Monday, June 07, 2004

More on Togolese "dialogue" -- Tunisian police state strikes again

Last week, I noted that Togolese strongman Gnassingbe Eyadema followed up his call for dialogue with the opposition by jailing nine activists of the main opposition UFC party. The same day, the Togolese government showed its committment to an open dialogue when the communications minister accused exiled opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, of plotting to hi-jack Togo's National Dialogue through boycotts and diversionary political tactics, reported The Ghanaian Chronicle. "Mr. Olympio talks about President Eyadema's refusal to provide him with a Togolese passport to attend the upcoming Inter-Togolese Dialogue, when he has not even had the humility and courtesy to personally apply for one," the minister claimed, adding that allegedly Eyadema has provided Mr. Olympio with two Togolese passports in the last 10 years to enable him take part in a number of major political events in Togo. Eyadema is widely believed to have personally assassinated Olympio's father Sylvanus Olympio, who was Togo's leader in the early 60s.

The police state in Tunisia has flexed its muscles again. The regime of Ben Ali jailed opposition leader Abderrahmane Tlili for nine years allegedly for abusing power when he was head of the aviation authority. The BBC reported The court in Tunis found him guilty of awarding contracts to acquaintances for renovating three Tunisian airports. Mr Tlili's lawyers argued that as head of a public company he could not have awarded contracts "without the direct approval of government officials".

More bad news from the increasingly authoritarian regime in Kigali. Rwanda's first post-genocide president has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for embezzlement, inciting violence and associating with criminals, reported The BBC. Bizimungu is a former ally of current President Paul Kagame, but the two fell out. As president, Bizimungu was criticized as being only a figure head (one of the few prominent Hutus in the predominantly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front party) and that the real power lied with then Vice-President Kagame. The BBC's Rob Walker in Rwanda says that the trial was seen as particularly sensitive for the authorities as Mr Bizimungu is one of the few moderate Hutu politicians to publicly oppose the government and remain in the country. While the RPF says it has introduced stability and multi-party democracy, its critics claim it has centralised power within a Tutsi elite and crushed potential opponents - by accusing them of promoting ethnic divisions. Though the RPF has certainly brought stability to Rwanda, it's hard to say they brought multi-party democracy if prominent people who try to form a party (a key aspect of, um, multi-PARTYism) are jailed or otherwise harrassed.

The Senegalese Football Federation was yellow carded this weekend. A referees' strike has halted the country's soccer season, according to the BBC. Referees are usually allowed in to watch big matches for free, but the Senegalese Sports Ministry has announced it is to put a halt to the practice... According to state newspaper Le Soleil, it is "an action that takes the championship hostage."

Speaking of soccer, the first round of African zone World Cup qualifiers took place this weekend. The shock result was Liberia's 1-0 home upset of African Nations Cup semifinalist Mali. The other head turner was unfancied Malawi's 1-1 draw in Blantyre with Nations Cup finalist Morocco. South Africa labored to a surprisingly close 2-1 win over minnows Cape Verde. [Though the biggest shocks were in the Oceania region where the Solomon Islands drew 2-2 away to Australia and New Zealand was stunned by Vanuatu 4-2, a pair of results which sent the Solomons to the Oceania finals against Australia at the expense of the Kiwis]

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