Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Ceasefire collapses in DRC -- Bad news for war criminals

A fragile ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has collapsed, according to the Associated Press. Congolese soldiers battled troops loyal to a renegade commander in eastern Congo on Tuesday, breaking a shaky ceasefire and spurring UN peacekeepers to try to negotiate an end to the violence, a United Nations spokesman said, according to the AP. Brigadier-General Laurent Nkunda, a former rebel commander whose troops marched on the airport in the town of Bukavu on Monday, had earlier declared an end to the conflict after the government set up arrangements in Congo's troubled South Kivu province to prevent the persecution of the minority Tutsi community.

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Two important events in the international justice arena occured on Tuesday. First, the appeals panel of the Special Court for Sierra Leone has ruled that recruiting child soldiers was established as a war crime at the time of the civil war in that country, reports the BBC. This opens the way for what will be the first ever prosecution for child recruitment at an international war crimes tribunal. The picture of a child soldier, clutching a gun almost as big as himself, has become the enduring image of West Africa's civil conflicts. Both sides in Sierra Leone used very young fighters, in defiance of international conventions on the rights of the child, and leaders from both sides now face prosecution.

The same court also ruled that former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor can be tried on accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The New York Timeswrites that Mr. Taylor's lawyers had argued that a court in one country had no right to try the head of state of another country. But the four judges on the appeals panel of the Special Court for Sierra Leone rejected that argument, ruling that as an international tribunal, the special court does have that authority. It remains unlikely that Nigeria, where Taylor lives in exile, will hand him over.

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Zombyboy over at Africa Blog commented on a rant by Sam Nujoma. The Namibian leader said, "Nobody will bring peace to Africa if we don't do it ourselves. Africa must stop living on handouts of imperialist countries", Nujoma told the opening of a parliamentary forum in the Namibian capital... Africa has more riches than Europe and America together", he said at the forum of the 13-nation South African Development Community. "The imperialists take our resources or make us fight against each other", Nujoma added. He singled out as an example the Democratic Republic of Congo where fighting re-ignited over the weekend, and criticised members of the forum for not speaking out against the violence there. "The SADC Parliamentary Forum is a representative institution of the people of our region politically, but to my dismay, wrong acts, including the military invasion of a member state of SADC, the DRC, by some war-mongering countries a few years ago resulted in the genocide of more than three million persons, mostly women and children and the elderly", Nujoma said. "However, in the face of these barbaric acts, SADC parliamentarians remained silent", he said.

Zombyboy opined, While he unreasonably blamed the wars and the unrest on imperialists who want to have all of Africa's wealth to themselves, he also stated things that utterly need to be said. Namely, that African nations will never rise above their problems until they take the responsibility to solve those problems themselves. The handouts that he references are used to prop up failing economies far more often than they are used to put the systems in place to create long-term solutions to health, economic, and education problems, for instance.

Nujoma reminds me a bit of the former Malaysian leader Mahatir Mohammed. Mahatir employed some excessive verbiage and overheated rhetoric (like blaming the Jews for everything), but he also made some legitimate points (ignored by the western media) about Muslim self-reliance and bringing themselves into the 21st century. Replace Jews with imperialists and Muslim with Africa and there are a lot of similiarities between the two.

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Speaking of Nujoma, his SWAPO party has chosen his successor. The man almost certain to be Namibia's next president is Lucas Pohamba, the current lands' minister. The Namibian commented on the atmosphere at the special party congress. A sense of trepidation hung in the air as the more than 500 delegates gathered on Friday. After weeks of reports that Nujoma was campaigning against Hamutenya, the President set a confrontational tone on Monday by dismissing his Foreign Affairs Minister and his protege. Hamutenya defended himself, saying he was fired on flimsy grounds and suggested that dirty tricks had been used to get him out of the race. Shortly before the congress opens, some delegates talk about their fears and concerns. For others, the body language shows that their nerves are on edge. That same day, one of the delegates is reportedly admitted for psychiatric treatment after a nervous breakdown. One delegate said the person from the Oshikoto Region was overwhelmed by the pressure of "political elephants" fighting. Others say the breakdown may have been caused by party politics in the regions rather than the presidential race. In the hall by 18h00 - Many delegates try to disguise their jitters by singing and dancing to liberation music.

1 Comments:

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Abiola said...

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The difference between Nujoma and Mahathir, as I see it, is that while Mahathir at least oversaw a long era of steady economic development, Namibians will have little to show for Nujoma's reign other than a white elephant presidential mansion and a Zimbabwe-style land "reform" chaos. Leaders like Nujoma *are* the problem in Africa, so it's impossible for me to listen seriously to anything men like him may have to say.
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