Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Libya to join the Big Five? -- Intransigence wins again in Côte d'Ivoire

Good news as some of the 100,000 Liberian refugees still abroad after a decade and a half of fighting in the West African country have started returning home. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is starting an operation to repatriate those who escaped to neighbouring Sierra Leone and Ghana, reports the BBC. The return of refugees from northern neighbour Guinea, which has hosted some 150,000 Liberians, is due to get under way in November. This is good news for Guinea which, at the height of the Liberian and Sierra Leonian civil wars in the mid-90s, hosted as many as a half a million refugees.

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The west's rapprochment with Libya's strongman Col. Muammar Gaddafi. has led to a logical conclusion. Now, the once (and most would argue still) rogue state is demanding a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalghem listed a series of Libya's achievements as reasons for inclusion, including abandoning its WMD programme.

Not mentioned in the "achievements" was Libya's role as a leader of formenting instability and conflict throughout West Africa. The Guide, along with his protégé in devastation Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, has helped sow the seeds that ruined the lives of millions of West Africans from Sierra Leone to Cote d'Ivoire, among others.

Libya got rid of weapons of mass destruction that might be used to harm Europe and North America. Before Prime Minister Blair and President Bush rush to nominate Gaddafi for the Nobel Peace Prize, they might wish to mention this whole undermining stability throughout West Africa thing that he's been doing for 15 years.

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Most of Africa is clearly quite unfriendly to gays. Even aside from the rantings of ordinary lunatics like Zimbabwe's Bob Mugabe or his twin Sam Nujoma in Namibia. First, there's the story of the Ugandan radio station that was fined. Its egregious offense? Hosting homosexuals in a live talk show. Janet and Justin, it wasn't!

The program was "contrary to public morality and is not in compliance with the existing law," according the head of the Ugandan broadcasting council, who added that it promoted homosexuality as "an acceptable way of life".

The station was fined $1000 and forced to make a public apology.

But this pales in comparison to the brutality suffered by a leading Sierra Leonian gay rights activist, who was assassinated recently. Before her murder, she was repeatedly raped, stabbed and had her neck broken by people who broke into her office.

"The authorities in Sierra Leone must investigate this crime fairly and fully," said the head of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Project at Human Rights Watch. "They must send a message to a frightened lesbian and gay community that violence against them will not go unpunished."

Is this any less savage than anything perpertrated by the Revolutionary United Front or other combattants before the country's war crimes court?



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Intransigence has once again reared its ugly head in Cote d'Ivoire. A special session of parliament closed without approving a series of political reforms which were meant to pave the way for disarmament, according to the UN's IRIN service. An agreement signed by President Laurent Gbagbo, the parliamentary opposition and rebels occupying the north of the country in the Ghanaian capital Accra on July 30 committed all sides to legislating long delayed political reforms by the end of August. It also established 15 October as the starting date for disarmament. When the end of August came and went with no reforms on the statute book, diplomats reinterpreted the deal to mean that the legislation - sought by the rebels, but resisted by Gbagbo and his Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party - should be passed by the end of September. However, a special session of parliament, summoned on 11 August to legislate the reform package, was brought to a close on 28 September with just one very minor measure approved - a law approving state funding for political parties and their election campaigns.



Either Gbagbo is unwilling to push his allies to enforce the agreements he signed and they approved or he's unable to do so. In other words, he's either an obstructionist or a figure head who's influence has disappeared. Neither bodes well for the country.



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Finally, the BBC World Service's Big Question program explores the nature and nuances of international development aid. Does aid reduce poverty? Most interviewed concluded that it could, if done right. But they also noted that if the aid system was distributed or organized poorly, that it would actually make things worse. Most acknowledged that more money wasn't necessarily the answer.

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