Thursday, January 24, 2008

Football slavery

The BBC World Service's Assignment program has a documentary on how unscrupulous European clubs and agents prey on young African kids who dream of becoming professional soccer players and lure them into what is rightly described as 'football slavery.'

(The audio is here but will probably only be available at this link through next Wednesday.)

The UK Guardian ran an expose last year on the same scandal.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Peace deal signed to (hopefully) end deadliest conflict since WWII

A peace deal has been signed that will hopefully end the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The deal was signed by the DRC's government, the pro-government Mai Mai militia and dissident rebel chief Laurent Nkunda.

Some observers called the deal historic but others were skeptical.

Africa analyst Muzong Kodi at Chatham House in London told the BBC's Focus on Africa program that, "The underlying problem is the resource war and if any of the groups disband other groups are going to replace them."

Kodi added that impunity is another major obstacle.

The deal was signed a day after the International Rescue Committee estimated that war and its resulting chaos had caused some 5.4 million Congolese deaths in the last decade.

The IRC has concluded that there are 45,000 more deaths, every month, than would be expected from the average, already poor conditions in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.

Many of the deaths are caused by conditions like malaria, malnutrition and pneumonia, which are easily treatable... when public health infrastructure is available.

IRC noted that the DRC's vastness, it's the size of western Europe, exacerbated the astronomical death toll. In geographically smaller countries, aid agencies could better concentrate their efforts.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Nations Cup predictions

Just to ensure myself future embarrassment, here are my predictions for the African Nations Cup that opens today in Ghana. Though obviously I'm pulling for Guinea.

Advancing out of...
Group A: Ghana, Guinea
Group B: Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria
Group C: Egypt, Cameroon
Group D: Senegal, Angola

Ghana over Nigeria
Cameroon over Senegal
Egypt over Angola
Cote d'Ivoire over Guinea

Ghana over Cameroon
Egypt over Cote d'Ivoire

Ghana over Egypt

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Anti-gay witchhunt in Morocco

American theocrats aren't the only ones who whip up irrational homophobia (oops, that's redundant) for political ends. Reuters reports a half dozen Moroccan men were jailed for homosexual acts.

The six were arrested in late November after rumours spread that a party they had held in the northern town of Ksar el Kebir was really an illegal gay wedding. The national press pounced on the story, and Islamist groups condemned what they saw as an attack on public morals and demanded an official investigation. Hundreds of angry residents marched through Ksar el Kebir to demand "justice" and put pressure on the authorities to hand out harsh sentences.

All were sentenced to several months in prison. "We're also concerned for their safety," said Benedicte Goderiaux of Amnesty International, who declared them prisoners of conscience. "Some of them should get out of prison within about 15 days -- what will happen to them after all the public threats against them?"

A local journalist told Radio France Internationale that the public hysteria whipped up about this affair was a worrying sign, as Morocco had always been a conservative culture but had eschewed radical Islam. He noted that this might be changing as some Arab satellite channels being beamed into the country pound home more hardline Islamist messages.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

The real reason for Kenya's violence

This op-ed piece in The Christian Science Monitor explains "the real reason for Kenya's violence."

Hint: it's not "tribal."


Friday, January 11, 2008

Angola (allegedly) to hold first elections in 16 years

It looks like Angola is FINALLY going to hold elections late this year for the first time since 1992.

Having run Africa's second-largest oil producer since 1979, the MPLA party has repeatedly stalled elections ever since the end of the country's long civil war six years ago.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

More charges filed against Sam Nujoma; successor hits back

Interesting developments in a country that doesn't make the headlines very often.

The Namibian National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) has filed more charges for human rights violations with the International Criminal Court against the country's founding president Sam Nujoma.

The group says the abuses occurred during the country’ struggle for independence. The group said its action followed the advice from some international human rights groups and after supporters of former President Nujoma as well as partisans of the ruling SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization) party allegedly threatened staffers of the organizations with bodily harm, reports Voice of America.

NSHR chairman Phil Ya - Nangolo stated, "the Namibian government in particular the SWAPO party have launched attacks on us; issuing death threats, issuing orders of expulsion from this country, and this is a direct result of that [initial] submission we made to the court."

This, he said, provoked a second submission of accusations.

This was not well-received by the government, that is run by the SWAPO organization founded (and until a few months ago presided by) Nujoma.

National and party president Hifikepunye Pohamba attacked the NSHR. According to The Namibian newspaper, Pohamba said that THOSE who don't like Government protecting former President Sam Nujoma must 'pack up and go' and the State would happily give them one-way tickets.

The president said he felt 'embarassed' by the NSHR's actions, contending that Nujoma was a symbol of national unity and stability.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

African bloggers on Kenya

I've covered the Kenyan election controversy a little bit on my blog but others have done a much more extensive job. Sokari over at Black Looks has a list of some good ones.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Trial of the world's worst war criminal resumes

Yesterday marked the resumption in The Hague of the trial of Charles Taylor, someone largely responsible for destabilizing the much of West Africa. The barbarian who formerly held Liberia hostage* has been indicted on multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his widely assumed role in backing the heinous Sierra Leone rebel RUF during the 1990s.

*-Note: I know people whose lives were turned upside down by this scumbag and his drugged "men." So if you're looking for neutral, dispassionate analysis of the Taylor trial, this is not the place.

According to the prosecution, and most outside analyses at the time, Taylor armed, financed and trained the rebel army in exchange of diamonds.

Among the 144 witnesses to be called by the prosecution, 77 will be direct victims of the rebel crimes, eight will be experts and 59 will be called to testify the connection between Taylor and the crimes committed in Sierra Leone. Among them, will be "insiders", former associates of the warlords.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Aftermath of Kenyan clashes seen from space

How destructive have the clashes in Kenya been? So much so that their aftermath can apparently be seen from space!

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Guinean general strike to resume following executive power grab

Originally posted in Friends of Guinea's blog. Republished with permission.

There has been rioting in Guinea after the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté fired Communications Minister Justin Morel Jr.

Voice of America reported that Conté's New Years Day message attacked the government of Prime Minister Lansana Kouyaté, calling it a "disappointment."

However an analyst for the International Crisis group disagreed, saying that "[t]here has been some clear improvement in social services, water, electricity, and all these issues were really the core reason of the general strike and the massive demonstrations last year.".

Morel responded by telling state television that the words attributed to Conté were penned by extremists "nostalgic for a past that no longer exists."

Kouyaté and his cabinet were appointed after an agreement struck last year between Conté and labor unions in order to end a debilitating general strike.

Many inside Guinea are outraged by Morel's sacking by presidential decree, arguing that he was named minister via consensus and could only be sacked via the same method.

This is seen as only the latest move by the presidency to undermine Prime Minister Kouyaté's authority.

Last month, Conte signed a decree giving more control within the government to one of his closest allies, the presidency secretary-general, Sam Mamadi Soumah.

Guinéenews reported that Kouyaté's government threatened to resign if Conté's decree was not reversed.

Outraged by what it sees as Conté's betrayal of last year's deal and undermining of Kouyaté's authority, unions have called for a resumption of the nationwide general strike, starting on January 10.

"We are going to stage an unlimited general strike to force the government to respect these agreements," the secretary-general of the National Confederation of Guinean Workers (CNTG), Rabiatou Serah Diallo, told a news conference.
Earlier a union leader told Reuters: "This is a serious violation of the agreement which ended last year's crisis."

Officially, union leaders did not end last year's general strike following the power-sharing deal, but only suspended it.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Things fall apart

There's one thing that's become eminently clear during the last few days: neither Mwai Kibaki nor Raila Odinga deserved to serve as dogcatcher, let alone president of the Republic of Kenya.

Over 300 people have been killed in post-election violence. And the toll mounts daily.

Odinga and his party accused Kibaki of stealing the election. Kibaki's hasty inauguration to pre-empt legal challenges only gave further credence to the accusations that his 'victory' was a fraud.

Odinga and his followers were little better. Odinga chose to inflame the already volatile situation by comparing the election to the rape of Kenyans. Meanwhile, his supporters did something far worse: they torched a church where dozens of suspected Kibaki supporters had taken shelter. 30 people were killed in the blaze.

The massacre brought back eerie memories of the genocide in Rwanda, where such atrocities were frequent.

The two parties traded charges of genocide.

Certainly, the election should be re-run. As National Public Radio noted:

The head of the country's electoral commission, Samuel Kivuitu, said he had been pressured by both sides to announce the results quickly - and perhaps wrongly. The country's oldest newspaper, The Standard, on Wednesday quoted Kivuitu as saying, "I do not know whether Kibaki won the election."

But that is no excuse for plunging the country toward the abyss.

The ethnic communities have lived in peace with each other for decades. Intermarriages are common. The only time there's ever been any problems have been during elections. They've been betrayed by their misleaders.

Nearly every country that borders Kenya (Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia) has suffered through brutal civil war and/or genocide in the last quarter century. Despite this, Kibaki and Odinga seem willing to risk this in order to get/keep the intoxicating drug called power.

And sadly, far too many Kenyans seem willing to kill and die for these 'men' who have proven they are traitors to the Kenyan nation.

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