Deputy Editor, Europe, Middle East and Africa
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Jul 11, 2009
via Africa News blog

‘New moment of promise’ for Africa?

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As expected, U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to Africa in Accra had plenty to say on the importance of good governance – but there was also a very strong message that his “new moment of promise” is one that Africans have to seize for themselves.”You have the power to hold your leaders accountable, and to build institutions that serve the people. You can serve in your communities, and harness your energy and education to create new wealth and build new connections to the world. You can conquer disease, end conflicts, and make change from the bottom up. You can do that. Yes you can. Because in this moment, history is on the move,” Obama said.”Freedom is your inheritance. Now, it is your responsibility to build upon freedom’s foundation. And if you do, we will look back years from now to places like Accra and say that this was the time when the promise was realized — this was the moment when prosperity was forged; pain was overcome; and a new era of progress began. This can be the time when we witness the triumph of justice once more.”To listen to the whole speech, you can find a link on the White House website.As Obama put it: “Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”There was no doubt they were strong words from the son of a Kenyan immigrant, who through elections has become the leader of the world’s most powerful country. Obama’s background may also give his message a better chance of being heard than those of past American leaders lecturing Africa on what it needs to do.But when all is said and done and Obama flies off to deal with more urgent U.S. priorities, will the message be heeded? Will Africa live up to that promise?

Jun 28, 2009
via Africa News blog

Overdose of trouble in West Africa

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That political stability is vital for investment and development goes without saying, but it seems as though too much instability can be bad for criminal enterprises too.The cocaine cartels that used West Africa, and Guinea-Bissau in particular, as a conduit to Europe were long accused of worsening the chaos in one of the region’s poorest and most troubled states by buying off some factions of the security forces and political leaders.But if so, things may have gone too far.In less than a year, Guinea-Bissau has lost President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira (dead), the head of the army (dead), the head of the navy (fled), a former defence minister (dead) and a candidate to replace the slain president in the June 28 election (dead). And those are just some of the figures at the top.Whichever of Guinea-Bissau’s leaders might have been involved in the drugs trade and which were trying to fight it, the removal of such a swathe of the leadership appears for now at least to have knocked the traffickers off balance too.Drug smuggling through West Africa has plummeted, according to the U.N., despite the fact that its geography also makes it an ideal bridge between Latin America and Europe.”The fact that big traffickers do not any longer have certain partners in power clearly have disrupted the routes,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, regional head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “A trafficker would never bring 2 tonnes of drugs to a country where he is not sure he can operate,” he told Reuters.Political changes in Guinea, where a junta seized power after the death of President Lansana Conte, and Ghana, where the opposition won a democratic election, also appear to have limited their use as smuggling conduits for now.An election in Guinea-Bissau now offers a chance for a new start. With greater international support its chance of becoming a failed state could have improved.A question for the West African countries – and for the drug traffickers – may be whether administrations that become more entrenched over time will more easily fall prey to the lure of the drug money despite the dangers.

Jun 1, 2009
via Africa News blog

Should West back Zimbabwe’s government?

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The United Nations has joined Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government in appealing for more than $700 million in humanitarian aid for the ruined country.

But while Western countries may show willing when it comes to emergency aid, they are still reluctant to give money to the government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his old rival.

    • About Matthew

      "Deputy Editor, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Most of my career has been spent covering Africa, but I have also reported from other parts of the region. I joined Reuters in 1995 after starting out as a reporter with BBC radio and for a local newspaper in Sierra Leone. I have been posted in Lagos, Abidjan, Kinshasa and Johannesburg - from where I led Reuters African coverage from 2009 to 2011. I spent three years as bureau chief for Israel and Palestinian Territories, based in Jerusalem."
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