|By Lydia Polgreen|
Internation Herald Tribune (Paris)
Published: December 12, 2007
SAKE, Congo Republic: A major confrontation between the Congolese Army and a renegade Tutsi general is plunging the country back toward war, threatening to undermine the fledgling democratic state and set off a new regional conflict on a scale not seen here in years.
The battle between government troops and the rebel general, Laurent Nkunda, turns on many of the same bedeviling issues that caused Congo's civil war, which supposedly ended in 2003. It was Africa's deadliest modern war, fueled by the ethnic tensions of the Rwandan genocide and the quest to control the unusually rich endowment of minerals, farm and pasture land in the small, rolling green patch of earth here known as North Kivu province.
None of those flash points has been resolved, and the recent violence they have spurred has pushed 425,000 people from their homes in the last year alone, including the residents of this strategic provincial town. On Tuesday, they flooded out of town in a vast river of suffering, bedrolls and clothing bundles atop their heads, toddling children at their sides.
Many were running for the second time in two weeks, as Nkunda's forces, who have vowed to protect Congolese Tutsis against Rwandan Hutu militias at all cost, routed army troops in towns they had taken just days before and threatened to take this one as well. That pivotal loss was just barely staved off by UN peacekeepers, who swept in late Tuesday to occupy the town as the Congolese Army fled.
The fight came only a year after Western nations helped organize and pay for an election last year that produced Congo's first democratically chosen government. The violence is also unfolding despite years of military and diplomatic intervention by the United Nations, the European Union and the United States to stem the tide of blood here and create, for the first time since its independence from Belgium in 1960, a stable and prosperous Congo.
|By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press Writer|
6:26 am EST Mon 31 Dec 2007
Kenya's opposition leader compared President Mwai Kibaki to a military dictator Monday amid protests and violent clashes over an election marred by allegations that Kibaki stole the vote. Several people were shot as heavily armed police tried to contain demonstrations in Nairobi's slums.
"There is no difference between him (Kibaki) and Idi Amin and other military dictators who have seized power through the barrel of the gun," Raila Odinga said Monday.
Kibaki was re-elected and sworn in Sunday after the closest vote in Kenya's history. Within minutes of the announcement of the results, the slums — home to tens of thousands of opposition supporters — exploded into fresh violence, much of it tribal driven. Deadly clashes had already seized the country for two days while Kenyans waited for the results of the election.
The bloodshed was a stunning turn of events in one of the most developed countries in Africa, with a booming tourism industry and one of the continent's highest growth rates. Many observers saw the campaign as the greatest test yet of this young, multiparty democracy and expressed great disappointment as the process descended into chaos.
"We have been rigged out, we are not going to accept defeat," 24-year-old James Onyango, who lives in the Kibera shantytown, said Monday. "We are ready to die, and we're ready for serious killings."
Odinga, a firebrand opposition candidate, led early results and public opinion polls. He rejected the results, which elections chief Samuel Kivuitu has also acknowledged were problematic. In one constituency, voter turnout added up to 115 percent and a candidate ran away with ballot papers in another.
Tribal clashes raged in the slums. Kibaki belongs to the Kikuyu tribe, while Odinga is Luo.
|by Michel Cariou|
6:43 am EST Mon 31 Dec 2007
An eruption of fresh violence triggered by Kenya's disputed presidential ballot left more than 100 dead Monday, after defeated opposition candidate Raila Odinga rejected Mwai Kibaki's re-election.
Further clashes were feared as Odinga planned to hold his own alternative inauguration at a mass rally later Monday, a day after Kibaki was officially sworn in for a second term despite widespread allegations of vote-rigging.
At least 64 people were killed overnight in western Kenya in fresh outbreaks of tribal violence and clashes between police, looters and opposition activists.
Separate clashes in the capital Nairobi claimed a further 40 lives, police said.
At least 124 people have now been killed since Thursday's elections, which have left one of Africa's more stable democracies teetering on the brink of turmoil.
|By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press Writer|
6:56 am EST Mon 31 Dec 2007
Police battled thousands of opposition supporters who charge President Mwai Kibaki stole his way to re-election, and several officers said Monday they had orders to shoot to kill to quell the violence.
The officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the order had divided the police force, saying many officers sympathize with the protesters. Three officers told The Associated Press independently that they had been ordered to shoot to kill, although a government spokesman denied such an order was given.
Meanwhile, Raila Odinga, the firebrand opposition candidate who led early results and public opinion polls, postponed a planned rally Monday in Nairobi, but called on 1 million people to gather Thursday.
"We are calling for mass action. We will inform police of the march, and we will march wearing black bands," he said.
The death toll was rising Monday from three days of rioting in Nairobi's slums — home to tens of thousands of opposition supporters — and elsewhere in the country, including the coastal city of Mombasa, a tourism hotspot.
|31 Dec 2007|
NAIROBI (AFP) — Diplomatic pressure mounted Tuesday on Kenya's political leaders to stem the violence that has engulfed the country in the wake of disputed presidential elections, claiming nearly 260 lives.
A second consecutive night of tribal conflict and clashes between police and protestors left more than 70 dead, with no end in sight to the unrest that has plunged one of Africa's more stable democracies into an unprecedented and crippling crisis.
World leaders called on Kenya's rival leaders to open a dialogue, but Raila Odinga, the opposition candidate defeated in the December 27 poll by incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, refused Tuesday to negotiate until Kibaki owned up to vote-rigging allegations and stepped down.
|Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 January 2008, 16:40 GMT - BBC News|
Thirty Kenyans including many children have been burned to death in a church, after seeking refuge from the mounting violence over last week's elections.
A mob attacked and set fire to the church in the western town of Eldoret where hundreds of people were hiding, say police and eyewitness reports.
Dozens more are reported to have been taken to hospital with severe burns.
It comes as EU election monitors said the presidential poll "fell short of international standards".
In an interim report, chief EU monitor Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said the tallying process "lacked credibility".
|By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY, Associated Press Writer|
11:43 am EST Tue 01 Jan 2008
A mob torched a church sheltering hundreds of Kenyans fleeing election violence Tuesday, killing up to 50 people as four days of rioting and ethnic clashes marked some of the darkest times in this country's history.
President Mwai Kibaki — sworn in Sunday in a vote that opponents say was rigged — said political parties should meet immediately and publicly call for calm. The violence has killed at least 270 people in what had been east Africa's most stable and prosperous democracy. The opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, refused the offer.
"If he announces that he was not elected, then I will talk to him," Odinga told The Associated Press. He accused the government of stoking the chaos, saying Kibaki's administration "is guilty, directly, of genocide."
The violence — which has erupted from the shantytowns of Nairobi to resort towns on the sweltering coast — has exposed tribal resentments that have long festered in Kenya. Kibaki's Kikuyu people, Kenya's largest ethnic group, are accused of turning their dominance of politics and business to the detriment of others.
Odinga is from the Luo tribe, a smaller but still major tribe. In the slums, which are often divided along tribal lines, rival groups have been going at each other with machetes and sticks as police fire tear gas and live rounds to keep them from pouring out into the city center.
In Nairobi's slums — home to a third of the city's population — parents searched for food with many shops closed because of looting.
Winnie Nduku, 34, said she and her three young children hadn't eaten in three days and the family had no money because her husband, a minibus driver, had been unable to get to work.
"My eldest daughter keeps asking what am I going to do and the small one is crying from hunger," she said.
|by Bogonko Bosire|
AFP 4:50 Tue 01 Jan 2008
At least 35 children and adults sheltering in a church were burnt alive by an angry mob in Kenya Tuesday, as an eruption of election violence threatened to tip over into a full-scale tribal conflict.
The horrific deaths near the western town of Eldoret bring to more than 300 the number of people killed since December 27 presidential elections, which were narrowly won by the incumbent Mwai Kibaki amid allegations of vote-rigging by his defeated opposition challenger, Raila Odinga.
The violence is the worst Kenya has witnessed since a failed 1982 coup.
|Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 January 2008, 20:11 GMT - BBC News|
At least 13 people have been killed in attacks by gunmen on two police stations and a hotel in the Nigerian oil city of Port Harcourt.
Four police officers and six attackers died along with three civilians who were hit by stray bullets in an attack on one of the police stations.
Several other people are reported to have been killed in an attack on a night club in the city.
Niger Delta militants have reportedly said they carried out the attacks.
|Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 02:24 GMT - BBC News|
Many African countries now have more doctors and nurses working in richer countries abroad than they have at home, research shows.
There has long been concern about the exodus of African medics, but the Human Resources for Health study suggests the problem may be greater than assumed.
Several countries, including Mozambique and Angola, have more doctors in one single foreign country than at home.
And for every doctor in Liberia, there are two working abroad.
The study, carried out by the Center for Global Development in Washington, looked at census records collected between 1999 and 2001.
It examined nine receiving countries: The UK, the US, France, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and South Africa.
The study is one of the first to count doctors who are born in Africa, not just those who are trained there.
Focusing on training location, the researchers argue, seriously underestimates the impact of losing people who want to become doctors has on a country's health service.
The report suggested the loss of doctors often went hand-in-hand with civil strife, political instability and economic stagnation.
... Nor is anybody banking on the swift intervention of the world community: not from Washington, with its string of disastrous foreign policies. ...
In any case, we can be certain that the violence will simply worsen the poverty that is itself the root cause of all Kenyan crises. Already we are seeing layoffs and a potential collapse of the tourism and agricultural industries. On the political front, perhaps the best we can hope is that Big Men will reach a deal and the tribes will put away their machetes and rifles. Then the Western press will trickle home, content that democracy has been re-established, while the people of Laikipia return to their daily struggle to survive.
|Friday, January 11, 2008; 5:28 a.m. ET|
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Kenya's main opposition party called Friday for mass rallies nationwide in the wake of the African Union's failure to resolve a deadly election dispute.
Spokesman Tony Gachoka said the party will "declare the resumption of mass protest against illegal presidential results."
Previous opposition attempts to rally have been blocked by police firing tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition over people's heads.
|By Shashank Bengali | McClatchy Newspapers|
Posted on Saturday, January 12, 2008
KERICHO, Kenya — As wages go, 4 cents a pound for plucking tea leaves might not seem like much to fight about. But the thugs who raided a tea plantation recently had a message for the few dozen workers they drove off with bows and arrows.
"They said we had been too successful in our work," said Jacqueline Bonareri, 39, whose craggy fingers were testament to a decade picking tea. "They wanted our jobs."
The clashes that have left hundreds of Kenyans dead in the past two weeks have been blamed on tribal rivalries. But in a country where millions are jobless and even the backbreaking, dawn-to-dusk work of picking tea is something to covet, economic inequality is a major force behind the unrest.
Under President Mwai Kibaki, Kenya has developed one of Africa's most vibrant economies. But that progress hasn't been shared equally.
In Nairobi, the fast-growing capital, glitzy shopping centers abut the squalid slums where most of the city's inhabitants live. And in the rolling hills of Kericho, in western Kenya, dirt-poor laborers toil in the golden bushes of multimillion-dollar tea farms — and they are the fortunate ones, because they have jobs.
In the hills around Kericho, stone barricades block dirt roads, and local militias prevent access to the vast tea farms, where residents say mobs have killed dozens of laborers.
Many of the laborers on the lush green farms, including Bonareri, come from a neighboring tribe called the Kisii, a fact that hasn't sat well with locals in Kericho, especially the hordes of young, jobless men who are blamed for a spate of deadly attacks following Kibaki's contested re-election last month.
|Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 10:59 GMT - BBC News|
Flooding in Mozambique and neighbouring countries could be more damaging than catastrophic floods seven years ago, Mozambique authorities say.
But officials say they don't expect the death toll to be as high as in 2001, when 700 people died.
The government is preparing to evacuate 200,000 people from their homes as rains continue to fall.
Some 70,000 people have been forced from their homes so far and several people have died, the government said.
The National Institute of Natural Disaster Management (INGC) predicted the heavy rains as far back as November and warned communities they were coming.
But flood waters are now spreading to Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia, and more people will have to be evacuated.
The rain is forecast to fall throughout February and could continue into April, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.
|Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 14:13 GMT - BBC News|
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga says police in Nairobi have shot dead seven people on the second day of fresh protests against disputed polls.
BBC correspondents reported Kenyan riot police firing into the air to disperse protesters in several cities.
They said at least two people had been shot in Nairobi's Kibera slum and there were clashes in Kisumu in the west as police tried to clear barricades.
The European Parliament has asked the EU to cut cash to Kenya's government.
On the first day of the protests on Wednesday, at least four people were killed.
The police have banned all public demonstrations.
Kenyan authorities say more than 600 people have died in violence since President Mwai Kibaki was declared the victor in elections held in December.
But Mr Odinga told reporters on Thursday that more than 1,000 people had died.
|by Jean-Marc Mojon|
3:04 am EST Sat 19 Jan 2008
Kenyan police remained on high alert Saturday after three days of deadly opposition protests against President Mwai Kibaki's re-election, as envoys sought to broker an end to the crisis.
At least 25 people have been killed since supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga on Wednesday launched a series of nationwide protests that were fiercely repressed by anti-riot and paramilitary police.
On Friday at least five people were killed during demonstrations, four in the Nairobi slum of Kibera and one in the port city of Mombasa, police said.
Several bodies were also found across the country as the death toll from the violence mounted to more than 700 since the disputed December 27 election.
Amnesty International condemned "excessive use of force" by the police.
"We recognise that the Kenyan police are trying to contain what in some cases have been violent protests in Kenya," said Erwin van der Borght, director of Amnesty's Africa Programme.
"However, by firing live ammunition into crowds the police have far exceeded what is acceptable use of force. The firing of live ammunition into crowds cannot be justified."
Nine Western governments, including Australia, Britain and Canada, also issued a statement Friday urging Kenya to stop killing unarmed civilians.
|Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 09:49 GMT - BBC News|
At least 30 people have been killed in a weekend of continuing post-election violence in Kenya, reports say.
In the worst incident 22 people in a Rift Valley camp for displaced people reportedly died after being attacked by mobs armed with machetes and arrows.
Three were also killed with machetes in a Nairobi slum and a further five died in unrest elsewhere in the country.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due to meet political leaders on Tuesday as part of mediation efforts.
EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel has already been trying to mediate an end to the crisis over the presidential vote.
He met President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga and urged both sides to stop exacerbating tensions.
The bodies of the three killed in Mathare slum on Sunday bore machete marks.
Witnesses said the violence had an ethnic angle, pitting members of Mr Kibaki's Kikuyu community against Luos like Mr Odinga.
| Chris McGreal in Johannesburg|
Tuesday January 22, 2008
Democratic Republic of Congo children
Congolese children show off war-themed toys made from clay in a UN refugee camp. Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP
The effects of a decade of fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo is continuing to kill about 45,000 people each month - half of them small children - in the deadliest conflict since the second world war, according to a new survey.
The International Rescue Committee said preventable diseases and starvation aggravated by conflict had claimed 5.4m lives since the beginning of the second Congo war in 1998, equivalent to the population of Denmark.
Although the war officially ended in 2002, malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition have continued to claim enormous numbers of lives in part because fighting continues in the east of the country.
The study of 14,000 households across Congo between January 2006 and April 2007 found that nearly half of all the deaths were of children under the age of five, who make up only 19% of the population.
"The majority of deaths have been due to infectious diseases, malnutrition and neonatal- and pregnancy-related conditions," the survey says.
"Increased rates of disease are likely related to the social and economic disturbances caused by conflict, including disruption of health services, poor food security, deterioration of infrastructure and population displacement. Children are particularly susceptible to these easily preventable and treatable conditions."
Congo has endured two foreign invasions and protracted civil war since the aftermath of Rwanda's genocide spilled across the border in 1994 with an influx of more than a million Rwandan Hutu refugees.
The years of conflict resulted in millions of people fleeing their homes, sometimes to live for years in forests where many died, and the collapse of what infrastructure still remained after decades of neglectful rule under Mobutu Sese Seko.
|12:56 pm EST Wed 23 Jan 2008|
# Government, armed groups sign deal to end fighting in DR Congo
# New report says conflict has claimed lives of more than 5 million people
# Government and armed groups attending conference in eastern city of Goma
# IRC says most deaths from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition
(CNN) -- The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and armed groups in the country signed a deal Wednesday to end years of fighting in the country's east, according to Peter Kessler, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
He had no details about the scope of the agreement. The signing ended a more than two-week-long conference between the two sides in the eastern city of Goma.
The news comes on the heels of a new report by the International Rescue Committee which said that the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Congo had taken the lives of some 5.4 million people since 1998, and that 45,000 people continue to die there every month.
IRC President George Rupp said the loss of life is equivalent to the entire population of Denmark, or the state of Colorado, dying within a decade.
Even with the country's violence, the IRC found that most of the deaths were from non-violent causes such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition.
Nearly half the deaths were among children younger than five, even though they are only 19 percent of the population, the IRC said.
The group said the national rate of mortality is nearly 60 percent higher than the average in the sub-Saharan region.
|January 27, 2008|
Ethnic Violence in Rift Valley Tears Kenya Apart
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
The New York Times
NAKURU, Kenya — Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, may seem calm, but anarchy reigns just two hours away.
In Nakuru, furious mobs rule the streets, burning homes, brutalizing people and expelling anyone not in their ethnic group, all with complete impunity.
On Saturday, hundreds of men prowled a section of the city with six-foot iron bars, poisoned swords, clubs, knives and crude circumcision tools. Boys carried gladiator-style shields and women strutted around with sharpened sticks.
The police were nowhere to be found. Even the locals were shocked.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said David Macharia, a bus driver.
One month after a deeply flawed election, and despite international pressure on Kenya’s leaders to compromise and stop the killings, the country is tearing itself apart along ethnic lines.
Nakuru, the biggest town in the beautiful but deeply troubled Rift Valley, is the scene of a mass migration now moving in two directions. Luos are headed west, Kikuyus are headed east, and packed buses with mattresses strapped on top pass each other in the road with the bewildered children of the two ethnic groups staring out the windows at each other.
|By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press Writer|
3:26 am EST Tue 29 Jan 2008
Gunmen killed an opposition lawmaker in Nairobi early Tuesday, an attack likely to stoke the ethnic fighting that has gripped Kenya since last month's disputed presidential election.
As with the gangs that have killed rivals and torched homes in western Kenya, groups of armed youths began gathering after the shooting in the capital's Mathare and Kibera slums. Since the Dec. 27 election, the death toll has soared over 800.
Two gunmen shot opposition lawmaker Mugabe Were as he drove to his house in suburban Nairobi, police said, adding they did not yet know if the political turmoil had motivated the slaying.
"We are treating it as a murder but we are not ruling out anything including political motives," Kenya police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said. "We are urging everyone to remain calm."
But a resident of Kibera, Teddy Njoroge, said houses were being set ablaze near a railway that generally divides members of President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe from inhabitants of opposition leader Raila Odinga's Luo ethnic group. Flames and smoke rose from one area of Kibera.
"They have decided to revenge this MP," Njoroge said of the member of parliament.
Were was among a slew of opposition members who won seats in the December legislative vote, held at the same time as the presidential election.
The killing came a day after thousands of machete-wielding youths hunted down Kikuyus in western Kenya's Rift Valley, burning homes and buses, clashing with police, and blocking roads with blazing tires.
|By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers|
Thu Jan 31, 6:00 AM ET
NAIROBI, Kenya — The spark for Kenya's firestorm of ethnic violence was lit inside a cavernous meeting hall in downtown Nairobi , where election officials over four days doctored vote counts, dismissed eye-popping irregularities and thwarted monitoring by independent observers to deliver a razor-thin victory to President Mwai Kibaki .
Observers who were allowed into the vote-tallying center on Dec. 29-30 , hours before the results were announced, said there was so much systematic fraud by Kenya's government-appointed election commission that it's impossible to know who really won.
The extent of the commission's deceptions has faded into the background as more than 800 Kenyans have been killed in ethnic clashes and police crackdowns. The events also have deeply unsettled the Bush administration, which has relied on Kenya as an ally in the war on terror and a bulwark of stability in East Africa .
Official results gave Kibaki an edge of 231,728 votes, or 2 percent, out of about 10 million cast. Initial results of an exit poll by the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute found that rival Raila Odinga had won by an 8 percent margin.
Election officials allowed five accredited Kenyan observers into the tallying center in Nairobi only in the final phase of vote-counting, and three of them shared their accounts with McClatchy . All said that the gravest cheating occurred in that room, where commissioners— all appointed by Kibaki— compiled returns before announcing them to the public.
The observers spoke in interviews and quoted from a joint log of their experiences, titled "Countdown to Deception," which Kenyan rights groups are circulating.
The long-serving chairman of Kenya's election commission played an active role in the deception, the observers said. When a tallying officer presented results showing voter turnout at 115 percent in Maragua, a Kibaki stronghold in the central highlands, commission Chairman Samuel Kivuitu didn't invalidate the result as required by law, but allowed a commissioner to reduce the figure to 85 percent and announced the results an hour later.
That was the pattern that observers reported: Results were announced even when documents were missing, incomplete, unsigned by officers or party representatives, incorrectly tabulated, photocopied or forged.
"Both sides stole votes," said Julius Melli , a 31-year-old Kenyan radiographer who witnessed the tallying of Maragua and other locales. "But Kibaki stole more, and they stole it inside the tallying center."
| By Jeffrey Gettleman|
International Herald Tribune
Saturday, February 2, 2008
NANDI HILLS, Kenya: The road from Eldoret to Kericho used to be one of the prettiest drives in Kenya, a ribbon of asphalt threading through lush tea farms, bushy sugar cane and green humpbacked hills. Now it is a gantlet of machete-wielding teenagers, some chewing stalks of sugar cane, others stumbling drunk.
On Friday there were no fewer than 20 checkpoints in the span of 100 miles, and at each barricade - a downed telephone pole, a gnarled tree stump - mobs of rowdy young men jumped in front of cars, yanked at door handles and pulled out knives.
Their actions did not seem to be motivated by ethnic tension, like much of the violence that has killed more than 800 people in Kenya since a flawed election in December.
It was much simpler than that.
"Give us money," demanded one young man who stood defiantly in the road with a bow in his hands and a quiver of poisoned arrows on his back.
| By Lydia Polgreen|
International Herald Tribune
Saturday, February 2, 2008
DAKAR, Senegal: Rebels entered the capital of Chad on Saturday and gun battles erupted around the presidential palace, according to Chadian officials and news reports.
A French military spokesman, Colonel Thierry Burkhard, told The Associated Press in Paris that 1,000 to 1,500 rebels had entered the capital, Ndjamena.
But Chad's ambassador in Washington, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, said in a telephone interview that the rebels that reached the capital were a small group that split from the main column of rebels headed toward the city.
The group circumvented counterattacks by the Chadian military and stole into the capital, Bechir said, but was being chased by the elite Presidential Guard.
"They were able to infiltrate the capital, panic the population, fire at the presidency and give the impression there is fighting going on at the presidency," Bechir said. "But everything is under control. President Idriss Déby is in the palace. The Chadian military forces are chasing the insurgents."
The capital was plunged into confusion, with sporadic gunfire echoing through the streets while residents hunkered down in their homes, waiting for news. Bechir said the airport had been closed to civilian flights and the mobile phone networks had been shut down to hamper rebel communication lines.
The United Nations refugee agency decided to evacuate all staff from Ndjamena, according to The AP, which also quoted an opposition leader, Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, as saying the government radio had gone off the air.
The U.S. and French governments took steps to protect their citizens in Chad.
France, which is the former colonial power in Chad and maintains about 1,100 troops there, added 150 more to help protect its citizens, according to French officials. The U.S. State Department posted a message on its Web site urging Americans to seek safety at the embassy.
The fighting has forced the European Union to delay its deployment of a 3,700-troop peacekeeping force to protect refugees living on borders of Chad and Central African Republic. Both countries have become increasingly caught up in a regional conflict that began in Darfur but has destabilized its fragile neighbors.
|AP 1:31 pm EST Tue 05 Feb 2008|
Red Cross officials said Tuesday that hundreds of civilians have been killed in a coup attempt by rebels in Chad.
The officials, who were driving around the capital N'Djamena looking for casualties, said they did not have an exact toll. But they said "hundreds of civilians" have died in fighting since rebels penetrated the capital on Saturday. Most were killed by bullets, they said.
Chad soldiers blocked two bridges crossing from the strife-torn capital to neighboring Cameroon, cutting off an escape route for hundreds of civilians trying to flee the violence.
A local reporter at the scene watched frightened civilians turned back by troops on Tuesday afternoon. The U.N. refugee agency says some 20,000 residents of the capital have fled to Cameroon since Monday.
|Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 15:40 GMT - BBC News|
The United Nations believes up to 600,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Kenya as a result of the violence that followed elections.
Head of the UN emergency relief operation, John Holmes, said about 300,000 displaced people were in camps, with the same number living elsewhere.
Talks aimed at resolving the political crisis have resumed in Nairobi.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, acting as mediator, is confident the two sides will reach a deal this week.
Mr Holmes has returned to Helsinki from a three-day fact-finding mission to Kenya, where he visited camps in the western Rift Valley which have seen some of the worst fighting following December's disputed presidential election result.
|Last Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2008, 11:43 GMT - BBC News|
The rising price of cereals such as wheat and maize is a "major global concern", the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says.
Poor countries could see their cereal import bill rise by more than a third. Africa as a whole is expected to see an estimated 49% increase this year.
International wheat prices have risen 83% in the past 12 months.
Demand from emerging countries such as China, and droughts and flooding have pushed cereal prices to record highs.
t is estimated poor countries will pay a record $33.1bn (£17bn) for cereal imports in the year to July 2008. This is despite a fall in the total amount they will import.
In an attempt to limit the impact of rising prices on their populations, governments have lowered import tariffs, raised food subsidies and imposed duties on food exports.
The rising price of wheat, maize and rice will push up the cost of basic foods and this will affect the world's vulnerable populations the most, the FAO said.
It warned 36 countries around the world were facing a food crisis.
The highest number of countries facing a severe shortage of food - 21 - is in Africa.
Lesotho, Somalia and Swaziland are said to be facing an "exceptional shortfall" in food supply after years of adverse weather.
The FAO this week launched an appeal for $87m of emergency assistance to help flood-affected populations in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.
Farmers in flooded areas are in urgent need of seeds to begin replanting, with only two months to the end of the cropping season, the FAO said.
|Al Jazeera English|
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2008
18:05 MECCA TIME, 15:05 GMT
Angola has been ranked worst in the world for tackling child deaths, in a new report by a UK-based charity that compares child deaths to a country's income per person.
Oil-rich Angola has a child mortality rate of 260 deaths per thousand - 162 deaths higher than predicted for its economy's size, according to the report, released on Monday.
Next on Save the Children's "wealth and survival index" was Sierra Leone, which struggles with a similar child mortality rate but has three times less income that Angola.
But the charity's report cites Bangladesh, despite its relatively low income, as a success story.
The report says a 1998 government initiative to tackle childhood illness and reduced fertility levels has meant Bangladesh is on its way to meeting its 2015 deadline to reduce by two-thirds the number of children dying before they reach the age of five.
"While poverty and inequality are consistent underlying causes of child deaths, all countries, even the poorest, can cut child mortality if they pursue the right policies and prioritise their poorest families," David Mepham, director of policy at Save the Children, said in a statement.
"Good government choices save children's lives but bad ones are a death sentence."
Sub-Saharan Africa contains 19 of the worst performing countries in the charity's report, but has economic growth almost three times that of the global average.
On Monday, Save the Children also unveiled an internet campaign that allowed people to become "virtual neighbours" to residents of a Sierra Leone slum, plagued by infant mortality and rampant disease.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
|Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 13:38 GMT - BBC News|
US President George Bush has said the creation of a US military command for Africa does not mean he wants to expand US military presence on the continent.
Mr Bush said the idea that he was currently visiting Africa looking for sites for US bases was "baloney".
Mr Bush is on the second-to-last stop of a five-country Africa tour.
He said the new command, Africom, was to provide African states with military training and assistance so they could handle Africa's problems better.
"It is a command structure that is aiming to help provide military assistance to African nations so African nations are more capable of dealing with Africa's conflicts - like peacekeeping training," he said.
Mr Bush was speaking at a joint news conference with the Ghanaian president, John Kufuor.
Mr Kufuor welcomed the comments and said relations with Washington had never been better.
Despite the warm words, Ghana is refusing to host any US facility or base on its territory under Africom, whose creation was announced a year ago.
The idea of setting up a military command in Africa is an unpopular idea, and so far only Liberia has said it would host it, says the BBC's Will Ross in Accra.
Critics say Africom is designed to protect strategic American interests on the continent such as oil.
|Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 17:46 GMT - BBC News|
By Joanna Jolly
Lesbians from across Africa have called on African governments to stop treating homosexuals like criminals.
The demand came as about 75 activists gathered at a conference in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.
The Coalition of African Lesbians called the conference to highlight discrimination across the continent.
Conference spokeswoman Fikile Vilakazi told the BBC that action was needed to respond to homophobia which, she said, was rife in Africa.
She said her main goal was to stop governments treating homosexuality as a criminal offence.
According to the International Gay and Lesbian Association, homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries.
One participant said the conference was helping to provide support for lesbians across Africa.
"We might be seemingly a bit lost right now on the African continent, but there's positive talk," said the delegate. "As Christians we realise that the Bible doesn't discriminate, it embraces us in our diversity."
Another participant, Nahlahla Mukize, said being a lesbian in Africa was a negative experience.
"I'm finding myself as an individual who is every day trying to get the people that I identify with... everyday having to educate them about who I am, but finding it difficult for them to open their minds and their hearts," she told the BBC.
"I haven't found myself being attacked or kicked out of home but it's just the discourse, how people talk about lesbian issues or how our government... how they tend to sideline people like myself."
Many traditional African societies view same-sex relationships as abhorrent and activists accuse some African governments of state-sponsored discrimination and persecution.
In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe, has attacked homosexuality as a Western import - describing gays as "worse than dogs and pigs".
In Senegal, the recent publication of photos from a gay wedding provoked violent demonstrations.
In contrast, South Africa holds the most liberal attitude towards homosexuality on the continent.
The South African constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and the government legalised same-sex marriages in 2006.
But even here, activists say, openly gay and lesbian people have been threatened, detained and arrested.
|By Michael Winship|
t r u t h o u t | Review
Tuesday 01 April 2008
Lisa Jackson and I first met when we both began working in television in Washington, DC. It was back during the Watergate era, but that in no way means we're old. Our parents couldn't afford daycare, so we were dropped off at the TV station each day with our nap mats and small plastic Baggies of Cheerios.
I was in charge of publicity and advertising, Lisa was an assistant film editor, soon promoted to editor. In the years since, she has become an accomplished, award-winning producer and director of many fine documentary films.
Her latest may be her most compelling and personal. It's called "The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo" and premieres on HBO, Tuesday, April 8, at 8 PM, ET and PT (check local listings).
The title comes from the lead sentence of "Women, War and Peace," a 2002 United Nations report that began, "Violence against women in conflict is one of history's great silences." Lisa set out to visit and film several of the theaters of war described in the report, but when she made her initial stop in the Democratic Republic of Congo she realized, as she says, "the first was the worst." She decided to focus on the unimaginable human tragedy in the third largest nation on the African continent.
As underreported as the horrific genocide in Darfur, Somalia, has been, it's front-page, headline news compared to the untold, unbearable and far vaster suffering of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Civil war began there in 1997 and has never really ceased. Further fueled by neighboring rebels from Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, this is the deadliest conflict since World War II, with four million killed in a decade of fighting and an estimated more than 250,000 women and children raped.
In the words of UN Peacekeeper Col. Roddy Winser, "There is no doubt that rape is a method in this environment to create a continued instability and dominance... This is without question the worst environment that I have seen." Classic British understatement.
The rebels aren't the only ones guilty. Members of Congo's own military are culpable, too, and even some of Winser's 17,000-member United Nations peacekeeping force have been accused of trading milk and eggs for sex with girls as young as ten.
Lisa traveled throughout the eastern part of the country, deep into the bush, to interview many of the women attacked and even some of the rapists themselves - they justify rape as their right as men and warriors; as an understandable action rising from anger, isolation and deprivation; even, in some cases, as necessary to activate a magic potion that protects them from harm during battle.
It is a story with deep personal significance for Lisa. At the age of 25, back in the days when we both were starting out in television, she was gang raped one night by three men in Washington's fashionable Georgetown. They never were apprehended.
Talking to the women in Congo, Lisa reports at first, "They didn't believe me, so I showed them the newspaper stories, and a magazine article I'd written about my rape. They asked about the war that was happening in my country. I told them there had been no war in Washington, DC, back then, that any woman could become a victim at any time."
Her story unlocked theirs, and what these women tell her camera is nothing short of "soul-ripping," as Lisa says, so powerful and shocking that, truly, they must be seen and heard in the actual film to be believed. One woman, describing the three years she spent as a sex slave, says, "When we were living in the forest it wasn't just one man. Every soldier can have sex with you. We got pregnant there. We gave birth in the forest, alone, like animals, without food or medicine." Sadly, her story is far from the worst you'll be told in "The Greatest Silence."
Why this human disaster continues is rooted in the Democratic Republic of Congo's past. This is the former Belgian Congo, 19th century fiefdom of Belgium's King Leopold II, who looted it of ivory and rubber, killing half the native population in the process. It remains rich in gold, silver, diamonds, oil, uranium and 80 percent of the world's supply of coltan, a mineral essential for the manufacture of capacitors used in most consumer electronics.
The rape of Congo is the cover under which smugglers steal a million dollars worth of coltan every day. When I talked to Lisa this week, she was in Washington screening "The Greatest Silence" for staff members of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees, and getting ready to testify the next day before the Senate Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. She was prepared to tell them that, because of the coltan trade, "the blood of Congolese women is on your laptops and in your cellphones."
This resource war and the first world's complicity in it may help explain the United States government's relative indifference to this crisis, despite the 2006 enactment of legislation - introduced by Barack Obama and co-sponsored by Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Republicans Sam Brownback and James Inhofe, among others - to "promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo."
Amidst the horror and chaos so vividly depicted in "The Greatest Silence," there are heroes: Dr. Denis Mukwege, medical director of a hospital in the Congolese city of Bukavu, treating women suffering from fistula, a painful and debilitating condition resulting from rape and genital mutilation; Sister Clothilde, a Catholic nun who runs "Mothers of the Parish," a support group for raped women; Maj. Honorine Munyole of the National Police, a one-woman Special Victims Unit investigating sex crimes.
And Lisa F. Jackson for making this film, a brave and unflinching look at man's inhumanity to woman and child.
In the words of Honorine Munyole, "The woman is the mother of a nation. He who rapes a woman rapes an entire nation."
Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and former writer with Bill Moyers, writes this weekly column for the Messenger Post Newspapers in upstate New York. This article has been published in the Messenger Post Newspapers.
(If you would like to learn more about "The Greatest Silence," the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo and relief organizations to which you can contribute, please go to www.thegreatestsilence.org.)
|By Tristan McConnell|
The Christian Science Monitor
Fri Apr 11, 4:00 AM ET
Brightly painted tattoos snake down Sgt. Joe Palko's outstretched arms as he separates two fighters in protective headgear and boxing gloves.
It is morning onboard the USS Fort McHenry, a 600-foot amphibious landing ship, and US Marines are teaching martial arts on the "Well Deck" deep in the ship's hull. Staff Sgt. William Sudbrock restarts the timer and a group of Liberian soldiers watch as their comrades lay into each other.
For the past five months, the Fort McHenry has been visiting countries on the coast of West Africa's Gulf of Guinea as part of a new initiative called the Africa Partnership Station (APS).
With the US military's Africa Command (AFRICOM) facing skepticism as it prepares to become fully operational in October, the activities of APS, both onboard and onshore, reveal the shape of future US military relations with Africa. "APS is a case study in the strengths that AFRICOM brings to bear," says its commander, Capt. John Nowell.
It is, says Captain Nowell, about preventing conflict from erupting by training local militaries, improving safety and security – in this case on the seas – and about "soft power" through the delivery of humanitarian support.
He points out that more than 1,200 soldiers and sailors from eight different countries have received training so far. Many of these cash-strapped countries lack either a functioning coast guard or navy, allowing an alarming rise in oil theft, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, piracy, and illegal fishing. The Fort McHenry also helped deliver food aid to Chadian refugees who fled across the border to Cameroon during a coup attempt earlier in the year.
Militarization of US foreign policy?These arguments, however, do not convince Frida Berrigan, an analyst at the Washington-based New America Foundation, who sees AFRICOM as part of a broader militarization of US foreign policy.
"The Pentagon talks of partnership and synergies and presents a humanitarian overlay which puts the Department of State and USAID under a big AFRICOM tent," says Ms. Barrigan. "What image is the US projecting when everything is facilitated by the Army?"
America now gets more than 15 percent of its oil from Africa, a figure expected to grow to one quarter by 2015, and West Africa is an oil-rich region. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't in US interests," concedes Nowell but he argues that oil is only one component part. "Ninety percent of commerce is by sea so a stable and secure maritime environment is good for the US.
"More importantly after [9/11] what [we] recognized is that we ignore economic prosperity and stability and security anywhere in the world at our own peril," he adds.
Building wells and roads, delivering aidIn March, the Fort McHenry was moored off the Liberian capital, Monrovia. Onshore vets, doctors, and dentists helped out at local clinics while teams of Navy engineers set to work refurbishing schools and building roads. The military drove convoys of camouflaged Humvees through the streets to deliver $3 million in medical supplies and took onboard 40 Liberian soldiers for training that included leadership skills and martial arts.
In a makeshift clinic overlooking the sluggish brown Meserado River military veterinarian Capt. Brian Smith had just finished vaccinating 60 cats and dogs against rabies when a man wandered in with a baby chimpanzee clinging to his waist. Bemused, Captain Smith took a quick snap on his digital camera, injected the chimp and sent it and its owner on their way.
Besides the medical support provided while the Fort McHenry was in Liberia, a team of 25 Seabees – the Navy's construction battalion – are staying in Monrovia until June carrying out $90,000 worth of health clinic, school, and road repairs.
One morning at the D. Twe Memorial High School US Navy volunteers worked alongside paid local people to repaint the walls and halls. Outside during a break, Liberian children ran rings around the soldiers during an impromptu game of soccer.
All this is helpful but it is also an important public relations exercise for AFRICOM's backers who did not anticipate the hostility that followed Defense Secretary Robert Gates's announcement to Congress in February 2007. Many in Africa argue that it is simply about securing resources, countering China's growing influence in Africa and extending the war on terror.
Regional powers such as South Africa, Libya, and Nigeria have rejected outright the idea of more US troops on African soil (there are already 1,500 at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti) and the question of which country might play host to a headquarters with at least 1,000 staff has dominated the AFRICOM debate.
Only Liberia's president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has lobbied to host AFRICOM in the hope that it would bring security and economic benefits to her poor and battered country. She welcomed the US military enthusiastically last month even braving the lurching waves to become the only head of state to go onboard the Fort McHenry during its deployment.
Back onboard the Fort McHenry a setting sun cast long shadows through the open stern doors one evening last month.
Inside, a group of Liberian and American soldiers played basketball together, shouting and sweating. Asked what he thinks he is doing here in Africa, Petty Officer Steve Joachim answers with a smile, "I'm just making friends and showing them America's not bad."
|By CELEAN JACOBSON, Associated Press Writer|
12:34 pm EDT Sun 18 May 2008
Mobs rampaged through poor suburbs of Johannesburg in a frenzy of anti-foreigner violence over the weekend, killing at least seven people, injuring dozens and forcing hundreds to seek refuge at police stations.
The attacks capped a week of mounting violence that started in the sprawling township of Alexandra. Angry residents there accused foreigners — many of them Zimbabweans who fled their own country's economic collapse — of taking scarce jobs and housing.
Police and government officials say organized criminals are also taking advantage of the anti-foreigner sentiment by using it as a cover for looting and shooting sprees. President Thabo Mbeki said Sunday that he would set up a panel of experts to investigate. African National Congress President Jacob Zuma, who is likely to succeed Mbeki next year, condemned the attacks.
"We cannot allow South Africa to be famous for xenophobia," he told a conference in Pretoria. The government is trying in vain to change South Africa's image from the crime capital of the world — it has a murder rate of more than 50 per day — before the 2010 soccer World Cup. Police said the worst violence erupted after midnight Saturday in a rundown inner city area called Cleveland that is home to many immigrants. Two of the victims were burned and three others beaten to death. More than 50 were taken to hospitals with gunshot and stab wounds.
"It's spreading like a wildfire and the police and the army can't control it," said Emmerson Zifo, a Zimbabwean teacher.
Johannesburg is South Africa's economic hub and home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Many of them are illegal, but many have also been here for more than a decade and possess South African identity documents.
There has been sporadic anti-foreigner violence for months, mainly aimed at stores run by Somalis accused of undercutting local storeowners, but nothing to compare with the current scale.
In another inner city suburb, Hillbrow, on Sunday an Associated Press photographer saw the body of a man who had been shot dead.
Another person was shot dead and two more wounded in similar attacks on Saturday in Tembisa in another part of greater Johannesburg after residents went on a rampage, destroying property that belonged to foreign nationals.
Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers, which has been handing out blankets and food to affected people all week, said his organization was called in to help at a police station in Germiston, outside Johannesburg.
He said violence raged for four hours overnight and by the end 2,000 people were waiting for help.
"My staff said it was like a war zone. There was lots of police and stones being thrown. They said it looked like the police couldn't cope," he said.
Eric Goemaere, the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres in South Africa, said his staff was helping to treat people with bullet wounds and back injuries from being thrown out of windows. The humanitarian group is also known as Doctors Without Borders.
He said Johannesburg's Central Methodist Church, home to hundreds of Zimbabweans, was under siege overnight and that police had told people they should be prepared to defend themselves.
"It's a crisis," he said. He called on the South African government to declare Zimbabweans — there are believed to be up to 3 million in South Africa — as refugees and give them proper protection.
Edgar Gweru, from Zimbabwe, said he was robbed of cash, his passport and DVD player. He managed to escape by climbing onto his roof and hiding there until 2 a.m., but he does not know what happened to the three people sharing his accommodation.
He said the gangs were combing the Cleveland surburb street by street, apartment by apartment.
The the stench of tear gas hung over Cleveland's main street, which was littered with garbage and glass. There were two burned-out cars and many shops had been burned and looted. Police maneuvered an armored vehicle in front of a liquor store.
A crowd of dozens of stick-wielding people, many visibly drunk, sang and danced. One held a crude sign saying "hamba kwerekwere," or "foreigners, get out." One poster said "they (foreigners) steal our jobs and everything that belongs to us."
Michael Khondwane said foreigners were to blame for South Africa's drug and crime scourge.
He said the ransacking of stores run by foreigners would send them "the message that they must go."
About 500 people sought refuge at Cleveland police station — a pattern repeated throughout the city. Red Cross volunteers scrambled to provide them with blankets and food.
Zifo said the vast majority were, like him, Zimbabwean. He said he fled Zimbabwe at the start of this year because he felt he would be victimized for taking part in a teachers' strike last year.
"Even now, I would rather be in Zimbabwe," he said.
|By KATY POWNALL, Associated Press Writer|
Sun Jun 1, 12:55 PM ET
Stephen Batte works in a quarry under the blazing sun, chipping rocks into gravel with a homemade hammer. It's tiring, boring and dangerous.
Stephen is 9 years old, and has been on the rock pile since he was 4.
"Life has always been hard here," he whispers, carefully positioning a sharp rock before striking it with well-practiced accuracy. "But since my mother died, things have been much harder."
His mother, the woman who taught him to smash rocks when he was a toddler, was killed here in a landslide in August.
His T-shirt torn and his feet bare, Stephen is one of hundreds of people who work in the quarry on the outskirts of Uganda's capital, Kampala. Their shabby figures sit hunched over their heaps of gravel. The chink of metal against stone bounces off the rock faces.
Most of the workers are refugees who fled a civil war in northern Uganda. Now they make 100 Uganda shillings, 6 U.S. cents, for every 5-gallon bucket that they fill with chipped rocks. Stephen works 12 hours a day to fill three buckets.
There's no safety code or protective clothing. The children's arms and legs are covered in scabs from flying stones. Stephen says a friend lost an eye.
Rock falls are frequent. Stephen remembers the one that killed his mother.
"She had left the house early to work," he says through a translator. His voice falters. "We did not know that she was underneath the rocks — not until we saw her sandals.
He remembers her when she was showing him, as a toddler, how to crush stones.
"I sat next to her and she showed me how to hold the hammer. It's not easy and at first I would hit my fingers so I cried a lot. It made my mum very sad but she said we had to earn money to buy food."
Now he works alone at the quarry and spends his meager earnings on food. He sleeps in the crumbling mud hut he used to share with his parents and baby sister. He says his stepfather abandoned them after their mother's death. The sister, 8 months old, was put in an orphanage.
"If I stay in the house I feel lonely and I fear the memories," he explains. "So even though I'm tired when I leave the quarry, I go and play football with my friends."
At the height of the 22-year conflict between the government and a brutal, shadowy rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army, almost two million people fled. Most ended up in squalid government-controlled camps, but advocacy groups estimate that there are up to 600,000 in the cities.
A truce has enabled many of the camp-dwellers to go home, with food, tools and building materials provided by the government and aid groups. But the urban refugees don't qualify for help and have remained unregistered and invisible.
When Musa Ecweru, the minister of relief and disaster preparedness, visited the quarry, relief workers had to meet his car two miles from the site because his driver couldn't find it.
The normally talkative Ecweru seemed at a loss for words at what he saw, and unable to make firm commitments to help. He admitted that the government "may not have appreciated fully the magnitude" of the problem, and promised to bring it to the government's attention.
Then he gave a group of women and children with whom he spoke $30 and told them to divide it among themselves.
Two months after the minister's visit, Stephen's situation is unchanged.
"I wish I could be helped," he said, picking at a large scab on his knee, "but I cannot see another life for me."
|June 12, 2008|
Filed at 5:37 a.m. ET
DJIBOUTI/ASMARA (Reuters) - Border clashes between Eritrea and Djibouti have killed nine Djiboutian soldiers and wounded 60 others in three days of fighting between the Horn of Africa nations, a defense official said on Thursday.
In the first fighting since the mid-1990s between two of Africa's smallest states, Eritrean and Djiboutian troops have exchanged fire along a part of their shared border overlooking strategic shipping lanes in the Red Sea.
Djibouti hosts French and U.S. military bases and is the main route to the sea for Eritrea's arch-foe Ethiopia.
Africa's youngest nation, Eritrea has fractious ties with the West, which accuses it of backing Somali insurgents and impeding U.N. peacekeepers on the Ethiopia border.
"The fighting is still ongoing. The dead and injured are more today, up to nine dead and 60 wounded," said a Djiboutian military official, on condition of anonymity.
Djiboutian state media said the Red Sea state had captured 100 Eritrean prisoners.
There was, however, no independent verification of events from the remote border area that has long been a source of tension between the two countries.
Without confirming or denying the clashes, Eritrea has dismissed Djibouti's versions as "concocted animosity."
"The Eritrean government ... will under no circumstance get involved in an invitation of squabbles and acts of hostility designed to undermine good neighborliness," it said.
The clashes erupted on Tuesday after a nearly two-month face off along their frontier. Djibouti accuses Asmara of entering its territory to build defenses.
"The Republic of Djibouti will valiantly defend its territorial integrity by all means," said Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh as he visited wounded soldiers on Thursday at a military hospital.
Eritrea denies aggression.
"It's a fabrication...We decline the invitation to go into another crisis in the region," President Isaias Afwerki told Reuters when accusations of an incursion surfaced last month.
Djibouti's smaller army of 11,000 troops has begun to call up demobilized soldiers and retired policemen.
Eritrea has 200,000 soldiers, but many are on its border with neighbor and foe Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa and Asmara fought a 1998-2000 over their frontier, and tensions between the two nations remain high.
The fighting along the Djibouti-Eritrea border broke out in the Mount Gabla area, also known as Ras Doumeira, which straddles the Bab al-Mandib straits.
Djibouti is home to a U.S. and a French military base.
And Paris signed a mutual defense treaty with Djibouti after that nation's independence in 1977.
It is also an important route for landlocked Ethiopia, which has vowed to protect its access to Djibouti.
The United States and Ethiopia, Washington's main ally in the region, blamed Eritrea for the clashes.
"These hostilities represent an additional threat to peace and security in the already volatile Horn of Africa," State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said on Wednesday.
Djibouti says the fighting began after Eritrean soldiers fired on some deserters, prompting Djibouti to return fire.
Analysts say Eritrean-Ethiopian hostility is fuelling the spat.
"The Red Sea is a vital oil and petrochemicals route and Djibouti, Ethiopia's main marine outlet, is fast becoming a regional trans-shipment hub," UK-based newsletter Africa Confidential said in a recent analysis of the issue.
"Asmara wants to disrupt this and wean Djibouti of its Ethiopian links."
(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/ )
|By EDWARD HARRIS, Associated Press Writer|
9:11 am EDT Thu 19 Jun 2008
Royal Dutch Shell said it shut down production from an offshore oil field that produces about 200,000 barrels per day after the most powerful militant group in Nigeria launched an attack on an installation there Thursday.
Oil prices rose in Asia on the news, which raised concerns about possible supply outages in Africa's largest oil producer.
The group also said it captured an American worker on a supply vessel in the area of the rig.
A leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta told The Associated Press that militants attacked the Bonga oil field more than 85 miles from land. But the fighters weren't able to enter a computer control room, which they had hoped to destroy.
The militant leader spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid punishment by authorities.
"The location for today's attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that off-shore oil exploration is far from our reach," the group said in a subsequent statement. "The oil companies and their collaborators do not have any place to hide in conducting their nefarious activities."
Olav Ljosne, a spokesman for Royal Dutch Shell, confirmed an attack, but gave no details. He said production had been stopped from the field, which normally produces about 200,000 barrels of crude per day.
That accounts for about 10 percent of Nigeria's current daily output of about 2 million barrels per day production — already significantly off the amount produced before years of militant attacks on crucial oil infrastructure.
The militants also said they kidnapped an American worker from a supply vessel they encountered while returning home from the attack. The seizure was confirmed by private security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are prohibited from speaking to the media. The officials said two other seamen on board were injured in that attack.
Over 200 foreign hostages have been seized since an upsurge of violence that began in early 2006. The hostages are normally released unharmed after a ransom is paid.
Attacks against offshore facilities are exceedingly rare. Oil industry officials consider their operations on the high seas much safer than those in the creeks and swamps of Nigeria's southern Niger Delta, where most of the attacks during two years of increased violence have taken place.
Militant attacks on oil infrastructure have trimmed about a quarter of total oil production in Nigeria, which is Africa's biggest producer and a member of OPEC.
The turmoil in Nigeria's south has helped send oil prices to historical heights, giving the militants more leverage in their drive to force the federal government to send more oil industry proceeds to their areas.
Despite being the home of almost all of Nigeria's petroleum reserves, the country's south is as desperately poor as the rest of the country, which is Africa's most populous with 140 million people.
But criminality and militancy are closely linked, with many of the militant groups accused of stealing crude oil from wells and pipelines for sale in overseas market and helping politicians rig elections.
|By Shashank Bengali, McClatchy Newspapers|
Thu Jun 19, 6:00 PM ET
NAIROBI, Kenya — With the world's appetite for food expanding, sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly two-thirds of people making their living from farming, could be developing into an agricultural powerhouse.
But Africa's farms today are only one-fourth as productive as the world average. Populations are growing fast, while food productivity per capita has declined from 30 years ago. During that time, Africa has gone from a continent of food exporters to one that imports some 20 million tons of it every year.
"These are farmers who are basically always living on the edge," said Josh Ruxin , a development expert at Columbia University . "They produce just enough food to eat, and during natural disasters or economic downturns they use up their crops and are thrust to the brink of hunger."
Experts say that Africa badly needs a "green revolution" like the one that lifted millions of farmers in Asia and Latin America out of poverty a generation ago with higher-yielding seeds and basic innovations such as fertilizer and improved irrigation. The vast majority of African farmers still tend their crops by hand, fertilizer use is one-tenth what it is in Asia and less than 4 percent of farmland is irrigated.
"Generally there is no difference between the equipment I use and what my grandparents used," said James Ndegwa , a 46-year-old farmer in Kiambu, in southern Kenya , who tills his two-and-a-half-acre plot with hoes and machetes. His biggest technological advance is a diesel-powered water pump for irrigation, but the price of diesel fuel has doubled.
The Kenyan government offers millions of dollars in loans to farmers, but Ndegwa said the process was overwhelmingly slow and bureaucratic and that much of the money ended up going to wealthier farmers.
"The extension officers can take up to four to five months to come and inspect your small farm," he said.
"I would prefer to just farm on my own."
A lack of basic infrastructure makes it expensive and time-consuming to transport goods to market, especially during fuel-price shocks.
"The roads are not very good. There isn't much access to technology and finance," said Alex Evans , a development expert at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University . "In the first place, farmers need to have those extension services."
Foreign donors have neglected Africa's farm sector in recent decades, shifting the bulk of development assistance to health and education projects. The U.S. government has cut agricultural aid to Africa by 75 percent over the past two decades, according to the Council on Foreign Relations , a nonpartisan research center.
In Burundi , where 91 percent of the population depends on agriculture, the government invests just 2 percent of its budget in the farm sector. That figure is even lower in other countries. African Union member countries pledged in 2003 to increase agriculture spending to at least 10 percent of their national budgets within five years, but only Rwanda and Zambia have followed through, the Council on Foreign Relations points out.
Experts say that several basic interventions can help farmers in even the most cash-starved nations.
In most African countries, farmers plant poor-quality seeds that produce lackluster crops. The government in Rwanda , a tiny agrarian nation in central Africa , recently mandated that 10 percent of every harvest be stored in seed banks, and it set aside government land for the purpose. Ruxin, the founder of the Access Project anti-poverty program in Rwanda , said that the initiative had been reasonably successful so far.
With the vast majority of crops dependent on rainfall, better collection of rainwater would help cushion farmers during dry periods, experts say. In parts of Kenya and Rwanda , for example, farm cooperatives have dug simple catchments in the soil to trap rainwater.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last month that African farm production should double within a decade. Agronomists caution against such rosy predictions, saying that African farmers may never catch up to their Asian or Latin American counterparts.
It may simply be enough, experts say, for African farmers to be able to feed themselves reliably, escaping the clutches of poverty and reducing the continent's dependence on emergency food aid.
"What is clear is that if there's a green revolution in Africa , it's not going to look like the green revolution in Asia ," Ruxin said. "It will not be about exporting huge amounts of food, but it will be about millions of people in Africa being able to feed themselves and to afford things like health care, education for their kids. And that in itself would be revolutionary."
|22 June 2008|
# Nigerian rebels say truce will begin midnight Tuesday; covers Niger Delta region
# Rebels have bombed pipelines and kidnapped hundreds of foreign oil workers
# They claim to be motivated by a desire to get more oil wealth for people in the region
# On Thursday, the group took credit for attacking a Shell oil facility
(CNN) -- A Nigerian rebel movement blamed for an number of recent attacks on the African country's oil industry announced a unilateral truce Sunday after an appeal for negotiations by tribal leaders.
"Effective 12 midnight on Tuesday, June 24, 2008, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta will be observing a unilateral cease-fire in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria until further notice," the rebels said in a statement attributed to Jomo Gbomo, their leader's nom de guerre.
"We are respecting an appeal by the Niger Delta elders to give peace and dialogue another chance."
MEND has bombed pipelines and kidnapped hundreds of foreign oil workers, typically releasing them unharmed, sometimes after receiving a ransom payment. The rebels hope to secure a greater share of oil wealth for people in the Niger Delta, where more than 70 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day.
Nigeria is the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the United States, and analysts say that strife there is among several factors that have helped fuel a year-long spike in crude oil prices. The Nigerian government has proposed a peace summit to find a solution to the region's problems, but an immediate resolution is not apparent.
Last Thursday, oil production was shut down at an offshore Nigerian facility after an armed attack by a powerful militant group from the Delta region, Shell said.
MEND said it conducted the attack and seized an American oil worker.
The Bonga oil facility is 65 miles offshore in the Gulf of Guinea and produces around 200,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
"The location for today's attack was deliberately chosen to remove any notion that off-shore oil exploration is far from our reach," MEND said in a statement.
"The oil companies and their collaborators do not have any place to hide in conducting their nefarious activities."
It is the latest incident of oil-industry sabotage in petroleum-rich Nigeria, the fourth largest supplier of oil to the United States.
MEND said in a statement that its main target was the "main computerized control room responsible for coordinating the entire crude oil export operations," but that effort was not successful.
"Our detonation engineers could not gain access to blow it up, but decided against smoking out the occupants by burning down the facility to avoid loss of life," the group said.
MEND said it captured an American from an oil services company called Tidex, so the Nigerian military doesn't slough off "this humiliating breach" as an accident.
|By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press Writer|
5:26 am EDT Wed 25 Jun 2008
Dozens of scared children filed silently into the bare room, their eyes on the cracks in the floor. One by one, in low voices, they told of being tortured by the Kenyan army because they were suspected of aiding rebels. They told of being beaten and made to shake hands with corpses. They told of being forced to crawl through barbed wire tunnels and of genitals squeezed by pliers.
Then the children took off their shirts. White scars crisscrossed the dark skin on their backs like grains of rice. Some were still bleeding.
These children are among hundreds in western Kenya who have been terrorized, many twice over, first by a militia in their villages and then by the army sent to fight it. The militia forced children as young as 10 to become soldiers. In a widespread crackdown, the army then rounded up the children and thousands of adults and tortured them, human rights groups say.
The Associated Press interviewed some of the children in a detention center, brought in by a human rights advocate without the knowledge of government officials or the military. The children have been held since April on charges of promoting warlike activities. Their identities and location are withheld to protect them from reprisals.
In March, the Kenyan government sent its army to crack down on the Sabaot Land Defense Force militia, which is named after the Sabaot region. But instead of hunting down militia fighters where they hide in the forests of Mount Elgon, the army swept up thousands of men and boys from the surrounding villages.
Since then, so many reports of murder and torture have emerged that Kenya's state-run human rights commission is calling for the prosecution of the defense minister and top army and police officials. There are also calls for the United States and Britain to suspend millions of dollars in aid and training to the Kenyan army.
The U.S. has asked for $7.45 million (euro4.7 million) for "peace and security" purposes for Kenya in 2009. Britain is providing more than $1.96 million this year to fight terrorism and has allocated $7.83 million for regional security initiatives based in Kenya.
Representatives of both governments in Kenya told The Associated Press they are deeply concerned over the reports of abuses and are calling on the Kenyan government to investigate. But the Kenyan government says the army has received no complaints.
The militia in Mount Elgon formed because of land conflicts, the same issue that fueled violence in Kenya after disputed elections in December. Squatters who had farmed the same fields since they were children were evicted in a government land scheme, and the rich grabbed plots set aside for the landless.
The militia flourished in the thick forests of Mount Elgon, where 166,000 people live in poor villages next to a dormant volcano. Some families encouraged children to join in the hope of securing land in the 370-square-mile (950-square-kilometer) district. Others were given a stark choice: pay the militia up to 50,000 Kenyan shillings (US$830, euro525) — far beyond the reach of most — donate their son, or die.
One 15-year-old joined last year to protect his family after the militia killed his uncle.
"They shot him in front of me," the boy said. "He was begging for his life on his knees."
He spent two months in the forests and learned to shoot alongside eight other children. He saw a boy forced to kill his own father. He fled with a 10-year-old when the militia began producing victims for reluctant recruits to kill.
Some children simply disappeared. One 17-year-old girl was abducted by four men armed with machetes on her way back from school. Her father dared go to their forest hideout and ask after his missing daughter, who sang in the school choir and dreamed of being a doctor.
"They threatened to slaughter me if I took it further," he said, his voice suddenly raw. "I could not protect her."
Her name joined a growing list of missing children in the battered notebook of Job Bwonya of the local Western Kenya Human Rights Watch.
The first kidnapping he recorded was of 17-year-old Joshua, seized in July 2006. When word spread that he was recording cases of disappeared children, 24 families rushed forward. But four weeks later, Joshua's parents, brother and 9-year-old sister were gunned down in the family's cornfield, and the flow of families reporting missing children slowed to a trickle.
So far Bwonya has recorded 42 cases of missing children likely seized by the militia, and has heard of many more. A partial survey of schools a year and a half ago found 650 children had disappeared. Grim newspaper clippings plaster the plywood walls of his windowless office, and anguished testimonies about murders spill from bulging files.
"Families are terrified to talk," he said. "No one can protect them."
Now Bwonya has another worn book with a new set of cases of missing children, this time ones who villagers report were taken by the Kenyan army. He said testimonies from those released by the military indicate at least 22 children have been tortured to death. Bwonya himself fled the country for a couple of weeks after the military came looking for him.
The military in Mount Elgon does not talk to reporters. But Bogita Ongeri, a spokesman for the defense department in Nairobi, denied all allegations of torturing children. He said the army has combed its ranks since claims of torture surfaced but has not found a single soldier guilty of misconduct. The army had treated more than 7,000 people for injuries, he added, but their injuries came at the hands of villagers who spontaneously attacked them as militia suspects.
"No military personnel has been involved in torture," he said. "We do not have any juveniles in military detention centers. They have not been there."
But the children interviewed by the AP said soldiers plucked them out of school or from the streets, tortured them and caged them for days without food or water. Some had to help load dead people onto helicopters that flew out in the direction of the forest and returned empty.
Martin Wanyonyi, another human rights advocate, has records of 70 children in detention, including some whose names were confirmed by the distraught parents of the missing. Wanyonyi said a recent visit to Bungoma prison revealed dozens of tortured children among the 1,400 inmates crammed into cells designed for 400. Some were as young as 11. The stench of sewage permeated the prison, he said, and moans and screams filled the blackness.
He also showed the AP records that documented the injuries of four boys tortured so badly that prison authorities refused to accept them, insisting they be sent to a hospital instead.
In the meantime, Kenya's land issues remain unresolved. And the powerful politicians that villagers and former fighters say lead the militia remain free.
"The conflict in Mount Elgon is but the worst example of the poisonous relationship between Kenyan politics, land grievances and violence," said Ben Rawlence of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
If the children are released, some can trace their families. Others have no parents left after murders by either the militia or the military.
Peace and justice are far beyond the hopes of most families. Mothers say their ears still strain beyond the drumbeat of rain on a tin roof or wind rustling through cornstalks for the sounds of a vanished child's voice.
Some scarred children will eventually limp home along the winding mountain trails. Others never will.
|The Associated Press|
Thursday, July 10, 2008
MADRID: Fifteen African migrants, most of them small children, died of hunger, thirst or exposure as they drifted across the Mediterranean on a small, overcrowded boat bound for Spain.
The deaths, reported Thursday by the government and the Red Cross, were the second disaster this week in the saga of destitute Africans risking their lives to reach Europe's southern gateway in search of work.
A Spanish patrol boat rescued 33 people and recovered one body from the boat Wednesday night off the coast of the southern province of Almería, the provincial Interior Ministry office said.
Survivors told the police they had been adrift for four or five days after the boat's motor broke down and that as people died - including nine children 1 to 4 years old- their bodies were thrown overboard, a Red Cross spokesman, Antonio Hermosa, said. He said conditions aboard the vessel were awful, with nearly 50 people crammed into a 6-meter, or 20-foot, boat. The bodies were probably thrown overboard because they were decomposing in the hot sun, he said.
Three other migrant boats carrying 139 people were also intercepted Wednesday night in Almería waters, a maritime rescue official said.
Earlier in the week, 14 Africans were reported missing and later presumed dead off the city of Motril when their boat capsized in rough seas. Crews pulled 23 people out of the water, including a pregnant woman.
The government decided to let that woman and a man who lost his wife, child and brother in the ordeal remain in Spain as a humanitarian gesture.
Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, speaking while on a visit to Greece, said the only way to keep Europe from being flooded with destitute Africans was to alleviate poverty in their home countries through more development aid.
"Either we help Africa and help in the fight against misery and despair, or our collective future as a place of progress and well-being will be called into question," Zapatero said at a news conference.
Every year, thousands of poor Africans seeking a better life attempt treacherous journeys in overcrowded boats, hoping to reach the Spanish mainland or Spain's Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa. Most are caught and hundreds more die along the way, either from exposure or by drowning.