Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Yvette over at Taste of Africa gives an update of Somaliland's continuing quest for international recognition:
After more than 10 years of peace, after more than a decade of trying to build this country, Somaliland finally got the attention of its former colonizer, the British. Reports say that Labour Party MP Tony Worthington, the only parliament member who have visited Somaliland more than once was "instrumental in securing a 2-hour debate in Britain's House of Commons". The debate came after The Select Committee on International Development returned from its visit to Somaliland.

While Somalilanders have made much progress toward building a nation, their accomplishment remains in jeopardy without official recognition by other nations. What Somaliland has accomplished is impressive, so I'd say it's about time that someone noticed.

Speaking of Libya, you might have heard of the case where several foreign health care workers were accused of intentionally infecting several patients with HIV. According to this article, it was all Qaddafi's idea:
A wave of infections among children in the public hospital in Benghazi came to light in 1998. The notion that foreign staff had deliberately infected the children, at least 43 of whom have since died, was apparently Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's idea.

At a conference on Aids in Nigeria in April 2001, the Libyan leader said of the epidemic: "It is an odious crime. We have found a doctor and a group of nurses in possession of HIV, who had been requested to do experiments on the effects of the virus on children. And who charged them with this odious conspiracy? Some say it was the CIA, others say it was Mossad."

Isn't that particularly charming to blame the Jews? What a jerk!

I said earlier that Libya's surrender on the WMD issue didn't solve all the problems with the current regime. To be sure, Qaddafi without nuclear weapons is preferable to Qaddafi with nuclear weapons. But in either case, Qaddafi still has the ability--and dare I say the desire--to continue to oppress his own people and threaten his neighbors. In fact, the normalization of economic and political relations will likely increase the longevity, wealth and power of Qaddafi's regime.

That result certainly isn't good for Libyans, nor for the US in the long run.

Unfortunately, the process has already started:
Washington will also ease the sanctions to allow U.S. oil companies -- including Occidental, Marathon, Conoco and Amerada Hess -- to renegotiate contracts with Libya, according to U.S. officials. These companies, which previously had business interests in Libya, will be unable to fulfill the contracts until sanctions are fully lifted. But removing the travel ban and allowing contract negotiations pave the way for renewing U.S. involvement in Libya's oil industry.

I'm all in favor of oil companies making money, but I wish they'd do it somewhere else. By giving up his WMD programs, Qaddafi has avoided becoming an Iraq-like target in the war on terror, but that doesn't mean the US should start appeasing him by immediately normalizing relations. In fact, the goal of the US should be not only the destruction of Libyan WMD, but the liberation of the Libyan people. And of course, as Farid Ghadry notes on NRO, legitimizing Qaddafi right now would send exactly the wrong message to other rouge states: "Give up your WMD, and we'll look the other way while you oppress your people all you want."

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Environmental imperialism is a topic that's not discussed nearly enough with respect to Africa:
Measured in terms of the numbers of game, the status of forests and lakes and rivers and reefs, the conservation movement focused on animal welfare in East Africa was a gigantic failure, as the environmental situation deteriorated steadily. Not recognising their own contribution to the decline of wildlife and the disappearance of forests and rivers and swamps, the preachings of the environmentalist missionaries became shriller and more strident.

As the environmentalist churches are well organised, generously endowed and have large followings in America and Europe, they committed increasingly large sums of money to their campaigns and resorted to increasingly dubious methods of persuasion such as coercion and bribery.

The effect of much environmental activism in Africa is to keep Africans--many of whom have limited economic opportunities in the first place--mired in poverty without much hope of escape.

One example of this is the debate over the use of DDT:
The World Health Organization and America's Agency for International Development, among others, have pressured African, Asian and Latin governments to abandon DDT, arguing that it jeopardizes birds, as may have occurred in America due to widespread agricultural use until 1972.
Africans beg for DDT. Spraying it in small amounts in homes, buses, and factories curbs this plague. In 1996, when South Africa "wanted to belong to the Western club that didn't use DDT," says AEI's Roger Bate, malaria cases shot from a few thousand to 65,000 in one season. The reintroduction of DDT in 2000 cut malaria rates by 80 percent in 18 months. Despite such successes, anti-pesticide treaties and other regulations environmentalists imposed have hiked the cost and curtailed access to DDT.

The use of DDT and similar pesticides in the southern US was highly successful in eliminating malarial mosquitoes. Of course, now that Western environmentalists have decided that DDT is bad, they want to deny African nations the same opportunity. Seems a little unilateral, no?

Here's another example that's not explicitly related to environmentalism, but it's interesting nonetheless:
Chimpanzees in western Uganda are increasingly raiding illegal brewing operations in forested river valleys and getting drunk on the country beer. Once intoxicated, they become hostile and attack and at times kill human children, parks officials say.
One notorious chimp nicknamed Saddam is blamed for killing at least three babies and maiming several others in Ruteete sub-county which borders the Kibale National Park.

Of course, the Jane Goodall Institute is already blaming the problem on humans:
Early this year, officials of the Jane Goodall Institute in Uganda were quoted in BBC's Wildlife Magazine as saying that chimpanzees had killed eight children and injured many others in Ugandan national parks. Debby Cox, the director of the institute, suggested that the aggressive behaviour of the chimps was caused by increased proximity between the animals and humans.

Chimpanzees look cute and fun on TV, but it sounds like they make really rotten neighbors.

Despite continued violence against UN peacekeepers and the civilian population, my sense is that reporting from the Congo (like this story) is becoming increasingly optimistic:
The road linking Bunia, the main city in the wartorn Ituri district, to the port town of Kasenye along the shores of Lake Albert, opened in mid-January after six months of reconstruction.

Although peace in this region is still fragile, the road has become a path toward reversing some of the damage wreaked on the region by ethnic battles. Its reconstruction financed by the US Agency for International Development, the road is allowing villagers to rebuild their homes, aid organizations to deliver food, and traders to reach urban markets.

Then again, the tone becomes more guarded towards the end:
Bunia became a flash point last May when violence erupted between the Hema and Lendu ethnic communities, forcing more than 300,000 to flee from their homes, according to UNICEF.

Three weeks ago, UN troops disembarking a helicopter were shot at five times by an armed militia, according to MONUC spokeswoman Isabel Abric in Bunia.

Last week, a UN boat convoy on Lake Albert, sent to investigate an alleged massacre in the town of Gobu, about 31 miles northeast of Bunia, had to abandon its mission after being fired on by militia.

Even with 300 UN troops patrolling the Bunia-Kasenye road, the surrounding bush along the road remains unsafe, says Bangladeshi Army Major Jamil Rashid, who is part of the nearly 5,000 UN peacekeeping forces in Ituri. "The armed militias still have camps in the area," he says.

So are things getting better, or not? Is the UN peacekeeping project working? Here's yet another optimistic article from the BBC, suggesting that the political and security situation in Congo is rapidly improving.

My guess is that the peacekeepers are doing a good job, but only in a very limited area. Of course, that's also the same area where all of the Western journalists hang out, so all of our news comes from there. The land area of Congo is about 2.7 million square km, making it the 14th largest country in the world. There are only a few thousand UN peacekeepers, most of whom are deployed around Bunia, so it's clear that they can't provide security to the vast majority of the country. So maybe the security situation in Congo is improving, but it's hard for me to see how the UN peacekeepers can really be responsible for it.

The establishment of a professional (i.e. non-political) national army and police force is the next hurdle for the new Congolese government--definitely a big order in such a large country.

Monday, February 09, 2004
The news from Ivory Coast these days is, to say the least, a little difficult to follow. The big story today was the apparent assassination of one of the rebel leaders. It's hard to know what to make of this since no one seems to know exactly who killed him or why:
The reasons for the killing are unclear. Some local newspapers speculate it was linked to Mr. Coulibaly's close ties with Liberian mercenaries, others that he was entangled in a dispute over leadership.

Tensions have been high among rebels in Korhogo since late January, when a group of fighters close to Mr. Coulibaly fought against another group of rebels for control of a gas tank in the city. Adding to the tension was a weekend visit of main rebel-group leaders, during which a fire gutted the Korhogo's markeplace.

A spokesman for the French peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast, Bruno Misset, said the effect of the split within the rebel group is hard to gauge. He says apparent divisions within the rebel group could block the disarmament process. But he also says the death of Mr. Coulibaly could allow the process to move along faster, because he was seen as one of its most divisive members.

Rebels continue to control the northern half of Ivory Coast, and there are reports from international monitoring groups that, instead of disarming, they have been stockpiling weapons.

Fighting for control of a gas tank?!? Are these guys really rebels or are they just gangs?

I missed this, too:
After five years, Sierra Leone has announced that its disarmamaent program is complete.

Not bad. If only this could be Liberia in five years, or sooner.

Missed this earlier...

Head Heeb, who's been following the story as well as anyone, notes that Zimbabwe's Daily News is again barred from publishing following a Supreme Court ruling upholding new media laws.

Not much to say about this beyond what's already been said.

This won't come as news to regular readers, but it's still interesting:
Until very recently, China, like the West and Japan, largely had been looking for oil imports where everyone else was - the Middle East, source of 60 percent of Chinese oil imports. But increasingly, the world's powers are questioning the wisdom of leaving national economies to rest on the explosive region.

The result is an oil boom in places like West Africa. In Angola, Nigeria, Gabon and other oil-producing states, China and other Asian nations in 2003 competed aggressively with Europe and the United States for deals.

That's pretty amazing that places like Angola, Nigeria and Gabon are now considered politically stable compared to the Middle East. Does that mean that things in West Africa are going that well...or that things in the Middle East have gotten that bad?

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