04 March: Band Aid cash bought weapons for Ethiopian rebels

04 March: Band Aid cash bought weapons for Ethiopian rebels

Also today: It’s official: More women of reproductive age die from Aids-related illnesses than anything else; MDC gives Mugabe’s mob hard time over indigenisation law; ICC says Kenyan leaders guilty of fomenting deadly 2008 violence. Niger junta keeps some old guard soldiers in transitional government; Egyptians try blogger in military court.

Band Aid cash bought weapons for Ethiopian rebels


Millions of dollars in aid for victims of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 was used by rebels to buy weapons. The crisis prompted a high-profile relief effort spearheaded by rock star Bob Geldof’s Band Aid campaign and Live Aid concerts. Now former rebels have told the BBC they posed as merchants while meeting aid workers to get hold of the money, and used the cash to attempt to overthrow the government of the time. One former rebel leader said nearly $100 million was channelled to the fight. Fortunately, it seems much of the aid did go to the needy.

Photo: Irish musician and political campaigner Bob Geldof speaks at a news conference at the International Monetary Fund headquarters building in Washington April 23, 2009, calling for more gold sales to help world’s poor. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Read more: BBC, Ethiomedia


It’s official: More women of reproductive age die from Aids-related illnesses than anything else


The UN programme on HIV/Aids says the disease has become the leading cause of death and disease among women of reproductive age worldwide. That shocking revelation stems from 70% of women being forced to have unprotected sex. In late 2009, the World Health Organisation said Aids-related illness was the leading cause of death and disease among women of reproductive age in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa. So, things have moved very fast. UNAids warns that nearly 30 years into the epidemic, HIV services do not respond to the specific needs of women and girls, especially in places such as sub-Saharan Africa, where 60% of those living with HIV are women. In southern Africa, young women are about three times as likely to be infected with HIV than young men of the same age. The warnings have been there for years. Crisis? What crisis?

Read more: Voice of America, EATG, HSRC, Council for Secular Humanism


MDC gives Mugabe’s mob hard time over indigenisation law


Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change party is reviewing forcing foreign-owned firms to sell a majority stake in their businesses to indigenous Zimbabweans, saying that the regulations were published without due consultation of ministers in the country’s so-called unity government. It’s not the first time the MDC’s reviewed the laws, but this time it’s attempting to block regulations dreamed up by Zanu-PF that kicked in on 1 March whereby foreign companies have 45 days to submit proposals on how they plan to sell 51% of their shares to local black people within the next five years. It’s a no-brainer that this will further retard Zimbabwe’s attempts to raise $10 billion to get the ravaged economy back on its feet. Robert Mugabe’s empowerment fantasy is another nail in the coffin of the country’s economic implosion, after the widespread confiscation of white farms over the past 10 years. So the MDC is forcing a cabinet debate on the legality of the regulations by asking whether they are consistent with government policy. The 2007 indigenisation law came into effect before Mugabe formed a power-sharing administration with rival Morgan Tsvangirai early last year. Since then, many things have changed.

Read more: Reuters, The Zimbabwe Guardian, Metro Zimbabwe


ICC says Kenyan leaders guilty of fomenting deadly 2008 violence


The International Criminal Court in The Hague says senior Kenyan politicians and business leaders organised and financed deadly post-election attacks against civilians in 2008, in an effort to gain or retain power. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo spared neither Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s opposition Orange Democratic Movement, nor President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity, which now share power in a fractious unity government. Moreno-Ocampo says both parties implemented their policies with the involvement of members of parliament, the police force and youth gangs, among others. He filed a confidential list of 20 names citing those likely to bear the most responsibility for the crimes. The US and EU have pressured Kenyan authorities to pass wide-ranging reforms to prevent a repeat of election violence that saw some 1,300 people killed, hundreds raped and more than 350,000 forcibly displaced.

Read more: Radio Netherlands Worldwide, UN News Service


Niger junta keeps some old guard soldiers in transitional government


Niger’s military junta, fresh from a coup against former President Mamadou Tandja, has quickly formed a transitional government of 20 ministers, including five soldiers and five women. Reports say the defence, sport and environment portfolios went to three generals close to the former leader, so it’s likely that will give the opposition something to be wary about. The new military leader, Major Salou Djibo, says Niger will hold democratic elections, but has not yet set a date. Tandja changed the constitution to enable him to serve a third five-year term, sparking the coup, after which he was detained, the constitution was suspended and the cabinet dissolved. Most of the country’s people live in dire poverty, despite vast reserves of uranium that are used in the global nuclear industry. Ironically, Tandja brought 10 years of political stability, before deciding he wanted to rule for life. So, in time-honoured tradition, the army ousted him.

Read more: Sapa-Dpa, BBC


Egyptians try blogger in military court


Global rights group, Human Rights Watch, has lambasted Egypt for putting a blogger on trial before a military court. Twenty-year-old Ahmed Mustafa is accused of publishing false information by alleging nepotism at Egypt’s foremost military academy. Now he’s being hammered under Egypt’s emergency law of 1981, which allows indefinite detention and trials of civilians in military courts. The only evidence presented at his trial is the post on his blog, which goes against the ratification of two UN accords by Egypt that protect freedom of expression. The trial is now adjourned until the weekend. Other bloggers have been jailed in recent years. One was sentenced to four years in 2006 for criticising President Hosni Mubarak, while another fell foul of the emergency law for expressing views on Christianity and Islam.

Read more: Agence France-Presse, Ifex, HRW


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