Also today: Guinea steps onto rocky road towards civilian rule; Ivory Coast mediator tells president to get on with elections; UN food agency says it doesn’t feed radical Islamists, but US scoffs at this; Eritrean state media gets it right.
Mugabe gets delusional over indigenisation of foreign companies
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe continues to live in delusional splendour. He says investors would be wise to continue putting money into the bankrupt country, as his government’s attempts to transfer majority control of foreign-owned firms to local Africans. Riight. His equally delusional minister of indigenisation and empowerment, Saviour Kasukuwere, recently told foreign companies to present plans on how they’ll transfer 51% of shareholdings to blacks within 45 days from 1 March. Mugabe says 49% is a lot of equity and only fools would walk away. Maybe that’s what South Africa’s DRD Gold thought in signing a 50-50 deal with a local investor. But Mugabe’s rival in the so-called unity government, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, says the ownership regulations are null and void, because they were gazetted without being reviewed by him or the cabinet. The less-than-deluded EU extended sanctions on Zimbabwe for another 12 months this week, saying there’s been little progress in fulfilling the country’s power-sharing deal. Photo: Reuters.
Guinea steps onto rocky road towards civilian rule
Chaotic Guinea’s taken a step on the road to civilian rule, after interim Prime Minister Jean Marie Dore appointed 34 officials in a transitional government. But the inclusion of two leading members of the military junta is causing a stir, as they’re linked to the massacre of some 150 people during demonstrations in the capital, Conakry, in September last year. The military took power in a coup in December 2008, after long-time dictator Lansana Conte died, but a botched assassination attempt on coup leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara the following December, sent the country even further into a tailspin. Since then, interim Guinean leader, General Sekouba Konate, has quickly moved to involve civilians in government. Camara’s now recovering in neighbouring Burkina Faso, mainly to keep him out of the way. Dore says the country will hold elections within six months, leading to the first ever democratically-elected government in the West African country. The current caretaker government comprises both civilian and military leaders. Now they’ve got to ensure that Camara’s allies, who’re unhappy with the deal, don’t stage a fightback.
Ivory Coast mediator tells president to get on with elections
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore’s got his work cut out. He’s mediating a political crisis in neighbouring Guinea, and is also mediator in Ivory Coast’s stalled election process. Ivorian protesters were tear-gassed in the streets recently after President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved both the government and the country’s election commission ahead of a March poll. Gbagbo says officials are trying to add hundreds of thousands of non-Ivorians to the electoral register, but critics say it’s because he’s trying to exclude voters in the mainly Muslim north of the country, where many people are descendants of settlers from Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. The election’s been repeatedly delayed since 2005, after a 2002/03 civil war split the nation in two. Now, Compaore says Gbagbo must quickly restore the electoral process, and make sure that elections are held. But peace and reunification won’t come easily to Ivory Coast, which once barred a Muslim prime minister from running in presidential elections, because of questions about his ethnicity.
UN food agency says it doesn’t feed radical Islamists
The World Food Programme, the UN food agency, denies some of its staff in Somalia diverted aid to radical Islamist militants who’re fighting the moderate Islamic government. But that claim’s not likely to be enough for the US to free up millions of dollars in food aid, as it reckons donations only benefit the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab rebel group, which wants to impose a harsh version of sharia law on the country. The UN says the US imposes impossible restrictions on aid agencies in Somalia, and politicises a crisis where nearly half of Somalia’s 8 million people rely on food aid. The WFP says an internal investigation found no evidence that staff or distributors divert food, but in November, al-Shabaab demanded each of the body’s regional offices pays $20,000 for protection every six months. When the WFP refused, it was forced to halt all operations.
Eritrean state media gets it right
Eritrea’s state-run media says the US is the mastermind behind the targeted regime of UN sanctions imposed on it, claiming the Americans want to control the entire Horn of Africa region. They’re not wrong in that, because the region is a diabolical mess, with al-Qaeda-linked insurgents running amok. It’s also an oft-repeated claim that’s recycled on a regular basis. The UN says Eritrea is a primary mover and shaker in funding and arming Islamist insurgents in Somalia, where some 21,000 people have been killed since the beginning of 2007. For once, the sanctions are supported by most Security Council members. The sanctions include an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans that target the country’s leaders. Eritrea’s government doesn’t allow independent local media, but its blathering state propaganda is not far wrong when it says the US is the architect of the sanctions.