Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Civil war + ethnic cleansing = famine -- Rebuilding the DRC railway

The ethnic cleansing in the eastern Sudanese region of Darfur has led, not surprisingly, to starvation. Hundreds of children have already starved to death, according to the BBC. Last week, a senior aid worker said 300,000 people would starve in Darfur, even if help is sent immediately. Some 10,000 have died in Darfur, since a rebellion broke out last year and one million have fled their homes. Famine is often seen as an accidental tragedy, something that occurs when food (magically) runs out or the rains don't come. In reality, hunger rarely reaches famine stage without human meddling.

Government forces regained control of the city of Bukavu in eastern [DR] Congo on Wednesday, reports the Associated Press. Renegade troops had seized the city last week, ostensibly to protect civilians, in particular the Banyamulenge ethnic group who were allegedly being attacked. DRC head of state Joseph Kabila accused neighboring Rwanda of backing the renegades. "Apparently the government has taken the city peacefully and without bloodshed. This is a good sign for the peace process. We have been struggling for weeks to get it back on track," said Alpha Sow, the head of the U.N. mission in South Kivu province. "The fall of Bukavu shook the peace process."

A modest piece of good news from the same place. America's National Public Radio did a nice piece on efforts to rebuild a vital rail link in the central African country.

Nigerians appear to have responded to a call for a general strike. Millions of workers walked out over rising fuel prices on Wednesday, with the streets of the commercial capital, Lagos, reported to be deserted. The nationwide strike is scheduled to last three weeks. Another blow to the country's president, Olesegun Obasanjo. Much like his Senegalese counterpart Abdoulaye Wade and the late leaders Sekou Toure (Guinea) and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Obasanjo seems more concerned about jetting off to Europe and presenting himself as a pan-African statesman than dealing with problems at home.

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