Friday, April 25, 2003
Ugandan war on terror update -- LRA rebels abduct 180 people in northern Uganda:
Rebels attacked the two villages in Lira district, about 224 miles north of Kampala, while most people were sleeping, Egou said.

"They forced the people to open their houses and were interested in young people and women whom they forced to carry some of their looted property," he said.

Margaret Ateng Otim, a legislator for Lira, said the army should deploy more troops in the district to protect civilians.

"Such a huge number of people would not have been abducted if there were (more) soldiers on the ground," she said.

The article also notes that the LRA has abducted 15,000 during the 16-year war. Of course, the usual caveat about numbers applies here, but even if the real number is only half, that's still a lot of people.

It's always difficult to judge these things just from reading the news wires, but I think Zimbabwe may be nearing the tipping point. The current strike has succeeded in shutting down 70% of business for 3 days. In response to hyperinflation, Mugabe's government has taken the bold step of increasing the minimum wage. I'm no economist, but it seems to me that increasing the minimum wage would aggravate inflation... Then again, this is probably coming from the same advisors that suggested outlawing foreign exchange and controlling the prices of basic commodities. These are the type of policies that will merely hasten the demise of the regime.

In another sign of regime desparation, the Green Bombers have occupied a town, but the BBC notes that the MDC is watching...and vowing to remember:
the opposition MDC is compiling a list of policemen, government agents and militia members who it claims, have been torturing its supporters.

MDC advertisements in the local press say all those who are supporting the system by torturing innocent people will account for their actions the day the present government collapses.

Glenn Reynolds blogs that some Zimbabweans want the US to give Mugabe the Saddam treatment and he adds this comment:
It would be better, of course, if South Africa -- regarded by many, at least until recently, as a responsible nation -- would address this genocidal thugocracy in its backyard. But Thabo Mbeki doesn't seem to mind the goings-on in Zimbabwe, which makes me wonder about his vision for South Africa's future.

Me too.

As I said, things seem to be moving toward an endgame at an accelerated pace. I'm afraid that the economy, the army and civil society have been so badly damaged by Mugabe that the end -- in whatever form it takes -- will be a messy one. Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" was based on the idea that unrest in Zimbabwe would lead to a flood of refugees and large-scale displacements in South Africa. 2 years ago, or 5 years ago, Mugabe might have been able to step down peacefully, but that seems nearly impossible now. Through his appeasement of the dictator, Mbeki has done much to ensure the outcome that he most feared.

Thursday, April 24, 2003
President Bush released this statement earlier in the week. It's the first of the administration's six-month reviews on the implementation of the Sudan Peace Act. Based on this statement, the administration still believes that the peace process is moving forward. I hope this optimism is justified, although it's hard for me to understand in light of continuing government attacks on the south.

In other Sudan-related news, there was this story about Eritrea accusing Sudan of aiding Eritrean rebels. This looks like another example of Eritrea's paranoid tendency blame its problems on "foreign elements" -- Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, you name it.

UPDATE: I'll have to make a slight revision to my earlier comments because of this creepy response from the Sudanese government:
Sudan's deputy ambassador to Kenya, Muhammad Ahmad Dirdeiry, welcomed the move and said the US had an important mediating role in the search for lasting peace in his country.

"In the past, the US has played a negative role," he told IRIN. "But the Bush administration has made a shift towards being even handed and playing a constructive role towards achieving peace in Sudan."

However, he urged the US government to repeal the Act, which he said was unfair because it was an obstacle to the peace process and gave preferential treatment to one party in the conflict.

"We feel the United States government should also send a signal to the SPLM/A that it would also be punished it fails to negotiate in good faith," he said.

Bush's report follows an upgrading of Sudan's human rights status at the ongoing UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

"This is a recognition of the efforts that we have made over the years to improve human rights in Sudan," Dirdeiry said. "All the previous accusations have been dropped and Sudan has been exonerated. But we have to do even more."

I'm not against the peace process, but "peace" shouldn't become an excuse to let people off the hook who are responsible for the enslavement of southern Sudanese, intentional attacks on civilians and genocide against Sudanese Christians. These practices continue to this day despite the Sudanese government's persistent denials.

I'm sure there are some members of the Human Rights Commission that want to give the Sudanese a pass so that the oil drilling can begin. President Bush shouldn't be playing that game and it certainly isn't in the spirit of the Sudan Peace Act. It will be interesting to see where this leads in six months' time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
The Ugandan opposition is already beginning to organize in order to challenge Museveni's Movement in 2006 elections. The 2002 elections were largely a sham due to government-sponsored intimidation, but Museveni appears to be buckling under international pressure to ease restrictions on opposition activities. Museveni's evolution from dictator to democrat reminds me of Ghana's Jerry Rawlings who also allowed multiparty elections in response to international pressure. If the comparison holds true, Uganda has a better future in store.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
There's a good article in Forbes (registration required) about oil companies' sometimes cozy relationships with nasty dictators:

The financial stakes for an outfit like ExxonMobil are prodigious. It earned $9.5 billion after taxes extracting fossil fuels last year, four times what it netted from refining and chemicals. Without a new supply it would be reduced to earning a slim refining markup on crude it buys from well owners. Which is why ExxonMobil is willing to apply its diplomatic and economic muscle over a long period of time to get into a new oilfield. That means courting pipsqueak countries controlled by bad guys.

The company and its partners spent almost three decades trying to get the billion-barrel Doba field in southern Chad, a $3.5 billion project that includes a 650-mile pipeline through Cameroon to the Atlantic coast. Courting gifts included six restored locomotives, a dozen bridges, 77,000 mosquito nets and a $25 million payment to the government of Chadian President Idriss Deby--who immediately siphoned off $4.5 million to buy arms for a war against northern rebels.

Deby bought the arms despite an ingenious structure that the World Bank set up to guarantee that oil-related revenue would be spent on social needs instead of on weapons and the military. Under that program, the $2 billion in taxes and royalties the project in Chad is expected to throw off over the next 30 years goes into bank accounts monitored by a nine-member panel, chosen by the government, churches and labor unions, that has a mandate to spend at least 80% on social programs and infrastructure.

But human rights groups are skeptical that the scheme will work any better than the porous oil-for-food program in Iraq, under which Saddam Hussein starved his citizens and bought arms with impunity. "In Chad, the Congress is controlled by the president, and the law allows the allocations to be changed after five years," says Ian Gary of Catholic Relief Services, active in Chad. "That, coincidentally, is when the money starts flowing."

I'd concur with the skepticism. It's partly in agreement with this post.

The labor unions are striking in Zimbabwe. This is not the long-awaited MDC mass action, but that may be coming soon.

Also, this story was mentioned on several blogs yesterday, including Instapundit and The Corner. It's worth reading, but really just more of the same from Mugabe and his thugs.

Monday, April 21, 2003
I'm not a huge fan of the International Criminal Court, but these guys have at least one good idea:
No Peace Without Justice urges the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone to investigate and bring charges against Taylor for his actions in relation to the conflict in Sierra Leone, so that Sierra Leone and the world might learn the truth about how deeply he was involved in the conflict, and so that he may be prevented from undertaking similar actions in Sierra Leone or in other countries in the sub-region.

Until such time as Charles Taylor believes that there is a credible threat to his continuing actions, it is highly unlikely that peace in the sub-region will be attainable, which has serious consequences for the recovery of Sierra Leone and the stability of other West African countries such as Cote d’Ivoire. These facts alone make any calls to offer Charles Taylor immunity from prosecution not only laughable but dangerous, as they undermine the deterrent effect of international judicial institutions.

This is my only question: If Taylor is indicted, how can he be brought to trial without some sort of invasion of Liberia?

As I predicted, the UPDF is on the move in the north, having begun the withdrawal from Congo. This war against the LRA is really starting to look like Museveni's Chechnya -- there's no sign that it will ever end.

Well, the election news gets worse now that the elections have been completed -- in the east and the west.

In Somaliland, the losing candidate says he is not willing to accept the results. In Nigeria, Buhari's party looks as if they are about to do the same.

Surely some of these grievances are justified even if they are not enough to completely invalidate the results of the elections. At the very least, the ruling parties should agree to investigate and bring those responsible for irregularities to justice.

UPDATE: Judging by this piece from CNN, the irregularities were widespread, which seems imply some sort of organized effort by the party leaders. Obasanjo will have to have to face this head on in order for his government to have any credibility. Unfortunately, if the international community's attitude with regard to Zimbabwe is any indication, there won't be much pressure for Obasanjo to behave responsibly. In the past Obasanjo has shown prudence and foresight...and an ability to reconcile. Let's hope that proves true again.

Site Meter
< # Blogs & >