Saturday, April 05, 2003
The Daily News thinks that Mbeki and Obasanjo are being taken for fools:
One can never be certain about Obasanjo and Mbeki's utterances. In one breath, they offer solace to Mugabe; in another, they castigate him. They seem to me to be no more than pawns in Mugabe's foreign policy, and have a double character which playwright, William Shakespeare, referred in one of his plays when he said: ". . . and be these juggling fiends no more believed that palter us in a double sense, that keep the word of promise to our ear and break it to our hope".

I'll go along with that.

Jonathan Edelstein reports that a new strike will soon be called by the Zimbabwe opposition and that the government is now invading libraries.

As Zimbabwe has moved deeper and deeper into the current crisis, there has been a lot of "concern" about whether the MDC has what it takes to become an effective ruling party in the event that Mugabe steps down and ZANU is removed from power. I feel like such arguments really miss the point.

Mugabe has completely, intentionally and systematically undermined the rule of law, institutionalized violence and quashed public debate in the country. Mugabe must leave and the rule of law must be restored before any real debate on economic or social policy can resume. I believe that the people of Zimbabwe are capable people and that they will succeed if given half a chance. Whether they choose to be ruled by the MDC or some other party is up to them, but the choice must be theirs and it must be made freely. That can only happen when Mugabe and his cronies have been purged from the government.

Kenya nabs another terrorist, according to CNN:
Police picked up Aboud Rogo, 34, on Wednesday in the Likoni district of Mombasa and were taking him to Nairobi for questioning, police spokesman Gideon Kibunja said. Last month, Mohamed Kubwa, who also is in police custody, told The Associated Press that his cousin Rogo had introduced his family to Abdul Karim -- believed to be fugitive al-Qaeda operative Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Fazul has been indicted for the simultaneous car bombings outside American embassies in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania in 1988 that killed some 230 people, including 12 Americans.

This arrest, along with the one last month indicates steady progress in the War on Terror. I thought the Iraq War was a distraction...

Thursday, April 03, 2003
The NY Times reports that Kibaki is getting serious about fighting corruption in Kenya:
Manipulated contracts and other elaborate scams have shifted billions of dollars of public money into private pockets over the decades, various studies have shown. But in the nearly three months since Kenyans voted out the party that had ruled for the last 39 years, a significant change has taken place. President Mwai Kibaki has not managed to wipe out the dirty dealings that had become so deeply rooted during the long tenure of his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi. But in declaring "a culture of zero tolerance to corruption," he has begun to turn the tide.

"Corruption has undermined our economy, our politics and our national psyche," Mr. Kibaki declared at the opening of the Parliament last month. "It has undermined our most important institutions and tarnished our reputations as Kenyan leaders."

And there is certainly much to be done... like investigate the Goldenberg scandal and redistribute the land stolen by various government officials.

Meanwhile, Kenyan MPs have given themselves a $9.2m car allowance. Seems outrageous to me.

UPDATE: The Skeptic has a link-filled post about the goings-on in Kenya. The perma-link is apparently not working, but you can scroll down to the post on 4/3/03, 1:16 AM.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003
The government of Ghana announces the formation of the US-Ghana Economic Council which will promote bilateral trade relations between the two countries.
Charter members of the U.S. Ghana Economic Council include Coca-Cola, Newmont Mining, Lehman Brothers, CMS Energy and Cargill.... Speaking for the reception sponsor, Curt Ferguson, senior regional manager for Coca-Cola in West Africa, spoke glowingly of an improved investment climate in Ghana, which he said has been undergoing an "amazing transformation." Coca-Cola, he said, has been growing at 15 percent a year in the country.... George Pickart, who represents the company [CMS] in Washington, says CMS Energy welcomes formation of the new Economic Council. "We have been impressed by the progress the government has made in consolidating democracy and reforming economic policy, including significant changes in the energy sector where we operate," he said.

Even better:
Included on the Council's proposed agenda are internships for outstanding Ghanaian and American graduate and undergraduate students with public, private and non-governmental institutions in the United States and Ghana, as well as a fellows program to allow mid-career Americans to spend up to a year working in the private sector in Ghana.

My bags are packed!

Human Rights Watch has just released a report about child trafficking in West Africa. The report calls the trade "borderline" slavery and says that at least 13 countries are involved. Togo is singled out as a central player:
The report said Togo's trade in children is illustrative of a larger, regional phenomenon involving at least 13 West African countries. Based on the testimony of children and local experts, HRW documented four routes of child trafficking into, out of, and within Togo.

These include:
- the trafficking of Togolese girls to Gabon, Benin, Nigeria, and Niger;
- the trafficking of girls within Togo, especially to the capital, Lome.
- the trafficking of girls from Benin, Nigeria, and Ghana to Togo;
- the trafficking of boys to Nigeria, Benin and Cote d'Ivoire.

Children interviewed by the organisation came predominantly from poor, agricultural backgrounds and had generally had little schooling before being trafficked. In numerous cases, children were recruited by traffickers after running out of money to pay for school.

While most West African countries have laws against child trafficking and slavery, governments typically lack the resources or the will to prosecute offenders.

Additional articles can be found at BBC and IRIN.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
I just passed 5000 page visits on my site meter! I know this is nothing for a mega-blogger like Instapundit or Andrew Sullivan, but for an amateur pundit like me it's pretty amazing.

When I started writing this a little over a month ago, I was doing it completely for fun. I never expected anyone to read it besides myself and a few friends, so to have this many people reading is exciting.

So anyway, thanks for reading and I hope that you continue to find things interesting and informative.

While sending his bandits to wreak havoc in Ivory Coast, Charles Taylor announced last week that he will defy the UN arms embargo, supposedly to protect his government from the LURD rebellion. This deserves some comment:

The LURD rebels are a shadowy group. No one seems to be quite certain who they are or who is behind them. (If anyone has the definitive answer, please let me know.) In various places, I've read that they are refugee soldiers from the former Liberian government, mercenaries funded by Guinea, a rebel force trained by the CIA, or that LURD doesn't really exist and is simply another one of Taylor's militias which he uses to create a sense of crisis.

My feeling is that each of these explanations probably has a grain of truth. Conte and Taylor are known enemies, so it seems reasonable that Guinea is doing what it can to provide arms and training to Liberian rebels. Also, US military assistance to Guinea has been increased over the last 10 years largely to check the destabilizing influence of Taylor. While I doubt that the CIA has directly funded or trained LURD, it's quite possible that some of the military aid sent to Guinea has been funneled to Liberian rebels. Finally, I'd say that about half of the attacks that are attributed to LURD are actually carried out by Taylor's militias under his orders. Taylor thrives from a sense of crisis. Threats to his government provide an excuse to crack down on the opposition and... break the UN arms embargo. In that sense, LURD plays right into his hands.

In reality, Taylor doesn't need to import arms to defend the country, he just needs to satisfy his customers!

P.S. I should have added that LURD isn't nearly as sqeaky-clean as they'd lead you to believe on their website and I don't intend to be promoting their movement. They've been accused of numerous attacks on civilians in Liberia, though probably not nearly as many as Taylor's thugs. Of course, if the CIA is backing LURD it wouldn't be the first time that the US has chosen the lesser of two evils.

The French human rights group Survie has asked the French government to stop being complicit in support of the Libyanization of West Africa:
Survie President François Xavier Verschave hit out at France charging that Paris as well as her army which was engaged in a peace keeping exercise expected to enable Côte d'Ivoire retrace the steps back to democracy could no longer use double language. "She, [Paris] can no longer be contented to denounce the reality of crimes in Gbagbo's camp and his auxiliaries [in the conflict], without denouncing with at least as much force, the alliance between the rebels and the hordes belonging to Taylor, this lord of war who has subdued his country through terror and hardly ceases to export his methods," Verchave decried. But the Survie President noted that for Paris to break links with Taylor would , " induce an agonizing" thought for Paris. Seen from a wider context such agony sprung from what Survie described as the Françafrique network's involvement of more than 13 years of trafficking in the West Africa sub-region. Survie cited trafficking in timber, diamonds and other raw materials that went on the region in exchange for arms and mercenaries in the service of criminals against human rights.

It's the same story, and one that I've posted on again and again. From the French perspective, Africans are not responsible enough to handle democracy and self-government. That being the case, the best the French can do is cut sweetheart deals with regional thugs (like Qaddafi) in order to promote "stability," i.e. tyranny, and protect French economic interests.

Since the end of the Cold War, the French have cozied up closer and closer to Qaddafi. As French military power in Africa has waned, Paris has depended more and more on Libya to maintain order. The results are Qaddafi's re-emergence as a power player on the world stage and the entrenchment of Libyan-aligned governments in Liberia, Burkina, Chad and CAR. This situation is only getting worse and the French couldn't be less concerned.

Monday, March 31, 2003
The Iraq war is re-defining US relations in Africa as well as Europe, however this analysis seems to me rather naive:
From a purely defensive perspective, Pretoria and the African Union (AU) might consider devising a doctrine that politically insulates Africa from becoming a battleground in the war on terrorism or that safeguards member states (like Libya) from being targeted by US neoconservatives for preventive war treatment. This could take the form of articulating an AU continental "zone of peace" as a corollary to its declaration on combating terrorism.

In short, any "clash of civilisations" between the US and Islamist forces should not take place on African soil.

Such a doctrine should reinforce efforts at rooting out terrorist networks within the continent while positioning Africa as an independent regional actor committed to the nonviolent resolution of disputes as should have been the course pursued with the revitalised now interrupted inspections process in Iraq.

For one thing, Africa is already a battleground in the War on Terror, whether or not it wants to be. What further proof is needed than the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2001 Tunisian synagogue bombing and the 2002 Mombasa attacks? And how is it possible to fight terror in Africa while "safeguarding" Libya, a major state sponsor of terrorism?

Interestingly, the US government chose this week to announce the end of military aid to Nigeria. Supposedly this a response to human rights abuses by the Nigerian army in 2001, but I doubt that the decision is completely unrelated to Nigeria's recent statements about Iraq. Incidentally, the article about military aid also mentions that Senegal has withdrawn from a joint letter (also sent by Nigeria and SA) condemning the Iraq war. If you consider that to be implicit support, then the African members of the coalition of the willing are now 5 including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda and Rwanda (4/5 from East Africa).

It will be interesting to see what happens if Libya becomes a target of the war on terror. I think that would probably do to the African Union what the Iraq war has done the UN.

I got two more "Nigerian" scam emails today. Maybe other people get these all the time, but I'd never seen a single one before I started this website.


Sunday, March 30, 2003
Monday is the "day of reckoning" for Robert Mugabe. Showing no signs of softening, Mugabe is up to his old tricks of intimidation and vote rigging. This almost certainly means another round of strikes and more government crackdowns on the opposition.

Meanwhile, the opposition is aiming psy-ops at the Zimbabwe military in the hopes of undermining their support for Mugabe.

UPDATE: Jonathan Edelstein has the full story.

Just as Nigeria's "oil riots" appear to be finally under control, something like this happens:
Witnesses said on Sunday more than 100 people were missing and some feared drowned after jumping into a river during violent clashes in Nigeria between supporters of rival political parties ahead of elections next month.... "People, men and women were badly cut with machetes and other dangerous weapons, while more than 100 people who jumped into the river are still missing. Some of them may have drowned," one witness told Reuters from Port Harcourt by phone.

There's not a week that goes by without something like this happening in Nigeria. Chances are things will get even worse as the election approaches.

Good news here:
Burundi's president [Pierre Buyoya] has announced that he will hand over power to his deputy on 1 May as agreed in a peace deal.... The power-sharing deal reached with some rebel groups and political organisations allowed for the change of leader exactly half-way through the transitional three-year government of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.... [Buyoya] added that the president decided to go because he said he wanted to respect the constitution and leave as promised.

Peaceful transfers of power happen all too infrequently in Africa: Buyoya himself came to power in a military coup in 1996. The current ceasefire is still pretty tenuous and the government continues to fight pockets of rebel holdouts, but Buyoya's decision is a signal that the government is willing to stick to the agreement.

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