AfricaPundit



Saturday, May 03, 2003
Here's an update on the War on Terrorists, African theatre:

An AP article notes that the US deployment in the Horn of Africa has been successful in capturing mid-level al Qaeda operatives in 4 or 5 different countries. At the same time, the deployment is strengthening relationships in the region and promoting overall security:
[Lt. Gen.] DeLong said governments in the region had been extremely helpful in the hunt for al-Qaida. He said he could not predict how long the Horn of African operation would continue but that Central Command intends to move the task force's headquarters ashore in Djibouti in the next month or so.

The three-star general said even if no al-Qaida were being captured in the Horn of Africa, the mere presence of American forces there for a sustained period provides a "comfort factor" for governments in the region.

"Knowing we're helping them look for al-Qaida members has paid huge dividends," he said. Senior government officials have been very forthcoming with U.S. officials in the search for terrorists.


In fact, the US is looking at expanding involvement in Africa by deploying NATO troops to trouble spots:
Nato Supreme Commander General James Jones, an American four-star general, suggested in barely noticed remarks that the United States plans to boost its troop presence in Africa, where there are "large ungoverned areas... that are clearly the new routes of narco-trafficking, terrorists' training and hotbeds of instability."
...
A debate about Nato's relevance and future among Nato allies began heating up in the run-up to the Iraq war and continues to be a hot topic now that the war is concluding. Nato has not yet reached any conclusions as to what its future shape might be, said Jones. "It has not found its form yet and maybe it won't."

But if the organization does have a future, said General Jones, expect Africa to be of greater importance to both Nato and the United States. "The carrier battle groups of the future and the expeditionary strike groups of the future may not spend six months in the Med[iterranean Sea] but I'll bet they'll spend half the time going down the West Coast of Africa."

WEST Africa, huh? That's kind of ironic, with West Africa being effectively the headquarters of Francophone Africa. I wonder what Chirac would have to say about that.

NATO troops in West Africa might be a good idea. For one thing, it would provide some tangible support to emerging democracies in the region, notably Senegal, Ghana and Sierra Leone. And maybe the presence of NATO troops would make Charles Taylor just the slightest bit nervous that he might not be safe after all. Maybe he'd take his chances with the War Crimes Tribunal instead.



Ready for your Head Heeb fix? Here's Jonathan's latest updates on the peaceful transfer of power in Burundi and the current goings-on in Liberia. The story is that "President" Charles Taylor has been threatened by the War Crimes Tribunal with prosecution for sheltering war crimes suspects. If only that was all Taylor had done...


Tsvangirai's court challenge of last year's election results appear to be increasing the pressure on Mugabe. The London Telegraph reports on evidence indicating the Zimbabwe army's hijacking of the electoral process:
Zimbabwe's security forces covertly took control of the presidential election machinery five days before President Robert Mugabe's victory last year, according to secret letters obtained by The Telegraph.

The letters, the authenticity of which has not been questioned, are the first concrete evidence of how completely Zimbabwe's electoral process, normally run by civilians, was hijacked by the security forces to ensure Mr Mugabe's victory in March last year.

Meanwhile, this piece paints a cautiously optimistic picture, saying that Mugabe's authority has been seriously undermined by the recent union strike:
Mugabe's change of fortunes has been dramatic. Until recently, he appeared to be firmly in charge, but the strike showed his influence could be diminishing at an accelerated pace.

There have been a number of setbacks for him recently. Just two months ago it looked as if he was firmly in control. The democratic gains of 2000 had been rolled back, the repressive apparatus of the state - including legislation - firmly set in place, with his authority stamped on his party and the country. The MDC appeared demoralised with resignations of MPs, no idea how to resist repression, and by-election reverses.

All that has changed. First the MDC-organised mass action on March 18/19 shook the ground under Mugabe as the populace responded to the strike call. The wave of repression that followed simply fuelled popular hostility. Then two by-elections in Harare, won in the teeth of bribery and intimidation, showed Mugabe's blandishments and threats were making no purchase on the public mind.

That seems to have been the turning point. While government becomes more defensive, the opposition now seems to have been adrenalised and is on a roll. The success of last week's stayaway and the failure of the state propaganda offensive that emphasised claims of MDC violence, has left Mugabe stranded, evidently clueless about how to solve the country's burgeoning problems.

Yes, I know that there have been plenty of public denials that Mugabe is even considering resigning. In private, I think Mugabe is frantically looking for a safe way to step down. Unfortunately for him, his options are quickly running out and the longer he waits, the more dangerous it gets.


There was an interesting editorial on allafrica about the current sad state of South's Africa's foreign policy. The author attributes this largely to Mbeki's indefensible appeasement of the tyrant in his back yard:
For several years now Mbeki and his apologists have been telling us how hard he was working behind the scenes to rehabilitate the Mugabe regime. Yet every day conditions in Zimbabwe are worse than the day before.

Not only did the Mbeki administration remain neutral and uncommitted on Zimbabwe, it also helped realise the stark division among the ranks of the Commonwealth on the issue, and voted against any rebuke of Robert Mugabe by the United Nations.

These are not the actions of a man the world can respect as an honest broker. He simply doesn't have the credibility any longer. How can Mbeki campaign for peace, human rights and democracy elsewhere in the world if he doesn't do it in his own backyard?


Not only that, but Mbeki worked pretty hard to rehabilitate the regime of Saddam Hussein practically up until the eve of war. Does this guy like democracy at all? As daudi blogs, Mbeki's position on the Iraq war has polarized South Africa largely along racial lines. (The links have been bloggered, so just keep scrolling down... and read some along the way). Excerpt:
I think that the lack of black support for the war goes beyond some notion of Third World solidarity. Black South Africans, living in a country with more pressing issues than the war on terrorism, had no self-interest at stake here. Yet that necessarily means white South Africans had nothing at stake here, either. So why did they react positively to the calls for war? Were they acting out of First World solidarity, as Forrest suggests? Why did Bush and Blair's appeal to fear work on them?

Regardless of South Africans' interests in Iraq, I'm sure many understand the precarious position that Mbeki's posturing has put the country in. It's not that South Africa ought to subjugate their foreign policy to the whims of Washington -- not in any kind of obiedient lapdog sort of way. At the same time, all foreign policy has to be compromise on some level. The policies that you choose to fight for should be A) vital to the nation's self-interest and B) have a reasonable likelihood of success. As daudi says (I think), the situation in Iraq had little to do with South Africa's self-interest. Also, Mbeki's vocal (shrill?) opposition to the war never had a chance of success. In the end, Mbeki has squandered his credibility (once again) on a lost cause.

Given its physical and economic size, South Africa should be a diplomatic and political powerhouse within Africa and on the world stage. During the Clinton administration, South Africa was the go-to ally for American diplomacy in Africa. But this is changing quickly in response to Mbeki's foreign policy miscues. Especially since 9/11, the Bush administration has been actively seeking to strengthen strategic partnerships with other African countries -- notably Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda -- allowing it to bypass South Africa.

South Africa's position would be greatly improved by the resolution of the Zimbabwe situation. The longer it lasts, though, the more foolish Mbeki will look...and the longer it will take for Mbeki's successor to undo the damage.


Here's the article from the local newspaper about Andrew Sullivan's visit earlier this week. I wonder if it's really necessary to use the scare quotes around the word "blog."


I went to see a production of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession last night. What a play! Shaw's pretty left-wing for my taste, but his plays are so good that I can't get enough. I'm amazed at how a 100-year-old play can still seem so modern.

How modern? Well, it deals with many of the same issues tackled in this piece by Donna Hughes on NRO. Hughes argues that sex trafficking is inherently exploitative and dehumanizing and that governments have a moral responsibility to rescue the women and children who are targeted by it. Apparently not everyone agrees:
Some groups believe that the greatest harm to women and children in prostitution results from the stigma attached to it. Therefore, if prostitution is legalized and redefined as "sex work" — a job like any other — the stigma and harm will simply disappear. These groups believe that if "sex workers" feel better about themselves they will be more "empowered," and consequently able to resist violent pimps, traffickers, and men who force them to have sex without condoms.

This is the approach taken by the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), an international organization working for the "rights of sex workers." They reject the label "victim," even for women and children who have been raped and tortured, on the grounds that talking about "victimization works against empowerment." NSWP's "rights"-based approach means the abandoning of all responsibility for the health, safety, and freedom of women and children ensnared in prostitution. For example, they call for services — even for children — to be administered without judgment for the "work" they do. And at the 2002 AIDS conference in Barcelona, NSWP organized a demonstration to protest "100 percent condom use programs," claiming that requiring prostitutes to use condoms was "misogynist" and a violation of their human rights. The group also opposes the anti-trafficking movement that is trying to liberate women and children from sexual slavery, claiming that it is "repressive" because it will limit women's ability to "migrate for sex work" — their euphemism for sex trafficking.

Can you imagine someone making the argument that slavery wouldn't be that bad if only it was properly regulated? That's about what this amounts to. Many (or most) of these women and children are victims of kidnapping or have been sold as slaves. A world where women and chidren are kidnapped, enslaved and sexually exploited with the approval of the international community and under the pretense of legitimate commerce may be fine and dandy with the NSWP, but surely we can do better. What's most infuriating is that this is an organization that claims to be an advocate for women. I beg to differ.


Wednesday, April 30, 2003
There's yet another hostage situation at 2 oil rigs in Nigeria's delta region:
Hostages who are being held on American-owned oil rigs in Nigeria said they fear their captors will kill them or blow up the rigs if authorities try to free them with armed raids.

Striking oil workers seized 97 hostages, including 17 Americans and 35 Britons, on rigs owned by Houston-based Transocean on April 19. They are protesting the company's decision to use boats instead of helicopters to ferry workers to the rigs, and were reportedly angered by company threats to discipline five oil union members.


Taking hostages on Nigerian oil rigs appears to be a favorite attention-getting tactic of variety of aggrieved groups -- disgruntled union employees who wan more benefits, unemployed young men who want jobs, and Nigerian women who threaten to disrobe. And usually such actions do succeed (on some level) in getting concessions from the targeted oil company.

While most of these incidents do not end in violence, I'm really surprised that in the post-9/11 world the owners of Nigerian oil rigs don't take security more seriously. The facts speak for themselves: Nigeria is a very large country with a diverse and sometimes restive population. The national government can't be depended upon to provide security, particularly in the volatile delta region where most oil rigs are located. History has proven (over and over again) that small groups of lightly-armed assailents (with little to no training) can successfully infiltrate and secure oil rigs. The Nigerian oil rigs are a powerful symbol of western economic dominance in a country with a very large Muslim population -- a population which is fairly inclined to the teachings of fundamentalist Islam.

Well, maybe I'm letting my imagination run wild, but it's not hard to see that blowing up a few Nigerian oil rigs would be an attractive target for al Qaeda or another terrorist group, possibly in cooperation with some of the more extremist elements in the delta region.






Here's another African story that hasn't gotten much press with all of the wars, etc., but it looks like political parties are now legal again in Uganda. Obviously Uganda won't become a full-fledged multi-party democracy overnight, but this looks to be yet another step in the right direction.


Qaddafi's attempt to whitewash his country's reputation gets some help in this fluff piece from the BBC. Key bit:
For most people in Britain, Libya is synonymous with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his history of supporting militant groups around the world.

The accepted Western wisdom is that this is a dictatorship with a lack of freedom and a bad record on human rights.


"The accepted Western wisdom"? I guess what appear to be dictatorship and abuse of human rights in the eyes of the neo-colonialist oppressor are actually Libya's bold attempt to reconcile western democracy with the norms of North African traditional culture when viewed in the context of the post-independence nationalist struggle.

Riiiight.

In related news, I liked the Libyan foreign minister's explanation of the plan to pay the families of the Lockerbie bombing victims:
The family of each of the 270 victims will receive $10 million in three installments, he said.

After a first payment of $4 million, U.N. sanctions on Libya would be lifted, and after a second $4 million payment, U.S. sanctions would go, he said. After the final installment, Washington would have to remove Libya from its list of states sponsoring terrorism, Shalqam said in a telephone interview.

Hmmm... shouldn't Libya have to do something else before being removed from the state sponsors of terrorism list? Like maybe stop sponsoring terrorism? I guess the facts don't matter when you have to preserve appearances.



Tuesday, April 29, 2003
One of Instapundit's fellow faculty at UTK (my alma mater) is conducting a survey about weblogs. If you're a blogger or someone who reads weblogs (which you do, if you're reading this), please take the time to fill out the survey here or by clicking on the "Blog Survey" link at the top of the page.

Thanks!


Monday, April 28, 2003
Abiola offers useful comments on Nigeria's recent presidential elections (unfortunately, his permalinks have been bloggered, but just scroll down a bit):
Even with all the irregularities that have occurred in the Nigerian elections, I find it implausible that the race between Buhari and Obasanjo could ever have been in doubt, and I say this as someone who considers Obasanjo's term in office to have been one long series of tragicomic incidents. He may not have achieved very much of value on the economic front, but at least this much must be said for the man - people are free to express themselves, and to criticize authority, as they have rarely been in the history of post-independence Nigeria. The memory of Buhari's harsh and authoritarian rule is too fresh in the minds of too many people for him to have stood a real chance of winning.

Having said all this, one has to ask - if the election results were never really in doubt, why was it necessary for Obasanjo's party to cheat at all, let alone in such a blatant fashion? To a large extent, this can be explained by the fact that the winner-take-all system by which each of the 36 states are decided for one candidate or another was also the means for deciding the governorships, which are as certain a route to wealth in Nigeria as one can find, short of the presidency itself. Ultimately, all of Nigeria's politics boils down to the scramble for self-enrichment.


And this article from the NY Times suggests that while not "free and fair," Nigeria's election was at least "credible," and that it represents a step -- however small -- in improving Nigerians' faith in civilian government.

I'd probably go along with that. Democracy takes time to build and Nigeria is a very big and very complicated sort of democracy. What seems most important now is the manner in which Nigeria's leaders respond to the current controversy. For starters, Obasanjo could do a lot more to address the legitimate grievances of the opposition. Obasanjo has lost a lot of credibility over the last four years, and the current election debacle isn't helping things any. After all the talk and all the campaign promises, I imagine that Nigerians would now be most impressed with action... it will be interesting to see if Obasanjo is able to deliver.


daudi links to two stories from the Washington Post that discuss South Africa's now-defunct nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. Although South Africa has been officially disarmed of WMD, there is still quite a bit of material that is circulating about among private owners -- and no doubt there are plenty of potential buyers. I wonder what those South African white supremacist terrorists would do if they got their hands on anthrax?


Andrew Sullivan will be here in Newark on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I have an exam on Thursday, so I doubt I will attend... I wish I could, though.


The Corner links to this editorial from the Harare Daily News which outlines several possible scenarios for Zimbabwe's future.


Sunday, April 27, 2003
Jonathan Edelstein has found more Africa-philic blogs. I'll add links later.


Mugabe ready to quit? This is fantastic news if it pans out:
PRESIDENT Thabo Mbeki, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Malawi's Bakili Muluzi are to visit their Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe, in the next few weeks to work out an exit plan for the ageing leader.

In an interview with the Zimbabwean state broadcaster this week, Mugabe hinted that he was considering stepping down because the land issue had been dealt with. He said there was nothing wrong with people openly debating succession.

The Sunday Times has learnt that an agreement was reached to reschedule a meeting between Mbeki, Obasanjo, Muluzi and Mugabe to discuss the matter.

The new date has not yet been set.

High-ranking South African officials say the three presidents want to "keep the momentum going" following Mugabe's "very positive signals this week".

Mugabe's resignation would be a step in the right direction, but only if the rest of the ZANU terror apparatus is dismantled and democracy and the rule of law are restored. Replacing Mugabe with another ZANU thug would simply be a whitewash job and wouldn't do much to address the grievances of the MDC, or the majority of Zimbabweans for that matter. Any deal negotiated by Mbeki and Obasanjo will likely be favorable to the ZANU establishment -- probably including an attempt to legitimize last year's elections.

The bottom line is this: The MDC have to be careful not to win the battle and lose the war. And it's not at all certain that Mbeki and Obasanjo are on their side.




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