Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Indicted War Criminal Taylor Wants to Help War Orphans - Mugabe Wonders Why Zimbabweans Fleeing Paradise

-Former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor broke his silence last week from his exile in eastern Nigeria. The indicted war criminal granted an hour-long interview to the independent Channells Television. Among other things, the mastermind of Liberia's devastating civil war and godfather of Sierra Leone's brutal rebels stated that he wanted to return to Liberia and set up a foundation for orphans, war wounded and gifted children. How quaint.

-Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe addressed the nation in Independence Day celebrations earlier this week. The strongman of Harare blasted the Commonwealth as "evil" and blamed the "bloodthirsty" western world for an onslaught to "recolonize" the country, reported the SABC. The South African broadcaster also quoted Mugabe as wondering, "Some of our people are running away to wash the bodies of elderly people in England," referring to the large numbers of Zimbabweans there who work as carers for the elderly. Mugabe added: "Yet we are giving farms to people here. What are you running away for? Zimbabwe's problems can only be solved by Zimbabweans, not by foreigners," he said. "We have got medicine to sort out our problems, we have got traditional healers." What are they running away for, indeed? Personally, I'd love to live in a country that maintains torture camps, runs "re-education" camps and harassing those religious leaders who speak out as well as uses food aid as a political weapon, attacks protest marches and wages war (literally, not just figuratively) on what remains of a domestic free press. It sounds like a virtual paradise. Why would anyone leave this for London?

-Nigeria's The Guardian ran an editorial blasting the decision by the country's National Broadcasting Commission [NBC] to ban the re-broadcast of unedited foreign news. The daily writes that the decision sends the wrong signal about the direction of our democracy, adding that the move has had the effect of depriving listeners across the country of a popular source of national and international news. We wonder why these broadcasts, which had been allowed for many years, have suddenly become unacceptable to the NBC. In a global village of free information, it is arguable whether the NBC can decree what should be on the information menu. There are sensitive areas such as obscenity and pornography where a regulatory body can lay down the rules quite clearly with punishable recourse. But it is quite another matter to seek to ban uncomfortable information even when it is true. This is what dictatorial regimes do all over the world, and Nigeria should not be seen to be setting a bad example.

-Southern Ugandans are finally waking up to the reality of the war in the north, according to The East African. The savage Lord's Resistance Army and its insane leader Joseph Kony have reeked havoc in northern Uganda, despite great government effort to rid the country of the scourge. So while we should be discussing boosting foreign trade, reducing HIV infection rates and putting more computers in schools, Mr Kony refuses to go away. Now impatience with him is giving way to desperation and finally reflection, people have begun to see the war in a new light: Kony’s entire army is now made up of abductees. The people who are being recruited from Acholi region to fight them are their brothers. If you sign up for service, you are being sent to kill your own brother who was forced into the fight. If you don’t join, you will be killed by your brother. It is a no-win situation. The present appeals to God may, after all, not be such a naive thing, notes an opinion in the weekly.

-A contributor to The Somaliland Times is unimpressed by the BBC's Somali service. He writes It is alarming to see the BBC Somali service of today is like a third world dictator's broadcasting station. Strangely enough, the BBCsomali radio and its website are controlled by two cousins of Abdulqasim Salad Hassan who infiltrated the BBC during his short period as a leading Somali warlord, or as he calls himself Somalia's TNG [Transitional National Government] President. Somaliland is a self-declared republic in the northwestern third of what used to be Somalia. It has a functioning government and institutions, yet its sovereignty is not internationally recognized. A Taste of Africa is the blog of an aid worker in Somaliland.

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