Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gay apartheid

I've written before about anti-gay McCarthyism in Nigeria. A few years ago, the federal government wanted to ban all free speech that argued in favor of gays as human beings. Specifically, legislation would "punish individuals who witness, celebrate with or support couples involved in homosexual relationships" with a 5 year prison term.

And then I read something in Wikipedia that sounded nearly identical to what the Nigerian federal government proposed.

An entity enacted a law that stated:

"Any person...who shall be guilty of printing, publishing or circulating printed, typewritten or written matter urging or presenting for public acceptance or general information, arguments or suggestions in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between [two groups], shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fine not exceeding five hundred (500.00) dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months or both."

The entity was the US state of Mississippi.

The two groups in question about which it was illegal to ARGUE that there should be any equality between them were blacks and whites.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reconciliation in Sierra Leone

The English version of Le monde diplomatique has a really interesting article on the dynamics of post-conflict reconciliation as it relates to Sierra Leone. Not at the macro/national level but community by community

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Friday, March 28, 2008

AU invades Anjouan

One of the less publicized military operations was the recent invasion of Anjouan. The island, which is the second largest in Comoros archipelago, had been run as a breakaway state since last year by Col. Mohamed Bacar.

In a somewhat controversial move, South African president Thabo Mbeki opposed it, the African Union approved a plan to invade Anjouan to return it to federal control. A coalition of Sudanese and Tanzanian troops along with Comoroan federal soldiers ejected Bacar, who fled to the nearby French territory of Mayotte (and has since fled again to another French island Réunion).

Some criticized the operation as trying to mask the continental body's inability to deal with far more serious crises in places like Darfur and Somalia. Surely the presence of Sudanese troops in the mission was intended to suck up to the AU.

"The Comoros is an African country and it's part of the responsibility of the AU to resolve the crisis. Just because it's a small country doesn't take anything away from the success of the AU," said Akuei Bona Malwal, an AU spokesman and a representative of... the Sudanese junta.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Somalia's 'grim future'

I've pointed out before how badly the situation in Somalia has deteriorated since the US-backed Ethiopian 'liberation'. Presently 20,000 people are fleeing the capital Mogadishu every week while 2,000,000 people in the country are dependent on daily food aid.

And yet, aid agencies warn that the humanitarian catastrophe risks getting much worse.

"There are no signs of improvement on the ground, and those who are suffering the brunt of the conflict are the civilians, who are being either killed or displaced, and are in the middle of suffering that is unacceptable," said a spokesman for the UN refugee agency.

"In terms of child malnutrition, access to education, lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities, indeed the situation in Somalia is the worst in the world... to be a child in Somalia today is something that means lots of suffering and a grim future," he continued.

The warning comes ahead of a UN Security Council meeting to consider sending 27,000 peacekeepers to Somalia to replace the stretched African force.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The Washington Post has a good piece on Chinua Achebe and how he became the father of modern African literature.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Forced marriage: now a crime against humanity

Radio Netherlands' fantastic The State We're In reported on an intriguing story that I had not been aware of. The Special Court for Sierra Leone has ruled that forced marriage is now a crime against humanity.

The Special Court's chief prosecutor David Crane explained, "The main thing we hope to accomplish is to tell their story and have this established as a matter of law that these crimes were committed and that individuals were responsible. We hope to establish a precedent and indeed a deterrent to others, against committing the same kind of crimes."

This analysis by the Global Policy Forum points out that forced marriage by Sierra Leone rebels was not merely part of some cultural custom, not that this would excuse the practice in anyway. But rather, kidnaping women and forcing them to marry, raping them repeatedly and forcing them to bear children was an established part of the rebels' strategy.

Women were threatened with death if they tried to escape, Crane said, and some were scarred with the initials "RUF" cut into their bodies, putting the women further at risk if they were captured by government soldiers or allied militia, who would think they were rebels.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Niger's assault on freedom of the press

Radio Netherlands' very good Media Network blog reports that authorities in Niger have taken Radio France Internationale off the air for three months.

The suspension was provoked by a day of solidarity organized by the broadcaster in support of its Niamey correspondent Moussa Kaka. An RFI reporter in the country since 1993, Kaka has been imprisoned since September 2007 for having been in contact with Tuareg rebels in northern Niger. Contact that RFI rightly calls "a necessary part of his work as a journalist."

Amnesty International has called Kaka a political prisoner.

Note: You can sign a petition calling for Moussa Kaka's release by emailing

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Toxic waste disaster in Mombasa

In an incident that brought back unfortunate memories of a similar disaster in Abidjan, the BBC has a disturbing report on an apparent toxic waste spill in Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city.

Hundreds of residents claim that they started to become sick after a consignment of leaking chemical containers was dumped nearby.

Others have complained of breathing difficulties, stomach upsets and chest pains, including the BBC journalist who went to the area to report on the story. Two residents said they had miscarriages.

Two people have been arrested and charged in the incident. The World Service's Focus on Africa program reported that they belonged to a Ugandan company.

An editorial
in Nairobi's Business Daily urges the country's National Environment Management Authority to be more pro-active in preventing such disasters in the first place. Noting that the area is being subjected to the ongoing dumping of electronic waste such as obsolete computers, televisions, mobile phones, and other used electronic equipment exported from USA and Europe.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Genociders offended by deaths

No, this is not a story from The Onion.

According to the BBC, the Sudanese dictatorship wants $40,000 compensation for four Arab nomads killed when a grenade went off as they tried to retrieve the body of a French peacekeeper.

Quips Mike, a reader of this blog: "I understand Khartoum are going to pay a similar sum for each Darfuri killed...."

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sierra Leone ex-child soldiers

The English version of Le Monde diplomatique has a good piece exploring how former child soldiers from Sierra Leone's civil war are being re-integrated into society.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The dynamics of food aid

The IRIN has a piece analyzing how the dynamics of food aid and the role of NGOs may change if the price of food keeps rising.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Eritrean opposition starts broadcasts

Radio Netherlands' Media Network blog reports that a coalition of opposition exiles have launched radio broadcasts against the regime of Eritrean dictator Isaias Afewerki. Not surprisingly, the broadcasts emanate from Ethiopia, specifically the country's northern Tigray region.

The coalition also recently started television broadcasts based out of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

They denied that the Ethiopian government had any role in the broadcasts.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

24 Somali casualties as US targets one terrorist

Despite what you might think, Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only countries that the United States is meddling in militarily. President Bush felt that American national security would be harmed if he didn't order a bombing raid on a small village in southern Somalia.

The target, according to a Bush spokesman, was a 'known al-Qaeda terrorist.'

A terrorist (singular).

The raid killed four and wounded 20.

It is unclear if any of the 24 casualties were actually the alleged terrorist (singular) in question.

Just click your heels and intone, "They hate us because we're free."

This is at least the second US bombing raid against Somalia in a year.

The situation in Somalia had stabilized a bit after the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) took control of most of the country in 2006.

But the humanitarian situation deteriorated significantly since an US-backed Ethiopian aggression overthrew the UIC in late 2006.

An occupation which, the Ethiopians promised, would only last a month or two.

Last month, the UN called Somalia the worst place in the world for children.

But it's hardly surprising that Ethiopian-occupied Somalia is a disaster, since the Addis Ababa regime stands accused of Darfur-like atrocities in its own territory.

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Monday, March 03, 2008


Deutsche Welle's Inspired Minds program had an interview with Prince Kum' a Ndumbe III, a Cameroonian poet, playwright and scholar living in Europe. After studying in Germany and France, he decided to devote his life to "the uplifting and rehabilitation of African culture."

The scholar created a foundation, called AfricAvenir, devoted to this cause.

Their website, which has news in English, French and German, is definitely worth a look... although some of the internal links don't appear to work.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The end of La Françafrique?

In a visit to South Africa earlier this week, French president Nicolas Sarkozy promised then end of La Françafrique. Members of Sarkozy's government have made similar comments.

Sarkozy also promised to engage with the entire continent, not just traditional French spheres of influence.

But his promise to end La Françafrique is most significant. The term was coined by the late Ivorian leader Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Although Houphouët apparently used it in a positive sense, the term has come to refer to French neo-colonialism in Africa.

To that end, Sarkozy promised to make public all of France's military agreements with African countries.

Promises are a dime a dozen so it will be interesting to see if France's policies toward Africa change in any meaningful way. It's hard to believe that 50 years of patronizing, bullying and exploitative behavior is going to change quickly... if at all.

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