Posts tagged ‘Africa’

03/24/2012

Mali Struggle Against the Tuareg

As the nomadic Tuareg of northwest Africa initiated another rebellion, the Mali military started to respond, but soon turned on their own president, and removed him in a coup, claiming he was failing to give them the materiel they needed to succeed.

The important question arising from all this is not about the deposed president, or the military officers who conducted the coup, but rather the Tuareg. Just who are they, and what do they want?

The Tuareg of northern Mali have resisted authority on and off for nearly 100 years. In the colonial era, when France ruled Mali from Dakar, the French quashed an anti-colonial Tuareg uprising in 1916.

As the winds of change swept French colonial rule from Africa, Mali gained independence in 1960, and soon the new nation confronted what became known as the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962-64). As Tuareg, Berber, and Arab peoples in the Saharan region in the north demanded a separate state, Mali’s first president, Modibo Keita (1960-68), defeated them in a two-year struggle.

Following a 1968 junta, Keita was removed, and replaced by Lt. Moussa Traore, a dictator who kept the Tuareg under control for the next 22 years, until a Second Tuareg Rebellion (1990-95) erupted, triggering a second coup in 1991, that took out Traore.

Upon returning to free and fair elections in 1992, the people chose President Alpha Konare (1992-02), who ended the Second Tuareg uprising in 1995, and gained re-election in 1997 for another five-year term.

The 2002 elections were interesting, because Amadou Toumani Toure was selected, even though he had led the 1990 Tuareg Rebellion. After his re-election in 2007, he proved himself as an able leader of all of Mali, as his forces successfully subdued a Third Tuareg Rebellion (2007-09).

This year, however, as a Fourth Tuareg Rebellion (2012-) arose, the military lacked confidence in Toure, and took him out on the allegation he had denied them the supplies they needed to win.

In the short run, Toure should not be reinstated, even though he was removed by a coup, because he already served two terms over a 10-year period, and term limits should be applied in every democracy. Open elections for a successor should be conducted promptly.

In the long-run, the recurrent problem as to the Tuareg cannot be ignored, and their demand for a separate state must be resolved. Legally, they do not have a right to self-determination, as they would have had under external colonial rule. Their situation is like the attempted secession of South Carolina in 1861, when the U.S. government had every right to preserve the union. Since complete independence may not be granted, perhaps some kind of virtual self-rule may be the answer, through the creation of an autonomous government in the northwest. After roughly 100 years of resistance, it is certainly time to try something new.

02/22/2012

Senegal: Support Term Limit Protests

We should support the protesters in Senegal who are objecting to the decision by President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term, since the Senegalese Constitution limits their leaders to no more than two terms in office.

Senegal’s road to democracy is a long one. For roughly 500 years, the colonial Europeans denied black Africans self-rule. The Portuguese were the first to take Senegalese treasure from the coast, beginning in the 1440s. After the Netherlands built a port at Goree Island in 1588, the French constructed a trading post at St. Louis in 1659, and seized Goree from the Dutch. Following an 1825 conflict, the French moved inland in 1854, and by 1893, had suppressed all resistance. French West Africa ruled this part of the African continent from 1895, through independence in 1960.

The removal of French colonialism was a major step towards democracy. Unfortunately, the initial version of the Senegalese Constitution contained no term-limits, and as a result, their first president, Leopold Senghor, served for 20 years, through 1980, and their second, Abdou Diouf, ruled for 19 years through 2000, despite protests in the 1988 and 1993 campaigns.

The current president, Mr. Wade, was first elected in 1999. Shortly afterward, the Senegalese changed their constitution, by adopting a two-term limit in 2001. Although Wade was re-elected to a second term in 2007, he announced he would run again in 2012, sparking protests, because this would be a third term. Wade, 85, further aggravated pro-democracy protesters, by trying to create a family dynasty, by making his son Vice-President.

Wade took the issue before the Senegalese Supreme Court, where a friendly judiciary ruled his first election did not count, since the term-limit amendment was not implemented until 2001, which was after he had already started serving.

Wade may have won a technical argument in court, but he lost in the eyes of those who seek more, not less, democracy. No one told our first President George Washington to step down after two terms totaling eight years. He did it to set an example of how democratic power should be transferred. President Obama, Sec. of State Clinton, and the American public should now pressure Wade to do the right thing and simply step down. 12 years in office is long enough.

12/02/2011

Congo: How Long Will Joe Kabila Rule?

The Democratic Republic of the Congo-Kinshasa (DRC), a large country of 69 million in South-Central Africa, which borders Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, to the east, and the Republic of the Congo-Brazzaville, to the west, held elections this week, but only time will tell if they are on the road to democracy.

After the Portuguese navigated the mouth of the Congo River in the west (1482), Henry Stanley located its source in the east, and followed it down to the Atlantic (1874-77), where he claimed the entire area for Belgium’s King Leopold II, who exploited rubber and ivory, upon declaring the land his personal property (1885).

Belgium soon defeated Arab traders in the War of the Eastern Congo (1892-94), and gained control of the Katana Province, in the southeast. The country became the Belgian Congo, when the King transferred his personal property to the Nation of Belgium (1908).

Anti-colonial rioting in 1959 led to a Declaration of Independence in 1960. The Crisis in the Congo (1960-66) followed, as the West took out and executed their first leader, Patrice Lumumba (1961). Belgian troops finally vacated the country, as UN Peacekeepers replaced them, and tried to disarm secessionists in Katanga, near Zambia and Tanzania (1961). The UN later turned security over to the Organization of African Unity (1964).

Col. Joseph Mobutu seized power in a coup in 1965, and ruled for the next 32 years. He re-named the capital Kinshasa (1966), and the country Zaire (1971). Non-Africans were expelled to erase the colonial past. European coats and ties were banned. Foreign-owned businesses were seized and sold to locals (1974).

Real trouble started in the east, in the 1st Congo War (1996-98), as Mobuto supported the Hutus of Rwanda and Burundi. Tutsi armies, with soldiers from Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, entered the Congo, attacked the Hutus, and ousted Mobutu, ending his 32 dictatorship (1997). When Laurent Kabila replaced Mobutu, he renamed the country the Dem. Rep. of the Congo (1997).

The 2nd Congo War (1998-2003) was primarily fought in the Nord Kivu Province, in the east. Forces from Uganda and Rwanda advanced into the Congo, as troops from Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe joined the DRC to resist. A ceasefire signed by all was monitored by a UN Organization Mission in the DRC (1999), but trouble continued, when Laurent Kabila was assassinated (2001).

Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurent, assumed power in 2001. He negotiated a Rwandan troop withdrawal, and signed the Pretoria Accord (2003), in which all countries agreed to stop fighting. The conflict finally ended, under the Gbadolite Agreement (2003).

During the conflict, 2.5 million were estimated to have died from disease, famine, and violence. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Ugandan troops violated the ban against unilateral force, and the rules of war, as they killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property. Dem. Rep. of Congo v Uganda (2000). The ICJ also dismissed a Congolese complaint that alleged citizens of the Congo were murdered, raped, and otherwise violated by Burundi and Rwanda soldiers, who occupied the Congo in 1998. DRC v Burundi and Rwanda (2000).

It has been eight years since the war ended, and the question now is whether Congo-Kinshasa will become a stable democracy. Joseph Kabila, who replaced his father in 2001, and was re-elected in 2006, should have stepped down in 2011, after 10 years in office. Instead, he ran for a third term, and it appears he will win. The Congo should have instead elected a new leader, and moved towards a more democratic system, by limiting the terms of their leaders to no more than 10 years. Now, only time will tell if a third term for Joseph Kabila will be the correct path for the Congo, or a road to a lifetime of unchallenged rule.

11/17/2011

Cape Verde: A Good African Destination

During my recent visit to Cape Verde, an Atlantic Island-Nation, 400 miles off the cost of West Africa, things were looking up, as the people appeared fed and healthy. If hunger exists, it was not visible. Fresh fish was abundant in the market. Despite a lack of rain most months, many fruits, such as bananas, and vegetables, were on display. There was an ample supply of bread. The local grocery carried all the basic staples. Getting a cup of coffee in the morning was no problem. Meals included rice and tomatoes.

Education is on the rise, as hundreds of children wearing uniforms walked to and from school each day. While they could benefit from learning English, (the global language of business), Portuguese and the local Creole tongue are preparing them for life.

There was a courthouse in the municipality where I stayed, but no obvious need for it, since everyone appeared to be law-abiding and respectful of the rights of others. As a white visitor, I was never once harassed, while out on the streets.

Four modern international airports connect the nine inhabited islands. On Santiago, the largest, transportation between the cities was by mini-bus, a relatively inexpensive and efficient method. Windy but paved roads connect the principal communities.

There was a good amount of new building construction, but some projects appeared stalled. Refrigerators, stoves, and microwaves were available, along with furniture and beds. Since washing machines are not used, cloths were cleaned the old-fashioned way.

Some public utilities need improvement. While communities have water and sewer systems, water pressure is low, and water often arrives in dribbles. Some waste water systems are so overloaded, flushing is limited. Electrical blackouts are common.

Communications were good, as cell phone and Internet use was available. I however saw no newspapers for sale on the streets.

Three islands, Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio have flat sandy beaches, where hotels and resorts have been erected, mainly for German, Italian, and British visitors. Great potential exists to develop Cape Verde further as a first port of call for those wishing to see Africa.

11/15/2011

Peace Corps: Real Home of the Brave

We often see government TV ads promoting the Marines, as the place for strong men and women, but not often enough do we hear about the Peace Corps, that overlooked army of mentally tough young Americans, who physically survive each and every day in cultural settings totally foreign to the comforts of American life.

While the military is sometimes sent abroad to engage in armed combat, the Peace Corps is always overseas on the front lines in challenging foreign environments that present risks of the sort most Americans would not endure for very long, if at all.

Unlike the Armed Services, where individuals serve with Bands of Brothers, who vigilantly guard their backsides, Peace Corps volunteers go it alone, (think about that for a moment), and they go unarmed, in a world where they win over hearts and minds with nothing more than words and deeds.

The 8,655 volunteers of the Peace Corps, now living in 76 countries throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere, are brave people, often assigned to villages where no one looks like them, or where no one speaks their language. Their single greatest hardship is the disconnection from the people back home.

But every day they also go without many conveniences we in the U.S. take for granted. A simple drink from the kitchen sink in the U.S. can for a volunteer require a trip to buy bottled water. A warm shower for most volunteers is a dream of something they once experienced back in the states, as water heaters are a luxury. If running water exists, poor pressure often reduces it to nothing more than a cold dribble. While they may have a toilet, toilet paper cannot be used as it only plugs up their outdated systems. The volunteers deal with these hardships, and a multitude of others. They adjust to conditions on the ground, and they survive.

If you ever thought service in the Peace Corps was a piece of cake, try it for a two-year hitch, or at least visit a volunteer, as I did these past 10 days in West Africa, where my son is serving. You will quickly realize how tough these young people are. All Americans should tip their hats to the Peace Corps volunteers, the finest group of unpaid Ambassadors the U.S. has ever had.

10/17/2011

Uganda: Obama Fights the Lord’s Army

Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, that borders the Congo-Kinshasa (west), Southern Sudan (north), Kenya (east), and Rwanda and Tanzania (south), has just witnessed the arrival of special U.S. military forces sent by President Obama to execute Arrest Warrants, issued by the International Criminal Court, against the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has been fighting for decades near the Ugandan-South Sudan border.

Historically, Obama’s men are not the first Westerners to enter Uganda, as England sent explorers in 1862, Christian missionaries in 1875, and soldiers in 1894 to establish a British Protectorate. Afterward, more Englishmen arrived, as a 1,081-mile railroad was built through Kenya to the port at Mombasa on the Indian Ocean.

Following independence in 1962, Uganda’s first president (1962-66) maintained relations with Britain and did business with them.

45 years of trouble started in 1966 when Milton Obote (1966-71), overthrew the government, abolished tribal kingdoms, and nationalized businesses. Relations with the outside were severed completely, as Uganda slipped into darkness, when a coup led by the infamous Idi Amin Dada (1971-79), seized control, dissolved parliament, outlawed political parties, and murdered troops loyal to Obote. Amin expelled British businessmen, and 70,000 Asians, who controlled most professions and industries. 300,000 disappeared during his reign of terror, which continued, until the Uganda-Tanzania War (1978-79) forced him into exile.

Outsiders stayed away when Obote returned in 1980, because he reinstated tribal favors, and triggered a civil war (1981-86), which sacrificed another 100,000. Political unrest continued, as a coup headed by Yoweri Museveni ousted Obote in 1985, and imposed one-party rule, fearing many parties would reignite tribal tension.

Although electoral stability returned in 1995, when a multi-party system was implemented, enabling Museveni to win elections in 1996, 2001, and 2006, the country became involved in external conflicts. As the Tutsi Tribe fled from neighboring Rwanda, they were permitted to set up bases in Uganda, from which they later launched the Rwandan Civil War (1990-93), prompting the UN to station observers along the Uganda-Rwanda border.

Uganda then intervened in the 1st Congo War (1996-98) and 2nd Congo War (1998-03) on the side of the Tutsi Tribe, because the Congolese leader was supporting the Rwandan Hutu Tribe. In the Democratic Rep of Congo v Uganda (2000), the International Court of Justice found Uganda violated the ban against unilateral force and the laws of war, when they entered the Congo, killed and tortured civilians, and looted and destroyed property.

Museveni’s Ugandan government remains engaged in a fight with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal Christian group, based in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, whose leader, Joe Kony, has evaded an Arrest Warrant, issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court, and has rejected a peace plan, because his opponents are not willing to dismiss the warrant.

Now, President Obama has intervened in Uganda with 100 Special Forces troops to assist in a kill or capture mission against Kony, an action authorized by the LRA Disarmament Act passed by Congress in 2009. If Obama succeeds in defeating the Lord’s Army, perhaps Uganda will finally move away from their 45-year history of tribal war, anti-Western feelings, civil war, military dictatorship, border area conflicts, adverse court rulings, and other problems, and may finally become a stable political democracy of the sort envisioned when independence was granted in 1962.

10/11/2011

Liberian Elections: Will Democracy Hold?

Liberia, with a population of 3.4 million, is raising hopes for the future, as it is once again about to conduct democratic presidential elections, in a tough West African neighborhood, located next to Sierra Leone (northwest), Guinea (north), and Ivory Coast (east).

Liberia is an interesting nation, as it was created by U.S. President Monroe in 1822, as a place for freed American slaves. It became the second oldest black republic in the world, behind Haiti, when Joe Roberts, a native of Virginia, became their first President.

During the 28-year reign of President Tubman (1943-71), Liberia enjoyed some economic development, as the WWII allies built an airport and broke ground on a new seaport. Upon completion of the new harbor in 1948, many international ships commenced flying the Liberian flag. Tubman also succeeded in the 1960s in opening a power plant, an oil refinery, and an iron-ore facility.

Political instability began in 1980, when President Tolbert (1971-80) was overthrown by Sam Doe, with the support of the Krahan Tribe. Doe had promised equal treatment for native blacks, who had been mistreated historically by descendants of U.S. Slaves.

When Doe was overthrown in 1989, and executed in 1990, by Charles Taylor, Prince Johnson, and the National Patriotic Front, a civil war broke out. A framework for peace, known as the Yamoussoukro Accord (1991), failed to stop the fighting, and military units from the Organization of African Unity were also unable to end the conflict, when they intervened in 1992.

Following a UN imposed arms embargo in 1993, an Observer Mission (1993-97) was sent to monitor elections, which in 1997 resulted in a win for Taylor, who was later implicated in the violence in Sierra Leone and Guinea, where there was a struggle over the gold and diamond mines, located near the border.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Civil War continued, until Taylor finally fled to Nigeria in 2003, allowing for a peace agreement, monitored by a 2nd UN Mission in Liberia. An estimated 200,000 died in the civil war, while thousands became refugees.

Nigeria extradited Taylor to the Special Court of Sierra Leone, sitting in the Hague, Netherlands in 2006, where he faced 5 counts of war crimes, 5 counts of crimes against humanity, and another count of using child soldiers. He is said to be responsible, among other things, for murder, mutilations, sex offenses, and forcing children to fight as soldiers. Proceedings against him began in 2007 and ended in 2010. A guilty verdict was returned in 2012.

After years of unrest, a fragile democracy returned in 2005, when Ellen Sirleaf became Liberian President. She reopened the diamond and timber export trade in 2007, and is today up for re-election. Only time will tell if Liberia’s new democracy will hold.

08/29/2011

Sub-Saharan African Dictators Must Go

Following the demise of North African dictators in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, President Obama should now focus on greater democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, where many have held office for more than 10 years, and well beyond the growing international standard of no more than two 5-year terms.

CAMEROON: Paul Biya has been in public office in Cameroon since the early 1960s. He became Prime Minister in 1975 and President in 1982. He seized control of his political party in 1983, drove his rival into exile, convicted him of plotting a coup, and sentenced him to death. Biya won 99% of the vote in 1984, because he had no opponent. He survived a coup, before being re-elected in 1988. In a multi-party contest in 1992, Biya claimed a plurality, despite cries of fraud. After a two-term constitutional limit was imposed in 1996, Biya won 92% of the vote in 1997, because his opponents boycotted the election. He won another 7-year term in 2004, again under a cloud of suspicion. Biya called term-limits undemocratic in 2008, and simply removed them. It’s now time for the people of Cameroon to remove Biya.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo seized power in 1979 in a bloody coup, sentenced the previous leader to death, and became president. After winning a full 7-year term in 1982, he was re-elected in 1989, as the only candidate on the ballot. He claimed nearly 100% of the vote in 1996, 2002 and 2009, in contests marred by fraud. He keeps control by denying a free press and an opposition party. Obiang considers himself a god. It is time for the Equatorial Guineas to end his 32-year rule.

ANGOLA: Jose Eduardo dos Santos, became Angola’s second president in 1979. He won a plurality in the 1992 election, under allegations of fraud, and caused the civil war to continue. He said in 2001 he would step down before the next presidential election, but remained by amending the constitution to allow his ruling party to pick the leader. After 32 years, Santos has to go.

ZIMBABWE: Robert Mugabe, age 87, has been president of Zimbabwe since 1980, when the white government collapsed. Media controls were created in 2002, to ensure ongoing election victories. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested in 2003, as Mugabe was accused of running a dictatorship. When Tsvangirai claimed victory in 2008, Mugabe managed to stay in office by creating a power-sharing arrangement in 2009. After 31 years in power, it’s time for Mugabe to step aside.

UGANDA: Yoweri Museveni has been Ugandan President since the prior government was overthrown in 1986. He promised a return to democracy, but held no election for 10 years, and then claimed 75% of the vote in 1996. In 2001, he accumulated 69%, in a race that was not free or fair, according to the Ugandan Supreme Court. Afterward, he said he would not run again, but he then abolished term limits and took 59% of the vote in 2006. He was re-elected again in 2011, with 68%, a tally disputed by outsiders. After 25 years, it’s time for Museveni to leave.

BURKINA FASO: Blasise Compaore of Burkina Faso came to power in 1987 in a bloody coup, during which the incumbent was executed. His opponents boycotted the 1991 election. After he was “re-elected” in 1998, the constitution was amended in 2000 to reduce presidential terms from 7 to 5 years, and to limit presidents to a total of two terms. Compaore argued the changes did not applied retroactively, so he ran and won again in 2005, and was re-elected in 2010. After 24 years, it’s time Compaore left.

Three more Africans have ruled since the 1990s, including: Yahya Jammeh of Gambia (1994-); Denis Sassau Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville (1997-); and Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho (1998-).

President Obama is uniquely qualified to speak directly to the African people regarding the virtues of term limits. He should encourage the U.S. Congress and the EU to suspend all aid to any country ruled by leaders who have been in power more than 10 years, until they choose new leaders, and adopt term limits.

08/01/2011

African Development: Go To Cape Verde

African development requires at a minimum the elimination of hunger, improved health care, and greater education, but to reach these goals, smaller preliminary steps must first be taken, and instead of tackling all of Africa at the same time, a concentrated effort should begin in the island-nation of Cape Verde.

Why begin in Cape Verde? It has a population of only 491,575, and a unique geographical location, 350 miles from the West African Coast. It has year-round temperatures between 77 F and 84 F, dry air for nine months (Nov.-July), beautiful beaches, and an abundance of seafood for fishing expeditions. The islands could and should be promoted as a tourist destination, which would in turn provide jobs and money to achieve other goals. Once conditions are elevated throughout the island-nation, it can then become a base for improving life in the other African states.

Currently, Cape Verde has three international airports that provide daily flights to Europe, but additional air traffic from the U.S. and Brazil could transform the island-state into a continental stepping stone, like Hong Kong is for China, or London is for Europe.

While the local use of the Creole/Portuguese language is a match for tourists from Portuguese-speaking Brazil, Cape Verde needs English teachers to help them with travelers from the U.S.

But the area of development that would benefit the country more than anything else is drinking water. The problem now is usable water is in short supply, since there is no rain for nine months straight, and water wells cannot be dug, because the country is volcanic. Desalinization plants and drip irrigation methods are currently in use, but much more water is needed.

Cape Verde needs to make regional arrangements with nearby Guinea and Sierra Leone, two of the wettest places on earth, to pump rain water through pipelines, along the ocean floor. Usable water is needed to develop livestock, like cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry. Although Cape Verde currently grows bananas, corn, beans, potatoes, sugarcane, peanuts, and coffee, more water would allow for a much stronger agricultural sector.

Once Cape Verde was fully-irrigated and green year round, foreign traffic would increase several times over. The arrival of tourists would trigger side trips to the nearby continental African countries, and economic development would spread.

Development has to start somewhere. Let’s start in Cape Verde. Upon making it a success, the neighboring states will follow.

07/26/2011

Somalia Should Pipe West African Water

A drought responsible for the lowest amount of rain in 50 years has caused a return of famine in the Horn of Africa, in Southern Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. There was a similar episode 20 years ago, and a solution is needed for this recurrent problem.

While there is an immediate need for relief, work must also begin now on pipelines to redistribute the overabundance of water in West Africa to the dry regions of Northeast Africa. Four of the top 15 wettest nations on earth are in West Africa, including: Guinea, which ranks #1, Sierra Leone #3, Gabon #4, and Nigeria #15.

Guinea has a 200-mile Atlantic coast (9 N) and a rainy season from May through Dec. Sierra Leone (8 N), bordering Guinea, also has a swampy 210-mile Atlantic shore, which receives 195 inches of rain each year (April-Dec.) These poor states could benefit greatly from the sale of rain water to the dry regions. Gabon, in the elbow of West Africa (0 N), and also on the Atlantic, has Sep. through May rains. Nigeria, located on the West African south coast, has rain from April through Oct.

Gabon and Nigeria, both rich from oil revenues, have money to finance water pipelines, and experience from pumping oil. They could join with the Economic Community of West African States (ECWAS) to finance two water pipelines, one along a northern route, from the Atlantic at Guinea and Sierra Leone, due east through Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and into Somalia. A southern equatorial pipeline could start in Gabon and go east through the Congo, DRC, Uganda, Kenya, and also into Somalia.

Pipelines would bring a more permanent solution to the recurrent problem. The last time Somalia needed aid, Operation Somalia was authorized in 1992, but relief could not be delivered due to fighting in Mogadishu. President George H. W. Bush decided to prevent mass starvation by authorizing a U.S. Marine airlift. When President Clinton took office in 1993, he increased the size of the mission, under Operation Somalia II. When the U.S. started seizing weapons, however, they were accused of neo-colonialism, causing a Mogadishu mob to down two U.S. helicopters and murder U.S. soldiers, bringing the relief mission to an end.

The drought stricken area should not have to rely on airlifts for relief. Pipelines can and should be built. It’s just a matter of leadership, intergovernmental cooperation, and willpower.