AfricaPundit



Saturday, March 08, 2003
President Bush froze the assets of 76 Zimbabwean government officials yesterday. A government spokesman says that the sanctions are racist and are part of an international conspiracy headed by Tony Blair.

I imagine that sanctions like these are largely symbolic, but I hope that at the very least this is an encouragement to the Zimbabwean oppostion:

MDC spokesman Paul Themba-Nyathi said "We welcome these new sanctions heartily because they are going to send a clear and unequivocal message to Mugabe and his cronies that decent governments are not going to tolerate his tyranny."

"It is a message that a government that tortures its own people as a matter of course must suffer serious sanctions, and be isolated," he told Reuters.



And speaking of the UN, the NY Times has a piece about Guinea, the current president of the UN Security Council and potential swing voter on the Iraq resolution:

Notwithstanding the eerie void on the streets here, the coming Security Council vote represents a rare opportunity for Guinea, but one with evident dangers. At stake are the country's two most important relationships — an old but tense alliance with France, its former colonial ruler and a hefty donor; and an emerging, vital relationship with the United States, its biggest trade partner and an ally against its neighbor and nemesis, the Liberian strongman, Charles Taylor.


Guinea continues to be a one-party police state, ruled by president/dictator Conte who is dying of kidney disease. He still has no successor.

My guess: France is Guinea's past; the US is Guinea's future. Guinea will vote with the US.




A really interesting interview with the Senegalese foreign minister, Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, was posted on allafrica.com this week. It gives the distinct impression that pro-Saddam (and anti-American) declarations at the Non-Aligned Movement conference, the Fraco-African summit, and the African Union conference probably aren't very representative of the real views of the majority of African countries, particularly the democracies. It's actually kind of funny, because the interviewer seems to be trying to get him to denounce American "unilateralism" and the "rush to war," but he won't do it:


You know, that's funny because, you know, the dialectics of international politics... people tend to think that the U.S. is touring Africa - Cameroon, Angola, Guinea - and they are putting all this kind of pressure in order to have their vote. But which country in the world is today dealing with the most pressure? The U.S. itself! Because, having chosen the path of the UN security Council, the U.S. is doing its best to legitimise the whole process through the UN system.

Because the U.S. could do without the international community. Would that be good for the U.S.? It's their internal decision, but I would advise, as a friend of this country, that they should go with the international community. But they can do without us, they really don't need us to take care of this problem.

Some people are saying, "well, there is no effort from the U.S. because the decision is already made, they're going to war, 300,000 troops on the ground, the UN is clearly not relevant." But I think we need to be consistent. The UN system is relevant [to the U.S.], which is why Colin Powell is going to Japan, going to Korea, around the world and trying to sell the idea that this is the way to go and why Africa Under-Secretary of State Kansteiner is touring Africa and going back and forth. The U.S. is actually making a huge diplomatic effort to convince the Security Council.

So I think it's fair to notice that and acknowledge that the U.S. is working in the UN system and doing its best.


And he also notes that the Franco-African declaration was written mainly by Chirac and Mbeki without consulting anyone else:

[W]hat Mr Chirac explained was that he consulted with President Mbeki and because the African Union had already passed a resolution in Addis Ababa, he took that resolution and added one or two sentences and presented it.

So it isn't manipulation, it's international politics. And we Africans, we respect our host, you don't challenge the host! But then you have the courage to say, "this is our position." We did not challenge our host; but [after the Franco-African summit], President Wade said, "this is our position, we are not following France, we have our own views." I think that's the merit of the new African leadership - you are courteous to your friends but when it comes to stating the African position, you put Africa first.


I liked how he said "the new African leadership." That's about right. Makes one optimistic about the future.


The BBC says that Youssou N'Dour is cancelling his US tour in order to protest the war in Iraq.

"As a matter of conscience, I question the United States government's apparent intention to commence war in Iraq," the musician said.

"It is my strong conviction that the responsibility for disarming Iraq should rest with the United Nations."


Wow. I guess American culture has corrupted Africa! Now their celebrities are starting to sound like our celebrities.


Jonah Goldberg of NRO writes about French foreign policy, the Rwandan genocide and the new Bruce Willis movie:

If you were an American director or producer and you were told to make an American film about America's role in the Rwandan genocide, you couldn't do it. As children were hacked to death and women raped in front of their husbands, you'd have to flash back to the United States and show Bill Clinton talking about mending but not ending affirmative action. You'd have to show Newt Gingrich saying a few words about giving laptops to inner-city blacks. You might find some noble comments about stopping genocide from Bob Dole, who's better on this sort of thing than most people realize. But in the end, you couldn't make the movie in an American way without rewriting the story into a fictionalized version — with Bruce Willis and his modern-day cavalry pffft! pffft! pffft-ing their way through the jungle.


As they say, read the whole thing.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I imagine it's pretty good. And how could it NOT be good, with Bruce Willis?


Friday, March 07, 2003
Here's another story about the Congo war. I had the impression that the parties involved (the Congo government, the opposition, and two armed rebel groups) were mainly warlords and thugs, so it seems doubtful that this power-sharing agreement will actually lead to good governance. For some of them, "politics" is just war by other means.


President Kagame of Rwanda is visiting the US this week. Among the challenges that he sees for peace in Africa's Great Lakes region:

- To ensure that the "ideology of genocide," now "relocated to places near and far, establishing networks with the help of external actors... be fought and exhausted into extinction."

- To recognise that peace is not simply the absence of war and that democracy is "never a finished product... Preventive measures across national life" must be made and the Great Lakes region, and Africa in general, "must make a choice [that] the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle blossoms."

- To insist that while assistance from the rest of the world continues to be needed, "Africa must solve African problems."


This seems pretty right to me.

The item also mentions that Rwanda plans for elections in May.



Thursday, March 06, 2003
An article on the BBC discusses Kofi Annan's pleas to "rich nations" to end agricultural subsidies that harm the export trade of poor (largely African) countries:

Mr Annan was addressing a contact group of the eight richest nations, established to give higher priority to agricultural development in Africa.

He told them that their food subsidies - which total $300bn a year - were stifling agricultural production in Africa.

Lack of sustainable food production was contributing to severe shortages which threatened more than 30 million Africans with starvation, said Mr Annan.


It's not really clear to me how the risk of cheap, subsidized imports from Western countries should cause the starvation of 30 million Africans -- if anything, I'd think it would mean cheap food, which should result in less starvation, not more. Starvation seems more likely due to government intervention (e.g. 1980's Ethiopia, 1990's Somalia and Zimbabwe).

Regardless, I totally agree that there needs to be a major change in American and European agricultural trade policy. African countries like Senegal, Ghana and others have worked hard to privatize government-owned companies, reduce government intervention in the private sector, and remove barriers to trade. Often they have borne a high short-term political cost in the hope of entering more fully into the world economy. US and EU trade barriers have made the transformation of African economies more painful and much slower than necessary. This needs to change. For starters, there should be an immediate agreement to phase out all agricultural tariffs, quotas and subsidies in 5 years. The current policy simply enriches the few (European and American farmers) at the expense of many (worldwide consumers and especially developing world producers).

We'll see if anything changes, but I'm not holding my breath.


John Derbyshire at The Corner is blogging about the "small war" in the DR Congo. According to the BBC more than 2,000,000 people have been killed in the past four years!

Hard to believe.


Wednesday, March 05, 2003
Bad election news in Nigeria. I guess we'll get used to this in the next month or so.


The BBC is examining Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" in South Africa. It's a wishy-washy article, but at least there are some good quotes:

"President Mbeki is a collaborator with Robert Mugabe in the crimes perpetrated against the people of this country," explodes Job Sikhala, member of parliament for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change MDC, and a recent victim of torture by state police. "What 'quietness' are they talking about? When we supported the African National Congress in their fight against apartheid, it wasn't 'quiet diplomacy'. And we are fighting a worse system than the apartheid regime," he says.


He's exactly right. As a supporter of the status quo, Mbeki has become Mugabe's #1 enabler. It's clear that Mbeki's values are not liberty or human rights or even self-determination, but rather African solidarity. This means that any African dictator, no matter how brutal, will be supported provided that he is a leader of a "liberation movement."

There's an angle here that hasn't been covered yet. Sure, S. Africa has economic, domestic and philosophical reasons for supporting Mugabe, even though human decency would indicate otherwise. But there's also the Qaddafi connection (once again). During the 70's and 80's, Qaddafi supported the ANC with money and weapons. His close friendship with Mandela is well known. When the ANC finally came to power in the non-apatheid S. Africa during the 90's, Qaddafi finally had a powerful friend on the continent. Interestingly, this coincides almost exactly with the period of time when Qaddafi turned his attention away from the Arab world and toward Africa. More recently, Qaddafi has made a big deal out of supporting Mugabe's government, largely through shipments of subsidized Libyan oil. And of course, Mbeki is the leader of the S. African ruling party and heir of Mandela.

So is Qaddafi pulling the strings in South Africa? Well, I doubt it, but I think that the personal relationship is important. Also important is that Qaddafi, Mandela, Mbeki, and Mugabe all use the same anti-colonialist, pro-liberation, pan-Africanist rhetoric (mostly to tell the US and UK to go screw themselves). Granted South Africa is free to pursue any foreign policy it chooses, but unless it adopts a foreign policy more similar to America's than Libya's, I think Washington needs to start looking for some new friends in the region.



Huh... This is interesting. Museveni says he supports the US position on Iraq. So much for Franco-African solidarity. (Not that I'm complaining.) I'd expect Kagame to make a similar statement before long.

Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and a rehabilitated Kenya -- East Africa is starting to look "Western-oriented" (in a very loose sense) and surprisingly stable. Who'd guess that so much could change in 10 years?


There was a good story in the NY Times today about Rwanda's recent arrest of 3 rebels accused of the 1999 murder of 2 American tourists in Uganda. The rebels are all affiliated with the Liberation Army of Rwanda -- roughly the same group of people who carried out the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

What's most interesting is the reason for the killing: The rebels were attempting to undermine US and UK support for the Rwandan government by targeting terrorists acts against English-speakers.

Luckily, the opposite seems to have happened. I think that's very good for Rwanda and for the US.


Kind of an odd story on BBC about a new list of the world's worst cities. Brazzaville, Congo, is listed as the worst, although Bangui, CAR, is apparently more dangerous. African cities made up 17 of the worst 20 cities in the world.

On the bright side, I hear Cape Town is quite nice.


Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Huh... Who knew? Zimbabwean farmers are driven off their farms and killed in Zimbabwe, but they're apparently quite welcome to do business in Mozambique!

Zimbabwe's loss is Mozambique's gain, and Nhaca said notable agricultural development was under way in the areas where the Zimbabwean farmers have settled.

There are about 50 of them in all, and they have been granted land to farm in the districts of Mossurize, Sussundenga, Gondola and Manica. The Zimbabweans are mainly producing tea, tobacco and other cash crops, but during his visit Nhaca urged them also to grow food crops, particularly grains and vegetables, to satisfy local needs.


You go, guys!!




If you want some distressing reading, try looking at the NY Times' web forum about the current civil war in the Ivory Coast. I found that very few posts had anything to do with Ivory Coast at all. Most wanted to discuss things like 1) Zimbabwe, 2) colonialism and 3) whether Africans are forced to play cricket as a result of the global white hegemony.

Granted, I dislike Mugabe as much as the next guy, but Zimbabwe doesn't have much to do with Ivory Coast (unless you want to discuss the fact that Qaddafi is a main financial backer of Mugabe and the Ivory Coast rebels -- but no one mentions that). As for the third argument, I suppose I don't have a strong opinion. If people in Africa want to play cricket, it's fine by me. And if they can beat the Brits in a fair match, more power to them!! I suppose there is the possibility that Africans could be forced to play cricket, but this is more likely to happen in a one-party police state (e.g. Zimbabwe), not as a result of any white hegemony.



The second argument deserves more comment. Here's an example post from the NY Times site:

I think a few of us could use some reading about the true roots of widespread human rights abuses in Africa. It is also worth noting that the majority of resources gathered from this abusive policy of brutal forced labor went not to Congolese institutional build-up, but to Leopold personally and Belgium as a nation in the form of public funds.



I think it's pretty dishonest to "explain" every issue in contemporary Africa as the result of colonialism. It's a lazy argument in the sense that it doesn't depend whatsoever on an analysis of the facts of the matter -- it's merely a kneejerk reaction, and in that sense it's nothing more than a (politically correct) stereotype. What's even more frightening is that the anti-colonial rhetoric you hear from the guys on the NY Times web forum is not much different from the rhetoric that Mugabe uses to justify torture of his own people and the rhetoric that others use to defend him.



When I was in an African Studies class in undergraduate school, there was a lot of this sort of "critical thinking" going on and also a lot of searching for "root causes." In fact, the search wasn't very exciting because the answer was predetermined: All African problems (civil war, AIDS, poverty, disease, famine, etc.) are the direct result of European involvement in Africa. This rings a little hollow to me.




Monday, March 03, 2003
More sad news about the deteriorating situation in the Ivory Coast via the BBC, reporting that Diarra may step down as PM. This would be a big blow as he seems to be the only person in the entire business who has any credibility. Meanwhile the rebels report that government helicopters killed 20 civilians in the West. According to the BBC correspondant, "The incident could have serious consequences for the peace process..."

Duh... What do they pay people for analysis like that?



In related news, there is more activity along the Liberian border and it's likely that the Liberian troops are backed by Charles Taylor. Get ready for Sierra Leone II.



As I've said before, the French are the only party who really have the ability to take charge of the situation militarily, but they are refusing to do so. Instead, they choose to sit on the fence and let the two sides duke it out. When things are over, the French will likely back whoever comes out on top and claim to have done so from the beginning.



I don't blame the French for being lukewarm about Gbagbo -- I agree he's not the most savory of characters (and more importantly to Chirac, he's not outstandingly pro-French). But in refusing to back Gbagbo, the French are effectively supporting the rebels who are (at last news) supplied and supported by Qaddafi, Campaore and Taylor (the African Axis).



Call me crazy, but a rebel victory would be bad news for West Africa. The French should think about that, but they likely won't.


The new Baaba Maal album (The Best of the Early Years) has been released in England. According to cdnow.com, it will be released in the US on April 8.

Chances are it will be well worth a listen!




I also got another link from InstaPundit today related to my post about Liberian and Burkinabe cooperation with al Qaeda...

Related to that post, here and here you can see the wanted posters of two of the al Qaeda figures involved. (Just so no one gets the idea that these links are insignificant.) Both of these guys apparently planned and executed the African embassy bombings in 1998. Chances are we'll hear of them again... unless they are arrested first.



The NY Times published an article today about M. Chiraq's visit to Algeria. Despite the overwhelmingly warm welcome (which was largely staged), there is certainly a tension just below the surface. It doesn't help that Chirac first came to Algeria as an Army officer during the Algerian War (which, according to the Times, cost 1.5 million lives).

So what do the French want in Algeria now? My guess is two things: First, Chirac is desparate for allies willing to line up on the "French side" in terms of the war in Iraq. This shouldn't be a big problem in Algeria. More importantly, Chirac would like the Algerian government's help in controlling Algerian immigration to France. This quote speaks for itself:



The most burning bilateral issue for ordinary Algerians, particularly the 70 percent of the population under age 30, is how to get easier access to France. With an unemployment rate that is officially set at 30 percent but is universally seen as much higher, many Algerian youths see an exit visa as their only way out of hopelessness. France is their first choice; Canada, because of French-speaking Quebec, comes next.

France gives about 180,000 visas to Algerians every year, but there are long delays, largely because of the civil war and terrorist acts against France that led to the closing of France's consulates in the country.


You might say that the most burning bilateral issue for the ordinary Frenchmen (largely because of France's currently dismal economy and historical hostility to immigration) is preventing ordinary Algerians from immigrating to France.

So Chirac will be buddy-buddy with the Algerians... as long as they stay in Algeria.




I got a link today from Spartacus. (Thanks a bunch!)

Be sure to check out his latest blog.


Sunday, March 02, 2003
Mauritanian Director Abderrahmane Sissako has won the Best Film prize at FESPACO 2003 for his film Heremakono.

I wonder if Africans in Africa actually get a chance to see any of these movies. I'm not so sure that they do... except possibly for Nigerian movies!!


Gregory Simpkins writes on allafrica.com:

Ironically, it is two of the leaders who have promoted the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), who are pushing most forcefully for Zimbabwe's return to full Commonwealth membership. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has been quoted as saying that Zimbabwe should be readmitted to the Commonwealth since the abuses connected with the land seizures have ended. South African President Thabo Mbeki has reportedly said that his country's "quiet diplomacy" has resulted in Zimbabwe's government agreeing to changes in laws relating to press freedom and democracy.


My guess? If Zimbabwe is readmitted to the Commonwealth, NEPAD will be finished. Mbeki and Obasanjo really appear foolish on this.


The Telegraph reports on a Ugandan refugee in Britain who writes propaganda for Robert Mugabe and supports the LRA terrorist group in Uganda.

Mr Matsanga, who claims to have worked as a researcher for Robin Cook, then the shadow foreign secretary, before the 1997 election, writes a vitriolic anti-British column in the Daily Herald, a Zimbabwean newspaper. Among his many rants are attacks on Tony Blair and journalists who have written about Mr Mugabe's despotic rule.

He described an article in The Daily Telegraph about a possible coup in Zimbabwe as "nothing but a faked story by gay gangsters", adding that British "gays who hate President Mugabe" were sneaking into the country under the pretext of playing golf.


And he's homophobic to boot! Now the lefties have something to be really upset about!


This was an interesting article from Forbes magazine about a Kenyan developing genetically modified yams. The article says that agricultural yields in Africa for cash crops are the lowest in the world, but GM foods may change that.

The sweet potato is sub-Saharan Africa's first genetically modified crop, and its yields so far are double that of the regular plant. Potatoes are bigger and richer in color, indicating they've retained more nutritional value. On a continent where population growth outstrips food supply growth by 1% a year, Wambugu's modified sweet potato offers tangible hope. According to the World Bank, biotech crops could increase food production in the developing world by 25%.


Watch out, Europe!




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