|Africa News Digest
Second Node of Pneumonic Plague in Congo Is Small; More Expected
A World Health Organization (WHO) team in the Democratic Republic of Congo has found that the outbreak of pneumonic plague in the town of Buta, in the north, is smaller than previously reported, involving 57 suspected cases and 16 deaths.
Another node, identified in December, is in Zobia, about 90 miles away, where at least 60 have died and thousands have fled in panic. The dead are all diamond miners. Another 350 miners had been infected as of Feb. 23. The outbreak began just four days after the mine, near Zobia, reopened.
The head of the WHO team, Dr. Eric Bertherat, reported on March 3 by satellite link, that more pneumonic plague could be expected now that the wet season is about to begin and would likely send water into the mine. The team is giving antibiotics, setting up isolation facilities, and tracing contacts.
Plague is endemic to parts of DR Congo, but pneumonic plagueso called when it infects the lungshas been rare, but is fatal in 100% of untreated cases. It is transmitted by respiratory droplets.
N.Y. Times: Time To Give a Damn About Africa
It's time to give a damn about Africa, says an unusual and lengthy New York Times lead editorial Feb. 27, headlined, "Thousands Died in Africa Yesterday." While the world took notice when 200,000 Asians died in the tsunami, the deaths of 20,000 Africans a day from disease, hunger, and civil war doesn't seem to move anyone. The plague of terrorism, corruption, and AIDS that people tend to see when they look at Africa is really the spawn of poverty and unemployment, of hopelessness and anger. Bush is funding his war against terrorism on a military level, but what about the war against poverty, which this editorial describes as "one of the deeper causes of global instability."
"For decades, most Americans either have preferred not to hear about these problems, or, blanching at the scope of the human tragedy, have thrown up their hands. But in terms of the kind of money the West thinks nothing of spending, on such things as sports and entertainment extravaganzas, not to speak of defense budgets, meeting many of Africa's most urgent needs seems shockingly affordable. What has been missing is the political will."
The editorial continues by focussing on the need to channel vastly larger chunks of foreign aid to Africa, bypassingif necessaryuntrustworthy governments and relying on international aid organizations to direct the funds appropriately, and suggests that the opportunity to do this will arise at the upcoming G-8 summit later this year, to be followed by a UN summit. This will also give Bush an opportunity to alter "the way the world views America.... The continent is dying.... It's past time we step up to the plate."
Noble sentiment notwithstanding, the Times never gets beyond the liberal chant of "hunger, disease, illiteracy, and unemployment," and never addresses Africa's need for serious infrastructure development and industrialization, so that the continent needn't remain forever a charity case. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that the Times says that the problem of poverty and starvation is solvable, and that we can afford to do it.
Annan Proposal for Intervention in Darfur Echoed by U.S. Sources
An editorial in the Christian Science Monitor March 3, "UN Paradox in Darfur and Congo," declares that, "Perhaps Darfur needs action by NATO or the European Union's new force. Britain and France, on their own, have used force to solve recent conflicts [sic!] in their former colonies in West Africa." The editorial seemed only to lack a lusty rendition of jingoist Rudyard Kipling's barracks ballad about the Brits in eastern Sudan, "Fuzzy-Wuzzy" ("An' 'ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, ... You big black boundin' beggar...")
The theme of possible NATO or EU intervention has not yet appeared in the editorials of other major dailies. The New York Times editorial of Feb. 27, "It's Time to Give a Damn About Africa," may have been written with that idea in mind, however.
Professor Edmond Keller told a UCLA campus forum Feb. 28 that, if African Union forces do not succeed in their mission, then NATO and UN intervention should be considered, as well as strict sanctions on Sudan. The forum was part of a week-long Darfur call-to-action event cosponsored by the James S. Coleman Center for African Studies.
After Annan's desperate appeal to NATO and the EU at the Wehrkunde meeting in Munich Feb. 13, his spokesman, Fred Eckhard, told reporters, "It wasn't to take over from the African Union; it was to support the African Union" in Darfur. But it was not clear that Annan was appealing only for an observer force.
As for the African Union (AU) observer mission, Emira Woods at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies told Inter Press Service (Johannesburg) March 1, "It is as if the international community is setting up the AU to fail." She said the EU and the U.S. have given some minimal funding, yet funds promised to date, fall far short of what is needed. But the AU observer force, even at full strength and with ample logistics, would not be likely to inhibit the warfare in Darfur (3,320 observers in an area the size of France). The plan itself set up the AU to fail.
U.S. Official: 'Reasonable Chance' for Darfur Ceasefire Agreement
There is a 'reasonable chance' of achieving an effective Darfur ceasefire agreement in African Union (AU) talks later this month, a "senior U.S. official," told Reuters March 2.
Reuters reported, "The official also told Reuters he was encouraged by the Khartoum government's apparent commitment to implementing a separate north-south peace deal signed early this year.... 'I think there is a reasonable chance of getting a firm ceasefire [in Darfur] given the African Union's new approach,' the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters by telephone after meeting top Sudanese officials in Khartoum. He was referring to the next round of Darfur talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja. The AU has said it is holding separate talks ahead of the negotiations with both sides to find common ground on the agenda and a declaration of principles. The Abuja talks will begin when some consensus has been found, most likely mid- to end-March, the AU says."
The State Department's Charles Snyder, currently in charge of Sudan diplomacy, was in Khartoum March 1-2, according to the Sudan Tribune March 4.
UN Envoy to Sudan Called for Its Breakup
The UN Special Envoy to Sudan Jan Pronk called for the breakup of Sudan, in calling it "a failed nation, ... many nations together in one huge territory, held together by force." The quotation appeared in a Feb. 11 AP story entitled, "Could southern Sudanese deal inspire others to seek secession?" The story does not identify the date or venue of his statement; it may not be recent. In the 1970s, Pronk, of the Netherlands Labor Party, was Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation.
Zimbabwe Veterans Withdraw Support from Mugabe as Elections Approach
A Zimbabwe war veterans' organization has withdrawn support from President Robert Mugabe over the country's social and economic crisis, as March 31 parliamentary elections approach, Johannesburg's Business Day reported March 1. Wilfrid Mhanda of the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform told a press conference in Johannesburg, Feb. 28, that the war veterans, a major source of support in past elections, "no longer want to support Mugabe." He said, "There is no basis for legitimacy. Zimbabwe faces a social and economic crisis." Mugabe, Mhanda said, used the war veterans to ensure that government leaders got their hands on the farmland. Zanu-PF, the ruling party, "needed a smokescreen. The political chiefs ended up as beneficiaries while many of the war veterans were (later) evicted from these farms." The lot of war veterans did not improve, he added.
Mugabe To Distribute Lands of 'Cell-Phone Farmers' to Producers
According to Zimbabwe state television March 1, "President Mugabe expressed disappointment with the land use by A2 (commercial) farmers, saying only 44% of the land distributed is being fully utilized. He warned the farmers that government will not hesitate to redistribute land that is not being utilized." Mugabe was speaking at a rural school. The TV report was covered in a Sapa-AFP wire March 2. Mugabe also denounced "cell-phone farmers" Feb. 21 at Harare's Open University graduation ceremony.
The Daily News (Harare), characterized the culprits in an editorial Feb. 23: "These fly-by-night fat cats were not the original intended beneficiaries of the reform program.... They were 'city slickers' with connections in high places which, in Zimbabwe, invariably translates into Zanu-PF," the ruling party.
The government reported in December that less than a quarter of available land was being cultivated.
The Financial Gazette (Harare), usually hostile to Mugabe's government, declared, "we could not agree more with President Robert Mugabe," in a March 3 editorial titled, "Take It Back!" But, the Gazette asks, has the government "mustered the political will to deal with the issue?"