Friday, August 27, 2004

MDC makes itself irrelevant -- Mugabe greater than Senghor?

Jonathan over at The Head Heeb is disappointed in the decision by Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to boycott future elections until "real" democratic reforms are implemented.

Jonathan notes that as frustrating as life is for the MDC, it's far from irrelevant. And it's boycott could actually be more dangerous than helpful. He writes, The MDC lacks the power to block most ZANU-sponsored legislation, but it acts as a pro-democracy voice on the international scene, and as recent events have shown, it retains leverage through its ability to block constitutional amendments. The party doesn't have a serious chance of securing a majority next year, but if it competes in the election, it has a good shot of retaining the 50 seats necessary to prevent unilateral constitutional change. If it doesn't compete, then Zimbabwe will return to the pre-2000 days when ZANU answered to no one, and the MDC will sacrifice what power and moral authority it still has.

The boycott is a foolish, and perhaps ultimately fatal, decision by the MDC. Opposition boycotts only work in countries where the regime is concerned about its image. It only works where the regime feels international pressure to have something vaguely resembling a "normal" political situation. It's clear that strongman Robert Mugabe is comfortable in defying western pressure. And it's also unlikely that Thabo Mbeki, president of regional power South Africa, will soon cease his role as head of Mugabe's apologist brigade.

The MDC would be much wiser to participate in elections and then protest the results. Or organize another general strike. I admit this is a tough deicsion, considering the regime's repression. But a boycott makes them irrelevant.


A London magazine, New African, recently named Zimbabwe's Mugabe as the third-greatest African of all-time. He was behind only former South African President Nelson Mandela and Ghana's iconic leader Kwame Nkrumah. South Africa's The Daily Mail and Guardian reported: Mugabe, widely criticised outside Zimbabwe for stifling dissent and crippling the economy of his once-prosperous Southern African nation, is an "interesting" choice because "a high-profile campaign in the media has painted him in [a] bad light", the New African wrote.

Are Africans' expectations THAT low that they admire so highly a guy who destroys his country, its people and its economy so thoroughly? I guess it shows how a little appeal to reflexive nationalism/patriotism can block nerve receptors in the part of the brain that deals with logic.

Abiola, at Foreign Dispatches, isn't quite as worried as he pointed out the ranking should hardly be considered definitive.

This would indeed be very worrying if it were some sort of representative cross-section of the African populace we were talking about here, but the very fact that it's a write-in survey ought to be enough to suggest that the anxiety might be a tad overdone. For one thing, the people who get to even hear of the survey aren't going to be a random sample to begin with, as every publication in a marketplace will necessarily skew to one demographic or another.

While I don't accept the New African's write in survey as some definitive sounding out of the entire continent (especially since it's surely read by a lot who live outside Africa), it's clear Mugabe's appeal to many Africans isn't a figment of anyone's imagination.

I guess it's much easier to admire Bob and his thugs when you're living in London than when you're living in Harare or Bulawayo.


The genocide continues unchecked in Darfur, eastern Sudan. At least against those few who are left. African peacekeepers are expected to arrive in this week, none too soon.

Janjaweed Arab militias are engaging in a throrough campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur's black population (which, ironically, comprises mostly fellow Muslims; though if so-called Christians can kill each other in Northern Ireland, why should I be surprised?). The Janjaweed are almost universally believed to be armed and supported by the Sudanese military junta. Not surprisingly, the regime denies this but the genocide campaign has involved aerial attacks by bombers and helicopter gunships, things that are a little out of the price range of your everyday rag-tag bandit militias.

One British official who has been working in western Darfur told journalists the region remained largely "bandit country" in which the Janjaweed were "doing what they want, where they want, when they want to the non-Arabs".

Having driven the farmers from their villages into makeshift refugee camps, the Janjaweed were keeping them there by continuing the beatings and sexual attacks, he said. This ensured that the militia was free to do as it wished in the rest of the country.

One refugee summed up the widely believe sentiment: "The government of Sudan doesn't want blacks, they want only Arabs. Before the first attack, some Arabs in the region came to tell us: 'We're going to send you blacks away and claim this land for ourselves.'"

In one typical attack documented by Human Rights Watch in July, a group of women and girls were stopped at a Janjaweed militia checkpoint in West Darfur. Militia members told them that “the country belonged to the Arabs now and, as they were there without permission, they would be punished.” All of the women were then beaten, and six girls aged 13 to 16 were raped.

HRW added: In response to the Security Council’s demand that Janjaweed militia members be disarmed, the Sudanese government has instead begun to incorporate them into official state security units such as the police and semi-regular forces such as the Popular Defense Forces.


The Globalist, an excellent website, ran a good article on Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and how the introduction of xenophobia into politics provoked the previously stable country's collapse.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

WHO Africa: 'retirement home' for bureaucrats -- Kenyan author attacked

The British publication The Lancet offered a scatching attack on the World Health Organization's Africa regional office. According to the BBC, the prestigious medical journal described the Africa office as a political club, rather than an effective health agency, and says it must evolve or die. Management is ineffective, it says, and staff demoralised.

Further claiming that Relations with governments are too close, even incestuous, and senior officials in African health ministries regard the WHO as their future retirement home.

The BBC notes that the WHO differs from other United Nations agencies in that power is largely devolved to the regions, meaning that regional management becomes critically important, particularly in Africa, which faces some of the world's most difficult public health challenges.


Deutsche Welle reports on Col. Gadhafi and what the German broadcaster refers to as the Libyan leader's "checkbook diplomacy."

His country reached a compensation deal with families of victims of a 1986 disco bombing in West Berlin (other media reports indicated that the deal was struck with German and Turkish families, but not with the Americans because he wanted Washington to compensate Tripoli for the deaths caused by the American air raids on Libya that were in retaliation for the disco bombing).

DW noted that Gadhafi has long been aware that it's not remorse and change which are important, but a checkbook: $2.7 billion for the relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, $170 million for a French plane which exploded over West Africa, a couple of million for the ransom of German hostages in southeast Asia and Algeria.

In return, the sanctions imposed against Lybia were lifted and Gadhafi was welcomed in Brussels. Euoropean politicians meet him, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who has a visit scheduled for later this year.

It's almost like an exclusive tennis club, which members have to buy into in order to then be able to benefit from the advantages of the 'better society,' advantages which far outweigh the cost of the joining fee.

This is in addition to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to Tripoli, which coincided with the signing of a contract between Libya and the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell.


The BBC ran an interesting piece on the new family code in Morocco. The law revolutionized the status of women in the Kingdom. As of February 2004, Moroccan women no longer have to obey their husbands by law, something many Moroccan men saw as enshrining their right to use their fists on disobedient wives.

But the article noted that attitudes are very different in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.

"For us, if a man beats his wife, he is no longer a man, he is a dog," said Salka, a 45-year-old Saharawi woman, recently divorced for the second time.

In the Western Sahara, if a man beats his wife the minimum he must do to ask her forgiveness is hold a second wedding, with all the gifts of camels and jewellery that entails.

Even so, he will rarely be successful in convincing his wife to return.

Saharawi women divorce their husbands for far lesser misdemeanours.

"I divorced my first husband because I never really fell in love. I divorced my second because he fell in love with someone else," says Salka.


While some think democracy (or lack of dicatorship) is one of the basic requirements for living a decent life, simple personal security is higher on the list. Whoever's running Iraq would do well to remember this.

Kenya is generally seen as a free and safe country, especially last year's election of then-opposition leader Mwai Kbaki. His NARC coalition's victory ended over three and a half decades of often-autocratic dominance by the KANU party.

The country's capital, Nairobi, is so frought with crime that it has the reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in Africa. The election of Kbaki and NARC and the arrival of democracy didn't change that overnight.

This reality was discovered by Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o. The reknown author of several prominent and politically charged novels had rejoined his country only days ago, after 22 years in self-imposed exile.

It was exactly what pan-African intellectuals dream of: one of the continent's best and brightest sons returning to help contribute to the development and improvement of his native land. He obviously had faith that things in Kenya had improved.

His faith was rewarded when armed men stormed the Nairobi apartment of Thiong'o and his wife. The Nairobi police chief said they burned Ngugi with cigarettes, beat him with the butt of a gun, and hurt his wife Njeeri while they ransacked their home for money and valuables.

I suspect Mr. Thiong'o will find little consolation in knowing that police don't consider his attack politically motivated.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

West Africa invaded by... locusts -- Chad oil pipeline: a precedent?

In recent days, the big story out of Africa, aside from Darfur, has been the invasion of locusts. A huge swarm of the creatures caused a wide swath of devastation especially in Mauritania, but also in Senegal, Gambia, Mali and Niger. It's also threatening Chad, which has a large number of refugees from Darfur.

It is feared that the locust attack could threaten up to a million people with famine. The locust invasion coincided with the beginning of the planting season, so many farmers have put off sowign their crops. A locust can eat its own body weight in a day and the BBC reported that swarms were so heavy that they contained up to 50 MILLION of the creatures in a single square kilometer.

Government officials from the affected regions have appealed to the international community for at least $75 million to help control the pests, mainly with insecticides.

But a UN official conceded, "The problem is that the international donor community is being pressed on all sides to help with different problems globally. It takes a while for the penny to drop in terms of realizing that the situation really is serious."

Ominously, the worst may be yet to come. "In the weeks to come, there will be many more locusts than those that have arrived so far", Annie Monnard, an FAO locust specialist told IRIN from Rome.


Ivorian rebels have rejoined the government of national union, according to the BBC. Rebel ministers had boycotted after an opposition march was violently attacked by the forces of "order," but agreed to participate again. This follows a peace summit in Ghana where the parties agreed to abide by the terms of the Marcoussis peace agreement... they already signed in France last year.

However, several challenges lie ahead [the BBC reporter] says, including voting in controversial laws on nationality and eligibility to run for president.

And, I might add, the apparent inability of Gbagbo to control the 'Jeunes patriotes' militias that are acting in his name. This is further inflamed by a viciously xenophobic and partisan national press.


The Christian Science Monitor reports on the new oil pipeline in Chad and its potential implications to see if the benefits of development aid can be made to benefit the people.

According to the terms of the country's agreement with the World Bank, Chad is committed to spend 80 percent of oil revenues on schools, clinics, roads, and other basic needs. Five percent goes to a fund for future generations. Another 5 percent goes to develop the southern oil region, near the Cameroon border. And 10 percent is socked away in case oil prices fall.

[I wonder why something like this wasn't thought of a long time ago]

Most of the cash is held by the World Bank in a London account to avoid "leakage." And a citizens committee, with four members from nonprofit groups and five from government, must approve all oil- revenue expenditures.

Already, people in one Chadian village are already feeling the benefits.

Villagers were hired to help build the school. The construction firm also bought bricks from local brick makers. And after the building was finished, villagers realized they needed yet another classroom. So they pooled their profits and spent about $50 to build an addition to the school, a one-room building with a tin roof. Even the chief, who's a brick mason, pitched in.

While this plan won't singlehandedly transform Chad (per capita income: $250 a year) into Saudi Arabia, or even Gabon, it will certainly set a precedent. It will raise expectations about what kind of governance Chadians demand of their leaders.


The PBS program Wide Angle, on American public television, recently did a show entitled Ladies First. It reported on the role played by women in rebuilding Rwandan society following the 1994 genocide.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Darfur/Europe: see no evil...

The New York Times was one of many news outlets to report on the European Union's announcement on Sudan. The EU said that it had found no evidence of genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur despite widespread killings, but that there were few indications of government efforts to protect civilians.

This is in contrast to the US Congress, which recently passed a resolution declaring Darfur to be genocide.

An EU spokesman was quoted, ""We are not in the situation of genocide there. But it is clear there is widespread, silent and slow killing going on, and village burning on a fairly large scale."

Whew! Only silent, slow killings and villages burning (and the "worst humanitarian situation in the world", according to the UN). But not genocide. That's a relief! I thought it was serious.

So the question is this: why is the EU wasting its time and resources investigating whether or not Darfur is technically genocide? Is this really the most appropriate thing to be doing right now, while the killings continue unabated, the Khartoum government sits by disinterested (or perhaps worse) and over a million people are at risk of dying of starvation or disease?

The Sudanese regime has promised to send in security forces to Darfur allegedly to control the situation. Though few objective observers would be reassured by such a promise/threat, the BBC explains why. "The government of the Sudan is responsible for... summary executions of large numbers of people," UN investigator Asma Jahangir said in a report.

Jahangir said it was frequently impossible to distinguish between the army, the Popular Defence Force and the Janjaweed militia which has been widely blamed for massacres.
The report says the Sudanese government appears oblivious to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and described the persistent denial of the disaster by most government officials as "shocking".

"Such a reaction despite the huge international outcry would appear to indicate either complete disrespect for the right to life of the population of Darfur, or, at worst, complicity in the events," she wrote.

To show their good faith, Khartoum is now reportedly arresting or harassing civilians who talk to foreigners.

Amnesty International said in a report Sudan had rounded up scores of people who spoke to journalists and foreign leaders, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, on recent visits to Darfur.

One woman from Western Darfur state told Reuters she was imprisoned several times and routinely harassed after she translated for a recent visiting group of foreign diplomats.

"Nineteen security officers jumped down from two trucks and threatened me with weapons," said the woman, who was too frightened to give her name.

"They took me back to the headquarters and threatened me saying that they had scorpions and snakes and accusing me of mistranslating for the diplomats," she said.

Another woman, who works in development and declined to be identified, said authorities threatened to make her disappear one day after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Darfur.

Security officials told Reuters people were being questioned and some had been detained but that it was a matter of security and not a reprisal for speaking to foreigners.

For their own good [wink]

In a related, and hardly surprising, development, the Arab League has announced it opposes sanctions in the Sudanese regime even if it refused to disarm the Janjaweed militias who are carrying out the genocide. The hypocrites pointed out that sanctions "would only result in negative effects for the whole Sudanese people and complicate the crisis in Darfur." I'd be curious to know what's more negative than mass murder.

In that light, it's hardly surprising that the old 'when it doubt, blame Israel' card has been played. Haaretz reports that the Sudanese regime has accused leaders of a rebel group in its western Darfur region were making regular visits to Israel and ties with the Jewish state had caused a split in rebel ranks. A rebel spokesman denied any link with Israel and said the charge was an attempt to stir up Muslim public opinion.

[World Press Review has a good essay entitled Why the Darfur Crisis Is Likely to Happen Again. Of course it is. The Darfur genocide heated up at the same time as the world was saying piously 'Never Again' at 10th anniversary commemerations for the Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan genocide itself started less than a year after the Holocaust Museum opened in Washington, to similiar platitudes of 'Never Again.']

Friday, August 06, 2004

Focus on: Guinea

Guinea [aka Guinea-Conakry] is a country with a special place in my heart. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the country for two years in the mid-90s. Despite having been away for over 7 years, I still follow the country's affairs pretty closely since obviously all my Guinean friends still live there. The country is not doing well right now. The government of Gen. Lansana Conté is old and tired and corrupt. Having been in power for over 20 years, the regime is sclerotic, paralyzed by internal divisions and hamstrung by its refusal to countenance dialogue with the opposition. The general was head of a military regime for his first nine years so it's barely surprising he doesn't tolerate dissent well.

His first prime minister, appointed in 1996, is now an opposition leader (who was thrown in jail for, but acquitted of, plotting to overthrow Conté). His third prime minister, who resigned a few months ago because he wasn't allowed to do his job, is now consulting with opposition figures. The first National Assembly president, who helped found the ruling PUP party, denounced torture and other exactions carried out in Conté's name and became a de facto opposition figure even while he was still head of the legislature. Notice a trend here?

The general is old and sick with reported diabetes. The political situation will likely be paralyzed until he dies, though no one's sure if that will be followed by a defrosting of the political climate or chaos. There is constitutional successor, the new National Assembly president, is also head of the ruling party but he is contested from other elements of the PUP. The opposition is perpetually ineffectual and divided.

Essentially, everything remains to be seen

Food riots broke out in the capital Conakry in early July. Rice, the country's staple food, has exploded in price. According to L'Intelligent, the price of a bag of rice in Conakry exploded; in six months, the cost went from 27,000 Guinean francs to over 60,000 (from about US$13 to $29); though it's higher in other parts of the country in the interior.

Inflation is skyrocketing at 10.3%, according to the magazine (13% according to the UN). The CFA franc (FCFA*) was worth 2.4 Guinean francs (FG) in 2002. Last month, it was worth 5 FG. Over the last 15 years, rice and other staple-foods have seen a six-fold price-rise, while salaries for civil servants have stayed at the same level, notes the UN's IRIN service.

(*The FCFA is common currency for most of Guineans neighbors and much of West Africa)

The food situation was aggravated when it was learned that some local government officials were accused of stealing subsidised rice which was meant to be sold cheaply though local government offices to [Conakry's] poor, according to IRIN. The West African country once exported large quantities, but today its eight million people - especially the two million inhabitants of Conakry - are heavily dependent on imports.

The cost of rice is heavily subsidized by the government, but the regime's foreign currency reserves have collapsed in part because...

In late June, the World Bank halted loan disbursements to the Guinean government. The IMF also suspended Guinea's participation in its heavily indebted poor country program, designed to promote poverty reduction. Exiting donors have deplored bad governance, lack of transparency in the management of public expenses, corruption and improper economic practices. The European Union halted its direct-to-government aid program for similiar reasons and French Cooperation as well.

Former Guinean Prime Minister, Francois Fall, severely denounced those practices when he resigned in May, after just two months in the job. From the safety of exile in France, Fall was later highly critical of President Lansana Conte and accused him of blocking attempts at political and economic reform.

Fall particularly complained that Conte, a former army colonel who came to power in a 1984 coup, was an obstacle to economic reform, renegotiation of external debt and the prospects of launching a new dialogue with the European Union.

"[At least half of the Guinean budget comes from external loans, and most of the payments have been suspended so far," a World Bank official noted.

IRIN pointed out:

Public investment in local services, including hospitals, has failed to materialise over the past year, said government officials in both Conakry and the outer provinces.

In the remote Forest Region, in southern Guinea, the last public investment in hydraulic and electric services or highway infrastructures was in 1961. Since then, the population of the region has increased by five.

In addition to the many domestic problems caused by bad governance, Guineans face troubles aggravated by foreign conflicts. An influx of idle gunmen from [neighboring] Liberia since the country's civil war ended in August last year has made the situation in the [southeastern] Forest Region even more tense... diplomats and aid workers have long worried that the Region Forestiere is a powder keg waiting to explode.

[This is the region I lived in :-(]

Guinea's entire southern frontier borders Sierra Leone and Liberia, countries who spent most of the 1990s in the midst of two of Africa's most savage civil wars. Cross border incursions have caused a lot of damage and destroyed several Guinean villages, including one of a very close friend of mine. In the mid-90s, Guinea hosted some 500,000 refugees from the two conflicts, which gave it, at the time, the largest refugee population in Africa. This had devastating effects on both the economy and the environment of the refugee-heavy areas.

Adding to this is a huge influx of Guineans living abroad fleeing the civil war in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire

(Yes, Guinea's in a tough neighborhood. In the last 15 years, every single one of Guinea's six neighbors have had a total civil war or some lower intensity armed conflict. Guinea hasn't. Yet. Let's hope it stays that way.).

Between 75,000 to over 100,000 Guineans fled Cote d’Ivoire following a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment after a period of civil war between September 2002 and December 2003, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, notes IRIN.

Most of the returnees found shelter in tired-out local communities in the thickly wooded part of southern Guinea known as Guinee Forestiere, which includes the prefecture of Nzerekore.

In the communities along the border, returnees make up about eight percent of the total population, said OCHA. Of these, 50 percent are children, and their presence is placing particular strain on education services, especially in the smaller villages, they said.


While the increased population has put a strain on resources, incomes have also taken a battering as cross border trade has slumped.

“Before the coup in Cote d’Ivoire, trade between both countries was abundant,” Colonel Lamine Bangoura, the governor of the Region Forestiere, told IRIN.

“But now the trade has almost stopped and because we host all these people, we’re short of basic food and livestock,” he added.

Areas along the borders experienced close ties to the communities on the other side. Traders and agro-pastoral farmers attended markets on either side of the borders to buy and sell their mainly agricultural goods.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Darfur: damned if you do, damned if you don't [essay]

Earlier, I condemned the UN Security Council's decision to remove the mere threat of sanctions against the Sudanese regime of Gen. Omar al Bashir if they failed to stop helping the genocide in their eastern region of Darfur. The resolution would've imposed sanctions only after giving Khartoum a full month to act. A full month to act on the promises they made a full month before that to visiting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It's hardly surprising that the tighly controlled media in Sudan was able to whip up nationalistic fervor. State TV urged people to come out to a demonstration to protest against western intervention in Darfur. Despite the fact that the resolution that was approved didn't even threaten sanctions, let alone military intervention.

Yet even a letter writer to the BBC World Service's Focus on Africa program, a Ghanaian living in Nigeria, found the modest expression of concern by the Security Council to be too much. He writes:

I am not happy with the Security Council's decision to 'sanction' the Sudanese government if it fails to act 'quickly' within 30 days.

Sanction!Sanction!!Sanction!!! Why economic sanctions? This is not the way out, it is a hasty and unwise decision.

The people are hungry, and sanctions will make everything so much worse.

This is a classic example of how, when it comes to Africa, the west is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. The US was widely criticized for NOT intervening in the Liberian conflict last year, despite being begged to do so both by the former Liberian dictator and indicted war criminal Charles Taylor AND by the rebels.

Many Africans were furious at what they saw as a double standard: invading Iraq allegedly to "liberate" Iraqis from the nightmare of Saddam Hussein, but refusing to intervene in Liberia, at a tiny fraction of committment, in a place where they were invited by all sides. Yet when the US was pushing a more modest course of action in Sudan, sanctions, it's too much. Even amongst ordinary citizens in sub-Saharan Africa.

I understand why the apologists-for-autocrats crowd in Africa loves Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. But why the affection for the Sudanese dictatorship that has not only supported genocidal militias killing black Africans, but countenanced Arab slavery of black Africans in the south of the country. Maybe it's less about Mugabe and Bashir and more about George W. Bush and Tony Blair. Maybe

Maybe the African intelligentsia is so blinded by their reflexive hatred of anything done by London or Washington (or Paris), that they'll tolerate horrific atrocities. I guess massacres of black Africans are ok so long as the US or British governments aren't involved.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Focus on: Cote d'Ivoire

Note: I'm going to try a new format, which may hopefully encourage me to post more often. Since press reviews take a long time to compile. Instead, I will try focusing on one country per entry.

Under heavy pressure from a dozen African leaders and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the leaders of the rival factions in Cote d'Ivoire have agreed to a new timetable to put the country's faltering peace process back on track, with the aim of starting a disarmament programme on 15 October, reports the UN's IRIN news service.

The announcement is certainly not a bad thing, but I am not exactly jumping for joy just yet. IRIN noted that the agreement committed them to enacting all the political reforms demanded by the French-brokered Linas-Marcoussis peace agreement of January 2003 by the end of August of this year.

Basically, they promised to respect the agreement they signed last year. If they haven't respected it in the last year and a half, I'm not going to bet the farm that their word is suddenly going to become golden.

Jonathan, over at The Head Heeb, is rightly skeptical. In Cote d'Ivoire, as in other parts of the world, such agreements depend on a degree of trust and goodwill that often doesn't exist, and often fall apart when one or both sides delay fulfilling their commitments, attempt to add last-minute conditions or accuse each other of bad faith.

Though Jonathan adds something I take issue with. If anything, this tendency is even more pronounced in Cote d'Ivoire, where the government must answer to a powerful rejectionist opposition. The need for full-time international involvement in peace agreements is often greatest after they have been brokered, and if the UN turns its attention elsewhere now that the deal has been signed, I'm not hopeful that it will hold.

I'm not saying there isn't some truth to his assertion, but it obscures the troubling tendencies within the government and President Gbagbo's allies, including the so-called Young Patriots militias and the vicious press. Gbagbo's FPI party and its cohorts have eagerly adopted the xenophobic Ivoirité initiated by the former ruling PDCI they so long combatted.

If anything, the opposition's "rejectionism" is based on a well-founded fear of a Rwanda redux, the precursors to which are already quite evident.

IRIN also passed along a report by the International Crisis Group on the war in Cote d'Ivoire. ICG concluded that The political impasse is exceptionally lucrative for almost everyone except ordinary citizens. Today's political actors have found that war serves as an excellent means of enrichment, and they may be ill-served by the restoration of peace and security.

The ICG also pleaded for the international community to investigate the criminal politico-economic networks that make impasses such an attractive option for the political class adding that The massive amounts of money skimmed from the world's biggest cocoa crop have always constituted a slush fund for the government, giving its leaders effective independence from the normal processes of raising and spending funds by state institutions.

Much of the rhetoric of division and ethno-nationalist hatred on both sides of the conflict is highly theatrical and a cover for illicit economic gain the ICG said. Until the financial motivation of maintaining the impasse is addressed, there is little hope that the situation in Cote d'Ivoire will change, or even that elections will take place in October 2005.

UN human rights experts have uncovered three mass graves packed with at least 99 bodies in the northern town of Korhogo where heavy clashes between rival rebel factions took place in June, the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire (ONUCI) said, according to IRIN.

The dead were killed during clashes between two factions of the main rebel New Forces

"The existence of these mass graves prove that UN peacekeepers must be deployed rapidly around the country, both in the north and the south, to ensure the protection of all people," said a rebel spokesman.

Last May, the government of President Laurent Gbagbo was severely criticised by a UN human rights investigation for its bloody repression of a banned opposition demonstration in the commercial capital Abidjan on March 25.