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January 26, 2004

More Trouble in DRC

A story like this might make one wonder precisely how effective the international forces are being in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That isn't a sarcastic comment, more an honest question of both effectiveness and the capacity to be effective.

At least 150 people were massacred by militiamen near a lake in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday after disembarking from their boats, a Ugandan official claimed on Saturday.

Lendu tribal militia forced nearly 180 people out of five boats on Lake Albert, ordered them to "accompany" them to the bushes, shot most of them dead and then kidnapped the women to take as "wives", Deputy Director of Uganda's External Security Organisation (ESO) Colonel Peter Kerim said.
Ethnic massacres heightened soon after the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the north east DRC region of Ituri in April last year and a French-led international force moved in to stem the killings which had left hundreds dead.

An incident like this, if proven true, calls for a more active and aggressive peace keeping force.

Read the rest of the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 12:08 PM | Comments (2)

January 20, 2004

Drop in Inflation?

Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office is reporting a 21% drop in the annual rate of inflation.

Of course, this likely proves that one of the accountants from Enron has found new employment.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)

China Takes Part in Liberia

China has sent a small peacekeeping force into Liberia. Previously, Liberia had maintained relations with Taiwan and, with the new government in place, has moved toward diplomatic and economic ties with China.

Essentially, China is extending its influence and its interest in Africa at the direct expense of Taiwan. Though diplomats quoted in the following BBC article would say otherwise, China's "biggest ever contribution to a United Nations peacekeeping operation" is happening simply because of an opportunity to solidify China's position in Africa.

The 500 Chinese soldiers who will be serving with the United Nations force in Liberia are the first public fruit of the new diplomatic strategy by the new UN-backed government.

They will join other foreign troops who are helping keep the peace as an interim government prepares to hold elections in 2005.

The Chinese soldiers have already started arriving and over the next few weeks there should be a Chinese engineering corps, a transport unit and a field hospital in place.

It will be interesting to watch as China continues to mark it's position in African nations in a more direct manner.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2004

Overestimation is "In"

First came the news that AIDs in Africa has be overestimated. Wildly overestimated.

The preliminary report of the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey suggested that HIV has infected about one million adults in the country. Previous estimates put the number at up to three million.

Not that it completely alleviates worry over the issue. If the new estimates are correct (according to the article that I've quoted above), there would still be 22 million infected in Africa. Suddenly, though, it might not quite the problem that it seemed to be.

This is good news in that money initially earmarked for treatment can now be shifted to prevention. Frankly, the problem doesn't go away with treatment, it goes away (or, at least, dwindles to more normal proportions) with the emphasis on education and prevention.

It might not be such good news for the NGOs that take in government and private money to deal with AIDs in Africa. If the new numbers are correct, and if the number of infections is reduced by 25% or more, then there will likely be a strong reduction in charitable aid.

Now, an audit group is saying that the need for food aid has likewise been overstated.

Auditors Valid International said some fund-raising campaigns had talked of famine or a crisis of biblical proportions, which was an exaggeration.

The audit said this approach could lessen credibility in future appeals.
As well as using misleading or emotive language, the audit said some groups had not consulted local people enough and did not fully understand their needs.

For example, one charity provided an expensive diesel pump to irrigate a small field where a foot pump would have been sufficient.

It's an interesting thing that Western nations in general and these charitable organizations in particular continue to baby Africans along as if they were children. Instead of finding out what the people actually need, the assumption is that the wise members of the organizations know far better than the people themselves.

Well, it looks like overestimating is "in." Whether this is self-serving (to make the organizations look better or more impressive) or truly from good intentions (overstatement simply to try to increase awareness and giving), the end result is the same: people trust these organizations less, money and aid is wasted, and the root problems facing the needy aren't truly addressed.

But we can all feel good because we've given so much.

(Thanks very much to Walter for having pointed out the AIDs article a few days ago.)

Posted by zombyboy at 10:39 AM | Comments (4)

January 13, 2004

And You Thought You Were Too Old for School...

I'll never make the "too old" excuse again, I swear.

An 84-year-old Kenyan grandfather has joined primary school to learn to read, after the government introduced free primary education last year, Kenyan daily newspapers reported today. Kimani Murage, who has 30 grandchildren, said he hopes to become a veterinarian.

Good for him and good luck to him. Although, by the time he gets his vetrinary degree, I'm not sure I'd want him performing surgery on my dog.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:51 AM | Comments (1)

Chunnel to Africa?

This is a bit surprising to me (but then, so was the laser cheese slicer).

Construction of a tunnel linking Europe and Africa could begin within five years after Spain and Morocco agreed to a major engineering study of the Strait of Gibraltar.

The tunnel could be dug between Punta Paloma in southern Spain and Punta Malabata near Tangier in Morocco. It would run for 38.5km and would pass beneath the strait for 27km at a depth of about 300m.

This tunnel would be a little over 10km shorter than the channel tunnel between France and Britain, but would still be an amazing undertaking. I'd love to read the feasibility study and the benefit analysis. Regardless of the cost or the need, the geek inside hopes that they build it just for the sheer impressiveness of the thing.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:20 AM | Comments (3)

January 07, 2004

Winds of Change

AfricaPundit's Regional Briefing is up over at Winds of Change. As always, for anyone with interest in Africa, this is a must-read list of articles.

Check it out.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2004

No Criticism Here

This just caught my eye as being funny--but not in a good way.

Zambia intends to deport a British writer for allegedly "insulting" President Levy Mwanawasa in his popular weekly column in a private newspaper, an official said on Monday.

Peter Mumba, the home affairs permanent secretary, said he had recommended that the interior minister issue a deportation order for Zambian-based Roy Clarke, who writes a column in the Post newspaper.

Next time the Dixie Chicks whine about repression, remember this event.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 12:07 PM | Comments (2)

Financial Scandals

As Zimbabwe's financial problems grow, those entrusted with its financial institutions have turned to using deposited funds for their own needs.

Late last year, the First National Building Society was closed after its chief executive, Samson Ruturi, allegedly used ZIM$1-billion in depositors funds to settle his private debts.

Police Senior Assistant Commissioner Stephen Mutamba has confirmed the arrest of ENG [Asset Management Company--a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe] directors Nyasha Watyoka, 28, and Gilbert Muponda, 30, at their offices at the weekend after their failure to account for the disappearance of more than Z$80-billion of depositors funds.

He told journalists in Harare that police were still hunting other company directors.

The ENG directors had established a reputation for living the high life in Zimbabwe despite its debilitating economic crisis.

And this, while a good portion of the country isn't able to feed itself.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:41 AM | Comments (1)

January 04, 2004

A Closer View of Zimbabwe

I just discovered Mukiwa's site (as he left a comment here yesterday) and will be reading it regularly. In reference to my comment about the rate of inflation in Zimbabwe, he noted that the real rate is something more like 1100%--and on his site, he writes this:

In 1980 when Mugabe took power, the Zimbabwe dollar was trading at 60 cents to the pound, the equivalent relationship shared with the US$ and £ today and ten years later marginally less than Z$5 would secure the same. In 1997, prior to the
commencement of my degree in the UK, Z$18 would buy a pound. Today, Z$10,850 will purchase one pound on the black market and the government defiantly refuses to devalue the dollar which is pegged at Z$1300 to the British currency. The net effect of the worthlessness of the money is a shortage of bank notes. The highest denomination note used to be the Z$100 bill which has now been followed by the Z$500 and Z$1000 in quick succession. Inflation has fast surpassed their value and availability which in turn have given rise to bearer cheques in values up to Z$20,000 – a tangible admission that the government’s monetary policy has failed spectacularly. I recall my early days of high school
when a bottle of Coca Cola would cost Z$1 and you’d receive a 50c deposit on the bottle. The same bottle of Coke now costs in the region of Z$2000, a typical scenario played out across all tiers of the economy.

The rest of the post is just as informative, and, in many ways, just as bleak.

Definitely worth a visit and a place on the blogroll.

Read the rest of the post.

Posted by zombyboy at 10:51 AM | Comments (1)
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