Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The role of women in Rwandan politics

The Rwanda Project of the Hunt Alternatives Fund has some interesting literature on its work in that country. The project particularly focuses on enabling females to more fully participate in society. It notes that since the 1994 genocide, Rwandan women have made remarkable contributions to rebuild their society. They also made unprecedented political gains, achieving near parity in the legislature's lower chamber.

It notes that female parliamentarians in the country have drafted the only substantive bill to emerge from the legislative rather than the executive branch, a far-reaching law to combat gender-based violence; spearheaded efforts to eliminate discrimination and enhance human rights protections; and fostered cross-party and male-female collaboration through the Forum of Rwandan Women Parliamentarians and by involving men in efforts to craft legislation.

The website includes reports on women's involvement in defending the rights of children, promoting anti-domestic violence legislation and supporting female participation in local politics.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Liberia's timber industry reborn

The IRIN has a story on the resumption of Liberia's logging industry.

The industry had come under serious scrutiny under the former dictatorship of Charles Taylor when the warlord was diverting logging revenues to himself rather than the treasury and using these funds to finance his ambitions of regional destabilisation. Logging company militias also became private armies, according to Global Witness.

The UN subsequently prohibited timber exports from the country, a ban that was recently lifted.

A World Bank expert estimated that logging could provide up to 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

A spokesman for the Liberian government’s Forestry Development Authority said logging companies will be made to sign social agreements with local communities to help fund development needs such as schools, health centers and roads.

Hopefully these agreements will actually be honored.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 28, 2008

DR Congo 'peacekeepers' plundering resources and arming thugs

A year and a half long BBC investigation uncovered serious corruption in the world's largest peacekeeping mission. It revealed that Indian and Pakistani peacekeepers in MONUC, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, armed militias and smuggled gold and ivory.

Furthermore, the BBC reported on a coverup within the international body.

The UN investigated some of the claims in 2007, but said it could not substantiate claims of arms dealing. UN insiders told the BBC's Panorama they had been prevented from pursuing their inquiries for political reasons, it reported.

Pakistan and India are two of the three largest contributors of manpower to UN peacekeeping, providing between them over 22 percent of the international body's peacekeepers.

The allegations come a few years after an earlier scandal where MONUC soldiers were accused of rampant sexual violence in the country.

The rationale for arming militias was that MONUC troops basically co-opted them to help ensure security in areas where they (the militias) were powerful. This isn't really much different than the US strategy in Occupied Iraq and will probably lead to similarly disastrous consequences.

No word on what was the justification for naked plundering.

It's hard enough being an American who's an unabashed internationalist and believes in the concept of the UN and the international community, without having crap like this happen. The allegations are bad enough. The shameful coverup, however typical it may be of large bureaucracies, only further degrades the global body's reputation.

Things are bad enough in this cursed country without the 'helpers' making things worse.

Update: It's ironic that this foreign corruption scandal erupted at a time when the Congolese themselves are reportedly trying hard to change the country's culture of graft.

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 25, 2008

World Malaria Day


Today is World Malaria Day, a day designed to publicize international efforts to combat one of the world's leading (non-man made) causes of death.

Click here to learn more.

On a personal note, I fortunately never contracted malaria when I lived in West Africa but I knew many people who did. Fortunately none of them died, but it's a very debilitating condition and pretty much renders you useless. Even if it doesn't kill the infected, it can severe brain damage if untreated.


Monday, April 21, 2008

'Neutral' Chinese prop up Mugabe's terror

It's now more than three weeks that Bob Mugabe and his lemmings have been trying to steal the clear victory of President-elect Morgan Tsvangarai in Zimbabwe's elections.

Apparently, Tsvangarai's victory was so convincing that Mugabe's cronies can't simply rig it with a straight face. For a regime that cares so little about international opinion, this shows how overwhelming the opposition leader's victory really was.

But the assault by Mugabe's ZANU-PF cult is more than just theft. It's an all out war against Zimbabweans.

The one-time 'liberation movement' is setting up torture camps in order to beat, torture, and intimidate opposition activists and ordinary Zimbabweans, according to victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch.

HRW spokeswoman Georgette Gagnon also slammed the southern African regional grouping SADC and its mediator, South African president Thabo Mbeki. “The SADC and President Mbeki have completely failed Zimbabweans, and are allowing ZANU-PF to commit horrific abuses,” she said. “The African Union should assume responsibility for protecting civilians from rising violence, and ending the political impasse before Zimbabwe sinks deeper into disaster.”

This is the same Mbeki who's not only Mugabe's chief regional apologist, but whose government allowed an arms shipment from China into Zimbabwe to help facilitate Mugabe's war against Zimbabweans.

The ZANU-PF criminals are targetting humanitarian operations in perceived opposition strongholds.

But China's involvement* in Zimbabwe is not limited to arming Mugabe's death squads.

According to reports, Chinese soldiers have been seen on the streets of Zimbabwe.

This would not be the first time that Mugabe turned to the military of an Asian dictatorship to commit politicide.

[*-Note: Yes, this is the same China that regularly brags about its non-interference in African domestic politics.]

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, April 18, 2008

Aimé Césaire: 1913-2008

Legendary poet Aimé Césaire died yesterday at the age of 94.

Césaire helped give rise negritude movement of black consciousness in the early half of the 20th century.

His most famous works were Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (Cahier d'un retour au pays natal) and Discourse on Colonialism (Discours sur le colonialisme).

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

SA allows arm shipment for Mugabe's campaign of terror

Two and a half weeks after Morgan Tsvangarai was elected president in Zimbabwe, the Mugabe-appointed electoral commission has refused to release even preliminary results.

As much as two weeks ago, President-elect Tsvangarai warned that outgoing strongman Bob Mugabe and his cronies would attack their fellow Zimbabweans. Tsvangarai predicted that the so-called war veterans, which are nothing more than otherwise unemployed criminal gangs of youths, were being prepared to wage "a war on the people".

Now evidence has been revealed to show that to the surprise of no one, President-elect Tsvangarai was probably right. A large arms shipment from China destined for Zimbabwe (a country at war with any of its neighbors) was unloaded in South Africa. China, as you may recall, has also been accused of arming the genociders in Sudan.

The government of South African President Thabo Mbeki, Mugabe's chief regional apologist, has vowed that it wouldn't 'interfere' with the shipment.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Majority rule for Zimbabwe!

It's been over two weeks since opposition leader Morgan Tsvangarai was elected president of Zimbabwe. In that time, the ruling ZANU-PF mafia have been trying to rig results so preserve their rule and that of dictator Bob Mugabe. But what was expected to be a simple rigging process, undertaken many times in Zimbabwe's history, has become complicated by a number of factors.

Among them:

-International pressure on Zimbabwe's regional allies who in turn put pressure on the Mugabe regime;

-The unexpectedly well-organized opposition;

-The announcement by Zimbabwean officials that the opposition had gained control of the parliament.

The last two events are the most surprising. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change had been divided and disorganized following an internal power struggle. But the party seems to have been well-prepared for this election, despite the pre-election violence in the country that made campaigning (for the opposition) nearly impossible.

International pressure on other southern African countries have borne surprising results. South African president Thabo Mbeki remains Mugabe's chief regional apologist. But the leader of Mbeki's party has hit out at Mugabe, calling him to concede defeat. This is all the more surprising since ANC party president Jacob Zuma has been accused in the past of being just like Mugabe.

While Zuma surely didn't mind poking the eye of his bitter rival Mbeki, this is a far more rational position for his country than Mbeki's clearly failed appeasement approach. Zimbabwe's economic and social meltdown has dramatic implications for neighboring South Africa, where thousands of economic and political refugees have already fled.

The Zimbabwean ambassador to the UN deceitfully compared his country's elections with the controversial US elections of 2000. He pointed out that no one attributed malice to the 6-week process between Election Day and the Supreme Court's annointing of George W. Bush. But he conveniently omits a few important facts. The initial results were made public rather quickly. This allowed the process that followed to be transparent, if messy. The fact that the regime refuses to release initial election results, in stark contrast to Florida 2000, combined with the regime's long history of theft (both of public money and elections) is what makes suspicions so strong.

Regional talks on the Zimbabwe crisis bizarrely center around Simba Makoni. The former ZANU-PF finance minister who is believed (and we don't know for sure because of the secrecy) to have gotten only 6 percent or so of the vote is seen by some as a compromise choice to allow the ZANU-PF to save face without having to concede to President-elect Tsvangarai. But I fail to see the logic of installing a man who received 6 percent of the vote ahead of a man who received 54 percent, nor do I see how the Zimbabweans who want majority rule would accept this.

Mugabe and his thieving cronies have spent the last decade destroying Zimbabwe to line their own pockets Whenever they've felt their power threatened, they've picked fights with white people. But ultimately the whites are not the ones who've suffered most from Mugabe's destruction. The primary victims are the blacks who can't afford to flee this dystopia.

So despite the state campaign of terror and intimidation, it's no surprise that most Zimbabweans voted against the ruling mafia. The regime has become yet another African movement to betray its ideals and run its country into the ground just to hold to power for a privileged elite.

Mugabe's ZANU movement spent most of the 1970s fighting on behalf majority rule.

Now they are spending much of 2008 fighting against majority rule.

Update: This article explains why so many of Mugabe's cronies are so desperate to cling to power. And if I'd been murdering opposition supporters, I'd probably be nervous too.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Aimé Césaire in hospital

Le Monde reports on the health problems of the great man of letters Aimé Césaire. The French daily did not specify what problems the 94 year old poet suffered from but quoted a hospital official which called Césaire's health 'stable' but 'worrying.'


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Carnage on the roads

When I returned to the US from Guinea, I was often asked in those early days if I felt in danger while I was over there. To most Americans, Africa is the nebulous land of war, famine, coups d'Etat and mysterious diseases. Many were somewhat taken aback when I said no.

But that's not entirely true. There were times when I did feel like I was risking life and limb: on the roads.

Guinean roads are filled with decrepit bush taxis, wobbly buses and most dangerous of all, the infamous gros camions (imagine something like this but bigger and more top heavy).

Worst of all is that these death traps were often driven at high speeds crappy, poorly maintained obstacle courses called Guinean roads.

Roads in Senegal were slightly better so vehicles there would treat it like the Indy 500.

On the first trip I ever took in Guinea outside my village, I was in an ex-pat SUV (I usually traveled in public transportation but got lucky this time) bouncing along, literally, on a pothole filled road to the northeastern city of Kankan.

Less than an hour into the trip, we passed a gros camion that had flipped on to its side and people were staggering out. We stopped to see if anyone was hurt. Thankfully not. But that was telling.

I swore then and there that I'd never set foot in the cab of a gros camion unless I was dying and need medical care. And I never did. Buses and bush taxis were bad enough, especially on the narrow, windy roads of central Guinea.

But many Guineans and other Africans, especially those who sell goods at the market, do not have that choice. So it's not surprising that a recent international conference highlighted the crisis of road deaths, which is now the number one killer of young people aged 10-24 worldwide.

[E]ach year more than1.2 million people are killed and 50 million injured on the world's roads.

Road accidents are already one of the leading causes of death in Africa, with Ethiopia and Uganda being the most dangerous. The two countries experience some 190 deaths per 100,000 cars. The rate in the United States is 2.

And it's not expected to improve any time soon. According to the World Bank and the World Health Organisation, the number of fatalities on Africa's roads is predicted to rise by over 80 per cent between 2000 and 2020, second only to South Asia at 144 per cent, reported the East African.


Friday, April 11, 2008

State terror in Cameroon

I'll have something on Zimbabwe soon, which makes me more competent than the country's electoral commission. But Radio Netherlands' excellent The State We're In program did a chilling report on Mugabe-style state terrorism in Cameroon. The international media did some report on the food riots that gripped Cameroon last month, but little follow up was done.

RNW's premier journalist Eric Beauchemin did some investigation and found that a lot more happened than just 'ordinary' clashes between protesters and police. Over 100 people were killed by police, according to local human rights' organizations. There were mass arbitrary arrests. And disgustingly, the police wouldn't even release the corpses to the victims' families without large bribes. While one might attribute that to daily life in one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, human rights groups say the real motive is to hide the scale of the slaughter. The report stated that police are touching up some corpses to hide bullet wounds.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rwanda: remembrance day

Note: I am remiss for having neglected to publish this yesterday.

14 years ago today, a plane carrying the leaders of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down, killing both men. The event was used as the pretext to carry a pre-planned genocide in Rwanda. At least 800,000 people were murdered in the slaughter.

A few years ago, I marked the 10th anniversary of the massacres' start with a series of essays and analyses exploring the genocide more deeply as well as addressing many myths surrounding its causes and implementation.

As i wrote in my introduction back in 2004:

Ten years ago today, the airplane carrying the leaders of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down, killed both. This was the pretext used by a group of extremists to execute a pre-planned genocide against the minority Tutsi community. It also targeted Hutu political opponents, most of whom were moderates in favor of a power-sharing deal with the Tutsis, a deal opposed by the regime's hardliners. In the slaughter, around 800,000 people were killed in only 100 days -- approximately 5 1/2 murdered every single minute of every single day for over three months. It is widely believed to be the most "efficient" mass murder in history. And far from being secretive or in the fog of war like previous genocides, this was unique in that it was broadcast around the world live and in color on CNN and the BBC.

Pieces in the series can be found:
-Pre-genocide history of Rwanda
-How the genocide unfolded
-Myths and realities about the genocide (part 1)
-Myths and realities about the genocide (part 2)
-The genocide's orphans
-Hate media and its role in the genocide
-International and American law on genocide
-Post-genocide justice
-The post-genocide government
-Lessons and conclusions

Please take a moment from your day to remember the dead.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mini-skirt measurers for Nigeria

In light of previous essays (such as this one) about vile anti-gay McCarthyism in Nigeria, it's only fair to point out that gays aren't the only ones targeted by the macho establishment. With all the problems of corruption, poverty and resource mismanagement in the country, the government has time to worry about regulating the skirt length of women.

Supporters argue that banning mini-skirts will prevent rape and preserve social morality.

If you want to reduce rape, here's a radical concept: punish more rapists.

I would say that the idea that men can't control themselves is a bit insulting to me as a male. Except at the end of the day, it's not men who suffer from this stereotype.

Men supposedly can't control themselves so the solution is to punish women?!!

The way closed-minded people twist logic is amazing sometimes.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Source: Army pressuring Mugabe to leave

I received this information on Sunday but just got permission to use it today...

According to one of my sources: "Senior army people have spoken to Mugabe and told him to accept the vote and go. South Africa's ANC have also made contact and given him the same message."

I'll still believe it when I see it. I've always believed Mugabe was one of those megalomaniacs who would only ever leave power either at the barrel of a gun or in a coffin. But if the army and the police turns against him, he may be toast.

I suppose soldiers and cops have to eat too.

Labels: ,