|Africa News Digest
Angola: Marburg Virus Continues To Spread
The deadly Marburg virus is continuing to spread, and to spread panic, in Angola. The death toll is now 130, making it the largest outbreak of Marburg ever. Recombinomics.com commented March 31 that the death toll is running at 100%, the only living cases being those who "have not been sick long enough to die." In previous large outbreaks in Africa, mortality ranged from 40% to 88%.
In Angola, "basic barriers such as gowns, gloves, and masks are lacking, facilitating the spread of the virus," according to Recombinomics.com March 26. "Three nurses died about a week ago, followed by two more nurses on Tuesday [March 22]. An Italian pediatrician died on Thursday, followed by a Vietnamese physician on Friday. A sixth nurse died on Saturday and an Angolan physician is infected," it reports.
Doctors Without Borders, the Department of Infectious Diseases (Manchester, U.K.), Johannesburg Hospital, the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are now engaged in a full range of public-health activities, including lab work, training health workers, and infection control, including running isolation facilities.
Angolan Health Ministry spokesman Carlos Alberto said March 26, "The situation is critical," and pointed out that the numbers of infected and dead could be much greater, since the reported numbers reflect only those who come to hospital.
Five corpses, victims of Marburg fever, have been found in residential areas by health staff working to detect new cases, Deputy Health Minister Jose Van-Dunem told the press March 30 in Luanda, according to the Angola Press Agency. Van-Dunem was apparently referring to neighborhoods in Uije province.
A death has occurred in Camabatela (Kwanza-Norte province), about 70 km from Uije; the victim was a professor who had contact with infected corpses in Uije and later travelled to Camabatela. The virus had earlier spread to Luanda, the capital, and Cabinda, bordering both Congos.
The hospital in the town of Uije (the epicenter) was closed as of March 30, according to a statement by a health official in the town, Quiala Godi. The apparent reason was the panic of the staff and of staff sent from Luanda, since the number of health-care workers who have died has risen to 12.
In Xawande (Malanje province), 450 km from Uije province, merchants and vendors are refusing to buy produce from Uije province, suspecting it may be infected with the virus.
ICC Authorized To Hear War Crimes Cases Against Sudanese
The UN has approved a resolution to prosecute Sudanese suspected of war crimes, before the International Criminal Court. The resolution passed, after the U.S., reversing policy, decided not to veto the move. The U.S. has rejected the ICC criminal court. But it abstained, after receiving guarantees that Americans working in the country would not be handed over to either the ICC or any other nation's courts if they commit crimes in Sudan. The final vote was 11-0 with four abstentions, from Algeria, Brazil, China, and the United States.
The resolution refers Darfur cases occurring since July 1, 2002, to the court, as recommended by a UN panel that had concluded in January that crimes against humanity, but not genocide, had occurred in the western Sudanese region.
Sudan Message to Rebels on Ceasefire Covered
The Washington Post gave page-one prominence March 22 to the message of Sudan's First Vice President, Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha, that, "We need a strong, unequivocal message that the rebels have to honor the ceasefire...." The rebels in Darfur "started this war by attacking police stations and the airport.... What is needed at the moment is for them to have pressure from Europe and the U.S. to stop."
The Post says Taha "is considered by many to be the most powerful man in Sudan, partly because he helped negotiate a peace deal in a separate conflict in the country's south." In fact, he directed the negotiations on the government side, and has now been charged by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with achieving a settlement in Darfur. (Is the Post suggesting that Taha should succeed Bashir as President?) The Post does not mention that Taha was at one time in charge of internal security. He has also been Foreign Minister.
Taha told the Post that the government did not have enough money to develop the Darfur region. "Taha visited Darfur in late 2002 to discuss the needs of the local populace. He said the visitors were told that 'there was need of fresh water, health care, and primary schooling.... We agreed with that.' But just a few months later, Taha added, 'the response was shooting by the rebels.' "
Britain: Darfur Rebels Must Negotiate Without Preconditions
British Foreign Office spokesman Chris Mullin said March 22 that the Darfur insurrectionists "should reconsider their current position and agree to the immediate resumption of the peace talks in Abuja [Nigeria] without preconditions." He added, "The current position of non-engagement is unacceptable and is unnecessarily delaying peace in Darfur." He made these statements after meeting with Minni Minnawi of the Sudan Liberation Movement in London.
The Darfur insurrectionists recently announced that they would not return to negotiations with the Sudan government until war crimes trials of figures in the government were underway.
Mugabe Foils Anglo-American Scheme for Gov't of National Unity
Under great pressure from the Anglo-American powers, the South African government of Thabo Mbeki has sought to identify and encourage factions within Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF that would be receptive to forming a government of "national unity" with the Anglo-American puppet, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). According to Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria (largely influenced by the Anglo-Americans powers), Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe put an end to this effort, which had focussed on ZANU-PF figure Emerson Mnangagwa. Maroleng's view was carried by Reuters March 24.
After the ZANU-PF party congress in December, Mnangagwa and his supporters were stripped of key party positions. "They had banded together to oppose Mugabe's choice of veteran ZANU-PF member Joyce Mujuru as second vice president, placing her in a position to succeed [Mugabe]. A number of key ZANU-PF officials close to Mnangagwa have since been jailed after a swift trial on charges of passing official secrets to a South African spy," Reuters claims.
South African President Mbeki's spokesman, Bheki Khumalo, "dismissed the alleged Mnangagwa link as 'a conspiracy theory.' 'What South Africa wants is a home-grown solution by the Zimbabweans,' he said," according to Reuters.
Kabila, Entourage Seek Asian Investments
Congolese President Joseph Kabila and an entourage of 200 have concluded a tour of Japan, South Korea, and China in search of investment. As it happened, Condoleezza Rice arrived in Japan and South Korea on Kabila's heels, and was in China at the same time that he was there. The Congolese tour extended from March 13 to the 25th, including four days in China at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao. Kabila last visited China in March 2002. The results known so far:
Tokyo cancelled the Congolese public debt to Japan. It will create a free-trade zone between Kinshasa and the coast, and will built a high-speed train across this zone. It promised $7 million toward the expenses of the upcoming elections, on top of its existing large contribution to peacekeeping in the Congo. Kabila was received by the Emperor and had talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Seoul signed an agreement for developing mining production in general, and cobalt in particular. Seoul will reopen its embassy in Kinshasaclosed many years ago. A large delegation of businessmen will be sent to Kinshasa in June. Kabila was guest of honor at a dinner in the Presidential palace, and the heads of Congolese enterprises spoke before a meeting of South Korean investors on Congo's wealth of raw materials.
In Beijing, Kabila had discussions with President Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, the Minister of Defense, and the Chairman of the National People's Congress. In receiving Kabila, Hu encouraged Chinese enterprises to invest in Congo. Kabila had discussions with some leading Chinese businessmen. China and Congo signed agreements with respect to military cooperation, agriculture, energy, minerals, and fishing, and other areas. A large financial donation to Congo of unspecified amount was announced. (To meet Chinese demand for cobalt, for example, Congo would have to increase its annual production by 20,000 tons.)
While Kabila was in East Asia, the Congolese Vice President in charge of the Commission for Economics and Finance, Jean-Pierre Bemba, visited India, Britain, and Brazil.