Friday, June 27, 2008

A Glittering Demon: Mining, Poverty and Politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo

A Glittering Demon: Mining, Poverty and Politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo

by Michael Deibert, Special to CorpWatch

June 26th, 2008

In the heart of the war-scarred Ituri region in northeastern Congo, some 200 mud-covered men pan for traces of gold in the muddy brown waters.

Working for the Congolese owners of Manyida camp, the miners are following a map of the site made by the Belgians, the country's former colonial rulers.

"It's very difficult, punishing work," says Adamo Bedijo, a 32 year-old university graduate from the central city of Kisangani. "We are not paid, we work until we hit the vein of gold and hope that will pay us…The government has abandoned us, so I am forced to endure all this suffering."

Bedijo is one of Ituri's estimated 70,000 artisanal miners, some of whom are former employees of state mining concerns that collapsed during the country's long-running civil war. Two years after the first democratic elections in 40 years, informal arrangements such as Manyida are operating alongside the many foreign multinationals rushing in to tap the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) extensive mineral resources.

The way foreign multinationals have gained entry into Congo, and the business methods they use, raise significant questions for a nation at historic crossroads. Will the DRC move forward to become more responsive to its nearly 67 million people scattered across an area as large as Western Europe, or will the tradition of rape-as-governance continue?

Read the full article here.

POLITICS: Is Democracy Dangerous in Multi-ethnic Societies?

POLITICS: Is Democracy Dangerous in Multi-ethnic Societies?

An interview with Frances Stewart, Oxford University Professor of Development Economics

Inter Press Service

OXFORD, Jun 26, 2008 (IPS) - The Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) would seem to have its work cut out for it in a world racked by brutal and enduring conflict. The centre's goal is to explore the links between ethnicity, inequality and conflict in order to identify policies that could lead to more inclusive multi-ethnic societies.

A first book-length publication 'Horizontal Inequalities and Conflict: Understanding Group Violence in Multi-Ethnic Societies' from CRISE is slated for a July release, the fruit of the institution’s recent years of research into conflict and its causes.

To find out more about that research, IPS correspondent Michael Deibert spoke to CRISE Director Frances Stewart.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why I am not running by Morgan Tsvangirai

(Note: Today I am doing something that I rarely do on this blog: Reposting verbatim text that first appeared elsewhere. Given the current situation in Zimbabwe, though, the results of which I saw for myself on a recent visit to South Africa, and the conditions of which I have blogged about here before, I feel compelled to share with readers the following declaration of Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change political party in Zimbabwe. Mr. Tsvangirai’s statement was printed this evening in the Guardian newspaper. MD)

Why I am not running

My people are at breaking point. World leaders' bold rhetoric must be backed with military force

By Morgan Tsvangirai

The Guardian

Wednesday June 25, 2008

(Read the original article here)

In the course of the last few tumultuous months, I have often had cause to consider what it is that makes a country. I believe a country is the sum of its many parts, and that this is embodied in one thing: its people. The people of my country, Zimbabwe, have borne more than any people should bear. They have been burdened by the world's highest inflation rates, denied the basics of democracy, and are now suffering the worst form of intimidation and violence at the hand of a government purporting to be of and for the people. Zimbabwe will break if the world does not come to our aid.

Africa has seen this all before, of course. The scenario in Zimbabwe is numbingly familiar. A power-crazed despot holding his people hostage to his delusions, crushing the spirit of his country and casting the international community as fools. As we enter the final days of what has been a taxing period for all Zimbabweans, it is likely that Robert Mugabe will claim the presidency of our country and will seek to further deny its people a space to breath and feel the breeze of freedom.

I can no longer allow Zimbabwe's people to suffer this torture, for I believe they can bear no more crushing force. This is why I decided not to run in the presidential run-off. This is not a political decision. The vote need not occur at all of course, as the Movement for Democratic Change won a majority in the previous election, held in March. This is undisputed even by the pro-Mugabe Zimbabwe electoral commission.

Our call now for intervention seeks to challenge standard procedure in international diplomacy. The quiet diplomacy of South African President Thabo Mbeki has been characteristic of this worn approach, as it sought to massage a defeated dictator rather than show him the door and prod him towards it.

We envision a more energetic and, indeed, activist strategy. Our proposal is one that aims to remove the often debilitating barriers of state sovereignty, which rests on a centuries-old foundation of the sanctity of governments, even those which have proven themselves illegitimate and decrepit. We ask for the UN to go further than its recent resolution, condemning the violence in Zimbabwe, to encompass an active isolation of the dictator Mugabe.

For this we need a force to protect the people. We do not want armed conflict, but the people of Zimbabwe need the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force. Such a force would be in the role of peacekeepers, not trouble-makers. They would separate the people from their oppressors and cast the protective shield around the democratic process for which Zimbabwe yearns.

The next stage should be a new presidential election. This does indeed burden Zimbabwe and create an atmosphere of limbo. Yet there is hardly a scenario that does not carry an element of pain. The reality is that a new election, devoid of violence and intimidation, is the only way to put Zimbabwe right.

Part of this process would be the introduction of election monitors, from the African Union and the UN. This would also require a recognition of myself as a legitimate candidate. It would be the best chance the people of Zimbabwe would get to see their views recorded fairly and justly.

Intervention is a loaded concept in today's world, of course. Yet, despite the difficulties inherent in certain high-profile interventions, decisions not to intervene have created similarly dire consequences. The battle in Zimbabwe today is a battle between democracy and dictatorship, justice and injustice, right and wrong. It is one in which the international community must become more than a moral participant. It must become mobilised.

· Morgan Tsvangirai is leader of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe


(An interesting addendum, all things consdered. MD)

Tsvangirai reverses peacekeeper plea

26 June 2008

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The British newspaper The Guardian printed a letter Thursday from Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in which he denied writing a commentary printed in the paper a day earlier.

Tsvangirai said the commentary did not reflect his position or opinions regarding solutions to the violence and political crisis in Zimbabwe, and he emphasized that he does not advocate military intervention in his country -- a call made in Wednesday's article.

"Although The Guardian was given assurances from credible sources that I had approved the article this was not the case," he wrote in Thursday's letter.

A spokeswoman for The Guardian said the letter had been authorized by a Tsvangirai representative with whom the paper had dealt in the past, as well as Tsvangirai's representative in the Zimbabwean capital.

"The article was supplied to us and we had no reason to doubt the authenticity," said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be named.

The Wednesday editorial in The Guardian, which the paper said was penned by Tsvangirai, called for U.N. peacekeepers.

"We do not want armed conflict, but the people of Zimbabwe need the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force," the editorial read.

Tsvangirai made the same call in an interview Wednesday with CNN, by phone from Harare. Asked whether he had requested peacekeepers from the United Nations, he indicated that he had.

"It's a proposal we are requesting," Tsvangirai told CNN. "It's because the violence is continuing, and it's violence that is being committed by armed forces against unarmed civilians. And all we are doing is to try to call for these peacekeepers so that normalcy can return and people can feel safe."

Asked then whether he had received any response from the United Nations to his call for peacekeepers, Tsvangirai said no, but he hoped the United Nations would urgently consider the move.

Thursday's letter from Tsvangirai was an apparent reversal of his call for U.N. peacekeepers.

"By way of clarification I would like to state the following: I am not advocating military intervention in Zimbabwe by the U.N. or any other organization," Tsvangirai wrote.

Tsvangirai said his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, wants an African solution to the crisis, specifically one from the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC).

He said he is asking the SADC and the larger African Union to lead an initiative, supported by the United Nations, to manage the transition of power.

"We are proposing that the AU facilitation team sets up a transitional period that takes into account the will of the people of Zimbabwe," he wrote.

Tsvangirai withdrew earlier this week from a presidential runoff election, scheduled for Friday, against President Robert Mugabe, citing pre-election violence that the MDC said has targeted its supporters. The U.N. Security Council unanimously condemned Zimbabwe's government for the violence.

Mugabe says the violence has targeted his own ZANU-PF party.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ruled that Friday's vote would go on as scheduled despite Tsvangirai's withdrawal, although U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the SADC had urged a postponement.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

POLITICS-ETHIOPIA : A Tangled Political Landscape Raises Questions About African Ally of the U.S.

POLITICS-ETHIOPIA : A Tangled Political Landscape Raises Questions About African Ally of the U.S.

By Michael Deibert

Inter Press Service

ADDIS ABABA, Jun 21, 2008 (IPS) - When it was announced last month that the ruling party of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had swept local polls in this vast Horn of Africa nation, few expressed surprise.

Zenawi's Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition was declared by the country's national electoral board to have won 559 districts in the kebele and woreda divisions of local government and all but one of 39 parliament seats contested in the by-election. Out of a total of 26 million registered voters, the electoral board claimed that 24.5 million, or 93 percent, voted.

April's ballot was the first chance for the EPRDF to flex the muscles of its electoral machinery since general elections in May 2005. Though early returns that year suggested an electoral triumph for the country's two main opposition parties, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF). Prime Minister Zenawi declared a state of emergency before final results were announced. In the unrest that followed, hundreds of people were arrested and at least 200 killed by Ethiopian security forces. Official results -- not released until September -- gave 59 percent of the total vote to the EPRDF.

Cries of fraud stained the reputation of one of Washington's closest African allies. to whom, according to U.S. defense department figures, the Bush administration sold $6 million worth of weapons to in 2006, more armaments than went to any other African country. The weapons are used in part to aid Ethiopia in its war against Islamic militants based in neighboring Somalia, which Ethiopia invaded in late 2006 and where it remains involved in active combat to this day.

Read the full article here.

Q&A: Ethiopia's Urban Poor Cannot Afford To Eat

Q&A: Ethiopia's Urban Poor Cannot Afford To Eat

Interview with Abera Tola, Director of Oxfam's Horn of Africa regional office

Inter Press Service

ADDIS ABABA, Jun 21, 2008 (IPS) - Ethiopia, a nation of 80 million people, has been the site of famine and drought throughout its tumultuous history. Arising from a myriad of causes and often shepherded along by political instability, the country's 1984-85 famine, for example, left over a million dead and served as the impetus for the fund-raising concerts of Live Aid in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Today, Ethiopia once again stands at the brink of a substantial food crisis, with the Word Food Program currently estimating that, of Ethiopia's 80 million citizens, 3.4 million will need emergency food relief from July to September. This is in addition to the 8 million currently receiving assistance. UNICEF has asserted that the country's food shortage this year is the most severe since 2003, when droughts forced 13.2 million people to seek emergency food aid.

IPS correspondent Michael Deibert sat down in Addis Ababa with Abera Tola, Director of the Horn of Africa Regional Office of Oxfam America, to hear his insights as to Ethiopia's latest food crisis.

Read the full article here.