Also today: Boycotts ensure Sudan’s vote outcome going only one way; More violence in Mogadishu; Red Cross workers freed by Mai Mai militia; Uganda’s Toro people crown world’s youngest king.
After 30 years at the helm, Mugabe sounds sane for a very, very short moment
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addressed a rally to mark 30 years of independence from Britain, calling on citizens to end political violence and focus on rebuilding the economy. If it wasn’t for the fact that Mugabe has been the principal instigator of violence for those three decades, and the architect of ruining a once-rich country, his statements would be seen as statesmanlike. But in also telling the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the so-called “unity government” that they should desist from any acts of violence, he’s really exceeded himself. His Zanu-PF party is almost solely to blame for bloodshed and intimidation. He also said Zimbabwe would continue its policy of land seizures and would transfer control of foreign firms to indigenous Zimbabweans, while ranting on about how Britain, the US and other Western countries have destroyed the country by imposing targeted sanctions on Zimbabwean leaders. Nothing’s changed.
Photo: Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe speaks as crowds gather at a rally in Harare to mark the country’s 30 years of independence from Britain April 18 2010. Mugabe urged Zimbabweans to end political violence and focus on rebuilding a devastated economy that critics say is a victim of his three decades in power. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Boycotts ensure Sudan’s vote outcome going only one way
An early sampling of results shows Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir scored an overwhelming victory in presidential voting in national elections. But the 35 polling centres sampled so far only represent a fraction of the votes to be counted. However, Bashir has long been expected to retain the presidency, and that’s been made much easier after opposition parties large and small boycotted presidential, parliamentary and state government elections, saying they’d been rigged. The main opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – which withdrew its presidential candidate at the last moment – is the critical factor in whether the country moves forward, or returns to a 22-year civil war that ended in 2005. The EU and observers from the Carter Centre (of former US president Jimmy Carter) said the first multiparty elections in 24 years didn’t meet international standards, but concluded the polls were a significant step towards democracy. Seeing as Bashir and his National Congress Party are pretty much alone in the running, nothing could be further from the truth.
More violence in Mogadishu
Violence in Somali’s capital Mogadishu has killed at least 20 people after a landmine exploded near a tea shop popular with government soldiers, while radical Islamist al-Shabaab militants fired mortar rounds toward the airport shortly after the country’s president and parliamentary speaker landed there. Government troops and African Union peacekeepers responded by shelling rebel strongholds, but the only casualties were civilians. The UN has urged Somali security forces, AU troops and Islamist militants not to shell densely populated areas indiscriminately, saying this is a total violation of the laws of war. But nobody’s listening in the anarchic country, and such rules are never enforced there or anywhere else, except as rhetoric and occasionally in retrospect.
Red Cross workers freed by Mai Mai militia
Democratic Republic of Congo
Eight Red Cross workers kidnapped in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo a week ago have been released unharmed, after being held by a faction of the Mai Mai militia. The Mai Mai are a loose collection of fighters roaming areas bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where violence was made explosive by the Rwandan genocide in 1994. They were meant to have joined the army under various agreements, but instead have continued to battle the Kinshasa government over a region rich in mineral resources and harbouring complex ethnic and tribal affiliations. Kidnapping’s just part of the game. The Red Cross workers were lucky this time.
Uganda’s Toro people crown world’s youngest king
King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV of Western Uganda’s Toro Kingdom has officially been crowned the world’s youngest king at the age of 18, after a wait of about 15 years. He effectively became king in 1995, following his father’s death, but his coronation couldn’t take place until he’d reached majority. The Toro kingdom is one of Uganda’s four major kingdoms, and even has its own information and foreign affairs minister. But the kingdom has been stripped of all sovereign powers and is required by law to behave strictly as a cultural institution, embodied within Oyo himself. Reports say the event was the best-attended royal ceremony in many years. In his maiden speech, the new monarch outlined a five-year programme that emphasises education, especially for the poor, and health and hygiene in the form of clean water and toilet facilities in people’s homes. The king will also work with the kingdom’s elders to ensure there’s enough food production and sufficient storage facilities. It’s a vital and useful role.
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