Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Sudan: Sudan Peace Act, deadline tomorrow

Under the US's 2002 Sudan Peace Act, to avoid imposing sanctions and keep $100 million in aid flowing, the President must certify that the Sudanese government and SPLA/M are negotiating in good faith and report that to Congress every six months. The next report is due tomorrow.
[State Department spokesperson Richard] Boucher said the Bush administration is also telling the sides that under the Sudan Peace Act, the administration must make a determination to Congress by April 21 as to which party - or both - is responsible for the failure to reach agreement. He said that determination will affect how the United States deals with the parties in the future.
That statment was made a week ago ... and the talks between the two partie have stalled on the remaining major issue -- whether Sharia law should apply to non-mulims in the capital Khartoum.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Sudan: people displaced by fighting in the south

An IGAD mission has confirmed that at least 70,000 people have been displaced by a month of fighting in the Shilluk kingdom, in the Upper Nile region. Though the government of Sudan says its forces are not involved ...
U.N. officials say the violence pits army troops and militia loyal to the government against southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which has been fighting for greater autonomy from the Arabic-speaking north for 20 years.

But IGAD said its VMT teams had seen evidence of violence committed deliberately against civilians.
According to Ben Parker, a U.N. spokesman, the militias who oppose the rebels have carried out most of the attacks.
"The most serious fighting that has affected civilians have been from militia targeting civilian settlements," Parker said by telephone from Sudan . "Fighting between government troops and SPLA is a much smaller element in the conflict as far as we know."
The government and the SPLA/M have signed a ceasefire which is supposed to hold for as long as negotiations continue in Kenya. And though the talks have stalled, they're by no means over.

IGAD = Inter-Governmental Authority on Development
VMT = verification monitoring team

DRC: ICC to investigate possible war crimes

The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, sent a formal request and today, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced the court would investigate possible war crimes committed in the country.

The ICC had already received six complaints about atrocities in Ituri province, including two detailed reports from non-governmental organizations. However, the ICC needed the government to make the complaint in order to pursue the case.

The ICC's first investigation is of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). That was announced back in January.

Algeria: Bouteflika sworn in; Benflis resigns

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was sworn in for his second term today. He promised to resolve the Berber dispute in the Kabylie region and help women by doing something about the Islamic family code. He also said the country should reduce its dependence on oil and gas and talked about partnerships and privatization of state-owned companies.

Ali Benflis resigned today as the FNL's secretary general (background here).

Friday, April 16, 2004

Sudan: deadlock (in the south)

Talks between the government and the SPLA/M stalled a few days ago over the issue of Sharia in Khartoum. The government wants Sharia to apply to everybody in the capital ... the SPLA/M says it should only apply to muslims. Just yesterday, President Omar al-Bashir gave a speech in which he vowed not to abandon Sharia, saying non-muslims' rights would be guaranteed.

Both sides have had to call in the mediators. Chief mediator Lazaro Sumbeiywo told The Associated Press, "Yes, they have asked us to help them resolve the outstanding issues."

Earlier this month, they settled the two other major issues.

SPLA/M = Southern People's Liberation Army/Movement

UPDATE: On Saturday, VP Ali Osman Taha, the chief government negotiator, returned to Khartoum for a couple of days. The SPLA/M say the government is stalling ... but people speaking on behalf of the goverment say Taha returned to brief President Bashir about the negotiations and to attend to other responsibilites.

Botswana: polio case reported, linked to Nigeria

It's a long way from Nigeria to Botswana but it appears the polio case reported in Botswana is the same as the strain afflicting northern Nigeria.
''It is definitely from northern Nigeria," said Deo Nshimirimana, WHO's regional adviser in Africa for vaccine preventable diseases in a telephone interview from Harare, Zimbabwe. ''We tested it and retested it. The only way we know it is linked to Nigeria is that the lab shows the virus is [genetically] related to the one there."

But no one knows how the seven-year-old boy became infected. The boy, Nshimirimana said, showed weaknesses in his limbs, but later recovered and now is apparently suffering no ill effects; only about 10 percent of such cases do not involve a degree of paralysis.
This is the first case of polio in southern Africa since 1997. Western and central African countries haven't been as lucky.
In the past 18 months new cases genetically linked to the poliovirus endemic to northern Nigeria have occurred in the previously polio-free west and central African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo.

These cases have been associated with an extensive outbreak in Nigeria after immunization was suspended in some northern states in August 2003 when religious and other leaders voiced concern over the safety of the oral vaccine. As of March 2004, all Nigerian states with the exception of Kano had resumed mass polio immunization.

Algeria: what next?

National Public Radio's Sylvia Poggioli asks After Election, What Next for Algeria?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

African Union: readying to send military observers to Sudan-Darfur

The director of peace and security for the African Union, Sam Ibok, says a small reconnaissance team is scheduled to travel to western Sudan at the end of the week to assess the security in the troubled region.

If all goes well, Mr. Ibok says, unarmed military observers from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Namibia could be in Darfur by the end of next week.

... "We are trying to bring together the U.S., the EU [European Union], the U.N. and others in a meeting here in Addis Ababa on Monday," he added, "which will look at the logistics and technical aspects of the deployment." (link)

Zimbabwe: white players refuse to play on national cricket team

Disclaimer -- I don't get cricket.

This is what I understand of the story ... The Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) has a policy of selecting up to five black/coloured players whenever possible.

The Zim team's captain, Heath Streak, complained about some of the people on the selection committee, saying that they weren't qualified enough to select the squad members and that some were discriminating against white players. Then something happens and Streak is no longer team captain. Streak says he was pushed out and ZCU claims he quit. Things escalate when 12 other players, all white, boycott training etc., demanding that Streak be reinstated as team captain.

The ZCU offered a compromise earlier today ... they offered a new selection panel and a method of dealing with grievances, but would not agree to reinstate Streak as captain. That last bit must have been a big deal cause Streak and the 12 others aren't playing. The ZCU is sending another squad, a relatively inexperienced squad with two white players, for next week's one-day international against Sri Lanka.

Streak and the 12 other players released an open letter today.
We must stress that we wholeheartedly support the Development Objectives of the ZCU and the need to take the Game to the majority of Zimbabweans. However in our view, there has been so much interference that deserving Players of all races have been excluded from both the National Team and the Zimbabwe A Team solely because of their race or region from where they come. ... We should also stress that the minimum qualifications [to be on the selection committee] proposed by the players are not discriminatory and indeed it would in our view be easy for a selection panel to be established with a majority of qualified black Zimbabweans.

Liberia: disarmament restarts


Here is the last post on the disarmament efforts.

Uganda: Museveni says talk still possible, sets conditions

From today's Monitor (link)...
In a press missive dated April 14 and sent out yesterday, Mr Museveni spoke of his determination to end the 17-year-old rebellion militarily but left the window open for talks.

"Nevertheless, I am renewing my readiness to talk with the terrorist leaders, either directly or through intermediaries, in order to expeditiously resolve this problem," the President said in the statement.

... According to the President’s missive, the rebels must indicate that they are ready to disarm and move to a mutually agreed-upon place near the border with Sudan, which will be monitored by mutually agreed-upon neutral parties.

“Then, we shall be able to talk with them about their future and any other grievances they may have,” Museveni said.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Uganda: should the government talk to the LRA?

While on the subject on Uganda (read the post below this one first) ...

Jimmy Kolker, US ambassador to Uganda, gave an interview to IRIN saying that the Ugandan government should talk to the LRA.
We all think that ultimately there will be discussions to end this war. We [the US] want to encourage conversations to end this war - that’s not to say negotiation, which would imply two equal parties coming together to bargain. But we certainly are trying to get in contact with the LRA to build confidence, most importantly to open a path for humanitarian access to the north. This isn’t something that’s going to happen tomorrow. Patience is a virtue in any such attempt.
Museveni's response to advice of this kind: "Why don’t the Americans negotiate with Al Qaeda?" (Kolker does answer this in the same interview above ... essentially says AQ & LRA are just different). Museveni is not in the mood to talk to the LRA. Time after time, he has said he is out to kill Kony and his deputy.

But the calls for negotiation/talks have been coming from inside Uganda as well. Retired Bishop Macleord Baker Ocholla II is a member of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI), a group that has been trying to end the 18 year conflict with the LRA. At the end of March, he addressed the press during the Interfaith Peace Summit for Africa and this is what he had to say.
"There is no political will to end the war in Uganda... "

The Bishop, who lost all his family during one raid by the [LRA] rebels, said the international community was to blame, because it did not ask for accountability after giving money to the Ugandan government.

"The war has become a lucrative enterprise to army generals, who are getting fat war allowances," lamented Bishop Ocholla.
In this March 19 Monitor interview, former minister Charles Alai also blames Museveni's attitude for the lack of progress in ending the war with the LRA.
"That is the big mistake Museveni is making. If Museveni wants to talk peace, he must stop insulting Kony and speaking ill of the Acholi," Alai said. He said people close to the president have consistently lied to him about the LRA war.
LRA = Lord's Resistance Army

Uganda: LRA's Kony says he's leaving Sudan for Ethiopia

The LRA's Joseph Kony gave an interview to a new magazine -- The Referendum -- run by southern Sudanese exiles based in Kenya. He tells the magazine that he's quitting Sudan and going to Ethiopia.
“I am considering other options due to some - expected events from the Sudanese lords,” Kony says in the interview.

“I have been invited by some lords in Oromo lands in Ethiopia and I will go there soon,” he told The Referendum magazine.

... "I want to tell the Sudanese lords to keep away from us because if they attack us as they have done it this month (March 2004), we will fight and set their villages on fires."
The Kony interview was reportedly conducted by an unnamed former bodyguard and is said to have taken place on March 6 in the Sudanese city of Juba.

Here are some of the other things Kony said in the interview.

- He admits he received support from Sudan in the past.

- He has visited Khartoum four times since 1997 ... visited a Khartom military officers club in 2002

- He denied that Egypt was backing the LRA to destabilise Uganda. "Stop here, please. I have not connections with Egypt and I want this issue closed."

- And as to why he won't negotiate with President Museveni. "President Museveni cannot talk peace, he is (a) killer and he wanted to kill me by all means. I have asked the lords of the LRA to kill Museveni," Kony said, referring to his commanders.

- He won't talk on the phone for fear that the Ugandan army will track him down. "I will communicate with Museveni through the holy spirits and not through the telephone."

- And as for how he came to decide he was a "liberator" ... "Dreams of the spirit came to me one night and asked me to launch a lord's resistance movement. I spent 60 days praying and appealing to God to strengthen my faith so that I could liberate the people of Uganda from corruption, sins and immoral thinking," Kony said.


If you want to know what the LRA is about, read this.

The government of Sudan used to support the LRA in retaliation for Uganda's support fo the SPLA/M. This is the case no longer and in fact, Sudan and Uganda have a deal allowing the Ugandan military to cross into Sudan in pursuit of the LRA. The LRA has also been attacking the local Sudanaese earning their enmity.

The International Criminal Court's first ever investigation is of the LRA.

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

South Africa: the country votes

The South African bloggers have got the election covered. Commentary.co.za ... Politics.za ... Southern Cross ... Way South


It is also 10 years ago that the country had its first post-apartheid election.

Check out the following interview with the guy who helped end apartheid. FW De Klerk was interviewed by Carrie Gracie on the BBC's The Interview. Worth a listen. (Audio only be available until this coming Saturday).

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Saudi Arabia: tv presenter brutally beaten

Rania Al-Baz is a presenter on Saudi Television’s Channel 1. She was brutally beaten by her husband and is recovering in hospital.

Read her story here, here and here.

The poor woman! What a horrible story.

UPDATE: The BBC and others have picked up the story. The focus is on the fact that Rania has allowed her photograph to be published. But according to this opinion piece in the Arab News, her story only appeared in the Saudi English language papers.
... this particular incident of domestic violence suffered by a well-known TV presenter was nowhere to be found in the local Arabic printed media. Both the Kingdom’s English language papers were the only Saudi papers that ran the story as did the Arabic sister publication of Arab News, Asharq Al-Awsat, which is a pan-Arab newspaper.

Why is our local press so reluctant to publish these stories?

Nigeria: security at Kirikiri Prison beefed up

Earlier this month, Major Hamza al-Mustapha, the late Sani Abacha's chief secruity officer, was "abducted" from Kirikiri Prison by the state intelligence/security forces. Later came word that he might be connected to the coup rumours that have been swirling about. And today, this tidbit ... that Kirikiri Prison, which houses a number of high profile prisoners, has had its security beefed up.
A source in the prisons revealed that the new boss also introduced new security arrangements which do not encourage warders to interact closely with detainees at the prisons as witnessed in the past.

The source disclosed further that apart from the new security arrangements, more security personnel, comprising State Security Service personnel and mobile policemen, had been drafted to the prison and its environs to beef up security there.

PMNews learnt that investigation was still going on to determine whether other detainees were involved in the security breach, which government has already admitted.

Algeria: Benflis out of the party?

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had a falling out with Ali Benflis in mid-2003. Their party, the National Liberation Front (FNL), elected Benflis as its secretary general and backed him in the presidential election. The pro-Bouteflika faction of the party, calling themselves the "reform faction", challenged Benflis' leadership in court and had the party's assets frozen. The reform faction is led by foreign minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem. It now appears that Belkhadem might be manuvering to replace Benflis as secretary general.
Now, the landslide victory of Bouteflika has completely changed the state of affairs and the reformers will try to take the party back in hand, the pro-Bouteflika newspaper Le Quotidien d'Oran said on Sunday.

"Apparently the post-Benflis era has begun," the paper said. It was "expected that some heads will roll."

It pointed out that about 100 deputies out of the 200 FLN members in the assembly have already demonstrated their support for Bouteflika and that two thirds of the central committee, the FLN's top authority, has already agreed to Bouteflika.
Earlier posts ... election results ... election backgrounder.

Sudan: Darfur situation still troubling

UN Human Rights Commission spokesperson Jose Diaz has complained that the government of Sudan is blocking access to Darfur. Human rights investigators have been speaking to the refugees in Chad but have been unable to go into Sudan itself.

The ceasefire was supposed to fully kick in yesterday. But even then, the US State Department said that there hadn't been significant change on the ground.
Early reporting indicates some diminution in the fighting following the ceasefire going into effect, but we do still have reports that the government-supported Arab militias are attacking parts of western and southern Darfur.

There are also reports of continuing aerial bombardments, such as at Anka, A-n-k-a, northwest of Khartoum this morning. In addition, we understand that the militias remain in the vicinity of the Internally Displaced Persons camps, occupying land that they had claimed from Africans, and effectively preventing Internally Displaced Persons from returning to their homes.
UPDATE: AFP quotes an unnamed Chadian mediator who challenges the above.
"We have recorded no formal complaint of a ceasefire violation," a mediator told AFP on condition of anonymity.

... "We are pleased with the scrupulous respect of the ceasefire by the two sides since it took effect on Sunday," the mediator said.
UPDATE II: The European Union could send peacekeepers to Darfur (in yesterday's Financial Post).
"There is no reason why the EU could not go to, for instance, Sudan. I see it to be very possible. It would be mandated by the UN. It is part of the battlegroup concept," said Gen Hägglund [chairman of the EU's military committee].

Britain and France are spearheading ambitious defence plans for the EU through their "battlegroups". The idea is that the EU should be able to deploy within days up to 1,500 highly trained troops, with tasks ranging from peacekeeping to combat missions operating under a UN mandate. Gen Hägglund said the battlegroups could allow the EU "to take on more and be able to sustain itself".
(Story found via The Bonassus)

UPDATE III: According to this, Javier Solana's office has pulled away from Hagglund's statments (which were speculative to begin with). There are no talks or preparations to send a military mission to Darfur.
UPDATE IV: A day after making the disheartening comments about the situation in Darfur, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher said that the violence appeared to be diminishing.

UPDATE V: A separate humanitarian fact-finding mission, headed by the UN coordinator for humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, was supposed to be in Darfur on Sunday, April 18. However, Egeland postponed his trip as the Sudanese government requested a delay. With a recent humanitarian cease-fire undermined by continuing fighting, the Sudanese government suggested the trip be put off a week, but Egeland is unable to make the trip then, leaving plans for the visit unclear, the [unnamed UN] official said. This particular mission was arranged at the request of the government and was/is supposed to include representatives from several UN humanitarian agencies, as well as members of the Sudanese Government.

Monday, April 12, 2004

on black swans and September 11

An essay by Nassim Nicholas Taleb on what he says is the flawed mandate of the September 11 Commission. (via Arts & Letters)
A black swan is an outlier, an event that lies beyond the realm of normal expectations. Most people expect all swans to be white because that's what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are. Our minds are designed to retain, for efficient storage, past information that fits into a compressed narrative. This distortion, called the hindsight bias, prevents us from adequately learning from the past.

... The mandate is also a prime example of the phenomenon known as hindsight distortion. To paraphrase Kirkegaard, history runs forward but is seen backward. An investigation should avoid the mistake of overestimating cases of possible negligence, a chronic flaw of hindsight analyses. Unfortunately, the hearings show that the commission appears to be looking for precise and narrowly defined accountability.

you did what!

I love stories about people from different cultures trying to communicate ... and completely misunderstanding eachother. The confused tourist/immigrant story is a particular favorite. This one gave me a good laugh.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Egypt: taking stock of US aid to Egypt

This article in the Christian Science Monitor asks what has come of the $50 billion in aid Egypt has recived since 1975. And according to the article, the answer is "not much".
Ismail Sabry Abdallah ... negotiated the first USAID contract on behalf of Egypt in 1974. ... Now an independent economist, Abdallah says USAID needs to decrease support for the Egyptian government, and increase its support for civil society in order to realize the sort of economic and political reforms that the United States and the Egyptian people desire.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Nuclear Nonproliferation: focus on Egypt & Algeria next

On March 30, Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center went before the US House of Representatives' Committee on International Relations and argued that after Libya, the Bush administration should direct its nuclear nonproliferation efforts towards encouraging Egypt and Algeria to give up their nuclear facilities...
I first raised questions about Algeria’s need for a second large research reactor over a year ago. This reactor can make nearly a bomb’s worth of plutonium a year, is located at a distant, isolated site, is surrounded by air defense missiles, and only makes sense if it is intended to make bombs. In fact, Algeria already has a second, smaller, less threatening research reactor in Algers. Shutting down the larger plant at Ain Ousseara would save Algeria money and make everyone breathe easier. Then there is Egypt’s large research reactor purchased from Argentina. It too can make nearly a bomb’s worth of plutonium annually. Perhaps Egypt could offer to mothball this plant in exchange for Israel shutting down its large plutonium production reactor at Dimona. The later is so old it will take hundreds of millions of dollars to refurbish it just to keep it operating. Israeli critics of continuing to operate Dimona reactor have publicly called for its shutdown in the Kennest. Certainly, progress on any of these fronts would be helpful in addressing other proliferation problems in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.

Algeria: Bouteflika re-elected

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been re-elected with 83% of the vote.

Ali Benflis placed a distant second, garnering 8% of the vote. He is alleging fraud.

The private papers in Algeria are not buying the victory either.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe was one of the organizations that sent observers ... and this is what one had to say about the vote.
"It was pretty clear this is what the people wanted. With our limited presence on the ground we did not see any fraud," said Bruce George, a co-ordinator for the OSCE.

"It was not a perfect election, but by the standards of the region it was excellent and the gulf between European elections and what I saw yesterday has narrowed considerably."
Now the AFP story of the victory brings up the following quote ...
Pasqualina Neapoletano, who headed a five-member observer team from the European Parliament, told reporters here on Tuesday: "We are attuned to the risk of fraud. We are very aware and cautious (of the risk), but also of the changes towards openness" witnessed ahead of the vote.

She said however that if one candidate won in a landslide, "that will mean that something's wrong. We're not stupid."
I'm sure we haven't heard the end of this.

Moving on ... note the following detail (from the same AFP story) ....
Under changes to the electoral law, parties were allowed to post representatives at all 40,000 polling stations who were given vote tallies at the end of polling, enabling independent projections.
There were 280,000 scrutineers, apparently approved by the candidates' representatives.

The day before the election, Bouteflika's three main challengers, including Benflis, had issued a statement saying that they projected a second-round runoff vote would be necessary.

The Interior Ministry said turnout was 59% (of 18 million eligible voters).

For more on the election ... scroll down to the April 8 entries (or you can click here).

The exact returns (not final) are ...
Abdelaziz Bouteflika - 83.49%
Ali Benflis - 7.93%
Abdallah Djaballah - 4.84%
Siad Sadi - 1.93%
Louisa Hanoune - 1.16%
Ali Fawzi Rebaine - 0.64%

UPDATE: It occurs to me that I've given a lot of space to those who doubt the veracity of this election. So I've gone in search of more positive news ....

Another member of the observer team from the European Parliament had this to say ...
... Belgian senator, Anne-Marie Lizin, on Friday said that: "To us it was clear. What we saw during this election corresponds with European standards in terms of the procedures used." She said that "talk of major and significant fraud is not credible."
UPDATE II: On April 12, the Constitutional Council announced the final and official results of the election. There were 10,508,777 votes cast (329,075 spoiled ballots) -- 58.07% participation rate.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika -- 8,651,723 -- 84.99%
Ali Benflis -- 653,951 -- 6.42%
Abdellah Djaballah -- 511,526 -- 5.02%
Said Sadi -- 197,111 -- 1.94%
Louisa Hanoune -- 101,630 -- 1.00%
Fawzi Rebaine -- 63,761 -- 0.63%

Rwanda: UN tribunal defence lawyers want mandate revised

Members of the Association of Defence Lawyers (ADAD) at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have asked that the Tribunal's mandate be revised.
“In the last 10 years it [ICTR prosecution office] has only charged Rwandans of Hutu origins and not a single Tutsi. Yet it has been established that member of the RPF (Rwandese Patriotic Front, former rebel group now in power in Kigali) committed massacres both in Rwanda and in refugee camps in the former Zaire”, the lawyers wrote.

ADAD demands that the mandate of the ICTR be extended to cover the period up to 1997 “so as to investigate massacres committed both in Rwanda and the former Zaire by the RPA (Rwandese Patriotic Army, armed wing of the RPF)”.
The ICTR's jurisdiction covers crimes committed "by Rwandans in the territory of Rwanda and in the territory of neighbouring States" ... but only those crimes committed January 1 - December 31, 1994.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Namibia: the Herero uprising 100 years later

The Herero commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the Battle of Okandjira with a re-enactment of that historic battle that had 10,000 Herero facing off against 800 German colonial troops.

I recall somebody once telling me that what happened to the Herero after that battle was the first genocide of the 20th Century. Here is the story ...
On October 2, 1904, [Lieutenant-General Lothar] von Trotha issued his order to exterminate the Herero from the region. 'All the Herero must leave the land. If they refuse, then I will force them to do it with the big guns. Any Herero found within German borders, with or without a gun, will be shot. No prisoners will be taken. This is my decision for the Herero people'.

After the Herero uprising had been systematically put down, by shooting or enforced slow death in the desert from starvation, thirst and disease (the fate of many women and children), those who still lived were rounded up, banned from owning land or cattle, and sent into labour camps to be the slaves of German settlers. Many more Herero died in the camps, of overwork, starvation and disease.

By 1907, in the face of criticism both at home and abroad, von Trotha's orders had been cancelled and he himself recalled, but it was too late for the crushed Herero. Before the uprising, the tribe numbered 80,000; after it, only 15,000 remained.
Following today's re-enactment, Herero and German representatives talked about reconciliation.

And earlier this year ....
"I also wish to express how deeply we regret this unfortunate past," [Germany's ambassador Wolfgang] Massing said at a commemoration of the January 12 1904 uprising in Okahandja, 70km north of Windhoek.

His statement is the closest a German representative has come to an apology for what historians have described as genocide. (source)

Sudan: six years hence ...

Some interesting questions posed by Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society ...
... [It] may be difficult for [both sides to break the deal] ... this time because of the enormous pressure the US and others have exerted but what levers are there to ensure that both sides stick to the agreement?

By the time the referendum comes round in 2010 there will be a different government in Washington.

And in the end will northerners accept a separate south?
According to the deal, Southerners get to decide if they want to stay part of Sudan in a referendum scheduled for 2010.

Namibia: Zim sends land redistribution "experts"

"We just started implementing our land reform and in that regard we have a lot to learn from the Zimbabwean experience," [Namibian ambassador Ndali-Che] Kamati told Zimbabwe's government-controlled daily The Herald.

...The Zimbabwean land specialists will suggest how to determine the compensation to be offered for developments on the commercial farms.
According to the The Namibian, Zimbabwe seconded the six land experts following a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two governments.

Egypt: cyber surveillance

Fascinating (and chilling) post over at Arab Street Files about how the government is policing the Internet users in the country.

Equatorial Guinea/Zimbabwe: Was Charles Taylor the real target?

An interesting wrinkle in the Equatorial Guinea attempted coup/mercenaries story. Could Charles Taylor have been the mercenaries real target? Africa Analysis argues the case ....
The former Liberian strongman, with a $2m price on his head, is currently residing in Calabar, across the Bay of Biafra from the island of Bioko and its capital, Malabo. Well-placed security sources in South Africa maintained in confidence that Taylor was the target, although they knew nothing of the geography of Equatorial Guinea or where the former Liberian strongman was housed. The route between Malabo and Calabar, where Taylor is housed in a guarded compound, and the Niger Delta is perhaps one of the best plied of west African smuggling channels.
If this story is true, then the (alleged) mercenaries might not have had too much trouble getting to Taylor. According to this report, Taylor's friends are abandoning him.
[Taylor’s official spokesman in Liberia, Vaani] Paasawe, who fled with Taylor to Calabar, told IRIN "Out of 23 personal security details Taylor brought with him, 15 have left because he's not been able to pay them".
Kinda makes me think of this song ...

UPDATE: On March 24, the Johannesburg daily ThisDay carried a story saying that the mercenaries were after Taylor ... the paper said its sources were people close to some of the South African mercenaries being held in Zim. The paper went on to say that Northbridge Services Group was behind the mission. However, Northbridge's president, Bob Kovacic, has denied his company was involved. But he did say his company had wanted to go after Taylor in the past. "Last June the International Court did ask us to get Taylor, but when we said it would cost $4 million they backed off. I am a businessman. I don't do charity work," he [Kovacic] added.

When Taylor left Liberia, Alan White, chief investigator for the War Crimes Tribunal in Sierra Leone (where Taylor has been indicted), was quoted as saying: "We would not turn down anybody legitimate, even a private company, who can deliver Taylor to stand trial."

Check these two other posts about Northbridge Services Group and Taylor/Liberia ... (here and here)

Sudan: govt signs ceasfire deal with Darfur rebels

The Sudanese government and the Darfur rebels have agreed to a temporary ceasefire to allow distribution of humanitarian aid. The two sides will meet again in N'Djamena, Chad within 15 days for negotiations over political issues.

There's quite a bit of drama in these negotiations ... good background available in this Africa Analysis article.

UPDATE: Text of ceasefire agreement.

Nigeria: soldiers confined to barracks, officers arrested

Nigeria's armed forces have cancelled all leave and confined troops to their barracks while a number of military officers undergo questioning over an alleged coup plot, military spokesmen said Thursday.
There aren't many details available about who these military officers are. The Daily Trust says unconfirmed reports have it that about 28 military officers and civilians are being interrogated about the alleged coup plot.

The Associated Press gets its information from unnamed army officers and reports that dozens of mid-ranking army officers have been detained. And according to the same report, the detained officers are described as Muslim and Hausa-speaking commanders.
[President Olusegun Obasanjo] A Christian from the south of the country, he has faced stiff opposition from northern Muslims who dominate Nigeria's military.

Peter W. Singer on private military companies

Peter W. Singer, National Security Fellow at the Brookings Institute has a great article on private military companies ... he leads in with an outline of what happened in the Zimbabwe/Equatorial Guinea case and Logo Logistics, the company that is alleged to have sent the mercenaries.

Singer points that this is a $100 billion a year industry ... a completely unregulated, lucrative, industry.
Some firms have worked for democracies, the UN and even environmental groups, while others have prospered at the other end of the marketplace, working for dictators, drug cartels and terrorist-linked groups. Indeed, Logo illustrates the very problem of firms determining reputable clients for themselves. Who was the legitimate player to choose, the dodgy coup plotters or the dictator who took power by killing his uncle? Legitimacy is hard enough to determine in international politics, and even more difficult when millions in potential profits comes into play.

Zimbabwe/Equatorial Guinea: mercenaries allege abuse

Eight of the 70 alleged mercenaries claim they were assaulted by prison guards and had water poured over them after their recent appearance in court. And check this out ... "The alleged mercenaries have apparently made arrangements for food parcels to be sent to them from South Africa."

Equatorial Guinea interior minister Manuel Nguema Mba visited Zim on Wednesday. He wanted to talk to the 70 detainees but they refused to speak to him without their lawyer. Mba also said that that Nick du Toit, the man allegedly in charge of the 15 mercenaries arrested in Equatorial Guinea, has told investigators "everything". According to Mba, du Toit confessed that the mission was to kill President Obiang Nguema and his entire family.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Algeria: Boutiflika's supporters claiming victory

Boutiflika's supporters, having claimed victory, were celebrating in the streets Thursday night. But the opposition is claiming fraud.
"They burned ballot boxes, harassed our election observers and blocked streets leading to the polls,'' said Ali Mimouni, a spokesman for Benflis. "That confirms the fraud we were expecting.''
The official results aren't in yet.

Algeria: president's rivals fear vote fraud

Here it is ...
Most observers agree that suspicions would crop up, given the distribution of support among the six candidates, if Bouteflika wins outright on Thursday by garnering more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round.

A joint communique issued Tuesday by the president's three main rivals -- Benflis, Islamic candidate Abdallah Djaballah and Said Sadi, a secularist -- alleged that a "credible plot" was being hatched in which Bouteflika's camp would claim victory with 53 to 55 percent of the vote even before all the ballots were counted.
The other two candidates have made statments as well ...
.... Louisa Hanun, put out a separate statement saying "it cannot be ruled out that fraud may tarnish the credibility of this election."

And nationalist candidate Ali Fawzi Rebaine put his name to a statement by all five of Boutaflika's rivals alleging that "the first signs of plans for fraud" were already visible.
But as the following excerpt shows, not everybody sees a first ballot win by Bouteflika as a sign of fraud.
Ahmed Fattani, publisher of the daily L’Expression, said a first-round win by Bouteflika was likely, given his popularity and his efforts to end the traumatizing civil war in the north African country.

... While the president deserves to be re-elected in the first round, if he has to face an unprecedented run-off vote two weeks from now, “then we’ll be in a real democracy,” Fattani said. He compared the two scenarios to the difference between black and white and color television. “Which would you want?” he asked.
There are some 40,000 polling stations across the country ... and 120 international observers to cover that territory. Official results are not expected before Friday.

Interesting historical point ... in the 1999 elections, all the candidates challenging Bouteflika dropped out the day before the election claiming that the vote had been rigged.

Algeria: election day (backgrounder)

Algerians are set to elect their president today.

There are six candidates ... great background on the candidates here ... (more info available in this earlier post).

The main drama of this election has been the rivalry between the incumbent, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and the prime minister he fired, Ali Benflis. Both are members of the same party, the National Liberation Front (FNL) ... but the FNL is backing Benflis in this election (more on that here and here).

A brief recap of recent Algerian history -- In the 1991-92 general election, the hardline Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) appeared likely to win, prompting the military to step in and scrap the elections. This sparked a civil war that claimed some 150,000 lives in the years that followed.

Bouteflika's great achievment ... doing something about the bloodshed.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a former foreign minister, was elected president on April 15, 1999, with 73.9 percent of the vote. Favoured by the military, he was the only candidate after six others withdrew on the eve of polling day, citing massive fraud.

On September 16, 1999, Algerians endorsed Bouteflika's "Civilian Concord" in a referendum approved by 98.6 percent of voters. The pact sought to end the bloodshed through an amnesty in favour of nearly 6,000 Islamic rebels [who had not committed blood crimes or rape and] who agreed to lay down arms. Bouteflika says 10,000 have now done so. Violence has continued, although at a much lower level.
Though I can't seem to find it right now ... I remember reading a rather interesting analysis piece that argued that Bouteflika and Benflis appeal to the same demographic and will split the vote ... allowing the Islamist candidate, Abdallah Djaballah (El Islah party), to make significant gains.

Here is a piece on the Islamist vote in Algeria (from a few days back) ...
... everyone is courting the Islamic vote. No one knows how big this is but they say it is a crucial factor.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has secured the backing of the smaller moderate Muslim party MSP.

El Islah came third in local elections in 2002. It has pushed through parliament laws forcing the army and security forces from voting in barracks and banning alcohol imports.

... A sign of changing times, a split has emerged within the traditional Islamic movement, with key members of the FIS supporting Djaballah or Bouteflika.

The Paris-based research institute IMMAR said in a poll published last month that 10 percent of voters would pick Djaballah, compared with 17 for former prime minister Ali Benflis and 55 percent for Bouteflika.

"But one must note that the usual underestimation of the Islamic voter means Djaballah could come second," IMMAR said.

There is so much that is interesting about this election ... I can't do it justice here. So I'll just point you to some interesting articles that will give your brain something to chew on ...

-- An Algerian Presidential Free-for-All
-- Rallying against the leader
-- Algeria Focus (March 2004 newsletter from Menas Associates, a consulting firm)
-- Q&A: Algeria's presidential election (good BG on how candidates are selected)
-- Chronology of standoff between Bouteflika and Benflis (goes to Oct. 3, 2003)


The military ....

The military has always been influential in the country. This time around, the military has said it's staying neutral. This analysis piece written by Peter Cross, a North Africa analyst with Middle East Tactical Studies, looks at the military's role/stand in some detail. A brief excerpt ...
But this [their claim of neutrality] sits uneasily with the open secret of President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika's execrable relations with the military chiefs who, having brought him to power in 1999, have for some time been suspected of wanting to replace him with a less mercurial and more malleable figurehead.

.... The threat of an Islamist takeover has been fought off, and the rising generations of officers are keen to get on with the "professionalization" of the armed forces. Against this background, [military chief-of-staff, Lieutenant General Mohamed] Lamari appears to be sincerely committed to the strategic objective of bringing the military back to the barracks and normalizing the relationship with the state's civilian wing.
And this take from the Financial Times ...
Although Mr Bouteflika has irritated top generals with his repeated attempts to concentrate more powers in the presidency, he has used his international connections to rehabilitate a country considered a pariah state not long ago and this has brought benefits to the army.

This leads many analysts to suspect that the military establishment is not opposed to his candidacy as much as it would like to ensure that he continues to negotiate his decisions with the generals.

"They like weak presidents," quips Redouane Boudjema, a journalist who also teaches at the University of Algiers.

Mr Benflis has vigorously opposed the president's government style and promised greater liberalisation. But he was Mr Bouteflika's key aide and prime minister and is seen as a leader who would still be in the clutches of the Algerian army.

The following are some tid bits that I found interesting ...

Algeria has an incredibly young population. Of the country's 32 million people, over 70% are under 30 ... and of that number, an estimated half are unemployed.

Mosques are banned from making political declarations since they were used to promote the FIS in 1991. (haven't double-checked this)

And here is a story about mobile polling stations (Jeeps!) that have been crisscrossing the desert, to allow Algeria's nomads to vote.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Kofi Annan's plan to prevent genocide

Kofi Annan delivered a speech at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. He announced an Action Plan to Prevent Genocide. The five parts are ...
-- Prevent armed conflict by addressing the issues that cause it
-- Protecting civilians during war
-- End impunity for those who have committed such crimes
-- Setup an early-warning mechanism
-- “Swift and decisive action” in response to warnings of genocide

Sudan: USAID chief on Darfur (plus Bush statement on Darfur)

Interesting interview with Andrew Natsios, director of the US Agency for International Development ("Sudan interview").

Natsios says that President Bush might soon start taking a more vocal stand on the Darfur issue. Natsios also lashes out at the Sudanese government, saying it's stonewalling in its negotiations with the Darfur rebels. He also says that the US won't normalize relations with Sudan if it doesn't settle the Darfur situation ... that it's not enough to settle the North-South situation.

UPDATE: Will you look at that! The interview with Natsios was done yesterday ... and tody, President Bush released a statement, condeming what's going on in Darfur.
The Sudanese Government must immediately stop local militias from committing atrocities against the local population and must provide unrestricted access to humanitarian aid agencies. I condemn these atrocities, which are displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians, and I have expressed my views directly to President Bashir of Sudan.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Rwanda: a clarification issued

A few days back, I posted excerpts from an article which said that two US researchers were challenging the use of the term "genocide" with respect to what happened in Rwanda.

The article misrepresented their position and I failed to double-check the story against other sources and posted the excerpt, misrepresentation and all. For this, I apologize.

Davenport and his colleague, Allan Stam, have since posted a clarification of their position/statement on their website.

Davenport and Stam say they are not denying that a genocide happened ... just that "genocide" isn't a comprehensive enough term. Complicating the matter is something we've always known, that a large number of Hutus were killed along with Tutsis.

At the start of their statement is the equation ... Rwanda 1994: Genocide + Politicide

Davenport and Stam go on to say ...
If only Tutsi were killed, then classifying the mass killing as genocide exclusively would not be problematic.

... Clearly, there was a genocide (Tutsi were targeted and killed because of their ethnicity), but there was something else as well, which when considered simultaneously complicates use of the phrase to describe the whole event. To address this complexity, we preferred to employ the label politicide for it highlights the fact that the regime at the time massacred their citizens for "political" reasons (some of which were ethnic and some of which were not).
Fair enough ... Rwanda 1994: Genocide + Politicide. ... What was done to the Tutsis fits the definition of genocide. Politicide is the mass killing of political opponents and that certainly happened as well.


In their clarification statement, Davenport and Stam take a few digs at the "media" ... at the "media's desire for controversy". Some of their criticism is well deserved.

Compare the press release about their research with the Reuters news story. The Reuters story lifts entire sections from the press release ... especially the quotes attributed to Christian Davenport. The most troubling thing is that the Reuters story slightly rearranges the quotes for effect ... the result of which is that Davenport comes across as completely heartless.

The following appears in both the press release and the news story ...
"We consider this more of a totalitarian purge, a politicide, rather than ethnic cleansing or genocide," says University of Maryland political scientist Christian Davenport ...
Frankly, the statment reads quite badly. And moreover, it doesn't even seem to conform to what Devenport and Stam say their study establishes ... Rwanda 1994: Genocide + Politicide

So the potential for misreprersenation was sown in that press release. And the fact is, you may not have control over what the "media" reports ... but you certainly have control over what you put in your own press release.

If the press release had played this assertion -- Rwanda 1994: Genocide + Politicide -- near the top of the release, it would have left less room for misunderstanding.

Davenport and Stam have clearly been burned by this experience. From their statement ...
... this experience has forced us to conclude that unless detailed analysis/discussion can be provided and prior approval over finished content are granted ahead of time, we are done with interacting with the news media.
That would be a shame.

Sudan: peace talks close to successful end

The mediator of the Kenya peace talks has said that the government of Sudan and the SPLA/M have settled two of the three outstanding issues.
"There has been very good progress, they have agreed on packages on power-sharing and the conflict areas [Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile]," Lazaro Sumbeiywo told AFP by phone Tuesday from venue of the negotiations in Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi.

"But they have asked for four to five days in order to sign something. Now what is remaining are details on security arrangements (during a post-war interim period) and implementation modalities," added Sumbeiywo, who declined to divulge the details of the agreements.

..."Of course in these kind of talks, by experience, it is when it has been signed that one is to say things are finished," the official added.
Last post on the story ... here.

SPLA/M = Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement

Rwanda: the day the plane was shot down

Ten years ago today, the plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi's President Cyprian Ntayamira was shot out of the sky.

This event marked the start of the Rwandan genocide ... and worsened the civil war in neighbouring Burundi.

Though the genocide started soon after the plane's downing, April 7 is the official anniversary.

In December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution designating April 7, 2004 as the "International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda".

UPDATE: Here is an explanation I haven't seen before.
But Tutsis, who now dominate the nation's government and army, say the slaughter began on April 7 in part because they don't want the date to coincide with the shooting down of Habyarimana's plane - a date with political meaning for radical Hutus.

Anthony Shadid wins Pulitzer

The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid has won this year's Pulitzer for international reporting.

Having consistently turned out gripping stories like this one ... it is well deserved.

And yes, I do read news about the world beyond the Continent.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Cote d'Ivoire: UN troops take over

UN peacekeepers officially took over yesterday ... but the ceremony was delayed until today because Prime Minister Seydou Diarra was away.
The changeover began with the transfer to UN command of 1,300 west African troops, who .... [have] been in Ivory Coast since early 2003, under the command of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Nearly 5,000 more UN soldiers are due to deploy in Ivory Coast between now and July, most of them from Bangladesh, Morocco, Pakistan and Ukraine ...

... The UN troops will operate alongside 4,000 French soldiers, who are in the country on the authorisation of the UN but who will remain a separate military force from the UNOCI.

... The [French] soldiers' current role is to serve as a rapid intervention force for the UN peacekeepers.
Check this out ...
In the same resolution [authorizing peacekeepers], the Council separately authorized the French forces to use "all necessary means" in order to support UNOCI, particularly in the area of providing security.
You can read Resolution 1528 for yourself.

UNOCI = UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire

I missed this story from a few days back ... the UN announced it will be investigating what happened during the opposition demonstration two weeks back ... and determine who and how many were killed. (Short posts on the demonstration here and here.)

Rwanda: tally of the genocide dead

Depending on source, the number of people said to have been killed during the Rwandan genocide can range anywhere between 500,000 and a million.

A few days ago, the Rwandan government released the results of a census ... it found 937,000 were killed in those 100 days in 1994.
He [Robert Bayigamba, the minister for youth, culture and sports] said the death toll could increase when the Gacaca justice system becomes fully operational as many perpetrators of the genocide were expected to testify about the people they killed. The Gacaca trials, based on traditional communal justice, are expected to begin later this year.
Here is a BBC Q&A on the Gacaca system ... more detail here and here.

African public opinion

Afrobarometer is a group that conducts public opnion research in Africa. A few days back, they released the results of a survey, conducted in 15 countries, on attitudes towards democracy, the economy, etc. Some of the findings ...
• They define poverty less in terms of shortages of income than in terms of getting enough to eat;

• After two decades of economic reform, people are more dissatisfied than satisfied.

• Africans abhor violence and attribute social conflict to causes other than ethnic differences;

• More than half of all adults interviewed complain of health impairment, including AIDS; and

• On the people’s development agenda, unemployment is the top problem requiring attention.
The Economist has a short article (subscriber only access) giving an overview of the survery.

Libya: Bulgarian AIDS case

Libya has been trying six Bulgarians -- five nurses and a doctor -- accused of deliberately infecting 393 Libyan children with HIV through tainted blood products.

According to reports, the court held its final hearing of the case today and a verdict might be delivered on April 15.
The world's top AIDS experts, including the co-discoverer of the HIV virus French doctor Luc Montagnier, have testified that the Bulgarians could not have caused the infection as it started before the hospital hired them in 1997. They have said that bad hygiene most likely caused the contagion.

... Prosecutors have backed away from accusations that the Bulgarians were part of a CIA-Mossad plot against Libya and are now saying that the medics were conducting an experiment of their own.
Last post on the story ... here.

According to this Reuters story, 426 children were infected (with 40 having died since 1999) ... and the families are demanding $6 billion in damages from the Libyan state and the Bulgarians.

UPDATE: There's the six Bulgarians ... and a Palestinian doctor.

Algeria: John Simpson on the election

The presidential election is on April 8 ... and therefore, some interesting analysis pieces are hitting the papers.

Lets start with one penned by John Simpson, the BBC's World Affairs Editor, in the April 4 edition of the Telegraph.
Gen Muhammed Lamari, the head of the armed forces, recently told a news conference that there were originally 27,000 active guerrillas operating in Algeria; now there were only 600, and they had ceased to be a real threat. How precisely this result was achieved is the issue that now divides the country politically - and may lead to President Bouteflika's defeat in the election that starts this coming week.

The army leadership - le pouvoir - disliked the idea of an amnesty for Islamists and was deeply reluctant to give up control of the big state-run industries that were so profitable to them and so valueless in serving the public interest.

As a result, le pouvoir and Mr Bouteflika's own SLN [must be typo -- it should be FNL] party (which controlled the war of liberation against the French, and won independence for Algeria 42 years ago) are backing the prime minister, Ali Benflis, as presidential candidate against Mr Bouteflika.

The army, meanwhile, has promised to stay neutral, and the soldiers will be free to vote at polling stations instead of in their barracks, under the eyes of their commanders. This will be the first election in Algeria where the result will not be known in advance.

.... Many of the real Islamic extremists have long ago left Algeria. The young people left have to make a living in a country that will soon run out of its only real advantage, oil and gas, and whose economy is still stuck in the big-statist habits of the 1970s.

President Bouteflika understands this; his army and his former party colleagues do not.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Rwanda: Kagame considered attacking UN forces in '94

"[UN commander Romeo] Dallaire had soldiers, weapons and armoured personnel carriers and I confess for the first time that I contemplated taking those arms from him by force," Kagame said late on Sunday.

His comments drew gasps and some applause from hundreds of government officials and diplomats attending a meeting in the capital Kigali on the first day of week-long memorial events marking the tenth anniversary of Rwanda's genocide.

"I rolled it in my mind and talked it over with my colleagues in the bush, but we knew that it would open another front for us to fight, so after second thoughts, I abandoned the idea," Kagame told the crowd. (full-text)

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Rwanda: the genocide narriative

Read this for a good background on the genocide.
Bystanders to Genocide
By Samantha Power
September 2001
Atlantic Monthly
And this PBS Frontline page on the genocide ...

Rwanda: questioning the genocide

UPDATE: There are a considerable number of problems with this story ... please refer to this post for a detailed explanation.

I don't often state my personal opinion on this blog but in this instance, I feel compelled to do so.

I believe that in 1994, somewhere between 500,000 and a million Rwandans -- Tutsis and Hutus -- were killed in an orgy of violence that lasted a hundred days. I have heard the stories and seen the images ... that is enough for me.

April 6 marks the 10 year anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide.

Now two US researchers are challenging the very idea that it was a "genocide".
"We consider this more of a totalitarian purge, a politicide, rather than ethnic cleansing or genocide," Professor [Christian] Davenport said in a statement.

... "Our research strongly suggests that a majority of the victims were Hutus - there weren't enough Tutsis in Rwanda at the time to account for all the reported deaths," Professor Davenport said, who worked with an associate, Allan Stam, from Dartmouth College.

"Either the scale of the killing was much less than is widely believed, or more likely, a huge number of Hutus were caught up in the violence as inadvertent victims. ...
Christian Davenport is a prof at the University of Maryland and this seems to be the homepage of the research project. I don't have the energy or the will to go through it right now.

Consider this report from a few days ago ... that US intelligence knew it was a genocide.


The National Post reports that Marie-Rose Habyarimana, daughter of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination marked the start of the Rwanda genocide, is planning to launch a lawsuit against current Rwandan President Paul Kagame and others. She says she wants to know who shot down her father's plane ... an act that a recent French judicial probe said was ordered by Kagame (an allegation denied by the Rwandan government).

The National Post story contains the following allegations ...
After the assassination, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a full investigation. Internal UN documents obtained by the National Post in 2000 show UN investigators launched a probe.

But the same papers, dated 1997, alleged that Louise Arbour, the Canadian Supreme Court Justice who was then chief UN war crimes prosecutor, shut it down after investigators uncovered evidence appearing to implicate Mr. Kagame.

Michael Hourigan, chief of the aborted UN investigation, told the French judicial inquiry he believed the United Nations had caved into pressure from the United States, which saw Mr. Kagame as a "valuable ally" in the region.

Nigeria: more on the coup rumours

Presidential spokesperson Ms. Oluremi Oyo denied knowledge of a coup plot ... .
"I do not know of any coup anywhere. What happened was that there was a breach of security by some military personnel and civilians and the matter is being investigated."
Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Martin Luther Agwai, addressed the story about the alleged abduction of Major Hamza al-Mustapha...
"I do not believe that any civilised person in Nigeria today would want to abduct anybody. I do not also believe that any civilised organisation will want to do it. But if the Army I am commanding should turn out to be so uncivilised, I will be shocked". (link)
The government did question a number of military officers ... and has yet to release their names. The Associated Press story carries a few details....
The officers were questioned Monday at the nation's military intelligence headquarters in the capital of Abuja, the three officers said. The officers, who included one of the 28 who had been interrogated, spoke on the condition their names not be used.

After the questioning, officials released the suspects -- many of them Hausa-speaking, Muslim army colonels and majors from the north -- but impounded their cellphones, apparently to investigate call records, the men said.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Nigeria: rumours of a coup plot and the missing prisoner

Rumours of a coup plot ... possibly connected with Major Hamza al-Mustapha who was allegedly "abducted" from Kirkiri Prison on Wednesday.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Arab League: what's up with the summit

The Tunisians say they didn't cancel the summit, just postponed it ... and they still want the right to chair the summit. al-Ahram tells the story.

The League's secretary general, Amr Moussa, gave an interview on Egyptian TV today and said that League members have agreed to go on with the summit ... but there is still no consensus about where to hold it. He went on to say ...
He insisted there was a "consensus" within the 22-member organizationon "to hold a summit under the presidency of Tunisia."

... "There are differences on the extent of the reforms and the initiatives coming from outside," Moussa said, referring to Washington's "Greater Middle East Initiative" for political reforms.

"But only a summit can resolve these differences," he added, criticising as "very dangerous" Tunisia's decision to scrap the summit that had been due to open March 29.
Reports are that 10 of the 22 League countries want to hold the summit in Egypt ... The ten are said to be Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Yemen, the Palestinians, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

Apparently, earlier today, there were reports that attributed statments to Amr Moussa which said the decision to move the summit to Egypt had already been made ... prompting Amr Moussa's spokesperson to chastise the press.
The spokesman hoped that foreign and Arab media would be precise and ‏accurate in reporting statements on this "greatly critical" issue.

He added that inaccuracy in reporting such statements could negatively affect the success of diplomatic efforts currently being made on the Arab summit issue.‏
Last post on the summit here.

Nigeria: can the state kidnap its own prisoner?


Major Hamza al-Mustapha, the late Sani Abacha's chief secruity officer, has allegedly been "abducted" from prison by the state intelligence/security forces.
In a commando-like operation, no fewer than 200 people believed to be from the State Security Service (SSS) and Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) stormed Kirikiri Prison in the early hours of Wednesday and whisked Major Hamza Al-Mustapha to an unknown place.

...The security operatives, who met stiff resistance from prison officials and inmates, were said to have shot sporadically into the air before they could take Al-Mustapha away.
The abduction/kidnap allegation comes from al-Mustapha's lawyer and supporters.

According to this March 26 story, al-Mustapha had filed a court motion asking that the DMI and the SSS not be allowed to remove him from Kirkiri Prison.

And stranger still ...
The Nigerian prison service has denied that Mr al-Mustapha was abducted. [But nobody seems to know where he is.]

The former top military official was to appear in court on Wednesday to seek an orders preventing him being transferred to the custody of the state agents.

fight the hate mongers by linking ...

Did you know ... if you Google "Jew", the first result is an anti-Semitic site. Some folks are trying to change this by google bombing so that the Wikipedia entry for "Jew" appears first. People have succeeded in getting the page to the #2 position.

UPDATE: As of April 8, the hate site is gone off the first page! The Wikipedia page ranks first.

I've done my part by linking to the Wikipedia page. You do yours.

Cote d'Ivoire: minister blames "parallel forces" for continued violence

Government security minister Martin Bleou blames non-government forces, wearing government soldier uniforms, for the continued violence in the country since the opposition demonstration was put down last week.
"The combat uniform is no longer the distinctive mark of the defence and security forces.

"Individuals and parallel forces who comb some areas hide their true identities behind the defence and security forces and try, by doing so, to spread confusion," he said.
France has also agreed to conduct joint patrols with Ivorian forces to try and restore order. The government has also said it welcomes international investigation of the latest violence.

An advance party of UN peacekeepers is already on the ground. (More on the decision to send peacekeepers here.)

Rwanda: trial of former Prez begins (almost)

Former Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu was in court today for the start of his trial on charges of, among other things, inciting civil disobedience and attempting to form a militia group. The trial has been postponed until April 20.

Bizimungu is the post-genocide president.

Africa Growth & Opportunity Act: who's in and who's out

Came across two articles dealing with the AGOA today ...

Today's edition of the East African Standard carries a story about how Eritrea and the Central African Republic are no longer eligible to take advantage of the benefits of the AGOA ... this isn't new news. Their eligibility was revoked back in December.

And a March 25 story in the Zimbabwe Herald which states that Zim has met some preconditions that could eventually enable it to qualify for the AGOA. And this quote ...
"The United States looks forward to the day that Zimbabwe qualifies for Agoa. It has moved closer to qualification after improvements especially in the economic landscape," [US Embassy Economic and Commercial Chief, Mr William] Weissman said during a seminar which was co-organised by ZimTrade and the Ministry of Industry and International Trade headed by Dr Samuel Mumbengegwi.
I don't know about Zim's eligibility ... but the same story says that Angola is one of the few other countries that doesn't qualify for the AGOA. Well, that's not true ... at the same time that Eritrea and CAR were removed from the list, Angola was added in.

Some of the AGOA eligibility criteria ....
market-based economies; the rule of law and political pluralism; ... efforts to combat corruption; ... protection of human rights and worker rights; and elimination of certain child labor practices.