Wednesday, October 01, 2003
It's about time:
A 15-member panel drawn from government, nongovernmental and private sector institutions has began a review of U. S. policy towards Africa with the aim of making bold recommendations.

The advisory group was mandated by language introduced into a comprehensive appropriations bill earlier this year by Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, who has a long-standing interest in Africa. The legislation, which passed both houses of Congress, instructed the Secretary of State to appoint a panel "to assess policy goals and program priorities with regard to United States relations with the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and to advise the Secretary of any related findings and recommendations. "

"We're asking them to be bold, to come at this with fresh eyes," Wolf said in an interview.

I'm not certain that there's been a rethinking of African policy since the end of the Cold War, so it's long past due. The last decade or so has seen a surge in African democracy, notably in Senegal, Ghana, Benin, South Africa, and Kenya. Nigeria, of course, is now Africa's largest democracy, though it's success is far from certain. At the same time, the last ten years brought genocide to Rwanda, a continental/civil war to Congo, genocide/civil war to Sudan, and a series of regional wars to West Africa.

We're also fighting a war against terrorists and, like the Cold War, Africa is again on the front lines. Al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations continue to operate on the continent where porous borders and lax security provide a safe base of operations. In addition, the continent has more than its share of tyrants and despots who may, like Charles Taylor, be willing to cooperate with terrorists.

Of course, there are plenty of other problems to consider. Millions on the continent lack access to clean drinking water and basic health care. Diseases like AIDS and malaria are public health problems, but are also a drag on the economy. Democratic institutions have failed to take root (or never been established at all), leaving the continent largely under the heel of dictators. And finally, African countries are still not integrated into the world economy.

So where are we headed from here? Feel free to post your ideas in the comments.

Uganda's Museveni vying for president-for-life?
Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya last week presented the cabinet's proposals to the constitutional review commission under which the ruling Movement sought to lift the two-term limit for a serving president.

If the proposals are approved in a national referendum it would mean that President Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, could vie for power in the 2006 elections.

If this goes through, it won't help Museveni with Western donors all of whom have been urging (more or less strongly) a speedy return to multiparty democracy. Museveni's power grab likely won't win over any voters either. (Of course, getting enough votes shouldn't be a problem for a quasi-dictator.) But if Museveni's only chance to stay in power is to alter the constution and sufficiently rig the next election, this won't do much to improve his legacy.

Libya involved with terrorism? I'm shocked, shocked!

Monday, September 29, 2003
This is disturbing:
These new laws also spell the end of any kind of democracy. Their proponents say that they are given directly by God, so that any opposition to them, or to the politicians who introduce them, can be treated as blasphemy or apostasy, both of which could be lead to execution.

Ahmed Sani, the governor of Zamfara, the first state to institute this repressive form of sharia, said in August that his legislation can never be altered. He reacted to the human-rights pleas of a delegation from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch by saying that holy law, which he equated with his own legislation, is beyond alteration by any group or individual. He has threatened to arrest any Muslim preacher who criticized his government's implementation of sharia.

Meanwhile, many Muslims in Kano have held parties on the anniversary of September 11 to celebrate the attacks on the United States. Nigerian newspapers have reported that Osama bin Laden is more popular than George Bush. Bin Laden himself has called Nigeria's president, Olusegon Obasanjo, an "apostate."

Not only is this a threat to Nigerian democracy, it's a threat to the peace of the region.

This article doesn't say, but I'd be interested to know if there are any foreign governments that are funding the spread of extremist Islam in West Africa. Saudi Arabia? Iran? Maybe both.

Here's an interesting interview with the chief prosecutor at the war crimes court in Sierra Leone:
...Nigeria is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, various African and international conventions related to this type of topic including the African Convention on Human Rights, along with the Rome Statute which created the International Criminal Court. They state clearly that if you have a known war criminal, or someone who is suspected of being a war criminal that you should investigate or put that person on trial yourself, or turn them over to the appropriate organization. They know this; they know they have to do this and so I am allowing Nigeria to sort this out. But at the end of the day, Charles Taylor must be turned over to the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Let's hope it happens...and the sooner the better.

Ever wonder what Head Heeb thinks about the "peace" process in Sudan? I know I have. Now you can find out.

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