Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Good news in Liberia:
Mains electricity will be restored to parts of Monrovia within a few days, more then 10 years after it was cut off during fighting that damaged a hydro-electric power station, the European Union representative in Liberia said on Wednesday.

Geoffery Rudd told reporters that power would be restored gradually using a diesel generator and fuel supplied by the EU.

"For the past days the EU in collaboration with the Liberia Electricity Corporation [the state power company] have tested the power distribution lines in Monrovia," he told reporters. "Within a matter of days, electricity will be supplied once more."

Electricity is good, but it seems kinda useless when stuff like this is allowed to continue:
An unscrupulous scheme tele-guided by Charles Taylor from Calabar, Nigeria, is underway to sell 800,000 metric tons of iron ore stockpiled at the Port of Buchanan for a staggering amount of 5.6 million dollars and convert same to the personal use of him and his cohorts. An agreement for the sale of iron ore was signed on February 6th, 2003, between the Liberian Mining Corporation (a wholly owned Government company) as the seller and FIDC Inc. (a foreign investment firm) as the buyer.

Rebuilding Liberia would be difficult enough under the best of circumstances. Giving a thug like Taylor free rein is just asking for trouble.

I had no idea that Nigeria had a space agency. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Modern slavery is an issue that this blog tries to cover with some regularity. Judging by his speech at the UN, President Bush is concerned about it, too.

It's nice to see the issue getting some high-profile attention.

Monday, September 22, 2003
Winds of Change has a fascinating post today about Rwanda. Read the whole thing.

Here's something that shouldn't come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog:
Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea have already reached access agreements allowing the Americans to use their airfields.

Other options being pursued include using airbases in Nigeria, as well as those in Benin and Ivory Coast.

These reports have not been denied by the United States, but the military stresses that these are currently just options that need to be pursued.

There's no doubt that the African continent is in the front line of the war on terror, so it's good to see that the military is thinking ahead. But in the midst of the redeployment, I hope the administration doesn't forget that the best long-term defense against terrorism is the establishment of stable democracies. Befriending regimes like the repressive one in Equitorial Guinea seems a little self-defeating.

Looks like the military junta currently ruling Guinea-Bissau is already making plans to step down. And Head Heeb reports that Senegal, one of W. Africa's stable democracies, is already offering to assist in forming a legitimate, representative transitional government to rule its southern neighbor (rather than demanding a return to one-man rule masquerading as democracy). That's a good sign, in more ways than one.

Need to know more about Charles Taylor's latest doings? The NY Times says that Taylor swiped at least $100 million from the Liberian people before going into exile:
"He took the money from the source," said Chauncey Cooper, a former Liberian diplomat turned journalist and shipping company director. "And he used the money at will."

The money made Monrovia a free-trade zone for weapons dealers, especially after Liberia's neighbors, enraged by Mr. Taylor's constant cross-border incursions, started to sponsor rebel forces in 1999.

In response, Mr. Taylor built up his arsenal, paying arms dealers with registry revenues or smuggled diamonds from Sierra Leone, where Mr. Taylor is under indictment in war crimes.

Seems to me that bringing Taylor to justice should be a central goal of US policy in W. Africa... but although officially in exile, Taylor remains effectively in charge:
Taylor, who told the nation, "I will be back" as he left on Aug. 11, is meddling so much that Jacques Klein, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's special representative for Liberia, said he is keeping track of which Liberian ministers pay Taylor a visit. Klein also accused Taylor of continuing to extract funds from the country.

"Taylor is clearly rebuilding his network. He is like a vampire. Until you drive a stake in his heart, he won't die," Klein said. "At some point the Nigerian president will have to ask himself if Taylor is behaving himself or not."

Liberia will never be free or stable until Taylor's control of the country is destroyed. And it appears that that isn't happening.


Abiola has plenty to say about the recently scuttled trade talks in Cancun. In particular, I think this sums things up about right:
[T]he collapse of the Cancun talks cannot be blamed on "the cretinous, malevolent, and incompetent servants (the Bob Zoellicks, the Karl Roves) of an unrepresentative minority government." As bad as Bush's record on trade has been, with the steel quota, the farm bill, and squabbles over Canadian lumber and Vietnamese catfish, the United States still comes out of this mess looking like an angel by comparison with the breathtaking cynicism evinced by the Europeans and the Japanese.

Deroy Murdock puts a positive spin on things which, again, I think is about right:
No one's laughing now that the Group of 22 developing nations abandoned the WTO's trade negotiations. These countries demanded a prompt end to wealthy nations' farm socialism. In short, they called the bluffs of America and the European Union, both of whose authorities deliver stirring pro-trade speeches, then underwrite their own growers anyway. While representatives of predominantly Muslim, cotton-rich Chad and Mali criticized America's $1.6 billion in 2003 domestic cotton subsidies, western trade ministers tried to change the subject to free-trade in financial services. Seeing their survival tied more closely to seeds than securities, third-world delegates jetted home in disgust.

Good for them. While they certainly should lower their own barriers, they are sick of listening to American and European officials lecture them from the moral ditch that is First World farm policy.

The sooner the subsidies end, the better--for Africa and for the US.

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