Saturday, November 15, 2003
Mauritanian camel cheese: Yum!

Thursday, November 13, 2003
I'm pretty skeptical of the sort of peace agreements that result in "unity governments" and "power-sharing." Usually this means that that the same brutal thugs who raped and pillaged the civilian populace during years of "freedom fighting" will now be given charge of a government ministry so that they can rape and pillage the country legally. Of course, brutal thugs are willing to share the raping and pillaging for a short period of time, but lifespan of the unity government is only as long as the time it takes for one faction or another to gather sufficient strength, at which time they can dissolve the unity government, toss their fellow thug-turned-ministers into jail and finish what they were unable to accomplish before. (The current situation in Ivory Coast seems to fit the pattern.)

So it appears that Congo is now on the same path:
No one can be cautious enough, in a country with four vice presidents, 60 ministers, 620 legislators and at least a dozen armed groups and factions all forming a two-year power-sharing government that brings enemies together.

"In Africa, we say there is no room for two male crocodiles to live in the same place. Well, now as the situation stands, we have five male crocodiles -- including the president -- sharing the same swamp," said Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, a vice president from an unarmed political opposition group. Earlier this year, two other vice presidents wanted him removed from the government.

Can this possibly work? Damned if I know. The article is actually surprisingly upbeat about the whole business. Yes, of course there is a lot of work to be done. How could there not be after a five year regional war, 30+ years of kleptocracy, and a rather brutal colonial period before that? But Congo, surprisingly is already beating the odds. Two years ago, Congo's president had just been assassinated, peace talks were going nowhere and the country was teeming with foreign troops from all over central Africa (some invited, many not). It's way too early to be optimistic, but Kabila has done far more for Congo than his father ever did. Let's hope he keeps it up.

Yet another nail in the coffin of the Marcoussis peace accord:
An appeal for investment in Ivory Coast's rebel-controlled north is prompting fears of a secession. At the end of a conference, the rebel New Forces called on financial bodies and non-governmental agencies to help fund health and development programmes.

But newspapers in Abidjan says this is a sign the rebels are advancing plans to split completely from the south. President Laurent Gbagbo has warned that any secession moves could trigger a return to civil war.

At the time of the peace accords, Paris touted its own role as a fair-minded arbiter. I was skeptical that the accords would work, but hopeful that the French knew better than I did. Now I'm starting to wonder: Do the French lack the political will or the military might to follow-through in Ivory Coast? Either way, this is starting to look like a serious failure for French policy, and no one seems to be too concerned about getting things back on track.

To my knowledge, not a single person in the Sudanese government has been brought to justice in any court for what was essentially state-sponsored ethnic (or maybe religious) cleansing in southern Sudan during the nineties. Instead, that same Sudanese government has become a "partner in peace." While the situation in southern Sudan has settled down a bit over the past year (not peaceful, but at least improved), there is now new fighting in western Sudan:
Diplomats have described the fighting in Darfur as "ethnic cleansing" with Arab militias, possibly backed by the government, destroying entire villages. UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers says some 500,000 people have fled their homes.

500,000 is an almost unbelievably large number, but I'd like to see some follow-up reports.

Sudan's brutal behavior toward its own people in the south, its support for terrorist militias in Uganda and Congo, and now the new allegations of fighting in the west constitute what I'd call a pattern of behavior.

More slavery...this time in Nigeria.

An armed group called the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement has allegedly been formed for the purpose of forcibly removing the Zimbabwean despot, Robert Mugabe. The main opposition MDC and the British government have both distanced themselves from the ZFM and denounced any attempts to remove Mugabe by force:
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi, who has been charged with treason after helping to organise a national strike against the government earlier this year, said a coup was not the answer.

He told BBC News Online: "I don't think a military coup would be helpful.

"We are staging a struggle through lawful means, even in a restrictive environment."

He said he did not know of any military unrest in Zimbabwe, but added that soldiers were suffering the same hardships as other Zimbabweans.

Of course, as Head Heeb notes, it still isn't clear that the ZFM even exists, and even if it does exist, removing Mugabe by force would be no trivial task.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003
daudi notes that the situation in Uganda continues to look grim.

Meanwhile, at least some in northern Uganda are still pursuing peace talks with Kony's LRA. As hard as I try, I can't see a point to this. The Ugandan government has tried multiple times to bring the LRA to the negotiating table, all without result. Instead, the LRA (a group with no stated political, economic or social goals) has intensified its attacks, almost all aimed at unarmed civilians, including women and children.

In the absence of any other evidence, I can only conclude that the LRA is a group of terrorist thugs who understand nothing but violence. What could possibly be achieved by negotiating with these guys?

This may not be the hardest job in the world, but it's certainly more difficult than mine:
A retired United States police chief has arrived in Liberia to take over a new United Nations police force. The current force of 4,000 officers is poorly equipped and badly paid. It is being disbanded and rebuilt by the UN.

The situation in Liberia is daunting. Despite Taylor's removal, there's much work to be done before Liberia will really be secure or peaceful.

The plot thickens as the US Senate reportedly considers sanctions against Nigeria, clearly aimed at pressuring the Nigerian government into handing Taylor over to the war crimes court in Sierra Leone. In my mind, this strategy is unlikely to be successful (because I suspect Taylor has already bribed plenty of important people in the Nigerian government), but it is interesting that the US government--not just the President--has put a high priority on bringing Taylor to justice.

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