A settlement to the 19-year-old war between the predominantly Arab and Islamist government in Khartoum and the mostly African, non-Islamist rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) is unlikely to be achieved any time soon unless the United States and Europe exert much stronger pressure urgently, according to a new report by an international think tank that specializes in conflict resolution.
by John C. Dernbach
At a time when the petropolitics of the Bush administration seem to reign supreme, the rights of peoples affected by the global hunt for oil have received an important boost. An African commission has ruled the Nigerian government should compensate the Ogoni people for abuses against their lands, environment, housing, and health caused by oil production and government security forces. Nigerian and international groups say that the ruling by the nine-member African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) is a sweeping affirmation of what the human rights community calls ESC rights–defined by the UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social, and, Cultural Rights.
On the eve of a meeting of rich country leaders in Canada, President Bush has brought out a "new initiative" promising $500 million to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS from mothers to children. Intended to stave off the embarrassment of coming empty-handed to a summit trumpeted as focusing on Africa, the White House initiative is in fact a cynical move to derail more effective action against AIDS.
As the fallout from the elections in Zimbabwe began to make itself felt throughout Africa and the international community, John Makumbe, a respected professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe, remarked that the election was more than about “just Zimbabwe’s future. What’s at stake here is whether Africa is willing and able to police itself and is able to show the world that it is able to take that step forward to democracy and stability, rather than remain mired in the muck of autocracy and stagnation.” The reaction of African elites to the election debacle is well known. In fact, African elites fell over themselves in talking up the legitimacy of the elections. An observer team from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) said the elections were “transparent, credible, free and fair” whilst Nigerian observers in Zimbabwe endorsed Mugabe’s victory, saying it had “recorded no incidence that was sufficient to threaten the integrity and outcome of the election.” Daniel arap Moi of Kenya rushed to “convey to your excellency and dear brother congratulations and best wishes on your re-election” whilst Tanzania’s Benjamin Mkapa asserted that Mugabe was “a champion of democracy” and “it was up to the people of Zimbabwe to decide who should lead them, and the people of Zimbabwe have now spoken loudly and clearly.” For its part, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) “endorse[d] the position taken by the SADC ministerial task force on Zimbabwe that the elections were substantially free and fair,” Bakili Muluzi of Malawi-who currently holds SADC’s rotating presidency-was quoted as saying. Putting in their worth, the South African observer team blamed the long lines of voters unable to vote despite waiting many hours on “administrative oversights”, drawing audible laughter from journalists and diplomats attending their press conference in Harare. No wonder that one Zimbabwean newspaper stated that the South African “observers” were “next to useless.”
Thabo Mbeki’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development: Breaking or Shining the Chains of Global Apartheid?
(Editor’s Note: Launched in October 2001, the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD online at www.nepad.org) aims to establish a “new framework of interaction with the rest of the world, including the industrialized countries and multilateral organizations” as a means of putting Africa on a high-growth path. As a project of the African Union, it tries to articulate a regional development strategy. The NEPAD outlines a reciprocal set of commitments between Africa states, donor governments, and the private sector as a framework for managing Africa’s integration into the world economy.
Few events in Africa in recent years have so excited world opinion as has the downward spiral of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe and the years of chaos and terror under his rule. The slide into lawlessness, the wholesale, illegal confiscation of land, the general free-fall of the Zimbabwean economy, and the presidential competition between Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Popular Front (ZANU-PF) and Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, have been the stuff of many editorials and commentaries in all the main newspapers, both in the West and in Africa. At the same time however, the Zimbabwe case has highlighted the perpetual reluctance of African elites to criticize one of their own, particularly in light of African leaders’ reactions to what most people saw as fundamentally rigged elections. This point raises profound questions as to the seriousness and credibility of the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
By a vote of 1.69 million for Robert Mugabe to 1.28 million for Morgan Tsvangirai, the people of Zimbabwe re-elected the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) president last weekend. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), founded in September 1999, lost by more than in the last national election, in June 2000 when Zanu gained a small majority of parliamentary seats.
By almost any measure, the war on AIDS is more important than the war on terrorism. Yet Washington’s fixation with the latter—still loosely defined—campaign threatens to crowd out attention to Africa’s priorities. And those priorities, from obtaining support for international peacemaking and peacekeeping, to canceling illegitimate debts and arresting the growing disparities between rich and poor in the world, to defeating the AIDS pandemic, are all equally global priorities.
Peace is back on the agenda, if not yet on the horizon in Angola. With the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi and the state visit to Washington by Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, there is again a glimmer of hope that the country’s 27-year-long civil war may finally be coming to a real end. As Salih Booker, Director of Africa Action, puts it, “Savimbi’s death removes the principal obstacle to peace in that country. So long as he was alive, it seemed virtually impossible that Angolans would ever be able to conclude and implement a peace settlement. But his death does not automatically ensure that peace will follow.”