Saturday, March 22, 2003
The Zimbabwe opposition has given an ultimatum:
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has given the Zimbabwean government until 31 March to meet a list of demands or "face popular mass action to regain the people's liberties, freedoms and dignity". Seemingly buoyed by the success of a two-day stay-away that it orchestrated this week, the MDC has now called on the government of President Robert Mugabe to release "all political prisoners, those arrested for exercising their constitutional right to demonstrate against violence, torture and general misrule".
It's a bold move, but I think the situation is getting desparate. I wish them the best... but I have to wonder if a violent thug like Mugabe has ever chosen to leave power when faced with a largely non-violent opposition movement. I doubt it, but there's always hope.
An email from an Africa-phile:
I'm one of the owners of a Yahoogroups mailing list called dreamAfrica. I'm trying to get in touch with people interested in Africa, those working there now and those living there.
Seems like a good idea to me. If you're interested in joining, you can go here.
And while I'm at it, I'll put in a request too: If anyone knows of any other Africa-related blogs, I'd be interested to know about them -- it would be particularly nice if there are Africans blogging in Africa. Let me know and I'll post a link.
The AP reports that Kenya, with the help of some Somali factions, just picked up an al Qaeda terrorist in connection with the November attacks in Mombasa. It is hoped that he can lead investigators to Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan and Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam. All three are suspected of planning the Mombasa attacks of last year and the 1998 African embassy bombings.
Huh... one of those names sounds familiar.
Who knew? Check out this blog from Somaliland for A Taste of Africa. If you scroll down a bit, there are some great pictures. Somaliland looks pretty this time of year!
Somaliland (not to be confused with Somalia) is located north of Somalia on the tip of the Horn of Africa. It was originally colonized by the British, but was combined with the former Italian colony of Somalia after indepencence in 1960. The united Somalia chafed under the dictatorship of Siad Barre until his death in 1990. While the southern part of Somalia spiralled into chaos and warlordism (from which it still hasn't recovered), Somaliland established a government, designed their own flag, and started printing currency.
Somaliland is still unrecognized by the UN and most of the rest of the world, but that hasn't stopped them from pursuing nationhood and sovereignty. There's a decent BBC story here and a recent one about the upcoming presidential election here.
Jonathan Edelstein is blogging about the oil wars in the delta region of Nigeria. The BBC and the NY Times have published articles on the same subject this week and it's definitely a topic of concern, particularly with the presidential election only a few weeks away.
I really see this as another example of Obasanjo's failure as a president over the last four years. The government's inability to maintain peace and security points to a deep distrust of their government among Nigerians which Obasanjo hasn't done much to change. In fact, the actions of the police and military in Nigeria are often at least as destructive as the rioters, looters and tribal militias that they are trying to pacify.
Friday, March 21, 2003
A couple of people have asked me to post a bio, so here goes:
First of all, I suppose it's quite a misnomer to call myself a "pundit." I'm really more of a "fan" of Africa, I guess, and certainly not an expert... I just cultivate an avid interest in all things African.
I grew up in Knoxville, TN and graduated from high school in 1997. Growing up in a largely homogenous white Protestant community, I think that all things African seemed rather exotic and adventurous to me at the time (and still do for that matter). I went on to college at the University of Tennessee (also in Knoxville). While I was still an undergrad, I got the idea in my head that I was going to go to Africa, so I did in the summer of 2001. I had the opportunity to spend 3 months as a volunteer teacher at a secondary school in rural Ghana. (If anyone ever gets the chance to go, you should do so in a heartbeat. It really is a wonderful country.)
I graduated with my B.S. in chemical engineering in 2002 and went on to graduate school (also chemical engineering) at the University of Delaware. It wasn't until after my move to DE that I discovered that Glenn Reynolds ("king of the bloggers") was blogging from my alma mater. I got turned on to the idea and since I didn't know of any other African news blogs, I figured I'd start my own. For another thing, I realized that most "African issues" are discussed only by the annointed left -- largely with their tired arguments of Marxism, neolcolonialism and racial nationalism, so it seemed a worthy goal to write at least a bit from a different perspective.
So that's about it... Oh, I do have other interests, of course. Those include backpacking, music (I sing a bit), and Joe Don Baker movies.
I got a couple of comments about my Nigeria Islamists post from yesterday, so I just wanted to clarify a few things. Sure, there are plenty of Islamist anti-Semitic crazies in west Africa. No doubt you could find some in Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina, Ivory Coast, and Ghana if you went looking. I think Nigeria is particularly important for a few reasons, though.
First, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa -- 150 million, I believe, or something like that. Due to size alone, you might say that Nigeria is a pivotal nation for the entire region, i.e. if a Sierra Leone-type civil war broke out in Nigeria, that could seriously destabilize the entire region. Nigeria is roughly evenly split between Muslims, Christians and animist and religious tensions between groups seem to have been whipped to a fervor -- much more so than I think you'd find in Ghana which also has significant Muslim and Christian populations in close proximity. Most telling, particularly in northern Nigeria is the (I believe) strong influence of extremist Islam, particularly the Saudi/Wahabbi kind and the Iranian/Shiite kind.
For more info, check out previous posts here, here and here.
I wanted to fill in a few more details related to this post about the recent coup in CAR.
At this point, there is no doubt about the fact that Idriss Deby, the Chadian dictator, was behind the coup. In fact, Bozize has disarmed his militia and invited Chadian troops to Bangui to restore order. Simulataneously, Bozize says that he wants to restore democracy and hold elections as soon as possible. I'm not holding my breath.
Now the Qaddafi connection... Qaddafi has long had a dream of establishing an African empire administered by Tripoli. Since the end of the Cold War and the ebbing of French influence, Qaddafi's dream is closer to fulfillment than ever. He has already installed Libyan-trained thugs in Liberia and Burkina Faso. He tried but failed to do the same in Sierra Leone during the 90's. It is also likely that he has his hand in the current uprising in Ivory Coast. To top it off, Qaddafi is a major financial supporter of Mugabe's tyranny in Zimbabwe.
Relations between Libya and Chad have been testy over the years, to say the least. Libya was a chief agitator in Chad's civil war which lasted for more than 20 years during the 70's and 80's. Qaddafi's forces were finally forced to retreat in 1987, having been defeated by Habre's American- and French-backed army. This was a major victory in the late Cold War, somewhat akin to the victory of the mujahideen in Afghanistan.
After the war, Habre fell out of favor with the West, largely due to human rights violations which continued in Chad. In 1990, Habre was overthrown in a coup led by Idriss Deby (current president) and backed by...you guessed it--Qaddafi. While relations have been strained at times between the two countries, particularly over the disputed Azou strip, there has been a general warming and strengthening of ties. I believe that Qaddafi sees Deby's Chad, due to its natural resources and strategic location, as an indispensible ally in his quest for African domination.
Now to CAR. The Chad-backed Bozize has lauched several rebellions in the past year or so. His coup attempt in May prompted Qaddafi to send Libyan troops to Bangui to restore order. But by December, all the Libyan troops had left CAR, leaving the security to Patasse's own ill-trained troops and a rag-tag group of central African peace-keepers. Three months later, with Patasse out of the country and the world's attention focused on Iraq, Bozize takes the capital in a single night with barely a shot fired and with no condemnation from Libya.
Seem fishy? It sure does to me.
My guess is that Libya and Chad have been cooperating for quite a while to bring CAR under their control, but they may have been unsure how best to manage this. Last year when Libyan troops were in Bangui, Libya probably put out feelers to see how receptive Patasse would be to a higher level of "cooperation" with Qaddafi. When Qaddafi determined that Patasse wasn't interested, he gave the all-clear for Bozize to take CAR at the next opportunity. If this coup stands, it's a major victory for Qaddafi.
As usual, the French are doing a lot of condemning, but I don't see any action. They seem to be content to let Qaddafi have the continent, and Africa will be worse off for it.
It would be nice if all of those people who criticize America for "imperialism" could start criticizing a real imperialist for a change.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
War blogging: A couple of interesting stories about "the African response to war." Here's the BBC's roundup: Looks like the US has the support of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Cameroon (surprise).
More interesting, allafrica.com visits Kano and Kaduna in Northern Nigeria to gauge public opinion on the war. This is disquieting reading.
If these interviews are any indication, one could believe that northern Nigeria is as radical as Gaza or western Pakistan. At any rate, I think it's likely that Nigeria is an emerging front in the War on Terror. And in a country of 150 million, it could be ugly.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Posting will be light the next couple of days, as I have a math test to study for.
In the meantime, the Guardian (via NRO) reports on more human rights abuses in Zimbabwe:
The trauma of rape is evident in the dull gaze of Sithulisiwe, 21. For eight months she was held captive at a "youth camp" for President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party, where, she says, she was repeatedly gang raped and tortured. She said she was abducted in December 2001 and marched to a camp in a Bulawayo suburb.
Mugabe is evil, and the sooner his government is out of power, the better. To that end, the strike continues.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
What do you know? Ethiopia made the list.
I'm not sure if I understand the full implications, but at the very least it shows that Ethiopia sees good relations with the US as critical (both economically and militarily). It's a little surprising under the circumstances, but welcome.
An Alert Reader responding to yesterday's post about the coup in CAR had an excellent question about Libya's and Chad's involvement in the situation.
Here's a short answer: Bozize would not have been able to take CAR so easily without Libya's (at least tacit) approval. Yes, Chad is likely involved, but I suspect that this is in cooperation with Libya rather than defiance. If this is the case, it's a serious power play on the part of Libya and Chad and something that the US should be concerned about.
I'll do a more complete post later on as things develop.
Monday, March 17, 2003
There's a weird article posted on the BBC about Uganda's war against the LRA terrorists in the north part of the country. The rebel attack breaks the current "ceasefire":
At 1100 local time a pick-up vehicle was ambushed by suspected LRA rebels on its way from Agoro, near the Sudanese border, to Kitgum. Ten kilometres away from Kitgum they opened fire on the vehicle. According to eyewitnesses the passengers were then shot at close range before the vehicle was set ablaze.
Then the weird part:
These attacks will do little to move forward the attempts to talk peace with the rebels.... However, two attempts to hold those talks have failed in recent days. Nevertheless the peace team has said it remains committed to talking peace with the rebels. A local MP who is part of the team, Santa Okot, said she thought the only weay forward was to meet the LRA rebels face-to-face and enable trust to grow. "I think they want to talk peace, but they lack confidence," she said.
It appears that Patasse is really finished as president of CAR. The rebels are in control, the constitution has been suspended and Bozize has proclaimed himself president. The UN has "strongly condemned" the coup, but something tells me that Bozize won't be too impressed by censure alone. And as we all know, the UN won't ever back up what it says with force.
As for the French, they are only concerned with the safety of their own citizens. French relations with Patasse weren't so good, so they won't go out on a limb to save him now.
It looks like Libya won't enter the fray either. As Andrew Sullivan reports, Libya is currently busy taking the reins of the UN Human Rights Commission. First business: Condemning Israel, of course!
Also, Joel Mowbray has another great article on NRO in which he claims (rightly) that the that the US State Department has the wrong idea about Qaddafi:
Though Libya is not a country that would easily embrace democracy, State's actions to relegitimize Qaddafi will make freedom there an impossible goal. And if State acts in a similar manner in other Middle Eastern nations, State's predictions that democracy won't take root in the region will indeed become a reality.
Apparently there are even people in our government who either don't realize that we're at war or can't recognize the enemy. Either way, these people need to be identified and canned as soon as possible. If Powell isn't able or willing to do that, then Bush should.
I was actually solicited today by a "Nigerian" email scam. (This one purported to originate in Mauritius, but who knows if that's true?) I'm really kind of flattered that someone thinks I have enough money to be a worthwhile victim.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
We had an unusual church service this morning: Our regularly-scheduled pastor was bumped for a sermon by Zethu Xapile, a South African nurse and pastor's wife who manages a health clinic in a township of Cape Town. The community that she and her husband minister to has a population of 500,000 of which 1 in 5 is infected with HIV/AIDS. And besides those who are sick and dying of AIDS, there are also many widows and orphans in need of care. It's hard to imagine.
Incidentally, it's pretty funny to see how a congregation of white 60-year-old Presbyterians handles an African-themed service. My question: Is "Kumbayah" really the best we could do music-wise? No doubt this was all planned with the best intentions, and I'm sure our African guests won't take offense. But boy they'll have some great stories to tell their friends at home about how white people do church!
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