Wednesday, March 31, 2004

US/Rwanda: the "g" word

Remember the verbal gymnastics US administration spokespeople performed trying to avoid using that "g" word -- genocide -- while it was happening, saying there was no proof and whatnot. Well, newly declassified documents show "they" knew it was genocide.
It [National Security Archive] discovered that the CIA's national intelligence daily [briefing] .... dated April 23, said rebels would continue fighting to "stop the genocide which ... is spreading south".

Three days later the state department's intelligence briefing for former secretary of state Warren Christopher and other officials noted "genocide and partition" and reported declarations of a "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis".

However, the administration did not publicly use the word genocide until May 25 and even then diluted its impact by saying "acts of genocide".
Visit the National Security Archive's page on the Rwanda papers.

Cote d'Ivoire: advance party of UN peacekeepers arrive

The New Forces (rebels) and a couple of political parties are still out of the coalition government following the government's violent reaction to last week's demonstration. Don't know when/if they're going back ... and now an advance party of UN peacekeepers has arrived in the country.
An advance party of 30 military officers and five United Nations civilian police officers arrived today in Côte d'Ivoire from neighbouring Ghana, where they were in training for the full peacekeeping mission that is scheduled to be launched on 4 April.

Sudan: Hassan al-Turabi detained

Early yesterday, there was news that 10 military officers were arrested for allegedly planning a coup. Then word that the government had detained Hassan al-Turabi, founder of the oppositon Popular Congress Party, in connection with this alleged coup plot.
Sudan detained opposition Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi in the early hours of Wednesday, accusing him of inciting tribal tensions and saying his party had funded rebels in the western Darfur area.
Who is Hassan al-Turabi?.

Also useful ... a few weeks ago, the folks at IRIN put together a list of political who's who in Sudan.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Uganda: army rejects LRA's talk offer

According to this, LRA leader Joseph Kony had ordered his spokesman, Sam Kolo, to seek talks with the government ... an offer that has been rejected by the army (could be a typo in the article).
"We are rejecting his offer," the army spokesman, Maj Shaban Bantariza, told IRIN by telephone on Tuesday. "These are insincere efforts whose aim is to deceive those who are weak-minded - to deceive those who do not know Kony's history."

"He has come under intense pressure from our forces in Sudan", he added, "and he wants to tell lies that he wants peace talks in order to get a breathing space."
LRA = Lord's Resistance Army

Alistair Cooke dead

Alistair Cooke is dead at 95. A beautiful storyteller ... a real loss.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Arab League: Tunesia cancels summit due to open tomorrow

On the agenda at the Tunis Summit was reform -- reform of the League, democracy in the member countries, etc... Tunesia cancelled it yesterday and Egypt has offered to host the summit.
The Tunisian government news agency said Tunisia had insisted that the summit explicitly endorse democracy and reject what it called "extremism, fanaticism, violence and terrorism" -- and that other countries had balked at this.

But a Gulf delegate linked the Tunisian decision to Ben Ali's stormy visit to Washington in February, when President Bush told him he wanted to see a free press and an "open political process" in Tunisia.

... "Ben Ali was asked to deliver a certain scenario at the summit and, when it was clear that he couldn't deliver, the Tunisians announced they were calling it off," said the Gulf delegate, citing a report from his foreign minister.
More detail here and here.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Masai & the Saharawi

Hey more stuff to read :)

Two neat articles in today's Christian Science Monitor ... one on the Masai and another on the Saharawi.

Sudan: ICG report on Darfur

The International Crisis Group has a report/analysis on the situaiton in Darfur ... as ususal, worth a read.

Rwanda: Annan apologizes for genocide

Here is the full-text of the statment UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivered at today's Memorial Conference on the Rwanda Genocide.
The international community is guilty of sins of omission. I myself, as head of the UN's peacekeeping department at the time, pressed dozens of countries for troops. I believed at that time that I was doing my best. But I realised after the genocide that there was more that I could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support. This painful memory, along with that of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has influenced much of my thinking, and many of my actions, as Secretary-General.

Libya: interesting background article

Here is an article on Libya from the folks at Foreign Affairs ... a couple of years old but still quite useful.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Cote d'Ivoire: trouble

The opposition demonstration in Abidjan went on as planned ... and there was gunfire, people were killed (numbers vary).

The New Forces (rebels) and an opposition party, Rally of the Republicans, have pulled out of the coalition government.
"We have suspended our participation in the government ... because the security forces have been shooting in Abidjan," [New Forces leader Guillaume] Soro told Reuters by phone from the rebel stronghold of Bouake.
UN peacekeepers are due in the country next month.

Uganda: US involved in fight against LRA

This is from a couple of days ago ...
General Wald also confirmed what had long been suspected - that the US is directly involved in the fight against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda - although he would not be drawn on the form this assistance is taking.

"I have met with [Uganda's] President Museveni. I have heard personally that he is very pleased with the support we are giving him," he said.

"Its not just moral support... But many things need to be kept a bit more private."
Note what is said in this profile of Uganda on the State Dept. website.
Prior to 2000, U.S. military forces participated with the UPDF in training activities under the African Crisis Response Initiative. U.S. military assistance was terminated in 2000 as a result of the Ugandan incursion into the DRC. Following the June 2003 UPDF withdrawal of troops from the DRC, the U.S. has restarted limited nonlethal military assistance.
UPDATE: In a March 26 interview, US ambassador to Uganda Jimmy Kolker addressed the nature of the military aid. He says the US has given $80 million for humanitarian assistance.
Between $1.9 million and $2 million is all we have given to the military so far, and we only started this after they withdrew from [the Democratic Republic of the] Congo, which was a condition. The military assistance so far is basically trucks and radios. The training we offer is in civil/military affairs, human rights, etc.

Libya/UK: the visit

Blair met Qaddafi today.

The Times political editor Philip Webster offers a pretty amusing description of the the body language of the two leaders.
When the moment came for the handshake, Mr Blair seemed to be keeping the Libyan leader at arm's length, making absolutely sure that he didn't get close enough to be kissed. That was the last thing he wanted.

... When the two men walked from one tent to the next for lunch, it was noticeable however that Mr Blair was still keeping his distance to avoid being taken by the arm.
I find it amusing!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Libya: look at what Qaddafi's son is saying now

The following excerpt is from an AP story on an interview Qaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, gave to al-Jazeera.
Seif al-Islam Gadhafi even praised Israel at the expense of his fellow Arabs, telling a pan-Arab satellite television channel: "An Arab ruler tries to protect his chair...We don't put the appropriate person in the right place, but Israel is a democratic country."

.... [On Arab governments' reaction to Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative]

"The Arabs now shout, cry and complain about the Western initiatives," the younger Gadhafi said, "but instead of shouting and criticizing the American initiative, you have to bring democracy to your countries, and then there will be no need to fear America or your people."

"The Arabs should either change or change will be imposed on them from outside," he said.

Seif said Libya has its own version of democracy. He said it was a formula based on "human rights, democracy, protecting the individual and the society."

... Seif said it was the lack of democracy in Arab states that was responsible for their defeat by Israel in war.

Central African Republic: effect of Sudanese civil war on CAR

With the Sudanese peace talks now at an advanced stage, hope has been kindled in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) that some of Bangui's woes, caused by fallout from the war across the 1,000-kilometre border, will soon be overcome. (full story)

Cote d'Ivorie: mediation fails, demonstration is still on

Ghanian President John Kufuor's mediation efforts have failed ... tomorrow's demonstration will go on as planned.
Kufuor, speaking after his efforts failed warned that if Thursday's protest turned out badly, the whole peace process would be challenged.

Gbagbo has put the army on full alert, while schools are to be closed until next week as ex-rebels and the political opposition prepared for the demonstration in Abidjan to air their grievances with the president's refusal to fully implement a peace pact [Marcoussis Accord].

...The march is due to be held in the heart of Abidjan amid warnings by commanders of the presidential and national guards that any demonstrator who gets too close to the presidential palace will be regarded as an enemy combatant and shot.

...On Tuesday evening, Gbagbo went on television, asking the opposition to call off the march in the "national interest" and presenting a list of points from the Marcoussis accord which had been "sent to the national assembly".
This is interesting ...
But even Abidjan residents who agree with the opposition [PDCI] say they will not participate in the protest for fear of violence.

Rebels of the New Forces, who control the north of the country, said they also will not attend the march in Abidjan. Instead, they are asking their supporters to take to the streets in the main rebel-held northern cities of Bouake, Man, and Korhogo.

Libya\UK: Blair is definitely going

It has been confirmed now ... Tony Blair is going to visit Libya tomorrow ... here is some of what he had to say about that trip...
“Let us offer to states that want to renounce terrorism and the development of weapons of mass destruction our hand in partnership to achieve it, as Libya has rightly and courageously decided to do.

“That does not mean forgetting the pain of the past but it does mean recognising it’s time to move on.”
There are several stories out that Shell and BAE Systems are close to signing deals with Libya. Check the following quote from an unnamed Brit official.
"A number of British companies are interested in Libya," an official travelling with Blair said in Madrid.

"It is possible that Shell will be able to find an agreement with Libya in the days ahead."
And a story (not new) that the Brits might be offering military training to Libya.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said that the proposals were to show that Libya could defend itself without weapons of mass destruction.

.... Asked whether it was premature, he [a senior British official travelling with Blair] said: "Part of our agreement with Libya was that we and the US would act quickly to bring them back and show them the rewards of cooperation with the international institutions."
US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns was in Libya yesterday for a two-day trip ... he is the highest ranking US official to have visited the country in over 20 years. Burns delivered a letter to Qaddafi from President Bush dealing with bilateral relations and the international situation. ( says the letter dealt with ways of improving relations between the two countries.)

BAE Systems is an aerospace and defence company.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

DRC: more on that uranium

Recall the story from a few days ago that DRC has siezed two cases containing uranium ... AFP reports today that the US has sent a couple of experts to examine the cases. The article also gives some good BG ... note the following allegation ...
And in November last year, a member of the DRC opposition told France's Progres de Lyon newspaper that Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network had bought a case of enriched uranium from a DRC opposition figure, who had sold it to finance a coup.
The story also says that uranium mined in the DRC was used in the bombs dropped on Japan in WWII. In the interest of historical accuracy ... the DRC was not the only source of uranium for the atom bomb project (link).

A casual google search on the issue of DRC's uranium mines brought up this Finaincial Times article from Sept 2002 (archived in a blog) ... best to read it for yourself.

Libya: compensation for Libyan Jews

Qaddafi's son Sayf al-Islam said Libya is open to the idea of compensating exiled Libyan Jews.
"We're not thinking now of establishing contacts or relations with Israel because it's not on the agenda and no one has requested it of us. But we can in the future open the file of compensation for Jews for their seized funds or assets," he told Qatari newspapers in an interview during a two-day visit.

"It is a responsibility to invite Libyan Jews, including from Israel ... to return to Libya, their ancestral land, and to abandon the land they acquired from the Palestinians," he added.
The first part isn't new news ... in January, his daddy made the same overture.

Libya: Qaddafi's son on WMDs

MEMRI has a translation of an interview Qaddafi's son, Sayf al-Islam, gave to the London based paper al Hayat. Sayaf insists the decision to give up Libya's weapons program happened before the war in Iraq.
To be precise – It was already nine months ago that most [of the agreement] among American intelligence, British intelligence, and Libyan military intelligence was reached with regard to WMDs, in the framework of secret negotiations prior to the war in Iraq."
He goes on to outline the reasoning behind the decision to give up the programs ... interesting reading ...

MEMRI = Middle East Media Research Institute

Sudan: Darfur rebels and govt. agree to talks

Reuters, quoting an unnamed source, is reporting that the government will meet with SLM/A and JEM representatives in Chad sometime next week (no date set yet).

SLM/A = Sudan Liberation Movement/Army
JEM = Justice and Equality Movement

Equatorial Guinea/Zimbabwe: mercenaries appear in court

The 70 alleged mercenaries had their first appearance in court today (the court is inside the jail).
Chief prosecutor Mary Zimba-Dube said they face life imprisonment if found guilty. Defense lawyer Jonathan Samkange told reporters his clients faced maximum fines of $200,000 each.

The accused were not required to enter a plea Tuesday. (link)

Equatorial Guinea: who is Ely Calil?

I've been meaning to do some homework on this guy ... but The Observer has saved me the trouble. See article here.

UPDATE (Aug. 2004): It seems Ely used to spell his name "Elie Khalil" (see highlighted). Also note that some sources spell his first name with an "i" ... "Eli". I've also noticed that some French sources add an "h" to his last name ... "Chalil".

Elie/Eli/Ely made his millions in the oil business in Africa ... is identified as being of Lebanese origin ... and was apparently
born in Nigeria.

Africa Analysis (free article) reports that the folks in Malabo think the price tag of this attempted coup was beyond Ely Calil's means ... their suspicion falls on Spain (and maybe France).
Apparently, the coup was initially planned to take place in February when Spain sent its naval ships into the area for exercises. But the authorities here allege that it was postponed after Obiang refused Spain permission for its naval ships to dock in Malabo and to have their exercises in the waters of Equatorial Guinea. The Spanish naval ships then moved close to the disputed islands with Gabon. Obiang protested that the move was provocative since Spain did not ask his permission to exercise near the islands.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Cote d'Ivoire: tensions rising

There's a demonstration scheduled for Thursday in Abidjan, organized by opposition politicians and rebels to protest the government's policies. They say they are going ahead with it even though there's an official ban on such protests.

Today, the Young Patriots movement, which is reportedly allied with President Laurent Gbagbo, threatened to disrupt the demonstration.

Abijan is on high alert and the government is treating the planned demonstration as a serious threat ...
"An attack on Abidjan is imminent and also with the march on the 25th we don't want to take any risks," said army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel N'Goran Aka.
Tensions have also been stoked by rumours of an attempted coup. The ruling party accused the Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) of conspiring with rebels to mount a coup ... charges the PDCI denied. (Earlier this month, the PDCI quit the coalition government.)

Sudan: peace talks extended

The negotiation in Kenya between the SPLA/M and the government of Sudan has been extended ...
"They are considering dealing with the two outstanding issues [Abyei and power sharing] in a package instead of as individual issues. They have made some progress on Abyei where there was a deadlock," [chief mediator Lazarus] Sumbeiywo said.

Sources close to the talks said they had been extended to March 31, although Sumbeiywo declined to confirm this.
President Bush today spoke on the phone with SPLA/M leader Garang and Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir. He urged al-Bashir to accept a U.S. proposal on the disputed areas as a starting point for the negotiations ... and said that the US's relationship with Sudan will change once a peace agreement is signed. The same article also says that Bush urged al-Bashir to "rein in militia" in Darfur.

The SPLA/M has already accepted the US proposal on the disputed areas.
The U.S. proposes that once a peace deal is reached Abyei should have its own government and belong to both the north and the south of Sudan.

The proposal, presented to both sides by special U.S. envoy John Danforth on Friday, says the region's oil revenues would be split with 50 percent going to Khartoum and 42 percent to the southern rebels, with the remainder spit between local tribes.

"The proposal put forward is an acceptable compromise," said an SPLA spokesman. "If we are to choose between having a middle ground or collapse of the talks, we definitely choose the middle ground."
SPLA/M = Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement

Libya/UK: Blair to visit Libya on Thurs

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also to visit Libya on Thursday, a son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi said in an interview due to be published by Qatari newspapers Tuesday. (link)

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Equatorial Guinea/Zimbabwe: info about the weapons bought in Zim

The Zimbabwe Indeipendent is reporting that the alleged mercenaries bought arms from the ZDI -- Zimbabwe Defence Industries ... and that the South African intelligence service and the Zim government knew about the transaction.
The Zimbabwe Independent has now established that ZDI - which supplies army uniforms, field equipment and ammunition - sold the mercenaries a consignment of 61 AK-47 assault rifles and 45 000 rounds of ammunition, 10 Browning pistols and 500 x 9mm rounds of ammunition, and 20 PKM light machine guns plus 30 000 rounds of ammunition.

It also sold 100 RPG7 anti-tank weapons, 2 x 60mm mortar tubes, 80 x 60mm mortar bombs, 1 500 hand grenades and 20 Icarus flairs.

... The South African intelligence officers were at the airport when the plane was impounded. Sources say they did not stop the plane in South Africa because they wanted the suspects to fall into the trap. The ZDI arms consignment was the evidence they needed.

Algeria: depression (emotional)

Ten years of violence have exacted an emotional cost ... this Le Monde diplomatique article looks at how the people have been changed by that violence.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Equatorial Guinea/Zimbabwe: Zim adds intl terrorism charges

The 70 alleged mercenaries have been charged with "conspiring to commit international terrorism".
Defence lawyer Jonathan Samkange said the police were charging the men with "contravening a UN (United Nations) resolution 1373 (2001) and UN resolution 1456 (2003)".

...Samkange has said the 70 cannot be charged for international terrorism because it falls outside the scope of Zimbabwean laws. (link)

Uganda: Kony's spirits

Here is a bit of info about the "spirits" that Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, channels (?).
Kony claims to be possessed by several spirits, the chief of whom is Lakwena, the ghost of an Italian First World War veteran who died near the source of the Nile. The other spirits direct the war. Silly Silindi, a female Sudanese spirit, is the chief commander.

Among the other spirits are three Americans. Major Bianca is head of intelligence, King Bruce is responsible for turning rocks into handgrenades in mid-flight, while Jim Brickey, also known as "Who Are You?", will switch sides and ensure a government victory if Kony's disciples gather with witchcraft.

"One of the spirits would possess him every day and he would preach to us from nine in the morning until one o'clock," said Grace Angeyo, who lived in Kony's main camp outside the Sudanese town of Juba for five years.

more info on the African Parliament

Here is some more info on the African Parliament from the Addis Tribune.

DRC: uranium siezed

Earlier this month, DRC authorities siezed two cases containing uranium.
The two cases, weighing over 100 kilograms (220 lb), contained a mixture of stable uranium-238 and radioactive uranium-235, said Professor Fortunat Lumu, Congo's General Atomic Energy Officer and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He told Reuters both cases had a relatively low level of radioactivity but it was "still enough" to cause radioactive contamination if detonated in a home-made bomb.

Some 50 cases of radioactive uranium and highly radioactive caesium have been seized by Congolese authorities in the central African country over the last four years, said Lumu.

Officials say cases carrying radioactive material are smuggled into the country, from where they are traded across sparsely guarded borders to several of Congo's nine neighbors.

They suspect the cases are brought in to Congo for industrial use in the region's oil and mining sectors, bypassing international conventions on shipping radioactive material.

"It is possible that some of the cases brought in for such use are then stolen or traded into the wrong hands, but we cannot say for sure how many times this has happened," Lumu said.
Here is a March 12 Reuters story saying that Zambian officials have detained two men suspected of possessing bomb-grade uranium. One official is quoted as saying the two men may have gotten the material from the DRC .... (Zambia has unexploited uranium deposists).

Friday, March 19, 2004

teaching Arabic

It's new to me ... the challenges in teaching Arabic.

Uganda: LRA tactics

Here is an article on how the Lord's Resistance Army turns kids into killers.

Sudan: UN official raises spectre of Rwanda

"We have a vicious war going on which is leading to the violation of human rights on a scale comparable to historic situations, increasingly for example Rwanda," Mukesh Kapila, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, told reporters.

... "It's more than a conflict, it's an organized attempt to do away with one set of people," Kapila said, adding that aid workers on the ground had reported a systematic scorched-earth policy. (link)
Pro-government Arab militias are attacking non-Arab people -- Fur, Massaleit, Zaghawa and other ethnic groups.

Last week, there was a report that these militias attacked over a hundred villages, forcing 70,000 people to flee their homes.

UPDATE I took those first quotes from a Reuters story. The AFP story carries similar quotes but plays them a bit differently ....
Systematic rape, a "scorched earth policy" and other attacks on civilians, he said, were "tantamount to war crimes."

Kapila said such attacks had taken place on "a scale comparable to historical situations, including Rwanda" in 1994 where a genocide claimed up to a million lives.

"The only difference between Rwanda and Darfur is the numbers involved of dead, tortured and raped," he said.

"Some people are using the term ethnic cleansing. I say that was not far off the mark," he said. (link)

Thursday, March 18, 2004

African Union: parliament inagurated

The Pan African Parliament was inagurated today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

180 MPs from 38 of the 53 African Union countries were sworn in. The Parliament will have a total of 265 members, once the remaining 15 countries ratify the AU protocol and send their representatives. The Parliament's first session will run until March 20.

The MPs elected Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania as the speaker. (Rich detail on the proceedings available here.)

And according to this ... of the five MPs representing each country, at least one has to be a woman. The MPs are picked from each state's national parliament.
The assembly, due to hold at least two sessions a year, will have only consultative and advisory powers in its first five years but is eventually expected to have legislative powers.

Diplomats said cash-strapped African countries would face a big challenge trying to fund the assembly.
I find this amusing ... the BBC says that 190 MPs were sworn in. And the African Union's own press release says that only 30 of the 38 countries had submitted their list of five MPs each (which would mean that only 150 members were sworn in).

I went with the Agence France Presse number of 180.

UPDATE: Will you look at that, a press release posted on March 23. All those numbers above are WRONG! There were actually 202 legislators from 41 member states.

Sudan: peace talks in Kenya extended

The latest round of talks in Kenya were supposed to end on March 16 ... the talks have been extended.

And now, the US special envoy to Sudan, John Danforth, is reportedly on his way to try and make something happen.

The problem ...
"They have looked at everything, they have made quite a lot of progress, but they have not made any decisions," Lazaro Sumbeiywo said [to the Associated Press].

The remaining obstacles to a peace deal -- all potential deal-breakers -- are the composition of a transitional administration, the fate of three disputed areas in central Sudan, and whether the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, should be governed under Islamic law. (link)
These "obstacles", these very same issues, proved a challenge in the last round of talks as well.

According to this ... the talks have been extended till Monday.

And how much do we love the folks at IRIN! They've put together a list of who's who in Sudan.

DRC: first batallion of unified army complete training

The first batallion of a unified DRC army, combining soldiers from the former army, rebel groups and armed militias, completed a six-week training course today. A second batallion will begin training tomorrow.

Deputy defence minister Mohammed Bule says the first batallion will be deployed to Ituri province (no date given).

Nile Treaty: ministerial meeting in Kenya

The 12th Nile Council of Ministers meeting opened today in Nairobi ...
Organizers ... have played down reports that they will negotiate a replacement to a controversial colonial-era treaty that gives Egypt control of the river.

But they will review cross-border irrigation, power, and drainage projects that aim to build interdependence among countries that have long competed for Nile water and lessen tensions between East and North Africa over the mighty river.

.... [what sub-Saharan Africa] needs is the investment and expertise to install more watershed management, irrigation, and water storage systems to maximize its precious rainwater, said Abdel-Fattah Metawie, head of the Nile Water Sector at Egypt's Water Resources and Irrigation Ministry.(link)
Last post on the issue ... here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Libya: leadership reportedly unhappy at US spin on disarmament

On Monday, US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham took reporters on a tour of a US military installation and showed them the materials shipped out of Libya.
"Libya was quite unhappy with this dog and pony show because it hurts them domestically (and) in the Arab world," said the Vienna-based official close to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is headquartered in the Austrian capital.

"It looks like unilateral US disarmament of Libya, and Libya wants it recognized as disarmament under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and IAEA auspices," the official, who asked not to be named, told reporters in Washington. (link)
This issue was addressed in yesterday's State Department briefing with deputy spokesperson Adam Ereli ...
QUESTION: So you don't -- you don't think this could, in some way, the great show, embarrass Libya, because while they're cooperating with you and the international community, the Arab world, obviously, has a different view and Qadhafi is criticized in the Arab press for, you know, cowing before the United States; making a show of it only heightens that impression.

MR. ERELI: I don't -- this is not a design to embarrass anyone. It was simply designed to demonstrate the kind of materials that are involved here. And anybody who sort of thinks that this is sending a message of seeking to cow anyone is really misreading it.

As I said before, this is a very cooperative process, and it is a process that is being led by, initiated by, and supported by Libya and the international community. (link)

African Union: anti-terror centre to open soon

The African Union is establishing an anti-terror information centre in Algeria within the next six months.
He [chairman of AU's commission Alpha Oumar Konare] said the centre will be charged with gathering information from all AU member states on extremist activity and facilitate the exchange of information between countries.

It will also serve as an early-warning mechanism on possible terror attacks on the continent, Konare said.

Equatorial Guinea/Zimbabwe: alleged mercenaries face murder charges

The 70 alleged mercenaries being held in Zimbabwe have been charged with conspiring to murder the president of Equatorial Guinea.

Here's my math ... there were 64 men on the plane, plus the three people who flew the plane, plus the three people who met them at the Harare airport = 70.

Tanzania: looming condom crisis

"We are worried that we may experience a crisis next year because not a single donor has so far pledged to fund importation of condoms," [National Aids Control Programme] NACP Director Roland Swai told AFP on Wednesday. (link)

Horn of Africa: US says dozens of militants arrested

Reuters has an interview with Brigadier General Mastin Robeson, the force commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). Robeson says the dozens of arrests were made by the security forces of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti and Yemen ...
"Every one of (the arrests involve) significant members of the terrorist organisations here -- all of them are not necessarily al Qaeda. But all of them are involved in the terrorist operations here in the form of operators, planners, financiers or supporters."

... Robeson did not elaborate on the arrested militants but he suggested the arrests had been made after his team reinvigorated national anti-terror efforts in a region seen by Washington as particularly vulnerable to militants.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Ghana/Equatorial Guinea: what's happening to the Ghanaians?

A story in Ghana Review (quoting a local radio show) says that about 500 Ghanaians are being detained in Equatorial Guinea.
According to them [the detained], authorities in the country have issued a statement to the effect that the presence of foreigners are no longer needed in that country.

... Speaking in interview with Peace FM this morning (today) one of the victims, one Kwaku, stated that their living conditions have deteriorated since the ultimatum was given with some of them dying.
Recall those reports that the embassies of Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon and Nigeria had been surrounded over the weekend as EG forces rounded up some "foreigners". As we got more details, I had assumed those "foreigners" were the alleged mercenaries. But I suppose they could have caught all non-EG-ers in the net.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Equatorial Guinea/ Zimbabwe: Zim merceneries in court on Friday

There were reports that the 67(?) alleged mercenaries would be in court today ... they weren't.
Acting Attorney General Bharat Patel said the men would probably not appear in court until Friday and that "the relevant law enforcement agencies" were drawing up charges.

... Patel said charges against the group were likely to include contravening the Civil Aviation Act and that "there may also be other charges relating to the Firearms Act, possibly also in relation to our immigration laws".

... none of the charges listed by Patel would bring that [death] sentence.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Rwanda: French judical report says Kagame ordered plane attack in '94

The newspaper le Monde carried a story about a French judicial police report that says President Kagame authorized the rocket attack that brought down the plane of then-president Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994.

The genocide that claimed the lives of nearly a million Rwandans began on April 7.
The police findings, handed over to France's leading anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, were based on interviews with hundreds of witnesses, including one member of the cell ordered by Kagame to carry out the attack, Le Monde said.

Kagame ... has several times said he did not take seriously an investigation by a French anti-terrorist judge "who has never set foot in Rwanda".

Bruguiere has been investigating the Habyarimana plane crash for the last six years, after the families of French victims who died in it filed a suit in Paris

According to Le Monde ... when Bruguiere presents his conclusions to the prosecutor's office it could lead to international arrest warrants for senior members of Kagame's entourage.

Kagame would himself be protected by his presidential immunity..
An RPF spokesperson has denied these allegations.

Equatorial Guinea/ Zimbabwe: Zim threatens death penalty for "mercenaries"

The [Zim] government warned Wednesday that 64 suspected mercenaries who were aboard a jet seized at the country's main airport could face the death penalty.

"They are going to face the severest punishment on our statutes including capital punishment," Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge said after a routine briefing for diplomats in the capital, Harare.

He didn't specify what charges could be brought against the men or when they might appear in court. (link)

Equatorial Guinea/ Zimbabwe: a confession!?

The leader of a group of suspected mercenaries arrested in Equatorial Guinea said on national television on Wednesday that their mission was to abduct President Teodoro Obiang Nguema and force him into exile.

"It wasn't a question of taking the life of the head of state, but of spiriting him away, taking him to Spain and forcing him into exile and then installing the government in exile of Severo Moto Nsa," said the man, presented under the name of Nick du Toit. (link)

Equatorial Guinea/ Zimbabwe: the "mercenaries"

New details and latest developments ... here and here.

Last post on the story ... here.

Sierra Leone: war crimes court opens

The UN-backed war crimes court opens today.

Q&A about the court ... here.

Amnesty International has some reservations.

Related earlier posts ... here and here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Equatorial Guinea: a coup? mercenaries?

The government of Equatorial Guinea announced that it has arrested 15 mercenaries, characterized as an "advance force" for the 64 people detained in Zimbabwe.
[Information Minister Agustin Nse] Nfuma said the suspected mercenaries arrived in the tiny nation ... in December.

He said one of the men had said the group was acting on behalf of Ely Calil, a Lebanese businessman close to Severo Moto, self-proclaimed president of a so-called Equatorial Guinean "government-in-exile" in Spain.

Sources close to Calil, authorised to speak to Reuters, said on Tuesday he denied involvement and believed he was being made a scapegoat because of his friendship with Moto.

Moto was arrested in 1997 in Angola on suspicion of plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea and expelled to Spain.

Moto told Reuters on Tuesday that he was committed to peaceful change in his country and that he believed the arrests were an attempt to whip up fear ahead of legislative elections next month.
Here is what I understand of the story ...

On Sunday, Zimbabwe impounded a US-registerd cargo plane saying it was carrying 64 "suspected mercenaries".
[Zim] State-run TV broadcast footage of a white plane with the tail number N4610. Inside the aircraft, the station showed two satellite telephones, radios, blue backpacks, sleeping bags, hiking boots, an inflatable raft, paddles, bolt cutters and what appeared to be a can of Mace.

No weapons were shown, but the station said officials were still going through the cargo section.
That excerpt is from a day-old report ... I've found no reports that weapons have been found since

At some point (I can't quite identify when) ... the story became that those 64 men were on their way to Equatorial Guinea

The US company listed as the plane's owner said it had recently sold the aircraft to a South African company, Logo Logistics Ltd.

Charles Burrows, an executive with Logo Logistics, said the plane was on its way to the Democratic Republic of Congo and only stopped in Zimbabwe to pick up mining equipment. The men were to provide security at four mines. He confirmed that most of the people on board were South African and had military experience. He also denied any connection between the group detained in Harare and those arrested in Equatorial Guinea.

An unnamed senior US official is quoted by Reuters as saying that the alleged mercenaries are believed to include South Africans, Angolans and Congolese.

Moving across the Continent to Equatorial Guinea ...

Over the weekend, the BBC reported that foreigners were being rounded up in Equatorial Guinea over fears that a coup attempt was in the offing.
It [newspaper report] said the embassies of Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria in the capital Malabo were surrounded in order to prevent anyone seeking refuge in them.

A number of foreigners staying at hotels were also reportedly arrested.
This isn't the first such action in the country. In 2002, fears over another alleged coup plot led to the arrest of 68 people, many of them key opposition figures.

Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights records in Africa (here and here) ... and the country is one of the poorest. But since oil was dicovered in the mid 90-s, the country's fortunes have been changing (at least for the powerful).

In October 2003, the US reopened its embassy in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The move was characterized as an effort to better serve the American oil workers in the country.
Washington closed its embassy in Equatorial Guinea in 1995 ostensibly for budget reasons, though the last US ambassador, John Bennett, had left under a cloud in 1994, having criticized the human rights situation and been accused of practicing witchcraft.

Observers have linked the reopening of the mission -- for which Malabo had lobbied intensely over the past three years -- to the start of the flow of offshore oil in 1996.

Equatorial Guinea is now ranked third among African oil producers behind Nigeria and Angola, with several US oil companies operating in the country including the world leader ExxonMobil.
CBS's 60 Minutes filed a report on Equatorial Guinea back in November ... read it here.

Also handy ... this BBC country profile.

Libya: Gaddafi accused of fueling wars in W. Africa

David Crane, the chief prosecutor for the Sierra Leone war crimes court, told the BBC that Libya is responsible for the instability in West Africa.
Mr Crane said there was a detailed plan by Mr Gaddafi to destabilise several West African countries which had caused widespread suffering in the region.

"We know that, specifically up until last year, that there was a 10-year plan to take down Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, then move to Guinea and then elsewhere as the situation developed," he said.

"The 10-year plan was to put in surrogates who were beholden to Muammar Gaddafi," Mr Crane said.

Nile Treaty: yesterday's meeting & Egypt's water minister

Remember that comment by Egyptian water minister Mahmud Abu Zeid ... characterizing Kenya's threat to pull out of the Nile Basin Treaty as an "act of war". Well, a couple days ago, I heard somebody from the Nile Basin Initiative interviewed on the BBC World Service. I tuned in late but I think the guy being interviewed was Meraji Msuya, executive director of the NBI. Msuya or whoever it was told the interviewer that he had spoken to Abu Zeid soon after those comments were published and that Abu Zeid denied ever making such a statement.

Kenya has distanced itself from its orginial statement ... it has not pulled out of the treaty.

Yesterday's meeting of riparian states in Entebbe, Uganda, appears to have been a meeting of technical experts. A ministerial level meeting is scheduled for Kenya sometime this month.

Though the coverage of the meeting has been meagre, there are still details to be gleaned.
Egypt's attempt to reclaim parts of its southern desert in the Toshka valley, which will mean exceeding its water quotas, has hardened positions in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Last post on the issue ... here.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Mauritania: slavery still exists

Here is one man's story about the practice of slavery in the country. Though he was never a slave himself, Ould Beilil is the child of slaves and his wife is a slave ...
Ould Beilil belongs to the population group known as the Haratins or "black Moors", descendants of slaves formerly owned by the light-skinned Arab-Berber Moors, who dominate the country politically and economically.

Nomadic "white Moors" used to ride down south to capture black slaves who adopted the Arab-Berber culture of their masters.

It was not a simple case of whites enslaving blacks, however.

Some slaves were light-skinned, and Mauritania's black ethnic groups such as the Soninkes or Hal-Pulaars also kept slaves. The government says measures against poverty and illiteracy have almost eradicated slavery, but Ould Beilil tells a different story.

Nigeria: second governor ambushed by gunmen

Barely four days after an armed attack on the convoy of Governor George Akume of Benue State which left two persons dead, the convoy of Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos State on Friday night suffered a similar fate. (link)

Rwanda: millions missing

The country's own auditor general has reported that several government officials and state-owned companies were involved in "irregular tendering procedures" which cost the country millions.

Rwanda: reopening embassy in DRC

I'm a few days late posting this ...
Rwanda has appointed an ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the first time since the tiny central African nation invaded its vast mineral-rich neighbour in 1996, a senior government official told IRIN on Thursday.

Liberia: Charles Taylor's home searched

Prosecutors from the U.N.-backed war crimes court for Sierra Leone are searching homes of the exiled Mr. Taylor in Liberia, looking for money, documents, diamonds and weapons.

A warrant issued by directive of Liberia's transitional government says the searches began late Friday with the help of U.N. peacekeepers at Mr. Taylor's main residence, known as the "White Flower," in Monrovia and are to continue in other residences he owns throughout the west African nation. (link)
The War Crimes Court has indicted Taylor and wants Nigeria to hand him over to stand trial. (More on that here.)

Zimbabwe: anti-corruption guy says he's getting death threats

The head of Zimbabwe's central bank, handpicked by President Robert Mugabe to lead the government's anti-corruption drive, [says that he] has received death threats from corrupt businessmen and politicians. (link)

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Liberia: US wants to freeze Taylor's assets

United States circulated a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Friday to freeze the assets of exiled Liberian leader and indicted war criminal Charles Taylor, and will seek a vote sometime next week. (link)

Nile Treaty: Egypt's position ahead of talks ...

Tomorrow, representatives from the riparian states will be in Uganda for discussions about the Nile Treaty. Egypt's water minister, Mahmud Abdel Halim Abu Zeid, had this to say about his country's position.
"The talks will have to comply with one permanent feature: not to touch Egypt's historical rights," the minister told a news conference.

...He said the talks should focus on "the means to benefit from the Nile water which are lost," and not on a review of Egypt's share.
Last post on the issue ... here.

CORRECTION: Meeting starts Monday.

US military in Africa: "draining a swamp"

Here is another Associated Press article on the US military's strategy in Africa. The strategy includes ...
... deploying American units of about 200 soldiers to train armies throughout the continent, patrol alongside them, or hunt terrorists on short notice if necessary.

"Some people compare it to draining a swamp," Air Force Gen. Charles Wald told The Associated Press, eyeing a map of Africa in his office in Stuttgart. "We need to drain the swamp."

... the European Command wants to establish a half-dozen low-maintenance bases at airports or remote camps in Africa. About 200 troops would be deployed to each base at a time.

"They'd be places that we could go into for a small period of time, either train locally with those governments or actually use those to maybe execute an operation from," Wald said.

... Agreements with various African governments to use other airports as fuel stops would help U.S. troops move across the continent as needed.
Last post on the issue ... here.

Egypt: on pan-Africanism

The current issue of Cairo Times has a feature looking at the history of pan-Africanism in Egypt ... from its heyday in the 60s to the present.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Botswana: the San (bushmen)

IRIN has a special report on the San (bushmen)

Last post on the San ... here.

Sudan/Uganda: LRA earn another enemy

A government-backed militia and the SPLA/M today announced that they have joined forces in order to fight the LRA.
[Equatoria Defence Forces] ... leader, Dr Theophilus Lotti, said [that] about 10 days ago, forces from the two groups "launched a big operation to kick out the LRA from Sudan". This week, heavy fighting was reported between the SPLM/A forces, and the Equatoria-based LRA, which the SPLM/A accuses of operating out of government-controlled territory in southern Sudan.
The EDF fought against the SPLA/M for a long time ... now Lotti says that progress in the peace talks has narrowed differences between the former rivals and they can cooperate against a common threat.
"So long as the LRA occupy southern Sudan, there will be no peace in Sudan even if we sign a peace agreement," Lotti said.
EDF leader Lotti has been personally affected by LRA attacks ...
"They have been attacking soft spots like schools and churches and recently hacked four people to death including my father-in-law," said EDF leader Theopilous Ochang Lotti at a news conference in the SPLA offices in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Check out this last post on the issue ...

SPLA/M = Southern People's Liberation Army/Movement
EDF = Equatoria Defence Forces
LRA = Lord's Resistance Army

Eritrea: out of sugar?

According to this article in the Economist ... Eritrea is out of sugar! It can't be had for any price.

Algeria: court upholds FNL ruling

With five weeks till election day, presidential candidate Ali Benflis has become a man essentially without party or money. On Wednesday, the State Council ruled to uphold a lower court decision to freeze the assets and activities of the National Liberation Front (FNL).
The decision "shows once more that the president will spare nothing to satisfy his inextinguishable thirst for power," said Ali Benflis, who is considered [President] Bouteflika's top rival in the April 8 presidential vote.

... On Dec. 30, an administrative court froze the activities and bank accounts of the FLN and declared the party's eighth congress - an extraordinary session in which Benflis was named party secretary-general - null and void.

That decision was prompted by a complaint filed by party militants who contested the results of the March 2003 congress.
Bouteflika was elected in 1999 on the FNL ticket. Then last March, Benflis was elected party secretary general and the party stopped backing Bouteflika.

You can find an earlier post on the Algerian presidential elections ... here.

Also found this analysis piece.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Uganda: Museveni on the situation in northern Uganda

Yesteday, President Yoweri Museveni gave a long press conference to address the Lira massacre.

Museveni said donors are to blame for the war against the LRA taking so long...
"These donors were interfering in our budgeting and are responsible along with Sudan for this war taking so long. They were de facto allies," he told a news conference late on Wednesday.

... In the late 1990s donors put a ceiling on Uganda's defence spending when the east African country invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo. But last year donors let Uganda increase its defence spending to help boost the war on the LRA.

... "When they eventually allowed us to spend more than 1.9 percent of GDP (on defence), you can see the results [823 rebels killed since June 2003] if they can allow us to commit adequate resources to defence," Museveni said.
A week ago, Parliament voted to declare the north a disaster area but its vote is not binding on the government. At yesterday's press conference, Museveni said that he would not make any such declaration and that much of the north is doing better than is being portrayed. He explained the Lira massacre as follows ...
He said the massacre was due to the laxity of the army and the civilians in the area.

"They should not have allowed the camp to develop around a detachment that was dedicated to another purpose.

"The real problem, however, was that the Amukas [local militia] of Barlonyo had no communication with the larger forces of the UPDF in the area. If only they had informed the Division commander in time, what eventually became a disaster would have been an opportunity to massacre the terrorists," said the President.

He said the string of victories of the UPDF was marred by the carelessness of the commander at Barlonyo.
When Museveni visited Lira after the massacre, he apologized to the people on behalf of the army ... and transferred the local army commander to headquarters for further training.

LRA = Lord's Resistance Army

Note ... the following is from the New Vision article ... compare it to the statement quoted first.
Museveni attacked the donors, saying they were interfering with the budgeting process and were responsible for the mess in the north because they were allies of Sudan.
Related earlier post ... here.

Kenya: Nairobi City Hall fire and graft investigations

Yesterday's East African Standard quotes officials as saying that the graft investigation of City Hall employees and officials has not been compromised.

However, yesterday's Finanical Times has an unnamed senior official characterizing the documents destroyed in the fire as a "setback" for the investigation.

Background on the fire ... here.

Nigeria: Oops!

Nigeria has denied that Pakistan offered to help it develop nuclear power.

Earlier today, the Nigerian Defence Ministry had issued a statement saying that Pakistan had offered to help it develop nuclear power.
The offer was made on Wednesday when the chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff, General Muhammad Aziz Khan, met with Nigeria's Defence Minister Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in Abuja, the statement said.

... According to the Nigerian account of the meeting, General Khan said that "his country is working out the dynamics of how it can assist Nigeria's armed forces to strengthen its military capability and to acquire nuclear power.
Pakistan had immediately denied that such an offer had been made ... and a few hours later, Nigeria retracted the statement, calling the reference to "nuclear power" a typo.

This reminds of that incident in late January when Nigeria held talks with North Korea and there was confusion about whether Nigeria was getting missiles from DPRK or not ... it's not. (More on that here and here.)

Uganda: Bunyoro King suing the Queen of England

The Bunyoro King, Solomon Gafabusa Iguru, is planning to sue the British government for the plunder of his kingdom in the late 1890s. The King is seeking £3 trillion in compensation and his spokesperson said the lawsuit will be filed this month at the International Court of Justice and with the British Commission in Kampala.
"We are seriously suing the Queen of England and the British government for atrocities committed and the genocide carried out during the invasion of Bunyoro Kitara. Our grandfathers never took it up because they were dehumanised, lost glory and pride," the king's spokesperson, Ernest Kiiza told the Deutsche Presse Agentur, dpa.
Here is the story from the BBC.

According to this, the Bunyoro Kingdom is hiring American, Israeli and British lawyers to pursue its suit against the Queen.

And according to this February 7 article in New Vision, it seems there is more than one lawsuit (or more than one entity named in the lawsuit). In additon to Britain (QEII), they are suing the government of Uganda and the Buganda kingdom.
The [Bunyoro] group is also challenging the on-going compensation of the Baganda absentee landlords by the Land Compensation Fund.

... The group is dragging the British government to court for donating Buyaga and Bugangaizi to Buganda Kingdom. The British are also accused of giving land to Baganda absentee landlords as gifts.

The group argues that the British and Buganda Kingdom "used brute and savage force to subdue" their forefathers and decimate the population, destroy livestock and other resources.
The evidence?
[Prime Minister of Bunyoro, Mr Kagoro Elisa Byenkya] He showed The Monitor letters compiled in a 102-page book which, he claimed, were the handwritten works of British colonial army officers listing their missions and successes against the kingdom.

Omukama [King] Kabalega of Bunyoro resisted the colonialists until he was defeated in 1901 and exiled to the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean. He died in 1923 while escaping back.

In his suit, Iguru is expected to argue that the British colonialists depopulated his kingdom, spread diseases intentionally and destroyed economic activities in the area.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Sudan: comprehensive peace deal imminent?

Note that Xinhua is the only one carrying this story ... they're reporting that the government and SPLA/M may sign a comprehensive peace agreement in the next few days.
"We hope in the next few days the two will be able to sign a peace agreement. For now we can only pray for them and hope that a breakthrough will be reached in the next few days," [Kenyan Minister for Foreign Affairs Kalonzo] Musyoka told a regional workshop which was organized by African Peace Forum, a nongovernmental organization.

The minister, however, said the negotiations have reached a critical stage and hoped that soon, a solution for Abyei, one of the disputed areas, will be found.

"I expect they will agree on the two outstanding issues even before the end of this current session of the talks on March 16. For now the deliberations are at a delicate stage and we do not want to open up," he said.
SPLA/M = Southern People's Liberation Army/Movement

Last post on the conflict ... here.

Algeria: presidential candidates approved

The Algerian Constitutional Council on Monday approved six of the nine candidates who wanted to run in the April 8 presidential elections.

They are ... (with alternative spellings & translation of party names)

-- President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Abdul Aziz Butaflika)
-- Ali Benflis -- Chairperson, National Liberation Front (FNL)
-- Abdallah Jaballah (Saad Abdallah Djaballah) -- Chairperson, EL Islah Movement or National Reform Movement
-- Said Sadi (Saeed Saadi/Saidi) -- Chairperson, Rally for Democracy and Culture or Coalition for Culture and Democracy
-- Louisa Hanoune (Lweisa Hannoun) -- Chairperson, Workers Party
-- Faouzi Rebaine (Ali Fawzi Rabb'in) -- Leader, AHD 54 (a reference to 1954, the start of Algeria's war of independence)

Ali Benflis used to be Prime Minister until he was sacked by President Butaflika about a year ago. The fight between the two has split the FNL between those who support Benflis and those who support the Butaflika.

Besides Benflis, Boutaflika's main challenger is Abdallah Jaballah of the El Islah Party (National Reform Movement/Party).

About the El Islah Party ... Reuters characterizes the party as an "emerging force within the legal Islamic movement" ... while Agence France Presse characterizes Jaballah as a "radical Islamist", as does Middle East Online. There is a bit more information in this Economist article ...
The only Islamist party to have made gains in the 2002 poll [parliamentary election] was the Mouvement de la reform nationale, or Islah, the party led by Sheikh Abdallah Jaballah, which leapt ahead of its Islamist rivals to gain a remarkable 43 seats. Sheikh Jaballah is seen as a principled opposition leader, unsullied by compromises with the authorities. He was the founder of Ennahda [Islamist party] and was ousted from it early during the life of the previous parliament when he refused to join the governing coalition.

The three candidates who were not allowed to run ...

-- Ahmad Ghazali -- Prime Minister (June 1991 - Feb 1992)
-- Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi (Ahmad Taleb al-Ibraheimi) -- Former foreign minister
-- Mousa Watwati -- Chairman, Algerian National Front

A bit about Ahmed Taleb Ibrahimi ...
Although President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is tipped to win another five-year term, political analysts see Ibrahimi as a strong candidate because of his support base among conservatives, and particularly among Islamic voters.

"He has a certain political weight and a certain aura with Islamic, conservative and nationalist voters. That's why observers see him as a strong outsider," Le Quotidien d'Oran, Algeria's second largest daily, said on Sunday.

Uganda: Sudanese rebels clash with LRA

George Riek Machar, the SPLM/A spokesman in Kampala, said that the LRA ambushed an SPLM/A position near the frontline with Sudanese government troops.
"The LRA are killing more people in Sudan than in Uganda. All the displacement near the border is because of them. The SPLM/A would very much like to finish them once and for all," he said, "Once the peace deal is in place, our full attention will turn to the LRA."

According to SPLM/A intelligence, the rebels are operating out of Khartoum-government-controlled territory. "The latest group came from Katire in the mountains near Torit. And we have intelligence they are hiding in a place called Gorajabor: this is very far behind enemy lines," said Machar.
That last part reads like the SPLA/M is alleging a continuing relationship between Sudan's government and the LRA.

Sudan began backing the LRA years ago in response to Uganda's backing of the SPLA/M. However, a while back, both governments agreed to stop arming/supporting each other's rebel groups. In fact, in February 2003, Sudan agreed to let Ugandan troops enter its territory to attack the LRA rebels. Then relations between the two countries suffered a setback in December when Uganda's president accused Sudanese officials of sheltering the LRA.

I guess relations are now on the mend as Uganda's defence minister, Amama Mbabazi, is supposed to be visiting Sudan sometime this week, to discuss strategies for removing LRA bases in Sudan.

SPLA/M = Southern People's Liberation Army/Movement
LRA = Lord's Resistance Army

UPDATE: I was listening to BBC's Focus on Africa and it answered a question ... it seems that Mbabazi's trip to Sudan is related to that agreement between Uganda and Sudan that allows Ugandan troops to cross the border into Sudan in pursuit of LRA troops. The agreement has to be reaffirmed periodically and Mbabazi went to get that done.

Focus on Africa was speaking to a military spokesperson (if memory serves) and he said that the SPLA/M had nothing to do with the agreement and that the SPLA/M's fight with the LRA is their own and in reaction to LRA attacks on their people.

UPDATE II: March 5 ... Uganda has announced that Sudan has extended the agreement for three more months. The agreement allows Ugandan troops to cross the border with Sudan to pursue the LRA.

Zimbabwe: condoms as weapons of regime change!

Zim state radio carried a story claiming that the US is trying to overthrow Mugabe using condoms!
A bulletin said condoms carrying a sticker with "an oppositional political message" were being distributed throughout Zimbabwe "in what appears to be collusion between opposition groups and a US-based condom manufacturer."
An unnamed local activist denies the US had anything to do with the condom campaign. The group instead claims to have printed a few hundred stickers with a line from a Bob Marley song -- "get up, stand up!" -- and stuck it on condoms to distribute.

Revolutionary double entendres!

look who else is blogging ...

Amoako's Africa Diary is a blog maintained by K.Y. Amoako, the Exec. Secretary of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa.

Via BlogAfrica

Ethiopia: relocating a million people

The government has started a program to relocate 1 million people before the rainy season starts in May. This is part of a three-year scheme to relocate over 2 million people from the drought-prone areas to the relatively unpopulated fertile lands in the south and west.

Last year, the government relocated 170,000 people and evidence from that effort has caused some concern. Here is what Medecins Sans Frontieres had to say last May.
The resettlement of this vulnerable group to Bidrre is characterised by inadequate planning and implementation. Preparations in the area of resettlement were substantially inadequate. People, including many women and children under 5 years of age, were left in Bidrre with insufficient shelter material, limited water facilities - no surface water - and no appropriate health care system in place to address the basic needs of a very fragile population. With the onset of the rains, access to the site has become virtually impossible.
Desalegn Rahmato, head of the Ethiopian Forum for Social Studies, challenges the rationale for the scheme.
"If the goal of food security is to be achieved, we would need to create employment opportunities on a large scale outside agriculture, in the modern sector of the economy, and enable rural people to move to urban areas," he said.

"This is the kind of population movement that will have positive results," added Desalegn...
Though the resettlement agenda is a national one, the program(s) appear to be run by the regional (provincial) authorities. Here is a report analyzing the resettlment of people in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR).

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Algeria: US training Algerian forces

U.S. military experts are training Algerian forces to fight the threat posed by rebels in the vast Sahara desert as part of the global war on terror, a U.S. official [unidentified embassy spokesperson] said on Tuesday.

... Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem declined to comment on U.S.-Algeria training but told Reuters: "There is normal (anti-terrorism) cooperation between all countries, including the United States."

..."Counter-terrorism is a key area of U.S.-Algerian cooperation; Algeria's cooperation in the fight against terrorism has been outstanding," the embassy spokesperson said. (link)

East Africa: trade agreement signed

The leaders of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have signed an agreement establishing the East African Community Customs Union.
[Under the] ... protocol, Uganda and Tanzania will also be able to charge an additional tax on Kenyan products for a five-year period. This is because Kenya's manufacturing sector is much more developed than theirs.
It has taken years to finalize this agreement.
The signing has been postponed four times, marred by differences over proposed taxes on imports into the three countries and intra-EAC trade. The ill-health of Tanzania's Benjamin Mkapa in the run-up to the signing has also contributed to the delay.

Namibia: land expropriation to start "soon"

"The ministry has adequate funds to kick-start the [expropriation] process and will proceed with this option without further delay as those who should have benefited from land reform are becoming impatient," [Lands Minister Hifikepunye] Pohamba said. (link)

Monday, March 01, 2004

Cote d'Ivoire: rebels "postpone" disarmament

Read the entire article if you can ...
... rebel leader Guillaume Soro made clear on Thursday that his fighters would only hand in their guns if they were satisfied that the 2005 elections would be free and fair.

“The disarmament of our combatants is conditional on free and transparent elections,” he told reporters in the Malian capital Bamako following talks with President Amadou Toumani Toure.
UN peackeeping mission slated to start on April 4 (more here)

Libya: is Iran out to get Libya?

According to a story which appeared in the Daily Telegraph, "western intelligence specialists" have learned that Iran is threatening to unleash Islamic fundamentalist groups on Libya to keep it from disclosing any more information about the blackmarket nuclear network.
The Libyan Combat Islamic Group (GICL) was expelled from Libya by Gaddafi in 1997 after it was implicated in attacks against government targets. At first the group relocated to Afghanistan, where it became closely involved in Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation.

After the war in Afghanistan in 2001 the Libyan group was given a safe haven in Iran, together with other North African terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda. Now the Iranians have agreed to provide the Libyan dissidents with expert training to enable them to attack Libyan targets and intensify their campaign to overthrow Gaddafi.

... One of the reasons that Gaddafi sought to improve relations with British intelligence following September 11 was his concern about the growing effectiveness of Libya's Islamic terrorist groups. The improved relations culminated in Gaddafi's decision, announced at the end of last year, to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction.
Libya's disclosures thus far have already netted some big fish ... consider the case of the disgraced Pakistani nuclear expert A.Q. Khan and his company, A Q Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) ...
... [The global nuclear blackmarket was] a clandestine network of scientists, manufacturers and middlemen spread across four continents and with Abdul Qadeer Khan - KRL's founder - at its head. They operated a blackmarket of atomic expertise so extensive that it was dubbed a 'Nuclear Walmart' by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohammed El Baradei.

... It was Libya that proved the network's ultimate downfall. Following a decision by Libyan leader Col Moammar Ghadaffi to give up the country's weapons of mass destruction, the Libyans provided inspectors with intimate details of their programmes, a diplomatic source said.

The Daily Telegraph story, written by Con Coughlin, appeared in the February 29 edition of the paper.