Monday, December 06, 2004

News briefs

No complaint against French 'massacre'
You might remember the worldwide scandal of French 'peacekeepers' violently repressing anti-French demonstrations in the Côte d'Ivoire commercial capital of Abidjan. There was even a video circulated purporting to show French soldiers shooting unarmed civilians. The Ivorian government, keen to keep anti-French sentiment smoldering, reacted hysterically to this incident. They claim that 57 Ivorians were killed and over 2200 were injured. Yet despite the horrible toll of this alleged massacre, I now read that the Ivorian government is denying that it will file a complaint against France in the International Court of Justice. Now if France's actions were really so horrific, wouldn't the regime of Laurent Gbagbo (who has its own reasons for encouraging French-bashing) be eager to embarass the French? Or perhaps if complete evidence were presented before a legal body, the conclusions might be different than what has surged around Abidjan and the blogosphere.


Landmines impede reconstruction
While the AIDS scourge rightly received a lot of attention this week, there is another major menace in many African countries. This UN article explains how much of a threat landmines remain in many African countries, even long after conflicts are over. "Landmines continue to be the main impediment to post-conflict reconstruction and development in our countries," said one African Union official. "Ridding the continent of this invisible and indiscriminate weapon is crucial for creating conditions for peace, security, stability and development in Africa, as well as reconciling and healing societies from the trauma of conflict."


Conakry: la poubelle
Guinea's only satirical newspaper often refers to the capital as 'Conakry la poubelle':(Conakry the trash can) because of the city's nastiness. This article from Angola Press reports how Matoto municipal council in the capital Conakry has pledged to give the district a face lift to improve its sanitation for the good health of the 800,000 people living there... Everyday the city`s communes produce between 600 and 800 tons of household refuse, according to the World Bank-funded Waste Transfer Pilot Service (SPTD) that took over the Urban Services Pilot Unit. Conakry is by far the most digusting city I've ever been too.


Should he stay or should he go?
The headline for this article in Cameroun's Le Quotidien Mutations made me laugh. Central African Republic citizens recently voted on a new constitution. The headline quoted the CAR's military leader François Bozizé speaking of his potential future election prospects: "Me, candidate? We'll see." If he doesn't run, I'm sure 2/3 of Central Africans will die of shock.


Profession: voter
Mozambique recently held presidential elections. In the wake of poor turnout, the country's outgoing president Joaquim Chissano made a bizarre suggestion to improve voter participation: paying voters. At first, I merely rolled my eyes at the absurdity. But there's a fine, and not always easily distinguishable, line between absurd and unconventional. The more I thought about it, the more I concluded it was an idea worth considering. So much money is spent on development assistance. Much of that money is wasted via corruption or inefficiency. Paying voters, even a modest sum, would ensure that at least some aid went directly to ordinary citizens. I'm not saying this is a panacea, nor would voter salaries be any more immune to corruption than other programs. But it's an idea I'm not so quick to dismiss out of hand for the context of developing countries.

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