|Africa News Digest
Key Figure in Darfur Peace Accord Dies in Car Accident
June 27 (EIRNS)Sudan's Presidential adviser Majzoub al-Khalifa, the key person in the signing of last year's Darfur peace accord, died in a car crash in the early hours of June 27, the state news agency SUNA reported. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir flew to al-Khalifa's home town where he is now laid to rest.
Al-Khalifa's death has been reported as a car accident, but it has also been acknowledged by the Sudanese news agency that he was one of the main interlocutors in the Darfur peace process, and headed the government negotiating team in talks which led to the signing of a 2006 peace deal for Sudan's Darfur region between the government and one rebel faction.
Although the United States officially supports the peace agreement, the Bush Administration has been at odds with Khartoum on a number of issues. To begin with, the Africa Union (AU) has deployed nearly 7,000 troops to patrol an area the size of France. The United States and other Western powers supported the transfer of peacekeeping duties in Darfur from the understaffed and poorly funded AU to a larger UN force, but the Sudanese government opposed it, unless it were a hybrid peacekeeping force, controlled by the Africa Union. The hybrid force was formally agreed to by Sudan, the UN, and the AU, at AU headquarters in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, on June 12.
Washington is also getting increasingly uneasy over Chinese investments in Sudan's oil sector, which have exceeded $6 billion, according to Sudanese Minister of State for Finance and National Economy Prof. Ahmed Magzoub. Direct non-petroleum investments in the industrial and agricultural fields and in economic services amounted to another $300 million, he said, adding that there are 50 projects with Chinese investment.
Sarkozy, Rice Plan Sudan's FutureWithout Sudanese
June 30 (EIRNS)On June 25, French President Nicolas Sarkozy convened a meeting in Paris on the future of Sudan, which included participation from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, representatives from China, Egypt, Japan, Russia, and a dozen other countriesbut no representation from Sudan, either from the government or the Darfur rebels. India's daily The Hindu reports that when French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was asked about the absence of Sudanese representation, he replied that Sudan had not been invited.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Lam Akol had turned down a French effort on June 11, during a visit to Khartoum by Kouchner, who was there trying to drum up support for the conference. Lam Akol told him the timing was not right, and that his country preferred to await the outcome of African Union and United Nations efforts to get peace talks back on track and put together a peacekeeping force for Darfur. After the meeting with Kouchner, Lam Akol told the press, "At this particular time, when we are ... waiting for the road map ... to be announced, we don't want any distraction."
According to AFP, both Sarkozy and Rice were threatening foreign intervention into Sudan if it refuses to cooperate on the crisis in Darfur. "Sudan must know that if it cooperates, we will help it greatly," Sarkozy said, "and that if it refuses, we will be firm." Rice added, "I do not think that the international community has really lived up to its responsibilities here." The only reported dissent came from Chinese envoy Liu Guijin, who told AFP that threats and pressure on Khartoum would be "counterproductive," and argued that the world must instead focus on reconstruction aid to alleviate poverty.
Was Lockerbie Investigation Manipulated To Nail Libya?
June 28 (EIRNS)Graham Forbes, chairman of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, an independent judicial review, ruled today that "a miscarriage of justice may have occurred" in the conviction of former Libyan intelligence official Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, for the bombing of Pan Am 103, and granted him the right to appeal the verdict against him, according to the London Guardian.
A bomb hidden in a suitcase aboard Pan Am Flight 103 detonated at high altitude on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people in the Boeing 747, and 11 others on the ground when parts of the aircraft landed in Lockerbie, Scotland. At the time, Libya was considered an enemy nation by the United States, and there was a clamor in Washington to blame it for the terrorist act. Now, however, Libya-U.S. relations have greatly improved, and Libya is no longer considered to be a terrorist nation by the United States.
It is likely that the negative political attitude that the United States had towards Libya at the time of the crash, and the trial of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the former intelligence officer, contributed to his 2001 conviction for the bombing, after a trial under Scottish law at a special court in the Netherlands. He was the only person convicted in connection with bloodiest terrorist attack in a British jurisdiction. Al-Megrahi lost an appeal in 2002 and is serving a 27-year sentence in a Scottish prison.
According to the independent commission, al-Megrahi was convicted on the statement of an owner of a haberdashery in Malta. The owner had identified al-Megrahi from a police line-up as the person who bought a piece of clothing from his shop, in which the bomb was wrapped before it was placed in a piece of luggage that was taken onboard Pan Am 103. The commission now admits that, following its four-year investigation, it was found that the purchase was made earlier, at a time when al-Megrahi was not in Malta. The witness has changed his story several times.
Al-Megrahi has always maintained his innocence. After the announcement today, he said in a statement: "I reiterate today what I have been saying since I was first indicted in 1991: I was not involved in the Lockerbie bombing in any way whatsoever."
Although never admitting guilt, the Libyan government agreed to pay up to $2.7 billion in compensation, to settle claims with the families of victims, as well as to re-establish relations with the United States. If al-Megrahi were cleared at appeal, it is an open question whether Libya may seek to recoup the compensation payments.
Foreign Affairs: Nigerians May Opt for a Coup
June 24 (EIRNS)In "Nigeria's Rigged Democracy" (Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007), Jean Herskovits reviews the desperate condition of Nigerian society and the reported "foul play" in the April elections, and concludes, "[I]n the event of a coup carried out by leaders committed to returning the country to democracy within months, Western governments should pause before imposing sanctions. The notion ... may seem counterintuitive, but if nothing is done to redress the 2007 electoral travesty, many Nigerians would welcome a short-lived military regime whose goal was to arrange legitimate elections."
Herskovits' analysis goes well beyond "fair elections." She writes, "[M]ore has been wrong than right with Nigeria's economy under [outgoing President Olusegun] Obasanjo's stewardship.... According to the Nigerian economist Sam Aluko, [the] budget crisis is the result of the government's 'policy of privatization, downsizing, and retrenchment of civil and public servants, non-payments of pensions, gratuities, and domestic debts which continue to accumulate.'" Herskovits, a West Africa hand, is professor of history at the State University of New York at Purchase.
South African Nuclear Energy Association Formed
June 21 (EIRNS)Citing the ongoing "nuclear renaissance," the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA), has been founded in South Africa, on the initiative of Dr. Rob Adam, CEO of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA), and Jaco Kriek, CEO of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). Kriek made the announcement in Pretoria today, according to the South African Mail and Guardian.
"Due to the Nuclear Renaissance in South Africa and the world, it has become important to create an umbrella body to interact with Government and other key stakeholders on behalf of the Nuclear Industry," said Adam, as reported by NECSA. "Nuclear is a technology that extends from mining to medicine and we need to acquire a voice that supports the global upward trend."
The founding of NIASA comes as a result of momentum created by plans for a new nuclear plant built by Eskom, the South African state electricity company, and the development of the Generation IV nuclear technology by PBMR, and studies on the nuclear fuel cycle by NECSA.
An interim organizing committee will be formed in the hope that an announcement can be made at the first South African Nuclear Technology Conference scheduled for Sept. 24-26, 2008.
Italy Plans To Build Power Station in Tunisia
June 30 (EIRNS)Italian Development Minister Pierluigi Bersani signed an agreement with his Tunisian counterpart Afif Chelbi, yesterday, to build a 170 km-long undersea cable to transport electricity from Tunisia to Italy, the Rome daily La Stampa reported. At the Tunisian terminal, a 1,200 MW power station will be built. Although the joint releases speak generically about "interconnection," it is clear that Italy's interest in the deal is to increase its own domestic electricity supply, bypassing environmentalist obstructionism, which is preventing the construction of new nuclear, coal, or even gas-fired power stations on its national territory. Italy abandoned nuclear energy after an anti-nuclear power referendum in 1986, and is currently importing electricity from its European neighbors. However, a sudden heat wave last week sent energy consumption close to capacity limits, threatening a collapse of the grid, which was avoided only by implementing partial blackouts in Sicily.