has dealt a blow to Mbeki's standing in the region. Mbeki has advocated a quiet approach to the Zim issue ... and it hasn't worked.

And where is Bob ... Mugabe is on his way to Geneva to attend the World Summit on the Information Society (which the folks at Daily Summit are going to be blogging from).

p.s. ... This piece from the Zimbabwe Standard argues that the MDC is "... losing its grip on the urban electorate giving the ruling party [ZANU-PF] leeway to rediscover itself in urban areas." (link via Head Heeb)

Sudan: amnesty and reconciliation

The government and SPLA/M have agreed on a general amnesty for all involved in the conflict ... and the SPLA/M will establish reconciliation committees in the south to deal with war crimes. The model for this is South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Egypt: equal right to guns

Eleven women MPs are demanding the right to carry arms like male MPs.

Cote d'Ivoire: youth group eyes taking over rebel held towns

Pro-government youth group leader Eugene Djue speaking at a ralley in Abidjan on Saturday.
"We're celebrating Christmas in Bouake. New Year's Eve in Korhogo. And New Year's Day in Man," shouted Djue, who claims his following is 100,000-strong. "The rebels have been warned ... the time for our final step has arrived!" (link)

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Sudan: SPLA/M wants other political parties involved in process

Yasser Arman, SPLA/M spokesperson, in an interview with Reuters, said they want all political parties in Sudan involved in the peace process.
"What we are attempting to achieve is to include the political forces in their entirety in the peace process and to hear their concerns and perceptions of it," Arman said.

The SPLA has held talks with opposition parties including the Popular National Congress lead by Islamist Hassan al-Turabi and the Umma party headed by ex-Prime Minister Sadeq al-Mahdi during the visit, Arman said.

They also met officials from the ruling National Congress party and southern groups from government controlled areas.
SPLA/M leader Garang has said that in a post-conflict Sudan, he wants to share power with President al-Beshir and other political leaders. The SPLA/M does co-operate with northern oppostion groups. Back in 1995, the SPLA/M joined forces with northern opposition groups to form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

---
Let's connect some dots ...

Recall that a few days ago, Sudanese VP Taha signed a peace deal with Mohammad Osman al-Mirghani, leader of the northern opposition group, Democratic Unionist Party(DUP).

And as detailed in this post, al-Mirghanai ALSO happens to be President of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Questioned about the peace deal, al-Mirghani said ... "All NDA factions, including the SPLA, have mandated me to sign the agreement."
---

Moving west ... SPLA/M spokesperson Arman also told Reuters that the SPLA/M is in touch with the Sudan Liberation Movement, one of the rebel groups active in Darfur, western Sudan.
Arman said resolving the revolt in the western province of Darfur was vital to safeguarding Sudan's unity.

"We consider the situation in Darfur to be a consequence and a manifestation of political, economic and cultural marginalisation and it must be resolved in the correct way," he said. (link)
With the US exerting its considerable influence, it really looks like the government and rebels can deliver a peace deal within weeks. A sign of hope ... SPLA/M delegates were in Khartoum this weekend, something that has never happened before. However ...
In contrast to optimism expressed at high levels on both sides, however, ground-level rebel military commanders remain dubious, while their civil counterparts warn of looming dangers should peace arrive. "We will not stop recruiting or training troops," said Magwek Gai, deputy commander of the Sudan People's Liberation Army for the Upper Nile region.

"The government wants to kill everyone in the south, so even with peace we must prepare for war." (link)
SPLA/M = Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement

Zimbabwe: QUITS Commonwealth

So Mugabe actually did it .... he pulled Zim out because the Commonwealth renewed its suspension.
"This is unacceptable. This is it. It (Zimbabwe) quits and quits it will be," President Robert Mugabe was quoted as saying in a statement released to AFP by the information ministry.

Cote d'Ivoire: rebels release 40 gov't soldiers

Ivory Coast's rebels released on Sunday 40 government soldiers and paramilitary gendarmes who had been prisoners for more than a year, in line with an agreement reached last week to revive a shaky peace process.

The 40 prisoners, freed in the rebel strongholds of Bouake and Korhogo, were brought back to the main city Abidjan aboard a French military plane, witnesses said. (link)
The rebels say these 40 were all the soldiers they've been holding. As for the government, it says it released all rebel detainees earlier this year ... rebels say gov't still has one of theirs.

Cote d'Ivoire: PM meets with rebels on their turf

On Saturday, Prime Minister Seydou Diarra held talks in Bouake with MPCI leader Guillaume Soro. No word if they've settled the disarmament issue ... but it's a meeting!

Check these two past posts (here and here) for more on the current status of the conflict ....

Burundi: FDD rebel apologizes to the people

FDD rebel leaders have been arriving in Burundi to take up their positions in the new power-sharing government. Yesterday, FDD leader Pierre Nkurunziza issued the following apology.
"We take this opportunity to ask forgiveness from the people of Burundi for all the harm we have done to them because of a war that was forced on us," he told a news conference.

"For our part, we forgive those who imposed this war on us," he added.
Check this post for the more on the FNL, the other Hutu rebel group which is still fighting ...

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

Liberia: tiny hitch as disarmament begins

About 1,000 fighters handed in their weapons to UN peacekeepers and headed off to disarmament camps ... 39,000 more fighters left to disarm.

According to Reuters, some fighters were disappointed to learn they wouldn't get $300 up front for handing in their guns ... and they went back home, guns in hand. They receive the first $150 at the end of the three-week demobilization program ... and the balance once they were living in their communities for three months.

And this other thing ...
The chief of staff of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), the biggest rebel group, said his fighters could not disarm because peacekeepers had yet to deploy to the rebel base of Tubmanburg.

"Who will we disarm to?" Mohammed Sheriff asked on Saturday.

"We don't know exactly what benefits the fighters will get."

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Zimbabwe: pre-summit "criticism" from an Southern Africa leader

This is a few days old ... meh ...

New Zimbabwe and News 24 went high with this detail ... an African leader "criticized" Mugabe.
"My brother, comrade Mugabe, and his Zanu-PF must realise the world is changing in the direction of democracy. Laws that don't benefit the people should be scrapped." -- Bakili Muluzi, President of Malawi
President Muluzi delivered that comment shortly before leaving for the Commonwealth summit in Abuja. However, he also doesn't think Zimbabwe should be isolated from the international community.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe not quitting office ... plus, "warns" MDC

Mugabe gave a speech at the ZANU-PF party congress ... says he's sticking around till his term ends in 2008 ....
"If I feel I cannot do it (govern) anymore, I'll come to you in an honourable way and say, 'Ah no. I think I've now come to a stage where I need a rest.' I'll tell you that.

"I haven't told you that, have I?" he told the jubilant crowd of supporters. (link)
And the other thing he said ...
"I want to thank you for affirming the leadership and for sending a message to those among us who might think time for a leadership change has come." (link)
Mugabe also issued a warning to the oppositon group, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)...
"If they (the MDC) want to violate the laws of the country, we can unleash legal force and legal violence, which we are permitted to do." (link)
And ... ZANU-PF passed a resolution calling for Zim to pull out of the Commonwealth.

Yesterday's post ...

Cote d'Ivoire: disarmament not so certain

Thursday, news was rebels would disarm ...
On Friday, however, rebel spokesman Antoine Beugre said there was no disarmament deal.

``It's not been decided,'' Beugre said, saying top rebel leaders had not been present at the talks. The rebel leaders would have to review the pact before making a final decision on it, he said.

At least one of the meeting's announcements was implemented Friday, however, as government and rebel forces began to pull troops back from their positions along the north-south buffer zone separating the two sides, according to Ivory Coast and French army officials. (link)
There's a bit more from the BBC ...
Rebel spokesman Sidiki Konate told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that under the terms of the peace deal signed in January, which set up the national unity government, both sides must disarm at the same time. (link)

Friday, December 05, 2003

Sudan: more on peace accord w/ northern oppossition

There's now more on that peace deal (see yesterday's post) signed between Sudanese VP Taha and Mohammad Osman al-Mirghani, head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ...

Note that al-Mirghani is also President of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an umbrella group of northnern and southern opposition groups (including the SPLA/M) founded back in 1995.

So why do I bring all this up ... well, check this ...
"All NDA factions, including the SPLA, have mandated me to sign the agreement," he [Mirghani] said. (link)
And the article has a bit more on what the deal contains ...
According to a copy of the agreement obtained by AFP, the two sides said the deal "emanates from our conviction that war does not resolve existing differences, and our will to reach a comprehensive political settlement and to achieve a national consensus to consolidate the peace process."

The text said they support the peace process in Kenya and the "points of agreement that stipulate the unity of Sudan, the right to self-determination and the relationship between religion and state."

... It said the "the regime in Sudan must be democratic, multiparty, and presidential, and guaranteeing the peaceful change of power through free elections."

Libya: EU offering a way in from the cold

Tunis -- today -- at the opening ceremony of the Maghreb-European meeting, European Commission President, Romano Prodi, made the following appeal to Libya's Ghaddafi ...
"One has to finish clearing up the past in a thorough and fair manner..."

... "Mr Colonel, my dear friend, Europe looks to you with hope, Europe extends its hand, and I am sure you will know how to accept it. We are ready," ... (link)
Libya began "clearing the past" a few months ago by paying compensation to the families of the Lockerbie bombing. On Tuesday, Libyan negotiators walked out of talks held to re-negotiate the amount paid to the families of those who died in UTA Flight 772 over Niger. (They thought they had a deal back in September ... see here ... and then, there was a hitch, possibly because of this.)

I thought this was interesting ...
During the numerous speeches, Gaddafi apparently snubbed French President Jacques Chirac when he did not applaud him for his speech. (link)
The two-day meeting in Tunis brings together the leaders of the Mediterranean countries ... Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia ... and from Europe -- France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe don't need CHOGM ... he's got his own convention!

For news related to Zim & the Commonwealth meeting, visit the folks over at Daily Summit ... they got that issue covered!

Now for Mugabe's own party ...

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party today began its three-day party congress. (Note: other news sources say "two-day".) The theme ... "Total Land Use For Economic Turnaround And Prosperity".
Despite the harsh economic environment prevailing in the country, nearly [Zim] $1,3 billion was raised for the conference.
According to party officials, a leadership review is definitely not on the agenda.
"The issue of who will succeed President Mugabe, and how, cannot be a matter for discussion at the conference. That will only arise at [next year's] congress, where leaders, from the president of the party on downwards, will be elected.

"If there are people who wish succession to dominate the agenda, we are yet to find out how they will do it," said Zanu-PF information and publicity chief Nathan Shamuyarira.
During the summer, there was a rumour that Mugabe would step down during this congress (see this post). Dumisani Muleya has more on the rumour in today's Independent (Zim).
As reported in the Zimbabwe Independent in July, the plan, which Mbeki was understood to have sold to American President George Bush when he visited South Africa in July, was that President Robert Mugabe would relinquish his party's leadership during the conference.

... Although Mbeki has denied promising Bush that Mugabe was on his way out, he has insisted there will be "leadership renewal" in Harare before mid next year.

... If Mugabe clings to power until December next year, his succession crisis, which has deeply divided the party along factional lines, could end up becoming a catalyst for disintegration.
Here is something ... Financial Gazette (Zim) says that Mugabe might surprise everybody by announcing his retirement plans during two closed-door sessions ... the reporter says he has it from "impeccable party sources".

Sudan: SPLA/M deligates welcomed in Khartoum

Thousands of people, mainly southerners living in Khartoum, gathered near the airport to welcome the delegation of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) coming from Libya, Agence France-Presse [reported].

"Welcome new Sudan," they cheered in English.

... Before meeting the delegation, Sudanese President Omar Bashir said “this puts an end to the war prevailing in southern areas for 20 years”. (link)
Another description of the scene from Declan Walsh writing for the Independent (UK) ...
Thousands of cheering supporters thronged outside the airport, waving banners, singing, "Down with the Old Sudan" and brandishing posters of the rebel leader, John Garang. Most came from the squalid camps on the edge of Khartoum that house most of the city's southern population. Forced from their homes by war, they say they are treated like second-class citizens by Arab northerners. Standing opposite a camouflaged truck full of riot police, some supporters defiantly waved flags of "New Sudan", an entity declared by the rebels during the bitter conflict that has claimed more than two million lives since 1983. But many were furious when government officials directed the rebel convoy away from the main crowd and down a road leading from the airport. (link)

Uganda: radio report on LRA and its "philosophy"

On today's Morning Edition, reporter Jason Beaubien filed a report on the Lord's Resistance Army and its origins ... go here and scroll down to "Northern Uganda Wracked by Long Civil War".

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Zimbabwe: running out of food?

"By the end of January there will be no maize in the country either from GMB (the state-run Grain Marketing Board) or from the donors." -- Renson Gasela, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) shadow agriculture minister.

According to Gasela, Zim faces a shortfall of close to one-million tons of maize.

Full story here ...

Sudan: one more peace accord ... and other stuff

Today in Jeddah, Sudanese VP Ali Osman Taha signed a peace accord with Mohammed Osman al-Mirghani, leader of the northern opposition group, Democratic Unionist Party.
Mirghani, who lives in exile in Cairo and Asmara, had recently warned that his party's exclusion from the government's peace talks with the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) augured badly for peace prospects.

SPLA leader John Garang told AFP on Wednesday that he wants to share power not only with President Omar al-Beshir but with other political leaders once the ongoing peace process brings an end to the 20-year civil war.

He had met in Cairo in May with Mirghani and Sadeq al-Mahdi, head of the Umma Party, the other main northern opposition party. (link)
Now to the west and the conflict in Darfur ... the rebel group, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) want separate talks with the government, in the presence of international observers. They refuse to join the talks in Chad (proposed for Dec 10) between the government and the other western rebel group, Sudan Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/M). JEM's spokesperson accuses Chad of being biased towards Khartoum.

As for SLA/M and the gov't ... the ceasfire negotiated between them in Chad in September has crumbled ... and SLA/M don't want to attend any more talks unless they get "some points" settled.
The Darfur conflict has escalated since early November with an upsurge in Arab militia activity, which has left western Darfur largely inaccessible. Amnesty International says there is "compelling evidence" of government involvement in the attacks, charges which the government denies.

Observers say the government may have lost control over the militias to varying degrees.
Oh yes ... the government is going to receive SPLA/M delegate in Khartoum on Friday, for the first time ever ...
[SPLA/M spokesperosn Yassir] Arman told the independent newspaper Akhbar Al Youm that the delegation also seeks to transform the SPLM into a mass political movement that covers all regions of Sudan.

... In Khartoum, SPLA representatives launched a media campaign Wednesday, holding their first press conference here since the war broke out.

Ramadan Mohamed Abdullah, a Khartoum resident who identified himself as SPLM spokesman, said his movement had operated here clandestinely for years, with members risking arrest, but could now go public because of progress toward peace.

He said the delegation would meet Beshir and other NCP officials as well as leaders of the opposition Umma, Democratic Unionist, Popular Congress and other partries in addition to heads of the civil society groups.