Friday, January 30, 2004

Ethiopia/Eritrea: new UN envoy appointed

Lloyd Axworthy, a former Canadian foreign affairs minister, has been appointed special UN envoy to Ethiopia and Eritrea, charged with finding some way to resolve the border dispute.
Axworthy's appointment was decided early in December but not made final after opposition from Eritrea, which does not want further talks on the disputed border between the two countries, and some grumbling from the U.N. mission in the region, diplomats said.
Here is a brief backgrounder on the dispute.

Benin: corruption probe nets judges

The government of Benin has put on trial 27 of its own judges on charges of embezzling millions of dollars of state funds.

They form part of a group of 99 court and finance ministry officials charged with illegally pocketing more than US$15 million of state funds over a period of four years.

Uganda: LRA is ICC's first investigation

The International Criminal Court announced yesterday that the court's first investigation would target the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

From the ICC's press release ...
The Prosecutor will work with Ugandan authorities, other states and international organisations in gathering the necessary information to make this determination [that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation].
So ... once they determine there is reasonable basis for an investigation, they can then investigate. Then the prosecutor can seek an arrest warrant.

And considering that the government of Uganda has announced its intention not to extend the amnesty to the LRA's leadership, there will be people for the ICC to arrest and put on trial.

Back in September, it had seemed that the situation in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be the first case tackled by the ICC. However, the government in Kinshasa didn't officially refer the case to the Court which meant that the prosecutor couldn't pursue it.

In Uganda's case, President Museveni has asked the ICC to investigate the LRA.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Sudan: Taha goes on Hajj -- are the talks in trouble?

Eric Reeves, a professor of English at Smith College offers a round-up of the events surrounding VP Taha's decision to go on the Hajj ... and the status of the negotiations on the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions.

Reeves argues that Taha's decision to go on the Hajj is part of Khartoum's effort to scupper the talks.

Note that Reeves has long been involved in the protest against oil companies operating in Sudan who have been accused of being complicit in rights abuses.

Here is one of the last posts on Sudan.

Somalia: peace?

The various Somali factions (not including Somaliland) have signed a peace deal -- Transitional Federal Charter.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka [the mediator] is quoted as saying on Thursday that there would be a functional government in Somalia within a month. (link)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Africa is a continent

Check out this opinion piece by Marian Tupy of the Cato Institute. The piece is titled "What's Wrong with Africa?"


When I first saw the title, I was amused. I get a kick out of reading pieces that purport to explain/critique Africa. Besides, writers rarely gets to pick the title for their pieces -- so I was willing to give Tupy a chance.

As you may have noticed, I don't opine much on this blog. But I cannot let this piece go by without comment.

1. South Africa is not Africa and neither is the situation there "illustrative of Africa".

2.** I can agree that $16 billion to upgrade the military is a lot of money ... and that SA "faces no foreign threat" ... and that Mbeki would most likely commit a souped-up military to peacekeeping missions on the continent .

Given all that, I wholly reject Tupy's assertion that committing SA's military to peacekeeping is "misguided foreign policy". In fact, it could be the exact opposite. Good lord! Just look at the countries wracked by civil war and the effect those wars have on the region and the continent as a whole. Calculate the cost of displaced people, disease, hunger, capital flight, pillaged resources .... It is in everybody's best interest to end these wars.

3. Daniel Arap Moi was a corrupt dictator. And Moi is unlikely to face justice for plundering the country while he was in power. However, the glass isn't half empty. The fact is, Moi stepped down. He didn't have to. He could have kept on and died in office, after placing an heir in power. As things stand, the man he annoited to succeed him, Uhuru Kenyatta, isn't the one in State House now.

Understand that I am not defending Moi. I just dislike statements that gloss over or simplify a layered situation.

4. Charles Taylor. Nigeria gave him sanctuary and Obasanjo seems willing to protect him from bounty hunters and others who might want to harm him. Tupy characterizes this as an example of African leaders abetting their deposed, corrupt cronies.

Again, things aren't that simple. Just think back to this past summer and the drama surrounding Taylor's decision to step down. For a while there, people weren't sure that he would step down. Then there was genuine fear that he would step down and go back to the bush to continue fighting. I recall that there was perceptible relief when Nigeria decided to give him sanctuary because that got him out of the way.

5. Zambia is not the only country to prosecute a corrupt former leader (Chiluba). I offer Mengistu Haile Mariam, the former dictator of Ethiopia, as an example .... mainly because Tupy offers him as another example of how an African leader (Mugabe) abetts a deposed crony by giving him asylum.

The Ethiopian government has put Mengistu on trial in absentia on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

I did agree with Tupy about one thing. Mobutu, Sani Abacha, Mugabe ... the list of corrupt leaders is long.

I was trying to find something positive to say.

** I cannot for the life of me find any mention of the $16 billion (100 billion rand) Tupy says the ANC has pledged to spend to upgrade South Africa's military. I have checked the ANC's website, news search engines (the free ones), and other resource sites. Any ideas?

The only story that relates to spending on that scale ... the ANC has pledged to spend 100 billion rand on infrastructure improvement projects.

Nigeria: peacekeeping missiles!

And why does Nigeria need ballistic missiles?
[Nigerian VP's spokesperson Onukaba] Ojo said that missiles would add to Nigeria's defensive capabilities.

"Nigeria has a very formidable military ... I'm sure it's not out of place to want to fortify ourselves. Nigeria is not a belligerent nation, we don't make wars," he said.

"Anything we do is for the defence of our country and peacekeeping in west Africa," he said.
The Reuters story says Nigeria already has missiles.
A Western diplomatic source said Nigeria already had a supply of Soviet surface-to-air missiles, but that they were in a poor state of repair.
I have not found mention of Nigeria's existing stock anywhere else. However, Nuclear Threat Initiative compiles news items related to the weapons trade. Check out the story summarized on Jan 15, 2002.
Iran and Nigeria express interest in establishing weapons deals, which could include the sale of missiles. An Iranian official said that Iran has "developed an array of missile systems that have been tested and acknowledged for their strength...We would like to cooperate in this regard with our brother Nigeria." On 6 January, however, former president and head of Iran's Expediency Council Hashemi Rafsanjani said, "Iran does not sell weapons and is not interested in arms sales." Nigeria's Defense Minister Theophilous Danjuma had previously indicated that Nigeria would buy weapons from Iran if the prices were appropriate.
This Federation of American Scientists report from 2000 on the proliferation of missile technology does not have Nigeria on the list either. Note the data is five years old ... also note that DRC is thought to have missiles, sold to it by Iran.

It is unlikely that Nigeria has nuclear ambitions.
Some sources suggest that Nigeria had nuclear weapons intentions at one time, but these claims are un-substantiated.
Nigerian VP's spokesperson Onukaba Ojo ...
"I'm sure that Nigeria is not dreaming of nuclear weapons at all, just missile technology," he said, adding that a "multi-use foundry" also discussed at Tuesday's meeting would be for civilian use. (link)
In 2002, Nigeria also signed the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation
Recognition of the need comprehensively to prevent and curb the proliferation of Ballistic Missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction ....
And check out the coverage, in the Nigerian media, of VP Atiku's meeting with his DPRK counterpart.
... Atiku Abubakar on Tuesday reiterated Nigeria’s desire for a peaceful world devoid of constant threat of nuclear war.

... Atiku said Nigeria understood the antecedents of North Korea’s nuclear programme and expressed Nigeria’s wish for a peaceful use of such programme. (link)

Nigeria/North Korea: missile deal

There doesn't appear to be a missile deal between Nigeria and North Korea.

There is still some confusion ... so I offer this quick round-up of stories.

Reuters carried this story quoting Onukaba Ojo, the Nigerian VP's spokesperson.
A memorandum of understanding is being discussed between Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his North Korean counterpart, Yang Hyong-sop, who is on a five-day visit to the West African country.

"They have made a lot of offers including training of army personnel, defense cooperation and missile technology, but definitely nothing to do with nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction," said Onukaba Ojo ....
Later, this clarification
Spokesman Onu Kaba Ojo -- who had earlier told AFP that Atiku had met the North Korean delegation to discuss buying missiles -- said that he had since discussed the matter with Nigerian defence officials and found that the suggestion [about a memorandum on missiles] had come from North Korea.
There's more in this AFP story.
"They came to us wanting a memorandum of understanding signed with us towards developing missile technology, and training and manufacture of ammunition," said a spokesman for Nigeria's Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

"They were just trying to get us interested. There hasn't been any interest shown on our side," Onu Kaba Ojo said.

A statement issued by Atiku's office after the meeting said: "He assured that government would continue to co-operate with the Korean government in the defence sector, an area in which both Nigeria and North Korea have co-operated over the years."
Then there is this story in Newsday. Despite the fact that the story was published late this afternoon, the Associated Press still leads by saying that Nigeria and DPRK have a deal. However, there is this nut in the middle of the story.
Ojo initially said both sides were committed to the deal, but later called back AP to say that "nothing was written in stone."

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Liberia: a challenge thwarted?

Yesterday, the leaders of LURD and MODEL called on Gyude Bryant to step down, accusing him of being "biased, inadequate and inept." The statement was issued by Sekou Damate Conneh (LURD) and Thomas Nimely-Yaya (MODEL).

Today, MODEL backtracked on the statement, as did a dissident faction within LURD.

Recall that a number of LURD commanders are trying to have Conneh's wife replace him as leader.

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

Ghana: woman imprisoned for performing female circumcision

The 70-year-old woman was sentenced to five years in prison.

The legal system is certainly one way to challenge this tradition. But to my mind, the more interesting effort was one tried in Kenya. This article is a few years old ... it talks about how a women's NGO in Kenya introduced an alternative rite of passage for girls, "Circumcision Through Words".
It uses a week-long program of counseling, capped by community celebration and affirmation, in place of the widely criticized practice also known as female genital mutilation (FGM).
I'm not sure if the Kenya project is still going on but the core of the strategy makes sense to me. It recognizes the need/desire for a rite of passage and creates something to replace the damaging tradition.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Uganda: rebel amnesty extended

Uganda has extended the amnesty offer for another three months.
"We have information that there is a big group [of Lords Resistance Army soldiers] heading for Uganda from southern Sudan to surrender, so there is still use for the amnesty," [Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana] Rugunda told Reuters in an interview. "We are extending it for three months, which should be enough for anybody else wishing to surrender."
Cabinet is expected to pass an amendment to the amnesty law which would exclude rebel leaders.

Note the second graf of the story ... Allied Democratic Force (ADF) in western Uganda and the Uganda National Resistance Force II (UNRF-II) have given up their rebellions and taken advantage of the amnesty offer. I believe this leaves the Lord's Resistance Army as the only (major?) rebellion in the country.

UPDATE: The government had initially decided to extend the amnesty for six months. However, a week later, the government had reduced it to three months.
Father Carlos Rodriguez of the Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative (ARLPI), a group trying to initiate dialogue to end the war, criticised the government decision. ...

"And you cannot pass a six-month extension of an amnesty and then confuse them by saying they have only three," he added.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe ill?

According to the Daily Telegraph, Mugabe was flown to South Africa for medical treatment on Saturday after suffering a "violent vomiting fit" the day before. (The DT quotes a member of Mugabe's entourage.)
His collapse followed a similar bout of illness three months ago, for which he was also treated in South Africa. Last night, road blocks were set up around Harare, manned by riot police and soldiers to dispel any mass protests. Reinforcements from police, army and militia outside the capital were drafted into Harare to shore up the regime.
The governments of Zimbabwe and South Africa issued statements denying that Mugabe is ill, claiming instead that he was in SA on a "private visit".

I like this quote ...
"The President is as fit as none of his detractors can ever hope to be in their lifetime," thundered [Zim] Secretary for Information and Publicity in the Office of the President and Cabinet George Charamba. (link)

Somalia: promising signs

The parties involved in the Somali peace talks have agreed on the formation of a parliament that will elect a national president ... agreement said to be signed on Wednesday. This time, everybody (minus Somaliland) is involved.

More on the deal here.

Sudan: talks in Kenya break for Hajj

The rumours were right ... the negotiations in Kenya have been postponed until February 17 to allow VP Taha and others in the government delegation to go on the Hajj.
"Khartoum has resorted to delaying tactics when a final deal is within grasp," AFP quotes an unnamed SPLA official as saying.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Egypt: cotton harvest

Fascinating overview of the Egyptian cotton industry. This year's cotton harvest is the lowest in 20 years because farmers switched to other commodities due to the low price of cotton (minimum price is set by the state).
Up until a few years ago, the government required farmers to set aside a third of their crop space for cotton. But today, they are free to grow what they want, says El-Giar.

Meanwhile, the amount of land devoted to cotton cultivation has shrunk from 2 million acres in decades past to less than 750,000 acres today. New mills, seeds, technology, and insecticides have helped maintain similar yields, but the lack of government quotas have made production levels unpredictable.

Cote d'Ivoire: a year later

Linas-Marcoussis peace agreement was signed a year ago yesterday. IRIN has a report on how the country is doing.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

DRC: did they or didn't they?

De Beers, Oryx Natural Resources, Avient Air and Das Air were last year named in a UN report which claimed that the companies' activities may have helped to fund the war in the Republic that has claimed the lives of 2.5 million people.

... However, the British Government has claimed that there is insufficient evidence contained in the report to enable it to take action against the companies for alleged breaches of the business ethics set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The UN maintained that it has further evidence to back up its claims but has so far failed to pass this on. (full-text)
More on the report in this post from December.

Libya: Britain to train Libyan forces

Britain is planning to send troops to Libya to train Col Gaddafi's armed forces and take part in joint military exercises, the latest evidence of a remarkable thaw in relations between the countries.

Ministry of Defence officials and Army officers have just completed a secret visit to Libya, the Telegraph has learned. The Libyans had initially asked Britain to supply sophisticated missile systems as a "reward" for abandoning weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes but the request was rejected, not least because Tripoli is still subject to a European Union arms embargo.

... The British reassured Libyan military chiefs that their country's security would not be undermined by Col Gaddafi's offer to surrender his WMD.

... military assistance could begin later this year, officials said, if Libya continues to co-operate on WMD. (full-text)

Morocco: law increasing women's rights passed

The Senate (Chamber of Counselors?) has passed a law which protects women's rights. This is the final hurdle in the legislative branch.

Some of the changes ...
- age of marriage for girls increased from 15 to 18
- makes it easier for women to sue for divorce
- right of women to gain custody of their children
- gives women rights to property jointly gained during marriage
- allows for a pre-nuptial agreement forbidding husbands from taking another wife

But ...
Critics ... [have] pointed out that, with 85% illiteracy among women in rural areas, many would never find out about their new rights.
The campaign to change the law was attacked by conservative elements for being "un-Islamic" and an attempt to Westernize Moroccan culture.
Mohamed VI, who made this issue [the new law] a priority when he reached the throne in 1999, decided to step in, leveraging his status as the country's supreme religious authority. An advisory commission composed of religious theorists, academics, and women activists was later set up to propose a revised, Islam-derived reform.

Sudan: negotiators to break?

It's all about Sudan today!

Sudanese VP and chief government negotiator Taha may be going on the Hajj which means that the Kenya talks may break at the end of the month. The SPLA/M negotiators say they are not aware of any break and say they are willing to continue with the talks until they reach an agreement.

The two parties were supposed to have reached a final agreement by the end of 2003 ... then there was word/speculation that agreement was due within weeks, either January or February.

The story on carries a quote from the Kenyan chief mediator to the peace talks, Lazaro Sumbeiywo.
Sambyou said that there are two "camps in Sudan.. those who want to reach an agreement and those who do not.. that allegation saying he is [Taha] going for pilgrims might have come from those who stand against the agreement."

Sudan: fighting in Darfur

Sudan VP Ali Osman Taha met yesterday with Ahmed Ibrahim Draij, exiled leader of the Darfur opposition group, the Federal Alliance Party. Draij promised to use his considerable influence to bring an end to the fighting which has forced tens of thousands to flee the region.
Draij, who was a governor of Darfur in the 1970s before falling out with then president Jaafar Nimeiri and going into exile, said the Darfur "problem is of economic and political roots and should therefore be resolved politically.

"Fighting should be halted immediately and the two parties should agree on resuming the negotiation," said Draij, a Fur tribesman who is said to be influential among his big tribe and other Darfurians.
Last week, the Darfur rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), forged an alliance with an eastern rebel group, the Beja Congress. The Beja don't have a very large fighting force but they do have many grievances, especially since they were left out of the talks in Kenya. Here's what Ali al-Safi, member of the Central Committee of the Beja Congress, told IRIN ...
"It was quiet [in the east], because people were expecting to be included in the Naivasha [Kenya peace] talks," he said. "But from now it will not be quiet. One can expect an escalation of fighting in the east, because the government is seeking a partial solution [to Sudan's problems] with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army [SPLM/A]."
In related news ... the Sudanese government may suspect Libya of supporting the Darfur rebels. (Note: Claim is attributed to an unnamed source and the story first appeared on the Sudanese opposition Democratic Unionist Party website.) The government has accused Eritrea of actively supporting the Darfur rebels as well.

Sudan: some agreement on two of the three disputed regions

It appears that there may be agreement on the status of two of the disputed regions. The Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions will be granted autonomy for six years, followed by a referendum. This agreement is only in principle and nothing has been committed to paper yet. The status of the oil-rich Abyei region is still being negotiated.
... the SPLA wants Abyei to be included within the territory of Bahr-el-Ghazal, which it controls. The government wants to administer Abyei through the office of the president. (link)
Earlier this week, Sudan's Energy Minister, Awad Ahmed El-Gaz, told a Paris news conference that control of Abyei would be shared by President Omar al-Beshir and SPLA leader John Garang "as he will be vice president".

All of this is a surprise as President al-Beshir had said the negotiators in Kenya do not have the mandate to address the issue of the three regions.

In a related story ... SPLA/M has begun demobilizing child soldiers from the western Upper Nile region. UNICEF estimates it has helped demobilize about 12,000 SPLA/M children since late 2001.
It added, however, that about 2,500 children would "for the time being" remain in the SPLA even after the western Upper Nile demobilisations were complete, many of them in areas that remained insecure.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Chad: upstanding ambassador

Chad's ambassador to the US, Ahmat Soubiane Hassaballah, wrote a letter criticizing Prez Idriss Deby's desire to scrap presidential term limits ... the letter was leaked and Hassaballah is profiled in the Washington Post.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Burundi: Prez meets with rebels

President Domitien Ndayizeye and FNL leaders met in the Netherlands.
Having long dismissed Ndayizeye as a lackey of a Tutsi elite it [FNL] says holds the real power in Burundi, the FNL has now taken to calling him "the father of the nation."
FNL = Forces nationales de liberation

For more, go here.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Sudan: peace and the disputed areas

South Sudanese rebels ... said yesterday there could be no final peace agreement until the status of three disputed areas was resolved.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir said on Tuesday the Kenya-hosted peace talks were not mandated to discuss the three disputed areas - Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and Abyei, potentially raising a major obstacle to a peace deal.

But [SPLA/M spokesman] Yasir Arman ... said talks on the disputed areas were continuing in Kenya and a resolution was essential. "There will be no (final) agreement unless there is a full agreement on the three areas," Arman said by telephone. (link)
Here is a bit more on the disputed areas.

Zimbabwe: ZANU-PF split

Hmmm ...
... an anti-corruption crackdown that began this week with the arrest of [Mugabe's] relative and top crony Philip Chiyangwa .... has split his party between the old guard, led by Mugabe, and the so-called Young Turks, who believe Mugabe is trying to victimise them because he suspects they are plotting against him.

...Mugabe this week said he had helped young men establish banks and accumulate different forms of wealth, but he accused them of having become corrupt and resorting to sabotaging his government and the economy in pursuit of wealth. He said he would no longer tolerate any corruption.

Friday, January 16, 2004

African food appeal 'exaggerated'

Some of Britain's leading international charities who tried to help southern Africa avoid a food crisis in 2002-03 overstated the seriousness of the situation to the public, failed to consult the people they were trying to help and did not listen to people's needs, according to an independent evaluation of the year-long emergency ... (link)
Here is the full-text of the audit conducted by Valid Internaional. And here is the response from the aid agencies.

From what I've read thus far, the report strikes me as being more nuanced (not as damning) as the newspaper reports would have one believe.

Here is a bit from the executive summary ....
The Southern Africa Crisis Appeal was a new departure for the Disasters Emergency Committee. Here for the first time was an appeal that was intended to prevent a humanitarian crisis rather than respond to one. This led to a response that was a mixture of traditional relief activities together with activities that were more akin to rehabilitation or traditional development.

... One of the biggest problems was that the DEC agencies, like the rest of the humanitarian community, lacked a conceptual model for dealing with the crisis. The crisis was overstated in terms of the threat of famine, but at the same time the chronic roots of the crisis were understated. While internal agency analysis was often more sophisticated and nuanced than the message presented to the media, even this did not capture the whole picture. The lack of an appropriate conceptual model led to some inappropriate responses.

Sudan: govt forces camps closed

The government wants to relocate refugees from the Darfur conflict to another camp ... but according to MSF ...
The new camp is in an area considered unsafe and where the assistance in place is insufficient for this already vulnerable population. Some 10,000 people had been living in the camps until now.

... This morning, when Sudanese police and other authorities arrived, the camps were up to 90% empty, the population having already fled. MSF teams were prevented from distributing drinking water to the people who remained. For the second consecutive day, some malnourished children have not been able to receive the vital care their condition demands. (full-text)
Thanks to Gord-oh for the link.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

cost of HIV/AIDS testing to go down

Bill Clinton has brokered a deal with five medical technology companies which will lower the cost of HIV/AIDS tests.
Company executives said they hoped to make up for lower profits with higher sales volume.
That statement just sounds wrong.

The companies are -- Bayer HealthCare ... Beckman Coulter ... Becton, Dickinson & Co. ... bioMerieux ... Roche Diagnostics

Liberia: fighting corruption ...

Lawmakers identify low pay as contributing to corruption ... settle on L$4,000 minimum as salary for civil servants.
Civil servents' salary, they observed, is so low that it cannot buy them a bag of rice, pay their children's school fees and at the same time cater to their spouses.

Sudan/Eritrea: detentions and accusations

On Tuesday, Sudan closed down Eritrean community centres and detained a few Eritrean nationals.

Relations between Sudan and Eritrea have been growing worse in recent months.

At tripartite talks held late last month, the leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia, and Yemen characterized Eritrea as a destabilising force in the region. Sudan accuses Eritrea of training & arming the Darfur rebels and last week complained to the UN Security Council about this very issue.
He [Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail] did not say why he thought Eritrea, which borders the northeastern corner of Sudan, would want to prolong the conflict in the south or how it was transporting arms to the west.

The border between the two has been closed since October 2002, when Sudan accused Eritrea of backing rebels on its territory. Eritrea later accused Sudan of backing Islamic insurgents in western Eritrea.
Eritrea calls Sudan's accusations baseless and said Sudan is using it as a scapegoat.

Nigeria: they were students

A bloody uprising to create a Taliban-style state in Africa's most populous nation appears an isolated rebellion launched by a cleric-led, Afghan-inspired, bloc of university students using family wealth, not al-Qaeda funding, authorities and captured fighters have told correspondents.

...Police said the students included children of top northern government officials.

... The students called themselves Al Sunna wal Jamma, Arabic for Followers of the Prophet's Teaching.

Investigators do have one key question, the official said: Where, and how, did university students learn how to handle arms? (full-text)

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Cote d'Ivoire: trouble again?

There may be trouble in paradise.

The New Forces rebel group(s) returned to the power sharing transitional grovernment a week ago ... and now a report that they have disagreed with President Gbagbo over the necessity of referendums on new land ownership and national identity laws.
While recognising the constitutional right of the president directly to petition the public on matters of state, the former rebels have said "putting these questions to a referendum runs the risk of blocking the implementation of the peace accords"
The BBC story has a more provocative quote from Guillaume Soro of the New Forces.
"We think that a good re-reading of the...[peace accord] will lead all Ivorian political actors to agree that there cannot be several referendums," he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.
If you have time and are so inclined, you can read through the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and see which of them is in the right.

For more on the land ownership and national identity laws, go here.

Vatican: a crack in the facade?

[Godfried Danneels] A Belgian cardinal who is among the leading candidates to succeed Pope John Paul yesterday broke the Roman Catholic church's taboo on the use of condoms, declaring that, in certain circumstances, they should be used to prevent the spread of Aids. .... [though he] was careful to say he preferred abstinence as a means of prevention.

... His comments were a further sign that the ailing pope may be losing some grip on the more liberal wing of his immense church. Shortly after being named a "prince of the church" last September, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland said that the ban on contraception should be debated, along with such issues as priestly celibacy and homosexual clergy. (full-text)
emphasis added

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Libya: compensation for Libyan Jews?

... in comments published Tuesday [Jan 6?], Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi is quoted as saying he is ready to compensate Libyan Jews whose properties were confiscated. He also said he is prepared to allow Libyans to travel to Israel, according to Arab press reports.(full-text)
And in today's Sunday Telegraph, a report that Libyan Jews are ready to launch £100 million compensation claim.
Now Libyan Jewish leaders hope that their chance of compensation will not be undermined by the row that broke out within the Israeli government after news emerged of a secret meeting between Israeli foreign ministry officials and Col Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam.

The offices of Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, and Silvan Shalom, the foreign minister, are at loggerheads, with the latter accusing "hardliners" from Mr Sharon's entourage of attempting to sabotage the initiative by leaking details. That prompted Libyan officials to deny that any meeting took place.

From that al-Bawaba article linked above, we also get the following intriguing claim ...
Speaking to members of the Popular Committe for Public Security and Justice, Kadhafi denied the existence of political prisoners in Libyan jails. He offered any international body for human rights access to Libyan prisons in order to verify this issue.
Somebody should take him up on it.

Kenya: al-Qaeda present in coastal communities?

According to this, al-Qaeda operatives have insinuated themselves into many communities along Kenya's Indian Ocean coast. The report quotes "US officials".

The following from US Marine Brigadier General Martin Robeson, commander of the regional US-led anti-terror task force based in Djibouti.
"We know for a fact of young al-Qaeda operatives who've moved into areas, put large sums of money on the table to marry local girls, purely and simply to establish a bloodline and a financial obligation they seek to turn into a guarantee of a safe place to live," he said.

Iraq: black Iraqis

I've been waiting for somebody to do this story on the black community in Iraq (descendants of Africans brought over as slaves).

The writer, Theola Labbe, will be available for an online chat tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Kenya: the president's two wives

President Kibaki has two wives ... with his first wife, Lucy Kibaki, serving as the "first lady" ....

About a month back, the NY Times even had this story that talked about how discreetly the Kibaki clan handles the whole two wives thing ...

Well, it's discreet no longer ...

Trouble began when at a New Year's celebration, a senior government minister referred to Lucy Kibaki as "second lady" ... insulted, she stomed off. And thus began the drama of the two wives ...

Here is a good rundown of the whole saga ... including mention of the statement released by State House saying that the President's immediate family is limited to Lucy Kibaki and her four children.

... and Kibaki's family coming to the defence of Mary Wambui, the second wife, confirming that she is indeed married to Kibaki and saying he should acknowledge her publically.

UPDATE: The "first couple" appear to have reconciled ... Lucy Kibaki accompanied her husband on a state visit to Zanzibar.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Sudan: Nuba Mountains

This article is about a month old ... it's a story about the Nuba Mountains, one of the three contested territories in central Sudan, and how they've chosen to speak/teach/learn in English to distance themselves from the Arabic speaking people in the North.

The writer, Emily Wax, does a great job of summarizing the issue facing the people in this region.
... [administration of] the Nuba Mountains, a region called Blue Nile just east of the Nuba Mountains, and Abyei, west of Nuba [are contested by Khartoum and the SPLA/M rebels]. People in the contested regions want to vote on their future status. Under British rule they were considered administratively part of the north, and the government in Khartoum does not want to set a precedent for self-determination in the territory it controls.

The Nuba Mountains are divided between a rebel-held side with a population estimated at 400,000 and a government side with a population of more than 1 million. Human rights groups say that the government prevents people from leaving its territory.

"We want peace. But don't trust these people," said Abulaziz Adam Alhilu, the governor of the rebel-held part of Nuba, referring to the government in Khartoum. Posters on the wall of his office tallied the number of displaced -- 30,000 -- in his region of central Sudan by construction of an oil pipeline.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Ethiopia/Israel: fate of the Falasha Mura

According to most news reports, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom today announced that, starting next week, Israel would speed up efforts to move 18,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

Wrong. There has been a clarification.
"Shalom did not say we would be bringing them from next week," said his spokesman, Moshe Devi.

... Israel currently allows some three hundred Falash Mura into Israel each month.

Foreign Ministry officials said that Ethiopia preferred this gradual approach that would spare them the embarrassment of again having thousands of their citizens airlifted out the country.
Falasha campaigners in Israel want 1,000 moved to Israel each month. But some in the government are worried about the cost of bringing the Falashas to Israel.
Budget supervisor Uri Yogev said at a meeting last week with Absorption and Interior ministries officials that he put the cost of bringing the Falashmura to Israel at $2 billion - $100,000 per person. [Immigration and Absorption Minister Tzippi] Livni this week said the cost of absorbing a Falashmura immigrant is ten times more than other immigrants.

... The total cost of absorbing the Falashmura is difficult to estimate, but an Haaretz investigation showed the cost is far lower than budgets supervisor Yogev says.
There's more on the cost issue here ... as well as a bit on the whole "are Falashas Jews?" issue.

And the worry that some of the Falashas waiting to immigrate to Israel may not even be Falashas ... this from Ethiopian rabbis in Israel.

Somalia: possible war in the North

Somaliland and Puntland have been relatively peaceful for over a decade ... and now this.
The self-declared republic of Somaliland and neighbouring self-declared autonomous region of Puntland both lay claim to the disputed regions of Sool and Sanaag, and there are reports of troops build-ups and preparations for conflict. (link)

Egypt: the sucession issue

Al-Ahram has a good piece on the succession issue ... hooking it to the interview President Hosni Mubarak gave on New Year's in which he denied that his son Gamal Mubarak was being groomed to take over the presidency.

This Atlantic Monthly piece profiled Gamal Mubarak and Lieutenant General Omar Suleiman, the chief of intelligence -- pegging them as the two men most likely to succeed Mubarak.

Libya: motivation ... and a deadline?

NY Times has this piece on Libya's motivation for giving up its weapons programme ... pegs it on a desire to find a way out of economic stagnation (lifting of US sanctions).

The article also mentions a detail about the Lockerbie deal that I hadn't seen anywhere else.
That time frame dictates that if the United States does not lift sanctions and remove Libya from the list of terrorist states by May, $6 million of the $10 million promised to victims' families will be returned to Libya. The Bush administration has refused to acknowledge any such time constraints, and President Bush reiterated this week that he was looking for "concrete steps" from Libya before improving relations.

Libya: deal reached with UTA 772 families

Signing ceremony is set for tomorrow.
A diplomatic source said Libya has agreed to pay one million dollars to each family of the 170 victims of the bombing over Niger, or a total of 170 million dollars (133 million euros). (link)
If this figure is accurate, then it is still well short of the $10 million per victim Libya agreed to pay to the Lockerbie families.

Years ago, Libya had paid the UTA 772 families $33 million in compensation for that bombing. When the families heard about the deal the Lockerbie families got, they demanded a renegotiation.

Liberia: your wife is a better leader than you

Forty LURD commanders have called on their chairman Sekou Damate to step down in favour of his wife Aisha Keita Conneh.

According to AFP, Conneh has already replaced Damate.

An interesting aside ... Conneh is the daughter of Guinean President Lansana Conte's personal fortune teller. Conneh herself is believed to be clairvoyant. And Conte is thought to have been a big LURD supporter.

LURD = Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Algeria: Bouteflika under fire

Keep in mind that a presidential election is scheduled for April.

The ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) stands divided between those lawmakers who support President Bouteflika and those who don't. Bouteflika's opponents have now called on him to step down.
Sunday's demonstration -- called to protest a court ruling last week which froze the FLN's activities and funding, and nullified the results of a party congress that re-elected former head of government Ali Benflis as FLN secretary general -- was blocked by riot police before it could reach the National Assembly.

... Benflis has announced his candidacy in the April polls, while Bouteflika has not yet said whether he will seek re-election.

The party congress last March had also broadened Benflis' powers while dropping its backing of Bouteflika, whom the FLN had propelled to power in 1999, in polls marred by the 11th-hour withdrawal of six other candidates alleging massive fraud.

The president sacked Benflis as head of government eight months ago, sparking the rift in the FLN, which led Algeria's 1954-62 war of independence from France, pitting Bouteflika's backers against those of his former right-hand man.

Sudan: wealth sharing deal reached

The following are a couple of the points in the wealth sharing deal signed today by the government and the SPLA/M.
- Oil revenue from wells in the south, where most exploited petroleum is located, is to be split on a 50-50 basis between the southern and national governments, after at least two percent is given to the states where the oil is produced

- A dual banking system is to be set up, an Islamic one (where charging interest is forbidden) in the north and a conventional one in the south, where a special branch of the central bank will be established
A few more issues remain to be resolved, all of them very important. They still have to figure out the organization of the transitional administration, the future of three disputed areas in central Sudan, and whether the Sudanese capital should be governed by Sharia law.

And least you forget that troubling conflict in the western, Darfur region of Sudan ....
"They will be making a mistake if they think that by signing this agreement everything is settled," SLM/A spokesman Ahmed Abdelshafi Yagoub told Reuters. "(SLM/A) will continue fighting until the aspirations of the people of Sudan are realised."(link)
SLA/M = Sudan Liberation Army/Movement
SPLA/M = Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement active in the South

Burundi: FNL coming on board?

On Monday, the FNL reversed its long standing refusal to meet with President Domitien Ndayizeye. The meeting will go forward at some point this month, held at an undisclosed location.

The FNL has long refused to hold talks with Ndayizeye, claiming that true power in Burundi lies with Tutsi politicians and Tutsi military leaders. The FNL recently walked out of talks with the government, citing this very reason. The other Hutu rebel group, the FDD, signed a peace deal and is now part of the government.

FNL spokesman, Pasteur Habimana, says this meeting has nothing to do with international pressure or the murder of Papal Nuncio Michael Courtney, which was blamed on the FNL.
Habimana added: "We agreed to talk to President Ndayizeye as a father of the nation. He said he wanted to know why the FNL is refusing negotiations with the government. This meeting will be an opportunity to explain to him why we did not join the peace process; we could not refuse his offer." (link)
FNL = Forces nationales de liberation
FDD = Forces for the Defence of Democracy

Zimbabwe: banks running out of cash

I can't help but think of that cartoon image ... the one of a snowball rolling down the mountain, getting bigger and bigger.
With more than a third of country's 17 commercial banks unable to honour their customer's cheques, Zimbabwe's financial system is in its worst crisis.

For the last week, six banks - including one owned by the government - have been excluded from the daily clearing because they do not have the necessary cash to pay other banks. (link)

Zambia: of elephants, baboons and deportation

The Zambian High Court on Monday blocked the deportation order for Roy Clarke, the British writer who earned the ire of senior members of the government when he wrote a column comparing the president and his ministers to various animals in a game park.

An interview with Clarke, along with an excerpt from the offending column, can be found here.

The government had revoked Clarke's residence permit and given him 24 hours to leave the country in which he has lived for the past 40 years. Since Clarke chose to ignore the deadline and go into hiding, the government this morning issued a warrant for his arrest.

A hearing into the deportation order will continue tomorrow.

Monday, January 05, 2004

been on vacation ... back to blogging today or tomorrow.