Thursday, June 30, 2005

New Statesman threatens a blogger - Defending Oxfam and Barbara Stocking's rebuttal

This afternoon, I contacted American blogger and journalist Curt Hopkins after receiving an email from Kathryn Corrick, Online Manager at the New Statesman (a UK magazine on political, cultural and current affairs) telling me to cut the majority of a post entitled "In Darfur, Sudan 700,000 people rely on Oxfam to survive" published at my blog Sudan Watch 2 June 2005.

Curt is director of the Committee to Protect Bloggers. They have good connections with Media Bloggers Association which has as its General Counsel the Coleman Law Firm.

The email from the New Statesman does not explain what they propose to do if I ignore it, so I emailed Curt at the address given at his blog Morpheme Tales.

See the post NEW STATESMAN THREATENS BLOGGER that Curt published today in response. I would have liked to have written a more in-depth post on this but will have to make do for now with posting just the link to Curt's post. I've overdone my time online today and am over tired.

By the way, the folks that do great petitions for the Committee to Protect Bloggers are at Sudan Activism Blog

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Joe Trippi's blog announces ONE blog is alive

American readers might like to follow ONE Blog which covers the Live 8 event in America. Just like Live Aid concert 20 years, Live 8 is being held on the east coast of America, in Philadelphia.

[via Joe Trippi's Blog ONE is alive with thanks]
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Great links and images at Live 8 Concert - live 8 - with thanks to Live 8 Concerts for sharing the pointer in the comments at Congo Watch post entitled "The Greatest Show on Earth July 2: Geldof's Live 8 concerts to promote G8 Summit and Make Poverty History Campaign."
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Buzztone promotes Live 8: The world's largest interactive event

A few minutes ago I received an email from Nick Lezin of Buzztone saying he is working on promoting Live 8. Buzztone, The Change Agency, is smart looking marketing firm with a perfect sounding pitch.

Nick says, on Saturday, Live 8 will become the largest interactive event the world has ever seen:
"Worldwide concerts featuring the biggest names in music-U2, Destiny's Child, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Tim McGraw, Madonna, Sting and more-along with one million spectators and millions of viewers. All coming together with one purpose-to make poverty history. You can check out all of your favorite performances, on-demand throughout the summer-available to everyone, only at AOL Music.com

Make sure to check it out and add your name to the live 8 petition. If you would like to help spread the word about this great cause, go to http://www.buzztone.com/live8 for a variety of Live 8 content that you can host on your blog or website. We have banners, blurbs about Live 8, and the official press release available."
If you are a blogger and can put something up, please send Nick [nick AT buzztone DOT com] a link so he can check it out. Thanks.

Note, a BBC news report June 23, 2005 says AOL which has exclusive rights to broadcast the Live 8 event on the internet, also licensed it to North American TV and radio stations. Also, the report says AOL will screen the five main concerts on the internet and make them available for download six weeks after the event.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Africa Calling Live 8 at Eden in Cornwall, England, UK

Live 8 - Africa Calling

The Eden Project in Cornwall, England is to stage a major Live8 concert on 2nd July under the banner of "Africa Calling" presented in association with WOMAD and its co-founder Peter Gabriel, together with Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour.

The evening itself will be hosted by Peter Gabriel, who has championed World Music for the past 25 years. Youssou N'Dour and Peter Gabriel have invited many of their favourite African artists to perform at the event.

Live 8 Africa Calling at Eden in Cornwall

The concert will be held on the stage in the Eden arena with the world's biggest greenhouses providing a spectacular backdrop in the crater.

This outstanding line-up will bring the spectacular Eden site alive with unbeatable African party spirit. Transmissions will be made from the event by the BBC as part of the Live8 celebration.

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This Week's Good Idea - Send a message to the G8

Snippets from Keith's insightful post:

Next week is the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY festival in Edinburgh before the start of the G8 summit. Even if you can't go, you can send a message to the G8 leaders.

When you live around people who are struggling to provide for their families day by day, much of the political posturing, and criticism of Live 8, "Saint Bob", and stuff is really hard to listen to. There is injustice in the status quo, resulting in millions of people dying. The answer can never be charity alone, if we don't address the fundamental injustices. How can we not fight to change it? We need to recognise that for the poor to get a good deal, we need to be willing to pay a price, and that international structures and decisions should reflect this. Surely this is an expression of righteousness - to help others at our own cost. You too can send a message to the G8 leaders to tell them you want them to act for the poor.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Global Call to Action Against Poverty July 1 - International White Band Day

July 1, the first Global White Band Day will see people around the world wearing their white bands and wrapping public buildings in white to send a message to the G8 world leaders that they demand action on trade justice, debt cancellation, and more and better aid. International White Band Day will prove to be one of the largest global actions ever taken.

Below are just some of the White Band events planned. More will be announced soon. For more information or to get in touch with national coalitions, please visit the GCAP Country Coalitions section.

July 1 International White Band Day
Source: GCAP - United Kingdom Coalition against Poverty: Make Poverty History.

Massive white bands will be wrapped around buildings across the world, including:

- The Soweto township of Johannesburg, South Africa, a group of shacks will be wrapped in a white band, to symbolise perpetuating poverty in Africa.
- In Freetown, Sierra Leone, the famous cotton tree, planted by freed slaves when the nation was founded, will be draped in a white band.
- In Senegal, the slavery archway will be wrapped in a white band.

From June 30 to July 14 the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in Australia, will be wrapped in a white band, with the Australian coalition's slogan "Make Poverty History" across it.

- The Coliseum in Italy.
- The Brandenburger Tor in Germany.
- In Paris, France, the Trocadero's buildings which sit either side of the Eiffel Tower, will be wrapped with two white bands.
- In Spain, bridges will be wrapping on the main highways of Spain.
- In Georgia all the trees along the Central Avenue of the capital, Tbilisi, will be wrapped in white bands.

[via White Band Blog with thanks]

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Friday, June 24, 2005

The Greatest Show on Earth: Geldof's Live 8 concerts July 2 to promote G8 Summit and Make Poverty History campaign

50,000 people are dying, needlessly, every day of extreme poverty. Everyday, poverty kills 30,000 children in Africa alone. Another 100 will have died in the time that it takes you to read this post.

Live Aid July 13, 2985 logo

Image: Live Aid concerts were staged on 13 July 1985 to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia. It is estimated the concerts reached an audience of 2 billion people, raised $140 million and saved 1-2 million lives.

Once again, the ball is rolling on tackling extreme poverty and after many years of hard work by the British Government, Sir Bob Geldof (of Live Aid fame), Bono (leader of the Irish rock band U2) and many others involved in the Commission for Africa things are starting to come to fruition that could, eventually, lead to the scrapping of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

With only eight days left before the Live 8 concert is beamed to billions of people around the globe on July 2, things are hotting up here publicity wise in Britain. The countdown is beginning to the greatest concert on Earth.

There are just 13 days to go before the G8 Summit takes place at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, UK July 6-8.

LIVE 8 concerts

This year, the UK -- as well as holding the presidency of the European Union (EU) for the second half of the year starting next week -- holds the presidency of the G8, which is why the summit is hosted in Britain with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the chair.

Tony Blair's Commission for Africa

Tony Blair has travelled to the countries of the G8 leaders to garner support for initiatives on the environment and to help make poverty history.

Tony Blair in Ethiopia at his Commission for Africa

Photo: Mr Blair last year in Ethiopia at a meeting of his Commission for Africa

Britain's Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was born in Scotland, UK where the G8 summit is to be held July 6-8 at the famous Gleneagles Hotel. He and Tony Blair have spent several years lobbying hard to help countries such as Africa. They have worked closely with Bob Geldof, Bono and many others on the Commission for Africa which, after initial meetings in Ethiopia chaired by Mr Blair, produced its first report 11 March 2005.

Bono

Photo of Bono by Barry Brecheisen. [See article "Bono Assembles an Army" and Bono's DATA campaign website Debt AIDS Trade Africa.]

Britain's Make Poverty History campaign brings together a cross-section of over 100 charities, campaigns, trade unions, faith groups, church leaders and celebrities who are united by a common belief that 2005 offers a unprecedented opportunity for global change.

At last year's G8 summit, Tony Blair came close to getting Britain's proposal for cancelling the debts of the world's poorest nations accepted, but US President George W. Bush rejected it. This year, the historic proposal succeeded. On June 11, 2005, following a meeting of G8 finance ministers held at Gleneagles, Scotland, Gordon Brown announced the world's richest countries had agreed to write off the debt owed by 18 mainly African countries. This is just the beginning.

Nelson Mandela and Gordon Brown

Photo: Nelson Mandela and Gordon Brown [see below copy of Mandela's poverty speech given ahead of the meeting of G8 finance ministers June 11, 2005]

On Saturday 2 July, as the leaders of the G8 summit gather, tens of thousands of people will attend a rally in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, to demand trade justice, debt cancelling and more and better aid for the world's poorest countries.

Bob Geldof and friends have generated global publicity for Live 8, G8 summit and Make Poverty History campaign, sponsored by America Online, BBC, Nokia Nseries, 95.8 Capital fm, O2.

British TV news reports say the British police, coastguards and security forces were alarmed when Geldof used the media to call for one million people to turn up in Edinburgh. He launched Sail 8 and called for those with access to a boat to set sail on July 3 and recreate D-Day to be part of the Long Walk to Justice. He even called for sailors to bring over as many French as possible to support the protest action against poverty.

Sir Bob Geldof and Sail 8

Photo: Bob Geldof calls for sailors and boat owners, to form a massive flotilla across the English Channel in July as part of the global call for action against poverty (GCAP). Dame Ellen MacArthur is supporting the Make Poverty History campaign and international transport and travel companies have pledged their support by providing planes, trains, coaches to get people to Edinburgh by Wednesday 6 July when world leaders arrive for the G8 meeting.

Henry Northover of Make Poverty History says:
"It is imperative that thousands turn out on the streets of Edinburgh on 2 July to demand action from the G8 that they fulfill their promises to halve poverty by 2015."
Bob Geldof, with the help of some great supporters, is chief organiser of the Live 8 concerts. Unlike Live Aid in 1985, Live 8 is not about raising funds for charity, it is about raising awareness of extreme poverty and the G8 Summit 2005. Live 8 aims to reach as many people around the world as possible. Geldof has spent the last few months browbeating top names in the rock business to participate. Groups like The Who and Spice Girls may reform for the special event that will be beamed by satellite all over the world and reach an audience of 2 billion. There is even talk of Status Quo, the band that opened Live Aid with "Rockin' All Over the World".

The aim of the global Live 8 concerts is to fight world poverty. Live 8 will take place on July 2, ahead of the G8 summit July 6-8 . So far, the latest concert locations are: Johannesburg, Tokyo and Toronto which add to a growing list of venues that includes London, Philadelphia, Paris, Rome, Berlin and Cornwall. According to the BBC, Geldof, who originally co-ordinated five main concerts in Europe and the US, said he decided to arrange more after the European Union agreed to double its development aid to poorer nations. He said he hoped former South African president Nelson Mandela - who has also campaigned for the alleviation of poverty in Africa - would head the Live 8 Africa concert.

British blogger and journalist Stephen Pollard, in a May 23 article in the Times, suggests activists campaign for property rights and the rule of law - in other words: for better governance which is what I have said here in many previous posts. Another point he made is for campaigns to focus on:
"...not to abolish free trade but to extend it - attacking, for instance, the EU Common Agricultural Policy and its immoral tariff barriers against the developing world. The EU spends EUROS 2.7 billion a year subsidising farmers to grow sugar beet; at the same time it imposes high tariff barriers against sugar imports from the developing world. And the EU’s agricultural tariffs average 20 per cent, rising to a peak of 250 per cent on certain products. The European market remains barely open to the majority of low-cost textiles from the developing world."
The Live 8 concerts around the globe on July 2 will mark the start of The Long Walk To Justice. It will be watched and listened to by more than 2 billion people.

Find out more, including where the concerts are taking place, how to get tickets and who is performing: www.live8live.com. Apparently, there may be arrangements to allow hundreds of thousands more into the London concert at Hyde Park on the day.
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Educ8 The G8

Does your school want to hold a MAKE POVERTY HISTORY day or week of events during the G8 summit? You can dowload lesson plans to introduce the G8 here. The lessons are suitable for a variety of subjects, and help pupils critically engage with the concept of the G8, as well as the themes of Africa and Climate Change.

Understanding the G8 - Lesson Plan1 (suitable for ages 10 to 13)
Understanding the G8 - Lesson Plan 2 (suitable for ages 13 to 16)
Assembly ideas and suggestions for getting involved.
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Live 8 List

Wherever you are located in the world, you can add your name to The Live 8 message addressed to the 8 most powerful leaders in the world:
"At this year's G8 summit meeting, it is within your power to put an end to this tragedy. It is an extraordinary opportunity which it would be shameful to ignore. We urge you to take these 3 steps to make extreme poverty history...

- double the aid sent to the world's poorest countries,
- fully cancel their debts,
- change the trade laws so that they can build their own future."
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Bloggers talking about Live 8

See Joi Ito's post Technorati Live 8 launches re tags, badges and tracking what bloggers are saying.
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Make Poverty History Campaign

What is Make Poverty History campaign? BBC explains about the campaign that bids to end poverty trap.

Click here to get the code for a whiteband on your website and here for white bangles.
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Mandela's poverty speech

Via BBC News online: the full text of Nelson Mandela's speech in London's Trafalgar Square for the campaign to end poverty in the developing world.
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Quotation

'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world'. - Nelson Mandela
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Bono launches ONE campaign
Photo: ONE is a new effort by Americans to rally Americans - ONE by ONE - to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty. The campaign was launched at a rally in Philadelphia with the help of U2's Bono.

Readers, especially those from America, might like to follow the ONE Campaign and Joe Trippi's blog.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Blake Lambert's blog from Kampala, Uganda

Thanks to a reader here who left a comment pointing out Blake Lambert's blog Sub-Saharan African Blues.

Note, the commenter responded to a Reuters report by asking what kind of bs is this? Heh. I don't know. You tell me. I am not African and live in England. One thing I do know though, Reuters et al and politically motivated activists who most of the time churn out stuff that, should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Blake Lambert

Photo from the profile of Blake Lambert in Kampala, Uganda who says of himself: "I'm not Lansana Conte, the 90-something president of Guinea. However, maybe when I grow up, I could be."

Good for him. His post Beware of good intentions was music to my ears. I hope he becomes president of Uganda - soon.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

World Refugee Day

Refugee Day

Photo and caption via Reuters: "A Sudanese refugee girl sits in the shadow of her hut as they celebrate Refugee Day at Ikafe camp in northwest Uganda near the borders of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo June 20, 2005. Marking World Refugee Day with his first overseas trip in the role to Ikafe camp, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said on Monday that nations like Uganda that host hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring African conflicts should serve as a lesson to the West, where asylum policies are increasingly restrictive. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti)"

Note, "celebrate" is not a word I would use in connection with World Refugee Day. Not sure what the new UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres is getting at when he says Sudanese refugees in Uganda should serve as a lesson to the West. What is he suggesting, that millions of people from the Sudan, DR Congo, and Uganda, to name a few countries in Africa, be given residency in tiny countries like England with the British taxpayer footing the bill?

I suggest the lesson lays with African people and their leaders - not the West. African countries are rich in oil and other natural resources. Billions of dollars of taxpayers money have gone from the West to Africa. It is the fault of corrupt African leaders and African people not getting their act together for so many years that is the problem. For too long poor people in Africa have been marginalised and denied access to the law and land/property ownership. And too many are coming to the West to get educated and not returning home to spread their knowledge, training and skills. The fault lays with African people and their leaders, not the West. They need to wake up. The population of Africa will double in 27 years time. If Africa does not pull itself up by its bootstraps like many Asian countries have done so admirably, it will become unmanageable for the rest of the world. African people must get educated and get rid of despotic dictators who spend Africa's wealth on arms and decades of continual war.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

ICC Prosecutor targets LRA leaders including Joseph Kony

June 11 2005 Paris IOL Central Africa report:

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, is seeking his first arrest warrants, for the head of Uganda's rebel Lord's Resistance Army and one of his deputies, a press report said on Saturday.

The French daily Le Monde, quoting unidentified court sources, said the warrants targeted LRA leader Joseph Kony and another top official of the group who was not named.

The warrants, the first since the court in The Hague was established to deal with cases of warcrimes and genocide in 2002, have to be approved by the ICC's judges before they can be issued, Le Monde noted.

Moreno Ocampo had said in April he could suspend, but not drop entirely, planned prosecutions of LRA rebels to enable peace moves with the Ugandan government to succeed.

"I will stop but I will not close," he said after talks with northern Ugandan officials. "Timing is possible but immunity is not possible."

The ICC mandate allows prosecutors to decide whether going ahead with a case would serve justice, taking into account all circumstances, including the gravity of the crimes and victims' interests.

The LRA has been fighting President Yoweri Museveni's secular government since 1988, ostensibly to replace with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

The rebellion has killed tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, and displaced more than 1,6 million others.

The LRA is notorious for its brutality towards the civilian population in the region, many of whom have been killed, maimed or abducted. Kidnapped children are pressed into service as soldiers or sex slaves.

In July 2004, the ICC opened an investigation into atrocities committed by the LRA with an eye to prosecuting its leaders and senior commanders.

Earlier this year, the court announced that it would probably issue arrest warrants for a first batch of LRA officials at some time this year, sparking concerns in war-shattered northern Uganda that the prosecution would undermine halting peace efforts.

Apart from the Uganda rebellion, the court is investigating alleged war crimes in Democratic Republic of Congo and, most recently, the Darfur region of Sudan.

AFJN Launches Uganda Conflict Action Network

Email just received from Peter Quaranto of Footnotes from the Ugandan Underground blog out of Boston, USA. Peter is the founding Director of Uganda Conflict Action Network (Uganda-CAN) [congratulations, well done and good luck to Peter and all involved]:

"The Washington-based Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) today formally announced the launch of the Uganda Conflict Action Network to pressure the U.S. government to advocate and support peace negotiations to end the 19-year old war in northern Uganda, a war that has gone largely ignored by the western world. The grassroots campaign seeks to raise awareness among Americans in hopes of acting to support a peaceful resolution in Uganda as part of a greater movement for renewal and peace in the Great Lakes Region.

"The United States, through military aid and strategic alliances, has played a significant role in the persistence of this horrific war," said Peter Quaranto, the founding director of Uganda-CAN. "We are launching this project to demand that the U.S. play a larger role in advocating for and supporting peace initiatives on the ground."

The 19-year old war in northern Uganda has left more than 20,000 children abducted, tens of thousands of people maimed or killed, and 1.6 million people displaced into camps. Yet, it has remained one of the most forgotten crises in the world, according to recent reports by Reuters AlterNet, Medecins sans Frontieres and the United Nations. "The silence of the international community is equivalent to complicity in this unnecessary mass human tragedy," Quaranto stated.

Quaranto, along with Michael Poffenberger, both international peace studies students at the University of Notre Dame, founded Uganda-CAN. They were deeply moved by the realities they experienced in the north during their academic study abroad program in Uganda, sponsored by the School for International Training in Kampala. Quaranto remarked, "As I sat there listening to people in IDP camps telling me their stories, I just kept thinking to myself: how can this be happening? How can this have happened for 19 years?"

Uganda-CAN is working to build an effective, broad-based campaign that will raise awareness to mobilize people to action. The campaign has already launched a website that will present updated news about the conflict, research reports and action alerts. The staff and volunteers are working to form partnerships with key actors in Washington, both in Congress and other Africa-related organizations, while also linking with numerous Ugandan organizations. By August, the campaign hopes to have begun a nationwide awareness and mobilization tour.

Quaranto and the more than twenty-five committed volunteers working tirelessly on this campaign are hopeful. "Together, we have a real opportunity to push for action that could contribute to an end to this war," said Quaranto. "There is no more pressing or opportune moment to demand global governance that hears and answers to the suffering of the most poor and vulnerable of our world.

Learn more about Uganda-CAN at www.ugandacan.org."

Friday, June 10, 2005

UGANDA: Waiting for elusive peace in the war-ravaged north

9 Jun 2005 report by IRIN:

Michael Okello clearly remembers the day that the rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) stormed his home in the northern Ugandan district of Gulu, killed his parents and abducted him.

For one year the LRA forced him to fight on their side in the brutal 19-year war against the Uganda government. He managed to escape in 2003 and returned to Gulu, 380 km north of the capital, Kampala.

"The only way we can ever finish this war is by talking with the rebels and solving it peacefully," Michael Okello, now 17, said. "Fighting has failed."

Like Okello, many people in the worst affected districts of Gulu and Kitgum said, in separate interviews, that they supported an ongoing peace initiative led by former minister Betty Bigombe rather than a military approach to ending the war.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, however, told IRIN in an interview at his office on 28 May that he was not a believer in negotiations with "terrorists".

"There are those who believe in the magic of the peace talks - which I do not believe in," Museveni said.

"However, I do not want to be obstructive to those who wish to pursue this avenue - if you believe that you can convince evil to stop being evil, go ahead," the president added. "But in the meantime, I do not want to give up my option [the military option]."

Bigombe said on 29 May that efforts to reach a negotiated settlement in the conflict, which has devastated much of Uganda's northern and eastern regions, were still on course.

"I am in regular contact with [LRA leader] Joseph Kony himself, and we are trying to negotiate a possible meeting in the near future," she said.

"Both parties are showing strong commitment to the peace process," she added. "Not that there are no little hurdles here and there. For instance, the rainy season has made communication very difficult - but we are making good progress."

Bigombe is a former minister for pacification of the war-ravaged northern region and since 2004 has been involved in the latest in a series of attempts to end the brutal conflict. She presided over a failed peace initiative in 1994.

HOPES FOR NEW ACCORD

According to Bigombe, a fresh truce was in the offing. She added that Museveni had approved a draft ceasefire agreement she had presented to him.

"My hope is that within the next two weeks, a new ceasefire agreement will be signed, which will allow the peace talks to progress," she said.

"The negotiations have had hiccups, but that is the norm in any peace process," Lars Erik Skaansar, the UN envoy to the peace process, said. "We remain optimistic that this terrible conflict can be brought to an end through peaceful means."

In November 2004, the government ordered a unilateral cessation of its military offensive against the LRA, which led to an agreement with the rebels to sign a general ceasefire.

On 29 December, the government's representative to the talks, interior minister Ruhakana Rugunda, and the LRA's spokesman, Brig Sam Kolo, held a face-to-face meeting, following which Rugunda said he had a "positive impression" of the talks.

However, hopes that peace was finally within reach were dashed when the LRA refused to sign a draft memorandum sent by the government. Shortly afterwards, Museveni announced an end to the ceasefire and a resumption by the Uganda People's Defence Forces of "full-scale operations".

The government was criticised by some at the time for a lack of seriousness in its approach to the talks, and for not giving Kony enough time to read and sign the draft memorandum of understanding.

For its part, the government accused the LRA of never having been serious about the talks, and of merely using the ceasefire period to regroup in preparation for the resumption of hostilities.

The signing in January of a comprehensive peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan brought new hope to the rapidly crumbling peace process.

Kony, a self-proclaimed mystic who claims to be fighting to replace Museveni's government with one based on the Biblical Ten Commandments, is widely believed to operate from bases in southern Sudan. With stability restored to the region, it was hoped that better cooperation between Uganda and Sudan could force Kony to surrender if he felt he could no longer seek refuge in Sudan.

John Garang's southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army promised to help end the rebellion and said that southern Sudan would never achieve peace until northern Uganda had done so.

"We are determined to achieve peace in northern Uganda, so that all our people can put their lives together again and engage in development," Garang said in January.

Museveni, however, said the agreement had not had a significant impact on the situation in northern Uganda.

He said: "What has had an impact is our [own] struggle against those killers," he said. "We have fought them all along. What helped was when, in 2002, the Sudan government stopped supplying [LRA leader Joseph] Kony with guns and allowed us to operate inside Sudan - to me that was the second most important thing.

"The third element was the strengthening of the army, buying better equipment so that the army can operate better. Then there was the element of the dialogue. Some of the people that Betty Bigombe dialogued with eventually came out. For example, Sam Kolo [former LRA spokesman]. So there has been some marginal gain [from the negotiations]."

Kony is still believed to use southern Sudan as a launching pad for cross-border attacks, and the LRA have scaled up attacks against southern Sudanese civilians. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees recently reported that more than 4,000 southern Sudanese had fled to northern Uganda in fear of LRA attacks.

In February, the government once again declared an 18-day truce in a limited area of northern Uganda. Although the ceasefire held for the stipulated duration, it ended with no major achievements for peace. The government used the period to encourage members of the LRA to surrender and offered amnesty to any rebel who renounced the insurgency.

DIFFERENT STRATEGIES TO END THE WAR

The peace process was dealt a heavy blow when LRA spokesman Kolo became the highest-ranking member of the LRA to surrender to the government. Vincent Otti, Kony's second in command, has since replaced Kolo as chief negotiator for the LRA in the peace process.

The Ugandan government has come under increasing international pressure recently to pursue the peace process more energetically. In February, the thinktank International Crisis Group (ICG) said the global community should increase its assistance in mediation efforts.

"The peace process should be pursued actively and quickly. It remains the most promising way to end a conflict that still has the potential to run a long and deadly course," the ICG said.

The LRA has fought against the government since 1986. Notoriously brutal, it regularly uses torture, mutilation, murder and abduction - particularly of children - as weapons of war.

The conflict has ravaged the north and east of the country, killing tens of thousands of civilians and forcing more than 1.4 million people into crowded camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

In 2004, Museveni's government invited the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe atrocities committed by the rebels against civilians.

"The involvement of the ICC in hunting Kony is very important, mainly because it enables us to deal with Khartoum," Museveni said in the 28 May interview. "Khartoum is fully aware of the consequences of dealing with somebody under the ICC's indictment. If Kony is in Uganda or in the areas of Sudan where Khartoum has allowed us to operate, then we do not need assistance - we shall catch him ourselves."

He added: "If Kony goes deeper into Sudan, beyond where Sudan has allowed us to pursue him, we need the ICC's assistance to get the Sudanese government to cooperate with us and help us to get him."

In an interview with IRIN, ICC prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo said: "The government of Uganda referred the situation in northern Uganda to the ICC in December 2003 [....] The ICC brings an independent and impartial justice component to the collective effort to end the violence in northern Uganda."

Opinion leaders in northern Uganda disagree, arguing that the ICC probe has complicated the fragile peace talks and the government amnesty programme for the rebels.

"We, the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative [ARLPI], do not question the existence of the ICC, or its principles," Archbishop John Baptist Odama of the Gulu Catholic Archdiocese, said. "However, we feel that the presence of the court here, and its activities, are in danger of jeopardising efforts to build the rebel's confidence in peace talks."

The ARLPI and other leaders in the region maintain that peace is the only way to end the conflict. The leaders have stated repeatedly that the ICC's effort to attain justice while peace still eludes the region risks, in the end, achieving neither justice nor peace.

The activities of the ICC, Odama added, were in direct contrast to the government's offer of amnesty to any rebel who denounces the rebellion.

In 2000, the government instituted an Amnesty Law, effectively pardoning any rebel who denounced the insurgency and voluntarily surrendered to the army.

"How can we tell the LRA soldiers to come out of the bush and receive amnesty when at the same time the threat of arrest by the ICC hangs over their heads?" he asked.

WAITING FOR PEACE

For displaced people and the children still in rebel captivity, peace is all they yearn for. Aid workers say many of the children in captivity know no other life beyond fighting for the LRA or sexual slavery.

The UN estimates that up to 80 percent of the LRA's fighters are children, and that over the years, the rebels have abducted more than 20,000 children, thousands of whom have died or remain missing.

"The conflict has destroyed lives, communities and rich cultural traditions," Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said during a visit to the region in 2004. "This conflict is fought by, with and against children."

Children who have managed to escape from LRA captivity tell horror stories of the extreme physical and psychological violence with which they were initiated into the ranks of the rebel army. The girls return with children born out of rape or forced marriages to LRA commanders.

Adults, too, have been forced to abandon their homes. According to Nahman Ojwee, the chairman of Kitgum district, 450 km north of the capital, Kampala, 255,000 of the district's total population of 280,000 currently live in IDP camps within the district.

Each victim has a story to tell. Mary Acen, 43, for example, sought refuge in Pabbo IDP camp 18 years ago because it was near the government army base in Gulu, northern Uganda. At that time, the rebellion was in its early stages. Acen told IRIN that when she moved to Pabbo, she never expected to spend so many years away from her home.

"All my children have been born in this situation, lived in camps all their lives," she said. "They do not know anything but a life full of fear of rebels. They do not know their land."

HARSH CAMP CONDITIONS

Relief workers point out that the humanitarian needs in the camps are enormous.

Overcrowding, poor hygiene and sanitation, insufficient water, disease and insecurity are prevalent throughout the camps in northern and eastern Uganda.

Ugandan officials and aid workers say the war could be inching towards an end. The LRA's troop numbers, made up largely from abductions, have been severely reduced by the encampment of most of northern Uganda's population.

Museveni said his government had drawn up a programme to reconstruct the region. "Our plan is contained in a 12-point document that we have developed. It deals with relief as of now, when people are still in the camps, and then when the conflict ends. When all the ringleaders have been accounted for, reconstruction will begin.

"This will involve reconstructing the region's infrastructure - providing roads to improve communication so people can take their produce from the villages into the towns and bring back agricultural inputs such as oxen and ox ploughs. Provision of schools, water points, clinics and income-generating activities are all part of the planned reconstruction," the president added.

A Chronology of events in the northern Uganda conflict: http://www.irinnews.org/S_report.asp?ReportID=47576

Some Key Players in the northern conflict: http://www.irinnews.org/S_report.asp?ReportID=47577

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

CRISIS PROFILE - What's going on in northern Uganda?

7 Jun 2005 Reuters report by Tim Large:

LONDON (AlertNet) - More than 20,000 children forced to serve as soldiers and sexual slaves. Gruesome massacres and mutilations. Up to 2 million people driven from their homes into camps where they live in fear and squalor.

Few horror stories rival the humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda, where a cult-like rebel group has been terrorising local people for a generation. It's a tale of astonishing suffering and massive displacement - and all taking place in a country hailed as one of Africa's development success stories.

Yet northern Uganda's nightmare has been largely ignored by the international community, even as the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Sudan generates hand-wringing worldwide and a steady flow of headlines.

In an AlertNet poll of experts conducted in March 2005, northern Uganda emerged as the world's second-worst "forgotten" humanitarian hotspot after Democratic Republic of Congo.

So what's going on in this neglected emergency?

Brutality and more brutality. For almost 20 years, a religious group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been waging war against the Ugandan government and carrying out horrific attacks on villages, towns and camps for the internally displaced.

The group's modus operandi is to abduct thousands of children, forcing them to fight, carry supplies and serve as sex slaves to LRA commanders. Rights groups say the children live in constant fear for their lives. Many are forced to perform terrible acts of cruelty, including the slaughter of other children, or be killed themselves.

More than 20,000 children have been kidnapped to date. Child soldiers are estimated to make up 80 percent of the LRA's fighting machine.

It's not only the children who live in fear. In addition to battling government forces, the rebels are targeting the wider Acholi population, the largest group in northern Uganda. Sexual violence, mutilation and massacres are common. Up to 100,000 people have been killed since the conflict began.

In its war against the rebels, the Ugandan army has ordered almost 90 percent of the population of Acholiland - made up of the Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts - into camps. The camps lack food and clean water and are vulnerable to LRA attacks.

In this way, between 1.8 million and 2 million people have been uprooted from their homes, according to aid agencies. That's about the same number as are displaced in Sudan's Darfur region.

What on earth is the LRA trying to achieve?

Aside from trying to overthrow the government, most analysts say the rebels have no clear political objectives.

The group is led by a former altar boy and self-proclaimed prophet named Joseph Kony, who managed to turn resentment towards the national government into an apocalyptic spiritual crusade that has sustained one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.

So it's all down to a bunch of religious fanatics?

That's the easy explanation, and one that helped the international community ignore the crisis for almost 20 years. But there's more fuelling this disaster than far-out religious beliefs, and it's important to understand the dynamics.

Take Sudan's involvement. Since 1994, Uganda's northern neighbour has been backing the LRA with weapons and training and letting it set up camps on Sudanese soil.

It's probably safe to assume the Sudan government has scant interest in Kony's spiritualism, which, according to a report by relief group World Vision International, superficially blends elements of Christianity, Islam and traditional Acholi beliefs to psychologically enslave abducted children and instil fear in local people.

Sudan's real interest lies in getting back at Uganda for allegedly supporting southern rebels during its own 20-year civil conflict.

But why is the LRA targeting the Acholi people?

It's confusing, especially when you consider that LRA leaders are themselves Acholi. Flash back to 1986 when President Yoweri Museveni, a southerner, seized power at the head of a guerrilla army. The northern conflict actually started as a response to the coup and loss of Acholi power on a national level.

But it didn't take long for the LRA to lose local support. Analysts say rebels then switched focus from fighting Museveni to targeting the Acholi population as a whole, both to discredit the government and force local people into submission.
How is the government responding?

With an iron fist. In 2002, Museveni launched a military campaign aimed at wiping out the LRA for good. Rebels responded by scaling up child abductions and attacks on civilians. Some 10,000 children were seized in about a year. The number of displaced people more than tripled from around 500,000.

It was around this time the phenomenon of "night commuting" came into being. Relief groups estimate that every evening some 50,000 children, fearing abduction, walk from rural areas to towns such as Gulu to find relative safety in bus shelters, churches or on the streets.

Sounds like the government crackdown isn't helping...

There's no doubt the humanitarian crisis has worsened since the launch of "Operation Iron Fist". More than 800,000 Ugandans in government-run camps now rely solely on aid from groups such as the World Food Programme and Medecins Sans Frontiers.

Meanwhile, the enduring conflict, which has spread to the east, threatens to undermine gains made in Uganda after the bloodshed and economic chaos of the Idi Amin and Milton Obote years.

At stake are Uganda's dramatic reductions in poverty and HIV/AIDS rates, and possible instability in a part of Africa with no shortage of destabilising forces. HIV/AIDS rates in war-affected areas are almost double the national average, while malnutrition rates are soaring. World Vision estimates malnutrition rates among displaced children at 7-21 percent.

The country's move towards democracy could also hang in the balance. Museveni banned political parties in 1986, but government officials, under pressure from international donors, have vowed to lift restrictions ahead of elections in 2006.

Now some analysts say Museveni is using the conflict to subdue political opposition in the name of "the war on terrorism".

Here's how the International Crisis Group (ICG) puts it: "As long as the situation in the north is dominated by security matters, the monopolisation of power and wealth by southerners is not put into question."

For its part, the government says it is close to defeating the LRA, but the massacres and abductions by the rebels have continued.

Both sides have stepped up attacks following the breakdown in early 2005 landmark peace talks aimed at ending one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.

Aid groups say the government is not doing enough to protect civilians. They accuse Ugandan forces of using gunships indiscriminately and failing to rescue rather than kill children abducted into LRA ranks.

Human Rights Watch says the Ugandan army and allied paramilitary groups have recruited children as fighters and arrested and tortured civilians on suspicion of collaboration with the LRA.

Would capturing or killing Kony end the crisis?

It's hard to say. The ICG says Kony's centrality to the LRA's tactics and purpose, along with reported leadership tensions, means the insurgency could perhaps be split if he is isolated or removed. But World Vision's recent report warns that a new leader could easily take his place, accessing secret weapons caches.

So what's to be done?

Rights groups are adamant that all parties must agree that no solution can be purely military.

The ICG recommends combining a military and negotiating strategy, while recognising the limitations of both. It says northerners' grievances should be addressed to make the Acholi feel more integrated into Ugandan society.

In the meantime, relief and rights groups say the Ugandan government and international community must give priority to protecting children and civilians. They also urge greater pressure on Sudan to stop giving the rebels a safe haven.

The International Criminal Court can also play a role by investigating crimes committed by any party in the conflict, although some experts say this could discourage LRA leaders from giving up arms.

The world court is currently probing massacres blamed on the LRA, such as a February 2004 attack in which 200 people were shot, hacked and burned to death.

Where can I read more?

The International Crisis Group's Northern Uganda: Understanding and Solving the Conflict provides a comprehensive overview of the conflict and makes concrete recommendations to all parties.

Human Rights Watch provides essential background and rights reports in its Uganda section.

For a focus on children, see the International Rescue Committee's Children Targeted in Uganda's Horrific, Overlooked War.

See also the World Food Programme's Huge numbers facing food shortages amid violence in northern Uganda.

World Vision's new report, Pawns of Politics details the historical roots of the conflict and examines the human and economic costs of the crisis.

Tags:

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

New danger from Ugandan rebel group ADF based in DR Congo? ADF leader Jamil Mukulu next Bin Laden of Africa?

June 6, 2005 report via ReliefWeb from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) by Fawzia Sheikh in Kampala, Uganda:

An Islamic guerrilla group previously thought to be a spent force is regrouping and rearming, according to Ugandan security officials.

Security officials in Uganda are warning that the country faces a real threat from an Islamic group that many believed had been defeated.

Most foreign reporting on Uganda's security problems focuses on the Lord's Resistance Army, LRA, a guerrilla force which professes Christian values but has pursued a particularly brutal insurgent war in northern Uganda for two decades.

But there is growing concern about another group, the Allied Democratic Forces, ADF, a resurgence of which could again threaten Uganda's southwestern flank.

The ADF's base in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, places it among the many cross-border security problems facing the Great Lakes region.

The fact that the United States government is planning to help monitor the activity of armed Ugandan and Rwandan factions operating out of the DRC seems to reflect the growing concern in the White House about the potential for African instability to breed international terrorism.

US interest in Great Lakes security grew after the 1997 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and a failed plot to attack its Kampala mission.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US government added the LRA to its list of terrorist organisations. It subsequently established the 100-million-dollar East Africa Counterterrorism Initiative, intended to provide regional states with a range of tools from police training to methods of countering money-laundering and other financial abuses by illegal organisations.

"There is a general interest on the part of the United States and members of the international community to help reduce the level of internal violence in Africa," said Dr Calestous Juma, professor of international development at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"Concerns over the spread of terrorism are only a part of the equation."

Yet while it is still concerned about the LRA, the US recently dropped the Islamic ADF from its list of designated terrorist organisations.

From 1996 onwards, the ADF grew into an increasingly potent rebel force - assisted by the Sudanese government - but in 1999 the Ugandan armed forces began to gain the upper hand and by 2001, they had effectively defeated the group.

Now it's back, according to security officials interviewed by IWPR.

"The long absence of a central government in Congo [DRC], hampered by a UN peacekeeping force without a strong mandate to disarm and reintegrate fighters, has given the ADF time to regroup there," said Lieutenant-Colonel James Mugira, Uganda's acting chief of military intelligence.

According to Mugira, the ADF has been receiving funding, operational training, and weapons such as Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars and bomb-making equipment from Islamic fundamentalist groups in Muslim countries.

Captain Joseph Kamusiime, operations officer in charge of Uganda's joint anti-terrorism unit, says that while the ADF has reportedly received help from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, one of its main supporters is Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the Sudan-based National Islamic Front.

Kamusiime believes Turabi wants to see the "Islamicisation" of Sudan's neighbours including Uganda.

Earlier this year, the ADF's leader, Jamil Mukulu, began distributing tape recordings of religious sermons in which he incited members to attack the government of President Yoweri Museveni, and criticised ADF members who had surrendered to the army.

Captain Kamusiime said the sermons preached that "Muslims should kill non-Muslims, and kill also Muslims who are not fighting for jihad".

In another recording, continued Kamusiime, Mukulu takes aim at the West, saying, "Let curses be to Bush, Blair, the president of France - and more curse goes to Museveni and all those fighting Islam."

Kamusiime concluded, "This is mujahedin kind of propaganda, and we think it's dangerous, especially if the message is conveyed to someone who's not educated." He added that 50 per cent of Uganda's population is illiterate.

Kamusiime estimates that there between 650 and 1,000 armed ADF fighters based at two camps in eastern DRC, and said that Mukulu has recently sent funds to these groups to help them recruit new members.

The United Nations mission in DRC is less convinced about the threat posed by the Ugandan rebel group. It comes up with a similar estimate of 1,000 fighters in the country, but its deputy spokesman Mamadou Bah says that "some of them are camp-followers or other kinds of people who make the ADF fighters seem much more than they actually are".

Under a tripartite agreement designed to disable the various DRC-based insurgent forces, the US, Uganda and Rwanda share information about rebel activity both with each other and with the DRC government. The groups under scrutiny include the Interahamwe, the remnants of the Hutu forces responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Within Uganda, the US government remains especially concerned about the LRA, which Ugandan intelligence and army sources say received military training at al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden's farm in Sudan in the mid-Nineties.

The US provides Museveni's government with non-military assistance such as vehicles and radios to help it combat the LRA.

Even though the LRA is avowedly Christian in outlook, it has received backing from Sudan's Islamic government, which has traditionally been opposed to Museveni because it alleged he was helping the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the rebel force which made peace with the Khartoum government only this year.

Despite the fact that the LRA still has a place on the US list of terrorist organisations while the ADF no longer does so, Ugandan officials insist that Mukulu's group is may be more of a menace to the international community as well as to the country itself.

"The LRA is an insurgent group which is using terrorist targets to further their cause. They're not targeting Americans [or] Israelis," said Kamusiime.

"The ADF, however, is motivated by Islamic fundamentalists - more in line with al-Qaeda ideology like other African terrorist organisations with global reach, such as the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, and Somalia's Al-Ittihad al-Islamiya."

Four years ago, the Ugandan government unsuccessfully tried to get an international arrest warrant issued for Mukulu, and now it plans to post his photo on the internet in a bid to capture him.

"We know he's going to be a very, very dangerous person," said Mugira.

"We think he'll become the next Bin Laden of Africa."

Fawzia Sheikh is a Canadian journalist based in Kampala.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Uganda, Congo and Khartoum facing war crimes probe

A BBC report today confirms the International Criminal Court at The Hague is to launch an inquiry into alleged war crimes in Darfur, western Sudan.

The ICC plans other trials later this year against alleged perpetrators of war crimes in two other African nations, Uganda and Congo, a BBC correspondent says.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Castrate the rapists or do something to stop rape being used as a weapon of war

The following comments were received from Cynthia and an anonymous person in response to a recent post at my blog Congo Watch entitled Women take brunt of human rights abuse: Amnesty.

As the post also appeared here at Uganda Watch, I am publishing a copy of the comments, along with my response. My reply took as long to write as a post, so I am using it as an entry for today's post here and at Congo Watch. Thanks to Cynthia and the anonymous poster. Much appreciated. Although, goodness knows what they or any other readers will think of my reply. I bashed it out quickly and posted it right away without a second thought, incase I talked myself out of publishing it.

Cynthia said...
I agree too that women should rule the world since men have made an utter mess of things. There is no way women can do worst...

6:23 AM
Anonymous said...
I am a man and am so sick of hearing how we should send billions of dollars to Africa to treat AIDS. Very simple: if someone rapes or molests a woman - castrate them! Women are under enormous pressure to have sex even by husbands, and when the husband carries aids from his girlfriend, of course women will be infected at higher rates. How does throwing more money at simple BAD BEHAVIOR change the problem????? Wake up people! I'm sick of paying for crap like this.

12:14 AM
Cynthia said...
You know Mr. Anonymous, I looked at the AIDS number, and they don't add up. African behavior is no worst than all the crap that Americans and Europeans do and they are not bombarded with these fictitious numbers that can’t even be verified. The Internet can attest to these facts. I, on the other hand, get so sick and tire of all the inappropriate moral outrage about things that are not even true. It's all propaganda.

6:31 AM
Ingrid said...
Hey anonymous: castrate them yay! In the olden days there used to be eunuchs. And I've read somewhere that Salt Peter used to be given to prisoners, sailors and troops to stop their "urges". What I am saying here is, now that such actions against men have ceased, what is the alternative within today's society?

I wish more men would speak up about rape like you have but I guess nothing will be sorted because it's not in mens' interest. Imagine if it were the men getting raped by men - no doubt things would get sorted quickly.

Cynthia, if you ever get time to look deeper into what you have just written, I would be interested in writing a post on it. There is so much propaganda around in other spheres, especially when it comes to Africa, I am not surprised it might be used with AIDS too.

It seems to me the sources of propaganda stem from those with a vested interest commercially - and activists - mainly from America. Every day I get steamed up reading American news reports especially when they are connected somehow to organisations that are based on the East Coast of America - to such an extent that I am actually trying to avoid reading American news now.

These days, whenever I read a piece by religious and/or political led organisations, Washington Post, NY Times, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and London-based Amnesty International, I start questioning the degree self interest and political motivation behind each story. UN and aid agencies add to the caucophony of outpourings of emotion in their quaterly fundraising drives.

Please understand, I am not suspecting these organisations of not having good intentions - what I am saying is if you follow the money you will find them on the trail and things get mighty blown out of proportion on the way, sort of like a Chinese Whisper, where everyone adds in their own two cents and interepretation along the way and it gets read as fact.

Much worse things - and the death toll is much greater - in Uganda and DR Congo than is currently happening in Darfur Sudan and yet the spotlight is still on Darfur and hardly alight on the world's worst/most neglected humanitarian crises in northern Uganda and DRC where for starters at least four million people have perished.

These days one has to be so careful talking about Arabs, Muslims, Jews and Africans for fear of being misinterpreted or accused of being racist - it is more trouble than it is worth. [So in a sense, it seeems to me they are suppressing freedom of speech] Frankly, I am starting to add Americans into that mix.

Within the blogosphere I've noticed over the past two years, most Americans take any sort of criticism of their blinkered and insular thinking as an afront to everything they stand for - like an attack on everything that is great and good about America - they get pretty aggressive about it and hold grudges. Sort of reminds me of the story of the Emperor and his clothes...

The point I am making here is there is so much political propaganda in the American media that Americans aren't even aware because they can't be told anything. Sorry, that's putting it bluntly but I have felt this way for the past year.

Another thing too is, this mushrooming of do-good agencies and chartitable organisations and PR companies issuing press releases to mainstream media has to be seen to be believed. I am starting to see people that probably wouldn't fit in elsewhere, starting on a issue, getting donations, and creating a little world for themselves that essentially lines their own pockets, puts food on their table. In some cases I see it as exploitation of people's emotions and misfortunes.

The other point I am making here is in answer to Anonymous: **how does throwing more money at simple bad behaviour change the problem?** It doesn't but it certainly lines a lot of peoples pockets on the journey to Africa. Humanitarian relief supplies and aid workers represent a multi billion dollar industry that nobody is really looking at. "So, what?" I ask myself - what does it matter, at least someone is providing relief to those who are most in need. My answer is, well yes, if it was true. Aid is not reaching those most in need. There is a great deal of super fantastic work being done - but there is a lot of incompetence too that causes wastage like money grows on trees. I get annoyed at the waste and easy come, easy go attitude with nobody questioning it. It's like they are unaccountable.

Right now for Darfur the UN World Food Programme is talking about using costly air drops of food because of lack of trucks and problems of insecurity related to the trucks.

This has now been going on a year. Who knows if the amount of money they'd spent on air drops last year could have been used to buy trucks accompanied by its own security minders. They used air drops last year because, and they admitted this themselves, they were too slow to react before the annual rainy season.

This year, after a whole year of warning and planning, they are using air drops again. China and Russia on the UN Security Council are blocking taking action against Sudan (because they have oil and arms interests in Sudan) and the genocidal regime in Khartoum is blocking African Union troops from being armed to protect civilians (because Khartoum sees foreign troops as a threat to its power base).

In essence, what I am saying here is, when it comes to Africa there is a whole load of corruption and propaganda when it comes to Africa - from within and outside Africa.

It's time people in Africa (and Africans living outside of it too) start working hard and putting their backs into sorting it out themselves and stop taking from the West.

Seems they love meeting and chewing the cud and sitting around talking - or fighting. They need to realise that without education they are going nowhere. If they would stop fighting and stop spending all their wealth on arms, they could afford to get educated over the next 15 years.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Sudan's stance on Ugandan terrorist group LRA

Thursday, June 2, 2005 Washington Post:

The May 15 editorial "Beyond Darfur" said that my government is sending militias to eastern Sudan to threaten the local population and that it support attacks against Uganda by supporting the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

For the record, Ugandan authorities, including President Yoweri Museveni, have publicly and privately noted the full cooperation of my government in eradicating the LRA, which we consider a terrorist group. Indeed, during the past two years, the LRA has often targeted Sudanese military personnel.

KHIDIR HAROUN AHMED

Ambassador

Embassy of Sudan

Washington

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Richard Dowden: Cynical politicians, pipedreams - and how we can make a difference

UK June 1 - Interesting opinion piece here in the Belfast Telegraph by Richard Dowden, director of the Royal Africa Society:

"Seize ye first the political kingdom!" said Kwame Nkrumah, the prophet of African independence and Ghana's first leader. That was more than 50 years ago and his advice has been followed diligently by every politically ambitious African man ever since.

The few who got to the top of Africa's greasy political pole - no woman has yet made it - have seized it and held on tight, usually until pushed off by force.

Africa's winner-takes-all politics lies at the heart of everything that has gone wrong with Africa. It is the reason why it has fallen behind the rest of the world economically, the reason for its wars and poverty. Its roots go back to the creation of African states themselves, the lines drawn on maps by the European powers at the end of the 19th century, that became 40-odd states overlaying some 10,000 societies and political entities.

Take Nigeria for example. Like Europe it has three big tribes and several other ethnic groups, 25 in the case of Europe, more than 400 in the case of Nigeria. Imagine a united European state - united by force not by referendum - which has to elect one president, one government. A Europe in which the French are Muslim, the Germans Catholic, the British Protestant and there is only one source of income, oil, and it is under the Germans. And where - if anyone mentions putting their own people first or forming an alliance with another ethnic group - they are accused of being tribalist and endangering the future of the state.

With a few exceptions African states have no common understanding or experience of nationhood. Their flags, their national anthems, their identities were created by outsiders. Patriotism in the good sense is in short supply.

If you want power, you play the ethnic card or rubbish your religious rivals. And when you have power, you bring your own people into government, and - even more importantly - into the army. The state treasury increasingly becomes a private bank account and when you run for election the entire state structure and all its officials are at your disposal. If anyone inside the continent says anything, you accuse them of interfering in internal affairs. If anyone outside Africa criticises, you accuse them of racism and neo-colonialism. It's a simple formula that has worked brilliantly for Robert Mugabe and many others.

Those new to Africa are often struck by a paradox. Firstly how individualistic and cynical African politicians are. Secondly how communal and hopeful most Africans are. There seems to be little connection or even shared values between rulers and ruled.

Despite Africa's dysfunctional political culture, some countries have worked. Botswana has been coup-free and relatively corruption-free. The presidency has passed through three safe pairs of hands.

Tanzania remains virtually a one-party state but the recent election of a new presidential candidate by the ruling party was as democratic as it gets.

Ghana and Senegal have both changed governments through elections. Yet none of them are free from problems of regional or ethnic discontent; Botswana with the San Bushmen, Tanzania with Zanzibar and Senegal and Ghana with minorities that feel excluded.

Others have looked as if they were coming right but then seem to have fallen back into old problems. Uganda under Yoweri Museveni has been the darling of the aid-giving governments for years with more than half its budget coming from aid. But now he seems determined to change the constitution to extend his rule. A report commissioned by the World Bank found that it has turned into a corrupt one-party state and recommends that direct budget support to Uganda be stopped.

Kenya where the corrupt old regime of Daniel arap Moi was replaced in a stunning election victory for an opposition alliance, has become even more corrupt than before. Then there are the big holes on the map: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan - ruled in great parts by local barons and warlords and where there is no democracy despite, in Nigeria's case, having had elections.

Given this, the prospect of turning Africa around with aid and debt relief seems at best doubtful, at worst a pipedream.

Uganda presents a terrible dilemma. To punish Mr Museveni by cutting aid could mean we hurt millions of Ugandans who are beginning at last to see real change in their lives. The country is so dependent on aid that dropping it would risk destroying the economic gains it has made in recent years. Mr Museveni knows the donors well and their moral scruples. He will take huge risks with his country's future to stay in power. Will he, after all he has achieved, throw it all away? As they used to say of Mr Moi in Kenya: "If you are the only one on the teat, it does not matter how thin the cow gets."

Yet these hard-boiled calculations do not enter the soft world of Live Aid concerts and the campaigns for debt relief and more aid. This aid agency-driven agenda creates the illusion that the hungry African child they use in their fund-raising propaganda can be directly reached by your money. Give, and the child will receive. In this world there are no cynical rulers, no corrupt governments, no nasty armies. Instead there are governments whose only constraint are the funds which, if they did not have to spend them servicing debt, they would spend on food, medicine and school books for that child.

I was delighted yesterday when Bob Geldof said he did not want your money - just your support, because there are things we can do for Africa apart from give it money. Or rather, there are damaging things we can stop doing and barriers we can remove to give Africa a real chance to earn its living in the world and develop.

Firstly, we can fight to end the agricultural subsidies for farmers in Europe, America and Japan that keep world prices low and squeeze African commodities out the market. And end the export subsidies that allow cheap food to be dumped in Africa destroying African markets. High tariffs keeping out African goods need to be cut, but African countries need a bit of time before reciprocating the removal of trade barriers, as they have no safety nets to protect workers who lose their jobs.

Secondly, we could look closely at the outside dimension to corruption in Africa. Britain has resisted signing up to the UN Convention on Corruption and British companies are fighting regulations that would make them responsible for corrupt practices by their agents as well as their own staff. London looks to be the laundry of choice when it comes to laundering African corruption money - and although the reporting regulations have been tightened up, few reports from banks about suspicious funds are followed up by the Financial Services Authority unless they are related to drugs or terrorism.

Thirdly, we have to stop encouraging the brain-drain from Africa. There are said to be more Malawian nurses in Birmingham than in Malawi, a country ravaged by Aids. It is not about a ban, but maybe finding ways of turning the ebb and flow of skills into a win-win rather than a win-lose, as it is at the moment.

Fourthly, the arms and mines that kill in Africa's wars are mostly made in the former Soviet Union, but the dealers are mostly in London and the deals are made in the City. They are not licensed or regulated in any way.

Fifthly, Britain has got to do something about its immigration policy. Thousands of Africans living in Britain - or trying to come here for study or to visit relatives - are left with an impression of Britain somewhat at odds with Tony Blair's passion for Africa. I spent a day and half trying to get a visa for a well-known Ugandan MP, who was scheduled to speak at a meeting I was organising. Not even the intervention by our new Minister for Africa, Lord Treisman, could move the Home Office to deliver it in time.

All these were touched on in the Commission for Africa report. At its launch Tony Blair said the report's recommendations were now British policy. Is he serious? If so then the Queen's speech should have made reference to these issues, some of which require parliamentary time and legislation. But the mentions of Africa in the Queen's speech were vague and exhortatory.

Most important of all, we need to make a long-term commitment to Africa and spend more resources trying to understand how it works. The Government needs advice on how to call those difficult political decisions. Africa has been handed over to the expanding Department for International Development where knowledge of development theory is deep but experience of African political realities is thin or non-existent.

Meanwhile cuts at the Foreign Office is allowing it to shed its African experts like dead leaves. One day we may regret it.

Richard Dowden is director of the Royal Africa Society and was the first Africa editor of 'The Independent'

A continent stricken by poverty

* Income per person in the poorest countries in Africa has fallen by 25 per cent in the past 20 years. Those countries' share of world trade has fallen by almost half since 1981 and is now 0.4 per cent.

* The world's three richest people control more wealth than all 600 million people in the world's poorest countries.

* 2.8 billion people - nearly half the world's population - live on less than £1.20 per day. One in five survives on less than 65p per day.

* More than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases each year - one child every three seconds, while 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV or Aids. Each day 8,500 people - of whom 1,600 are children - die from HIV-related illnesses.

* Every day, 30,000 children die as a result of extreme poverty. Each day, 50,000 people die of hunger and preventable illnesses.

* It would cost less than 1 per cent of world income to wipe out world poverty.

* More than 40 per cent of the world's population live in low-income countries - yet these countries account for just 3 per cent of world trade. In Africa alone, a 1 per cent increase in the share of world trade would generate $70bn - five times what it gets in aid.

* For every dollar given to poor countries in aid, they lose two dollars to rich countries because of unfair trade barriers against their exports.

* Africa has lost 50p for every pound it receives in aid because of the falling prices it gets for its commodities.

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