Madagascan coup leader hardens stance on opponents; Sudan to get millions from Brits to calm election jitters; US court charges wannabe Nigerian plane bomber.
Madagascan coup leader hardens stance on opponents
Madagascan coup leader Andry Rajoelina’s unilateral appointment of a senior military officer as prime minister has immediately hardened his regime’s stance on opposition protest, scuppering hopes that international mediation efforts will lead to a power-sharing government. The trouble is, Rajoelina’s main political opponents comprise three former heads of state, including the man he deposed, Marc Ravalomanana, so he believes any efforts at reconciliation will put the country back on the path that led to his coup. New PM, Colonel Camille Vital, says he’ll take harsh measures against opposition supporters after they vandalised private property in the capital, Antananarivo, this week during clashes with troops. Rajoelina is going ahead with plans for parliamentary elections that fly in the face of earlier promises over power-sharing, and big foreign investors are now thinking twice about bidding for dozens of offshore oil fields. It’s been one step forward and two steps back since the March coup, and despite being sanctioned by the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, Rajoelina continues to show all the characteristics of a dictator – albeit one that is only 35 years old. Until the military go back to their barracks, and stay out of politics, this is a situation that will drag on for years. Photo: Reuters
Sudan to get millions from Brits to calm election jitters
Britain says it will give Sudan $86 million to help smooth the way to the first multiparty elections in more than 20 years, seen as vital to regional stability. Apart from the troubles in Darfur, Sudan fought a two-decade civil war between the Arab dominated north and black African south of the country that ended in 2005, after killing about 2 million people. The end of hostilities paved the way for the much-delayed April election, and also promised a 2011 referendum on southern independence as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. But the intervening years have been marked by arrests and political enmity, and many now fear this will spark a return to war. International aid groups say the peace deal is on the verge of collapse. Apart from politicking over state repression and voter registration, the interim power-sharing agreement between President Omar al-Bashir’s northern National Congress Party and former rebels from the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, is being threatened by accusations that the NCP is stirring up ethnic violence in the south ahead of the polls. The oil-rich south wants to secede, and despite agreements to share oil wealth on a national basis, the two sides don’t trust one another at all. Just this week, Nuer tribesmen killed 139 rival Dinka cattle herders in a remote area of southern Sudan, and while this is likely just localised mayhem, it will no doubt have a negative effect on national politics.
US court charges wannabe Nigerian plane bomber
A US court has indicted would-be Nigerian plane bomber, 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on six counts in the alleged al Qaeda plot to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day. The charges include the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and the attempted murders of 290 people. Now Yemeni officials say Abdulmutallab met a radical American Muslim preacher of Yemeni descent during his time in Yemen. The preacher, since reported to have been killed in an airstrike against al Qaeda, was linked to an American-born Muslim US army major who ran amok at an army base in Texas recently. Talk about Islamist radical conspiracies has gained credence since the first failed truck-bombing attempt on the World Trade Centre in 1993. The Yemenis say the explosives used on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 came from Nigeria and not Yemen, which ratchets up the spread of global terror a notch. Already, African countries from Somalia to Algeria, and Mauritania to Mali, are being seen as havens for al Qaeda operatives, making the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hotbeds for recruitment of suicide bombers with global ambitions.
Jailed Tunisian journalist’s family goes on hunger strike
In a turnaround from what usually happens, the family of a jailed Tunisian journalist has begun a hunger strike to press for his release. Taoufik Ben Brik was given a six-month prison sentence in November after he was found guilty of assaulting a woman. Reuters reports that international press freedom groups claim the charges were fabricated after he criticised Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Since his jailing, Ben Brik’s family say his health has deteriorated sharply, so Azza Zarrad, Ben Brik’s wife, said she, his five brothers and two sisters wouldn’t eat until he was freed. Ben Brik has diabetes and suffers from chronic diarrhoea and a hormonal disorder, according to global human rights group, Amnesty International. Tunisian authorities insist he assaulted a woman, and that his incarceration has nothing to do with politics. Tunisia is one of the more open emergent Arab democracies, and recently abolished a law which required publishers to seek authorisation before going to print.
Guinea’s interim junta leader dangles prospect of return to civilian rule
The deputy chief of Guinea’s junta says he will pave the way for a return to civilian rule after a recent assassination attempt on the nation’s leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara. Camara led a December 2008 coup after the death of long-time dictator Lansana Conte, and was subsequently shot in the head by an aide. The aide said he feared the killing by troops of some 200 demonstrators protesting Camara’s intention to stand in presidential elections would be blamed on him. Sekouba Konate, a general who is standing in as president, is said to have visited Camara in a Moroccan hospital and claims that his life is not in danger, but that he’ll need plenty of time to recover. News reports say his comments on state television were the clearest signal yet that there is a possible way out of the crisis for Guinea, after troops ran amok among 50,000 demonstrators in the capital, Conakry, last September. The Moroccans have requested that Konate immediately name a prime minister from among politicians to lead a transitional government of national unity. Seeing how long it took Zimbabwe and Kenya to even get on that road (a road Madagascar keeps tripping on), don’t hold thumbs for a quick solution.
Kenya deports race-hate cleric to The Gambia
The BBC reports that Kenya has deported to The Gambia a Jamaican-born Muslim cleric known for preaching racial hatred. Abdullah al-Faisal was arrested last week, but Kenyan officials say they had problems deporting him because many countries, including the US, refused to have him even in transit. Al-Faisal has already served four years in a British prison after being convicted of calling for the murder of Jews and Hindus. The Kenyans say he chose to go The Gambia. The Gambia is a tiny and increasingly nasty little country in West Africa, where President Yahya Jammeh reportedly threatened to expel or behead lesbian and gay people.
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason." ~ Thomas Paine