Wednesday, June 30, 2004

UN: don't photograph ... the delegates

I was looking through the summary of today's daily briefing at the UN and came across the following ...
TOURISTS AT U.N. HEADQUARTERS NOT ALLOWED TO TAKE PHOTOS OF DELEGATES: Asked about the U.N.’s regulation on photos taken by tourists on U.N. Headquarters, the Spokesman said that tourists could take photos along the tour route but not of delegates.
Huh!

Sudan/Darfur: reading Annan

Annan has been criticized by some for his handling of the situation in Darfur. People don't seem too impressed by what he is saying, or more accurately, what he is not saying. However, having read through his recent statements on Darfur, I came away with a different impression.

Consider the speech Annan delivered marking the 10 year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. He devoted a fair part of his speech to Darfur and used quite strong language.
In this connection, let me say here and now that I share the grave concern expressed last week by eight independent experts appointed by this Commission at the scale of reported human rights abuses and at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Darfur, Sudan.

[...] Mr. Chairman, such reports leave me with a deep sense of foreboding. Whatever terms it uses to describe the situation, the international community cannot stand idle.

[...] By "action" in such situations I mean a continuum of steps, which may include military action. But the latter should always be seen as an extreme measure, to be used only in extreme cases.

[...] But let us not wait until the worst has happened, or is already happening.

Let us not wait until the only alternatives to military action are futile hand-wringing or callous indifference.

Let us, Mr. Chairman, be serious about preventing genocide.
Annan delivered that speech in early April and he hasn't changed his talking points since. He doesn't want to debate semantics -- is it "ethnic cleansing" or "genocide" or something else. However, during a press conference late last week, Annan seemed to break his own rule, attaching a tag to the situation in Darfur. He was widely quoted as having said that the situation in Darfur is "bordering on ethnic cleansing", a phrase that comes across as ineffectual and hollow. However, if you look at his comments, in full, he really isn't being callous.
Let me say that on the question of what is happening in Darfur, there has been lots of discussion as to whether it is genocide or ethnic cleansing, and I myself in Geneva had indicated that, from the report I was getting, it was bordering on ethnic cleansing.

But let me say that the issue is not to discuss what name to give it. We all agree that serious crimes are being committed. International humanitarian law is being broken, and there are very serious human rights violations – grave ones – that we need to act on. We don't need a label to propel us to act, and so I think we should act now and stop arguing about which label to put on it. And, as I said, I sent in a human rights rapporteur, and I'm waiting for her report in the next week or so.
Annan is talking around the term "ethnic cleansing" and I think the explanation lies in the environment in which he is operating.

When the Security Council passed a resolution on Sudan earlier this month, Darfur merited one mention. And according to an anonymous source quoted by CNN in this story, a few members of the Council -- specifically Pakistan, China and Algeria -- did not want Darfur addressed at all.

In another instance, the UN Commission on Human Rights in April rejected a resolution introduced by the United States that called the situation in Darfur "ethnic cleansing". Instead, the Commission passed a compromise resolution, 50 votes to 1 (with 2 abstentions), that expressed "grave concern" at the "reported human rights abuses" in Darfur. (Coincidentally, Sudan this year received a three-year rotating seat on the 53 member Commission.)

I think Annan doesn't want to talk about "ethnic cleansing" or other tags, no matter how appropriate, because he knows that precious time will be wasted in endless debate. One of the things I remember about the debates/coverage of Rwanda in 1994 is the large amount of time spent trying to figure out what it was, and getting everybody to agree to it. I think Annan remembers this about Rwanda as well -- who cares what you call it as long as you do something for the people who are in trouble.

The Rwandan genocide happened on Annan's watch. He was head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations when, among other things, his department received this fax from the head on the UN mission in Rwanda, asking for help. Strange as it may seem, I have more faith in Annan now because he failed in Rwanda. There is no way he is going to allow another catastrophe on his watch. He may yet come out and call what is going on in Darfur "ethic cleansing" or even "genocide" if that's what it will take.

Late last week, Annan addressed his critics in this interview on the new UN and Africa radio show:
NARRATOR: And what about charges that he and the UN are doing too little too late to end the crisis in Sudan’s western Darfur region.

Mr. Annan: "We should avoid the situations where we allow member states to hide behind the Secretary General, use him as an alibi for their own inaction."
---
Here is the transcript of the statment delivered by Richard Williamson, US ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights, advocating a stronger resolution on Darfur.

Sudan/Darfur: implications for the north-south peace deal

Something to consider ...

There is real concern that the situation in Darfur could derail the north-south peace deal.

A couple of days ago, a senior SPLA/M commander, Abdel Aziz Adim [Adam?], told the BBC that the SPLA/M would refuse to join a coalition government that "crushes" Darfur.
"We will not be party to a government that will crush the people of Darfur," Mr Adim said.

"They have a just cause and I personally will not be ready to work with such a government."
Khartoum media also accused the SPLA/M of airlifting arms to rebels in Darfur.

---
The Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement is in final negotiatons with the government to end the decades long civil war.

blogs about Darfur ...

The very thorough Eric Reeves ...

and Passion for the Present ...

Sudan/Darfur: Powell on the "g" word

One more for the list ...

The following is excerpted from this chat Powell had with the press during the flight to Khartoum.
QUESTION: Tell us what you will tell the Sudanese leaders about the genocide determination that is being made by your government and what it will mean? And also, if you can tell us what your position is on getting a peacekeeping force in Darfur?

SECRETARY POWELL: The issue of genocide is a legal determination and my counsel, Will Taft, as well as Pierre Prosper, who you all know, are examining this carefully. Ambassador Prosper testified last week that we see indicators and elements that would start to move you toward a genocidal conclusion. But, we’re not there yet. And, frankly, I hope we don’t get there.

Whether you call it genocide or whether somebody prefers to call it ethnic cleansing or some people think, as a technical matter, it doesn’t reach the level of either ethnic cleansing or genocide. I will let Ambassador Prosper and all the lawyers argue about that. What we are seeing is a disaster, a catastrophe, and we can find the right label for it later. We’ve got to deal with it now. That’s my focus.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell

UPDATE: Published July 1 ... Powell is quoted as saying:
"We see indicators and elements that would start to move you toward a genocidal conclusion. We can find the right label for it later, we have got to deal with it now." (source)


In an interview with National Public Radio, Powell said the situation "doesn't meet the tests of the definition of genocide."

"I can assure you that if all the indicators lined up and said this meets what the treaty test of genocide is, I would have no reluctance to call it that," Powell said. (source)

Sudan/Darfur: the refugees who went home

I posted this story a couple of days ago ... and something about it kept nagging at me.
Some 3,000 Sudanese who fled fighting in the troubled Darfur region several months ago have left makeshift camps and returned to their homes around Al-Fashir, a state newspaper [Al-Anbaa] said.

[...] Both Powell and Annan, due to arrive here Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, are scheduled to tour camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Al-Fashir that Al-Anbaa said are now being voluntarily evacuated by their inhabitants wanting to resume normal lives at home.
Finally found the story (from mid-May) that had sown that doubt ...
Although IDPs have repeatedly said they would return home to West Darfur only when the Janjaweed militia are disarmed and when there is security, the government was insisting on immediate IDP return. Traditional leaders were being pressured or persuaded to cooperate, or else they were replaced, OCHA [UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs] said.

The authorities in West Darfur's capital, Geneina, replaced "the vocal community committee" of traditional leaders in Sisi camp with more conciliatory representatives, it said.
Powell told reporters yesterday that he is aware that the government of Sudan might try to empty the refugee camps or intimidate people into silence in order to give a false impression of the situation.
Yes, I’ve been to places like this before and I know what can be arranged. [...] I will take into account everything I hear. I think I can sort out where people are constrained from speaking.

We have been watching these places very carefully through a variety of means and we know what they look like, how many people have been there in the past and if suddenly there aren’t that many people there tomorrow, I will take that all into my computer.
And we have this story ... constrained from speaking?
The Sudanese Government dispatched 500 men this week to Abu Shouk, a sweltering camp of 40,000 near El Fashir, capital of North Darfur state, the refugees and aid workers said.

The men, some dressed in civilian clothes, others in military uniforms, warned the refugees to keep quiet about their experiences when the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, visit the region this week.
UPDATE: On Thursday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan visited the Zam Zam and the Abu Shouk refugee camps. However, when he arrived at another camp at Meshtel, all the refugees, all 5,000 people, were gone, moved ...
Between Wednesday evening and Thursday lunchtime, about 1,000 families were transported by Sudanese authorities from a camp at Meshtel to a more established camp at Abu Shouk, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said today.

[...] Mr. Dujarric said the IDPs had told relief workers that they had been pressured to move quickly to Abu Shouk. Humanitarian agencies said that while this camp has better conditions for the IDPs, prior consultation would have allowed them to prepare its facilities and provisions to take account of the new arrivals.
Regarding the first story in this post ... please note that the name of the refugee camp is not mentioned in the story. The story just says that the people left the makeshift camps are around Al-Fashir. Even though Meshtel is also near El-Fashir, I can't be sure that it is the same story/same camp.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Libya: US opens "liaison office"

The US yesterday opened a liaison office in Tripoli, renewing direct diplomatic ties with Libya after 24 years.

According to the story on the Libyan Jamahiriya Broadcasting Corporation website, Libya is to open a liason office in the US as well.

Libya still remains on the US government's list of state sponsors of terrorism and the State Department issued this travel warning yesterday ...
Although Libya appears to have curtailed its support for international terrorism, it may maintain residual contacts with some of its former terrorist clients.
The US says it's still investigating allegations that Ghaddafi had plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. Spokesperson Ereli was questioned on this during yesterday's daily briefing ...
I'm not aware that, and I don't believe, the issue of the liaison office is going to be decided on [...] or is going to be held up until we can verify, one way or the other, these reports [of an assination plot].
Ghaddafi was reportedly questioned about the plot prior to the announcement yesterday. From the Associated Press report ...
Only a brief reference to the plot reports was contained in an announcement Monday in Tripoli by Assistant Secretary of State William J. Burns, after he held talks with Gadhafi.

Burns said only that he and J. Cofer Black, who heads the [State] department's office of counterterrorism, had discussed with the Libyan leader "recent public allegations regarding Libya and Saudi Arabia." (source)
In February of this year, the US resumed embassy activities in Libya under the protective power of the US interests section of the Belgian Embassy in Tripoli. At that time, the US invited Libya to open an interest section in Washington, which they didn't take advantage of.

---

Definitions found in this handy document ...

Interest Section: The office responsible for protecting the interests of the United States, housed in a third country embassy, in a country with which the United States has no formal relations.

Liaison Office: The office responsible for protecting the interests of the United States prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations (or while diplomatic relations are suspended) between the United States and the host country.

Embassy: A diplomatic mission in the capital city of a foreign country headed by an Ambassador.

Consulate: A Foreign Service Post engaged primarily in consular work; officers assigned have consular titles. Consulates are usually constituent posts of an Embassy, either within the Embassy itself or in some other city in the foreign country. While consulates engage in routine reporting, they carry out no diplomatic or representational functions vis-à-vis the host government.

---

Of the G7 countries, only the US didn't have diplomatic ties with Libya ... the Brits, Canadians, Germans, French, Italians and Japanese all have (and have had) embassies or consulates in Libya.

With Russia, it's G8 ... and I know Russia has had diplomatic ties with Libya and I think this shows they still do ... but I can't be sure cause I can't read Russian.

Sudan/Darfur: what to call what's going on

Wanted to see what different organizations/individuals are calling what is going on in Darfur (and got carried away). This is by no means a comprehensive survey but here is what we have ...

"bordering on ethnic cleansing" -- "ethnic cleansing" -- "indicators of genocide" -- "atrocities being committed" -- "human rights violations -- "gross violations of human rights, many with an ethnic dimension" -- "humanitarian emergency" -- "genocide unfolding" -- "reign of terror"

Take special note of the points excerpted below for "reign of terror" -- provides good background

Bordering on ethnic cleansing
[UN Secretary General Kofi] Annan said the situation in Darfur "was bordering on ethnic cleansing" but would not use the word genocide.

"We all agree that serious crimes are being committed," he said in answer to questions. "We don't need a label to propel us to act, and so I think we should act now and stop arguing about which label to put on it."

July 25, 2004 (source)

Ethinc cleansing

Jan Egeland, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs ...
"Scorched earth tactics are being applied throughout Darfur, including the deliberate destruction of schools, wells, seed and food supplies, making whole towns and villages uninhabitable," he continued. "Not even the camps for the refugees and internally displaced are immune from attacks. I consider this to be ethnic cleansing. I cannot find any other word for it."

April 2, 2004 (source)
Charles Snyder, acting US assistant secretary of state for African affairs ... in a testimony before the House International Relations Committee ...
The [jingaweit] militias have systematically attacked hundreds of African villages in a scorched-earth type approach. They burn villages to the ground, destroy water points, raze crops, and force the people from their land. The jingaweit further terrorize the African population through widespread atrocities including mass rape, branding of raped women, summary killings, amputations, and other unspeakable actions. Estimates of civilians killed range between 15,000 and 30,000, and we will seek to confirm a more precise estimate as information becomes available. As many as one million people have been displaced, and tens of thousands have sought refuge across the border in Chad. All of this amounts to “ethnic cleansing” on a large scale.

May 6, 2004 (source)
Richard Williamson, US ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission ...
"The U.N. Commission on Human Rights dare not fail to act," Ambassador Richard Williamson, head of the U.S. delegation, said. "It must hold accountable those responsible for the deplorable acts in Darfur."

[...] The U.S. delegation also distributed a document entitled "Ethnic Cleansing in Darfur," which described the violence and atrocities in Darfur, including killing, torture and rape of innocent civilians and denial of humanitarian assistance.

April 23, 2004 (source)
Human Rights Watch ...
"The Sudanese government's campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' in Darfur is the root cause of this humanitarian crisis," said Jemera Rone, Sudan researcher for the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "Powell should press the Sudanese authorities to reverse this 'ethnic cleansing' and permit full humanitarian access."

June 28, 2004 (source)

Indicators of genocide

US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, Pierre-Richard Prosper, told the House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Africa that ...
There is the question of whether this is genocide. We see indicators of genocide, and there is evidence that points in that direction. However, we are not in a position to confirm. To do so, we need Darfur to be opened up.

June 24, 2004 (source)

Atrocities being committed

US President George Bush ...
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.

April 7, 2004 (source)
Adam Ereli, deputy spokesperson, US Department of State ...
That said, whether you call it genocide, or whether you call it ethnic cleansing, clearly there are atrocities being committed. The United States views with the greatest degree of concern the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and we are acting accordingly. There is nothing holding us -- the determination of whether it's genocide or not is not holding us back in any way in terms of our response to the crisis and our -- the energy which we're putting into marshaling an international response to the crisis.

June 25, 2004 (source)

Human rights violations
Amnesty International is calling on all parties involved in the Darfur conflict to immediately end human rights violations including the unlawful killing and abuse of civilians. The organisation is also calling on the international community to support the deployment of international human rights monitors to Sudan.

June 28, 2004 (source)
US-EU declaration on Sudan issued at Dromoland Castle in Shannon, Ireland ...
We strongly condemn the human rights violations that have been perpetrated there, particularly by Jingaweit militias. We reiterate our call on the Government of Sudan to immediately stop the violence perpetrated by the Jingaweit, ensure the protection and security of civilians and humanitarian workers, disarm the militias and allow full and unimpeded access by humanitarian groups to Darfur. We also reiterate that those responsible for the atrocities must be held accountable.

June 26, 2004 (source)

Gross violations of human rights, many with an ethnic dimension

G8 statement on Sudan at the summit at Sea Island, Georgia ...
We also wish to express our grave concern over the humanitarian, human rights, and political crisis in Darfur . We welcome the N'djamena ceasefire agreement of April 8, and the announcement on May 20 by the Government of Sudan that restrictions on humanitarian access will be eased. However, there are continuing reports of gross violations of human rights, many with an ethnic dimension. [...] We call especially on the Sudanese government to disarm immediately the “Janjaweed” and other armed groups which are responsible for massive human rights violations in Darfur . We call on the conflict parties to address the roots of the Darfur conflict and to seek a political solution.

June 10, 2004 (source)
Humanitarian emergency
Announcing the extra funding, [UK] International Development Secretary Hilary Benn said that the situation in Sudan was the most serious humanitarian emergency in the world today.

June 9, 2004 (source)

Genocide unfolding

John Heffernan of Physicians for Human Rights talking to All Africa's Margaret McElligott about what he saw during a recent trip to Darfur ...
How important is the label of "genocide" to the ongoing debate of what to do in Darfur?

Arguing over the semantics of whether this is genocide, whether this is ethnic cleansing, does not do justice to the crisis. The fact is that hundreds of thousands of people are at risk, and if arguing over whether this is genocide halts some type of intervention that will enable them to get access, then there's a real problem.

But, with that being said, if, in fact, there are clear indicators of genocide, and this is what we say there are, then there needs to be some type of action as the Genocide Convention states, to prevent this genocide from happening.

So the Genocide Convention should be invoked even if genocide is not currently taking place?

It requires you to act to prevent. And in this case, I think there are clear signs that this is genocide unfolding and by waiting any longer, we risk the lives of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people.

June 23, 2004 (source)

Reign of Terror

Report by Bertrand Ramcharan, acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the situation in Darfur ...
It [report] outlines a disturbing pattern of disregard for basic principles of human rights and humanitarian law, which is taking place in Darfur for which the armed forces of the Sudan and the Janjaweed are responsible. The rebel forces also appear to violate human rights and humanitarian law, but the extent to which this was happening was difficult for the mission to ascertain.

It is clear that there is a reign of terror in Darfur. While the Government appears to employ different tactics to counter the rebellion, the mission encountered a consistency of allegations that government and [Janjaweed] militia forces carried out indiscriminate attacks against civilians; rape and other serious forms of sexual violence; destruction and property and pillage; forced displacements; disappearances; and persecution and discrimination.

[...] Civilians constitute the main victims of the armed conflict in Darfur. [...] there seems to be a consistency of allegations that civilians who belonged to those ethnicities perceived to be members or supporters of the rebel groups were targeted by the armed forces as well as the Janjaweed. Civilians often appear to have been the subject of collective punishment.

[...] The conflict in Darfur appears to be rooted in the structural imbalances in the Sudan in terms of governance and economic development between the centre and the rest of the country. Its current manifestations appear to have developed worrying ethnic, if not racial, dimensions.

[...] That the attacks appear to have been largely ethnically based with the groups targeted being essentially the Zaghawa, Masaalit and Fur tribes, which are reportedly of African origin. Men and young boys appear to have been particularly targeted in ground attacks;

May 7, 2004 (source)
---

Sudan is not a party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Also ... Sudan now sits on the 53 member UN Human Rights Commission (... countries are voted in for three-year terms by the UN's regional groups)

Monday, June 28, 2004

Sudan: Darfur round-up

Haven't been posting much on Sudan ... so thought I would catch-up in one mammoth post.

Interesting bit of news here (haven't seen independent confirmation of this)...
Some 3,000 Sudanese who fled fighting in the troubled Darfur region several months ago have left makeshift camps and returned to their homes around Al-Fashir, a state newspaper [Al-Anbaa] said.

[...] Both Powell and Annan, due to arrive here Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, are scheduled to tour camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Al-Fashir that Al-Anbaa said are now being voluntarily evacuated by their inhabitants wanting to resume normal lives at home.
(UPDATE: More on the story above in this post.)

US Secretary of State Colin Powell will be in Khartoum tomorrow and then travel on to Darfur where he will meet people displaced by the fighting, top officials, relief workers and a cease-fire commission trying to stop the violence.
Asked what his message was for the government, Powell said: "Let the aid flow freely. Let humanitarian workers in. Use government forces and political influence to end the attacks."

"The situation is so dire that if we were able to do everything we wanted to do tomorrow there would still be a large loss of life because of the deprivations that people are under," he told reporters. "This is a catastrophe."

[...] A senior U.S. official said Powell would tell Khartoum they "should not expect any growth in the U.S.-Sudan relationship or benefits from the U.S.-Sudan relationship until they have corrected their behavior (in) Darfur."
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will also be in Sudan (either Tuesday or Wednesday) ... and will also travel to a refugee camp in Darfur. On Friday, he told reporters that though he is not ready "to send in the cavalry", he said all countries should begin considering committing troops to protect civilians if the government does not disarm the militias in Darfur.

On Saturday, the government of Sudan again said it would crack down on the Janjaweed militias in Darfur.
The extra troops [deployed from the south of the country] will be used to secure relief corridors into the area and to arrest Janjaweed militia members, [Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman] Ismael said.

[...] Other measures Sudan had taken included the establishment of an independent inquiry committee to probe alleged abuses of civilians, the appointment of delegates to talk to rebel factions, and the implementation of a fuel price hike to generate revenues for the relief effort, said Ismael.

[...] It has also been announced that [President Omar Hassan] al-Bashir has appointed close aide and interior minister Abdrahim Hussein as Presidential representative to coordinate efforts to restore law and order to the three Darfur states, help resettle refugees and displaced persons and smooth the relief effort.
Last week, there was word that Sudan and Chad had agreed to disarm the Janjaweed militias on both sides of the border.
"We have completed an agreement with Chad to collect arms in Darfur and the Chadian lands neighbouring Darfur at the same time," [semi-official news service] Sudanese Media Centre reported [President Omar Hassan] Bashir as saying on Tuesday during a meeting with invited journalists.

"To disarm the groups in one area without the other would not help in resolving the problem," Bashir said.

[...] Chadian President Idriss Deby's adviser on foreign affairs warned last week that Sudan's inter-tribal violence could spill over the border and said the Janjaweed had been seeking the backing of Chad's Arab tribes. [About 10 days ago, a group of Janjaweed clashed with Chadian forces.]
And according to this report, Sudan and Chad have also agreed to disarm those armed (rebel) groups that have been fighting the Janjaweed. (More on the rebels below.)

Last Friday ... word that a Sudanese government delegation is in Paris for talks with one of the Darfur rebel groups.
"We don't want to go into it [details about the talks] for the moment, that was part of the deal," Mohammed Yusef Abdallah, Sudan's minister of state for humanitarian affairs told a media conference, said as he confirmed the meeting with members of the rebel Movement for Justice and Equality (MJE).

Contacts "have already been made on the ground, during which we have discussed several problems.... The discussions are continuing," he said.

He added that talks with the other main rebel group in Darfur, the Movement for the Liberation of Sudan, would begin "very soon".
In English, the names of the rebel groups are usually written as "Justice and Equality Movement" (JEM) ... and "Sudan Liberation Movement/Army" (SLM/A)

Quick backgrounder -- SLM/A and JEM launched their revolt against the government in February 2003 after a long conflict between Arab nomads and African villagers, accusing the government of arming the Arab militias known locally as Janjaweed (rough translation - "armed man on horseback") and supporting them with aerial firepower. The government denies the charge, saying that the militias are acting independently.

The government and the rebel groups last signed a truce on April 8, but each side has since accused the other of violations.

In other news ... it seems the US is considering sending aid to Darfur through Libya.
"We have committed more than $100 million for the humanitarian and relief efforts in Darfur, and there is probably more to come," she [US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice] said.

She added that the United States is exploring all of its options to make sure the aid gets to where it is needed. "We are working with others, with the Libyans, to try to get a third route for supplies to get in to Darfur. And we have been putting a lot of pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the janjaweed militia from doing the horrible things that they are doing in that region," she said.
The World Food Programme too has been considering the Libya route ... you can read more here about all the different routes aid agencies are considering and why.

---

Alternative spelling ... "Janjaweed" ... "Janjawid" ... "Jingaweit"

will continue adding alternative spellings in this space, as I find them

Uganda: 8,000 kids abducted in past 12 months

According to this story, a parliamentary committee reported that an estimated 8,000 children have been abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in the past 12 months.
[The Parliament Select Committee on Humanitarian and Security Affairs ...] said the net economic cost of the conflict in the Acholi sub-region over the past 16 years [is estimated] at over 1.33 billion US dollars.

Libya: open for business

Libya really is open for business ... a US-Libya business summit will be held in Geneva Sept. 6-7.

Niger: Iraq-Niger yelow cake story ... revived?

The story was published in today's Financial Times ...
The FT has now learnt that three European intelligence services were aware of possible illicit trade in uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.

This intelligence provided clues about plans by Libya and Iran to develop their undeclared nuclear programmes. Niger officials were also discussing sales to North Korea and China of uranium ore or the "yellow cake" refined from it: the raw materials that can be progressively enriched to make nuclear bombs.

The raw intelligence on the negotiations included indications that Libya was investing in Niger's uranium industry to prop it up at a time when demand had fallen, and that sales to Iraq were just a part of the clandestine export plan. These secret exports would allow countries with undeclared nuclear programmes to build up uranium stockpiles.

One nuclear counter-proliferation expert told the FT: "If I am going to make a bomb, I am not going to use the uranium that I have declared. I am going to use what I acquire clandestinely, if I am going to keep the programme hidden."

This may have been the method being used by Libya before it agreed last December to abandon its secret nuclear programme. According to the IAEA, there are 2,600 tonnes of refined uranium ore - "yellow cake" - in Libya. However, less than 1,500 tonnes of it is accounted for in Niger records, even though Niger was Libya's main supplier.

Information gathered in 1999-2001 suggested that the uranium sold illicitly would be extracted from mines in Niger that had been abandoned as uneconomic by the two French-owned mining companies - Cominak and Somair, both of which are owned by the mining giant Cogema - operating in Niger.

"Mines can be abandoned by Cogema when they become unproductive. This doesn't mean that people near the mines can't keep on extracting," a senior European counter-proliferation official said.
Here is a story from a year ago if you need to jog your memory about the Niger/yellow cake controversy ... and here is a timeline of the story.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall is skeptical about the story.

UPDATE: Niger: intelligence reports on Iraq "yellowcake" story

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Rwanda: gacaca courts launched

Following a two-year trial period to identify and correct weaknesses in the system, Rwanda on Thursday saw the launch of the gacaca courts, a traditional court system.

During the trial period ...
[...] 750 courts conducted trials, imprisoning 376 people. Another 386 people were freed, either because they were found innocent or they were younger than 18 at the time they committed the crimes.

During the test phase, the legislature made adjustments to how the courts run trials. A week ago, for example, it was decided to allow rape victims to testify in private to encourage women abused during the genocide to come forward.
More on the problems identified and the proposed solutions here.

Found the best explanation for the meaning of "gacaca" in this story from the Hirondelle News Agency ...
The word ‘Gacaca’ comes from the Kinyarwanda word for a kind of grass (agacaca) and the courts are modelled on the traditional ways of solving disputes, where village wise men bring together all parties in a public gathering, usually sitting on grass in a public place.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Eritrea/Ethiopia: Eritrea asking Mugabe to intervene

An envoy for Eritrean President Issaias Afewerki was in Harare today to ask Mugabe to intervene in the Eritrea/Ethiopia border dispute.
Speaking to reporters after delivering the message, Eritrean Energy and Mines Minister Tesfai Gebreselassie said that his country wanted Mugabe to exert his influence on the African Union (AU) to take action against Ethiopia for reneging on the verdict of a United Nations Commission established to resolve the dispute.
Xinhua is the only one carrying the story

Also today ... Eritrea said it would not attend next month's African Union summit in Ethiopia.
"I don't think we can possibly send a representative of our country to Ethiopia when Ethiopia... is forcibly occupying our sovereign territory," Yemane Gebremeskel, President Issaias Afeworki's chief of staff, told AFP.

Uganda/DRC: Museveni says he's dedicated to peace agreement

Ugandan President Museveni told diplomats in Kampala on Thursday that he is dedicated to the Lusaka Peace Accord and that he would arrest the Congolese dissident leader General Nkunda, if he entered Uganda.

This follows a story published in The Monitor earlier this week alleging that General Nkunda had been in Uganda to talk to President Museveni ... a story that was quickly denied by government officials.

Also ... State Minister for Defence Ruth Nankabirwa said that defence forces are on high alert because of the tense situation along the Uganda, DRC and Rwanda border.

---

Here is the full-text of the 2002 Lusaka Peace Accord. The agreement basically arranges the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the DRC.

Note this is different from the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.

DRC/Rwanda: Kabila & Kagame meet, attempt to diffuse tension

President Kabila (DRC) and President Kagame (Rwanda) agreed to respect the 2002 Pretoria Agreement which ended the four-year war between the two countries.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo hosted the one-day talks held at Abuja airport.

Here is the full-text of the 2002 Pretoria Agreement. The agreement basically says that the DRC goverment will track down and disarm those Interahamwe and ex-FAR (Forces Armees Rwandaises) in the territory under its control. The Rwandan government, for its part, agrees to withdraw its troops from the DRC.

>>> The source of the current tensions ... DRC accused Rwanda of backing the rebel soliders who attacked the town of Bunia. Rwanda denied the charge. (See this post for more on what happened in Bunia.)

UPDATE: Kagame and Kabila also agreed to set-up a joint verification mechanism to ensure that Hutu extremists are disarmed and demobilised, and that there are no more Rwandan troops on DRC soil.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

AIDS policy: Bush on condoms

Bush gave an AIDS policy speech yesterday ...

The New York Times headlined the story ... Bush Backs Condom Use to Prevent Spread of AIDS (... and as Wonkette put it, White House Grasp of the Obvious Like, Totally Complete)

Now to get serious for a moment ... the Times story has some good factoids (and we do love factoids).
Mr. Bush has mentioned condom use at least once before, last July, in Entebbe, Uganda. But mentioning it in a domestic context is quite different.

"I can't believe the president actually used the C-word," said Amy Coen, the president of Population Action International, which has long backed birth control and AIDS prevention in underdeveloped countries. "That's not one that comes easily to him. But it's one thing to use the word and another thing to actually fund it."

A study by the group in 2002 showed that underdeveloped countries need 10 billion condoms a year and were getting only 2.5 billion.

In fact, although neither the Bush nor the Clinton administration advertised it, the United States has long been the world's largest supplier of condoms to such countries.

In 1990, through the Agency for International Development, it donated 800 million condoms to poor countries. That dropped to a low of 186 million in 1999, in the Clinton administration, then rose to 458 million last year and is on track to reach 550 million this year, said Dr. E. Anne Peterson, the agency's assistant administrator for global health.

"We've more than doubled condom availability during this administration, primarily for H.I.V.-AIDS," Dr. Peterson said. "Before, it was a mix of family planning and AIDS, but the big increase is for AIDS prevention."
The full-text of Bush's speech can be found here. The pertinent graf (and only metnion of "condom")...
The second part of a domestic strategy to fight AIDS is prevention. I think it's really important for us to focus on prevention. We can learn from the experiences of other countries when it comes to a good program to prevent the spread of AIDS, like the nation of Uganda. They've started what they call the A-B-C approach to prevention of this deadly disease. That stands for: Abstain, be faithful in marriage, and, when appropriate, use condoms. That's what A-B-C stands for. And it's working. I like to call it a practical, balanced and moral message. I say it's working because Uganda has cut its AIDS infection rate to 5 percent over 10 years. Prevention works. (Applause.)

Egypt, Sudan & Ethiopia water ministers meeting

Ministers from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday to discuss [...] drinking water projects, the building of hydro-electric power stations, and the establishment of experimental farms and fishing zones in depressed areas, MENA said.

[...] Egypt's independent press regularly writes about dam construction projects under way in Ethiopia, allegedly in cooperation with Israel, which could slacken the flow of water and impact on Cairo's Nile water supply.

But Egyptian water resources minister, Mahmud Abu Zeid, said Ethiopia had the "right" to build dams and looked forward to cooperating with it on the matter. (full-text)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

DRC: Q&A with President Joseph Kabila on possibility of war w/ Rwanda

Here is a really interesting interview with President Joseph Kabila ... conducted today by William Wallis of the Financial Times and David Lewis of Reuters.

I had trouble choosing what to excerpt because the whole thing is really interesting ... but finally decided on the questions addressing the possibility of war with Rwanda ...
Do you believe that the current crisis (sparked when renegade ethnic Tutsi commander Gen Nkunda occupied the eastern town of Bukavu) has been partly orchestrated by Rwanda, across the border?

JK: The government has clearly stated from day one that the attacks on Bukavu were not only an orchestration from Rwanda but those attacks were assisted militarily by Rwanda. These are hard facts and these are reports that not only come from the population. They also come from the UN.

Do you think at this stage that a war with Gen Nkunda and possibly with Rwanda, is avoidable?

JK: We have never wanted to fight a war with Rwanda. It's not in our interests. It's not in the interests of our people. It's not in the interests of the region. With Nkunda, the government has stated clearly that either he surrenders his arms and himself so that he goes to a military tribunal, or we will deal with him militarily. If dealing with Nkunda militarily means dealing militarily with Rwanda, that's something else.

Why has it been so difficult for Congo to deal with the Rwandan Hutu militia threat in the east of the country? (The Hutu and " interahamwe" militia based in eastern Congo, some of whom participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and that have served as Rwanda's principle justification for the invasion of Congo in 1998 )

JK: Well, lets go back to the signing of the agreement in Pretoria. Since then, and these are figures from the UN, I believe that over 15,000 of these ex FAR have been repatriated to Rwanda. Those efforts were ongoing until Mutebusi (another insurgent) started his adventures and until Nkunda started his adventures. Our commitment to disarming these people and their eventual repatriation under UN auspices is still the principle that we intend to respect. But let's look at the reality. How do you go after the Interahamwe when you have Nkunda and Mutebusi making trouble? One of the conditions for us to take care of the ex FAR or any of these threats is that the situation in Bukavu, or South Kivu must be calm.

I have heard reports of the Congo sending 10,000 men to the east to fight Rwanda. No, we are sending 10,000 men to the east to retake control of areas like Kamanyola (scene of fighting) yesterday and eventually resolve the situation with Nkunda. Later these troops will stay in the area to deal with the threat of ex FAR (Forces Armees Rwandaises) and any other armed groups in the area.

There are reports that pro government forces are now mobilising these Rwandan Hutu militia (as allies)?

JK: It's not in our interests to deal with ex FAR or any other groups. The Congo has 60m inhabitants. Nobody is going to tell me that the Congolese people cannot organise themselves, and put in place an army to deal with a situation and that we have to go around looking for 1,000, or 3,000 ex FAR. That's truly an insult We want to get our hands on them to send them back to their country of origin. So, if there have been any contact, it could have been in that sense. Of course now the situation is very clear. Now that we have UN observers on the ground, its now not only going to be our word against that of Rwanda, we've got a neutral partner in MONUC (the UN mission to Congo).

DRC: one coup leader flees ... UNSC takes a stand ... and other developments

Colonel Jules Mutebutsi and 300 of his men have taken refuge in Rwanda ... Rwandan military says it has disarmed them.

Mutebutsi, along with fellow renegade Brigadier General Laurent Nkunda, captured the eastern Congolese town of Bukavu three weeks ago.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday addressed DRC's neighbours ...
The Security Council urged Rwanda not to provide any practical or political support to armed groups in the DRC, particularly those led by Gen. Nkunda and Col. Mutebusi, and it strongly encouraged the leaders of DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi "to work together to reduce tensions and restore confidence in the region."

The Council also reminded Uganda not to provide military support for armed Congolese groups and called on Burundi to prevent support going from its territory to armed groups in neighbouring DRC.
And this curious story in Monday's Monitor (Uganda) ... saying that General Nkunda was in Kampala to talk to the President.
Speaking to The Monitor by phone yesterday, Nkunda said he has met with Ugandan security officials and briefed President Yoweri Museveni about the deteriorating situation in the Congo.

"We have asked President Museveni to talk to President Joseph Kabila so that he can help independently investigate massacres of Banyamulenge (ethnic Tutsi) in Bukavu" he said.
However, in Tuesday's New Vision, defence minister Amama Mbabazi denied that any meeting had taken place.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Nile Treaty: more background

Addis Tribune is running a series of articles on the Nile Treaty ... written by Gebre Tsadik Degefu (author of "The Nile: Historical, Legal, and Developmental Perspectives”).

I just read through the first three articles (it's really one article in three parts) ... and golly is it ever detailed (who said what and when). Degefu has a definite point of view ... and I've excerpted some of the points I found interesting.

If you're completely unfamiliar with the discussions surrounding the use of the Nile waters ... I offer this earlier post. Please note that it's my summary of the issues and I don't claim to fully understand this bloody thing.

The Nile Waters: Moving beyond Gridlock (Part I)

The Nile Waters: Moving Beyond Gridlock(Part II)
Thus, the ultimate objective of the 1929 Agreement was to offer British political concessions to Egypt so as to have the latter’s friendship. Consequently, the 1929 Agreement cannot be placed into the category of ‘dispositive’ or ‘territorial’ treaties devolving automatically on all successors under international law. Further, it can also be argued that such treaties are still subject to those factors which would have the effect of vitiating the original treaty such as the principle conventio omnis intelligitur rebus sic stantibus. Briefly, the doctrine of rebus sic stantibus (“things standing thus”) asserts that if circumstances which constituted an essential basis of the consent of the parties to be bound by a treaty undergo such far-reaching changes as to transform radically the nature and scope of obligations still to be performed, the Agreement may be terminated on the initiative of either party. [...]

The doctrine of rebus sic stantibus can be successfully applied to the Sudan and the East African States of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda because their independence amounted to a vital change of circumstances with regard to the presumptions under which the 1929 Agreement was made in that the Sudan (and the other three) can no longer be regarded as territories whose claim to development could be taken up only once the interests of Egypt, present and potential, have been assured.

[...] Unlike Tanganyika [Tanzania], the states of Kenya and Uganda did not specifically contest the devolution of the 1929 Agreement and the other instruments regarding the Nile concluded during the colonial period on their behalf by the United Kingdom and Egypt. However, the two States might argue that, after the expiry of the two-year grace period [they declared and which took effect upon independence to allow renegotiation of], the 1929 Agreement, having been neither renegotiated nor repudiated, was considered by them as having lapsed automatically on their accession to independence. The conclusion that the 1929 Agreement was not initially intended to be binding in perpetuity in the sense of devolving automatically on successor states, supports the view advanced above. Further, they would maintain that it did not belong to those treaties, which, under the rules of customary international law would be considered as surviving state succession.
The Nile Waters: Moving Beyond Gridlock (Part III)
As already stated, the 1959 Agreement as a bilateral arrangement obligates only Egypt and the Sudan. It has no binding effect on the other eight Nile Basin countries and should be abrogated and replaced by a new treaty. A multilateral treaty binding all riparians will have to be negotiated among the ten riparian states, including Egypt and the Sudan, based on equity and fairness. Egypt’s insistence upon the legal validity of the principle of acquired and historical rights claiming that because it has drawn upon the Nile to sustain its agriculture from time immemorial, it has an historic droit acquis to, or priority of appropriation of, the river’s water that all other riparians must honor, is not supportable under the current international law of rivers.

Monday, June 21, 2004

DRC: this can't be good

In the past week, some 10,000 fresh government troops have been deployed to eastern Congo. The government says it is just trying to assert control of the area following the actions of rebel leader General Nkunda ...but Rwanda is feeling very threatened.

On Saturday, Rwanda's Foreign Minister Charles Muligande said the DRC is preparing to attack his country. He accused the Congolese government of rearming Rwandan insurgents, including members of the former army and Interahamwe militias.
"This heavy deployment of Congolese soldiers and Rwandan rebels is a big threat to the security of our country," Muligande warned. "Certainly we shall not sit back and watch these developments, we have a country and people to defend."
The DRC had accused Rwanda of massing troops at the border ... a charge Rwanda denied last week.

As for General Nkunda ...
"I regret that the army seems to be preparing for a military operation. It seems that the government doesn't want dialogue," he [rebel leader Laurent Nkunda] told Reuters by telephone.

[...] United Nations military sources called the [DRC's] military deployment "unprecedented". (link)
---

And more fallout from that failed coup attempt ...
"The chief of staff of the armed forces has been removed for reasons of efficiency and to accelerate the integration process," Information Minister Vital Kamerhe told Reuters.

He said the head of the presidential guard and the head of the 'maison militaire', Kabila's team of military advisers, had also been suspended as part of investigations into the events of June 11, when security forces put down the apparent coup bid. (link)
UPDATE: Here is some more info ...
[... army chief of staff Admiral Liwanga] Mata had been mentioned by the alleged ringleader of the coup, Major Eric Lenge, a former trusted top presidential guard.

[...] Lenge, in his communique on state radio during the attempt, had mentioned Mata by rank but not name, saying the army chief of staff had been aware of his plans. (source)

Zimbabwe: condoms were only the beginning

Recall how a few months ago government officials were upset by condoms bearing the phrase "get up, stand up" ... worried that the condom-messages were telling the population to "stand up" against the government ...

Well, it seems "they" -- the people behind the condom campaign -- really were out to get them. And "they" are ...
Zvakwana - which means 'enough' in the Shona language - has launched a bold campaign expressed through graffiti, emails and condoms to encourage the Zimbabwean people to rise up.

[...] A black Z on a bright yellow handprint is appearing mysteriously on the walls of bus stations, on busy streets and over billboards across Harare and other cities. Thousands of 'revolutionary condoms' have been distributed, emblazoned with the letter Z and the double-entendre message 'Get up! Stand Up!'.

[...] Zvakwana carried out one of its trademark 'non-violent civic actions' in Harare just before Zimbabwe's Independence Day events on 18 April. Activists spray-painted lampposts and the large pipes next to the main Tongogara Avenue, used by Mugabe's 27-vehicle motorcade when he travels to the National Sports Stadium, and 'Get UP Stand UP' appeared on stadium turnstiles and walls. 'There was so much graffiti,' crows the group, 'the regime couldn't repaint it before Mugabe's trip, so he had to take a different route.' (full-text)
The campaign's website ... Zvakwana

Saturday, June 19, 2004

worth a listen ...

Last Sunday's Andy Kershaw show (here) was from the Festival in the Desert in Mali. Absolutely Fabulous!

The show should be available until tomorrow afternoon. Take a listen if you can.

Friday, June 18, 2004

DRC: Nkunda backs off threat of war

Last Sunday, General Nkunda had threatened to go to war unless the government set up a commission to investigate the alleged slaughter of the Banyamulenge in Bukavu. And today, there was word that Nkunda has backed off his threat, saying that his demands had been met ... but it's not as straight forward as that.
"We are satisfied because our demands were taken into account and the (former rebel) Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) took our side," he added.

However, there was no official word from Kinshasa [government] responding to Nkunda's demands, which also included replacing General Felix Buja Mabe, the military commander for the 10th military region, an area including the eastern Sud-Kivu province.

On Thursday, a meeting of leaders of the RCD, which is now a political party in a government of national unity and claims to no longer have a military wing, issued a statement condemning the recent clashes in and around the Sud-Kivu capital, Bukavu, between the dissidents and regular forces.

Pushed by journalists at a news conference, the delegates conceded that such a position implied condemnation of Nkunda and a fellow dissident officer, Colonel Jules Mutebusi, both former RCD military commanders.

[...] on Sunday [Nkunda had threatened] to declare war on Kinshasa as of the following day if the government did not investigate the "massacres".

The deadline came and went, with no declaration of war. Nkunda later said he was waiting for RCD to take a stance on his demands.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

worth a read ....

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth ... a thoughtful review.

UPDATE: ... another useful review.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe says members of his family affected by HIV/AIDS

Mugabe was speaking at the country's first Aids conference [...].

His revelation put him in the company of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's former president, who broke a taboo by speaking publicly of losing relatives to the disease.

Other former presidents have gone further by specifying that they lost not just members of their extended family, which in Africa can be large, but close relatives. Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda said his son had died of Aids and Malawi's Bakili Muluzi his brother. (full-text)

DRC: the "G" word

The UN team sent to investigate allegations of genocide in eastern Congo announced their preliminary findings yesterday saying that they had found no evidence of genocide. The team said that civilians from every community in Bukavu have suffered. The team will continue its investigation in neighbouring Rwanda, interviewing Congolese refugees who fled to Cyangungu.

Soldiers led by General Laurent Nkunda and Colonel Jules Mutebusi rose up against the government on May 26 and took Bukavu on June 2. Nkunda and Mutebusi said they were trying to protect the Banyamulenge -- often referred to as Congolese Tutsi -- from being massacred, from a planned genocide.

Nkunda and his forces withdrew from Bukavu about a week after they got there ... Mutebusi's forces chose to stay in a camp in Bukavu ... and government troops asserted their control of the town a couple of days later. (Mutebusi and his soldiers later leave Bukavu and were reported to have moved toward another town.)

A few days after he withdrew, Nkunda threatened to return to Bukavu because he said the Banyamulenge were being targeted for reprisals. When he left, he said he did so to allow the government to send a delegation to investigate what was going on. He raised the issue again this past Sunday, threatening war unless the government sets up a commission to investigate the alleged ethnic slaughter in Bukavu.

Here is where things start getting muddy ... when Nkunda withdrew, he is quoted as having told MONUC: "I withdraw unconditionally. I was mistaken. There has been no genocide against Banyamulenge in Bukavu."

Now check out these different perspectives on Nkunda's statements ...
[...] a key Banyamulenge leader, Benoit Mubanda Kadage, has jumped on Nkunda's bandwagon.

Mubanda, who is head of the Banyamulenge community in the eastern towns of Bukavu, Uvira, Goma, and Minembwe, the capital, Kinshasa, and the ethnic group's diaspora, said in a statement published in the press Wednesday that events in Bukavu "constitute acts of genocide".

[...] But transition lawmaker, Enoch Ruberangabo Sebineza, also a member of the Banyamulenge community, has taken an entirely different tack.

He denounced Nkunda and the other dissident soldiers in eastern DRC as "true criminals, whom the Banyamulenge community does not need".
What ever is going on, people are definitely scared. Some 22,000 refugees, Banamulenge and otherwise, have fled into neighbouring Burundi. The UNHCR has set-up two camps, one camp in Cibitoke for 8,027 Banyamulenge, and another camp five miles away for 14,534 people from other Congolese ethnic groups. According to the UNHCR, another 5,000 or so Congolese refugees are in a camp in Rwanda.

---

For a brief bio of Nkunda, see this.

Also ... Human Rights Watch has thi breifing on what happened in Bukavu. (Worth a read.)

---

MONUC -- United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Libya: group of Lockerbie families want end to Libyan sanctions

Months ago, Libya reached a deal with the families of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing, offering $10 million per victim. The families received $4 million in September when the UN ended its sanctions against Libya. According to the deal, of the remaining $6 million, the familes will receive:
- $4 million when the US lifts its economic sanctions against Libya
- $2 million when the US takes Libya off the list of nations supporting terrorism

The deal on the remaining $6 million expires on July 22.

According to this story in today's New York Times, a majority of the families want the US to lift the sanctions against Libya ... and will send representatives to DC tomorrow to lobby for that very thing.
James P. Kreindler, who represented 120 of the families in the negotiations with Libya, said relatives of 230 victims had signed a recent letter to President Bush, urging that sanctions be lifted. The letter, which he said he drafted at the request of an association of Pan Am families, was sent before the death of President Reagan and the report that Libya might be involved in a plot to kill the Saudi prince.

"There is a growing sense that even with these events of the last week, sooner or later these last sanctions are going to be removed and Libya will come off the list of state sponsors of terrorism," Mr. Kreindler said in a telephone interview on Monday.

The letter said the amount still held in escrow for the families was larger than the Libyan assets in this country that would be unblocked by the lifting of sanctions.

"Thus, we are faced with the ironic circumstance in which Libya stands to gain more by the continued blocking of its assets than if its assets were timely unblocked," the letter said. "Libya's enrichment in this regard, should it occur, would be made all the more difficult to understand if Libya's assets were unblocked and the other commercial sanctions were lifted within days, weeks or months after July 22."

[...] Among the families, one of the strongest critics of lifting sanctions is Dan Cohen, of Cape May Courthouse, N.J., whose only child, Theodora, was killed when the Boeing 747 exploded on Dec. 21, 1988. The structure of the deal, Mr. Cohen said, has turned the relatives into Libyan agents. The Pan Am 103 families, he said, "are now being enlisted to lobby for murderers."

[...]He and his wife, Susan, will accept no Libyan money conditioned on lifting sanctions, he said.

DRC: coup leader still on the loose

The latest on last Friday's failed coup attempt in the Democratic Republic of Congo ... the leader of that coup was Major Eric Lenge ...

On Saturday, presidential spokesman Kudura Kasongo was quoted as saying that the government thought Lenge was hiding in a forest in Bas Congo, adding "If he is there, we will eventually get him as he will have to come out and get something to eat."

He must have been hungry on Sunday because Congolese soldiers were involved in gunbattle with a group thought to include Lenge.
"On Sunday, eight men in uniform hijacked a car in Kinshasa and became involved in a shootout with the security forces, killing one of our men," Information Minister Vital Kamerhe said.

"We strongly suspect that this was Lenge and his men," he said, adding security forces had shot at the assailants as they tried to flee the capital in a boat.
Reuters also reports that many people in Kinshasa have expressed doubt about how the "coup" went down ... questioning how the plotters were so easily able to take the radio station and then escape.

UPDATE: July 7, 2004 ... Lenge has been found.

Q&A with F.W. de Klerk

Here is a transcript of a Q&A session with Frederik Willem de Klerk held last week at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Zimbabwe: strikes weapons deal with China

Cash-strapped Zimbabwe has bought 12 fighter jets and 100 military vehicles from China, the opposition shadow defence minister Giles Mutsekwa said on Sunday.

[...] The cost of the equipment has not been disclosed, but Mutsekwa estimated the deal at around US$200m.

Mutsekwa said the parliamentary committee on defence was kept in the dark about the deal, only discovering it during a recent review of the defence ministry's quarterly budget.

[...] [Defence ministry secretary Trust] Maphosa reportedly cited security reasons for the breach in procedure.

He also reportedly argued that the military purchases from China were necessary due to the arms embargo slapped by the European Union and the United States on Zimbabwe.

Maphosa said it was now impossible to find spare parts for the fleet currently in use. (full-story)
According to this brief story in the Guardian ... "It is not clear how the jets will be paid for as the defence budget is a mere $136m and 69 per cent of that consists of salaries."

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Western Sahara: mediator quits

Former US Secretary of State James Baker resigned a couple of days ago from his role as Kofi Annan’s personal envoy for Western Sahara. From the UN press release ...
Since his appointment in March 1997, Mr. Baker, along with the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), has been helping the parties settle the territory’s status. The Mission has been operating since April 1991, when it was installed after years of fighting between Western Saharans and Morocco following Spain’s withdrawal from the territory in 1976.

Last year the UN issued a suggested peace plan, backed by the Security Council as an “optimum political solution,” between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro) that would have given Mr. Baker, as Personal Envoy, responsibility for a referendum determining whether the people of Western Sahara choose independence or integration with Morocco.

But in April Morocco rejected the peace plan and proposed to give Western Sahara limited autonomy.
According to this BBC story, Baker is reported to have grown frustrated over his failure to broker an agreement.

Friday, June 11, 2004

DRC: coup attempt in Kinshasa

President Joseph Kabila appeared on state television to assert that he is still in control after an attempted coup by members of his own presidential guards.

Kabila said a dozen insurgents had been arrested ... diplomats and UN officials estimated there were about 200 insurgents involved.

At about 2:30AM local time (1:30 GMT), some insurgents took over state radio and television to announce that the army was in control. (The TV statment went largely unheard because it's normally off air at that time and nobody was watching.) At some point, the insurgents are also thought to have taken control of the national electricity station, cutting power to the capital for three hours.

According to reports, coup leader Major Eric Lenge, with about 20 supporters, took over the radio station and announced that the country's transitional process was not working and that he was suspending it and taking control himself. He also urged the army not to resist if they wanted to avoid "turning the city or the entire country into a battlefield" and said his "people are all over the country".

According to AFP, Lenge is believed to have been a close associate of the president's and that he played a leading role in putting down last week's protests against the UN mission in Kinshasa.

By about mid Friday morning, Reuters was reporting that security forces had Lenge and a few of his supporters surrounded at Kinshasa's Ndjili airport. (IRIN is reporting that the "coup leader" has already been arrested.) Foreign Minister Antoine Ghonda also said some of the insurgents had attempted to surrender to European embassies and others were fleeing to a region south of the capital.

---

This is the second coup attempt in almost as many months. According to reports, the March 28 coup attempt was launched by soldiers from the Zairean Armed Forces (FAZ) of late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

worth a listen ...

A documentary on BBC Radio 4 about a Bangladeshi journalist who returns to Rwanda after 10 years to vist the child he rescued during the genocide.

Click here and look for ... It's My Story: For The Love Of A Daughter

The doc should be up until next Thursday.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

North Africa: more on locusts

New Scientist article gives more info on the locusts that threaten crops in northern Africa.
[...] experts have told New Scientist that fears that the swarms may hit Europe may be unfounded as this would require "unusual winds". Furthermore, locusts have never been known to thrive in Europe.

[...] A much greater worry is that the insects could breed to plague proportions and ruin the livelihoods of poor African farmers and affect food security. The last African locust plague lasted from 1986 to 1989 and struck 40 countries.

In 2003, exceptionally wet rainy seasons in the Sahel and northern Africa meant that the desert locust species (Schistocerca gregaria (Forskal)) was able to breed more generations of offspring than usual, leading to a population boom.

"It's important to control in terms of protecting crops in the Sahel and trying to prevent it from getting any bigger," Elliott told New Scientist. "Possibly this summer is the last chance to do so. Once it really gets going it's extremely difficult to deal with as the population gets larger and larger."

Previous plagues of the 1940s and 1950s lasted 10 or 15 years, and hit as many as 65 countries, says Elliott. "It would be fairly horrendous if we moved into that scale," he warns.

The north African countries currently suffering swarms - Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya - are making "tremendous efforts" to control the insatiable pests, he says. But because the locusts cover such a huge area, Elliott predicts that substantial numbers of swarms will escape and move back into the Sahel later in 2004.
Whether the locusts have another successful breeding round will depend on the summer rains in the Sahel, he says. But reports suggest the rains may have already started. "Then we would expect that by the end of 2004 that a full blown plague will have developed."

A plague of locusts is defined as a large, gregarious population present in at least two major regions. Locusts are normally lone creatures, but when times are good and their numbers boom, they modify their behaviour and group together gregariously. Elliott predicts that the locusts could spread to West Africa and eastwards to Sudan and even the Red Sea region. (full-text)

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Zimbabwe: nationalizing farmland

Zimbabwe's government plans to nationalise farmland by cancelling the titles to all productive land and replacing them with 99-year leases, a senior cabinet minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

"In the end all land shall be state land and there will be no such thing called private land," Lands Minister John Nkomo told the state-owned Herald.

[...] Fewer than 500 white farmers now remain in Zimbabwe and own just three percent of the country's land, according to a government audit of the land reform programme. (full-text)
Here is stating the obvious ... this latest announcement affects all landowners, both white and black.

According to the original Zim Herald story, Nkomo "...advised all land owners to come forward for vetting in order to qualify for the 99-year lease agreement." (Other reports characterise Nkomo's statment as an order to landowners to immediately give up their titles ... and other reports leave it more ambiguous, saying the start of the nationalization process is unknown). Nkomo also said that a national land board would be set up to supervise the process and ensure the effective use of land.

The opposition is less than thrilled by this latest announcement.
David Coltart, the MDC legal spokesman, said: [...]"This is not Zambia or Mozambique, which had leasehold as a system. Zimbabweans have had title deeds for over 100 years."
The idea that leases are used in other African countries was brought up in the original Zim Herald article.
"This practice [leasing land] is common throughout the rest of Africa and the only few countries not practising it include Zimbabwe and South Africa. Even in Zambia former commercial farmers from Zimbabwe who resettled there are operating under this system," said a senior valuer with one of the leading real estate firms.

"The only problem that it can present is that it is difficult for a person holding a lease agreement to make permanent improvements on the property," he added.

A leading banker also pointed out that since the land would be leased using the "in perpetuity" system, accessing funds from commercial banks would not present a problem.

"It depends on how the lease agreement between the farmer and Government is drawn up and whether banks would accept it as collateral," he said. (full-text)
More from the Voice of America ...
Central bank governor Gideon Gono, speaking from the United States, said, as a banker, he was pleased the plan offered a clear, decisive way forward. He said commercial banks would view leases as bankable assets, which would be used as security against loans. (full-text)
Others are not so sure. From The Independent ...
"Effectively, this [announcement] means it is no longer possible for any person to use land or any building on that land - be it a house or factory - as collateral to borrow money from banks as it is classified as state land," said a government economist on condition of anonymity.

"There is no better and quicker way of destroying an economy. I frankly don't know who advised them on this unacceptable step." [Zimbabwean economist John] Robertson said the move would in effect stop any new foreign investment in Zimbabwe. It would also freeze all economic growth as nobody would have collateral to borrow money and develop their business. (full-text)
The Financial Times quotes unnamed lawyers as saying that the government will have to amend the country's constitution before it can go ahead with this plan ... but the paper also reports that even opposition leaders believe this will not be a serious obstacle for the government.

Cathy Buckle, writing in the Independent, says that news of Nkomo's statment was not mentioned on either the 5 or 6pm news bulletins on state-owned radio in Zimbabwe. She goes on to say:
As a dispossessed commercial farmer in Zimbabwe I view the announcement by Minister Nkomo with a healthy dose of scepticism. For the past 52 months the statements, announcements and pronouncements about farmland have changed almost every month. What began as the acquisition of one million hectares of land soon became five million and then 11 million.

Almost every minister here has made some sort of a statement about Zimbabwe's farmland but 52 months later it has become abundantly clear that it is only when the announcement is made by President Mugabe himself that it carries any weight.

[...]One cannot help but wonder how many of the people that have been allocated plots on seized commercial farms will meet the criteria and be able to get 99-year leases. One of the reasons farm production has been so low, has been the lack of title deeds since the farms were redistributed. Without title deeds farmers have had no collateral to secure bank loans, no capital to use to put crops in and cope with inflation at 505 per cent.
The government had said land seizures had been completed last year but it has taken a further 259 mostly white-owned farms since January and has given notice to 918 more.

---

The announcement also affects private game reserves ... with the leases on limited to just 25 years.
Eddie Cross, finance spokesperson for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, told the Cape Times by email "this will mark the end of private conservation in Zimbabwe".

"The majority of the conservancies are foreign-owned and therefore protected by investment guarantee agreements with foreign governments. French, German, American and British interests are involved, as are several South African investors. These people have bought into these conservancies with certificates of 'no interest' by the state (and have) made huge investments in infrastructure and in wildlife."

At stake were hunting and ecotourism revenues of around $50-million (about R300-million) a year, investment inflows of around $6-million (about R36-milion) a year and the "survival of certain species that have virtually been wiped out in other areas".

[...] Of a long list of farms gazetted since April, most are in mainly game conservancy areas. (full-text)
---

John Nkomo's full title -- Minister of Special Affairs in the Office of the President and Cabinet in charge of Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

locusts threaten N. Africa

An intense campaign of spraying to the south of the Atlas mountains is attacking the swarms that are starting to appear after two exceptionally wet years provided perfect breeding conditions.

The potential is for a plague of proportions not seen for nearly 20 years.

"Locusts are breeding in thousands of spots over large areas south of the Atlas mountains stretching from Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia to western Libya," the senior officer of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's locust group, Clive Elliot, warned.

[...] Winds were expected to carry swarms this month into Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.

But some experts have warned that if the winds blow north instead, some locusts could reach southern Europe.

[...] The last desert locust plague in the late 80s took several years' work and more than $300m to control, according to FAO. (full-text)
And you can visit this page for regular updates on the locust situation.

DRC/Rwanda: Rwanda closes border with DRC

In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Rwandan government said its border with the DRC would remain closed until the UN and the AU set up a verification mechanism to "expeditiously investigate" the allegations made last week by the Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

[...] Rwanda said it would ... only open the border to refugees fleeing violence in eastern Congo or those voluntarily returning home from Rwanda. (full-text)
UPDATE: Rwanda announced on Friday, July 2, that the border will open tomorrow morning.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Uganda: women students asked to wear long skirts

Students Mbarara University of Science and Technology have asked women students to stop wearing short skirts and tight trousers.

My favorite bit from the story ... student leader Jeff Rwakamuna said that lecturers were being distracted by scantily dressed students in the front row.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Uganda: Lakwena returning?

From today's Sunday Vision
Former rebel leader and priestess Alice Lakwena may soon be in the country after receiving $50,000 (sh100m) and a satellite phone from President Yoweri Museveni as facilitation for her return from exile.

The money and the phone were on May 28 delivered to Lakwena at Ifo refugee camp, in north-eastern Kenya in the presence of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Kenya government officials.

[...] [Acholi cultural leader Rwot Francis] Oryang said Lakwena is expected to send her detailed travel plans back home by June 16. (full-text)
The government set up the Amnesty Commission four years ago to encourage former rebels and political exiles to return.

Lakwena led the Holy Spirit Movement, formed in 1986, against Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA), which later formed the core of the Ugandan People's Defence Force (UPDF).
She armed her followers with sticks and stones and managed to convince them the army's bullets would bounce off their chests after she had anointed them with shea butter oil. Lakwena's rebellion was defeated by the UPDF and she fled to Kenya, where she is still in exile.

Shortly after Lakwena's defeat, her nephew, Joseph Kony, declared himself her "spiritual heir" and formed the LRA [Lord's Resistance Army]. (full-text)
Lakwena now claims to have found a cure for AIDS and says she has been instructed by the holy spirit to treat AIDS patients.

company owned by alleged Equatorial Guniea mercenaries guarding Brits in Iraq

Mercenaries accused of planning a coup in an oil-rich African state also worked under contract for the British government providing security in Iraq, raising fears about the way highly sensitive security work is awarded, The Observer has learnt.

The Department for International Development (DfID) signed a £250,000 deal last summer with the South-African based Meteoric Tactical Solutions (MTS) to provide 'close protection' for department staff, including bodyguards and drivers for its senior official in Iraq.

Two of the firm's owners were arrested in Zimbabwe last March with infamous British mercenary and former SAS officer Simon Mann. The men are accused of plotting an armed coup in Equatorial Guinea.

MTS is based in Pretoria and run by former members of South African special forces. Its owners are Lourens 'Hecky' Horn, Hermanus Carlse and Festus van Rooyen. Horn, the firm's Iraq contact when the contract with Britain was signed, is now in Chikurubi prison in Zimbabwe with Carlse. (full-text)

Saturday, June 05, 2004

worth listening to ...

Here is an interview with the South African comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys. Bloody funny

Friday, June 04, 2004

Algeria: El Para freed

Check out this post over at African Oil Politics. (... and this update on the story)

Libya: oil exports to US begin

US Assistant Secretary for Commerce William Lash announced here [Tripoli] a resumption of Libyan oil exports to the United States and reported discussions on the Libyan purchase of Boeing aircraft.

... A Libyan petroleum source said the exports had commenced last month. (link)

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Zimbabwe: hospital detains 28 newborns & moms until bills are paid

I realize the hospitals are strapped for cash but ...
Harare Central Hospital is refusing to allow 28 mothers and their newly-born babies to leave the institution until millions of dollars are paid for in maternity fees.

The hospital says it recovers 87 percent of the fees through detaining mothers and babies but almost nothing under an older instalment plan

...Some women in the ward said they were not allowed to wear their own clothes until payments had been made.

"They think we might sneak out of the hospital as soon as we put on our clothes," one woman said.

... [Hospital superintendent Chris Tapfumaneyi] He said it was strange that a man could make a woman pregnant and see the pregnancy developing for nine months and not make any preparations.

... He [Tapfumaneyi] said the hospital has so far failed to recover over $2 billion from mothers who were discharged after they promised to pay in instalments.
The story seems to have embarassed somebody (in government?)... several of the women have since been allowed to leave.