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October 30, 2003

Some days...

It's hard to have hope. The sheer scale of the obstacles that have to be overcome in cases like this seem overwhelming:

Health workers on Friday launched a drive to immunize 15 million African children at immediate risk of contracting polio--an effort hampered in Nigeria by an assertion by Islamic radicals the vaccination drive is part of a U.S. plan to decimate the Muslim population by spreading AIDS and infertility.

If it were simply a lack of education, it would be much easier to handle this. The religious overtones, however, make a muddle of the thing. Nigerian authorities are working to calm the fears by having the vaccines tested, but it will be difficult to overcome the dislike and distrust hate and fear taught by radical Islam.

The sad part is that we are there trying to save lives, and so many believe that we are there to take them and interfere, bringing about the very result they think they are preventing. What a terrible, terrible irony.

Posted by at 10:44 AM | Comments (1)

October 27, 2003

Mugabe, Hero

Here's an article in The Spectator detailing how Robert Mugabe is the darling of the African intelligensia. Prosperous upper middle class Africans have bought into the "redistribution" of white farms as some sort of cosmic payback for years of oppression. 400 percent inflation? Famine? Why, he's just breaking a few eggs. Sad, indeed.

The scariest part is the ubiquitous Osama and Saddam graffiti throughout sub-Saharan Africa. At one point I thought it necessary to differentiate between the ills of Islamic Africa, including sub-Saharan Nigeria and Mali, and the ills of the kleptocracies to the south. It appears the non-Islamic nations are quite willing to be the pawns of anti-Western Islamism. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, you know.

Posted by Velociman at 07:33 PM | Comments (5)

October 23, 2003

Dissent: Starve

There's more evidence that Robert Mugabe is using food as a weapon in Zimbabwe. Where as earlier articles discussed food for political support (see this post), this article points to the more frightening potential of forced starvation for dissidents, opponents, and those for whom food aid would be seen as politically dangerous:

The New York-based group, Human Rights Watch, has accused the Zimbabwean government of denying its opponents access to food supplies.

In a report entitled "The Politicisation of Food in Zimbabwe," the group says farmers recently resettled as part of President Robert Mugabe's land redistribution policy are among those affected.

Human Rights Watch says the Zimbabwean Government does not want to acknowledge that its highly controversial programme is a failure, and international relief agencies are complicit in preventing food from reaching the resettled farms.

The World Food Programme has denied the charge, saying it is still assessing the need in the resettled areas.

The repeated accusations of political bias in food distribution in Zimbabwe have hampered the UN's fund-raising efforts to tackle food shortages throughout southern Africa.

There's nothing particularly novel about a dictator using food as a weapon, and this development was predictable. The fact that we could see it coming, though, does nothing to make coming deaths any more palatable.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2003

Peace in Sudan?

Two decades later, and over 1.5 million dead, peace might be coming to Sudan. Renewed interest from Washington, an engaged Colin Powell, and a more direct diplomacy have helped move the rebels and the ruling government closer to a peace plan.

This is no mere good deed; this stems directly from the US war on terror. As with the cold war, the war on terror involves everything from gentle diplomacy to armed conflict. In the Sudan, US pressure and political involvement helped to create the climate for a possible cessation of conflict--and this sort of success should give hope to those who believe that every battle in the war on terror will end up looking like Afghanistan or Iraq.

What it won't do is bolster America's image with those who believe that the only reason this administration will become interested in a nation is its oil reserves. There is no doubting that it serves America's best interests to have a solid, secure government that is on friendly terms.

Not only will that help to ensure another flow of oil, but it could help destroy a training ground for terrorists. The Islamic fundamentalists that operate in the area, with some level of tolerance from the government, should find themselves in a very new situation come the new year.

This is, potentially, one of the quiet victories for America's war on terror; it is also, potentially, a great change for the Sudan. Peace is a long time coming, and the horrors of 1.5 million dead can't be erased. The end of this war can only be a good thing.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2003


Tongue in cheek, I thought that I should make some biblical joke about a plague of locusts. I would ask what precisely the entire continent of Africa had done to so piss off God that He would heap this latest affliction on nations that, one would think, had suffered quite enough.

I didn't do this because:

  1. Someone would have taken me seriously, and I don't need people thinking that I blame God for pests. Don't lump me in with Pat Buchanan, I say.
  2. It isn't really a funny thing.

A good portion of Africa will already be relying on food donations to feed their citizens. It isn't particularly funny to think that more will starve because of locusts that could sweep through the continent, eating the few crops that have grown.

In northern Niger, locusts have been reported at a density of 20 hoppers per square metre.

"The number of locusts is increasing rapidly. They are beginning to concentrate themselves into groups characteristic of an outbreak," said the Locust Group.

"If the situation worsens this migratory pest may move northwards across northern Mauritania into Morocco, from Sudan towards the Red Sea and from Mali and Niger into Southern Algeria."
The UN organisation says a full-fledged desert locust plague has the potential of damaging the livelihood of a tenth of the world's population.

If it does become a full outbreak, we'll look into organizing food drives locally in conjunction with an organization that could deliver the needed food.

Stay tuned.

Read the story.

Thanks very much to our friend Naunihal Singh for alerting us to this story.

Posted by zombyboy at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2003

Meaningful Stastics II

Whereas we have a tendency to focus on AIDs as one of the top health concerns throughout Africa, sometimes we forget to look at other health issues. Or even the overall state of health care--a moving target depending on the country being scrutinized, to be sure, but a general state of slow erosion despite the humanitarian aid sent year after year.

This, in particular, deals with the lack of care for women during childbirth.

African women are 175 times more likely to die in childbirth than Westerners, a UN report says.

Overall, African woman have a one in 16 chance of dying in child birth - but the report says many deaths could be avoided.
In 2000 95% of the 529,000 maternal deaths occured in Africa and Asia.
The report is the first time a new analytical technique has been used to estimate the number of maternal deaths in countries where accurate figures are hard to come by.

It shows that in the year 2000, the death rate among mothers per 100,000 live births was 920 in sub-Saharan Africa.

In developed countries it was just 20. In south central Asia it was 520, and in southeastern Asia 210.

This is not simply an issue, though, of women's health care; it is a reflection of the poor state of health care throughout most of the continent. The problem is a lack of trained health care professionals, facilities, and, often, a stable economy and infrastructure to support existing care facilities.

The UN report that noted these statistics was right to be alarmed--the loss of lives is tragic. The question of the day, though, is what can possibly be done to begin to address the problem--and, in addressing this problem, addressing a host of others.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:20 AM | Comments (1)

October 18, 2003

Amazingly, it Gets Worse

Just when you thought Zimbabwe couldn't sink further without the outbreak of a bloody civil war, things get a little bit worse. Zimbabwe's state-controlled oil company doesn't have fuel to distribute to critical service providers (police, military, health care) much less to distribute to individuals.

Relatives of some sick Zimbabweans had been asked to provide their own fuel for the journey to hospital, according to The Herald.

"A medical officer at the Beitbridge Rural District Hospital confirmed having asked some relatives of sick people to refuel ambulances for their sick to be ferried to referral centres in Gwanda or Bulawayo," the paper said.

The country's fuel shortage has worsened since a trade deal with its main supplier, Libya, collapsed in November 2002.

With currency worth near nothing, inflation wildly out of control, almost no remaining industry, a farm system that has left Zimbabwe as a perpetual welfare state, and political dissent being quashed more on an almost daily basis, this should have come as no surprise. It should also come as no surprise when the open rebelion comes, led by regional leaders who may be able to provide some level of social structure to replace the structures that will surely collapse in the coming months.

Of course, we in America have taken a rather apathetic stand on the subject; the papers barely discuss the nation, we aren't discussing Zimbabwe publicly, and the administration has deferred to South African leadership on the subject. Unfortunately, South Africa's soft-touch diplomacy is completely inadequate.

Count on the worst, and weep for what was once the most beautiful nation in southern Africa.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2003

Ivory Coast Simmers

With the peace process at a near halt and demonstrations growing more violent, the Ivory Coast may be on the verge of a resumption of real hostilities. With 3800 soldiers in the country, and a large political investment in the peace talks, France is in a difficult position. Neither side seems to respect or trust French interests or guidance, and both sides are using escalating violence to pressure the other into concessions.

"The French tango between the rebellion and legality must end. They must decide which side they are on," said Pascal Affi N'Guessan, from President Laurent Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

Expect the current ban on demonstrations to be tested soon; and expect the results to be bloody.

A modest proposal: France is obviously having difficulties establishing order or pushing forward the peace talks. Perhaps they should ask the UN for assistance.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2003

Another Blow for Dissent in Zimbabwe

Offered without commentary:

The government stepped up its crackdown on dissent Monday, charging a senior opposition official with trying to overthrow President Robert Mugabe by encouraging a general strike.

Paul Themba-Nyathi, the spokesman for the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, could face 20 years in prison if convicted of violating the draconian Public Order and Security Act, which was passed last year despite international condemnation that it violated human rights.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2003

The Continuing Fall of Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe continues to move aggressively against his opponents, trying to consolidate his position while the country falls further into economic and social disorder. The worrisome thought is that, if the opposition grows more bold, Zimbabwe could find itself quickly in the middle of another civil war. The more Mugabe pushes, the more likely it is that we will see a bloody war within the next few years.

Some 40 Zimbabwean union leaders and workers have been arrested, ahead of a planned protest march organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

The ZCTU said they wanted to demonstrate against the high level of inflation, increasing cost of living and of transport costs in the country, which is going through an economic crisis.

To say that the country is going through an economic crisis is more than a bit of an understatement. It is going through the kind of economic crash that usually presages the downfall of a government--it has no way to dig itself out and has become a nation living, essentially, on international welfare.

The unions were due to hold their national protest against high taxation, the rapidly increasing cost of living, and the price and shortage of fuel, amid a deep economic crisis in Zimbabwe, where inflation is officially around 425%.

Zimbabwe is ready to explode--and international aid that is funneled to Mugabe's cronies or used to control opposition ethnic parties is only making the potential fall more deadly in potential. The UN, in a complete opposition to its normal do-nothing attitude, needs to seriously consider stepping in.

The sovereignty of a nation is in question when it is ruled by a dictator who holds sham elections, especially when that nation threatens to destabilize its neighbors with conflict. Dictatorships are not legitimate governments, do not represent their citizenry, and are part of the cycle that continues to destroy the nations of Africa.

Typically, the UN acts only after a war has broken out, or a tragedy has unfolded. For the good of the people of Zimbabwe, for the good of the region, and in order to keep the country from becoming embroiled in a civil war, the UN needs to act now.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:56 AM | Comments (3)

October 07, 2003

Meaningful Statistics

Try these statistics on for size. In South Africa, a nation of around 4.7 million people:

  1. About 20% of the members of South Africa's military are HIV positive.
  2. About 11% of the population of South Africa is HIV positive.
  3. "[A]n estimated 600 to 1,000 dying from the disease, and related complications, each day."

With, at the low end, 219,000 people dying in South Africa alone from health problems directly related to AIDs, there can be no denying the terrible toll. The drain of lives is a drag on economic and social development, on a pragmatic level, and a tragedy on a personal level.

For anyone who would doubt that the US has a vested interest in helping African nations stop the AIDs epidemic, remember that terrorists generally make their homes in the failed nations of the world.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:46 PM | Comments (3)

October 06, 2003

You Go, Girls!

In much of Africa, to be born a woman is to be born a second-class citizen. If you're lucky, that is. In some places on that continent, a woman isn't a citizen at all, but chattel, something akin to livestock. Western women who make the most cursory study of the female condition in Africa must be reminded of how fortunate we are to have the freedoms that we enjoy. We must also remember the brave women who came before us, earning our rights. Our grandmothers, and their mothers, and their mothers before them.

In Ghana, such heroines are fighting for the rights of their countrywomen. A Women's Manifesto is being penned by several women's organizations, aimed at giving women a common platform and a unified voice when approaching legislation on women's issues. Ultimately, the framers of the document hope to help level Ghana's hilly sociopolitical playing field.

Dzodzi Tsikata of ISSER, one of the participants in the Manifesto project, had this to say about the document in a recent speech:

...Economic empowerment of women is one of the most critical concerns that the manifesto should contain. She said that women have been at a disadvantage in the economic sector of the country because of structures and policies that favour men to the neglect of women.

She said for example that women engage in too much unpaid labour such as the household management and most of them are found in the informal sector which brings very little financial output. Men on the other hand do jobs that bring visible financial benefit. They tend to own property, which can be used as collateral when asking loans from the bank.

At best she continued, economic policies tend to place additional burden on women's time-they spend more time caring for the sick even when they are in hospital. She also said that economic policies tend to discourage social investments which results in a stagnating social indicator.

On education, work and resources,Tsikata said about twice women as men have never had formal education. "Given that access to most formal employment now requires secondary education or higher, then only 5.7% of women and 15.8% of men can work in the sector," she complained.

She said again that in the case of girls and boys dropping out of school, more job options remain for boys than for girls and not only that but also the jobs boys are better paid than that of girls.

High maternal mortality rate as well as women's vulnerability to the HIV/AIDS pandemic were among the issues Tsikata proposed for inclusion in the manifesto.

She said that even though women are giving birth to fewer number of children, that has not reduced the rate of maternal death, which usually occurs during childbirth and wondered why it was so.

She also said that , "Apart from the fact that HIV is spread more often from male to female because of physiological reasons, socio-economic factors including gender inequalities are central to women's generally greater vulnerability to the virus than men."

In the home and in society generally, women are more susceptible to physical, emotional and mental violence that further make them ineffective in society.

Again, it is most of the time women who fall victim to harmful cultural practices all over the country. These then are among the issues that Tsikata said should not be ignored in the proposed manifesto....

The women of Ghana are seeking the most basic of rights, and the chance to better themselves. From the rhetoric of this Dzodzi Tsikata, they deserve it. Not only does the Manifesto seek to help women push legislation beneficial to them, but its framers understand that just sticking women in government is not the solution.

At an earlier meeting with selected women District Assembly Members, there was a call on government to make 30% parliamentary seats easily accessible to women aspirants in the bid to get more women to the legislature....

Even when there is the agreement for more women to easily get into Parliament, one issue still hangs around to be answered as has been expressed by many people who are more concerned with quality output instead of mere numerical representation in political decision-making.

Dzodzi Tsikata of ISSER took the wind out of people's sail when she explained the need for women to be properly equipped to compete with men candidates and win on merit and become part of the decision-making body in Ghana.

They don't want power handed to them, they want the chance to become equal, to earn offices on merit. That, folks, is true feminism, real feminism. I wish them luck. I hope that we are seeing history in the making.

Posted by at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2003

Who's Going to Protect Them?

This is just a quick note to add to a post by Instapundit on the UN release of an accused torturer for lack of funds to arrest the man. The UN, instead, sent him back to his home nation of Zimbabwe.

A journalist asks this question:

"What is the UN doing? By sending him back here they are allowing him to torture another day. If the UN does not help us, who is going to protect us from known torturers?" a Zimbabwean journalist said.

Yes. Who?

My problem with the UN isn't the concept of the body, but the incredible lack of will in the body. The UN fails to protect peace or humanity not because it lacks the capacity, but because it lacks the will.

Read the story.
Red the Instapundit view.

Posted by zombyboy at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2003

Good news

We are used to thinking of South Africa, post-apartheid, as a reasonably civilized place. There are still some members of South African society, though, who have lacked legal rights that we in the U.S. would take for granted. By our standards, there is still progress to be made.

Some of that progress was made today:

A South African court has ruled that two girls can inherit their father's property because the traditional custom that the nearest and oldest male relative takes precedence if there is no will is unconstitutional.

Activists said on Wednesday they hoped the ruling would set a precedent for the continent where wives and daughters are often excluded from inheriting property of a deceased relative who dies without a will.

The Women's Legal Centre, which filed the case on behalf of the two girls aged nine and two, said it would take the case to the Constitutional Court in the hope the country's highest court would confirm the ruling, the first of its kind in South Africa.

Read the story.

Posted by at 10:35 PM | Comments (1)
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