In January, the printing facilities of the Daily News, an independent Zimbabwe newspaper, were bombed; the police have done almost nothing to track down those responsible. In February, two respected international journalists [writing for the BBC and South Africa’s Mail & Guardian] were expelled from the country and all other foreign and local journalists’ accreditation suspended. An estimated 84 people, most of them supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have been murdered in political violence since early in 2000.
As a 2/28 Financial Gazette article noted, recent events -- mysterious bombings with little police follow-up; night raids on journalists and opponents of the ZANU-PF ruling party; abductions of MDC supporters from police custody -- underscore an ominous shift in ZANU-PF tactics. These include more open use of "violence by state security organs under the direct charge of President Robert Mugabe and his Cabinet."
"War veterans" are still active, especially in rural areas. But more violence is being carried out by "CIO [Central Intelligence Organization], the army and other state security organs," an official of Amani Trust, a Bulawayo-based group that has closely documented political violence for the past year, told the Financial Gazette. Mugabe and the ZANU-PF leadership are effectively using public monies to fund their efforts, and unleashing war veterans to squelch public protests. Residents of Harare’s ‘high density’ suburbs complain of nightly beatings by uniformed soldiers who accuse them of supporting the MDC.
There is powerful irony in the fact that Mugabe’s latest tactics -- deporting outspoken foreigners, denying opponents passports, beating or killing political opponents while dismissing ZANU-PF officials considered insufficiently loyal -- so closely resemble those of Ian Smith, during the waning days of Rhodesian white minority rule. In January the police moved to charge several MDC leaders, including party president Morgan Tsvangirai, with incitement to violence under the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), a repressive law inherited from Smith.
Mugabe and ZANU-PF have been particularly stymied by consistent legal defeats overturning their actions handed down by Zimbabwe’s until now independent judiciary. Until recently, Mugabe merely announced that he would ignore these judgments. Now, he and his allies have moved to try to control the judiciary itself. Officials have backed war veteran demands that Zimbabwe’s High Court judges resign, and be replaced by hand picked successors who will support Mugabe and be willing to protect the government’s illegal actions.
The ongoing political turmoil has contributed to an economic collapse that is threatening major industries and vital social services, such as health care, as well as ordinary people’s ability to make ends meet. The foreign tourist industry has largely collapsed. Production of tobacco, Zimbabwe’s other major foreign exchange earner, has plummeted due to land seizures by "war veterans" who have destroyed newly planted crops. Many banks fear bankruptcy, having made loans to tobacco farmers for inputs, like fertilizers, which the latter cannot now repay because of disrupted planting and harvesting due to land takeovers. Tens of thousands of black farm workers have been expelled from their homes on farms to make way for "war veterans." Many white farmers, facing dramatically shrinking incomes, have had to stop funding rural schools and clinics previously run at their expense.
ZANU-PF, the opposition MDC, and most NGOs and analysts all agree that land redistribution is long overdue. Having done very little in the 20+ years since independence on this issue, ZANU-PF and President Mugabe are now trying to use it as a political club to win popularity and undermine the credibility of their opponents. But the unplanned and violent land grab they have encouraged is sharpening local conflicts. Many new farmers, lacking inputs and agriculture extension services for their newly seized land, are expected to fail. The chaotic land takeovers are generating complex legal disputes and will likely delay genuine land redistribution (backed by the MDC and many other ZANU-PF critics) as foreign donors, concerned at growing human rights abuses, hold back funding.
Donor governments such as Denmark, Sweden and the European Union have already begun moves to diplomatically isolate Mugabe’s government and suspend development aid. Some propose suspending Zimbabwe’s membership in the Commonwealth, possibly at its March 29 gathering. Long held at arms-length by South Africa’s ruling ANC party, MDC head Morgan Tsvangirai met last week with key ANC parliamentarians and government officials. And Zimbabwe may lose some regional leverage following a special SADC summit scheduled for March 9 in Windhoek.
In mid-February, an MDC official visited Washington at the invitation of the Independent Republican Institute (IRI) for talks with US policymakers. Meanwhile, Zimbabwean Supreme Court Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay – who resigned this week under intense pressure from Mugabe -- reportedly accepted a US government invitation to visit the United States to discuss the role of the judiciary in promoting democracy in Zimbabwe.
The US government has been divided on Zimbabwe policy. The Clinton administration had looked to Mugabe to help persuade the late Laurent Kabila to implement the Lusaka Peace Accord. Last week the new administration sought to shield Mugabe from a civil suit filed in the U.S. accusing him of various human rights abuses, arguing that he was entitled to immunity as a head of state (and citing the principle of reciprocity for US leaders abroad). Yet Senators Bill Frist (R-TN), chair of the Senate Africa subcommittee, and Russell Feingold (D-WI) plan to introduce a revised version of the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill in early March, which would ban U.S. aid until the Zimbabwe government "embraces democracy and the rule of law."
As AFJN went to press, a Zimbabwean contact sent an urgent request for prayers for David Coldtart,
MDC legal secretary and member of Parliament (MP), and his wife and three children. A lawyer, who
constantly challenged human rights abuses in Matabeleland during the 1980s, he has gone into hiding
following an anonymous death threat received last week. Noting unsubstantiated reports of plans to
"eliminate" one of the four white opposition MPs every month, the contact urged us to
"pray for Dave, his family and this wonderful country as a whole!"
Since early February, both Rwanda and Uganda -- whose heads of state boycotted a summit on the Congo in Zambia -- have moved to pull back or recall troops home, raising modest hopes for peace. Most analysts have credited Joseph Kabila Jr. for moving the process forward. Since assuming power, he has called for convening the Inter-Congolese dialogue agreed in Lusaka in 1999, welcomed the regional mediation role of former Botswana president Ketumile Masire as a facilitator of that dialogue, and joined in informal contacts with rebel groups in the north and east. Many are concerned by a UN decision to trim the number of its troops to be deployed from 5,500 to around 3,000. Nevertheless, parties to the conflict agreed at a 22 Feb UN Security Council meeting to complete initial troop pullbacks by March 15, and for all foreign forces to withdraw completely from the Congo by May 15.
However, concerns remain over exactly who will participate in the inter-Congolese dialogue -- e.g. only armed factions or also civil society groups and political parties. A Rwandan pullback from Pweto has been greeted skeptically by Congolese in the Kivus, where Rwandan troops will continue operations against regrouped ex-Interahamwe elements. Kinshasa civil society groups, who have pressed in vain for release of human rights and peace activists detained by Kabila Sr., are now concerned at growing extra-judicial detentions linked to the inquiry into Kabila’s death.
The humanitarian crisis continues, especially in the Ituri region, despite a reconciliation ceremony involving 156 chiefs from the Hema and Lendu peoples following horrific inter-ethnic violence in previous months. A UN-NGO mission visiting the region described "an atmosphere of restrained but extreme tension." Tens of thousands of people reportedly cheered civil society representatives from across the DRC and Europe who attended a Feb 26 peace symposium in Butembo focused on reconciliation.
In late February, the Namibian government finally admitted that it had been granted ownership of a diamond mine concession in the Tshikapa region near the Angola border, in conjunction with a U.S. company it refused to name.
While analysts have cautious hope about developments in the DRC, a regional peace summit Feb 26
in Arusha failed to reach agreement on transitional arrangements. This followed a week of fierce
fighting in and near Bujumbura involving rebel use of mortars; reports indicate over 40 have been
killed and 50,000 displaced. A leadership crisis within the FNL, one of two armed rebel Hutu groups
that has yet to sign the August 2000 agreement, has generated serious splits and, according to Human
Rights Watch, may have played a role in FNL killings of Rwandan Hutus fighting alongside them.
But their visits elicited sharp criticism -- from both African leaders and civil society protestors alike -- of their flawed economic policies and refusal to consider deeper, faster debt relief. NGO activists in Bamako and Dar es Salaam protested that their exclusion from official meetings contradicted the Bank and Fund’s stated new commitment to collaboration with civil society. They also argued that Bank and Fund loans often hurt more than help and that economic conditionalities attached to most loans -- including liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation -- continue to undermine African domestic economies and hurt the poor.
In Dar es Salaam, the two officials told 12 east and southern African heads of state that they opposed canceling all poor country debt using Bank and Fund internal resources, as it could leave both banks cash-strapped and unable to sustain further lending. While their institutions are currently reviewing conditionalities attached to aid, they warned that "it is not possible to lend without conditions."
In a Feb 21 statement, the Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP) took "these drivers of the world's macro-economic policies" to task for allocating only one hour of their visit for discussion with civil society actors. They noted that the issues Wolfensohn and Koehler discussed with African leaders -- investment, the global economy, HIV and AIDS, trade liberalisation, and corruption -- were of vital interest to women, men and youth in Tanzania. But they decried the duo’s lack of focus on "the larger frameworks driving their policies, such as liberalisation, privatisation, and debt," which have helped increase, not reduce, poverty and inequality; undercut food production; and raised service user fees. The TGNP argued that savings from current debt relief offered under present arrangements were marginal compared to total ongoing debt servicing costs. In 2001,Tanzania will still pay at least 9 times more that it spends on health care.
The TGNP urged the Bank and Fund to:
-- "develop clear and transparent planning, implementation and monitoring processes" and involve "civil society actors from the Global South as well as the general public, women, men, and youth" as both "actors and beneficiaries of these processes at all levels"
-- stop promoting privatisation of basic government services, including health, education, water, and sanitation, and stop promoting user fees for basic services.
-- cancel all debts owed by poor countries to the Bank and the Fund, in order to lift a "serious burden impeding the development of Tanzania and provide a base for a more realistic type of partnership with the Global North"
-- ensure that conditions of structural adjustment and macro-economic reform, which have increased poverty and inequalities, are redesigned to address poverty eradication in line with the priorities of the poor themselves.
-- consider new structures and policies, to be "determined through a democratic, participatory and transparent process" that takes into account the "interests of the women, men and youth most affected by the policies and practices of the institutions"
Excluded from official discussions, civil society groups sought to voice their views through peaceful public demonstrations outside meeting sites in Bamako and Dar es Salaam.
Tanzanian police forcefully ended a Feb. 23 protest calling for total debt cancellation, arresting three activists for illegal assembly and badly beating a local journalist. A subsequent IMF/World Bank briefing session with donors, the press and civil society, by "invitation only," was cut short when NGOs began to raise tough issues.
TGNP’s critique echoed points raised by several African NGOs in a joint statement issued in Bamako. They asserted that the trip deflected attention from the Bank’s and Fund’s considerable responsibility for the failure of African development. They cited the high social, political and ecological costs that Bank and Fund policies imposed on debt- ridden states. They decried the exclusion of African civil society groups from official meetings, and they criticized current debt relief programs as deepening, not ending, dependency. They also took to task the WTO and corporate efforts to restrict access to anti-AIDS drugs.
Across Africa, national Jubilee 2000 campaigns continue to press for debt cancellation and
democratization of economic decision-making. On Feb 10, the Angola Jubilee 2000 campaign asked the
Angolan National Assembly to publish the full text of the draft National Budget so it could be
publicly debated. It urged the government to limit debt repayments to 5% of export earnings and
earmark any savings from debt cancellation for health and education. Also, the South Africa Jubilee
2000 campaign is meeting in early March to sharpen their strategic focus.
On February 21, Sudanese police arrested Hassan al-Turabi, an Islamic leader long allied with the al-Bashir ruling clique in Khartoum, after his political party reportedly signed an alliance with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement headed by Joseph Garang, which has fought for southern autonomy since 1983. Turabi also reportedly called for people to rise up against the Bashir government.
Since his arrest, Turabi’s party newspaper and several others have been closed down and over 30 associates arrested as well. Street clashes have been reported between students allied to Turabi or Bashir, and some analysts predict more violent clashes.
Turabi’s relations with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir soured in December 1999 after Bashir dissolved parliament two days before a scheduled vote to limit his presidential powers, and imposed a state of emergency that is still in force. Turabi was serving as the Parliamentary Speaker at the time. Forced to step down as secretary-general of the ruling party last May, Turabi launched his own Popular National Congress (PNC) last September. The SPLA-PNC dialogue comes as Beshir was about to name a new cabinet after winning a 5-year term as president in December elections boycotted by the opposition.
Appalled at the human cost of the ongoing civil war in Sudan, policymakers have been divided on effective means for ending it. At a Feb 27 forum at the US Holocaust Museum, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released a report urging the Bush Administration to give Sudan high political priority and proposing somewhat controversial policies to end the 18-year civil war there.
The report urges the new Administration to "move beyond a policy of isolation and containment that has made little headway in ending Sudan’s war" to a more pragmatic, pro-active approach that would press for "serious and sustained" talks between the government and its southern opposition. It proposed multi-lateral "inducements" as well as "pressures" to move the government and rebel forces to the negotiating table; the creation of an interim "One Sudan, Two Systems" formula to enable democratic self-governing regions in the North and South, and re-opening of the US embassy in Khartoum.
The report says that such constructive engagement is necessitated by Sudan’s growing oil production, which has shifted the military balance of power in favor of the Islamic fundamentalist government. The report argues that only the U.S. has the leverage to impose peace.
A number of individuals and organizations have criticized the CSIS report as based on
"questionable assumptions and a problematic analysis of the situation in the Sudan,"
particularly the notion that normalizing relations with Khartoum will change the extremist behavior
of Khartoum for the better. One written critique questions why the government would move to
negotiate seriously if, indeed, it is growing stronger. These critics urge appointment of a special
envoy with exclusive control over management of the peace process, functioning as lead contact with
the government and SPLM. The envoy would be instrumental in determining sanctions and applying
international pressure until aerial bombardments of civilians and participation in slavery is ended
and militias disarmed.
DIAMONDS CAMPAIGN UPDATE
For over a year, NGOs and the UN have increasingly documented how profits from the sale of diamonds have fueled wars in African countries and contributed to a tidal wave of atrocities by rebel groups which fund themselves from selling gems, especially diamonds. As a result of NGO campaigns against "conflict diamonds" and official UN inquiries, the diamond industry committed itself last summer to rapidly developing a Certification of Origin system that would allow global markets to exclude diamonds originating in civil war situations. However, the industry has moved slowly to implement this commitment, prompting more active calls for UN or government action.
An urgent problem: A powerful February 21 joint study by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Sierra Leone Health Ministry underscores the urgency of the problem. It found that nearly one in three children born in a diamond-rich district of that war-wracked country died before reaching their first birthday, a rate 40-50 times higher than in the U.S. This is almost twice Sierra Leone’s national infant mortality rate, already estimated by UNICEF to be the worst in the world. The overall annual death rate in Kenema district, 44 deaths per thousand people, is triple the normal figure for sub-Saharan Africa.
Most deaths were attributed to common, easily treatable illnesses. But fighting over diamonds has closed so many clinics and pharmacies that even after the fighting stops (as it did during much of last year in Kenema), people could not access appropriate drugs or treatment in time. Diamond resources also attract parasitic local militia whose unsettling presence delays any return to normalcy. IRC’s Dr. Les Roberts, one of the study’s authors, noted that many Kenema residents feel they would be wealthier and healthier if their region had no diamonds. The full report is available http://www.theIRC.org
Towards an international agreement: From 13-16 February, government officials and representatives of the diamond industry and civil society met in Windhoek, Namibia under the expanded "Kimberly Process" mandated by UN General Assembly. Discussions focused on monitoring diamond flows, and standards and technical aspects of certifying diamonds’ countries of origin. A series of meetings between April and November were mapped out to deal with specific aspects of the proposed international certification scheme for rough diamonds. A Task Force comprised of diamond producing, exporting and manufacturing countries; SADC; the World Diamond Council and EU, with NGOs as observers, was set up to track progress. However NGOs remain concerned at the lack of concrete deadlines for actually implementing the international certification scheme.
US initiative: On Valentine’s Day, February 14, the Campaign to Eliminate Conflict Diamonds (a coalition of over 50 groups, including AFJN) held a press conference to endorse a bill being drafted by Reps. Tony Hall (D-OH), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA). The Clean Diamonds Act, expected to be formally introduced in March, would require the diamond industry to help block the trade in diamonds used to fund wars in Africa – wars that have killed an estimated 2 million Africans, driven 6.5 million from their homes, and subjected many to horrific atrocities. Backers hope such a U.S. law will pressure other nations to do the same, speeding implementation of an international certification scheme.
The Clean Diamonds Act would
Americans buy 65% of the world’s diamond supply and an estimated one-third of the profits on African diamonds flow to brutal rebel groups. Rep. Hall said the bill seeks "to bring relief to the victims of these wars for the control of diamonds. Any contraband diamonds caught trying to enter the U.S. market can be seized and sold to pay for prosthetic limbs and other relief to war victims. And it imposes civil and criminal penalties that promise to be a greater deterrent than the draft legislation proposed by the industry."
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HIV/AIDS IN AFRICA
On February 20 the US administration -- reacting to growing criticism of its decision to suspend and review a Clinton administration executive order affirming the primacy of African countries’ efforts to obtain life-saving anti-AIDS/HIV drugs and medical technologies for their peoples -- agreed to continue the Clinton policy. While welcome, however, the move is insufficient.
Timely access to affordable, life-saving anti-AIDS/HIV drugs is vital to countering this dread disease. But as a statement by APIC head Salih Booker emphasizes, "in practice the aggressive defense of "intellectual property" is still taking priority over human lives." This is evidenced by the US continuing to pursue its World Trade Organization case against Brazil, and by over 40 multinational drug companies taking the South African government to court on March 5 to challenge its 1997 law legalizing production or importation of cheaper, generic versions of patented anti-AIDS medications. As Booker notes, "the outcome of the March 5 case will be a major influence in determining how quickly millions in South Africa and around the continent gain access to treatment."
Pressure from global opinion, which already favors expanded access rather than protection of corporate profits, is expected to grow as the South African court case proceeds and a number of AIDS-HIV conferences -- including an April OAU summit and a UN Special Session scheduled for June -- take place.
Many NGOs active on the AIDS issue plan to attend the UN General Assembly special session (UNGASS)
on HIV/AIDS in New York from June 25-27, 2001. Two preparatory meetings, which began Feb 26 in New
York, will define the NGO accreditation process and the role that civil society organizations will
play in the June meeting. To stay up to date on activities related to UNGASS, readers are urged to
subscribe by e-mail to the break-the-silence forum at <email@example.com>
Guinea Refugee Crisis Still Critical
Since last September, about 200,000 refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia have been trapped in southeastern Guinea’s "Parrot’s Beak" region by fighting between the Guinean army and anti-government rebels backed by RUF mercenaries from Sierra Leone. After an intensive burst of shuttle diplomacy in mid-February, the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers from the Netherlands, won agreement for greater humanitarian access and a safe corridor for the refugees and internally displaced persons to reach safer zones.
The UNHCR has dubbed the Guinea refugee crisis the "worst current humanitarian crisis" in the world today. Heavily criticized for pulling out of the region after a staff person was killed last fall, the UNHCR has continued to press for regular humanitarian access. On Feb 26, the first humanitarian convoy in five months -- 11 UNHCR trucks -- arrived in the region and began off-loading 58 tons of World Food Program supplies under supervision of NGO aid workers from Premiere Urgence of France and Germany's GTZ. NGOs, which have visited the region in recent weeks, report exceptionally high malnutrition rates, especially among children.
Although about 15,000 refugees have been relocated to date, the refugees report their movement has frequently been blocked by Guinean troops who accuse them of collaborating with rebel forces. Personal testimonies reported civilians had been attacked without warning.
On Feb 28, Sierra Leone urged the UN Security Council to impose immediate arms, diamond and travel sanctions against Liberia, arguing that an ECOWAS-proposed two-month delay would merely allow Liberia to prolong the Sierra Leone conflict. The Security Council chose a compromise: an immediate stepping up of an existing arms embargo against Liberia, while waiting two months to see if Liberia had ended its support for the RUF before imposing a diamond export ban and travel restrictions on its officials. Sierra Leone, the US and the UK back an "automatic trigger" of further sanctions unless Liberia fulfils certain conditions. Other than Sierra Leone and Guinea, however, most ECOWAS members remain opposed.
The US Should Join the Mine Ban Treaty!
Having been one of the world's major producers and exporters of landmines (the US exported 4.4 million mines between 1969 and 1992), the US should now come into step with international law and implement the Mine Ban Treaty.
Approximately 60 million landmines are planted in more than 60 countries around the globe. Civilians represent 80% of all landmine casualties, most of them women and children. In Angola, one in every 334 persons is an amputee.
UN Troops at Ethiopia-Eritrea Border
SHILALO, Eritrea (AP) -- On 22 February, UN peacekeeping troops took up positions along the disputed Ethiopia-Eritrea border Thursday, after Ethiopian troops withdrew from territory they captured during a 2 1/2-year war. The departure cleared a 16-mile-wide buffer zone for UN troops to occupy.
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