Thursday, August 26, 2004

Zimbabwe: Mugabe gets sentimental

President Robert Mugabe has awarded Zimbabwean swimming gold medal winner Kirsty Coventry a diplomatic passport and $50 000 (about R300 000) "pocket money" to use in the US where she is a student.

She won Zimbabwe's only medals so far at the Olympics, bringing home a bronze, a silver and a gold medal.

"She did us proud. Well done, golden girl, may God lead you in the future because you are one with us, we are together," Mugabe said on Wednesday night. (source)

UK: nurse poaching rules announced

How to discourage nurse poaching.

Cairo Times is gone!

For eight years, Egypt's sole independent English-language weekly, The Cairo Times, battled government efforts to muzzle its stories that highlighted human rights abuses and political paralysis.

In the end, though, it was the country's ailing economy that silenced the magazine in late June, its founder and publisher, Hisham Kassem, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Kassem blamed a three-year Egyptian recession, a 45 percent fall in advertising revenues and a lack of investor interest for the magazine's US$200,000 debt.

"It got to the point where I was unable to keep the staff because they haven't been paid in months and I was no longer able to pay a single printing bill," said 44-year-old Kassem, who is also the chairman of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.

[...] State censors banned at least 10 editions of the magazine from being published, but its contentious stories still managed to be published on its Web site. (source)
What a shame ... it was a good magazine.

UPDATE: Oct. 9, 2004 story ...
[Hisham] Kassem, former publisher of the English-language Cairo Times magazine, recently launched a daily Arabic-language newspaper, Al Masri Al Youm (The Egyptian Today), which endorses civil rights, globalization and peace on its editorial pages. (source)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Zimbabwe: new US ambassador to SA talks regime change

In today's Independent, a story that the new US ambassador to South Africa is talking about regime change in Zimbabwe.
The United States has called for the building of a "coalition of the willing" to push for regime change to end the crisis in Zimbabwe. The new American ambassador to South Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said quiet diplomacy pursued by South Africa and other African countries in its dealings with the Zimbabwe president needed a review because there was no evidence it was working. She said her country would be willing to be part of a coalition if invited.

The US could not act on its own, "put the boot on the ground" and give President Robert Mugabe 48 hours to go as requested by beleaguered Zimbaweans but the US would be willing to work in a coalition with other countries to return Zimbabwe to democracy.

Ms Frazer, in a meeting with journalists in Johannesburg yesterday, said: "There is clearly a crisis in Zimbabwe and everyone needs to state that fact. The economy is in a free fall. There is a continuing repressive environment. There needs to be a return to democracy."

[...] She noted that repression in Zimbabwe had worsened and was making it impossible for the opposition to operate ahead of elections next year.

"So we have got to re-look at the approach, that South Africa is taking in terms of quiet diplomacy ... It's not evident that it's working at this point

"We have always talked about building coalitions of the willing and I, for one, believe that the coalitions of the willing are going to be the new force in global affairs ..."

Instead of quiet diplomacy, Ms Frazer suggested an open admission by regional countries that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe. That was an important first step followed by pressure to force Mr Mugabe to return the country to democracy.

The anti-Western bashing that was carried out by SADC leaders at their summit in Mauritius last week would not help change President Mugabe, she said. The Tanzanian President, Benjamin Mkapa, had lashed out at the West saying it cannot lecture democracy to African countries which it oppressed through a policy of colonialism in the first place. (source)

new polio cases in Guinea and Mali

New polio infections have been reported in Guinea, Mali, and the Darfur region of Sudan -- areas that had been thought to be out of the danger zone.
"What this means is that the major epidemic of polio we've been fearing has now spread beyond the firewall we put in place ... as we tried to contain the virus as close as possible to the epicenter in Nigeria," Bruce Aylward, who coordinates WHO's anti-polio initiative, told reporters.

Guinea and Mali are outside a ring of countries that conducted synchronized immunization campaigns in February and March to try to limit the spread of polio from northern Nigeria and Niger, the statement said.

[...] Both Guinea, which has one confirmed new case, and Mali, with two cases, had reported their last polio infection in 1999, the statement said. (source)
Another source ...
The polio outbreak that originated in northern Nigeria after suspension there of immunization last year has now spread to 12 other countries, underscoring the threat of a major epidemic across West and Central Africa and the urgent need to fill a $100-million funding gap, the United Nations health agency warned today [actually yesterday]. (source)

Sudan/Darfur: Ryle & Powers take on the issue

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, John Ryle explores the connection between the coflicts in Darfur and the south. An excerpt ...
... the timing of the insurgency in Darfur is related to the Naivasha Agreement. Low-level fighting among communities in western Sudan (all of which are Muslim) has been endemic since the late 1980s, when a war broke out between the Arabs and the Fur, two of the ethnic groups involved in the present conflict. During the 1990s, the apparent impunity enjoyed by Arab militias in Darfur and the growth of their political influence confirmed anxieties on the part of the Fur and the other non-Arab groups that they were losing political ground. In particular, they feared that a peace agreement in the south would strengthen the government in Khartoum domestically and internationally and lock them out of the national political process altogether. In early 2003 two loosely allied armed groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM, not to be confused with the SPLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), mounted a series of attacks on government posts in Darfur. The government response was to rapidly escalate its support to the Arab militias —bands of horsemen known in Darfur Arabic as Janjawiid—with the results to be seen in Darfur today.
And Samantha Power writes in The New Yorker about the situation in Darfur. An excerpt ...
Although the A.U. [African Union] seems likely to expand its presence, almost all the displaced Africans I spoke with in Darfur said they would trust only Western forces to bring peace. African troops were too susceptible to bribes, they said, and African governments would end up siding with Khartoum, as they had in the past. “We will not return to our homes until the white people come and make us safe,” Abdum Shogar Adem, a thirty-two-year-old father of three, told me at the Kalma camp in July, soon after his village had been attacked by government helicopter gunships. The Western powers, however, are not likely to answer Adem’s call. The United States military is overstretched, given the occupation of Iraq, and it is unwilling to contribute troops for a peacekeeping mission. It has not even offered to equip or transport A.U. troops, which lack the logistical sophistication to deploy on their own.

The Bush Administration has been admirably willing to send relief to Sudan and to condemn the janjaweed. But, having alienated many of its U.N. allies with its unilateralism and perceived moralism, it has been unable to rally other nations to the cause. Countries like Russia and France have exploited the U.S.’s loss of standing internationally to justify their own inaction on Sudan. Meanwhile, the Administration, which views the International Criminal Court with contempt, has not urged the U.N. Security Council to refer the atrocities in Darfur to the court, although no other international institution is equipped to prosecute such crimes. In the end, the U.S. has applied just enough pressure to get humanitarian relief to many Darfurians, but not enough to persuade the perpetrators of violence to lay down their arms. Meanwhile, the seasonal rains have begun to fall, reducing the reach of international aid workers and substantially increasing the risk of cholera, dysentery, and mass death.
I would challenge some of the points Powers makes about the AU ... but more on that later (when I have time). In the meantime, check out the following ...

  • African Union: dealing with Darfur
  • Sudan/Darfur: AU considering "full-fledged peacekeeping mission"
  • Sudan/Darfur: AU asks for help airlifting troops
  • Sudan/Darfur: AU monitors say Janjaweed burned some people alive

  • South Africa: Mark Thatcher arrested

    Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, has been arrested in South Africa.
    [Thatcher's lawyer, Peter] Hodes confirmed his client was facing charges related to the contravention of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act.

    "It has to do with providing finance... something to do with a helicopter," said Hodes.

    Thatcher was arrested earlier on Wednesday by the elite Scorpions detective unit in connection with his alleged role in an aborted coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. (source)

    "We have evidence, credible evidence, and information that he was involved in the attempted coup," said [Scorpions spokesperson Sipho] Ngwema, adding the involvement may have been financial or logistical. "We refuse that South Africa be a springboard for coups in Africa and elsewhere." (source)
    Earlier last month, I had linked to this article that talked about the relationship between Thatcher and Simon Mann, the ringleader of the alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea. There is even more detail in this other article published in The Observer at the beginning of this month.
    New documents suggest Thatcher had financial ties with Mann. A letter written by Mann and smuggled out of his prison cell in Zimbabwe shows that Mann was expecting Thatcher to make a $200,00 investment in a 'project', although he does not specify what project.

    The letter states: 'This is a situation that calls for everyone to act in concert. It may be that getting us out comes down to a large splodge of wonga! Of course investors did not think this would happen. Did I?

    'Do they think they can be part of something like this with only upside potential - no hardship or risk of this going wrong. Anyone and everyone in this is in it - good times or bad.

    'Now its bad times and everyone has to F-ing well pull their full weight. Anyway... was expecting project funds inwards to Logo [Mann's firm] from Scratcher (200)'. Scratcher is Mann's nickname for Thatcher. A spokesman for Mr Thatcher has denied that he had any knowledge of the coup plot.
    Brief bio of Thatcher from the BBC ...

    UPDATE: Ten days ago, the Mail on Sunday carried a story that said the government of Equatorial Guinea was seeking an international warrant for Thatcher.
    [...] Equatorial Guinea attorney general Jose Olo Obono, said international arrest warrants were now being sought. He said: 'We are preparing applications for extradition of a number of suspects, including Mark Thatcher and Eli Calil. We propose that they are charged with conspiracy to kill or capture the president and conspiracy to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea.'

    In an exclusive interview, the country's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema vowed to bring to justice the 'bloodthirsty pirates' he says financially backed the coup.

    He told The Mail on Sunday: 'I intend to pursue all those who invested in the project through the courts in Britain and elsewhere, and by every means possible.

    'The crimes they intended, which include multiple murder, would have been committed here and this is where I believe they should be brought to face the consequences.' President Obiang, who has been accused of human rights abuses by Amnesty International, has three Paris lawyers working fulltime on investigations in Britain, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe.

    His lawyers have also held talks with senior Home Office officials about the possibility of extraditing British citizens to stand trial.

    For extradition to take place, Equatorial Guinea would have to agree to suspend its maximum penalty execution by firing squad.1
    1: Jones, Barbara. (2004, August 15). African leader: Arrest Mark Thatcher over coup plot. Mail on Sunday.

    Sunday, August 22, 2004

    Sudan/Darfur: UNSC members not keen on sanctions

    The UN Security Council gave the Sudanese government 30 days to disarm the Janjaweed militias ... and the deadline is fast approaching.
    Briefing reporters Friday ahead of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's visit to Sudan, [British foreign office] officials said council members were still debating what action to take if the deadline is missed.

    "The natural centre of gravity in the council is not the immediate imposition of heavy duty sanctions on Sudan," said a senior Foreign Office official, who requested anonymity.

    Some countries were opposed in principle to sanctions, others feared that vested interests in Sudan would be damaged by economic Embargoes, and others, including Britain, were wary of giving the impression that the "international community is beating up on the government of Sudan," the official added. (source)

    Friday, August 20, 2004

    Liberia: disarmament, a year later

    The headline in Monrovia's The News says it all. 65,000 Fighters Disarmed, 20,000 Weapons, 5 Million Ammunition Collected.

    According to the story, Ambassador Jacques Klein, head of the UN Mission in Liberia, delivered those statistics yesterday at a special session of the Transitional Legislative Assembly, marking the anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in Accra last year.

    Post from a year ago...
  • Liberia: they have a deal!

  • Thursday, August 19, 2004

    Burundi: prez says no talks with FNL

    The Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) claimed resposibility for the attack in which over 150 refugees were killed.
    President Domitien Ndayizeye, speaking on return from a meeting of African leaders in Tanzania that condemned the Hutu Forces for National Liberation (FNL) but stopped short of sanctions, said the group's leaders would be a arrested.

    Ndayizeye said his government would take all necessary measures to halt the rebels' activities.

    "It is a fact that we will not negotiate with that movement," he told reporters. "Secondly, the different resolutions of the Dar es Salaam summit recommended the restriction of movements and arrest of FNL leaders."

    [...] The FNL said they were not worried by the "terror" tag.

    "We've said it several times, FNL refuses any talk with President Ndayizeye, he is a Hutu and FNL has said and repeated it, it wants talks with members of the Tutsi community," FNL Spokesman, Pasteur Habimana told Reuters.

    Habimana said at the weekend his group had attacked the refugee camp after initially targeting a military camp nearby. But Burundi's army disputed this, saying the refugee camp attack by the FNL and allied attackers was "a plan of genocide". (source)
    Also ... the DRC today recalled its ambassador to Burundi, citing concerns for his safety. The government of Burundi has claimed that Congolese troops were involved in the attack on the refugee camp.

    Previous post ...
  • Burundi: UN stops talks with FNL; govt threatens action in DRC

  • Burundi: president rejects talks with FNL

    Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) claimed resposibility for the attack in which over 150 refugees were killed.
    President Domitien Ndayizeye, speaking on return from a meeting of African leaders in Tanzania that condemned the Hutu Forces for National Liberation (FNL) but stopped short of sanctions, said the group's leaders would be a arrested.

    Ndayizeye said his government would take all necessary measures to halt the rebels' activities.

    "It is a fact that we will not negotiate with that movement," he told reporters. "Secondly, the different resolutions of the Dar es Salaam summit recommended the restriction of movements and arrest of FNL leaders."

    [...] The FNL said they were not worried by the "terror" tag.

    "We've said it several times, FNL refuses any talk with President Ndayizeye, he is a Hutu and FNL has said and repeated it, it wants talks with members of the Tutsi community," FNL Spokesman, Pasteur Habimana told Reuters.

    Habimana said at the weekend his group had attacked the refugee camp after initially targeting a military camp nearby. But Burundi's army disputed this, saying the refugee camp attack by the FNL and allied attackers was "a plan of genocide". (source)
    Previous post ...
  • Burundi: UN stops talks with FNL; govt threatens action in DRC

  • Uganda: poll finds people want term limits

    Some 68.8 % of respondents say presidential term limits [of two, five year terms] should remain, while 31.2 percent want them removed. The poll was commissioned by The Monitor. And Strategic Public Relations & Research Limited of Nairobi conducted it throughout the country from August 1-5.

    The reputable research firm interviewed 1,800 people in all the regions of Uganda. The margin of error is 5 %. A campaign is underway by the ruling Movement government to amend Article 105 of the Constitution.1
    1: Tabaire, Bernard. (2004, August19). Poll Says 66% Want Museveni to Retire. The Monitor.

    West/North Africa: locusts reach nigeria

    The locusts have been spotted in northern Nigeria.

    Previous post ...
  • West/North Africa: more bad news about locusts

  • Wednesday, August 18, 2004

    South Africa: security company's offices raided

    The following was posted about an hour ago ...
    National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said a company called International Intelligence Risk Management had been raided as well as the owner of the company's residence in Durbanville. [That must mean ... "the residence of the company's owner".]

    He said the premises was suspected of being an agency for the recruitment of mercenaries. In terms of the law, it is illegal for South Africans to work as mercenaries in other countries.

    Three people were taken in for questioning on Wednesday, but they would probably be released, Ngwema said.

    Documents and other data were seized at the Parow property as part of a probe into the alleged contravention of the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act. (source)
    A bit more from News 24 ...
    [The head of the Scorpions' special national projects, Andrew] Leask said files were found of at least 2 000 people, who had been [allegedly] recruited as mercenaries.

    He said the Scorpions [an elite police unit] were trying to determine whether these recruits had been sent to foreign countries as mercenaries.

    [...] Recruits were required to pay R65 cash a month, and the Scorpions were trying to determine what had happened to the money.

    Leask said there were no indications that the recruitment company had any links with South Africans working as security personnel in Iraq, or South Africans being held in Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea.

    The Scorpions were also looking into other companies recruiting people to work in countries of conflict.

    Some of these companies had been subcontracted by the Parow company to recruit people for it.

    They were also still looking for the owner of the company, who was believed to be somewhere in the Western Cape, but had eluded them on Wednesday. (source)
    Previous posts ...
  • South Africa: security company has contract for Angola
  • South Africa: security company to protect Mugabe?

  • Sudan/Darfur: "Arab" aid worker gets lynched, causes uproar

    From today's Independent ...
    The savage lynching of an aid worker in a refugee camp has become a political football in Darfur's ethnic conflict that now threatens some of the humanitarian operations.

    Medibor Ahmed Mohammed, an Arab employed by the charity Care, was mutilated and murdered at Kalma camp by a mob of Africans who accused him of belonging to the Janjaweed militias, which have been killing and terrorising African civilians.

    The Sudanese authorities have told Care to suspend operations temporarily, several of the organisation's employees have been arrested and others have been threatened with death.

    Mr Mohammed's family told The Independent that they want compensation from Care. They, and fellow Arab refugees at Mussei camp, blame the agency for taking Arabs to a hostile African camp. But one of his brothers, Hamid Mahmood, said: "Our problem is with Care, and that can be settled. We have nothing against the other international charities; we all feel they should be allowed to continue with their work.''

    Senior government figures have flown from Khartoum to "investigate" the murder and it has had widespread coverage in the Sudanese media, with comments about the irresponsibility of international organisations. Privately, the agencies say this is an attempt by the government to intimidate them and try to gain greater control over the distribution of aid. (source)

    Tuesday, August 17, 2004

    Burundi: UN stops talks with FNL; govt. threatens action in DRC

    The UN is no longer negotiating with the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL). The talks were aimed at getting the FNL, the only rebel group still fighting the government, to join Burundi's power-sharing government.
    "Negotiations with the FNL are suspended because they claimed responsibility for the attack which means they are not willing to be part of the peace process," said Isabelle Abric, spokeswoman for the U.N. Operation in Burundi (ONUB).

    U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special representative to Burundi Carolyn McAskie had said persuading the FNL to enter peace talks was critical towards efforts to integrate the army and hold elections. (source)
    More worrying still ...
    The Burundi army said on Tuesday it might cross into neighboring Congo to pursue rebels and militia it blames for massacring 160 Congolese Tutsi refugees at a camp in western Burundi.

    The head of Burundi's army, Brigadier-General Germain Niyoyankana, said the military was prepared to move into Democratic Republic of Congo if the Kinshasa government failed to disarm the rebels and allied militia.

    "We must avoid a new attack from Congo so the Burundi army does not rule out an offensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Everything depends on the Congolese government," Niyoyankana told reporters.

    The Burundi army blames the rebel Hutu Forces for National Liberation (FNL), former Rwandan forces and Hutu militia operating in Congo, as well as sections of the Congolese army for Friday's attack. (source)
    Previous post ...
  • Burundi/DRC: Rwanda threatens action in DRC

  • West/North Africa: more bad news about locusts

    "The desert locust situation is now becoming extremely serious in northwest Africa, threatening to overwhelm agriculture in the region," the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement.

    "In the coming weeks, the hot, humid weather in the area will provide ideal conditions for locusts to reproduce and the new swarms could start to form by mid-September," the WMO said. (source)
    Previous post ...
  • West/North Africa: locusts

  • Monday, August 16, 2004

    Mauritania: on that alleged coup attempt

    Story here.

    SADC: Malawian president - MPs dying of HIV/AIDS

    Malawian President Bingu wa-Mutharika said that countries are losing skilled workers to AIDS, including prominent members of government like members of parliament.

    Wa-Mutharika was speaking at the summit of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in Mauritius. The two-day meeting started today.

    Sudan/Darfur: Algeria, Egypt, Libya may contribute troops

    Algeria, Egypt and Libya "informed the committee of Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo on August 8 to discuss Darfur that they would dispatch troops as part of the Africa Union contingent," said Samir Hosni, in charge of the Darfur issue at the [Arab] League said.

    Algeria's charge d'affaires in Cairo Menawer Rabiai told AFP he could not confirm this information. (source)
    Also ... Sudan says that the Arab League and Libya will send representatives to the talks between the government and the Darfur rebels, scheduled for August 23 in Abuja, Nigeria.

    Burundi/DRC: Rwanda threatens action in DRC

    The government of Rwanda has threatened to intervene again in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to disarm Hutu rebels based in eastern Congo, according to a statement issued on Sunday.

    Rwanda issued the statement two days after a massacre of at least 160 people on Friday in a refugee camp near Burundi's border with the DRC. The victims were Tutsis from eastern DRC, known as Banyamulenge. Many were women and children.

    ... A Burundian rebel group, the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) led by Agathon Rwasa claimed responsibility for Friday's attack. Rwasa's FNL is the only rebel movement in Burundi that has not laid down its weapons in accordance with a peace agreement concluded in Arusha, Tanzania, in August 2000. But survivors are reportedly saying that combatants came from the DRC. (source)
    The FNL claimed that Burundian soldiers and Congolese Tutsi militia were hiding in the refugee camp.

    Also ...
    Burundian troops sealed the border with Congo on Sunday, with some manning the two official crossings and others monitoring the Ruzizi River that separates the two countries, army spokesman Col. Adolphe Manirakiza said Monday. (source)
    The African Union is sending a team to Burundi and the DRC to investigate the massacre.

    Saturday, August 14, 2004

    Namibia: German apology to the Herero

    OKOKARARA, Namibia (AP) - A senior government official offered Germany's first apology Saturday for a colonial-era crackdown that killed 65,000 ethnic Hereros -a slaughter she acknowledged amounted to genocide.

    "We Germans accept our historic and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time," Germany's development aid minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Hereros' 1904-1907 uprising against their German rulers. "The atrocities committed at that time would have been termed genocide."

    While ruling out financial compensation for the victims' descendants, she promised continued economic assistance, particularly in land reform.

    "Everything I have said was an apology from the German government," Wieczorek-Zeul concluded, to the delight of the 1,000-strong crowd, who clapped, cheered and shouted: "Yes, yes."

    Wieczorek-Zeul is the first top German official to attend a commemoration of the war. (source)
    Previous posts ...
  • Namibia: Germany "not prepared" to offer Hereros reparations

  • Friday, August 13, 2004

    Kenya vs. Ethiopia on the track

    The great rivalry between Kenyan and Ethiopian runners ... here.

    West/North Africa: locusts

    The invasion ...

    Swarms invaded Mauritania in early July ... and reached its capital, Nouakchott, about 10 days ago ...

    By mid-July, the swarms were spotted in Mali ...

    Around the same time, the swarms were found in Senegal, along its border with Mauritania ...
    "It is the first time we have seen locusts at this time of year," said Ousseynou Diop, head of the Agriculture Ministry's department of farm warnings and crop defence.

    "In the past they used to arrive after the harvest, towards the month of November," but this year "their arrival coincides with the sowing season. We are afraid they will gobble up everything that sprouts. This year will be a disaster if we get no help."
    By early August, Gambia, tucked in the middle of Senegal, had declared a state of emergency.

    And a couple of days ago, there were reports that the swarms had reached Chad ... and it seems only a matter of time before they reach Sudan, and the beleaguered province of Darfur.

    Now today, we hear that swarms have invaded two provinces in Burkina Faso, near that country's border with Mali.

    The locusts are moving exactly as the FAO said they would ... and it's worth noting that the organization began issuing warnings back in February. Despite the considerable amount of damage already done by these insects, the threat is far from over ...
    More breeding will occur from August onwards and the first new swarms could start to form by mid-September, seriously threatening crops that will be ready for harvest. Soon after this, the swarms are likely to re-invade the north and northwest unless conditions remain unusually favourable in the Sahel to allow another generation of breeding.

    Swarms are not expected to move further south in West Africa until about October. (source)

    Worth checking out ... this story in the Economist.


    Previous posts ...
  • North Africa: more on locusts
  • locusts threaten N. Africa

  • Kenya: famous novelist attacked by robbers

    Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o and his wife were attacked in his home by armed men late on Wednesday night in the capital, Nairobi.

    [...] An outspoken critic of former Kenyan governments, Professor Thiong'o only returned to Kenya last month after 22 years in self-imposed exile. (source)
    A lovely welcome!

    UPDATE: Oh shit ... his wife was raped.

    Burundi: FDD decides to become a political party

    Around 500 members of the former rebel movement the Conseil national de défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD), took a formal decision of becoming a political party at a congress held from 7 to 8 August in the central province of Gitega.

    In accordance with a ceasefire agreement, Burundi’s Ministry of Home Affairs will automatically approve the new political party once combatants begin cantonment. The ceasefire agreement was reached in November 2003 between the government and the CNDD-FDD, in Dar es Salam, Tanzania. (source)
    I always find these transformations fascinating.

    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    Kenya: new anti-corruption deputy connected to current grain crisis

    The man at the centre of a series of maize deals condemned by the parastatals' watchdog has been chosen by MPs as new deputy head of Kenya's Anti-Corruption Commission.

    Now Dr Julius Rotich's suitability for the post could be called into question, as a devastating report by the Inspectorate of State Corporations recommends that he should repay from his own pocket nearly Sh4 billion lost by the cereals board during his term as its managing director.

    [...] Unknown to the anti-graft group's board of directors which recommended Dr Rotich's appointment, he featured prominently in the report by the Inspectorate of State Corporations over the alleged mismanagement of the grain reserves.

    Dr Rotich was appointed head of the cereals board after its previous director, Major (Rtd) Wilson Koitaba, and its general manager were sacked after resisting plans by the Ministry of Agriculture to sell off two million bags of maize from the strategic food reserves.

    They had warned that the sale would lead to the board losing a large amount of money.

    When they were replaced by Dr Rotich, and with Mr Kiprono Kittony as general manager, the sales went ahead however.

    The board lost more than Sh1 billion on the deals [....]

    The report by the Inspectorate of State Corporations recommended that besides being surcharged for the money NCPB lost during their management of the parastatal, Dr Rotich and Mr Kittony should, face disciplinary action "for their improprieties.

    The report was produced after both Dr Rotich and Mr Kittony were suspended from the cereals board by Agriculture minister Kipruto arap Kirwa in August last year for what the minister termed "serious mismanagement" of the State corporation.

    [...] The minister [Agriculture minister Kipruto arap Kirwa] also conceded that had the maize that was sold by the board been kept as part of the strategic grain reserve, the famine would not have been as intense as it is today.1
    1: Njoka, Mwenda. (2004, August 12). Revealed: Graft Chief in Sh4bn Maize Sale Scandal. The Nation.

    Saturday, August 07, 2004

    I am stepping away from the computer for a few days.

    Oh the horror!

    Thursday, August 05, 2004

    Nigeria: parents still refusing to have children immunized

    As the five-day campaign, launched on Saturday to great fanfare, approached its end, officials in the northern city of Kano admitted they would not hit its target of vaccinating four million under-fives against the crippling disease [polio].

    "I worked on Saturday and Sunday but nobody I met would allow me to vaccinate his child. The first day I went to 16 houses and at each house I was rebuffed by the parents," said auxiliary health worker Shamsuddeen Falalu.

    [...] On Saturday, Kano's governor Ibrahim Shekarau announced that local tests on a new batch of vaccine imported from Indonesia, a mainly-Muslim country, had proved the treatment safe. He called on families to protect their kids.

    But this week health workers found that much suspicion remains. (source)
    And another side of the story ... or possibly rumour.
    THISDAY checks revealed that most of the ad hoc staff recruited to handle the programme have formed the habit of pouring away the content of the vaccines instead of immunising the children.

    A resident of the city, Auwalu Pele told THISDAY that "I witnessed it, the girls were just wasting the drugs."

    [...] Another resident, Musa, however, told THISDAY that he even begged some girls at Yan Awaki quarters to "come and immunise his children but they said they would come back but I am still waiting for them."1
    ---

    1: Musa, Yakubu. (2004, Aug 4). Polio: Another Problem Looms in Kano. This Day.

    Nigeria: the president talks about his time in prison

    President Olusegun Obasanjo talked about his three-year imprisonment in Yola Prison.
    Obasanjo said the book of Psalm 54 formed the bulk of his daily devotion, stressing that the verses acquainted him with the saving powers of God in any situation.

    According to the President, he had thought that his arrest, detention and sentence were mistakes until he found out that his "tormentors" were carrying out premeditated act.

    "But a further study of the books of Joshua, Isaiah, Psalm and Acts of the Apostles, showed that vengeance belongs to God", he said.

    Obasanjo remarked that such conviction made him to pray for his tormentors who "I have already forgiven." (source)

    Sudan/Darfur: UN envoy says gov't making progress

    Jan Pronk, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's special representative on Darfur, said Wednesday that Sudan is not expected to fully disarm the militias by the deadline but had to show progress by then.

    "They have deployed many more policemen in the region and they have stopped their own military activities against villagers," Pronk told the BBC. He said security in the displaced-persons camps has improved. (source)
    Also ...
    Jan Pronk, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative, told reporters on Thursday: "The government of Sudan has to be commended for keeping its promise (on action in Darfur)."

    "We have full access and we have to make full use of this opportunity by coming in with more food, more planes, more trucks, more medication," he added. (source)

    Uganda: Kony's wives, kids repatriated

    Four wives and 13 children of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony, along with 60 other people, were repatriated from Juba in southern Sudan, officials said.

    "Hundreds of excited people waited at the airport, as the flight from Juba had been delayed for about two hours," Andrew John Timpson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who witnessed the arrival, told AFP by telephone from Gulu, 360 kilometres (225 miles) north of Kampala.

    [...] Many of the children were transferred to two children's rehabilitation centres in Gulu, but Kony's children and wives will stay in the military barracks for some days before they could also be transferred to the centres.

    "I think this is because of security reasons," Timpson said. (source)
    Also repatriated were 77 children who had been abducted by the LRA. The children have been sent to two charities ... World Vision and Gulu Support the Children Organization.

    Previous post...
  • Uganda: military says it almost caught Kony

  • Wednesday, August 04, 2004

    Sudan/Darufr: AU considering sending 2,000 troops

    Last week, there was an annoucement that the African Union was considering expanding the role of the force it's sending to Darfur ... changing it from a "protection force" and into a full-fledged peacekeeping force. Today, we get some numbers ...
    "We are considering, with Nigeria and Rwanda, the possibility of sending two battalions, which makes approximately 2,000 men," AU spokesman Adam Thiam told AFP by phone Wednesday from Addis Ababa, the body's headquarters.

    Discussions with the two countries, the only African nations that have confirmed that they will contribute troops, "are very advanced," he said, adding that the force "is evolving into a mission to maintain peace... with probable logistical support from the United States."

    Nigeria and Rwanda "have agreed to send a battalion" each, Thiam added.

    "Tanzania, which has also been approached, is interested to take part in this force", while Botswana has declined any participation, he added.

    The role of the new force will be "to protect (AU) observers and civilians returning to their homes," Thiam added. (source)
    Previous posts ...
  • Sudan/Darfur: AU asks for help airlifting troops
  • African Union: dealing with Darfur

  • South Africa/Zimbabwe: "mercenaries" lose appeal

    The families of the 69 South African men being held in a Zimbabwe prison on charges of being mercenaries, sued the South African government to get it to extradite the men to South Africa and try them there. The families lost the first time around ... and the appeal decision, delivered today, did not go their way either.
    [South African] Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson said on Wednesday the court was divided on some of the issues raised, but its 10 judges were united in the view that the claim as formulated by the men demanding their rights under the South African Constitution was misconceived.

    [...] The majority decision, written by Chaskalson, confirmed the order made by Transvaal Judge President Bernard Ngoepe in June that the government cannot be compelled to demand the return of the men to South Africa or be forced to ensure the men receive fair trials and are detained under internationally acceptable conditions.

    [...] In the majority judgement, Chaskalson also chided the men's lawyers for trying to rush the process through the media. (source)
    Previous posts ...
  • Zimbabwe/Eqatorial Guinea: update on the mercenaries
  • Zimbabwe: 67 "mercenaries" plead guilty to some charges
  • Zimbabwe: "mercenary" leader pleads guilty to some charges

  • Tuesday, August 03, 2004

    taking note of the subtle things

    "The Golden Ratio is a proportion of 1 to 1.618, which is a nonstandard size, which is a bit of a pain to print [a book in], but it's a naturally pleasing proportion that's found in a lot of nature," Schott says. "It's these really subtle things that no one cares about. They make such a difference." (source)
    So true!

    Ben Schott is the author of Schott's Miscellany and Schott's Food & Drink Miscellany.

    [Found via Bookslut]

    Algeria: General Lamari resigns

    It's official ...
    The powerful head of the Algerian army, General Mohamed Lamari, resigned for health reasons, an official statement said, following recent speculation that he was about to step down.

    [... President Abdelaziz] Bouteflika named General Salah Ahmed Gaid, commander of ground forces, to replace Lamari as military chief of staff, a statement from the president's office said.

    [...] Lamari was noticeably absent from public view during a recent high-profile visit here by French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie July 16 to 18 [....]

    Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni at the time said only that he was on vacation, without elaborating, which triggered speculation about the future of a man until recently considered one of Algeria's strong men. (source)

    Sweden: Italy wins homeless world cup

    The Italian team triumphed over last year's champs, Austria, 4-0 to win the second annual Homeless (soccer/football) World Cup.

    Previous post ...
  • Sweden: second annual homeless soccer world cup

  • Monday, August 02, 2004

    Uganda: former prez marries in a "Moonies" ceremony

    A few days ago, former Ugandan president Godfrey Binaisa married a Japanese-American woman, Tomoko Yamamoto, at a mass wedding conducted by the Unification Church (pejoratively known as the "Moonies").

    Story here and here.

    A blog critical of the Unification Church.

    Niger/Iraq: the source of those forged documents

    Josh Marshall has a long post about the source of those forged documents which said Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger.

    Previous posts...
  • Niger: intelligence reports on Iraq "yellowcake" story
  • Niger: Iraq-Niger yelow cake story ... revived?

  • Sunday, August 01, 2004

    Sudan: US special forces hunting militants in the east (??)

    The following is from today's Telegraph ...
    American special forces teams have been sent to Sudan to hunt down Saudi Arabian terrorists who have re-established secret al-Qa'eda training camps in remote mountain ranges in the north-eastern quarter of the country.

    The terrorists, who are thought to take orders from Saudi Arabia's most wanted man, Saleh Awfi, have taken refuge in at least three locations in the Jebel Kurush mountains, which run parallel to the Red Sea coast of Africa's biggest country.

    [...] Western diplomats in Saudi Arabia said that the new Sudanese camps, which were established in the last nine months, have become a vital staging ground for al-Qa'eda. 'There is significant traffic from these camps to the peninsula across the Red Sea,' one said. 'There is no real Sudanese government or army control over the mountains. The terrorists slip through the cracks, up into the hills where they can train, rest and build up the spirit of jihad. With things getting hot over here, they can get organised over there.'

    [...] Sudan has resisted western and Saudi Arabian pressure for it to deploy an army battalion in the Jebel Kurush, to flush out the al-Qa'eda presence. It has, however, allowed small teams of American soldiers to pass into the country as part of official visits, such as last month's trip by Colin Powell. A team of five special forces soldiers broke off from the Powell entourage for a week-long mission in the Kurush mountains, where aerial surveillance had established a list of villages where suspicious activity had been detected.1
    ---

    1: McElroy, Damien. (2004, August 1). US forces hunt down al-Qa'eda in Sudan. Telegraph.