Thursday, November 30, 2006

Monsieur Touré goes to Washington

The Washington, DC-based Center for Global Development discusses the recent trip the US capital by Mali's president Amadou Toumani Touré.

The CGD is generally positive about President Touré's government. He certainly seems to have avoided the excesses of some of his neighbors (the intolerance toward opposition of Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade; the xenophobia of Cote d'Ivoire's ruling party).

Though one noter expresses the fear that Touré's no-party regime of national unity is largely built upon the fragile foundation of his personality and charisma rather than a coherent program designed to strengthen democratic institutions such as political parties and the national assembly.

In a region where power tends to be overly concentrated in the hands of the presidency, this is a key concern.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sierra Leone's 'tinderbox'

The UK Independent has a story on how the country, once so hopeful after the ending of a brutal civil war, is now 'like a tinderbox.'

Elections scheduled for the middle of next year but the incumbent president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah can not stand again. The vice-president will be his party's standard bearer and expected to win easily. But The Independent worringly reports that possibility of a coup was raised in newspapers last week when a young army private, Abdul Sesay, was arrested following the theft of an arms cache. Sesay, somehow, later escaped.

The paper also cites the trial of Sam Hinga Norman as another potential flashpoint. The former leader of the Kamajor militia is admired by some for the groups role in fighting the the infamous rebel RUF fanatics during the 1990s. The UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in the capital Freetown, has indicted Norman for war crimes.

And ending a war is easier than rebuilding a shattered country.

The last war was not just about control of resources. The long-standing one-party state fell apart, the education system collapsed and agricultural output fell dramatically. Radicalised young men, angry at the lack of opportunities, became easy prey for rebel leaders such as [former Liberian dictator and indicted war criminal] Taylor who persuaded them to take up arms.

In many ways, a brutal civil war like Sierra Leone's is like a national rape. The agony lasts well beyond the end of the actual violent acts. The emotional trauma far outlasts the disappearance of any physical effects. And the perpetrators too often go unpunished.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Power games

In COTE D'IVOIRE: A power struggle has erupted between President Laurent Gbagbo and Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny.

Gbagbo reinstated three senior civil servants suspended by Banny last month for their part in the dumping of toxic waste around Abidjan in September.

Banny replied that Gbagbo's action would bolster the culture of impunity in the country.

When the state broadcaster RTI ran the prime minister's statement, its director was sacked by the head of state.

The dispute was expected as Banny and his national unity government was essentially imposed on Gbagbo by the international community, since Gbagbo's constitutional mandate expired over a year ago. A recent United Nations Security Council resolution extended the president's mandate but gave some of his powers to the prime minister, but Gbagbo rejected the transfer of authority.


In MAURITANIA, a military coup may be bringing democracy to the country. At least that's the politically incorrect but apparently accurate opinion of a columnist in South Africa's Daily Mail and Guardian.


In the UNITED STATES: The daily Los Angeles Times ran an editorial urges the US Congress to renew a provision in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act that benefits the continent's nascent apparel industry. In 2004, the provision was re-authorized unanimously which is rare, especially for something in the textile industry which has a very strong lobby in Washington. The textile industry isn't opposing the measure, but a Congressional committee chairman is trying to tack unrelated goodies on to this provision.


At the INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE: Guinea has filed a lawsuit against the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the jailing and expulsion of a Guinean businessman, when he tried to recover debts. This happened during the last days of the Mobutu regime in then-Zaire.

The DRC replies that the businessman's companies were themselves part of the cycle of corruption that enveloped the country

The suit is for the inconceivably absurd amount of $36 billion.


In the SUDAN: The country's dictatorship continues to deny that his country is in any way supporting the Janjaweed militias who are executing a genocide in the eastern Darfur region. But a special advisor to the head of state says otherwise. Minni Minnawi accuses the regime of quite active cooperation with the Janjaweed. "They know, everybody knows that the government is re-arming the Janjaweed, that the Janjaweed are activated even more than before somehow," he said.


In the DR CONGO: The Daily Mail and Guardian reports that the eastern DRC near Goma has seen days of clashes between forces loyal to a dissident former general and the DRC's army that have killed at least three people. United Nations forces were drawn into the unrest yesterday.

A volcano erupted last night spewing lava into the region. The city of Goma is not threatened because another volcano is in its path.

Still, maybe the warlords in the area should consider it a warning from above.

But at least losing presidential candidate and (hopefully) former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba says he will accept defeat and become the civilian opposition leader. He will provide "strong republican opposition in the interests of the nation." Let's hope he means it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Chinese investment in Africa

Western investment in Africa is usually viewed with suspicion on the continent. This isn't neither surprising nor irrational considering history, both distant and recent. But in the last few years, it's China, more so than any other foreign country, that has shown a dramatically increased interest in Africa. This piece from the BBC's From Our Own Correspondent explores the phenomenon.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

More on the DRC elections

A followup to yesterday's post on the torching of the Supreme Court building in Kinshasa. TheMalau over at The Salon blog offers a much more nuanced and detailed analysis of the DR Congo elections and aftermath than I could ever provide.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bemba's hordes torch DRC Supreme Court building

I wrote earlier on the recent runoff presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A runoff won comfortably (58-42 percent) by the incumbent head of state Joseph Kabila. The losing candidate, former militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, rejected the victory claiming widespread fraud. This despite universal praise for the conduct of the United Nations-run election by international observers, who cited isolated irregularities that would not have affected the result considering Kabila's margin of victory. Bemba said he would "promise to use all legal means to ensure the will of our people is respected."

Apparently some the thugs in his camp never got the memo.

A mob of his supporters set on fire the DRC's Supreme Court building in the capital Kinshasa. Ironically, the Court was in session hearing LEGAL challenges by Bemba to election results.

Many Americans believe that Al Gore truly won the 2000 US presidential elections. Yet, even the most ardent Democrats did go off and burn the Supreme Court building, not even after the judicial body decreed Republican George W. Bush elected.

Apparently these delusional mobs believe that the DRC hasn't suffered enough division and that maybe a little more violence and disorder will save the country. If this is what Bemba's supporters believe, then thank God he didn't win the election.

I know these people are a small minority but until they start accepting the fact that democracy means your guy isn't going to win every time, then the DRC will have no future, regardless of who is president.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Al-Jazeera goes to Harare

Chippla's Weblog comments on the launching of al-Jazeera's English service.

Unlike many Americans, I've always respected al-Jazeera's mission. The channel essentially invented the concept of independent broadcasting in the Arab world. Certainly they were the first to do it on a wide scale. This is a region where state-controlled broadcast media remains the norm and all independent press outlets are tightly restricted by authoritarian regimes.

When criticizing al-Jazeera, many westerners focus only on stuff related to them: specifically verbal attacks on America and Israel and on al-Qaeda messages that pass on the station's airwaves. These westerners want free speech so long as it excludes the right to criticize them! Just as many of them want democracy in the Middle East unless that democracy produces a result that they don't like (Palestinian Authority).

But what al-Jazeera brought to the Arab political culture is the concept that bad leaders can be criticized in the media. This is a revolutionary concept that's critically important for anyone who wants a true democratic culture to implant itself in the Middle East.

Anyways, Chippla noted that al-Jazeera opened bureaus in five major African cities: Cairo (Egypt), Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire), Nairobi (Kenya), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Harare (Zimbabwe).

Like Chippla, I am surprised that they didn't open one in Lagos or Abuja, the economic and political capitals respectively of Africa's most populous country Nigeria. Especially since CNN opened one there five years ago. Then again, from everything I've heard, I'm not sure who would voluntarily choose to live in either city.

This is a smart decision by the broadcaster. Al-Jazeera English is obviously focusing its efforts on the developing world, which is largely ignored by their two main competitors: BBC World and CNN International, who are more centered around North America and western Europe. Al-Jazeera is smart to cater to an audience that feels underrepresented.

When I read the list, though, I couldn't help but wondering what sort of difficulties their reporters will have. Egypt has been in a "state of emergency" for the last 25 years, quite possibly the longest "state of emergency" ever maintained in any country not at war. Egypt is also a country where state insecurity agents attack journalists.

Zimbabwe has infamously banned foreign reporters from being in the country without permission from the regime of Robert Mugabe. And even the local journalists who do dare report the truth are often thrown in prison or otherwise harassed.

The choice of Harare is even more peculiar. The other cities on the list represent a fairly wide geographic coverage of the continent. But Harare isn't really that far from Johannesburg; South Africa and Zimbabwe are neighbors. Certainly a place like Lusaka (Zambia) or Kinshasa (DR Congo) would've made more sense. Libreville (Gabon) hosts the pan-African radio station Africa No. 1.

It makes me wonder if a network which wants to appeal to viewers in the developing world was offered some sort of deal with a Dictator that wants to be seen as some sort of hero to non-aligned types. I'm not sure if I really believe this and it's certainly against al-Jazeera's careully cultivated image of independence but the choice of Harare really doesn't seem to make any sense to me.

Chippla replied:

I do not think Al Jazeera would shy away from reporting fairly about the situation in Zimbabwe. Its first report from Harare looked at the influx of poorly skilled Zimbabweans into South Africa—not the sort of story Robert Mugabe, or other Zimbabwean ruling class members, would have wanted to hear.

Al Jazeera's Zimbabwe correspondent, Farai Sevenzo, is a Zimbabwean who has written extensively and produced documentaries on the situation in Zimbabwe in the past. I doubt he, or the Al Jazeera news team, would be silent about the reality of things on the ground in Zimbabwe.

Certainly the free press climate in many Arab countries al-Jazeera reports from isn't that much friendlier. But even with the best intentions, there's reason to be wonder if al-Jazeera really will be able to report freely from a country where journalists can face 20 years in prison for publishing news that the Leader doesn't like.

And there's surely plenty of that to go around in a country with a death rate higher than Darfur's or Iraq's.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Outside countries accused of destabilizing Somalia

An explosive UN report was released several days ago accusing ten different countries of arming the different warring parties in Somalia.

Syria, Iran, Eritrea, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia are accused of sending weapons to the fundamentalist Islamic Courts Unions. Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen are named as arming the internationally-recognized but weak Transitional National Government.

Ethiopia and Eritrea are named as the biggest violators of the arms embargo in Somalia, reports the BBC.

This is not surprising considering the long emnity between the two dictatorships. They are almost becoming the India and Pakistan of East Africa, though Lord help us if either ever gets nuclear weapons.

What's of further concern is evidence of detailed links between countries such as Iran, Syria and Lebanon and the Islamic Courts Union.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Coup attempt in Madagascar

Reports the BBC.

Bad news to be sure.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Death rate in Zimbabwe higher than in Darfur, Iraq or Lebanon

It's not news that Zimbabwe is falling apart thanks to Robert Mugabe's reign of terror. Most countries take decades to unravel slowly. But Mugabe's incompetence and malfeasance has accomplished that in six or seven years. The Independent reports that average life expectancy for Zimbabwean women has collapsed to only 34 years, the lowest female life expectancy in the world.

Speaking privately, WHO officials admitted to The Independent that the real number may be as low as 30, as the present figures are based on data collected two years ago.


The reasons for this plunge are several. Zimbabwe has found itself at the nexus of an Aids pandemic, a food crisis and an economic meltdown that is killing an estimated 3,500 people every week. That figure is more than those dying in Iraq, Darfur or Lebanon. In war-torn Afghanistan, where women's plight has received global attention, life expectancy is still above 40.

What makes this disaster more tragic and outrageous is that it's largely Mugabe-made. The economic and food crises are largely his fault thanks to his attacks on large industrial farmers, food producers who were also significant employers. The AIDS pandemic isn't necessarily his fault but his oppression and the economic crisis have forced large numbers of qualified medical professionals to flee the country.

Disgustingly, Mugabe retains a large degree of support not only among other African heads of state, but among many ordinary Africans.

In this simplistic dichotomy, anyone attacked by Tony Blair or George W. Bush is necessarily an anti-imperialist saint.

3500 black Zimbabweans are dying every single week because of Mugabe's policies. But Mugabe went after WHITE farmers in his land 'redistribution' program (ie: redistributed to his cronies). And Mugabe's 'liberation' movement (from the 1970s) went after white imperial rule.

As a result, Africa's so-called intelligentsia has largely given him a free pass. I can honestly say that few things enrage me more than when educated and normally reasonable Africans provide nothing more than shameless apologia for this guy.

Never mind that white farmers merely had to flee the country. The worst victims of Mugabeism, the dead and starving, are black.

The rhetorical imperative is to support the big guy against the little guy. Except in this unfathomable definition, the big guys are Blair and Bush, while the little guy is beleaguered but noble Mugabe. Even though Blair and Bush haven't done a damn thing to harm Zimbabweans.

In this twisted paradigm, the little guys aren't those who are starving. The little guys are those with the fancy European cars and fat Swiss bank accounts. This hypocrisy is nauseating.

It looks like 'liberated' Zimbabwe is fairing even worse than 'liberated' Iraq But non-aligned movement types attacked Bush over Iraq while continuing to ignore the statistically worse disaster in Mugabeland. If his misrule causing more deaths than a genocide won't turn Africa's elite against him, nothing will!

Many in the developing world rightly attack Bush for the carnage in Iraq or Israel for the destruction of southern Lebanon. But they laud the author of the even greater carnage in Zimbabwe as some heroic warrior.

Supporting Mugabe is nothing more than racist contempt for the lives of these black human beings. And yes, apologizing away Mugabe's destruction simply because his skin is black IS racist. It's not quite as profane as what Mugabe is doing to Zimbabweans, but close.

But with tragic symbolism, at least one profession is booming: undertakers.

A real nail in the country's coffin.

Friday, November 17, 2006

DRC presidential loser rejects results but may be offered governmental post

Dangerous doings in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of Africa's largest and most important countries. The incumbent head of state Joseph Kabila was declared the winner of the recent presidential runoff election with over 58% of the vote compared to nearly 42% for his rival Jean-Pierre Bemba. Kabila thus becomes the country's first elected leader since independence-era prime minister Patrice Lumumba, who was assassinated with connivance from western powers only a few months after taking power.

This time, the international community was instrumental in helping conduct what were universally considered the country's first free and fair elections since independence, as well as providing the world's largest UN peacekeeping mission.

The victory of young Kabila, who ascended to the post after the assassination of his father, was not surprising. Incumbents have an enormous advantage in African presidential elections because of name recognition and patronage. It was even more true in the DRC where Kabila was seen to represent stability.

Bemba, a former rebel leader who is vice-president in the current national unity government, has rejected Kabila's victory. This after having promised weeks ago to respect the election results even if he lost.

He claimed that a large number of ballots were cast by people outside the districts in which they were registered. The head of the independent electoral commission responded that this was because of the large poll workers who travelled to other parts of the country to actually conduct the election.

Observers consider it highly unlikely that fraud and errors occurred at such a large scale as to affect the result, considering Kabila's sixteen percent victory. Given all the international observers on the ground, could that many votes have been stolen without anyone noticing?

Bemba added, "I promise to use all legal means to ensure the will of our people is respected."

The key word here is 'legal.'

If he goes through the legal procedures and loses, will he respect the unfavorable outcome like US candidate Al Gore did in 2000?

Bemba's coalition calls itself 'The Union for the Nation.' Only time will tell if his group's real priority is national unity or selfish power at any cost. I've heard reports that Kabila may offer Bemba a high-ranking post, which would be a smart move considering the incumbent had very little support in the west of the country where the capital is located.

After the decade of savage war which followed 35 years of state rot, Bemba's choice, assuming he cares a whit about his country, is clear.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

South Africa ends anti-gay apartheid

(Crossposted from my other blog)

Yesterday, the South African parliament passed a bill that authorized same-sex state marriage. It becomes the first country in Africa and only one of a handful in the world to do so.

That it did so is unsurprising for two reasons. Last year, the country's high court ruled that the definition of marriage was unconstitutional. The South African constitution explicitly bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, the only constitution in the world to do so.

Furthermore, South Africa is governed by the African National Congress. The primary reason the ANC was formed was to fight against irrational bigotry. The movement spent decades combatting institutionalized, state-sponsored discrimination so that it would take this position is in continuing with its historic positions in favor of equal rights for all citizens.

Equal rights for gays are regularly denounced as a western concept. In the US, when someone doesn't have a real argument, they call a person or idea 'anti-American.' In Africa, when someone doesn't have a real argument, they use the generic insult 'un-African.' As though any one person has the singular right to define what is truly American or African.

Gay rights advocates contend that same-sex relationships were present in African cultures long before the arrival of westerners. It wasn't until the colonizers passed repressive anti-gay laws that there was a problem. In other words, homosexuality is not un-African. Homophobia is.

The questionably named African Christian Democratic Party's leader took a page out of Pat Robertson's book, insisting that those who voted in favor of equal rights for gays would face divine wrath.

While a government in 'backwards' Africa will legalize gay marriage, the president of 'civilized' America wants a constitutional amendment banning it.

South Africa isn't the only country in the world where 'traditionalists' oppose equal treatment by the government for all citizens.

Pakistan's national assembly recently voted to strengthen protections for women in the country's rape laws. Under old law, rape victims had to have four male witnesses to the crime - if not they faced prosecution for adultery.

Something which of course made it virtually impossible to prosecute such crimes.

In other words, if a women were raped in private or in small groups, she was punished for her crime of being a victim of violence.

Much like South Africa's pseudo-religious moralists, Pakistan's religious parties predicted the apocalypse. In true bizarro world fashion, one leader predicted that the 'bill will turn Pakistan into a free-sex zone.'

Even though the reality would be the opposite, since sex via rape would actually be punished.

I don't oppose tradition. I'm actually a fairly conservative person in my personal conduct. I believe you shouldn't just snap your fingers and change things simply for the purpose of doing what happens to be in vogue at the current time. There's enough of that going around in my town, people believing that change and progress are inherently synonymous. That's why we have representative democracy instead of direct democracy. Any social change should be the result of thorough discussion, otherwise it will not last, nor will it run deep. You can't legislate how people feel (though you can legislate how the government should act). But that doesn't mean that nothing should ever change.

There was a time when 'tradition' forbade marriages between people of different 'races' (ie: skin color). There was a time when 'tradition' forbade women from voting. Neither were considered full-fledged American citizens for a long time. Maybe anti-gay bigotry and small group rapes are the 'traditions' that are long overdue to be challenged.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

African 'orature'

Radio Netherlands' English service has a good documentary (and extensive accompanying dossier) on the African oral storytelling tradition.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Half a Yellow Sun

A book getting a lot of press lately in the western literary press is Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

The novel chronicles the lives of three people caught up in the Biafran Civil War that tore apart Nigeria in the late 1960s. The title refers to the ill-fated Republic of Biafra's flag.

Canada's CBC has a good piece on the book.

Mother Jones magazine has a long interview with the author.

The official site of the book is worth a look too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Conté threatens to stay until 2010

There have long been rumors of tension between those generally seen as the two most powerful men in Guinea: the country's richest businessman Mamadou Sylla and the Fodé Bangoura, who is a top aide to the head of state Gen. Lansana Conté and generally seen to be the de facto head of the government. A few weeks ago, Sylla was indicted for 'complicity to steal public funds' for the amount equivalent to US$2.5 million. Sylla had been nicknamed the 'PUP's money man,' referring to the ruling Parti de l'unité et du progrès (sic) but he seems to have come out on the short end of the power struggle provoked by Conté's long and incapacitating illness.

Speaking of the ailing head of state, he recently gave an extremely rare interview with Agence France Press and Radio France Internationale journalist Mouctar Bah and Le Monde's Serge Michel. He reiterated his desire to finish his current term, which ends in 2010 (he took power in a 1984 military coup). He also lambasted his archenemy Charles Taylor, insisting that the former Liberian dictator 'deserves to be shot.' Though Conté opined that Taylor was a 'poor guy that was manipulated by whites against his own people.'

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

ONE blog

I know some Africans and Africophiles have problems with the ONE campaign, but I don't. Anything that pushes westerners to look at the broader world is just fine in my book. I've been informed that the ONE campaign has a blog. Here it is.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ethiopia's top judge flees country

I knew the regime in Ethiopia was bad. From censorship to outright massacres.

But it's not just bloggers, journalists and opposition figures who have much to fear. Even the president of the Supreme Court has fled Meles Zenawi's dictatorship, even comparing it to its infamous predecessor: Mengitsu's Derg.

"The difference is these guys [Meles' regime] are wise... These people kill whoever they feel like and then ask: 'Who killed them?'", he said.

And he's right. These guys are wiser. Meles and his accomplices have avoided the anti-western rhetoric used by Robert Mugabe. That's why he hasn't attracted a fraction of the international condemnation of Zimbabwe's thug-in-chief.

Meles learned an important lesson: if you temper your propaganda, you can get away with a lot more.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Africa's 'watershed' year

The Christian Science Monitor's Chris Hennemeyer describes the year 2006 as a 'watershed' for Africa. It might be hard to wax eloquent about a year in which not only is there a genocide going on, but one that's getting worse. But Hennemeyer notes that there has been positive movement in several protracted conflicts, such as those in the reconstruction of southern Sudan, peace talks for northern Uganda a peace deal in Burundi, rebuilding in Liberia and landmark elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Abu Ghraib worse than Darfur?

BBC News online has an interesting discussion between Professor Eric Reeves and journalist Gamal Nkrumah on the Darfur genocide. Reeves argues for international action and Nkrumah against it. Of course, reading Nkruamah's comments, you'd have no idea that genocide was taking place there. In fact, you'd have no idea anything bad was taking place there, at least nothing out of the ordinary for a conflict zone. You'd have no idea that tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and over a million displaced. You'd have no idea because his primary focus is on attacking the west.

I agree that an uninvited UN military intervention in Darfur would do more harm than good. I believe that any intervention of this would have to have an overwhelming likelihood of improving the situation. Going in against the will of the regime would ignite Sudanese nationalism and pan-Arabism. The resulting backlash would be even more bloody that what's going on now. Iraq has taught us about war almost always unleashes the law of unintended consequences

But Gamal Nkrumah could've taken other Arab regimes to task for refusing to condemn the genocide in Darfur or pressure the regime in Khartoum, but that he didn't is hardly surprising. He barely said anything about the violence himself. Instead, he bends over backward to minimize what's going on there, implying that it's merely the chaos of a war zone.

I am appalled by the Bush administration's foreign policy as most people of the world and I've expressed this countless times. But how can anyone be taken seriously who is outraged about torture (Abu Ghraib) but virtually silent about state-sponsored mass killing?

Sadly, I think too many sympathetic to the non-aligned movement are outraged by anything said or implied by any western country but virtually silent by anything DONE by any non-western country. The mentality is that anything non-western is pure and authentic, simply by virtue of being non-western. It's colonialist white supremacy stood on its head.

This self-delusion blinds millions of people around the world to great evil being perpetrated. The aggression against Iraq is a crime. But it's not the only state crime being committed in the world. Neo-imperialism is wrong but it's not the only wrong. And just because a non-western regime criticizes the US or Britain for Iraq doesn't give them blanket immunity for their own atrocities.

It's a disgrace that Nkrumah is more worried about oil than human beings.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

'Two bald men fighting over a comb'... again

There are persistent fears that one assinine war between Ethiopia and Eritrea wasn't enough for the misleaders of the two countries, a conflict likened to 'two bald men fighting over a comb.' UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is afraid that a second insanity might erupt between the two former allies.

Annan said UN officials are "doing whatever we can to bring the two parties together" but have not able to get the nations to cooperate with each other.

But ultimately, outsiders can do little if there is no desire for peace from the belligerent parties. And whether that will exists is seriously questioned.

The regime in Asmara is one of the most autocratic on the continent. And many fear its sole purpose is to destabilize the region. Notes the weekly Economist:

Eritrea's increasingly totalitarian regime has become a regional menace; its foreign policy now appears to comprise nothing more than to support any enemy of Ethiopia's, no matter the cost.

Tthe government in Addis Ababa is also increasingly out of control. A report was released recently accusing them of massacring 200 opposition protesters following this year's controversial elections.

The Ethiopians are universally believed to have sent troops into neighboring Somalia. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has overtly stated that his country is 'technically' at war with the Islamic Courts movement that control most of Somalia.

Ethiopia is a country where 10.4 million people are dependent on food aid out of a population of over 74 million.

So 14 percent of Ethiopians are dependent on outside aid to eat but the regime is looking to spend its meager resources on war with not one, but two neighbors.

If this is not criminal, I don't know what is.