Giles's Feed
Jul 13, 2011

Six months on, Tunisian revolution disappoints some

TUNIS (Reuters) – A short while ago, Adel Klaifa was used to members of the Tunisian president’s family coming to the beach and riding on his camels.

The only problem was that they refused to pay like regular tourists.

Now six months after the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the first victim of the Arab Spring revolutions, Klaifa has another problem — not enough customers of any kind. Along with many of his fellow Tunisians, economic prosperity remains elusive.

May 16, 2011

Flamboyant Gaddafi no stranger to violence

LONDON (Reuters) – While other Arab leaders folded quickly in the face of popular uprisings, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi has put up a bloody fight, taking on NATO as well as local insurgents who have seized half the country.

With his bedouin tents and heavily armed female bodyguards, along with a readiness to execute his opponents and turn his tanks on his opponents, Gaddafi has cut an eccentric and violent figure as Libya’s leader for more than 40 years.

Mar 16, 2011

Gaddafi seen growing in confidence as rebels fade

LONDON (Reuters) – As his armed forces roll over rebel fighters, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi has shaken off his delusional first response to the uprising and is reasserting his grip on the country he has ruled for more than 40 years.

After presidents in Tunisia and Egypt succumbed to popular revolutions, swift early gains by rebels in Libya made it look as though Gaddafi would be the next Arab domino to topple.

Feb 22, 2011

Flamboyant Gaddafi fights for survival

LONDON (Reuters) – With his penchant for bedouin tents and heavily armed female bodyguards, along with a readiness to execute his opponents, Muammar Gaddafi has cut a disturbing figure as Libya’s leader for more than 40 years.

For most of that time he held a prominent position in the West’s international rogues’ gallery, while maintaining tight control at home by eliminating dissidents and refusing to annoint a successor.

Feb 18, 2011

Flamboyant Gaddafi feels ripples of change

LONDON (Reuters) – With his penchant for Bedouin tents, heavily armed female bodyguards and Ukrainian nurses, Muammar Gaddafi has cut a showman like figure as Libya’s leader for more than 40 years.

For most that time he also held a prominent position in the West’s international rogues’ gallery.

Jun 23, 2010
via Africa News blog

Africa takes the stage in London


Africa is providing a lot of fine material for the London theatre these days.

A rare outing for Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman was a highlight at the National last year. This was followed, also at the National, by Matt Charman’s The Observer,  which unpicked preparations for an election in an unnamed African nation.

More recently, Lynn Nottage’s excellent Ruined, which dealt with tough themes relating to women’s lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has just finished an acclaimed run at the Almeida in Islington.

Mar 1, 2010
via Africa News blog

What’s in a name?


My colleague Emma Farge has blogged  on the confusion that arose in oil markets after reports of a coup in Niger caused erroneous rumours that last month’s military takeover had taken place in Nigeria, a similar-sounding country with its own history of  interventions by the men in uniform.

This is not the first time the confusion has arisen. During my time as a correspondent in Lagos in the 1980s, a report appeared on the front page of a local newspaper saying Nigeria had rescheduled its foreign debt, an important issue at the time and a story I certainly did not want to miss.

Sep 22, 2009
via Africa News blog

Some questions about al-Shabaab


          Have the Islamists started to go too far in Somalia?The reaction among ordinary Somalis to an al-Shabaab car bomb attack on African Union peacemakers last week may be instructive.The attack was billed as an act of revenge against America for a commando raid carried out a few days earlier by U.S. troops, who killed one of the most wanted al Qaeda men in Africa.Seventeen of the peacemakers, all Africans, were killed. So too were a number of Somalis who had gone to the peacekeepers’ base for medical attention. At least 19 Somalis died in shelling that followed the car bomb attack.”Bombing Somali Muslims because of a dead foreign terrorist is totally ungodly andinhumane,” businesswoman Asha Farah told Reuters after the al Shabaab attack. “I can only say that al Shabaab are mad.”Her view reflected that of many Somalis that Reuters correspondents spoke to in the capital, Mogadishu.Will any of this make a difference to a group that has already conducted executions and punishment amputations and which shows no sign of letting up in its fight to oust the transitional government?That remains to be seen, but it is perhaps worth remembering that both in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, al Qaeda lost a lot of  ground when they began killing innocent Muslims during their attacks on Westerners.There is certainly frustration among Somalis, who feel that al Shabaab is misinterpreting Islam and using religion to justify criminal acts in what is after all a traditionally moderate Muslim society.Most Somalis are not in a position to take the initiative against al Shabaab — but if a real international force took the fight to them in Mogadishu and elsewhere, it could find it had more support on the ground than expected.

Sep 7, 2009
via Africa News blog

South African sci-fi


         There has been some excellent writing and drama from South Africa over the years, and much of it is serious stuff.One thinks perhaps of Athol Fugard and J.M. Coetzee. Even the titles — Sizwe Bansi is Dead and Disgrace — convey a certain gravitas, at the very least.So, a science fiction movie set in Johannesburg comes, to many outside South Africa at least, as something of a surprise.For those who haven’t seen it, South African-born director Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 is the story of how a mysterious space craft appears over Johannesburg.It turns out to contain starving aliens, referred to scathingly as “prawns”, who are brought down to the city and housed in an enormous and chaotic shanty ghetto.The film is done in the form of a documentary — although it can’t resist some goodold-fashioned shoot-outs involving the aliens’ space weapons.It’s also pretty funny as it satirises just about everybody — the bureaucrats given the task of evicting the prawns from District 9, the soldiers who have to be restrained from shooting them, the Nigerian bandits who exploit them ruthlessly and the unfortunate prawns themselves, who are addicted to cat food.But of course it’s not all sci-fi fun. This being South Africa, audiences are also asked to consider more ponderous questions that relate to the country’s racial history and also how to deal with “aliens” who suddenly appear on the doorstep after being afflicted by some crisis at home — something the South African government has had to contend with in recent years as Zimbabwe has imploded, forcing millions across the border.

Aug 4, 2009
via Africa News blog

Boko Haram: a sect alone?


****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******The Boko Haram sect surprised many in Nigeria and elsewhere with the violence of their uprising last week.******Before Boko Haram was suppressed by the security forces at the cost of nearly 800 lives, we learned that the group’s name means “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language used in northern Nigeria.******We also learned that the sect’s charismatic leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was, before he was killed while in police detention, opposed to all things Western.******Which prompts two thoughts. The first is that the anti-education message may not have much traction in Nigeria, a country whose inhabitants are determined to get ahead and secure the best education for their children. In many cases that will be either in the West or in Nigerian schools offering a Western-style curriculum.******During the years I spent in the country, staff working for me were always concerned about being able to raise enough money for their children’s school uniforms and books.******And the second thought: Yusuf’s opposition to the modern world seems to have had its limits. When the violence erupted in Maiduguri, he was seen riding in a Toyota car, dressed in military-style fatigues and accompanied by men carrying Russian-designed assault rifles.