Saturday, June 21, 2003
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has finally been released from jail, after posting Z$10 million bail. The strikes at the beginning of June were largely portrayed as a failure in the Western media, but if Cathy Buckle's report is accurate, the resolve of the opposition leader is stronger than ever:
The Friday bailed release of Mr Tsvanagirai caused an almost audible national sigh of relief and the fever of our nation to see the man being freed is probably comparable to the release of the latest Harry Potter book in the UK this weekend. Instead of seeing a man thin, cold, broken and exhausted after two weeks in prison, we saw a man even more filled with resolve. His face wreathed in smiles, surrounded by journalists and friends, Morgan Tsvangirai said that after his detention his resolve to continue to struggle for democracy was only increased. So if the Zimbabwe government had intended to humiliate, intimidate or break the man, they ended up by achieving exactly the opposite and making Morgan Tsvangirai more popular than ever before.

If anyone can lead Zimbabwe to freedom, I'd say that Tsvangirai is capable.

Another pipeline explosion in Nigeria has killed more than 100:
An explosion on an oil pipeline in south-east Nigeria has reportedly killed scores of people trying to siphon off fuel.
The pipeline exploded after it was punctured at the village of Amaokwe Oghughe, about 50 km (35 miles) north of the Abia State capital, Umuahia.

This is really tragic, but I wouldn't really characterize it as an accident. Common sense should tell people that tampering with an oil pipeline is really dangerous...and, of course, neither the pipeline nor the oil belongs to them in the first place. It's about as foolish as playing on the railroad tracks.

Thursday, June 19, 2003
Here's kind of a neat graphic from the NY Times about recent international interventions in Africa. As you can see, the results are very much a mixed bag. Sierra Leone and Rwanda are tentatively on the road to recovery. Somalia, on the other hand, looks like it will continue to be a basketcase for the foreseeable future. It's uncertain how things will work out in Ivory Coast and Congo, but I, for one, am a pessimist for the short term.

Here's more commentary on Ghana's indefensible support of Charles Taylor:
The refusal of the Ghanaian government to arrest and turn Taylor over to the UN Special Tribunal in Freetown came as no surprise to most keen observers of events in Africa, given the corrupt, dictatorial and despotic nature of most African rulers. Most of those rulers are birds of the same feathers. They flock together. Any threat to one of them is seen as a threat to all of them.

For a country like Ghana, a nation that prides itself for its freedom and democracy, this should really be an embarassment. By arresting Taylor, the Ghanaian government could have demonstrated that the democracies of Africa will not by held hostage by thugs and criminals and that responsible leaders in Africa will act decisively to protect their people and uphold law and order. Instead, they chose to pour libations once more on the altar of African solidarity...and they defended a liar and murderer in the process. It's more than disappointing.

I hope that Ghana's behavior in this case is simply the insecurity of an inexperienced (and in some ways still immature) government. But I'm afraid that it might be more sinister than that. (Remember that Ghana, then led by J.J. Rawlings, was largely responsible for putting Taylor into power. Chuck probably still has some friends in the Ghanaian government.)

This was good, too, and worth remembering on the week of a new ceasefire:
...Taylor signed 13 accords during the course of the Liberian civil war. He subsequently reneged on each one of them. The man is a scamp. He did not go to Ghana for “peace talks” because he has/had a genuine interest in bringing lasting peace to the region and freeing its people from the horror and despair he has brought to bear upon them. Charles Taylor’s back is pressed hard against the wall. He controls only Monrovia. The rest of Liberia is either in rebel hands or out of his reach and control. He did not have to go to that Ghana to achieve peace if that was his real objective. He went there (and would have subsequently gone anywhere, were it not for the indictment) to buy himself time so he can re-stock on military supplies and forcefully drug and draft more little boys and girls into his rebel army. It does not require a rocket scientist's brain to know that Taylor is the problem and if he wants to solve that problem, he can do so faster than the time it takes to wink an eye. In fact Taylor himself recently said that if he is seen as the problem in Liberia, then he could bring about a solution at the “stroke of a pen”.

Yep. Yep. Yep.

This is rather disturbing:
There are growing problems in Africa with trafficking in materials that could be used to make a dirty bomb, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned.

The bombs could be detonated in order to scatter radioactive material.

Last year the agency sent missions to Nigeria and Tanzania to help the authorities there cope with materials seized from traffickers.

Seems like this story makes it even more urgent to find Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and his buddies.

Head Heeb is blogging about African trade issues. I'm as pro-trade as the next guy, but I'm not very optimistic that agricultural trade will be reformed any time soon. This post is particularly disappointing.

On a slightly more hopeful note, there's also this:
In October of 2001, President Bush at the AGOA Forum announced that the United States was going to open trade centers to encourage Africans, that is all of Africa, to export goods all over the world. We call these the Competitiveness Hubs and they are in Botswana, where we are going to unveil the plaque today, they are in Ghana and they are in Kenya. And these three Competitiveness Hubs try to, and hopefully will succeed, in getting all of sub-Saharan Africa to prepare their goods and services for the markets all over the world -- Europe, Intra-Africa, North America, and the Far East. This is about getting African business services ready to compete around the world.

Since the WTO trade negotiations have been bogged down for the last few years, the US needs to focus on signing more bilateral free trade agreements. I bet there are a bunch of African countries that would be interested.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Somehow I missed this story earlier about a Boeing-727 that has gone missing from Angola... Just keep following the links.

The BBC has a media roundup related to the recent attempted coup in Mauritania. It was originally reported that the coup was led by Muslim extremists, but there is also this report:
Cote d'Ivoire's Notre Voie has another theory, linking the coup attempt to French dismay at increasing US influence in its former colonies.

"Nouakchott has been feeling closer to Tel Aviv and Washington than to Paris. But France is determined not to share with anybody," it says.

Pointing out that Hananna was once a military attache at the Mauritanian embassy in Paris, it continues: "Paris counted on Hananna when it saw that it was losing control of Nouakchott."

It's possible that a newspaper in Ivory Coast, its editors still angry about a French-brokered power-sharing deal in their own country, might make baseless allegations against the French simply out of spite. On the other hand, the French have been reasserting themselves as of late in West Africa and it's no secret that they would like to challenge American dominance on the international stage. The French have never really shied away from aiding coup-plotters in former colonies, and helping Hananna would certainly fit in with France's recent habit of supporting Islamic extremism. (Via Instapundit.)

Maybe there's something to this story after all...

A ceasefire agreement related to the Liberian civil war has been signed in Ghana. Apparently Charles Taylor's resignation will be discussed as the government and the rebels attempt to agree on a transitional government. Don't be fooled, though -- I don't think Taylor has any thought of being forced out of power.

There are more and more rumours circulating about Robert Mugabe's future:
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is believed to have told his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki that he is considering stepping down in the next 12 months and that he wants Speaker of Parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to take over from him, it was learnt yesterday.

According to well-placed sources, Mugabe indicated in a telephone conversation with Mbeki last Thursday that he was working out a transitional mechanism that would allow a new leadership in Zimbabwe in the next 12 months.

Unfortunately, the replacement of Mugabe with another ZANU thug wouldn't do anything to address the grievances of the opposition. Head Heeb has more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
LRA attacks continue in northern Uganda with 16 killed and 100 kidnapped. The BBC has a description of the LRA's terror tactics:
"They tied me and laid me down. They told me not to cry. Not to make any noise. Then one man sat on my chest, men held my arms, legs, and one held my neck".

"Another picked up an axe. First he chopped my left hand, then my right. Then he chopped my nose, my ears and my mouth with a knife."

23-year-old David was abducted by rebels of the LRA, who falsely accused him of being a government soldier.

While they were carrying out these atrocities, David pleaded with the rebels to kill him.

Instead they wrapped up David's ears in a letter warning people against joining the government forces.

Then there's also this:
[T]wo civilians formerly held captive by Kony, have told the army that the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) supplied over 400 bombs and 700 bullets to the LRA.

The two, held since 1995, also said the LRA had opened up a new military camp at Nsitu in Sudan called "Wat Odwogo," Acholi for "The relationship is back."

This is serious (but not too surprising) if it turns out to be true. Sudan has attempted over the past few years to clean up its image by renouncing terrorism. They promised to stop arming LRA, they kicked Osama out of the country, and they began peace talks with the southern Sudanese. But even though Sudan may have cleaned up its image, it would appear that there hasn't been any change in behavior.

There's an interesting article in the NY Times about the hunt for Fazul Abdullah Mohammed in East Africa:
What has helped Mr. Muhammad evade capture, Western officials say, is Kenya's porous 420-mile border with Somalia, an anarchic and lawless country where the American presence all but evaporated in the early 90's after a military debacle in which 18 G.I.'s were killed.

"In East Africa, our most serious vulnerability is that we are neighboring the Somali Republic, a land with no government," Dave Mwangi, Kenya's permanent secretary for provincial administration of national security, said in an interview in Nairobi. "As long as Somalia remains that way, people can hide there. We have a long, porous border, which will remain a threat."

One result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States was an American effort to re-establish some intelligence operations in Somalia. Now, with Mr. Muhammad's suspected use of Somali territory as a hiding place and staging area, Western officials here say, the United States is increasing its involvement, pursuing alliances with competing warlords in an effort to monitor ports and airfields.

This is one of those battles in the War on Terror that's being fought largely in the shadows. It would be nice to have more detail about what's going on, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to open the paper one morning and learn that Mr. Mohammed has been captured or killed.

Now there are reports that Johnny Koroma, another indicted war criminal, has been killed in Liberia. Of course, the Liberian government is denying any knowledge of it:
Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea said he was not aware that Koroma, who went underground in January, had been in Liberia. "I heard about it on TV this morning," Chea told IRIN in Ghana, where he is leading a government delegation to peace talks with Liberia's two rebel movements. "I don't know where the Court got its reports from. I have no intention of commenting on such news. I don't believe he was in Liberia," Chea added.

"We have said often that anytime Koroma comes to Liberia he will be arrested and sent back to Sierra Leone. I am shocked to hear that he had died in Liberia," the defence minister said.

And I'm sure Charles Taylor didn't know anything about it either... Now explain to me again how Sam Bockarie's death was just an accident.

I've been taking a bit of a break the last few days, but now I'm back...

The Congo appears to have been getting quite a bit of attention the past few days. So much, in fact, that Glenn Reynolds is blogging about it here and here.

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