Thursday, July 28, 2005

Uganda: referendum on going to multiparty system

When President Museveni came to power in 1986, he banned multiparty politics saying that parties would divide the country along tribal and religious lines. But now he's for multiparty politics and the referendum asks the people of Uganda if they agree with him.

The referendum question ...
"Do you agree to open up political space to allow those who wish to join different organisations/parties to do so to compete for political power?" (source)
Umm ... there has to be a simpler way to say that.

How they vote ...
Voters indicate their choice by placing an X next to a tree symbol for the return to pluralism or next to a house symbol for the retention of the nonpartisan system. (source)
I heard the BBC reporter in Uganda (his name escapes me) saying that some of the people he had spoken to in the countryside were confused about what the tree/house mean.

The critics ...
Museveni's critics say it is a waste of money, as the constitution already provides for multiparty elections, which could have been simply ratified by the country's district councils. Opposition political parties are boycotting the poll, saying its main purpose is to enable the ruling party to campaign for next year's elections using state resources and their right to campaign shouldn't need anyone's approval. (source)
Others blog posts on this story from ...
- Kelly Fish in Uganda
- Menya Kilat

UPDATE ... Ugandans voted yes.
A total of 92.5 percent of voters who participated in the plebiscite backed the reforms, based on returns from 99.6 percent of the polling stations.

[...] The "no" vote accounted for only 7.5 percent of the ballots cast, with the overall turnout hovering at 47 percent, Kiggundu told reporters. (source)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

US Pentagon wants more authority to arm & equip African armies

From the transcript of yesterday's briefing with Pentagon spokesperson Larry Di Rita ...
Q. Have there been any high-value detainees in that region [Africa] within the last six months, year or so?

GEN. CONWAY: Not in the recent past.

MR. DI RITA: It's also an area more broadly that we're -- you know, the Department of Defense has not traditionally had the mission of train and equip of foreign militaries, and it's one we're working closely with the State Department and the Congress to expand our authorities in those areas. We feel it's a very important aspect of being able to enable other countries -- with pretty modest investments up front and some interaction with our forces -- to become a lot more capable quickly across a range -- a minimum range of activity. So it's an area that's very important to this department and to the government generally, and we're working closely to review authorities and see that we have the authorities that may be desirable in a very different world from the world that existed when the original authorities more restricted on our ability to do those kinds of things. (source)

UN: Egypt takes Nigeria to task over UNSC expansion

Perhaps it's time that I started paying attention to the discussions around expanding the UN Security Council (UNSC) ...
Egypt accused Nigeria on Tuesday of abandoning African interests to increase its own chances of obtaining a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Nigeria was willing to back down on the African demand that its two permanent seats in the Security Council should have veto power, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.

[...] Nigeria's actions came during a meeting in London, which it chaired, to hammer out a common African position.

[...] While Nigeria had said the meeting reached consensus, the Egyptian delegate, Assistant Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, had denied that publicly, he added.

"If the Nigerian approach continues, it will lead to a fracture in the African position ... The consequences of that would be grave," he added.(source)
At issue ...
The African Union has proposed expanding the council to 26 members - adding six permanent seats with veto power and five non-permanent seats. Brazil, Germany, India and Japan have a rival proposal that would add six permanent seats without veto power and four non-permanent seats.

The so-called Group of Four are hoping to win four of the permanent seats, with the other two earmarked for Africa. South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt are the leading African contenders.

[Nigeria's foreign minister Oluyemi] Adeniji said the African Union has agreed to shelve its demand for a veto for new permanent members, ``knowing that it's very unpopular.''

The Group of Four agreed to an extra non-permanent seat, but not for Africa as the 53-member African Union wanted. Under the proposed compromise deal, the seat would be rotated among the three developing regions - Africa, Latin America and Asia, he said. (source)
More later ...

Nigeria: report on torture

Humnan Rights Watch today released a report on the use of torture in Nigeria.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

how many cattle are you worth?

During the Clintons' 2000 trip to Kenya, Godwin Kipkemoi Chepkurgor, who was then a fourth-year university student, asked for Chelsea Clinton's hand in marriage.
He offered to pay 20 head of beef cattle and 40 goats to the Clintons in accordance to African traditions. He also named as his referees, then President Moi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake chairman Zipporah Kittony and the Chepkoilel Campus Principal, Prof Margaret Kamar. He also gave the names his two college mates, John Tanui and Joseph Siror.

[...] But, instead of the positive response he was anticipating, Chepkurgor received visitors from the [Kenyan] National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS). (source ... via)
My favourite bit ... "He commended Hillary for standing by her husband 'like an African woman' in the face of the [Monica Lewinsky] scandal."

Zim: MDC fracturing?

Interesting article in yesterday's London Telegraph about trouble within the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Three fairly prominent MDC members say they were physically attacked by members of their own party.
The gang of about six abducted him [Frank Chamunorwa] from his home in the capital, Harare, last month. They deliberately humiliated Mr Chamunorwa, throwing him to the ground, kicking and beating him.

[...] The assault happened because Mr Chamunorwa was suspected of plotting against Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader. Senior party figures have accused Welshman Ncube, the secretary general, of planning to oust his leader and seize control of the party - a charge he has denied.

[...] The assault on Mr Chamunorwa was only one of many. Other MDC thugs tried to murder Peter Guhu, a party official, who was forced to flee to South Africa after suffering serious injuries.

Another member, Diamond Karanda, 31, was beaten up inside the MDC's headquarters in Harare on June 16. He was dragged into the boardroom and assaulted so badly that he still cannot walk properly.

[...] Mr Tsvangirai responded by expelling 20 members. His allies point out that Zanu-PF is responsible for the great bulk of Zimbabwe's political violence, a fact confirmed by every human rights report.

But the violence within the MDC has dismayed its most senior figures.

An internal report obtained by The Daily Telegraph, written by David Coltart, the MDC's legal secretary, said the party "appears to be intent on tearing up everything we have worked so hard to build up over the last few, very difficult years". He added that Mr Tsvangirai's expulsion of 20 junior members was an inadequate response.

[...] Observers believe that infighting threatens the MDC's very survival as a political force.

Brian Raftopoulos, a Harare commentator, said: "The MDC is paralysed and if this is not dealt with, it will lead to its demise." (source)

two suspects in July 21 London bombing ... their Africa connection

Oh my God!

Two suspects identifed by police in connection with last Thursday's attempted transit bombing are originally from Eritrea and Somalia ...
[Muktar Said Ibrahim ... aka Muktar Mohammed Said] He was born in Eritrea in war-torn eastern Africa but grew up in Britain after arriving in 1992 as the son of an asylum-seeker. He applied for a full British passport two years ago and received it last September.

For the past two years, Said-Ibrahim was thought to have lived with Yasin Hassan Omar, the man suspected of trying to blow up a Victoria Line train near Warren Street, in a flat in Bounds Green, North London, raided by police yesterday. Police sources said a large amount of materials suitable for making bombs was found in the flat.

Yasin Hassan Omar is said to be a Somali national who entered the UK in 1992 aged 11 as the child of an asylum seeker, and was granted leave to remain indefinitely in May 2000. (source)
UPDATE: Reports say that a third suspect arrested in Italy is also African ... Ethiopian, to be exact.
Born in Ethiopia as Hamdi Issac, the suspect changed his name to Osman Hussain and claimed he was from Somalia [to obtain political refugee status], said Carlo De Stefano, head of Italy's anti-terror police. (source)
A curious detail in that AP story ...
On Friday, police recorded conversations in which Issac talked in an Ethiopian dialect used in a border region between Eritrea and Somalia; they sent the recordings to London, which helped confirm his identity.
I'm guessing "Eritrea" is a typo because Eritrea and Somalia do not have a common border. Djibouti is in the way.