Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Geez...I'm becoming more disgusted with Kufuor's government by the day. First there was Ghana's refusal to arrest Taylor and now this:
The chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President John Kufuor of Ghana, has urged the United Nations to consider setting aside the indictment of Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes in order to facilitate a negotiated settlement to Liberia's civil war.

"I am not demeaning the role of the UN tribunal, although the indictment almost torpedoed the mediation process," Kufuor told a Security Council mission in the capital, Accra, on Monday.

Hmm...I feel like the most immediate path to peace in Liberia is probably to get rid of Taylor. And the easiest way to do that would have been for Ghana to arrest him in the first place.

Pressure is mounting on the Bush administration to send troops to Liberia. This article from the Boston Globe nicely summarizes several different attitudes toward troop deployment.

Obviously, the US has a historical responsibility to Liberia, but Liberia's present-day strategic importance should easily trump any nostaligia-based justifications for deployment.

The US has plenty of reasons to want Taylor removed from power: Taylor cooperates with terrorists (domestic, regional, and international); Taylor spreads instability in the region and threatens his neighbors; Taylor has been indicted for war crimes by the UN court in Freetown. Besides freeing Liberia, Taylor's removal would improve security throughout West Africa, particularly in neighboring Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. In addition, it would give the US an opportunity to reevaluate a rather uneasy alliance with Guinea and could create the conditions for democratic reform in that country.

That said, Taylor won't leave power easily. He's proven time and time again that he will do or say anything to remain in Monrovia. Therefore, a UN mission to enforce a ceasefire will only buy time for Taylor and further establish him as an authority who must be negotiated with... Don't be fooled: Taylor will negotiate forever, but he'll never agree to leave power.

Wisely, the Bush administration doesn't show much interest in enforcing a ceasefire that effectively helps Taylor to stay in power.

The Bush administration's dream scenario would probably be for the Liberian rebels to take Monrovia, capturing or killing Taylor. Then the US could join a UN peacekeeping administration that would arrest members of the former regime, help to form an interim government, and pave the way for new Liberian elections. A swift rebel victory would avoid the political problems of once again having to campaign at the UN for "regime change." They've tried that strategy once and I don't think anyone is eager to try it again.

Obviously, there are some major risks to the proxy war. For instance, widespread chaos -- complete with reprisal killings and summary executions -- is likely to follow a rebel victory in Monrovia. Although this violence might be headed off by a resolute international community that agreed to preemptively remove Taylor and temporarily administer Liberia for the good of Liberians, the UN clearly lacks the will to remove Taylor itself.

Wild-guess Prediction: The UN will go it alone in Liberia with minimal US involvement. Taylor will eventually be ousted by a renewed rebel advance -- rebels who will largely be armed and funded by the CIA through Guinea. Having seized power, the rebels will show little interest in cooperating with the international community which relentlessly backed their enemy, Charles Taylor.

I wouldn't expect a rebel victory to immediately result in a free and democratic Liberia...but I'd like to be proven wrong.

UPDATE: Well, so much for my predictions. Looks like Bush is a lot closer to deployment than I thought. He's still insisting (rightly) that Taylor will have to give up power in order for a lasting peace to take hold. Hopefully, the deployment of US troops will give Bush enough leverage and credibility to make sure that Taylor is ousted.

A Reader noticed this article about the oil industry in Africa from the LA Times:
A British initiative to increase transparency in African oil deals, promoted by Prime Minister Tony Blair, is now at the center of a transatlantic tug of war. The program calls on oil companies to voluntarily disclose their payments for oil leases and development rights in Africa, which would allow for accountability on both sides of the transactions.

The initiative is supported by six countries, including France, India and South Africa. Two major European oil companies, British Petroleum and Royal Dutch/Shell, also support the initiative, on the condition that all other major companies abide by the proposed norms.

But America's Big Oil interests, spearheaded by Exxon Mobil and ChevronTexaco, resist the voluntary initiative, fearing in part that such a move is a slippery slope likely to make disclosure of payments mandatory in the future. (In fact, a separate international proposal, backed by financier George Soros, calls for mandatory reporting as a prerequisite for listing oil companies on the world's stock exchanges.)

So, not surprisingly, the author's point is that Bush needs to pressure "his friends in the oil business" to accept Blair's program.

It's a little unclear to me how this plan is actually supposed to improve the situation... The United States already has laws that prohibit companies from bribing government officials. In fact, ExxonMobil is already under investigation by the DOJ for alleged bribery in Equatorial Guinea.

I guess I mainly don't understand how the voluntary disclosures are going to work... The oil companies are chock-full of big greedy capitalists who are interested in increasing their company's ROI. Likewise, heads of state like Eq. Guinea's Obiang are tyrants who are intent on oppressing their own people while enlarging their Swiss bank account. Do you trust these people to voluntarily disclose their business dealings?

On the other hand, the threat of prosecution should serve as some kind of deterrent...especially when the DOJ occaisionally makes an example out of some deserving people.

Monday, June 30, 2003
And speaking of the war on terrorists, there's been another arrest in Kenya which comes amid increasing opposition to the government's anti-terror policies:
The official Opposition party declared that it would not support the anti-terrorism Bill when it is brought to Parliament.

During a meeting at the Tononoka grounds in Mombasa, more than 25 Kanu MPs, led Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, joined Islamic preachers and clergymen in declaring that they would reject the Bill as it violated the rights of Kenyan Muslims.
Speaking in Mombasa, Mr Kenyatta said terrorism knew no religious boundaries and it was, therefore, unfair for the Government to appear to be targeting only one religion.

Gee, they sound a lot like the Democrats. I guess this behavior is to be expected from the opposition, but if it expects to be taken seriously, KANU will have to articulate a more reasonable position on this issue. Like the US government, KANU largely ignored the terrorism problem after the 1998 embassy bombings. It's good to see that Kibaki's government appears to be taking the threat seriously.

It looks like those Malawi terror suspects have been effectively kidnapped by the CIA and taken to Botswana.

Seems a bit heavy-handed to me. Head Heeb has the details from a legal perspective.

After the kidnappings, Malawi's president had to call out the army to quell religious rioting in the capital city:
Speaking at a consecration ceremony for a Roman Catholic bishop, President Muluzi said he would not tolerate religious violence.

"You know that I am a Muslim, I don't hide that, but I am a peaceful Muslim.

"I will not allow anyone [to] start violence in the name of religion," he said.

Witnesses said six churches had been vandalised and a priest dragged form his car before it was overturned and set on fire, Reuters news agency reported.

As for me, I can't seem to cough up much sympathy for the terror suspects in question. At the same time, it seems pretty self-defeating to cause domestic trouble for a relatively friendly and relatively stable government like the one in Malawi. I hope there was a good reason for it.

Here's a weird piece about US refusal to fund overseas abortions, notably in Africa. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive here, but the author seems to go out of her way to depict pro-life advocates as fundamentalist Christian wackos, likely not far removed from Osama bin Laden.

Sure, there are plenty of religious reasons to oppose abortion, but the article doesn't even attempt to discuss any of the secular arguments. The reader is simply asked to choose between a secular liberal democracy with abortion on demand and a tyrannical theocracy which denies "the right to choose."

If that's not an op-ed masquerading as news, I don't know what is.

The Ugandan government claims (correctly, I'm sure) that the LRA rebels are spreading AIDS, but I'm sure that's not the first concern of the girls who had to deal with this:
Security forces in Uganda are again hunting for schoolgirls who have been abducted by the notoriously brutal rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army.

If they are not found quickly, the girls' fate will likely be that of thousands of others who have been kidnapped over the past 17 years of fighting between rebels and the government.

They will become sex slaves for militia commanders.

It's terrible to think about.

Incidentally, the BBC has done a great job covering this story. I wish more people in the US knew about it.

Here's Secretary Powell's editorial on Zimbabwe from the NY Times last week:
The United States — and the European Union — has imposed a visa ban on Zimbabwe's leaders and frozen their overseas assets. We have ended all official assistance to the government of Zimbabwe. We have urged other governments to do the same. We will persist in speaking out strongly in defense of human rights and the rule of law. And we will continue to assist directly, in many different ways, the brave men and women of Zimbabwe who are resisting tyranny.

But our efforts are unlikely to succeed quickly enough without greater engagement by Zimbabwe's neighbors. South Africa and other African countries are increasingly concerned and active on Zimbabwe, but they can and should play a stronger and more sustained role that fully reflects the urgency of Zimbabwe's crisis. If leaders on the continent do not do more to convince President Mugabe to respect the rule of law and enter into a dialogue with the political opposition, he and his cronies will drag Zimbabwe down until there is nothing left to ruin — and Zimbabwe's implosion will continue to threaten the stability and prosperity of the region.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe's neighbors are still unwilling to confront the tyrant, choosing instead to pursue "quiet dimplomacy," which has become nothing more than cowardice and appeasement...and betrayal of the Zimbabwean people for that matter.

Meanwhile, Head Heeb writes that the Zimbabwean opposition suffers not only from Mugabe's thugs, but from their own bad leadership:
[T]he MDC sent mixed signals about the goal of the protests and that its changing positions "smacked of 'power first, principle later.'" Those four words are actually a fairly good capsule description of Tsvangirai; it's becoming increasingly clear, I think, that he won't be the one to topple Mugabe. As long as it's power first and principle later, then he won't be able to mobilize an effective popular coalition - the principled people won't follow him, and the power-hungry are already members of ZANU.

Hmm...Could be, but if Tsvangirai can't get the job done, then the MDC needs to find someone who can as soon as possible. In Tsvangirai's defense, leading a non-violent protest against an extremely violent government is not a particularly easy job. Mugabe is more than prepared to fight to stay in power and a few civilians with flags and signs are unlikely to intimidate him.

I thought that President Bush's speech from last week was pretty interesting. I don't think he announced any new policy initiatives, but it's unusual to hear a president present his African policy in a single speech and I thought it was a nice way to set the stage for Bush's African tour later on in the month.

The president's policy is based on three overall goals, each of which he discussed at length: Conflict resolution, health and literacy promotion, and trade expansion.

A few random comments...

1. It's a little surprising to contrast the content of this speech with the image of Bush as a cowboy and warmonger.

2. Bush hit pretty hard on the GM foods issue. This will probably come up again at the WTO trade talks in the fall.

3. Although the free traders (myself included) have been pretty unimpressed with Bush so far, he made free trade an important part of this speech which, to me, is a good sign. I didn't know about this, but he mentions that negotiations for a US/Southern Africa free trade agreement are already underway. You can read about it at the US Trade Rep's website.

4. A lot of this speech focused on different sorts of foreign aid: AIDS funding, educational funding, security funding, etc. I've said before that I'm pretty pessimistic about most kinds of foreign aid. It's a bit like an international welfare system. Bush is much more realistic when he puts the burden of responsibility on Africa. Even though America is willing to cooperate and to help, when possible, African leaders are ultimately responsibly for solving Africa's problems. This seems like the right attitude to me and I think that there are more than a handful of African nations that are ready to rise to the challenge.

Overall, it was an extremely optimistic speech. Bush has laid out a bold vision for America's future partnership with the African continent. Unfortunately, Africa over the past 50 years or so hasn't really accomodated bold visions or optimism very readily. At the same time, I'd hate to get caught underestimating Bush after what I've seen during the past two years. It will be interesting to watch.

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