Thursday, April 01, 2004
These "fairy circles" in Namibia are really cool. (Sorry--you'll have to follow the link to see the picture.)

Their origin is still unknown, but they remind me a lot of these "crunchy donuts" in Norway:
In remote regions of the Arctic, Antarctica, and the Australian outback, an explorer can trek across bleak, uninhabited landscapes only to suddenly stumble upon ground decorated with weird patterns. These lonely sites feature ankle-high and meter-wide donuts of gravel; mazes, stripes, and polygonal networks of pebbles, sand, or ice; and sometimes ice crevasses in perfect geometric patterns. The enigmatic configurations, seemingly created without human influence, call to mind the mysterious phenomenon of crop circles, except that the puzzling structures are made of rocks or ice instead of trampled corn or wheat.

The patterns are believed to be formed by the interaction of soil and water under the influence of the freeze-thaw cycle. They may take centuries to develop.

I don't think there's much of a freeze-thaw cycle in Namibia, but there may be some analogous dynamic process that's causing the fairy circles.

I've noticed quite a few things lately about the Rwandan genocide....

First, there was this article about Kofi Annan being sorry for not doing more to prevent 800,000 Tutsis from being slaughtered. After a lapse like that, wouldn't the proper thing be to resign from office? What concerns me more, though, is not Annan's failures of 10 years ago, but his continued weakness in the face of today's challenges. Iran? Syria? Zimbabwe? Sudan? Libya?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like everytime I see Annan wagging his finger at someone, his target is either the US or Israel.

Then there was this post of at The Corner about Richard Clarke (yes, that Richard Clarke) and the Clinton administration's response to Rwanda. I don't doubt that the Clintonites were uneasy about getting into another UN peacekeeping situation after the Mogadishu disaster a year earlier...but it does look rather shameful in retrospect.

So is there some critical number of people that need to be killed before the international community is willing to act? Obviously the 300,000 that Saddam killed weren't enough, and neither, apparently were 800,000 Rwandans. Of course, when the victims are poor and far away, that makes it much easier to ignore.

I'm not trying to be provacative; I don't really have a good answer myself.

Finally, Instapundit notes this 2002 column (by some guy named Glenn Reynolds, whoever he is) about the "international community's" inability to prevent genocide and the importance of the right to bear arms:
[I]n the face of evidence that an armed populace prevents genocide, the human rights community has largely gotten behind a campaign to ensure that there will be no armed populaces anywhere in the world.

It seems to me that the human rights community has things exactly backward. Given that the efforts of the international community to prevent and punish genocide over the past several decades have been, to put it politely, a dismal failure, perhaps it is time to try a new approach. International human rights law is supposed to be a "living" body of law that changes with the needs of the times in order to secure important goals -- chief among which is the prevention of genocide. Given that the traditional approaches of conventions and tribunals have failed miserably, the human rights community should be prepared to endorse a new international human right: the right of law-abiding citizens to be armed.

As a wise man once said: Indeed.

And while you're over at Winds of Change, you can check out this month's Africa Regional Briefing for a recap of some things that you've probably already seen and maybe a few that you haven't.

Dan Darling has a link-filled post at Winds of Change about al Qaeda in North and West Africa. Conclusion:
My contention is that events like the thwarted Paris-Dakar Rally plot begin to paint a clearer picture that al-Qaeda is attempting to use the GSPC [Salafist Group] to create something similar to Jemaah Islamiyyah in West Africa: an autonomous affiliate with a pan-regional outlook that crosses numerous national borders and serves as almost a miniature version of al-Qaeda on its own right. The ultimate goal, I would speculate, is to create enough large transnational regional or continental affiliates as a means of ensuring that the organization will survive even if the core network is completely destroyed at some future date. We have already seen what they have been able to accomplish in Southeast Asia operating virtually unchecked for nearly a decade - this process cannot be allowed to proceed in Africa as well.

There's quite a lot of information there. And if you still don't think that the war on terror is a world war, then read the whole thing.

The african oil politics blog posts a response with some additional background information. I don't have the time or energy to give a full critique to this one, but I'll say this:

So the US government is exaggerating the threat of al Qaeda in West Africa so that it can send in US troops to get the oil? I'm not sure that I exactly understand the motivation here.... First of all, it's good for the US government to be thinking strategically and there's nothing wrong (and plenty right) with wanting to ensure that the nation has a secure supply of oil.

That said, I'm not sure what I should be upset. If African governments are stable and relatively friendly to us, we'll just buy the oil--no problem there. We'll even do business with thug governments like Libya and Equatorial Guinea if we have to. In that case, there's clearly no point in concocting a fake al Qaeda threat.

The other possibility is that our intelligence is bad--there is no al Qaeda threat in West Africa but the Pentagon/FBI/CIA think there's a threat. In that case, the thing to be upset about isn't a conspiracy to steal Africa's oil, but that fact that inaccurate intelligence is leading us to inefficiently allocate our military resources. That's a problem that needs to be fixed.

Maybe I've missed the point.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
No one seems to be sure exactly who was behind the recent failed coup in DR Congo, but this is interesting spin from the NY Times:
The surprise attacks on Sunday may have stemmed from what remains potentially the most explosive issue for the transitional government: disgruntled, disorganized soldiers. Or it could have been fueled by tensions within the power-sharing government, whose leaders — former warlords with large, lucrative fiefs of their own — are still learning to trust one another.

"Still learning to trust one another"? Now that's an optimistic way to look at things. Seems a bit presumptive as well.

The CS Monitor is covering the Nigeria polio vaccine story. This bit seems to sum things up:
Men in and around the city's main market say they support the Kano government's position [to boycott the polio vaccine], and some say that strong, Islamic-based political leadership is critical in guiding their own decisions.

"We depend on our religion," says Mohammed Kabir, a Kano student. "Anything our leader says, we are going to agree with him."

Incidentally, I love the picture at the top of the article. Looks like Africa. The uniform that the health workers are wearing says "Kick polio out of Nigeria...forever." Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
More about GM foods:
Almost two million Angolans may face food shortages after the government's decision to reject genetically-modified food aid, the UN has warned.
The World Food Programme said food aid from the US, which makes up around 70% of contributions, may be rejected.


Sunday, March 28, 2004
Last week I noted these bombings in Zanzibar. At the time, they were blamed on Islamist terrorists, but the exact target wasn't clear. This article, for what it's worth, says that "Tanzanian media reports" do indeed tie the bombings to an attempt to disrupt German president Johannes Rau's visit.

Meanwhile, Rau cancelled his planned visit to Djibouti after concerns over a possible assasination attempt in that country. Again, this plot was linked to "Islamic militants."

A possible motive? "German navy personnel are serving in Djibouti as part of the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa operation to fight 'transnational terrorism.' "

After all the grief that Germany has received for its opposition to the war in Iraq, it's worth remembering the contribution to the War on Terror by German soldiers in Djibouti and Afghanistan and probably other places that I don't know about. They deserve our thanks and support. At the same time, it's also an opportunity to point out that German appeasement of Saddam hasn't won them grace in the eyes of terrorists and won't immunize Germany to terrorist attacks in the future.

Whether we like it or not, the civilized world is in this together.

If you thought that things in the Sudan were bad enough, Head Heeb raises the possibility of another war in the East:
Observers warn of simmering conflict in the eastern region, particularly by the indigenous Beja people - who are Muslims but not Arabs - and whose grievances are essentially the same as those faced by the Darfur rebels. The Beja say there has never been any sign of the government in their area - basics such as education and medical care have been completely overlooked.

Uprisings and rebellions like this are simply the result of the Sudanese government's brutal and authoritarian misrule; as such, they shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Having said that, the Bush administration's pursuit of the "peace process" with Khartoum continues to puzzle me. Unless the nature of Sudan's government is changed fundamentally, peace isn't at all likely, nor is it something that many Sudanese would be very happy about.

UPDATE: More on Sudan from Abiola:
Preserving the lives and property of black Sudanese just doesn't seem to carry the same cachet as marching against Israel or chanting "No war for oil!" does in the minds of so many complacent, self-styled "liberals." Hey, Indymediots, Sudan has oil too! If you can come out to march everytime a killer like Saddam or Ahmed Yassin gets his due, surely you can spare a moment or two for the 700,000 Sudanese driven from their homes! What's that you say? Too busy inveighing against "Zionazi" Sharon and Bushitler™?

Read the whole thing.

Qaddafi insults Tony Blair?
COLONEL Gaddafi insulted Tony Blair by pointing the sole of a shoe towards him, Arab experts said yesterday.

They spoke of their shock and claimed it was a "deliberate act", as images of the historic meeting in Tripoli flashed around the world. Close watchers of the talks in a tent on Thursday between Mr Blair and the reformed Libyan leader noticed Gaddafi's foot pointing towards Mr Blair.

Hmmm. (Via The Corner)

An attempted coup in DR Congo:
Shooting has broken out in various parts of the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, in what is feared to have been a coup attempt.
One soldier was killed and two injured as unknown gunmen attacked military installations and a TV station.

"There appears to have been a coup attempt," said UK Ambassador in Kinshasa Jim Atkinson.

The government says that the situation is "under control," but only time will tell if that's an accurate assessment.

There's also no word on who is behind this coup attempt. As I've noted before, "power sharing" governments, like the one in Congo, are often little more than prolonged cease-fires as rivals regroup and realign.

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