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African business, politics and lifestyle

from Global News Journal:

UN tells Mbeki he got it wrong on Ivory Coast

    UN peacekeeper in Ivory Coast in April 2011. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

This week U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, defended the United Nations' record on Ivory Coast.  In a highly unusual public rebuttal, Nambiar told former South African President and African Union mediator for the Ivory Coast conflict, Thabo Mbeki, that it was he -- not the international community -- who got it wrong in the world's top cocoa producer.

In April, Ivory Coast's long-time President Laurent Gbagbo was ousted from power by forces loyal to his rival Alassane Ouattara, who won the second round of a U.N.-certified election in November 2010, with the aid of French and U.N. troops. According to Mbeki -- who has also attempted to mediate in conflicts in Sudan and Zimbabwe -- there never should have been an election last fall in the country that was once the economic powerhouse of West Africa.

Mbeki wrote in an article published by Foreign Policy magazine at the end of April: "The objective reality is that the Ivorian presidential elections should not have been held when they were held. It was perfectly foreseeable that they would further entrench the very conflict it was suggested they would end."

Ivory Coast was split in two by the 2002-3 civil war and the failure to disarm the northern rebels meant the country held an election last year with two rival armies in place, leading to a new outbreak of hostilities when Gbagbo rejected the internationally-accepted election results.

South Sudan’s unlikely hero

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SUDAN-REFERENDUMSouthern Sudanese may not like to admit it but the unlikely hero of their independence is an octogenarian northern lawyer always close to controversy who has pulled off what was touted as a mission impossible. Holding south Sudan’s referendum on secession on time.

Bespectacled Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, head of the south Sudan Referendum Commission, looks frail and sometimes walks with a stick. But he’s sharper than all of his younger colleagues, can run rings around journalists in Arabic, English and French and handles his own very busy mobile phone traffic.

Will bandages mend broken ties in the DRC?

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CONGO-DEMOCRATIC/EXPLOSIONThe relations between First Quantum and the Democratic Republic of Congo have gone from bad to worse in recent months, after the country expropriated the miner’s $765 million Kolwezi copper tailings project in September.  

A recent court ruling in the DRC has also cast a cloud over the future of the company’s Frontier and Lonshi mines, located in the south of the country. The widely covered dispute has led the DRC to accuse First Quantum of running a smear campaign against the country, the feud nearly foiled the DRC’s efforts to secure a $8 billion debt relief deal from the World Bank.   

West must change approach to Africa

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SUDAN/Tom Cargill, Assistant Head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, writes on the West’s relationship with Africa:

French President Nicholas Sarkozy put it best this week, when he spoke of the increasing important of Africa in Global Affairs: “Africa’s formidable demographics and its considerable resources make it the main reservoir for world economic growth in the decades to come.”

Critics pan Africa’s new patron of the sciences

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UN-ASSEMBLY/    Think scientific excellence and Equatorial Guinea may not
immediately spring to mind.

    Still less might you think of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo,
whose 30-year rule over the tiny central African oil producer
country has left him with an international reputation for
corruption and civil rights abuses.

PHOTOBLOG: Children in Kenya and Haiti forced to grow up fast, if they survive

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I had a flashback the other day when I was looking at photographs from Haiti of 15-year-old Fabianne Geismar, shot dead in the head after stealing wall hangings from a Port-au-Prince store, crushed in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The image of Fabianne sprawled on the ground, blood trailing over the paintings she’d grabbed, took me back to my own childhood in Nairobi and the sight of a 7- or 8-year-old-boy – probably the same age as me at the time – who was caught stealing sweets from a street vendor and was beaten and burnt with rubber tyres. They called it mob justice.

The unnumbered dead

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CONGO-DEMOCRATICThe simple answer to the question of how many people died in Congo’s civil war is “too many”.

Trying to get a realistic figure is fraught with difficulties and a new report suggests that a widely used estimate of 5.4 million dead – potentially making Congo the deadliest conflict since World War Two – is hugely inaccurate and that the loss of life may be less than half that.

A slick visit to Darfur’s red carpet camps

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There was a time when visits to Darfur were uncertain affairs, fraught with danger. These days — as long as you travel with the right people and stick strictly to the right route — they can be as comfortable as a coach trip.

The African Union delegation plane touched down in El Fasher, North Darfur’s capital, at 9.35 a.m. on Tuesday. We were on the bus heading back to the airstrip at 4.40 p.m.

Is an independent south Sudan now inevitable?

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So, is it now inevitable that Sudan’s oil-producing south will decide to split away from the north as an independent country in a looming secession referendum in 2011?

That was the conclusion of some observers of a bluntly worded exchange of views between two leading lights from the north and the south at a symposium in Khartoum on Tuesday.

Is Sudan’s Darfur crisis getting too much attention?

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Activists often say that the world is not paying enough attention to Sudan’s Darfur crisis. But could the opposite be true — that Darfur is actually getting too much attention, from too many organisations, all at the same time?

A rough count shows at least 10 international and local initiatives searching for a solution to the region’s festering conflict. Many of them are at least nominally coordinated by the United Nation and the African Union. But with so many parallel programmes in play, the opportunities for duplication, competition and confusion are legion.

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