Monday, December 31, 2007

124 dead in Kenya after Kibaki "wins" re-election

Kenyan leader Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of a controversial presidential election... and was sworn in for a second term almost immediately. Kenya's electoral commission claimed that Kibaki beat his main rival Raila Odinga by around 230,000 out of approximately 9.8 million votes cast, or a 2.4 percent margin of victory.

The result was denounced by Odinga's camp following claims of vote rigging. At least one polling station reported 115 percent voter turnout and another saw a candidate run away with ballot papers.

While Kibaki himself declared the election free and free, outside observers weren't so sure. The chief European Union observer said some doubts remained about the credibility of the election.

More disturbingly, at least 124 people have already died in clashes related to the election controversy.

The US ambassador to Kenya told CNN television called on Kenyans to refrain from violence. He pointed out that the country was governed by the rule of law and that people should take up their election protests via legal means.

However, this was undermined by the fact that Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in for his second term only an hour after the electoral commission announced the results. The ceremony was reportedly held in private and only in the presence a handful of western reporters and only a single Kenyan journalist.

If Kenya's governed by the rule of law, then the rule of law needs time to actually be applied. The fact that Kibaki was sworn in so hastily will surely be seen as an attempt to circumvent the rule of law and any potential legal challenges to his 'victory.' No court is going to overturn the victory of a president who's already been sworn in.

The decision to inaugurate Kibaki with record speed could have dangerous consequences, especially in a country where over a hundred people are already dead in election violence.

The hasty swearing in has only served to increase suspicion that the election was fixed. If Kibaki won fair and square, then surely he had nothing to fear from legal challenges.

Kibaki will surely call for peace and reconciliation but already aggrieved opponents will feel even more bitter that he prevented the legal process from running its course. In denying them legal avenues of protest, Kibaki's decision risks stirring more violence in his divided country.

I don't know if Mwai Kibaki and his party stole the election, but he's certainly acting like it.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Eastern DRC violence to spread?

The Christian Science Monitor reports on fears by the UN and other agencies that the resumption of war in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo risks crossing the border into Rwanda. The region has been unstable since 1994 when genociders and civilians from Rwanda poured into the then-Zaire and were housed in refugee camps. Rwanda and Uganda have invaded the eastern DRC several times under the pretext of their own national security.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Debate over laptops

The UN's IRIN news service reports on the increasingly controverisal debate in Nigeria over the wisdom of providing one million cheap laptops to the country's schoolchildren.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who benefits from tourism?

Worlds Apart, a radio series from the Irish public broadcaster RTE, has a number of good documentaries on African issues. Most recently, it had an excellent piece entitled 'Tanzania: Who benefits from tourism?' The whole series is worth checking out.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Anti-HIV efforts in Africa: two approaches that work

The Washington Post has a good article on the 'Best-Kept Secret' for reducing HIV in Africa: birth control.

President Bush banned funded to groups that provided or 'promoted' abortion shortly after he took office in 2001. But the article noted that the effects went well-beyond those organizations.

Two of the largest distributors of contraception [in Kenya], Family Health Options Kenya and Marie Stopes Kenya, did not provide abortions, which are illegal in Kenya, but were subsidiaries of London-based parent organizations whose members helped provide them in other countries. Together, the two groups closed five family planning clinics after losing U.S. funding.

In 2003, Bush created something called The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), as a way to circumvent UNAIDS, an organization which it could not sufficiently manipulate. Even if PEPFAR weren't working cross-purposes with internationally coordinated AIDS relief, it hardly makes up for the assault on family planning funding.

An ounce of prevention is a lot cheaper than a pound of cure.

The paper also has a piece on Madagascar's efforts to fight HIV-AIDS. A fight which is apparently working, since the island has the lowest infection rate on the continent. But with Madagascar's economy opening to foreign workers, a situation which often leads to a rise in HIV rates, the importance of continuing these efforts can not be understated.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How Guinea-Bissau became a narco-state

The BBC World Service has a good documentary explaining how the small West African state of Guinea-Bissau has become the central transit point for South American drugs traffickers ferrying their poison to Europe. And how these crime lords are taking over the country.

The country is hurt by its geography. The islands of Guinea-Bissau cover more territory than the mainland.

It's also hurt by its infrastructure that was neglected for decades... and what little that was left was destroyed during the late 90s civil war. In addition to having a barely functioning, understaffed, underresourced government, the country doesn't have a prison, according to the BBC.

No wonder it's considered an ideal location for gangsters.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

African measles' deaths drop 91 pct

South Africa's Daily Mail and Guardian had a piece on the campaign against measles in Africa. The paper reports that since a pan-African measles' vaccination drive was launched in 2000, deaths from measles has plummeted 91 percent.

The chairwoman of the American Red Cross said the real beauty of the Measles Initiative is that its trained volunteers -- some of them riding bicycles, horses and even camels to reach remote areas -- can be pressed into service for a range of actions on basic healthcare.

In 2006, 21-million insecticide-treated bed nets for malaria prevention were distributed and 87-million doses of vitamin A, which helps prevent blindness, were handed out during measles vaccination campaigns. "It's having a tremendous impact on child mortality," said [Bonnie] McElveen-Hunter.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reminder about commenting

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Teddy bear 'infidel' pardoned

I don't mean to be insensitive but Sudan is one [mess]ed up place.

You have a military dictatorship that refuses to uphold a peace deal that ended a long civil war in the south of the country. One that sponsors a genocide in the west of the country.

But the rent-a-mobs want a teacher to be murdered for naming a teddy bear.

I realize there's more to it. Clearly, the dictatorship doesn't want the planned UN peacekeeping force to be deployed in Darfur... a mission which it has been resisting for years. So authorities whipped up this tempest about a British teacher who let her class name a teddy bear Mohammed... a boy in the class named Mohammed suggested the teddy bear have the same name.

This tempest in a teapot allowed the regime to whip up pseudo-religious and nationalist fanaticism that would give it an excuse to resist the UN force a little longer.

Plus, the decision of the dictator, Gen. Omar al-Bashir, to pardon the teacher makes him look like the good guy. It made him look like a moderate, bravely resisting the hysterical rent-a-mobs (which his regime was probably instrumental in creating in the first place)... illustrating yet again that religious extremism is dangerous regardless of who does it.

I guess when you're sponsoring genocide, you need all the good PR you can get... no matter how you get it.