AfricaPundit



Friday, June 06, 2003
Mugabe's reign of terror is continuing with a brutal police crackdown and the re-arrest of Morgan Tsvangirai on trumped-up treason charges. The US State Department has responded with a cross expression and menacing finger-wagging:
We strongly condemn this arrest" of Morgan Tsvangirai on charges of treason, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "The heightened climate of confrontation and violence in Zimbabwe this week we think heightens the urgent need for dialogue between the government and the opposition."

Dialogue? No, I'm afraid the time for dialogue is long gone. Maybe that passes for tough talk at the State Department, but Mugabe and his pals probably had a great laugh when they read that one. Dialogue with Mugabe is a waste of time because the man is a proven liar. Time and again he has used the pretense of "dialogue" to abuse the patience of the world and the trust of his people. He's a dictator who has overstayed his welcome and it's time for him to go. The State Department should be publicly and vocally seeking his ouster.

It's time that Africa and the world said enough's enough.

Inexplicably, there are many who still insist on defending Mugabe. Apparently they think that he's a basically good man who just made a few mistakes or even that he's the victim of a great conspiracy. Not so. Mugabe's failure is wholly of his own making. In that spirit, here's an interesting article about the utter catastrophe which is Mugabenomics:
I am gatvol with Mugabe's apologists, who keep harping on about the cause of the crisis as essentially the unintended, but consistent, consequences of the dear leader's good intentions for his nation. What claptrap.

If there is any consistency in Mugabe's policies, it is that they have been founded on arrogance, incompetence and an inexplicable callousness that should not be associated with a man who had the opportunity to be revered as one of Africa's greatest sons.

Mugabe has always styled himself (and been styled by others) as the embodiment of liberated, independent, modern Africa. I think it's high time that people realize Mugabe is nothing more than the personification of autocracy, corruption, and ineptitude. The sooner African leaders accept this (and proclaim it), the better.


Courtney wonders why the "humanitarians" who vociferously opposed the military removal of the Iraqi dictator are now complaining that the US isn't intervening in the Congo:
Why were there so many anti-war protests against us going to Iraq? Even if these people didn't believe that we were going for the reasons Bush laid out, why didn't they just concede that at least the humanitarian situation would improve? This, more than anything else, shows that these NGOs and humanitarian activists are politically motivated and reflexively anti-Bush.

I wonder if those people who defended Saddam also believe that Robert Mugabe is the victim of an Anglo-American conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Winds of Change says that even if the US wanted to send forces to Congo, it's not really an option as the military is already stretched to its limits. Then there's also this:
Sierra Leone showed that it's possible to fix African chaos with small forces, as long as they're quality troops willing to aggressively kill those involved in and organizing the violence. That's how 800 British soldiers succeeded where 8,000 U.N. "peacekeepers" had been routed. That said, Sierra Leone is about 1/30 the size of the Congo, a country with almost 5 times as much land area as Iraq.

The present group of 1,000 or so peacekeepers, uselessly present since 1998, is a PR joke and a moral evasion, not a solution. When "peacekeeping" troops are asking to be allowed to use their weapons to protect endangered civilians, one quickly sees how deep the farce goes.

Read the whole thing, and then scroll down for an interesting debate about the merits of mercenaries.



Thursday, June 05, 2003
The US closed its embassy in Ethiopia this week...no word on why, except that it's security-related.


Well, once again, this doesn't have anything to do with Africa, but here's another article about wind turbines that discusses some of the tradeoffs involved as well as the role of federal subsidies:
The main reason wind is taking off now is the huge financial incentive provided by government subsidies. While critics argue that these subsidies are only making developers rich, supporters say they are peanuts compared with subsidies for fossil fuels and they provide much-needed revenue to ailing rural economies while also delivering clean energy.

The main subsidy is the federal tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year but is likely to be renewed by Congress. The credit allows windmill companies to deduct 1.8 cents from their tax liability for every kilowatt hour they produce for 10 years. The savings are huge.

Interesting.

(Via The Corner.)



Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Call me a pessimist, but it looks like the UN peacekeeping force in the Congo is already set to fail. One would think that disarming (or defeating?) the militias in Eastern Congo would necessary for establishing stability and security, but there's no guarantee that the UN is prepared to do this:
Many Congolese believe the top priority of the international force has to be disarming the militia, not just in Bunia, as specified in the UN mandate, but in all of the Ituri region of which it is the capital.

It is not clear whether the French-led mission will take on this difficult and dangerous job.

But as one local priest made plain, if they do not then this peacekeeping force, like the ones before it, will fail.

So what exactly are those peacekeepers going to do anyway? I can't imagine that the mere presence of UN troops will suddenly cause everyone to begin behaving properly.

This article from the NY Times gives some idea of what's going on in the meantime:
Being home in Bunia is hardly reassuring these days, as the wounded driver for the aid agency testified.

One night this week, shortly after 8 p.m., three men barged into his home and demanded $1,000 ransom for each of the six people inside.

When the driver did not produce the money, he was beaten with the sharp metal ends of a militiaman's gun. He was made to kneel and was shot at, twice; both times, the gun misfired, and his attackers accused him of being a sorcerer.

His cousin, a 16-year-old girl, was raped. By the time they were through at 3 a.m., seven hours after the ordeal began, the men had gathered up $300 in cash, two motorcycles, one bicycle, a mattress, clothes, shoes and a pile of plates.

The driver, too terrified to reveal his name or that of his employer, said the men could only have been members of the Hema militia who now control the town.

He shook his head when he heard they would not be disarmed by the international force. "If they don't disarm, they'll do much more outside the town than they've done already," he said.

Only 1400 troops?



Baby! I get results! Here's what I said yesterday:
Let's quit the charade and indict Taylor.

And guess what's in the news today:
A U.N.-backed war crimes court indicted Liberian President Charles Taylor on Wednesday, accusing him of "the greatest responsibility" in the vicious 10-year civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Prosecutors at the Sierra Leone court issued an arrest warrant for Taylor in Ghana, where he was making a rare trip out of his own country to attend peace talks with Liberian rebels.

Somebody must be reading.



Tuesday, June 03, 2003
No surprise here -- looks like Eyadema will win reelection in Togo, but it doesn't look very "clean":
Two opposition leaders have been arrested for "inciting rebellion" in Togo following Sunday's election.
Partial results put Africa's longest-serving leader, President Gnassingbe Eyadema, ahead with 59% of the votes counted so far.

But the opposition Party of Forces for Change alleges vote-rigging and some activists set up barricades and burnt tyres overnight in the Lome suburb of Be.

The opposition parties will have recourse to the courts to challenge the election results. The process is pretty meaningless, though, when the judiciary is completely controlled by the incumbent. It's ironic that Eyadema claims to favor peace and stability, but it's his own authoritarianism that creates the climate of fear and resentment in which a coup or rebellion is most likely to succeed.



The oppostion strikes in Zimbabwe have begun with a predictable government response:
Police fired teargas to quell protests in the capital Harare, in an apparently successful operation to stop opposition supporters from taking part in the planned protests called to challenge the authority of President Robert Mugabe, 79, and force him from power.

About 6,000 students at the University of Zimbabwe were prevented by police from marching from their campus into the city centre.

There was almost total shutdown in Harare’s central business district as reports filtered through of violence by police who beat up and arrested photographers and others.

Riot police and the army were out in force, patrolling the streets of the capital.

Journalists reported witnessing security forces ordering about 50 people - including women - to lie down on the street. They were then beaten with rubber batons and home-made whips. The Associated Press reported some people crying out: "What have we done?"

And there's probably plenty more that isn't being reported. Despite the crackdown, the MDC is promising to keep it up until the end of the week:
The group's secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, said violence against protesters would not deter them.

"What is left is for the people to press on for the next four days with the complete stay-away from work and massive demonstrations," he said.

I don't know if this will be enough to make Mugabe go, but the success of the strikes should refute critics who said the MDC had become disorganized and impotent.



Sam Bokarie's supposed body finally made it to Sierra Leone, but the circumstances of his death are still a point of debate -- even within Taylor's own government:
Liberian authorities claim Mr. Bockaie was killed on 6 May during an alleged arrest attempt by Government forces. However, last week, the Government changed its story and announced that the former rebel leader had been plotting a coup attempt against President Charles Taylor's regime.

David Crane, the Court's Chief Prosecutor, said given their "delaying tactics and obstruction," he seriously doubted the Liberian authorities' account of the incident. He promised, however, that the truth would be uncovered "in due time," saying "the people of Sierra Leone deserve to know whether Bockarie is dead, and if so, in what manner he died."

I'm sure we're not getting the full story here. Let's quit the charade and indict Taylor. Apparently it wouldn't be his first run-in with the law.


The Swazi king says that women's pants are responsible for society's ills, but apparently not everyone agrees:
Women on the streets of capital Mbabane were not impressed.

"The king says I am the cause of the world's problems because of my outfit. Never mind terrorism, government corruption, poverty and disease, it's me and my pants. I reject that," said Thob'sile Dlamini.

No argument from me.



Paul Marshall writes at NRO about the need to sustain Muslim democracies in West Africa:
The U.S. has committed itself to supporting democracy in the Muslim world, one of the stated reasons for the Iraq war. This is a tough, and likely long and messy, job. But it will be longer and messier if, as we struggle to foster democracy among Muslims in one place, we stand by while it disappears in another part.

There are already democracies in the Islamic world. For all their defects, Muslim majority countries as disparate as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Mali are democratic. But these states, like Nigeria, are challenged by the rise of extremist forms of Islam while the U.S. seems to pay little attention. Since preserving democracies is usually easier than creating them, this is a grave mistake.

Agreed. But is anyone paying attention?



Sunday, June 01, 2003
The Togo "election" was held today. As silly as it sounds, there are still news reports treating the poll as if it's actually an excercise in democracy, but the incumbent doesn't really give the impression that he's prepared to retire any time soon:
At 67, snappy in gold-rimmed sunglasses and clean-lined suits, Eyadema the campaigner justifies his government in the simplest of terms: It's God's will.

"I never chose a political career. I chose a career in the army. But I was given a different one," Eyadema said Saturday in Kara, center of his northern-based support. It was his final appearance before the vote.

In the crowd of 20,000 people outside, women in Eyadema T-shirts shimmied to songs praising him, while male dancers in plumes rattled gourds and boys walked monkeys on leashes through the throng.

"Eyadema: Togo's treasure," one banner said. "Oh, God, thank You for the gift of Eyadema to humanity," read another.

The only meaning of this election is that Togo has to be stuck in the past for another 4 years.



Nick Kristoff on Eritrea:
This charming nation was hailed in the 1990's as one of Africa's brightest hopes, a symbol of an African renaissance. Its economy boomed, and Hillary Clinton dropped by.

It was an apt symbol of that evanescent renaissance, for Eritrea is now turning into a thuggish little dictatorship. It is imprisoning evangelical Christians, it jails more journalists than any other country on the continent, and the regime that once empowered women now rapes them.

The private sector has been regulated mostly out of existence, and aid groups are given a cold shoulder. The leader who liberated his people a decade ago is now starving them.

There's also this article from the CSM about Eritrean human rights abuses and their potential impact on US-Eritrea relations:
The detention of the two men for the past year and a half is part of what human rights groups describe as a wider crackdown on political freedoms that is tarnishing the reputation of a country previously seen as one of Africa's bright stars. More than 300 people - ruling party dissidents, independent journalists, conscientious objectors, civil servants, and ordinary citizens who made one antigovernment comment too many - are languishing in Eritrea's jails, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The private press is shut down, evangelical church groups are banned, free national elections have yet to be held, and the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is the only legal political party.

The repression - particularly the detention of the two embassy workers - is forcing the Bush administration to weigh US security interests against its desire to be seen as upholding democratic principles. The Pentagon wants to work more closely with Eritrea in the war against terrorism. The country sits at a vital location along the Red Sea in the middle of a region considered a hotbed of terrorist activity. It boasts top-notch military facilities built when it was part of Ethiopia and has shown pro-US leanings, including voicing support for the war in Iraq.

After our recent experience with Saudi Arabia, I'd think the last thing we'd want is to develop a strategic military alliance with a repressive dictatorship. Seems to me that it's about time we officially recognized Somaliland and base some of our troops there instead.



The DDT debate continues:
"It's ecoimperialism," says Richard Tren, head of Africa Fighting Malaria, an independent organization which advocates the use of DDT. "DDT is not permitted in Sweden. Well, that's well and good. But you're not going to die of malaria in Sweden."

While the world has focused on Africa's AIDS problem, the ongoing crisis of malaria has largely faded into the background. The UN's new Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and America's $15 billion pledge to fight infectious diseases, which was signed on Tuesday by President Bush, are intended to help poor nations combat malaria as well as AIDS.

But because most of the countries fighting malaria are among the world's poorest, campaigners like Mr. Tren say little progress will be made against the disease until rich countries start funding DDT spraying programs.

Malaria is the single biggest cause of death among children worldwide, and the United Nations estimates that at least 1 million people die of the disease each year, 90 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease places an enormous burden on the healthcare systems of poor countries and is considered a major factor in their slow economic development.

I wonder how the budget for malaria research compares to the budget for AIDS research.




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