AfricaPundit



Saturday, March 01, 2003
President John Kufuor on the loosening of media laws in Ghana:

Let us use the analogy of the dove who with the help of some doctor found his voice and all of a sudden he began hearing his own voice and he liked the sound of it and went on singing all over the place. This is what perhaps we are going through. I want to believe this is just a passing phase, and that the media will become more responsible and know that managing the nation demands more than just knowing how to talk.

...[W]hen a bird is caged for so long and you free it all of a sudden, you just watch how the bird moves out of the cage. For a moment, it behaves, with all due respect, a bit like crazy. It will flutter all over the place before eventually it will perch somewhere and begin to behave normally. So, not to worry, we perhaps "spoilt" [the Ghanaian media], but it was all for a good cause.


This guy is my hero. He's the greatest, and Ghana is certainly a better country for having him president.




Whoever captioned this article for the AP didn't even understand what it's about. Kagame is being critical of the UN's tendency to become a debating society in the face of crisis:

"If it was simply a choice between war and peace, then the automatic choice is peace," he told reporters. "But if it is a choice between war and weapons of mass destruction, ...then I would say that war is a better evil than the alternative."


Kagame knows that nations cannot depend on the UN for their security. He learned this the hard way during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. While hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were killed by the Hutu-led military, the UN debated about whether or not the violence constitued "genocide" or merely a "situation." As a result, they remained undecided on whether intervention was necessary. In the meantime, Kagame's rebel army lauched a counterattack which the Hutu army into retreat.

So I guess debate, discussion and multi-lateralism are good to an extent... But sometimes evil has to be confronted by force and a responsible leader must be willing to do this with or without the UN.


Something to think about: In the latest print edition of National Review, Michael Novak writes of the need to provide safe drinking water to the 1.1 billion people in the world who don't yet have it. In Africa, only 62% of people have clean running water -- out of a total population of about 800 million.

Africa should be the top priority. Given that continent's unusually acute internal variations in water supply, its water system needs to be among the best designed in the world; instead, it is the most neglected in the world. A constant cycle of civil wars, maladministration by fragile governments and kleptocracies, and poorly managed financial resources have penalized Africa's peoples severely. This political deficit prevents Africa from enjoying the economic progress of most of the rest of the world -- notably that of Asia, which not long ago was even poorer than Africa but has now leapt ahead of it.

None of the technical difficulties facing the effort to supply Africa with water presents challenges that have not been conquered on other continents. But the political, cultural, and economic obstacles are more serious. By and large, Africa has become accustomed to subsidized and/or non-cost water; at the same time, no one is obliged to pay for polluting existing streams of water -- neither farmers whose agricultural runoff damages water use downstream, nor industrial polluters, nor cities and villages that pour untreated effluents in to the water supply. There are no incentives to save and protect clean water. As a result, water is too often treated irresponsibly.


Well said. It's a serious problem that will have to be faced sooner or later.




I gotta post something more positive after all of that. I haven't written much about Kibaki, but I'm really optimistic about what this guy can do for Kenya. Kenya has as much potential as any country in Africa, but has been stagnating for years under the Daniel arap Moi/KANU kleptocracy. The people have been effectively paralyzed by excessive state control in the economy, restriction of media and property rights, and an overwhelming amount of corruption in government.

Kibaki was swept to the presidency at the end of last year with campaign promises to root out corruption. Happily, he is so far proving true to his word. He has freed several prisoners on death row who had been imprisoned due to unfair trials and has commuted other sentences. He has begun reforming the Kenya police force, long used as a political weapon and known for bribe-taking. Maybe most importantly, he has vowed to investigate any government official accused of corruption and will prosecute if necessary. This has already resulting in the resignation of a Supreme Court justice.



Also important, Kibaki's government already appears to have a strengthened relationship with the US. Washington had been increasingly critical of Moi's handling of the economy, human rights and corruption, so no doubt they are happy to be working with new leadership. No doubt this will be of critical importance as the War on Terrorists progresses. Kenya's active cooperation is essential to securing the East African region.



Combined with the apparent thawing of one-party rule in Uganda, the improving situation in Rwanda, and Kibaki's leadership in Kenya, we may be seeing the beginnings of an East African mini-renaissance marked by a strengthening of democracy and an expansion of trade. This renaissance would completely change the political dynamic in Africa, offering a needed counterweight (economically and politically) to South Africa neo-nationalist, neo-anti-colonialist, Pan-Africanist rhetoric.



For now, Kibaki is performing brilliantly. Let's hope, for the sake of Kenya, that he keeps it up.




A friend mailed me this story from Parade magazine earlier this month about "The 10 Worst Living Dictators" -- kind of a twisted top ten list if you ask me. The list was compiled by David Wallensky (Parade contributing editor) and is based largely on reports from NGOs like Freedom House, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Not surprisingly, there are three African leader on the list:

Charles Taylor of Liberia is #4. The article cites him for brutalizing his own people and allowing "the use of rape as a war tactic to instill terror." The article doesn't mention his ties to al Qaeda, the RUF rebels and other terrorist groups.



Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a surprise, comes in at #6. He is the head tyrant of Equitorial Guinea, a country ruled by tyrants ever since independence. (Largely ruled by tyrants BEFORE independence, too, I suppose.) People still seem to like him, though: He got 97% of the vote last year. That's only 3% less than Saddam!



Kaddafi trails behind at #8. I really think their underestimating him here. When you consider his ties to international terrorism, his development of weapons of mass destruction, and his direct role in keeping so many other tyrants in power (Mugabe, Taylor, Campaore, at al.), he's a pretty nasty guy.



As for Mugabe, he falls outside of the top ten, but does get a dishonorable mention. Well, there's always next year.




Friday, February 28, 2003
An Alert Reader sent in this link from the Washington Post story of last year detailing the connections between al Qaeda, Ibrahim Bah and the African Axis. Unfortunately, the entire text of the article doesn't seem to be available online for free, so I'll just summarize what was in it.

After the African embassy bombings in 1998, the US began identifying and freezing al Qaeda assets all over the world. Realizing the vulnerability of their finances, the terrorists began trying to convert funds into untraceable, easily smuggled commodities. During 1999, Ibrahim Bah (Libyan trained weapons smuggler) began acting as an intermediary between al Qaeda-linked diamond traders and the governments of Burkina Faso and Liberia.



Bah arranged meetings for al Qaeda operatives Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed with Liberian government officials. The two terrorists stayed in Monrovia as Bah's guest several times over the next year, and at one point were allowed to live in a Liberian militia training camp. During this time, Bah and the diamond dealers were busy working with the RUF to convert $20 million of al Qaeda assets into diamonds. The two al Qaeda made a trip to Pakistan and likely Afghanistan during 2001. On the return trip, they stayed at Campaore's presidential palace in Burkina Faso before returning to Liberia.



So, the point of this is that the governments of Liberia and Burkina Faso actively and intentionally aided al Qaeda at the highest levels of government and continued to do so even after the 9/11 attacks on America. With George Bush declaring that we will not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor them, I think it is only a matter of time before the US must get serious about rooting our enemies out of West Africa.


Thursday, February 27, 2003
There is kind of a disturbing interview with Qaddafi that Newsweek published last month. I think this is the kind of thing that gives Americans the impression that Qaddafi is just a misunderstood misfit -- eccentric maybe, but certainly not dangerous. Particularly bothersome is his insistence that he has never funded terrorists, only "liberation movements." I wonder if that's what Sierra Leone thought of the RUF rebels who terrorized the country for 10 years; or how the people of Liberia view their current tyrant-in-chief; for that matter, in what way were the Lockerbie bombers a liberation group?

Anyway, the worst part is at the very end:

What is your hope for future Libyan-U.S. relations?
I am optimistic. There are so many American companies eager to come here—whether in oil or other sectors. During the time of wars of liberation, we waged war. Now it is time for peace, and I want to be part of world peace.


Don't believe it. Qaddafi's idea of world peace isn't something we want to experience.



This is a really interesting story from 2001 in the Washington Post. Although it's an old story, it is still very timely as it explains much of what is going on in Africa today. Qaddafi, Campaore and Taylor constitute an "African Axis" which seeks to undermine democracy and spread instability on the continent.

Another article from the Post in 2002 further establishes the link between Taylor, Ibrahim Bah and al Qaeda. I'll have to find the link and post it later.



Needless to say, this has been seriously under-reported and I think it's only a matter of time until the U.S. will have to come to terms with this Axis in much the same way that we are currently dealing with Saddam.




Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Here's kind of an interesting story as reported in the NY Times. The former president of Zambia, Frederick Chiluba, has been arrested on charges of corruption. Chiluba was elected in 1991 in Zambia's first "democratic" elections. Despite the optimism at the beginning of his term, things quickly devolved toward a one-party kleptocracy. In fact, Chiluba attempted to change the constitution at the last minute to allow himself to serve a third term.

Maybe he was just trying to avoid being arrested.



This is sad, but encouraging as well. This is one of the first instances that I can recall when a former African head of state has actually had charges brought against him. (And Chiluba certainly isn't the first to be corrupt.) Maybe this indicates that the rule of law is taking hold in Zambia after all.




Is it just me, or is the Non-Aligned Movement conference nothing more than a forum for tyrants to pose as statesmen and spout anti-American polemics? At this week's conference, unabashed anti-Americanism was on the menu and most people were getting second helpings.

And in the midst of the conference, Robert Mugabe (Africa's favorite dictator since Idi Amin), says that America is hypocritical to threaten Iraq unless it also agrees to disarm... (Notice the unapologetic moral equivalence.)



And of course, he is greeted with cheers and applause from the other delegates.



No matter that Mugabe directs human rights abuses against his own people on a daily basis. No matter that Mugabe is president, not by popular election, but by a poll tainted with violence and intimidation. No matter that the right to free speech and the right to own property are systematically violated in Zimbabwe. No matter that food donations to a starving populace are distributed on a basis of political loyalty. Those who object to Mugabe's governance are merely agents of the neo-colonialist oppressor, spies sent by Britain and America. They must be arrested, imprisoned, tortured and killed in order to defend the ideals Zimbabwe's war for liberation.



As long as you hate America, you can be a hero here.



Sadly, Mugabe's brand of anti-colonialist, racist, blindly nationalist rhetoric is obsolete and insufficient to address the real problems that Zimbabwe faces. Even more disturbing, it's getting harder and harder to distinguish Mugabe's rhetoric from that of Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa. Like Mugabe, Mbeki loves to cast every issue in terms of the interests of the rich against those of the poor, oppressors and oppressed, colonizer and colonized. He loves to pose as the lone protector of the defenseless. Strangely, he tries to accomplish this lofty goal by opposing "the West" through African solidarity -- even when that mean supporting a tyrant who has effectively enslaved his own people (and worse).



People always ask, "Why is there such bad government in Africa?" Well, it certainly doesn't help when the democratically elected leader of the wealthiest country in Africa, lends his full support when dictatorship takes hold next door (all in the name of African solidarity). While Mbeki speaks of human rights and democracy, he doesn't feel strongly enough about it to act. And all the while, the people of Zimbabwe have looked to him for support. Mbeki's refusal to make a stand for freedom and democracy is ultimately to the detriment of South Africa and to the rest of the continent.






Tuesday, February 25, 2003
This is kind of interesting. Buhari is denying that he has received $1 billion in campaign donations from MidEastern Islamic governments like Saudi Arabia.

Hmmm... Methinks he protests too much. I think it's well known that the hard-core Islamic countries (Saudi, Iran, Syria, Egypt) are heavily involved in Nigerian politics.



Only 2 months until the election.




Here's a timely story from the AP about the Bush administration's lobbying for votes among members of the UN Security Council for votes on a new (the 19th) resolution demanding immediate Iraqi disarmament.


9 votes are needed for passage, so Washington is lobbying hard for the votes of the Council's three African members, Angola, Guinea and Cameroon:




For some of the countries, such as Angola, Guinea and Cameroon — poor African nations whose concerns drew little attention before they landed seats on the council — there is the possibility that supporting Washington's drive for a new U.N. resolution authorizing war may reap benefits down the line.


"For a long time now, we have been asking for help to rebuild our country after years of war," said Angolan Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins. "No one is tying the request to support on Iraq but it is all happening at the same time."




Angola's president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, met in the capital, Luanda, Thursday with Assistant Secretary of State Walter Kansteiner, who was diverted from a trip to South Africa to meet with the leaders of the council's three African nations.




"In Africa, the message is simple: time is running out and we think they should support us," said one U.S. diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.



I think everyone on the Council realizes that Bush will go to war with or without their approval. As a result, the votes of the council members will not necessarily be a good indication of their positions on Iraqi disarmament. Instead, it will show where these countries are looking for future diplomatic, economic, political and military ties -- toward America and her assorted allies or toward Old Europe.


Here's my guesses on how the votes will shake out:




Angola will go with the U.S. at the last minute. Historically the relationship between the two has been bad. Angola is ruled by the MPLA, a nominally socialist party which was strongly supported by the Soviets and Cuba during the Cold War. Relations were particularly soured by U.S. support of the UNITA rebel movement. Cooperation has greatly improved, though since a UN-brokered ceasefire established an elected government. Also, the death of Jonas Savimbi has effectively ended the UNITA movement. Angola is now looking to improve diplomatic relations with the U.S. and increase economic cooperation.




Guinea will also vote with the U.S. Relations with former colonial power France have always been sour. Conte will probably relish the idea of once again thumbing his nose at the French if they continue to oppose another UN resolution. In addition, American cooperation with Guinea has improved due to a mutual desire to end Taylor's thugocracy in Liberia. Guinea will be looking to prove its responsibilty and loyalty to the U.S. in hopes of making Taylor the next target in the War on Terrorists.




Cameroon will likely vote with France no matter what. While relations with France haven't always been perfect, Cameroon is still largely dependent on Paris for economic and political aid. They won't do anything now to sour things.




There's my predictions. We'll see how it plays out in a couple of weeks.


Monday, February 24, 2003
Mugabe's jaunt to Paris and the cricket World Cup games played in Zimbabwe recently were a double slap in the face to the Zimbabwe opposition. An editorial in the Independent criticizes CNN, among others, for ignoring the desparate situation of the Zimbabwean people:

The CNN's Charlayne Hunter-Gault was in Harare last weekend. She appears to have missed the arrests and brutal treatment of John Makumbe, Brian Kagoro and others last Thursday evening. A few hours later she was on CNN saying "security was not the problem" in Harare.


The same editorial goes on to criticize Mbeki and Obasanjo for their continued support of Mugabe:

Olusegun Obasanjo and Thabo Mbeki cannot arbitrarily make a decision to drop suspension without a meeting of the troika. That has not taken place. In fact Obasanjo and Mbeki have abdicated an international responsibility in refusing to see the process through.


I couldn't agree more.

Also of note, there are indications that Kibaki will take a harder line toward Mugabe than his predecessor. What can I say? Democracy makes a difference!



Progress for democracy and free trade in Africa? Maybe, if you believe this story from Kampala's Monitor about Yoweri Museveni's sudden conversion to the idea of multiparty politics in Uganda. His reason? The need to maintain favorable economic and political ties with America and the EU:

"The people who have opened their markets to us are the ones who want us to open political space to multi party politics," the president said in his passionate appeal, "We should not take decisions that will scare away investors because if there is disinvestment, it will take years and years before we can convince them to return. So we need to make a tactical compromise in order to realise our strategic objectives."


Museveni is known as the founder of Uganda's "Movement," the supposedly non-partisan mechanism of governance in Uganda. Although relentlessly repressing political opposition at home, he has successfully improved relations with the US and led an effective campaign against the spred of HIV/AIDS.

This isn't the first time that a strongman of African politics has opened up politics due largely to international political and economic pressure. Ghana's J.J. Rawlings did so grudgingly in the early 90's, as did Kenya's Daniel Arap Moi more recently. One can only hope that this is the beginning of a true democracy in Uganda.




I got a link from Instapundit yesterday! Thanks!


The coveted Chirac Award should be given to Thabo Mbeki. Apparently, Mbeki is trying to prove that the Iraqi inspections work by sending South African weapons experts to Iraq as technical consultants. Sadly, this project is doomed to failure because Saddam has no intention of disarming. Mbeki will succeed in providing great PR for the Iraqi regime, convincing Saddam that he has broad international support and further decreasing the already miniscule chance that he will ever disarm willingly -- hence the award.


A good discussion of the Ivory Coast civil war by Theodore Hodge is posted on The Perspective website. In particular, I heartily agree with this comment:

In examining the Ivorian crises, I think Mr. Gbagbo made a tactical and costly error in simply accepting himself as the winner and dismissing General Guei and Mr. Ouattara as losers. Mr. Ouattara was not allowed to compete in the race, and could not be rightly dismissed as a loser. His constitutional rights had been compromised. I think it was wrong and selfish of Mr. Gbagbo not to have risen above the petty policies of General Guei and the former President Bedie. After all, wasn't Gbagbo hailed as a proponent of human rights and democratic principles?

The fair thing, in my opinion, for Mr. Gbagbo to have done was to cancel those flawed elections rigged by the army general. As a man who had espoused and championed democracy, he should have proposed a new round of elections to give Mr. Ouattara his rightful due.

As it is Mr. Gbagbo gladly accepted an opportunity to become president prematurely and pretended the people had spoken. We know the difficulties that the normally peace-loving people of the Ivory Coast have become subjected to: civil war.


Despite his mistakes, I still think Gbagbo is the good guy in this situation. Unfortunately, without more vigorous support of the French, I don't understand how Gbagbo can hold on. That's unfortunate, because it's increasingly clear that the rebels are backed in one way or another by Taylor, Campaore and Qaddafi -- the same triumvirate who brought 10 years of civil war to Sierra Leone. Regardless of French theories about the usefulness of the "strongman-in-the-box," it seems unlikely that a rebel victory in Ivory Coast would bring peace to West Africa.


Sunday, February 23, 2003
This is an interesting piece from earlier in the month in the Washington Post. President Gbagbo is still tenaciously clinging to power in Ivory Coast after signing a French-brokered peace plan requiring him to share power with northern rebels in a transitional coalition government.

It now appears that Gbagbo never had any intention of honoring his agreement and is currently stalling for time. (Since he clearly couldn't achieve military victory against the rebels, I suppose this is his best move.) In fact, the recent anti-French demonstrations in Abidjan have probably been staged by Gbagbo himself, an attempt to intimidate his politicaly opponents with his support among "the people."



Despite the government's rhetoric about the need to protect the "democratically elected" government against lawless coups and rebellions, it's worth remembering how Gbagbo came to power in the first place. When military dictator Gen. Robert Guei allowed elections in late 2000, most opposition parties (notably the northern-dominated Rally for the Republicans Party) boycotted the election after most of their candidates were banned from running. After the election, Guei and his supporters announced the good general had won the election (surprise!) and would gladly serve another term. Almost immediately, the streets of Abidjan filled with mobs of Gbagbo's supporters claiming that the election had been rigged (probably true) and that their candidate had actually won. After days of rioting, Guei was forced to resign and Gbagbo assumed the presidency.



Despite negotiations with other opposition parties who had been barred or had boycotted the almost certainly undemocratic 2000 election, Gbagbo consistently refused to hold new elections or share power. Instead, he consolidated his power within the government and the armed forces to further undermine opposition parties, particularly the opposition parties from the Muslim north.



I'm not saying that the current ethnic and religious problems in Ivory Coast are completely Gbagbo's fault, but it doesn't appear that he's done much to promote national reconciliation after several years of military rule--just the opposite. Two years later, Gbagbo is again trying to protect his political career by calling his partisans into the streets of Abidjan and speaking with paranoid xenophobia. It's a good move, but I doubt it will save him this time. It's just prolonging his ultimate ouster.



The French are probably the big unknown in how this will play out. Currently, their main interest is in protecting the French citizens in Ivory Coast who have become targets of anti-French attacks, mainly at the hands of government supporters. In the Paris cease-fire, the French appeared to be making a conscious effort to play both sides of the street, meaning that the French probably won't overtly support one side or the other, but afterwards the French can claim to have supported whoever finally comes out on top. Another example of the French version of realpolitik.



If civil war does break out again, I'd expect that Gbagbo's government won't last long. There appear to be large segments of the military that are still loyal to Rober Guei's faction (even though Guei himself died in the 2002 coup attempt), and they would be happy to see Gbagbo go. Gbagbo has also pitted himself against Burkina Faso during the last two years, and it is likely that the rebel movement would receive additional assistance from that government.




And here's a bit more background on the rocky relationship between Rwanda and France. It's not clear that it improved at all over the weekend.


Just in case anyone was wondering if the Nigerian Islamists are really of the same type as the MidEastern Islamists, here's an interesting story from last year that shows the Islamic rantings heard in Kano, Kaduna, Zaria and Katsina are pretty much the same as those in Damascus, Tehran, Gaza and Baghdad.

Nigeria's presidential election is in April and will likely pit Obasanjo, a southern Christian, versus Buhari, a northern Muslim and former military ruler. This will likely be a fiercely contested race, but hopefully not a violent one, for Nigeria's sake.




The weekend's events in Paris are worth a couple of more comments. For Mugabe, the weekend was somewhat of a triumph as he was simultaneously able to thumb his nose at critcs in Europe and at the opposition in Zimbabwe. Maybe most importantly, Mugabe has improved his position within his own party. Lately there have been noises that some members of ZANU-PF and the Zimbabwe military are beginning to see Mugabe as a liability and are planning for him to step down. A good analysis of the latest such plot (which Mugabe may or may not have been in on), says that the South African government was implicitly behind it.

The opposition MDC on the other hand is dead set against any plan that removes Mugabe while accepting the results of last year's rigged elections. They feel that ZANU-PF is largely corrupt and has lost the right to rule with or without Mugabe. The MDC will refuse to participate in any coalition government with ZANU-PF without new democratic elections.



At any rate, after this weekend, the MDC seems to be further demoralized. Mugabe has clearly increased the chances that when he leaves office, he will do so on his terms and with the full dignity normally accorded to an outgoing head of state.



Meanwhile, famine continues to stalk the land and human rights abuses continue unabated. Without a doubt, the Zimbabwe crisis will not be solved by simply replacing Zimbabwe with another thug from his own party. As violent and repressive as this regime has been, there will have to be a long period of "de-ZANU-fication" before the country with recover. Sic semper tyrannus!!



Two other big winner's of the weekend were Obasanjo and Mbeki. They proved that their strong support of a corrupt, violent, tyrranical dictator is a winning formula when it comes to improving relations with the French. Rocky times are ahead at the next Commonwealth meeting as the split with the UK will become more and more pronounced.






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